§ Standing Order 21 [28th February 1880, 22nd November 1882, and 7th March 1901], read as follows:—
§ That, whenever any Member shall have been named by the Speaker, or by the Chairman of a Committee of the whole House, immediately after the commission of the offence of disregarding the authority of the Chair, or of abusing the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House, or otherwise, then, if the offence has been committed by such Member in the House, the Speaker shall forthwith put the Question, on a Motion being made, no Amendment, adjournment, or debate being allowed, "That such Member be suspended from the service of the House;" and if the offence has been committed in a Committee of the Whole House, the Chairman shall, on a Motion being made, put the same Question in a similar way, and if the Motion is carried, shall forthwith suspend the proceedings of the Committee, and report the circumstance to the House; and the Speaker shall thereupon put the same Question, without Amendment, adjournment, or debate, as if the offence had been committed in the House itself.
§ If any Member be suspended under this Order, his suspension on the first occasion shall continue for one week, on 1016 the second occasion for a fortnight, and on the third or any subsequent occasion, for a month.
§ Provided always, "That suspension from the service of the House shall not exempt the Member so suspended from serving on any Committee for the consideration of a Private Bill to which he may have been appointed before the suspension."
§ Provided also, "That not more than one Member shall be named at the same time, unless several Members, present together, have jointly disregarded the authority of the Chair."
§ Provided also, "That if any Member, or Members acting jointly, who have been suspended under this Order from the service of the House, shall refuse to obey the direction of the Speaker, when severally summoned under the Speaker's orders by the Serjeant-at-Arms to obey such direction, the Speaker shall call the attention of the House to the fact that recourse to force is necessary in order to compel obedience to his direction, and the Member or Members named by him as having refused to obey his direction shall thereupon, and without further Question put, be suspended from the service of the House during the remainder of the Session."
§ Provided always, "That nothing in this Resolution shall be taken to deprive the House of the power of proceeding against any Member according to ancient usages."
§ (4.51.) THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. GRANT LAWSON,) Yorkshire, N. R., Thirsk
said that his right hon. friend the First Lord of the Treasury had asked him to move the next Amendment which stood in his name on the Order Paper. The object was really a very simple one, as would be seen if any one compared the present Standing Order with what it would be if the Amendment were adopted. Under the present Standing Order, if an hon. Member defied the Chair in Committee of the Whole House, and a Motion was made that such hon. Member be suspended from the 1017 service of the House, the Chairman should forthwith put the Question, no Amendment, adjournment, or debate being allowed; and if a division was taken in Committee the Speaker was sent for, and he put without discussion or debate precisely the same Question to the House, without discussion or debate. The House then divided—that was to say, the same gentleman on the same consideration, divided again, on the same Question. It appeared to the Government that that was unnecessary. He had evidence of that. In 1890 a division was taken in Committee when the "Ayes" were 177 and the "Noes" 96—majority 81; and when the division was taken in the House, the "Ayes" were 178 and the "Noes" 97—majority 81. Practically it was the same division.
Amendment proposed to the Standing Order—
In line 10, to leave out the words 'On a Motion being made, put the same question in a similar way, and, if the Motion is carried, shall'":—(Mr. Grant Lawson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Standing Order."
§ *(4.54.) MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
said that an hon. Member had rightly alleged that this proposal was somewhat mysterious, and the explanation of the hon. Gentleman who had moved it on the part of the First Lord of the Treasury had not made the mystery clear. An obvious consequence of this Amendment was that whereas when an offence was committed in the House, a Motion was to be made, which was to be put by the Speaker without Amendment, adjournment, or debate being allowed; "that such Member be suspended from the service of the House;" yet when the offence was committed in Committee of the Whole House no Motion at all was to be made, but the Chairman was forthwith to suspend the proceedings of the Committee, and report the circumstances to the House, whereon the Speaker was, again without Motion, to put the Question. The suspension of the hon. Member for conduct in Committee was thus to be on the sole initiative of the Chairman and Speaker, whereas for conduct in the House it must be on the Motion of some hon. Member. That 1018 seemed to him to be an extraordinary, an unaccountable, and most mysterious proceeding. He did not know whether that wide difference of procedure was unintended or was an example of the care and precision which had been applied to the preparation of this Amendment of the Rules of the House. So much with reference to the form of the Amendment. It was perfectly obvious that they were now asked, in consenting to the omission of the words embraced in the Amendment to adopt a procedure altogether different in regard to offences committed in Committee, and to those committed in the House itself. That was unreasonable, since it varied from the proceedings adopted in other parts of the rules. Then, as to the substance of the rule, he maintained that the change was vicious. What was proposed to be done for acts in the House was to be taken upon the judgment of the House itself; but neither in the House nor in Committee were hon. Members to be informed or enlightened by any statement made by any Member, by argument, or deliberation. What then was the ground on which alone they could act? It was simply upon what they had witnessed that they were to give their judgment and their vote. Now when the same body acted almost instantly after the event there might perhaps be no serious change in its composition; and thus the witnesses might be the judges. But the longer the interval the less the chance of this. And when, after the event, the House had to be resumed and the Speaker called in, obviously even this slender security was gone. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment had contended that there could not be a serious discrepancy between the number of hon. Members who had seen the offence in Committee, and those who voted in the House, but he based his case on the narrow basis of what had happened in a single instance eleven years ago. If a man was to be condemned without his judges having the opportunity of hearing his explanation, or the charge made against him explained, they should preserve such securities as the present rules gave him for that condemnation being made, as nearly as possible, by Members who were in the Chamber at the time the offence was said to have been committed, and therefore were in a position to form 1019 a judgment upon it. Where was the justice of calling on hon. Members who were not aware of the circumstances to determine the matter? He therefore opposed the change.
(5.2.) MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
, said that the proposal was a type of a proper, necessary and unobjectionable Amendment to the Rules of the House. After a very considerable examination of the rules, he was convinced that the Government in the Amendment were making a proposal which was without objection, and for which they deserved credit. There was a defect in form, but that could be easily remedied by inserting after "shall" the words "on Motion being made. "He presumed the Government would not object to that [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR assented] and he would move it at the proper time. He was not sure that the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken was, with all his lore, right that the Speaker could not frame the Question. The old practice was that the Speaker framed the Question to be put to the House. But passing from the matter of form, what was the object of the Amendment? It was simply to turn two successive divisions into one without any loss to the second division. The House should remember that a Committee of the Whole House was a body which could only deliberate and report to the House, and therefore it was regular and proper, if an offence were committed in Committee, that it should be adjudged not by the Committee but by the House. What would happen? The Chairman would forthwith suspend the sitting and forthwith report to the House, and the House would forthwith decide on a Motion being made. As he had said, this was a type of a proper, necessary, and unobjectionable Amendment, and he only wished that all the other rules were equally unobjectionable.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said he did not think there need be any prolonged discussion on the Amendment, as the single point was to get rid of one division. He would like to say that he should be glad to assist the First Lord of the Treasury in reducing the number of divisions where it was proper, but the one division which the Amendment sought to get rid of seemed to him to be of great service. He had seen many trying scenes which the right hon. Gentleman was endeavouring to meet, and the thing required above all others was a little time. A little impulsiveness often led to the rules being broken, and if the guillotine were to fall at once without allowing the unfortunate Member time for consultation with his friends, or for consideration, he believed a great impetus would be given to action, which the House might afterwards be inclined to mitigate. That was the only division he would say a word for retaining; and he suggested it might have the effect, by providing a little time, of saving the House from taking steps which might afterwards become very troublesome. The occasion was one in which time was most valuable, and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the Amendment from that point of view.
§ (5.8.) MR. DILLON
said that the division was one of the safeguards leant upon when the rule was passed. It was put forward as some check on the action of the Chairman, and was frequently referred to by the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees in their evidence. To what extent, however, was a division a real check? When a Member was named for disorderly conduct, the glass was turned down, and as a rule there thronged into the Chamber a number of Members greater than the number who were witnesses of what had occurred, and they voted on the punishment of a fellow Member in absolutely blank ignorance of the merits of the case. Therefore, he regretted to say that in many cases that safeguard had proved, to a very large extent, to be illusory for the protection of Members, as they knew perfectly well that the majority of the House always voted in support of the Leader of the House. That was the 1021 present state of affairs; but what did the Amendment propose? It proposed, at the very time when it was also proposed to enormously increase the stringency of the punishment which might be inflicted under the rule, to strike away a safeguard, which, though to a large extent illusory, was still leant upon as a safeguard when the rule was framed. It would not be the same Members who would vote in both divisions, and the Amendment would seriously aggravate the illusory character of the safeguard. Under the new rules an immense number of Members would throng into the House at 10 o'clock, not in a very judicial spirit. [An HON. MEMBER: Oh!] He did not think that was an extreme expression. Therefore, if a case of disorderly conduct arose close to 10 o'clock, there would be a body of Members present in a much more judicial spirit who had witnessed what had occurred and who would be better able to judge of the merits, whereas, five minutes later, 30 or 40 other Members might have arrived who would be called upon to judge the matter. He did not attach undue importance to the Amendment, but, as far as it went, it deprived the Member of one of the safeguards he now had. Instead of taking the division immediately the transgression was committed, and in the presence of Members who had witnessed the offence, it was proposed to postpone it until the Speaker was in the Chair, when a number of other Members would be in attendance. That struck away la safeguard, however slender, while it was proposed to increase the stringency of the punishment. He had not the smallest notion of complaining of the Speaker's ruling in reference to his Amendment, but he thought he was entitled, while absolutely accepting that ruling, to refer to the extreme inconvenience of dealing with fundamental and
§ all-important rules, without having first referred them to a Committee. They were cribbed, cabined, and confined by technical Rules of Order.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to discuss that question. The Question before the House is whether there shall be one or two divisions.
§ (5.12.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said he really could not see the necessity for the Amendment. He could not understand why the Standing Order was not considered sufficient to meet the entire case. It should be remembered that the power of the Chairman of Committees could be passed on to the Deputy Chairman who might not be acquainted with the Rules of the House, who might not have a judicial mind but who, without motion made or a division taken should be empowered to at once send for the Speaker. The Standing Order was stringent enough as it was, and why it should be made more stringent and more strict was beyond his comprehension.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said he should be very brief, because that which he would like to say he had been precluded from saying by the ruling of the Speaker; but that was exactly the reason that he should vote with the Irish Members.
§ (5.17.) Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 103; Noes, 282. (Division List, No, 24.)1025
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.||Caldwell, James||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Cameron, Robert||Dillon, John|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Donelan, Captain A.|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Cawley, Frederick||Doogan, P. C.|
|Bell, Richard||Channing, Francis Allston||Duncan, J. Hastings|
|Blake, Edward||Clancy, John Joseph||Esmonde, Sir Thomas|
|Boland, John||Cogan, Denis J.||Farrell, James Patrick|
|Boyle, James||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Fenwick, Charles|
|Brigg, John||Crean, Eugene||Ffrench, Peter|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Cullinan, J.||Field, William|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Dalziel, James Henry||Fuller, J. M. F.|
|Caine, William Sproston||Delany, William||Gilhooly, James|
|Grant, Corrie||Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport)||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries)|
|Hammond, John||Murphy, John||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Roche, John|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Shaw, Charles Edwd. (Stafford)|
|Harwood, George||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||O'Brien, Kendal (Tip'erary Mid||Spencer, Rt Hn C R (Northants)|
|Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Sullivan, Donal|
|Jacoby, James Alfred||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Jones, D. Brynmoor (Swansea)||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Thomas, J A (Glamorgan, Gow'r|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||Wallace, Robert|
|Kennedy, Patrick James||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Labouchere, Henry||O'Dowd, John||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Lloyd-George, David||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Lundon, W.||O'Malley, William||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||O'Mara, James||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Wilson, Chas. Henry (Hull, W.)|
|M'Fadden, Edward||O'Shee, James John||Yoxall, James Henry|
|M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Pirie, Duncan, V.|
|M'Kenna, Reginald||Power, Patrick Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Price, Robert John||Mr. Lough and Mr. Flynn|
|Mooney, John J.||Reddy, M.|
|Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.||Flannery, Sir Fortescue|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Chamberlain, J. Austen (W'rc'r||Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Flower, Ernest|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Charrington, Spencer||Forster, Henry William|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Foster, Sir Michael (Lond. Un.|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Gardner, Ernest|
|Arrol, Sir William||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Garfit, William|
|Asher, Alexander||Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Gladstone, Rt Hn Herbert John|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick|
|Austin, Sir John||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Gordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin & Nairn|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Craig, Robert Hunter||Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Cranborne, Viscount||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby- (Linc.)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Crombie, John William||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (Leeds||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Green, Walford D. (Wednesb'y|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor)||Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Gretton, John|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Greville, Hon. Ronald|
|Beach, Rt Hn Sir Michael Hicks||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan||Halsey, Thomas Frederick|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Denny, Colonel||Hamilton, Rt. Hn Lord G (Mid'x|
|Bignold, Arthur||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nde'ry|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Dewar, T. R. (T'r H'ml's, S. Geo.||Hardy, Laur'nce (Kent, Ashford|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex)||Dickson, Charles Scott||Harris, Frederick Leverton|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn||Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.|
|Brookfield, Colonel Montagu||Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cockfield||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.|
|Brown, Alexander H. (Shrops.)||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Hay, Hon. Claude George|
|Brown, George M. (Edinburgh)||Doughty, George||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Dunn, Sir William||Heath, Arth. Howard (Hanley)|
|Brymer, William Ernest||Dyke, Rt Hon Sir William Hart||Heaton, John Henniker|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Helder, Augustus|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Emmott, Alfred||Hermon-Hodge, Robt. Trotter|
|Butcher, John George||Evans, Sir Francis H. (Maidst'e||Higginbottom, S. W.|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.)||Hoare, Sir Samuel|
|Campbell, Rt Hn J. A. (Glasgow||Fardell, Sir T. George||Hope, J. F. (Sh'ffield, Bri'htside)|
|Campbell-Bannerman, C. H.||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Horner, Frederick William|
|Carlile, William Walter||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edwd. H.||Fergusson, Rt Hn Sir J. (Manc'r||Hoult, Joseph|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Hozier, Hon. Jas. Henry Cecil|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Finch, George H.||Hudson, George Bickersteth|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Humphreys Owen, Arthur C.|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Der'yshire||Fisher, William Hayes||Jackson, Rt. Hon. Wm. Lawies|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Murray, Rt Hn. A Grah'm (Bute||Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich)|
|Johnstone, Hey wood (Sussex)||Myers, William Henry||Stanley, Hon. Arth'r (Ormskirk|
|Joicey, Sir James||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Kearley, Hudson E.||Norman, Henry||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Tag'art|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir Jno. H.||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T. (Denbigh)||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Stock, James Henry|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Cl. W. (Salop)||Parker, Gilbert||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Kinloch, Sir John Geo. Smyth||Paulton, James Mellor||Stroyan, John|
|Knowles, Lees||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Law, Andrew Bonar||Penn, John||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Lawrence, Joseph (Monmouth||Percy, Earl||Talbot, Rt. Hn J G (Oxf'd Univ.)|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Pilkington, Lieut-Col. Richard||Tennant, Harold John|
|Lawson, John Grant||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Thomas, David Alf. (Merthyr)|
|Layland-Barratt, Francis||Plummer, Walter R.||Thomas, F. Freeman- (Hastings|
|Lecky, Rt. Hon. Wm. Edwd. H.||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Pretyman, Ernest George||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Tomkinson, James|
|Leveson-Gower, Fred'ck. N. S.||Pym, C. Guy||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Rankin, Sir James||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham)||Reid, James (Greenock)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Long, Rt. Hon. Walt'r (Bristol, S||Remnant, James Farquharson||Valentia, Viscount|
|Lowe, Francis William||Renshaw, Charles Bine||Vincent, Col. Sir C E H (Shef'eld|
|Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Lowther, Rt. Hon. Jas. (Kent)||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney|
|Macartney, Rt Hn. W G. Ellison||Robson, William Snowdon||Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E (Ta'nton|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Maconochie, A. W.||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|M'Calmont, Cl. H. L. B. (Cambs.||Ropner, Colonel Robert||Whiteley, H (Ashton und. Lyne|
|M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|M'Iver, Sir L'wis (Edinb'rgh, W.||Round, James||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth|
|Majendie, James A. H.||Runciman, Walter||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Manners, Lord Cecil||Russell, T. W.||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Maple, Sir John Blundell||Rutherford, John||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh.||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.|
|Mellor, Rt. Hon. John William||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Saunderson, Rt Hn. Cl. Edwd J.||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Milner, Rt. Hon. Sir Fred'rick G.||Seely, Capt J. E. B (Isle of Wight||Woodhouse, Sir J T. (Hu'dersf'd|
|Milvain, Thomas||Seton-Karr, Henry||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew|
|Morrison, James Archibald||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Morton, Arth'r H. A. (Deptford)||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Moss, Samuel||Smith, H C (North'mb. Tynes'de|
|Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)|
|Muntz, Philip A.||Soares, Ernest J.|
(12.0.) Question, "That the debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. John Redmond)—put, and agreed to.
§ Stauding Order further amended, in line 13, by inserting after the word "shall," the words "on a Motion being made."
§ (5.34.) MR. GRANT LAWSON
said that the object of the next Amendment standing in the name of the First Lord of the Treasury was explained in the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in introducing the proposed new rules. That objection was two-fold. First, it was to make effective the punishment inflicted on a Member who defied the authority of the Chair. At present, the period of suspension for the first offence was only seven days. If a man refused to obey a judgment order of the Courts he could be imprisoned for an 1026 indefinite period until he had purged his offence, and yet, hitherto, the punishment for refusing to obey the supreme judgment of the House of Commons had been suspension for only seven days. Such a period was wholly ludicrous, and the intention of the present proposal was to make the punishment substantial and effective. The second object of the Amendment was to secure that the punishment should really take effect. Under the existing rule that might not be the case. If a Member was suspended at 12 o'clock on the eve of a recess the suspension did not come into force at all. Hon. Gentlemen would, doubtless, remember that five or six years ago it actually happened that several Members were suspended the night before the 1027 Whitsuntide recess; these suspensions did not come into operation at all. This Amendment, therefore, proposed that the days of suspension should be days on which the House really met.
Amendment proposed to the Standfng Order, in line 17—
(In the second paragraph), to leave out the words "shall continue for one week, on the scond occasion for a fortnight, and on the third or any subsequent occasion for a month," and insert the words "in any session shall continue until the expiration of the next twenty days on which the House sits, on the second occasion until the expiration of the next forty days on which the House sits, and on the third or any subsequent occasion until the expiration of the next eighty days on which the House sits, and the number of days of suspension shall be reckoned irrespectively of any prorogation or adjournment.
If a Member is suspended under this Order, his suspension shall, notwithstanding the expiration of the days of suspension aforesaid, continue until he has written a letter to the Speaker, expressing his sincere regret to the House for the offence for which he has been suspended."—(Mr. Grant Lawson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Saanding Order."
§ *(5.38.) SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he had listened in amazement to the statement of the hon. Member for the Thirsk Division. This was one of the most important proposals ever made in the House of Commons, but the hon. Gentleman had not said a single word with regard to the compromise which it was understood the Government were going to offer the House, in the withdrawal of the latter part of the Amendment.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said it had been rumoured all over the House, and by those who usually knew the intentions of the Party opposite, that it was intended to meet the Opposition by modifying this proposal. He was perfectly certain it would have to be modified, it would not be carried in its present form. The desire of the House to make punishment effective was undoubted, but there was an enormous difference between 1028 making punishment effective, and directing punishment—as he believed it to be by this Amendment—against one particular section of the House. That was the intention which had been strongly avowed universally outside the House, and by several speeches in the House, and although it had not been fathered by the Government, it was in every Member's mind, and the question, could not be discussed without having regard to it. They all knew what had occurred in the past—not only by occasional defiance of the Chair, but the incorrectly naming of persons as having defied the authority of the Chair. It was known that grave mistakes had been made in days gone by, and the greatest caution should be exercised by the House when it was called upon enormously to increase the penalties—which were directed against the constituencies rather than against the individual Members. From time to time—probably in the majority of occasions—this matter would come up, not as against an individual Member who had made a grave mistake, but by the House fighting a constituency which was with its Member—fighting in a cause where the sympathy of the constituency was with the Member on some question of conscience. In such a case the House ought to be most cautious before it fell into the trap laid for it in the enormously increased penalties now proposed. Doubtless the proposal would be discussed in detail on various Amendments, but the present was the only occasion on which the House would have the proposal before it as a whole. The latter part of the rule was a ridiculous return to Tudor and Stuart forms. It was no new proposal. It was the old practice of the House, and the House never made greater mistakes in the whole course of its history than in the Tudor times when it used to insist on apologies, almost in the very terms of the rule under discussion. Man after man in those days used to defy the House in the cause of conscience; over and over again they were dragged down and made to apologise even on their knees at the Bar. But where a question of conscience was at issue that process did not prevent a man repeating his so-called offence; men who had again and again apologised to the House afterwards 1029 died in the Tower for the cause in which they had previously offended against the orders of the House. An unwilling apology, extorted under such circumstances, was not even a salve to the dignity of the House. He had hoped the Government would open the debate with a full statement—worthy of the occasion—as to the character of the danger against which they had to fight, and the best means of meeting it; and that they would, at all events, have dropped the absurd proposal requiring an apology, so that the House might have gone to the discussion of the question of penalties at once.
§ (5.40.) SIR FREDERICK MILNER (Nottinghamshire, Bassetlaw)
hoped the Government would stick to their proposals. It was to be regretted that such possessions were necessary in such an assembly, but recent sessions had proved the necessity. The existing penalties were absolutely farcical, because Members who had been suspended regarded it as a feather in their cap, and they were praised in their Papers as having done a meritorious action. If there were to be any penalties at all they should be of such a nature as to cause the offending members some inconvenience. A Member was not suspended for a hasty word, nor even deliberately breaking a rule; he was suspended for deliberately refusing to obey the Speaker or the Chairman, and in such a case the penalty ought to be a severe one. Order could be preserved only if the penalty for disorder was severe. If the Government had erred at all it was on the side of leniency; but if the present proposal was carried they would probably hear of no more suspensions. He reminded hon. Members from Ireland that Mr. Parnell had a more dignified way of protesting against anything of which he disapproved in the House; he did not deliberately defy the Chair or break the rules of the House; he simply refused to take any further part in the proceedings. If the Speaker or Chairman was to be defied, where was the use of having a Speaker or Chairman? The offence was a very serious one, and would be fairly met only by the penalties now proposed, and he sincerely hoped the Amendments of the Government would be passed in their entirety.
§ *(5.45.) MR. BLAKE
said the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down, when commending to Irish Members Parnell's example, had apparently forgotten what everybody else remembered—that Mr. Parnell when asked how he had become so well acquainted with the rules of the House of Commons replied that it was by systematically and continually breaking them. The House was now asked to engage in a most serious operation. It was proposed, in an assembly which ought naturally to approach with reluctance penal legislation against its Members, largely to increase in extent and character the severity of punishments for offences in respect of which the House had already provided penalties. Yet the First Lord of the Treasury, in opening the general discussion upon the rules thought this question was entirely unworthy of his attention; no word was spoken by him upon it, no explanation was offered, no reason was given. He had thought that now the First Lord of the Treasury would have felt it to be his duty to remedy this omission in his former statement as the person responsible for propounding and framing all these rules. But he said nothing at all. And the hon. Member whom he had deputed to move must forgive him for saying that though of course he spoke, he too, in effect, had said nothing at all. Now let the House in bare justice remember that the Amendment they were now dealing with proposed the imposition of increased penalties, not for all, but for certain classes of offences only, not comprising the graver class, that of forcible resistance. There was in the rule as it stood a punishment, added only last session, for the particular class of offence in which Mr. Speaker reported that resort to force was necessary in order to secure compliance with the Standing Orders of the House. He stated this merely for the purpose of eliminating it from the present discussion which had nothing to do with that particular offence in respect of which the House legislated last session and in respect of which it was now asked to again legislate by a later Amendment, which would give the first opportunity of legitimate discussion. It would not be in order for him now to discuss that particular offence or its punishment, and he earnestly prayed the House to remember, what he feared it was forgetting, that it was not now in question. They were 1031 now dealing not with it, but with offences dealt with by legislation of long standing.
What were the penalties for these classes of offence which the House had prescribed by orders which had been many years in force? They were a week for the first, a fortnight for the second, and a month for the third offence. It was palpable that on the eve of an adjournment or a prorogation a rule of this kind might inflict little or no punishment at all, but apart from that special theoretical consideration, always obvious, but which had never wrought practical mischief, they were now dealing with the enlargement of the time from a week, a fortnight, and a month for the first, second, third, and subsequent offences to "sitting days," which of course are more in number than the week, fortnight, or month. The penalty was to be greatly increased, up to 10, 20, and 40 days respectively. It was to be increased still more because each of those sitting days counts for more than a natural day. It was also to extend over adjournment, and even over prorogation, a thing unprecedented. The period, therefore, of suspension was enormously increased, and there was also the additional provision of an apology after punishment as a condition before the offending Member would again be allowed to discharge the duties entrusted to him by his constituents. On that point he had spoken in the general debate, and would not now dilate. He wished to fasten the attention of the House on one main point which he thought conclusive. It was that no case had been made or even attempted for this Amendment. Now the House were asked in its capacity as a legislative body to consider increased punitive provisions for offences against the Crown or against the public peace, to enact additional penalties, the first thing demanded of the propounder of such a measure would be to make out a case showing that the existing penalties had not produced the desired effect; that the offences were continuing and multiplying, and that further measures were necessary to produce the deterrent effect, and in order that the crime might be repressed. That would be the universal view. It was agreed to be an evil to inflict penalties unnecessarily; it was agreed that they should not be greater than experience showed to be necessary. The question must be has the law proved inadequate? If not, there was no case 1032 for greater rigour. They had long ago dropped the Draconian view of penalties. They had adopted notions more sensible, practical, humane, notions which had limited punishment by the conditions of effectiveness and necessity. Now these conditions did not here exist; nor was there even an attempt to show their existence. Under the present régime the House had lived for many sessions, and what had occurred to establish the inefficacy of the present system and the necessity for adopting these severer penalties? He had eliminated altogether the case of forcible resistance. Apart from that separate case, and inclusive of all with which the Amendment before the House dealt, they had had no case stated of practical results demonstrating the inefficacy of the rule at all. The First Lord had said nothing in this direction, and the hon. Member opposite had given as his only reason that it was obvious that they might not be effective if the offence were committed a day or two before the prorogation, or before an adjournment. That was obvious when the rule was passed. Did the hon. Member opposite pretend, notwithstanding, that he had found an eruption of breaches of order just before an adjournment or a prorogation? It was not so. He gave only one old case. They all knew that it was not upon old events or antiquated circumstances that this rule was proposed to be altered. It was under consideration last session with reference to the other phase, and no proposal was then made for any increase of the penalties in the phases now under discussion. He could find no more than three instances in which there were suspensions under this part of the rule during the last session of Parliament, when the order of their proceedings was slightly and momentarily disturbed on the 29th and 30th of July by three suspensions. They were disposed of without heat or difficulty. Was it upon those circumstances that the existing rigour of the laws was declared to be inadequate to secure order, and upon which it was declared necessary to do this thing, even in the case of a first offence? They made no case for action. Again, in his opinion, it was a very dangerous innovation to inflict a long suspension, because they must remember the effect on the last constituency. This was punishing the constituency through 1033 the Member a great deal more than the Member. Those were all questions of degree, but when a very long suspension was inflicted, which involved the compelled absence of the hon. Member during the greater part of the session, or maybe of the Parliament, the right of the constituency arose in a tangible sense, and the House cannot deal with the question apart from that consideration. They were raising the penalty now, with what warrant or necessity he could not see. They were raising it in reference to the first offence by more than doubling the period. If that was the case with regard to the first offence, how should he describe the course of the leaders and guardians of the House who proposed these enormous increases to 20 and 40 sitting days, calculated without adjournments, and after prorogation running to the next session, for second and third offences? When had there been a second or a third suspension of the same hon. Member? What was the ground upon which it was suggested that the present provision against second and third offences was inadequate? There was literally no ground, and none could be stated. It had been found that the present penalty, even for a first offence, was adequate. They had only three instances on two dog days at the end of July to place to their beggarly account as the reasons why the present penalty for a first offence was inadequate. That was the only excuse they could find for enlarging the penalty for the first offence. But they had literally no excuse whatever for enlarging the penalty for second and third offences. There had not been any second, still less any third offence at all. The rule which had been in force up to the present had been absolutely efficacious, and had produced the best effect, for it had deterred from and prevented the commission of the offence. And yet, although it had done this and the offence did not now exist on the records, except in one case a great number of years ago, it was now proposed without proof of necessity—in fact with proof by the records of the House that there was no necessity—not to double but to treble or quadruple these penalties, and even to extend the period of suspension from one session to another after a prorogation.
They were taking a new departure altogether from the traditions and cus- 1034 toms of the House when they proposed to impose penalties extending beyond the prorogation of the House for offences committed during the session. With the exception of one or two things, such as impeachment, punishment ended with the session, and the power to carry it further did not exist. If a Member was sent to the Clock Tower, why, of course, he got out the day after the prorogation. He could not be kept there. The laws of the land would operate to release him. But it was now proposed that when they sent a Member away from the House they might keep him away for part of a succeeding session. The other and still more serious innovation was that to which reference had been made—the demand for a sincere expression of regret, which was in his view objectionable and repulsive on numerous grounds on which, however, as he had said, he would not now dilate. But they must not forget that it might mean permanent disfranchisement. He repeated that they were called upon to deal with this class of offence in this more rigorous manner without any proof whatever that there was any need for increased rigour as to the second and third offences, and when, on the contrary, there was ample proof that the present law was adequate for these offences. Even with regard to the first offence the present law answered all practical purposes. In these circumstances he was glad the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had caught the Speaker's eye early, because the general condition in which the House was placed with reference to this question, and the general principles on which the House should act with reference to punitive legislation, could be adequately discussed only before any of the Amendments to the proposed rule were moved. The whole question was, to his mind, of the most serious character. He objected to the notion that there was any case among the hon. Members amongst whom he had the honour to sit for increasing the severity of the rules of the House in this regard. The truth was that what the First Lord of the Treasury complained of out of doors, and what the Colonial Secretary complained of out of doors, that, which was the real 1035 burden of their grievance against Irish Members was quite another thing. It was not defiance of the Speaker's orders, or any irregularity in that respect that truly troubled them. It was because the Irish Members had been more fertile and ingenious in finding arguments, and that they had been longer and more thorough in the discussion of affairs, that the Government considered its business had been impeded. Now this rule did not touch that subject. They could not touch it. But without foundation, as he had shown, they had set up the suggestion that Irish Members had been disorderly in disregard of the orders of the Chair, and that further penalties were required in that regard. That charge he denied. It was not shown, it was disproved by the records of the House.
§ *(6.5.) EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)
said he should like to offer one or two words in favour of the reconsideration of this particular proposal. He should not think of doing so if it were supposed that his wish to lighten the penalties implied any condoning of the offence. They were all agreed that no offence could be more serious or more damaging to the reputation of the House. But there was no proof that the penalties already in force were not sufficient. There were one or two other considerations which it was worth while to put before the Government. They must all admit that there might be extenuating circumstances, such as hastiness of temper, which, although they did not detract from the offence, might mitigate the blame to be attached to the offender. The proper course would be to proportion the penalty to the degree of provocation or to the intention with which the act was committed. That he supposed was out of the question. He did not suppose that the Speaker or the House could accept the invidious task of discriminating in this way. The only other alternative was to assume that these offences would be committed as the result of incaution and not with deliberation, and therefore to impose upon them the minimum penalty to meet the object in view. In the proposals of the Government the maximum penalty was 80 days, and that was for the third offence and subsequently. Why 80 days and why stop 1036 at the third offence? If the object of the offending member was to wreck the machinery altogether he would go on committing these offences over and over again, and he would come back with a merely nominal apology. They would have no other remedy against him except to suspend him for 80 days. The noble Lord suggested with all deference that the Government should either accept the Amendment of which his hon. friend the Member for Oldham had given notice to diminish the penalties by one-half—to 10, 20, and 40 days suspension for the first, second, and third offences—or else, as he should prefer, to impose for the first offence a comparatively low penalty, and that the penalty for all subsequent occasions should not be 80, or any other limited number of days, but until the House further determined.
§ (6.9.) MR. ROBSON (South Shields)
said that the First Lord of the Treasury complained some time ago that the criticisms made upon the proposed rules ignored the realities to which the rules were intended to apply. That observation could scarcely be made of the speeches so far as they had proceeded to-night. The case of the Irish Members was now in the minds of all. It was not enough to treat this proposal in an academic sort of way as if they had only to consider the propriety of punishing, or exacting apologies from, a few recalcitrant Members here and there. He would go further and say that it was not even enough to treat this rule as if it concerned merely the authority of the Chair and the dignity of the House. The essential reality with which this rule was concerned was that which the right hon. Baronet opposite pointed out. It was the existence in this House of a solid political Party declaring itself to be a hostile and foreign element in their midst. What this rule proposed to do was to tell this political Party not merely that it shall submit or suffer. These were perfectly reasonable or intelligible alternatives, and he did not think anybody would complain of them. He doubted whether they would hear of these alternatives from the Irish Party. But the rule went farther than that. It told this political Party that it shall not merely submit or suffer, but that it shall 1037 repent. Well, repentance was not quite a pleasing thing with the framers of this rule, or some of them. If they would consult their theological friends, of whom he was sure they stood in no need, they would find out that theologians for many centuries had regarded repentance as a thing altogether beyond the human and corrupt will of ordinary man; while, of course, there was an inferior kind of repentance, following an offence and preceding punishment, which was called into existence by the fear of punishment. The First Lord of the Treasury would not have any spurious imitation of that kind. The right hon. Gentleman made the repentance follow the punishment, and it was to be extreme and sincere. Did the First Lord of the Treasury, did any Member of this House, pretend after some angry scene such as they had had before with the Irish Members, and after they had been punished for their misdeeds, that they would come back to this House, or write letters from their various retreats saying that they were glowing with humility and remorse, and good resolutions, and all the other elements that go to make up an adequate repentance? There was no one in the House who believed that any such thing was possible for a moment, and he would ask the First Lord of the Treasury to remember his own advice and to keep in mind the realities of the situation.
The right hon. Gentleman, of course, like the rest of them, did not believe that there was going to be this sincere and adequate repentance. Then what were the motives for which he introduced the rule? What did he contemplate by the rule? He must contemplate one of two things, either that he would be able to subject his old opponents, the Irish Members, to the humiliation of performing an insincere act, or else that he would be able, to drive them out of the House of Commons altogether. That was the situation created by this proposal. Everybody knew that the Irish Members would not commit an insincere act. They had not only their own feelings and honour to consider, and no one had ever ventured in the heat of any political argument he had heard to cast reflections on their personal honour, probity, and veracity. They had to 1038 consider the credit of those whom they represented. They had the credit of their nation at stake, and they would not do a dishonourable thing even to oblige the Government. If they would not do that, then why had the First Lord introduced this rule? The right hon. Gentleman knew as well as anybody that an apology, to have any value whatever, or to be any guarantee of future good conduct, must be sincere. There were some people who would as soon have an involuntary apology as any other; but there were other people who would prefer an enemy's humiliation even to his repentance. That was not the spirit in which this House should act, but he could not help thinking that that was the spirit in which this rule had been framed. The one justification which the First Lord had for it, was that defiance of the Chair was a thing so obviously, so necessarily wrong that it could not possibly give rise to any conscientious conviction on the part of the wrong-doer that he was right. The First Lord might say that the refusal to apologise was sheer obstinacy, but that would not entitle him to go further and demand an admission or confession that he was wrong, but also to simulate a feeling of regret for his wrong—which was a very different and much more serious thing. When anyone did wrong, ought they to call upon him to plead guilty? It was not wise that in addition to punishment for wrong-doing they should call on the person for an apology. They might as well say that a convicted criminal should be kept in gaol until he confessed his crime. He doubted whether even the Church Party would propose a step of that kind. When the Irish Members defied the Chair—if they did it at all—no doubt they were generally wrong, perversely wrong; but that was not at all the important thing in this connection. The question was not whether they were wrong, though they might always seem wrong, but whether they believed themselves to be justified.
In his belief the Irish Members were treated with absolute impartiality and fairness in this House. English Members thought perhaps that they got a full share in the debates. But it was not unnatural that the Irish Members should think that they themselves were 1039 not getting equality of treatment. He confessed that so far as the Government were concerned, there was good ground for that idea. Certainly the Government was not as quick to punish offences committed by their own followers. It might be said, therefore, that that was a very different thing—as of course it was—to any want of impartiality in the Chair. But suppose Irish Members in the course of a debate on, say, a Coercion Act, burning under a just sense of their national wrongs, adopted the mistaken idea that they were receiving an inequality of treatment not merely from the Government but from the Chair, what were they to do? They were not a majority of the House; they could never become a majority of the House; and according to their recent declarations they could not even belong to the majority of the House. What then were they to do? They had absolutely no remedy. We said, and had a right to say, that they must nevertheless submit; but they, feeling themselves so aggrieved as to make it necessary for them to make a strong protest—he was not defending or extenuating their conduct—flew not unnaturally to that form of protest which was known as defying the Chair. That was a course to be severely punished, but as the hon. Member for South Longford had pointed out, it was not an offence that had frequently occurred; and patience and forbearance on the part of the House, as a rule, had been found to be the best way of dealing with those occasional outbursts of passion. Time and tolerance would appear to establish some sort of modus vivendi between the House and its most irregular sections. Would the proposed new method be any better? The Irish might offend again, and they would be told to go; but let the House and the Government consider the situation which would be created then.
He thought they would very imperfectly discuss the situation unless they gave full consideration to the penalties to be imposed. What would be the effect of a general abstension or a forced expulsion of the Irish Members from this House? He remembered when the Home Rule Bill of 1886 was introduced, there was a great perturbation in the minds of many Members as to the possibility 1040 of abstention of the representatives of newly enfranchised Ireland; and there were many statesmen who thought that such a line of policy in Ireland would break down our constitutional system altogether. Well, it might be said now that the fears so freely expressed then, and which undoubtedly made many Home Rulers, were groundless. The Irish Members had not absented themselves; they came to this House because they knew that they could get something for their Nation by the coming. He ventured to say that the motives that operated on them hitherto would continue to operate. There was the possibility of getting £150,000,000 for land purchase. Those motives, however, powerful as they were, had never been weighed against a demand on the part of this Parliament that the Irish representatives should submit to an intolerable stigma and insult. Those motives had not been put into such explicit and direct antagonism with national self-respect as they would be when the Irish Members were suspended from the service of this House, and were called upon to make a sincere apology—what everybody knew would be an insincere apology. Was it worth these rules to run a risk like that? In any event an expulsion of this kind, lasting perhaps for a whole Parliament, would add very much to the bitterness of the perennial conflict which existed between the two islands, and which all of us were so anxious to modify or remove. It would add to the anti constitutional forces in Ireland, and what gain should we derive from that? The prospect of expelling the Irish representatives might be pleasing to some hon. Members opposite, but they must be conscious sometimes of the complete failure of Tory policy in relation to Ireland. The Tory Party might not be unwilling to impose this humiliation on the Irish Members. If humiliation could pacify Ireland, Ireland would have been at peace long ago. Humiliation would not pacify Ireland, and as an Englishman he did not wish to add to the number of these humiliations. Certainly it would be a crowning and culminating surrender on the part of hon. Members opposite, if after all their sacrifices of principle in regard to Irish 1041 legislation, they were to inaugurate, as this rule would do, a policy of practical separation, because that was what it would come to. He remembered the cry in 1886 that "We cannot part with the Irish Members;" but was the end of their policy to be that, under cover of this rule, they were to expel the Irish Members? If that was to be done, let them approach it in a manner somewhat more honourable to England.
§ *(6.28.) MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL (Oldham)
said he did not join the hon. Member who had just sat down in the sneers in which he had indulged in regard to the Church Party—a Party with which he had no more connection than the hon. Member himself. Nor did he agree with the hon. Member in the insinuation he had made as to the partiality of the Government in dealing with offences in Committee committed by Members on their own side of the House, an insinuation for which there was no particle or shadow of justification. Nor did he agree with the hon. Member in the singular levity with which he had thought fit to speak of the very grave and serious offence of defying the Chair. At the same time he thought that the penalties which the Government proposed in this rule were too high, and he would give a few precise reasons for that opinion. He must be permitted, first of all, to make it quite plain that he had not the slightest desire to weaken the authority of the Chair. If the respect which the Chair demanded were dependent upon the penalties, so far from reducing the penalties, it might even seem desirable to increase them. But it was quite impossible to determine any exact relation between the penalties at the command of authority and the respect in which the authority was held. Over-severity was just as poor a check on lawlessness as undue lenity of any kind. He could not help thinking that the Government had in their mind the scenes which occurred in the House last session. It might have occurred to many hon. Members that that event made a very deep impression upon all concerned, but its very occurrence was a guarantee against its recurrence. The question of 1042 penalties was a matter of opinion. No doubt there were a large number of hon. Members who, upon the whole, by constitution, nature, and by reasoning process, inclined themselves to the side of compromise and moderation. It was quite evident that in regard to the penalty of suspension there was a limit, after a certain period had passed, when the act of doing justice to the Member was merged into an act of doing an injustice to the constituency which was disfranchised. In the new rules the Government had not thought fit to ask for more than 80 days as the maximum punishment except in the case of an offence committed within the first two months of the session. If 80 days was the maximum, surely it should be reserved for the worst offence against Parliamentary honour and dignity. He thought the House would agree that the introduction of the element of force in a legislative assembly was so shocking and terrifying to the sense of the House that it should be marked totally different to an offence of any other kind. If they took 80 days as the actual punishment it would seem that the other offences should be much more lightly punished. He had put an Amendment on the Paper which suggested that the penalty which the Government set forth should be half of what was proposed. If that were accepted it would make the penalties run 10, 20, 40, and 80 days respectively, progressive in severity according to the progressive gravity of the various offences.
Upon these grounds he would urge a more moderate proposal upon the House and the Government. The proposition of the Government was that the old penalty should not be doubled, but quadrupled. Surely there was a large number of hon. Members who would consider that the ends of justice would be satisfied if the penalties were doubled. He could not think that there was any question of want of confidence or political principle involved. This was a question which every hon. Member should settle for himself in whatever way he thought was the best interests of the House of Commons. Through the action of the Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs they had had presented to them an interesting statement of what was done in foreign Parliaments. The Return was not very 1043 easy to make out, because the conditions were so different. In France the punishments were the most severe. Should the Chamber become tempestuous and the President unable to calm it, he was instructed to put on his hat. If that did not succeed, he might threaten to suspend the sitting, and in the ultimate issue he might suspend the sitting altogether, and the Member on whose account the suspension had taken place would be suspended for eight sittings; under other circumstances he would be suspended for 15 sittings. In a very extreme case (he did not see how it could possibly arise) if a Member of the French Parliament managed in one sitting to get suspended twice for eight sittings, then he might be suspended for 30 sittings. That was the punishment in the most severe of all foreign Parliaments about which they had any information. In the Belgian Parliament the suspension was for eight sittings, and other circumstances 15 sittings. In Italy the period of suspension was eight sittings, and if the Member returned before the expiration of his period of exclusion his eight sittings were doubled. In the United States they had nothing definite, although in the last paragraph of the Return there were some rather onerous prohibitions against smoking on the floor of the House. Surely these penalties enforced by the practice of Europe ought to be taken into consideration by the House and the Government in framing rules for their guidance. If they adopted half the penalties which the Government were asking for, even then, in the matter of punishments, the preeminence of the Mother of Parliaments would still be secured and maintained.
He would only give one more reason. The First Lord of the Treasury on Friday last repudiated the idea that those penal measures were directed in any special way against hon. Members from Ireland. He wondered whether every hon. Member who voted for them would keep that prominently before his mind. It was not a serious thing to disfranchise for a month or six months some obscure and shockingly over-represented Irish constituency where there was at times chronic discontent, and where excellent and adequate police machinery existed for dealing with the discontent; but the test they must 1044 in imagination apply to those rules was that they should stand by their own merit, and command agreement among those in some great constituency who would be likely to sympathise with their representative in the action which he had been led into taking, however wrongfully. The House ought not to forget the case of Mr. Plimsoll. No man could have offended more against the Rules of the House than Mr. Plimsoll, for he used violent language, was disorderly in debate, preferred a serious charge against another hon. Member which was found afterwards to be baseless, shook his fist in the face of Mr. Disraeli, and left the House stating that he would not withdraw one single word of what he had said. The rules in those days permitted an elasticity which, if he might judge by some comments made lately, hon. Members did not profess to admire. Mr. Plimsoll was given a week to consider his position, and on returning he declined to withdraw the substance of what he said, but he made amends for his disorderly conduct, which showed that a respectful apology was not incompatible even with the most strenuous protest. But although Mr. Plimsoll's apology was of a qualified nature, the House was disposed to be generous, and he was allowed to resume his seat, and the mark of his work was set upon every ship that went to sea. If those new rules had been in force Mr. Plimsoll would have been automatically excluded from the service of the House for a month. Hon. Members who were capable of taking an interest in public affairs at that early date would no doubt remember that there was a very considerable volume of opinion in the country, and if that rule had been in force there would have been sympathetic demonstrations very derogatory to the House and to the Chair. But that would not be all. The Merchant Shipping Bill which the Government were then proceeding with, could not have been proceeded with any further that session. A special emergency Bill was introduced, in which Mr. Plimsoll was the guiding spirit, which dealt with a matter involving a question of life and death, and that legislation would have been prevented from passing if the rule had been in operation which the Government are now proposing. This was a view which 1045 he held strongly, and he earnestly hoped that the Government would carefully consider it. He humbly submitted that if the penalties which the Government were asking were even halved, although that might not be sufficient to satisfy the appetite of Parliamentary martinets, it would be sufficient to deal with the new difficulties with which they had been confronted, and the public could not be further increased with any corresponding advantage to the House.
§ *(6.45.) MR. J. A. PEASE (Essex, Saffron Walden)
said that up to the present moment nobody except the First Lord of the Treasury had attempted to justify the proposal the House was now considering. The right hon. gentleman suggested two reasons why an apology should be added to the punishment inflicted upon Members when they defied the Chair. The right hon. Gentleman said that Gentlemen were bound to apologise by all the dictates of good taste, but it was, he thought, undesirable to punish Members and at the same time to inflict on them the degrading humiliation of an apology. If the utterances of members of the Government were to be tested by the standard of good taste, there would be a great difference of opinion as to what was good taste and what was not, and there were a large number of individuals on the Government Benches who would always decline to apologise for that which might appear to others to be a breach of good taste or good manners. The right hon. Gentleman also said that, whether hon. Members were right or wrong, they were not right in resisting the Chair, and upon that ground he urged that this apology should be given in addition to the punishment of suspension. As had been pointed out in the course of the debate this evening, the offence was not against Mr. Speaker but against the House. But the House had no desire to discuss whether it was an offence against Mr. Speaker or the House. Mr. Speaker derived his authority from the House, and if any individual defied the authority of the Chair he resisted the Rules of the House, and committed an offence against the House. In his opinion this rule was an attempt to impose a revengeful humiliation on Members. There were many Gentlemen who, on account simply of their temperament, were not disposed 1046 to admit errors when they committed them, and there was no doubt that they derived a good deal of support from the very inability to admit their errors. No justification, in his opinion, had been given for trying to impose this humiliation on the House. Let the House consider what might occur if any Member representing a Nationalist Constituency in the House, or a member of what was called the Church Party, whose views of morality impressed the House on the previous Wednesday, who felt and spoke strongly and conscientiously upon a question, came into conflict with the Chair. If called upon to apologise, that Member would decline, and that would mean that the constituency for which he sat would be disfranchised. But he might apply for the Chiltern Hundreds, which had never yet been refused to an hon. Member, and appeal to his constituents, and on his being again returned the question for the House would be whether, an individual having appealed to his constituents and having been re-elected, it would be necessary to impose the apology upon him or regard him as a new Member. They might have a whole Party resisting the Chair in the same way, and if an attempt were made to force an apology from them a large district might be disfranchised, and if a thing of that kind occurred it would not be a question of public demonstration in public parks. it would in some parts almost promote civil war. Criminals expiated their offences by serving their time in the convict establishments or gaols of the country, and if members purged their offence by suspension, that ought to be sufficient. This proposal was only worthy of children in the nursery. Not satisfied with the suspension, the Government were proposing to put hon. Members in a corner, and would forbid them to come out until they had promised to be good. He submitted that these penalties were not needed; they had not been needed in the past, and he did not believe they would be needed in the future. He had supported the Government in most of the divisions up to the present moment in the matter of the rules, but he felt most strongly that if they tried to force Members to apologise in addition to the penalty of suspension they would not only do injustice to the individuals who composed the House, but they 1047 would also undermine the authority of the Chair.
§ (*6.56) MR. VICARY GIBBS (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
said that, in spite of the First Lord of the Treasury, having stated clearly that this rule was not directed against any particular section of the House, it had been said by many that it had been directed at the Irish Benches, and that the rule had been drawn with the view of bringing them under its penalties. But with whatever object the rule was made, it might in time be used against the Party who made it. He recalled what happened in 1893. Certain Members, himself among the number, in that year disregarded the authority of the Chair, and in his judgment they were right in doing so. He certainly received the unanimous support of the Party to which he belonged in his resistance. Some such conditions might arise again; indeed, they were very likely to do so, because the House had not only to deal with Mr. Speaker or his successors, but with three or more than three Gentlemen; for the House would remember that the Deputy Chairman might be drawn from the rank and file of the House, fighting men, and they might not have the cool-headed impartiality of Mr. Speaker, and in that case they might have, not one single hot-headed individual, but a great historic Party, feeling that the Deputy Speaker was biassed by the recent conflicts in which he had been engaged with a particular Party, and a state of things would arise to which the Wilkes troubles would be a mere trifle. That was the position, and he wished hon. Members to recognise it, which might be reached under the new rule. His criticism was not on the strictness of the rule, but upon its want of elasticity. An hon. Member might without justification be led to disregard the ruling of the Chair once, and have received moderate punishment, twice, and the punishment would be increased, but on the third occasion he might have received gross provocation, of which the Deputy Speaker had taken no notice, when the whole of his Party felt he was justified in using the language he 1048 did; and he would be suspended for the rest of the session. Well, if he applied for the Chiltern Hundreds, went down to his constitutents and offered himself for re-election and was again returned, he would come back a sort of patriot.
The part of the rule which he thoroughly disapproved, and against which he would fight tooth and nail, was the apology. It would be less objectionable if merely an apology were demanded. A Member might be willing to apologise to the Chair for annoyance or vexatious conduct, reserving the feeling that, so far as his political action was concerned, he was justified in the course he had taken. But that could not be done under the rule as proposed. The Member had to express his "sincere regret"—regret with an epithet. Were they gods, to tell whether or not man was sincere? Could anyone tell whether he himself was sincere in the speech he was now making, or whether he was acting a part? [Laughter.] He was afraid, judging by that laughter, that the Opposition did not realise that he felt most keenly on this matter. Such an apology was worse than useless. If it was used as a sort of blackmail—he could not believe that that was the object—it would mean the practical disfranchisement of a constituency represented by a man of honour. There was no humiliation in apologising for bad behaviour. There was humiliation in acting wrongly; there was credit and distinction in owning to it, if one felt oneself to be in the wrong; but where was the value of forcing a man at the point of the bayonet to say something he did not really mean? The only result would be to place in the hands of the party in power a means of driving out of the House inconvenient Members of the minority. It was not impossible that some day he might be a Member of a minority who felt it their absolute duty to take an extreme course. When a Member loitered in the lobby during a division—which was the awfully disgraceful thing he did in connection with the Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister Bill on the previous Wednesday—and when a Member made a speech longer than was necessary, which came to precisely the same thing (and hon. Members for Ireland would probably admit having done it), the moral law was not broken. 1049 Such a Member might possibly have broken the law of decorum or even of decency, but the whole question was one of the Member's own sense of proportion whether it was right or wrong. Obviously, if a Bill was introduced for promoting polygamy or anything else thoroughly bad, all would admit that a man would be neglecting his duty if he did not, in every conceivable way, endeavour to protect his country from such a misfortune, In less serious matters it was a question for the individual Member. The occurrences with which the rule was intended to deal did not arise from mere turbulence, or a desire to be offensive; they always had as their base a claim of right, no matter how wrong-headed or unreasonable that claim might be. Members came into conflict with the Chair, as a rule, because they felt that they either had been or were being ill-used, and they sought to bring their sense of injustice before the House by conduct which, perhaps, by the strict letter of the law, was not justifiable. Such Members should be treated with as much leniency as possible, consistently with the management of the House. He did not know whether the penalties proposed were exactly of the proper weight, but there was a strong feeling among many who desired to support the Leader of the House, that the provision as to an apology was undesirable. He, therefore, thought the right hon. Gentleman would do wisely if, as soon as possible, he disconnected the two parts of the proposal, so that those who desired to support the increased penalties—as he did—could vote for the new rule, which in its present form they could not do.
§ (7.10.) MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
thought the House had reason to complain of the manner in which this important proposal had been moved. Although it was one of the most far-reaching Motions ever submitted to the House, the First Lord of the Treasury did not introduce it himself, and the hon. Member for the Thirsk Division threw little or no light on the subject. No case whatever had been made out for the proposed alterations The particular rule under discussion was alluded to in the most cursory manner in the opening speech of the First Lord of the Treasury, although it struck at the liberty of Members of the House. The result of the Rules would be to exalt the Ministry and deprive private Members of 1050 most of the rights they at present enjoyed. The aim of every Government ought to be to protect the minority, not to persecute them, but most of the present proposals were aimed at the minority, with a view to singling them out and punishing them if they were not faithful followers of the powers that be. If there was previously any doubt as to whom the Rule was aimed at, it had been dissipated by the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bassetlaw Division. The proposals were aimed at the Irish Members as a body, principally because of the occurrences of last March. The First Lord of the Treasury had never been able to say which of the Standing Orders were broken by the Irish Members on that occasion, and though these proceedings might have been inconvenient, they did not jeopardise any Bill, as was done by the action of certain Members of the Unionist Party recently. Another reason for the opposition of Irishmen to the Rules was the source from which they came. The First Lord of the Treasury had earned his reputation as a statesman chiefly by the perpetual coercion of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman obtained his Coercion Act by the assistance of forged letters, at a time when public feeling was high, and he had violated his pledge that there should be an appeal from the decision, of removable magistrates. Any rules, therefore, brought in by the right hon. Gentleman would be viewed with suspicion. Nothing in the present proposals would cure the evils with which the House was confronted, and believing that they were proposed with a view to the disfranchisement of the Irish people, and the punishment of their representatives, the Irish Members would not be doing their duty if they did not, by every means in their power, protest against those pRoposals.
§ (7.15.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have listened with great attention to the debate to-night, and if I rise now to take part in it I must frankly admit it is not because I think that very many arguments have been advanced by the previous speakers with which the House is not extremely familiar, and that the House does not know the answer which, on one side or the other, they 1051 naturally provoke. But I think if I remained longer silent, I might be supposed to be encouraging a prolongation of a stage of this debate which the House may think it convenient not to prolong indefinitely, because it will be noticed that there will be full opportunity of discussing in detail all the points on which speeches have been made tonight on special Amendments, and of considering afterwards what the general effect is of the Amendment in the shape in which the House will pass it. I therefore personally deprecate a great prolongation of this stage of the discussion upon a rule which naturally and properly excites great interest, and which should be discussed very fully and in every aspect.
I wish to say a very few words upon two points which have come under discussion. The first of these points is the amount of the penalty inflicted by the rule, and the other is the question of apology. As regards the amount of the penalty, of course we may argue for ever as to whether it should be placed at this figure or that figure. No demonstration is possible that a particular figure is better than another one. But there was one argument that fell from the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Longford, which certainly indicated to my mind that the existing penalties are not sufficient, and that an augmentation of the penalties would be followed by a diminution of the offences, which is the object at which legislation should be aimed. The hon. Gentleman pointed out—not arguing, I admit, to the matter with which I am dealing—with considerable force that the penalty for a second offence, which is now a fortnight, has been sufficient to prevent a second offence. That at all events shows that a week is not sufficient, and that if the House fixed the penalty at a fortnight we should not even have a first offence. Now I pass to what I think has been touched upon by my hon. friend the Member for Oldham—the penalties in foreign Parliaments. A Return has been laid on the Table of the House. It has necessarily been hastily prepared, and has those imperfections in point of form which inevitably attend upon haste; but that Return quite 1052 conclusively shows that the practice of foreign Parliaments is not the practice we are seeking to introduce at the present time. I do not think anybody would be disposed to deny that if we are proposing this change it is not because we are following the examples set to us by foreign legislatures, but because a contemplation of the events which have taken place in our own Assembly has convinced us that some change is necessary. It is not worth while to discuss what the practice of foreign legislatures is unless we have come to the conclusion that the kind of order preserved in foreign legislatures is the kind of order we want to see in our own Assembly. It would be most unbecoming of me to discuss that question in detail, but I make this observation, and if anybody will make a general study of the procedure in foreign Assemblies he will see the full application of it. I do not defend, because it is impossible to defend, the number 20 as against the number 10, or the number 20 as against the number 30; it is not susceptible of logical or mathematical treatment. We think that the number we have fixed upon on the whole is the best number, and we trust the House will support us in maintaining it.
Now I come to the other matter, which is more important. The first thing is the injury which it is supposed is done to a constituency by depriving this House of a Member's services and the constituency of that Member's services when he is, for defying the authority of the Chair, expelled for a certain number of days. I confess I have no sympathy whatever with the constituency. I doubt not that the Member will be amenable to the voice of his constituency; and, in any case, they have deliberately chosen a gentleman to represent them, and if that gentleman shows that he really does not understand those fundamental principles without which no representative assembly can expect to carry on its business, I think nobody is to blame but themselves. If we are compelled to consider another case—which was brought to our notice by, I think, the Leader of the Irish Party and by other speakers in that quarter of the House—a case in which the constituency sympathises with the action of their Member, then it is 1053 quite evident that they, at all events, have not the smallest title or claim to our sympathy. I pass now to the question of apology. It seems to me, and I confess I am rather surprised at it, to have excited more feeling in all quarters of the House than, perhaps, the mere increase of the punishment laid down by the Standing Order. I confess myself to be wholly out of sympathy with almost everything that I have heard from hon. Gentlemen upon this subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite described this apology as, among other things, a stigma and an insult to those who were expected to make it; and my hon. friend who has just spoken I think took very much the same line. He, also, thinks it a stigma and an insult to be required to apologise to the Chair, and to the House for having disregarded the authority of the Chair, before resuming his place in our deliberations.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
said he never made any such statement. What he said was that in a case where he thought he was justified in breaking the ordinary decorum of the House, and where he found himself supported by the bulk of his Party, he should imagine he was right in the course he had taken and should find it impossible to express sincere regret.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
My hon. friend's distinction is rather a subtle one. He is perfectly ready to apologise, but he is not ready to express regret.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is difficult to define this metaphysical distinction between an apology and an expression of regret. What does any hon. Member of this House mean, when he unreservedly apologises, which is different from an expression of regret for what he has done? A man must indulge in many metaphysical subjects before he 1054 sees the whole breadth of the distinction which my hon. friend makes between a rule of which he would approve and a rule of which he would disapprove; and, to leave that distinction and to go to the epithet "sincere," I imagine my hon. friend would never think of making an apology which was not a sincere apology. The thing really turns upon the use of the word "sincere" and the distinction he seeks to draw between the effect of an apology and the effect of expressing regret. My hon. friend, although I do not agree with the general tenor of his speech, did one service in this debate—he clearly showed that the Irish Party in insisting upon regarding this Rule as aimed at themselves, were labouring under a great mistake. My hon. friend looks back at the time when he, as far as I can make out by his own account, did something for which he ought to have been required to express his sincere regret.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
And he looks forward to a time when the historic Party to which he and I belong are apparently to be included in the same condemnation, are all to be expelled from the House and compelled to express our sincere regret before we are allowed to return. I do not know whether my headlong passion will ever induce me in some moment of strange enthusiasm to defy the authority of the Chair, but I can most truly say to my hon. friend that if ever I was betrayed into an action of that kind, and if ever I was, in consequence, named by Mr. Speaker and required to withdraw from the precincts of the House, I should have not the smallest hesitation in expressing my sincere regret for the action I had taken, whatever my view might be as to the merits of the particular quarrel which had betrayed me into this unhappy policy.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
There is no fear of that—nor any other Tory Member of the House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
My hon. friend the Member for St. Albans has considerable fear that he will be put in that unfortunate position, as I understand him; and I feel perfectly certain that, whatever his view may be of the rights and wrongs of the controversy he has had with the Chair, he would not shrink from expressing his sincere regret that he had defied the Chair, as he is not expected to give an opinion upon the real merits of the quarrel. I do not understand this outburst of ethical indignation which has been directed against this rule. What is more common in our debates than some Gentleman being betrayed by his feelings into expressing an opinion of some opponent which he sincerely believes to be true but which exceeds the license of debate. He is called upon unreservedly to withdraw. [An HON. MEMBER: He is not punished."] He is not pressed, but if he does unreservedly withdraw, he does that without prejudice to the fact that he believes that what he has said, though most improper to Parliamentary debate, most accurately represents the facts. I will not say that that is a daily occurrence, but it is not an infrequent occurrence. Some of us say exactly what we think in language extremely well fitted to convey to everybody; but it is a transgression of the well understood order of debate, and the speaker is called upon to withdraw language which was perfectly true, which he believed to be perfectly true before he uttered it, and which he believes, after he withdraws it, is true. Is that a great violation of some moral principle? The trouble is that, unless a man is prepared to submit to the ruling of the Chair, be that ruling right or wrong—he may be a man of infinite patriotism, of infinite merit, capable of rendering great services to his country—he is not a fit Member of this House, and I absolutely repudiate the doctrine which seems to have been almost admitted from more than one quarter of the House, that there are circumstances under which defying the 1056 Chair may be regarded as a legitimate political weapon. There are no such circumstances. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Waterford, in the speech he made in the Second Reading debate, in a tone which was characteristically moderate, but with a threat which was characteristically immoderate, indicated that the time might come when he and the whole of his Party for some political end, which to them seemed adequate, might think it their duty to defy the Chair. Very well, all I can say is, that if that be the doctrine of the hon. Gentleman and his friends, I do not think, in that respect, and when they do that, they will show themselves fitting Members of this Assembly, and nothing that anybody can say or do would make me regard men holding that position as any addition to our strength and dignity.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think that anything bas been said in the course of this debate to make me alter that view. I do not know whether Gentlemen from Ireland will believe me when I say, but I can most sincerely say, that no insult to them or anybody else was intended by us in framing this rule. We thought when framing it, and we think now, that when a Member deliberately refuses to obey the Chair he ought, before resuming his duties in this House, to express his sincere regret, and I was astounded that this appeared a matter of intense surprise to the hon. and learned Member for South Shields, he is a lawyer of great distinction, and, I believe, well understands the practice of the law courts, that an apology is exacted from a man who is committed for contempt of court before he is allowed to come out of prison.
§ MR. ROBSON
He is not asked to say that he is sincerely sorry. He is asked to submit to the authority of the court. He may even be called upon to admit that he is wrong. But each of these things is something totally different from bringing himself into a particular frame of mind.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
A great many subtle and unsubstantial distinctions have been drawn in the course of this debate, but the most unsubstantial is that which the hon. Member has just given us. Apparently, unless I misunderstood him, the court requires, or may require, a person committed for contempt of court to make an expression of opinion that he was wrong. [Cries of "No. no!"] I understood that was what the hon. Gentleman said. That is not what is exacted from a Member in this case. He is asked to admit that he was wrong in what he did, namely, the act of defying the authority of the Chair, and, therefore, if there is to be a comparison drawn between the practice of the law courts and this House, I venture to point out to the hon. Gentleman that the courts of law, and not the House of Commons, are open to the strictures levelled against it. Under these circumstances I hope the House will assent without substantial modification to the rules we have proposed. I do not think that in their character they are provocative. They certainly are not intended to be provocative. I do not think they will be harsh in their operation. I do not think they will exclude from this House any man who has a right to sit here; and I do not think that they will impose on any Member of this House the necessity of choosing between that which his conscience requires him to do, and that which his interest or duty as a Member of Parliament call upon him to perform.
§ (7.38.) SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his speech complained of the lack of argument which has been shown in the various speeches in the course of the debate, but I did not notice any new or very strong argument in the course of his speech. Above all, he has omitted something which, whether you call it argument or fact, would have had more effect on the minds of men than anything else he could have said. What is the reason for any new rule of this kind dealing with disorderly behaviour? What is the reason for altering the existing rule at all? That is the point which the right hon. Gentleman has left absolutely untouched. He refers to the Paper which has been laid before us explaining the 1058 modes in different foreign Assemblies of dealing with disorder, and he said—"We do not found ourselves upon that at all. We found the alteration in the rule that is proposed in the contemplation of events that has occurred in our own Assembly." What are these events? There is absolutely no case made out at all. From first to last there has not been one word said to justifiy any alteration. On the contrary, we have it admitted that, so far as the greater penalties are concerned, they never have been put into operation, so that they at least have been successful; and as to the minor penalties and the general tone of order in the House, what is the case on which the right hon. Gentleman founds this additional demand?
It seems to me, before going into all these questions of particular periods and apologies, that is the question that underlies the whole matter. We want to know why you should meddle with that which is working well already. If it is not working well, let it be proved that it is not working well. There is no instance that can be put, or fact that can be adduced from our past experience, to justify any alteration whatever. There is one thing which, I think, is a weakness. It is a theoretical, but not an absolutely practical, weakness. It seems to me that the first term of days is counted by calendar days and not by days of the sitting of the House. In one instance, which is before our mind, I believe the Member was suspended at the beginning of the Whitsuntide holidays, and therefore the punishment was reduced in that case to a farce. But, if the rule was worth amending at all, a very slight amendment would have got rid of that. There has been no attempt made to justify, in any degree whatever, the strong measures which are now proposed; and I think it is astonishing that the right hon. Gentleman, in the long speech he made in the preliminary debate, and again to-night, in the middle of the discussion, has omitted to do that which was the first thing he had to do—namely, to explain to the House why it was that the Government, with all the business of the session before them, and all the other rules to pass, which cannot be passed in one day or in two, have thought it necessary to introduce this particular rule without giving any reason for it. I have already spoken on 1059 the general question, and I do not wish to repeat anything I have said. But with regard to the term of punishment by suspension, I have already said that in one particular it might be stiffened. It was rather absurd to have all the formalities of naming and voting, and pompously fixing a penalty upon a Member, knowing all the time that the penalty was a farce. That is a ground of weakness I detect in the present arrangement.
But now, Sir, with regard to this question of apology, which, I think, goes more home to the feelings of the House than any other question. I have observed a strong disposition to regard the matter as one affecting almost the personal dignity of the Chair, and that the offence the Member is punished for is disregarding the authority of the Chair. I have to point out to the House that there is a good deal more than that. It is wider. The rule says—That whenever any Member shall have been named by the Speaker, or by the Chairman of a Committee of the whole House, immediately after the commission of the offence of disregarding the authority of the Chair, or of abusing the rules of the House, by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House, or otherwise….Such an apology is due to the Speaker as one man offers to another, but there is no particular apology due to the Speaker for this general offence against the rules of the House which are referred to in the latter part of the clause I have read. With regard to the whole question of apology, the governing fact there was omitted from view, as it seems to me, entirely by the right hon. Gentleman. It is a punishment plus a punishment. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of contempt of Court, and stated that when a man is committed to prison for contempt of Court, he is not released until he apologises. But he is punished only until he apologises, whereas here a definite term of punishment is proposed, and then we say that in addition an apology shall be required. The case of contempt of Court is not at all analogous, for there the submission to the Court is the principal thing, and the offender is put in prison in order to make him apologise. In this case, if the offender has been found guilty of persistently and wilfully disregarding the 1060 authority of the Chair, and of obstructing the business of the House, there is no locus pœnitentœ on the spot. He is immediately suspended and the other consequences follow. Then we are invited to commit the absurdity, as I think it, of exacting for a man a "sincere apology." I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to that whether you can exact an ample, a profuse, or a full apology, because you can be the judge of whether it is ample, profuse, or full. But you cannot be a judge of its sincerity. I am not a philosopher; but I believe that the difference is that the one quality is objective and the latter subjective. I think it puts Members in a false position to talk of their sincerity or their insincerity. It is absurd for us to lay down any such condition as that before we allow him to resume services in the House. I am extremely disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman did not get up at this stage, or even earlier, and consent to abandon this condition. Certainly the public have been led to believe that that course would be taken; and I am sure that that was the course that would commend itself to many high authorities and to the judgment and conscience of the country and especially of the House of Commons. But the right hon. Gentleman has given no sign as yet of making that concession; and all we can do is to continue to force it upon him as strongly as possible in the hope that some effect may be produced on his disposition of mind, and also, as I said before, with the object of obtaining from the Government the actual reason and cause upon which this great alteration of the law of Parliament is based.
§ (7.48.) MR. SETON-KARR (St. Helens)
said it did seem to him that this was a debate on which private Members ought to have something to say. For many years they had been a homogeneous and servile majority; but here was a debate on a question to which some members of that majority had serious objections, and they must have one or two words to say upon it. His right hon. friend had appealed to the House and asked them to pass these Rules substantially in the form in which they were 1061 presented. He confessed that personally he did not like a great many of these Rules. He looked upon them with something like dread. It seemed to him they would reduce the non-official Member to a position of servitude and dumbness. He believed in the superior wisdom of his right hon. friend, and he proposed very largely to support him in many of these Rules. The only reason he got up to speak was that there was one point he felt bound to protest against, and that was the provision in these Rules with regard to apology. He had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, who said he was entirely out of sympathy with everything that had been said against the Amendment. He, however, submitted that this was a very serious question, a question in which the dignity of the House was involved—the question of what penalty was to be imposed on Members or defying the Chair. Non-official Members and Members on the Front Bench approached this question from entirely different points of view. He thought it was an absolutely impossible hypothesis that his right hon. friend and his colleagues should put themselves in the position of a Member who had defied the Chair and would come under the operation of this penal clause. All he could say was that he was entirely in sympathy with everything that had been said against the question of apology, and although he listened with willing mind to what his right hon. friend had said, nothing he did say convinced him to the contrary. The whole idea of an apology was that it was spontaneous and voluntary. It seemed to him to be a contradiction in terms that they were to punish a Member by making him make a sincere apology. That point had, however, been dealt with before. One could only judge by applying these things to oneself. He thought it was a specious argument that this Rule would only apply to Members from Ireland who had done things which brought them within the Rule. He could not consent to help to impose penalties upon hon. Members to which he himself would never submit. His only excuse for saying that he would never submit to make a humble apology was that he came from a stubborn race from the other side of the Tweed. He would be only too ready to make an 1062 apology to the Chair, which he felt was voluntary and free, but if he was told he had to make an apology before he came to the House, he felt that was placing the whole thing in a ridiculous light; it was putting the cart before the horse, and placing the Mother of Parliaments in a very undignified position. Supposing that some hon. Member had done something for which he had to be named, and then before he could come back to the House he had to make an apology, and he refused, because he did not feel it, what an undignified position the House would be in. Some insignificant individual would have the whole attention of the country directed to him because he had defied the House and refused to make an apology. How on earth were they going to make him apologise? His right hon. friend talked about withdrawing the statement in this House. His right hon. friend the Member for North Armagh reminded him of an instance he witnessed in the House and should never forget. The right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, in an impassioned debate, made a statement charging a somewhat serious offence to an Irish gentleman, who was a Member of the House. Hon. Members from Ireland on the Nationalist Benches were in an uproar, and would not allow the right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh to proceed until he had withdrawn the expression. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman would not withdraw it. He confessed, speaking for himself, that he happened to sympathise with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on that occasion. The proceedings were at a deadlock, when, by that happy Irish wit that Scotsmen and Englishmen did not possess, his hon. and gallant friend substituted another expression for it, and got out of the difficulty in that way. They could imagine a case in which an hon. Member did not get out of the difficulty in that happy way, and that would reduce the House to a very undignified position. But here they had the Mother of Parliaments passing Rules of Procedure with impossible conditions, which might lead to a great deal of undignified and regrettable action. The same argument applied in the case of apology. It was said that the apology in the 1063 Rules was not an apology to an individual, but a personal apology to the Chair and to the House. The answer to that was, that they were not dealing with a personal individual, or corporation, or the House, but they were dealing with the nature of the apology and the nature of the offence, and if they asked a Member, who did not feel in himself that an apology was due, to make an apology, it degraded that Member. Although he was prepared to support the bulk of the Rules, on the superior wisdom of his right hon. friend, in this particular instance he should have to oppose it tooth and nail and vote against it. He appealed to his right hon. friend to withdraw it. Let the period be long or short, as the Government liked, but he asked the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw what appeared to him to be a very injudicious appendage in the form of an apology.
*(7.58.) MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
said that the First Lord had stated that no case would arise in which it would be derogatory to an offending Member to apologise to the Chair. But he would recall to the right hon. Gentleman's recollection an incident which occurred a great number of years ago in a Home Rule debate, when an hon. and gallant Gentleman sitting on the other side of the House attributed to the whole Irish Party that they had connived at the crime of murder. When challenged by the Irish Members for making that charge, Mr. Speaker held that, inasmuch as the hon. and gallant Member's statement had no reference to any particular Member, it was not disorderly. Thereupon, one of the Irish Members immediately got up and said that there was only one answer he could make to that charge, and it was that if it applied to him, the hon. and gallant Member was a liar. The Speaker thereupon sprang up, and called upon the Irish Member to withdraw the expression. The hon. Member declined, and was suspended, and immediately afterwards another hon. Member repeated the offence. Thereupon he was called upon to withdraw, and the protest was evidently about to be repeated, until every Irish Member had been suspended. Then Mr. Speaker Peel saw the mistake he had made and appealed to the hon. Member who had made the initial mistake, and that hon. 1064 Member, seeing the difficulty in which Mr. Speaker Peel was, consented to withdraw, and the scene was put an end to. His point was that under the rule now proposed every hon. Member suspended on that occasion, and whose conduct in being suspended brought matters to the right issue by compelling the withdrawal, would not be allowed to return to the House without sending an apology which not one of them would have felt. His complaint was simply that the rule would put to an honest man in certain circumstances a very difficult alternative. He would either have to tell a lie or else be permanently excluded from the House. The result would be that which followed from the subscription tests. The evil of those tests was that it forced men to tell lies. For instance, how many honest men were forced to tell a lie with reference to the theological test, rather than be excluded from a profession they desired to enter? Men had been forced to declare as a blasphemous fable a rite which they really believed to be a sacred rite of divine authority, in order to enter a desired profession, and his strong objection to the rule was that experience showed that it would be utterly futile, and that men would tell a lie when it was thus forced upon them. The old tests were based on the same fallacy. One idea in ancient times was that every man in public office should be a good, religious and pious man, and it was thought that this would be secured by enacting that no one should be elected to office unless he were a communicant in the Church of England. What was the result? The greatest scoundrels and rascals became communicants straight off; and even other men who were not rascals but were honourable men, but who disbelieved in religion altogether, did the same. The same result would follow if the rule were passed. Men would be called upon to express their sincere regret, and they would reply with their tongue in their cheek; and the result would be demoralising to themselves and undignified to the House. Reference had been made to what would occur in a court of law. He quite admitted that a court of law, in certain circumstances, obliged a person vicariously to express an apology. But there was a difference. In a court of law a man who might afterwards be a judge might be hired by the offender 1065 to tell the lie on his behalf, whereas no one would be able to hire a future judge to tell the lie to the House of Commons. What was the object which was sought to be attained? There was no object, unless it was to humiliate a Member and exclude him until he came into a repentant frame of mind. The result would either be that a member would express regret he did not feel and do wrong to his own conscience, or that he would be so quixotically honest that he would be excluded for ever from the House. Under those circumstances, he would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider the rule. Nothing could be more inefficacious, more demoralising, and more obsolete than to attempt to enforce repentance by punishment. It was a retrograde proposal, and it was absurd that hon. Members should ever attempt to enforce it. (8.12.)
*(8.47.) MR. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)
said he wished to say a few words before the division was taken upon this Resolution. The question before the House was whether the words of the former Standing Order should stand part of the Question, or not. Therefore those who wished to see some change would have to vote that the words should not stand part, and the division which was to be taken would not express the feeling of the House with regard to the latter part of the new Rule. As one of the supporters of the Government he regretted that the First Lord of the Treasury had not left the matter a little more open as to what the Government would do in regard to the apology clause. He thought that on a question like this it strained Party loyalty considerably to lay down a hard-and-fast rule on what he might almost call a non-essential part of the rule. ["Hear, hear."] He could not see what good this apology was going to do, and he believed that feeling was very largely shared on the Government side of the House. While they were quite ready to support the punitive part of the Resolution, the idea of insisting on an apology was repugnant to them. He felt that they must not look at this question simply from the point of view of one section of the House or the 1066 other. Offences might be brought about owing to some fit of temper or annoyance. It had already been argued that in such a case an apology would be readily made, but they had to deal with cases where a man from deliberate conviction might think he was right and who might be dealt with by the new Deputy Chairman, who might be wrong, and whose decision might afterwards be reversed. And yet they were asking that under such circumstances an hon. Member should express sincere regret for what had occurred. In the case of a sincere conviction, the point might be so important that though the hon. Member would bow to the ruling of the Chair he would not put an apology in writing for something which he did not happen to regret. It was this kind of thing that had made martyrs in the past, and for which the Quakers suffered punishment in the 17th century, because they would not withdraw and apologise. He held that it was unfair to insist upon an apology as well as punishment. They had all heard of the struggle of Mr. Bradlaugh, with whom there was extreme difficulty in this House in regard to his constituency, but all those difficulties had now been removed. They were now asked to lay down that an apology was to be made sincerely, but he sincerely hoped that the House would not insist upon an apology. In the beginning of the unhappy complications in South Africa, enormous punishments and fines were inflicted upon certain persons, and expressions of regret were also subsequently demanded from them by President Kruger before release. Three of these persons refused to apologise, and they suffered further punishment accordingly. But could any hon. Member say that they did not sympathise with those three men? He believed that such an apology as was now asked for would have a tendency to place public sympathy on the side of the wrong-doer. Although the Government would get the support of their Party to the proposal which was now before them, he thought that unless the Government felt disposed to make some concession to the rank and file of their Party on the question of this apology, he believed they would find themselves in a very difficult position.
§ (8.53.) MR. J. P. FARRELL (Longford, N.)
said that with a great portion of the speech made by the hon. Member who had just sat down the Irish Party could agree. Irishmen regarded the latter portion of this new Rule, which provided for a sincere apology, as one which added insult to injury as far as the Irish Members were concerned. In addition to the increased penalties which were proposed, if a man was suspended for an act of disobedience at the end of the session, his suspension was to run into the next Parliament, and his constituents would suffer disfranchisement accordingly. He contended that this Rule was directed against the Irish Members, in consequence of what took place last session, when the Irish representatives were indignant at the effort which was made to rush through this House an enormous sum of money, approaching to nearly £18,000,000, without any discussion at all. If anything justified the action of hon. Members from Ireland last session, it was the fate which had befallen the Motion of the Secretary to the Treasury with regard to the Civil Service Estimates which was discussed last night.
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL
said the penalties which were now proposed were more appropriate to the time of Charles I. or Cromwell than to the opening days of the twentieth century. It would be a mockery for Irish Members to shut their eyes to the fact that the operation of this Rule was aimed at preventing protests such as they were entitled to make, and the Rule was directed toward the extinction of the Irish voice in this Chamber. In addition to all this, they were asked to make a sincere apology. The definition of the term "sincere" might not lie with Mr. Speaker or with the present Chairman of Committees, but it might lie with a Gentleman whose name had not yet been disclosed to the House, and who, if they were to judge by rumours, was a gentleman who might be most unfavourably disposed towards Irish Members. This Gentleman could twist the Rules. It would be in his power to put any limitation on them he 1068 liked on the continuance of debate. He would be able to rule Nationalist Members out of order on points in regard to which the Speaker, if he were in the Chair, might be disposed to relax rather than tighten the strings of debate. If they disregarded the ruling, they were subject to the extraordinary penalty of having their constituencies disfranchised. In addition to being evicted from the House, they were to be called upon to tender a "sincere apology." He was perfectly confident that no Irish Member who, in the exercise of his duty, was evicted from the Chamber would ever tender an apology, so long as he believed he was acting in the interest of the constituency which sent him here. He believed that the re-election by an Irish constituency of a man who was evicted from the House for something he had done in the performance of his duty, and who attempted to crawl back to the Chamber with an apology of that sort, would be extremely doubtful. He hoped that the appeal made by several hon. Gentlemen opposite would have some effect, but, after all, he had noticed that although they sometimes received support in the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite, there was a mystic charm in the division bell which appealed to them to support the Government. There were men of narrow mind sitting behind the Government urging them on in the course of coercing the Irish Members. He hoped that so long as any representation was accorded to Ireland in this House—if they were to believe some of the views put from the opposite Benches, very little representation would be given a tall to the Irish—and whether they compelled the Irish Members to come there under conditions which would have disgraced the Parliaments of Charles I. or of Cromwell, the Irish Members would not be prevented by any Rule that might be passed from doing their duty to their constituents.
§ *(9.5.) MR. ERNEST GRAY
said that at the risk of being criticised as presumptuous, and possibly obstructive, he wished to join in the appeal to the Leader of the House to modify this rule. The moment he saw it he felt that it would be impossible for him to support it in the Division Lobby. He was not 1069 prepared to argue whether 20 or 40 days was the proper term during which suspension should exist. It was almost impossible to apply any definite argument to that, but he strongly objected to the want of elasticity in the rule. It was not merely defiance of the Chair, but the breaking of the rules of the House that might bring the penalties on a Member. He thought there ought to be some discrimination between offences and offences. The point that appealed to him, however, was the question of the apology. He attached more value to the apology than to the punishment of suspension, but it must be an honest, voluntary apology, and not one wrung out of a man unwillingly. He was astounded that there was no provision in the rule by which the Speaker could, within the period of suspension, accept an apology from the offending Member if voluntarily and fully tendered. A Member suspended from the service of the House was to be excluded for the whole period of the suspension, no matter how sorry he might be for his offence or how willing to sincerely apologise. That was a mistake. But to demand an apology at the end of the term of suspension was both immoral and impolitic. It was immoral because it would manufacture hypocrites. He would far prefer a Member to go on in wrong-doing than to come back with a lie on his lips, stating that which he did not honestly feel. To say that he was sincerely sorry when all the world knew that he was not, was to make a farce of this, and to bring the House into contempt, Was it wise? Would it do any good? Members would ride through it. The outside public would say that it was a mere compliance with the rule of the House, that it was a statement which the man did not believe, that they had no respect for him, and that they had no respect for the House of Commons which demanded this from him. If it were likely to be a sincere and honest apology it would be extremely valuable, but they were not likely to get it, and to compel the semblance of an apology would do the House more harm than good. It was impolitic because it would bring the House into conflict with the constituencies. In every 1070 quarrel between the House and a constituency, from Wilkes to Bradlaugh, the constituency had in the long run come out triumphant. Was not the Government asking them to run headlong into a course of conflict with the constituencies, the end of which no one could foresee? He supposed that the constituencies had to be recognised in this matter. They should not lay down in the Standing Orders anything which would keep the conflict alive. One of the first things a suspended Member would do would be to seek re-election, and that man might be elected and re-elected, as Wilkes was in the days of old, until the House would be compelled to allow him to enter. They were asked to enter upon this course without any compensating advantage. It was entering upon an unnecessary conflict in order that they might grasp a Will o' the Wisp, for he regarded this apology, coming from the lips and not from the heart, as altogether unsubstantial and not worth striving for. He should have no part nor lot in a regulation which would exclude the honest man and cordially admit the hypocrite, who proclaimed his hypocrisy to the whole world.
§ (9.15.) CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
, said he approached this question with perhaps a greater tendency to sympathy with the front Bench opposite than any one on his side of the House, and for this reason. His mind might have been warped in the profession to which he for many years belonged, to look up to authority. He sympathised with every measure which would raise the dignity of the Chair, although his sympathy did not extend, as yet, to the unknown Gentleman who was to fulfil the office of Deputy Chairman. The first question he asked himself—he spoke with the comparatively limited experience of the House of nine or ten years—was, was there any necessity for this drastic change in the Rules of the House of Commons, or had any organised attempt been made to lower the dignity of the Chair, or the dignity of the House? His contention was that these new rules would have the opposite effect from that for which they were framed. In the first place, it was certainty, and not the extent or severity of punishment which 1071 acted as a deterrent of crime. Most Members in the House, and the outside public, believed that the Government had introduced these drastic rules for the express purpose of dealing with one section of the House. Now, he had always been led to believe that the Members of this House were on a basis of equality, and, therefore, if these rules had been introduced with the object of penalising the Irish section of the House, then they were an indignity as regarded the House at large, because any section might be placed in the future in the same position as the Irish Members. They had had a slight illustration of that the other day. Some hon. Members objected to the Rules on account of their want of elasticity; he objected to them on account of their adequacy. It was suggested that every term of punishment should be increased three-fold, but they had never yet had an instance in which the Member offending had not been sorry for his conduct. He maintained that if the Rules were passed in their present form, it would lead to a conflict between the constituencies and this House, and if that was brought about the dignity of the House would be lowered by having to give in to clamour out of doors. The best way was to show that they were masters in their own House, and could control their own proceedings without having to fly to a penal code to compel that respect for the Chair, which it was their manifest duty to exhibit. As to the letter of apology, there was no sense in calling on a man to make an apology which was not sincere. In every other walk in life an apology was an alternative to punishment. If one individual grossly insulted another, in nine cases out of ten, if he offered an apology, it was accepted, and it seemed to him a strange thing that in the House of Commons, where they were all on an equality, there should be any difficulty whatever in keeping up the dignity of the Chair, without having recourse to a series of penal enactments. There was not a case on record in which penalties had been inflicted on individuals, or bodies of individuals, without cause being shown, and no cause had been shown that night that all other methods had failed. Therefore he should vote against the whole of this proposed Rule.
§ (9.24.) MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said he fully agreed that it was an unfortunate and regrettable fact that they were bound to consider this matter in the House of Commons. In theory it ought to be impossible to even mention the necessity of these laws being passed: but those who had been in the House for some years could not deny that some Rules were necessary to prevent such incidents as had been seen. He altogether protested against the allegation that the Rules were directed against one section of the House. He had himself taken part in scenes when he was younger, and he acknowledged fully that there were occasions when one said and did things which could not strictly be defended on mature consideration. But surely the country demanded that they should render it practically impossible that such scenes should be enacted in this Assembly. An hon. Member had said that to defy the Chair was a protest they were entitled to make; but he thought the House and the country would bear him out in the contention that disregarding the authority of the Chair was not a protest in any sense whatever, and under no circumstances should it be allowed to be tolerated. To what acts did this Rule apply? "Immediately after the commission of the offence of disregarding the authority of the Chair, or of abusing the Rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House." [Cries from the Irish benches—"or otherwise."] Well, "or otherwise." It was quite clear that that did not apply to an accidental circumstance. He spoke somewhat feelingly. Mr. Speaker and his predecessor had on more than one occasion required him to withdraw an expression he had made use of in a heated moment as a breach of the Rules, and he had withdrawn it. But this Rule applied to persistent and wilful obstruction of the business of the House, and to the wilful offence of disregarding the authority of the Chair. How could it, in common sense, be alleged that if a man were asked to apologise for such action his dignity was injured, or that there was any attempt to undermine his self-respect. Surely if he was convicted of such action, the first thing he ought to do, as a matter of course, was to apologise and express his regret; and 1073 if that had been done in the past this Rule would not have been introduced.
What was the reason why this Rule was necessary? The fact was that outside the House, not only in the constituencies but in other countries, there were cases in which—he did not say hon. Members had done it, but it had been done for them—persons had prided themselves in having set this House at defiance. If that were so, surely it was necessary that this House should maintain its dignity and position by requiring the Member to apologise. The Leader of the Irish Party said that the result would be to disfranchise Ireland, but if that were so it would mean that all the Irish representatives had conspired together to set the authority of the Chair at defiance, and wilfully and persistently obstruct the business of the House. He did not hesitate to say that if any section of the House, whether Irish, English, Scotch, or Welsh, conspired together and formed a body to set the rules and authority of the Chair at defiance, then, if they would not apologise and promise that they would behave better, he did not think that in justice they should be admitted into the House. This House had its rights as well as the constituencies. There was just now the case of a constituency which had returned a Member who had never taken his seat, and he was not aware that that constituency was rising in indignation in the matter. Altogether this was rather a storm in a tea-kettle. The real fact was that if Members disdained the ruling of the Chair they were bound to apologise, and express their regret. If there was bribery in a constituency, that constituency was disfranchised, or, at least, the writ was withheld, which was the same thing. And if a Member persistently set the Chair at defiance, and would not apologise, it was not an unreasonable thing that this House should refuse to admit him. It was said that this would be a great indignity to Ireland, but Irishmen did not object to people apologising to them. He had heard accounts of men being brought up before the United Irish League, and being compelled to apologise for daring to supply goods to people who had been boycotted. They had been compelled to apologise for doing a perfectly legal act, and that was not 1074 considered degrading, yet the House was told in this grandiose manner that to be compelled to apologise to the House for setting its Rules at defiance was a degradation that could not be tolerated. He thought that was carrying the matter a little too far. The reason of this rule being made was to try and stop Members setting the rules at defiance. No doubt it was an unpleasant rule, and he personally regretted that it was necessary for the House at the commencement of the new century to have to pass such a measure, but there could be no possible doubt that it would be most effective. Some Members might not apologise, but the great bulk of the House would, and when the effect of the Rule was seen it would make people much more careful. He thought that if a man made a mistake and offended the dignity of the House of which he was a Member, it was not unreasonable that he should be asked to apologise. He therefore saw no objection to the Rule, and, in spite of the great storm that had been raised against it, he hoped that the Government would be firm and insist upon passing it.
§ (9.32.) MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
said the hon. Member who had just sat down admitted at the conclusion of his speech that it was a matter for regret that at the beginning of the twentieth century the House of Commons had thought it necessary to consider the passing of a measure of this description. Having heard the hon. Member express that regret, he was sorry to hear him take the opposite view by quoting one or two instances which, in his opinion, did not support the contention put forth in the early part of his speech, or justify the vote he was going to give on behalf of these severe, and, as he thought, unnecessary penalties. There was no comparison between a Member being asked to withdraw and his constituency being disfranchised, and a Member who in one case had been guilty of bribery, or in the other had been willing to accept bribes, because if a Member bribed his constituents he was unseated; he was punished by the forfeiture of his seat, and there was no question whatever of an apology.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said he only referred to that instance from the point of view of disfranchisement of the constituency; he did not refer to it from the point of view of an apology.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said that if a Member was guilty of bribery he forfeited his seat, and no apology was demanded, and it was as discreditable to the House of Commons as it was humiliating to any Member to whom this punishment was awarded to force him to make an apology. He had been a Member of the House of Commons for ten years, and during the time he had been a Member he had noticed that the House had become very much more decorous in its behaviour than it had ever been in the preceding ten years. There had been fewer breaches of etiquette, less obstruction, shorter sittings, and fewer midnight sittings, in the course of which hon. Members were apt to lose their tempers with one another, and if statistics could be obtained upon the subject there would be found to be far fewer cases than hon. Members of this House supposed. The most regrettable incident was a spontaneous ebullition of temper, which every Member regretted, in which he personally took part as one of the grand pacificators, an incident that reflected no credit on the House of Commons, and one the remembrance of which they, one and all, had been anxious to obliterate as soon as possible, and which had been as readily forgotten as all wished it to be. But in that case what happened? Member after Member involved in that unfortunate incident stood up and frankly, and in the most gentlemanly manner, gave their version of what had occurred, and apologised, and after the dignified and almost dramatic rebuke of Mr. Speaker Peel all went home convinced that so far as lay in their power none would contribute to an incident similar to that which had occurred so long as they were in the House. A more recent case was the case in which five or six Members were removed by an authority other than a request from the Chair; compelled to go out under conditions he hoped never to see repeated in this House. In any case when an hon. Member momentarily 1076 forgot the regard which was due to the Chair, directly attention was called to it by Mr. Speaker, he was only too anxious to apologise.
Where, then, was the justification, where were the instances, that warranted this punishment? They had not been produced. And with all respect, until overwhelming evidence in support of a primitive measure of this kind was produced. In his opinion the House of Commons had no right to be put in the discreditable position in which it was placed in the eyes of the country by providing a remedy for a state of things, which did not exist, and which, when it arose, he believed hon. Members would be gentlemanly enough to get rid of without any such rule. Supposing he were to come into conflict with the Chair, which he hoped would never occur, but which might happen, because at the moment he might think it neccessary to strain the technical rules which prevailed in what was known as polite society. Members were not sent to the House of Commons as a privilege, but as a duty to their constituents, and they were not to be tied down in their duty by any namby-pamby rules of etiquette, unless the authority of the Chair was violated to such an extent as it never yet had been to justify these rules. Supposing hon. Members offended against the rules, they were named and asked to withdraw; unless they withdrew they were suspended, in his opinion, for a time quite sufficient to punish the offence, and for that period their constituency was disfranchised. Surely that was enough. But the Government proposed that, over and above the naming, withdrawal, and suspension of the Member, and the disfranchisement of his constituents, the Member was to stand at the Bar and give the other Members of this House the sickening spectacle that the editor of the Globe gave. They were to sit there and view a replica of that sickening spectacle, when the cad of an editor did not apologise after all. That scene might be repeated by some Member who thought he was justified in doing the same thing. Was that going to lead to the increased dignity of the House? On the contrary, if the authority of the Chair was defied and an apology was necessary, that was the wrong way to 1077 demand it. Further, punishment having been meted out to the offender, he ought not to be expected to make an apology at all. An apology lost its grace unless it was spontaneous and preceded the punishment. If punishment preceded the apology, then the necessity for the apology was done away with altogether. Let the House consider the case of Mr. Plimsoll—he would not refer to the cases of Wilkes or Bradlaugh, because those had been referred to by other Members. Mr. Plimsoll was a worthy Member of this House, and represented a good cause which the people of this country thought strongly upon. In the course of a speech Mr. Plimsoll accused an hon. Member of something of which he should not have accused him. But directly his attention was called to the fact he did all in his power to obliterate his offence. Would it not have been disgraceful if the House of Commons had imposed upon him the necessity of a "sincere apology," when he had done everything to atone for his blunder? Who was to be the judge of the sincerity? But they might go further than the cases of Plimsoll, Bradlaugh or Wilkes. He could conceive a condition of things; the re-enactment of the Test Acts, or the enforcement of the restrictions of alien immigration, with some indignant aliens already in this House; or a Government determined to destroy the right of combination of labour; or suppose there were two Members of the House, natives of India themselves, feeling strongly the condition of India from their point of view, and supposing they went further than Parliamentary etiquette justified, or the cool, calm, phlegmatic was capable of going; to inflict such a humiliation upon them would be going farther than a philosophic gentleman like the Leader of the House would care to go. Or suppose a London Member in the House, who defied the authority of the Chair, and who was named and withdrew and was suspended; and that after he had been away for a week he was prepared to apologise and grovel, as this Standing Order desired him to do, and that his constituents said, "Though you have made a blunder and have been punished, and your punishment followed the crime, we will not have this discreditable apology which this Rule requires." In that case he could conceive the hon. Member being carried to the House by force, and an attempt made to 1078 bring the House into conflict with the populace. That was the position in which Wilkes put the House of Commons a century ago.
He submitted that the House had no right to punish a Member and inflict on his constituency the humiliation and the degradation which the new rule undoubtedly proposed to inflict. He could conceive an occasion when the House might be compelled to resist an authority which it conceived to be greater than the House itself, or to come into conflict when a Minister or Speaker happened to be wrong, in vindication of the rights of the House itself. They ought not to point to the one or two cases of the last 20 or 30 years as if they were happening every day. The House had become more respectable, and he might say more commonplace, and were not apt to judge of these scenes in the same way as the Press described them in their yellow columns and their flaming placards. He had seen the most trivial incidents, which the House itself had never noticed, exaggerated in the most indecent, vulgar and scandalous manner, in order to play the game of a particular section; against Ireland to-day, and the Labour Party, or it might be the High Church Party, tomorrow. The House seemed to have lost all sense of proportion. If Members transgressed the Rules of the House, he believed they had more than sufficient power to compel respect for both the House and the Standing Orders. He appealed to the Conservative Party in this matter. In times gone by, the Conservatives, to their credit be it said, had maintained the freedom, status, and dignity of this House as sturdily as Radical and Liberal reformers. This new Rule, if passed, apart from destroying the good comradeship of the House, would destroy much of the good feeling which had hitherto existed, and would place in the hands of a Minister or Chairman or Speaker of the House, who had not the sense of proportion which some Speakers had, the power of being provocative, vindictive and revengeful, because they would not know how to do their business and, like unbusinesslike men, would lose their own temper and cause other people to lose theirs. He had never been called to order, and did not, if he could help it, intend to be, but if ever 1079 such a thing happened to him, he should consider himself sufficiently punished by his being named and suspended, and so far as he possibly could, he should exert all the means in his power to prevent the House making itself ridiculous, and imposing upon him, and, through him upon his constituents, a stigma and a disgrace which, up to now, the House had been able to do without, and which would destroy the good feeling of the hon. Member, and which never ought to be imposed.
§ (9.53.) MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had objected to the Rule, on the ground that it never had been proved to be necessary, and had expressed the opinion that the House should wait until there had been such an outrage, as was contemplated, of the Rules before any attempt was made to legislate for such an unfortunate contingency. That had been the burden of the argument of a great many Members who had opposed the proposals of the Government, but he ventured to suggest that that was the very thing the House wanted to prevent. He certainly thought it would be very wrong for the House of Commons to frame its laws in what might be considered to be the heat of passion. Let them legislate in these matters in cold blood. Personally, he did not think such a state of things would ever arise, but in case it did, let the House provide for offences such as these in cold blood, and not expose themselves to the charge of legislating in a vindictive spirit. Another objection had been raised that the constituency which had been disfranchised by the action of its Member would support him in his refusal to apologise for the offence he had committed, but, for his part, he believed nine out of ten constituencies would agree that their representative had simply paid the penalty which ought to follow such an offence. There was one point on which he agreed with hon. Members who opposed the Rule. He disliked the phrase "sincere apology." He was in favour of an apology being exacted, and he hoped it would be sincere, but he would have the "apology" without the "sincere." He doubted whether any hon. Members could judge whether the apology was sincere or insincere, and he suggested 1080 dropping "sincere," because the form would be then not only more merciful but more respectful and considerate to the offender. He thought that if he was insincere it would be so much the worse for him. He considered that anybody who had, in the heat of the moment, disregarded the authority of the Chair, and who, in his cooler moments, refused to apologise, was a man whom they should pity rather than blame. One thing the House were entitled to and must have, and that was the expression, sincere or insincere, of the regret of the hon. Member, and the visitation upon him of the humiliation of that apology if it was insincere. There was no humiliation in an hon. Member expressing his regret if he sincerely felt it. If, however, he did not feel it, there was humiliation, but it was justly incurred. Whether or not the penalties were sufficiently heavy was an unimportant detail. The important point was that if hon. Members so far forgot themselves as to disregard the authority of the Chair and refused to apologise, those Members should be subjected to the humiliation which ought to follow such an offence, and there should be visited on their constituencies the consequences of having so ill-chosen their representatives. He hoped the Government would adhere to the proposals in their entirety, and he believed that in so doing they would have the weight of the opinion of the country at their back.
§ (10.4.) MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
said that nothing could have exposed more thoroughly the hollowness and futility of the Rule than the observation of the last speaker, to the effect that he wanted the apology whether it was sincere or not. The hon. Member wanted the coin even though it were counterfeit! What an extraordinary proposition! It meant that the hon. Member preferred having the apology, even though by apologising the offending Member added to the original offence the still worse offence of hypocrisy. And that was called a proper way of maintaining the dignity and honour of the House! He was glad the question was being discussed, not as a Party question, but as one affecting the honour of all. Most of the speakers had deprecated or 1081 condemned the Rule. Only two Members had in any way defended the proposal. and there was a remarkable circumstance n connection with those two gentlemen. The hon. Member opposite had said that to defy the Chair was no protest, and it was perfectly intolerable. But each of these Members took part on a certain Occasion in defying the authority of the Chair.
§ MR. BARTLEY
Would the hon. Member mind saying when? I am not aware of the occasion to which he refers.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he referred to an occasion in July, 1893. The Chairman of Committees ordered the House to be cleared, but hon. Members of the then Opposition absolutely refused to obey the specific order, not once or twice, but repeatedly. Those Members refused to go out as a protest. Why should it be more intolerable for an Irish Member to enter such a protest than for an English Conservative Member? What the hon. Member really meant was not that the orders of the Chair should be obeyed upon every occasion without question, but that the Irish Members should obey without question. The hon. Member was one of those who, in July, 1893, disobeyed the order of the Chair but he was not punished, neither did he express his regret. One of the chief supporters of the Rule, if not its originator, was the Colonial Secretary. He also disobeyed the order of the Chair on that occasion.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
The hon. Member has made a mistake which is unfortunate for his argument. I was out of the House. ["Withdraw" and "Apologise."]
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he would give an expression of "sincere regret." But he remembered another occasion when the right hon. Gentleman was in the lobby. According to the implied order of the Chair, every man who was in the lobby was bound to record his vote. The right hon. Gentleman, in defiance of the orders of the Chair, absolutely refused to record his vote on that occasion.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Gentleman is again mistaken. I received no order. I did not refuse to obey any orders, and when the then Speaker was appealed to on the subject he said that what I had done was not infrequent.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that when the right hon. Gentleman spoke of what he did himself, of course he was prepared to accept it, but in regard to what the then Speaker said, he claimed to be as good a witness as the right hon. Gentleman. The Speaker never said anything of the sort. The implied orders of the Chair were that, if there was a Member in the lobby he was bound to record his vote. The right hon. Gentleman was in the lobby. He did not record his vote. He, therefore, distinctly broke the Rules of the House, but he did not apologise. On the contrary, he sought means of escape, which was his method of expressing sincere regret. That was the sort of sincere regret that would be expressed if this Rule were passed. Every Member who broke the Rule would seek his means of escape. Really, if an order of this kind were made part of the Standing Orders it would reduce the proceedings of the House to a perfect farce. Then, after the other great incident, the right hon. Gentleman went down to Braintree. His followers, whether, he did or not, refused to obey the orders of the Chair, but he never denounced them. He would not say the right hon. Gentleman justified them, but, at any rate, he defended them. He said there were circumstances in which you ought to make a protest in the House of Commons. He went beyond that; not only did he palliate the conduct of his followers who defied the orders of the Chair, but he actually condemned the people who supported the Chair. It was hypocrisy to say that the Rule was directed against genuine and honest protests; it was directed against a small minority in the House. As the Member for East Ham had said, there were two ways in which the Chair could be defied. One was by an ebullition of temper, in which case after a few minutes consideration a man would be genuinely sorry and express his regret. 1083 But the other was the case of a minority who felt that the majority were using that power and authority tyrannically and oppressively. That was the case in July 1893, and the hon. Member for North Islington said that as a free-born Englishman he would not stand it. But let some regard be paid to the feelings of other nationalities who, perhaps, were not free, and for that very reason loved freedom all the more. There was less justification for one who had behind him in defying the Chair the predominant partner, and knew that whatever outrage there was on fair play would be rectified in another House, than for a small minority like the Welsh or Irish Members. The latter were in a small minority; they had no House of Lords behind them, and no means of enforcing their authority; whenever there was an appeal to the country they came back in precisely the same minority. In such a case as that, it might be that no honourable man could really express regret. The Chairman of Committees—he was not referring to any particular occupant of that office—was necessarily more tinged with partisanship than the Speaker; he was elected from the majority in the House, and when his duties were over he returned to its conflicts. If such a Chairman exercised his powers arbitrarily, and the minority thought it necessary to protest in order to call attention to the injustice, what weapon had they? Force, after all, was the ultimate remedy in most cases. The supporters of the Government exercised force by means of their majority; the minority could exercise force only by the power of resistance. They had got a very extreme remedy which they thought was honourable.
This was a well considered act of policy, and the Government said they were right, but under these conditions no honourable man could possibly apologise. A man of sensitive honour would find it more difficult to apologise than a man with less sense of honour. The more honourable the man was, the worse it would be for his constituency. Some hon. Member opposite said that if a constituency backed up its Member it was a party to his offence, but that was not a fair argument. After all, most constituencies backed up their Members 1084 upon a personal question, and they accepted his statement. He thought that was a very honourable and chivalrous thing on their part. Was it fair that they should punish a constituency and deprive it practically of all its constitutional rights on a matter of this character? Was there a single case on record at the present moment where the law enforced an apology? Take the law of libel. In a case of libel they might punish a man criminally or demand damages at his hands, but there was no such thing as demanding an apology from him. And why? Because the law recognised what a futile thing it was to demand an apology. In the case of a libel you simply punish the offender, but in this case the Government propose to punish the constituency which was at the back of the Member. The right hon. Gentleman had appealed to them not to prolong the debate, but he believed that by prolonging this debate they would be really saving the time of the House. What might happen? They might have endless conflicts with the constituencies. Hon. Members would remember the case where practically the whole of the constituencies of Ireland were disfranchised. Suppose they had a case of that kind again. The Irish Party, in the only way they had of protesting against tyrannical authority, might refuse to obey the authority of the Chair, with the result that the whole of the Irish constituencies, represented by Nationalist Members, might be disfranchised. What would the House of Commons gain, what would Ireland gain, and what would this country gain, by entering into a bitter and prolonged conflict with practically the whole of the Irish constituencies? That was what would happen, although they might exclude the Irish representatives from the precincts of the House. What happened when Mr. Bradlaugh was excluded from the House? Why, a series of scandals, which degraded the House of Commons more than anything else. The new Rules had been introduced, it was said, for saving time, but if the right hon. Gentleman persisted in proceeding with these new Rules he would waste ten times as much time as he could possibly save by passing them.
§ (10.26.) COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said he thought that one Irish Member at least ought to express his opinion from the Ministerial side of the House, and he might say that that one Irish Member was one who did not happen to object to these Rules. They had all seen the very interesting Return which had been furnished to hon. Members of this House giving details of the proceedings in regard to this question in foreign Parliaments. He did not think it was likely that the House of Commons would go to foreign Parliaments for tuition as to the method of conducting its affairs. He happened on one occasion to be a spectator at a debate in the Chambre des Députés. The debate was of an exciting character, and from what he saw upon that occasion he was convinced that if they took the Rules of the Chambre des Députés they would not tend to facilitate public business in the House of Commons. He remembered that most of the time during the debate there were three Members addressing the Chair at the same time. After that had gone on for some time the President of the Chambre des Députés put on his hat to show that there was thunder in the air. The only result of his putting on his hat was that a stranger in the box next to him made an impassioned speech, and his recollection of that scene in the French Chamber was such that he did not think it was an example which they would be likely to follow blindly in this country.
He did not know whether any hon. Member had stated clearly in this debate why, as he believed, these Rules had been formulated and presented to Parliament. He was not sure that any Member of the Treasury Bench had done so. He hoped that after he had sat down, there would be no doubt as to why this had been done. The House might remember the painful scene of last session. That scene, he was sorry to say, did not do so much in his opinion to degrade the House of Commons as to degrade the country to which he belonged. Therefore he would allude to that scene, and as an Irishman he did so with pain. What happened afterwards? A debate occurred in this House which hon. Members might remember, and the Leader of the 1086 Irish Party made a speech which he thought was of a very remarkable character. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford was not only a very able and eloquent speaker, but he was one of those few Irishmen who did not allow their tongues to run away with their brains. When he spoke he spoke with deliberation and eloquence, and with evidence of careful preparation. Now this debate occurred in the House dealing with these painful circumstances, and on that occasion the hon. and learned Gentleman used some very remarkable words, which he, at any rate, had never forgotten. He would read those words to the House, because they bore directly upon the question which they were now considering. The hon. Member for Waterford used these words—I say that, just as in the human body the presence of a foreign substance is a constant source of irritation and a constant source of danger, so the presence of a foreign element in this Parliament is the same, because the foreign element is made up of a body of men who are with you but not of you—a body of men to whom the ancient glories and great traditions of this House have no meaning, a body of men who regard this House and this Parliament simply as an instrument for the oppression of their country, and in dealing with such an element I assert that no Rules that the wit of man can devise can save your Parliament from being injured and degraded.He looked upon that at the time as a challenge thrown down by the hon. and learned Member on behalf of the Party which he led, and he (the hon. Member) held that the answer to that challenge was the Rules which they were now considering. He did not think that the House of Commons was so worn out and effete that it could not meet a challenge of that kind. What was the proposal? How was that challenge met? All hon. Members in the House under these Rules were treated exactly alike. Hon. Members from Ireland and hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side who opposed these Rules had stated over and over again that the Rules were made only for the Irish. He contended that they were meant for any hon. Member who attempted to disregard the authority of the Chair, and who attempted to degrade Parliament in the eyes of the world. 1087 [An HON. MEMBER: What about 1893?]
He did not believe that very much objection could be taken to the periods of 20, 40, and 80 days. The First Lord of the Treasury had not attempted a mathematical justification of those figures, but the main objection, as far as he could see, which had been taken to the Rules during this debate was that which concerned the "sincere apology" from those who disregarded the authority of the Chair. Personally he had no particular affection for the word "sincere," because to his mind, when an apology was made, if them an who made it was a truthful gentleman it must be sincere. He could not conceive how any hon. Member, from whatever part of the country he came, could believe that there was any degradation in offering an apology to Mr. Speaker or to anybody who sat in the Chair for having broken the Rule by disregarding the authority of the Chair. He could quite conceive circumstances under which he himself might come under this Rule. He was not an Englishman, and he was proud of being an Irishman. He could quite conceive that in a moment of heat, he might, believing himself at the time to be in the right, act contrary to the direction of the Chair. If he came under the action of the Rule, he should be wanting in respect to the House, and wanting in the character which belongs to Members of the House, if he thought it was an insult to him to acknowledge to the Chair that he was sorry for what he had done. So far from degrading a Member of the House, he thought an apology of this sort would raise him in the estimation of his fellow Members. The argument of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields was that if these Rules were carried they would cause the Irish Members to abstain from attending. They would all become total abstainers. And this filled the hon. and learned Gentleman with despair. It would, so far as he understood from the speech, lead to revolution somewhere or other. If the Irish Members abstained from attending no one would regret it more than himself. To his mind the Irish Members were 1088 the pepper and salt of this Assembly. At the present moment there was one abstainer. He did not know anything about him. He had not heard as yet that there was any revolutionary tendency in Galway. Whatever new Rules might be passed, no matter how drastic, the Irish Members would return undoubtedly. These gentleman hoped at some future time to attain the position of Parliamentary rulers of their native land, and until that happened depend upon it they would always be seen sitting below the gangway opposite. Another argument used by the hon. and learned Member was that they would get into conflict with the constituencies. If a constituency persisted in returning to this House a Member who deliberately neglected to obey the ruling of the Chair and absolutely refused to obey the Rules of Parliament, that constituency did not deserve to have a Member. Nothing that the Government had done up to the present day was more popular in the vast majority of the constituencies in Great Britain than this proposal on their part to maintain the authority of the Chair.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
The hon. Member always says "No, no," to everything. Personally he hoped that the Government would not be led by those uncertain voices which came from behind them to alter this Rule. With regard to the apology, he regretted that the word "sincere" was put in the new Rule, but as it was there he did not see exactly how the Government could take it out. If the removal of the word "sincere" would commend the proposed apology to hon. Members who contemplate in the future showing their contempt for the Chair and the Rules of the House, he should see it removed with pleasure. In conclusion he had to say that he, as an Irishman, had sat in this House for a great many years. He could say with all sincerity that, looking back on his past life, having entered this House as a young man, and, being now an old man, he looked upon his connection with it as the most honourable part of his life, and he deplored the idea that there were compatriots of his who disregarded its traditions and its 1089 greatness. He hoped the Government would hold on to these Rules, and put them in force. He had no doubt that in time to come, the House of Commons would show to the country and the world that they were capable of maintaining its great and glorious traditions, of which every Member had the right to be proud.
§ (10.40.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said the speech just delivered by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh was one of the most remarkable delivered in the course of the debate. It was remarkable for two somewhat opposite characteristics—its frankness and its reticence. It was remarkable for its frankness because it had put this Rule on its true basis and traced it to its real origin. It wag remarkable for its reticence, because among his multitudinous recollections of Parliamentary proceedings the right hon. Gentleman somehow or other forgot to mention the proceedings which occurred in the House on the 27th of July, 1893. He might be tempted to allude to the proceedings of that eventful evening in a tone of partisanship, but he did not intend to do so. He intended to use the proceedings of that evening and the conduct of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman himself, not as a matter of recrimination against him, not as a cause of bitter recollection with regard to these events, but as a proof that the method of proceedings proposed in this new Rule was wrong. Everybody knew that a number of the Members of this House, and notably the hon. Member for the St. Albans Division, who had had the courage to avow his share in the proceedings, on that occasion refused to obey the ruling of the Chair. There was a scene of great disorder, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman found it necessary to demonstrate his feelings and his opinions by the use of that physical force, which, in spite of his age, he still preserves, with vigour. It was still a matter of dispute whether a Nationalist colleague of his or the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was entitled to claim the belt as the champion boxer of this Assembly. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the painful scene which occurred in the French Chamber, but there was a much more painful scene in this House when hon. Members were hissed 1090 by the strangers in the gallery because of the brutality that was displayed. On the terrace a few days afterwards the travellers in the penny steamboats pointed out the right hon. Gentleman as the leading combatant on that occasion. Yet, when the Speaker was called in, not one Member was called upon to apologise. No notice of a punitive character was taken of the incident. All sides of the House agreed in acting on the wise and generous thought that ebullitions of passion of that kind were much better buried and forgotten than remembered, and that they should not be followed by punishment or recrimination. But suppose these had been Irishmen. [An HON. MEMBER: They were.] Well, supposing the Member for St. Albans had been an Irishman, and that this Rule had been in existence, and supposing the hon. Gentleman the Junior Lord of the Treasury—he thought that hon. Gentleman's absence was discretion itself—and twenty or thirty other English Members had been named, suspended, expelled, and compelled to apologise, would they not have perorated about the tyranny of the Rules and the Chair?
The First Lord said that he was not going to pass this Rule because of any action of foreign Assemblies; but the right hon. Gentleman must acknowledge that the punishments under this Rule were much more severe than those inflicted in foreign Assemblies. The French Chamber was the most representative institution in France, but with all the varied dynastic, political, and social views represented in the Assembly no one had ever ventured to propose such a form of punishment as was here proposed. He would say at once that he would not object to this Rule so much as he did if he thought it would be administered impartially to every section of the House. He maintained that this Rule was intended for one section of the House alone. It was all very fine to gild the pill by saying that nobody need come under the Rule, but that if any man, whatever section he belonged to, offended, he would be equally liable to its penalties. That was what was said in the Southern States of America. There they had exactly the same laws for black and white, in regard to voting, but somehow or other, the blacks did not manage to vote. Whatever might be the theory of the matter, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman 1091 the Member for North Armagh had given him the true genesis of the Bill, and that was the scene which occurred in the House last year. He would give another reason for his allegation. He believed that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House stated that this Rule was only intended to apply to cases where the order or ruling of the Chair was forcibly, violently, and physically resisted. [An HON. MEMBER on the Ministerial benches: No.] Well, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite was evidently of that opinion, because he had put the scene of last session as the beginning and origin of this Rule; and therefore he took it that the Rule was intended to put down a repetition of such a scene. But that was not the Rule at all. Forcible, violent, and physical resistance to the order and ruling of the Chair was an offence which might very well be visited with severe penalties; but they were not dealing alone with cases of disregarding the authority of the Chair. When he heard more than one hon. Gentleman in the course of the debate speaking of defying the authority of the Chair, it confirmed him in the impression that a large number of hon. Members had not read or digested the Rule, which said—Disregarding the authority of the Chair, or of abusing the Rules of the House, by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House, or otherwise.In other words, this Rule, increasing the amount of the penalties, and compelling an apology, was not merely for defying the authority of the Chair, whether forcibly, violently, or physically, but for wilful and persistent obstruction of the business of the House, "or otherwise." "Or otherwise, or otherwise, or otherwise!"
He put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite, what was wilful and persistent obstruction? Why, a good many people would say—he did not say it—but a good many people would say that any strong and violent opinion expressed in regard to the Bill that was being discussed in the House was wilful and persistent obstruction. [HON. MEMBERS on the Ministerial Benches: No.] Well, he pitied those hon. Gentlemen, but he could imagine when Radical measures were strongly 1092 opposed from the other side of the House, Radical Members telling hon. Gentlemen opposite that they had wilfully and persistently obstructed them, as was the case last Wednesday with the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill. Take another case. In the session of 1893, hon. Members would remember the manner in which the Home Rule Bill of the session was opposed. The Bill was resisted line by line, word by word, syllable by syllable, by the Tory Party, and by the most diverse forms of Amendment. He would remind the House, merely by way of illustration, of one Amendment, moved by the hon. and learned Gentleman who proposed this Rule that night in a speech which at least had the merit of brevity. That hon. and learned Gentleman talked of the great and magnificent speech of the First Lord of the Treasury in introducing the new Rules. He did not object for a moment to the leader of the orchestra being applauded by the audience, but it was too much when that was done by the Gentleman who played the triangles! He asked what was wilful and persistent obstruction, and by way of illustration, he would refer to an Amendment which the hon. and learned Member for Thirsk moved on the 11th May 1893, on the Home Rule Bill. That hon. and learned Member introduced an Amendment, "To substitute for the words House of Commons, 'Tyeay na nŭaral.'" On that occasion the hon. and learned Gentleman was playing the harp and not the triangles. He asked was that wilful and persistent obstruction? What occurred? Mr. Gladstone, and his colleagues brought down a series of Resolutions which were popularity described as a very violent and drastic method of dealing with the proceedings going on in the House. What was the justification for those drastic measures? It was that in the opinion of the Government of the day there was wilful and persistent obstruction. He wanted to know how hon. Gentlemen opposite would like that form of interpretation of wilful and persistent obstruction when they were in as hopeless a minority as the Liberal Party were now in.
He went on to the phrase "or otherwise" What did it mean? Why, it was contrary to the whole traditions and 1093 canons of criticism in regard to criminal offences and their punishments. These words "or otherwise" were studiously vague, and he could imagine the day when, tyranny growing on what it fed, "or otherwise" might be interpreted to mean any form of prolonged opposition to any legislation which a Radical or a Tory Ministry of the day might wish to pass into law. An extraordinary argument had been used, with the sanction of the First Lord, in regard to the rights of the House as contrasted with those of the constituencies. It had been objected that when they expelled a Member, they punished not the Member, but disfranchised the constituency. He was perfectly sure that if this rule was put in operation against the First Lord of the Treasury, no one would he so delighted as that right hon. Gentleman at 80 days expulsion from the House, and he was so far in sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman that he hoped before many years were over the right hon. Gentleman would get it. They did not punish the Member, but the constituency which dared to send a Member who did not obey—not the orders of the House, but the interpretation of the orders of the House by the Government of the day. He observed the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite shake his head; but was not the Chairman of the House the nominee of the Ministry of the day? If times were hot, and discussion was prolonged, and Bills were important, was it not the man selected by the Ministry of the day, a man known to be a strong man and a strong partisan, who would put down wilful and persistent obstruction? As had been pointed out, they had not only in that matter to deal with the Speaker, who, by years of experience, had been raised above the strife of party, so that he, a member of one political party, was elected to his high office by the Government of another political party. He would not always be the interpreter of that rule; it would also have to be interpreted by the Chairman, who was chosen by the Government of the day, and by a doubly-distilled partisan, the Deputy Chairman. They would not punish a Member by excluding him from the House. They would punish his constituents; and was it to be said that the House of Commons was 1094 to be regarded as a proprietary club, that could select or co-appoint any man it pleased? A more monstrous doctrine he had never heard laid down than that the House was to dictate the kind and fashion of man to be admitted. As to the question of the apology, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he hoped Irish Members would not be deterred from coming to the House. His solemn conviction was that the framer of the rule meant that Irish Members should be driven from the House, and he thought its authorship would be a problem more easy to decide than the existing problem between Bacon and Shakespeare. He warned the House that it would not be acting in the interests of Ireland, or in the interests of England, in doing anything to make constitutional and Parliamentary agitation more difficult in Ireland than it was at present; and he said that the House was doing a bad day's work in proclaiming that there was one law for Englishmen and another for Irishmen. [An HON. MEMBER: No, no.] What was the meaning of that faint and academic "No," in face of the historical facts he had brought before the House, showing that scarcely ever had an English Member been punished for even the most flagrant violation of the Rules of the House. That rule showed a narrow mind—a mind wanting in amenity and generosity, and a spirit of tyranny and coercion on the part of one nation against another.
§ (11.5.) MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Now that the House has listened, I am sure with great appreciation and amusement, to the powerful speech which has just been delivered by the hon. Member and to many other speeches on what is, after all, a very simple issue, I hope the House is about to arrive at a decision; because the House will have observed the debate upon which we have been engaged is a Second Reading debate on a particular clause. My right hon. friend, no doubt most wisely, and certainly with his usual courtesy, yielded instantly to the desire expressed by the Opposition for a Second Reading debate upon the rules as a whole; but if in addition a Second Reading debate is entered into upon each rule as it is presented, besides discussion of Amendments, I am afraid 1095 the action of those who force us to such a condition of things may be, in some quarters at any rate, interpreted as wilful and persistent obstruction. I am quite sure nothing of the kind is to be feared from the House of Commons, especially in its present mood of exceeding good temper and self-satisfaction. I hope, therefore, we may come to a decision, at all events on this stage of the proceedings, and I would ask the House to consider what is the issue we are considering. The Motion, I understand, Mr. Speaker, which you will put from the Chair is "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Standing Order." [An HON. MEMBER: No, no.] Yes, I understand that is the form in which the Motion will be put, and it is of great importance that the House should notice this form. Those alone who think that no Amendment whatever is desirable can vote for that Motion. We are not dealing now with any particular Amendment—not with questions of ten years or twenty years [Several HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!]—of ten days or twenty days. We are not dealing with the question of apology or regret, whether sincere or otherwise, but with the main question, does this Rule providing for the order of the House of Commons require Amendment in any particular? And if any of my hon. friends who do not agree with the proposals of the Government still think some change is desirable, they are bound in common sense and reason to vote against the Motion that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question and to allow further opportunity to the House to discuss the details of any Amendment which may be proposed. I understand from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that he is going on this occasion to vote for the Motion as put from the Chair. As I understand, he is going to vote in favour of the Motion which commits the House to no Amendment of this Rule whatever. That is consistent with his speech tonight, according to which no case whatever has been made out by the Government for any change.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I did not say that. I said no case had 1096 been made out for the proposals of the Government. I said tonight, as I said before, that a proposal, for instance, to substitute for the first punishment, and, naturally for the others also, working days, sitting days, instead of calendar days, would get over the obvious absurdity which sometimes arises from the inadequacy of the first punishment, but otherwise I saw no case for anything like the proposals of the Government.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
What I heard the right hon. Gentleman say, and what he has just now repeated, was that the fact that a Member might be punished at the end of the session would involve an insufficient penalty for his offence, and he quoted a particular case in which a Gentleman had been brought to the notice of the House and condemned a day before the prorogation [Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN: Whitsuntide]—a day before the Whitsuntide adjournment. He complained of us for not basing our proposals on a sufficient case. But one reason why we have not put forward what the right hon. Gentleman claimed from us is that we thought that with a few exceptions hon. Members on both sides, as well as the country, were convinced that our rules gave us insufficient power over unruly Members. We thought that was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman, because when he opened this discussion on Thursday last he went much further than he did tonight and said—I am disposed cordially to admit"—not merely to admit, but to admit with his whole heart—"that the present term of suspension is too short.and he actually referred to the present system as farcical, though he went on to say that he thought the Government had gone too far in the other direction. Is it then consistent, when you think that the present system is farcical, when you cordially admit that the present term of suspension is too short, to vote for a Motion which will prevent you from considering any Amendments at all?
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN: Amendments which the Government throughout the course of this debate have shown no disposition whatever to listen to.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Pardon me. That observation is entirely irrelevant to the argument. Grant, if you please, that the Amendments proposed by the Government are, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, unsatisfactory; grant that the time which we propose in future to adopt as the time of suspension is too long, the right hon. Gentleman has said that the present time of suspension is too short; and if he will wait until the actual Amendment is before the House it will be in his power to move that our 20 days be turned into ten, or into any other figure he thinks proper and correct. But I say again it is altogether inconsistent, and not treating this subject in the non-party spirit in which he affected to treat it, that he should meet our proposals, not by Amendments, which, of course, we should be bound to consider with all the attention they deserve, but by an absolute non possumus, which renders all Amendment impossible. The argument against our Amendments is that they are too severe. I do not think hon. Members who have spoken against them, whether on the other or on this side of the House, have sufficiently appreciated the gravity of the offence against which they are directed. I have said on former occasions, and I repeat, that the very foundation of the dignity and position and order of a great representative Assembly such as ours is the authority of the Chair. That is almost sacred. All other offences may be shown to be venial, but to disobey the authority of the Chair is an offence which cannot be pardoned; and unless it can be shown—and it is almost an absurdity to put such an hypothesis before the House with its present experience—unless it can be shown that it has been in the past and is likely in the future to be religiously respected, we have sufficient excuse for bringing forward measures for making the penalties for disobeying the authority of the Chair much more severe. What should be 1098 the exact punishment accorded to any one of the breaches of discipline which may occur is a matter almost impossible to argue. The only thing that is necessary is that the punishment should be sufficient to secure the object we have in view; and if the punishment be only sufficient to obtain that result the best answer to all complaints is that the punishment will never be enforced, and would have the effect we desire it to have because there will be none of these breaches of discipline, and accordingly no punishment.
The hon. Member who has just sat down tried to make a distinction. I think I understood him to say that he agreed that to defy the authority of the Chair was really a very serious offence, but he said that the terms of the rule are that you may be brought before the House and condemned by the House, not only for disregarding the authority of the Chair, but also "for persistently obstructing the business of the House, or otherwise abusing the Rules of the House." There is really no distinction between those two phrases. Who is the authority who interprets the Rules of the House? It is Mr. Speaker. Nobody can be brought before the House for abusing the Rules of the House, except by the authority either of Mr. Speaker or of the Chairman of Committees.[An HON. MEMBER: Or of the Deputy Chairman.] Or of the Deputy Chairman—that is to say, by the authority of Mr. Speaker or of his temporary substitute. Therefore it is absurd to say that either branch of the rule in any way alters its general effect. In either case, when a Member has been suspended in the past, or would be suspended in future, it would practically be for disregarding the orders of the Chair. Does the hon. Member know when this rule was brought into force? It was brought into force in 1880, under Mr. Gladstone, and it has been in force ever since, for more than 20 years; and there has never been the slightest suspicion of any abuse of the rule of the Speaker or the Chairman. Now there is a new cry to the effect that the Deputy Chairman is not to be trusted as the Speaker has been and as the Chairman has been. The Deputy Chairman 1099 will be appointed under exactly the same conditions as the existing Chairman. His occupation of the Chair will be more exceptional, because it will only take place when the Speaker and Chairman are absent, and it is really too much to suggest that he will disregard the traditions of the House, and will not try just as much to see fair play. No man would long occupy the Chair, either as Chairman of Committees or as Deputy Chairman, if he showed any such unfairness as is hypothetically imputed to him. An attempt has been made to show that to disregard the authority of the Chair, whether occupied by the Speaker or by the Chairman of Committees, is a thing which may properly take place in exceptional circumstances, and for which a man does not deserve punishment, and for which, above all, he should not be called on for an apology. It is the old discussion brought to the floor of this House and applied to our own proceedings between lawlessness and law. The feeling which I believe is held by the vast majority of the House is that a law, be it good or bad, should be obeyed as long as it is the law. I apply that to our proceedings, and I say that law made by the Speaker, whether it be good or bad, should be obeyed. If it is contended that the law is bad, then proper opportunity should be taken to alter the law; but it is absolutely essential, if our proceedings are to be conducted with any order or dignity at all, that the law laid down by the Speaker should be at once and immediately observed. Now, that applies to every Member of the House, and it is really not accurate to say that this rule is brought in with any particular application to any section of the House. The Irish representatives have been introduced into this debate by themselves and by some other Members of the House.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Nothing that I have said can be referred to in this connection, because at any time I may have spoken on the subject the Rules were not even in existence. I mean the drafts were not in existence. Really, it 1100 is a matter of slight importance, and if hon. Gentlemen decline to take my word I must leave it with them. But, as a matter of fact, these Rules have not been framed with regard to any particular section of the House. They have been framed with regard to offences and not with regard to persons. If hon. Gentlemen opposite insist upon being treated separately, then one must deal only with their own statements. I will take the statement of the Leader of the Irish Party, who is, I think, the very last person likely to be brought within the purview of the Rule, for, however extreme his views may be, there is no one more careful to observe Parliamentary traditions.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
That does not in the least effect the observation I have made with regard to the hon. Gentleman's subsequent career. Apparently the Rule which then existed, imperfect though it was, has had a thoroughly satisfactory effect. The hon. Gentleman has said in the country that so long as he and his friends remain here against their will, and in the belief that their country is unfairly, treated as compared with other parts of the kingdom they will pay no respect to the traditions of the House. The hon. Gentleman has said that they are an alien party, and that it would be their object to bring our proceedings into contempt. That may be. I am not dealing now with the merits of that statement. But what I say is that that statement invites us to take precautions to prevent our procedure being rendered abortive by the action of any minority, however respectable the motives of that minority may be.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I do not think I ever used the words that our object was to bring the House into contempt. I have said that the House might bring itself into contempt by its own action.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
That is rather an unfair taunt. I do not think I ever made the statement in Ireland, but whatever I may have said in Ireland I am prepared to say here.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg the hon. Gentleman not to misunderstand me. I did not mean to suggest that he has said in Ireland things he would not repeat here. As a matter of fact, he has said stronger things here than those to which I am referring. I merely said the speech was delivered in Ireland to give him a reference for verification, and I think I can give him quotations which go beyond anything I have indicated as having been said by him. But, at all events, there is no doubt that hon. Members from Ireland in calling attention to their peculiar situation have placed themselves in a different position from other Members of the House by declaring their intentions very frankly, and thus have necessitated action not against them alone, but against everybody who should adopt such a course of proceeding.
The main objection which has been made by hon. friends on this side of the House, as well as by other members elsewhere, is to the apology, as it is called, which is asked for at the expiry of the period of suspension. I do not want to quibble about words; but I do not think myself it is an apology. It is an expression of regret. And it seems to me there is some distinction between an expression of regret and apology. It is not, as some have suggested, an admission that the offender against the Rules of the House is in the wrong. All that is asked from him is an expression of regret for having disobeyed the law—that is the authority of the Chairman for the time being. I do not think there is any humiliation in that. And when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea threatens us that if we are not careful some London constituencies will, as was done, 100 years ago, batter at the walls of the 1102 House because we have degraded their Members, I really think he mistakes altogether the view which constituencies will take of this matter. I am not in the least moved by this threat of a whole constituency coming down to defend its honour because its Member has been punished for disobeying the authority of the Chair. In the same way some of my hon. friends have referred to our past proceedings. Really, they seem to me to show a great forgetfulness of the nature of those proceedings, and also a certain want of appreciation of the argument. If it be true that in the case of Mr. Plimsoll the authority of the Chair was grossly defied, if it be true, in the case of my hon. friend the Member for St. Albans, that he grossly defied the authority of the Chairman, all I can say is that that only proves that there was need then for the rules we are now proposing. If it be true that either of those gentlemen behaved in the way in which we are now contemplating, then they deserved the punishment which we attach to that offence.
But, Sir, that story about 1893 has been absolutely misrepresented to the House. I was not in the House at the time, as I have informed the hon. Member for Carnarvon, who always tries in debates of this kind to introduce purely personal issues. What happened was this. I was the last speaker before the guillotine fell. As soon as I had spoken I left the House, going into the division lobby. I only came back with the Speaker, the door having been locked in the interval. But I heard at the time from others, and I have refreshed my memory by looking at Hansard, of what took place in my absence, and it was something absolutely different from what has been represented by the hon. Member for Carnarvon and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Oh yes, but I do not thank the hon. Gentleman ["Oh!"] this is what happened. At 1103 the conclusion of my speech something which I said offended some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and they called out an offensive expression to which, indeed, I had become at that time quite used, and of which I personally desired that no notice whatever should be taken, but my hon. friend the Member for St. Albans, after the division was called, in his place, with his hat on—all this history will be found in Hansard—called the attention of the Chairman to the fact that offensive words had been used with regard to me, as I say I was not in the House at the time. The Chairman—there being a deal of noise in the Chamber at the time—said that he did not hear the words. Thereupon two other hon. Members said that they had heard the words, and asked the Chairman to take them down. Now, I will just read to the House what the Chairman himself said when, coming into the House later, he was asked by the Speaker what had occurred. The Chairman of Committees said—Perhaps some hon. Members may not have heard what I did report. I will therefore report again—namely, first of all, that there was so much noise that I did not hear the expressions which have been referred to. In the next place, I saw the hon. Member for Hertfordshire endeavouring to attract my attention; I endeavoured to hear what he said, but could not on account of the noise. I asked if the hon. Member wished to make any Motion. Then another hon. Member, the Member for Preston, endeavoured to call my attention, but I could not hear what he said, the noise was so great. Presently the hon. Member for Hertfordshire came to a place where I could hear, and moved that certain words be taken down. I informed him I had not heard the words, and could not tell from what quarter they proceeded; but, in accordance with the rules, I ordered them to be taken down, and, the Motion having been made, I sent for you, Sir, in order that I might make my report to the House.Now, Sir, from the beginning to the end there were no orders given by the Chairman which were disobeyed ["Oh!"] no orders whatever. There was no case whatever which in the slightest degree resembled the case.
§ MR. MCKENNA (Monmouthshire, N)
Will the right hon. Gentleman read the observations of the hon. Member for 1104 North Louth, on page 727. The question was raised by him, that after the Division had been called hon. Gentlemen refused to leave the House.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not really see why the hon. Gentleman should interrupt me for the purpose of calling my attention to a statement made by an unofficial Member of the House. I have read the report made by the Chairman of Committees to the Speaker of that day, and I say there is no reference in that report, as given ill Hansard, of any breach of order in the sense of any disobedience to orders given by the Chairman. The cases are absolutely different. But, as I say, if it had been otherwise, if there had been disobedience, all I can say is that a Rule such as we are proposing would be a very proper Rule to have called into operation.
Now, Sir, there is one other argument with which I ought to deal, and that is the question which has been raised by several hon. Members as to the merits of the particular matter which may be under discussion when a breach of order takes place. My hon. friend the Member for the St. Albans Division, I think went very far, further, perhaps, than he intended to go. He said that he himself or other Members of the House might, under some excitement, or on behalf of a cause which to them was a righteous cause, be betrayed into some misbehaviour of this kind. Yes, that is conceivable, but if he says that that is a reason why afterwards he should not make amends, then I say that his argument is simply an argument in favour of anarchy. If a man may give us an argument in favour of a breach of the law, the fact that he conscientiously believes himself to be right, then that is an excuse for every anarchist. Every disturbance of social order is justified in the opinion of the offender, by the fact that he believes himself to be right. What we, the guardians of the order of the House, have to take care of is that any person who acts on that impression shall, at all events, be punished if he breaks the law so long as it is the law. The severity of our pro- 1105 posal—the apology, as it is called, the mere expression of regret—all tends to the same object, which is to secure that respect for the law of the House without which our proceedings cannot be satisfactorily conducted.
There have been some observations made which I will only mention, because the proper discussion of them will take place when we come to deal with actual Amendments. Some hon. Members have objected to the words of the so-called apology. I do not say that those words are necessarily the best words that could be used; but I cannot for the life of me understand the distinction which some Members make between an expression of regret and an expression of sincere regret. If I express my regret, surely it is to be implied that I sincerely express it; and to say that the House is urging upon a Member a dishonourable course, because it asks him to express sincere regret instead of mere regret, is a metaphysical distinction which I am totally incapable of understanding. What is the case we are contemplating? We are contemplating disorderly conduct on the part of a Member. That conduct may arise from deliberation, as it has done on certain occasions, or it may be produced by the heat of the moment—a thing to be readily forgotten and atoned for. But however it arises the disorder takes place. Then Mr. Speaker or the Chairman, acting not for himself, but in the name and with the authority of the whole House, calls upon the Member to make amends. That is the first step. The Member disobeys the authority of the Chair, and it is only then that the punishment comes into operation. Now, is it hard after that, when the offender has recovered his coolness, if indeed he was heated by discussion before, to expect that he should express his regret, not for anything connected with the original cause of the disturbance, but for having so far forgotten Parliamentary decorum as to dispute the authority of the Chairman, who, after all, is his Chairman just as much as he is the Chairman of every section of the House. The object of the whole of these Rules, and of this section of them in particular, is not punishment. There is no vindictive idea 1106 or thought of humiliating any one, but simply a desire to prevent a repetition of the offence. We believe that our Rules will prevent such repetition, and every word that has been said against them, and every exaggeration of their effect to which utterance has been given, convinces us that they will be felt to be a serious deterrent to the disorder which has been deplored.
§ (11.43.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I wish the right hon. Gentleman had been able to give the House a little more assistance than he has done in what I consider to be one of the gravest and most menacing situations to the future of this House with which Parliament has had to deal in my time. The right hon. Gentleman began with a lamentation on the length of time occupied in the debate on the Second Reading of this clause. In my opinion there has not yet been time enough. I have been long enough in this House to know that it is not always by argument on one side or the other, that the real mind of the House is expressed. I know what the instinct of the House of Commons is and how it feels. I have listened to every word of this debate, and I feel that the instinct of the House of Commons is adverse to the proposals of the Government. The Government must be conscious of that.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
No; the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary is, I know, never conscious of anything which does not square with his own views. But there are members of the Government who have more open minds. I should hope that upon a matter which ought not to be a Party matter, and which concerns the highest interests of every Member of this assembly, the Leader of the House of Commons would have an open mind. There is no man, speaking impartially, who cannot but observe today that there is an uncomfortable feeling with reference to this proposal. There is another feeling. You may profess what 1107 you will in words, but everybody knows and feels that what the right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh said was true, that this measure is directed against a particular section of this House. I do not say it is intended; but what it does is to give rise to a feeling, on both sides of the House, lest this House should commit the greatest error it possibly can commit by acting in a vindictive spirit. I am not going into the painful details of former scenes, of the scene of 1893, which the right hon. Gentleman just now challenged. I think it is better not to rake up these things; I think it is better to look at the measure that is placed before us; and, in my opinion, nothing can be more perilous in its consequences than the attempt, which has never been made before, which is unexampled in our proceedings, aye, and in the proceedings of other tribunals, of insisting upon an apology following upon a punishment. That is a course which I think it will be very unwise to follow.
What is going to be the consequence when you have imposed these penalties? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury said, and said very truly, that in discussing the question of whether the suspension is to be 4, 10, 20, or 30 days, you cannot come to any very definite conclusion, and you must take some figure or other. But that is not the point of this Resolution. Everybody feels that the whole gist of this Resolution lies in that apology, which you would never get. Everybody in this House, I think, knows that in the cases to which it is likely to be applied the apology cannot and will not be obtained. I have known cases, ecclesiastical cases, in which it was very easy to put a man into prison, but the greatest difficulty was how to get him out of prison, because he refused to make an apology, refused even upon conscientious grounds. I have 1108 known very delicate cases of that kind and every kind of device had to be resorted to for the purpose of getting the man out of prison. That is the situation in which the House is now going to be placed by this policy. Something has been said about constituencies. Do you really mean that if the man does not make the apology you will keep him out of this House for ever, as long as he lives? Is that the proposal? Are you going to carry it over a dissolution? But suppose the man demands the Chiltern Hundreds, and you cannot refuse it, saying: "My convictions will not allow me to make an apology, but at all events allow me to relieve my constituency from its unrepresented position." What would be the position in which the House of Commons would stand then? These are consequences which seem not to have presented themselves to the minds of those who have made this proposal. I think this is a matter which upon general grounds requires more consideration than it has had, and that the Government ought to desire on it the expression of the opinion of as large a number as possible of Members on both sides, in order that they may be guided by that expression of opinion. I wish that the Leader of the House and the Colonial Secretary had been able to give more confidence to the House that the opinions of hon. Members on both sides would receive the consideration which they demand. You cannot dispose of a question of this kind in a single night, a thing that is going to affect the future of the House of Commons for generations. If you come to a wrong decision the results will be very fatal. I hope, therefore, a time will be given for further and freer discussion, and above all that the Government will not attempt to use a party majority for carrying a measure which ought not to be treated in a party spirit. I do not wish to occupy the time of the House or expose myself to any suspicion on the part of 1109 the Colonial Secretary that I am obstructing the the business of the House, but we ought to give to a matter of this kind the fullest, most careful, and weighty consideration that the House of Commons ever gave to a measure deeply concerning it. For my part I am not disposed to say that some aggravation, of the term of punishment is not admissible; but this I will say, that as long as this question of apology remains within the limits of the new Rule I will resist it in every form and in every detail.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will not resist the Motion, though I will frankly say that in my judgment, considering the opportunities that will still remain to discuss this question, we might well have concluded this preliminary stage on the present occasion. I will not resist the Motion, but I will ask Mr. Speaker whether there will not be the fullest opportunity for discussing this question when we come to deal with the introduction of the words generally, and with the special Amendments that will be introduced.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is obvious that when the Government propose the words which they desire to insert in the rule in the place of the words which they now propose should be struck out, we can have all the arguments which have been advanced on the present question used again in regard to those words and to Amendments to them.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
said that before the debate was adjourned he 1110 would like to know what business the Government proposed to take after the adjournment of the debate. There were still five minutes available.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL
said there was no reason why the hon. Member should not go on with the debate on the rules, and he protested against three or four minutes of the House's time being wasted. They were recently led to believe that three or four minutes were a very important matter. He could not understand why on this occasion the hon. and learned Member for Waterford had not followed the general practice. On a recent occasion they had been told that three or four minutes was a very important matter—
§ MR. CHANNING
, on a point of order, asked whether the noble Lord was entitled to discuss any other business except the Question of the adjournment of this debate.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Thursday