HC Deb 17 June 1878 vol 240 cc1677-80

nominated the Select Committee on Parliamentary Reporting as follows:— Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH, Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER, Viscount CRICHTON, Mr. LYON PLAYFAIR, Sir ALEXANDER GORDON, Mr. WALTER, Lord FRANCIS HERVEY, Mr. DUNBAR, Mr. HALL, Mr. MITCHELL HENRY, Sir HENRY WOLFF, Mr. BARCLAY, and Mr. MILLS:— Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.


said, he had reason to know that there were not a few hon. Members who were dissatisfied with the constitution of the proposed Committee. There appeared to be some hon. Gentlemen on the Committee who were without any special knowledge of the facts connected with the present system of reporting in the House; but there were also others who while acquainted with, and capable of giving information upon, the subject, had been picked from one class only. If the London Press was to be represented in any way upon the Committee, it was equally desirable that the country Press should be represented. There were several hon. Gentlemen in the House, connected with country journals, whom it would be of advantage to have upon the Committee. As to the first two names—those of the right hon. Member for Westminster and the right hon. Member for Bradford—he could not conceive that there would be any objection on the part of any hon. Member of the House; but on the third name—that of the noble Viscount (Viscount Crichton)—he thought it desirable to raise the whole question of the constitution of the Committee, which he did not think was, as it had been proposed, fairly representative of the desire and feeling of the House in so delicate and important a matter as that of Parliamentary reporting.


said, his feeling was that no hon. Gentleman who was connected with reporting in the Gallery ought to be upon the Committee. The proceedings of the Committee, and its ultimate decision, would be much less likely to be called in question, if it were composed of hon. Gentlemen who were entirely independent on this particular matter.


must say that, so far as this Committee went, he thought the Irish Members had been extremely fairly treated. Two Irish Representatives had been proposed to have seats upon it—the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry), who had first drawn attention to the whole question, and the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Dunbar), who had been formerly in the Reporters' Gallery, but who was now totally unconnected with the Press in any shape or form. There were other two hon. Members of the Irish Party who had had considerable experience in connection with the Irish Press; but one did not wish to serve, and the second waived his claims in favour of the two hon. Gentlemen whom he had mentioned.


was not aware that any complaint had been made as to the Irish Members having been unfairly treated in the constitution of the Committee. He hoped that the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), who possessed special knowledge on the subject, would be placed upon the Committee.


said, the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had suggested to him to have his name added to the Committee; but he had declined, because he was connected with the Press, and desired, therefore, not to be upon a Committee, when it might be supposed that he was actuated by personal interest or predilection one way or another. He was surprised, however, to see amongst the list of these who were to constitute the proposed Committee the names of two hon. Gentlemen, both of whom were connected with the London Press. One complaint which had often been made on this subject was that the reports of the proceedings of the House were managed altogether by London journals, to the exclusion of Provincial newspapers. That being so, the constitution of the Committee was evidently faulty. Gentlemen who might be interested in a continuance of the present monopoly, or in changes which might be supposed to result to their own advantage, directly or indirectly, should not be upon the Committee at all. If they were to be put on, then there should also be Representatives of the Provincial Press.


desired to point out to hon. Members that at present the proposed Committee consisted of only 13 names; and that it would be quite possible to add four names to these 13, without exceeding the limits and dimensions of a Committee on a matter of this importance. Of such additional names, he hoped that that of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) would be one.


said, 13 names had been taken to begin with, in the expectation that others would be added. At the same time, the constitution of a Committee of this description was a matter of some difficulty. On the one hand, it was desirable to have a sufficient number of hon. Gentlemen upon it who had practical knowledge on the subject, and who would put questions which would bring out important information; but, on the other hand, it was also desirable that a considerable proportion of the Committee should consist of hon. Gentlemen who had not altogether that technical knowledge and experience, but who could bring common sense and sound judgment to bear on the matters they were called upon to consider. He thought it would be desirable that there should be placed upon the Committee some hon. Gentlemen who would be able to represent the London Press and also the Provincial Press—not for the sake of getting their views upon questions on which the interests of the one or the other might seem to come into collision, but for the purpose of extracting solid and substantial information. Of course, the position of those who were beyond reach of the London morning papers was different from that of men in Scotland or in the North of England; and it was especially important that the interests of the former class should be attended to. He hoped that the Committee, as proposed, would be agreed to; but he would be perfectly prepared, at a later date, to add four other names.


said, that after what had just been stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would not offer any opposition to the Committee as originally proposed. He hoped, however, that the names which were to be added to it would include those of some two out of the hon. Members for Tipperary, Glasgow, and Newcastle.

Motion agreed to.

And, on June 20, Sir HENRY HOLLAND, Mr. HUTCHINSON, Mr. COWEN, and Major ARBUTHNOT added.