HC Deb 18 February 1875 vol 222 cc486-90

, who had been returned to this House for the borough of Stoke-upon-Trent, in the room of Mr. Melly, who had accepted the office of Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds, came to the Table to be sworn without being introduced by Two Members, according to custom:—whereupon


said: I have to point out to the hon. Member that, according to the uniform practice of this House, when a new Member comes into the House for the first time it is usual that he should be introduced by two Members of the House; and I have to ask him whether two Members of this House are prepared to so introduce him, according to the practice of the House?


I am aware, Mr. Speaker, of the practice of the House. At the same time, I am not aware of any law or any rule which deprives the House of the right of administering the oath to me as Member for the borough of Stoke-upon-Trent. The practice of the House, as I understand it, is based upon an Order that was made in February——["Order, order!"]

MR. SPEAKER (interposing)

I have to call the attention of the House to a Resolution of this House on the 23rd February, 1688, with reference to this practice. It is recorded in the Journals of this House in those terms— The House being informed that it was an ancient Order and Custom of the House, that, upon now Members coming into the House, they be introduced to the Table between Two Members, making their Obeisances as they go up, that they may be the better known to the House; Resolved, That the said order and custom be for the future observed. This Resolution has been invariably acted on by this House up to this time. I have had diligent search made in the Journals of the House, and I do not find that any departure from the practice has ever been sanctioned. The House will observe that the object of the Re-solution appears to be to identify the Member. It is my duty in this Chair to see the Resolutions of the House enforced; but should the House think fit, upon this special occasion, to dispense with its former Resolution, it will give the necessary directions. ["No, no!"]


interposed, saying: Am I to understand, Mr. Speaker, that you will not hear me on this matter?


While a question of this nature, affecting the conduct or action of a Member, is under consideration, it is in accordance with the practice of the House that the hon. Member concerned should withdraw.


withdrew accordingly.


I hope, Sir, that in this case the ordinary Rules will not be enforced. The identity of the new Member cannot, I believe, be questioned. Although, for myself, I think the Rule in question an excellent Rule—and it is one which I trust will be strictly observed in the future—yet I think there are circumstances connected with the present case which render it desirable that we should not insist upon its enforcement. I beg to move that the Rule be on this occasion dispensed with.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Resolution of the House be dispensed with on this occasion."—(Mr. Disraeli.)


I regret that, in moving the suspension of this Rule, the right hon. Gentleman, who is of the highest authority in this House, did not think it expedient—it could not, coming from him, be necessary—to state what are the circumstances under which it has arisen. I am surprised to find such reticence on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. Some injury might be done to individuals—not to the hon. Member who has appeared to be presented to the House—but to all those who may take an interest in the event of that Gentleman having been returned to Parliament. I think that the right hon. Gentleman should have stated what were the circumstances under which he has made this Motion. I observe, Sir, in the precedents to which you have referred that there were various customs and ceremonies adopted in old times; for instance, that hon. Members when they came to the Table should not wear their boots, and various other Rules—all these being, I take it, merely made for the convenience of the House, or that the identity of Members who present themselves should be known. It appears to me, Sir, that there is another reason why the right hon. Gentleman should have stated the circumstances and should not have made so formal and so emphatic an allusion to circumstances which he did not state, inasmuch as it was quite competent to take cognisance on the part of the House that some form would be required to be observed. As in a case in which there are no Tellers nominated, so in this case, if it had been known to you, Sir, that no hon. Member would be able to perform the simply Ministerial duty of identifying the individual who has handed in the paper, you might have dispensed with this formal proceeding on the part of the right hon. Gentleman by calling upon some hon. Members to perform the duty.


I am sorry that, when the hon. Member stood at the Bar, he was not asked whether the fact of his being alone arose from a disposition on his part to disregard the ordinary practice of the House. I think if he coming to the House had wilfully—I may say on purpose—disregarded the ordinary Rule of the House, and refused to come up to the Table with any two Members who might be willing to come up with him, that is a condition of the question which I think would be very unpleasant. I am not sure that it would be more pleasant—certainly it could not be more pleasant to the hon. Member himself—if he had found himself in a position in which he could not secure the friendly services of two Gentlemen to introduce him to the House. Sir, if the latter be the case, I presume that the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) at least will not object to coming to the Table with the new Member; and although I have not made the acquaintance of the hon. Gentleman, and have never spoken to him, yet, out of deference to the will of a large constituency, if he is willing to accept my companionship to the Table, I have no objection to walk up the floor of the House with him that he may be formally introduced to the Speaker. I think now before the Resolution is passed which the right hon. Gentleman has moved, it would be better, on the whole, to ascertain whether the hon. Member himself of his own free will—of his own obstinate will, if it be so—refuses to observe the Rule of the House—I think the House ought to know that before it passes the Resolution.


The Question is that the said Resolution of the House be dispensed with on this occasion.


I venture, Sir, to think that when the House is called on to come to a decision on a Motion for which, as you have informed us, there is no precedent for the last two centuries, the House ought to have more time to consider so grave a matter. I beg, therefore, Sir, to move the adjournment of the debate.

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


I think it would be desirable that we should come to some understanding on the present occasion. I have no hesitation myself in explaining to the House what I meant by the word "circumstances." I was told that the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent had not succeeded in obtaining two Members to introduce him, and I, thought that it might be painful to his feelings to allude to that fact. I therefore thought the words that I used would be sufficiently intelligible. I still am of opinion that it is undesirable that in the present instance we should insist on this Rule; and I feel persuaded that if the debate is adjourned, when we meet again we shall probably adopt a similar Resolution to that which I have proposed. I trust, therefore, that the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) will consider twice before he presses for an adjournment, and that the House will consider the Motion that I have made, and which is approved by many whose authority is great in the House, and that it will allow the hon. Member to be sworn at the Table.

Question put, and negatived.


I understand, Sir, that it has been explained and understood that the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent has not been acting contumaciously—if I may use the expression—towards the House, but that he has endeavoured, and has failed, to secure the services of two Members to introduce him. Under the circumstances, I think there can be no further hesitation on the part of the House in agreeing to the Motion made by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, and that it may be adopted without further discussion.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That the said Resolution of the House be dispensed with on this occasion.

MR. Kenealy was then called to the Table of the House, and sworn.

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