§ * SIR. W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)
I am not in the habit generally of bringing questions of Order before the House; but I must ask to-day for the kind indulgence of the House while I ask the Speaker questions on points of Order with regard to a Notice of Motion which appears on the Paper for this day in the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Conybearo). I think, Sir, that I am only expressing the general opinion of the House when I say, as an independent Member, that in most trying and difficult circumstances you have discharged your duties with a fairness and impartiality and a firmness which must commend 1021 themselves to every right-feeling mar in the House. Part of the following Notice has been on the Order Book for some time; but my attention was not specially called to it until today, for which day I find that it has been put down as an Amendment to the Motion for going into Committee of Supply, with a recent addition relating to an incident of the present Session:—Mr. Conybeare,—To move that the application of the Closure on the 19th of July, 1888, to the Motion that the Bann Drainage Bill be now read a second time, without any debate having taken place thereupon, and the refusal by Mr. Speaker to permit an Amendment to such Motion standing in the name of the Member for Camborne to be moved, and the application of the Closure on the 16th of May, 1889, to the Motion relating to perpetual pensions and the refusal by Mr. Speaker to permit an Amendment, proposed by the Member for Caithness, to be moved, constituted a very gross abuse of the Rules of this House, which, by Standing Order 25, require Mr. Speaker to use his discretion for the protection of the rights of the minority.I wish to ask the Speaker whether such expressions ought to appear on the Notice Paper of the House? By the Standing Order Mr. Speaker is required to use his discretion for the protection of the rights of the minority; and I appeal to the House whether Mr. Speaker has not invariably used his discretion with judgment and with justice? I wish, therefore, to ask whether it is in order that this Notice should appear on the Order Book; secondly, whether any Amendment can be moved to it to-day; and, thirdly, whether, if it be not disposed of to-day, such a Notice impugning the character of the Speaker ought to be allowed to remain on the Order Book of this House?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Baronet informed me a few minutes ago that he was about to ask this question of me. I may say that I had noticed the Motion on the Paper in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Camborne, the first part of it, I believe, has been on the Paper for nearly a year, but it was not until lately that the hon. Member fixed to-day for the Motion, in which he has included a further and recent application of the closure, in addition to the terms of his original Motion. The hon. Member has not only questioned the exercise of the discretion with which I am invested by the House, but he has 1022 done more—he has questioned the Votes of the House, because the exercise of my discretion was ratified by the House on both occasions. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly within his right in questioning the exercise of discretion by the Speaker, but he clearly cannot do so by an Amendment to the Motion "that the Speaker do now leave the Chair," because, as I have already pointed out on a previous occasion, that would give no opportunity to any hon. Member if he thought fit to move an Amendment traversing the Motion of the hon. Member for Camborne. If the hon. Member objects to a Vote of the House, it is not competent for him to call it in question by an Amendment to the Motion that I do leave the Chair, but he must move a substantive Motion asking that the Vote of the House shall be specifically and distinctly cancelled. On both occasions, as I say, the House by a Vote ratified the exercise of my discretion. I only point out—I do not wish to argue the question—that whether the discretion vested in me was rightly or wrongly exercised, the House on both occasions thought it right not to refuse the application of the closure. I only acted in the exercise of the discretion specifically vested in me when I thought it right—and I do not think I was wrong—not to withhold the question of the application of the closure from the judgment of the House; and the House on both occasions ratified my judgment by a large majority. It was a matter entirely for the opinion of the House to sanction or refuse the application of the closure. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to question my conduct or to question the conduct of this House in a particular Vote he must submit a substantive Resolution to the judgment of the House. If he were to raise a debate upon the Notice now on the Paper, the issue would not be fairly presented to the House. Perhaps I ought to have dealt with the matter before, but as the Notice had relation to myself as well as to the House, the House will understand that I felt some delicacy in moving in the matter.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I had not the slightest idea of transgressing the Rules and Orders of the House by putting the Motion down for Friday evening, and I have not received any intimation that I was out of order in so doing. I had no desire to question the ruling of the 1023 Speaker or his action in connection with the two Votes or the decision of the House. If it is not competent for me to bring on the Motion in this form on a Friday evening, I will take the earliest opportunity of submitting it as an independent Motion either this Session or next.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
Upon the point of order may I ask if it is in your discretion, Sir, to allow the closure to be moved when there has been no debate, as in the case of the Bann Drainage Bill?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
My discretion is unlimited to submit to or to withhold from the judgment of the House to determine whether the question shall be put or not. I am vested by the Standing Orders with absolute discretion to permit the closure to be moved unless I think that the debate ought to be allowed to go on in the interests of fair debate and in the interests of the minority, whatever that may mean. If I think the matter is not properly before the House I do not intervene but allow the debate to go on.