§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he wished to call the attention of the House to the circumstances of the Count-out of yesterday evening It so happened that just before the hon. Baronet the Member for Wexford (Sir George Bowyer) moved the Count at half-past 8 o'clock and it was found that there were not 40 hon. Members present, there were many hon. Members upon the benches on the opposite side of the House; but apparently by some movement on the part of the Irish Members, or intimation from the hon. Member for Wexford that he was going to move a Count of the House, the benches became emptied. That circumstance would not have been very remarkable in itself, if it were not for the fact that it was the second time that a Count-out had been made when the subject before the House was connected with Monastic and Conventual Institutions. On the 2nd of July last year an attempt was made to count the House, when, it being Wednesday, Mr. Speaker could not leave the Chair by the Rules of the House, and the consequence was that the Business of the House was kept in abeyance for 20 minutes, and he was sorry to say that on that occasion attempts were made to bar the ingress of hon. Members to the House to form a quorum. It seemed to him (Mr. Newdegate) that there was a design to interrupt the Business whenever there was a desire shown to consider that subject of Monastic and Conventual Institutions. He would not advert to it further than to say that it was known how Roman Catholic authorities were disposed to all States, and especially to the State of England, of which that House formed a constituent element, with regard to those 1300 institutions. He was therefore disposed to think that the Counts-out were exceptional, and that they indicated a disposition to interfere with the free action and jurisdiction of that House; and inasmuch as he had a Notice of Motion for Friday next touching the same subject, he thought it was his duty to warn the House that on the last two occasions when that subject was brought under its consideration there had been a manifest attempt—namely, on the 2nd of July last year, and a successful attempt yesterday to interrupt the Business by some hon. Members availing themselves of the peculiar privilege, the privilege of calling their attention to the fact that 40 hon. Members were not present; a privilege that he was sorry to say had been on some occasions so used that it formed the subject of consideration by a Committee for Public Business in 1870. Now although the Committee did not adopt any specific recommendation on the subject, he thought it was the general opinion of the Members of that Committee that the privilege should not be continued unless hon. Members of that House considered its character, and the order of its Business, so as not to abuse that privilege for political and partizan purposes, but only so as to secure an adequate attendance when the House was discussing important Business. That subject appeared to him to have been the cause of that interruption; the desire to intercept the deliberations of the House upon the question of Monastic and Conventual Institutions; and thinking that in what took place there was sufficient evidence of design, he considered it his duty to call the attention of the House to what took place yesterday, in the hope of preventing a recurrence of such a proceeding on Friday next.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he remembered on one occasion the late Lord Palmerston saying that the hon. Member who counted out the House was among those "who did good by stealth, and blushed to find it fame." Now he did not blush at all for what he did yesterday. On the contrary, he believed that it gave universal satisfaction. He was sure Mr. Speaker, at the close of a sultry summer day, was glad to escape from the Chair, and the Members of Her Majesty's Government who were present walked off with an alacrity 1301 which showed their satisfaction. He was also sure that the whole of the House was pleased when Mr. Speaker declared that there were not 40 hon. Members present. He thought, indeed, that the hon. Member ought to be obliged to him for what he did, for he saved him from making a very dreary speech.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
begged pardon, but he had finished his remarks and had sat down before the Count was moved.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he was not aware of the fact; and he had intended to save the hon. Member from making one of those dreary speeches which they had heard from him so often, in which he repeated a great many things which gave no satisfaction to anybody, and also to save him from moving for Papers which, if they had been laid on the Table, would have been of no earthly use to anybody. The hon. Member spoke of an abuse of the Privileges of that House. That abuse, if it was an abuse, was one entirely under the control of the House. The hon. Member said that a number of hon. Members went out of the House, and that thereby the House was reduced to below 40 Members. That was perfectly true, but what did it show? It showed that the House did not want to hear the hon. Member's speech, and that it did not consider the question of sufficient importance to keep hon. Members from their dinner. Under those circumstances he did not think the hon. Member could complain of him because he availed himself of a privilege which had been used over and over again, and which could not be successfully exercised except by the permission of the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
interposed, and said he was bound to observe that at present there was no Question before the House. The hon. Member might put himself in Order by concluding with a Motion.
§ MR. GREENE
said, he was anxious to say that not only was the House counted, but that violence was used to prevent hon. Members entering it. The usual passage to the House was so obstructed that hon. Members had to come in by the side doors. And yet there was no opposition to the Motion, for he understood that the Government intended 1302 to give the Papers asked for. He did not blame the hon. Member for Wexford for what he did. Probably, if he (Mr. Greene) were present in Parliament under the same conditions as he was, he might act in the same manner. He believed that the hon. Member held some high office in connection with the Pope. [Sir GEORGE BOWYER: No.] He understood that he did. He had no prejudices against the Roman Catholics as Roman Catholics, but they in England thought that there ought to be some inquiry into the question of Monastic and Conventual Institutions.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, it was quite irregular, even if the hon. Member proposed to conclude with a Motion, to introduce a subject which stood on the Orders of the House for another day.
§ MR. GREENE
said, he intended to move that that House do now adjourn. He was sorry if he had departed in any way from the Rules of the House, but he thought the subject was whether, in the interests of the country, it was desirable that certain Returns in reference to these institutions should be laid on the Table. He did not altogether complain of hon. Members opposite, but he complained also of many hon. Members sitting on that side of the House, and it certainly did appear that the House was so tinged with Romanism and Ritualism that the two combined together were used to stop the consideration of any topic that was regarded as objectionable. But if the country required that such questions should be discussed, the country would, he thought, soon show it. He knew that on the occasion of his being returned, there was no question that gained for him more support than his views on that subject. Therefore, he did hope that the House would leave them at liberty to discuss it. They were told the other night that they should endeavour to aid the Government in the progress of Public Business, and they were ready to do so; but if that system of counting-out the House was to be resorted to, he was at a loss to see how they could give that aid effectually. He remembered the time when the Speaker was unnecessarily kept in the Chair one Wednesday last Session upon that very question, and if that kind of thing was to be repeated, they would never be able to get a fair discussion of questions which happened to touch persons in 1303 that House who held certain opinions. He begged to move the adjournment of the House.
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
seconded the Motion, and said that the remark of Lord Palmerston which had been referred to was simply made by way of joke. It would be very unusual for the Leader of the House to advocate the practice of counting out the House. He protested against the course taken by the hon. Baronet the Member for Wexford, it being a very unusual thing to count the House when the Government had promised not to oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Greene.)
said, that he hoped the House would not now adjourn. He remained in the House last night, and he did his best to keep a House. He was able to say that a larger proportion of Roman Catholics remained in the House than of any other denomination. He hoped, however, that the House was not going to set up religious opinion as a standard for investigating the conduct of hon. Members. He was very sure that if they attempted anything so preposterous, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire would be able to classify very few who sat on his own side of the House as true Protestants. For his own part, he was averse to Counts-out, and he remained in the House last night because he thought that the more manly and dignified course was to remain, in order to meet argument with argument, and to put down the hon. Gentleman by a division if they could.
§ MR. HOLT
said, that in the Count-out last night an attempt was certainly made to prevent the free ingress of hon. Members into the House. When there was a Count-out, he thought it was only reasonable that some provision should be made by which hon. Members who wished to keep a House should really be enabled get into it. Many of them had to force their way into the House by a side door.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, in justice to Captain Gossett, the Deputy Serjeant, he felt bound to say that he went outside the moment the Count commenced, and kept a free passage.
§ SIR EDWARD WATKIN
said, he was sorry to see that the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Winn) was not in his place. He, as whip of the Government, could at any time prevent a Count-out, and last night he was outside the door with a phalanx of hon. Members, who could easily have made a House. It was entirely the fault of the Government that a House was not kept, and that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was counted out on a question which both Catholics and Protestants wished to have fairly discussed.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he had hoped that the House would have been allowed to pass on to the Orders of the Day; but as the Government had been alluded to, perhaps he might be allowed to say that he remained in his place with the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and that they were both prepared to give an answer to the question before the House. Certainly, it was with no connivance or knowledge on his part that the House was counted out. He, for one, was not aware of what was going on.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, in reference to what had taken place, he thought it his duty to state that it was, no doubt, the duty of the Sergeant at Arms to keep free access to the House on such an occasion, and he had every reason to believe that that duty was properly discharged last night.
§ Question put, and negatived.