Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [4th May],
That this House will not entertain any complaint, in respect of the publication of the Debates or Proceedings of the House, or of any Committee thereof, except when any such Debates or Proceedings shall have been conducted with closed doors, or when such publication shall have been expressly prohibited by the House, or by any Committee, or in case of wilful misrepresentation, or other offence in relation to such publication,"—(The Marquess of Hartington.)
§ And which Amendment was,
§ To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is not expedient to make any permanent alteration in the Rules relative to the Reports of the Debates or Proceedings of the House, or of any Committee thereof, or as to the presence of strangers in the House, until the House has more fully considered the present system of reporting its proceedings with the aid of information to be obtained by the appointment of a Select Committee,"—(Mr. Mitchell Henry,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that every hon. Member would recollect the circumstances which led to the adjournment of the debate on the former occasion—that an hon. Member (Mr. Sullivan) at the moment he (Mr. Hardy) rose to address the House called attention to the presence of Strangers. When an hon. Member had, by calling attention to the presence of Strangers, achieved the object he said he had in view of obtaining a discussion on that subject, it did seem to him (Mr. Hardy) a peculiarly Irish proceeding that the same hon. 1137 Member should endeavour to put an end by the same means to the discussion which he had himself been instrumental in raising. Of course, the House might have proceeded with the subject then—and it might be better to continue the debate if similar circumstances should again arise; but it was thought advisable that there should be an adjournment, in order that they might rid themselves of the heat which had arisen under the special circumstances of the case, and discuss the question calmly—as all questions of Privilege ought to be discussed, because there was no doubt that all matters of this kind should be settled, not by Party divisions, but on their merits. He should oppose both the Motion of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition (the Marquess of Hartington), and also that of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry), for a Committee to inquire into the subject. He thought there was no necessity for such an inquiry, for he might remind the House that some of the ablest men that had ever sat in the House had sat on Committees on the subject; all the information that was necessary had been acquired, and upon every occasion the Committees had come to the conclusion that nothing was more dangerous than to tamper with the unwritten law of Parliament. He quite admitted what the noble Lord had stated in his speech—that publicity was a great advantage, and of those who might take part in this discussion there was not one probably who would be of a different opinion. Every Member of the House felt the great advantage which the House and the country alike derived from the great attention their debates received out-of-doors—the reports of their debates had a great share in forming public opinion outside the House, while it enabled the representatives within to gather the views held as to the proceedings within the House. But while this had been recognized for a great number of years, and no advantage had been taken of the breach of Privilege—which any publication of the debates might be said to be—yet at the same time there had always been a steady resistance on the part of the principal Members of the House to laying down any definite rules with respect to the publication of the debates. What the noble Lord proposed to do was altogether to alter the position, for— 1138 without authorizing the publication, and without taking that step which he believed some hon. Members were anxious to take—namely, that there should be authorized Reporters appointed by the House—which would seem a very logical step—the noble Lord appeared to him to be prepared to give a partial recognition to the Reporters of the Press, who now occupied their seats in the gallery on sufferance only, as Strangers, without giving them that full recognition which authorized Reporters would receive. The consequence of adopting the proposal of the noble Lord would therefore be simply this—it would remove the existing difficulty one step further away as soon as this partial recognition was given, instead of a general objection being taken to the publication of their debates—and he thought he might say that none had ever yet been taken because all Members were put upon perfect equality with respect to the reporting of debates—the moment they come to the question of misreporting, to which subject the noble Lord's Motion was entirely addressed, every Member who thought he had not received full justice on the part of the Reporters—whose speech was too much abstracted, or whose speech by being put in an abstract form might give a different impression from that which the Member meant to convey—would have an opportunity of appealing to that House which had guaranteed him that there should be a publication of the debates, and of calling attention to the misreport; and by this means he believed that they would be getting into far worse trouble than any which they had ever suffered from the publication of the debates under the present arrangements. The noble Lord, in fact, invited them to go into these questions; and was it a wise thing that they should do so? He should be sorry to point attention to any particular Member, but it must be within the cognizance of the House that Members had complained in their places that they had been misrepresented, misunderstood, or their speeches so altered as to give a different impression from that they were intended to convey; but hitherto it had been impossible to prove wilful misrepresentation, and therefore it seemed to him that the noble Lord's Resolution was, by the definition "wilful misrepresentation," and by giving this sort of 1139 half recognition to the Reporters, doing that which would more than anything else tend to the "interruption of their debates and to questions of Privilege" which under former circumstances never had arisen. Because, what was the question which had arisen? The question really which had arisen was the espying Strangers, and not the publication of the Debates. With the exception of the reporting the proceedings of a Committee of the House to which attention had been called by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Charles Lewis), and the circumstances of which were peculiar—he thought he might say that with respect to the House itself, there had not been any complaints of reporting or of any breach of Privilege on account of the reporting, which had now gone on for so many years. But it seemed to him that the words to which he had referred were of such a character that they would at once raise this question:—Hon. Members would have themselves admitted Reporters into the gallery and allowed them to report, and might then call upon the House to entertain a complaint that there was a "wilful misrepresentation." But who was to supply the motive?—who was to say when a report was a "wilful misrepresentation" and when it was not so? Those Members who made the complaint would declare it to be wilful and would discuss it in that view. But what was most to be desired was that questions such as these should not be raised and forced on the attention of the House to the interruption of Public Business, and the noble Lord's Resolutions giving recognition to a particular portion of the public which had never been given before, and recognizing them in another sense than that of Strangers, was putting them in a false position, while it at the same time put the House in a false position by giving it no security against repeated discussions of this kind. He could quite understand the position taken by some hon. Members of having authorized Reporters appointed by the House, though he was opposed to it himself—that was a clear and intelligible principle, and might have great advantages. But what position did the House put itself into by the sort of recognition which the noble Lord proposed? There was no obligation upon anyone who was admitted to the 1140 House to report in any particular manner. There was no obligation placed on those connected with the Press to report either fully one Member or to report all Members fully—it was left entirely to their own control—the House exercised no authority over them; and he was not aware that there was any reason for picking out from the whole of the public one particular portion of it over whom the House could exercise no control, and who perhaps were more irresponsible than any other part of the public, and give them a locus standi in that House which no other part of the public had. But by adhering to the old rule as to the exclusion of Strangers the House would always remain entirely masters of the situation, and would have an opportunity of remedying any wrong done to the House by misrepresentation by adopting the Motion of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli). When he came to what should be done it seemed to him that in adopting the Motion of his right hon. Friend they would heal the only wound which was really an open one. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) had put the question forward as a member of the Press; but upon that point, without wishing to say anything in the least degree discourteous to him, he (Mr. Hardy) did not think it advantageous to the House that any hon. Member should bring forward a question in any other capacity than as a Member of the House, and should claim not as a Member but as a journalist exceptional treatment for the class to which he himself belonged. He could not see any ground for treating the Press differently from any other portion of the public. Anyone not a Member of the House was a Stranger, and when he was so admitted it was by courtesy only. He warned the House against laying down new rules upon this subject, and giving exceptional privileges to an exceptional class. The grievance when the question was looked at properly was but a small one; and where there was not a great cause, why should they go to what might be called a great and excessive remedy? The only remedy needed for what had happened was that they should put on a new footing, to a certain extent, the exclusion of Strangers. The only question really before them was whether there was a liability to an abuse of the Privileges 1141 which Members possessed of espying Strangers and clearing the House without the House having any voice in the matter? Were they any longer to allow, as the right hon. Member opposite (Mr. Lowe) had said, that an observer of Strangers in the House should be the King of the House, and able to do that against the will of the House without calling it into consultation at all? He had come to the conclusion, with his right hon. Friend, that they had better stop short of anything further than remedying the precise evil. It seemed to him the Resolution of the noble Lord was of a character which would lead to very much greater abuse, and he thought it would be better to proceed to negative that Resolution, and also the Amendment of the hon. Member for Galway, and content themselves with applying that remedy only which was adequate to the occasion.
§ COLONEL MURE
said, he wished to say a word or two in regard to the subject under discussion, because he thought it was one which affected the credit and honour of the House, and therefore of the whole country. He thought those who had hitherto taken part in the discussions might be divided into two classes—there were those who thought the Reporters performed too much, and they tad as their leader the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. C. Lewis); and there were those who complained that the Reporters did not do enough, and who had the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) as their "guide, philosopher, and friend." But before he addressed himself to the Resolutions there was one thing in regard to which he thought the country should be informed, and that was that there was no very grave conflict going on between the House of Commons and the Press as seemed in some quarters to be imagined. He did not believe there was any time in our Parliamentary history when Parliament more valued the co-operation of the Press than it now did. In the absence of the means which the House had of communicating with the public by means of the Press, the House would be absolutely dumb and paralyzed, as it had been recently on two occasions—though that did not appear to be the opinion of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) or of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), who had set themselves 1142 up as the Paladins of the Press-The House would recollect how the hon. Member for Cavan the other night drew out of an old worn-out armoury a weapon which was useless for all practical purposes except that of annoying; unless, indeed, the hon. Member considered that causing annoyance was a practical purpose. If so, he (Colonel Mure) had pleasure in the reflection that the hon. Member's thoughts were not the thoughts of the House, nor were his ways the ways of the House. The hon. Member for Louth also the other night came forward as the representative of an Irish newspaper, and in prodigious language and gigantic exaggeration astonished the House, as he called upon the heavenly bodies to stay their course, while he did battle with and slew a purely imaginary enemy of the liberties of the Press, and finally paralyzed the House by his Motion for the exclusion of Strangers, under the erroneous idea that the House was arrayed against those liberties. The House had to consider the inconvenience of two legal fictions. The effect of one of these legal fictions was this—that Reporters who reported with the full leave and authority of the House in its corporate capacity the proceedings of the House, and with the concurrence of Select Committees of the House the proceedings of these Committees, did that which was wrong: the other legal fiction was that persons who came into the House under conditions which the House had laid down were doing wrong in sitting in the Reporters' Gallery, or in the places which were set apart for Strangers. Those legal fictions appeared to him to be monstrous paradoxes, and to contain in them grave inconveniences. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. C. Lewis) the other night used one of these legal fictions in order to "put the screw on" to obtain the information which he desired. He (Colonel Mure) did not take issue with the motive of the hon. Member; but he did take issue with the weapon which he used, and the mode in which he handled it. The Prime Minister the other night observed that a suspension of the Standing Orders would deprive an hon. Member of the power of annoying the House by moving the exclusion of Strangers. But that appeared to him (Colonel Mure) a clumsy method of guarding against abuses of the privileges of an hon. Member. 1143 The Prime Minister had spoken of the unwritten law of Parliament, and warned the House of the danger of an attempt to codify the common or unwritten law, which had been handed down or piled up by the wisdom of those who had gone before us. After all, however, what was the great unwritten law of all Representative Assemblies in a free country? Why, that which had its birth in the very first conception of freedom—namely, obedience to the decision of the majority. Surely the House must have felt that this unwritten law was endangered when it could be set aside at the will or at the caprice of any hon. Member, and sorely outraged when the House had to bow down without remonstrance and submit to the dictate of a minority of one. The Resolution which had been moved by the noble Lord afforded an easy and efficient way of meeting the position. Par from codifying or in any way unduly stereotyping, its result would simply be to re-establish this great unwritten law, which for reasons which no doubt in older and less happy times were sufficient, had in this particular instance been set aside. If that Resolution were passed such a transaction as took place the other night would never occur again. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) complained that the Press did not report speeches with sufficient fulness. He (Colonel Mure) felt almost inclined to agree with the hon. Gentleman, because nothing was more delightful than to read the report of one's own speech. That opinion, he believed, was entertained by every Member of the House with reference to his own speech. One of the most trying moments in the life of a public man was that in which he took up the newspaper the morning after he had delivered a speech in the House. Perhaps the speech which had taken him six weeks to compose and a quarter of an hour to deliver would be found compressed within the space of half-a-dozen lines—or, perhaps, disposed of after this fashion—"After a few remarks from Mr.——." If, however, its author were an industrious man, there was "Balm in Gilead "—if he had written out his speech in full and sent it to the Provincial Press he would find his magnificent oration set forth in full in his local paper, and he would figure before his constituents as the great statesman 1144 and powerful orator he believed himself to be. In the House of Commons, as in other Assemblies, Members, as a general rule, found their own level. Men with great ability, industry, and eloquence were sure to be appreciated by the House and to be reported in the newspapers. Others, with great ability, industry, and powers, but without great eloquence, would also be reported, because, though not so showy, they were appreciated by the good sense of the country. There were other Members, again, who were "representative men," or who were sent to the House to represent great interests, and these were likewise sure to obtain a hearing in the House and to be reported in the newspapers, when they gave the House special information on those subjects which they really understood. But there were many Members who did not possess any of these qualifications, or who took little part in public affairs, and these, too, when they did speak in the House generally got their due. Debates in the present day were different from those of olden times, when only a few great men spoke in Parliament, and when the remainder were content to listen to and cheer them. Now the debates in the House of Commons had out-grown the Press, and although few men obtained all the attention they thought they deserved, yet some obtained more than they deserved, but others, it must be confessed, obtained less—hut, upon the whole, a speech that was appreciated by the House was certain to be appreciated by the Reporters and to be adequately recorded. Therefore, while he sympathized to some extent with the hon. Member for Galway, he was not prepared with a proposal for what the Prime Minister had aptly called a Speech Preservation Bill.
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
said, he thought it undesirable that any change should be made in the present rules, as the power which it gave to an hon. Member of clearing the House was a safeguard against anything in the shape of an undignified or indecorous demonstration on the part of any section of Members of the House. He would give as an instance what had occurred a few years ago. When General Garibaldi visited London, it was proposed by some hon. Gentlemen to get up a demonstration on the occasion of his visiting 1145 the House of Commons by waving their hats and cheering. Other hon. Members, however, of whom he was one, intimated to Garibaldi's admirers that if anything of the kind was attempted the Speaker's attention would be at once directed to the circumstance that Strangers were present—the consequence being, of course, not that the galleries would be immediately cleared of the Reporters, but of General Garibaldi himself. Nothing could be more indecorous, more undignified, or more calculated to bring the House into contempt than such demonstrations, however illustrious or distinguished might be the person who appeared in the gallery; for it was obvious that, if some hon. Members had the right to express approval, others might express strong disapproval of a distinguished foreigner. Hitherto the House had been preserved from this scandal by the power with which every hon. Member was invested of excluding Strangers by merely calling the Speaker's attention to the fact that they were present. Suppose Prince Bismarck were to visit the House, Protestant Members might get up a demonstration in his favour, and this might provoke Roman Catholic Members to get up a counter-demonstration. A most unseemly scene would be the result; and yet, if the Resolution of the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) were adopted, no action could be taken except by a vote of the House. This would place the House in a very awkward and difficult position; for it would be difficult to make the illustrious foreigner understand that the question was merely one of rule and order, and not of international or personal feeling. It was very much to be regretted that the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) and the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) should have exercised in the way they had done the ancient and salutary power which, until the present Session, had rarely, if ever, been abused. The hon. Member for Louth based his action on his desire to protect the Press: well, after saying that everybody connected with the Press ought to be treated with deference, the hon. Member proceeded to enforce the doctrine by turning the Reporters out of the House. For his own part, he wished to treat the Reporters with the greatest possible respect. He regarded them, indeed, as a "noble army of martyrs," They sat 1146 up there in the gallery hour after hour, listening to many unmeaning, maundering speeches, which they were wise enough not to report. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) thought the reports in the newspapers were not sufficiently voluminous. He, on the contrary, was of opinion that the newspaper reports, particularly those in The Times, were all that could be desired. The way in which the Reporters of that journal condensed the reports, never omitting anything of importance, was to his mind perfectly marvellous. If hon. Gentlemen would themselves only endeavour to concentrate their speeches within the space usually allotted to them in The Times, they would produce a much greater effect, and the Business of the House would be much more satisfactorily conducted than at present.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
thought the House ought not to come to a resolution on this important question without very grave consideration. It appeared to him that they might get out of the difficulty by a very simple process. It was only necessary to divide "Strangers" into two classes—namely, those in the Strangers' gallery and those in the Reporters' gallery. They ought to leave the rule as it existed with regard to the Strangers' gallery, and change it as regards the gallery occupied by the Reporters. Under this arrangement only unrecognized Strangers would be obliged to leave the House when their presence was objected to. We ought not to judge of all times by the present. He was not afraid of anything which was likely to occur now, but the time might arrive when there would be a very different House of Commons, in which the feelings of the minority might be set at naught. The feelings of the minority were at present guarded by the provision that one Member could turn out Strangers. Supposing this power were left, what harm could happen if the representatives of the Press were allowed to remain? The world would know all that occurred, and yet all the power which the House desired to preserve would be retained. During the French Revolution the Strangers formed so large a body that they conquered for themselves the right of expressing their opinions in the Assembly. There might be similar times of violence here; and if at any time it happened that the violent public out-of-doors 1147 forced their way into the House of Commons, a beneficial use might be made of the power which hon. Members now possessed. If his suggestion were adopted, no power would be taken from the House which it ought not to have, while all the power which it ought to have would remain.
MR. BERESFOED HOPE
observed that the Amendment which he had put on the Paper was only for the purpose of continuing and developing the noble Lord's second Resolution, which dealt with the exclusion of Strangers, but he was sorry to see that with this subject another question had been mixed up, which had no natural connection with it. There was good reason for increasing the aggregate power of the whole House as contrasted with that of any single Member with regard to the exclusion of Strangers, and he was glad to see that his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government had come round to that view. But, on the other hand, there was no reason at all for dealing with the relations between the House and the Reporters, with regard to whom no grievance existed. The whole trouble had been caused by three Irish Members—those for Cavan, Louth, and Londonderry—who had by their handiwork put the House in a false position and raised the idea that a grievance existed where there was really none. He could not accept the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) to make a distinction between the two galleries, founded as it was on an appeal to the possible risks attending on a time of disturbance. Could it be supposed that at a crisis resembling by his hon. and learned Friend's own supposition, the French Revolution—a crowd of excited citizens in the gallery would allow themselves to be turned out at the voice of a single Member? Why, they would instead stream into the House and tear the mace from the Table! Then the hon. Member proposed to allow the Reporters, who, by the conditions of his hypothesis, would be the very writers who fomented excitement, to remain and comment upon the proceedings. This suggestion would not hold water. As to giving additional privileges to the Reporters, it would be really fettering the men they wished to protect. As had been well said by the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure) 1148 the Reporters at present enjoyed the highest of privileges—that of exercising their own discretion in editing and abridging the speeches that were made. As a reader of the papers and an utterer himself sometimes of speeches, which, like all other speakers, he afterwards felt might have been better had they been shorter, heshouldbe sorry to put the Reporters into any position which would imply an antecedent bargain with the House to give anything like a literal report of speeches in the House. But the proposal of the noble Marquess would readily lead to that abuse by enabling any Member whose self-conceit might be mortified, without possessing the mental control involved in the more judicious than original advice of the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire to sit down and send off his speech to his own particular Mercury, to obstruct business by wrangling questions of personal vanity misnamed Privilege. The exclusion of Strangers was quite another matter. His own Amendment was intended to prevent the annoyance which might follow on a course of persistent "spyings" on the part of any one Member; but he should not press it if the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury were adopted. His hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley) defended the retention of the present system by supposing that General Garibaldi or Prince Bismarck would not be flattered by a Resolution of the House to exclude him from the gallery; but he would have still more cause to feel affronted should he be turned out on the ipse dixit of a single Member. He trusted the House would realize the fact that the reporting of the Debates, although not perfect, was as practically convenient as it could be.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
ventured to submit that on the Resolution at present before the House all discussion of the subject of the admission of Strangers was quite irrelevant. That Resolution had only to do with the question of the Publication of Debates. Now, the position taken up by the Secretary of State for War on behalf of the Government he understood to be this—that they proposed to negative the present Resolution, and thereby to leave the question of the Publication of Debates as it stood; but that with reference to 1149 the admission of Strangers they were willing to make some modification of the existing rules. As to the former matter, therefore, there was a clear and definite issue before the House—namely, whether or not they were to leave things as they were. The Secretary for War had argued that there was no reason for dealing with more than the evil which actually existed, and that that evil was connected merely with the exclusion of Strangers. But in point of fact the existing evil was connected principally and primarily with the Publication of the Debates. Therein lay the original difficulty; the other question was only an incident. What had led to these discussions was the circumstance of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. C. Lewis) calling attention to the publication of certain proceedings of a Committee—and it was all the same whether the report referred to a Committee or to the House—and calling upon the House to vote that that publication was a breach of Privilege:—and the House having agreed that a breach of Privilege had been committed it followed that the printers should be called to the Bar. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of House was compelled to say that no doubt the House must vote that a breach of Privilege had been committed; but he expressed his opinion that so unsatisfactory a state of things as that one Member should be able to decide that a breach of Privilege had been committed should be allowed to continue. They had been occupied for days—he might say for weeks—in trying to get out of the mess they had got into through the exercise of that power; and they had the authority of the Leader of the House that if one Member called upon them to say that the publication of a single word of their proceedings was a breach of Privilege, they could not do otherwise than so pronounce it. Then, on the occasion to which he was referring, the right hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) laid down the further proposition that when any publication was declared a breach of Privilege the House must, as a matter of course, summon the printers to the Bar. [Mr. HORSMAN: I said that it was the invariable practice.] Well, the practice of the House was the law of the House. Under the circumstances which he had stated it might happen tomorrow that the hon. Member for Louth 1150 (Mr. Sullivan) would get up and call attention to the fact that this very discussion had been published in the newspapers. Was it a breach of Privilege or not? What were they to do in such a case? The House would be in exactly the same scrape as before. The Prime Minister ought to state what course he would take if such a Motion were made. Whether the Motion of his noble Friend was the best mode of dealing with the subject might be a matter of opinion: at any rate, the question could not be left as it was. If the hon. Member for Louth raised the question to-morrow, would the House say there was no breach of Privilege, and thus settle the Publication of Debates by nightly votes? By merely rejecting his noble Friend's Resolution the question would not be got rid of. The House would shut its eyes and shunt the difficulty for the moment, but would soon get into the same false position as before. The proper plan would be to deal with this question at once and boldly. As it was, the House had been driven from pillar to post, and asked to resist change inch by inch. The Prime Minister at first said no change was necessary. Then the House was told that the Government would concede the change as to Strangers, but would make no change as to Publication. Now, he ventured to say this would not be a final resolution. The evils were so obvious that, sooner or later, the course suggested in the Resolution must be taken, and it would be best to take it at once. Publication was the main question which had led to this discussion. The House should deal, then, with Publication in some way which might be consistent with its dignity and interests—for it was out of that that the whole of this discussion had sprung. They all knew that the House would not have half the influence it possessed, if it were not for the Publication of the Debates; and he was never more struck than by the indignation expressed by the right hon. Gentleman at the hon. Member for Louth, while at the same time he complained that the course then taken would put an end to the debates. The House did not recognize Reporters, yet was indignant when by excluding them an hon. Member put an end to the debates. What a wonderful piece of inconsistency was this! The moment the Reporters went away, the mission of the House of 1151 Commons was felt to be at an end, and the only point was to get back the Re-porters as soon as possible. The House recognized the fact that, practically, it could not go on without the Reporters. Why, then, could not the House of Commons make up its mind to recognize the fact that there were Reporters in the gallery, that the debates were published, and that they ought to be published under such regulations as were thought requisite? If the House objected to the wording of the Resolution it might be amended; he was only arguing that something should be done with reference to the Publication of the Debates. That, not the terminology of the Resolution, was the issue raised between the Government and the Gentlemen sitting on his side of the House. A hope had been expressed that this would not be made a Party question. Now, he and his friends did not want to make it a Party question. [MR. HORSMAN: Hear, hear!] If they wanted to make it a Party question, the last person they would think of consulting would be the right hon. Gentleman. But unless it was considered by the Government itself that this was a Party question, he believed it was a very unusual course to summon its supporters for the purpose of consultation. ["Hear!"] He was telling no secrets, for the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had himself told them that he had consulted with his Friends and those about him on this question.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that the statement of his right hon. Friend referred only to Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he would consider himself contradicted, and hold that there had been no such meeting. He did not much care, however, whether it was or was not a Party question. He wanted to know what the question was. Having heard the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Hardy) he thought the rule could not be left as it was, for it would be inconsistent to do so, and at the same time alter the rule with reference to Strangers. He was therefore prepared to support the Resolution of his noble Friend on the ground that some Amendment was necessary as to the exclusion of Reporters.
§ MR. HORSMAN
I wish my hon. and learned Friend would tell me what has made this question one of such sudden excitement upon the front bench of Opposition. The worst of all modes of treating this question is to treat it as a Party question, and I think I can show that it undoubtedly has been so treated. According to my experience in this House—which is somewhat longer than that of my hon. and learned Friend—there has been but one mode of dealing with questions of Privilege—which really are questions of Parliamentary power and supremacy. The Leaders on neither side have taken such questions into their own hands—they have invariably consulted together; after such consultation they have never come to any conclusion without referring to the highest authority in the House; and until the Speaker has approved the change proposed, I have never known any Ministry propose such change. The moment this rule is departed from, the question is made a Party question. This matter of Privilege has been more or less before every Cabinet Minister now living. It has been before that veteran Minister Earl Russell, during whose first Administration a strong Committee was appointed to deal with it—they went into the matter—they considered it:—but though they saw the anomalies and absurdities of the present Rule, they were unanimously of opinion that the inconveniences likely to arise from a change were greater than those to which they were already exposed, and they recommended that no change should be made. Not only was this opinion shared by men like Sir Robert Peel and Sir James Graham, but by popular champions like Mr. Hume, and Lord Palmerston and others came to the same conclusion. Whatever may be the charges brought against my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone), no one can say he is pusillanimous in making changes endorsed by public opinion—the late Government, then, appointed a Committee on this subject; it was presided over by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and by the casting vote of the Chairman the Committee recommended this change. Yet the late Government, warring as it did so courageously and honestly against abuses, shrank from acting on the Report of the Committee, and bequeathed this unsettled difficulty to the Government of 1153 the right ton. Gentleman. The present Ministry have considered the question upon the case of Privilege raised so unexpectedly by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis). Such cases had been raised before—not frequently, but on two or three occasions—and the House knows that they have have always been raised in one way. There never has been an instance in which a question of breach of Privilege has been raised in that House, when the first Resolution had been moved affirming that a breach of Privilege had been committed, but that it was followed up by the second Resolution that the offending party should be summoned to the Bar of the House—there never was an instance until the other day in which the Minister of the Crown who supported that second Resolution could not count on the support of the front Opposition bench. The Prime Minister supported that Motion—not as the head of the Cabinet, but as the Leader of the House of Commons—relating to the honour and dignity of the House, in which every hon. Member had as great an interest as himself—but that was the first occasion on which, departing from the invariable practice, the front Opposition bench forgot that Opposition has its responsibilities as well as office. Having been challenged, I am compelled to say that I have never been more surprised in my life than when I saw the front Opposition bench take the first step towards making this a Party question by leading their Party into the Lobby against the Government. Then, what happened? The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) was quick to see the advantage thus offered, and to avail himself of it. He immediately gave Notice that he would ask the Prime Minister whether he meant to change the law. The right hon. Gentleman then considered the question, as his Predecessors had done, and came to the decision to which they had come—namely, not to change the law. Instantly there was an expression of great disappointment on the Opposition side of the House; an outcry was raised, and once more this was made a Party question. The hon. Member for Louth was encouraged by the sympathy he met with to announce two days afterwards that he would take the opportunity of clearing the Gallery, intimating also that he would clear it every day till the end of 1154 the Session. He gave that Notice speaking as a representative and a champion of the Press. I confess that that threat did not appear to me to make any great impression on the House; but it must have made a great impression on the front Opposition bench, because the right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) afterwards spoke of the hon. Member for Louth as their King and as the master of the situation, and said they were all on their knees imploring that hon. Member to have mercy on them. Now, I have seen no indications of that panic in any other quarter of the House. On the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Lowe's) description was far too highly coloured; and within three days afterwards we saw how exaggerated it was, because when the hon. Member for Cavan proceeded to put that threat into execution, the House was at once equal to the occasion; the Standing Order was suspended, and immediately—instead of the hon. Member for Louth being master of the situation—the House had the command of the situation. So unanimous was the feeling of the House that when the Prime Minister moved the suspension of the Standing Order the Motion was seconded by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, and it was suggested by the right hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson) that if the proceeding were repeated the Standing Order should be suspended for the rest of the Session. So far from being masters of the situation, it was the Member for Louth and the Member for Cavan versus the whole House of Commons. The House had the remedy in its own hands. But in the panic of the front Opposition bench to which I have referred a negotiation was entered into with the hon. Member for Louth, and arrangements were made outside that there should be a little scene in the House. It is almost incredible that a negotiation should have been entered into by the Leader of the Opposition—taking the question out of the hands both of the Government and of the Speaker—with the hon. Member for Louth, who has not the sympathy of the House, and could not carry any strength with him. At half-past 4, however, up rose my noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington), with a command of countenance which did him great credit, and, with an air of curiosity evidently seeking for 1155 information, asked the hon. Member for Louth whether he really intended to carry out his terrific threat. The hon. Member for Louth said that was his intention. The noble Lord, apparently quite impromptu, said that if the hon. Member would forego that terrible infliction on the House, he would himself undertake to bring forward a proposal to effect the change desired. Thereupon the hon. Member for Louth got up in the old approved fashion, of the fire-eating days of Ireland, and said—" Mr. Speaker, the noble Lord has given me satisfaction; I withdraw my challenge." Amid cheers on that side of the House, the noble Marquess gave a pledge that he would take the question out of the hands of the Government. That was considered as a rebuke to the Leader of the House, and remarks were made that the right hon. Gentleman had mismanaged matters to throw such a card into the hands of the Opposition. Well, while this little scene was going on, I had the curiosity to watch the countenance of the Prime Minister; and I must say that, after 30 years' experience, I never saw it wear so mischievous an expression. The Prime Minister knew what my noble Friend was doing better than my noble Friend did himself; he knew there was a difference between making a promise to pay and making actual payment. "When the promise of the noble Marquess was only three days old the hon. Member for Louth thought the performance of that promise was rather hanging fire; and the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) was put up for the purpose of administering a spur. [Mr. SULLIVAN: No, no!] I withdraw the expression. I should have said the hon. Member for Cavan got up. And then, what was the confession of the right hon. Member for the University of London? He said the noble Marquess had been reproached with being rather tardy in proceeding, but he assured the House that he had been busy ever since endeavouring to redeem his promise—adding that he had found it a very difficult and delicate tak. Surely, however, before the noble Marquess gave the pledge he ought to have considered whether it was one that he could easily fulfil? But, apparently, not having been considered, the question could not be understood; and thus it had come to this—that without considering 1156 or understanding, we on this side of the House assumed the responsibility of proposing a change from which both the present and the late Prime Ministers and all the wisest and most experienced Members of the House had shrunk. We have been told of the great absurdity of the present rule. The question, however, is not whether it is theoretically absurd, but whether it is practically in-convenient. If all the anomalies of the British Constitution were done away with, how much of it, I should like to know, would remain? What has been the practical inconvenience of the rules in question in times past? In the course of 35 years the subject has occupied the attention of the House but two or three times for an hour at a time. That has been the whole practical inconvenience. It is upon the forbearance, the consideration, and the gentlemanlike feeling of its Members that the House must rely for having its Rules carried out satisfactorily. I should not have thought it necessary to trouble the House with these remarks had it not been that I have been put on my defence by what was said as to the course I took when the motion of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. C. Lewis) was under decision. I have, I think, now shown that I acted consistently with all previous practice on that occasion by voting with the Government and not with those who—unfortunately and unwisely in my opinion—made the subject of the Privileges of the House a Party question. Having said this much I would say a few words on the Resolutions of the noble Lord. There have been various criticisms on these Resolutions; but the question which the House has to consider is, not whether the existing state of things is good, but whether it is likely to be improved by the adoption of the change which is proposed. I, for one, must contend that the difficulties which will arise if the Resolutions should be agreed to will be found to be infinitely greater and more numerous than any which have hitherto been experienced from the one small inconvenience against which the House is asked to legislate. It is proposed that the House should not entertain any complaint of the Publication of its Debates or of the proceedings before any of its Committees "except when such debates or proceedings shall have been conducted with closed doors." 1157 Well, against whom does that Resolution point? Not against the Press or the outside public. If a report of a debate is published when the proceedings have been conducted with closed doors, it must have been done by some Member of the House. He thereby would be guilty of an offence which the Resolution would make penal, but having created the offence, how is the Member by whom it is committed to be punished? Surely, the House will not commit so great an act of curelty as to summon the poor unoffending printer to its Bar? It will then have to ascertain who the Member is by whom the law of the House has been violated. But suppose the Member gets up in his place and avows his offence. What is to be done in that case? He must have committed the offence wilfully; how is he to be punished? He may be reprimanded; but suppose him to have the courage and the earnestness which the hon. Member for Louth always exhibits, he may not be inclined to submit to the reprimand. He may commit a similar offence the very next day; and, if so, is he again to be reprimanded, or given into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms? Then there are the words "unless such publication shall have been expressly prohibited." But how is it to be prohibited? Is it to be prohibited by the House? Would the question be made a Party one, and a division taken upon it? If so, a Member of the minority may say he will not submit to that, and would publish in spite of the majority; and thus the House would be landed in a conflict with one of its Members. Then comes the question of "wilful" misrepresentation. Who is to say what is "wilfulness?" A Member of the House may complain that he has been "wilfully" misrepresented. He may have evidence to justify him in arriving at the conclusion that a particular paper had a grudge against him, and took every opportunity of perverting his meaning. Is the editor or printer to be called to the Bar of the House and punished without hearing his defence? In the Courts of Law, when a man is indicted for a "wilful" offence, he is tried before a Judge and jury, who decide upon evidence whether the offence is "wilful" or not; but what materials, I should like to know, does 1158 the House of Commons possess for deciding a question of that kind? Different views will be entertained upon if on different sides of the House, and thus the question of "wilfulness" will become a matter of Party divisions. When I consider that within the last quarter of a century there are only two or three instances when the House has been cleared at the suggestion of a single Member, and only four or five in which a printer has been summoned to the Bar—occupying the time of the House for only about an hour and a-half every eight or nine years—I cannot help thinking that the present Rules, while they give the Press the maximum of liberty, put the House itself to the minimum of inconvenience. If any other plan can be devised which would be likely to effect those objects more completely, I should not hesitate to give it my support; but I cannot regard the Resolutions of the noble Lord in that light. Of course, whatever Rules are laid down, they will be liable to abuse—just as the hon. Member for Cavan abused his power, when he read reports from the newspapers for four hours together, or as any eccentric Gentleman might abuse it. Against such conduct no law can afford protection. Happily, however, the House is so constituted that there has been a very general consent to carry on its Business in a manner at once satisfactory and courteous to all. Even when Gentlemen who have acquired great notoriety out-of-doors come within these walls, they at once seem to be elevated by the influence of this Assembly, and instinctively pay respect to its Rules. Although, therefore, theoretically those Rules may be anomalous and absurd, they, on the whole, have been found to work well. Let the House, then, go back to the old-fashioned practice, that the Leaders on both sides should consult together, and after they have agreed on something which they regard as being a judicious, wise, and salutary change, let them submit it the experience and better judgment of the Speaker; and after it has received his approval and sanction let it be adopted. Such a change would be carried out in the best and most satisfactory way, initiated as it would be by both sides of the House, and would be the most likely to work satisfactorily.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that when the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) 1159 spoke he had expected to hear some arguments why the Resolutions submitted to the House by the noble Marquess opposite should be adopted; but, as he thought, the hon. and learned Gentleman had failed to offer any reasons whatever in their favour, but rather had said that the whole question was whether or not they should leave the existing Rules as they stood. After alluding to the phrase "wilful misrepresentation," and pointing out the difficulty that might arise in defining what was "wilful," and saying that the phraseology of the Resolution might be improved, the hon. and learned Gentleman said that the real question was as to the Publication of Debates, and that the question could not be left where it was. Now, the correctness of that statement he (Mr. Hunt) entirely denied. Before the incident of the publication of a letter which was read before the Foreign Loans Committee, had any hon. Member, he should like to know, entertained the opinion that the publication of the debates of the House was a question which needed to be dealt with? What was there in the history of that occurrence which necessitated any action on the part of the House? The right hon. Gentlemen the Leader of the House said it was not desirable to treat the publication of that letter as a breach of Privilege, if they could get the information elsewhere; and if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) had thought proper to rise and give the information desired, the question of Privilege would have vanished into thin air, and the House would have heard no more of it. The information, in fact, was subsequently furnished by the Committee, and the printers were not called to the Bar of the House at all. Any difficulty, therefore, which did arise out of the case of the Foreign Loans Committee was satisfactorily disposed of. But it was asked, was it to be left to the discretion of a single Member of the House to say whether a breach of Privilege had been committed? To that he would reply that such discretion did not rest with any single Member of the House; it rested with the House itself. Supposing an hon. Member did raise the subject, nothing was easier than to move the previous Question, or to move that the House should pass to the Orders of the Lay. It appeared to him, therefore, 1160 that the question of Publication stood on a different footing from the Exclusion of Strangers, which could be accomplished by the will of a single Member. The first of the noble Lord's Resolutions, therefore, appeared to him to be useless. And it was open to this further objection—that by giving the Press a kind of Parliamentary authority in reporting the proceedings of the House, it would make the question of whether the proceedings were misreported a constant source of discussion, and interfere with the Public Business. On the whole, he ventured to submit that it was better to retain the Rules and Orders of the House as they now stood, than to adopt a new system the results of which no one could pretend to foresee.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he did not intend to enter on the argument of the First Lord of the Admiralty on this question, though he would by-and-by say a word or two on the Resolution he had laid before the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) had given the House one of those lectures which they did not now hear for the first time, but with which they had not been favoured so often recently as might have been good for them—upon their conduct generally, and especially upon the conduct of the front (Opposition) bench. Coming from a Gentleman of so much authority as the right hon. Member he should have been disposed to accept some of his censures had he been convinced of the statements on which he had founded his reproof. He thought, however, the right hon. Gentleman's strictures would have had more weight had they been drawn up with a greater regard to accuracy. First, he said it was most unusual that the Leaders of the Opposition should have undertaken any matter connected with the Privileges of the House without consulting the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Leader of the House. What opportunity had he (the Marquess of Hartington) for consulting the right hon. Gentleman? Far from making any complaint of the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, he would ask the House to remember what had occurred. The hon. Member for Louth asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he intended to take steps in regard to the Publication of the Debates, The right 1161 hon. Gentleman did not consult him as to what answer he should give—and he should have been extremely surprised if he had done so. The right hon. Gentleman made the distinct and pointed reply that he had no such intention. Would he (the Marquess of Hartington) have been justified in rising and saying the right hon. Gentleman had made a great mistake in not entering into consultation with him? Again, he (the Marquess of Hartington) was charged with committing a most egregious error in having failed to second the Motion calling the printers to the Bar in the case of the Foreign Loans Committee. But the Motion was made, not by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, but by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. C. Lewis), while the House was in what might be described as a state of bewilderment and stupefaction; and how could the front bench, therefore, be accused of a want of Parliamentary courtesy in the matter? He would not follow the right hon. Gentleman into his fanciful history of what took place previous to these Resolutions being placed on the Table. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) had been at great pains to prove that the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), who had given Notice of his intention to observe the presence of Strangers, was not master of the situation, and that the House was in a position very effectually to preserve its own freedom and dignity. It was true that when Strangers were unexpectedly espied by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) the House took the extremely unusual course of suspending the Standing Order without Notice; but, as the Government did not think that was a course to be repeated, the Member for Louth was practically master of the situation, and it became necessary to take up the subject in view of the conduct which the hon. Member intended to pursue. If he (the Marquess of Hartington) had taken some days to frame his Resolutions, it was because he wished to put them in a form which might be acceptable to both sides of the House, and because it was necessary to pause before dealing with a subject of so much difficulty. He would now say a few words on the question immediately before the House, and from which his attention had been somewhat diverted by the constitutional lecture of the right 1162 hon. Member for Liskeard. He regretted the decision which the Government had arrived at. The course which the Government had taken amounted to a distinct assertion that the present condition of affairs with respect to the Publication of its Debates was satisfactory and did not require amendment. For this reason also the decision of the Government was to be regretted: It had been said that the question was one which several Committees of the House had considered, and with regard to which they had recommended that things should be allowed to remain as they were. Those hon. Members who held this view had confused two questions which were perfectly distinct—namely, the Privilege of the House with regard to the Publication of its Debates and the question of the exclusion of Strangers. With regard to the last of these questions, a Committee had recommended that the existing Rule should be allowed to stand; but he was not aware that any Committee had considered the first question, which he regarded as a perfectly simple one, and one with which the House was perfectly competent to deal. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had solemnly warned the House against the danger of tampering with the unwritten law of Parliament—and the warning had a terrible sound; but it was totally inapplicable to the present case. The matter with which he asked the House to deal was no part of the unwritten law—it was part of the most distinctly written law of Parliament, and was contained in several Resolutions of the House. Among other Resolutions which had been passed on the subject he found the following in Sir Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, p. 87:—That no news-letter writers do, in their letters or other papers that they disperse, presume to intermeddle with the debates, or any other proceedings of this House.That no printer or publisher of any printed newspapers do presume to insert in any such papers any debates or any other proceedings of this House, or of any Committee thereof.That it is an indignity to and a breach of the privilege of this House for any person to presume to give in written or printed newspapers any account or minute of the debates or other proceedings. That upon the discovery of the authors, printers, or publishers of any such newspaper, this House will proceed against the offenders with the utmost severity.If at any time it had been thought necessary to pass these Resolutions in 1163 past times, he failed to see why, in a totally different state of things, the House should refuse to alter its former Resolutions. He had not asked the House to rescind the Resolutions he had quoted, because he knew that the House very properly desired to keep all matters of the kind entirely in its own hands; and further, that, although the House could divest itself of existing privileges, it could not create new ones. His Resolutions would affect no Privilege of the House—it merely proposed to lay down a rule for its own guidance—and could he rescinded at any time if the House thought proper. His Resolutions would simply interpose a sort of permanent Previous Question between the Motion of any hon. Member who wished the House to exercise its Privilege and the decision of the House upon the question. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had said that his Resolutions would fetter the discretion of Parliament without removing the inconveniences complained of. He (the Marquess of Hartington) failed to see that it would do anything of the kind. It had not been shown by any Speaker who had criticized the terms of his Resolution that the exceptions which he had included in his Motion were not wide enough to meet every conceivable case in which it might be necessary for the House to punish either the publisher or the printer of a newspaper. Further, if it did not remove every inconvenience—and he maintained it was quite impossible to avoid discussions on questions of Privilege if Members would bring them forward—he maintained that his proposal would have the effect of diminishing rather than increasing the number of questions of Privilege which might be raised—because hon. Members would have to make any charges they had to bring forward in distinct terms, and upon clearly defined offences. He thought the question of official reporting dealt with by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) was one which would be better dealt with separately than in connection with the matter before the House. Although the Government would not adopt the first of his Resolutions, it seemed that they had come to the conclusion that it was necessary to take action on the matters referred to in the second and third. He 1164 did not wish to stand between the House and its Leader, and he should place himself after the division on the first Resolution in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman and the House as to what course it might be most convenient to take on the other Resolutions as to the exclusion of Strangers. For his part he was indifferent whether the discussion took place on his Resolutions or that of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe). Having raised a question of great importance he did not feel he should be acting fairly by the House if he did not do his best to procure its acceptance: after the announcement of the Government, however, there could be little doubt as to the fate of his unfortunate Resolution; but he was sure that not many Sessions would elapse before the right hon. Gentleman would think it necessary to introduce some Resolution as to the Publication of Debates, just as at the present moment he had been brought to admit it was necessary to do something as regarded the exclusion of Strangers.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
expressed his willingness to withdraw the Amendment, but said that next Session he or some other Member would bring the question forward.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 147; Noes 254: Majority 107.1167
|Amory, Sir J. H.||Clive, G.|
|Ashley, hon. E. M.||Cole, H. T.|
|Balfour, Sir G.||Colman, J. J.|
|Barclay, A. C.||Conyngham, Lord F.|
|Barclay, J. W.||Corhett, J.|
|Bass, M. T.||Cotes, C. C.|
|Baxter, rt. hon. W. E.||Cowan, J.|
|Bazley, Sir T.||Cowen, J.|
|Beaumont, Major F.||Cowper, hon. H. F.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Crawford, J. S.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Cross, J. K.|
|Blennerhassett, R. P.||Davie, Sir H. R. F.|
|Bolckow, H. W. F.||Davies, R.|
|Brasaey, T.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Briggs, W. E.||Dixon, G.|
|Bright, rt. hon. J.||Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.|
|Brown, A. H.||Duff, M. E. G.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. Lord E.||Duff, R. W.|
|Burt, T.||Edwards, H.|
|Cameron, C.||Egerton, Adm. hon. F.|
|Campbell, Sir G.||Errington, G.|
|Carington, hn. Col. W.||Evans, T. W.|
|Cavendish, Lord F. C.||Fletcher, I.|
|Chadwick, D.||Foljambe, F. J. S.|
|Clarke, J. C.||Fordyce, W. D.|
|Clifford, C. C.||Forster, rt. hon. W. E.|
|Foster, W. H.||Monck, Sir A. E.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Morgan, G. O.|
|Gladstone, W. H.||Muntz, P. H.|
|Goldsmid, J.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Noel, E.|
|Gourley, E. T.||Nolan, Captain|
|Grey, Earl de||O'Conor, D. M.|
|Harcourt, Six W. V.||Palmer, C. M.|
|Harrison, C.||Peel, A. W.|
|Hartington, Marq. of||Pender, J.|
|Havelock, Sir H.||Pennington, F.|
|Hayter, A. D.||Philips, R. N.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Playfair, rt. hon. L.|
|Herschell, F.||Portman, hon. H. W. B.|
|Hill, T. R.||Ralli, P.|
|Holms, J.||Ramsay, J.|
|Holms, W.||Reed, E. J.|
|Hopwood, C. H.||Richard, H.|
|Howard, hn. C. W. G.||Samuelson, B.|
|Jackson, H. M.||Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.|
|James, Sir H.||Smith, E.|
|James, W. H.||Smyth, R.|
|Jenkins, D. J.||Stacpoole, W.|
|Kingscote, Colonel||Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||Stanton, A. J.|
|Knatchbull-Hugessen, rt. hon. R.||Stuart, Colonel|
|Laing, S.||Sullivan, A. M.|
|Lambert, N. G.||Swanston, A.|
|Law, rt. hon. H.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Lawrence, Sir J. C.||Tavistock, Marquess of|
|Lawson, Sir W.||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|Leeman, G.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-|
|Lefevre, G. J. S.||Trevelyan, G. O.|
|Leith, J. F.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Lloyd, M.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Locke, J.||Walter, J.|
|Lowe, rt. hon. E.||Waterlow, Sir S. H.|
|Lubbock, Sir J.||Watkin, Sir E. W.|
|Macdonald, A.||Weguelin, T. M.|
|Mackintosh, C. F.||Whitbread, S.|
|M'Arthur, A.||Whitworth, B.|
|M'Arthur, W.||Whitworth, W.|
|M'Lagan, P.||Williams, W.|
|M'Laren, D.||Wilson, Sir M.|
|Maitland, J.||Yeaman, J.|
|Maitland, W. F.||Young, A. W.|
|Martin, P. W.||TELLERS.|
|Meldon, C. H.||Adam, rt. hon. W. P.|
|Milbank, F. A.||Kensington, Lord|
|Adderley, rt. hon. Sir C.||Bentinck, G. C.|
|Agnew, R. V.||Beresford, Lord C.|
|Alexander, Colonel||Beresford, Colonel M.|
|Allen, Major||Birley, H.|
|Allopp, C.||Booth, Sir R. G.|
|Anderson, G.||Bourke, hon. R.|
|Anstruther, Sir W.||Bourne, Colonel|
|Arkwright, A. P.||Bowyer, Sir G.|
|Arkwright, F.||Bright, R.|
|Ashbury, J. L.||Brise, Colonel R.|
|Assheton, R.||Broadley, W. H. H.|
|Astley, Sir J. D.||Brooks, M.|
|Baggallay, Sir R.||Brooks, W. C.|
|Barrington, Viscount||Bruce, hon. T.|
|Barttelot, Colonel||Bulwer, J. R.|
|Bates, E.||Butler-Johnstone, H. A.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Butt, I.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Buxton, Sir R. J.|
|Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H.||Callender, W. R.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Cameron, D.|
|Benett-Stanford, V. F.||Campbell, C.|
|Cartwright, F.||Hardcastle, E.|
|Cave, rt. hon. S.||Hardy, rt. hon. G.|
|Cawley, C. E.||Harvey, Sir R. B.|
|Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.||Heath, R.|
|Chaplin, Colonel E.||Helmsley, Viscount|
|Chaplin, H.||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Chapman, J.||Hermon, E.|
|Charley, W. T.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Churchill, Lord R.||Hill, A. S.|
|Close, M. C.||Hodgson, W. N.|
|Clowes, S. W.||Hogg, Sir J. M.|
|Cobbett, J. M.||Holford, J. P. G.|
|Cobbold, J. P.||Holker, Sir J.|
|Cochrane, A. D. W. R. B.||Holland, Sir H. T.|
|Cole, Col. hon. H. A.||Holmesdale, Viscount|
|Corbett, Colonel||Holt, J. M.|
|Cordes, T.||Homo, Captain|
|Corry, hon. H. W. L.||Hope, A. J. B. B.|
|Corry, J. P.||Horsman, rt. hon. E.|
|Cotton, Alderman||Hubbard, rt. hon. J.|
|Crichton, Viscount||Hunt, rt. hon. G. W.|
|Cross, rt. hon. R. A.||Jenkins, E.|
|Cubitt, G.||Jervis, Colonel|
|Cuninghame, Sir W.||Johnson, J. G.|
|Cust, H. C.||Johnstone, H.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Jolliffe, hon. S.|
|Dalrymple, C.||Jones, J.|
|Denison, C. B.||Kavanagh, A. MacM.|
|Denison, W. E.||Kennaway, Sir J. H.|
|Dick, F.||Knightley, Sir R.|
|Dickson, Major A. G.||Lacon, Sir E. H. K.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Loarmonth, A.|
|Douglas, Sir G.||Lee, Major V.|
|Dyott, Colonel R.||Legard, Sir C.|
|Eaton, H. W.||Leigh, Lt.-Col. E.|
|Edmonstone, Admiral Sir W.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Egerton, hon. A. F.||Lindsay, Col. R. L.|
|Elliot, Sir G.||Lindsay, Lord|
|Elliot, G.||Lloyd, T. E.|
|Elphinstone, Sir J. D. H.||Lopes, Sir M.|
|Estcourt, G. B.||Lowther, hon. W.|
|Ewing, A. O.||Lowther, J.|
|Fellowes, E.||Macartney, J. W. E.|
|Fielden, J.||M'Kenna, Sir J. N.|
|Finch, G. H.||Mahon, Viscount|
|Floyer, J.||Majendie, L. A.|
|Forester, C. T. W.||Makins, Colonel|
|Eraser, Sir W. A.||Malcolm, J. W.|
|Freshfield, C. K.||Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||March, Earl of|
|Gardner, E. Richardson||Marten, A. G.|
|Maxwell, Sir W. S.|
|Garnier, J. C.||Mellor, T. W.|
|Gilpin, Colonel||Merewether, C. G.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Mills, A.|
|Goldney, G.||Mills, Sir C. H.|
|Gooch, Sir D.||Monckton, F.|
|Gordon, rt. hon. E. S.||Monckton, hon. G.|
|Gore, J. R. O.||Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Montgomerie, R.|
|Grantham, W.||Montgomery, Sir G. G.|
|Greenall, G.||Moore, S.|
|Greene, E.||Mowbray, rt. hn. J. R.|
|Guinness, Sir A.||Neville-Grenville, R.|
|Gurney, rt. hon. R.||Newport, Viscount|
|Halsey, T. F.||Noel, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H|
|Hamilton, I. T.|
|Hamilton, Lord G.||O'Clery, K.|
|Hamilton, Marq. of||O'Neill, hon. E.|
|Hamilton, hon. R. B.||O' Shaughnessy, R.|
|Hamilton, R. W.||Parker, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Pell, A.||Starkey, L. R.|
|Pennant, hon. G.||Starkie, J. P. C.|
|Peploe, Major||Steere, L.|
|Percy, Earl||Storer, G.|
|Phipps, P.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Plunket, hon. D. R.||Sykes, C.|
|Plunkett, hon. R.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Powell, W.||Taylor, rt. hon. Col.|
|Praed, C. T.||Tennant, R.|
|Praed, H. B.||Thynne, Lord H. F.|
|Price, Captain||Tollemache, W. F.|
|Raikes, H. C.||Torr, J.|
|Read, C. S.||Tremayne, J.|
|Rendlesham, Lord||Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill-|
|Repton, G. W.||Turnor, E.|
|Ridley, M. W.||Twells, P.|
|Ripley, H. W.||Vance, J.|
|Ritchie, C. T.||Walker, T. E.|
|Rodwell, B. B. H.||Wallace, Sir R.|
|Round, J.||Walpole, hon. F.|
|Ryder, G. R.||Walpole, rt. hon. S.|
|Salt, T.||Walsh, hon. A.|
|Sandon, Viscount||Watney, J.|
|Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.||Welby, W. E.|
|Scott, Lord H.||Wethered, T. O.|
|Scott, M. D.||Wheelhouse, W. S. J.|
|Scourfield, J. H.||Whitelaw, A.|
|Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.||Wilmot, Sir H.|
|Wilmot, Sir J. E.|
|Shute, General||Wolff, Sir H. D.|
|Sidebottom, T. H.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Smith, A.||Yarmouth, Earl of|
|Smith, W. H.||Yorke, hon. E.|
|Smollett, P. B.||TELLERS.|
|Somerset, Lord H. R. C.||Dyke, W. H.|
|Stanhope, hon. E.||Winn, R.|
|Stanley, hon. F.|
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
thought it would be unnecessary for him to enter into an explanation of his second Resolution, as its meaning was so plain. He had said all that was necessary in explanation of it when he proposed his first Resolution, and without saying more he now moved it.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That strangers shall not be directed to withdraw upon notice being taken of their presence: but if occasion shall arise for repressing or preventing disorder, Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of a Committee, may direct their exclusion from any part of the House."—(The Marquess of Harthigton.)
§ MR. CHARLEY
, who had given Notice of the following Amendment:—To leave out Resolutions 2 and 3, and insert the following Resolutions:—2. That the existing Rule of excluding strangers, upon notice by an individual Member that strangers are present, is hereby rescinded.3. That strangers may be directed by the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means to withdraw from any part of the House, if he shall think fit, for the purpose of repressing or preventing disorder.11684. That strangers may be directed to withdraw by an Order of the House.5. That unless one day's previous Notice of Motion to exclude strangers shall have been given, the question shall be put and determined without amendment or debate.said, he had not placed his Amendment on the Paper in any spirit of hostility to the noble Marquess, his only object having been to translate into ordinary language the heroic language of the Resolution which had just been moved. After the appeal which had been made by the Prime Minister, however, he would not move his Amendment.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Mr. Speaker, as a Constitutional Conservative, I rejoice that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) appeared at the conclusion of his speech to have resumed some consciousness that there is some merit in the traditions and customs of this House. I confess that I find myself in a somewhat embarrassing position from what I have been told with respect to the probable conduct of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government. I served with that right hon. Gentleman as a Member of the Select Committee on the Public Business of this House which sat in 1871, when he voted, with myself and the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot), that the Privilege of Members of this House to claim the exclusion of Strangers ought to be retained. The right hon. Gentleman spoke on this subject about three weeks ago, and he concluded his speech by affirming that matters should be left as they are; that is to say, that the Privilege of Members—to use a Parliamentary phrase—to "espy Strangers" should be retained, and the right hon. Gentleman used emphatic language and cited the authority of Lord Lyndhurst, that it was dangerous to attempt to embody the "unwritten law of Parliament." But, Sir, the law on this subject, as has been shown by the noble Lord the Member for Radnor, this is in part, at all events, written law, though not, perhaps, in this particular case of "espying Strangers." I myself confess, that there has recently, on two occasions, been an abuse of this Privilege. But I regret that the noble Lord, whose first Resolution I have supported, should appear in the first part of his second Resolution to concur with the right hon. 1169 Gentleman in the proposal, that this Privilege of the Members of the House should be practically abolished. The Amendment which stands in my name would, Sir, if it were adopted, strike out the words in the noble Lord's second Resolution which propose to abolish the Privilege of Members to claim the exclusion of Strangers, for I retain the opinion which I held, after full consideration and discussion, in the Committee of 1871. In that Committee it was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London, who was Chairman, that this Privilege belonging to Members of this House as individual Members should be abolished, in these terms—That Strangers shall not be directed to withdraw during any debate except upon a question put and agreed to without amendment or debate.In opposition to that proposal there voted Mr. Disraeli, Sir George Grey, Mr. Bouverie, Mr. Newdegate, Mr. Cavendish Bentinck, Mr. Graves, Colonel Barttelot, Mr. Vance, and Mr. Collins. The Committee were equally divided, and the proposal was only carried by the casting vote of the Chairman. I have not changed my mind. I am still prepared to stand by this original Privilege as an essential appurtenance of the Members of this House individually. I admit that, in my opinion, the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), and the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) strained this Privilege to the extent of abusing it, and I have marked my sense of their doing so by voting for the first Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for Radnor. It appears to me, moreover, that as this Privilege has been abused, it is most desirable that it should be retained, but should be clearly defined; that the practice and custom of the House, as connected with this Privilege, should also be defined. I therefore propose to omit from the second Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for Radnor, the words—" that Strangers shall not be directed to withdraw upon notice being taken of their presence," which words would abolish the Privilege of hon. Members of the House, in order to insert these words—If any Member call the attention of the Speaker to the presence of Strangers in the House, so soon as the Strangers shall have 1170 retired, Mr. Speaker," (and I wish the authority to be used by you, Sir, as the legitimate exponent of the Order of the House,)" shall call upon the Member who directed his attention to the presence of Strangers to state his reasons for their exclusion, and immediately on the Member's resuming his seat, Mr. Speaker shall propose as a question to be decided by the House, that Strangers be re-admitted; and it shall not be competent to any Member to call the attention of Mr. Speaker to the presence of Strangers during the remainder of that Sitting of the House.I am most anxious to retain the last words of the noble Lord's Resolution, which are that—If occasion shall arise for repressing or preventing disorder, Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of a Committee, may direct their exclusion from any part of the House.Sir, I could not vote against the noble Lord's Resolution while it retained those words; for, improbable as I deem it to be that any disorderly intrusion into this House should take place, nothing should induce me to do anything that might diminish or invalidate your authority to quell any such disorder. Why am I anxious for the retention of this Privilege of hon. Members of the House as individual Members? The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has cited the authority of Lord Lyndhurst in favour of not attempting to define in writing the unwritten law of Parliament; but to define would be far safer than to abolish this Privilege; and the right hon. Gentleman must forgive me for reminding him of what occurred in the year 1852, when I occupied a somewhat responsible position in the Party which he now leads. On that occasion I was cited before a meeting of Peers and Commoners, with Lord Lyndhurst in the Chair, because I had refused to oppose the second reading of Lord Russell's Reform Bill. The right hon. Gentleman was at that time such an anti-Reformer that he determined to oppose the second reading of that Bill, and so was also Lord Lyndhurst. I expressed my regret that from a sense of duty I must decline to do so, because I foresaw that that Reform Bill was much more moderate in its proportions, and more safely progressive than future Reform Bills were likely to be, and than the Reform Bill which bears the name of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury proved to be. I may, therefore, compare notes with the right hon. Gentleman as a 1171 Conservative Reformer. But I am jealous of this. I am jealous that the right hon. Gentleman should first use Lord Lyndhurst's authority for retaining the Privileges of the Members of this House, and the Rule of the House with respect to this Privilege unwritten, and then, in one short fortnight, turn round, and formally propose the abolition of this Privilege. I am jealous of this; because, if hon. Gentlemen who have been recently returned to this House from Ireland have not yet learned the value of these Privileges and the responsibility which their exercise involves, I believe that they will learn that value and that responsibility. I differ in toto from the opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard to the effect that this Privilege must be abolished, because the House could not preserve it from abuse. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if this great Assembly had no means or authority to enforce its Rules upon the Members of this House. Sir, if once that admission is fully made and recognized, this House is lost. If we are to be governed only by secret understandings between the Leader of the majority and the Leader of the minority—if our Standing Orders are to be subverted without Notice in any moment of pressure or caprice, the corporate character of this House is gone. The position of the Members of this House, if this Privilege be withdrawn from them, will, in my opinion, be irretrievably damaged. This Privilege of excluding Strangers is continually and necessarily enforced in the Committees of the House; and do we expect a Member of the Committee to assign his reasons for moving that the room be cleared of Reporters and the public before the room is cleared? No. What is the sense of this Privilege? It is this—that an hon. Member of this House, who has hitherto been accepted as an honourable man, as one who respects the Privileges of this House, has somewhat to communicate to the Committee or the House, which it is desirable should not at once be made generally known to the community at large, before the Committee or this House has had the opportunity of considering and probably acting upon it. Why, Sir, what has been the practice of the House? It is that which is indicated in my Amendment—that when an hon. Member 1172 has used this Privilege, he is expected, immediately that the Galleries have been cleared, to rise in his place, and to state his reasons for thus interfering with the ordinary course of proceeding in this House. This statement of reasons I would make imperative; and then, Sir, I propose, after the statement of reasons, not that you should put the question, which would have the effect of precluding the Leader of the House or of the Opposition from uttering a word of comment upon the reasons adduced by the hon. Member for the exercise of this Privilege; I would leave it open to those who are highest in the confidence of this House, who lead by the custom, and to the other Members of this House to express their sense of the reasons alleged, before the House shall decide to recall the Strangers. I have always been impressed with the last words which were uttered by Lord Eversley before he finally quitted that Chair. The noble Lord warned this House to cherish and defend the Rules, the Customs, and the Privileges, not only of the House itself, but also those which regulate the position of its Members. He warned the House not lightly to depart from its Rules; and what, Sir, would be the result of adopting this Resolution as it stands, or the Resolution of which Notice has been given by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government? That, if any Member in this House felt that he had matter which he ought to communicate to the House, on his drawing your attention to the presence of Strangers, the House would at once divide, and the vote would be a vote of credit or discredit to that Member. Do not talk to me about private communications. Private communications, Sir, form no part of the Rules, Orders, or Privileges of this House. The reasonable, the uniform custom has always been, that when an hon. Member has, upon his responsibility, exercised this Privilege, he is allowed to be heard by the House in the absence of Strangers. How can we be reasonably asked, without previous and regular information, to pass a formal Resolution by vote of the Whole House for the exclusion of Strangers when very few, if any, may know what is the nature of the subject that we are to debate in the absence of Strangers? Why are we not to know the reasons before we pronounce 1173 judgment upon the necessity for excluding Strangers? and if the occasion and reasons were stated in their presence, how can there afterwards be any valid reason for their exclusion? Could anything be more unreasonable? Yet that is what it is now proposed that we should vote! This is the proposal to which I object in the first part of this second Resolution of the noble Lord. These, Sir, are not new thoughts with me. They are the reasons which actuated my vote in the Select Committee of 1871. And I have another reason. There has been a great change introduced in the electoral system, under which the Members of this House are now returned. Are we to declare, that this Reformed House of Commons consists of Members, who are incapable and unworthy of being permitted to exercise the Privileges, which were always individually used by our Predecessors? Should we, were this change effected, continue to command the respect of the country? Is it to go forth that the Members of this House individually and in the aggregate are no longer to be trusted with the Privileges which their Predecessors enjoyed? Sir, I will be no party to any such imputation. If abuse of this Privilege should unfortunately be practised by any Member of the House, the House has the means in its hands of enforcing respect for itself and for its Rules. As I said the other night, if a Member of the House should abuse his Privilege, you, Sir, might be called upon to reprimand him by name. If he were to continue contumacious he might be ordered into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms. And if he remained contumacious, he might be expelled from this House, as I have known done. I am anxious for the character of this House, for I have ever esteemed it as one of the most valuable possessions of this country and of the Empire; and I am convinced that by the supersession of a reasonable Privilege lite this on the part of the individual Members of the House, you will degrade the character of Members individually and of the House collectively. There is no probability that this House will be subjected to any continued or repeated inconvenience by the abuse of this Privilege, for it will be its own fault if the House should be so inconvenienced. I see no sufficient occasion for the abolition 1174 of this Privilege, which I have known exercised in the interests of the House and the country. It was long before I sat upon the Select Committee of 1871 that I first saw this Privilege exercised. The Attorney General of Lord John Russell's Government, Mr. Jervis, came down to the House and used this Privilege. He then, in the absence of Strangers, informed the House that, by a lapse in the Act appointing the first Ecclesiastical Commission, the whole of the baptisms, and marriages, and wills registered in certain portions of the country, which had been transferred by that Act from one diocese to another, were invalid, and that unless this House passed a Bill in a secret sitting and the House of Lords did the like, the litigation that would ensue would be enormous. That, Sir, was a legitimate use of this Privilege. How could the House have acted promptly to meet this necessity unless by the exercise of some such Privilege as this? If a debate had arisen in the presence of Strangers, the whole object would have been defeated. If the Attorney General had stated this in the presence of Reporters, debates might have arisen, and if debate had arisen and consequent delay, suits might have been instituted that would have produced endless confusion among unnumbered families. That was the first occasion on which I saw this Privilege used, and I am convinced that the time may come, that circumstances may arise which will render it most desirable that Members of this House should possess and should exercise this Privilege. I for one, will not consent to part with it without humbly, earnestly, and respectfully entreating the House not to proclaim that its Members are no longer competent to exercise a Privilege which has been deemed reasonable and valuable for so long a series of years.
To leave out from the word "That," to the word "presence," inclusive, and insert the words "if any Member call the attention of the Speaker to the presence of strangers in the House, so soon as the strangers shall have retired, Mr. Speaker shall call upon the Member who directed his attention to the presence of strangers to state his reasons for their exclusion, and immediately on the Member's resuming his seat, Mr. Speaker shall propose as a question to be decided by the House, that strangers be readmitted; and it shall not be competent to any Member to call the attention of Mr. Speaker to
the presence of strangers during the remainder of that sitting of the House,"—(Mr. Newdegate,)
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, in approaching the consideration of this question, I do not wish to conceal from the House my original desire, if possible, not to have consented to any alteration. But, at the same time, acknowledging that although our conduct must be ruled by general principles, you must take in their application the consideration of circumstances, and, knowing from our own recent experience that the general opinion of the House is, that some modification should take place with regard to this Rule as to noticing the presence of Strangers, I have made up my mind to recommend to the House the adoption of a change which departs as little from the original meaning of the Rule as could have been devised. Now I differ from my hon. Friend who has just addressed us (Mr. Newdegate) on a very important point. I think that when an individual Member takes notice of the presence of Strangers, it would be most unwise after that notice is given that he should be called upon for his reasons. The privilege of giving reasons is one essentially vague, judging from our experience during the present Session. On the first occasion when Strangers were espied, the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) who exercised that privilege, was quite capable, if called upon to give his reasons, of employing several hours in the process. I do not for a moment, by that observation, intend to make any reflection upon that discretion of the hon. Member for Cavan; but still I think it would be inexpedient that any hon. Member should have that Privilege, and as we are now drawing up a new Resolution on the subject we should guard against what I believe, in the general opinion of the House, might become an abuse. We know very well that a Member called upon for his reasons may speak for even four hours, and the House will see at once to what an abuse that would lead. But that is not the only reason that influences me, in my opinion. I remember that in one of those Committees which have been referred to so frequently during these debates that this very question of giving reasons for noticing Strangers was under discussion, and the late Sir James Graham was extremely opposed to it. He 1176 said that in the great Indian debates—which are now so rare in the House—some new Member of the House, a master of the subject, with great confidence in himself, perhaps a man of transcendent talents, a Sheridan or a Burke, might despair in the debate upon India of having an opportunity of catching the Speaker's eye. He might not have attained that position in the House which would enable him to catch the Speaker's eye or to command the sympathy of Friends—consequently he might espy Strangers, and in giving his reasons for doing so he could enter into the whole subject, and so anticipate the debate—a debate on which perhaps the fate of India might depend. I have always felt that unless we guarded this Privilege against amendment and debate we should not attain the object we have in view, and therefore I cannot agree to the proposition of the hon. Member for Warwickshire. With regard to the noble Lord's Resolutions, there is really no difference of opinion between the noble Lord and myself, except that from the view I take I would condense them into one Resolution, which I will submit to the House in this form—That if, at any sitting of the House, or in Committee, any Member shall take notice that Strangers are present, Mr. Speaker or the Chairman may, whenever he thinks fit, order the withdrawal of Strangers from any part of the House.That guards the rights of the Speaker and the Chairman which, as they are rights they possess and exercise for the protection of the House and the maintenance of Order we cannot too cautiously deal with. I will not detain the House any longer. I have expressed the reasons why I think it would be most dangerous to accede to the proposition of the hon. Member for Warwickshire that under the circumstances of the case the Member who espys Strangers should have the privilege of giving his reasons, which, I believe, would lead to immense abuse and waste of time, and disorder in our debates. I have also offered a Resolution which will take the place of the two Resolutions of the noble Lord if he accedes to them; and I am myself prepared to take the opinion of the House upon the subject. But in taking the vote upon this Question we shall find it rather complicated. There must, I believe, be three divisions. We must take 1177 a division first on the proposition of the hon. Member for Warwickshire, of omitting certain words in the noble Lord's Resolution and substituting words of his own. In that case I shall vote for retaining the words of the noble Lord. Then we shall have to consider the Resolution of the hon. Member for "Warwickshire; and, thirdly, we shall have to deal with the Resolution which I shall myself put into the hands of the Speaker.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he did not doubt, from the right hon. Gentleman's statement, that they would be able before long to arrive at a conclusion. He could not accept the proposition of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, which might cause undue delay in their proceedings. It was most important to retain for the Speaker and the Chairman of Ways and Means the power of ordering the exclusion of Strangers. They ought not to run any risk of endangering the independence of that House—the only great Representative Assembly in the world over which the public in the galleries had not the remotest influence. In the Legislative Assemblies of America and the Continent it was found that, not only in periods of disturbance, but at other times, Strangers had always some influence on the proceedings, from the size of the gallery and the rule under which they were admitted. There was no doubt that the summary and what might be called arbitrary, and in some instances capricious, power of excluding Strangers by the action of an individual Member, had been one cause of the independence that House had hitherto enjoyed; but after the action lately taken by the right hon. Gentleman opposite—doubtless, under the advice of those who managed their proceedings—that protection had, to some extent, been taken away, because it had put the control of the gallery in the power of the majority of the House. He could hardly suppose such a possibility, but there might be circumstances in which the majority of the House might be willing to have the assistance of an unruly gallery. The only way to guard against that was to put the power of exclusion in the hands of the Speaker and of the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, and the knowledge that they had the authority and that it was their duty to keep order in the 1178 galleries, would give even to a small minority the necessary protection; because any hon. Member could appeal to the Speaker to prevent the House from being overawed. By omitting the words" if occasions should arise for preventing or repressing disorder," which he (Mr. Forster) proposed, the right hon. Gentleman gave the Speaker more complete power; he was therefore willing to take the Resolution as now proposed, for he was of opinion that, under a written law of Parliament, there was as much necessity that there should be a power of keeping order as there was under the unwritten.
§ MR. BUTT
said, he thought the House in abolishing the existing regulation was about to make a most important change in the law of Parliament, and he regretted that the Prime Minister should have yielded to a supposed necessity for the alteration. It was one of the protections of the minority, and he thought that none of these should be parted with. He would refer to a precedent bearing on the subject which would show the House how an individual Member who happened not to be very popular had been protected against injustice by the action of the present rule. In 1833 Mr. O'Connell happened at a public meeting of which he was Chairman to denounce in very strong language the Reporters of the daily papers, whom he accused of designedly falsifying the reports of the debates. The result was that the Reporters came to a resolution not to report him until he had withdrawn that assertion, and his name appeared several times in the debates followed only by a line or two, in which he was simply represented as either having supported or opposed a Motion. Mr. O'Connell thereon moved that the printers of the morning papers be summoned to the Bar of the House for publishing certain reports purporting to be accounts of their proceedings; and upon that occasion Sir Robert Peel and others spoke very strongly in condemnation of the course which had been taken in reference to Mr. O'Connell. Sir Robert Peel, among other things, said that he did not believe the course of not reporting him would be persevered in, but that if it were assuredly other means than the interposition of the House would be found to put a stop to it. Mr. O'Connell then withdrew his Motion, in 1179 deference, he said, to the general expression of feeling in the House. The next morning, however, in The Times newspaper—and he presumed in consequence of the debate on the previous evening—a letter appeared, signed by all the Reporters of that journal, who, addressing the Editor, and after expressing it to be entirely contrary to their wishes to do anything prejudicial to the interests of the paper, declared it to be their deliberate resolution not to report any speeches which Mr. O'Connell might make until he retracted as publicly as it was made the calumnious charge which he had made against them. The Times, commenting on the letter, regretted that it was prevented by the resolution of its Reporters, who had the entire sympathy of their colleagues on the other London papers, from publishing the language used by Mr. O'Connell the night before. This was on a Saturday, and the next Monday Mr. O'Connell moved that the printers of The Times should be summoned to the Bar of the the House; but the Motion was lost by a majority of 105, the numbers being 153 to 48. Mr. O'Connell thereupon immediately rose and insisted that Strangers should be ordered to withdraw. The next day another letter appeared from the Reporters, in which they said, after using some very strong language in reference to Mr. O'Connell, that they would not give any further trouble to the high-minded gentlemen who had voted on their side, and that they begged to announce it to be their intention to return to the discharge of their duties, and out of respect to the House of Commons and for the convenience of the public to deal in future with the speeches of Mr. O'Connell in the same manner as those of other Members. Now, that was an instance in which an individual Member would have been powerless but for the rule which it was now proposed to abolish, and in abolishing which he eon-tended the House would be trenching on those privileges of private Members which it had for so long a time protected without interfering in the slightest degree with the freedom of debate. Nothing would, in his opinion, be more fatal to that freedom than the adoption of the French system of clôture, by which a man was prevented from speaking as long as he desired. But was the House prepared to adopt that system because 1180 one Member might choose to make a speech which should last a whole night? If the House were to yield to pressure of that kind, or to such pressure as had been put upon it by the action of his hon. Friend the Member for Louth, the result would be that it would be submitting its privileges to the dictation of a single man; for such pressure could not always be defeated by the simple process of moving the suspension of a Standing Order—which, by the way, had then no existence. It was true, indeed, that from 1785 to 1845 there was a Sessional Order with respect to the exclusion of Strangers; but from that time there was no Order of the House on the subject except that under the operation of which Strangers were excluded from that part of the House which was apportioned to the use of Members, and the case which he had mentioned was, he believed, the only one in which an individual Member had resorted to the power which the unwritten law of Parliament gave him to protect himself against injustice. Perhaps no inconvenience would follow the adoption of the Resolution; but he contended that to place the power of excluding Strangers in the hands of the majority would really be to place it in the hands of the Minister of the day, and to strike a blow at the independence of individual Members of the House. If they once began to break down the old rules which protected the rights of minorities they would set a fatal precedent. He denied that any necessity existed for abandoning their ancient privilege, and maintained that the educating influence and opinion of the House would be a sufficient protection against its abuse.
expressed his regret for having, on the occasion referred to so frequently in the debate, used language which might savour of menace to the House. As long as he sat there, his desire was to be a Member of the House first, and a Journalist afterwards. With reference to the subject before them, he invited the House to look into the future and to take a broader view of the question—to consult personal feeling less, and to recognize more that great power—the Press—which had arisen in this country since the Standing Orders in question had been framed. He warmly denied that there had been any collusion between himself and the Leader of the 1181 Opposition in regard to the course pursued on this subject, and appealed to the recollection of the House as to the accuracy of the right hon. Member for Liskeard's "imaginative narrative" of what occurred when the question was first raised. The right hon. Member had drawn an amusing picture of what he supposed to have taken place between the noble Marquess and himself, but it had this drawback—that it wanted the substratum of fact, and he gave the flattest contradiction to the poetic narrative of the right hon. Gentleman. It seemed to him that the arguments for the retention of the Privilege were devoid of logic and common sense. Indeed, whenever a Member of the House exercised his Privilege he was denounced for abusing it. [Mr. BUTT: No, no!] "Well, his hon. and learned Friend had told them that when Mr. O'Connell re-sorted to his Privilege he was denounced for abusing it by Sir Robert Peel.
said, his hon. and learned Friend would have an advantage if he carried on a colloquial argument with him, whereas he had listened patiently to his hon. and learned Friend's speech.
observed, that the point did not really affect the question. He had only to say that committing this power to the Speaker or to a majority of the House was an improvement, to the working of which he fearlessly invited the attention of the House. No man could pretend that it was not better that a majority of the House or its Chairman should have the power of removing Strangers than that it should be left to any single Member, of his own mere motion, to do so. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had raised a laugh at him because, while he had said that the Reporters were gentlemen, he nevertheless turned them out of the gallery. But did not the right hon. Gentleman know that there was one way of putting an end to an obnoxious power, and that was by calling it into operation? He put the rule in force for the purpose of setting right the status of the 1182 Press in this matter. He had heard of veneration for the Constitution and of "the wisdom of our ancestors." Many and violent were the oscillations between the prerogatives of the Crown and the powers of the House out of which came what was called the British Constitution; and the laws regulating the admission of Strangers were framed for a state of things which had died out long ago. Talk not to him of the wisdom of our ancestors devising such a rule to meet the circumstances of the present day! How would it read to-morrow that that House of Commons, in free England, had negatived the proposal that it should not be punishable for the Press to report the debates of this House? He would deal with the question now from the Journalist's point of view. In O'Connell's time it was a great thing for the newspapers to have access to the gallery of the House of Commons; but the newspapers of the present day did not so greatly covet the privilege. The reports of the debates of this House, whatever any hon. Members might flatter themselves by thinking, were not read with such avidity by the public as to make the newspapers greatly care whether they reported them or not. Newspapers reported speeches from a purely impartial and commercial standpoint, and the House had no right to expect them to constitute themselves its official reporters. He would now sit down, expressing his profound regret at the attitude the House had taken up to-night, and his conviction that the public opinion of the country would force them to deplore the error, and that before five years had passed another vote would proclaim their regret that they had been slow to adopt an improvement which would so greatly harmonize the relations which ought to exist between so great an Assembly and such a useful power as that of the Public Press of this country.
§ SIR WILLIAM FRASER
believed the collective wisdom of Parliament was far greater than that of any individual Member, and must express his astonishment that, in consequence of the course taken by the hon. Member for Louth, who had only recently become a Member of the House, one of the most important items of the practice of the House which had been built up by the wisdom of generations, and every part of which had been most carefully considered by 1183 the most sensible men of the Three Kingdoms in their day, was about to be destroyed. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition had succumbed to the Member for Louth. All his life an enthusiastic admirer of the customs of Parliament, both written and unwritten, it gave him great pain to see the way in which the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition had dealt with this question. The clamour which the Member for Louth had raised against the practice of the House on this subject seemed to him (Sir William Fraser) a tempest in a teacup. The Motion of the Secretary for War, that the debate on the former occasion should be adjourned, was the main cause of the difficulty. Both sides of the House seemed to be anxious to get rid of this question, and he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard did not move, at the close of his admirable speech, that the House should pass to the Orders of the Day, or move the Previous Question; he believed that the majority of Members would have gladly adopted either way of getting rid of this matter. The question of newspaper reporting was beside the main question; the real question was whether the House, at the suggestion of an hon. Member who entered the House last year for the first time, should abolish one of the most important items of its practice? Many traditions and practices of the House could be as easily attacked as was this Standing Order; and they might be parted with one by one in the same way. Upon the question of the admission of the public to the debates of the House there were some points that were hardly touched upon. It should be remembered that in France two dynasties, those of Louis Philippe and of Napoleon III., fell because a rabble rushed into the gallery of the French Legislative Assembly and clamoured for their downfall. In this case the Government had given way without any apparent necessity.
§ MR. ANDERSON
I shall not take up much time with many observations, for when the two front Benches have patched up their differences it is not much use for anyone else to say anything. When they do patch up their differences they are, however, generally wrong, and I think they are wrong now. On the last division I voted with the 1184 right hon. Gentleman away from my Party, because I am very jealous of the rights of Members. I desire to conserve the rights of Members, because the rights of Members are the rights of those who send them here. Therefore I am averse to change the Rules which have worked so well. I think the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) has shown himself very inconsistent in this matter. I believe hon. Gentlemen opposite think I am a good Radical, but in the matter of our Rules I claim to be more Conservative than the Chief of the Conservative Government. A short time ago the right hon. Gentleman broke through a Rule of the House in the most reckless manner. I allude to the case when the Member for Stoke came forward and had no introducer. The right hon. Gentleman got up and quite unnecessarily proposed to abrogate a rule which had existed for 200 years. I say he did this quite unnecessarily, because the right hon. Member for Birmingham would have introduced the hon. and learned Member himself. Now he proposes to alter another rule, which had worked well until recently. I think when Rules of this House are to be altered they should be changed in the smallest extent possible. For that reason I would support the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, because I think it so slight a change of the present Rule that it hardly amounts to a change at all. If a Member knew that the moment the House was cleared he would be obliged to stand up and explain his reasons, that would cause him to be careful how he used his privilege. If we adopted that change, it would be unnecessary to go further; but, settled as the matter has been by the occupants of the front Benches, it is useless for a private Member to say anything. All I would add is that, if the hon. Member for North Warwickshire does go to a division, I shall support him.
§ Question, "That the words 'strangers shall not be directed to withdraw upon notice being taken of their presence' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
That the words 'if any Member call the attention of the Speaker to the presence of strangers in the House, so soon as the strangers
shall have retired, Mr. Speaker shall call upon the Member who directed his attention to the presence of strangers to state his reasons for their exclusion, and immediately on the Member's resuming his seat, Mr. Speaker shall propose as a question to he decided by the House, that strangers be re-admitted; and it shall not be competent to any Member to call the attention of Mr. Speaker to the presence of strangers during the remainder of that sitting of the House,' be there inserted,"
§ The House divided:—Ayes 30; Noes 192: Majority 162.
To insert, after the word "That," the words "if, at any sitting of the House, or in Committee, any Member shall take notice that strangers are present, Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman (as the case may be) shall forthwith put the question that strangers be ordered to withdraw, without permitting any debate or amendment: Provided, That Mr. Speaker and the Chairman may, whenever he think fit, order the withdrawal of strangers from any part of the House."—(Mr. Disraeli.)
§ MR. DODSON
, in the absence of his noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington), accepted the Amendment to his second Resolution proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to the third Resolution, the noble Lord and his Friends thought that its adoption would be an improvement; but, in the circumstances, he would not press it.
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Words inserted.
To leave out the words "but, if occasion shall arise for repressing or preventing disorder, Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of a Committee, may direct their exclusion from any part of the House.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That if, at any sitting of the House' or in Committee, any Member shall take notice that strangers are present, Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman (as the case may be), shall forthwith put the question that strangers be ordered to withdraw, without permitting any debate or amendment: Provided, That Mr. Speaker and the Chairman may, whenever he think fit, order the withdrawal of strangers from any part of the House.