HC Deb 09 May 1898 vol 57 cc694-5

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, having regard to the Act of the sixth Henry VIII., chapter 16, enacting that no Member of Parliament shall absent himself from attendance therein except he have licence of the Speaker and the Commons and the same licence be entered on record in the book of the Clerk of the Parliament appointed for the Commons House, he purposes to take any steps to cause the law to be observed, or to repeal the Act?


In answer to my honourable Friend I have to say I understand he has omitted one important phrase in the Act of Henry VIII., which is as follows— That those Members who absent themselves from Parliament without licence of the Speaker of the House, shall be entered in the book of the Clerk of the Parliament kept for that purpose, and deprived of their wages. The statute is evidently directed against those gentlemen who took the pay of their constituents and did not do the work their constituents thought they ought to do. It is evident that as our constituents no longer pay honourable Gentlemen, therefore that particular statute has lost its cogency. But on the general Question, I may say I think a general practice has grown up in the House with regard to the absence of Members which is convenient, well understood, and which leads to no abuse.


Arising out of that answer, may I ask whether, as stated in 68 and 69 of the Rules laid on the Table by you, Mr. Speaker, every Member of the House is bound to attend the service of the House unless the House has given him leave of absence on account of illness, urgent business, or other sufficient cause, and whether such leave must not, by Rule 70, be asked for by Motion, after notice, giving leave of absence to the Member and stating the cause and period of his absence?


It will be generally recognised by the House that the Rule which states that every Member is bound to attend the service of the House unless the House has given him leave of absence is a correct general statement of the duties of a Member, but in practice it is very considerably modified.


Is the First Lord of the Treasury aware that the Senior whip of the Government told us he gave the honourable Member for Rotherhithe leave to go to China?


Order, order! That does not arise out of the Question.