§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
Sir, I desire, with the leave of the House, to address a Question to the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) upon a matter which affects the Privileges of the House. I wish to ask him whether he admits or will state that he is the author of a letter which appears in The Star—an evening newspaper published in the Metropolis—this afternoon, headed "Mr. Conybeare and the Speaker?"
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
If the noble Lord will be kind enough to read the letter I shall be able to answer the Question.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I will read the letter if the hon. Member likes to trifle with a matter of this grave importance. It is necessary for the House to know whether the hon. Gentleman is the author of the letter before the House can formally deal with the matter as a matter of Breach of Privilege. I may say generally that the letter is headed "Mr. Conybeare and the Speaker." It is addressed to the editor of The Star, and it alludes to the "scandalous proceedings" which marked the second reading of the Bann Drainage Bill; it contains expressions of opinion by the hon. Member on the conduct of Mr. Speaker, and gives reasons for the hon. Member having committed himself to that opinion and to the results which followed, and the letter purports to be signed by the hon. Member. I have now to ask the hon. Member in his place whether the letter was written by him? [Cries of "Read!"]
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I have only to reply that until the noble Lord reads 49 the letter in question I can make no answer to his Question.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Mr. Speaker, in consequence of the conduct of the hon. Member, I must ask you a Question upon a point of Order—namely, whether it would be in Order for me to move that the Clerk at the Table should read the letter, or whether it would be more in Order that I should read it myself?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the noble Lord wishes to bring the subject before the House as a matter of Breach of Privilege, it will be right that the letter should be read by the Clerk at the Table.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Then, Sir, I desire to bring before the House, as a matter of Breach of Privilege, a letter which purports to have been written by the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall, dated the 19th of July, and addressed to the editor of The Star, and I ask that the Clerk at the Table should read the letter.
§ The said paper was delivered in, and the letter complained of read as followeth:—
§ Mr. CONYBEARE and The SPEAKER.
§ To the Editor of The Star.
§ I hope that every true Liberal will realize the scandalous proceedings which to-night marked the Second Reading of the Bann Drainage Bill. This is one of three Bills of a purely local character, proposing to grant for the benefit of a number of Irish landlords a sum of nearly half a million sterling out of the pockets of the already over-taxed poor of this Country. Upon the Second Reading I moved a Resolution noting the above facts, and declaring that such works should be undertaken by an Irish Home Rule Parliament, and not at the expense of English, Scotch, and Welsh taxpayers, who are already overburdened with the cost of coercing Ireland. I had spoken but a quarter of an hour when one of the Tory rank and file moved the Closure, and the Speaker, who is supposed to exercise his discretion impartially for the protection of the minority, at once put the Question. Such a proceeding I stated later on was nothing short of a public scandal, and although, in obedience to the rules of Parliamentary decorum (which require that a Member should not by passing a reflection on the Speaker reflect upon the whole House), I withdrew the expression when called upon to do so, I have not the 50 slightest doubt but that every Radical outside the House (as are most of those within it) is of the same opinion. For here is a Bill deliberately handing over vast sums of English money as a gift to Irish landlords, and we, English, Scotch, and Welsh representatives, are not to be allowed even half an hour's Debate as to whether it is a justifiable proceeding or not. The Government says you shall not debate the matter, and Mr. Speaker backs them up. I hope every elector in the Speaker's constituency will be careful to mark his conduct.
§ As I may be blamed for withdrawing my description of this proceeding, I may add that I did it deliberately for the following reasons:—
§ 1. The withdrawal of an unparliamentary expression does not do away with the effect produced by using it. Nor does it imply any alteration of a deliberately expressed opinion. It remains on record.
§ "He gloss' homomoch', he dè phrèn anomotós."
§ 2. Suspension from the House would do no good to anyone except by pleasing the Tory Government, who would be delighted to be rid of a very uncomfortable thorn in their side.
§ 3. My desire and my duty being to prevent the passing of these objectionable Bills, I should simply have forwarded the plans of the Government, and defaulted on my duty to my constituency, had I caused myself to be suspended for a week.
§ The only effect of the blundering stupidity of the Government to-night has been to arouse (as I hope) the vigilant opposition of every true Radical and Liberal against these mischievous and objectionable Bills. I intend to oppose them to the utmost at every point, and I rely on every true representative of the British taxpayer to do the same.
§ Yours, &c.,
§ C. A. V. CONYBEARE.
§ House of Commons, 19 July.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Mr. Speaker, the letter having been read, I have now to ask the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall whether he wrote that letter?
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Mr. Speaker, it now becomes my duty—and I do not think after what the House has heard that anyone will be surprised at my action—to submit a Motion to the House. It is certainly not a pleasant matter—it is certainly one in which I take no delight whatever. Hon. Members opposite know well that I have never willingly taken part in personal 51 matters. But the matter which has been placed before the House by the reading of the letter by the Clerk at the Table seems to me to transcend mere personalities, and to affect the honour and the dignity of the proceedings of the House of Commons itself. I am sure we had all hoped, and had every reason to hope, that the many painful scenes which in recent years have agitated this House had altogether been relegated to the past, and that a new era of Parliamentary manners and Parliamentary life had begun among us. Nothing, Sir, was more calculated to justify such an opinion by Members of this House than the conduct of hon. Members opposite from Ireland, who I do not hesitate to say in the most public manner have almost invariably during this Session shown a most remarkable restraint on temper and on expression of speech, and who have seemed to set before themselves the one object of abiding by the Rules of the House of Commons and of contributing to the dignity and the reputation of this Assembly. Our hopes, as far as hon. Members from Ireland were concerned, have been fully justified. But I grieve to say that it has been left to a Member for an English constituency—an hon. Member who calls himself a Radical, and who claims par excellence to represent the people—to do his very best by his course of conduct night after night, day after day, culminating——[Cries of "Order!"]
§ THE LORD MAYOR OF DUBLIN (Mr. SEXTON) (Belfast, W.)
I rise to Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether, on a question of Privilege—an urgent matter relating to a specific Breach of Privilege—the noble Lord is entitled to make such allegations against the hon. Member for Camborne as that the hon. Member has misconducted himself night after night, day after day?
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I was going to say that the course of conduct of the hon. Member to which I allude culminated in the letter which has been read, and which I am now going to comment upon, with the leave of the House. I am sure I regret—and I am sure the whole House, without distinction of Party, rogrets—that it has been an English Member who has laid himself 52 open to the accusation of doing his best, either by his letter or by his previous conduct, to bring the English House of Commons into thorough disrepute and discredit with the people. It is not necessary for me, in the presence of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and especially in that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), whose experience of Parliament far surpasses that of any other Member—to insist upon the necessity of guarding the honour and the reputation of the House of Commons, which is inseparably connected with the honour and the reputation of the Speaker. Whatever is calculated to bring the Speaker of the House of Commons into public discredit and disrepute tends to reflect discredit and disrepute on the House of Commons; and more than that, if the House of Commons does not protect and support its Speaker when he is made the object of malevolent, venomous, and libellous attacks, there is no other power in the country that can exercise that duty. It is for these reasons, Sir, that I call upon the House of Commons to take action with regard to this letter. I would more especially draw the attention of the House to certain passages of grave significance in the letter read by the Clerk at the Table. I omit the first portion of the letter, which appears to me to express a perfectly legitimate political opinion, although it is one which I do not share myself, and which appears to be stated in rather exaggerated language. But I come to the sentence which begins as follows:—I had spoken but a quarter of an hour when one of the Tory rank and file moved the closure, and the Speaker"—I draw the attention of the House to this expression—who is supposed to exercise his discretion impartially for the protection of the minority, at once put the Question.I draw the attention of the House to the insinuation conveyed in the word "supposed," which insinuation, I am sure, the hon. Member for the Camborne Division does not deny. The letter proceeds—Such a proceeding I stated later on was nothing short of a public scandal.Now, Sir, has it really come to this—that the Speaker of the House of Commons, exercising the highest duties that 53 can devolve upon any Member of the House—most responsible and most anxious duties—exercising them with the general confidence and approval of both sides of the House, is to be told, not by a mere individual member of the public, but by a Member of the House itself, that his conduct with regard to a particular matter amounted to nothing less than a public scandal? [Mr. BIGGAR: Hear, hear!] I appeal confidently to hon. Members on that point. They will feel that such an expression, even if it stood by itself, would deserve the reproof of the House; but I go on to read another passage—I withdrew the expression"—[Mr. CONYBEARE: Hear, hear!]—says the hon. Member in his letter—when called upon to do so. I have not the slightest doubt but that every Radical outside the House (as are most of those within it) is of the same opinion.I am perfectly confident that the hon. Member, in making that statement, has altogether mis-stated and misrepresented the Radical Party; and I am perfectly certain that there are a great many Members of the Radical Party who would with one voice repudiate the accusation of the hon. Member that the conduct of the Speaker has been a public scandal. But I pass on—The Government says you shall not debate the matter, and Mr. Speaker backs them up.Again, Sir, another insinuation of a most malevolent and malignant character, worse even than the insinuation to which I drew the attention of the House a few moments ago; because, after all, looking at the matter from the common-sense point of view, what is the charge against the Speaker? The charge is that the Speaker is in collusion with the Government in exercising the high duties of the Chair in a partial and partizan spirit. Then the hon. Member writes what seems to be the most deliberate and outrageous insult which anyone could offer to the House of Commons—I hope every elector in the Speaker's constituency will be careful to mark his conduct.[Mr. BIGGAR: Hear, hear!] I note the spirit of that remark, and the House will appreciate that spirit. In a different spirit, and in a converse sense, I express the same hope. I hope not only every 54 elector in the City of Warwick, but every elector in the United Kingdom, will mark Mr. Speaker's conduct. I have no doubt that in this opinion I shall be supported by an overwhelming majority in this House. Mr. Speaker's conduct in the Chair deserves the approval of the people of England. I pass on from that matter. I have brought before the House two grave insinuations—what I characterize as a deliberate insult to the Speaker. I come now to the most grave paragraph of all in the letter; and here, again, I have more confidence than I had before of carrying the House with me—As I may be blamed"—says the hon. Member—for withdrawing my description of this proceeding, I may add that I did it deliberately for the following reasons:—(1) The withdrawal of an unparliamentary expression does not do away with the effect produced by using it. Nor does it imply alteration of a deliberately expressed opinion. It remains on record.I appeal to the House, and to the hon. Member himself. Could anything be conceived more utterly at variance with every sentiment of gentlemanly honour and conduct, than that an hon. Member of this House, occupying the high position of Member of Parliament, should, whenever he uses un-Parliamentary language, in what may be the heat of the moment, when called upon by the Chair to withdraw the expression as a man of honour, as a man of truth, withdraw such an expression, and write to the newspapers next day to say that his withdrawal was a sham and empty formality, that his expression of opinion remains unaltered as if he had not as a man of truth and honour withdrawn it? Now I ask the House is that their idea, is it the idea of any section of this House, of the standard of Parliamentary honour? Are Parliamentary honour and Parliamentary truth to be placed lower than truth and honour outside these walls? To what a revolting and odious depth we have descended, if the House implies by taking no notice of the conduct of the hon. Member, that the withdrawal of libellous and un-Parliamentary terms is a mere formality uttered by an hon. Member to avoid consequences which may be inconvenient to himself, but which may be fully repudiated in another place where apparently 55 there is great safety just as if the withdrawal had not taken place. I am sure there is no Member of this House who will defend—at any rate in calm moments—such a revolting and such an atrocious statement as the passage I have just read. The hon. Member goes on to say in the letter—Suspension from the House would do no good to anyone except by pleasing the Tory Government, who would be delighted to be rid of a very uncomfortable thorn in their side.The hon. Member appears to me to have strange ideas about truth and honour; but he has far stranger ideas——
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I rise to Order. I wish to ask whether an hon. Member can say of another hon. Member of this House that he has strange ideas of truth and honour?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I do not see any cause to interfere. The noble Lord is bringing forward a distinct charge against the hon. Member for the Camborne Division.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
But, without doubt, the hon. Member has far stranger ideas as regards his own Parliamentary dignity. If the Tory Government possessed dictatorial powers they could get rid of any uncomfortable thorns they might choose—there, there, and there (pointing alternately to the Front Opposition Bench, the Benches behind, and the Benches below the Gangway). The last person, however, who would dawn on the mind of the most benighted Tory Minister as being an uncomfortable thorn would be the hon. Member for the Camborne Division himself. But, passing away from that most egotistical and vain expression, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the hon. Member avows that he withdrew—with the approval of the House—what I characterize as a libellous and outrageous charge on the Speaker, not because he did not know that it was so libellous and outrageous, but because it might for the moment involve the suspension of himself from the Sitting of the House. Now, Sir, it is quite unnecessary to read more of the substance and gist of the letter. I doubt whether in all Parliamentary history a more painful, a more grievous departure from Parliamentary usage has ever been brought to the notice of the House and the public. If the House of Commons is to pass by this charge, the honour 56 and the reputation of the Chair will become a thing of the past; and the dignity, the decency, and the honour of debate will be a vain expression. Not only can the House of Commons not pass this charge by, but I respectfully submit that it is the duty of the House to take the severest notice of it. That being so, I submit to the House a Resolution upon the subject.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the Letter in the 'Star' newspaper of this evening's date, entitled 'Mr. Conybeare and the Speaker,' and signed by the honourable Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall, is a gross libel upon the Speaker of the House of Commons, and deserves the severest condemnation of the House."—(Lord Randolph Churchill.)
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
I think that the House is under very great obligation to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The usual course under the circumstances is for the hon. Member who is charged to make any statement he wishes to make, and then to withdraw. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall wishes to say anything he is entitled to speak now. Has the hon. Member anything to say?
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I have only one thing to say, and that is that, in my opinion, with regard to what happened last night with reference to the noble Lord's own Bill, it would have been more decent if he had left this matter to be brought up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin).
§ MR. BIGGAR
I think that the House is under a very great obligation to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, first of all, for the very neat sermon he has preached to us on the question of truthfulness and good manners. I also think that we are under a great obligation to the noble Lord for drawing the attention of the House and of the country to the proceedings which occurred last night. I beg to say that, so far as my opinion goes, the vote which will be taken on this question will not 57 really decide it, but that the country outside must give a final judgment on a question of this sort. I remember very well that a discussion took place with regard to the New Rules of Procedure, when it was constantly impressed upon the House that the discretion ought not to be left to Mr. Speaker as to whether or not he should put the Question that the closure should come into operation. But the Government of the day insisted that the discretion should be left to Mr. Speaker, and that Mr. Speaker should decide whether a question had been fully debated or not. The noble Lord, in the Resolution which he has placed before us, has stated that the Speaker has been libelled. Now I think, and I state candidly, that in my opinion the Speaker has not been libelled. I do not mean to use any strong language, but I contend that the question on which the closure was carried on the previous night had not been properly debated; and I say more, that if Mr. Speaker had fully carried out the terms of the Resolution which gave him power to put the closure he would have refused to put the Motion to the House. We have not, perhaps, technically speaking, so high an authority as the Speaker; but the Chairman of Committees, who is looked upon as an exceedingly able and efficient Chairman of Ways and Means, has repeatedly refused to put Motions in favour of the closure when, in his opinion, the question has not been properly debated. I think that one or two things must be done in the future—either the Speaker must use his judgment as to whether or not a question has been properly debated before putting the closure, or else the Rule now in existence must be changed.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I think, perhaps, under the circumstances, the House will expect me to say a few words. I am sure I wish to speak without any heat, and I do not wish to import any kind of passion into the controversy which has arisen. The circumstances are these. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Camborne Division rose, I think, at about 20 or 25 minutes to 12 o'clock—[An hon. MEMBER: Twenty minutes.]—to move an Amendment on the Bann Drainage Bill. About five minutes to 12 o'clock an hon. Gentleman representing an Irish constituency on the Opposition side of the House (Mr. 58 Macartney) rose to move the closure. [Mr. BIGGAR: No, no! and cries of "Order!"] I refused to put that Motion, because I was aware that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Camborne Division had not moved his Amendment, and that there remained five or six minutes at least before 12 o'clock in which he might move it. Twelve o'clock came, and, in accordance with the Rules of the House for the ordinary conduct of Business, the closure was moved. I accepted that Motion. I am not bound to state the reason, but I think it due to the House to do so. The reason I accepted it was that I understood that no Irish Member wished to speak nor had any objection to the Bill, but that if they had any objection full opportunity would be given on a subsequent stage to raise any objection they might like to the first Bill—namely, the Bann Drainage Bill. Subsequently, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Camborne Division, alluding to what had taken place, and by implication, I presume, referring to my conduct, said that a gross public scandal had been the result. I said, considering the closure was the act of the House, and the House had passed the closure by a very large majority indeed, that that was a very improper expression for the hon. Gentleman to use, and that I must ask him to withdraw it. The hon. Member did not seem disposed to withdraw; and under the impression, which was confirmed by many hon. Members subsequently, that he did not withdraw, I named him to the House. Immediately after I did so, the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), among others, rose and said that the hon. Member for the Camborne Division intended to withdraw. I said, if that were so, I should most certainly take the word of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division without the slightest hesitation, and if he withdrew the expression the incident, so far as I was concerned, was at an end. Since I came down to the House the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington has shown me a letter and an article written in a paper which I have never seen, and about which I know nothing, and to the comments in which I am absolutely indifferent. I have nothing more to say. I thought I would give to the House a plain statement of exactly what passed, and I think I have 59 done so without the least colouring. Of course, as to the matter now before the House, I have nothing to say. I leave it to the judgment of the whole House.
§ MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I wish to be permitted to confirm the statement you have made, sir, that the closure was moved on this side of the House. I got up at two minutes to 12 o'clock, and moved that the Question be now put; but you, Sir, refused to put it on that occasion; and, consequently, I waited until another hon. Member, whom I was not aware was about to make the Motion, moved it at the end of the proceedings. It has been stated that the Motion was made at the instigation of the Government; I am able to say that no intimation was conveyed to me by any Member of the Government, or by anybody sitting on that side of the House. All I did was to intimate to an hon. Gentleman who sits on this side of the House that I intended to move the closure. I do not suppose I should be allowed to go into the merits of the Bill then under discussion; but when I know that the poor suffering tenant farmers in my constituency—[Cries of "Order!"]—when I saw the Bill being talked out of the House, as it was last night, and remembered the suffering tenants, it was enough to make their Representatives boil over with rage.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
I only wish to say a word in reference to the statement which has been made that no Irish Member wished to discuss the Bill. I was sitting next to the hon. Member for the Camborne Division last night, when the hon. Member rose to object to the second reading of the Bill. I myself intended to make a speech upon the Bill, but the reason why the hon. Member rose was because upon a previous stage of the Bill he had given Notice that he had some particular objections which he intended to urge on the second reading. That is, I believe, the reason why the hon. Member rose before any Irish Member. I can assure the House that it was my intention—and I believe it was also that of other Irish Members—to speak on the Bill. It had only been debated for 20 minutes, as you, Sir, have pointed out, when the closure was moved by an hon. Member representing 60 a constituency in the North of Ireland, and before any Irish Member had an opportunity of expressing his opinion on the Bill, one way or the other. After a debate which lasted only 20 minutes, and before a single Irish Member had had an opportunity of speaking, the closure was put from the Chair and carried. That is all I have to say upon the matter. I only rose for the purpose of saying that if the closure had not been accepted Irish Members would have spoken, and a great many of them were disappointed because no opportunity was afforded to them when they found that the debate was so summarily stopped.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I venture respectfully to put it to the House that we are not now entering upon the consideration of the circumstances under which the closure was put last night, nor upon the consideration of the circumstances under which you, Sir, exercise the discretion vested in the Chair. If any hon. Member of the House is of opinion that you are failing in the discretion which you ought to exercise, there is a method by which the House can express an opinion upon the exercise of that discretion. What we are now called upon to do is to decide whether or not the hon. Member for the Camborne Division has grossly libelled you, Sir, in the Chair, and has offered in your person an insult to the House. I venture humbly to say that no matter what may be the opposition in this House, or what may be the Party feeling, or whatever the differences that may exist between us, we must preserve with the greatest possible jealousy and care the character, position, and independence of the Speaker. I have no desire to press hardly upon any Member of this House. I should desire to avoid everything like exaggeration or excess of language in a matter of this kind; but I venture humbly to represent to the House that no graver offence can be committed against the House than to say that the Speaker of this House has been guilty of an act which amounts to a public scandal—that he has backed up by his influence, and by the exercise of his discretion, the action of the Government, or of any Party in this House, and that when an hon. Member has deliberately withdrawn an un-Par- 61 liamentary expression that it does not do away with the effect produced by it; nor does it imply an alteration of a de liberately expressed opinion; it remains on record. I certainly think there are very few Members indeed who would not be prepared to repudiate in the very strongest terms such expressions as those. I submit it would be impossible for any deliberative Assembly to conduct its proceedings with any claim to the respect of those whom they represent if a Member is permitted to with draw an expression at one moment, and then to put on record that that with drawal was simply intended to avoid the immediate results of using the expression in the first instance, and that it remains on record as against the high officer of the House, whom he had deliberately insulted, and whose authority he had despised. We must assert the independence of the Speaker in the Chair; we must maintain the ordinary decencies and Rules for the conduct of debate in this House; and it is on that account that I support the Resolution which has been moved by my noble Friend the Member for South Paddington.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I may respect fully remind the House that there is no occasion upon which we are more likely to be ourselves judged, and even judged severely, by the public out-of-doors than when we are under the impression that we are exclusively engaged in judging other people—that is to say, in judging one of our own Members. We have before us a Resolution judging one of our own number; and, as the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington has referred to me as having seen much of this House, I shall endeavour to state my own views in strict accordance with the Rule that you, Sir, have wisely laid down in your observations from the Chair. I shall endeavour to avoid all epithets of colour, for on an occasion of this kind declamation, rhetoric, and invective are wholly out of place, have no connection with the subject-matter, and can only tend to obscure and blind the judgment of the House in the per formance of a difficult duty. Sir, I am under the impression that the course of proceeding now taken is not quite the most usual or the most convenient. I may be wrong; but I mean to say that 62 the question has come upon me, as it has come upon us all, by surprise, and it has been impossible to make those references in a moment which are absolutely necessary in order to justify confidence in assertions as to the proceedings and usages of this House. My impression is that the usual and, I think, the most convenient course in questions of this kind, which in their first aspects are Breaches of Privilege, has been to move a Motion to the effect that such and such words or proceedings are a Breach of the Privileges of this House. I think there is a great convenience in that method of proceeding. It presents the case in the way least connected with any consequences to follow, or with any kind of heat. I think our practice has been, when we have thought that a Breach of Privilege has been committed, to hear the Member upon the subject, and then, having before us his entire conduct, before any question of a penal character has been introduced, and having heard what the Member has to say, to proceed to deal further with the subject, and to award whatever punishment or reproof the House chooses, or to take whatever course, on the whole, it may think best. I venture, provisionally and respectfully, to make this suggestion as to the course that I think is most convenient, and which I believe has been the usual course in proceedings of this painful character. I now come to the substance of the question, which is entirely new to me—entirely new as regards the proceedings of last night, and new as regards the letter in The Star of to-day. But the letter which has appeared in The Star raises, in my opinion, a simple issue. I perceived with satisfaction that the right hon. Gentleman who has just stated that it is his intention to support this Motion has done so without temper, and in terms of an entirely judicial character; and I should strongly deprecate any deviation from a judicial tone on an occasion of this kind. I find, Sir, that as to the substance of the letter, it complains of a proceeding of the Speaker in administering that Rule of Closure upon which we had so much debate last year, and about which my Friends and I made so many disagreeable predictions. This is a complaint in regard to the action of the Speaker. I take it to be quite indis- 63 putable that when an hon. Member is of opinion that the Speaker has erred in judgment, either in administering the Rule of Closure, or in any other part of his duty, it is in the power of the hon. Member, subject to very grave considerations of high Parliamentary prudence and expediency, if he thinks that the magnitude of the subject demands it, to call in question the conduct of the Speaker in a regular and formal manner. That I believe to be the absolutely established principle. The Speaker in the Chair wields enormous powers, but the whole of those powers are provisional, inasmuch as there is not one of them that cannot, either in a general or particular case, be brought under the review and judgment of the House. I agree that on an occasion of this kind the question is not where an hon. Member sits. The question now before the House is not whether the hon. Member is a Member of the Party termed the Radical Party, or the Party termed the Nationalist Party, or any other Party; all these matters have nothing to do with it, and I endeavour to look at it without reference to them. I shall endeavour to look at it, as I am positively bound to do, in cold blood, just as the question is presented to me. I admit that there is a Parliamentary and legitimate method, although a grave one—but I hope the time may never come when it shall be necessary to resort to it—by which the conduct of the Speaker may be called in question. We have, in the first place, every opportunity of appealing to you, Sir; and we have, in the second place, should the necessity arise, the power of appealing from you. While preferring those methods of procedure, and while we are bound, I think, by the highest obligations to confine ourselves to those sufficient and proper means of Parliamentary action, believing that the language of this Resolution might have been more chastened, although the form that has been given to it may not be the most expedient and convenient, and although differences of opinion may prevail as to the step to be immediately taken, yet I cannot, and I do not, deny that expressions of this kind used with respect to the Speaker in a public journal, or in any other way, are distinctly Breaches of the Privileges of this House, aimed at the dignity and the security of its proceedings; and although I am deeply 64 grieved that a question affecting the dignity of the House should have arisen on an occasion when so many matters of the greatest public importance are before it, and when, as has been said by an hon. Member, it may be that a vote of this House will not bring an early close and settlement of the question—although I think there were many special considerations that might have suggested, and wisely suggested, a greater moderation in the proceedings of the House, yet, having this Motion before me, I cannot deny—on the contrary, I am bound to admit, and even assert—that these methods of proceeding with a view to censure the Chair are wholly incompatible with the Law and Practice of Parliament, and with the public interest; and, therefore, however reluctantly, I am compelled in the main to give my assent to a proposal the necessity for which I lament, and I must say some of the circumstances and incidents of which I very deeply deplore. I trust I may be allowd to finish as I began. I must say a word with reference to what fell from my hon. Friend behind me, that the proposal of the closure was made from this side of the House. I wonder from what side he means. I am obliged to make a slight protest against the assumption involved in the hon. Gentleman's speech that the sentiments of Gentlemen on this side of the House are generally to be inferred from a suggestion to which he had given the great weight of his personal authority. Passing from that subject, while I should be extremely glad if even now the form of procedure were altered, and we were called upon, in the first instance, to assert the Breach of Privilege, and then, by an ulterior step, to consider what measures we ought to take upon it—while I think it right very distinctly to assert that preference, yet I know that in a state of feeling such as prevails on these occasions to make substantive proposals for the purpose of giving effect to that view, and especially to make them from the particular position in the House in which I stand, might be, in all the circumstances, injurious. I, therefore, abandon the idea of moving against the Motion that has been now made. But I would respectfully suggest that a great improvement in the whole proceeding might be made if that method of action were adopted. If it be not, I cannot deny the main substance of the allegation that is 65 made, and I shall reluctantly assent to the assertion which the House is called upon to make.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I should certainly regard it as a double proposition—first, that the letter which is before the House did constitute a libel; and, secondly, what the punishment shall be.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I really think that has been the usual practice, and it might be convenient, at any rate, to include in the proposition an assertion of the Privileges of the House.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
With respect to the point of Order raised by the right hon. Gentleman, would it not be a view of the subject which might be legitimately held that Breaches of Privilege and Motions as to Breaches of Privileges apply more usually to action taken by some person or persons not connected with the House than to the conduct of its own Members? And that is why I deliberately refrained from putting it down as a matter of Breach of Privilege, seeing that the libel uttered by the hon. Member for the Camborne Division, if it be a libel, was uttered by a Member of the House of Commons, and therefore differs from Breaches of Privilege properly so called.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
On the point of Order I should like, Sir, to ask whether in the Journals of the House there are not repeated records of matters by Members declared to be Breaches of Privilege, and whether the punitive action on these has been by separate Resolutions?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Holding the view just stated by the hon. Gentleman, I propose to regard this proposition as two distinct propositions, and to put to the House, first, that the letter in The Star is a gross libel upon the Speaker of the House of Commons, and deserves the severest condemnation of the House.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I think that many of us would assent to that proposition if, instead of the words "gross libel," the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) would substitute "Breach of Privilege" [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: No, no!] Many of us were not here last night, but read what occurred in the newspapers. We may, or may not, in our own hearts have an opinion whether you, Sir, in fulfilling those high functions which you fulfil so ably were 66 right in this particular instance. It is quite a different thing to entertain a personal opinion and to give expression to it. It would be far better if the noble Lord would agree to accept the words "Breach of Privilege," because that would be passed almost nemine contradicente. The noble Lord would then go on afterwards to move the second portion of the Resolution, which clearly raises the point whether it is such a Breach of Privilege as renders the person guilty of it liable to this very heavy penalty. I do not stand up here to defend, in its entirety, the conduct of my hon. Friend. I can perfectly understand that many hon. Members disapprove my hon. Friend's taste in raising this protest in The Star. But the noble Lord will, I think, see himself that there was a considerable vein of exaggeration in the expressions which he used, culminating in the proposal he has submitted to the House that the hon. Member should be expelled for the rest of the Session. If you, Sir, had named the hon. Member, he could only have been suspended for a week, for a second offence he would have been suspended for a fortnight, and for a third offence he would have been suspended for a month, and yet the noble Lord asks now that my hon. Friend should be suspended for the rest of the Session. In the same number of The Star there is an article by the editor couched in precisely as strong, if not stronger, terms than the letter. I think that many hon. Gentlemen do not know that, being Members of this House, they are not entitled to write in the newspapers upon your action, Sir, in precisely the same terms as if they were not Members of the House. I can, therefore, conceive that my hon. Friend was not aware that he was guilty of a Broach of Privilege. The gravamen of the charge is contained in this passage of the letter—(1.) The withdrawal of an un-Parliamentary expression does not do away with the effect produced by using it. Nor does it imply any alteration of a deliberately expressed opinion. It remains on record.My hon. Friend has just sent me a letter in which he says that he has been considering the matter, and that, so far as Paragraph No. 1 is concerned, as it was open to a construction not, at the time he wrote it, intended by him, and sug- 67 gested that he was ready to depart from his word, he withdraws it, and regrets the expression. [Laughter.] Generally, that is an expression of regret, and a withdrawal on the part of the hon. Member is not generally received with laughter in this House. The hon. Gentleman does regret that he used this expression, and he withdraws it. I would, therefore, ask the noble Lord whether, in view of the letter I have just read, and remembering how distasteful these proceedings are, he will not be content with the House declaring that this is a Breach of Privilege? Does the noble Lord agree to that? [Cries of "No, no!"] The noble Lord does not say so.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
The matter is no longer in my hands, but in those of the House; but I do not concur in the hon. Member's views.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Then I presume that I am in Order in moving that, in lieu of the words "a gross libel on the Speaker and the House of Commons," there should be inserted, "a Breach of the Privileges of this House." I, therefore, move these words.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member must leave out more words than those. The Question is, that the words "a gross libel on Mr. Speaker and the House of Commons," be left out, in order to insert the words "breach of the Privileges of this House."
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "libel upon the Speaker of the House of Commons," and insert the words "Breach of Privilege."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I do not understand that my hon. Friend intended, Sir, to use words personally disrespectful to you. [Cries of "Oh!"] You were acting as the exponent of the views of the House, and I take it that it is rather a libel upon the House. I look upon it more as an expression of opinion in regard to the House than upon you.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
I do not wonder that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) shrinks from defending the conduct of the hon. Member for the Cam- 68 borne Division, nor do I think that the letter which the hon. Member has just sent into the House of Commons improves his position. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian pointed out that the usual course on occasions of this kind was for the Member inculpated to rise in his place and make a statement. The hon. Member for the Camborne Division had that opportunity, and the only opinion he expressed was that, on the whole, he was of opinion that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington would have done much bettor if he had left this matter to be moved by myself. Why he made that statement I cannot conceive. I was not in the House yesterday; and I knew nothing about the letter in The Star until I came down to the House, and why or wherefore he should think it incumbent on me to have taken this course I am at a loss to conceive. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that I warmly and cordially endorse the speech and action of the noble Lord upon this occasion. We have heard something from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian as to the advantage of an entire absence of invective on an occasion of this sort; and I am bound to say that I did not hear a word from my noble Friend which was at all stronger than the circumstances demanded, and I believe I express the general opinion of the House of Commons when I say, that for the action of the noble Lord on this occasion, which expresses the determination of the House as a whole to uphold the dignity and authority of the Chair, he is entitled to the thanks of the House and of all classes of people outside who value the honour of the House.
§ THE LORD MAYOR OF DUBLIN (Mr. SEXTON) (Belfast, W.)
I only wish to say that as Irish Members can obtain no redress in this House for slanders uttered in it, or for libels written outside, I do not concern myself in the matter of the present Motion, but I will leave you to settle your disputes between you.
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
I must express my determination to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington declares this letter of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division to be a gross 69 libel, with various other adjectives I did not quite catch. The noble Lord is very fond of adjectives, and he piled Pelion upon Ossa, and Olympus upon both, though he did not say in what sense the letter is to be called a libel. Is the letter to be called a libel in the sense that it is untrue? If that were the question before the House I should not be prepared to say that it is a libel at all. It was due to the hon. Member for the Camborne Division, with whose language I do not at all agree, for I think it is worthy of the strongest condemnation, to keep in mind the extraordinary provocation he received. It was the first time in this House that 20 minutes were considered sufficient for the second reading of a Bill. One unfinished speech was not, in my opinion, an adequate discussion of the measure. If the hon. Member for the Camborne Division had kept himself within the limits of Parliamentary usage it would scarcely have been possible for him to use language too strong in reference to these proceedings. Therefore, I entirely dissent from the punishment which the noble Lord proposes, and which is monstrously excessive and vindictive. The infliction of such a punishment will not redound to the credit of this House. I would remind the House that people out of doors do not pay so much attention as hon. Members do to the niceties of language. They look more to the substance of the transaction, and I greatly fear that the punishment proposed by the noble Lord will do great harm by giving in the country to the hon. Member for the Camborne Division an importance to which upon his own merits he would never attain.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I should have thought that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) would have been the last man in this House to take the responsibility of the Motion now under consideration. Some hon. Members here who were acquainted with the noble Lord in his happier, and perhaps better, days when he did not occupy his present position, know that he did not hesitate to attack the Chairman of Committees who did not happen to belong to his own political Party. With regard to myself, I am responsible for what I do in this House, but for what I may do outside I invite 70 my opponents to a Court of Law. I should have thought that the noble Lord, who is not devoid of generosity of character, would have withdrawn or modified his proposal. The Speaker has explained that he agreed to the closure last night because his impression was that no Irish Members desired to speak. Therefore, I may assume that the closure was misapplied, inasmuch as it is now known that several Irish Members did desire to speak. I had not the advantage of being present during the debate, but I am assured that 10 or 12 Irish Members were prepared to speak upon the question. [Cries of "No, no!"] I know that to express a doubt as to the veracity of an Irish Member is not considered even a breach of good manners. In spite of this interruption from the gentlemanly Party, I reiterate the statement that several Irish Members desired to take part in the debate. If I had been present I myself should have desired to take part in it; and I should have joined the hon. Member for the Camborne Division in strong and persistent hostility to the Bill. Then having regard to the fact that several Irish Members desired to speak on the Bill and your statement, Sir, that if you had known that any Irish Member desired to speak, you would not have allowed the closure to be put, the matter comes to this—that the closure was applied under a misapprehension. We are, therefore, entitled to complain of the Motion of the noble Lord, backed up as it was by a speech, the tone and temper of which were not suited to the gravity of the question we are discussing. The hon. Member for the Camborne Division wrote this letter under circumstances which ought to be an excuse for his action. I was glad, Sir, to hear from you that you did not regard the expressions used by the hon. Member as applying to you personally. Under the circumstances, I think the hon. Member has a right to complain of the Motion of the noble Lord. We, on this side of the House are proved to have been more than justified by this debate in taking up a hostile attitude against the Rule when it was under discussion last year. We pointed out that it would operate unfairly against you, Sir, and your Successors in the Chair; that as the act would be the act of the majority of the House it would be improper to en- 71 tangle your personal character or official conduct in the debates of this House. I was, therefore, glad to hear, Sir, that you did not put the matter on any personal ground at all. We are now discussing, not the Speaker's ruling last night, but the words applied by the hon. Member for the Camborne Division to the act of the majority of the House. That being so, I shall be free to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton. I shall only vote for it, however, because I deem it the lesser evil of the two, for I cannot agree with my hon. Friend that the letter was a Breach of the Privileges of that House.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I think it tolerably clear that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian is right when he says we should be acting more in accordance with precedent in cases of Privilege by first of all affirming that the letter of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division (Mr. Convbeare) is a gross Breach of the Privileges of this House. The precedent nearest to the mark is the case of Mr. O'Connell on Feb. 26, 1838. Complaint was made of certain expressions in a speech of Mr. O'Connell at a public meeting as containing a charge of foul perjury against Members of this House in the discharge of their judicial duties on Election Committees. Mr. O'Connell was heard in his place, and averred that he had used the expressions complained of. He was first of all declared guilty of Breach of Privilege, and then by order of the House he was reprimanded in his place by the Speaker. That seems to be a precedent entirely in point. Most of us on this side of the House are, and certainly I myself am, inclined to vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Hear, hear!] I have great doubt as to the words "gross Breach of Privilege." Last year when the hon. Member for the Camborne Division made a speech, or wrote a letter, in which some reflection was cast upon your conduct in the Chair, I thought it was my duty to assure you of my perfect conviction, and of the conviction of all of us, that it was your constant desire to be fair and impartial in presiding over this House. I should not, therefore, be suspected, in supporting the Amendment, of any desire to extenuate the gravity of the offence of which the hon. 72 Member for the Camborne Division has been guilty in writing this letter. Enough has been said as to the offensive details of that letter, but we must view it as you, Sir, have invited us to view it, as a Breach of the Privileges of this House rather than as a mere personal attack upon yourself which you would be able to disregard. [Cries of "No, no!"] That, at least, is my view. What the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) has just said is most true, that this extremely painful incident is due to the disregard of the predictions which we made last year as to the almost inevitable effect of this Rule in bringing the Chair into collision with Members of the House. What we then said of the Rule is amply justified. I only want to say further, that I am glad we can dissociate the declaration that this letter is a gross Breach of the Privileges of this House from any view as to what took place last night, for I should be very sorry to give any vote which would imply that the stoppage of the Debate last night was anything but a very gross abuse of the Rules. On that question it is not my business now to enter. I have informed the House what I think of the events of last night, and I have stated with equal frankness my opinion of the letter of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division. I shall vote, therefore for the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere), reserving to myself the right of voting whichever way I may think best on any subsequent Resolution that may be moved.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Sir, I have listened with attention to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley). He has referred, unfortunately, as I think, to the incidents which preceded the offence of which the House is now taking cognizance. I say deliberately that we have nothing whatever to do with those incidents. What we have to deal with is that which I venture to say the whole House must realize, and which the right hon. Gentleman himself did not deny, to be a libel upon the character and conduct of the Speaker of the House. It is because I believe it is a libel upon the conduct of the Speaker that I cannot accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have lost sight 73 of the fact that partiality is attributed to the Speaker in this statement, and that an object and purpose are attributed to him in the action which he took, and that he is warned that the constituency which he represents in this House will have its eyes upon him with regard to his conduct, and that the letter winds up with an ostentatious statement—I regret to be obliged to use that observation—that the withdrawal was effected for the purpose for which it was necessary, but that it was insincere and unreal, and that the words remained on record. The observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) are those which fairly and properly represent the almost unanimous feeling of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of this House. We must regard this as a serious Breach of the Privileges and a serious libel against the House, against the Speaker, and against the order and discipline of the House. It is on that account, and not because we have any desire to press hardly on the hon. Member, and because I feel that the good order of the House and the conduct of hon. Members in relation to you, Sir, and in relation to the House, are dear and necessary for the maintenance of the Privileges of this House, that I shall vote for the original Motion of my noble Friend the Member for South Paddington and against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
Sir, I do not want to stand for more than a minute between this House and a Division; but I should like to point out that the part of the letter to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred supplies a conclusive reason against accepting the Motion of the noble Lord as against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton. The right hon. Gentleman said that the most serious part of the letter, and I agree with him, was that which contained the ostentatious statement that the withdrawal by the hon. Member for the Camborne Division was an insincere withdrawal. The hon. Member declares that—The withdrawal of an un-Parliamentary expression does not do away with the effect produced by using it, nor does it imply any alteration of a deliberate expressed opinion, but it remains on record.74 And he says that while his tongue was sworn his mind remained unsworn. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that these are condemnable words, and I ask you, Sir, whether they are a libel upon you. It is ridiculous to say so, and, from that point of view, the Motion of the noble Lord is utterly inadequate to meet this case. It is not wide enough, and it is because the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton is more adequate that I shall vote with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle against the Motion of the noble Lord.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
Sir, I intend to support my hon. Colleague in the Amendment he has moved. I know of no more difficult position in which this House is placed than when it is judging a Member for his conduct, and I know how little the House exercises the judicial faculty when it is delivering any such judgment. I should not like to give a silent vote on this question, for I should not like to imply by my silence that I would be any party, directly or indirectly, to the implication of unfairness on the Chair made in the version of this letter. I vote for its condemnation as a gross Breach of the Privileges of the House, because that is a course which has been pursued in similar cases. I regret that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, in his position as public prosecutor for the House, did not maintain the dignity which ought to characterize the position he assumes, but thought fit to jest at the hon. Member for the Camborne Division. Surely it was no matter for jesting at any rate. The noble Lord who jested with it seemed to him to lose his sense of the gravity of the charges he was making when he turned aside into that jocular mode of expression. I regard the words spoken here or elsewhere as things which should be adhered to always, and I think that the letter which has been read to the House from the Table is open to the severest condemnation if from that point of view alone. I shall support my Colleague in the Amendment he has moved, desiring to remind the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) that when the debate on the Closure Rule was taking place, I pointed out, as Hansard will show, that within a brief space we should be discussing 75 the fairness or unfairness of the Speaker or Chairman of Committees, and that that would be degrading the authority of the Chair, lessening its influence and laying it open to outside popular verdict, as well as to the kind of thing which we have unfortunately before us to-day. I said then, and I think now, that the closure is a weapon which every Chamber should have at hand, but that it should exercise it on its own responsibility and not shift on to its chief magistrate the odium which the majority is afraid to face.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
Sir; I cannot give a silent vote on this question, because there is something which I think has not yet been said, and I think it is my duty to say it very briefly. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) has told us, as only he can, under what extraordinary circumstances and under what solemn forms alone we should be justified in calling in question the conduct of the Chair; but I contend that in refusing the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton, the Leader of the House is really insisting upon bringing the conduct of the Chair in question. We are dealing, as I take it, with the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall, and not with the conduct of the Chair in the least degree. We, on this side of the House, do not think occasion has yet arisen for calling in question the conduct of the Chair. We bow in respect to it, we accept the decision of the Chair, and we decline to enter into any vote which would assume that the conduct of the Chair is to be called into question. If the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House persists in resisting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton, he insists on raising the question of the conduct of the Chair, and I, for one, shall vote with the hon. Member. I make an appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite on this ground that it is most desirable that the decision arrived at should be as unanimous as possible. We have heard speeches from all parts of the House, which show that all are ready to condemn the action and the letter of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division as a gross Breach of the Privileges of this House. Well, something will be gained if we come to an unanimous decision upon that point. As to anything 76 further it can be discussed afterwards, but for the honour of the House do let us be unanimous in our decision.
§ MR. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
Sir, I claim the privilege of saying a few words on this question. I wish to express to the noble Lord my deep sense of the obligation under which I lie to him for having brought this question before the House. We cannot continue under the Closure Rule without some modification of it, and I wish, Mr. Speaker, with due deference to your ruling, to explain to the House why I rise to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton. The other night the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department on a similar occasion deliberately charged me with inciting to riot, and holding an unlawful assembly, and the closure was put on. [Cries of "Order!"]
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
Sir, I wish to explain why I shall not vote in this Division at all. In the first place, hon. Members who were here last night must be aware of the fact that considerable heat was shown at or about the time when the question was put. As a Member of this House, who does not possess the best temper, I may be allowed to say a word in favour of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare), who sat close by me. None of us were in a good temper, and I would ask the House to remember that a very short time must have elapsed between what occurred in the House and the writing of this letter. There is no doubt, as you have so ably shown the House to-night, that had you known that a number of us were going to speak on the Bill in question, the closure would not have been put. I would certainly ask the House to remember the feelings and state of mind of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division at that time. He thought himself seriously aggrieved, and certainly I, for one, thought he was extremely aggrieved. As a man, perhaps, subject to fits of temper, I would ask any Member, whether Liberal or Tory, to put himself in the place of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division at the time he wrote that letter; I would ask them not to go into the Lobby without having reflected upon the position in which the hon. Member was placed, and without paying 77 attention to the wise words which have fallen from the Chair in this matter. I cannot vote either for or against this Motion; and I would implore hon. Members who have not reflected on the circumstances either to follow my example, or else to consider, at any rate, that this offence is not so very flagrant, in consequence of the peculiar circumstances attending it.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)
Sir, I entirely agree with what has fallen from the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) as to the extreme desirability of the decision of the House being nearly, if not quite, unanimous. It appears to me that there is some risk that in the Division that is going to take place, some of us may be voting under a certain amount of misapprehension, or, at any rate, that we who take part in the Division shall not all of us be voting on exactly the same issue. I do not understand, from the observations which fell from my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), that he took any exception to the words of the Resolution that the letter which was read was a gross libel on Mr. Speaker; but I understand from some of the speeches which have been made below the Gangway that exception has been taken to those words. The position of my right hon. Friend was, that in this case it was desirable, if possible, to follow as strictly and nearly as may be precedent, and that in all similar cases the preliminary stage in proceedings of this kind had been to declare the proceedings in question to be a gross Breach of the Privileges of the House. I understand my right hon. Friend to say that the House ought to follow precedent, and that he commits himself to that declaration. I do not know whether it would be possible, in a subsequent Resolution, to introduce a declaration that the letter in question is a libel on the Speaker; but I gather, from what has fallen from my right hon. Friend, that he would not object to the use of those words if they could be inserted in a subsequent Resolution, and that the House should first proceed to assert that there has been a gross Breach of the Privileges.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I think it would be very convenient to the House that we should 78 have the opinion of the Government upon the suggestion just made by my noble Friend the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington). May I once more lay that suggestion before the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith)? As I understand there is practically an unanimous opinion in the House that the letter of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) is a gross Breach of the Privileges of the House. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, practically the unanimous opinion. It appears to me that it would be most important for the dignity of the House, and for its future proceedings that we should have what would be practically an unanimous decision upon that point. Then, Sir, that having been established, it appears to me that it would be open to any hon. Member to propose, as a second Resolution, that inasmuch as the hon. Member for the Camborne Division has committed a gross Breach of the Privileges of this House, and has uttered a libel against the Speaker of the House, that a certain punishment should follow. I understand that if such a Resolution were put before the House as a second Resolution my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian would offer no opposition to it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I wish to point out to the House that there is some mistake as to the precedents which might be applicable in this case. There is a precedent in the year 1858, where the assertion was not made in the first instance that it was a Breach of the Privileges of the House. The Resolution I am referring to began in these words—Resolved, That the said article is a false and scandalous libel upon the Chairman and other Members of the Committee.And proceeded—That Washington Willis, the proprietor and publisher of the said newspaper, in publishing the said article, has been guilty of a Breach of the Privileges of the House."—(3 Hansard,  1068.)The House will observe that the declaration of libel preceded any other action.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I take the liberty of saying that in my state- 79 ment on this subject I referred only to the precedents of the last six years. I did not go back to the precedents in older times.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
May I submit to the House two or three words to show as to why I hope that the majority of the House will support the original Resolution. Of course, it was my object in drawing this Motion to make it clear that the Speaker of the House had been cruelly libelled by the hon. Member for Camborne. This is what I wanted the House to assert—that the statements of the hon. Member were a gross libel. That is the point which I wish, if possible, to impress on the public mind. And I point out that the words suggested by the hon. Member opposite, "gross Breach of the Privileges of the House of Commons" are, to my mind, quite unnecessary, for there can be no greater Breach of the Privileges of the House of Commons than grossly and falsely to libel the Speaker.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
The precedent quoted by the right hon. Gentleman is not quite on all fours with the present case, because Mr. Washington Wilks was not a Member of the House.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the distinction makes the case all the stronger. It is because we desire to put the libel in the forefront, in order to mark the sense of the House on the question, that the Government have decided to support the Resolution of the noble Lord.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 245; Noes 168: Majority 77.82
|Aird, J.||Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks-|
|Amherst, W. A. T.|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Beach, W. W. B.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Beadel, W. J.|
|Baden-Powell, Sir G. S.||Beaumont, H. F.|
|Beckett, E. W.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Beckett, W.|
|Baird, J. G. A.||Bentinck, rt. hon. G. C.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.|
|Banes, Major G. E.||Bentinck, W. G. C.|
|Baring, Viscount||Beresford, Lord C. W. De la Poer|
|Baring, T. C.|
|Bartley, G. C. T.||Bethell, Commander G. R.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.|
|Bates, Sir E.||Biddulph, M.|
|Baumann, A. A.||Birkbeck, Sir E.|
|Blundell, Colonel H. B. H.||Fletcher, Sir H.|
|Folkestone, right hon. Viscount|
|Bolitho, T. B.|
|Boord, T. W.||Forwood, A. B.|
|Borthwiek, Sir A.||Fry, L.|
|Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.||Fulton, J. F.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.|
|Bristowe, T. L.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.||Gathorne-Hardy, hon. J. S.|
|Brookfield, A. M.||Giles, A.|
|Brown, A. H.||Gilliat, J. S.|
|Bruce, Lord H.||Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.|
|Burdett-Coutts, W. L. Ash.-B.|
|Gorst, Sir J. E.|
|Caine, W. S.||Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Campbell, Sir A.||Gray, C. W.|
|Campbell, J. A.||Greene, E.|
|Carmarthen, Marq. of||Grimston, Viscount|
|Cavendish, Lord E.||Grotrian, F. B.|
|Chaplin, right hon. H.||Gunter, Colonel R.|
|Charrington, S.||Gurdon, R. T.|
|Churchill, right hon. Lord R. H. S.||Hall, A. W.|
|Clarke, Sir E. G.||Halsey, T. F.|
|Cochrane-Baillie, hon. C. W. A. N.||Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.|
|Coddington, W.||Hanbury, R. W.|
|Coghill, D. H.||Hankey, F. A.|
|Colomb, Sir J. C. R.||Hardcastle, F.|
|Corry, Sir J. P.||Hartington, Marq. of|
|Courtney, L. H.||Heath, A. R.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-|
|Cross, H. S.||Heneage, right hon. E.|
|Cubitt, right hon. G.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Curzon, Viscount||Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.|
|Curzon, hon. G. N.|
|Dalrymple, Sir C.||Hill, Colonel E. S.|
|Darling, C. J.||Hoare, E. B.|
|Davenport, H. T.||Hoare, S.|
|Dawnay, Colonel hon. L. P.||Hornby, W. H.|
|Houldsworth, Sir W.H.|
|De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.||Howard, J.|
|Dickson, Major A. G.||Howorth, H. H.|
|Dimsdale, Baron R.||Hozier, J. H. C.|
|Dixon, G.||Hubbard, hon. E.|
|Donkin, R. S.||Hughes, Colonel E.|
|Dorington, Sir J. E.||Hulse, E. H.|
|Dugdale, J. S.||Hunt, F. S.|
|Duncombe, A.||Hunter, Sir G.|
|Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W.H.||Isaacs, L. H.|
|Ebrington, Viscount||Isaacson, F. W.|
|Edwards-Moss, T. C.||Jackson, W. L.|
|Egerton, hon. A. J. F.||James, rt. hon. Sir H.|
|Egerton, hon. A. de T.||Jeffreys, A, F.|
|Elcho, Lord||Jennings, L. J.|
|Elliot, hon. H. F. H.||Kelly, J. R.|
|Elliot, G. W.||Kennaway, Sir J. H.|
|Ellis, Sir J. W.||Kenrick, W.|
|Elton, C. I.||Kenyon, hon. G. T.|
|Ewart, Sir W.||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W.|
|Ewing, Sir A. O.|
|Eyre, Colonel H.||Kimber, H.|
|Feilden, Lt.-Gen. R. J.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, H. T.|
|Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.|
|Knightley, Sir R.|
|Field, Admiral E.||Knowles, L.|
|Finch, G. H.||Lafone, A.|
|Fisher, W. H.||Lawrance, J. C.|
|Fitzgerald, R. U. P.||Lawrence, W. F.|
|Fitz-Wygram, Gen. Sir F. W.||Lea, T.|
|Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.|
|Legh, T. W.||Robertson, J. P. B.|
|Leighton, S.||Robinson, B.|
|Lennox, Lord W. C. G.||Ross, A. H.|
|Lethbridge, Sir R.||Sandys, Lieut-Col. T. M.|
|Lewisham, right hon. Viscount|
|Sellar, A. C.|
|Llewellyn, E. H.||Selwyn, Capt. C. W.|
|Long, W. H.||Shaw-Stewart, M. H.|
|Lowther, rt. hon. J.||Sidebotham, J. W.|
|Lowther, hon. W.||Sidebottom, T.|
|Lowther, J. W.||Sidebottom, W.|
|Lubbock, Sir J.||Sinclair, W. P.|
|Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A.||Smith, rt. hon. W. H.|
|Spencer, J. E.|
|Mac Innes, M.||Stanhope, rt. hon. E.|
|Maclean, J. M.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Maclure, J. W.||Stephens, H. C.|
|Madden, D. H.||Stewart, M. J.|
|Mallock, R.||Stokes, G. G.|
|Marriott, rt. hon. Sir W. T.||Swetenham, E.|
|Talbot, J. G.|
|Matthews, rt. hn. H.||Tapling, T. K.|
|Mattinson, M. W.||Taylor, F.|
|Maxwell, Sir H. E.||Temple, Sir R.|
|Mildmay, F. B.||Theobald, J.|
|Mills, hon. C. W.||Thorburn, W.|
|More, R. J.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Mount, W. G.||Trotter, Colonel H. J.|
|Mowbray, R. G. C.||Tyler, Sir H. W.|
|Muntz, P. A.||Vernon, hon. G. R.|
|Murdoch, C. T.||Vincent, C. E. H.|
|Noble, W.||Walsh, hon. A. H. J.|
|Norris, E. S.||Watkin, Sir E. W.|
|Northcote, hon. Sir H. S.||Webster, Sir R. E.|
|Webster, R. G.|
|O'Neill, hon. R. T.||Wharton, J. L.|
|Paget, Sir R. H.||Whitley, E.|
|Parker, hon. F.||Whitmore, C. A.|
|Pearce, Sir W.||Winn, hon. R.|
|Plowden, Sir W. C.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Plunkett, hon. J. W.||Wood, N.|
|Pomfret, W. P.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Powell, F. S.||Wright, H. S.|
|Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.||Young, C. E. B.|
|Rasch, Major F. C.||TELLERS.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Ritchie, rt. hon. C. T.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||Carew, J. L.|
|Causton, R. K.|
|Acland, A. H. D.||Chamberlain, rt. hn. J.|
|Allison, R. A.||Channing, F. A.|
|Asquith, H. H.||Childers, right hon. H. C. E.|
|Balfour, Sir G.||Clancy, J. J.|
|Barbour, W. B.||Clark, Dr. G. B.|
|Barran, J.||Cobb, H. P.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Coleridge, hon. B.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Conway, M.|
|Bradlaugh, C.||Corbet, W. J.|
|Bright, Jacob||Cox, J. R.|
|Broadhurst, H.||Cozens-Hardy, H. H.|
|Brown, A. L.||Craig, J.|
|Brunner, J. T.||Crawford, W.|
|Bryce, J.||Crossley, E.|
|Cameron, J. M.||Deasy, J.|
|Campbell, Sir G.||Duff, R. W.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, right hon.||Ellis, J.|
|Ellis, T. E.|
|Esslemont, P.||Palmer, Sir C. M.|
|Evans, F. H.||Parker, C. S.|
|Farquharson, Dr. R.||Paulton, J. M.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro-||Pease, A. E.|
|Finucane, J.||Philipps, J. W.|
|Firth, J. F. B.||Pickard, B.|
|Fitzgerald, J. G.||Pickersgill, E. H.|
|Flower, C.||Picton, J. A.|
|Foljambe, C. G. S.||Pinkerton, J.|
|Forster, Sir C.||Potter, T. B.|
|Fowler, right hon. H. H.||Powell, W. R. H.|
|Power, P. J.|
|Fry, T.||Power, R.|
|Fuller, G. P.||Price, T. P.|
|Gaskell, C. G. Milnes-||Priestley, B.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Pugh, D.|
|Goldsmid, Sir J.||Pyne, J. D.|
|Gourley, E. T.||Randell, D.|
|Graham, R. C.||Rathbone, W.|
|Grove, Sir T. F.||Redmond, W. H. K.|
|Harris, M.||Reid, R. T.|
|Hayden, L. P.||Richard, H.|
|Hayne, C. Seale-||Roberts, J.|
|Howell, G.||Roberts, J. B.|
|Hoyle, I.||Robertson, E.|
|Hunter, W. A.||Roe, T.|
|Illingworth, A.||Roscoe, Sir H. E.|
|Jacoby, J. A.||Rowlands, J.|
|James, hon. W. H.||Rowntree, J.|
|Joicey, J.||Russell, Sir C.|
|Kay-Shuttleworth, rt. hon. Sir U. J.||Samuelson, G. B.|
|Schwann, C. E.|
|Kenny, C. S.||Shaw, T.|
|Kilbride, D.||Sheehan, J. D.|
|Lalor, R.||Simon, Sir J.|
|Lawson, Sir W.||Smith, S.|
|Lawson, H. L. W.||Spencer, hon. C. R.|
|Leahy, J.||Stanhope, hon. P. J.|
|Leake, R.||Stepney-Cowell, Sir A. K.|
|Lefevre, rt. hn. G. J. S.|
|Lockwood, F.||Stevenson, F. S.|
|Lyell, L.||Stewart, H.|
|Macdonald, W. A.||Stuart, J.|
|M'Arthur, W. A.||Sullivan, D.|
|M'Carthy, J.||Summers, W.|
|M'Donald, P.||Sutherland, A.|
|M'Donald, Dr. R.||Sutherland, T.|
|M'Ewan, W.||Swinburne, Sir J.|
|M'Lagan, P.||Thomas, D. A.|
|Maitland, W. F.||Trevelyan, right hon. Sir G. O.|
|Mappin, Sir F. T.|
|Marjoribanks, rt. hon. E.||Tuite, J.|
|Menzies, R. S.||Warmington, C. M.|
|Morgan, rt. hon. G. O.||Watt, H.|
|Morgan, O. V.||Wayman, T.|
|Morley, right hon. J.||Will, J. S.|
|Morley, A.||Williams, J. Powell-|
|Mundella, rt. hon. A. J.||Williamson, S.|
|Wilson, H. J.|
|Neville, R.||Wilson, I.|
|Nolan, Colonel J. P.||Winterbotham, A. B.|
|Nolan, J.||Woodall, W.|
|O'Brien, P. J.||Woodhead, J.|
|O'Connor, A.||Wright, C.|
|O'Connor, T. P.||TELLERS.|
|O'Hanlon, T.||Labouchere, H.|
|O'Keeffe, F. A.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
Question put, and agreed to.
Main Question put,
Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, the Letter in the "Star" newspaper of this
evening's date, entitled 'Mr. Conybeare and the Speaker,' and signed by the honourable Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall, is a gross libel upon the Speaker of the House of Commons, and deserves the severest condemnation of the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That Mr. Conybeare, Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall, be suspended from the Service of the House for the remainder of the Session."—(Lord Randolph Churchill.)
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Sir, I rise to move an Amendment, the object of which is, that instead of being suspended for the remainder of the Session, the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall be suspended for one week. The House has already expressed its opinion in the strongest terms with regard to the action of my hon. Friend the Member for the Camborne Division; but I am sure that the House, having done so, will feel that some generosity should be applied in considering the punishment which should be awarded to him. I would point out that we have a regulated scale of punishment for Parliamentary offences; so much for the first offence, so much for the second, the punishment for the third offence being suspension for one month. This is the first offence on the part of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Undoubtedly this is the first offence. Under these circumstances, I certainly think hon. Gentlemen opposite might be satisfied with the action they have already taken and assent to this alteration which I suggest. I would point out that it would come with a good grace from them, because my hon. Friend is accustomed to take a somewhat active part in the discussions on the Estimates. The Estimates are about to become the chief Business of the House during the rest of the Session. My hon. Friend does good work in calling attention to certain points in the Estimates, and we are anxious that he should be able to back what he believes to be the cause of economy and the cause of the country. I put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite that they should not only look at the matter in a generous light as Members of the House of Commons, but also that they should look at it generously as the political opponents of the hon. Member. By acceding to this request you will have prevented anything of this kind taking place at 84 a future time, and the punishment awarded to the hon. Gentleman would be sufficient.
§ Amendment, to leave out the words "for the remainder of the Session," in order to insert the words "one week."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'for the remainder of the Session,' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
Sir, I do not know whether the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) means that this punishment shall last to the end of the Autumn Session or to the adjournment of the Session. Now, I agree that the hon. Member for the Camborne Division has committed a serious offence; but I think that the punishment ought not to be too great, and I venture to say I think so especially because that hon. Member is somewhat unpopular. [Cries of "No, no!" and "Withdraw!"] I know he is unpopular with a large number of Members of the House. In my opinion, it is not desirable that the punishment should be in any way vindictive. I think it should be adequate to the offence; a week is not long enough; but suspension for the whole of the Session and the whole of the adjourned Session which we are about to hold is too long in my opinion, and I venture to ask the noble Lord whether he would not limit his Motion to the remainder of the Session? I think the constituents of the hon. Member would hardly appreciate so long a punishment as one which would extend to the end of the adjourned Session; and, therefore, with some confidence I beg to urge this plea for mercy on the noble Lord.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Sir, I agree with the substance of what has been stated by my hon. Friend who has just sat down—namely, that there is a difficulty as to the form of the Motion of the noble Lord. When that Motion was read I took it for granted that the noble Lord had, in his mind, the time which remained to the end of the Session, viewing it as an ordinary Session. This Session, I conjecture, will last for a month. Owing to the accident that we do not know yet—the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) has not been able to tell 85 us—whether there will be an Autumn Sitting or not. We do not know really whether this Motion means suspension for one month, or whether it means suspension for six months. We ought, I think, to know which of the two it means. It would be absurd to make the period of suspension dependent on what to us is at present unknown, and on what we may call relevant to this subject, a pure accident. I therefore, submit, that, in my opinion, to inflict a punishment for six months would be too severe, and that it would be better to substitute a moderate and definite term in order that the Resolution of the House may be carried out in the spirit suggested by my hon. Friend.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Sir, I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury is in a position to make any Statement with regard to the adjournment of the House until the autumn, nor do I think that any such statement would have the slightest connection with the matter now being discussed. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) has spoken about a moderate term of punishment. Certainly I do not think that the House should agree to any immoderate term of suspension; I should be sorry to be connected with the giving of such advice; but I would call to the notice of the House the main feature of the Motion—namely, that there has been a gross libel on the Speaker of the House of Commons which deserves the severest punishment. Now, Sir, I decline, under these circumstances, to concern myself with any refinements or speculations as to when the Session is to be terminated. I think it is perfectly reasonable that the House, having agreed to the Motion, should come to the conclusion that the hon. Member has incapacitated himself from taking any part in the service of the House during the present Session. If anyone has a right to complain it is not the hon. Member for the Camborne Division, it is the Mover of the Resolution. We have to confine ourselves to the character of the Chair and the authority of the Chair, and I cannot think that any less punishment than that assigned in the original proposal would be adequate to the offence of the hon. Member.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Sir, we are all so taken by surprise by the events of to-day, and we have not our precedents near at hand, but in the recollection of many of us there is a very exact precedent, indeed, which I think we shall do well to follow in this matter. A gentleman whose conduct has been before the world in a very prominent manner in recent days—I am speaking from recollection, but I believe I am speaking correctly—very grossly insulted the Chairman of Committees when he was a Member of this House. The insult was an extremely gross one, and it was repeated and insisted upon. The then Leader of the House—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone)—was called upon by his position to take cognizance of this matter, and the punishment which he proposed, and which was accepted by the House, was a suspension for 14 days. I must say that I find it absolutely impossible to vote for a single day more on this occasion, because, while as regards the Breach of Privilege I consider that it is our duty as much as possible to be silent on the events of last evening, when it comes to the amount of punishment it is absolutely impossible to pass them over altogether. When the right hon. Gentleman, who leads the House, in his laudable anxiety to limit as much as possible an inconvenient debate, begged us not to refer to those events, I think he forgot, Sir, that you, from the Chair, had very distinctly laid before us an important and interesting description of what occurred. Now, in that description you referred to an hon. Gentleman who spoke from this side of the House—the hon. Member for South Londonderry (Mr. Lea)—and that hon. Member got up to explain his conduct, and told us why he moved the closure so early, and he said that the reason was that when the House was inclined to vote money for poor starving people in Ireland the question was not to be debated for five minutes.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
I accept at once the words of my hon. Friend, and I think they are very ominous. I absolutely repudiate the idea that the closure, moved with the intention of giving short discussion upon a question of money to be given to any rank of starving people in Ireland, is a legitimate reason for moving the closure in the manner which it has been used by the majority of the House. No one can more strongly condemn than I do very much that is in the letter of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division. It has, on the face of it, what we all condemn, and in some respects mild words cannot be used with regard to it; but the writing of a letter on the subject I do not greatly blame. The events of yesterday were very remarkable events indeed. I was absent—[Laughter]—that is the judicial temper in which this discussion is being carried on—I was absent, but my very absence is a proof of the very peculiar character of the proceedings of last night, because, interested as I was in the Bann Drainage Bill, I left the House at 25 minutes or so before 12, because it never even entered my imagination that a Bill of that importance could possibly have been brought on after that time. The hon. Member for the Camborne Division, professing to speak—and I believe sincerely speaking—for the ratepayers of this country, thought that he had been greatly wronged. I do not enter into the question whether he was greatly wronged or not—and what method had he of expressing that fact or bringing it before the House? He had, for practical purposes, absolutely none. How could he bring before this House the fact that, in his opinion, the closure had been improperly used? I think it is a very strong doctrine to lay down that under these circumstances, the hon. Member might not write a temperate and moderate letter to the newspapers, stating that, in his opinion, the majority of the House had applied the closure in an improper manner. But the hon. Gentleman wrote a letter to a newspaper which was not moderate, and I think that for having yielded to a temptation—for having written an intemperate and immoderate letter, and one which violated the privileges of this House—a punishment similar to that inflicted on Mr. O'Donnell would be sufficient.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Sir, I will ask leave to withdraw my Amendment, and substitute another Amendment providing for the suspension of one fortnight. I do so because my right hon. Friend has just cited a particular precedent which I think should be followed in this case.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed; to leave out the words "the remainder of the Session," in order to insert the words "one fortnight."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
Sir, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington has justly observed that this House has passed a strong Resolution condemning the hon. Member for the Camborne Division (Mr. Conybeare), and that, therefore, we should pass a severe punishment; but I should like to point out that if we accept the proposal of the noble Lord, we should be inflicting a punishment the amount of which we do not know, and the severity of which would have no reference to the conduct of the hon. Member. No one at present can say whether it would be a suspension of one month or six, because it depends entirely upon whether there will be an Autumn Sitting. I understand the noble Lord to mean that the suspension should last to the end of what is colloquially known as the present Session, but not to extend to an Autumn Sitting. If we were to vote for the Motion of the noble Lord, it seems to me that we should be placed in an awkward position, and I would, therefore, submit to the House that we should substitute some definite period, say one month, for the indefinite words employed in the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Sir, my right hon. Friend has brought before us a case in which the House proceeded with a very just and grave deliberation, the advantages of which we do not now enjoy. I apprehend that I am safe in assuming that the authority of the Chairman of Commitees is surrounded by the same sanction as that of the Speaker in the Chair while he is engaged in discharging his very difficult office. For the convenience of the House, I may say that I am about to quote from Hansard. I find that on the 3rd of July, 1882, Mr. Speaker made a Report of 89 which I am now going to give an account—Mr. Playfair then reported to Mr. Speaker that Mr. O'Donnell, the Member for Dungarvon, sitting in his place, had insulted the Chairman, saying that the action taken by him was"—not a public scandal but—"an infamy."—(3 Hansard,  1274.)That was the offence.Mr. Speaker thereupon addressed the House, and stated that it was his duty, in consequence of the Chairman's Report, to submit the conduct of Mr. O'Donnell to the judgment of the House."—(Ibid.)That was on the 3rd of July, and the Motion made upon it was—That the conduct of Mr. O'Donnell be taken into consideration on Monday next."—(Ibid.)I cannot but express my deep regret that I had not a clearer recollection to place at the service of the House, when I last rose, of proceedings which I think would have been an admirable pattern for our conduct in this case. It was under these circumstances that the words used by Mr. O'Donnell, "an infamy," were dealt with, and I believe that the House thought that a suspension of 14 days was an adequate punishment for that offence. We are now invited by the noble Lord to impose a punishment which may mean suspension for six months.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Sir, I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman with reference to what he calls the precedent of Mr. O'Donnell, that in that case there was but one offence committed—a grave and heavy offence, as the right hon. Gentleman has rightly described it. In this case, there was not only the insult to the Speaker of the House of Commons, but the hon. Member for the Camborne Division wrote a letter to the Press, and in it practically withdrew his withdrawal of the charges which he had made. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian must feel the gravity of this withdrawal, because if an apology in the House is to count for nothing, it strikes me that a fresh blow has been delivered at the decorum of the proceedings of this House. The hon. and learned Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson) rightly characterized this as the gravest part possibly of the whole offence. That consideration did not enter into the deliberations in the case of Mr. O'Donnell. In the case of Mr. 90 O'Donnell there was an offence committed in the heat of the moment; in this case we have not only the action resulting from the heat of the moment, but we have this withdrawal, which I think constitutes a grave aggravation of the original offence, and if the former offence was punished with suspension for a fortnight, I do not think that the offence of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division would be adequately punished with the same term of suspension.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
Sir, at the present moment this matter is in the decision of the House. If the House inflicts no longer punishment than is adequate, there is no appeal against the decision of the House; but there is a very effective appeal, if the House passes such a sentence as is now proposed, to the constituents of the hon. Member. A punishment of this nature falls not on the hon. Member alone but on his constituents, and if the punishment is to obtain for the whole of the Session, including the adjourned Session, his constituents may consider it too great. But suppose the hon. Member for the Camborne Division were, if the House suspended him for the whole Session, to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Chiltern Hundreds; would he venture to refuse it? If the right hon. Gentleman did, he would act contrary to precedent. I know an hon. Member who was prevented by Order of the House from sitting, but in a week his constituents cancelled the Order, and he presented himself at the Table again. I ask the House not to put itself in that position. I believe the judgment of the people outside will condemn, as this House has condemned, the letter of the hon. Gentleman; but I believe the country will revolt, and I think justly revolt, against a punishment which is in excess of anything which the House has inflicted for a similar offence—a punishment inflicted in the heat of the moment, without deliberation, and with no sort of generosity in the moving. Men who stand high and free from reproach, men who have never used obstruction in this House, who have always contributed to its Order, and who have never, with however clever innuendo, challenged the decision of the Chairman of Committees, have alone the right to take this high ground. The noble Lord the Member 91 for South Paddington should have been reticent of words of provocation in this House. I have listened to the noble Lord night after night, when he occupied a seat on this side, and I never dreamed at the time that he was contributing to the decorum of debate. Try to be generous if you cannot be just. I know it is exceedingly difficult for this House to be just, but I hope there are enough English Gentlemen in it to be generous. I have always, under all circumstances, shown the utmost respect for the Chair, even when I felt it my duty to come in collision with it, and having suffered the punishment which this House inflicts, I ask it not to give to the hon. Member for the Camborne Division the right to appeal to his constituents against a decision which I shall urge is harsh, if the Resolution of the noble Lord is passed. If the House errs at all, let it be on the side of mercy, remembering that it is the constituents who suffer, and not the hon. Member.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Sir, if the argument of the hon. Member opposite is good for anything at all it would be equally good against any punishment whatever. This is the third time on which the hon. Member for the Camborne Division has offended in this way. I think it was in the last Session or the Session before that the conduct of the hon. Member came under the review of the House, in consequence of language used with regard to Mr. Speaker; then there was the event of last night, which constituted the second stage; and the letter which appeared to-day is the third. The rule of our procedure is that at present that when a Member has offended three times, he is liable to suspension for the remainder of the Session. We cannot, therefore, think that the punishment which is now moved by the noble Lord is excessive. When we consider the character of the observations, and still more the character of the Resolution in which the House has just arrived, I, at any rate, am totally unable to conceive how any hon. Member of this House, or any man, can consider that the punishment proposed to be awarded is greater than is deserved.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Sir, in consequence of the observations of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), I wish, if I may be 92 allowed, to say that the only time when I thought it my duty to refer to the conduct of the Chair, was when the Chairman of Ways and Means consulted the Speaker as to the objection I had taken, and came back to inform the House that the objection was sound and that I was in Order.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
Sir, I listened to what fell just now from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). He said that the offence which the House has declared that the hon. Member for the Camborne Division has committed, ought to be treated as a third offence and punished accordingly. That, Sir, is inconsistent with the Resolution we have passed. We have passed a definite Resolution with respect to a particular letter; and if the House is to go back to all the quarrels they have had with one hon. Member or another and treat them as a reason for additional punishment, I think we shall arrive at a very lamentable position. I trust, however, that the House will calmly address itself to the question as to what is a fair and reasonable punishment for the offence which the hon. Member for the Camborne Division has committed. Reference has been made to a case which is very much in point, and which I perfectly well remember, because it was my duty to move the resolution which led to the subsequent proceedings. I refer to the case of Mr. O'Donnell. I do not understand the distinction which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer drew between that and the present case, and, on the contrary, I think there was aggravation, if I may say so, in the case of Mr. O'Donnell, because he did not stand alone. The House was then dealing with several offenders at the same time; the House was under the influence of a very serious quarrel, and they treated Mr. O'Donnell more severely than the other hon. Members whose conduct at the same time came under their cognizance. The offence of Mr. O'Donnell was that he charged the Chairman with "infamy," and that I venture to say was a far more serious offence than that which the hon. Member for the Camborne Division is now stated to have committed. But my noble Friend the Member for the Rossendale 93 Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington) has made a powerful appeal to the House with reference to the first Resolution—I am not sure how he followed up that appeal—by asking whether, in a matter of this kind, it was not very desirable that the House should, if possible, be unanimous in the decision at which it arrived. Now, I would also put it to the House whether the punishment of 14 days' suspension is not one on which the House might be with justice unanimous, and whether the suspension proposed by the noble Lord has not all the elements of injustice to the constituents of the hon. Member as well as the hon. Member himself. We have not yet heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House—and I venture to appeal to him to make a distinct statement—as to what he considers to be the term of punishment that ought to be awarded in this case. If there are to be Autumn Sittings the suspension on the terms of the Motion of the noble Lord would last until near Christmas; if not, then the suspension would last for a month. The two periods are widely different, and the only Member who can advise the House in this matter is the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. Now, Sir, I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to be a party to an uncertain punishment, which he knows is the very worst punishment. All modern ideas of punishment are concentrated on the one point that it should be precise and not vague, whereas the punishment proposed by the noble Lord is vague in the highest degree. We are prepared to accept the proposal of a fortnight's suspension, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept that as absolutely adequate to the offence of the hon. Member.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)
Sir, I feel very strongly indeed the necessity of going on right lines in this matter, and not turning the sympathy of the country on the side of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division, and causing them to withhold the condemnation of the hon. Member's conduct which they will undoubtedly pass if we act rightly. I cannot agree with my right hon. Friend opposite that a fortnight's suspension would be sufficient; but I think the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) 94 originally—namely, that the suspension should be for the definite period of one month, which will carry us through the remainder of this part of the Session, is one which will generally commend itself to the House; but I am bound to say that I could not vote for suspension for the remainder of the Session.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Sir, I am not able to admit that the offence of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division is of less gravity than that of Mr. O'Donnell. Mr. O'Donnell was suspended for an act which he committed in the heat of the moment and in circumstances of great provocation. The offence of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division was deliberately committed after the original offence for which no proper apology had been made. There is an immense distinction between the two cases, and unless the House were to mark in a very signal way its resolve that it will insist on its Members maintaining those rules of conduct which are necessary for the dignity of its proceedings, there would no longer be any hope of their character being preserved. Upon the question of the measure of punishment, it appears to me that there is some reason in the observations of hon. Gentlemen who have complained that the proposal of my noble Friend is somewhat vague. I admit that in the present condition of the Business of the House there is a vagueness as to the duration of the Session, and I wish it were in my power to indicate as plainly as I know hon. Members are desirous that I should state, the time when the labours of the Session will come to an end; but I suggest that the object which my noble Friend seeks to attain will be secured if we substitute for the terms of his Motion a suspension of one month from the service of the House. That I think will mark the sense in which the House is prepared to regard a departure of this kind from its Rules.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has argued that there is a distinction between the case of Mr. O'Donnell and that of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division, on the ground that the one offence took place in the heat of the moment, and the other is a repeated offence. Now, I ask the attention of the House to the circumstances that the punishment in Mr. 95 O'Donnell's case was for an offence deliberately repeated. As may be read in Hansard, Mr. O'Donnell said—With regard to my assertion, to my statement, to my solemn declaration—for I wish it to be understood that I made it in all solemnness and earnestness—that that statement which had been read to the House was an infamy. I mean that, and mean to include within that solemn declaration, the cowardly inciters to the force and tyranny which were practised against the Irish Members last Saturday, and I name Her Majesty's Government as the guilty authors."—(3 Hansard,  1287.)There is no withdrawal whatever of the charge of infamy on the part of the Chairman of Committees, and it was no statement made in the heat of the moment. Now, the real question is, why should you pass a more severe sentence on the hon. Member for the Camborne Division than was passed on Mr. O'Donnell? I think it is much to be regretted that there should be an endeavour to establish any severer rule in this case. Surely the Government will feel that it is of very great importance for us, if possible, to come to a unanimous decision; and that this matter should be the subject of a Party vote, I think is highly objectionable. What has been the temper and spirit shown in the debate? I confess I believe that, if the Government press for a severer sentence than that which, in accordance with the precedents of the House, has been passed in similar cases, they will be taking a course which will necessarily lead to a Party Division on this Motion. That would be very regrettable, and I hope the Government will take a course far more conducive, in my opinion, to the dignity of the House, and pass a sentence on the hon. Member for the Camborne Division more in accordance with Parliamentary precedent, and which would secure unanimous consent.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, in comparing the offence of Mr. O'Donnell with that of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division, said that Mr. O'Donnell had received great provocation, and that his offence was committed in the heat of the moment. Now, certainly the provocation which the hon. Member for the Camborne Division received was very severe. The first point I refer to is that, in the words of the Chairman, the hon. Member for the Camborne Division was stopped in 96 putting his Amendment on the second reading of a Bill by a Motion for closure. That Amendment had been on the Paper for three or four weeks, and such a proceeding was absolutely unknown. The second point is one which I do not think has been noticed in the course of the debate. Several Drainage Bills were brought forward by Conservative Members, and it is well known that the hon. Member for the Camborne Division objected to those Bills. Among others, the hon. Gentleman objected to the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). The noble Lord then moved that the Order for the Second Reading of his Bill be discharged, because it was objected to by the hon. Member.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
That is not at all the reason. I did so because it was not possible to pass the Bill at this period of the Session.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
That may have been the reason of the noble Lord; but I am perfectly certain as to the words of the noble Lord, which were that—"In consequence of the opposition of the hon. Member, he would now move that the Bill be discharged." That is my recollection of the circumstance, and it is as distinct as that of the noble Lord's. I am only pointing out that the onus and responsibility for the withdrawal of the important Bill for the Bann Drainage having been thrown on the hon. Member for the Camborne Division, it became incumbent upon him to justify himself to the public. I put these points to the House simply to show that the hon. Member acted under great provocation—that a great deal happened last night which drove the hon. Member to write the letter; and, since the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has spoken of the provocation which Mr. O'Donnell received, I think that the hon. Member for the Camborne Division deserves quite as much mercy as he says was extended to the former on that ground. I certainly hope this will not be made a Party question.
§ MR. HALLEY STEWART (Lincolnshire, Spalding)
I should like to make an explanation which may enable the House to come to a decision upon this question. So far as the time at which the occurrence took place is an element in arriving at a decision, I may say that my hon. Friend the Member for 97 Camborne Division of Cornwall told me at 2 o'clock this afternoon, before he came into the House, that the letter was written that morning after the House rose, and was posted within an hour of the transaction to which it relates.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
I think not a few hon. Gentlemen who are sitting around me will agree with me when I urge the advisability, if possible, of somewhat diminishing the sentence proposed by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. I think that some hon. Gentlemen here would support the suggestion of the Leader of the House—namely, that a month should be substituted for the indefinite term of the noble Lord. Personally, I am not prepared to support the proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), because it appears to me that the offence of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division is one of so serious a nature, and is such a direct insult upon Mr. Speaker, that it ought to be marked by a greater sentence than has been passed on other occasions. I hope, however, that the House will agree to modify somewhat the proposal of the noble Lord.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
I hope that hon. Members opposite will recollect that there will be a very strong feeling outside the House when this matter is considered. We must bear in mind that the opinion outside the House of Commons is the opinion which supports the dignity of the House. I trust the House will take a more lenient view of this matter than has been suggested by the noble Lord. I believe there is no precedent for an accusation having been made and judgment passed upon the accused at the same time.
§ DR. TANNER
In consequence of the feeling which appears to prevail in the House at the present time, I venture to suggest the advisability of the adjournment of this debate. I make the suggestion because, to judge from the expressions of opinion within the last few minutes, it appears to me the House wishes to do what was once ascribed to a certain jury, who condemned a prisoner to death in order that they might dine. Dinner appears to be the uppermost notion in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Is it right 98 or just to the constituency which is represented by the hon. Member (Mr. Conybeare)? Does it contribute to the dignity of this House that a question like this should be disposed of in this way? I have seen the Conservative Whips preventing Members from leaving the House. This Division, if one is taken, will be taken entirely and tee-totally on Party lines. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but if they, for a certain period, disfranchise a constituency, that constituency will consider it no laughing matter. It is no laughing matter that one of the Members of this House should be deprived of the privilege of sitting in Parliament for an indefinite time, for that is practically the question before the House. The First Lord of the Treasury has practically admitted that there is to be no Autumn Session. Hon. Members then endeavoured to ascertain for what period was the hon. Member to be suspended, and then, and then only, was there a little meeting between the First Lord of the Treasury and the noble Lord the Mover of the Motion. The First Lord of the Treasury, in order to endeavour to maintain his position before the House, and in order to endeavour to prevent his exposure before the country, wanted to get out of the difficulty of running away from his declaration that there should be an Autumn Session, and himself proposed that the hon. Member should be suspended for a month. Is that dignified? What have we seen to-night? We have seen the First Lord of the Treasury standing stammering in his place this evening. [Mr. SPEAKER: Order, order!] I think that the position which this House at present occupies is one fraught with distinct danger to its own dignity. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh; but I recollect an occasion, only last year, when I occupied a position very nearly similar to that occupied now by my hon. Friend the Member for the Camborne Division. I did not consider that a laughing matter, and, what is more, I would urge the importance of the present situation upon hon. Members opposite. Is it to go to the country that a Member is to be deprived of his privileges because he constitutes what some hon. Members may term an obstruction in the House? That is a matter the country will take notice of. Personally, I deprecate the idea of 99 this House coming to a decision in this matter upon distinctly Party lines. Hon. Members opposite will go into the Lobby in support of the noble Lord; while hon. Members on the Opposition Benches will go into the Lobby in support of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division. Accordingly, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Dr. Tanner.)
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I trust the House will not entertain the Motion for adjournment. There has been already, I think, sufficient consideration given to the subject, and we ought now to come to a decision. I wish to state to the House the course I propose to take with regard to the Amendment and the Motion. The Question you, Mr. Speaker, will put from the Chair will be, "That those words stand part of the Question." I shall vote for that Motion in opposition to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and if my noble Friend's Motion becomes the substantive Motion I shall move a Proviso that the suspension shall not extend beyond one month.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
On the point of Order, I would like to ask whether the House can be asked to suspend a Member for the remainder of the Session, no matter how long that may be off, and add a Proviso that in no case shall the suspension last more than one month? It appears to me that it would be a rather ridiculous thing to do.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is a question rather for the interpretation of the House than a question of Order. If the House limits the suspension to one month, that Proviso could be added at the end.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I take it that what the noble Lord says is indisputable. It would be a grammatical absurdity to state that a Gentleman shall be suspended for the Session, and then add that he should be suspended for a month, unless we have an assurance from the Government that the Session—either the present or the adjourned Session—shall not exceed a month. It seems that the regular course would be either that the noble Lord should withdraw his 100 Motion in favour of another Motion, or else that his Motion should be negatived. I take it that then the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) would become the substantive Motion, and that thereupon the Government could, if they liked, move that instead of for 14 days the suspension should be for a month. I hope the Government will take the course which will secure the unanimous vote of the House. In my opinion, that is the only course which is consistent with the dignity of the House, and I deeply regret that the Government, when they have the power of securing a result like that, should be parties to the imposition of a punishment for the severity of which I believe there is no precedent.
§ MR. P. STANHOPE (Wednesbury)
I beg, Mr. Speaker, to call your attention to a point of Order. The Motion before the House is the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. P. STANHOPE
I think that the question requires further consideration on the part of this House, and I am certain that it requires a great deal more consideration outside this House. Hon. Members opposite will, I am sure, be the first to admit to-morrow, when they see the effect produced on public opinion, that they will be very unwise in taking up an attitude which can only be interpreted in the country as meaning that Irish Members are to be locked up in Ireland, and English Members are to be suspended from the service of the House.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I think that if the House will consider for a moment or two it may be able to hit on two or three reflections in favour of the adjournment of this debate. Hon. Members will regret hereafter if any precipitate steps are now taken. The situation, in many respects, is a novel one. The majority of this House has declared already that the hon. Member for the Camborne Division has been guilty of a gross libel upon the Chair. That is a very serious matter, and this House would be unworthy of respect in any quarter if it failed to follow up a decision of that kind with some distinct step. It is necessary to the very existence of this House that it should vindicate not only its own autho- 101 rity, but the authority also of the Chair. But the majority of this House who came to that decision should remember also that they have placed the Chair in a position which, a little time ago, it did not hold. A little time ago, the Chair was as one amongst the Members of the House.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I was in hopes of being able to show that these considerations I was raising are very germane to the Motion for Adjournment. But, however, lest I should be found to be wanting in deference to the decision of the Chair, I will pass from the point. What I would urge further is this—that the original circumstances from which the matter under consideration arose occurred, after all, only a very few hours ago—occurred late last night, or rather early this morning, at the end of a prolonged Sitting. Foot hot upon those proceedings the hon. Member for the Camborne Division wrote a letter. The paper upon which that letter was printed and circulated to the public was scarcely dry before the matter was sprung upon the attention of the House. It would be exceedingly hard if, under these circumstances, the House were driven into a precipitate course of conduct which it would afterwards have cause to regret. Another reflection, I submit, is this—that on previous occasions, before a Member has been sentenced to a punishment, he has always known what view the House took of his offence. On this occasion the hon. Member was directed to withdraw before he knew, and before he could know, what particular view the House would take of his offence. The House, since the hon. Gentleman's withdrawal, has come to a decision of a very serious character. It appears to me that to sentence the hon. Member for the offence now imputed to him, without his having had an opportunity of submitting himself to the judgment of the House, or of explaining the matter, would be strictly unfair. For every reason it is desirable to defer the decision in this matter.
§ MR. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
I think that if the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury will take a few hours to consider this matter, and adjourn the debate until to-morrow, he will find that a con- 102 siderable majority of the Gentlemen sitting around him are in favour of a fortnight's, instead of a month's, suspension. If the right hon. Gentleman will throw overboard his mutinous follower (Lord Randolph Churchill) we will stand by him.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 133; Noes 277: Majority 144.—(Div. List, No. 231.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words 'remainder of the Session' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
I understand, from the tenour of the discussion which has taken place, that the real purport of the question now really is, whether the suspension shall be for 14 days or 28 days? I do not know whether I ought to offer any advice—I think I will not—but, at the same time, I should like to ask the Government whether they think it is discreet to keep up a distinction between those two terms? What may take place? As pointed out before, the hon. Member for the Camborne Division may get elected for the Camborne Division again, and come in with a triumphant majority. That could not be a very pleasing thing for the Government, or for anyone who had been parties to this attack upon him. Even supposing the hon. Gentleman does not appeal to the electors of Camborne, he, at least, may attend political meetings in the meantime, and may denounce all parties concerned in these proceedings. I do not think that is a prospect that any of the parties concerned look forward to with any equanimity. I should like to state what I have heard since the last Division took place. At the present moment copies of The Star are selling in the streets at 6d. a-piece. That shows that the people outside are already taking the side of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division. The effect of that will be to discredit, not only the decision of the Speaker, but also the decision of the majority of this House. With reference to the Bann Drainage Bill, I may say that I did not communicate in any way with the authorieties of the House to the effect that no discussion was likely to take place. I have not the slightest doubt that a communication of some sort was made to Mr. Speaker, that it was probable that 103 the Bill would not be discussed by the Irish Members. But those sort of things are always uncertain and unreliable. I think that, taking everything into account, it would be well that a reasonable amount of discussion should take place on all important questions.
§ SIR CHARLES DALRYMPLE (Ipswich)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member (Mr. Biggar) in reference to the commercial transactions of which he spoke. I rise for a definite purpose. I believe that the feeling on this side would be met by the suspension of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division for one month. I believe that such a decision would be arrived at on this side without haste or heat; and, incredible as it may appear to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), I must say that the only fear we have is lest there should be an appearance of vindictiveness upon our part. Let me recall to the House what happened a short time ago when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) spoke upon this question. Following the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), the right hon. Gentleman clearly had never contemplated so short a period of suspension as a fortnight. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke he took exception, and very naturally and properly, to the vagueness of the period "until the end of the Session;" but plainly the right hon. Gentleman at that time never thought of anything short of a suspension until the period when the House was prorogued in August, or had adjourned in August with a view to an Autumn Session. I think, if I am not mistaken, the view of the right hon. Gentleman then expressed would be adequately met by the suspension of the hon. Member for one month. Certainly, I am confident, from what the right hon. Gentleman said, he never contemplated so short a suspension as a fortnight, and he only adopted that period, after hearing the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan), in palliation of the offence of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I think it is not advisable, after what has been said, to refer at any length to the pro- 104 ceedings of last night. Still, in considering the punishment to be inflicted in this case, it is absolutely necessary we should bear in mind the proceedings which led to an outbreak of temper on the part of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division. I sat behind the hon. Member last night. I was aware of the interest he took in the question. For weeks I have been in communication with him upon the subject, and have rather deprecated the Amendment he put down against the Land Drainage Bills. But I was perfectly well aware of his anxiety and eagerness in the matter; and, sitting behind him last night as I did, I must confess that he felt at the time extremely indignant at what he believed to be a misapplication of the closure. I think that the House, in deciding between a month's and a fortnight's suspension, should also recollect that the letter must have been written at an early hour this morning, while the hon. Member was still labouring under excitement, and still fresh from the rather painful scene which had occurred. The letter appeared in the early edition of The Star newspaper; and, therefore, it must have been written between 2 and half-past 2 o'clock this morning, immediately after the House rose. I do not think it will add to the dignity of the House—certainly it will not add strength to the Government—if they take such advantage of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division as to inflict a severe sentence upon him. It will be impossible to remove from the minds of his constituents the idea that there is another reason behind this proceeding besides that of punishing him for the offence he has committed. It will be impossible to remove that opinion from the minds of the people of Camborne, and I fear that a suspicion of vindictiveness in these proceedings will be entertained by people outside the district of Camborne. I appeal to the Government to act sensibly in this matter, to lean to the side of moderation, to accept frankly and at once the proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and be content with inflicting the punishment of suspension for a fortnight upon the hon. Member for the Camborne Division for what he did in the heat of the moment, and for doing what I am sure he did out of a sense of public duty, and out of a 105 sense of the duty he owed to his constituents.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
I wish, before we come to a decision, to make an appeal to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). I am not aware whether the noble Lord, in making this Motion, had in his mind the prospect of an adjourned Autumn Session. If he had no such idea, then probably it was not his intention that the hon. Member for the Camborne Division should be suspended for more than a month. I should be very glad if the noble Lord would assure us he had no wish that an extreme or a vindictive sentence should be passed on the hon. Member. The hon. Member for the Camborne Division speaks from a place with which the noble Lord is very familiar. Many of us remember when the noble Lord occupied that position, and when the noble Lord tried the patience of hon. Members of his own Party very sorely. Besides, it is not to be forgotten that the hon. Member for the Camborne Division is a new Member of the House. That, at any rate, is a reason why he should not be proceeded against with any very great severity. I think the House of Commons will have secured everything the case calls for, if they unanimously decide in favour of a fortnight's suspension, rather than there should be what must show itself to the country as nothing but a Party vote, if a month's suspension is insisted upon. We, on this side, hold that the hon. Member has not exceeded the irregularity of Mr. O'Donnell when he was in this House, and in which case the punishment of a fortnight's suspension was inflicted. It cannot be disguised from the House that there were many Members sorely grieved and disappointed at the action taken by the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) in moving the closure upon the Drainage Bill last night. It is a very unfortunate thing if, upon the second reading of a Bill, all discussion is to be stopped. By the course taken by the hon. Member for South Antrim, many of us were precluded from taking part in the debate. I can easily understand that the hon. Member for the Camborne Division was, under such circumstances, moved to do that which in a cooler moment he would not have done. Under all the circumstances, I trust that we 106 shall be saved from a Party Division, and that it will be unanimously agreed that a fortnight's suspension, rather than a month's, should be the extent of the punishment inflicted upon the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM
Mr. Speaker, in rising to support a fortnight's suspension rather than a month's, I can fancy you in your Chair, Sir, are saying the old proverb——
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 229; Noes 152: Majority 77.—(Div. List, No. 232.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I now beg to add to the Motion the words "or for one calendar month, whichever shall first terminate."
§ Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words "or for one calendar month, whichever shall first terminate."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ DR. TANNER
There is a little ambiguity about the word "mouth." Is it to be a calendar month or a lunar month? I beg to move the insertion of the word "weeks." The vote just taken has been taken on distinct Party lines. Every Conservative wont into the Lobby against the hon. Member for Camborne, while we went for him. I admit the victory of hon. Gentlemen, who have gone against a Member of this House out of pure spite and spleen.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Of course, we cannot oppose the Motion made by the right hon. Gentleman, because it goes in the direction of a limitation of the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington; but, at the same time, we cannot assent in any way to a Motion which is contrary to the opinions we expressed in the last Division. Therefore, it must be distinctly understood we maintain our protest against this sentence on the hon. Member for the Camborne Division. We think it exceeds the necessities of the case, and that it transgresses Parliamentary precedents by which we ought to be governed. Reference was made 107 to what fell earlier in the evening from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone); and I think it therefore right to say that, although he was obliged to leave the House a short time ago, he paired in favour of the Motion reducing the sentence to a fortnight's suspension. His opinion, therefore, is contrary to the decision at which the House is about to arrive—namely, to inflict a punishment which we consider altogether excessive. We shall, of course, take no part in this vote.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That Mr. Conybeare, Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall, be suspended from the service of the House for the remainder of the Session, or for one calendar month, whichever shall first terminate.