HC Deb 05 December 1890 vol 349 cc664-6
(4.15.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH, Strand, Westminster)

Mr. Deputy Speaker,—Sir, I feel sure that on the present occasion, whatever differences may exist in this House, there will be no difference of opinion as to the expression of the views and feelings of the House in desiring to convey to the Speaker the expression of their real and sincere sympathy with him in the sorrow which has befallen him during the last few hours. The House has been aware that the shadow of that great sorrow has prevented the Speaker from discharging his duties in the Chair during the last 10 days. All who know the Speaker are aware that only extreme necessity would have kept him from the discharge of those duties, and I am sure the House is unanimous in feeling that the Speaker was right in abstaining from coming into the Chair. I am sure that hon. Members would, if that were possible, individually have tendered their expression of sincere regard and sorrow that a man so loved by all his friends, and so valued in this House, should be so heavily afflicted. I know that on such an occasion as this words should be few, and that the voice of sympathy should be almost hushed. I do not wish to enlarge on the present occasion on the personal affliction that has befallen Mr. Speaker—that is a sacred matter for himself—but we can at least approach him, and say from our hearts that we are grieved, that we enter into his sorrow, and that we trust a sense of the performances of duties yet to come to the country and to this House will arouse him from the sorrow and affliction in which he is at present plunged, and that we shall be able to welcome him back to the Chair; a sad man, a man deprived of the comfort of his life, it may be, but a man ready to discharge the honourable duties which the country expects from him, and which this House thoroughly trusts him to fulfil. If I do not make any Motion it is because I thought it undesirable that we should say more than what I believe is the unanimous feeling of the House expressive of our sorrow at Mr. Speaker's deep affliction.

(4.17.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

Mr. Deputy Speaker,—Although the right hon. Gentleman has refrained, and I am disposed to think has wisely refrained, from submitting any actual Motion to the consideration of the House, and although he has not left me in point of form any defined province or function on the score of which I may appeal to the House for its indulgence, yet I think it my duty, presuming on its kind permission, to echo the words which have been so well spoken by the right hon. Gentleman. I feel sure, and I believe the entire House feels, that we are deeply interested in all that concerns the happiness of Mr. Speaker. The House of Commons is of necessity under great and increasing debt to Mr. Speaker. At all times the duties imposed upon that great officer of State have been duties of an arduous character, but they have of late years become such as to task to a degree altogether extraordinary most of the qualities which go to make up a powerful mind and a masculine character. I think, therefore, that we do well to discharge this growing obligation in expressing to Mr. Speaker our deep sympathy with him in his sorrow. Nor can I pass by that which the right hon. Gentleman has well said as to the value of his services. It is not for us to intrude into the sanctuary of private sorrow, nor to know what consequences may follow upon a visitation so heavy, but I believe the right hon. Gentleman has expressed the universal sense of the House when he has stated his wish and hope that we may still enjoy, and enjoy in spite of this great visitation, the valued services which Mr. Speaker performs to the public and to the House when he sits in the Chair. I, Sir, therefore, concur with the right hon. Gentleman in everything that he has said, and I believe that it will be the earnest hope of the House that while any expression of sympathy one can offer him must be well known to be a very inadequate medicine indeed for so severe a hurt, he may be favoured with every consolation that can be derived by man on these great occasions of life, whether from a human or from a higher source.