HC Deb 14 October 1908 vol 194 cc320-1

I rise, Sir, to call attention to a matter involving the privileges of Members of this House, and to ask you—and I hope that my request will be supported by hon. Members—to take stops to exclude all women absolutely from the inner, or Members' lobby of this House, during its sittings. In support of this request may I state briefly that I make it without any consideration whatever of the questions of franchise or of any recent incidents. There has been an increasing difficulty in the Members' lobby because of these visitors, and during the months of June and July it became almost impossible for hon. Members to enter or to leave the Chamber by the inner door. In addition I would remind the House, some hon. Members of which seem to have more regard for feminine approval than for the dignity of this great Chamber, that as things are at present there is placed on the admirable and efficient staff of attendants and police a burden which is unreasonable, ungenerous and unfair. Further, as we saw yesterday, the elementary rules of courtesy were violated in a way that I had hoped was restricted to pagan tribes in remote parts of the world. I think, therefore, that the time has come when the House in its own interest as a serious institution—and I am one of those who think that the House is a serious institution—should take the steps that I suggest. I make the suggestion on my own responsibility and with the sole object of maintaining the dignity of this Assembly.


In reply to the hon. Member, I have to say that I believe ever since the House was built—certainly for a great number of years—the privilege has been accorded to ladies of visiting the Members' lobby. There was a time, now a good many years ago, when the privilege was not very much used. Of late years, however, the privilege has been very much more largely used, especially, I think, during this Parliament. I should hesitate of my own accord to withdraw the privilege, unless I were assured that I had the general sense of the House behind me in doing so. Therefore, for the present, I do not think that I should be right in issuing the order which the hon. Member suggests. At the same time, I have taken upon myself, in consequence of what occurred yesterday, to issue an order that no ladies are to be brought past the doorkeepers. I have been reluctantly compelled to do this; but in order to protect the position and the dignity of the House, after what occurred yesterday, it would be necessary largely to increase the staff of doorkeepers, which I think the House would consider to be very undesirable.