§ MR. H. GARDNER, (Essex, Saffron Walden)
, in rising to move a Resolution,That a Member serving on a Select Committee shall be entitled, without being present at Prayers, on any day on which such Committee shall sit, to retain a seat in the House by affixing there to a card, distinguished by colour and marked 'Committee,' which shall be delivered to such Member on his application;said, he thought he should best consult the wishes of hon. Members and the despatch of the Business of the House if he spoke as concisely and briefly as possible. The object of the change which the Amendment implied was, as hon. Members would see, the further convenience and comfort of the Members serving on Select Committees or Private Bill Committees. The change he proposed would oven do more than 228 promote the comfort of hon. Gentlemen serving on Committees—it would materially affect and advance the pecuniary interests of the public. If the House of Commons was constructed in the same way as most of the Houses of Legislature of the world were constructed there would be no necessity for the Amendment which stood in his name, because there would be reserved in the House a seat or locality for each Member. But the wisdom of their predecessors had decreed that on the floor of the House there should not be space for more than 100 out of the 670 Members, and what the wisdom of their predecessors had decreed the matured common sense of the present generation saw no way of getting out of. And so it came about that any Member who was desirous of obtaining a place in the House from which to speak or listen to a debate was obliged to come down one, two, or three hours before the House met—possibly at great personal inconvenience—place his hat on a seat, be present at Prayers, and affix a card on the back of the seat. If a Member serving on a Private Bill Committee wished to obtain a seat in the House on any day on which that Committee was sitting, it would be necessary in future that the Committee should adjourn in order that he might be present at Prayers; This sometimes happened under the old régime; but under the new Rule, providing that Committees were not to rise when the House met, it would be always necessary, supposing the Members wished to retain seats in the House, for the Committee to adjourn, and for the Members to come down to the House. The proceedings of the Committee would thereby be stopped, and, as a consequence, the suitors would be put to very largo expense. His Amendment provided that a Member of a Committee, when he came down to the House, should be able to obtain a different card from that at present in use, affix it to his seat, and thus ensure for himself a seat. It would not be necessary for him to be present at Prayers. Hon. Members would see he suggested that the cards to be used by such Members should be of a different colour to those ordinarily used. He hoped no one would suspect for a moment that he made this suggestion because he imagined that any hon. Member of the 229 House would so far let his personal convenience, or his desire to hear the eloquence of the House, overcome his natural respect for the Rules of the House as to make use of the provision he (Mr. H. Gardner) proposed. It was, however, desirable there should not be any ground for a shadow of suspicion, and that was the reason why the use of cards of a different colour should be used. He stated at the outset that one of the objects of the Amendment was the pecuniary advantage of tire public at large. As the House was aware, suitors before Committees often employed very eminent counsel, and it was a peculiarity of learned gentlemen that when they were eminent they were also very expensive. To suitors before Committees, therefore, time was essentially money. A friend of his, formerly a Member of the House, told him that he calculated that the adjournment of a Committee for an hour had cost the suitors £100. It must be obvious to the House that the adjournments necessary, unless some such Amendment as he proposed were adopted, would cost suitors a considerable sum of money. Under these circumstances, and having very great trust from the answer of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) the other day that the Government would accept it, he begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Member serving on a Select Committee shall be entitled, without being present at Prayers, on any day on which such Committee shall sit, to retain a seat in the House by affixing thereto a card, distinguished by colour and marked 'Committee,' which shall be delivered to such Member on his application."—(Mr. Herbert Gardner.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
said, he had endeavoured, so far as he could, to gather the general feeling of hon. Members of the House upon the question which had been raised by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. Gardner), and he had arrived at the conclusion that the Members generally desired that some such provision as that which the hon. Member had suggested should be 230 adopted. Therefore, without at all going into the question, even at the length the hon. Gentleman had, he suggested it would be desirable that the House should adopt an Order of this character upon the understanding that the cards should be delivered to the Members of the Committees who desired to have them by the Committee clerks. It was obviously necessary that the cards should be in the custody of persons on whom absolute reliance could be placed.
§ MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
said, the words of the Motion were "a Member serving on a Select Committee." Would those words include Members serving on what were generally called Grand Committees?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he was hardly able to say whether that would be the case or not. It must be remembered, however, that the hon. Gentlemen serving on Grand Committees would probably be 80 in number; that they would be able to come in from the Committee Room, take their seats, and go away then. Such Members were not required to be in as constant attendance as the Members of Select Committees or Private Bill Committees. A Member might leave without exposing himself, or anyone else, to inconvenience—at any rate, without causing any expense to the parties before them. Perhaps it would be well they should have some experience of the working of the Rule as applied to Members serving on Select Committees or Private Bill Committees before applying it to Members of the Grand Committees.
§ Question put, and negatived.
Resolved, That a Member serving on a Select Committee shall be entitled, without being present at Prayers, on any day on which such Committee shall sit, to retain a seat in the House by affixing thereto a card, distinguished by colour and marked "Committee," which shall be delivered to such Member on his application.
SUPPLY—Committee upon Monday next.