§ MR. HANBURY-TRACY,
in rising to call attention to the inconveniences of the present system of Parliamentary reporting, and to move—That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the expediency of providing official reports of the Debates of this House,said: Sir, the question which I am about to bring before the House is one which has not been brought under discussion for a very long time, except in the year 1875, in which year the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) moved an Amendment to a Motion relative to strangers being present at debates, with the view of getting the whole subject of reporting debates under discussion; but the House declined to mix up the two subjects, and the matter dropped. For a long number of years the proceedings of this House have been reported entirely by private enterprise. The daily papers have given us a record more or less abridged, according to the space they have at their disposal; and we have also had a record, more minute and more detailed, which is well known to this House as Hansard's Debates. I am well aware that a certain number of Members are of opinion that, as the present system has answered its purpose so long, it is far better to submit to inconvenience rather than make any change. Unfortunately, I fear that the circumstances which have enabled Parliament so long to rely solely on private enterprise have very much altered. In the first place, the business of the House itself has very much increased. New franchises have brought together largo constituencies, and a far greater number of people take an interest in the proceedings of this House; while, at the same time, the means adopted to enable the public to learn what is going on in this House have not kept pace in proportion. I am anxious, therefore, that the House should appoint a Select Committee, in order to inquire into the matter, and see if the time has not arrived when we ought to have an official record of our proceedings, instead of allowing them to be recorded in the hap-hazard way in which they are reported at present. Instead of continuing that system, I think we ought to have an authentic and official record. The system I should 1547 like to see adopted is, that instead of having Hansard's Debates, we should have practically an official verbatim Hansard—as they have in foreign countries and in the Colonies. I wish to free myself from the supposition that I desire in any way to interfere with the Press arrangements. It is perfectly true that in some foreign countries which have official reports, newspaper reporters are not allowed in the galleries; but I think we must aim at a totally different direction. I think that we should encourage to the utmost in our power the newspaper reports, and supplement them with a verbatim official report, which shall, if anything, tend to bring the newspapers up to a higher standard. Let us consider for one moment what is the necessity of having a record of our proceedings. The question seems to me to divide itself into two classes. First of all, we require reports of our proceedings for the constituencies and the public, and also to bring political education home to the people. Secondly, we require a record of our proceedings for Members of the Legislature, not only as a record of past proceedings, but also as a guide for future legislation. So far as the constituencies and the public are concerned, we at present undoubtedly have to rely entirely upon the Press. Hansard's Debates are practically only used for Members of Parliament, for the public offices, and a few libraries, as it is well known that they are published some two months after the debates, and that they cannot be obtained in parts or in single speeches. Now, Sir, as far as the newspapers are concerned, we are undoubtedly very far ahead of foreign countries. The gentlemen who report our speeches in the Gallery are well known to have I among them many most able men and many most gifted reporters. From that Gallery many men have sprung to eminence—such men as Lord Campbell and Mr. Dickens and others. If those gentlemen had authority and the space at their command to enable them to report the proceedings of Parliament, there is no doubt it would be done in such a manner that it would be quite useless to have official reports. Such, however, is not the case. These gentlemen have to report in a very limited area. With the exception of The Times, The Standard, and The Morning Post, the space is obliged to be most limited and curtailed. 1548 The newspapers of the present day are commercial enterprizes. They have to face fierce competition; they have to look about them to see what will pay best. Newspaper editors find that advertisements, sensational news, personal matters, and a formidable array of telegrams pay far better than Parliamentary news. It is not, therefore, surprising that in most of the newspapers we find that to summarize is the thing which appears to pay by far the best. Now, if we look back 23 years ago, we find that at that date there were some five or six London papers which published the proceedings of Parliament in extenso. In those days there was a circulation of 78,000 copies of daily papers in London, all of which contained full reports of the proceedings of Parliament. Since that time the Stamp Act has been repealed. Newspapers have increased enormously, and from 78,000 I find that the circulation of the London daily papers amounts now to almost 750,000. Now, Sir, with the exception of The Times, The Standard, and The Morning Post, the daily papers, as a rule, give only a condensed report of our proceedings. I find, indeed, that the daily papers acknowledge that to do anything else is perfectly impossible. Two years ago, in a leading article in The Daily News, I find that the editor stated that—The speeches of the leading statesmen on both sides are reported—and what we may call fully reported—on almost all occasions when the lateness of the hour does not render such a report impossible. But in the case of ordinary Members, except on a remarkable occasion, their speeches are compressed into mere summaries. Debates of great interest are often summarized in a few lines of a London paper. This is simply inevitable. No London paper could exist which inflicted on its readers a full report every morning of the proceedings of Parliament.I think it is quite clear that this is an acknowledgment on the part of the penny papers that they cannot, as a matter of commercial speculation, report in full our debates. In former days, when people travelled slowly, they used to purchase a newspaper, and read it quietly, deliberately, and attentively; and the proceedings of Parliament were read as a matter of history. In the pre' sent day we live in a time of express speed—in a time of an enormous number of telegrams. People engaged in business rush here and there, see the newspaper, glance through it, try to obtain a summary of all the current 1549 news of the day, and then drop the paper. Thus it is that to a very great extent, instead of a newspaper giving a full account of the proceedings of Parliament, it is to their interest to summarize them as much as they can. Sir, the weekly papers have also increased enormously. These papers in former days were able to have a full account on which to base their articles. Now they have the greatest difficulty in finding the material upon which to ground their criticisms. I am informed that many of the editors of the weekly papers, the journals, and the magazines, look forward to an official report with the greatest interest. They think then that they will really have something on which they can depend, and which they may be able to criticise fairly. Perhaps no argument is so cogent in the present day in favour of having an official report as the fact that it would tend very much to increase the political education of the people of this country. In former days it was undoubtedly the case that the people looked up to Parliament as the great leader of public opinion. Now I fear very much we are receding from that position. We have all been taught that one of the great blessings of Parliamentary government is that all measures which are brought before Parliament are there openly discharged, that reports of the proceedings are afterwards circulated throughout the country, that the people see the pros and cons of all great measures, and are thus able to form their opinion as to the right or the wrong of those different measures. Now, Sir, lot us look for a moment at what the position is of any man in the country who wishes to know what is going on in this House. It is perfectly true that if he is able to get The Times, he may on certain days be able to read a very good report of the proceedings. He may be also able to see one in The Standard or Morning Post—he may occasionally on great days see one in The Daily Telegraph or Daily News, but it is quite a matter of chance; so if there happens to be a debate in the House of Lords as well as in the House of Commons, the two are very much condensed, or perhaps some sensational trial occupies the space, and it is almost impossible for a man who has any subject which he wishes to follow to do so. Then, if he says to himself—" Oh, I will send to London and get a report of the proceedings, so 1550 that I may be able to follow the discussion on the Bill in which I am immensely interested "—perhaps such a question as the Education Bill—"and I will get a full account of all that has been going on by sending up to my own Member." He sends up, and he is told that he must either obtain The Times or Standard, or some other paper; or if he likes to wait for two months, he may be able, perhaps, to get the loan of one of the folio copies of Hansard's Debates. Now, I apprehend that that can hardly be said to be a satisfactory system. If the people of this country are to know what is going on in this House, they ought to have the means placed in their possession of getting, within a few days, a report of the proceedings—single copies of the debates—so that they may know exactly what has occurred, and be able to find the opinions of their Representatives. If we turn to foreign countries, what do we find? We find that in every foreign country in the world they have adopted official reports, and that in every colony they have adopted official reports, or, rather, they term them, out of compliment to our Hansard's Debates, "Colonial Hansards." In America we find the same thing; but in America we find this thing also—that so strongly are they of opinion that one of the greatest benefits of Parliamentary government is that the debates and the proceedings of the Legislature should be disseminated among the people, and that the people should know exactly what is going on, that they actually take steps to have a very largo number of the debates distributed gratuitously throughout the country. I find that The Congregational Record, published after the debate, is issued in the Senate and in the House of Representatives in the following proportions:—Two copies are given to each Senator personally, and 12 copies are given to each Senator for distribution. In the House of Representatives two copies are given to each representative, and 24 for distribution. Unfortunately, in America they do not set us a very bright example in one respect. They allow unspoken speeches to be printed. I hope that whatever we may do here, we shall not adopt that plan. In France I find the same system of official reports adopted. In France there are three reports provided—one in extenso, one which is a condensed report, and one which is a mere summary. In France, 1551 owing to their sitting early in the day, the official reports are sold to the newspapers, and they appear in the daily Press on the following day, and the Deputies correct their speeches within the five hours after the debate is over. I do not think it is necessary that I should go into any intricate details with regard to the system adopted in France; but the general system is, that they have official reports, and that anyone throughout the country can obtain a copy within a limited time. I find that it is the same in Austria and in Germany; and I also find that the same system has been adopted in the Turkish Parliament. The last Parliament that had adopted it before Turkey was that of Queensland. The colonial Legislature there have adopted a colonial Hansard. In this country there are many societies which have been most anxious to obtain reports of our debates and have been unable to do so. Surely, looking at the question in a purely educational point of view, it is of the utmost importance that our political and social societies, and clubs of all descriptions, chambers of commerce, and other institutions, should have the means of being the focus to disseminate political education. I now come to my second point—namely, the necessity of having an authentic record of our debates, in order that Members of the Legislature may have copies to refer to, and also to act as a guide to future legislation. I think the inconveniences of the present system are so well known that I need not dwell upon that point at any length. We have for a number of years been deeply indebted to Mr. Hansard for his admirable system of Hansard's Debates. They were instituted in the year 1803, and year after year they have been improved upon. Now, Sir, these volumes do not pretend to be verbatim, and they are not in any way authoritative. We continually hear it stated in this House that Hansard cannot be quoted here as an actual official authority. It is well known that Hansard's Debates are compiled in a peculiar way. Hansard's take the greatest trouble to make them as perfect as they possibly can. Unfortunately, they are unable, owing to the price paid for them, to have special reporters in the Galleries. It is known that they gather their reports from all sources—from the daily Press, from the local Press, and from special reports, 1552 from the corrections of Members themselves, and they gain them in various ways, which Messrs. Hansard think will enable them to give such reports as will be satisfactory to Members. I am bound to say that no one recognizes more than I do the able way in which Mr. Hansard has conducted his difficult work during this long number of years. I think he has done it with immense tact and immense discretion. He has been placed in a position of peculiar difficulty and delicacy with this House, and since I have had the honour of a seat in this House I hardly know one case in which I have heard of any disagreeable feeling against Mr. Hansard. On the contrary, on all sides—I think I speak the feeling of the House when I say that he has given immense satisfaction to the Members of this House. It is true that I did hear two years ago a rumour whispered that the noble Lord sitting below me (Lord Robert Montagu) had got into some dispute with Hansard; but I think that, as a general rule, and I believe hon. Members will agree with me, the House has had nothing to complain of. Unfortunately, however, this system gives rise to a great deal of inconvenience. Members have to spend a considerable amount of time in correcting their speeches. I am told that several hon. Members are occupied for a very long time in correcting their contribution to the debates. Indeed, I am told that one right hon. Gentleman, who has occupied a very prominent position in this House, has actually been put to the trouble of spending two solid hours in correcting an hour's speech. If that is possible, I think it is a most pitiable picture of the business proceedings of this House. In every mercantile business you have now the facility of a shorthand writer; in your Committees upstairs a business-like arrangement is adopted of having verbatim reports. Surely, then, in this British House of Parliament you ought to adopt it. To Ministers, perhaps, it is not so inconvenient. The reports of the speeches of Ministers are generally very elaborate, but ordinary Members are very often very irritated and do not feel in a very pleasant frame of mind on the day following a debate, when they see their speeches, and when they know what trouble they will have to go through before they are reported and finally placed in Hansard's Debates. The incon- 1553 veniences which used to arise in the House have very much increased. In former days we are told that the speaking and business of this House were in the hands of about 150 Members. Then came the Reform Bill, which swept away all the rotten boroughs and created the large constituencies. With them came Members who took great interest in the proceedings of this House, and I find that the number of Members who take part in the Business of this House has been gradually increasing. I have gone carefully into the question, and I find that in the year 1841 there were 231 Members who took a part in the proceedings of the House—in debates, and in Committees of the Whole House. In 1851 the number had gone up to 260; in 1861 the number had gone up to 300; so that there were 368 silent Members only; in 1871 the number had gone up to 368; and in 1876—last year—the number increased again to 385 Members, all of whom took part in the proceedings of this House. Any Member who only asked one or two Questions I have excluded, and the figures I have given are those of the Members who took a bonâ fide part in the Business of the House, and the number has increased between 1841 and 1876 from 231 to 385. It is no secret what is the result of the present system by which our Parliamentary Debates are reported. As I have said, Members are very often irritated on the following morning when they see the meagre report of their speeches; but what do they do? I am told that a number of Members spend considerable sums of money in getting special reports which they send down to their own local papers. Then, again, an arrangement is made with certain Press Associations to send telegraphic reports of speeches of certain Members to their constituents. I do not mean that this system is altogether bad. In one sense it is good; but it is bad if you cannot supplement it with any other system. What is it that you find? You will see in many local papers a speech of the local Member to the extent of two or three columns, and then the speech of the Minister—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—with 20 lines. Of course, very curious comparisons are drawn between the local Member and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is considered to be only able to reply to the unanswer- 1554 able arguments of an hon. Member with 30 or 40 lines. But the evil does not stop there. These special reports get into Hansard's Debates. Hansard is unable to supply its own reports, and, indeed, is glad to get reports which are vouched as authentic. Therefore you find in Hansard, notwithstanding the great care Hansard takes to avoid it—you find in Hansard very often a certain number of debates, in which a nonentity has a very long speech and a Minister a speech very considerably less. These debates go out to the Colonies; they go to foreign countries, and I have been assured by gentlemen of high standing in those countries that very often most unpleasant remarks are made as to the "poor sticks" our Legislators are in the way they answer Colonial Questions. I have taken out from the newspapers for two consecutive days some statistics as to the manner in which the daily Press have reported the proceedings of Parliament. As I said before, I attach no blame to the daily Press. They are merely commercial undertakings; but I want to show the House what it is that we have to rely upon. I may first state that the two days I have taken are February 20th and February 21st in the present year. On the 20th of February there was a Debate in the House of Lords on the Eastern Question, and no doubt to the public it was one of great importance. The House of Lords debated the question for seven hours, and the report which appeared in The Times the next morning contained 33,900 words. Taking the rate of speaking the right hon. Member for Greenwich is supposed to speak at—namely, 120 words a-minute—I find that an actual full report would, if given verbatim, have contained 50,000 words. However there were nearly 34,000 in The Times, in The Standard 27,000, in The Daily Telegraph 29,000, and in The Daily News 25,000. That, of course, is an exceptional case. There you have the case of a subject which was of very great interest, for everyone was anxious to know what was going on in the East, and even the reader of a penny paper was only too glad to have a tolerably full report. I will now take another day—the next day—February 21st. There was a debate in this House. Unfortunately it was a debate upon a very dry subject, and it was a debate which took place 1555 upon a Wednesday afternoon. I find, after adding a certain proportion, so as to make up for the number of hours less debating than the night before, that we have the following result:—Whereas upon the 20th February The Times gave 34,000 words, on the following day they gave 10,000; The Standard only gave 8,000, as against 27,000; The Daily Telegraph 2,600, as against 29,000; and The Daily News 3,000, as against 25,000. I mention this to show that on certain days if the matters under discussion happen to be dry and do not appear to be interesting, the records of Parliament are practically nil. If the matter is sensational and the subject is one of great interest, then you have a full report, but not otherwise. Now, Sir, I maintain that in this House our records ought to contain not only the sensational but also the dry discussions. Here is another matter which I think ought to interest us. We know very well that the proceedings in Committees of the Whole House are never reported in the newspapers, with the exception of a few lines. This I cannot help regarding as a great misfortune. It is the place of all others where hon. Members bring their special knowledge to bear; where Gentlemen who take a deep interest in particular subjects bring that information to bear; and I think it is the greatest pity that on many occasions of late years you should have lost so much valuable information. I remember when the Merchant Shipping Bill was in Committee that some most valuable information with regard to Canadian shipping was entirely lost. It was of the most interesting character, and would have been of great value in future legislation. As it was that information was entirely lost. The same may be said in regard to the debates which took place in Committee upon the Education Bill lately passed. While that Bill was passing through Committee information of immense interest was contributed in the course of the discussions, and it would have been of the greatest use if the debates had been fully reported. Then, again, after 12 o'clock, and practically not much after 11 o'clock, at night, it is very well known that the newspapers do not attempt to report us, except a speech here and there delivered by one of the principal Ministers. The Business of this House of late years has been greatly in- 1556 creasing, and at the same time, owing to early newspaper trains, the papers have been obliged still further to curtail their Parliamentary reporting. The evil has indeed reached such an extent now that much of our proceedings are not reported at all. We often hear of Motions for Adjournment when the hour grows late, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is frequently driven to his wits' end to repel them. It is, however, well known that many of those Motions are simply due to the fact that hon. Members know, if they speak after 12 o'clock, no record whatever of their speeches will be taken. I am told that hon. Members who sometimes move the Adjournment of this House, if they were able to have their speeches reported they would allow the Business of the House to proceed. Then, again, we find that in Committee of I Supply upon the Estimates there is practically no record of our proceedings whatever, and we find this curious fact, that Motion after Motion is put down on going into Committee of Supply to the serious hindrance of the Business of the House. Very often we see the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary for War waiting for hours before they are able to get into Supply. The reason of this is that hon. Members know if they wait until the House gets into Supply what they have taken so much interest in will never be reported at all. If you had a system by which verbatim reports of all the debates were provided, you would very often be allowed to go into Committee of Supply, without the time being wasted in preliminary Motions, and the regular Business would be transacted. Very many of the remarks we hear in Committee of Supply ought to find a record. Many of the keenest criticisms uttered in the House take place there, and they would be of great benefit to the heads of the Civil Departments if they ever heard of them. But instead of their doing so they are only heard by their political Chiefs; they go in at one ear and out at the other and nothing more is ever heard of them. I believe most firmly that official reports will facilitate very much the Business of Parliament. If the present system is unsatisfactory, as I have endeavoured to prove, it seems to me that you have only two courses open. One course is largely to subsidize private enterprise 1557 and have special reporters in the Reporters' Gallery, and the other system is to have official reports. As regards subsidizing private enterprise, I believe there is a strong feeling in this House against anything of the sort. But, as regards official reports, I understand, on the other hand, that there is a very strong feeling in its favour. How, then, could you carry it out? I believe it would be a matter of very little difficulty. I will not attempt to go into matters of detail, but I will simply say, that although the great difficulty of sitting late at night would not enable you to have your reports fully on the following morning, still you would not lose very much. Your speeches could not come out at the same time as the reports supplied by the newspaper Press. You would, I apprehend, wish to avoid that, and would be anxious not in any way to interfere with the newspapers. Therefore, if your reports were laid on the Table of the House on the second day—and that could very easily be done—it would be satisfactory to everybody. But it seems to me, that if you were to give a poor, tired Member only two or three hours on the day following his magnificent oration, for the purpose of correcting it, you would find he would be hardly able to do it; and, therefore, in every respect it would be better to allow two days instead of one day for correction, so that if a speech were delivered on Monday night, the Member who made it would have Tuesday and Wednesday to correct it in the revising-room, and on Thursday it would be in the hands of Members. The staff you would require would be a director and an assistant director, about six or eight reporters, and about double that number of writers. The actual result of this system in the way of expense would be this — I find it would cost about £14, 000 or £15, 000 a-year; this would include both reporting and printing. There is one difficulty, and that is as to where the reports would have to be taken. I am told it is utterly impossible for them to be taken in the Gallery. There are many reasons against it; but there is one place above all where reporters ought to be, and that is on the floor of the House. In foreign countries the reporter stands close to the tribune in the best place for hearing. I am told that it would be easy to set up a seat at 1558 the end of that table. It would be an admirable spot, and the means of entrance and exit could be so arranged underneath that there would be no trouble in going backwards and forwards. If, however, that were not allowed, there would be no difficulty in having a seat for a reporter at the Bar of the House. The cost of £15,000 a-year sounds at first sight very large, but it would be considerably reduced by the number of copies that would be sold. Not only would the reports be sold in volumes, but you would have a very large number of single copies sold constantly. For instance, upon the Permissive Bill, you would have thousands of copies of the speeches delivered on that day distributed throughout the country, and day after day you would have single copies of the reports sent out in all directions. Now, let us see what are the objections to this plan. First of all, I am told—" You are running your head against a rock—you are trying to disestablish Messrs. Hansard." I should be very sorry to do anything that would have that effect, and I thought it only right, before I came to this House with this Motion, to write to Mr. Hansard and ask him frankly what his views on this matter would be. This is his reply, which, if the House will allow me, I will read—April 19th, 1877,4, Paper Buildings, Temple, E.C.Dear Sir,—In reply to your request that I will state my views in respect of your Motion for Official Reports, I beg to say that I have for some years been of opinion that Official Reports of the debates in the Imperial Parliament were becoming more and more a necessity. From observation and a long experience I am not only aware of the incompleteness of the existing system, but I think that the want of such a record of the Reasoning and Argumentative part of Legislation is of great detriment to the deliberative functions of Parliament and to the due administration of the Executive Government.In thus expressing frankly my opinion that a system of Official Reports has become desirable, I am not insensible to the effect such a change must have on my own position and fortune. For the long period of 74 years Hansard has existed one unbroken record of the debates in Parliament: my own life-45 years of it—has been devoted exclusively to this work. In this I have so performed my duties as to have gained for the work acceptance as a quasi-official record: I have made its reputation such that wherever the Imperial Parliament has imparted Parliamentary Government to our Colonies a colonial Hansard has been instituted as a necessary incident. I cannot, therefore, look to a change of 1559 the nature advocated without a reasonable apprehension. But Parliament has never superseded private interests for the public good without just consideration for those affected: and I am confident that in instituting a change of this nature, connected with its own functions and business, Parliament will be most careful to do me no wrong.—I am, dear Sir,Your faithful Servant,THOS. C. HANSARD.Hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-Tracy, M.P.I think that answers the objections as to Mr. Hansard. Then as to the expense. I shall be told that the outside sum of £14,000 or £15,000 a-year appears large. Surely, if it would be of great benefit in the way of spreading political education, that would be quite a sufficient answer upon that point; but when we are told of the convenience to Members of this House and the great benefit it would be to future legislation, I do not think it is a subject which need further be dwelt upon; and we must not forget that the same plan has already been adopted by other countries. But, Sir, to those who think the expense is a very large matter—and I have been told this on several occasions—I should like to mention that in the year 1856 one of the greatest economists who ever sat in this House was consulted upon this subject. The late Mr. Cobden was asked what he thought ought to be done as regarded the question of reporting. At that time the idea of subsidizing very largely private enterprize had been considered, and the question of official reports had not been mooted. Mr. Cobden wrote to this effect—I hardly think myself called upon to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the subject of the publication of the debates; but if brought before the House I should support a vote for a Parliamentary grant in aid of such publication, taking such precautions for accuracy and punctuality as might be deemed necessary, and having in view, also, a greater diffusion of the work by a reduction of price. If you think it would be of the least use, you are at liberty to report my views, along with those of others who have been consulted, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.That letter was written by Mr. Cobden in 1856, and it shows that Mr. Cobden, although a great political economist, was firmly convinced that the question of expense should not stand in the way. I am told there is another objec- 1560 tion — that Ministers would have their speeches stereotyped. That is not a sound argument against it. It appears to me that certainty and accuracy would be far better than misrepresentation. Another objection urged is—"Oh, very well; we should like it very much, but unfortunately it would encourage talking. If you had verbatim reports you would still further stop business." I put this question to a Gentleman who speaks often in this House, and speaks at considerable length; and what was his reply? He said—" Do not you believe it. If you had verbatim reports you would find that hon. Members would no longer talk nonsense; that a great number of Members would consider very deeply what they intended to say before they spoke in this House, and, at any rate, a large amount of the practical nonsense that is now spoken would never be heard." I think that that is an argument that rather tells in my favour on this point. In looking into the matter, I find that in our Private Bill Committees, before we adopted the system of printing the speeches of counsel, they used to be very long, indeed; but when once they were printed those speeches were curtailed and were far better. Then I am told—" Oh, the size of your official reports would be enormous." In going into that question I find that that is not the case, and that if you calculate carefully the number of hours in the Session during which the proceedings of this House take place, and calculate the number of words spoken, you will come to the conclusion that instead of having the five volumes you now have of Hansard's Debates, you would have five volumes a little larger—the size of The Congressional Record printed in America, a demy quarto. I will not trouble the House any further, and I thank it very much for the kindness and patience with which I have been heard. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
I rise to second the Motion because I agree with the object which the hon. Member for Montgomery has in view, and because he has made a direct reference to me in his speech, and because I have, for three years, had a Motion on the Paper for the rejection of the Vote in connection with Hansard's Debates. This year, at the request of the Mover of this Motion, 1561 I withdrew the Notice of Motion in Supply in favour of this Motion. I therefore calculate upon a friendly feeling existing between us; but yet I wish to make one or two remarks upon the speech which he has just delivered. The hon. Member has made two assumptions which I do not think are quite correct. He spoke of Hansard, in the first place, as "a private enterprise" and "commercial undertaking;" and, in the next place, he referred to Hansard's Debates as generally, though not always, accurate. These are both mistakes. In the first place, it is not a private enterprise, as Hansard annually receives a large subvention out of public money; and, in the second place, it is not accurate, because, although some Members are allowed the advantage of correcting their speeches, that is not the case with all Members. At one time, it is true, I always had my speeches to correct; but, four years ago, in order to save Hansard trouble, I corrected The Times report and sent it to Hansard before his type could have been set up. It was kept for a fortnight and then sent back to me marked "Refused," and without any explanation, and no attention was paid to my corrections in the publication of the speech. From that day to this I have never had a speech to correct. From that day no attempt has been made by Hansard to procure a correct version of what I have said, and only garbled and misleading versions have been published. The statement of the hon. Member may be accurate in the case of some Members, but in the case of others it is not correct; and therefore Hansard is not an authoritative collection of the debates that take place in this House. Hansard cannot be quoted as the thoughts or words of the speaker who is reported. I assert that Hansard receives a subvention out of the public money. It appears that last year there were 120 copies of Hansard taken by the Government. This year it appears that £775 is to be voted for 121 copies. I have here a list of the 120 copies; but I do not know what the extra copy is for this year. I find that 18 copies were sent to the Treasury — many of which must have been perfectly useless—one to the Commander-in-Chief, one to the Local Government Board, others to the Charity Commission, to the Paymaster General, our Ambassador at Paris, 54 copies to 1562 Colonial Governments, one to the National Debt Office, four to the War Office, five to our Library, and so forth. Now, it is perfectly clear that 54 copies should not be bought out of the funds of the country for the Colonial Governments, and that 18 copies are not required by the Treasury, except for the sake of giving some subvention to Hansard. Therefore, I think I am right in saying that it is not a private undertaking or commercial enterprise. It seems to me that one principle ought to govern us — either Hansard ought to be a private enterprise, and then the editor would be as free as the editor of The Times to curtail the debates, and put in what he likes, and nobody could for a moment complain, any more than we can complain of the reports in The Times; or, on the other hand, if the editor is to receive a large subvention of £775 a-year out of the public funds, then he ought to be impartial; it ought to be the same for everybody—and, if one is allowed to correct his speeches, all ought to be allowed to correct them, and Hansard ought not to be allowed to take inaccurate and false reports of speeches, and substitute them for true reports, when he has true reports sent to him. On one of two principles we should act—we should either have private enterprise, or we should have subvention by public money, with the privilege given impartially and equally to all Members to correct their speeches. In that case, you would have an authoritative and valuable report. In former days, it was the rule that no speeches should be published either in the newspapers or given to the world by letter, or be allowed in any shape to get abroad. Stringent Resolutions on this subject were passed by the House. They are still on the Books of the House, and are, I believe, still binding. There were many advantages in that course. If hon. Members knew that their speeches would not reach their constituents, they would say exactly what they thought, and state what they knew to be true. Now, unfortunately, we have many speeches, especially just before and just after a dissolution, which are made for the constituencies—they are what the Americans call "addressed to Bunkum." An hon. Member will say what he knows he does not mean, and will advocate 1563 that which he knows he does not wish for. He thus takes up the time of the House fruitlessly, to say the least. [Cries of " Order ! "] I am not conscious of having said anything which is against Order—I am not alluding to any one particular Member—I am only saying that which every Member knows to be true. The hon. Member behind me (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) has spoken of Members making a speech in the House at night, and getting up next morning and being exceedingly irritated when they saw the way in which they were reported in the daily papers. Well, Sir, that may be the case with some Members, who are kept up very late at night, and get up in a querulous mood next morning. But I would ask my hon. Friend, is it not also very irritating to be kept up very late at night listening to speeches which do not interest us? Sometimes long speeches are made even after 12 o'clock—speeches without object, and of no consequence whatever to the country—and I dare say Members do get irritated, knowing that the old Rules of the House prevented anything of that sort. The House used to meet at proper hours, and do its work in a business-like manner. But, Sir, the hon. Gentleman said, very truly, that we have now a modern plan which has produced different results. Reports of the debates are published to the world, as the hon. Member said, for this reason—because they "serve as a political education," and also "because they are a reference for future legislation." Well, Sir, I quite acknowledge the reasonableness of that view—I think there is an advantage in the publication of debates, because they are a political education for the country, and because they are a basis, or at least a guide, for future legislation. But if the reports are to be a political education they must be correct; and if they are to be a guide for future legislation they must be correct. You must have, not garbled editions, but correct editions of what each person has stated. The views he has advocated, and the arguments he has used, must all be put down, not in a garbled form, but in the true form as they were given in the debates of this House. Then, indeed, they might educate the country, and serve as a basis for future legislation. At present, Sir— 1564 and, mind, I do not complain of the present system at all—but at present the reports are garbled, and Hansard, in the majority of instances, is nothing more than the report of The Times, published two months after the speeches have been spoken. In some few cases, I have no doubt, Hansard may take a report from The Standard, or from The Daily Telegraph, or from some other newspaper, as the hon. Member has said; but, in the majority of instances, I believe he merely takes it from The Times, and publishes it two months afterwards. Now, Sir, if we want to educate public opinion surely the time to do it would be when the public are alive to the question at issue, and while legislation is taking place. Suppose a Sunday Closing Bill is to come on. Petitions pour in, everybody in the country talks of it, a debate takes place, and the next morning everybody reads it in the newspapers. But nobody afterwards reads Hansard, and therefore Hansard is no education for the nation. I can conceive that if a correct report were printed and sent out, political education would be far better than it is. Now, Sir, I do not wish to take up the time of the House, but I have here a few facts which I think will be interesting to this House. There are 74 reporters regularly employed in the Lords and the Commons; 15 of them belong to The Times, 9 to The Standard, 6 to The Daily Telegraph, 8 to The Daily News, 8 to The Morning Post, 8 to The Morning Advertiser, 8 to The Press Association, 4 to The Central Press, 2 to The Central News, 3 to The Globe, 1 to The Pall Mall Gazette, and 1 to The Echo. But on certain occasions there are 16 other reporters, making 90 in all. Now, the 74 always in the House, and the 16 occasionally employed, are all employed for the London papers, and by the three associations which represent the provincial Press. That is to say, that by far the great majority of the reporters upstairs are reporters for the London Press, and yet the provincial Press, I think I can with safety assert, is almost, if not quite, as good in its reports as the London Press. The reports for the provincial Press are furnished by much fewer reporters. I allude to the Central News Association, or Saunder's Agency; the Press Association, and the Central Press Association, of which I believe the Con- 1565 servative "Whip" is the Chairman. Now, all the provincial newspapers receive reports from one or the other of these. There are three boxes upstairs allotted to The Times—namely, one for the reporter, one for the summary writer, and one for the leader of the reporting staff— two each to The Standard, Morning Advertiser, Morning Post, Daily News, and Daily Telegraph; one to The Sun—a paper which I think has been eclipsed for a very long time, its box being now, I believe, occupied by the Central Press Association—and one each to The Globe, The Pall Mall Gazette, The Echo, The Press Association, and The Central News. Well, now, Sir, the question comes, what are you to do? The hon. Member (Mr. Hanbury -Tracy) has said we must not interfere with the newspapers. All he desires to do is to procure an accurate official record, which lie might send out into the country, leaving those reporters in that Gallery as they are at present, to do what the editors of their various papers tell them, and to curtail where they are told to curtail. But let us consider what the cost of this official report would be. A column of The Times represents 20 minutes of speech. There are 230 lines in a column, and in each line an average of 10 words. This House sits on an average nine hours per night, making an average of 27 columns per night. The Lords sit on an average 2½ hours per night, and that would make 7½ columns per night, which would give a total average of of 34½ columns per night. Now, I have heard that the charge for reporting Committees is 9d. per folio, and a column of The Times contains 13 folios; so that, therefore, the cost per night would be £16 7s. 6d., or, for four nights in the week, £67 10s. Now, on a Wednesday the House of Commons alone sits, and for an average of five hours, which makes 15 columns, or £7 6s.; and, adding these figures together, we get a total cost of £74 16s. per week. The average duration of the Session is 23 weeks, and therefore the cost, so far from being £15,000 or £16,000 a-year, would be £1,720. Let us look at this in another way, in order to secure ourselves from error. The Press Association furnishes what is called an extended report of a debate. If 15 newspapers take it they pay 10s. 6d. per column. If the matter is special to one 1566 provincial newspaper, it pays 18s. per column. Now, 34½ columns at 10s. 6d. per column would be £18 2s. 3d. per night, or, at 4 nights per week, it would be £72 9s. Allowing £8 7s. for Wednesdays, the total cost per week would be £80 16s., or, per year, £1,858 8s. The other way of calculating it gives £1,720 8s.; this way gives £1,858 8s., which comes to pretty nearly the same thing. I think that may be taken as a test of the accuracy of my calculation. The verbatim reporter might sit at the Table of this House without disturbing the newspaper reporters upstairs; and then we should have an accurate report for disseminating information and serving as a guide for future legislation. That would be a great advantage, and we should then escape from the anomaly of a production which is partly a private enterprise, and which partly receives a subvention from the Government, which is not authoritative, which is not correct, which is not true, and yet which is paid for out of the public money. On these grounds, Sir, I have great pleasure in seconding the Motion of the hon. Member.
Amendment proposed,To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to consider the expediency of providing official reports of the Debates of this House,"—(Mr. Hanbury-Tracy,)—instead thereof.
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
Sir, the question before the House is one of those which never occur without inspiring persons who really wish to have a clear definite issue brought before them with a feeling of the inconvenience of the form adopted. It is a Motion ostensibly for inquiry, but really for inquiry strongly coloured with a bias. That colour is laid on still deeper in the speech of the Mover (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy), so that anyone who really might wish for an inquiry, but who was strongly opposed to that result which the hon. Member has freely, clearly, and boldly laid down as his desire, must be somewhat puzzled how to vote. For my own part I have no doubt at all; I think 1567 that the end which the hon. Member desires to attain would be unfortunate for Parliament, unfortunate for Business, and unfortunate for the country. At the same time, I am sorry for the speech of my noble Friend (Lord Robert Montagu), because he diverted the main subject of the debate, and made it turn upon the accuracy and trustworthiness of one who I am sure has for many years, as his predecessors have done before, served the House ably, conscientiously, earnestly, and indefatigably—I mean Mr. Hansard. As a fact, my noble Friend is almost the first person I over heard get up in this House to complain of Mr. Hansard, and that is the best evidence of that gentleman's worth. I was sorry my noble Friend got up to say what he did. He has a grievance against Mr. Hansard. He put a Motion down on the Paper, and I hardly think it is a breach of confidence to say that when that Motion of my noble Friend was put down, Mr. Hansard, desiring that some Member of the House should be in possession of the case, in order, if necessary, that he might be vindicated, paid me the compliment of putting the case into my hands. For many reasons I will not go into the details. I confine myself to assuring the House that if Mr. Hansard had not acted as he did, my noble Friend, with calmer afterthought, would have found that he had made a great mistake in pressing for the publication of the words which were the subject of dispute. So would Mr. Hansard if he had published them.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
I can assure the House that I will not say those words to this House. They are words that I am very sorry—
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
I move that the clerk at the Table take down these words, as I desire to debate them on some future occasion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That is a Question for the House. The Question is that the hon. Member's words be taken down.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
I cannot repeat the exact words, but this is the substance of them:—The hon. Member says that Mr. Hansard was perfectly correct in not publishing a correct report of my speech because I used words that I ought not to have used. The House having permitted those words to pass—they not being against the Rules of the House—Mr. Hansard took it into his head to act as Censor on our debates, and to decide what words should or should not be spoken in this House, although the House had permitted the use of those words. That is what I understood the hon. Gentleman to have said, and those are the words which I want taken down, in order that I may debate the matter on a future occasion. The House heard it.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The "words used" are those which are required when the noble Lord invited me to put it to the House that they be taken down. The Question is, is it the pleasure of the House that they be taken down?
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
I may say that the words which the hon. Member used were these—he says that it was perfectly right of Mr. Hansard not to publish a report of a speech of mine in this House because I had used words in it which, though the House had allowed them, I ought not to have used. Those, I think, were the words.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
I do not know that I am in Order; but I can assure my noble Friend that these are not the words that I used. What I said was, that the words upon which the dispute arose were words which my noble Friend, in his calm after-judgment, would think were a mistake. I will not repeat the words upon which that distant dispute arose.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order. The hon. Member for the University of Cambridge having disavowed the expression which the noble Lord attributed to him, the matter, I apprehend, is at an end.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
He says I used certain words in this House 1569 which were so bad that they could not he published. I think it is not in Order that he should asperse my character without saying what it is all about. I desire that he should say what it is I said.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
I apprehend, Sir, that on your statement that the matter is ended, I may proceed with the subject of debate.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
Sir, I ask again whether the hon. Member is justified in saying that I used certain words in this House which the House let pass, but which yet are so bad that he cannot repeat them. I ask you, Sir, whether that is in Order?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must again point out to the noble Lord that he has attributed certain words to the hon. Member which the hon. Gentleman has disavowed. That being so, the matter is really at an end.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
The hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs (Mr. Hanbnry-Tracy) in his speech has given us his case, I must say, with great fulness and great fairness, and has, in fact, urged everything that can be said on behalf of his view. But, after all, the question is this — would the time, or the money which this proposed procedure would necessitate, be well bestowed on an official report of our proceedings? I grant at once that, as a matter of theoretical argument, it may be asked why should the British Legislature, and the British Legislature only—I take the hon. Gentleman's statement of the fact—be the only one without an official report? My answer to that is, why is the British Legislatnre, and the British Legislature only, the only one which has emphatically and distinctively regarded the discharge of public business as paramount to the mere claims of rhetoric and oratory, and paramount also to the private convenience of its Members? Foreigners, when they come into this House and see our method of doing business, are surprised that we have not more luxurious appliances—desks on which to write our letters; desks in which to keep our papers; messengers on the floor of the House running our errands, and so on. But the answer is, these things might make the House of Commons a much more comfortable lounge; but the ruder and more simple arrangements of this 1570 House tend more to the discharge of our business, to shorten speeches, and to keep hon. Members up to the point. The hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs says—"Publish official reports, and speeches will be shortened;" but I appeal to the House, and to its experience of the last 10 days, whether that is a likely consummation to be reached? Even now he says hon. Members get private reports and telegrams sent to the country, and special reports inserted in the local papers. Well, this fact shows that the passion for publication is strong in the senatorial breast; and if, with no trouble on the part of the Members themselves, no coquetting with the telegraph office, no private communications with special reporters, no friendly interviews with local newspaper editors, but simply at the expense of the nation, a fine quarto edition, double columned, steam pressed, and printed in the best mediæval or Queen Anne type that could be found, were published with their speeches in full, and could be sent to the country, I ask you, Sir, whether human nature, even in the breast of a Member of Parliament, could be so chastened as to steel him against the ambition of speaking as long as he likes? Could the tempter be silenced, when he whispered that when the orator once found himself in possession of the floor of the House, there he would be in possession of inevitable publicity? But we can further suppose that the Member who would like an official edition containing a verbatim report would equally require that the national quarto should have every "Hear, hear!" every "Oh, oh!" every "Question, question!" every "Order, order!" that was uttered. Of course at this point lie would see the necessity of carefulness, and if he was allowed to compress in that way, the residuum would be a very cold, lifeless, incorrect picture of what passes in this House. In foreign countries you say that there are official reports; but what is the amount of a legislative sitting in a foreign country? The House meets at 2 o'clock, and rises at 5 or 6 for dinner. Reduce our proceedings to that, and then your national quarto would become a possibility, and you might have the reporters on the floor of the House. Then, again, it is said that a verbatim report would have a tendency to check exuberant oratory. 1571 I suppose it is meant that there would be some uneasy qualms on the part of a speaker as to the legitimacy of the chosen alliances of verbs and substantives, and parts of speech, and so on, that might have occurred in the midst of an impassioned oration. The theory of such a check being efficacious depends upon the correctness with which you would forbid editing, or what profane critics would call doctoring. Would you allow the speaker to correct the grammar of his speech? If you do that, where are your corrections to stop? If a Member finds, as will happen to the best of us, that he has repeated the same idea half-a-dozen times, with hardly half-a-dozen variations of language, may he cut five of them out, or four, or only three, or may he alter those six variations of the same idea into six slightly varied ideas? You will have to face all that; and you will have to decide whether you will allow all this variation of ideas backwards and forwards, and whether your report is to be an illustrated, expurgated, ornamental report of the debates, or whether it is to be a really verbatim report, containing every slip and error which a speaker may make. After all, will any hon. Member quote any instance in which any serious, or indeed any slight inconvenience has arisen from the fact that the only record of our proceedings is that supplied by Mr. Hansard's pages? No doubt that is not an official report; no doubt that some debates, by the accident of fate, are reported more fully in Hansard than others; but, on the whole, the speeches that are historical, on which the fate of this country at home or our foreign policy turns—all those speeches, I dare to say, are to be found verbatim in the pages of Hansard. There are also as authentic documents—division lists as well as the official Journals. In fact, I have only to point to the Journals of the House in order to show the spirit of our Parliamentary proceedings. If the House had ever evinced any desire for that full and verbatim report which the hon. Member thinks necessary, would our Journals have been from the very earliest times so restricted and concisely business-like? Would they have been so completely confined as they arc, not to what we say or think of doing, but to what we actually have done? This is the characteristic of the Journals of the House, which perpetuate 1572 all that is necessary to be published in order to record the fruit of our deliberations. In correspondence with them the reports in the daily newspapers, which come first, and the compendium of Hansard, which comes afterwards, are quite sufficient to enable us to conduct the Business of this House, so long as we are happily bound by those strict rules which strain us not to travel back on what has been said in previous debates; and, except under forms of circumlocution, not to travel back on what has been said in the other House of Parliament. These are the guiding principles which tell against the system which the hon. Member would introduce. These reports, if printed, would be a great expense; they would be a great burden; they would multiply loquacity; they would breed debates intended for the quarto of the official report. If, at half-past 4 o'clock, it were to be in the power of any hon. Member to appeal to you, Sir, as to whether the reporter at that Table had or had not taken his speech down correctly, you might, at the crisis of real business, have to call the reporter to the Bar of the House and produce the proof-sheet; and perhaps it might be found that the hon. Member had been correcting his speech with very great zeal and energy, and a great exercise of the imaginative faculty. I am sure, Sir, that the House will think it wisest and best not to entertain the proposal, but to go on as we are. In some future age, when people really debate for the purpose of carrying on business, and never for the sake of airing a crotchet, an official record might be an advantage; but until then, I do not think it would be. I shall certainly divide the House against the Motion.
Sir, whatever may be thought of the Motion of my hon. Friend, I think the House will agree with the sentiment which I hold to, that we are much indebted to him for his speech. It was, I thought, a speech of great ability, and it also showed that he had carefully investigated the subject. With regard to the view that the proposition of my hon. Friend would expose some of the weaknesses of human nature, I cannot think with my hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Beresford Hope) that my hon. Friend the Mover of the Motion (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) is to blame because he made a Motion implying 1573 something like a fixed opinion. Unless he had had either a fixed opinion, or something tolerably advanced in the way towards a fixed opinion, I think he would hardly have been justified in making a Motion on the subject at all. That is almost a matter of course. At the same time we, I think, may very fairly approach the Motion with more consciousness that there are two sides to it than the hon. Member who made it has shown. The noble Lord who seconded the Motion (Lord Robert Montagu) has likewise contributed materially by many of his statements to our knowledge of the ease. For my own part, I think, so far as I am concerned, that I should be very reluctant to press anything on the Government, and certainly I would not give a vote adverse to them on the subject, if they have a decided opinion upon it. But I think that the Government themselves may, perhaps, be inclined to encourage Members to state, not only from their opinions, but from their experience, anything material to the point at issue. My hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Beresford Hope) has spoken as if there were only one side to this question; but I must say distinctly and strongly that, in my opinion, at any rate, there are two sides to it. I must criticize a little the words in which the Motion has been made. It may be said that they imply, and I rather think my hon. Friend (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) is to a certain extent open to the remark that his words have a leaning towards, a system which he proceeded in his speech to recommend. I have no doubt his desire is that his Motion should be quite colourless; and, if we were agreed as to the matter, there could, I think, be no difficulty in finding words which would give us the appointment of a Committee, and, at the same time, in no degree tend to prejudge the opinion and report of that Committee. The words which we have in the Motion before us may be very good words; but suppose they were framed somewhat in this manner" To consider the present mode of reporting debates in this House, and whether any improvement of method or detail is desirable." I think words, at any rate, can be easily conceived which would answer the purpose in view, and, therefore, I pass on from any objection to the particular terms of the Motion. Now, Sir, the real question which we 1574 have before us is whether there is a primâ facie case for an inquiry into this matter—whether there is enough to be said with regard to any defects at present existing, with regard to any changes which have recently taken place, or with regard to the possibility of improvement, to warrant our having an inquiry upon it. Subject, as I have already said, to the authority of Her Majesty's Government, I should myself to this extent be disposed to go. I think there are some circumstances which tend to show that this is a matter in which there are certain improvements to be desired; but, whether these improvements can be had without incurring greater inconveniences, is exactly a question in which I, for one, would not like to give a positive opinion at this moment, but which I think might very naturally be examined and might very profitably be decided by a Committee, if it be the pleasure of the House to appoint one. The main question ' obviously is this—does the House desire to have a record of all that is said in debate?—not an absolute record, for an absolute record is not possible, but a record as nearly absolute as, by the use of the best men, it could be made. Well, that is a question which is, I think, by no means unimportant, and my own leaning is to the conclusion that there is a great deal to be said in favour of having such a record, unless it could be shown that great inconveniences would come in the rear of any plan for obtaining it. The debates of this House are inseparably connected with the decisions of this House, and the decisions of this House are the main element which determine its legislation. It is true that we have a great deal of excellent work done for us by the newspapers, but it is not the business of the newspapers to make a complete record of the proceedings of this House. What concerns the dignity of this House; what concerns the convenience of the future? What concerns the best possible system for working the deliberations of this House? These surely are matters of great interest and great consequence, but they are matters with which the newspapers have nothing whatever to do. The business of the newspapers in reporting our debates, as in other things, is to cater for a market—to report that which their readers will like to read on the day after the discussion. But there 1575 may be a great deal of matter spoken in this House which is of the smallest possible importance to the reader at his breakfast table next morning, and yet which it is very desirable, and even in many cases very important, to have, at least, in some way placed upon authentic record. Now, I do not know what the experience of other gentlemen has been, but my experience certainly is this—that admirable, under all their disadvantages, as have been the exertions and the labours of Mr. Hansard, there are a number of secondary subjects in which it is very desirable often to refer to a record, particularly in Committees upon Bills—it is often very desirable indeed to refer to a record upon such matters, and yet there is no such record at all to be got. Well, Sir, that is a very serious question, and a question by no means unworthy of more careful consideration than it has yet received. The House ought to bear in mind that a very great change has taken place. My hon. Friend who made the Motion has already referred to it in some degree, and I am in a condition, as perhaps not many Members of this House are, to speak to it as a practical question. Forty years ago, anyone who was called upon from causes, whether personal or public I will not inquire, but, of course, the first is not to be thought of, to undertake what I hold to be the most irksome and purgatorial task that can fall to the lot of man—namely, to correct his own speeches—any man who attempted, whether for his own purposes or for the benefit of the public, to apply himself to that task, and especially, as has been remarked, a fastidious man, had accorded to him by the Press of that day a means of assistance which he does not now possess. There were then four or five newspapers to which, on every debate of importance—I do not speak of less important debates —there were four or five newspapers to which in every debate of importance he might refer as containing a primâ facie record of the words that he had spoken, and the assistance that he derived from comparing these records with others was enormous. Ho does not enjoy that assistance now—as I have said, Parliamentary reporting is not a work of what is called high art or fine art—it is not an occupation that is conducted, or that ought to be conducted, by the proprietors of the newspapers, or provided for by 1576 them with a vie w to the production of ideal excellence. Their business is to produce that which their constituents — their readers—want, and, I say it with great sorrow, for I look upon it as a most important fact for the consideration of the historian of this country—but there is not that keen anxiety on the part of the public for a perfect, full, and precise record of the debates of this House next morning which there used to be, and I prove that by what I think an irrefragable proof so far—namely, the fact that we have now only two morning papers which even aim at verbal reports of debates of that class which, 30 or 40 years ago, were certainly reported by four or five. And I say to this House that even those two do not report at such length or so fully as they used to do, and I can speak to that fact from experience. Although I believe reporting in the country, and on great occasions in the metropolis other than in this House, is carried on in the main by the very same gentlemen who report our debates in this House, still, whenever it has been my fate to correct a report of a speech delivered in this House, and when also it may have been my fate to correct a report of another speech made elsewhere, I have always found —although I suppose self-love and fastidiousness must have been the same in both cases—I have always found that the speech delivered elsewhere had its report corrected in one-half, or less than half the time required to correct the report of the speech delivered here. I cannot wonder at this. Just consider what enormously prolonged discussions we have here, night after night. The lateness of the hour, the tax upon the patience and the tax upon the nervous system, must produce, and, in my opinion, does produce, rather a greater effort than ordinary cases. Now, Sir, I must call attention to a circumstance which, at any rate, is worthy of notice. At the time when the curiosity and eagerness of the public about Parliamentary debates was at high-water mark — in the debates on the Reform Bill, and for a considerable number of years afterwards — at that time an attempt was boldly made by a gentleman named Barrow, to produce a verbal report of the proceedings of Parliament. He succeeded and carried it on for several years; and, for those years, 1577 do not hesitate to say, that Barrow's Mirror of Parliament is the primary record, and not Hansard's Debates, because of the greater fulness which Barrow aimed at and obtained. It is within my own recollection—in the year 1833 or 1834—just after the Reform Bill, that Gentlemen, who wanted to correct their speeches, did it for Barrow's Mirror of Parliament. I grant that after, I should think, five or six years, it was found impossible to carry it on. Private enter-prize would not sustain reporting so carried on; and, after the lapse of that time, there was a decline in the appetite of the public for it. For a long time after that, moreover, we continued to have the large number of verbal reports which I have mentioned, and the largeness of the number—for that is the point which I wish to keep in view—very greatly increased the means of arriving at absolute accuracy, or something very near it, when it was important to fall back upon the reports; so that, in point of fact, the House of Commons must, at any rate, take this into view, that the record never was carried, unless it was by Barrow for a short time, to the highest attainable degree of perfection. It has now, undoubtedly, gone back from what it was, because of the reduced number of the reports. Independently of the question whether the report in The Times or The Standard is equal on the average to what it used to be, there is not the additional light afforded which used to be afforded by being able to bring together the light of reciprocal elucidation afforded by the reports of four or five newspapers. Well, Sir, I do not pretend to have a very strong opinion upon this subject. I do not think there is any very great grievance which there is an urgent necessity incumbent on us to meet; nor, on the other hand, am I so terrified—although I am a more rigid economist than appears to be fashionable—yet I am not thrown into a state of terror, like the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, by the tremendous expenditure which he estimates in the production of this report. Indeed, our facts, in the question of cost, are very imperfect. My hon. Friend who brought forward the Motion, taking in view the whole charge, has stated the sum at £14,000 or £15,000; but his Seconder—not, I apprehend, taking into view the printing charges, but only those for report- 1578 ing—makes it amount to the modest sum of £1,700 or £1,800. These, of course, are all matters that would have to be considered; but I do not at all deny that there are serious questions on the other side. There is the question to be raised of private interest, but to that I attach little importance. As to the newspapers, I apprehend that each paper would continue to exercise its own judgment in reference to the taste of its readers, and I remember hearing the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) say in this House, on one of those rare occasions when reporters were excluded, speaking—unless I am very much mistaken—in some sort as a representative of the newspaper world, that it was a matter of very small interest and concern to them whether they reported our debates or not. I have spoken of the decline of reporting as indicating a decline in the appetite of the public for reports. Private interest in this matter, I suspect, is very small. I will not enter into the question, whether, if a public or official system of reporting were adopted, the assistance of Mr. Hansard might not naturally and properly be sought; but I may remind the House that, only with a just regard to his own interest, a short time ago, Mr. Hansard himself was obliged to meditate, and, I will not say to threaten, but to speak of the total abolition of his enterprise, and it was only- by a modest, and I will not say unwise, subvention—I do not remember whether it was made by the late or by the present Government—that he was induced to go on with his work. I am not without apprehension that if the failure of the public appetite should continue, it might be that we should not even be able to have the continuance of the record made by Mr. Hansard. I think we shall all feel that something coming as near to a record as Hansard's Debates is a matter of great historical and even of political necessity. If that be so, it appears to me that there would be very considerable value in the facts which would be collected by a Committee, quite irrespective of the question whether it would be necessary or expedient to go forward and take a practical measure of action. We certainly should be better prepared for fixing upon any new state of things that might arise if we had before ns such a collection of facts as a Committee would 1579 obtain. The whole opposition to this Motion, if there be one, and Her Majesty's Government cannot entertain it, will, I suppose, turn upon the fear—which I by no means venture to describe as a fear—of any great increase in the—shall I term it the fecundity? copiousness? —facility of our speeches in consequence of the adoption of this system. I certainly feel that this is a matter which, whether it be right or not, it will be necessary to consider seriously; and I do not think that in a debate of this kind we can quite get to the bottom of this question. All the information should be brought into view. We have before us so far the experience of foreign countries, every one of which, I understand, has official reporting, and I do not understand that it has been found in foreign countries that these official reports have produced inconvenient results by increasing the bulk and volume of the debates. I am bound to say, however, that if it could be shown that official reports had produced such results, and that it was a matter of reasonable certainty that it would seriously increase the actual volume of speaking, that would, in my view, be a most serious matter; for, as I look upon it, I think the debates in this House are at this moment carried up to that point which indicates a maximum of human ability. You cannot, I think, by possibility increase largely the time which the House devotes to the dispatch of business. Therefore, I do not approach this question with any absolutely foregone conclusion. I think it is one which is very well worth considering, and I think that, upon the whole, it would not be at all an unwise measure, if Her Majesty's Government were so inclined, to have it examined by a Committee. That examination ought to be a careful one; it should not proceed upon any foregone conclusion; it should look carefully at both sides of the case; and proceed much upon the consideration, as I have already said, that the facts collected by the Committee could not fail to be of the utmost importance and of the greatest public utility in the future, even if it were not found a necessary result to proceed upon them.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, the speech just delivered by my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Gladstone) is one of very great interest, and undoubtedly it must command the 1580 attention and respectful consideration of this House; but I very much doubt whether the argument which he has presented to us is really an argument for the appointment of a Committee. I admit that good reason has been shown why the subject should have the consideration of the House, and I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend in thanking the hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy), both for the fact of bringing this Motion forward, and for the manner in which he has stated the case. There can be no doubt whatever that the question is one which is well worthy of our consideration—that the present system of reporting our debates is one which falls far short of perfection. In some respects it is much less satisfactory than it was some years ago, and in one particular mentioned by my right hon. Friend there can be no doubt that the number of papers which report our debates shows a very considerable diminution in the advantages formerly derived from the reports of the daily Press. There can be no doubt either of the great importance, as my right hon. Friend has truly said, of our having some sort of record of that portion of our Business which is not entirely reported by the newspapers, because it does not interest the general public, but which yet has a very great bearing upon the proceedings of this House, and ought to be preserved with a view to discussion in future years, either as a guide to a policy which was adopted a certain time before, or as forming precedents which the House may wish to refer to, or for other reasons unnecessary to allude to. But, granting all this, I do not feel sure what a Committee is to do in this matter. If we accept the view of the Mover of the Motion, which is really that we ought to have a system of official reporting, and that he wishes to inquire how that system had best be introduced, it must be the case that the Committee must inquire into certain matters of detail, and might give advice to the House which would lead to the introduction of such a system. But if we are not to adopt that principle, or to adopt the conclusion to which he wishes to bring us—if we are willing to go into Committee to inquire whether this is, or is not, a good principle, and what principle we should desire to proceed upon, I very much doubt whether such a Committee would make much pro- 1581 gress, for the questions that have to be decided are questions that ought only to be decided by the feelings and experiences of the Members of the House itself, and what some 12, 15, or 21 Gentlemen sitting upstairs would be able to do for us on such questions as these I fail to see. The decision of such a Committee would not satisfy those who feel the difficulties which have been suggested, and those difficulties may not present themselves with the same force to Gentlemen sitting upstairs. On the other hand, there are many who will say that the question is one which should be discussed by themselves rather than by a Committee. Now, I want to know, and to direct attention to another question connected with official reporting—I want to know what is the idea on which we are to proceed. In the first place, there would be this serious question—if we are to have an official report somebody or other must be responsible for that being ably conducted. It must either be some Member of the Government, which I do not presume would be the case, or it must be some officer of this House. Yourself, Mr. Speaker, would no doubt be the authority to whom we should refer whenever there was any dissatisfaction with the report of the official reporters. But what is to be the nature of the reports? Are they to be full, verbatim reports of all that takes place, or compressed and selected reports? If they are to be full, verbatim reports, I think the House will feel that it is going into a very serious undertaking if it desires to have anything of that nature. But, if you do attempt it, it would be necessary that the Members who were to be reported verbatim should have an opportunity of revising and correcting their speeches. If they have not that opportunity, you would constantly have complaints that reports which purported to be verbatim reports of their speeches were not correct, and in that case you would have a much more serious kind of complaint than you have now against The Times or The Standard or any other newspaper. You would have to bring the matter before the House, and the reporters, or the person in the responsible position, would be put upon his defence, and serious questions might arise. The question might arise as to whether Members ought to alter the speeches they had 1582 made; for, if they have the power of correcting, they have the power of altering, and very inconvenient questions might arise of whether, in the course of his correction of a speech, an hon. Member had materially altered what he had said, thereby rendering it necessary for other Members to take notice of it and call attention to the subject? Then, again, in regard to the matter of correcting, are those who correct their speeches to have time to do it; and, if so, how much time? It is clear that those Members of the House who, from their official position, are unfortunately obliged to speak oftener than other Members, and sometimes at great length, would have a great deal of labour in correcting their speeches; and, if they were bound to do so within 48 hours, it would be exceedingly inconvenient to them, pressed as they probably would be with other business. Even granting that they were able to do it; still, by leaving them time to do it, you would lose one great advantage — the promptitude of publication. What are these reports to be? Are they to be reports for the benefit of the House of Commons itself, or reports for the benefit of the public who are readers of our proceedings? If your report is to be delayed for two or three days in order that there may be time for correction, it will be in comparatively little demand amongst the general public who now read the newspapers; because, if the newspaper reports are well kept up, they will have taken the cream off everything that is said, and by the time your report of Monday's proceedings has come out, the interest will have gone off, and the interest centred in the proceedings of Thursday, which will be of a different character. The whole of the interest in Monday's proceedings will have been taken out by the reports in the newspapers, which have taken up the most salient points and the most striking subjects of what took place the night before. Now, my right hon. Friend complains, and, I think, with some justice, that the public interest in our proceedings is somewhat slackening, and it is by that fact that ho accounts for the reports in the newspapers being less full and less numerous than they used to be. There is no doubt that, in all probability, that is the case. Now, what would be the effect upon the public newspapers of an official report? 1583 At the present time there is, at all events, a certain demand for these full reports in the newspapers on the part of those who really desire to get a tolerably accurate account of what has passed, and there is a demand on the part of the Members of the House itself, and of others who, we may suppose, will get more fully what they want from the official reports. Consequently there will be less demand for the reports in the newspapers, and the newspaper proprietors, finding that what I may term the more intelligent portion of their subscribers do not care for minute reports, will confine themselves to the most striking and salient points in the debates, and more and more will they leave out those matters which you say it is a pity they leave out now. I think, therefore, you would find that any change would change very much for the worse the character of the newspaper reports. Now, we have heard that we are last in this matter, that other nations have official reports, and that England ought not to be behindhand in such a matter. I think my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) gave a very good and reasonable answer to that—which is, that really there is no Assembly in the world which is precisely parallel to the House of Commons. The kind of business we do here, and the style of our debates and our speaking, is very different indeed from that of the countries in which other Parliamentary Assemblies are to be found where official reporting prevails. Certainly, what I have seen of official reporting in other countries strongly confirms me in that view. I remember once going into the Senate of the United States with the late Mr. Sumner. When I went in a Senator was delivering his speech standing at his desk, and reading it from a printed paper, but nobody appeared to be listening to it. I was anxious to hear what he was saying, but Mr. Sumner said—" It is no use listening to him; it is for nobody here that he is delivering that speech, it is for his constituents in Louisiana; he has had the advantage of its being printed for him in The Congressional Globe, and he can send it post free to his constituents. It is not intended for the Senate at all, but for Louisiana." Now, that is not the sort of thing we are desirous to see 1584 in this House. What I think is that we might get into something of that kind if we were to encourage a style of reporting such as some persons would be very glad to see here. We should have speeches written out carefully prepared and handed to the reporter, inserted in the proceedings of the House, and sent down to the country. My own feeling is that it would be better to go on in our somewhat irregular way, and not condemn too much a system the greater part of the virtue of which depends upon its peculiar and occasionally somewhat anomalous character. These are the views I have upon the subject, and holding these views I do not think that there is much to be gained by the appointment of a Committee. But I wish again to repeat that I think the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) has done good service in calling attention to this matter, because there is no doubt that we do find some laxity and some deterioration in the reports of our debates, and it is possible that such a discussion as the present may do good in calling attention to the circumstances. It has sometimes occurred to me that the newspapers themselves might, by their own energy, introduce improvements into their system, that they might perhaps bring about some organized system of reporting which might be of use to all of them, and which might, perhaps, be superior to the separate reports which we have at present. I do not, however, wish to go into details of this, I would only say that I think it is desirable that the conductors of the Press should see that the attention of the House of Commons is alive to the subject, that we are not altogether satisfied with what is now done, that the idea is gaining amongst us as to the possibility of introducing some system of our own, and this may, so to speak, put them on their mettle and induce them to see whether they cannot themselves supply that which it is desirable should be supplied. If we find it cannot be done in any other way, if we find that the reports in Hansard cannot be made somewhat better, and if we find that our proceedings generally are not reported in the public Press, the time may come when the subject may be brought forward again. At the present time I do not think we are ripe for the appointment of a Committee.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
Sir, I wish to make some observations, because I think there is more than one point in this matter that has not been referred to by the hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me. We have had this matter brought before us accidentally on former occasions, and my opinion was rather against any attempt to alter the present system of reporting. I am obliged to say that recent experience has rather tended to shake that opinion and to make me think that it would be desirable to have such an inquiry as is now sought for. I will tell the House very shortly what it is that has brought about that change. I presume that the hon. Gentleman who has moved for this Committee (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) has done so from a feeling which is prevalent throughout the House, that the reports of the debates in Parliament are now not only much shorter than they were some years ago—for that, I think, will be admitted on both sides—but also that they are much worse. If that be so, is it not certain that, looking to the future, we may be satisfied they will become still shorter and still worse, and that the causes which have brought them to the present position will act with still greater force? If the House does not now propose to inquire, I believe the time will come when inquiry will be necessary, and in all probability that inquiry will result in some such change as that which is now suggested. Look at the change which has taken place in the public Press—I speak only of the Press in London. The bulk of the papers are published at one penny, and if a paper be published at one penny its size is limited. At present everybody who has had any experience knows that the profit on the circulation of a penny paper is very small, and that the profits of the London penny papers are now made out of the abundant advertisements which they publish from day to day. If a penny paper were to publish supplements, the increased cost would be enormous, and the result would be that that day's business of the newspaper would not be a profit, but a great loss. Therefore, there are no supplements, therefore the newspaper is limited to its present size, and therefore it may be the newspaper finds its profit very much more from what it contains of advertisements than of Parliamentary debates. 1586 It seeks advertisements; it fills its columns with them; they are more profitable than even the most brilliant speeches made in this House; and, therefore, the speeches go to the wall, and the advertisements are offered to the public and those who pay for thorn. That is the literal fact. We must all take into consideration that there is a constant growth of population and a constant growth of trade, and of all those circumstances and conditions which make advertising a great business and a great necessity of business. As we have seen in past years, so those who live will see in years to come that the practice of advertising will grow very much, and that the papers will become more entirely filled than they now are with advertisements, and that the space allotted to debates in Parliament will necessarily from year to year become less. I do not believe myself that there is much less interest now than there was in past times in reading the Parliamentary debates. I have no doubt that, taking into account the increase of education and the greater number of persons who can read, the number of readers of Parliamentary debates is far greater now than it was at the periods to which reference has been made; but the newspapers which are the conduit-pipes are occupied with something else — something which is more profitable. Except, therefore, on very stirring occasions, the record of the debates in Parliament is very deficient. I believe we shall find that every year the grievance will increase, and that we shall be compelled before very long, not to make the inquiry which is now proposed, but to carry into actual operation some plan for supplying to Members themselves a really faithful and fairly complete record of all that is said in this House. Just look at what is taking place at this moment. I have recently seldom remained in the House after midnight; but, partly from the rule which is called the half-past 12 o'clock rule, partly from the fact that the newspapers have not room for the reports, and partly from the fact that the newspapers are sent off by earlier trains from London to the country than they were, all our proceedings after midnight, so far as the outer world goes, are but dumb show. Of that course which some call obstruction and others call patriotism 1587 which has been adopted by some Members of this House, I have not been witness. I have heard it complained of, but I am willing to confess that I have not known anything of it, because I do not see it in process, and not being reported, I do not gather it from the newspapers. What is done after midnight now is just as much concealed from the people as it was at the time when Parliamentary reporting was absolutely forbidden by the House. That is not a state of things which is desirable for the House to continue. Before long some mode will be forced upon the House of providing for our own use—as Members of the House, and for our own reference, and as an historical record for the use of the whole country, and of all those who are growing up and are able to read and take an interest in political affairs—some record of our debates more satisfactory than the present lame and impotent reports. There is one point to which the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) has referred, and of which he has a fair right to speak. He does not talk very often, and he generally has something to say. If he does not always instruct us, he does generally amuse us. The hon. Member is afraid of the extent of talking which would be caused by a system under which all that every man said would be reported, printed, and published. There was a time when there were no reports. We have no very accurate record of what was said and done then; but still there were animated and prolonged debates. Then, I think, we must admit that we have no record of discontent, dissatisfaction, injury, mischief, or waste of time caused by the introduction of the present system when reports were permitted. I do not know whether debates really became longer, the speeches more verbose and less to the point, or that men spoke not for the public service, but from personal vanity. I believe there is nothing to be found either in the public or private history which states that such were the consequences of the admission of reporters to the House of Commons, and, if that were not so, then I do not think anybody has a right to argue that such results would follow if our reports were made more complete than they now are. One could imagine that some public-spirited individual should start a paper which would 1588 run for the season like certain coaches—that it should start at the opening of Parliament, and close on the day when Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair—that they should give in this Paper only Parliamentary intelligence—that they should report completely everything that was done in the House from 4 o'clock in the afternoon till 1, 2, 3, or 4 o'clock in the morning. Suppose that were done, I do not believe myself that it would make any difference in the amount of our discussions or in the length of speeches. There might be special and particular cases now and then when it might make a difference; but, as to the general average, it would make no sensible or perceptible difference. If it did, the House of Commons has always its own remedy in its own hand. If there be men who are not to be put down by any sense of shame, or by the feeling of dissatisfaction among their fellow-Members, the House has, after all, some remedy, because, at any rate, I have known it on many occasions make so much noise when a speaker was endeavouring to occupy its time, that it would be quite impossible for any reporter to have reported what he said. I think that if there were a disposition on the part of any Member to speak too much or too long, that the House would have its own remedy in its own hands, and that the objection raised by the hon. Member for Cambridge University is not worth a feather's weight in considering this great question, and still less in considering whether we should agree to the Committee moved for by the hon. Member. I should like to make one observation upon the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It seemed to me that the whole of his speech went to convince everybody who heard it, that the question was just one of that kind which did require a Committee. He admitted the grievance, and towards the close of his speech he actually pointed to the time when the now admitted deficiency of the reports would be still greater, and when it would be necessary to take some means to meet the difficulty. During the whole of his speech lie was raising a number of little difficulties, such as that we were not as other people, and that though this system did, perhaps, serve tolerably well in Australia or in the Senate at Washington, it would not be 1589 convenient and pleasant for us in this country with our different habits. He was raising a number of small difficulties which have occurred to every Member of this House who has thought for a moment on this question; but, knowing as we do what the deficiency is, the objections which he raised must bring any one to the conclusion that a Committee of a dozen or 15 sensible men would be the best mode of solving the difficulty for us, and of advising us whether it would be wise for us to change our present system. It would have before it men competent—or supposed to be competent—to give an opinion; it would learn what was done in principle and in detail in all other countries, and schemes would be suggested from which, if the House thought it wise that something should be done, it would be able to make choice, and establish a system which might be of great advantage. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) said there was not much in the argument that all other Assemblies had adopted this plan. I think it was one of the strongest arguments that could be brought forward. This system has been adopted not only in countries where English is spoken—in Canada, in the United States, and in the Australian Colonies—but in nearly every Parliamentary and debating Assembly on the Continent of Europe. If that be so, rely upon it that there is some good reason for the course which is taken; and we should find it well if we were to adopt that course. I do not now ask the House to adopt that course; we have not come to that point; but, looking to the present feeling of the House, and even taking the opinions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the House would do wisely to agree to the Committee. I should be glad if the Members of Her Majesty's Government who are present would assent to an inquiry on a question so important as this. They have allowed several inquiries on matters of much greater doubt, and I hope they will not be deterred from sending one more Committee upstairs to consider a question already become considerable, and which will year by year become more difficult.
§ LORD ESLINGTON
I was extremely glad when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) rose, and with the great weight of his authority, ability, and influence, im- 1590 parted a tone of seriousness to the debate which it seemed to me to lack at the commencement. There was rather a disposition to ridicule the Motion and treat it in a manner approaching to levity. Certainly, my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) amused us largely in enforcing his views. I venture to say that more importance attaches to this Motion than my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge, or than my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to think. First, I want to say a word on the Motion itself. I venture, with great deference, to differ from the opinion we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright). I think a Committee will ultimately be a necessary means of carrying out the view which a large number of the Members of this House entertain; but it seems to me that the first thing the House should do is not to be led by the opinions of Gentlemen on the front bench; for this is a question for the House of Commons itself to determine—and to decide whether an official report of its proceedings shall be made. This seems to me to be essentially necessary for the House to decide itself, and not to delegate it to any dozen of men to decide for it. If the House comes to the conclusion that it will not have an official report, then cadit questio. If the House, however, should decide to have an official report, then comes the question of the machinery by which it is to be carried out, and that might fairly be placed in the hands of a Committee upstairs. I wish to say a word or two upon parts of this question which I have not heard alluded to before. First, I will refer to the argumentum ad hominem. We are told that the public appetite for reading our debates is passing away; that newspapers are being filled with advertisements, and that newspapers are the faithful exponents of public opinion in this matter. We are told that fewer newspapers report our debates in detail, and that therefore the desire for reading them is passing away. I apprehend that is a mistake. I do not believe that the public wish to read our debates is passing away; but it does not pay the newspapers to report them. That is the real fact. It is commercial considerations which influence the minds of 1591 managers and conductors of newspapers. They have made up their minds what is necessary for them, and we have no right or business to interfere with them. They believe that it is not a good commercial speculation for newspapers to report debates at great length. If the public appetite for Parliamentary speeches is passing away, I want to know how you account for the intense interest which is taken in politics throughout the length and breadth of the land. For one politician that there was when I was young, there are dozens now. Education has led to that, and education will increase the appetite for politics. Coming to the argumentum ad hominem, I do not believe that an official report will encourage men to make long speeches. If we have an official, authentic, and faithful record of our proceedings and debates, it will weigh upon every sensible man in this House —and the vast majority of this House are, and I hope always will be, sensible men—and will make them weigh their words a great deal more carefully than they do now. It will do justice to the Members of this House and that justice is not done them at present. There is no means by which a Member of Parliament can prove himself responsible for his own words. That is a most important consideration. In the absence of anything like an authentic record, we are held responsible by our constituents for what others say on our behalf. If they complain of anything we have said, it will turn out in 9 cases out of 10, that we never used the language at all. I object, as a Member of this House, to be made responsible for speeches that are made for me. I am prepared to be responsible for my own words, but not for what is said for me by those extremely able men who summarize our debates with great ability, but with very considerable inaccuracy. That is one reason why I attach great importance to having an official record of our debates. A Member of Parliament in his own defence will be able to point to that authentic document and to say, "I am responsible for that." There is no man with any sense of honour and dignity but must feel occasionally annoyed by having attributed to him things which he never said nor intended to say. I do not blame the newspapers, because it does not pay them to give that attention which is absolutely neces- 1592 sary to secure a faithful record of what an hon. Member says when he addresses the House. I wish now to allude to a point—I will not say a very important point—which was raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If an official record is kept, and if a staff of reporters worthy of this House is employed, the consideration of expense is not worthy to be thought of. After all, the debates of this House constitute part of the history of the country, and therefore we are entitled to ask that we should have a complete, sufficient, and efficient staff. Then comes the question, who is to be responsible for the authenticity of the reports? My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, without that care and consideration which he generally devotes to public affairs, suggested that you, Mr. Speaker, should be considered as responsible for the authenticity of the reports. Now, if I thought that by voting for this Motion I was going to add to those overwhelming labours which you so ably, so assiduously, and to our entire satisfaction perform, I should be the last man to add one iota to those labours. I object entirely to the idea that you should be held in any degree responsible. I think the House should appoint a Standing Committee selected by the wisdom of the House, who should be charged with the important duty of the supervision and control of the printing of these debates. There was another point raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He cast a slight reproach upon the newspapers for the mode in which they record our debates. That brings me back to what I said before. The newspapers are the best judges of what they should do. I wish to leave them entirely free and to be the judges of what they report and print, and not to ask them to print what they do not think worth their while. I do not wish to argue this question with reference to the newspapers at all. They do a great public service as far as the labours of this House are concerned, and we know that generally their duty is very carefully and efficiently performed. That is the answer which I should give to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that respect. There is only one other word I wish to say. I wish to add my humble voice, as having been a number of years in this House, to the expressions of gratitude 1593 to the gentleman to whom alone we are indebted for any record of our debates—I mean Mr. Hansard, of whom I have always heard my father, long a Member of this House, speak in equal terms of gratitude and recognition. I think he has performed a great public duty; that he has been most inadequately remunerated for the performance of that duty; and that he has performed it most efficiently, most ably, and most faithfully, with the means which he had at his disposal. It is only due in a debate of this kind that Members should express their opinions of the public services performed by this gentleman. I have only to repeat that the first step that the House must necessarily take is to decide the main question, whether we shall or shall not have an official record of our proceedings.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
Sir, I hope my hon. Friend (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) will not be deterred by the very moderate opposition which he has received from the Government from taking the opinion of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is true, pointed out a number of difficulties in the way of carrying out my hon. Friend's intentions. But surely these difficulties are exactly the difficulties which a Select Committee would solve. I know very well what a difficult problem the reporting of our proceedings would be. In the Courts in which I practice, it is a common thing, when an important case is being heard, for every word that is uttered by witnesses or counsel to be taken down, and very dull and unsatisfactory reading, as a general rule, it is. It would be necessary to have a far more intelligent staff to take the reports of speeches in this House than such reporters as are employed in the cases to which I have referred. There is not an Assembly in the whole of Europe, or, so far as I know, in the whole of the world—Turkey itself not excepted—which does not possess an authentic and official record of the speeches made inside its walls. It is all very well to say that the House of Commons differs from every other Assembly in the world, and that it has a greater eye to business, and that speeches delivered here are intended to be heard and not read. But we all know that speeches of great importance—often some of the most important speeches which 1594 are made—are delivered to half-a-dozen Members, half of whom are asleep. It does seem to me rather hard that an hon. Gentleman, speaking under such circumstances, should not be at liberty to preserve a record of what he has said. I wish to speak with the greatest respect and gratitude of the reports which the newspapers furnish of our proceedings; though, perhaps, one may feel a little disappointed when one's arguments and illustrations are boiled down in the morning papers to a length not much longer than your thumb. As a general rule, I admire the reports in the daily papers of the speeches which we make. I admire them and thank them for what they report; and I also thank them very often for what they do not report. There may be cases in which one of the greatest misfortunes that could befal a man would be to be reported verbatim. But the newspapers, as a rule, deal with this matter on purely commercial principles. They report what pays, or, in other words, what people will read. It is all very well to say that people do not take the same interest in our debates as they did 40 years ago. The fact is, that the people have a great deal more to read, and the newspapers have a great deal more to say. For the last six months one whole broad sheet of The Times has been occupied with nothing but foreign telegrams; and when we take into account law reports and police reports and other matters, a very small space is left in the newspapers for the report of our proceedings. They deal with the matter upon commercial principles, and it is not to be supposed that they should report those things which the public will not read. Let us see what the effect of adopting my hon. Friend's Motion for having an official report would be. Something has been said about expense. When you come to consider the enormous Bill which we pay every year for printing—I was told a short time ago that it was no less than £160,000 a-year; when you come to set against that the £10,000 or £14,000 which would be required for an actual record of our proceedings, the matter is not to be thought of at all. If the country cannot afford to have an official record of what takes place in Parliament—which is really the history of the country and of the present time—if the country cannot afford 1595 that, then we should stop some of that useless printing of Returns, documents, and Papers which nobody asks for, which nobody wants, and which are sold by our clerk or our butler simply as waste paper. The hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) made a great point of the effect which such a report would produce on the number and length of speeches, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to what occurred in the American Congress. He told us that when he was present in Congress an hon. Member was addressing the House. He tried to listen, but some one said to him — "Don't listen, for what this gentleman is saying is spoken for the benefit of Louisiana." But do no hon. Members in this House speak for the benefit of "Louisiana?" I think it very often happens that our debates are protracted in consequence of lion. Gentlemen who address the House, and who make their speeches for the benefit of "Louisiana." I cannot help thinking that many speeches now spoken would never be spoken at all if the men who made them knew that the ghosts of those speeches would rise in judgment against them in an official report. I well remember what was said by Lord Westbury, when there was a question about printing the proceedings in the Court of Chancery, which used to be written. He said—"Print them by all means, because you will find men will not print nonsense." I will not go so far as to say that men have been debarred from printing nonsence, but the change from writing to printing has had a most beneficial effect upon our proceedings. We ought to look upon this matter in the light which is thrown upon it by competent and expert witnesses. We have opinions of the effect that the official system of reporting has had upon the character of the debates. My hon. Friend has handed me a letter from Dr.—, who has charge of the report of the proceedings in the German Parliament. He says—The report appears two or three days after the debate. No doubt the existence of such a report will exert some influence on the nature of the debates; but it will be, in my opinion, a good one.I cannot help thinking that that evidence is worth a great deal. I do not think we should be the only nation in Europe 1596 without an official report. It has led to great inconvenience, as we have been told by Member after Member getting up from these benches, and I really trust that after the support which my hon. Friend has received, the Government will accept the Motion.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I would beg the House to consider that this is really a great question, although, no doubt, the discussion of this Motion for a Select Committee involves much that is matter of detail. I think the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) has acted very prudently in not asking us to decide the question at once, but in proposing an inquiry. I say this because, in my opinion, he has rightly judged that the great body of the House is not prepared to divide upon this great subject without further information. I cannot, Sir, enter upon this subject without rendering a tribute to those who have for so many years been the medium of communication between the House of Commons and the people of England. I know that there are in that (the Reporters') Gallery men who are actuated by as high a public spirit, by a temper as judicial, as that of Lord Campbell, who once sat there; by a spirit as benevolent as that of Charles Dickens, who did so much to bring the different classes of this country to a friendly knowledge of each other. But, Sir, we have had from these persons the declaration that the proprietors of newspapers no longer find it profitable to afford the amount of space required for full reports of the debates which take place in the House of Commons. When this subject was last before the House, two years ago, I read a declaration to this effect that was made by one of the leading newspapers—a declaration which appeared in a leading article in The Daily News of the previous day—to the effect that formerly the reporters in the Gallery sat there to report whatever was said within these walls; but that this was so no longer; that the House must not be deceived, for, although the reporters might be as fair, as public-spirited, and as honest as ever, it no longer pays the proprietors of newspapers to find space for full reports in their columns. However, Sir, we may lament this fact, I, for one, felt the force of what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) when he said 1597 that 30 or 40 years ago there were at least four staffs of newspaper reporters, all of whom vied with each other in conveying to the people of England an accurate report of what was said in the debates in this House; but that now there were practically only two reports for the London daily newspapers, and, although there are different organizations in connection with the Press for other local purposes, still we have not the same security of public competition that we need to have. In those days we relied upon the competition that was carried on among proprietors of newspapers, who found a commercial advantage in what they produced and sold by way of reports of debates. There was a side-by-side competition in the reports of our debates, each of the staffs to whom I have referred viewing with the other in completeness and accuracy. This, however, has passed away. What, then, have we come to? At the present moment we are practically in the hands of the proprietors of the two leading journals. Is that position quite safe for this great representative Assembly—for the Legislature of this country—to be placed in? The competition that used to take place has ended in something like a monopoly, and this has virtually changed the character of the power upon which we rely for the dissemination of our debates throughout the country. I do not and will not for one moment express the slightest distrust of the proprietors either of The Times or The Standard, but I must say that I think it scarcely safe that the only means of communication between the House of Commons and the public at large—so far as our debates are concerned—should be left in the hands of any two companies. I admit, Sir, that they have done, and that they still do, their work wonderfully. I, as an humble individual, and one who has long been an independent Member of this House, must acknowledge that I have been deeply in their debt; but I must add that they make mistakes sometimes—that is only natural—and I wish hon. Members to remember and to feel with me what may the consequences of these mistakes. I remember that, on one occasion, I had spoken on the proposal to admit Nonconformists to the Universities—I think it was on the Oxford and Cambridge University Bill, and in doing 1598 so I happened to have replied to a speech of a lamented Friend of mine, the late Mr. Winterbotham. It afterwards appeared that, in compiling those speeches, the reporters for The Times made a mistake and placed about five sentences of Mr. Winterbotham's speech to which I had replied into the speech which appeared as mine. This, Sir, may appear to be a trifle; but mark the result. At the next General Election, and after the nomination day, a clergyman's son, a friend of mine, came to me post-haste, saying—"Here is a placard going the round of your large constituency accusing you of having uttered these words." As it was after the nomination day, and I had no means of meeting my constituents for the purpose of addressing them, it was a fortunate thing for me that I had a copy of the much-despised Hansard in my house; and I was enabled by the use of that publication, and by comparing the report of The Times with that in The Standard, having the use of a local hand-press to put the matter right; but had it not been for this I might have lost some 500 or 600 votes, so that the mistake to which I have referred might, if uncorrected, have decided that I should not continue to be a Member of this House. I have only mentioned this incident in my own career in order to show hon. Members that it is no trifle to be misreported or misrepresented. Well, Sir, I find that there are some hon. Members who have a fear that if we wore to have an official report, it would have the effect of lengthening our debates and protracting the sittings of the House. Sir, I remember the period referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, when the reports of our debates were much more full and accurate than they are now—the period I have referred to when there were four different reporting staffs competing for accuracy. If you will turn to the record of the number of hours the House sat 30 years ago, you will find that the number of hours and of days occupied by debates in the House was far fewer than now, and that the reports show that the speeches were much shorter and much fewer than they now are. It is my belief that an accurate official report would have a most corrective influence upon the debates in this House. Why, Sir, the time seems to have passed 1599 away when we used habitually and constantly to refer to Hansard, in order to test whether the opinions expressed by the right hon. Gentlemen who sat in this House were consistent with their former opinions. We may have been unreasonable in insisting on consistency; but the means of referring to accurate reports certainly had the effect of making the Members of those days very chary of speaking against time, without preparation. For you may depend upon it that if an hon. Member rises in this House, and speaks lightly, or confusedly, at hap-hazard, and not for the purpose of argument, but merely in order to waste time, an accurate report of what he has said will not be very agreeable to his feelings when he reads it the next morning; and, what is more to the purpose, it will reflect little credit among those who have sent him to the House. My firm belief is, that we shall never be able to bring this corrective influence of public opinion which formerly operated to the promotion and correction of our debates—if I may so express myself—back to the House until we have by some means or other recovered that which we have lost—an accurate record of what each Member says in the course of our debates. I cannot help feeling that this House is losing something of its judicial temper, and I believe that that judicial temper would be restored by the increased sense of responsibility that would arise from the possession of full reports of what takes place in debates in this House. And there is another point in regard to which I think we incur great danger—I allude to the danger to be apprehended from partial reports. There is no danger when there are no reports—there was no illegitimate danger to hon. Members when there were full reports; but when there are partial reports, it is quite possible that the persons who have the command of the newspapers which form the medium of communication between the House and the public may obliterate the speech of some hon. Member whose misconstrued silence may create disappointment and dissatisfaction among his constituents. It is also quite possible in a partial report, or in that kind of summary which is rather a criticism on the individual himself than an abstract of his speech, to give such a colour to what he is represented as having brought 1600 under the attention of the House as will make him appear ridiculous out-of-doors, or so to change the meaning of what he has said that it shall completely contravene the expectations of those who have sent him to the House. These are some of the main aspects of the question. Well, then, I say that the House will do wrong if it fails to consult, not merely Mr. Hansard—whose character and opinions, having long known him, I, for one, value very highly—but the Committee might also consult gentlemen who are to be found in that (the Reporters') Gallery, the constant observers and the constant hearers, as well as the constant recorders, of our debates. And how, I ask, are the opinions of those gentlemen to be communicated to the House at large, unless it be by the means suggested in the Motion of the hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs—by the appointment of a Select Committee? There are also other gentlemen of literary attainments, other politicians outside this House, whose opinions on this subject would be well worthy the attention of this House in considering this, which I believe to be a great question—a question upon which the hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs has spoken much to the purpose to-night. The hon. Member has proved that he can speak ably—that he can speak to his point, and I thank him for having brought this subject before the House. If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me as an old Member for offering a suggestion, it would be this—that he should, if possible, modify the terms of his Motion, and adopt those which have been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
As I brought this question before the House two years ago, I may be permitted to say a few words upon the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy). I may state that in the year 1873 I obtained, on a Motion for an Address to Her Majesty, Reports from foreign countries and from our own Colonies as to the arrangements there made for reporting the debates of the various Legislative Bodies, and those Reports will be found in a volume of Parliamentary Papers for the year 1873, which is to be obtained in the Library. On a subsequent occasion I moved for the appoint- 1601 ment of a Select Committee of this House to consider the subject; but I did not press the Motion to a division. I did not again move in the matter, because I was anxious that it should be taken up by some other Member, who, possibly, and very rightly, would have more influence with the House than I could hope to possess, and I am extremely glad that it has fallen into the hands of the hon. Member for Montgomery, who has laid it before us to-night in so complete, and, I must also say, so attractive a form. Well, Sir, if this question were about to be considered for the first time, I think there is no hon. Member of this House who could say that the arrangements made in the Gallery for reporting our debates are of a logical character. Those arrangements have grown up, like the English Constitution and the House I am addressing, by the force of circumstances; and the very respect we feel for these institutions inspires, I am sure, the repugnance that has been expressed by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) when asked to consider any reform even now It is, I think I am justified in saying, an undoubted fact that the facilities that have been offered for the reporting and publication of Parliamentary debates have very much diminished of late years; and when I say this I think there are one or two elements to be taken into consideration that have not been mentioned in the speeches I have listened to to-night. In the first place, the great multiplication of facilities for sending Press telegrams has enabled every newspaper throughout England, Ireland, and Scotland to receive from one central source, aided and supplemented by its own correspondents, a very full and fair summary of what takes place in the two Houses of Parliament. This summary is published in all parts of the Kingdom, and I believe that, as a general rule, it satisfies the appetite of readers of Parliamentary intelligence; but no one can for a moment contend that that is such a record of our debates as the country ought to be content with. It has been said that the proceedings of this House are the history of the country; and if they are not so in reality they are, at any rate, a most material element in the composition and preparation of that history for 1602 future times. But, Sir, there is another point to which I would allude, and to which I dare say no one except myself will allude—and that is to the appetite that has sprung up of late years for another kind of reporting. I must say that I consider the sensational and the caricature reports that are given in some of the newspapers of the appearance and the language of hon. Members, and of the events that take place in this House, are indications of a decline in public taste. I do not know whether at this very moment there may not be some individual in this House, either "Under the Clock," or in some other part of the House, in a real or fictitious character, who may be taking a sketch of my own personal appearance for the amusement, if not for the edification, of the persons who read the publications in which such things appear. Indeed, Sir, I have seen myself represented, on more than one occasion, as addressing the House with my hat on, and looking like a street ballad singer coming out of a public-house. On one occasion I remember that one publication stated that my favourite attitude was to seize my hat and advance in the manner of a "French lover" on the stage. These are only examples of what might be stated in the case of almost every hon. Member of this House. I do not care for these things; hon. Members generally do not care for them; but there is one thing I do care for, and that is that the people of this country should not have their minds debauched by being taught to believe that this sort of thing is Parliamentary history. Well, Sir, I believe that newspapers of the class I have referred to have increased to such an extent within the last two years that it is almost impossible they can all continue to survive. Some of them must, in the end, destroy the others; because, in my opinion, the morbid appetite that exists in this country for this kind of thing is one that, for the honour of the country I am glad to be able to say, will very soon and very easily be satisfied. Having said this, I will make the further remark that the very construction of this House is such as to render it almost impossible for us to have, under the present system, proper and authentic reports of our proceedings. The Reporters' Gallery is filled entirely by the members of the London Press, and the 1603 consequence of that is that there is not room enough in the Gallery for the representatives of the Provincial Press. Many proprietors of newspapers in the' provinces of England, Ireland, and Scotland have made application to have their representatives admitted into the Gallery of this House, and it has been found impossible to comply with their request from a purely physical cause—namely, that there is not sufficient room. This being the case, I am unable to adopt the view that has been laid before the House to-night by several hon. Members — that the reporting of the debates in the newspapers is merely a matter of private speculation on the part of the proprietors. I am of opinion that the right of admission to that Gallery on the part of any newspaper proprietor or his representatives carries with it a very sacred obligation. I, for one, do not think that a newspaper which does not profess to give—and which, in point of fact, does not give—a tolerably fair and complete report of the proceedings of this House, has any claim to a seat in that Gallery so long as there is another newspaper, either in the metropolis or in the provinces, that will find it its interest and will be prepared to give a more complete report. Under these circumstances, Sir, I will ask the House to permit me to call its attention to one or two facts. It will be in the recollection of the House—for it has been mentioned several times in the course of the debate to-night—that a good many years ago there were four journals only which really as a habit gave full reports of the proceedings of this House, and that there are only two at the present time who continue to give such reports as can be at all satisfactory to the metropolis or the country as furnishing a record of our Parliamentary history. The two papers I refer to are The Times and The Standard. But there is another newspaper which I must mention, and that is The Daily News. Now, The Daily News is the organ of the Liberal Party. I am not going to make any attack on that journal; but I may say of it that it has been the journal which has put forward the view which has been quoted by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), that the newspapers have no responsibility in the matter of Parliamentary reporting; that they sim- 1604 ply catered for the public such a supply as would meet the demand. Well, Sir, let me point to evidence on this question. In the year 1873 the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard), during the Administration presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), brought forward in this House a very important Motion on the subject of International Arbitration. That is a subject on which, as the House is aware, the Liberal Party profess to take, and no doubt have taken, the utmost interest. The Motion then submitted by the hon. Member was opposed by Her Majesty's Government, and the result was, after a full discussion, the Government were defeated—the Motion of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil being carried by a majority of 10 votes. Well, what sort of a report does the House suppose was given in The Daily News, as the organ of the Liberal Party, of the speech of that hon. Member and of the whole debate? Why, Sir, it did not exceed in length some few lines. There, I say, is an example of the way in which the entire country was deprived, as far as that journal was concerned, of the information it required in reference to an important debate, which ought to have been valuable to all its readers. Then, Sir, there is another thing that I ought to mention. Not only is that the case with regard to some of our great debates, but the country is also made to suffer very considerably in consequence of the reports of our proceedings in Committee not being fully or accurately given, and this is specially the case in the reports that appear of what takes place when the House is in Committee of Supply, and when, as we know, the Votes are brought in that are objected to year after year upon the same grounds, and explanations are given by Her Majesty's Ministers which may be regarded as satisfactory or which may be exactly the reverse. These repetitions would be very naturally avoided if the House could only have had the security it would have possessed if the reason adduced in previous years had been fully reported. The reports are, in point of fact, so short that they do not contain anything like the information which the country demands. I will take, for instance, such a case as the discussions 1605 which have frequently taken place with respect to the salary of the Lord Privy Seal. This, as the House is aware, is a standing dish in Committee of Supply, and is touched upon by almost every Member who interests himself on the question connected with that honourable office. There are a great number of other subjects brought before that House, none of which have any authentic record that would be valuable to us or to the country either in Hansard or in any of the newspapers. There is no report there of the reasons which actuate those who oppose those Votes, or the reasons that are assigned for agreeing to those Votes. Under these circumstances, Sir, it does seem to me that something really requires to be done; and if the House is of opinion that something ought to be done, surely the Committee of Inquiry, such as is asked for by the Motion before the House, would furnish the best means by which we can arrive at what is wanted. All that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montgomery asks for, is that there should be a Committee upstairs to inquire whether greater facilities than we have at present cannot be given for reporting our proceedings. I do not think that we ought to pledge ourselves to an official report. It may be possible that by some new arrangement in the Reporters' Gallery we may be able to admit a greater number of reporters than at present. We might be able to admit representatives of the provincial papers. The newspapers might be able to unite together in order to supply one newspaper, to which all the reporting staffs might subscribe — a newspaper containing verbatim reports of our proceedings, which need not appear in the ordinary sheets next morning, but might be published a day afterwards. There are a great variety of ways in which the problem might be solved; and I, for one, cannot say that Her Majesty's Government have adduced any solid reason why the Committee asked for should not be granted. I have great pleasure, Sir, in supporting the Motion.
§ MR. DODSON
Those who have hitherto spoken in this debate have criticized very severely the existing state of the reporting arrangements, and many hon. Members have adduced arguments in favour of an official system. Now, Sir, I will venture to advance one argument in favour of the existing state of 1606 things. It appears to me that as matters now stand the speeches that are delivered in this House pretty well find their right level. The interesting speeches are reported at length, the moderate ones are summarized, and the bad ones are minimized, to the very great advantage of the readers and of this House, as well as of those who make them. Now, one proposition before the House at the present moment is that we should establish a system of official reporting under which the speeches are to be reported, as I understand it, verbatim et literatim, and if this be adopted we shall have to enlarge the shelves of our Library, in order that they may receive year by year the huge volumes that will thus be added to its collections. In this way we shall be establishing a huge necropolis of speeches which, I venture to say, will be very seldom visited, for I do not know who will be likely to enter the sepulchre in search of the speeches in the collection except those hon. Members who delivered them. We have been told by the hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat that it is very important to have an exact record of what takes place in Committee of Supply, and when the House is in Committee on Bills. I must say that this is a sentiment in which I cannot concur. No doubt there is a good deal of useful work done in Committee of Supply, and also in Committee on Bills, when Amendments are proposed; but I would ask the House, are these matters of the history of which it is really necessary that we should have an authentic record? When you have passed an Act of Parliament you look for the construction of that Act to the words of the Act itself: you do not go back and look at the report of what took place in Committee in order to see what were the arguments advanced by the hon. Gentleman who proposed a certain Amendment, and the objections that were made to it by those hon. Gentlemen who opposed it. And, let me ask the House this question—what special and immediate good is to come from a system of official reports? Now, I presume that the interest of this House, as a House, is that its proceedings shall enjoy publicity in the country; and, as far as individual Members are concerned, I may assume that our own personal feelings lead us to like that they should enjoy publicity; but how, let me ask, will a 1607 system of official reporting secure publicity? The public will not refer to, or take in, those huge volumes. Hon. Members may send those volumes, or such portions of them as contain their speeches, down to their constituents; but that would be by no means the sort of publicity it is wished to secure by this official reporting. We are told that reporting has fallen off, and that the debates taking place in this House are not reported at the same length as was the case formerly. Well, Sir, supposing that this is so, may it not be in a great measure due to the fact that the interest in politics has not been specially lively of late years? If the interest that used to be felt in politics and in the debates of this House should revive—if we should have exciting questions brought forward and exciting warm feelings in the country—you may depend upon it we shall have a revival of reporting, and that our speeches will be circulated through the country as completely as they ever were before. It has been pointed out, also, that as an official report might assume a form that would militate against full reports of our debates appearing in the newspapers, except when they were of an exceptionally interesting character. It has been suggested by almost every hon. Member who has addressed the House that the matter, the information, the entertainment contained in the newspapers of the present day, differ very materially from what the newspapers were able to provide in former times. In times gone by the only materials the newspapers used to furnish in the shape of information related to domestic affairs; but now-a-days our communications with foreign countries are so perfect and so rapid that the newspapers are enabled to lay before us every morning, not merely all the domestic information we require, but matters of the highest interest in every quarter of the globe. These things fill the newspapers, and, to a certain extent, divert the attention and the interest of the reader from matters of purely domestic concern. But if official reporting will not secure publicity, will it, I ask, in any way improve the system of reporting which at present exists? For my part, I am entirely at a loss to see how it possibly can do so. An official report would not be in any way competitive with the system that now ex- 1608 ists; and therefore it would not apply to that system any stimulus that would tend to improvement. Indeed, I do not see in what way it could possibly improve the newspaper reporting which we now have; but, on the contrary, I can see that the effect of an official report might possibly be to deteriorate the present reporting, because those who produce the present reports, which are now undertaken purely as matters of private enterprise, would know that those reports would be of less value as a record of Parliamentary proceedings when once an official system had been inaugurated. Then, again, I will ask the House to consider another point. Will the adoption of official reporting tend to improve the oratory of this House? It has been said by some hon. Gentlemen—and I have no doubt they believe it—that it would have a tendency to improve the oratory exhibited in our debates; and the argument they use is that hon. Members, if they saw an official reporter seated at the end of that Table, would be very shy of getting up and hastily uttering incoherent sentences in perhaps not very accurate grammar. That terror would not, however, be operative, if every hon. Member who addressed the House felt he would subsequently have the opportunity of correcting the report to any extent he pleased. ["No, no!"] An hon. Member sitting below the Gangway says "No, no!" I am speaking from what I understand to be the course pursued in foreign countries, or in some, at least, where the system of official reporting has been established. I speak guardedly, because I do not speak from my own knowledge; but I am told that in France Members of the Legislative Body have official copies of their speeches submitted to them for correction, and that they avail themselves of this privilege by correcting them very freely, while they themselves supply the "cheers" and the laughter" to any extent which suits them. But if the fear of an official reporter, hedged in by all the security arising from the liberty of correcting the speeches, does not improve or chasten our oratory, I must say that, in my opinion, the knowledge each speaker will have that he will be reported at full length must certainly tend to encourage prolixity and verbosity. It appears to me that, as human 1609 nature is now constituted, that is likely to be the state of things in an Assembly where official reporting is to prevail. I may add that in Assemblies where the official system is adopted the practice of written speeches obtains to a very great extent. As matters stand with us at present, we have, in addition to the unrecognized reports which proceed from the Gallery, and which give publicity daily to our debates throughout the country, a quasi - authentic report —namely, that which is contained in Mr. Hansard's very valuable volumes. It appears to me, Sir, I must confess, that those volumes record the speeches made in Parliament at sufficient length and with sufficient correctness for the purpose we require, even for reference for future debates. The proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery, who has brought this subject forward, is that the House should appoint a Committee of Inquiry. It is always a very difficult and delicate matter, and may appear to be invidious to advance arguments against a demand for an inquiry; but, at the same time, I will venture to submit to the House that there are one or two reasons why an inquiry upon that subject, at the present moment, would be somewhat premature, and why, as it appears to me, it might be of advantage to postpone such an inquiry, at all events, until another Session. As regards the reporting we already have in the Gallery, it has been stated in the course of' the debate to-night that that Gallery is occupied mainly by the representatives of the London journals, and that the Provincial Press is only represented there by a very limited number of gentlemen. But, Sir, through the operation of "Press Associations," which have been recently established, the facilities and the power of the provincial newspapers for obtaining reports of our proceedings have been very much increased, and it is quite possible that when further experience has been obtained the operation of those "Press Associations" might be considerably extended so as to improve the reporting of the local Press. Again, Sir, I may venture to say with regard to the materials we have at hand for the prosecution of an inquiry by means of a Committee, should a Committee be appointed, at the present moment they are hardly sufficient. What are those materials? No doubt there 1610 is in the Library a Report that was obtained a year or two ago from the Colonies and several foreign countries in regard to the system of official reporting; but I would remind the House that that Report is a very brief one, and that as far as the information it contains is concerned no Committee can be wanted, because hon. Members may for themselves, in the space of half-an-hour, read the whole of that Report and obtain all the information it contains. And, further, that information is, in reality, very slender. It is merely general information as to the system of reporting which prevails; but it does not give us anything like full particulars as to the manner in which the system is worked, nor whether its effect is, generally speaking, good or bad—at all events, there is not that amount of information which would enable a Committee of this House to draw from it a conclusive opinion as to whether the introduction of such a system would be suitable to this country. But if the appointment of a Committee were to be postponed until another Session, it appears to me that the Government might, in the meantime, be enabled to obtain fuller information both from foreign countries and from our own Colonies; and that if they were to do this we might have in another Session the material on which a Committee of this House might proceed to inquire into the whole subject with much greater advantage than is possible at the present moment. And here let me point out to the House another consideration. The system of debating which is adopted in the Continental Assemblies, and even in the American Congress, is very different from our own. They do not go into matters that are brought before them with the same minutiœ as is the practice in this House, and probably the custom prevailing in the Colonies will be the best test we can apply. A reference to the short Report in the Library will show to hon. Members that at the date that Report was made only three of the Colonies had adopted the system of official reports — namely, Victoria, Queensland, and New Zealand. My hon. Friend who introduced the Motion says that within the last two years the system of official reporting has been. adopted in most of our Colonies; but I may add that with regard to the Colonies other than those I have mentioned we 1611 have no information either in the Report or in any other document accessible to the House. I think, therefore, the best course we can possibly adopt will be to postpone the matter for another year, and if this is done the Government may, in the meantime, obtain further information for us as to the working of the official system in those Colonies in which it has recently been adopted; and then upon another Motion like that before the House we might appoint a Committee of Inquiry under more favourable circumstances than is possible at the present moment. Let me say just another word in conclusion. I have, perhaps, been led to argue strongly against the system of official reporting; but I have been induced to do this because it appears to me that, so far, the arguments that have been advanced on this question are almost all one way, and I was anxious, as far as lay in my humble power, to put the other view before the House. But I desire to assure the hon. Member for Montgomery and others who support his Motion, that I have no undue prejudice against the introduction of the new system if on full inquiry it should be found desirable to adopt it; and if a Committee of Inquiry should be appointed by this House another year, or another discussion should arise upon it, I, for one, shall be quite ready to approach the subject with an unbiassed and unprejudiced mind.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
The subject that has been brought forward this evening is one of considerable interest, and it has been put before the House in a series of speeches that have certainly afforded a great deal of valuable information to those who have listened to the debate; but I must say that I do not think either the hon. Gentleman who brought forward the Motion, or the noble Lord who seconded it, have offered us any remedy for the evils which are said to exist. On the other hand, however, I think they have made out a case for inquiry; and I trust that Her Majesty's Government will re-consider the decision they have expressed, and grant the inquiry that is asked for into this subject. It has been suggested that there should be verbatim reports of our proceedings; but, in my opinion, it would be impracticable to have verbatim reports except at very considerable inconvenience. We are told that in foreign countries verbatim reports are furnished of the proceedings 1612 in the Houses of Legislature. My hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) has very truly said that in those countries the debates are not so protracted as ours. A few years ago I was present at a sitting of the Italian Chamber. The Members met at 2 o'clock —they did not commence business till half-past 2—and at 6 o'clock the House was "up." And in France the Legislative Chamber sits till dinner time—never after dinner—so that their sittings are much shorter than ours. But I will adduce another fact to show that the arguments in favour of verbatim reporting are not admissible. In those foreign Parliaments of which I have spoken there is a tribune, and every Member who wishes to address the House must go to the tribune to speak. The consequence is that the debates which take place under these circumstances are of a much more formal character than ours, and they have none of that skirmishing we have here. All their speeches are set speeches, and very often they are written speeches, so that they are not nearly so voluminous as the speeches delivered here. My noble Friend (Lord Robert Montagu) has told us that these official reports would not be so voluminous as might at first be supposed; but, for my part, I certainly do feel considerable fear with regard to the enormous accumulation of the records of Parliament. If we are to have these verbatim reports, they will become so voluminous as to make them extremely cumbersome and practically useless. That, however, is no reason why an inquiry should not be made into the evils of the existing system; and I think it must be admitted that the present state of things is not altogether satisfactory. Last year I had a conversation with a member of that body, which I am sure we all respect—I mean the reporters in the Gallery—upon the imperfect nature of the reporting of our proceedings; for I remembered that, when I first came into Parliament, a good many years ago, the reporting of the speeches was very much better done than it is at present, and I asked why there had been such a falling off. His reply was—" We find that the reporting does not pay the proprietors of the newspapers; it is the advertisements that pay, and every column given to the 1613 debates in Parliament is so much taken from the advertisements." I said to him, that might be so from a commercial point of view, though I was inclined to question it; but that it seemed to me a rather low view for the Press to take, considering that they were called the leaders of public opinion, and the Fourth Estate of the Realm. I also said it would be an evil day for this country when the reports of the proceedings in this and the other House of Parliament ceased to excite any interest in the public mind. No doubt every Member of this House likes to see in the newspapers a good report of his speech, and I think he may be excused for feeling annoyed when, looking into the morning papers, he finds that the speech on which he had bestowed great pains, and which perhaps he considered a very learned one, has been reduced by the reporter to two or three lines. That, however, is a matter of little consequence, and I do not believe that hon. Members trouble themselves much about it; but I do think that, on Constitutional grounds, the people of this country have a right to know what their Representatives are doing and saying. And we may fairly suppose that when the Member for a great town makes a speech on a subject of importance to his constituents, and perhaps to the whole Kingdom, his constituents may want to know what he has said. Instead, however, of seeing the speech reported, they find only a few lines of it, unless he happens to be one of the fortunate occupants of the front benches, or one who has obtained a certain amount of popularity or notoriety. That, I think, is a very important point to be considered, because the proceedings in Parliament ought to be set before the whole Kingdom. When the great Berryer came over to this country, he remarked to Sir James Scarlett that our Courts of Law were very small. Sir James replied—" Yes, they are very small, and very few people can be admitted to hear what goes on there; but, through the newspapers, the proceedings are made known to the whole country the following morning." That was a very great argument, and I think the same remark might apply to this and the other House. There is a Gallery for reporters, and the debates, when published, inform the country as to what is going on in Parliament. It 1614 is important that those debates should be as ample as possible; and here I think we may reasonably make an appeal to the Press, through the same newspapers that report our proceedings. I will say nothing about advertisements, because that would be trenching too much upon the commercial question; but I must say that I think less space might be given to trivial police cases, dreadful murders, and sensational matters. Sometimes the most trivial police case is made the subject of a long paragraph in the newspapers. It is notorious that, during a part of last Session, the reports of the debates in this House were cut short and. were scarcely reported at all, because of the Bravo case. The whole of the details of that case were dished up and placed before the public, of whom a certain class are interested in that kind of news; but I was sorry to see, for the sake of such details, the proceedings of the Great Council of the nation cut so short. That is a matter which deserves the notice of the Press, and I trust they will take it into their consideration. But, even if the House should have an official report, it would be out of the question that everything said should be reported verbatim; it would not be practicable. There must be a selection; and what that selection should be, is a question which might very properly be referred to a Select Committee. The Committee would have to consider—first, what system of publication of reports would be desirable; and, secondly, in what manner the reporting should be conducted. If they decide that a verbatim report is impracticable, they would have to consider how the selection of speeches should be made, and how their condensation could be carried out with propriety. Those are questions which, I think, this House of itself cannot consider, but which a Committee may properly inquire into, with great advantage. Another question for them to consider is whether some, I would not say subvention, but some kind of indemnity, might not be given by the Government, or by Parliament, say to one newspaper on each side of politics, in order to enable the proprietors, without any pecuniary loss, to do more justice to the debates than they are able to do at present. All these things are, I think, worthy of consideration. Although I agree with much that has been said 1615 against an official report, and entirely concur in the argument against a verbatim report, I think a strong case has been made out for an inquiry. Therefore, if the hon. Member goes to a division, I shall certainly vote for his Motion.
§ MR. GREGORY
While I agree with a great deal that has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Dodson), there is one part of his speech, and that the concluding part, to which I entertain some little demur. He seemed to think that we might do well to refer this question to a Select Committee, but that the Committee should be appointed on another occasion. It appears to me that a preliminary objection to this Motion is, that it is for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into a question which, as I take it, the House is competent now to decide for itself; for I think we have all the information that we can possibly need; and, so far as I can see, there is nothing to gain by an inquiry. We are, therefore, in a position now to decide whether we shall have an official report, or not. With regard to the merits of the question, let us see what is proposed, and what is to be gained by the proposal. If the inquiry should terminate in the result contemplated by the promoters of it, I suppose some person, or a staff of persons, would be attached to this House, to report everything that takes place. That would involve both difficulty and expense. You may find persons very well qualified to take down everything that is said; but, of course, if you employ these persons, you must pay them very well for the duties they would have to perform. What is to be gained by their exertions, if so employed? Now, we have at least three daily journals, which give us very able reports of our debates. Beyond that, we have Hansard, which, appearing after a certain interval, enables every hon. Member to make any necessary corrections in his speeches. It is true that the newspapers may not report the whole of the debates, but they give a very satisfactory purview of everything that passes in this House, and of all that the public can require to know of our proceedings. I, for one, am not in a position to have all I say to the House fully reported. I am satisfied with what I see given in the newspapers; and I confess that I am astonished when I read those papers the next 1616 morning, to find how well any observations of mine appear in their columns. Sometimes after I have ventured to address the House, a sort of cold shudder comes over me, and I am curious to know how my remarks appear in the morning papers; but, to my surprise, I find that they really sound something like common sense. As long as that is the case, I do not think we require any official report. But suppose we have an official report, how is it to be conducted? It must be an accurate one; it must report every word that is said; because, if it does not, every hon. Gentleman who is not accurately reported would have a right to complain that that was not an official report. But, if every word that is said be faithfully reported, with all our interpolations, all our long parentheses, and all our repetitions, how would we look then? Again, who would read this report? It could only appear in the official journal, after everybody had read quite enough of the debates as reported in the daily newspapers. In all probability, these official reports would not be perused at all. It would be absurd to suppose that any such report would obtain a public circulation, comparable with that of the newspapers. So long as we have Hansard, every hon. Gentleman can have an opportunity of revising his speeches before they appear in that record. The report of any observations he may address here to his constituents he can also correct from his own record of what he has said, and he may appeal to that record afterwards, if necessary. The hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osberne Morgan) has quoted an observation of Lord Westbury, made at the time printing was introduced into the Court of Chancery. The hon. and learned Member said Lord Westbury advocated it, because it would prevent persons from printing nonsense; but I venture to say that the analogy does not apply in the present instance, because no printing of debates would prevent people from speaking nonsense. There is a broad distinction between printing under your own correction, and having what you have said printed for you. I think a Select Committee is not required for these reasons—that an official report of our proceedings would not answer the purpose we contemplate, and that we have 1617 already opportunities afforded to us of correcting inaccuracies in the newspaper report of any observations we may make. I do trust, therefore, that the House will not assent to the Motion.
§ MR. WHALLEY
The hon. Member for North Warwickshire, who has added to this debate so much information and force of argument, concurred with the late Mr. Spooner in requesting me to take up the Maynooth question; and I remember, Sir, very well—
§ MR. WHALLEY
I remember very well that, on one occasion, one of the difficulties, which the hon. Member was so good as to point out, was this—I might fully rely upon it, he said, that all the prospects of ambition which I might have of a Parliamentary or political character would be very seriously imperilled, and that, in fact, I could scarcely hope to continue a Member of this House, or to show my face anywhere, after taking up that difficult and perilous question, unless I adopted the same plan which the hon. Member had tried, and in which, if I remember rightly, he had failed to find satisfaction—namely, the plan of employing a special reporter in the Gallery to protect him.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I beg leave to state that the hon. Member is attributing to me that which I have no recollection of, and. which I never spoke in this House.
§ MR. WHALLEY
I do not say that the hon. Member spoke it in this House. He need not be apprehensive that I am going to say anything that may cause him to lose his temper, or at which he may take offence. I have to apologize to the House for bringing forward my own personal experience. Passing over the general question, that has been so ably introduced by my hon. Friend, and so fully argued by other hon. Members- may, after 25 years' experience, be permitted to speak on behalf of an unfortunate, and it may perhaps be a small, number of Members of this House—I mean the independent Members—who may be constrained by weakness or love of their country to take up subjects that are unpopular subjects that expose them to those writers in the Gallery and in the Press to whom the hon. Member for Galway 1618 (Mr. Mitchell Henry) has referred, who think it profitable to trade in sensational pictures and representations. I speak on behalf of those Members, who are worthy the consideration of the House. They cannot do much harm. I do not know that I am a remarkable example of doing much harm. I have no doubt occupied some portion of the time of the House; but I have continued to sit here for a long time, and my experience has been this—that the words of the hon. Members who preceded me have been very fully verified, and I have felt my utter helplessness with regard to the fulness or accuracy of the reports, or otherwise. All my attempts to carry out the suggestion of obtaining special reports have been counteracted by gentlemen in the Gallery, who have rivalled hon. Members in their hilarity or objections to the views which I have expressed. My experience has been this—that in eight or nine contested elections in which I have been engaged, I have obtained a larger majority each time than before. And how has this result been obtained? By my friends taking from newspapers extracts from what I have been supposed to have said or done, and exhibiting those extracts, which contained all manner of absurdities, and placarding them, and asking my opponents, is this a true picture or not? My friends who have taken this course have assisted me by collecting the abuse and ridicule and misrepresentations to which I have been subjected, and in various other modes to which the hon. Member for Galway has referred, and of which he has only had a small share. I am not complaining of this. Not at all, for I may say that it has been the making of me. Not being satisfied merely with such misrepresentations, I have been called a Jesuit in disguise, and a newspaper was established in which it was stated that I was a Jesuit in disguise. I am not complaining of that; but I speak on behalf of Members who may be disposed to take up questions in this House that do not for the moment find such an amount of favour with the House or the country as to control those gentlemen who represent the public in the Gallery; and, on behalf of this class of Members, I most cordially support the Motion for inquiry which has been proposed by my hon. and gallant Friend. I may men- 1619 tion that last Session I gave Notice of a Motion on this subject, and am very thankful that it has been taken up by my hon. Friend, who has done full justice to it; and I think the Government have had sufficient information placed before them to justify them in bringing the matter before a Select Committee, if not before the House. I will not trespass further on the attention of the House than to repeat that I speak on behalf of those Members who, under the pressure of their own convictions of what is right and just, may be disposed to take up questions which receive no favour from the House or the country, and which expose them to ridicule and to unfair remarks on the part of gentlemen who choose to make such misrepresentations as they think fit. Leaving myself out of the matter, I cordially support the Motion for inquiry. I may add one word more. There may be some matters which are not regarded with any great favour; but it is right that those who take up such questions should be able to speak upon them, should be able, like the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, to refer to or correct the report of what they have said or done. I do not say a word against the gentlemen in the Gallery. I have no doubt that those to whom I allude are amongst the most conscientious—I mean those gentlemen who profess the Roman Catholic religion. It is a matter of fact and of common rumour—
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must recall the hon. Member to the Question before the House, and remind him that he is wandering from it.
§ MR. WHALLEY
I consider the subject before the House a proper one for the consideration of a Committee, and therefore will give the Motion my support.
I think that the discussion which has taken place fully demonstrates the necessity of appointing a Committee to inquire into this matter. Every journalist who has been listening to the debate must have smiled at the objections which have been urged against the proposal, and must have thought that if a Committee were appointed witnesses could be called who would easily throw a little light on the subject. The representations which have been made show that great misapprehensions exist on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman the 1620 Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson) says that one of the great objections to the scheme of official reports is that Members would be allowed to write out, correct, or fill in their speeches. Now, it is well known that any Member who wants to fairly correct his speech can do so in Hansard. Again, it is urged that Members would speak against time, and prose away in the House for the purpose of obtaining publicity. But that objection is answered by the inquiry—What paper would care to report the nonsense which is sometimes thus spoken in this House? I deny entirely that there is not a middle course between the two extremes. The object of having any report is one or other of these two: —The first is, the usefulness of publicity for the information of the country. But there is another, and that is the usefulness of having an official record of the proceedings of the House. Perhaps it might shorten the debate if we were to recognize the essential difference of these two branches of the subject. They are entirely distinct. Up to this time you have been beholden to the Press for doing that for you which in every other country an Assembly has to do for itself, and it is impossible any longer to harmonize the two things. Let us not rail at the newspaper Press, as the hon. and learned Member for Wexford did, on the high moral duties of editing. Editors know their own business well.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
I certainly did not rail at the Press. On the contrary, I spoke respectfully of it.
I was merely referring to the excellent moral lecture delivered by the hon. and learned Gentleman on the Bravo case. Is it wise that a Bravo case should deprive the public of the advantage of reading the speeches made in this House? Now, with respect to reporting in this House. How had it arisen? At first the whole object of the House was to conceal from the public what transpired within the walls of the Assembly. The fact is known to every reader of history that there was a struggle to prevent the Crown from obtaining any knowledge of the debates. You have perpetuated the ancient system in theory down to the present hour. At first a reporter in some part of the House furtively jotted down what took place. From such a beginning, reporting in the Gallery has developed itself into a 1621 regular system. But it is by accident that you have been able to compile from these reports the excellent record which you find in Hansard. Now, I ask the House, would it wish to be without the record you have in Hansard? How do you propose to perpetuate it? Supposing you were told by Mr. Hansard—" I must have a subvention—I have not the resources which I had formerly "—will you not be brought face to face with the difficulty of providing yourself with some record of the debates? I said there might be a middle course. I am not going to suggest it. I have heard that the proprietor of one of the large news-supply agencies has said that he is prepared to lay a scheme before a Committee of the House by which, taking the space at your disposal, a very adequate report, sufficient for all purposes, could be secured to you and also to the newspapers in the country. I will indicate how the present system is working. What happens in the case of the Dublin newspapers? They are not admitted into the Gallery. No Irish journal is admitted into the Gallery. No provincial British journal is admitted into the Gallery, except through the staff of one or other of the London papers. What is the result? An Irish journal applies to some London newspaper staff, and says — "We want to have the Irish Business reported at greater length than it is given in the English papers," and the proprietor supplies him with that. Now, I believe it would be possible to adopt a middle course; and, without committing ourselves to the hazard of official verbatim reports, to have combination of reporting power in the Gallery, so that any newspaper that wanted full or verbatim reports could have them, and the newspapers which desired to have summaries could have them. I submit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the matter might be more usefully discussed across the table of a Committee-room than on the floor of this House. It may be said—" Let the present system go on—the man who is worth reporting will be reported." That may be exceedingly pleasant for some hon. Members. It may be very pleasant for those who have attained great eminence, and may be agreeable to those hon. Members who have their speeches in their pockets. Now, I have never delivered a sentence in this House that 1622 I had written beforehand, and I can say I have been as fully reported in the Press as I cared to be reported; and I can say that, speaking as I generally do for my audience, and not for the public outside, I do not care to be reported very often when I am reported. If you choose to give some further consideration to this matter, and to have a little confidence in what can be done by the newspaper Press, I am sure you will find a practical solution of this question which seems to you so difficult.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, I will detain the House very shortly. I confess I think there has been enough feeling shown on both sides of the House to make the Government consider whether they will not allow an inquiry. But I hope my hon. Friend who brought forward this Motion will consent to accept the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), supported, as it is, by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), and put his Motion into more general terms than it stands at present. The Motion now stands—That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the expediency of providing official reports of the debates of this House.That certainly would rather indicate that the opinion of the House is that there should be such an official report; and I do not think my hon. Friend means to convey that impression. The suggestion of my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Gladstone) is—" That a Committee should be appointed to consider the present mode of reporting the debates in this House, and whether any improvement of method or detail is desirable;" and I would venture to move that as an Amendment. I wish to allude for a moment to what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson), who ended a very able speech against the Motion by saying that there may be ground for inquiry, not this year, but next; and that he hoped that meanwhile the Government would endeavour to obtain some information. Now, I am of opinion that the information we want can be very easily obtained this year. My experience is, that if information is wanted upon a matter, it is as well to appoint a Committee at once, and not to trust to any Government to obtain it. If a Com- 1623 mittee were appointed, it possibly might not be able to make a full report this year; but it could be re-appointed next year, and we should have the great advantage that we should not have to wait another year before we set to work to obtain any information. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) that the information wanted could very easily be obtained. There would be witnesses forthcoming who could report as to what is done in the colonies and foreign countries. But while saying that I should be glad to vote for the Motion thus worded, perhaps the House will allow me to say that I should not wish in any way to commit myself to the conclusion that we should be better off with an official report, and I imagine that a great many would be willing to vote for the inquiry who would entertain very much the same feeling that I do. If a considerable minority of the House think it their duty to say that they consider there ought to be further inquiry on this question of reporting—if they have their doubts at the present time whether it is done in the best possible manner—I think the fact that a considerable and substantial minority holds that opinion ought to be an argument with the Government to induce them to allow their wishes. Coming to the question itself, perhaps the House will allow me to say a word or two about it. I think if our object is really to get to know what Members say, I do not very well see how we can avoid a verbatim report; and I am quite sure of this—that, if you had a verbatim report one year, there would be a large majority of the House who would be against a verbatim report the next. I am quite sure I myself should be only too thankful to get the House to re-consider any system by which every word I said was to be reported and read outside. I think we owe a great deal to the reporters, not only for what they put in, but for what they leave out. But leaving that part of the question, we must consider what are the objects of reports. These appear to me to be two-fold. One of these is that there should be a record of what is said; and no doubt that is important. But the other, which is to my mind of more importance still, is that the country should know immediately after our 1624 debates what has been the result, what has been the very general feeling, and what has been said in addressing the House. These appear to me the important and most essential matters; and if anything that we do, or anything which may happen in the country, would prevent the country from being in the closest possible sympathy with the House of Commons, I am convinced it will be a bad thing for representative institutions generally, and for the House of Commons in particular. I hope if a Committee is appointed it will not merely consider the advantages of a record, because these advantages are now really obtained by Hansard's Debates. I think very few Members can feel that there is any real deficiency in that matter. By reference to Hansard we can really find out what has been said in any debate of importance. I hope the Committee will bear in mind that it is most advisable not to make any suggestion which will make it less likely that there will be that sympathy between the country and the House. The reason I make that remark is—it is quite possible I may be wrong in the supposition—that I think it is quite likely that an official report would tend to prevent that sympathy. I am inclined to imagine that those newspapers who at this moment, at perhaps some sacrifice to themselves, give a very considerable report of our proceedings would consider whether it would be to their advantage to continue as now if a report was to be published of what was said within two or three days. It was said that there should be a newspaper containing nothing but verbatim reports, and that they should appear almost immediately. But who would take in that newspaper? My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wexford (Sir George Bowyer) said it was a great misfortune that we had to compete with the Bravo case; but I say that, upon the whole, it is far better that the report of the proceedings in this House should come before the public furnished by those whose duty it is to give information, and that it should compete with everything else of interest—that our debates should appear side by side with other matters both of less and more importance, so that the readers throughout the country when they take up a paper from which to get what interests them will find the debates in the House 1625 of Commons amongst that. You may depend upon it we should gain nothing by having a newspaper to ourselves, as only a limited number of people would take in that newspaper. What we want is, that the ordinary channels of information should give our debates to the country. My opinion is that it would be a very bad thing for England if the great reading population ceased to take an interest in the debates of the House of Commons. I have very little fear of that; but what I am sure of is this—that whether they do or do not does not depend upon any recommendations we may make, or by any sort of means by which we try to get a report for ourselves, but upon what we say and do, and probably a great deal more upon what we do than the manner in which we say it. Probably there is sufficient interest in the matter and sufficient doubt whether the present system is the best, that the Government will permit this Committee to be appointed. I do not know whether my hon. Friend is prepared to accept as a substitute the Amendment which I have already announced my willingness to move.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The proposed Amendment cannot be put unless the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montgomery is by leave withdrawn.
§ MR. HANBURY - TRACY
I beg, Sir, to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment, and to accept in substitution that of the right hon. Gentleman who has last addressed us.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
If the Rules of the House preclude me from moving this Amendment, perhaps the House will allow me to read it again. It is—That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the present mode of reporting the debates in this House, and whether any improvement in method or details is desirable.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Mr. Speaker, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down seems to me almost conclusive against the Motion. In regard to the right hon. Gentleman's proposed change of Motion, we are in this difficulty — the discussion has gone on during the whole time I have been present upon the question of official reporting; and by official reporting I understand it is meant that the House of Commons should take it out of the hands of the public, and at some time or other take it 1626 into its own hands. That is what I entirely object to. I do not think the time has come for any such proceeding as that. It is quite admitted that if the object of reporting is to be for the benefit of the public, then, as in every other case, if the public makes a demand the supply will follow. I am quite satisfied, from the remarks of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), that that supply is being brought about for the public; and I cannot help thinking from all I see that we should do well to leave the matter in the hands of those who understand it so well—the journalists who do it for their own interests and who understand what the public wants. The House does not so well understand the matter, and, if the House does not understand it, I am quite sure a Select Committee will not. When I heard some of the proposals which have been made to - night, I have certainly been startled at the new duties which it is proposed to inflict upon Members of this House. My noble Friend the Member for South Northumberland has proposed that a select number of hon. Gentlemen shall remain in the House all night to revise and correct Members' speeches.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Very well, I will take it in the noble Lord's own words. If they are to be responsible for the authenticity of the record, they must be present in the House when the speech is made, and that would be an intolerable infliction. I have great respect for my brother Members; but I must say that the perpetual sitting in the House would be an incubation more trying than anything which could be inflicted upon any Member, and would produce nothing valuable. If you are to have a certain number of Gentlemen who are to be responsible for the record of the speeches, they must hear them; and, if they are to hear them, they will get into such a state of confusion at the end of the evening as to be incapable of any recollection. If the object be for the public, for my own part I think everyone will agree that the public should supply themselves; but, if it be for the benefit of Members, why should not the Members supply themselves? One hon. Member said what seems to me an extraordinary 1627 thing, and that is that hon. Members have a right to preserve their speeches. I quite agree that they have; but I am not quite sure that they have a right to preserve them at the expense of the country. I do not see why any hon. Member who thinks he is not reported in the newspapers should not himself report his speeches, and stand or fall by the report so reported. I want to know whether it is in the interest of the House that the people should take the wheat and the chaff and mix them all up together, so that one would wish to get rid of the whole of it rather than to be obliged to sift everything that was said in order to obtain what is useful. I have heard that upon one occasion, even within this year, one Member of the House spoke 47 times in the course of one evening. With every respect for that hon. Member's ingenuity and ability, I cannot help thinking that a good many of those speeches must have contained repetitions. And all of this is to be taken down and published in volumes which are, I will not say to adorn, but to encumber the shelves of our libraries, and all this for the benefit of the public; for so far as the Members of this House are concerned, I think I speak for the great majority when I say they do not want the infliction. This farrago is not like wine which will improve by keeping, and we hold that it is much bettor that much should perish and be forgotten. The dignity of the House of Commons will be far better preserved by what is recorded by the newspaper Press of a debate of that kind, or what is preserved of it in Hansard, than if you record it in imperishable characters in volumes for which the House of Commons is responsible, and which would involve its honour, credit, and respectability. With regard to other countries, I, of course, speak with diffidence on the subject. I cannot help saying, however, when I look to the newspaper Press of other countries, it is of a totally different character from the Press of our own. The Press of other countries does not profess to give a record of the proceedings of its Legislature with the fulness which is given by the Press of this country. I would ask any hon. Member this question Let him recall his mind to any debate on an interesting subject during the time he has 1628 been a Member of this House, and let him ask himself whether, in the papers of the highest character and respectability in this country, he has not found such a record of that debate as to give the reader a full impression of what has taken place in the House, without encumbering it with the unnecessary remarks which may have been thrown in by Members, but which the reporters have very properly omitted? The country and the House are sufficiently informed by the Press, and nothing more need be done for the benefit of the public. Hon. Members, by a note to the editor, have every opportunity afforded them of correcting their speeches; and considering the number of references that are made to Hansard, it is very rarely indeed that the records there collected are disputed by Members of this House. That being so, I believe that the public have every security they require, and that there is no demand for a more complete record of the proceedings of this House than that which the newspapers at present supply. If anything more be required, I believe it would be found in the direction indicated by the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) in a record in which the House should have no interest, and over which it should have no control. With an extraneous record furnished in that way I believe the public would be satisfied, and that the Members of this House would receive full justice from it.
§ MR. SANDFORD
I have heard with the greatest pain and the greatest regret the speech of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down. I have heard it with the greatest pain and the greatest regret, because if one class of men more than any other ought to be the guardians of the dignity of this House it is Her Majesty's Ministers. My right hon. Friend, however, has addressed his arguments against one point, and against one point only—and that is against official reporting. He has not said a single word in reference to the Amendment suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). I am desirous, therefore, of pointing out that it is in the power of the Press at present, by caricaturing the debates in this House, or by suppressing the reports of the proceedings which take place in the House, to destroy entirely the influence of the 1629 House in the country. If, then, any sot of men more than another ought to be jealous of the honour and dignity of this House it is Her Majesty's Ministers, and it is they who ought to make provision that the speeches delivered in this House are taken in extenso. My right hon. Friend has said that on all occasions of interest an accurate report is given of the proceedings of this House; but, in the case of the two papers which profess to report the proceedings of the House on all important debates, the reports of many of the speeches are confined to a few lines, so that it is impossible to obtain a faithful report of all that takes place in this House. Now, I will say this—that while you open that Gallery to reporters from the newspapers, you should take care, at all events, that the debates are faithfully reported; and I would ask, if it is right or proper that those newspapers which do faithfully report the debates should be represented in the Gallery in just the same proportion as those who do not? I do not propose any particular plan for altering or remedying this evil and for securing more faithful reports; but I do say that the system of reporting may be amended —and I say further, that the best and fairest way of arriving at what that amendment should be is by appointing a Committee of this House to consider the variety of plans which may be suggested, and reporting to this House. By this means I think we should be able to obtain more faithful and accurate reports in future.
§ MR. BUTT
I think it will be quite in vain for us to disguise from ourselves that, whether in the original form or in the Amendment which has been suggested, it is directed towards official reporting. Now, I confess that I have had the strongest prejudices against official reporting; but those prejudices have by observation in this House and by long consideration been removed, and I do not believe that we shall ever do justice either to this House or to our constituents unless we adopt the system of official reports. It is the natural supplement of the great change that has taken place since the proceedings of this House were private and secret. There was a time when it was a breach of privilege to report the proceedings of this House. All that is changed now, and this House was forced, many years ago, 1630 by the gradual progress of public opinion' to submit to unauthorized reports of its proceedings being given to the public. That is the decision which has now been arrived at—namely, that every Member who now speaks to this House is no longer speaking as the Member of a private assembly irresponsible to public opinion, but that for his speech and even for his acts he is responsible to his constituents, and that the public have a right to be informed as to the nature of those speeches and of those acts. I believe that the publication of official reports would be the natural consummation of such a state of things. Let me now ask for the attention of the House while I call attention for a moment to the great change which has taken place. I believe there was a time when the debates in this House guided public opinion. I believe now that our debates have no influence on public opinion, or if they have any at all it is but very little. They may have in some cases, and that they may have in some questions is an argument, I think, in favour of the Motion. I am afraid that our debates in general, instead of guiding public opinion, are but the register of public opinion formed outside. In some respects the newspapers have taken the place of debates in this House. When attempts have been made to influence public opinion, it has been found that it is influenced more largely by pamphlets published with the authority of great names than by debates in this House. But, still, I think it is an unfortunate thing that our debates should lose their control over public opinion. Why, let me ask, did they lose their control over public opinion? Even in the best reports of the debates of this House—those which appear in the most influential and powerful journals, and those in which our proceedings are most accurately reported—some of the leading Members of the House are sufficiently reported; but the power which this House possesses in controlling the action of the leading Members of the Government, and the opinions of the great mass of the Members of the House of Commons, are not reported. I am sure, for myself, that I should be glad if what I say on many occasions were not reported, or, at any rate, that it were put into better shape by the reporters; but, still, I think my constituents have a right to 1631 know what is the exact position which I take in this House. They have a right to know if I talk good English, or if I am in the habit of disgracing them by idle Amendments. Now, I venture to say that upon all these questions, which constitute the real life of this House, the reports in The Times—and they are the best reports we have—convey no more information to my constituents in Limerick of what I do in this House than if they were never published at all. Therefore, I say that to complete that great triumph of public opinion which forced the House to make its proceedings public, we must come to official reports. Of course, these official reports must contain only the speeches as they were delivered. I, for one, would strongly deprecate any interference on the part of any Member of the House with an official report. I would never for a moment advocate that we should have reports of unspoken speeches. Unfortunately, we have reports of unspoken speeches in Ireland; and we have a totally false idea conveyed to the Irish people of what their Representatives do in this House. Would official reports interfere with the present system of reporting? Not in the least. Suppose, Sir, there were a staff of official reporters under your nominal direction. I use the term "nominal," because I should be sorry to add in the smallest degree to the enormous labours which you have to perform. The preservation of your health and strength is a most important matter to the entire body of the House, and that would not be accomplished by adding to the multifarious duties which you are required to undertake at the present moment. For some years you have presided over our deliberations with great impartiality and with perfect dignity, and I would never for a moment wish to endanger your health and strength more than by requiring you nominally to superintend the production of an official report of the debates, except you were called upon for your opinion, to direct and guide us in the last resort. But, Sir, if we had official reports they would be of such a character that no Member of the House would be able to interfere with them. There are reporters—and I have sometimes been reported by them myself—to whose verbal accuracy I would not take the slightest exception. And I would ask why in an 1632 official report every man's speech, whether it may be wise or unwise, foolish or absurd, should not be reported? I think it is an object that the constituents should know when a man makes a foolish and absurd speech. It is just as much an object to a constituency to know that, as it is when a Member makes a wise and prudent speech. They ought to be able to form a judgment upon the character of the speech for themselves by being able to turn to a full report of all that passes in this House. I appeal confidently to every Member of the House, whether the reports in the public papers do convey fully what passes in this House? They may tell them that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War has made a speech with that power which always distinguishes him; but that is not what tells the public the opinion of this House. What tells the opinion of the House is when men rise below the Gangway on either side and speak. Their speeches ought to be weighed with the speeches of the great men of the House. Unfortunately, they are not given in the newspapers; and the whole effect of your present system of reporting is to give undue advantage to men who hold an official position in the House. What would be the effect of adopting an official system of reporting? It does not follow that a single member of the present body of reporters—who, I admit, give the substance of our speeches with wonderful accuracy, and who report them also with great fairness—would be interfered with. But we should have an official set of reporters who would produce our speeches as those of America do the speeches of the Legislature there, with this exception—that the speeches, when once delivered, would not be touched by any Member of this House. If an hon. Member found it necessary to find fault with the report of his speech, it would be necessary for him to call attention to it in some other way—but let the speech, as taken by the reporter, be given. Suppose, for instance, that there is a question under the consideration of the House which affects the navigation of the Shannon. That would be a question of the most vital interest to my constituents, and they would look forward with interest to the report of any local speech that might be made. But how are they to get it, unless the Limerick papers are to send 1633 over a reporter specially? And if they did so send him, he would be unable to obtain a place in the Gallery; they would have no means of knowing what I or any other local Member said, or what we did. There are many other cases in which it is of vital moment to hon. Members and to the House that the constituencies should know everything that has been said. But the Press at this moment does not give this, interesting as their reports are. Then I say that the records of the opinions of this House are for history a matter of vital moment. What we say here is not what is said by a few men, but what is said by the great mass of the Members of the House, and it constitutes the history of our own generation. At present, there is no record upon which that history can be based. There is nothing you can turn to in order to find a record of the complete opinions of the House. Where can you find a record of the opinions of this House at the time of the last Reform Bill, or at the time of the passing of the Irish Church Bill? We ought, I say, to provide such a record for the future. For these reasons, I shall give my vote for the Motion. At the same time, I admit that it does not go quite as far as I think it ought to go. It goes simply for inquiry. Is there any harm in inquiry? Is there any reason why we should not inquire into the system of reporting which now prevails in this House? Does the present system really convey to the country sufficient information to enable the people to judge of the proceedings of this House; and, if not, how are we to convey to posterity a record of debates, when, say, the discussion of this evening shall have become a matter of history? Official reporting would give us a record which every country newspaper would use, and which could be referred to hereafter as an authentic record of what every man has said. By it our children would know all that has been uttered in this House upon every occasion. No doubt, the circumstances of the times have a great deal changed of late years. A great deal of Business is now transacted in this House at a time when the ordinary papers cannot report it. How many discussions have we had in this House after 1 o'clock in the morning, when the gentlemen in the Gallery do not take our speeches down 1634 because they know it would be useless. I firmly believe that on many occasions, if the debates which occur after that hour had been reported, the opinion of the country as to the result arrived at would have been materially altered. There are some cases in which it is necessary to carry on our proceedings in the small hours of the morning, and that is a portion of our proceedings to which the ordinary reporting of the newspapers cannot apply. Ought it, then, to be done in secret? I say that if we are to provide for the publicity of our debates, we must at once come to the determination that as soon as the ordinary reporters find it necessary to stop their reports, we should have official reporters to continue the debates. For these reasons, I earnestly hope that the House, following the example of every representative institution that I believe now exists in the world, will assent to an inquiry into the whole circumstances of the case. If that be done, I believe that, without unduly indulging our own vanity or trenching upon the privileges of the newspaper Press, we shall be able to provide a full and accurate report of our debates, in a manner that will be satisfactory not only to the Members of this House, but to the country at large.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, the subject has been very fully debated, for a considerable time, and there are only one or two observations which I wish to make to the House before the discussion concludes. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, who very lately addressed the House, did not advert—and perhaps he was justified in not doing so—to an irregular conversation that took place between my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) and my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy). Much of the support which my hon. Friend has received in the course of the evening has been given to him in a qualified sense. My hon. Friend's Motion, and still more his speech, showed that his own opinions were in favour of a verbatim official report. That is a proposal which has been received with favour by some; but it has met with by no means general acceptance even by hon. Members who are prepared to support the Motion for a Select Committee. My right hon. 1635 Friend the Member for Bradford suggested to my hon. Friend that he should amend his Motion, so far as the reference to the Committee is concerned, by some words which he suggested. According to the Rules of the House, it would be impossible to amend the Motion, unless with the permission of the House the original Motion were withdrawn. My hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery intimated, before the Secretary for War rose, that he was quite willing, with the consent of the House, to withdraw his original Motion and substitute an amended one in accordance with the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Bradford. But the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War has not taken any notice of what passed, and the right hon. Gentleman addressed his speech entirely against the system of official reporting.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I said that I did not think the House of Commons should take into its own hands what I thought ought to be left entirely to private enterprise. I certainly meant to oppose both Motions.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I thought that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was directed only against official verbatim reporting. As far as my own opinion goes, I am as much opposed to official verbatim reporting as any hon. Member of this House. I may be wrong; but I have a great fear and a great suspicion that a verbatim report would encourage what I consider to be one of the greatest grievances under which we in this House labour—namely, a superfluity of speaking. I may be entirely wrong. Some Members seem to think that the dread of seeing every word uttered correctly reported, in an official shape, would act as a check upon hon. Members. I must say that I doubt that, and I fear that the grievance under which we labour would be increased rather than diminished. But there are many things which a Committee could inquire into besides the expediency of adopting an official verbatim report. There are undoubtedly two subjects of complaint which have been brought prominently forward in this debate, and they are two subjects which I think are quite capable of amendment if a little consideration were given to them. What are they? The first is this—It is universally admitted that the reports in the 1636 newspapers, by which now, and by which whatever happens, our debates must be chiefly known to the country, are not as full and as correct as they were a few years ago, and that what passes in Parliament is not known as fully by the public as it was formerly considered desirable it should be known. Possibly this may be a subject of complaint which is not capable of remedy. If the public do riot care to know what passes in the House, possibly no alteration which the Committee might recommend would be able to remedy that grievance, and the only remedy may lie in the House itself, in the alteration of the character of its debates. But I think a great deal has been said to-night which tends to show that there are many debates which, although not interesting to the whole of the newspaper-reading public, are nevertheless interesting to some distinct and appreciable portion of the people. There are subjects which, if they are not interesting to the readers of the London newspapers, may be very interesting to the readers of country newspapers. If the House will compare the number of places available in the Reporters' Gallery with the number of newspapers which exist throughout the country, they must at once see that it must be a difficult subject indeed to secure that the country newspapers should be provided with what they want in regard to the debates of this House. I think that is a subject well worthy the attention of a Committee. Then there is another subject which a Committee might inquire into—namely, the desirability of having a permanent record of the proceedings of the House. No one can deny that there is something to be desired in that respect. A very just tribute has been paid to the editor of Hansard's Debates. I am ready to admit that in all debates of first-rate importance, although all the speeches may not be reported at full length, there is still a generally good and accurate idea of the tone of the debates. But there are debates of less immediate public interest which are scarcely reported at all, and there are important debates which take place in Committee on public Bills, and in Committee of Supply, of which the record is almost nil. There are also debates which take place after 12 o'clock at night, which hardly find any place whatever in the records of Hansard. Now, I cannot help thinking that it is 1637 very much to be regretted that any part of the proceedings of this House should remain without a permanent record at all. I believe the remedy for this state of things is very easily to be found. We all have our own crotchets, and I have no wish to put mine forward in opposition to the plans which have been suggested by others. But I think the remedy may easily be found. We have been driven already to subsidize the publication of Hansard's Debates. It is conceivable that a small addition to that subsidy, under proper precautions, might secure to us, in the same shape as Hansard, all we require as a permanent record. All these things are worth inquiry by a Select Committee; but if the House should feel inclined to accept the Motion of my hon. Friend as it stands, I should be pledged, much more than I wish to be, in support of a system of official verbatim reports. My hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery has, however, expressed his willingness to withdraw his Motion if he is allowed to do so. Another Motion would then be substituted for it, in accordance with the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford. But, in any case, if the Motion of my hon. Friend is carried it would be perfectly possible to amend it. I hope the Government will re-consider their decision of opposing the Motion altogether, and will allow the original Motion to be withdrawn and an amended Motion to be substituted for it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—A yes 152; Noes 128: Majority 24.1639
|Agnew, R. V.||Cartwright, F.|
|Allsopp, C.||Cave, rt. hon. S.|
|Barne, F. St. J. N.||Chaine, J.|
|Barrington, Viscount||Chaplin, Colonel E.|
|Bates, E.||Clifford, C. C.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Clifton, T. H.|
|Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H.||Clowes, S. W.|
|Benett-Stanford, V. F.||Cole, Col. hon. H. A.|
|Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C.||Colebrooke, Sir T. E.|
|Beresford, Colonel M.||Coope, O. E.|
|Birley, H.||Corry, J. P.|
|Blackburne, Col. J. I.||Crichton, Viscount|
|Bourke, hon. R.||Cross, rt. hon. R. A.|
|Bourne, Colonel||Cuninghame, Sir W.|
|Bowen, J. B.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Bright, R.||Dalrymple, C.|
|Burrell, Sir W. W.||Davenport, W. B.|
|Buxton, Sir R.T.||Deedes, W.|
|Cameron, D.||Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.|
|Douglas, Sir G.||Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S.H.|
|Dunbar, J.||O'Brien, Sir P.|
|Edmonstone, Admiral Sir W.||O'Neill, hon. E. Onslow, D.|
|Egerton, hon. A. F.||O'Shaughnessy, R.|
|Elliot, G. W.||Paget, R. H.|
|Fellowes, E.||Parker, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Floyer, J.||Pateshall, E.|
|Foljambe, F. J. S.||Pell, A.|
|Folkestone, Viscount||Pennant, hon. G.|
|Fremantle, hon. T. F.||Peploe, Major|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Pim, Captain B.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. E.||Polhill-Turner, Capt.|
|Giffard, Sir H. S.||Puleston, J. Ii.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Read, C. S.|
|Gordon, W.||Rendlesham, Lord|
|Grantham, W.||Repton, G. W.|
|Gregory, G. B.||Ridley, M. W.|
|Hall, A. W.||Ryder, G. R.|
|Halsey, T. F.||Sackville, S. G. S.|
|Hamilton, Lord G.||Salt, T.|
|Hardy, rt. hon. G.||Sandon, Viscount|
|Harvey, Sir R. B.||Sclater-Booth, rt.hn. G.|
|Helmsley, Viscount||Scott, M. D.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Severne, J. E.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Sidebottom, T. H.|
|Hinchingbrook, Viset.||Smith, A.|
|Holker, Sir J.||Smith, E.|
|Home, Captain||Smith, F. C.|
|Hood, hon. Captain A.||Smith, S. G.|
|W. A. N.||Smith, W. H.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.||Spinks, Mr. Serjeant|
|Hubbard, E.||Stanley, hon. F.|
|Johnston, W.||Stewart, M. J.|
|Jones, J.||Storer, G.|
|King-Harman, E. R.||Sykes, C.|
|Kingscote, Colonel||Talbot, J. G.|
|Knightley, Sir R.||Taylor, rt. hon. Col.|
|Knowles, T.||Tennant, R.|
|Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.||Thornhill, T.|
|Lee, Major V.||Thynne, Lord H. F.|
|Leighton, S.||Tollemache, hon. W. F.|
|Lewis, C. E.||Torr, J.|
|Lindsay, Lord||Twells, P.|
|Lloyd, T. E.||Wallace, Sir R.|
|Lopes, Sir M.||Warburton, P. E.|
|Lowther, hon. W.||Watson, W.|
|Lowther, J.||Welby-Gregory, Sir W.|
|Macartney, J. W. E.||Wells, E.|
|Mac Iver, D.||Wheelhouse, W. S. J.|
|Mackintosh, C. F.||Wilmot, Sir J. E.|
|Marten, A. G.||Wilson, W.|
|Maxwell, Sir W. S.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Mellor T. W.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Merewether, C. G.||Yarmouth, Earl of|
|Moore, A.||Yorke, hon. E.|
|Naghten, Lt.-Col.||Dyke, Sir W. H.|
|Noel, rt. hon. G. J.||Winn, R.|
|Allen, W. S.||Beaumont, Major F.|
|Anderson, G.||Bell, I. L.|
|Anstruther, Sir R.||Biddulph, M.|
|Assheton, R.||Blake, T.|
|Backhouse, E.||Boord, T. W.|
|Balfour, A. J.||Bowyer, Sir G.|
|Balfour, Sir G.||Brady, J.|
|Barclay, A. C.||Bright, rt. hon. J.|
|Barclay, J. W.||Brocklehurst, W. C.|
|Barran, J.||Brown, J. C,|
|Bruen, H.||Johnstone, Sir II.|
|Butt, I.||Kenealy, Dr.|
|Callan, P.||Kensington, Lord|
|Cameron, C.||Lawson, Sir W.|
|Campbell, Sir G.||Leeman, G.|
|Cartwright, W. C.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Cavendish, Lord F. C.||Lloyd, M.|
|Chadwick, D.||Lloyd, S.|
|Chaplin, H.||Locke, J.|
|Cole, H. T.||Macdonald, A.|
|Collins, E.||M'Arthur, A.|
|Conyngham, Lord F.||M'Kenna, Sir J. N.|
|Cotes, C. C.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Cowan, J.||Maitland, J.|
|Cowen, J.||Maitland, W. F.|
|Cowper, hon. H. F.||Marioribanks, Sir D. C.|
|Crawford, J. S.||Marling, S. S.|
|Cross, J. K.||Middleton, Sir A. E.|
|Davies, R.||Milbank, F. A.|
|Delahunty, J.||Montagu, rt hn. Lord R.|
|Dilke, Sir C. W.||Mundella, A. J.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Muntz, P. H.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Duff, R. W.||Nolan, Captain|
|Dundas, J. C.||O'Beirne, Captain|
|Edwards, H.||O'Byrne, W. R.|
|Egerton, Adm. hon. F.||O' Clery, K.|
|Egerton, hon. W.||O'Conor, D. M.|
|Eslington, Lord||O'Gorman, P.|
|Ferguson, R.||O'Loghlen, rt. hon. Sir C.M.|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord E.|
|Fletcher, I.||O'Sullivan, W. H.|
|Forster, Sir C.||Palmer, C. M.|
|Forster, rt. hon. W. E.||Pease, J. W.|
|Forsyth, W.||Power, J. O'C.|
|Fraser, Sir W. A.||Raikes, H. C.|
|Goldsmid, J.||Ralli, P.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Ramsay, J.|
|Gourley, E. T.||Redmond, W. A.|
|Gower, hon. E. F. L.||Richard, H.|
|Grey, Earl de||Rylands, P.|
|Grosvenor, Lord. R.||Samuda, J. D'A.|
|Hamond, C. F.||Samuelson, B.|
|Harcourt, Sir W. V.||Samuelson, H.|
|Hartington. Marg. of||Sandford, G. M. W.|
|Havelock, Sir H.||Shaw, W.|
|Hayter, A. D.||Stafford, Marquess of|
|Henry, M.||Sullivan, A. M.|
|Herschell, F.||Swanston, A.|
|Hill, T. R.||Vivian, A. P.|
|Holland, S.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Howard, E. S.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Hutchinson, J. D.|
|James, Sir H.||TELLERS.|
|James, W. H.||Morgan, G. Osborne|
|Jenkins, E.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D.|
|Jenkinson, Sir G. S.||Hanbury-|
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Committee deferred till Monday next.