HC Deb 20 March 1890 vol 342 cc1259-60

I wish to draw your attention, Sir, to the circumstances that have attended the meetings of the House on the last three Wednesdays, and to the delay and waste of time that have occurred before a House could be made, especially yesterday. I wish to know whether, having regard to the waste of time involved, the seeming disrespect to the Chair, and the inconvenience suffered by hon. Members who were detained in the House until a quorum was made, it is not in your power, Sir, to take some special action with the object of doing away with, or at any rate diminishing, the evil?


I know that Members of the House have been put to great inconvenience on the three last Wednesdays. On two of the occasions referred to the House was not made technically until 1 o'clock. I have considered myself whetheF I might leave the Chair at the Table until a House can be made, but I have thought it unfair that I should have the opportunity of going out of the House whilst Members are detained. Possibly if I had gone out, and allowed the Members who were present to go out too, they might not have been willing to return, so that there would have been additional delay in making a House. On a Wednesday the House cannot be counted out until 4 o'clock. I believe that rule has arisen from the practice of allowing new Members to take their seats up to 4 o'clock. It is an old practice of the House, but if the House likes to alter the practice it can do so by Resolution. There are two alternative courses which I might take, subject to the approval of the House. I might not come into the House until I had been informed by the proper authority that there was a sufficient quorum in the Lobby, or, when a quorum is not formed by half-past 12 o'clock, I might leave the Chair for a quarter of an hour in the hope that a House might be made in that time. There is undoubtedly a certain amount of discredit attached to the spectacle of 20 or 30 Members being retained compulsorily in the House for so long a time as they were retained yesterday, when a quorum was not made until after 1 o'clock.


May I ask whether, on Wednesdays, you, Sir, have not the authority to require the presence in the House itself of every Member who may be within the precincts—Members, for example, in attendance on Committees.


Undoubtedly it was the ancient practice for the Serjeant-at-Arms to go into Westminster Hall and require the attendance of any Members who might be there. The hon. Member is probably aware that Committees do not often sit on Wednesdays. At the outside there might be 20 Members in the Committee Rooms upstairs on a Wednesday, but these might certainly assist in making a quorum.