HC Deb 23 April 1875 vol 223 cc1511-3

said, he rose to put a Question to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), of which he had given him private Notice, and he must ask the indulgence of the House while he said a few words in explanation. The hon. Member for Louth had put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, Whether, in view of the present anomalous relations between that House and the public Press as to reports of public proceedings of the House and of Committees, it was his intention to propose some reform which, while maintaining the due control of this House over publication of its proceedings, should relieve the public Press from the hazards at which it now discharged important and useful functions towards that House and towards the Country? And the right hon. Gentleman was reported to have said, it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government at present to introduce any measure of the kind referred to by the hon. Member. The result of the answer was that the hon. Member subsequently gave Notice that it was his intention, on the next sitting of the House, to call the notice of the Speaker to the presence of strangers. Before the hon. Gentleman put that Question to the Government several hon. Friends of his (the Marquess of Hartington's) with whom he generally acted had formed the opinion that it was extremely desirable that an attempt should be made to place the relations between this House and the Press in respect to the publication of the reports of the debates and proceedings of the House on a more satisfactory, he might say, on a more reasonable footing. He understood that the Notice which the hon. Member for Louth had given was with the intention of forcing the House to take some further action in the matter. The subject was not altogether free of difficulty, as would be perfectly evident from the fact that it had been more than once considered in the House, and he believed once formed the subject of inquiry before a Select Committee, which, however, came to no definite conclusion on the matter. He was, therefore, not prepared at this moment to lay before the House the terms of any Resolution; but he could undertake to say to the hon. Member for Louth that he was prepared to call the attention of the House to the question; and as the Government had announced their intention of not dealing with it "at present," which he concluded meant this Session, it was his intention to propose a Resolution on the subject. He therefore wished to ask the hon. Member for Louth, Whether, considering the peculiar character of the Motion fixed for that night, he intended to force the attention of the House to the anomalous relations between the House and the Press?


Sir, I, too, will ask the indulgence of the House, though my sentences shall be very few indeed. These personal episodes and interludes have become almost too frequent and too disagreeable. I had not the remotest idea—indeed, it would be quite repugnant to my feelings—of "ballooning" myself into momentary notice by raising a question of this kind. I ask the indulgence of the House while I, in justice to myself, point out that I did not put such a Question to the First Minister of the Crown until circumstances of the gravest magnitude had shown us that a state of things which no Member of this House would venture to defend, sometimes called obsolete, always absurd, had been invoked upon the head of the Press of this country by an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House. Reference has been made to the proceedings of the Committee in connection with the representatives of the Press in England. ["Order!"]


I must point out to the hon. Member that, in answering the Question put to him, he must not enter into any discussion of the matter.


Sir, I desire to be hold within what are the correct limits upon the present occasion, and I have not the remotest desire to prolong a scene like this. I wish to assure the House that in the Motion I made I was moved by the sternest sense of duty, feeling that this monstrous power given to one Member should be borne no longer. Nothing has been done, and, I believe, nothing would have been done for years to come, if I had not incurred the momentary unpopularity which I am perfectly sure I shall incur by this course. In view of the fact that one of the Leaders of this House, feeling the responsibility of his position, has given an assurance to the House, the country, and the Press, that this matter will be brought on at an early day—as by that, my whole object has been achieved, for I had no other object in view—I am prepared, Sir, to say that I shall not proceed in the course which I had stated it was my intention to take.


said, he had a Notice of Motion on the Paper on this subject; and he should be happy to withdraw it in favour of the Motion of the noble Marquess.