HL Deb 29 June 1880 vol 253 cc1086-105

said, it was with considerable reluctance and hesitation that he presented himself to their Lordships on that occasion in the character of a daring innovator, by moving the three Resolutions which he was about to submit; but he was consoled, by the reflection that if those Resolutions were innovations, they, at any rate, had a great deal to recommend them for consideration. There could be no-manner of doubt that, from various causes, there was general dissatisfaction with regard to the reporting in that House. He would not stop to inquire what the causes of that dissatisfaction were, for that was not material to his present purpose. One of them, perhaps, might be an inability or indisposition on the part of noble Lords to express themselves as loudly and as clearly as they might do. There was, on the other hand, a disposition on the part of other noble Lords to carry on the agreeable conversation which had, he believed, become a considerable part of the proceedings of that House, and there could be no doubt that that conversation very much interfered with that proper silence which should prevail if the reporters were to do justice to what was said. There was also another subject which involved very wide considerations, and that was the construction of the House itself, and the nature of its acoustic properties. Their Lordships were pleased to appoint, at the beginning of that Session, a Committee to inquire into the reporting of that House, and he (Earl Beauchamp) had had the honour to be appointed Chairman of that Committee. He was, in consequence of that, placed in a very difficult position. Some time ago he heard an anecdote of one of England's merchant princes who had raised himself to a very wealthy position from very simple beginnings. He was asked to explain the secret of his success, he replied that he had two rules, one of which was never to give advice, and the other never to take it. He (Earl Beauchamp) had been under the necessity during the last few weeks of receiving a great deal of advice, and he was now in the position of being obliged to give some to their Lordships. Thus, he was forced to violate both the rules to which that merchant prince attributed his success in life, and his only excuse was that the advice he was about to give was of a very homæopathic character, and that the propositions which he had to make were merely tentative. He did not now ask their Lordships to agree to anything, except the trial of an experiment, and that experiment was of so simple a character that he really did think it deserved a trial. That his propositions would cure all the defects complained of he did not for one moment apprehend or believe; but he thought they might do much to remedy some of the inconveniences which interfered with the successful reporting of their debates. The 1st Resolution he had to propose was— (1.) That for the week beginning 5th July the Woolsack be placed at the north end of the House; that the Lord Chancellor do sit facing the Throne; that the cross benches be placed where the Woolsacks now are; and that all Standing Orders and Regulations inconsistent with the Motion be suspended while it is in force. One of the reasons which actuated the Committee in arriving at the conclusion —which they did unanimously—that such a plan was worth trial was that at the present moment, though their Lordships were in the habit, as they all were aware, of addressing the Whole House and not any one Peer in particular, yet that some of their Lordships, who had become accustomed to a different practice in the House of Commons, where every Member was bound to address the Chair—and in the House of Commons the Speaker's Gallery was immediately under the Reporters' Gallery, so that all speeches were addressed to that quarter of the House where reporters were stationed, and consequently they enjoyed necessarily great advantages in the way of hearing and reporting the remarks addressed to the Chairman—followed the practice they had learnt "elsewhere." Of course, they were all well aware that the rule in that House was for their Lordships to speak to the Whole House. It was only those, perhaps, who had recently arrived from the House of Commons who retained the practice, which they derived from that Assembly, of addressing the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack; but, still, there were noble Lords who had contracted that habit, and he had no doubt that that way of turning from the Reporters' Gallery and to the Lord Chancellor had the effect of very much diminishing the chance which the reporters had of hearing what was said by those who spoke. If that was so, there was surely an obvious advantage in trying, so to speak, to draw all the speeches from the different noble Lords to one focus. If the noble and learned Lord's cushion were changed to the other end of the House, he (Earl Beau-champ) could not but think there would be a greater uniformity in the direction of the voice, and the habit in time might spring up of all the speakers turning themselves in that direction rather than in the other, or of addressing themselves to noble Lords opposite. Various suggestions had been made to the Committee; but he would not weary their Lordships by detailing them, as they did not approve themselves to the Committee. Something was said; but as the Committee satisfied themselves that such a plan was impossible, he only referred to the matter to show that the suggestion had received consideration, as to the possibility of stationing reporters in the chamber below the House. The experiments satisfied the Committee that that was quite impossible. Such a proceeding would not only seriously interfere with the ventilating arrangements of the House, which were so essential to their comfort and their health, but it was also found that there was this further difficulty—that while the speakers in various parts of the House were heard pretty easily in the chamber below, those noble lords who sat at the Table spoke from such a position that it brought the Table between them and those below, and rendered their speeches less capable of being heard than almost any others. It did so happen that most of the important speeches in that House were delivered either from the Bench at which he spoke, or from the Bench opposite, and, therefore, that scheme could not be entertained. One of the disadvantages of the present state of things was that though various schemes were proposed none of them had yet been tried, and until some of them had been subjected to the test of an experiment, it was very difficult for the Committee to tell what schemes they should discard and what they should adopt-With regard to the 2nd and 3rd Resolutions which stood in his name, the estimate of the Board of Works showed that the cost would be not very large or extravagant in amount. His 2nd Resolution was— (2.) That it is expedient that a seat for one or two reporters be temporarily and inexpensively constructed in front of the present Gallery; and the cost of that was estimated at £35. It had been stated on very good authority that the reporters would benefit very much if they were slightly advanced in the manner proposed by that Resolution. The Committee took a quantity of evidence on that point, and there was a great difference of opinion; but it was only by an experiment that they could ascertain which opinion was the correct one. It was an experiment which must be tried, and tried whilst the House was sitting ex hypothesi. It was one inconvenience of that House that it had to serve a number of different purposes varying with the occasion. Sometimes it was called upon to accommodate some 200 or 300 Peers; while, at another, the debates were carried on by a very much smaller number. Then, again, it was necessary that the Room should be of sufficient size for those State occasions, such as the opening of Parliament, which occasionally occurred. Any alteration such as that proposed in 1868 was, therefore, beyond their consideration; and what they had to consider was how they could turn the accommodation of the present House to the best possible use. The information, in order to enable them to form that opinion, could only be obtained by the Resolution he had to submit. His 3rd Resolution was— (3.) That it is expedient that a platform he temporarily and inexpensively erected on either side of the House below the Bar, according to a plan prepared by Mr. G. M. Barry in 1868, for the better accommodation of the reporters now in the Gallery. That 3rd Resolution, if tried, would involve no further outlay than a sum of £20. These were the estimates of the Board of Works; and it was with a view to test these opinions that he begged their Lordships to agree to Resolutions allowing these experiments. It had been said that he proposed in his 1st Resolution a very great change in their arrangements. He did not know that that was any very serious or valid argument, especially, as if the 1st Resolution were carried out, nothing besides the reversal of the noble and learned Lord's seat would be required. If the House of Commons was summoned to the Bar to hear the Royal Assent given to any Bills, or to receive any Message from the Crown, the Benches would be placed as usual, and the Royal Commissioners would be seated as now, on the Steps of the Throne. As far as the appearance of the House was concerned, therefore, the present arrangement would not seriously interfere with it; while he would remind their Lordships that such a change was not altogether new, because, when they sat for judicial purposes, the Lord Chancellor did not sit on the Woolsack, but occupied a seat at that end of the House. The shifting of the Benches would be a trifling matter, not worthy of consideration, if their Lordships should be satisfied that the experiment was worth trying. The advantages of the 1st proposition were, that if it were carried out they would converge in one focus the speeches of noble Lords, and that focus would be immediately under the Reporters' Gallery, thereby giving them a better chance than now of hearing the addresses that were made. He was not defending the practice, or saying whether it was right and proper, that noble Lords should address themselves to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, for that was a matter of high policy into which he would be very unwilling to enter. He would only say that many noble Lords at present did turn that way, and that an advantage would follow from the alteration he recommended. A difficult problem was proposed to the Committee to solve, and they would be assisted in doing it by the very simple expedient of bringing the Lord Chancellor from one end of the House to the other. The noble and learned Lord himself, of course, would be in rather a different position in addressing their Lordships, for, instead of stepping from the place where he usually sat and then directly addressing himself to the House, he would have to take another position. But there was no reason why the Lord Chancellor should not speak from that Table just as much as any other of Her Majesty's Ministers. He (Earl Beauchamp) did not for a moment maintain that he was proposing an heroic remedy; but he certainly did think his proposals would tend to mitigate some of the inconveniences complained of; and, at all events, it was an experiment worth trying which might succeed in doing something towards solving the question. He begged to move the 1st of the Resolutions which stood in his name.

Moved, That for the week beginning 5th July the woolsack be placed at the north end of the House; that the Lord Chancellor do sit facing the Throne; that the cross benches be placed where the woolsacks now are; and that all standing orders and regulations inconsistent with this motion be suspended while it is in force.—(The Earl Beauchamp.)


said, he had, when the Select Committee was appointed, stated that he had read all the evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons; but that was not reported, and one of the objections, in his opinion, to proceeding hastily was that the evidence taken before the Committee was not, at the present time, in the hands of their Lordships, and they had not, therefore, had an opportunity of forming an opinion on the facts which had induced the Committee to come to that conclusion. He, therefore, thought it would be far better for them to wait until they had seen that evidence, because the alteration proposed in the 1st Resolution was, to say the least of it, a grave innovation. If the proposal were carried out, the effect would be that when Her Majesty's faithful Commons came to that House, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack would turn his back upon them. After referring to the practice of the French Chamber of Deputies, where Members spoke from a place facilitating hearing, his Lordship was understood to say in conclusion that no one cared less about being reported than he did; but if his speeches were not worthy of a report, he wished that his name might be left out entirely.


said, he was very much surprised to hear that revolutionary proposal come from the other side of the House. It amounted to nothing less than that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack should be sent back to the Bar. He (the Duke of Somerset) did not see what advantage, either, their Lordships would gain from the change; for really, with all respect to the noble and learned Lord, he had never noticed that noble Lords were in the habit of addressing him. It seemed to him that noble Lords usually addressed the opposite side of the House, and not the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. His Lordship was not in the position of Speaker, and did not maintain the Rules of the House as the Speaker of the House of Commons did. The Speaker of the House of Commons also named the person who was to be chosen to address the House, and was, therefore, Chairman in that sense; while they had no Chairman to control them, and had to get on as best they could— sometimes with a little confusion, sometimes the other way. Upon the whole, however, he thought they got on very well, and that it would be far better that they should "rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of." If they really wanted to hear the speeches of noble Lords in that House, the best remedy would be to take the two centre Galleries, so that the reporters were in the middle of the House on each side of it, and would hear the speeches made across the Table; but the fact was, that very often it was very difficult, even for noble Lords, to hear speeches that were made in that House; while it might be that there were speeches in which the public did not take any particular interest, and the reporters, as representing that public, might not care about catching what was said on those occasions. They all had a great respect for the public, although it did not pay them much attention, and although they knew that, while the country disregarded their speeches, the House of Commons disregarded their votes. If the people and the other House took that line, it was not at all surprising that the reporters should sometimes be of the same opinion. For his part, he could not support this plan for turning the whole House topsy-turvy, and, at any rate, before it was attempted, he should like to know whether or not some other plan might not be adopted; or whether, at any rate, the Committee had considered any other plan. He did not think this proposal would be in consonance with the feelings of the House. It was certainly a great change, and, in his opinion, also, it was inadequate to the purpose in view. He should beg to move the rejection of the Resolution.


observed, that the noble Lord (Lord Denman) seemed to think that the Committee proposed this as a permanent change; but that was by no means so—all the Committee wished was to have one or two experiments tried, in order to see what the result was. There could be no doubt, whatever, that the accommodation for the reporters in that House at the present time was very bad indeed; and nobody who had heard the evidence before the Committee could be of any other opinion. The noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) had declared himself very much surprised at the 1st Resolution, and he said that it would turn the whole House topsy-turvey. He also said that he did not think that Peers usually addressed themselves to the Lord Chancellor; but that, on the contrary, they addressed noble Lords opposite. The noble Duke, however, was himself a very good example of the incorrectness of his theory, for he was himself an instance of the practice to which he had referred. During the whole of his remarks he addressed himself directly to the Woolsack, and, in consequence, with his back to the Gallery; and, for his part, he (Lord Sudeley) doubted very much whether much of what the noble Duke said could be heard in the Gallery. It was perfectly true, of course, that their Lordships did not intentionally address the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack; but it was, nevertheless, a fact, seeing him there, they did turn towards him. The evidence before the Committee had not been printed; but that was because the Committee was still sitting. Before that Committee, it was shown very clearly that when Peers spoke towards the Gallery they were heard very much better than when they addressed noble Lords opposite, or turned themselves towards the Lord Chancellor. It was stated in evidence before the Committee, only a fortnight ago, by one of the principal reporters in their Lordships' Gallery, that only a few weeks before a very important speech was delivered from the Treasury Bench, and, owing to the noise in the House, the noble Lord was so imperfectly heard, that the reporters actually waited until the reply was made, in order to concoct from that reply the speech which the noble Lord delivered. The reporters occupied a very difficult position, and it was almost impossible for them, under the present circumstances, to do their work properly. The noble Duke seemed to think that there were other places where the reporters could be put; and there were many plans now before the Committee. There had been suggestions made that they should be put on both sides of the Gallery. But it had been shown that that could not be done, without some communication between the Galleries and the transcribing room—and which was difficult, almost impossible. He did hope that their Lordships would consent to try this experiment, and, perhaps, one or two others which the Committee might suggest to them, in order to test the reliability of the evidence submitted to the Committee. The Committee might, possibly, recommend official, or semi-official, reporting, and that question was also under consideration; but the point which the Committee were now endeavouring to try was whether the work of the newspaper reporters could be facilitated, and whether the acoustic properties of the House could be improved. He, therefore, sincerely hoped that the House would consent to try this experiment for a few days.


said, it was always ungracious to refer a thing of this sort to a Committee, and then not to take into careful consideration the recommendations of the noble Lords who consented to devote their time and attention to the matter submitted to them for their consideration. He understood, however, that there were primâ facie objections to the course suggested, which, after all, might not be sufficient to outweigh the arguments submitted to them. From his own observation and experience, he had some doubts whether many noble Lords failed to be heard because they addressed the Lord Chancellor. He confessed that he had never observed that noble Lords did address the Lord Chancellor; and on that point he agreed very much with his noble Friend the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset). He believed that they must admit the existence of the practical defect to which the noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Sudeley) had alluded, when he said that noble Lords were not heard, not because they addressed the Lord Chancellor, but because there was so much noise in the House that the reporters could hear nothing. As a fact, instead of the acoustic properties of the House being very bad, they were too good. When he used sometimes to sit in that House upon Appeals as a lay Lord, he was surprised to find that counsel addressing the noble and learned Lords at that time were admirably heard, even when they spoke almost in a whisper. Why was that? Why, because there was perfect silence—people were listening judicially. It was a judical inquiry, and they were listening to everything that was said at the Bar. Under those circumstances counsel, speaking quite conversationally, were heard all over the House. The real truth was, that many noble Lords were not heard, because so many other noble Lords were talking to one another privately—all that conversation, of course, being equally well heard. He did not wish to object to any experiment the Committee might wish to try; but it was quite clear that the experiment could only refer to those noble Lords who addressed themselves to the Lord Chancellor. His own conviction was that they would never have good reporting in that House, so far as bad reporting was due to any want of hearing, until the reporters sat on one or the other side of the House. He heard a suggestion made two or three days ago—it might be impossible, but the suggestion was worth consideration—that the reporters might be placed in the thickness of the walls between the House and the Division Lobbies, where they would hear admirably and yet not be in the House. It seemed to him that that was better than to transfer the seat of the Lord Chancellor from one part of the House to another.


said, it did seem somewhat of an ungracious thing to object to any experiment which had been recommended or proposed for their convenience; but he ventured to think that, while the experiment described in the 1st Resolution would not serve the purpose, it was not matter for consideration. If the change in the seat of the Lord Chancellor was not possible permanently, he did not think it would be of any practical use to try the change merely as an experi- ment. And he thought it was not possible permanently, because it would cause a great deal of inconvenience on many occasions, such as had been pointed out, when the Speaker of the House of Commons came to the Bar to hear the Royal Commission read; while, on Appeals or on other Law Business, the Lord Chancellor would be turned, with his back towards the counsel; or other arrangements would have to be made for those particular occasions. It might be said that the whole arrangement would be very easily changed; but it would, nevertheless, take up some time; and, as their Lordships were aware, the House of Commons occasionally came to the Bar to hear the Royal Assent given during the sitting of the House. If the whole arrangements had been so changed, after the Royal Assent had been given, it would necessitate an adjournment of the House while the Woolsack was being transferred, and that would be fraught with much inconvenience, unaccompanied, as far as he could see, with any great advantage. Again, if this Resolution were carried and the alteration made, he should like to ask the noble Earl who moved it (Earl Beauchamp) for some further instructions. What was the House to do while this experiment was being carried out? If the Lord Chancellor and the Chairman of Committees were to sit at the other end of the House, and the Cross-Benches were to face them, there were still no directions how their Lordships themselves were to sit. It seemed to him another change would be rendered necessary, and he should like to ask what it was to be. It was within their Lordships' knowledge that they were divided in that House into two Parties—those who supported Her Majesty's Government, sitting on the right of the noble and learned Lord, and the Opposition, sitting on his left. It was, of course, obvious that if the position of the noble and learned Lord was changed, so the respective positions of the two Parties would also have to be changed. During the week that this experiment was being tried, were they then to cross over to the Benches on the opposite side from those on which they now sat? It was a mere matter of detail, but it was one on which the noble Earl had given them no instruction—and he should have added a recommendation as to their Lordships' conduct while the experiment was being carried on. It was a mere objection in detail, of course, and it was, perhaps, premature to take it when it was not certain that the Resolution would be carried. As he had said, he did not believe this change could be of a permanent character. He did not, therefore, see any necessity for trying it for the period now recommended.


said, he could not agree to the proposition of the Committee, because it would alter the whole arrangements in so serious a manner as to create very great difficulty, and the Lord Chancellor would be put in a wrong position for the transaction of the Business of the House. It would also interfere with the transaction of other Business. He did not agree with the noble Lord (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) in his objection about the Commons, because, when the Speaker attended to hear the Royal Assent read, the Commission sat on the Bench in front of the Throne, and not on the Woolsack, and, therefore, the Commons would come in in just the same way as at present; but on occasions when the Commons brought them a Message—which were, it was true, rare; but still they did bring a Message occasionally—it would be very awkward for the Lord Chancellor to sit with his back to them. It was neither gracious nor pleasant that the Lord Chancellor should be turned with his back to the Speaker. Then, again, the Woolsack was open to Peers of Scotland and Ireland, on which they might sit; and if its position were changed, it would not be so convenient of approach for going in and coming out as when it was placed where it was now, in close contiguity to the Chamber in which they assembled. All these little things had some connection with the matter; but his great objection was that, being a very strong Conservative, he liked the House as it always had been, and he did not think it would improve in appearance if it were changed. There was no doubt that many noble Lords, particularly, if they had not strong voices, would do well, when they were addressing the House—particularly if they were not in a favourable position—to come to the Table. There was no earthly reason why they should not do that, and a good many did so already; particularly when they spoke from the Cross-Benches, where they would be inaudible unless they took that course. That would be a great improvement. It would also be a great change if they paid a little more attention to Order. At present they were very much in the habit of speaking rather loudly to their neighbours, as though they did not care very much about the Business that was going on. As to this change, however, he must honestly confess that he could not give his consent to it. It would make alterations in a variety of ways, some of which he had stated. He did not quite understand what was to be done by putting up seats beyond the Gallery. Were two to be brought out, going more over the Bar? If that was found to answer, the whole Gallery might be brought more forward, and, no doubt, if that were done, it would very much improve the hearing. As to the proposed Gallery in the two corners below the Bar, it might easily be tried on one side, and the reporters would soon find whether they heard better in that position than in the Gallery; but if both sides were so occupied, Black Rod's seat would be taken away, and all the places open to ladies who were not Peeresses or Peers' daughters; and the arrangement appeared to him objectionable, and had better not be attempted.


asked if this was a complaint from the reporters that they could not hear during the debates? If that was the case, then some change ought to be made; but if, on the other hand, the public did not take that interest in their debates which he, as an humble Member of the House, could wish, and, consequently, they were not reported fully, he did not see the use of any change. He had very seldom seen a case where Members on the Front Benches had spoken, even when they did not speak so clearly as they might—which, of course, was a rare occurrence—where, by some miraculous art, they were not reported.


begged to say a few words in reply. The objection of the noble Lord (Lord Oranmore and Browne) went to the very root of the matter. The reporters did complain, and very strongly indeed. He was not prepared to say that there was not some truth in what the noble Lord had said—that the public did not take any very great interest in their debates; but, still, there was no doubt that the reporters did complain very severely that they had not the means of hearing what was said. A rather entertaining kind of expedient that was resorted to by them had been mentioned by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Sudeley). A speech was not heard in the Gallery, and in order to show what the noble Lord must have said, the speech was composed from the allusions in subsequent speeches. They had had it in evidence, that not infrequently such an expedient was forced upon the reporters in order to supply what was wanted. If the proposition he made was one of a permanent character, they might entertain the objections of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees. Another noble Lord (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) had evidently not even been present when the Royal Assent was given, for the Lord Chancellor did not occupy the Woolsack on that occasion; so that as regarded that particular ceremony, no difficulty would arise. No doubt, there would be some difficulty if, under unforeseen circumstances, a Message should be addressed to that House by the Commons; but such communications were very infrequent, for he had no recollection of any such Message having ever come up, and he did not think it was at all likely that one would come up during the next week, which was the time in which they proposed to try this experiment. They merely wanted to ascertain how far, and what grounds, there were for the belief that the removal of the seat of the Lord Chancellor would mitigate the difficulty. He had been asked what would happen to noble Lords on both sides of the House, and whether they were to cross over for that week? He did not think there would be any necessity for noble Lords on that side to crossover to the other this Session, though they could not tell what might happen during the next. He did not think there need, at present, be any such wholesale migration. Besides, he did not understand that the Supporters of the Government sat on the right hand of the Lord Chancellor, but that they were placed on the dexter hand of the Throne. With reference to the suggestions that the reporters should be placed in the centre Galleries and in the thickness of the walls, both of those propositions had been considered in Committee, and there were very serious practical inconveniences in regard to both of them. In the first place, reporters on one side of the House would hear very little from noble Lords speaking on the same side; that would really involve the necessity, to obtain full reports, of having two reporting staffs in the place of one, and these would have to be provided with access to the transcript room. He did not say, if that was the only possible arrangement, that they might not be able to carry it out; but the change could not be made without great expense and inconvenience, and if the difficulty could be obviated by some such simple experiment as that he now advocated, he thought their Lordships would feel inclined to try it. The noble Lord (Lord Balfour of Burleigh), again, had said that Scotch and Irish Peers would be prevented from coming to the Woolsack; but he would put it to the House whether any number of Scotch or Irish Peers ever did take their seat on the Woolsack? They, certainly, constantly did take their seats on the Throne, and on the steps of it; but he had only seen one Irish Peer take his seat on the Woolsack. Such a contingency, therefore, was not likely to happen during the next week; while, if the arrangement became permanent, the Standing Orders and Regulations would have to be considered. All he asked, now, was that the Standing Orders should be suspended during the week that this change was in force. If it was found not to be necessary, nothing would be easier than to let the proposition drop, and then they would have gained their experience, and their minds would be clear for the consideration of other remedies; but when the change involved so trifling an alteration, he did hope their Lordships would agree to the recommendation which had been unanimously made to them by the Committee. If it should be found that their reasons for asking it were not sound, and that the alteration did not produce more advantageous reporting, even then their Lordships would have added to the stock of information on the subject to a considerable extent.


said, after hearing the debate on this proposition, he must consider it as the most extraordinary that he had ever heard with regard to the manners and customs of their Lordships' House. Upon one point he wished to remark very strongly. This seemed to him a most irregular proceeding. A proposition was made upon a so-called Report of a Committee, which had never been presented to their Lordships. Reference had been made in the speeches to opinions and suggestions and proposals which had been made to the Committee, but of which their Lordships were at present utterly unaware.


No, no! [Handing the noble Lord a Paper.]


said, he must apologize if he had said anything which was not correct; but he understood that the Report of a Committee was a voluminous document, and he could hardly suppose that the deliberations could be condensed into such short dimensions as that. Therefore, he did not think he was speaking inaccurately, when he said that he hoped noble Lords would not agree to this suggestion, until, at least, the Report of the Committee was laid upon the Table, and they had had time to consider it.


considered that it was somewhat undignified of a great House like that to alter the position of its Chief Officer merely as a sort of trial. Surely, if an experiment were necessary, there were means of making it without this change in all the organization of the House. The experiment might be made by bringing in a number of people on Saturdays or days when the House was not sitting, and seeing the result of speaking in a proper voice, so that the speaker could be heard in the Gallery. If that was all that was wanted, it was surely not a dignified way for their Lordships themselves to be thus made the subjects of an experiment, and he hoped the suggestion would be well considered before it was adopted.


observed, that he entirely agreed with the observation of his noble Friend near him (the Duke of Argyll) that it was an ungracious act, after a Committee had devoted some time to the consideration of a question of this kind, at once to reject their propositions; but, at the same time, he thought there was much in what the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees had said. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Hardwicke) was mistaken in supposing there was no Report from the Committee. There was a Report, but there was no evidence. The House, in fact, were quite ignorant of the propositions made to the Committee, and whether any information was obtained by them with regard to the reporting in other countries, and, generally, of the propositions made with regard to the alterations in the structure of the House. Under such circumstances, he should not advise his noble Friend opposite (Earl Beauchamp) to press his Motion to a vote. The noble Duke (the Duke of Cambridge) had just said that the experiment might be tried when the House was not sitting. If the experiment were to be tried at all, it ought to be tried under the fullest conditions; and he did not know that during the next week they were likely to have a very spirited attack on the Government, with the ex-Lord Chancellor, the ex-Prime Minister, and the late Foreign Secretary all away. He was not at all aware how, under those circumstances, they could have an animated debate which would fairly test the result of the speaking. He thought this complaint of the House was very much the fault of the speakers, because those who spoke out well, he thought, were well reported. He believed he could, when he paid attention to it, make himself heard, as some of his speeches were reported with great accuracy. He had nothing to complain of in regard to his own reports, although he often saw it stated that "Lord Granville was perfectly inaudible in the Gallery." It was very tempting to speak in a low voice across a narrow Table, to those whom the speaker was amusing. Some noble Lords did not hear very well, and began talking to one another. That example was followed by ladies and others at the Bar, who were immediately below the Reporters' Gallery; and that made it utterly impossible for them to struggle against the noise. He should be very sorry, indeed, to vote against a proposition made by the Committee, to whom they were exceedingly indebted for their labours in endeavouring to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion; but he, nevertheless, must advise his noble Friend not to divide on the Motion; and he would advise the Committee to renew their labours, and see if they could not make some proposition more agreeable than, he was afraid, this one was to their Lordships' House.


said, he had listened with very great interest to this debate, and everyone must admit that the evil that had been submitted to the Committee had not been submitted to them without good and adequate cause. He had also had the advantage that day of contemplating the reporters in the Gallery, and if the reporters could be called before the House, he believed they would say that, with the exception of some remarks from the noble Duke, their powers of reporting could only be exercised by means of a resource on which they had very frequently to rely—namely, guess work. The noble Earl below him (Earl Granville) appeared to labour under the impression that he was generally heard, or could be heard, in the Reporters' Gallery. That was certainly not what the reporters had said to the Committee, or what the real fact was, for more than one reporter had particularly mentioned the difficulty of hearing the remarks of the noble Earl, and, of course, by not hearing them, the reporters first, and then the public outside, suffered serious loss. He was rather inclined to doubt whether the House was really in favour of the remedy which was now proposed; but there certainly was another which was in their own hands to exercise, which was not difficult, not revolutionary, and did not involve moving his noble and learned Friend for one-tenth of a second to the other end of the House, while it would be very effectual, because it would go to the root of the evil. There could be no doubt that the main cause of the present inability on the part of the reporters to hear was chiefly due to the disorderly proceedings, if he might call them so, which took place behind the Woolsack, and in that part of the building not in the House, such as the space behind the Bar. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), who he regretted to say was not present, in giving evidence to the Committee, described to them with perfect accuracy and in words which, of course, as they came from the noble Marquess, put the question far more clearer than any words of his could do, that that was a part of the House to which everybody went who had any business to transact. He was asked if he meant the Peers who had admission to the House, and he said not at all; that they must know just as well as he did that anybody came there. For his part, he thought that if the Rules of the House with regard to persons below the Throne were observed, there would be much more silence in those parts of the House, and below the Bar, and the reporters would be able to hear much better than at present. He did not know what course his noble Friend would take as to the 1st Resolution; but, even if he abandoned that, he did hope that he would not drop the two which followed.


observed, that it would be very undesirable to try the experiment, and he did not suppose the noble Earl (Earl Beauchamp) would divide on it, as nobody had said a word in its favour. For his part, he believed that the trial of the experiment for a week only would be useless, for during that time they would be so astonished to see the noble and learned Lord at that end of the House that they would turn towards him. But he quite agreed with what had just been said, that the noble Earl might press his other two Resolutions, which were merely small experiments for testing the acoustic properties of the House. The Report put before them did allude strongly to the difficulty of obtaining satisfactory evidence on the subject with which the Committee was engaged. They might surely, at the expense of £40 or £50, allow the Committee to make these two other experiments.


said, he would not trouble the House as to the 1st Resolution.

Resolution, by leave of the House, withdrawn.


said, he now begged to move his 2nd and 3rd Resolutions.

Moved to resolve, That it is expedient that a seat for one or two reporters he temporarily and inexpensively constructed in front of the present gallery: That it is expedient that a platform he temporarily and inexpensively erected on either side of the House below the Bar according to a plan prepared by Mr. G. M. Barry in 1868 for the better accommodation of the reporters now in the gallery.—(The Earl Beauchamp.)


said, he merely wished to make one remark. If these Galleries were to be erected, where were the ladies to come in? It was-rather a strong thing to take away all their seats.


replied, that it was only proposed to try this plan tentatively; and if anything was to be done to remedy these defective arrangements, they must not mind a little inconvenience of that kind. If, of course, the House determined to do nothing, then nothing could be done. But if any alteration was to be made, and any improvement arrived at, it could not be obtained without some corresponding sacrifice on the part of somebody or other.


objected further, that there would be no place for Black Rod, as his seat would be moved away. He thought the plan might be tried on one side of the House only.

LORD DENMAN (who was very imperfectly heard)

was understood to suggest that the difficulty might be got over altogether by handing over the reporting to an agency. The House, also, ought to have the power of excluding any reporter who made their Lordships say what they did not say. There ought not to be what Lord Brougham called a "mendacity licence." He had, in 1856, alluded to the speech of the Earl of Albermarle, who had said that nothing was known of the affairs of India but what "the gentlemen behind the clock" might choose to report, and he thought that truth was the principal thing to be studied in reports, however brief.

On Question? Resolutions agreed to.