§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I rise, Sir, for the purpose of giving it notice, and of putting a question with reference to that notice, upon a number of so much interest to the House that it is, I think, invested with an exceptional character, and I trust the House will permit me the make a few observations in order to make my notice intelligible. My attention has been 1655 directed to an occurrence which took place in this House on Friday night, at a time when I was not present, and which resulted in the suspension of the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere.) The ground upon which he was suspended appears to have been the use of certain language with reference to an assertion of the Prime Minister's, and doubts have arisen in the minds of many Members whether or not that proceeding, unless it be accompanied by some explanation or declaration on the part of the House, might result in some limitation of the liberty of Members of the House to impeach the conduct of a Member of the Government in cases where the Member of the Government whose conduct happens to be impeached is a Member of the House of Lords, and where he disclaims or denies the matter of fact imputed to him. I am quite certain that the feeling on the part of the House that there should be no limitation of that liberty is general; and it is right that attention should be called to the subject, for it is a question of the utmost importance to hon. Members with reference to the discharge by them of their highest duties, and it is also one that should be set at rest at the earliest possible moment. I was not surprised to learn, on your authority, Sir, that this question could not be raised as a matter of privilege, and I thought it could not be raised on a Motion for the adjournment of the House, when matters are never allowed to be discussed which relate to the Rules and Procedure of the House. I have therefore framed the following Motion:—That this House deems it necessary to declare that when a Member of this House prefers a charge against a Minister of the Crown, which charge is denied on behalf of the Minister, such Member should not be restrained from refusing to accept such denial and persisting in his charge by reason that the Minister is a Member of the House of Lords.That notice is framed with, the view of clearing up the question. I may express the hope that it may not come to be a subject of hostile debate; but the question ought in any case to be cleared up. As it is constitutional in character, and approaches nearly to a question of privilege, I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) whether he will agree to allow me, as far as he and the Government are concerned, to 1656 make this Motion at the beginning of public business to-morrow?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am, in a measure, taken by surprise by the question of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I understood the right hon. Member for Derby to say that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian would probably ask for a day; and I am somewhat taken by surprise by the request that this Resolution should be considered to-morrow, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to consider to-night what course it will be right for the Government to take in the matter. I admit the importance of the question, and therefore I do not wish unnecessarily to delay the Debate upon it; but the right hon. Gentleman must see that it would not be well to allow any but the gravest matter to interrupt the important Debate upon which "we are about to enter this evening.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I shall reserve the notice at my disposal until I know the final decision of the right hon. Gentleman.