HC Deb 15 February 1901 vol 89 cc175-8

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he can inform the House by whose authority Members were excluded from the seats in the gallery of the House of Lords allotted to them when the attendance of the House was commanded by the King on the 14th instant; and by whose authority strangers are admitted, to the exclusion of Members of this House, when their presence is thus commanded in the House of Lords.

The following question on the same subject also appeared on the Paper:—


To ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether the attention of the Government has been called to the totally inadequate accommodation provided in the House of Lords for Members of the House of Commons, whose presence and attendance have been commanded by His Majesty the King; and whether it would be possible to arrange either to increase the space for the House of Commons or to fit up Westminster Hall as a reception hall when the King commands the attendance of both Houses.


There are two questions on the Paper on the same subject. There is, of course, no doubt that the accommodation in the House of Lords for Members of this House when they are summoned by His Majesty to attend is quite insufficient for the number of Members desiring to do so on an occasion like that which occurred yesterday. It is also true that on similar occasions there is no room in the House of Lords even for all the Peers. The arrangements are in charge of the hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain. A suggestion has been made that Westminster Hall should be used. It is quite impossible for me, without much longer notice and without an opportunity of consulting the persons in authority, to give an opinion upon such a suggestion. I may say, at the first glance, that however well suited for a great pageant Westminster Hall may be, the cost of the fittings for that pageant would be very considerable. I believe that on a previous occasion, a good many years ago indeed, there was a ballot taken in this House to settle by lot who should be the Members of the House to attend the House of Lords. For my own part, if no other solution of the difficulty is proposed, I think that would be a great improvement.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that the arrangements should be such that Members of the House of Commons should come immediately after members of the House of Peers and before strangers?


The arrangements made yesterday were, I believe, in strict accordance with precedent. [Cries of "No."] Certainly, I think they were, but, of course, it does not rest with me; I am not responsible for the arrangements, neither is the Government.


Is it not the fact that during the last thirty years Members of the House of Commons have been always admitted to the side galleries when her late Majesty opened Parliament?


I am informed that when Parliament was opened in state the Members of the House of Commons did not have greater accommodation than they had yesterday.


The right hon. Gentleman has not given a direct answer to my question with regard to the side galleries.


I did answer. I said I was informed that the accommodation given yesterday to the Members of the House of Commons in the House of Lords was in accordance with precedent when Parliament is opened in state. That docs answer the question.


I bog to say that it is a question of the calculation of square feet. I cannot get the Leader of the House to answer the question whether the side galleries were open or not. It has been put forward that the accommodation we got below equals that which we had in the side galleries. That is the point on which the right hon. Gentleman failed to satisfy me.

SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)

May I ask whether, considering the very grave dissatisfaction which exists with regard to the accommodation afforded to members yesterday, it would be possible to appoint a Committee of both Houses to go into the whole question?


In case the right hon. Gentleman consented to the appointment of such a Committee, will the Committee be empowered to consider the position and functions of the Lord Great Chamberlain?

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large section of members below the gangway were quite satisfied with the want of accommodation yesterday?


I am glad that some one was pleased. In answer to my right hon. friend I cannot tell him now whether it would be a fitting course to appoint a joint Committee of the two Houses to consider this question, because I really do not know on what basis the jurisdiction of the hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain rests.


I beg to give notice that when the Vote in connection with the alteration of the House of Lords comes on I shall move a reduction.

MR. BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)

May I ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he can arrange that the officials of the other House shall receive Members of this House with that amount of courtesy which is consistent with the dignity of the position we occupy as representatives of the nation?

[No answer was returned.]