§ MR. ATKINSON (Boston)
I avail myself, Mr. Speaker, of your permission and the kindness of the House to make a personal statement. I know that the House always wishes to be just and generous, and therefore I wish to say that to-day, when I looked at the report of the proceedings in my bedrooom at 8 o'clock, I found that a Motion that I moved last night was not on the Paper as not having been dealt with, or on the Paper as having been dealt with. I came here immediately in order to make an inquiry, and I found that to some extent technically I was wrong. I have been told by Mr. Palgrave, who has been kind enough to talk the matter over with me, that when I went and sat 1372 on the end of this Bench I ought to have taken off my hat instead of getting up and bowing twice to you, Mr. Speaker. As I had not had my hat on for five hours, having been entertaining 20 friends at dinner, I could not possibly take my hat off and thereby signify that I was moving the Resolution. Immediately I read the Debate this morning I sent this letter to the Clerks at the Table. It is as follows:—1, Whitehall Gardens, S.W., Aug. 5, 1891, 8 a.m.To the Clerks at the Table, House of Commons.Gentlemen,—Last night when my 'Notice of Motion' was called by the Right Hon. the Speaker, saying, 'Mr. Atkinson,' I stood up in my place at the end of second Bench (just behind the Front Bench), and I bowed to the Chair and towards Mr. Palgrave, who was reading. I 1373 always understood this was the way to move when hon. Members did not wish to trouble or detain the House with any remarks.I did this on this occasion because the right hon. the Leader of the House said he hoped that anything I did in future would be without acrimony, and I thought if I did not utter a word there could be no acrimony expressed—No one objected to my action, but I do not see any record of it. May I ask why? I write this because I do not wish to lose any result of my action. I therefore beg you to bring this letter before the right hon. Gentleman the Speaker. You must have seen me rise and bow. I do not wish unnecessarily to trouble the House this morning, so I ask you (by the hands of my son, who acts as my private secretary and waits for your reply) what is my position? I wish to lose no chance of carrying the Resolution in question, which is at page 7 and runs thus:—'Mr. Atkinson.—Entries in Votes and Proceedings, 24th and 27th July, 1891. That the notice as to the suspension of Henry John Atkinson, M.P. for Boston, and the notice as to frivolous divisions upon which the suspension is based be immediately expunged from all the records of the House of Commons.' After this morning I may be too late for months.I am, Gentlemen,Your obedient servant,HENRY JOHN ATKINSON.P.S.—I will come to you at once if wished. I had already stated to the House I would take every opportunity in every Bill or Resolution to get the records against me expunged (see reports of my remarks on Monday)…I see there is no such notice in to-day's paper. This, therefore, proves what I say—my notice quoted above was dealt with, but is not recorded.I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, and to my Colleagues, that inasmuch as I did what I could, and it was impossible for me to take off my hat, which I had not had on for hours, I am entitled to ask the House to pass this Resolution, and relieve me from the disability of going about for five months with the knowledge that there is a Resolution on the Records of the House which I shall have to speak against every day of my life until I am proved guilty or that Resolution is taken off the books. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and the right hon. Gentleman my present leader, who moved my expulsion without giving me notice, why it cannot be agreed that this should be done, and the record expunged? If that is agreed to, I shall sit down, and never mention the grievance again. But at 1374 present I am under a disability which I intend to resist to the utmost of my power until it is removed. I say this not by way of threat, as I wish to have the approval of every one in this House, from the Speaker downwards, and from one end of the House to the other. I have done my best to discharge my duties. I have been denounced as a long speaker, although I have never spoken for 11 minutes at a time. I only desire to establish my position; and if you accord me this request I shall be very pleased, because the bad feeling which I have at present—not bad feeling, but natural resentment—that the gentleman who is my present leader should move a Resolution against me without giving me any notice is really too much for me to bear.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman is under a misconception. I can assure him that last night I called upon him and he made no response. I sat down. I then rose again, and again looked at the hon. Gentleman, thinking that he was going to move the Resolution which stood on the Paper in his name.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am sorry if I have been under a complete misconception as to the intention of the hon. Gentleman. If he says he intended to move it I must accept his statement. But I then went on to the next Motion, the hon. Gentleman never having moved.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I, and the Clerks at the Table, like myself, were under the impression that he had waived his right.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am sorry, then, if there has been any misconception on my part. But when the hon. Gentleman asks the House to be good enough to expunge the record of the proceedings the other night, let me remind him that when I proceeded to ask the hon. Gentleman to stand up in his place I was acting under the Standing Order which is intended to save the House the trouble of dividing when there is a very small minority. The Order under 1375 which I acted contains the words to which the hon. Gentleman objects. I could only act under the Standing Order, and the Clerks are bound to record what took place in the terms of the Standing Order. I confess the word "frivolous" appears to me to be a harsh word. And the House may remember that in addressing the hon. Member I never used that word. I think I said "unnecessary Division," and that is no reflection on the honour or character of the hon. Gentleman. I never supposed that there was any reflection on the hon. Gentleman. I have never said so, either in public or in private; I have simply acted under the Standing Order, which has been put in force both by me and by the right hon. Gentleman in Committee on several occasions, and I have never supposed—no one in the House, so far as I am aware, has ever supposed—that those hon. Members who stood up in their places were acting in any way derogatory to their personal character. I hope the hon. Gentleman will take my assurance that there is no reflection upon him in the least degree. I regret that he did not more clearly inform me last night of his intention, or I should certainly have put the Question to the House.
§ MR. ATKINSON
Can I give notice that on the first day of next Session I will move my Resolution? I have not done so to-day, because I hoped my present leader would have been generous enough to have dealt with the matter now.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)
May I be permitted to say that it would be impossible, even with every desire to meet the views of the hon. Gentleman, to proceed without notice to expunge these Resolutions? Even if it should be the wish of the House to expunge them, it would be impossible to take that course now. No reflection was intended by me, or, I am sure, by any single Member of the House in the action taken under the Rules of the House, and I hope that the hon. Member will accept that assurance.
§ MR. ATKINSON
Mr. Speaker, I have given notice every day since I came back to the House, and, therefore, the contention of the right hon. Gentleman, 1376 my present leader, cannot be correct that I have not given notice. I give notice that I will bring on my Resolution the first day of next Session unless I find that the Resolution has been expunged.
§ MR. SPEAKER
On the first day of next Session the hon. Member may give notice that he will bring it forward.