HC Deb 30 April 1883 vol 278 cc1511-7

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

MR. MACARTNEY and Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR rose to Order.


said, there was no Question before the Committee. He would put the Question that Clause 7 stand part of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Clause 7 stand part of the Bill."


said, he had thought that Clause 7 was passed last week.


rose to move that the Deputy Chairman should leave the Chair. He did so in order that the Deputy Speaker (Sir Arthur Otway) might re-occupy the Chair, and that a point of Order might be submitted to him. Some minutes ago, before the Deputy Speaker left the Chair, his decision was challenged by hon. Members sitting on the Benches below the Opposition Gangway, and they had a right to have a division taken.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Deputy Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Arthur O'Connor.)


said, he wished to raise another point of Order. The Deputy Speaker left the Chair without putting the Question whether he should leave the Chair or not.


said, the question was one of the progress of a Bill which had already been in Committee, and according to the practice of the House the Speaker left the Chair without putting the Question whether he should leave the Chair.


asked in what way he could contest the question? When the Deputy Speaker first put the Question "Aye" or "No," there were loud and repeated cries of "No!" The Bell was rung and Tellers were appointed, and the Question was put a second time. There were a good many cries of "No!"—loud and repeated cries of "No!"—from every side of the House; but the Deputy Speaker refused to take a division, and chose to assume to himself the authority of upsetting the Rules of the House.


The hon. Member will see that it is impossible for me to give any answer to the question he has put, or to advise him in regard to it.


said, a Motion had been made that the Chairman leave the Chair for the purpose of allowing the Deputy Speaker to come back again when the Question might be put to him.


said, that it was quite evident if the Chairman did leave the Chair, it would not enable the hon. Gentleman to raise the question as to an Order of the day from which they had already passed. [Cries of "No!"] They had passed from the Order relating to the Affirmation Bill and they were now on the second Order. If the hon. and learned Gentleman in the Chair left the Chair, that would not enable the Deputy Speaker, without a clear infraction of the elementary Rules of Business, to go back to the discussion of an Order of the Day which was anterior to the Order they had now reached. He apprehended that the proper time to complain of anything that might have taken place with respect to the first Order of the Day, would be after the rest of the Orders of the Day had been gone through, or else before the recommencement of Business at the next Sitting.


said, he thought they could not proceed with the present Business without the infraction of one of the most elementary Rules of the House, and it was for that reason that he supported the Motion, "That the Chairman do leave the Chair," the object of which was that a question might be submitted to Mr. Deputy Speaker, on the ground that he had passed over his clear duty in putting the Question from the Chair. When Mr. Deputy Speaker was reminded of the fact he felt sure that the present difficulty would be cleared up, and that the House would not then committ the grave illegality recommended by the Prime Minister of proceeding with one Order of the Day before a previous Order of the Day had been disposed of. The circumstances were these. A division had been called for, and Tellers had been appointed. The decision of Mr. Deputy Speaker that the Ayes had it was again and again challenged, notwithstanding which he left the Chair without the division being taken. He felt sure that on his attention being drawn to the circumstances, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with the advice, if necessary, of the Clerk at the Table, would decide that they were now proceeding in error.


said, he felt sure there had been a misapprehension on the part of Mr. Deputy Speaker, and he thought the error they had fallen into in consequence ought to be corrected before they proceeded further with the Business of the day. He could personally bear testimony to the fact that the decision of Mr. Deputy Speaker was challenged by several Members on those Benches. So far from being in favour of the Motion for adjournment, he was at the time thinking of addressing the House on the question before it. He repeated his belief that Mr. Deputy Speaker had acted under a misapprehension; but there could be no doubt as to the facts that had occurred, which were as follows:—When the division was called, the Clerk at the Table came forward and asked who were the Tellers; having received an answer he retired to the Table, whereupon Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Question from the Chair, and his decision that the Ayes had it was met with loud shouts of "No!" In face, however, of that challenge, he proceeded as if his decision was not challenged at all, and left the Chair. He felt sure that on the facts being laid before Mr. Deputy Speaker, he would at once correct the irregularity which had occurred; and for that reason he should support the Motion of the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor).


said, although it was most undesirable that time should be wasted, he ventured to think it would be but reasonable that some step should be taken with regard to what had occurred, which, as he understood it, was this. That, as frequently happened, the "Ayes" having been given and the "Noes" called for, there were loud cries of "Agreed!" owing to which the cry of the "Noes" did not reach the Chair. This last, however, was a point on which Mr. Deputy Speaker alone could decide, and he felt sure that everyone would be satisfied with the decision of the hon. Gentleman, who had always shown the greatest possible impartiality in the discharge of his Office. He thought there could be no objection to the proposal of the hon. Member for Queen's County being assented to in order that a question of Order might be put to Mr. Deputy Speaker, whose reply he felt confident would bring this incident to a satisfactory termination.


said, before the question was put in order to carry out the object stated by the right hon. Baronet, he would venture to suggest that the more proper Motion would be to report Progress, inasmuch as the Motion "That the Chairman do leave the Chair" would raise a difficult question with regard to further progress being made that evening with the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill.


said, he differed from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had known an instance of a question of Order having arisen in Committee which could not be settled without the assistance of the Speaker; and the Chairman having in consequence been ordered to leave the Chair, so that the question might be settled, it had not put an end to the Business in Committee.


said, this was not a question of Order. He felt sure the only correct Motion would be that Progress be reported.


said, he contended that by adopting the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, they would be admitting that the Deputy Chairman of the Committee had properly taken the Chair.


said, he thought the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman should not be adopted. If a Motion were made to report Progress, unless he was misinformed, it would be impossible to proceed further with the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill. It was for that reason he moved that the Deputy Chairman leave the Chair, with the distinct object of submitting to the Deputy Speaker the point of Order which had been raised. He believed if that course were followed, it would be competent to them to proceed with the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 77; Noes 194: Majority 117.—(Div. List, No. 75.)

Original Question again proposed.


rose to Order. He wished to ask the Deputy Chairman whether he had been properly placed in the Chair? He felt sure no one was more anxious than the Prime Minister to maintain the regularity of their proceedings, and he had distinctly understood that right hon. Gentleman to say that on no occasion was a casual Chairman to be placed in the Chair without the consent of the House. If he understood the matter rightly, the hon. and learned Member (Sir Farrer Herschell) had taken the Chair without having been placed there by any authority whatever. He, therefore, appealed to the hon. and learned Gentleman, as being cognizant of the Rules of the House, to say whether he ought not to have been voted into the Chair; and if that were so, whether a division, if necessary, ought not to be taken upon that question? For his own part, he regarded the hon. and learned Gentleman as not having been properly placed in the Chair, and he was anxious to know what was the course that ought to be taken under the circumstances.


said, he would suggest what appeared to him to be the best course of proceeding. He might, however, first observe that his promised Resolution for altering the position of a casual Chairman had not yet been passed. The course which he submitted to the House was this. A certain number of hon. Members were under the impression that they had gone through the regular course of proceeding necessary to bring about a division; they had been, however, by some error of proceeding, or otherwise, prevented from obtaining that division. Speaking on his own conviction only and without pledging himself, he recognized that a difficulty had arisen and that they should find a remedy for it if possible. This they ought to do without violating any Rule of the House. He believed it to be a fundamental Rule that they could not go back and interpolate anything between one Order of the Day and that which preceded it; that was to say, if they arrived at a later Order of the Day by an irregularity, that irregularity must he questioned on its own ground, and not by setting aside the Order of the Day at which they had arrived. How then could satisfaction be given to hon. Gentlemen who desired to know how it was they had been prevented from obtaining a division on the previous Motion? It was too late then for his right hon. Friend to proceed with the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill, and that circumstance he believed would make the desired opening. The most regular and usual course would be that the matter should be raised upon Notice to-morrow. But he did not believe there would be any violation of Order in their prosecuting another course—namely, that when, after reporting Progress in the regular way, the present Order had been disposed of, they should go through the other Orders of the Day—the Government not wishing to raise any debate upon them that evening—simply for the purpose of postponing them. When those Orders had been gone through, it would be perfectly competent to any hon. Member, before the adjournment of the House, to raise the question with reference to Mr. Deputy Speaker having left the Chair under the circumstances. As he believed this course would meet the views of the House, he would move that Progress be reported.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Deputy Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


, said, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister appeared to miss the point of contention. The right hon. Gentleman assumed that they were really sitting in Committee; but he and his hon. Friends altogether demurred to that assumption. The Deputy Chairman had been placed in the Chair for the purpose of going into Committee by a mistake on the part of the Deputy Speaker, who, on his decision being challenged, had not gone through the regular process of dividing the House; and, therefore, according to the proper course of Parliamentary procedure, they had not advanced to the second Order of the Day at all. That being so, he did not see how the error could, be corrected until the Deputy Speaker resumed his seat.

Question put, and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.


I think it desirable to offer an explanation to the House with regard to the misapprehension which I regret has occurred. I put the Question of the adjournment of the debate, I believe, three times; and although the first decisions were challenged, there were afterwards loud cries of "Agreed!" and accordingly I put the Question a fourth time, and as I heard no response to the decision that the Ayes had it, I considered the Opposition to the Motion was withdrawn. If through a mistake of mine any inconvenience has arisen, I beg to assure the House that I greatly regret it.