HL Deb 20 March 1873 vol 214 cc1922-4

wished to call the attention of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to a matter which interested most of their Lordships. There was a very general interest just at present with regard to what was going on in the House of Commons, and very many of their Lordships were desirous of availing themselves of the privilege which the Commons allowed them of being present at their debates. But on several occasions recently, and especially that afternoon, several of their Lordships were unable to find a place in the gallery of the House of Commons: the place which that House was kind enough to set apart for Peers being fully occupied by foreigners and other gentlemen who were not Peers. Their Lordships regarded the privilege of entering the House of Commons to hear the debates as a great one; and he thought it would be well if the Government endeavoured to come to some understanding with the authorities of that House in order that Peers might not meet with the obstacles to admission which they had been obliged to encounter for the last two or three years.


said, he need scarcely assure his noble Friend that he would be most anxious to in any way promote the convenience of their Lordships with regard to accommodation in the House of Commons; but at the time all the seats under the gallery except the back row were being taken into the House itself for the accommodation of the Members themselves, he had a conversation with the late Speaker on the subject. He told Lord Ossington that he did not think the accommodation for Peers would be sufficient; but Lord Ossington replied that it was sufficiently liberal as compared with that provided in their Lordships' House for the Members of the House of Commons. He was not convinced by that reply; but, as their Lordships knew, he had no power in the matter. He would, however, communicate on the subject with the present Speaker.


said, that the want of seats for Peers under the gallery in the House of Commons often proved a serious inconvenience. It was now almost impossible for Peers to communicate with Members of the House of Commons during the progress of business in that House.


remarked that his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary had not touched on one of the points raised by his other noble Friend—namely, that the seats at present appropriated for Peers and the sons of Peers were taken up by gentlemen who were not Peers or the sons of Peers.


said, he thought it would be very unfortunate and very uncourteous to exclude foreigners and say they had no right to be admitted to the seats assigned for the accommodation of distinguished strangers. In other countries much courtesy was shown to foreigners who wished to be present at the debates of Legislative Assemblies. In all foreign Assemblies accommodation was provided for the Corps Diplomatique. The Corps Diplomatique was a very numerous body, and all the members of it could not be accommodated in the galleries of either House; but it would be very unfortunate not to find seats for some of them.


said, he had no desire that the Corps Diplomatique should be excluded from either House, or that every courtesy should not be shown to strangers. When he said "foreigners and other gentlemen," he was referring to persons who occupied seats which were supposed to be appropriated to Peers. All he desired was to have the Peers accommodated in the seats set apart for Peers.


said, the centre bench in the front of the gallery over the clock was set apart for the Royal Family and Foreign Ministers.


said, that the real difficulty was the question of economy. The fact was that the House of Commons was very much too small for its own Members, and that Assembly was therefore niggardly to those who wished to attend its proceedings. Until they were prepared to spend more money for their own accommodation, they were not likely to do so for the accommodation of others.


did not think that motives of economy prevailed in the matter; but rather a feeling that it was not desirable to have too large a House.

House adjourned at half past Five o'clock, 'till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.