HC Deb 06 April 1894 vol 22 cc1518-20

Mr. Speaker, I wish to submit a question to you with reference to the records of the House as to the Division on the Second Leading of the East London Water Bill yesterday, the Second Reading being carried by a majority of one. I find that the name of the hon. Member for the Nuneaton Division of Warwickshire (Mr. Newdigate) is given as voting in the Division; and, with reference to the vote of that hon. Member, I have to call attention to the following statement which has been handed to me by one of the Whips of the Irish Party:— Mr. Blake (South Longford) and Mr. Newdigate (Nuneaton Division. Warwickshire), although paired with absent Members, were both in the House yesterday, and as Mr. Blake desired to take part in the Divisions I asked Lord Walter Lennox (Chichester Division, Sussex) early in the afternoon it he would agree that each of the hon. Gentlemen should be free to vote. He did not accept the proposal at the time; but after the bell had rang for the Division on the East London Water Bill, I met him at the door of the House and renewed the offer, to which he then consented. I asked him if the arrangement would apply to the Division about to take place, and he replied that there was not then time to inform Mr. Newdigate. I therefore sent word to that effect to Mr. Blake, who was in the Lobby prepared to vote, and he abstained from taking part in the Division. Mr. Newdigate's name appears in the List this morning as having voted on the opposite side. It would therefore appear that Mr. Newdigate must have been released from his obligation by his Party, otherwise he could not have voted, whilst the Whip maintained the obligation in the case of Mr. Blake. I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the vote must be regarded as valid, and, if so, whether some explanation is not due to the House of the circumstances under which Mr. Newdigate recorded his vote?


There is no official or Parliamentary recognition of the system of pairing. If the name of the hon. Member who voted wrongly had been struck off the List, it would in that event have been left to me, in my capacity as Speaker of the House, to give the casting vote in the Division. I do not wish to say what I should have done under the circumstances. The system of pairing is not recognised officially, and can take no notice of the incident. It is a custom that has grown up owing to the convenience it affords to Members, and, of course, it is fully recognised by all that it must be conducted upon the most strictly honourable principles, which fact I am convinced has hitherto never been lost sight of by hon. Members. I have no doubt at all that the hon. Member for Warwickshire will be able to give a completely satisfactory explanation of the reason which induced him to vote, when, as a matter of fact, he was paired at the time of the Division, and was thereby precluded from recording his vote.

LORD W. LENNOX (Sussex, Chichester)

By the indulgence of the House I should like to say one word in explanation of the question which has been raised by the hon. Gentleman. I think I shall be able to explain it at once, and it will be the shortest way if I say that both the hon. Member for Longford and also the hon. Member for North-East Warwickshire were paired for yesterday. They were paired with different people, and not with each other. An arrangement was arrived at between the Whips on both sides that when both those hon. Members arrived in the House they might take part in any Division that took place, and so counteract each other's votes. When the first Division took place I was not aware that the Member for North-East Warwickshire had arrived in the House, and I therefore asked that the hon. Member for Longford should not take part in that Division. It seems, however, that I was wrong in thinking that my hon. Friend had not arrived here. He had arrived at the House; he thought he was able to vote, and he accordingly took part in the Division. I can only say, Sir, that this was entirely due to a misapprehension, partly on the part of myself and partly on the part of my hon. Friend, and I am sure the House will be quite satisfied that it was through no want of courtesy to the House or courtesy to other hon. Members which made my hon. Friend take part in that Division. I may, perhaps, be allowed to say, Sir, that it is not altogether unprecedented for mistakes of that kind to occur; and I may, perhaps, be allowed to remind the House that on Tuesday last the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Birrell) took part in a Division as a Teller, although ho, on that occasion, was paired with another hon. Member.

MR. NEWDIGATE (Warwickshire, Nuneaton)

I hope, with the indulgence of the House, I may be allowed to say one word on this question. On Wednesday I was assured that my "pair" for Thursday was off. Needless to say, had it not been for this intimation I should not have thought of voting; and I can only assure the House that I am most sorry I inadvertently voted in the Division.