HC Deb 11 July 1879 vol 248 cc164-228

Before I call upon the hon. Member for Meath (Mr.Parnell) to address the House, it will be convenient that I should state, with reference to the Minutes of debates in Committee, taken by my direction, which are about to form the subject of discussion, that great misapprehension apparently prevails in reference to these Minutes. So far as I am concerned, if any hon. Member desires to move for the production of these Minutes, I have no objection, and should advise that, if the House think fit, they be laid upon the Table as an unopposed Return.


Sir, in reference to a matter which occurred yesterday, it devolves on me to submit a Motion to the House, and to ask the House to say that that occurrence is a breach of the Privileges of this House. It will be within the recollection of many hon. Members that yesterday, during the proceedings of a Committee of the House upon the Army Discipline and Regulation Bill, the hon. and. learned Member for the county of Louth (Mr. Sullivan) called the attention of the Chairman to the presence of a young gentleman, one of the officials of the House, who was seated in the Gallery set apart for Members, and who appeared to be engaged in taking notes of the observations or speeches of certain hon. Members of this House. The hon. and learned Member for Louth submitted to Mr. Raikes, the Chairman of Committees, that such a practice was not in Order, and, subsequently, upon his Motion that Progress should be reported, in order that your opinion might be obtained upon the question, Progress was reported, and you, Mr. Speaker, took the Chair. Upon a question being addressed to you by the hon. and learned Member for Louth, as to whether the presence of this young gentleman in the Gallery taking notes of the proceedings of the House was in Order, and after some observations had been made, and whilst other observations were being made upon the matter by the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan), you, Sir, intimated that it was time you should express your opinion on the question; and I find that, according to the Minutes of the House, which we received this morning, you made this statement— As the House is aware, according to the practice of the House, Minutes of our Proceedings are taken from day to day. These Minutes are published under the title of the Votes and Proceedings of the House. As lately it had come to my notice that there had been great and unexpected delay in the progress of the Army Discipline Bill in Committee, on my own responsibility, and for my own information, I desired that Minutes should be taken of the Proceedings on the Bill of a more full character than those which are taken from day to day. And Mr. Speaker concluded by stating that those Minutes have no reference whatever to any particular Member or body of Members of this House, and that they are fair and impartial Reports of the Proceedings of this House. And now, Mr. Speaker, I wish, before proceeding with my Motion, to explain that I desire, as much as possible, in what I have to say to avoid any personal reference, or to impute anything either to yourself, Sir, or to any Member of this House, indicating that I suppose anything that has taken place, or that has been directed by yourself, has been directed with any other motive, or any other intention than that of carrying out the duty which you, Sir, consider you ought to carry out, and for which you are responsible to the House. I shall, in what I have to say, avoid, as far as possible, any personal references that are not necessary to my subject, and I shall endeavour not to introduce any irrelevant matter. The Motion which I have to submit to the decision of the House is in the following terms:— That any Report or Record of the Proceedings of this House, or of a Committee of the Whole House, made, taken, or kept by officials of this House as an official act or otherwise without the previous Order or sanction or knowledge of the House, and for purposes not revealed to the House, other than the Votes or Minute of the Orders and Proceedings of the House or of the Committee of the Whole House, taken at the Table by the Clerk or the Clerk Assistant, is without precedent in the customs and usages of Parliament, and is a breach of the Privileges of Parliament and a danger to the liberty and independence of debate. That is the Motion I propose to submit; and I think I shall be able to show, by reference to one or two precedents, that the House has always been extremely careful in past times to guard against the carrying away of any Minutes, or the making of any notes of its proceedings, other than the Minutes made by the Clerk at the Table of the House when the House is in Session, or by the Clerk Assistant when a Committee of the Whole House is in Session. First of all, I wish briefly to enumerate to the House some of the points which occur to me as being necessary to be understood with regard to the duties of the Speaker of the House. Some considerable misapprehension appears to have grown up lately in the minds of certain leading Members of the House as to the functions and authority of the Speaker. It seems to have been supposed by some hon. Gentlemen that the Speaker of this House has an original authority. Now, that is not so. The Speaker of the House of Commons is chosen by the Members of the House of Commons, and he has not that original authority which the Speaker in "another place," possesses. Nor has he the original authority which the Speaker in some foreign Assemblies possesses, and the assumption of which original authority this House has always been very careful to guard against. Now, I find at page 239 of Hatsell's Precedents, that we have some very important information as regards the duty of the Speaker. For instance, we find in Section 2, that— On the 27th of April, 1604, the House agreed for a rule, 'That if any doubt arise upon a Bill, the Speaker is to explain, but not to sway the House with argument or dispute.' Then, in Section 3, we are informed that— On the 23rd of May, 1604, there is a very curious entry in the journal, on the Speaker's having been guilty of an irregularity, in de- livering to the King a Bill of which the House had been in possession. Again, in Section 4— On the 21st of June, 1604, the House agreed for a rule,' That when Mr. Speaker desires to speak, he ought to he heard without interruption, if the House he silent and not in dispute.' I merely lay these matters before the House, in order to show what has rather been called in question lately, that the Speaker of the House of Commons has no original authority. Then, again, in Section 5, I find that— On the 9th of March, 1620, there is a long debate, in which the conduct of the Speaker was very much blamed;' That he came out of the Chair without the consent of the House, being required by the greater voice of the House to sit still;' 'That he sometimes neglects his duty to the House, in intricating or deferring the question and hath made many plausible motions abortive;' 'That Mr. Speaker is but a servant to the House, and not a master nor a master's mate; and that he ought to respect the meanest Members, as well as those about the Chair.' Then, I find, again, in Section 7, that— On the 28th of January, 1677, complaint is made of an irregular adjournment of the House by the Speaker, Sir Edward Seymour; which he justifies himself to have done by the King's command. Lastly, in Section 8, I find, that— On the 19th of December, 1678, a Standing Order is made, 'That Mr. Speaker shall not at any time adjourn the House, without a Question first put, if it be insisted on."—[Hatsell, ii. (The Speaker.)] I do not wish to go into all these precedents, because I think that what I have read already will be admitted as clearly establishing my point in regard to the original jurisdiction of the Speaker. I will, however, read the observations which Hatsell makes in reference to the powers and duties of the Speaker. With regard to the jurisdiction of the Speaker, he says, in page 242— The Speaker, though he ought, upon all occasions, to be treated with the greatest respect and attention by the individual Members of the House, is in fact, as is said on the 9th of March, 1620, but a servant to the House, and not their master; and it is, therefore, his first duty to obey implicitly the Orders of the House, without attending to any other commands. This duty is extremely well expressed, in a very few words, by Mr. Speaker Lenthall, who, when that ill-advised Monarch, Charles the First, came into the House of Commons, and, having taken the Speaker's Chair, asked him—'Whether any of the five Members that he came to apprehend were in the House? Whether he saw any of them? And where they were? 'made this answer— May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me; whose servant I am here; and humbly beg your Majesty's pardon, that I cannot give any other answer than this, to what your Majesty is pleased to demand of me.".—[Ibid.] Now, Mr. Speaker, I think that I have sufficiently established my point with reference to the original jurisdiction of the Speaker—namely, that there is a very considerable difference between the power and authority of the Speaker of the House of Commons and the power and authority of the Speaker of almost every other Legislative Assembly. In almost every other Legislative Assembly, the Speaker has original jurisdiction. He has power given to him to do certain things of his own option; but, in our case, the matter is entirely different. He is the interpreter of the Rules and Orders of the House, and in matters of debate, he is the guide and director and the preserver of the Order of our debates; but it is not within his power or function to do anything which has not been previously ordered or sanctioned by the House, or which is not a Rule of the House. And now I come to my next point, and that is, that the taking down of any Minutes, other than the Minutes taken down by the Clerk at the Table or by the Clerk Assistant, when the House is in Committee, is irregular. This is also a matter for which there are very important precedents, which show that this House has always been very careful to guard the taking of Minutes other than those taken by the Clerk at the Table. I find, on referring to the work I have already quoted—Hatsell's Precedents, at page 265, Section 1, that— On the 17th of April, 1628, the Lords desire the Journal of the House of Commons to be brought to a conference that they may see the speech of a learned Member, in the 18th year of James the First; to which message the Commons answer—'That there was no resolution of the House, in the case mentioned; and that the entry of the Clerk of particular men's speeches, was without warrant at all times, and in that Parliament, by order of the House, rejected and left.' After that, in Section 2, we find that the House— On the 25th of April, 1640, ordered that Mr. Rushworth, just admitted Clerk Assistant, do not take any notes here, without the pre- cedent directions and command of the House, but only of the Orders and Reports made in this House. Then, I find in Section 3, that— On the 1st of December, 1640, the Clerk and his Assistants are to be enjoined that they suffer no copies to go forth of any arguments or speech whatsoever. In Section 4, I find that— On the 10th of December, 1641, Sir Arthur Haselrig moved the House against the Clerk, for suffering his Journals or Papers committed to his trust, to be taken by Members of the House from the Table; the House upon this declared,' That it was a fundamental order of the House, that the Clerk, who is the sworn officer and intrusted with the entries and the custody of the Records of the House, ought not to suffer any Journal or Record to be taken from the Table, or out of his custody; and that if he shall hereafter do it, after this warning, that at his peril he shall do it.' Section 6, says that— On the 1st of March, 1676, information being given of a mis-entry made in the Journal, in the year 1672, in prejudice of the privilege of this House, and of an omission of an entry in the Journal of this Session, a Committee is appointed to examine and rectify it and report it to the House. The appointment of the Committee shows the importance which the House attached to the entries contained in the Journals. In Section 9, we find that the House— On the 4th of May, 1780, 'Resolved, That the Papers and Accounts presented to this House be carefully preserved by the Clerk, in whose custody they are intrusted; and that no person be permitted to take the same from the House under any pretence whatever; and if any person shall presume to take any Papers or Accounts from the House, that the said Clerk do forthwith acquaint Mr. Speaker, that the House may be informed thereof.' That authority further says— The duty of the Clerk is summed up in a very few words, in the oath which he takes, before he enters on the execution of his office—' Ye shall make true entries, remembrances, and journals, of the things done and past in the House of Commons.' We see it is, 'without warrant,' that he should make minutes of particular men's speeches; and that he ought to confine himself merely to take notes of the orders and proceedings of the House. These he and the Clerk Assistant both do in their Minute-books at the Table; and from these Minutes, the Votes, which are ordered to be printed, are made up 'under the direction of the Speaker.'"—[Hatsell, ii. (The Clerk—His Duty.)] Well, now, Mr. Speaker, I have gone through the evidence which I think necessary for the making out of my case, and I think that I have shown—firstly, that the Speaker has no original jurisdiction; and, secondly, that this House has always disapproved of the making of any Minutes other than those Minutes which are made by the Clerk or the Clerk Assistant at the Table. I wish to say, for myself—as it has been said by some people, the authority for which I have no means of estimating, because, of course, I have not taken any steps to watch this young gentleman in the execution of his duty; but it is said that he has made notes of particular Member's speeches in this House only, and that he has noted down the time occupied in the making of such speeches—for my own part, I shall have no objection whatever to any notes that may be made of anything I have ventured to say from time to time in this House; but what I wish is this—that this shall be done in a regular manner. If Mr. Speaker considers that, at any time, it is necessary for him to have fuller Minutes than the Orders and directions and customs of Parliament sanction, his proper course would be to come to the House and say—"I desire for the proper execution of my office that fuller Minutes should be made of the Proceedings of Parliament than those which have been made; that they should specify things which are not specified in the Minutes and Proceedings of the House;" and that having been done, the House would not have been deprived of its jurisdiction and authority in this matter. The House would then be able to direct that these Minutes, as desired by Mr. Speaker should be made, and the House would not be deprived of the opportunity of deciding and judging of a matter with regard to which I have shown, by precedents, the House of Commons has always been exceedingly jealous and tenacious. I do not wish to occupy the time of the House further, and I will conclude by merely moving— That any Report or Record of the Proceedings of this House, or of a Committee of the whole House, made, taken, or kept by the officials of this House as an official act or otherwise without the previous order or sanction or knowledge of the House, and for purposes not revealed to the House, other than the Notes or Minutes of the Orders and Proceedings of the House, or of the Committee of the whole House, taken at the Table by the Clerk or the Clerk's Assistant, is without precedent in the customs and usages of Parliament, and is a breach of the Privileges of Parliament.


I wish to point out to the hon. Member that the Resolution placed in my hands does not correspond with the words of the Resolution as moved by the hon. Member. [Mr. PARNELL: If I am in Order, I will explain.] The hon. Member concluded with these words—" and is a breach of the Privileges of Parliament." But the Notice placed in my hands goes on to say—" and a danger to the liberty and independence of debate." Does the hon. Member wish to drop those words?


Yes, Sir.


I rise, Sir, for the purpose of seconding the Resolution which has just been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Meath. I intend to follow his example, and to assure you, Sir, that it was not from any disrespect of your authority that the proceeding I ventured to take yesterday, in reference to the matter which is now submitted for the consideration and decision of the House, was taken, nor is there any intentional disrespect in my action to-day in seconding the important Motion which has just been made. When we had an opportunity yesterday of putting to you, Sir, a Question on this important question, you were kind enough to inform us that the reports which were being taken by the gentleman who had been placed in the Gallery were only an extension of the Minutes taken in the usual way by the Clerk at the Table. The ground on which I felt that the proceedings in the Gallery could not be defended upon any reference to the proceedings of the Clerk at the Table was this—that the Minutes taken by the Clerk at the Table are printed, and circulated, read, and examined, and submitted to the Members of this House; that the reports which were being taken in the Gallery of the House had not been submitted to the House; that they were ordered by you, Sir, without any Order from the House, without the knowledge of the House, and without the sanction of the House; and it was upon those grounds, and not at all from any desire to question your motives, Sir, in making the arrangement, that I felt justified in questioning the proceeding and in expressing the opinion that I am here today to reiterate, that the proceeding was altogether without precedent in the history of the House of Commons, or in the Records of Parliament. If you had felt it to be necessary, for the more efficient discharge of your difficult duties, that you should have these reports taken, I think it would have been only fair to the House to have asked the consent of the House, and to have given the House an opportunity of saying whether the proposed arrangement was one which was in accordance with practice and precedent, or one likely to effect the great public object which, undoubtedly, you had in view in making the arrangement. Now, my hon. Friend the Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) has shown, conclusively, that there is no original authority in the Speaker of the House; that whatever authority he wields and possesses, he wields and possesses as the representative and mouthpiece of this House. I say, then, that that being so, I cannot understand how an act of this kind can be sanctioned, unless it has been ordered by the House itself; and I look upon that as the very strongest point—it is the object of the Resolution moved by my hon. Friend to assert here to-day. Now, reference has been made to the difficulty which the House has felt in passing the Army Discipline and Regulation Bill, and you, Sir, were pleased to refer to the protracted discussions upon that Bill as your principal reason for authorizing these unusual Reports to be taken; and there can be no doubt that by referring to the particular discussions which have taken place on a particular Bill, you call up before the mind of the House, and the mind of the country, those who have taken the most prominent part in the subjects discussed. That being so, is it not natural that a number of the Members of this House, who have taken a conspicuous part in the discussion of that Bill, should feel that this arrangement was one that was levelled at them, and, in this way, that their independence as Members of Parliament might become entirely fettered by the arrangement. Now, Sir, unfortunately, a misapprehension which frequently prevails about the conduct of our Business here is reflected in the information that is circulated to the public out-of-doors. I was surprised to find in a respectable morning paper which I read this morning, that our object was asserted to be an attack upon the Speaker of the House when the Speaker of the House was ab- sent. Now, my object, on the contrary, was to prevent a discussion of the conduct of the Speaker in a Committee of the House, and I moved to Report Progress, so that I might bring back the whole venue of the case to the House with the Speaker in the Chair. I, therefore, give the statement contained in that newspaper a most unqualified denial, and I brand it as a deliberate falsehood on the part of the public writer of that journal, who has had the temerity to print such an account. It has been said, on more than one occasion, that if certain Members of this House continue to exercise their privileges in a manner which has been found irksome to Her Majesty's Government, it might be necessary for the House to take certain action with regard to those hon. Members. I do not know how far suggestions of that kind have had any influence on you, Sir; I only know that it was your duty to take notice of any unusual proceeding in this House. I do not find fault with the anxiety which you have exhibited as to these proceedings with regard to the dispatch of Public Business, and I say, once again, that there is no Member of this House who has a more sincere admiration for the manner in which you have usually discharged the duties of your high office than I have. But I trust it is not inconsistent with this opinion to believe that, in a particular instance, you have done what, on a further consideration of all the circumstances of the case, you might yourself be inclined to think unwise and unnecessary. Now, that is all. But the intentions of any hon. Member of this House, and particularly of the highest authority of this House, do not colour the effect of the proceeding. When anything is done which is unprecedented and unusual, and it may be used as a precedent for further action, we have not merely to ask ourselves what was the motive with which the thing was done. I have no doubt the motive was a perfectly honourable motive; but the House is to ask itself—what has been the effect of the thing that has been done? That is the question submitted to the House by the Resolution of my hon. Friend. It is an extraordinary thing that hon. Gentlemen who are proud of the character of the House, and of its dignity, should feel themselves restrained in making reference to any particular oc- casion. My hon. Friend the Member for Meath said yesterday—and in saying it he expressed the sentiments of most of his countrymen in this House—that in every case where the decision of the House has been recorded, there was no other course open to them than to bow to it. Let it be known here to-day, and let it be known in the country, that we have never, on any occasion, refused to bow to the decision of the House. Let it be known also that we have never refused to accept the ruling of the Chair on a distinct point of Order. Now, these are cases in which we have been greatly misrepresented. I only intend to trouble the House with a few words more, and I have simply this to say—that references as to the pains and penalties which may follow my action as a Member of Parliament will not have any influence on my conduct as a Member of this Assembly. I am here as a Member of a Party that has been sent into this House to carry a great object. I may say that it is nothing less than to win the legislative independence of a nation; and if the Irish Members are in earnest in carrying forward that great mission, there are no pains and penalties which Her Majesty's Government can inflict which they will not be prepared to encounter, rather than allow themselves to be fettered in the discharge of their public duty. But I appeal to English Members to consider the position in which they are placed to-day. They are now, perhaps, for the first time in the memory of the oldest Member of the House, called upon to say whether they will sanction or repudiate what, I think, has been proved to be a gross violation of their Privileges. If it were not for the Irish element which is mixed up in this question, I believe the House would lose no time in recording its repudiation of the action which the highest authority has thought proper to take; but because of the national prejudices which have been allowed to be mixed up in the consideration of this question—for that reason only, English Gentlemen and Scotch Gentlemen—hon. Members of this House from England and Scotland, will have to be on their guard against their own prejudices. They must remember that if they consent to the striking-down of any Privilege an Irish Member possesses as a Member of this House, they are sanctioning the striking-down of Privileges equally their own. It will be very curious if, in the future history of the British Parliament, it shall be said, and said with truth, that that nation which was last admitted within the portals of the Constitution, that country which was the last admitted to a share in the Government, was the first in the great hour of trial to that Constitution to come forward as its only vindicator. It would be still more unworthy of the past history of the House of Commons, if we should ever have to say of it, what Byron said of an ancient classic people, that— Its self-abasement paved the way For villain bonds and despot sway. I have only to reiterate my determination to go on in the discharge of my duty, respectfully submitting to the decision of the House, strictly acting in accordance with the Rules of the House, firmly planting myself within the safeguards of the Constitution, and defying intimidation, whether it comes from public journals, or from any other source that may be influenced by the coloured reports of our proceedings which these journals transmit throughout the country.


In order to insure accuracy, I must ask the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) to bring up the terms of his Resolution.

Resolution brought up, and read accordingly.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That any Report or Record of the Proceedings of this House, or of a Committee of the whole House, made, taken, or kept by officials of this House as an official act or otherwise without the previous order or sanction or knowledge of the House, and for purposes not revealed to the House, other than the Notes or Minutes of the Orders and Proceedings of the House, or of the Committee of the whole House, taken at the Table by the Clerk or the Clerk Assistant, is without precedent in the customs and usages of Parliament."—(Mr. Parnell.)


I hope, Sir, that the House will not allow itself to be led away by the closing remarks of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power) into any discussion foreign to the matter which has been brought before us. We entirely acknowledge that our fellow-Members from Ireland are as much interested in the preservation of the Pri- vileges of this House as any Members who sit on this side of the House, and we entirely acknowledge their right, if they think that those Privileges are in danger, to call attention to the subject, and to make any Motion which they may think necessary for their protection. And I would further say, with regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell), that I think there is no question whatsoever as to its being entirely within the right of any Member of this House to call attention to the conduct of Mr. Speaker, if he thinks it right to do so, and that the House is fully entitled to pronounce its judgment on any proceeding on the part of Mr. Speaker on which it may think it right that judgment should be passed. There can be no doubt, whatever, and you, Sir, have more than once expressed such a sentiment to the House, that the Speaker is not the master of the House, but the servant of the House. But I venture to say there is nothing in the conduct you have pursued since you occupied that Chair which has shown that you have been in the slightest degree forgetful of the relations in which you stood to the House. Never, I will venture to say, has any one of your distinguished Predecessors occupied that Chair with a higher character for entire impartiality, dignity, firmness, and courtesy, in the Chair. Now, Sir, having said so much, I hope I may venture to add that, recognizing, as we do, the manner in which you have fulfilled your obligations to the House, it is not too much to express the hope that the House will, in turn, fulfil its corresponding obligations, and that both, as a matter of justice and fairness to Mr. Speaker, and as a matter of convenience in the conduct of our proceedings, and in respect also of the dignity of this Assembly, we should endeavour in all that we do to maintain an attitude of strict and sincere respect for the Officer who presides over our deliberations. That respect must not be respect of the lips only. I do not wish to enter unnecessarily into painful controversy; but I do hope the House will bear in mind that it is not consistent with that respect to come as near as possible to the limit which borders upon a contrary course of conduct. Now, Sir, the hon. Member for Meath, in the form of a Motion, has submitted certain propositions to the House. It is impossible to consider these proposals apart from the circumstances which have given occasion for their being brought before us. Whatever might be our opinion of any abstract Resolution of the nature of that which we are asked to put upon record, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that it is intended as a reflection and a sneer upon the conduct which you, Sir, have pursued, and which you have announced to the House. We cannot but remember that this has grown out of an occurrence which took place yesterday, when Notice was taken of the presence of a gentleman who was taking notes in the Gallery, with regard to whose proceedings you were invited to give some explanation. Upon that question being raised, the explanation which you gave was this—that the gentleman in question was there by your direction, that you had desired that Minutes should be taken of the proceedings on the Army Discipline and Regulation Bill of a fuller character than those which are usually taken from day to day. Those Minutes were taken by your direction, and for your information, and I beg to submit to the House that in taking that course, you were, in the opinion of the House, fully justified in the course which you took. I think it is incumbent on the House, if they are satisfied that the course you pursued was one which you were justified in taking—I think it is incumbent on the House, regarding the relations in which we stand to our Speaker, and having regard to the fact that your conduct has been challenged—I think it is incumbent on the House to support you by putting upon record their sense of the propriety of your conduct in this matter. Now, Sir, I apprehend that there is no question whatever as to the right of Mr. Speaker to be cognizant of the proceedings of Committees of this House. There is no doubt, whatever, that when the House is in Committee, it is within the right of Mr. Speaker to take his seat among the other Members, and take part, if necessary, in the debates, and in any division that may take place in Committee. It is not now usual that he should do so; but many of us can remember occasions when Mr. Speaker has taken part in debates in Committee. I understand that it is within the right, and that it is part of the duty, of Mr. Speaker to take notice of the proceedings of Committees, not in his capacity as a private Member, but even in his capacity as Speaker, for I observe here, that, amongst our Rules—Rule No. 211 runs thus— If any sudden disorder should arise in Committee, Mr. Speaker will resume the Chair without any Question being put. It is, no doubt, the case that it is necessary the Speaker should have cognizance of what passes in Committee, in order that he may take such measures as he thinks necessary for keeping Order in the House. Well, Sir, then the question also arises, whether, if Mr. Speaker may himself be present, may he, or may he not, require that information, when he is not present, should be taken for his guidance and convenience by any other person? I apprehend that there is no question about that. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Meath said that it is entirely contrary to the Orders of the House that any Notes should be taken in the House, except the Notes taken by the Clerk at the Table and published day by day. That is not so. It is not in accord with precedent that we should lay down such a Rule. For many years it has been the practice of the Clerk to take Notes of the names of hon. Gentlemen speaking, and the length of time they speak, and these Notes have been kept for the information of the authorities of the House, but have not been printed or circulated among the Members of the House. I hold in my hand one of these books, which dates back to the year 1850, and I see the names of every hon. Member who spoke, the hour at which he rose, and the number of minutes he was engaged in speaking, recorded here, and that, I believe, has been a practice which has been continued since that time. It is not covered by the hon. Gentleman's Motion; but it is a practice which, I apprehend, is perfectly consistent with the Privileges of the House. I can see no difference in that practice, and what has recently been done by your orders, except that there is a little more information—a very little more information—in the Minutes that have been taken by your desire, and for your guidance and information. I wish, then, to ask the House if it is not for the convenience of us all that such a record should be kept? We know perfectly well that we cannot have complete information conveyed to us as to full details of debate in the printed Orders. We know that the reports circulated by the Press give a tolerably full account of what takes place in the House; but on such occasions as those to which reference has been made—discussion in Committee—when there are frequent and short speeches, we know quite well that the Press will not report them; and if you wish to have anything like an accurate idea of what takes place in Committee, it must be by some means of an exceptional character that we can obtain the information. I would point out that you, Mr. Speaker, have, on more than one occasion, like your Predecessors, on other occasions, been asked to give evidence before a Select Committee of this House, in order to guide us on questions relating to our Rules and Proceedings, and the advice given to us on these occasions by our Speaker has always been advice of very great value. It is perfectly well known that one of the questions which have occupied of late the attention of a Select Committee has been, whether it would be right, or not, to put any restriction upon the great latitude which at present exists in debates in Committee, and it is not at all an undesirable thing that the Speaker should inform himself in regard to the proceedings in Committees, so that the question being raised, and his advice being sought, he can give that advice with a knowledge of the circumstances. But, Sir, I am only suggesting reasons which may have induced you to take the course you have, in taking steps to obtain information for yourself. What your motives were, are, of course, in your own breast, and I do not see that there is any occasion on the part of the House to ask for them. We are not injured by what has taken place, nor do I see anything that need arouse our susceptibilities. The hon. Member for Meath has founded his complaint on precedents and Rules which he found laid down in old text books in regard to the publication of our debates. But the hon. Member and the House are perfectly aware that many of these Rules were adopted at a time when we held a wholly different theory with regard to the propriety of the publication of our debates. In the days from which he chiefly draws his examples, it was considered by the House of Commons that it was most undesirable and most im- proper that a stranger should even come in and listen to the debates, or that the Proceedings should be in any way published, because the effect of such publication might, in those times, have caused inconvenience, and might have led to an interference with the freedom and Privileges of Parliament. Therefore, it was that steps were taken not only to exclude strangers—not only to forbid the unauthorized publication of reports, but also to restrain the liberty of the House itself in the matter of taking Notes. But, surely, all that relates to a time which has entirely gone—[Cries of" No, no!"] I hear some murmurs of "No;" but I must say they proceed from a quarter of the House where I should have least expected them. I should have thought that the Gentlemen who are now so sensitive in regard to these Notes being taken, were exactly the Gentlemen who were most anxious to obtain free and fair publication of our proceedings. I should have thought—though I said I would not refer to the closing remarks of the hon. Member for Mayo, that Gentlemen who had so high a task imposed upon them to give battle, as they say, against such odds would desire to appeal to public opinion, and make their sentiments as widely known as possible. Instead of thinking it something threatening and menacing to them, I should have thought the privilege of being reported as having spoken a great many times, and having taken an active part in a debate, would have been matters they were proud of. It is not for me to enter into that mysterious problem as to what are the motives of these hon. Gentlemen in taking these proceedings. I will content myself, attention having now been called to the matter, by taking the step of opposing the Resolution by some Amendment which shall affirm our confidence, Sir, in your conduct. I feel that that is not only due to you, but it is due also to ourselves. We know perfectly well that, at the present time, there are great difficulties in the conduct of the Business of the House. We know perfectly well that there are great difficulties attending any alteration in our Rules or Standing Orders, and we know also that it is within the power of any Member, by following the letter of the Rules, to cause inconvenience to the House, and, perhaps, tend to lower its character in the eyes of the public, although it is probable that he would do so at the expense of his own reputation among his fellow-Members. It seems to me the very first duty we owe to ourselves and the House in which we have the honour to sit—the first duty, on our part, is to support the authority of the Chair, and to assure Mr. Speaker of our readiness to assist and stand by him, when he finds it necessary to take any step with a view to the conduct of Business in a business-like manner. Therefore, I will move, as an Amendment to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Meath— That Notice having been taken while the House was in Committee, of the presence in one of the side Galleries of a gentleman engaged in taking notes of the proceedings of the Committee; and Mr. Speaker having informed the House that the gentleman was an officer of the House, and was so employed under his direction, and that the notes taken by him were for the confidential information of the Speaker, this House is of opinion that Mr. Speaker was justified in the directions given by him and is entitled to the support and confidence of this House.


I rise, Sir, to second the Motion which has been moved by the right hon. Gentleman. It will not be necessary, fortunately, that I should detain the House long in explaining why I do so. The reasons which have induced the Chancellor of the Exchequer to move the Amendment are so obvious that they can be stated in a very few words. In the first place, I must say that I think the House will now, at all events, admit that it was fortunate we adjourned the consideration of the question until it could be deliberately taken up, and much more convenient than the course that was originally suggested. It is extremely desirable that such a subject should be brought forward as calmly, as deliberately, and with as much absence from excitement as possible. I think the House will be disposed to admit that this was a question entirely within the right of the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) to bring before the House, and he has done so in a speech of great moderation. I can only trust, if it is necessary that this discussion should be at all protracted, that the further debate may be continued in the same spirit. There are one or two observations to which I wish to make reference. The hon. Member has argued at considerable length a question as to the original jurisdiction of the Speaker. Now, that does not appear to me to be a subject on which it is necessary to dilate; but I must, however, say that the hon. Member in describing the functions of the Speaker has once or twice used an expression which, if not altogether inaccurate, does not, at all events, accurately describe the position of the Speaker of this House. The hon. Member has said that the Speaker is only the servant of the House, and he has brought forward precedents to show that Speakers have described themselves in that manner. Now, Sir, I think in all matters of external authority, the Speaker, undoubtedly, is only the servant of the House; but I do not think that expression adequately describes the position he holds within the House. The Speaker, as we all know, is not only the servant of the House, but he is the highest authority within the House; he represents the House itself, and is the embodiment of the authority which the House must possess over its Members for the preservation of Order. Therefore, the description which has been given, though not altogether inaccurate, is still scarcely adequate. The right hon. Gentleman, who has just spoken, has naturally referred to the precedents given by the hon. Member as to the jealousy of the House in former times with reference to the taking of Minutes of its Proceedings. It must, however, have been obvious to any Member, that these precedents referred entirely to a time when the House entertained a strong and natural jealousy of permitting any reports of its Proceedings. Every precedent which the hon. Member has brought forward refers to the taking and publication of Minutes of the Proceedings of the House. It would have been easy to have found far more numerous precedents referring to the publication of debates, as to which the House, up to a much more recent period, entertained great jealousy. Now, Sir, it seems to me that the reasons of the proceedings on the part of the Speaker, of which the House received information yesterday, are extremely obvious and extremely simple. It is a matter which is known to every Member of the House, that the delay in our Proceedings has been a matter not only of public notoriety, but of discussion in the House, more or less, during the last two or three Sessions. It has also been the subject of inquiry before a Select Committee of this House, and it may again become the subject of inquiry. It is natural, usual, and expedient, when such inquiries take place, that the Speaker of the House and the Chairman of Committees, the highest authorities in the House, should be selected by such Committee to give it information, advice, and guidance. That course was taken. These Gentlemen were examined before the Committee; but I think it will be in the recollection of every Member of that Committee that, on account of the extremely meagre character of the ordinary Minutes of our Proceedings, neither the Speaker, nor the Chairman of Committees, was able to lay before the Committee the full and complete information as to the causes which led to the protracted character of our Proceedings, and the delay which had arisen, which they would have desired to do. Under these circumstances, it was extremely natural that the Speaker should consider it necessary, in case further inquiry was thought desirable, to place himself in possession of the means of giving the House full and impartial information regarding the circumstances. Well, Sir, though I think that the precedents quoted by the hon. Member had very little, if any, application to the present state of things, I am quite willing to admit that it might be difficult to find any record of precedents directly applicable to the proceeding which has been directed by Mr. Speaker. But I think that absence of precedent is not to be wondered at, and ought not, necessarily, to influence our judgment. The fact is, the present state of things—and I am not now going to express any opinion upon it—is altogether without precedent; at all events, to be more correct, without precedent of any ancient date. It is a state of things which is not absolutely new, and which, not to go further back, dates at all events from the time of the last Parliament. It will be within the recollection of hon. Members who sat in the last Parliament, that a considerable number of hon. Gentlemen, some of whom now occupy distinguished positions on the Bench opposite, thought it necessary, in the discharge of their duty, to discuss at very great length the provisions of measures which were brought forward by the Government of that day. That example has been followed to a great extent—I am not going to say it may not have been improved upon—and the effect is, that certain measures of the Government are, at present, discussed at a length so great, that almost the whole time of the House is absorbed in their consideration; and the consequence is, that other measures which have been brought forward cannot be considered at all, or have to be considered very inadequately; and, further than that, some measures of great interest, which independent Members desire to bring forward, scarcely find time for discussion, and the Business of the House in Committee of Supply has to be postponed to a period of the Session when it can only be discussed in a very perfunctory manner. That is a state of things without any ancient precedent, and it is, therefore, only natural that there should be no ancient precedent for any remedy which it may be possible to apply to it. I am not now going to discuss what remedy, if remedy there be, should be applied—at all events, it is safe to say that it is a condition of things which, however patient the House may be—and I think no one will deny that the House has, under the circumstances, shown great patience—the House will not permanently endure, and for which it will be driven some day to find a remedy; and it is of the very first importance that, if any remedy is to be sought for, it should be sought for deliberately and with full information. I think that, under these circumstances, not the censure, but the thanks, of the House are due to the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair, who has taken upon himself the responsibility of obtaining for himself and, if necessary, the House that information which is necessary. I cannot think for a moment that it is a proceeding invidious to any Member or set of Members in this House. Not one of us doubts—however much we may object to the way in which hon. Members discharge their duty—that what they do is, in their opinion, in discharge of their duty, and I cannot see how it can be supposed to cast the slightest reflection on any Member of the House that full and accurate information should be obtained. I have only, in seconding this Amendment, to add on the part of Members who sit upon this side of the House, my tribute to that offered by the right hon. Gentleman as to the perfect and complete impartiality with which you, Sir, have discharged the duties of your high office. Circumstances have occurred within the last two or three years which have called for the exercise of great judgment, temper, tact, and impartiality; and I must say that I think every hon. Member—whatever view he may take of the conduct of the House towards him on particular occasions—must, upon reflection, bear witness to the perfect impartiality he has received at your hands. I have risen with these few remarks, Sir, to second the Amendment which has been moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "Notice having been taken while the House was in Committee, of the presence in one of the side Galleries of a gentleman engaged in taking notes of the proceedings of the Committee; and Mr. Speaker having informed the House that the gentleman was an officer of the House, and was so employed under his direction, and that the notes taken by him were for the confidential information of the Speaker, this House is of opinion that Mr. Speaker was justified in the directions given by him, and is entitled to the support and confidence of this House,"'—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


who rose amid cries of "Divide, divide!" said: I think, Sir, all will be of opinion that our proceedings to-day will not be improved by hon. Members opposite exhibiting such impatience the moment a Member who, I suppose, they imagine may in some points disagree with them, rises to make a few observations. I think that you will admit, Sir, that ever since I have had a seat in this House I have been willing to bow to your authority, which I have also endeavoured to support, so far as I can, in every way. Therefore, in my opinion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not put the issue which is to be considered to-day quite fairly, when he said this was a discussion on the question whether you were strictly impartial or not. I apprehend that nobody either in or out of the House, would venture to dispute the assertion that you are, or refuse to acknowledge the cheerful kindness that you show to every Member in the discharge of his duty; and if we want to establish a question of practice, I, for one, do not in any way desire to question it. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman said that this was a question of free and full publicity; but, in my view, the Notes you desired to have taken were not for the purposes of free or full publicity, but for the purpose of giving you a record of our Proceedings in Committee, of which you have a right to be cognizant, and nobody, so far as I know, has disputed your absolute right to be so cognizant. But, Sir, the point is this—if it is desirable, as it may very well be, that more accurate Notes should be taken of the proceedings in Committee, I should have thought it desirable that the Leader of the House should rise in his place and propose some plan by which that could be done. The result of that would be that we should all have the benefit of those Notes, which, I have no doubt myself, might be of great use to us all. Therefore, if the practice, which you, Sir, in your discretion have thought it right to initiate, is to be continued, I should venture to suggest that these Notes should be regularly published, in order that other Members may have the advantage of the information which they may contain. By this means, we should get over some difficulties and avoid those large issues which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, in my opinion, unfairly endeavoured to raise. I took down the right hon. Gentleman's words. He said it is convenient for us all that such records should be kept. How can it be convenient for us all that such records should be kept, if we are not to be informed of what those records are? Therefore, I should venture to suggest that there might be considerable advantages if these records, which, you Sir, have directed to be prepared, could be published for the advantage of us all. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has referred to the Notes which have been taken since 1850, and also to Notes which are sent to the Clubs; but I wish to point out that these are not official records, and could not be referred to in any debate in this House. The point, however, which I especially desire to submit to you is this, if, as I have no doubt, you have found these Notes of advantage, would it not be better to give them a more official character, and allow all hon. Members to see them and benefit by them?


I do not, Sir, feel quite certain whether I ought to intrude myself upon the House on this occasion, when it is evident that the House thinks—and I confess that I concur in the opinion—that there is no occasion for a lengthened debate; but it is one of those opportunities when, if I must run the risk of incurring an error, I would rather run the risk of incurring an error by speech than of committing an error by silence. I have sat here under the rule of five different Speakers, and this is the first occasion that I can recollect the submission of a Motion to the House impugning in any way the conduct of the Gentleman who fills the Chair. That is sufficient to mark it as a grave occasion, and everyone must feel that it deserves that character. However, Sir, a great change has taken place in the Motion, to which I wish to call the attention of the House. When we were first informed of the nature of the Motion which the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) intended to submit, it was a Motion which made three assertions. The first, and by far the smallest of these assertions, was that the act, of which he had felt it to be his duty to take notice, was an act which was without precedent, and that it was not conformable to the usages of the House; the second assertion was, that it was a breach of the Privileges of the House; and the third assertion, more formidable than either—though the second was formidable enough—was that that breach of the Privileges of the House "constituted a danger to the liberty and independence of debate." Undoubtedly, Sir, allegations of that kind, entertained, as as they undoubtedly were, conscientiously and sincerely, were those which a Member, having that belief, might very well think himself called upon to submit to the notice of the House; for it requires no argument to show how profound is the interest of this House, not only in the integrity and impartiality, but in the sound and strong judgment of their Speaker, and how serious would be any deviation from the line of accuracy, on his part, in dealing with the questions which he has to determine. Therefore, I fully admit the sufficiency of the cause which the hon. Gentleman had before him. But, strange to say, we are now about to vote upon a Motion, from which not indeed the whole, but by far the larger portion, has entirely disappeared. There has been withdrawn the assertion that the Act constituted a danger to the liberty and independence of debate. In the speech of the Seconder of the Motion the expression, indeed, was used, that your proceeding, Sir, had been a violation—a gross violation—of the Privileges of the House; but that assertion, which stood as we had supposed in the Motion, has likewise been withdrawn, and we are now called upon by the hon. Member for Meath to give our votes simply for an allegation that the act which has been done is an act not conformable with the usages and precedents of the House. That, certainly, is a reduction of the indictment upon which I cannot but congratulate the distinguished and eminent person who was the object of that indictment; but it is nevertheless a reduction upon which I cannot congratulate the hon. Member for Meath, who ought to have measured the amount of the necessity before him, and the nature of the challenge he wished to deliver, before proceeding to take so serious a step as that of bringing your judgment into question in a manner which does not admit of compromise. It is not possible to pass by an occasion of this kind. It is the very first dictate of the commonest justice to the Speaker in the Chair, nay, more, it is the first necessity of our own existence as a deliberative Assembly, that we should have no mistake whatever as to the position of our Speaker. Either he possesses our confidence or he does not. I must say that while no one can regard with pleasure an occurrence of this kind, yet it brings with it to my mind, at least, this satisfaction—that I believe in the discharge, Sir, of your weighty duties, you will find your hands not weakened, but strengthened. I will not refer to any of those subjects, more or less extraneous to the debate, which have been touched upon, especially by the Seconder of the Motion; but I wish to give in my entire adhesion to the statement of my noble Friend the Leader of the Opposition, on the subject of the general idea of your office, and likewise to the argument, which appeared to me alike clear and conclusive, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the practi- cal considerations which, it is obvious, must have governed your mind, Sir, in the particular course you thought it expedient to take. But this I wish to do, as it has not yet been done—I wish to call the attention of the House to the fact that if we are to adopt the reduced and attenuated Motion of the hon. Member for Meath, we shall, Sir, along with you, condemn the practice which it now appears has been in use for 20 years. I do not dispute our title to condemn that practice; but it has never been formally brought before the House, while even many hon. Members of the House have probably been ignorant of its existence. I frankly own I am not disposed to condemn it. I see no reason why the information should not be had; indeed, I believe it to be very convenient information; but strange, indeed, would be our position if we were now to make the condemnation of that practice which has undoubtedly been within the knowledge of many Members of the House from time to time, and which has never attracted a word of disapproval or legislative censure on the part of Gentlemen who now sit at the Table, and who have sat there for 29 years, because of the existence of that habit of noting down particulars which has to-day been informally made known to us. I entirely concur with those who think it is idle to go back to the precedents of the 17th century, unless with the purpose of reading them accurately and applying them with justice. Otherwise, they would be absolutely misleading. The precedents, of which the hon. Member for Meath has quoted a score of instances, are beyond all doubt; but they are precedents which appertained to the integrity of the functions of the House and to the independence of its Members. It was impossible, under the Tudor and Stuart rule, for the Members of this House to have any security, even for their personal liberty, if the sentiments which they individually expressed were liable to be made known to the Sovereign. We cannot, I am afraid, deal with this Motion in any other way than by subjecting it to a distinct negative. For my own part, however, I entirely concur in that which I believe to be the general sentiment of the House with respect, Sir, to your conduct in the Chair. I will even go one step further, and will say I am quite sure that when the Seconder of the Motion himself paid a tribute to that conduct, he intended that tribute to be sincere and emphatic; and although he thought it his duty—I think, very unhappily—to except the present occasion from the scope of his observations, I am convinced that he, too, and, in fact, every Member of this House, with respect to that conduct in the Chair, entertains but one and the same opinion. The opinion of the House being perfectly clear and intelligible on this point will show that we recognize your object, Sir, to be the simple object of placing yourself in a position to advise the House in case of your being called upon for your weighty and authoritative opinion upon any question concerning the Order of the House and concerning the conduct of Business. We believe that you have been governed only by the one sentiment which always prompts you—namely, the desire to discharge your functions in the most efficient manner. Knowing that sentiment, we desire to reciprocate it on our part by every declaration in our power.


thought that every Member of the House must feel deeply conscious of the extreme gravity of the discussion in which the House was now engaged. He wished to explain why he felt constrained to take a different course from that which appeared to have been resolved upon by the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and why it seemed to him to be impossible to adopt the Amendment which had been moved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He hoped it was unnecessary for him to repeat what had been said by every speaker—that he entered into the discussion with the most profound respect for the Speaker, and the deepest admiration of the very impartial and, he might say, the good-natured way in which the right hon. Gentleman had presided over their proceedings. [" Divide !"] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich had told them that, although he had sat in the House under five Speakers, he never, until now, knew a Motion brought forward impugning the conduct of the Speaker. [Renewed cries of "Divide!"] He hoped that, while he was venturing to make the few observations he purposed, hon. Gentlemen would give him the benefit of a little silence. It had been shown that Mr. Speaker had taken original action. It had also been shown that that original action was of a nature inconsistent with precedents, and unauthorized as far as precedents were concerned. If it were to be defended at all, it must be defended upon grounds which must be examined, because they were inconsistent with the past history of the House. What was the kind of defence which had been offered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and supported by the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that the action on the part of Mr. Speaker was of public utility. Now, he was not prepared to deny that; but it should be borne in mind that the Chancellor of the Exchequer also referred to the Notes as being confidential. Consequently, any argument as to the utility of the Notes, on the ground of their public character, failed altogether, when it was also stated that they were confidential. It might well be that such Notes might have been useful for public purposes; but, then, they were taken without authority. It was clear that, from the time of Rush-worth, the House had had control over the Notes which were taken; whereas the Notes which had led to the present discussion were taken in a perfectly private way, and were not known to, or sanctioned by, the House. Moreover, if similar Notes had been taken by the Clerk at the Table since 1850, where was the necessity for new action? The defence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer altogether failed on that ground also. The argument of the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs went straight to the question. He urged that the House was dealing with an evil which was unprecedented, and that, therefore, unprecedented remedies must be applied. He (Mr. Courtney) entirely approved of that statement. The weakness of the House had been that, for some time past, they had not recognized the unprecedented conjuncture of circumstances. They were dealing with men who had small respect for traditions, and set at naught mere conventions and understandings; and, in the presence of this fact, it would be necessary to institute new Orders and Regulation's. But the evil had been public, and the remedy must be public. To take action privately was not the way to deal with this unprecedented evil. Lawyers stated that hard cases made bad law, and he was afraid that the difficult position in which hon. Members were now placed might lead them into injudicious courses. He spoke not without some feeling on the question, because, two years ago, his own wings were nearly singed. At that time, the conjuncture was difficult and unprecedented. The House, with the connivance of its Leader, and the approbation of one right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) and of one hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) on the front Opposition Bench, took a course which had since been deeply regretted. They were paying, at the present moment, in South Africa, for the folly then committed. Now they had, again, an unprecedented evil, and, instead of approaching it publicly and discussing it publicly, and adopting public means for its suppression, private and unrevealed means were being taken for its suppression. The course they were adopting would not remedy the evil, and the taking of such a course was deeply to be regretted. The means taken did not approve themselves to his conscience. The situation was a most difficult one, and they ought to approach it by other measures, and correct it in another manner.


said, that if for the last 50 years, a sort of record had been kept of the number of occasions on which hon. Members spoke, and of the amount of time each speaker occupied, he was sure that a perusal of it would at once free him (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) from a charge of frequently intruding himself upon the House. With respect to the subject before them, if it had been publicly proposed by the Leader of the House, or by the Leader of the Opposition, that officials should be appointed to take Notes with the view of the furtherance of Business, and of bringing to bear the judgment of the House under the peculiar circumstances with which they were all familiar, he would have voted for the Motion. He believed it was essential that the Business of the House should be carried on with despatch, and there was a good deal to be said to show that the Business had not been carried on in a manner that was satisfactory either to the House or to the country. At the same time, he did not think it was fair to leave the question on the footing of personal confidence in Mr. Speaker. He regarded that as putting the matter on an entirely false issue. He had, in common with almost every hon. Member on that side of the House, the highest possible respect for the judgment and fairness of Mr. Speaker. The consideration which he freely extended to the humblest Member, and the patience with which he listened to them from time to time, were borne in mind gratefully by many, and by none more than by himself (Sir Joseph M'Kenna); and he would say, for his own part, that up to the time when the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) withdrew a part of his Motion, which appeared to bear a contrary interpretation, he was perfectly prepared to vote against it. But the question now stood in quite a different position. The Motion asserted that an unprecedented practice had lately been originated by Mr. Speaker; but it would now appear from the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the two gentlemen who had been employed taking Notes in the side Gallery were merely continuing a practice which had been previously adopted since 1850. If that were so, there was an end of the question. He did not think the position had been clearly met by that explanation. Mr. Speaker had stated, with much more frankness than anyone else, that he required the information for his own guidance; and he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) could easily imagine that Mr. Speaker felt that the information was necessary. If, therefore, any Member of the House, or Mr. Speaker himself, had initiated the question whether the information should be supplied, he would, without going further into it, have voted in favour of its being supplied; but, in the circumstances which had actually occurred, he thought it would have been infinitely better if the practice which had been adopted on the present occasion had been initiated under the direct authority of the House.


said, he was surprised at the form which the attack upon Mr. Speaker had assumed. Hon. Members opposite, of the Home Rule section, two or three years ago, voted, as did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and as he (Mr. Newdegate) also voted, that the House should have something tantamount to official reports of its debates. The House then refused to accede to that proposal. But that decision ought to justify Mr. Speaker in the opinion of the minority on the occasion to which he referred, in the course Mr. Speaker had taken, upon his own authority, in order to secure for himself fuller information. He was surprised that hon. Members who voted for Mr. Hanbury Tracy's Motion on that occasion should now turn round and impugn Mr. Speaker's conduct. He was surprised that hon. Members who voted for the Motion, that the reports of the debates were insufficient, should now turn round, when they felt themselves in a difficulty, and impugn the conduct of the Chair, for that was the inference that must be drawn from the present Motion. These same hon. Gentlemen had protracted the debates in Committee of the Whole House on various Bills, he (Mr. Newdegate) thought, unjustifiably, and thus had increased the difficulty. It was impossible that Mr. Speaker could attend in his place during such protracted discussions in Committee, and now when he pursued a course which the House had sanctioned since 1850 for the purpose of obtaining the information so necessary for the discharge of his functions, to whom any question that arose in Committee was referred, these hon. Gentle-men impugned Mr. Speaker's conduct. In his view, nothing was so important as to support the authority of the Chair. They all knew the impartiality and kindly temper which Mr. Speaker invariably manifested—unsurpassed by any Speaker in his long experience. He held that the hon. Gentlemen who had, by their own conduct, brought about the state of things which existed, ought to be made sensible of the importance of maintaining the authority of the Chair. He was confident of this—that if the House would preserve its own dignity they must now assert it by maintaining the authority of their Speaker.


I think it may be regarded as a remarkable incident in the debate that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) has spoken for several minutes without once going out of Order. On rising on this occasion, I think it is unnecessary for me to add my voice to the general chorus of praise as to the admirable manner in which Mr. Speaker discharges the duties of the Chair. No one feels or recognizes more fully or thoroughly than I do the genuine kindness, the consideration, and the upright impartiality with which the right hon. Gentleman fulfils his important functions. But all that is quite beside the question now before the House. I listened with attention to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and I heard him blaming, or finding fault with, the moderation of the Resolution of my hon. Friend the Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich has certainly habituated us for some time to the use of vehement denunciation, and it is evident he has not acquired an appreciation of moderation of language. But I think that the course which has been pursued by my hon. Friend the Member for Meath in dealing with this grave and delicate subject will commend itself to the judgment of the House, and that it may be conceded that, if he has committed fault at all, it is well it has been committed on the side of moderation. The speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs, consisted almost entirely of just praise of the impartiality of Mr. Speaker, and of recognition of the undoubtedly honourable character of his motives. But that has nothing to do with the question before the House. The real question—and I am treating it generally, and not as regards the special case before us—is, as to whether or not Mr. Speaker should, without the previous sanction of the House, employ confidential reporters, in order to inform him upon the proceedings of Members of that House at a time when he is absent. That is the real question before us, and it has not been touched upon at all by either the Proposer or Seconder of the Amendment. The hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) has alone raised the question in its true character. Now, we do not object to Mr. Speaker's right to be informed of the proceedings of Parliament that take place during his absence from the House. We do not object to an official record being kept; but in the interests of Mr. Speaker himself, of the House, and of hon. Members, we object to hon. Members being spied upon by confidential informers, of no matter how high an authority. It is said that this information is required, because questions of the gravest importance may be brought up. But let me ask the House to consider the two positions. One is that of a Speaker who has become aware of the proceedings of this House through regularly organized channels, under proper safeguards for impartiality, and with proper safeguards for accuracy, and with proper safeguards for veracity. All these questions, Sir, I may point out do not touch you; but they do touch the media of your information. A Speaker who can give evidence on information, the means of collecting which have previously been authorized, sanctioned, and regulated by this House, is a Speaker who gives his evidence and advice in the gravest circumstances with every guarantee that his advice should carry with it all the weight it should carry. But, on the other hand, let us consider the position of a Speaker, who being asked his opinion on the conduct of Business in this House, can give no answer less impotent than this—" I was not in the Committee at the time these proceedings took place; but I have learnt from a couple of menial inferior officials of this House, not sworn, not under any guarantee, not under any safeguard worthy of the dignity of this House, or the gravity of the emergency. I have learnt from these two inferior officials "—their private character may be what you will, but I am dealing with their public weight—" I have learnt from them so-and-so, and can give no other assurance than this most limp hearsay evidence." Is it not absolutely certain that the advice of the most respected Speaker who ever sat in your Chair would not be worth more than the weight of the lightest dust that blows, when founded on no stronger evidence than that of a couple of unauthenticated, unguaranteed inferior officials depending upon you? It is impossible, if the object of Mr. Speaker is to become informed of the proceedings of hon. Members of this House, and if the object of Mr. Speaker is to acquire the means of giving this House advice upon certain circumstances which have happened in its Business. If such is his object then in choosing worthless agents of this kind—I use the word without reflection on the individual ["Order, order! "]


I rise to Order. I beg to ask you, Sir, whether it is Parliamentary language to speak of the officials of this House as "worthless agents?"


I am sure the hon. Member will feel that expressions of that kind are unbecoming when applied to officers of this House. They are gentlemen like ourselves, and the hon. Gentleman will, no doubt, withdraw the expression.


I thought I clearly explained that I used these words entirely with regard to the legal effect and technical weight, so to speak—["Withdraw ! "]—I several times pointed out that I would use the word purely in its legal bearings. [" Withdraw, withdraw ! "] I will use the word "unguaranteed," then; but I have a perfect right to use the word I did. The strength of any machinery is only the strength of the weakest part; and if a Speaker desires to have full and complete information, should he not choose a means which should be not of the weakest, but of the strongest kind? In all this, neither your impartiality of intention, nor the possible gravity of future emergencies is contested; neither do we object to the taking of official reports, nor to the taking of unofficial reports of the nature contributed to the public Press; but, as I said, in the interests of every individual, in the interests of this House, in the interests of the permanent authority of Mr. Speaker, we object to a means of information of this irregular and unauthentic character receiving the approval of this House. Do we know, does this House know, has this House any opportunity of knowing, what is the system on which these unofficial reports are taken? Is it a method of a full report of the speeches, or a careful précis of the speeches, or is only the substance of the speeches given? Are interruptions mentioned? Are calls of Order mentioned? When a Member on the Ministerial side of the House rises, as Members so frequently rise, to call the speaker to Order, is that carefully taken down? Is it noted that that call to Order gave rise to such-and-such a discussion? Is it noted—which so frequently happens—that the call was rejected by the Chairman? In a word, what guarantee have we that all the circumstances are such as would com- mend themselves to the general approval of this House? The private respectability of these confidential reporters may be what it may; but without some testimony, without any guarantee of any legal character, how can this evidence, which is no more than legal testimony, weigh with this House, or with the country, if adduced in support of any decision of Mr. Speaker? Unanimously in this House, and most warmly and emphatically on these Benches, without a doubt or hesitation, do we accept your declaration that you have no arriére penéee directed against any individual, and that there is no bias in this note-taking. Sir, we have accepted that statement, and this House has accepted it; but, leaving that case, I will take the case of any other Speaker who has recourse to these means. Does he not infallibly expose himself to comments outside? There is a necessity in these days of publicity that the proceedings of this House should be able to bear the test of publicity out-of-doors. At this moment, while every Member has declared that he accepted your assurance that it was with no intention of prosecuting or intimidating individual Members that these Notes were taken—on this very day, what is called the leading journal of this country, The Times, absolutely states that you have taken these steps for the purpose of bringing an indictment against certain Members of this House. That is, as we know, a false statement, for which you are not responsible; but it is a statement which reckless writers outside your jurisdiction have the power of making, when the agents you employ are not absolutely guaranteed, and have not previously been submitted to the careful approval of the House of Commons. Yes, Sir, it is not only in our interests, but in the interests of Mr. Speaker, that we make this Motion. Sir, if the agents you employ, or which any Speaker uses, have not previously passed through the ordeal of the examination and approval of this House, it is open to a public journal, with a slight sense of its responsibility, as evidently is done by The Times on the present occasion, to contradict your explanation, to refuse to recognize the truth of your assurances, and, in spite of your declaration to the contrary, to say you have set all this machinery in motion for the purpose of bringing an indictment, or of supporting an indictment, against certain hon. Members. It is to defend you, whom we all respect and revere, from the liability to these misrepresentations, that I support the Resolution of the hon. Member for Meath. It has been said that this House is in a difficult position, and we can readily agree, and we can quote reasons which led us to this conclusion, other than those given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington). I think it is calculated to put this House in a difficult position when a Minister of the Crown, and a Member of Her Majesty's Government, can venture, in a public meeting, to speak of hon. Members of this House, not only Irishmen, but Englishmen, and to denounce them to their country as English and Irish revolutionists. This House is, indeed, in a difficult position, when the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with the connivance and the approval, or, at any rate, without that direct rebuke which, I submit, ought to have followed from his Colleagues, dares to speak of Members of this House—presumes to speak of Members of this House—has the insolence to speak of Members of this House—as Irish and English revolutionists. When a Member of Her Majesty's Government rises, and, with little veil and little concealment, asperses the Parliamentary character of hon. Members, they ought to begin their attempt at an indictment by first apologizing for the grossly un-Parliamentary conduct of their noble Colleague. We are not English and we are not Irish revolutionists; we are sincere Constitutionalists, seeking to gain and to maintain the respect of the peoples of these Kingdoms by the zealous performance of our duties, and by the careful consideration of a Bill which seems to be brought in in order to provoke Amendments.


I must point out to the hon. Member that the Bill is not now before the House.


I did not intend, Sir, to convey the impression that I was referring to the Bill. I was only referring to the general conduct of the Government from day to day. "People who live in glass houses should not throw stones." It has already been repeatedly observed in this debate, not on these Benches, but on the front Opposition Benches, that the most objectionable practices attributed to us began with the sanction of Gentlemen now in power, and that the Leaders in these practices which are now called objectionable have been loaded with office and emolument. At the same time, Sir, in justice even to those who grant us such little justice, I would beg to observe that these practices, deemed so objectionable, date further back than the last Parliament. It will be within the knowledge of even superficial students of Constitutional history that Lord John Russell declared, in regard to his Reform Bill of 1860, that that Bill was choked and deprived of every chance of being carried through the House by the accumulation of Amendments piled upon it. In the debates relating to the first Reform Bill, a staunch Constitutionalist, Sir Charles Wetherall, after delaying the House by repeated Amendments, after sitting beyond midnight, and through the small hours of the morning, until those small hours began to get great ones—on the House rising, and it being discovered that rain was falling outside, audibly regretted that "he had not known it was raining, or he would have treated the House to a few more divisions." I would venture even to submit a small piece of advice to those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have so copiously advised us. The best way to prevent a difficulty in the despatch of Public Business is to occupy the House with Public Business worthy of the name. I can say, with absolute certainty, that no opposition will be offered to the discussion of substantial measures of real importance, really conducive to the public good. I utter these observations in support of the hon. Member for Meath; and I trust, in any further discussion, the question of your impartiality, Sir, and of your fairness, which was never doubted, will not be again brought in question, and trailed between the House and the real object in dispute. It seems to me improper of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to turn the House from the real question by panegyrics upon you, Sir, which you do not really require, and by disclaimers and repudiations of charges upon your motives which were never made. The question is the sort of report which you have chosen to take, and whether it might not be amended? This House is willing to place at your disposal every means which may be required for your full and complete information with regard to the proceedings of this House; and speaking for myself, and, I am sure, speaking for many of my Colleagues, it is not I or we who would regret a full and complete account of the proceedings of this House. Sir, if the number of times that hon. Members have risen to Order, and only in disorder—if the number of Notices which led to debates, and which the Chairman has declared to be without just cause—if these are reported, it is a pity that the report could not be completed by something like a representation of the numerous, but inarticulate, interruptions which often interfere with the free discussion of Public Business in this House.


This, Sir, is a very great and grave question, and I regret very much that we have not had the opinions of a larger number of Constitutional lawyers than we have had; because if there be anything upon which this House, from its first foundation, has prided itself, it is upon securing the independence of Members in their Parliamentary position. It is the opinion of a great many here, whether rightly or wrongly founded I will not inquire, that the policy recently adopted, not only by hon. Members on the other side of the House, but also by the threats freely indulged in by newspapers which we know are in the pay and employment of the various Parties, are calculated in the highest degree to fetter the independence of Members. In the very article referred to by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), I find the leading journal describing Irish Members, who have rendered such valuable assistance in this House by their Amendments to the Army Discipline and Regulation Bill—who have cut out of it, in a great measure, one of the most objectionable features by which it is disfigured—designated by the insulting name of "filibusters." Now, Sir, that is intimidation; and I only wonder—indeed, I regret—that the Irish. Members have not thought it fit to bring the editor of The Times to the. Bar of the House, for using language so highly derogatory and insulting, Irish Mem- bers, Sir, and a great many English Members, think that this practice, recently adopted under your auspices and sanction, of having clandestine and nocturnal reports made of speeches delivered here by hon. Gentlemen, is calculated, I have no doubt, without your sanction, your design, or intention, to operate upon them as a species of terrorism in the discharge of their duty. Therefore, I think every Constitutional lawyer in the House, at all events, ought to express in some way his opinion as to the way in which this new mode of Parliamentary procedure should be met. I have listened with great attention to the arguments on both sides. I observed that whenever the Tories wish to establish or to introduce any new system of despotism, they can always rely upon the aid of the Whigs. Indeed, this is one of the greatest incentives to the Tories violating the Constitution, which they are not usually disposed to do, having much more regard in their political proceedings for the Constitution than the Whigs. I notice that they never evade the Constitution that they do not reckon upon Whig support. Accordingly, when they come forward to-day to support this step, which I humbly regard as an unconstitutional proceeding, they have every Whig precedent in its favour. No one was aware that under the Administration of Lord John Russell, in 1850, these secret documents which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day produces were first invented. I was extremely anxious, when the right hon. Gentleman produced that extremely suspicious pamphlet, that he should favour us with a specimen of its contents. I do not know what it contains. We are all left in blissful ignorance of that; but I am very glad that the debate has occurred, if for no other purpose than that it will let the public know that in the Whig Administration of 1850 there was first devised a system of espionage on the Members of this House. That system is perfectly dishonourable, in my judgment, and disgraceful to the Administration of that day, because nobody knows what particular light he figures in in that volume. The right hon. Gentleman has not favoured us with a specimen of the last thing the Whigs have invented. We are asked to-day to support what I cannot characterize in sufficiently strong language, but what I must protest against as a system calculated to interfere with hon. Members in the due discharge of their duties. We do not know the words written down. We cannot tell what comments may be made. We do not know what the reports are. We have no information, and we can have no knowledge of the spirit of the reporter. We cannot tell whether he takes down word for word, or whether he gives what he believes to be the substance of the speech. This reporting is calculated to excite a species of terrorism in the minds of hon. Members, for they know not what may be produced afterwards against them, if you, Sir, should be called again before a Committee to decide what should be the punishment for obstruction. When the Divorce Bill was first introduced, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) is reported to have said that he had the very strongest objection to its provisions, and that he was prepared to take a Division upon every clause, every section, nay, upon every line and word of the Bill. If that is not obstruction calculated to bring this House into contempt, I do not know what is. Irish Members have not gone so far as that, nor within 100 miles near it, and yet they are universally denounced by speakers and newspaper writers as though they were the greatest nuisances and the worst obstructionists ever known. In justice to those Members representing Irish constituencies, they ought to protest against this language being used to them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not advanced any argument against those introduced by the Proposer and Seconder. There is no doubt whatever that all precedent is against the employment of private reporters by anybody. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich thought he had established a very great point, when he said that the circumstances differed very essentially from the circumstances of the time when the various precedents were laid down which were quoted by the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell). He said, in the days of the Tudors and the Stuarts, that it was necessary to prevent Members of the House from being intimidated, and that, therefore, the House was exceedingly jealous of its Privileges. I quite believe that; but there is another kind of tyranny, which may be just as powerfully exercised over Members of the House, in their Parliamentary character, as that of the Tudors and the Stuarts—and that is, the tyranny of an overwhelming majority, who may be led by their Leaders to do an act of quite as much injustice. When the word "terrorism" was used, it was very well used, for we have observed nothing but a threat of unknown punishments, which are held, like the sword of Damocles, over the heads of the Irish Members, for endeavouring to amend as bad a Bill as was ever presented to the House of Commons. I shall support the Motion, Sir, not from any want of respect for you, but because I think this is a dangerous course for us to enter upon, and because we are told by those who are best calculated to give an opinion that it is likely to operate as terrorism. When, therefore, the hon. Member for Meath goes to a Division, I shall be found in the same Lobby.


I am sorry that Her Majesty's Government have evaded the issue raised by the Resolution before the House. That proposes to condemn an act, the Amendment to praise a man. That is not the way in which so grave a Parliamentary issue ought to be met, if it is met at all, by Her Majesty's Government. The act proposed to be condemned is one which is to be dealt with according to the customs and usages of Parliament. If, upon that view, it can be defended, let it be defended; and if it is to be tried and condemned on such an issue, let it be condemned. What has this Motion to do with praising an individual? I feel, and I think many others do the same, that they are free to accept the Amendment, and yet to vote for the Resolution; and I say, candidly, that I should have voted for the Resolution in an infinitely stronger form than that in which it is before the House of Commons. It is a common and shallow line of argument to represent an opponent as making a personal attack, and then, if that charge is resented, to say he is hauling down his flag. To-day we have the snare set before our face; but surely this is undignified when our liberties are on their trial, to descend to mere flattery of the Speaker, who is listening to them in the Chair. I shall deal with all this in a sentence and pass it by, because I scorn to call it argument. There is none in this Resolution. I think I can speak for my Friends present, when I say that we impugn not your sense of justice, integrity, and impartiality, but an error of judgment by committing an act which is without precedent in the annals of this House, and is dangerous to the liberties of debate. Let us see exactly how Her Majesty's Government deal with it, and how the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs, at their command, regards it. If they have searched the records for precedents, they have nothing to substantiate the position, taken up by Her Majesty's Government, who were brought into Office very largely by the persistent policy of obstruction which certain of their Members pursued towards the late Government. Having rewarded those professional obstructors of Government measures with office and a seat on the Treasury Bench, they now come down and wince under the treatment which they themselves employed towards the Army Purchase Bill and the Irish Church Act. I concede to the right hon. Gentleman who, for what he has done, has been made Chief Secretary for Ireland, the right to do that which he has done. Indeed, I have never challenged it; but when he comes into Office a cry is raised by hon. Members because we offer resistance to the mischievous and obnoxious propositions of the Treasury Bench. I say that we are in our right in doing that which we believe to be vital to the interests of the country, and availing ourselves of those means which the wisdom of our ancestors provided for a minority fighting in defence of public liberty. This line of conduct which we follow has been recognized for years, and it must now be taken into consideration in connection with the threats of imprisonment or expulsion from this House, which we are told are now being considered, in order to silence the legitimate opposition of Members of this House. The fact that certain Members have spoken so many times is to be made a ground for an indictment. How is it to be substantiated? The public records ought to supply it. We pay thousands a-year to Mr. Hansard for a faithful record of our proceedings, and, surely, upon that record Her Majesty's Government might elect to proceed, or threaten to proceed, towards imprisonment or expulsion from this Assembly. But what is the course adopted to obtain evidence? If the mind is not free, the Member is not free, and his language is not independent. In such a state of things the Government have made five ineffectual attempts to grasp a Member of this House, with a view to punishing him. They have made a spring upon the indicated prey; but it has eluded their grasp, for the Treasury Bench was wrong, and he was right. Again and again the Minister has made a spring upon him, to punish and expel him, and once more he has found the President against him, and that it was a Minister who was in disorder, and that the victim was actually within Order. In this state of things, we find an official in that part of the House set apart for Members of the House as an official act, for that is the difference between him and the Clerk at the Table, making a secret and a surreptitious record of the proceedings of this House. Is it honest to threaten Members in this way? We cannot tell what the record is. There seems to be a sort of tally or score of the rising and sitting down of hon. Members. It is not a faithful short-hand report. What it is nobody can say, for it is taken without the previous knowledge and assent of this House. If you thought it right for the House of Commons to have a more perfect record than the Clerk at the Table takes, it would have been within your province to announce to the House what you thought desirable. Instead of that, we find this gentleman there taking these Notes. I say, if this had happened in the time of Pym or Hampden, someone would have been sent to the Tower to-day. I say that a man would have put himself in serious peril if, in the reign of either Charles or James, any Member of this House had stationed an official in the Gallery to spy on the proceedings and to get a secret and surreptitious record of them. Where is this record? We declare that it is without precedent. Now, Mr. Speaker, I warn the House of Commons that there is never a time when it is more necessary to be deliberate and calm than when you are about to step forward to inflict punishment upon any Member of the House. That is just the time when this House ought to be free from excitement, or anger, or irritation. Above all, if you are intending to menace with expulsion or penal consequences any Member of this House, you will deprive the act of all moral weight in the country, and of all real substantial force in the House, unless you take your proceedings towards him fairly, openly, and with notice to him of what you are going to do. You have no right to go secretly behind his back and make up a record against him. I warn you, Gentlemen—["Order, order!"]—I warn this House, Mr. Speaker, and I rejoice to find hon. Members are so careful of the rules of debate—I warn the House of Commons, Mr. Speaker, to remember that this Institution is destined to last for hundreds of years, as it has come down to us for centuries before, and let us not purchase, by a sacrifice of any of the liberties of this House, the momentary gratification of a triumph over a minority so small. You may strike down a few Members who are troublesome to the Government, not to the House; you may strike them down, you may fetter them, you may silence them; but please recollect, Mr. Speaker, that as long as they entrench themselves behind the precedents, usages, and customs of this House, they are in a position which you cannot assail without disaster to the country at large. Therefore, I say tonight, if this be, as we declare it to be, an act which cannot be fortified by reference to precedent; if it is an act which would have been resented in the days when the liberties of this House were fought for at peril to life and limb; it behoves us, for the sake of the future which comes after us, that this shall be no precedent, and shall meet with the prompt repudiation of the House of Commons. I hope the House will understand me. I desire to impeach, in the strongest language consonant with the highest personal respect for you, Sir, the correctness, in a Parliamentary sense, of the course of procedure which you have adopted. I desire to be understood as offering against that act my solemn and most vehement protest, believing, as I do, that it must be fatal in the end in establishing a precedent.


Mr. Speaker, I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has placed some Members of the House in a considerable difficulty by the course he has taken. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) in thinking that he has not fairly met the practical question before the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to get out of his difficulty by moving a Vote of Confidence in yourself. I have only to say, Sir, that I should join with the utmost sincerity in voting that confidence in you. Upon the other hand, we have before us a definite Resolution, a definite declaration; not referring to your general conduct, but to one precise act of which it is intended to complain. The Resolution proposed by my hon. Friend is, in plain words—that an act has been done without precedent, and that it is, therefore, open to objection. I, for one, feel morally coerced to give my vote in favour of that Resolution. At the same time, if the House will allow me to say so, I should be perfectly willing, and I should rejoice, to join with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in declaring my fullest confidence in the impartiality, the justice, and the honour of Mr. Speaker. The Chancellor of the Exchequer began his speech in a manner which seemed very like trifling with a great question. He began by a panegyric on Mr. Speaker, which we all must endorse. He then went on to say that Mr. Speaker had always been so just, and impartial, and kind to us, that, therefore, it was our business to support him on all conceivable occasions. It is not in that way, by an interchange of courtesy and kindness, that I feel bound to support the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is, of course, our duty to support him. It is a necessary condition of the Business of this House and of the discharge of all Public Business, that we should lend him our habitual and steady support. This, however, is merely a question of whether, in one single instance, a certain act done was or was not according to precedent, and is or is not open to objection? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, apparently, had not quite made up his mind as to the character of the act. I remember that Lord Palmerston, describing in one of his letters a certain debate in this House, in which several distinguished Gentlemen took part, gives great praise to some of them, but singles out one or two, and quietly observes that those hon. Gentlemen, having no clear idea in their minds, conveyed no clear idea to the House. It seems to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on this occasion, had no clear idea of the purpose of the act of which we are complaining, and, therefore, has failed to convey any idea to the House. He spoke of it, over and over again, as if it were some new and happy device for having better records of the debates of this House. He said of some of my hon. Friends near me—" These are the gentlemen who asked for fuller reports, and yet they object to the publicity which would surely bring on them all the praise they desired." "Why, Mr. Speaker, to have heard that argument, one would have supposed you had discovered some new and valuable method of publishing our debates, of trumpeting them to the end of the world—of placarding any great speech made in this House at Charing Cross. I will ask any hon. Member whether that is the nature of the proceedings taken, or whether this is merely a new way of keeping a clearer and more precise record of all the speeches delivered here? I would appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and ask, whether the ringing cheers with which they greeted some part of the debate last night, the amount of emotion and even of passion which they displayed, were really called up by the discovery that some new plan had been invented for keeping a record of our debates? I need not appeal to them. I can appeal to a higher authority—yourself, Sir. You yourself, Sir, the other day, made a statement of the purposes of this new arrangement, very different from that in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer tried to make us believe he really believed. In your explanation, you distinctly stated that this new device had reference to certain difficulties raised to the passing of a particular measure in the House of Commons. Yet, to have heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer, one would suppose that Mr. Speaker had nothing better to do in his leisure than to fill his mind with records, carefully prepared, of all the speeches made on the Army Discipline and Regulation Bill, and to read them for his own personal edification. You, Mr. Speaker, have distinctly explained that, and have put aside any attempt to put an erroneous delusive colour on the action itself. This is, then, distinctly some new practice to be adopted with reference to an alleged new procedure in the House of Commons. The thing itself is new; it is without example or precedent, and it has direct reference to some measure to be introduced for the purpose of making a change in the Business arrangements of the House of Commons. Is it wonderful that hon. Members take alarm at the way in which it was introduced? It may be that the House may be pleased to alter the arrangement of its Business. We have heard a great deal of talk about obstruction. We hear so much talk, indeed, of it, that the very denunciation of obstruction becomes an instrument and an agent of obstruction. Almost as much time is taken up in denouncing it as is spent in promoting it—if anybody is really purposely carrying it on. I am not going to discuss that question. I am content to know that I have never taken any part in it, and really do not believe that there is any Member in this House who is influenced by a mere desire to obstruct its Business, or who would wish to postpone any particular Motion without a definite and legitimate purpose. Let it be observed, also, that this obstruction is not quite so new an act as hon. Members suppose. I do not think I can quite agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) in awarding the merit of that invention to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Long before he had the chance of gladdening the debates of this House obstruction was a constantly employed and constantly denounced weapon of warfare. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) spoke of the -Reform Bill introduced by Lord John Russell in 1860. That was, indeed, admittedly crowded out by the mass of Amendments poured in, not from the Opposition for the most part, but from the luke-warm Liberals behind the Ministerial Benches. But there was then another form of obstruction, which, I am happy to say, we have not seen in recent times—corporal or physical obstruction. I remember perfectly well, on one occasion, that an attempt was organized to count the House in the middle of that debate, and that a great number of energetic Conservative Gentlemen went outside, and endeavoured, by sheer force and personal strength, to keep Liberal Members from getting back to their places. An hon. Gentleman, whom I do not now see in his place, a well-known Member of the Conservative Party who sits below the Gangway, had then the distinction of being complained of to your Predecessor, by an hon. Gentleman now a Judge in this land, who declared that he interposed his considerable bulk between him and the door, and so prevented him from coming in. That is only one species of the obstruction which has always been a more or less recognized, and much complained of, weapon in Parliamentary warfare. Those who wish to push a Bill through naturally complain of those who obstruct it; and those who object to a measure are only too happy to use some obstruction themselves, or encourage others to adopt it. I remember that in this House, some years ago, an hon. Gentleman, who is now the Governor of a Colony, used to divide the House again and again, with a small band of four or five Members, until, indeed, the sun shone in on these windows, in order to defeat a measure to which he was opposed, and he was an honoured Member of the Conservative Party. It may be that a proposal will be made for restricting in some way the liberty of debate and the rights of minorities; but I trust that no such attempt ever will be made, and that if made that there will be sufficient public spirit in the House to resist any such change in our legislation. If it ever is to be attempted, if that most serious change—more serious than any yet introduced in our time—should ever be sought for, it ought to be done fairly, openly, and deliberately, and every proceeding or act, however small, that leads up to it should be done with the full knowledge of the House, and in the full light of open day, that not only the House but the public at large may know the importance of it. Let me venture on one illustration of the danger of overbearing a small minority, taken from the history of another country, and on the statement of a great man who died some two years ago—M. Thiers. He has left on record that if the French Chamber could but have had 48 hours' more debate, 48 hours' more of speech-making and discussion, the unhappy war with Prussia would never have been commenced. He declared, as a mere statement of fact, that the explanations extorted from the Government would have so opened the eyes of the people, and so changed the condition of affairs, that no Ministers would have dared to venture upon a war in the face of such admissions; but the small minority were crushed by the Parliamentary system existing in that country, and at a certain time the triumphant majority overbore them. Well, for a time, they had their triumph; but that triumph brought France to temporary ruin. I do not think any such terrible emergency will arise in our time, or in any time, in this country; but in making our arrangements as to the Business of this House, we must not make them merely and solely in preparation for the life we are accustomed to, but they must be adapted to stand the strain of a great difficulty to bear the burden of some sudden national crisis. At all events, it is certain that such a change will call for serious and solemn debate, and that nothing can be more dangerous than to have any proceedings leading up to it suddenly sprung upon the House as a mere surprise. Therefore, I cannot help thinking that the House has some reason to complain of this act, however insignificant or unimportant in itself, which has been lately done. I do not wonder that certain Members in especial have taken it up with a greater sense of alarm than the House in general. Some hon. Gentlemen do not trouble themselves much about the future, and are not even deeply concerned in the actual measures now going on. I think it is rather unfortunate that that phrase—the Business of the House—should be so often used as to lead Members away from a true sense of their public duty. The Business of the House is not to push legislation through at express speed, but to have Bills carefully and steadily prepared and made perfect; and if, in the course of that work, there is more delay than the patience of hon. Members can sometimes bear, I would ask them, fairly, is it not better to put up with that than to imperil the rights of however small a minority in the House? The great pride and characteristic of the English Parliament has been that no overbearing majority can silence the minority, and this I trust will always be its chief distinction and its glory. But if there is a change to be made, it must be made solemnly and seriously, and must not be in the nature of a surprise. I believe that this act is without precedent, and is part of the intention of some of Her Majesty's Ministers to go on to further legislation trenching on the liberties of the minority and on the rights of free speech. I, therefore, feel morally compelled to support the Resolution; although I should, at the same time, feel the greatest readiness in expressing the fullest and most complete confidence in the justice and fairness of Mr. Speaker.


Sir, I always show the greatest respect for all I have ever heard you say; but feelings of even affectionate regard for you should not guide us in this matter. I do wish there was an intermediate course by which we could bear our unfeigned testimony to your conduct in that Chair and in every relation of life, and yet say that we think that the course you have recently adopted should not be continued. ["Divide, divide!"] I must say that I hope the convictions of hon. Gentlemen will not lead them to interfere with the convictions of other hon. Gentlemen. This is so painful a ground that we now take that we are not likely to have done it lightly, and we do not desire to be longer about it than is absolutely necessary. The affirmation we make is that this course is without precedent, and that if it is without precedent it is dangerous to the Privileges of the House. I think nobody can contend that it is not new in principle, and if it be out of our power to ascertain or control it before it is done, it is dangerous and subversive of our Privileges. I go that length, although my hon. Friend the Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) may have withdrawn those words. I regret extremely that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) should have turned that taunt upon us with all the power of language with which he always appeals to his hearers. For the first time in my political life the sound of his voice brought no pleasure to me, because I thought he was perpetrating an unfairness which was below the level of his very high position and talents. Not one of the hon. Gentlemen who have advocated the Amendment seemed to me to state anything worthy of notice as an argument. On the right and on the left the advocacy is based upon what I must say is not quite candid—on a pretence, forsooth, that this was a means resorted to to secure a fuller account of our debates and proceedings. You, Sir, never put it on that ground. Everyone knows you are incapable of anything like equivocation, and you have put it upon this ground—that you want these facts for your own information and for the service of the House, a motive we all recognize; but is it so defined in the plea now put forward? They admit it is without precedent, and then, forsooth, when we refer to the precedents and the language held in former days, they tell us, in nearly so many words, that these are musty precedents, and are not at all to guide and direct our relations. Musty precedents, indeed, is the language. Is the language of your noble Predecessor who said—"Ihave no eyes to see, and no ears to hear, anything the House does not allow me to see and to hear"—do they mean to say that that is a musty precedent? If it is one at all, it proves our case. We maintain that the Speaker has no power of originating anything. Is that an origination? Who can doubt it? Can the same power place a detective in that Gallery to watch the movements of particular Members of Parliament? In what does that differ? You appoint a Clerk. What is he to watch? You are informed; and when we inquire who has done this thing, then we are told it is by the order and direction of the Speaker. Then the right hon. Gentleman opposite actually defends it on such a ground as this—that Mr. Speaker is, forsooth, a Member of every Committee, and may be present if he likes and take a note of everything that goes on. Who denies that? Why condescend to such an ordinary truism, such a Parliamentary truism? How does it advance the discussion? All this proves to me that the right hon. Gentlemen on both sides feel that there is a difficulty in straightforwardly defending what has been done. I wish, Sir, you had risen in your place and said—"I find what I have ordered has given occasion for some remark, and I have consequently directed its discontinuance." I believe that would have satisfied the whole of the House, and that many who will vote for the Amendment would have been glad to have been saved the necessity. I should have been glad to be spared the necessity of making any remark. Every Member must speak for himself; but I think that as no one has said, no one can say, that it is a wise act on the part of the Chief of the House to place somebody to take a note of what its Members do, and that for an avowed purpose, and in connection with a notorious assumption that some hon. Members of the House are supposed to have practised obstruction in the discussion of a most faulty Bill. Does it not imperil Mr. Speaker's position as the man we are all under, who is set above us to decide in calm impartiality between us, of every Party or section of a Party, and on whom the obscurest Home Ruler or the humblest individual ought to be able to rely for fairness? Oh! Mr. Speaker, it does seem to me that this proceeding is a dangerous one for which I am sorry, for which I think by this time you are sorry, and I am sure the inmost conscience and heart of the House cannot and will not support it.


I have abstained from taking any part in these painful proceedings, because I cannot concur with the views of hon. Members opposite with whom I act sometimes. [An hon. MEMBER: Sometimes!] I act with them when I think they are right; and I abstain from acting with them when I think they are wrong. I think on the present occasion they have made a false step, which will be injurious to the influence of the Irish Members in this House. I maintain that the whole of our Parliamentary procedure depends upon the respect paid to Mr. Speaker, and if that is in any way diminished or impaired, it may be fatal to Parliamentary government in this country. Anybody who has read history, or attended to precedent, will see there are a very few cases in which a Resolution has been moved, aimed at Mr. Speaker, and it has only been done under the gravest circumstances. Mr. Speaker is much more than the servant of this House. He is the President of this illustrious Senate. Sir Erskine May, whom everyone acknowledges as an authority, very well sums up this matter when he says—" He is the representative of the House itself, its powers, its proceedings, and its dignities." What is the occasion on which this Resolution has been moved? "What has occurred? Hon. Members opposite had some grounds to be suspicious. They found there was a person taking Notes, of whose authority to do so they knew nothing. They had a right to make inquiries, and I do not find fault with them for bringing the matter before the House. But when, Sir, you told the House that this was done by your direction and for your own use, so that you might be better able to perform your duties, the matter ought to have terminated at once. Instead of that, it was carried on; an attempt was made to move a Vote of Censure in a hasty manner, and then a Resolution is brought forward, bringing the gravest charges against Mr. Speaker—charges so grave and so unfounded that the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) was obliged to give up part of them. He maintains that what he complains of is unprecedented. Now, no one has a greater respect than I have for precedents; but it is one thing to be without precedents, and quite another thing to be acting against precedents. You may require a new precedent, and because a certain thing has not occurred before that is no reason why it should not occur. If this is unprecedented, it is not, therefore, contrary to precedent. But, from the speeches of hon. Members, it might be supposed that the Star Chamber was to be revived and Notes were to be taken down secretly and brought before the House. But what are the real facts of the case? In the Press Gallery we have Reporters who give full reports of what is going on to everybody who chooses to read them. Then an officer took down the hour at which Members rose and sat down. Was not that already sent from the Cloak Room to all the Clubs in London? I shall vote for the Amendment, because a charge is never brought against Mr. Speaker except for a great breach of Privilege, and because we ought to show on the Books of the House that we had the fullest confidence in the impartiality of Mr. Speaker.


As I propose to support the Amendment, perhaps the House will forgive me, if I state the reasons which have led me to that conclusion. I am, naturally, very sorry to differ with many of those with whom I am very often in association; but I cannot help feeling in regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) that the plea he has put forward, powerful as it is, and calculated to influence—and I know that it has influenced the judgment of many hon. Members on this side—that it really does set aside that which is at the bot- tom of all these proceedings. He took exception to the fact that the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) had asked the House to take into consideration the circumstances in which the Business of the House was placed. My hon. Friend was, I think, hardly fair in stating that the noble Lord used that as an argument. It is not true that the noble Lord had pointed to that as an argument; but he did allude to it, as a matter which this House was bound to take into consideration in forming a judgment upon the action taken by Mr. Speaker. I feel that it is the duty of everyone, and especially of those who were most Liberal, most Radical, and most in love with Parliamentary government, to take this opportunity of protesting in the most solemn form against the disgrace which is being brought upon Parliamentary government by the proceedings to which the noble Lord has alluded.


I rise to Order. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) refers to disgrace being brought on this House by hon. Members. ["Order, order!"] He stated that disgrace was being brought upon this House by the proceedings of certain Members. I have to ask you, Sir, is it in Order for any Member to make such an assertion?


The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) is in possession of the House, and I see no reason to interpose. It will be open to the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan) to make any observation he may think proper in commenting upon his remarks.


No doubt, one will be subject to these interruptions; but they will not deter me from saying what I feel it to be my duty to say. It is a matter which this House is bound to take into consideration in forming its judgment in relation to the action of Mr. Speaker. It must consider the state to which this House is brought partly by the action of certain Members—[Mr. PARNELL: Including the hon. Member for Dundee.]—and partly by the weakness of its Ministers. Surely, of all the hon. Members who ought not to interrupt me in the observations I am making, it is the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell). If the slightest sound is ever emitted from the opposite Benches when he is speaking, he immediately addresses those Benches in a tone of deprecation of such interference with the liberty of Parliament. Yet, when I happen to disagree with him upon one point, I find myself immediately interrupted. But, to come back to the point before the House, I wish to ask the House to consider really, after all, if this is a question to be governed entirely by precedent? I am bound to say—and I am sure, Sir, it will not be misunderstood by you or any Member of this House—that when this matter was first brought to the attention of the House, and when I heard that a certain gentleman was sitting in the Gallery of the House taking these Notes, that the first impression upon my mind was a disagreeable one, and that I felt anything but sure that there might not be some ground for the objection taken to it. No sooner, however, was your explanation given—and it was a perfectly satisfactory explanation—than I felt that the object which Mr. Speaker had in view was not a mere espionage of this or that group of Members, but simply to afford himself the opportunity of giving that evidence which it is indubitable will have to be given before dealing with the manner in which our Rules and precedents are to be improved. It seems to me we are not bound to go back to precedent to defend Mr. Speaker in the exercise of his private judgment. For the purpose of enabling him to form an opinion, he sets a clerk to perform a duty, which is not, by any means, a duty of an unpleasant character—a duty which is simply statistical. [A laugh.] Hon. Members laugh, because they choose to impute motives to Mr. Speaker. [" No, no! "] If they do not impute motives, what is the meaning of all these proceedings? I say this thing is a mere statistical registration, which is serving Mr. Speaker fairly to initiate a proceeding of another character without any arriére pensée. I defend it, Sir, upon the ground which you have stated, and that is simply that you require this for the information of your own mind and for the purpose of forming a judgment with relation to any change which may be suggested. [Mr. SULLIVAN: Against whom?] I say Mr. Speaker is justified by the proceedings which have taken place in this House, even supposing that he had an ulterior motive in taking the action that he did. There- fore, I do not see my way to support the proposition, especially in view of the fact that the Speaker is only the enibodiment of the authority, but also of the dignity of this House, and that we have repeatedly seen how often it is placed in peril by the hon. Members who are bringing forward this Motion.


Sir, I rise to make a few observations upon one point especially dwelt upon by the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), and by the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood). Those hon. and learned Gentlemen spoke of the protection which the Forms of the House afforded to a minority; and I think the hon. and learned Member for Louth particularly said "that they were designed in order to prevent a majority crushing a small minority." Now, I suppose, that if there is one thing more dear than another to Englishmen it is the principle of being bound by the decision of the majority; but it is perfectly well known, also, to be an essential principle of our Rules and Regulations that the same question should not be debated twice. If that means anything, it is that the decision of the House having been once taken upon a question, it should not be reverted to and brought forward again. You cannot have a more decisive affirmation of the absolute decision of a majority ruling questions which we bring forward in this House. I desire also to offer a few remarks upon the point which has been brought forward by hon. Members that obstruction was constantly resorted to in former days in this House. After a Parliamentary experience of 27 years, I can say, without hesitation, that I have never known obstruction organized in such a manner to prevent the passage of measures until during the last Parliament, when those hon. Gentlemen who have been alluded to took a certain course with regard to measures introduced by the last Government. I fully remember the very great fear which I entertained concerning the future Business of the House. I said, again and again, that we were straining the Forms of the House in a dangerous manner, and that it could not otherwise result than in very serious consequences to the authority of the House of Commons. The very unfortunate course taken at the period referred to has been persisted in by hon. Members, and exaggerated very largely during the present Parliament. We have a great duty to perform to our country, and we are sent here to legislate for our country's good, and it is not to be supposed that we can so far forget that duty as to permit it to be interfered with by the obstruction offered to the progress of the Business of the House. Therefore, I do not hesitate to warn hon. Gentlemen that it will be absolutely necessary for the great body of the Members of this House carefully to consider in what manner they will prevent the continuance of this distinct and organized obstruction to the performance of their functions and the Business of the country. The delay of measures has now become a science; and hon. Members in adopting that course keep within the Forms of the House of which they have a perfect knowledge; but they, nevertheless, prevent the carrying on of the Business of the country. We have a large number of Orders on the Book, and yet the consideration of one particular measure introduced by the Government has so taken up the time of Parliament that those charged with the responsibilities of Office have found it quite impossible to get through their Business. Such a state of things cannot be allowed to continue. For my own part, I should certainly not wish to see the Forms of the House altered; but some remedy must be found, although the form which it will take must be a matter for grave consideration. The hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) has stated that you, Sir, had "secretly and surreptitiously" placed a stranger in the Gallery to report our proceedings. But that gentleman could be seen from any part of the House, and, surely, it was open to anyone to observe that Notes were being taken. Therefore, I cannot think for an instant that the words "secretly and surreptitiously" can be applied to that proceeding. Sir, I can only say that, charged as you are with the difficult function of presiding over the Business of the House, you are, in my opinion, perfectly justified in the course which you have taken, inasmuch as the Rules and precedents of Parliament are established as they become from time to time necessary.


Sir, I think this is one of those occasions upon, which, we may regret that some of the forms of Parliamentary procedure in foreign countries are not in existence here. It seems to me that this is eminently an occasion upon which—in France, for instance—a Motion would be made, that the explanation of Mr. Speaker having been received the House should pass to the Business of the day. The only Motion analogous to that which we have is that of moving the Previous Question; and I imagine that if I, or, as I should greatly prefer, some old, experienced, and highly-valued Member of this House, were to make that Motion, the House of Commons, as well as the country, would be spared a very unpleasant issue. With the permission of the House, I will state my reason for considering the issue to be of that character. It is impossible, I think, to treat this matter as a light one, or to put it upon the ground that something has been done by your authority which is a matter of every-day proceeding. We have heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer what, to the majority of hon. Members, has been a revelation, that for many years past a record of the number and duration of the speeches of hon. Members has been kept by the Clerk at the Table, and that such record has been kept for statistical and useful purposes. Now, for my own part, I should like to know something of the history of that record; when it was commenced; at whose instigation it was commenced; whether it has been regularly kept since that time; the number of volumes, who has access to them, and what they contain? But if we accept the explanation which has been given—and I, for one, am far from offering any opposition to it—that record must contain everything which can be desired by Mr. Speaker or by the House. But with what object was that procedure changed? I have no hesitation in avowing my belief that the object was to obtain a record of the proceedings of Members of this House, to be used for penal purposes hereafter. But if it was necessary to have more accurate records than those hitherto kept, why was not the House informed of this necessity? My whole nature revolts at the idea of anything like espionage being introduced into the House of Commons. I feel myself unable to control my emotions when I think that something is being done behind the backs of hon. Members, for the purpose of accomplishing an object which may be either good or bad, but of which we know nothing. Sir, it is not a favourable feature of the closing years of this Parliament that hon. Members should be willing to resort to so un-English a proceeding for the purpose of putting down obstruction caused by the action or language of a small minority of this House. I myself, both in the House and at the expense of some popularity out of it, have expressed my extreme disapprobation at anything in the nature of organized obstruction. I have never taken part in such obstruction, and I have expressed, both through the Press and by word of mouth, my opinion that whenever organized obstruction is practised it must lead to the clôture which is carried on in foreign Assemblies. I am not sure that the plan of silencing hon. Members might not even now be proposed, and that it was not actually proposed by Mr. Bernal Osborne; but if it be necessary to silence hon. Members, surely it is for the Leader of the House to come forward and make the Motion, and allow hon. Members to deal with it. But to put upon hon. Members something in the shape of pressure, through the Speaker of the House, appears to me to be a course unworthy of the House of Commons. Hon. Members on the opposite side of the House would not, perhaps, feel this pressure, because they are Members of a large majority; but it would tell very much against those who are Members of a weak and insignificant minority. Sir, I feel it would be extremely unbecoming in me, as I think it has been unbecoming on the part of several hon. Members, to indulge in panegyrics upon the conduct of the Chair. I have been brought up with the idea that Mr. Speaker was the Representative of the majesty of the Commons of England, and thus it would no more occur to me to dispute his authority, or to question his impartiality, than it would occur to me to question the authority of the Sovereign. For that reason, the Amendment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer appears to me particularly objectionable, inasmuch as it would make it appear to be desirable that the House should express an opinion upon the impartiality of Mr. Speaker. Sir, I think this is a matter which ought to pass without question, as I am certain it would pass without question in any Assembly brought together in any part of Her Majesty's Dominions. I think it would be desirable, in the interest of the dignity of the House, and looking to the view which in future may be taken of the record of our proceedings, that this Motion should not be divided upon. Has it come to this—that the House of Commons is about to affirm, on the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it is desirable that confidential information as to the proceedings of Members should be conveyed to Mr. Speaker when he is out of the Chair? I cannot think that our forefathers would have suffered that course. If a Division is taken, whilst I shall vote, as I cannot help voting, in favour of the truism that the course which has been taken is unprecedented, I shall, at the same time, regret that I am prevented doing that which I desire to do—namely, to affirm my complete confidence in the impartiality and honour of Mr. Speaker; for it will be impossible for me to assent to the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which declares that it is desirable that confidential information as to the conduct of Members of the House should be conveyed to the Speaker when he is absent from the Chair. I desire to call the attention of the House to another aspect of this question. If it be necessary to have more accurate information as to what takes place in this House, what is the reason that the House of Commons has so persistently refused to organize a system for reporting our proceedings? While we refuse to have the recognized system of reporting which exists in almost every Legislative Assembly in the world, with what consistency can we vote that it is desirable, or to be tolerated, that an official of the House shall be put into the Gallery to take notes of what is said by hon. Members? But I say that it is not proved that we have not during this very Session organized the proper means to obtain information as to what takes place in Committee. The House will recollect that, in consequence of several Motions which were brought forward at various times with reference to a Report of the proceedings of the House, a Committee was appointed to inquire into the subject, and sat for a very considerable length of time. The House will also recollect that if the newspaper reports of the speeches of hon. Members in debate were defective, and not given at the desired length, it was found that what was said and done in Committee was still more defectively reported, and that, therefore, Mr. Speaker was authorized to enter into arrangements with Mr. Hansard for reporting the proceedings in Committee. Now, I have referred to the report furnished by Mr. Hansard of our proceedings in Committee upon occasions when I have been present, and am able to say that anything more accurate, or more full, cannot possibly be conceived. Those reports are perfectly full and accurate, and, therefore, if it be desired to know how often hon. Members speak, it can be ascertained from the authorized version of our proceedings published by Mr. Hansard; and if it be desired to know what an hon. Member has said, his words will be found accurately recorded in that publication. But if this question of how long and how often hon. Members speak is to be debated in this House, how far back are we to go? Is our inquiry to be confined to the proceedings on the Bill now before the House for the better regulation of the Army? or shall we go back many Sessions, and ask how often the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) spoke in Committee on the Divorce Bill, and inquire how often right hon. Gentlemen opposite spoke on the Ballot Bill? Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) whether there was, or was not, an organized system of obstruction to the progress of the latter measure, which was placed in his charge? Was there any less persistent opposition to its progress through the House in any one of its stages than there has been to the passage of other measures? Take, again, the question of Abolition of Purchase in the Army, and let hon. Members examine their consciences, and say whether they did not do everything in their power to obstruct the Business of the House—for that is the phrase now in use—upon that occasion? The difference between the proceedings of my hon. Friends and the proceedings of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite at that time is that they did not understand their business so well as my hon. Friends understand their business. But if the latter are to be charged with this vice of obstruction, they certainly have the right to refer to the record of the good which they have done. I repeat that, so far from approving of obstruction, I deeply disapprove of it in any form which has not the definite and distinct object of preventing the passage of a measure supposed to be bad, or of promoting the progress of measures supposed to be good. What would have been the condition of prisoners in this country if there had not been persistency on the part of my hon. Friends here in amending the Prisons Bill? I have not the smallest hesitation in saying that certainly one-half, and probably two-thirds, of the Amendments of my hon. Friends to that measure were carried in this House; and I can go further, and say that every one of those Amendments which, went to the protection of the liberty of the subject was carried by the persistency of my hon. Friends. Again, to whom is the country indebted for the abolition of the old Mutiny Bill, and the consequent introduction of a mitigated measure by the Government, if it be not entirely to that small minority of hon. Members whom you wish to crush? Further, the Army Discipline and Regulation Bill, which it is expected should pass through Parliament without inquiry, has been met by certain Amendments on the part of my hon. Friends characterized as obstructive. But what is the position of this matter? Why, my hon. Friends have carried very nearly one-half of their Amendments, and every one of those has been approved by universal consensus outside this House. Is it for these services rendered to the country that you are now to introduce, for the first time into the House of Commons, a penal record of what my hon. Friends have done? What, I ask, is the object of this record? Is it so to deal with those hon. Members that the fire may be taken out of their speeches, in order that the legislation of the country may proceed without criticism? Sir, I should, rejoice if this were Wednesday, instead of Friday; because, in that case, it is quite possible that some hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite would not be able to compress their observations within such a compass as would, by the Forms, allow us to come to any actual conclusion upon the matter before the House. But, as it is, I regret that we shall be called upon to divide upon this Resolution. For my part, I shall vote with the hon. Member for Heath (Mr. Parnell), for, whether I think his proceedings wise or not, I shall never, as long as I sit in this House, desert his principles. On the other hand, much as I should like to testify the deep and profound respect which I feel for the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair, I cannot join the Government in expressing its satisfaction that confidential information has been acquired by means of an organization of officers of this House as to the conduct of hon. Members entitled to address the House of Parliament.


Sir, I do not agree with the wish expressed by the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry), that this was Wednesday instead of Friday. I wish to go at once to a Division, but desire to express my regret at the manner in which this question was put upon the Paper of the House. I must say, Sir, that it would have been an act of common fairness and courtesy to you, had due Notice been given before the subject was brought forward. I must also express my regret at the manner in which it has been meet by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has not met it as he should have done by a direct negative, but in a manner quite fallacious and evasive, and one which is, besides, in direct conflict with the announcement made from the Chair. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has put in his Amendment that these reports are confidential in their character; whereas you, Sir, stated that you were ready to lay them upon the Table of the House, if hon. Members thought it necessary to move for them as a Return. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich have come forward and said that this is no new course of procedure, but that these Minutes have been taken for a period of 29 years. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that exact Notes were taken since the year 1850 of the times of rising and sitting down of hon. Members. I have in my hand the Book referred to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which I trust, for the honour of the House, he had not read when he made that statement. The first entry in which my name occurs relates to— The Peace Preservation Bill, Ireland; second reading; Mr. George Moore moved an Amendment, Mr. Callan seconded it. No hour is here given. This is the first error; and I now turn to the year 1873, when we had a Turnpike Trusts Bill before the House, and amongst those who divided on that occasion I find the Members of the present Government. That was a case of real obstruction. I find the first Teller was the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot). The Teller in the next obstructive Motion was the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Lowther); and, again, on the next obstructive Motion, the Teller was the noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade (Viscount Sandon). The Teller in the next Motion against this Turnpike Bill, which was in Committee over six hours, was the Whip of the Conservative Government; and then, as fourth Teller, came the hon. Gentleman who represents the India Office in this House (Mr. E. Stanhope). There is no entry whatever on that occasion of any speech of mine. I turn now to the year 1877, when the House sat for 26 hours on the South Africa Bill, and there is no entry of any speech made upon that Bill. How can we, then, but characterize the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, holding this Book in his hand, as inaccurate, and as a flimsy pretext, misleading to the House? It will be in the memory of the House that, last Monday, I questioned the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this subject, and in his answer he declined all knowledge of these proceedings, referring me to you, Sir. You gave no answer, and, in consequence, I believed then, and continued to do so until you disavowed it, that you were wholly unconnected with the matter in dispute, and that the Notes had been taken by some unauthorized person.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 29; Noes 421: Majority 392.—(Div. List No. 159.)


According to the Orders of the House, this Sitting is suspended until Nine o'clock, when this debate will be resumed.

And it being Seven of the clock, further Proceeding stood adjourned till this day, and the House suspended its Sitting.

The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.

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