HC Deb 06 February 1902 vol 102 cc544-6

Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask the leave of the House to move the adjournment of the House in order to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, the action of certain Members of this House yesterday afternoon in obstructing the will of the House by refusing to leave the "No" lobby, and the refusal of one of the tellers in the "No" lobby to come to the Table of the House with the figures.


I do not think that that is a definite matter of urgent public importance; it is a mixed question, if I may say so, of order and fair play: but it is not a question of urgency on which the adjournment can be moved.

MR. RUTHERFORD (Lancashire, Darwen)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury a question of which I have given him private notice, namely, whether, having regard to what took place on the division on the Deceased's Wife's Sister Bill yesterday afternoon, the Government will grant facilities for the next stage of the Bill by adjourning the proceedings of the House at a somewhat earlier hour than usual for that purpose.


The hon. Gentleman refers to what took place at the end of the business yesterday. I was not present in the Chamber, nor did I take part in any of the divisions at the conclusion of business; but I gather from what I heard at the time and what I have heard in the newspapers, that the Speaker adverted with regret to what took place, and that regret, if I may say so, I share. But the hon. Gentleman is going much further when he asks me to find facilities for discussing the Motion that the Bill should be referred to a Grand Committee. I have two observations to make on that. Even if I agreed as to the propriety of that Motion, I think it would be a most serious example that the Government should be expected to find time for discussion, after a Bill has been passed by a large majority, of such a Motion. I do not think that such a demand has ever been made on the Government, and I do not think it ought to be made. We have endeavoured in one of the proposed new rules to meet such a case, and, if the House accepts that, no grievance will arise. Apart from the broad and general principle I have endeavoured to lay down, I must say that, speaking for myself, I do not think that this Bill is one which ought to go to a Grand Committee; and, even if an opportunity had arisen yesterday of discussing the question, I should have felt bound to speak and vote against its going to a Grand Committee. Grand Committees were intended for Bills of great detail and of no great controversial character. This is a Bill of no detail, and it does excite very vehement feeling on both sides in the House and in the country, feelings which I may say I do not happen to share. The fact that I do adopt a more or less impartial attitude as to the merits of the Bill will, perhaps, give a somewhat greater weight to the opinion I now express—namely, that this is not in my judgment the kind of Bill which ought to go to a Grand Committee, and that at all events, before going to a Grand Committee it ought to undergo a thorough and complete discussion at the hands of the House.


I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman, who unfortunately was not witness of what occurred, fully realises what did happen. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House was ready to proceed with the next stage of the Bill, that the large majority in favour of the Bill showed what the feeling of the House was, and that it was prevented from having the opportunity desired by the deliberate action—["No, no"]—yes, of certain Members who not only in that particular division delayed in the lobby, but also in previous divisions did the same thing with the direct purpose of frustrating the intention and wish of the majority of the House?

EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that the actual time occupied in the divisions of which complaint is made, was scarcely, if at all, in excess of the average time occupied in divisions last year?

SIR JOSEPH LEESE (Lancashire, Accrington)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 249 votes were counted in the "Aye" lobby, while it took five or six minutes longer to count 124?


Is it not the case that what happened was owing, not to undue delay on the part of the minority, but to undue haste on the part of the majority?


Order, order! I have pointed out that this is not a question which can be debated on a Motion for the adjournment of the House, nor can it be debated without any Motion at all.


asked how a a specific act of misconduct on the part of a teller could be brought before the House.


I am happy to think that there has been no occasion to raise such a question. The tellers usually come in at once and report the numbers. I have no reason to suppose that the tellers failed to come in promptly with their numbers in this case. The only complaint was that the Members had not passed through the lobby.


again rose.


I have answered the hon. Member to the best of my ability.


Are there any means under the rules of the House by which I can bring before the House the circumstances that I saw myself, as one of the only two tellers who can give an account of what took place? It appeared to me to be a gross abuse.


There is no question of order. A question of order can only be taken notice of at the moment. The question can be dealt with by Motion, but notice of Motion must be given. I must not be taken as recommending that course.