HC Deb 31 March 1909 vol 3 cc341-2

I desire, Mr. Speaker, to ask you a question with reference to the conduct of public business in this House. I desire to know whether there is any remedy, or any means, whereby the occurrence of yesterday may not be repeated when in the middle of a speech, on a matter of primary importance, by a Cabinet Minister. This House had its business simply stopped by the intervention, and the invasion of Black Rod. These interventions have been frequently the subject of complaint and protest in this House. Mr. Labouchere, so far back as 1891, protested to Mr. Speaker Peel against the interruption of public business, and Mr. Speaker Peel said he would do his best, and did so make arrangements with the authorities of the House of Lords to have these interventions of Black Rod at intervals, and times, as convenient as possible. Since the present Parliament interventions have been at most inconvenient times. Intervention stopped business in 1907, when the question of Irish education was under debate, but yesterday was really the climax of it all. What I ask you to do is this: I feel, and know, that the authorities of the House of Lords and the authorities of the House of Commons do their best to prevent it, but public business, every moment of which is important, will be subject to this serious interruption unless some stop be put to the matter once and for all. May I suggest it could be done in one of two ways. A message from the Crown, or from the Lords Commissioners, for the Assent to Bills, to this House, constitutes in itself a quorum, and when the Commission has formed notice could be sent to this House and the House could meet at a time when public business is not on, as it frequently meets at Prorogation. That is one way. Another would be that inasmuch as this act of the Royal Assent is, in reality, merely a notification of Assent already given by the Crown, it could easily be arranged that the notification could be given by proclamation, as has been done in the case of Prorogation. I hope you will excuse me bringing this matter under your notice, but I know you have always taken the greatest interest in making public convenience the first object in this House.


The hon. Member has spoken to me about this matter privately, and I suggested to him that he himself should suggest the time at which he thinks this House and the other House should meet to hear the Royal Assent. If he can make any valuable suggestion I will forward it to the Lord Chancellor, and I am sure the Lord Chancellor will fall in with his view if possible. I am afraid the hon. Member will find it quite impossible to fix a more convenient time than that fixed yesterday—namely, a quarter to 4. It so happened that yesterday questions numbered 60 or so, and for one reason or another they were over at a very early hour. As a rule, questions continue until a quarter to 4, and the moment would have been in ordinary days an extremely opportune one for a short break to carry through what I am sure the hon. Member will consider a very important part of the public business—namely, listening to> the Royal Assent to Acts of Parliament.