HC Deb 11 May 1893 vol 12 cc729-31

On this Motion, Mr. Speaker, I desire with your permission to offer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Sir John Gorst) an opportunity of making some explanation upon an incident which took place before, Sir, you came back again to the Chair. The facts, as far as I am concerned, are briefly these: I was standing at the back of the Chair with others, and there was a debate amongst some friends as to whether it was possible to move the Closure after the hour of 12 o'clock to-night and after the Division on the Motion to report Progress. I was of opinion that it was possible to move the Closure, and, passing out in the Division, I lent across the Table, and, addressing the Clerk at the Table—not the Chairman—I used these words to him:—"We are entitled, are we not, to claim to move the Closure after this Division?" Upon which the right hon. Gentleman and his friends who were standing near him in a loud tone—in tones calculated to be offensive—shouted out across the Table, "Shame, shame!" I then said, "What is that you say?" not being sure that I heard aright, and the expression was repeated. I submit, Mr. Speaker, to your judgment that this is not a Parliamentary word—that it is a word that cannot be used by one Member to another in this House; and that if such conduct is pursued it will render life in this House, I think, perfectly intolerable. When the right hon. Gentleman shouted "Shame" I went to him and asked him would he give an explanation of his conduct when either the Chairman or the Speaker was in the Chair, and he said he would. He has not done so up to the present time, and I now desire to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of offering any explanation he may feel inclined to give. After that is done, Mr. Speaker, I will submit to your judgment whether the conduct I have described is Parliamentary or ought to be tolerated in this House.

SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)

I did, Sir, among other Members, make use, just before the last Division, of the expression which has been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I was led to do so by my zeal for the independence and authority of the Chair. What actually happened was this, Sir: There was a very delicate and a very important question under consideration by the Chairman of the Committee—namely, whether he could or could not allow the Closure to be moved after the Division upon the Motion to report Progress, which had not terminated till considerably after 12 o'clock. Instead of leaving the Chairman of Committees, with the assistance of his proper advisers at the Table, to determine that point for himself, he was surrounded by a group consisting, in the first place, of the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—


The right hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken.


And the right hon. I Gentleman the Member for Bedford, There was a considerable group, who seemed to surround and almost overpower the Chairman of Committees. I confess that, moved by my desire to support the independence and authority of the Chair, I made use as I passed by in going into the Division Lobby of the expression to which the right hon. Member has made reference. I accept perfectly, of course, his explanation as to his presence in that group. If I had known that the right hon. Gentleman was in the group merely for the purpose which he has now explained to the House, I certainly should not have made use of such an expression; and so far as he is concerned I have no hesitation, after his explanation to the House, in withdrawing the expression and apologising to him for having made it. I believe the expression as applied to any hon. Member of the House is unparliamentary, and I must therefore express my regret for having used an unparliamentary expression, which was forced from me by the indignation which I felt at the attempt which I thought, and which I thought on fairly reasonable grounds, was being made to tamper with the independence of the Chair.


After what has passed there is very little for me to say. The word "shame" is an expression I have always endeavoured, with the sanction of the House, to restrain; but after what has passed, and as the right hon. Gentleman has so frankly acknowledged the unparliamentary character of the expression, I do not think there is anything more to say. I could have wished that the Chairman of Committees had been present, so that the House might have heard his version of what passed; but as he is not present, I am scarcely in a position to judge, and I hope the House will not think that it will be necessary for me to hear anything more of the matter.