HC Deb 26 June 1882 vol 271 cc418-20

said, he rose to move the adjournment of the House, ["Oh, oh!"]


said, no doubt the hon. Member was aware that a Motion for the adjournment of the House had already been made that evening, and, by leave of the House, withdrawn.


said, he believed he was strictly in Order. His real purpose was to protest against the tone of the Secretary to the Admiralty. [Cries of "Order!" and "Name!"]


said, that if, after the intimation he had thought it his duty to make, the hon. Member still thought it right to move the adjournment of the House, he could not under the present Rules prevent it.


said, he meant to conclude with that Motion, and he considered that he was justified in making it, in consequence of the remarks of the Secretary to the Admiralty. He felt bound to complain of the tone in which the Secretary to the Admiralty had answered his Question. He (Mr. Mac Iver) knew Alexandria. ["Divide!"] He knew the ships. So did everybody in Egypt whose interests could be affected. It was only in the House of Commons that absolute ignorance prevailed. As to asking for information, which it would not be right to give—["Agreed!"]—he should never be so unpatriotic as to do anything of the kind. He asked that in future, when Members of the Government thought it right in their discretion to refuse to answer a Question on the ground that it would be inconsistent with the public interest to answer it, they should say so in plain yet courteous terms; but he also wished to press on the Government that when they assumed to answer Questions their answers should be correct, and not calculated to mislead. ["Order!"] He, in common with many, had much to complain of as to the mode of answering Questions. ["Order!"] He would be the last, in a crisis like this, to wish to embarrass Members of the Government; but it was quite a different thing when they assumed to reply, and yet did not want to give answers that would be unpleasant to the House. He had personal grounds for complaint, as the hon. Gentleman had charged him with being unpatriotic. Who were they that were unpatriotic? ["Order!"] The Government had no real purpose to serve in sending ships to Alexandria—["Order!"]—other than a wish to make an appearance of doing something by way of gaining time, in the hope that something might occur in the interval—["Order!"]—whereby it might become unnecessary to act. ["Order!"] In consequence of the interruptions, he had detained the House longer than he had intended—["No, no!"]—and he begged now to move that the House do now adjourn.


, in seconding the Motion, said, that he was one of those who considered that the practice of putting mere Questions in the House was running into great abuse. The House placed itself unduly in the hands of Members who put Questions, because these Questions, though put in the presence of the House, were beyond the control of the House, and could not legitimately be debated, however important or insulting to the House these Questions might be. At the same time, as long as the House thought fit to permit the system of Questions which were beyond its control, he expressed a hope that, in replying to those Questions, Ministers would abstain from casting personal reflections on the Members who put them. Her Majesty's Ministers had an ample resource in refusing to answer impertinent Questions, or Questions put on inopportune occasions. It was competent for Ministers to decline to answer; but it was beyond their functions and disrespectful to the House to assign reasons, particularly if they were personal to the Member who had asked the Question. Her Majesty's Ministers could, and ought simply to decline to answer Questions which they considered irrelevant or inopportune.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Mac Iver.)


said, he desired to point out that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) was following the noble example of the Home Secretary, who, when asked a Question, always refused to answer when he could possibly do so.

Question put, and negatived.