§ * THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF "WORKS (Mr. HARCOURT,) Lancashire, Rossendale
moved, "That this House approves of the arrangements made for the accommodation of strangers under the Reporter's gallery." He said he wished first to apologise to the House for any inconvenience they might have suffered from his ill-timed illness. As he was the principal villain of the piece it was well that he should plead to the indictment which had been launched against him. He must plead both "guilty" and "not guilty." He must plead "guilty" to having introduced a certain amount of re-distribution of seats in that House, Taut probably that would not be sufficient to satisfy some hon. Members. He must however plead "not guilty" to having done this without warning and notice and without the implied authority of the House to make the alteration. This was one of the many provisions that he had made for the convenience of the House, including the change in divisions, lockers, lavatories, and so forth, all of which had been received with favour. All these matters were discussed upon his Estimate in May last, and during that discussion he warned the House as to the changes which he intended to make as regards certain strangers, and he informed the House that he should act in the manner he proposed, unless some protest was made either in the House or to him privately. All that was reported in the Press and also in Hansard. He subsequently mentioned his proposed change to many individual Members on both sides of the House, and from no one of them did he receive a word of protest, but from all of them he 1086 received approval of what was regarded by them as a commonsense change. But he was told that some of the younger defenders of our ancient Constitution were exercised in their souls and troubled in their sleep as to whether he had violated the traditions of Parliament by introducing strangers above and within what was called the Bar of the House. He would not venture into that arcana of privilege and precedent. The Bar always seemed to him to be the converse of a well-behaved child: it was a thing of which they hoard much and saw little. There was an anomaly about the Bar, because hon. Gentlemen sitting on the side Benches, although they were obviously behind the Bar were yet for Parliamentary and speaking purposes within the Bar. He dared say that there were some hon. Members who did not know that the side galleries were within the House for speaking purposes, and yet within his recollection the reporters had been allowed to invade those side galleries although they wore within and above the Bar. This had been done without a single protest being uttered. The dark bench behind the Speaker's Chair, affectionately called in the past "The Sleeping Berth," was practically not within the House for speaking purposes, because it was physically or ocularly impossible for Mr. Speaker to call upon any person in that position to address the Chair. He did not know whether Mr. Speaker found it necessary to explore this dark recess with his cocked hat pointing to hon. Members when a "count" was moved. He had taken the action he had done, first because it enabled him to add three seats to the congested district below the gangway, and because it was for the convenience of any Government who occupied the Treasury Bench. It was, he submitted, for the convenience of the majority of the House that this bench should now be set apart for the technical and specialised assistance of Ministers. It was desirable that those expert assistants should be easily available, and that was what his alteration meant. Some hon. Members on the other side, although they thought that the change he had introduced was a good one, considered that his action in carrying it out was autocratic. He was quite prepared to accept any rebuke for his action if it was considered autocratic, but he 1087 hoped the House would not reject a good reform simply in order to chastise him. They might censure him or dismiss him in a few months if they would tolerate during that short time his chastened activity. If, however, they now rejected his proposals in regard to this gallery he was sure that they would regret it in the future. He would accept any rebuke in the matter except one based on the ground that he had acted meanly and without warning, and without having acquired what he thought was the assent of the House. He hoped that this explanation on that point would be accepted. He had promised the House that they should have an opportunity of discussing the matter and that was why he had put down this Motion. He would, of course, vote for it, and he hoped that a large majority of the House would support him, but he recognised fully, and the Government recognised, that this was a domestic matter and it was for the House itself to decide it. He would, therefore, leave it an open question and no pressure would be put upon anybody to vote one way or the other, and no Government tellers would be appointed. He did not think he could add anything further in the way of explanation or information, but, as he had said, he left the decision of this important question with confidence to the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House approves of the arrangements made for the accommodation of strangers under the Reporters' Gallery."—(Mr. Harcourt.)
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD (Liverpool, West Derby)
said the Resolution had been very gracefully proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, whom everyone was glad to see amongst them again in restored health, vigour, and ability. The Resolution, however, did not ask for approval of the alterations that had been made under the Members' Gallery. It struck him that the Resolution clearly ought to ask them to approve of the whole of the alterations which the right hon. Gentleman had made, and he took it that if the House was willing to approve of the alterations as a whole the right hon. Gentleman would not be unwilling that they should do so. If the House intended to accept this Resolution, words ought to be inserted to 1088 the effect "that no material alteration henceforth shall be made with regard to the seating of this Chamber without the-authority of this House being first obtained." It ought to be made clear that the ex post facto approval of the House of what had been done, should not create a precedent. The fact that the Motion asked for the approval of the House showed that something had been gained from the right hon. autocrat who had carried out the work. It seemed to him that the House had now to deal with a second-hand Oliver Cromwell, who might in the future not only alter the accommodation for Members but alter the mace or something else. The alteration made involved three separate points. It involved, first, the obstruction of ten seats appropriated to the use of Members of the House; secondly, the introduction of strangers into the House itself; and, thirdly, the obstruction of Members passing through the Aye Lobby. The alteration deprived hon. Members of half the privilege they had always enjoyed through the courtesy of Mr. Speaker and the Sergeant-at-Arms of admitting distinguished strangers to the seats under the gallery of which there used to be eighteen and of which there were now only nine. The ten seats which the right hon. Gentleman had cut off from the House had hitherto been appropriated to the use of Members and had almost always been in use. A low wooden barricade had been erected round them, and a door cut in the wall opening into the Aye Lobby, a piece of which had been railed off to guide strangers into these seats. The railing round these seats was so low that any hon. Member could vault it, and it was possible for an. hon. Member to get into the Aye Lobby after the doors were locked by walking up three steps, and vaulting the rail. In fact several Members had entered the Aye Lobby, under those circumstances, in that way. The seats were now appropriated to the use of private secretaries and others who could assist Ministers During the Plural Voting Bill they were occupied by some wirepullers who no doubt were assisting the right hon. Gentleman.
§ * MR. HARCOURT
The hon. Member must permit me at once to say there is not the slightest foundation for that statement.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
expressed his pleasure that the right hon. Gentleman was in a position to contradict that statement.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY (Hackney, S.)
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
said the right hon. Gentleman had stated that what he said upon the Estimates with regard to this question would be a justification for what he had done. He (Mr. Rutherford) had looked up the discussion on the Estimates and he found that instead of the right hon. Gentleman's statement being a justification it was quite the contrary. There was no item put down upon the Estimates to provide for this change, and the right hon. Gentleman did not state that he was going to carry out a work for which there was no Vote and no authority. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he would not contemplate the alterations unless they would have the effect of seating twenty people. In the same debate the right hon. Gentleman said—
He would be very loth to touch a building which in many ways was perfectly suitable for its purpose.And he went on to say that the alterations suggested would involve an expenditure of money which must receive Parliamentary sanction. The alterations adumbrated by the right hon. Gentleman were not those carried out, and moreover, there was no Vote taken for any such alterations. His opinion was that this was an obstruction to the Members of the House. According to Erskine May, obstructions to any Members were breaches of privileges, and technically the taking away of these seats and the erection of a barricade were obstructions, and therefore breaches of privilege. If the right hon. Gentleman could take away without authority ten seats, he could logically take away 110. There was authority in the Journals of the year 1887 to show that anything which interfered with any Member's coming to, or going from, or sitting in this House in discharge of his duties, was an obstruction and a breach of privilege. As to 1090 the contention that these seats were not in the House, he would reply that no one could remember a period when such was the case. He had been able to find no authority defining the limits of this House itself, but Standing Orders were passed on the 7th March, 1888, and on that date it appeared that the ten seats in question were in the House. How could the Standing Orders be understood, enforced, or obeyed if the House to which they undoubtedly referred was capable of being altered without the consent of the House itself? The authority which made the Standing Orders could alone alter them. The conclusion forced upon him was that in making an unauthorised alteration the Standing Orders had been broken, and a breach of the privilege of Members committed. The remedy was that the right hon. Gentleman should submit to the decision of the House, and he took it that the right hon. Gentleman, by his Motion, intended to do so. But until the authority was given, the right hon. Gentleman should admit that he had committed a breach of the privileges. The excuse that these seats were on the Government side was no reply at all. Regarding the question of introducing strangers above the Bar without authority, Standing Order 89 read as follows —No Member of this House shall presume to bring any stranger into any part of the House or Gallery appropriated to the Members of this House whilst the House or Committee of the Whole House is sitting.Standing Order 90 dealt with the same subject, which was also referred to on page 335 of Erskine May's book. It was obvious from these that it was never contemplated that strangers should be found in such a position as was now invaded. Regulations did not provide for such a contingency, because it was never in any way contemplated. It was obvious, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had broken Standing Order 89 by presuming to introduce strangers into a part of the House hitherto exclusively reserved for Members. It was very inconvenient to many Members that strangers should be found in that part of the Chamber. During the last few weeks it had been impossible for Members to exchange communications behind Mr. Speaker's Chair, as had been the practice for many years, because observations made there 1091 could now be overheard by strangers. Not only was it very inconvenient to Members that strangers should be found in that part of the House, but it was also inconvenient that, to get there, the strangers should have to pass through parts of the building where strangers ought not to be found. These ten seats had been used for many years by tired, elderly, and retiring Members. They could there seek refuge from the heat of debate and the glare of the light. Formerly there were eighteen seats reserved for distinguished strangers and special people, but that number had been reduced to nine. The reduction had taken place at a time when every possible inch in the Chamber was occupied, and hundreds of strangers were being turned away every day. The present was not an opportune time for taking away seats in this House. To summarise his objections they were, first, that ten seats had been taken away, a barricade erected which caused an obstruction in the House, and a breach of privilege committed; secondly, strangers had been introduced above the Bar contrary to the Standing Orders; and, thirdly, half the available space for distinguished strangers under the clock had been taken away unlawfully. Even if this Motion was adopted he thought some supplemental words should be added stating that no further alterations in the arrangements of the House should be made without the consent of the House being sought and obtained in a lawful way.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
said there was an acrimonious note throughout the remarks of the last speaker which made it impossible for hon. Members sitting on the Ministerial side of the House to support him. The hon. Member for West Derby had alluded to the First Commissioner of Works as an autocrat in this matter. Although he (Mr. Dalziel) did not approve of the right hon. Gentleman's action, he would be the last person to associate himself with any such suggestion as that. None of the predecessors of the present First Commissioner had in so short a time done more for the comfort of Members, and none were more popular. They saw indications of the new broom in the lockers which had been provided, in the new arrangement for taking divisions, and in almost every corner of the House. 1092 But a Minister ought not to assume that a remark made in Committee of Supply, in a small House, and no objection taken, was to be regarded as implying the general consent of the House. He thought it important to guard against the possible action of a Minister who might be tyrannical assuming an authority which the House had not given. Besides assuming that he had the general consent of the House, the only other reason which the right hon. Gentleman gave was that the change would be for the convenience of the Government, and he rightly stated that the Government of the day was practically the House, because the private Member had really ceased to exist. What advantage were the Government to get? The only advantage was that they would be nearer their private secretaries and the heads of departments. He did not think that was a very strong reason, because a Minister ought to be fully acquainted with all the work of his department. In case they wished to consult the leading man in his department on some question brought suddenly without notice, almost every Minister had a private secretary who sat behind him and applauded everything he said. The main duty of a Minister's private secretary used to be to run to the other gallery where the heads of departments sat, and bring back the required information. He did not think that more than three heads of departments would ever be required in the House at the same time, and he would like to know what was going to be done with the other seats. The benches under the gallery were now empty, and the seats were lost to the House. He thought it would have been much wiser if the Resolution they were now considering had been passed before the alteration was made. He would like to know if Members would have the right to go and sit in those seats? If they were still to have that right some of their objections might be met. He thought they were right in protesting against the Government's doing this without the direct authority of the House. He protested against those who were not Members of the House actually sitting amongst the Members. The Motion, no doubt, would be carried, but it would be carried, not on its merits, but because of the popularity of the First Commissioner.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said this was a matter which did not affect any particular Party or section of Members. It was a question which affected the House of Commons as a whole. As one who had been a working Member of the House for a long time he would like to say that he entirely concurred with the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken with reference to the action of the First Commissioner of Works in providing for the convenience of Members. During the twenty-six years he had been a Member of the House he had known no Commissioner of Works who in so short a time had done more for the convenience of Members, and in view of that admitted fact he thought it would have been a graceful recognition of the action of the right hon. Gentleman if those hon. Gentlemen who did not entirely approve of what had been done had abstained from raising the kind of criticism which had been heard this evening. Two grounds of objection had been taken. First of all, it was said that the Commissioner of Works had deprived hon. Members of ten seats. That was manifestly untrue. The First Commissioner of Works had given in exchange for ten seats thirteen seats, and therefore that objection fell to the ground altogether. An hon. Gentleman opposite had stated that his objection was not so much to the fact that a change had been made as to the fact that the Minister who made it had acted without the sanction of the House. The hon. Gentleman said that, if this was condoned, a Tory First Commissioner of Works in the future might say during Committee of Supply that there was not adequate accommodation for distinguished strangers, and if no objection was taken he might during the recess provide more accommodation for distinguished strangers by curtailing the accommodation for Members of the House. What had been done in this case could not be a precedent for that, because the right hon. Gentleman had not curtailed the accommodation for Members of the House. He had as a matter of fact increased the accommodation for Members. The other point was this. It was said that the rights of the House had been invaded because officials belonging to the various Departments who used to be accommodated at one end of the House were now accommodated at 1094 the other. That seemed to him an absurdity. If there was any attempt made by any Government or any official improperly to introduce officials or strangers into the House he would be amongst the first to protest. He reminded the House of an occasion when Mr. Speaker Brand introduced into the House a shorthand writer and placed him in the Members' Gallery next to that of the reporters. He did so for the purpose of getting an accurate report of observations made by the Irish Members. The introduction of the shorthand writer was instantly taken notice of by Mr. Parnell, and a strong protest was raised, and notwithstanding the fact that the Irish Party, against whom it was supposed that this action was taken, had in those days few friends in any part of the House, the feeling of the House was so strong that the official was instantly withdrawn. If anything of that kind were attempted now he would be amongst the first to protest against it. But was it not ludicrous to pretend that the private secretary of a Minister or a permanent official brought in to assist, his chief in the conduct of debate was violating some great tradition and right of the House when he was transferred from one end of the House to the other? He had on all occasions been ready to support the rights of private-Members. The hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs seemed to think that it was an invasion of the rights of private Members that a Minister should be near a private secretary or an official. He himself was one of the private Members who catechised Ministers, and especially Ministers from Ireland, and he wished that Ministers should be in a position to give him as much information as possible. It was impossible for any Minister to carry in his brain every detail of every matter connected with his Department. He was anxious that a Minister should be in as close touch as could be arranged, without interference with the rights of the House of Commons, with the permanent officials, and manifestly it was much more convenient that Ministers should be able to consult them behind the Speaker's Chair than at the other end of the Chamber. From that point of view, as a private Member, he rejoiced at this change. He entirely objected from the aesthetic point of view, and on other grounds, to an obstruction which had 1095 been placed in the entrance to the "Aye" lobby. It was a structure something like a pulpit, and he thought it was entirely unnecessary.
§ * MR. HARCOURT
said there were structural reasons for what had been done. There were ventilating flues which required to be preserved, and therefore it was not possible to make the staircase in the wall.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said he could not follow the explanation. Of course, if there were structural reasons he accepted the statement, but even then the right hon. Gentleman was not bound to build a big door with a big balustrade around the door. It was a great obstruction, and from the aesthetic point of view a great injury to the whole appearance of the Lobby. Speaking generally, he thought the change which had been made was an admirable improvement. He did not think it infringed in the smallest degree any right or privilege of Members. He sincerely hoped that if this Motion went to a division, the House, by an overwhelming majority, would mark its sense of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for the many improvements he had made.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somersetshire, Wellington)
said he wished to say a few words, not from a Party, but from a purely House of Commons point of view. He expressed to the First Commissioner of Works their gratitude for the many improvements he had carried out. Without going into the merits of the question as to whether strangers should be on the bench under the Reporter's Gallery, he thought it would have been better if the sanction of the House had first of all been obtained. The House was very jealous of its privileges, and he was quite certain that if the proposal had been put before the House a most favourable reception would have been given to it. He asked whether the seats referred to were still the property of the Members of the House? He thought they ought to be. He held that every seat in. the House should be open to Members in times of pressure, such as was experienced on the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill of 1893. It would be an infringement of the liberties of Members 1096 if on such an occasion permanent officials were to occupy the gallery to the right of the Chair, to the exclusion of Members. How did the officials obtain access to the gallery? Was this a latch-key question? Did they come in at the door behind Mr. Speaker's Chair, or by some other access? If the Government required the assistance of their permanent advisers in carrying their measures, why should not the Opposition be allowed to have seats for their advisers? He was sure the Prime Minister, with his sense of fair play, would give that proposal a businesslike consideration. The House of Commons was jealous of its privileges and admired what the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works had done for their comfort; but he feared that in this case the right hon. Gentleman was in some sense guilty of poaching first and taking out his license afterwards. The right hon. Gentleman knew quite well what the result would be if he were taken up before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction; he would be punished for poaching, and afterwards by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for not taking out his license. He thought he should vote against the Motion on principle, because the right hon. Gentleman should have taken out his license first. As regarded the future he hoped the Prime Minister would consider his suggestion of giving equality of opportunity to the Opposition as well as to the Government of consulting their advisers.
§ * MR. HARCOURT
said in reply to the right hon. Baronet who asked whether Members would still be able to use the seats in times of pressure, that Members had access to every gallery and a right to sit in any gallery they chose to occupy. He had never considered the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet that Members should have the power of eviction of occupants of the galleries— even of the Peers' gallery—but if the right hon. Baronet thought this likely to be necessary or' desirable in the future he would be willing to consult him on the subject. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that there was no access for private secretaries or permanent officials to this particular gallery by latchkey or except by the ordinary process. As to the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet that the advisers of the Opposition should be accommodated 1097 in the gallery he thought that that would be most undesirable.
§ * VISCOUNT TURNOUR (Sussex, Horsham)
said he was one of the humblest and warmest admirers of the right hon. Gentleman, who he hoped would be present in the House for the next thirty years to defend his policy. It seemed to him that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was more or less made from the Government point of view. One of the objects of the new arrangements was to afford information to Ministers with a minimum of trouble. To that he took no exception. His objection to the alteration made by the First Commissioner of Works was that the right hon. Gentleman had not first obtained the permission of the House. He was not inclined to accept the speech of the right hon. Gentleman as to the utilty or necessity of the changes which had been made. The First Commissioner of Works had said Government legislation was most desired by the House, although that statement was cheered in a very lukewarm way by the supporters of the Government. They had other legislation than Government legislation, and good examples of that were the Land Tenure Bill and the Town Tenants' Bill. He was the last person to say that Ministers should not have communication with their private secretaries or permanent officials. They would save a good deal of foolscap and typewritten papers. But why not go a little further and replace the immaculately dressed row of amateur private secretaries behind Ministers by more useful professional private secretaries?
§ SIR BRAMPTON GURDON (Norfolk, N.)
said that he would have preferred that the House should remain as it was, but he knew that the front Benches had been very anxious for these alterations. He thought it was not for the dignity of the House that a Minister like the Chancellor of the Exchequer in order to answer a Question should have to walk right down the House in order to get certain figures from the permanent official. He remembered during Lord Palmerston's administration the bitter experience he had of the inconvenience of the old arrangement when he had to be at the call of the Minister to 1098 whom he was private secretary. He was very glad, having some recollection of his earlier days, that the officials would have an easier task than they had in times past. Very often the unfortunate private secretary found all the seats under the gallery filled up by the sons of peers. He hoped that the First Commissioner would take steps to secure that the door behind the Speaker's Chair was always open.
§ * MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said that one could not but conceive that the Government in putting down this particular Motion at this particular time did so without the intention that it should be seriously discussed or that a full opportunity should be given for that discussion. He thought the House would require in this case, no les than in other cases, what might be called affirmative justification. The right hon. Gentleman, and he did not say this in any invidious sense, took a great advantage of the popularity to which he was born, and which he had won. Amongst other things, the right hon. Gentleman's arrangement of divisions was a stroke of genius, but the arguments in favour of the change in this case had been more of negative than affirmative justification. He agreed that by the new way of taking divisions the right hon. Gentleman had multiplied Members' liberties by three in quantity as well as adding many things most attractive in quality. But they must not be led away by this. The right hon. Gentleman had claimed that he announced the changes in a speech on Supply; but, as a matter of fact, until he saw the changes in material existence he had no idea of the changes that were to be made. It was said that an equivalent had been given. Perhaps, as far as quantity went, Members gained a small advantage; but in the matter of quality there had been no equivalent at all, because in the seats newly given to Members it was difficult to hear debates. But why should the House be in a position of having to ask the value of any equivalent? The solitary reason given for making the change was that it was desirable that Cabinet Ministers' private secretaries should be brought physically nearer in debate. Men quite as great as they got on quite well without such assistance, and if he might refer to his personal experience when in 1099 office, he would say that he frequently stood in the most dire need of assistance of this kind. He had also frequently to obtain it for others in circumstances which made it awkward to be seen obtaining it. There were crises in which he had to do without the facts. He did without them. That meant that as regarded the policy of his replies he threw himself back on his own intuition. And whence were these intuitions inspired? They were inspired by the surrounding atmosphere of the House, drawn straight from the pulse of the people. It would shortly mean that permanent officials and private secretaries would become practically actual participants in debate. It was even whispered already that Ministers communicated with their private secretaries telegraphically by looks. On the whole he thought it was better perhaps for Ministers to be able to say on occasion that the information desired was not for the moment within access. Why was this being done? When he entered this House nothing was borne into his mind more than the sanctity of the few places which had been left for the Members behind the Speaker's Chair. He was taught that if there was one space which was a holy of holies it was the space in the lobby behind Mr. Speaker's Chair. This was the holy of holies which was being invaded. ["Oh."] He did not care for the interruptions of hon. Gentlemen who had never had occasion to use that space. This proposal would violate the sanctity which attached to the House and to that part of it, and was in contravention of the spirit of the old regulation that strangers should not be brought within the bar, and that at all events at one end of the House a place should be reserved for Members themselves. The negative reasons that Ministers afforded for what had been done could not, he thought, hold the balance against the practical inconvenience caused to Members.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN, Stirling Burghs)
thought the House was to be congratulated and deserved to be commended for the perfectly good-humoured manner in which this question had been discussed. He did not remember another occasion in which the serious business of the House 1100 had been interrupted in order to discuss a matter of such relatively small importance as to where strangers might be accommodated with the greatest convenience. The Government, however, had agreed to give an opportunity of discussing this matter, and he was glad that it had been so good-temperedly conducted. There was first of all the question affecting the conduct of his right hon. friend, and whether he was justified in making this change without the express directions of the House. As very few hon. Members were present to listen to his right hon. friend at the beginning of the debate, he might remind the House that his right hon. friend said that if he had transgressed in what he had done, if he had been mistaken in assuming that the silence of the House meant consent when last summer he informed them what he intended to do, he could only express his regret and hope that the censure should fall upon him and that the good thing that he had done would be left unchanged. His right hon. friend was a brave man, and the only feeling he had about this question was that his right hon. friend had a dreadful time before him if he was to keep up in future years the character and reputation which he had achieved for himself during the short time that he had been in office. All those who had been engaged in the transaction of public business in office would agree that it was most inconvenient that the officials who came to assist Ministers in the transaction of business should be placed in the remotest part of the House. Those officials were there to assist a Minister with information of which he was not for the moment in possession— information not for himself, but for the House. Surely it was desirable they should be near at hand to give him assistance. He had often noticed with some degree of amusement a Minister when he found himself without full knowledge of a measure try to invent some way in which he could complacently go to the man who could assist him. He remembered that Sir Michael Hicks Beach, to call him by his old House of Commons name, always walked down the House without any concealment; but he had seen Ministers more modest or perhaps more conceited, look at their watches and go out with a great air behind Mr. Speaker's chair and re-appear below the bar. It was quite true that Members 1101 used to recline on these Benches. He used to watch one Member during the greater part of his Parliamentary life on the other side who would pose himself in a corner after the exciting business was disposed of, divest himself of some article of apparel—his boots, for instance; he did not know that it went any further— put his feet up on the bench, and sleep the sleep of the just. But that was hardly the purpose, he thought, for which they should reserve places. His right hon. friend was the first Minister who had had the courage to make this change. The question was, was it a good thing to do? He was certain the change would commend itself to the House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
said that while painfully conscious of an unusual and embarrassing amount of agreement with the right hon. Gentleman, he was rejoiced to be able at the outset to pick a small quarrel with him, which was more in accordance with his own position and his ordinary function within these walls. He did not agree with the right hon. gentleman that the forcible appropriation of certain benches, considered from time immemorial as belonging to the House, was a subject not eminently worthy of a few hours' discussion, and he was sorry the right hon. Gentleman had used such grudging words in giving the House these few hours. It was unfortunate that these benches had to be given up to another purpose, even although the previous purposes had included sleeping; and he was not sure whether, if all-night sittings were to continue, it might not be part of the future duty of the right hon. Gentleman whose conduct was in question to provide cubicles somewhere in the House where Members might take those moments of necessary repose which were apparently required to enable them to carry on their public duties as auditors of and partakers in debate. Before coming to the essential merits of the question he would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House whether he did not think some arrangement might be made by which upon nights when it was not necessary that experts should attend the debates Members might be able to revert to their ancient freehold.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said perhaps he might be allowed to answer the point, which was also raised by the right hon. Member for the Wellington Division of Somersetshire, and to say that there was nothing to prevent hon. Members sitting in any of the galleries.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
did not think the observation covered the whole case. He thought it would be regarded by hon. Members as rather a serious infringement of the privileges of the outside public if Members of the House were to occupy at the beginning of the sitting all the benches under the gallery, which were invariably given up to strangers, and all the seats above the clock, which were given up to Ambassadors, Peers, and other distinguished strangers. All that he pleaded for was that the seats under consideration should not be given up when not required by experts for the specific purpose of giving information to the members of the Government. He admitted that the suggestion he had informally thrown out did not touch the main question raised in this debate, which was whether the expert advisers, whom everyone admitted ought to find a place in this House, should be accommodated at the end behind Mr. Speaker's Chair, or under the gallery at the other end. On such a subject it was only natural that those who held office or had held office should hold a different set of opinions from those who were only critics and spectators of the agonies of officials. Personally he took the view that in modern days, when criticism was pressed hard, when it was the recognised business of an Opposition to put the most embarrassing conundrums they could to those who carried on the Government of the country, it was absolutely necessary that Ministers who had to defend Bills or Estimates should be able to obtain in the most convenient form the expert advice which they required. It was not possible for any Minister to be able to answer every Question put to him; and, indeed, he would go further and say that a Minister would not be doing his duty to the country if he were to devote all the hours he could spare from his official business to getting up these small details which did not 1103 touch broad questions of policy, although they formed, necessarily and rightly, so large a part of their administrative work. There was then the question of the inconvenience of Ministers in having to go round to the place in which the experts formerly sat.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he did not know that Estimates had come before Parliament for that length of time. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy had said that these things were not required by their forefathers, and asked why should they be required now. His reply to that argument was that the whole character of Parliamentary fighting had altered within living memory, and now it was desirable that the expert advisers of the Government should be available as quickly as possible. Not many years ago the great fights in this House took place chiefly upon Second or Third Headings, but that was changed, and the debates in Committee and on Report now were of a character both in regard to length and strenuousness which was never dreamt of by our grandfathers, and had greatly increased during his own experience of thirty years. He did not see that there was any chance of that tendency diminishing. An Opposition was bound to criticise in detail and put the most embarassing questions to the Government. He thought the present Government, by adopting Bills which they had not framed, had augmented the difficulties. The expert advisers had to advise on something which they did not do and never contemplated doing, and he was informed, though he had not seen it himself; that there had been signs, Marconi telegrams, passing between the front bench and the technical advisers under the gallery which he did not think ought to be allowed. It ought to be understood that no gesticula- 1104 tions, no indications of approval or disapproval, ought to be conveyed from the gallery of the House. He believed his right hon. friend the late Home Secretary, the predecessor of the present First Commissioner, always desired to see the change in question or something of the kind carried out. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke to him privately about it, he said he thought it a change for the better so far as Government interests were concerned and it was for the advantage of everybody that Government business should be properly carried out. It was for the advantage of everybody that the Government of the day should do their work well, and it was very difficult indeed to do Government work well. It was very laborious, involved great responsibility, and an immense amount of detail which was never known to the public. It was not the work in this House which wore out Ministers, but the work they had to do outside the House. When he remembered how severe was the criticism of every Opposition, and bearing in mind the strain and difficulties of modern legislation and administration, he thought the responsible Minister was entitled in common fairness to every advantage he could have. On that broad ground he thought the right hon. Gentleman was justified in carrying out this change, and he did not really know whether his methods were open to criticism or not. The only question he touched upon was the broad question whether they should or should not give to the Minister in charge of the Estimates or the Minister conducting a difficult Bill through Committee or through the Report stage all the assistance he was entitled to and had a right to ask for. He could not vote against the right hon. Gentleman, or express a condemnation he did not feel for action which, whether carried out in the best way or not, was in its main lines for the advantage, not of one 1105 Party or another, but of the conduct of business as a whole.
§ * MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham N. W.)
said he would make no apology for saying a few words on this matter., as an old Member of the House. He felt deeply on the subject, and he believed that feeling was shared by a large majority of the old Members on both sides. Although the Motion of his right hon. friend would probably be carried, he was convinced that the decision would not be approved by the mature judgment of the House. He concurred in the expressions of gratitude which had been expressed on both sides of the House for the services which had been rendered to the House by the First Commissioner of Works. He felt that in the matter they were now discussing the right hon. Gentleman had acted with an honest and sincere desire to serve the interests not only of the Government, but of the House at large. The Leader of the Opposition had exposed the proposal to a most merciless analysis. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that nothing could be more objectionable than that there should be any kind of signalling arrangement between the front bench and the gallery where the officials were accommodated. But of what value then would be the change? Nothing more than that a Minister instead of having to walk fifteen yards to one gallery would only have to walk five yards to the other gallery, the saving of time resulting from the now arrangement being about twenty seconds. The Prime Minister had pointed out how exceedingly inconvenient the former arrangement was when Ministers had to consult officials on questions of detail. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether in his long experience of the House he could point to a single instance whore the House, the Government, or the country had suffered thereby from the lack of assistance from the permanent officials? On the contrary, there had been occasions 1106 —and recently there was one very notable instance—where Ministers had suffered from too large an amount of assistance from permanent officials. The recent instance to which he referred had been the subject of severe animadversions. He believed the real cause of the change was that some subordinate Members of the Government felt a certain amount of shame when they were seen walking down the House to consult officials. Every Minister who had not got up his facts had to consult the officials at the other end of the House, and the late Mr. Gladstone, the greatest Parliamentarian that ever lived, held the view that there was nothing more subversive of the interests of Ministers than that the permanent officials should have been brought to the end of the House. He really was unable to conceive how it could be in the interest of the independence of the House that they should have permanent officials en evidence to the extent proposed. In France there was a system whereby the permanent official was allowed to come into the Chambreand state his views on a Bill proposed by a Minister. The proposal now under consideration was a stop in the direction of the permanent officials discharging the duties of the Ministry. The protection of the British people against the bureaucracy of the permanent officials was the purpose of the House of Commons. The space proposed to be given for the accommodation of officials belonged to Members. He could conceive no more justification for placing the permanent officials in that place than for placing them in the seats immediately behind the Treasury Bench. He had a great regard for the interests and the dignity of this Assembly. He wanted to point out that there was an unnecessary amount of space given to these benches. He had ample authority for the statement that it was not the officials who were in attendance on Ministers who filled the seats, but their friends, There was no occasion for permanent officials to be present in 1107 the House that night, unless those who had a personal interest in the matter. He had no doubt in his own mind that these seats would be used for other purposes. [Laughter and cries of "Vote."] His friends made merry about Members making use of the seats for the purpose of slumber when they were weary, but he was bound to say that he had seen right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both the Front Benches asleep, and he saw no reason why Members, who had often to sit up so long, should not avail themselves of the comparative obscurity of that part of the House for a gentle doze. He knew that many hon Members would vote for the Motion out of personal respect for the right hon. Gentleman, but he felt he held a higher duty to the House than to support a Minister out of personal respect. He trusted that the Motion would be rejected without involving the slightest slur on the right hon. Gentleman who was no doubt animated by the sole desire to serve the interests of the House and the country.
§ * MR BYLES (Salford. N.)
said he was very loath to give a silent vote on this occasion. It might seem rash that after the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Irish Party had expressed their views on this matter, he should say anything about it. But he wanted to recall to the memory of the House that the First Commissioner of Works had told them that there was to be an open vote on the Motion. The First Commissioner of Works seemed to think that some hon. Members wished to chastise him, and it was because of that that he wished to say a few words. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for the comforts that he had conferred on Members of the House, and he regretted very much that he should be compelled to vote against him. However, he was not one who walked out of the House when the division bell 1108 was rung. He always voted "Aye" or "No." They were always complaining that this House was not big enough for the number of Members, and that there were fewer seats than the number of Members. Yet the right hon. Gentleman had reduced the number. He did not mean seats where Members could sit, but seats from which Members who had won their position at the general election had a right to address the House. His second objection to the new gallery was that it was far too near that portion of the House where important conversations and negotiations which ought not to be overheard took place. Of course they had all heard of the right hon. Gentlemen who quarrelled across the table and then went and made bargains behind the Speaker's Chair. He did not think that those arrangements should be overheard in the House. It had also been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition that signs might pass, and it was easy to see how this sort of prompter's box might lend itself to communications not quite legitimate, and that assistance might be rendered which ought not to be. The change had been made with the best intentions and with the most absolute belief that it had the authority of the House, but he hoped the House would come to the conclusion that the change was made without its authority. He thought the sanction of the House should first have been obtained in a formal manner, and on that ground and because he did not think that the change was an advantage, he should go into the lobby against his right hon. friend.
§ * MR. HARCOURT
said that the Government thoroughly agreed with the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that the seats should only be used by officials in the ordinary sense of the word, assisting Ministers 1109 when they were wanted, but that at other times they should be available for Members when the officials were not needed.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:— Ayes, 275; Noes, 63. (Division List No. 432).1111
|Agnew, George William||Crosfield, A. H.||Holland, Sir William Henry|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Crossley, William J.||Hooper, A. G.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Hope, W. Bateman(Somerset, N.)|
|Armstrong, W. C. Heaton||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan)||Horniman, Emslie John|
|Astbury, John Meir||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Hudson, Walter|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Idris, T. H. W.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Delany, William||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (City Lond.)||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Johnson, John (Gateshead)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Dillon, John||Jones, Leif (Appleby)|
|Barnard, E. B.||Donelan, Captain A.||Jowett, F. W.|
|Beale, W. P.||Duncan, J. H. (York, Otley)||Joyce, Michael|
|Beaumont, Hn. W.C.B.(Hexham)||Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan)||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Kelley, George D.|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall)||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonp't)||Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Kincaid-Smith, Captain|
|Benn, W. (T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||King, Alfred John (Knutsford.)|
|Berridge, H. T. D.||Elibank, Master of||Laidlaw, Robert|
|Bertram, Julius||Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster)|
|Bethell, Sir J.H.(Essex, Romf'rd)||Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Lamb, Ernest K. (Rochester)|
|Billson, Alfred||Evans, Samuel T.||Lambert, George|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Everett, R. Lacey||Lamont, Norman|
|Boland, John||Fenwick, Charles||Layland-Barratt, Francis|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Ferens, T. R.||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)|
|Brace, William||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Lehmann, R. C.|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Findlay, Alexander||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)|
|Branch, James||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Levy, Maurice|
|Brigg, John||Flynn, James Christopher||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David|
|Brodie, H. C.||Fuller, John Michael F.||Lough, Thomas|
|Brunner, J.F.L.(Lancs., Leigh)||Fullerton, Hugh||Lundon, W.|
|Bryce, Rt. Hn. James (Aberdeen)||Gibb, James (Harrow)||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Bull, Sir William James||Gill, A. H.||Lynch, H. B.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Ginnell, L.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Mackarness, Frederic C.|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Glendinning, R. G.||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Goddard, Daniel Ford||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Chas.||Grant, Corrie||MacVeigh, Chas. (Donegal, E.)|
|Cairns, Thomas||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||M'Callum, John M.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||M'Crae, George|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Griffith, Ellis J.||M'Hugh, Patrick A.|
|Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight||Gulland, John W.||M'Kean, John|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hn. Victor, C. W.||Gywnn, Stephen Lucius||M'Kenna, Reginald|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hall, Frederick||M'Micking, Major G.|
|Chance, Frederick William||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis||Maddison, Frederick|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Mallet, Charles E.|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)||Manfield, Harry (Northants)|
|Clough, William||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)|
|Coats, Sir T. Glen (Renfrew, W.)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Marnham, F. J.|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Haworth, Arthur A.||Meagher, Michael|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Hayden, John Patrick||Meehan, Patrick A.|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Menzies, Walter|
|Cooper, G. J.||Hedges, A. Paget||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Corbett, CH.(Sussex, E. Grinst'd)||Henderson, J.M.(Aberdeen, W.)||Mond, A.|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Herbert, Col. Ivor (Mon., S.)||Montagu, E. S.|
|Cox, Harold||Hervey, F. W. F.(Bury, S. Edm'd)||Mooney, J. J.|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Hignam, John Sharp||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Crean, Eugene||Hobart, Sir Robert||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Cremer, William Randal||Hogan, Michael||Murnaghan, George|
|Crombie, John William||Holden, E. Hopkinson||Murray, James|
|Nolan, Joseph||Richards, Thos. (W. Monm'th)||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Norman, Sir Henry||Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n)||Taylor John W. (Durham)|
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Rickett, J. Compton||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Nuttall, Harry||Ridsdale, E. A.||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury)|
|O'Brien, Kenda1 (Tipperary Mid)||Roberts, Chas. H. (Lincoln)||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr)|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Tomkinson, James|
|O'Doherty, Philip||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd)||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Verney, F. W.|
|O'Hare, Patrick||Robinson, S.||Wadsworth, J.|
|O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|O'Kelly, Jas. (Roscommon, N.)||Rogers, F. E. Newman||Walters, John Tudor|
|O'Malley, William||Rose, Charles Day||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Runciman, Walter||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampt'n)|
|Paulton, James Mellor||Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)||Seaverns, J. H.||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Pearson, Sir W. D. (Colchester)||Seddon, J.||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)||Shackleton, David James||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick, B.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Pollard, Dr.||Simon, John Allsebrook||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)|
|Power, Patrick Joseph||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Price, Robert John (Norfolk, E.)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Priestley, W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Spicer, Sir Albert||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Radford, G. H.||Stanger, H. Y.||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Rainy, A. Rolland||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Raphael, Herbert H.||Steadman, W. C.||Winfrey, R.|
|Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)||Young, Samuel|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir Brampton Gurdon and Mr. Paul.|
|Redmond, William (Clare)||Sullivan, Donal|
|Rees, J. D.||Summerbell, T.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hn. Sir Alex. F||Craik, Sir Henry||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthea)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Dalziel, James Henry||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Doughty, Sir George||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Ashley, W. W.||Fell, Arthur||Percy, Earl|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Pickersgill Edward Hare|
|Balcarres, Lord||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fletcher, J. S.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Forster, Henry William||Smith, Abell, (Hertford, East)|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Freeman-Thomas, Freeman||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ)|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hamilton, Marquess of||Turnour, Viscount|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Harrison-Broadley, Col. H. B.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Byles, William Pollard||Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hunt, Rowland||Watt, H. Anderson|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Kekewich, Sir George||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Cave, George.||Keswick, William||Younger, George|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Liddell, Henry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Watson Rutherford and Mr. Claude Hay.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||MacIver, David (Liverpool)|
|Craig, Chas. Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Marks, H. H. (Kent)|
|Craig, Captain Jas. (Down, E.)||Moore, William|
§ Resolved, "That this House approves of the arrangements made for the accommodation of strangers under the Reporters' Gallery."1112
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of the 4th August last.
§ Adjourned at six minutes alter Eleven o'clock.