HC Deb 19 March 1923 vol 161 cc2090-1

I beg to ask you, Mr. Speaker, the following question: Whether, seeing that the Members' Gallery is now open to both sexes, you can arrange that after Easter admission to the Ladies' Gallery shall be on the same basis as admission to the other Gallery, by doing away with the ballot for 8.15 and instructing the Serjeant-at-Arms to issue Orders accordingly?


The arrangement with regard to the Ladies' Gallery—dividing the sitting into two parts, before and after 8.15 p.m.—was an arrangement made before ladies were admitted to the Members' Gallery. That has quite altered the circumstances. Personally, I think it would be for the convenience of the greater number of Members and their friends if we assimilated admission to the Ladies' Gallery to that of admission to the Members' Gallery. And if that be the view of the House, I will give directions for it to be done after Easter.


Does the assimilation of the Ladies' Gallery to the other gallery mean that men would be admitted to the Ladies' Gallery?


There are some ladies who might object to that.


Have you considered, Mr. Speaker, that, although the Members' Gallery has been open to ladies as well as to men from 4 o'clock onwards, the number of seats in the Ladies' Gallery is very small compared with the number of seats in the Members' Gallery, and that if tickets be issued at 4.15 for the Ladies' Gallery, they would entitle the holders to remain the whole day, whereas if the sitting be divided into two parts, Members have a double chance of getting a lady into the Gallery. As the pressure on Members this Session is extraordinarily heavy, I would suggest that, before agreeing to that suggestion simply by gathering the cheers of the House, you should reconsider the matter from that point of view.


Certainly, the last thing I wish to do is to press a change which is against the views of the House. What has been represented to me is: that frequently Members find vacancies in the Ladies' Gallery, say, at 7 o'clock, and they take ladies up there. So that would be very inconvenient for them to have to remove at 8.15. What I suggest is that hon. Members should think over the proposal, and I will ask for a further question to be put to me on Thursday. Then, perhaps, I can gather the sense of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]