§ The Order of the Day having been called for the House to resolve itself into Committee of Supply,
§ MR. SEXTON
I wish to submit a question to you, Sir, in regard to an entry on the votes as to the proceedings yesterday in Committee of Supply. At half-past five o'clock a Division was in progress on an Amendment to reduce the vote for the Irish Constabulary. When the Division came to an end, it then being after half-past five, the Chairman did not leave the Chair according to the established rule, but put another Motion—namely, the main question on the Vote. Objection was taken to that proceeding, it being after half-past five, and the First Lord of the Treasury then rose and moved "that the Question be now put." The Chairman accepted that Motion and put the question. On being asked whether there was a precedent for that course the Chairman said there was a precedent on November 14 of last year. But there is a difference between the proceeding on the 14th of November last year and that of yesterday, because in the former case no objection was taken to proceeding after half-past five o'clock, and no objection appeared in the Report of what passed. As soon as the Division after half-past five was over the Chairman was bound by the Standing Order to leave the Chair, and after objection was taken further proceeding with contentious business ought according to the rule, as I understand it, to have been abandoned. I, therefore, wish to ask you, Sir, if you are disposed to inform the House what is the proper step to be taken by an hon. Member to have the entry on the Votes expunged where the rule has been transgressed. 801 I also object to the entry as being inaccurate and incoherent. The entry says—It being after half-past five o'clock and objection being taken to further proceeding, the Chairman rose to interrupt the business.These words are inaccurate, because the Chairman rose to put a new Motion, a further Motion—namely, the main question, and then objection was taken. I submitted that the record ought to be amended so as to make it either a faithful or an intelligible representation of what actually took place.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I was not aware that the right hon. Gentleman was going to raise a point of order, and, indeed, it is irregular to do so after the business has commenced, and after the occasion on which the point of order arose. But I must respectfully decline to constitute myself a Court of Appeal from the decisions of the Chairman of Committees. The point of order raised yesterday was settled; and if any doubt lingered in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman as to the ruling of the Chairman of Committees it was within his competence to bring it before the House at the time. The Chairman is perfectly competent to decide a point of order in Committee; and I never heard of an appeal being made from the decision of the Chairman to the Speaker. From what I can see of the proceedings I believe they were perfectly in accordance with precedent and with the common law and practice of Parliament. If when half-past five is reached an Amendment to a question is then being decided by a Division, the time of the interruption, of business is thrown forward. When the first question on the Amendment is decided, the main question is proposed, and if objection is taken thereto it is quite in order to move the closure pursuant to the new Standing Order. As for the entry in the Votes I do not observe anything which is irregular. I find it states that "Mr. W. H. Smith rose in his place and claimed to move ' That the Question be now put.'" It is quite competent for the right hon. Gentleman to move that Motion, at the time indicated, and it is the form in use since the new Standing Order, "Sittings of the House," came into force. But I must protest against any reference being made to me against any decision arrived at in Committee; and I have 802 only entered thus far into the matter out of regard for the right hon. Gentleman and out of respect for the House generally. No irregularity occurred, in my opinion, but these proceedings were perfectly regular.
§ MR. SEXTON
Of course, Sir, I bow to your ruling, and I shall take the opinion of the House on another occasion. But in the matter of the accuracy of the records of the House, you surely, Sir, are the guardian of the House. The record states—It being after half-past five of the clock and objection being taken to further proceedings the Chairman rose to interrupt the business.This statement is inaccurate, and that part of it with respect to objection being taken is incoherent and unintelligible.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I will communicate with the right hon. Gentleman to see that the record is correct, but I have no reason at present to doubt its accuracy.
§ MR. COURTNEY
Perhaps I may be allowed to say one word. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast has power to arraign my conduct in this particular, by a Motion made in the House, which is the proper step to take. What was done yesterday was strictly in accordance with the precedents which have been followed both in Committee and in the House. In the particular point to which he has called attention—as to the word "rose"—ho is perhaps justified in his remark. The exact situation may be represented in this way. The Chairman rose, and thereupon he would have left the Chair, objection being taken to further proceeding, had not the right hon. Gentleman moved that the Question be now put. The only point is that the Chairman was on his legs throughout the incident, and therefore the word "rose" is inaccurate.
§ MR. SEXTON
I perfectly accept the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, but will he be good enough to see that the record corresponds with his narrative?