HC Deb 12 July 1883 vol 281 cc1239-42

Mr. Speaker, I beg very respectfully to ask a Question of you. I wish to know, Sir, Whether it is true, as stated in some of the morning papers, that a letter has been sent to you by Mr. Bradlaugh concerning his future relations with this House; and, if that is the case, whether you shall consider it your duty to submit that letter to the House?


Before the hon. Baronet rose, I was about to inform the House that I had received from Mr. Bradlaugh, Member for the borough of Northampton, the following letter:—

20, Circus Road, St. John's Wood, London, July 10, 1883.

N. W.

The Right Hon. the Speaker,

House of Commons.

Sir,—On my return to London I find that an Order of the House has been served at my lodgings "that the Sergeant-at-Arms do exclude Mr. Bradlaugh until he shall engage not further to disturb the proceedings of the House." As I have since my election in March, 1882, taken no part whatever in the proceedings of the House, except that of tendering myself in orderly manner to take my seat according to Law, and as I desire to avoid, if possible, any conflict with the House, I shall be obliged, Sir, by your informing me whether you would construe my presenting myself, in exact accordance with the statute and Standing Orders, for the purpose of taking my seat, to be a disturbance of the proceedings of the House, within the meaning of the said Order.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your most obedient servant,


To that letter I sent the following reply yesterday:—

To Charles Bradlaugh, Esq., M.P.

House of Commons, July 11, 1883.

Sir,—In reply to your Letter of yesterday's date, I desire to acquaint you that, in view of the Resolution of the House of the 4th of May last and of the Order of the House made on the 9th instant, upon the reading of your Letter to Mr. Gladstone, there can be no doubt that your exclusion from the House will continue until you shall engage not to attempt to take the Oath, in disregard of the Resolution of the House now in force.

Your obedient servant,


I have this day received the following reply from Mr. Bradlaugh:—

To the Right Honourable the Speaker of the House of Commons.

20 Circus Road, St. John's Wood, London, July 12, 1883.


Sir,—I thank you for the reply you are good enough to send me; and, while desiring to be in every way personally respectful to you, I am obliged to state that I am advised that both Orders of the House are absolutely illegal, and, unless the House by vacating the seat relieves me from what now becomes the very painful duty cast upon me by Law, I shall, in obedience to the Law, endeavour to take my seat, as the lawfully elected Member for the borough of Northampton. If the House should expel me or discharge me from the service required from me in pursuance of my return, the matter would then be one for the electors, and appealing to them I should cease to trouble the House. At present I am denied entry to the House by no Law; but the Law is sought to be over-ridden by the mere Resolution of the House, backed by the physical force at its command. To this utterly unwarranted use of force it is my duty to notify you that I must, while I remain Member for Northampton, offer every resistance in my power.

I have the honor to be, Sir,

Your mo. obedt. Servt.


In addition to laying that Correspondence before the House, I have only to add that the Sergeant-at-Arms has been directed by me to enforce the Order of the House of the 9th July.


I presume that that letter is a matter of Privilege, the same as that sent to the Prime Minister last Monday, on which occasion we had a debate when the subject arose. I beg to ask you whether it is possible to found a Motion now on this question as one of Privilege?


remarked, that Mr. Bradlaugh had declared that the Order of the House was illegal, as not being in accordance with the decisions of the Courts of Law. He wished to remind the House that it was only due to the interference of Her Majesty's Government that the fine which would have proved the illegality of his conduct had not been exacted from Mr. Brad-laugh. The decision of the Lord Chancellor that it rested with the Government alone to take steps to enforce the fine had not been acted upon by Her Majesty's Prime Minister. ["Order!"]


When the hon. Gentleman rose I presumed that he was about to speak to the point of Order raised by the hon. Baronet. The hon. Baronet asks me whether this correspondence raises a question of Privilege on which a Motion can be founded? The hon. Baronet referred to what had taken place the other day when a Motion of Privilege was raised. I am bound to observe to the hon. Baronet that the cases are quite different. When Mr. Bradlaugh wrote to a Member of this House announcing his intention to disregard the Order of the House, I was of opinion that his letter involved a matter of Urgency, and that the subject, therefore, became a question of Privilege. Urgency, however, does not apply to the present case; and, therefore, I do not consider that any question of Privilege is raised on the present occasion.


Perhaps you will allow me to ask one Question on this matter. I think it is fully understood that Mr. Bradlaugh is permitted to go into any part of this building, with the exception of this House, and, as I understand it, he is not allowed to pass the outer door of this House? He asks me to ask this Question.


Exclusion from the House I consider to be exclusion from the outer door of this House—beyond the outer door of this House.