HL Deb 13 March 1890 vol 342 cc679-87

Your Lordships will believe that it is with keen regret and disinclination—more, perhaps, than I can express, for I do not know that words are adequate to their expression—that I invite your attention to the Motion and to the observations of which I have given notice. I do regret to have to make this Motion. I regret that it should be necessary, but I believe that regret is pardoned to humanity since we know that it has sometimes been divine, and I feel myself precluded from resting any appeal on the ground of disinclination to make this Motion, contrary to my own wish. Although, as too often happens, I am ashamed to say I do not realise it as fully as I should, that unwillingness, far from being a disadvantage, is an advantage, and a great, advantage, if I have undertaken this in submission to the imperious necessity sometimes laid by a higher power upon the unwilling. For nearly 50 years I have possessed, and made use of, the opportunity afforded at ail times of observing—vigilantly and sometimes anxiously observing —the fluctuating political fortunes of your Lordships' House, but more intently the variations in mode, in temper, and in manner (which is but the index of temper) and in the ideas which have been presented to, and received by, the mind of the House, determining it in an upward or a downward course, and, above all—forgive me, my Lords, because I particularly wish you to mark this—in the consciousness or unconsciousness of power, for I want your Lordships to regard that alternative, since by it is almost differentiated life from death. Oh, the greatness of that immense influence—I might almost say a creative influence—over your political fortunes! In the days which J can remember your Standing Orders were, I will not say prized, but they were thought useful as indicating the sequence of business. Still, they were more than prized—they were reverenced, not because they could in theory be appealed to, for I appeal to my contemporaries whether they practically ever were appealed to—hardly ever—but because they exercised an unseen and benign influence in determining the deliberations of your Lordships' House in the direction of dignified order. I particularly wish that you should consider this: that if you are henceforth to substitute for the rude—I do not use the word in its usual, but in its technical sense—and mechanical operation of Standing Orders, that high code of mutual forbearance of mutual respect, of mutual confidence, I assure your Lordships you will be creating a stone of Sisyphus to which you can give no rest, and which will give no rest to you, but of which the revolutions, ever provoking— the deadly tiresome revolutions will be never ending and still beginning. I hope, my Lords, you will not consider me a laudator temporis acti, but I say, and I speak from remembrance, that the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House in my earlier days were regarded rather as decorations than as restraints. They resembled those Orders which distinguish the more eminent Members of your Lordships' House, for they were accompanied by statutory obligations, but those statutory obligations were interpreted, in the true, gentle, tender spirit of chivalry. To show you that I am not entirely disentitled to speak from experience, 1 may mention that I was present by favour (though very shortly afterwards I became entitled to be there by right) at the foot of the throne, upon what I think you will agree was a. very important historical occasion—it was. if I remember rightly, the last day of the last Administration of Lord Melbourne, a great Minister with whom I should not on all points agree, but who concealed under a. gay exterior the most heroic self-abnegation and the proudest disdain of reward, but who has his reward now, for the people of England are beginning to learn the lasting value of his services. My Lords, I have had better fortune even than that, for I had the good fortune to hear the noble Viscount boast with legitimate pride that he had taken the noble Earl, the now Opposition chief, from the Buckhounds and made him a leader of men. There is a well-worn proverb, which is familar to our neighbours, La caque sent toujours le hareng; and if I may ask your Lordships to eliminate from that proverb the slight element of coarseness which it possesses in common, I think, with most vulgar proverbs, and to apply it not in the least invidiously to the noble Earl, I think you will agree with me that the noble Earl, with wonderful and almost juvenile zest, afforded in the scene of last Friday remarkable evidence that throughout all the arduous and anxious duties of more than one exalted office held through a long series of years he cherishes still in his heart a loving recollection of the whip! And now as to this Motion of mine. I think I may rely upon your Lordships' recollection as on my own (and if that recollection be imperfect I should think Hansard would probably supply a little) that I did request, and, I hope, in a becoming manner, the indulgence of your Lordships' House while I asked your leave to say a few words of which I had not given any notice, and that your Lordships granted that indulgence. My sentences unfortunately are rather long, and I wish they were not so involved, but I was allowed to speak for a few moments. Your Lordships had ample time to have said, "no, no." Had I heard but one negative from the furthermost corner of the House I should have stopped at once; but I heard none—none. I must now take the opportunity of apologising to my noble Friend who interrupted me—I am sure with the very best of motives and to assure him that I thoroughly appreciate his sterling character, for although I have not the honour of his personal acquaintance, I am well assured of that. I believe that if he had had the faintest conception of what I was then going to say to your Lordships, had he known that I was pleading the cause of a gracious lady who, at that terrible time of the, massacre of the Druses, descended like a heavenly dove upon the field of carnage, and still, in Syria, devotes the rich resources of her accomplished mind, her large fortune, and all the faculties of her being to the amelioration of the condition of those Syrian natives whom she had learned to pity and to love—had the noble Lord known, further, that for seven long months she had been waiting, and waiting in vain, for justice; that her treasury, dedicated to holier purposes, is being daily exhausted by expenditure in legal and diplomatic expenses at Constantinople; that her position has become almost insupportable; that every day is an anxiety, and every hour one of wistful but baffled hope, I am sure of this, that the noble Earl would almost sooner have cut off his right hand than have offered to me the faintest interruption. And now, my Lords, as to the point of congratulation. I hope my Motion has convinced your Lordships, without my saying anything more, why I brought forward this without notice. Even did I occupy the most exalted position in your Lordships' House, I should consider it perfectly presumptuous on my part to give public notice on a printed paper that I intended to offer my personal congratulations to the noble Marquess on his having made an appointment or upon his having happily recovered from the influenza. My Lords, the matter does not require argument. I am speaking to men who—I do not know that it was always so in the days of our grandfathers, but it is so now—are conspicuous above all other Europeans for their observance of the amenities of life; and no one knows better the truth of what I am going to say than the noble Earl opposite, one of the greatest masters of graceful compliment. He knows very well that a compliment would lose all its freshness and therefore half its acceptability, were it to be printed and posted in the Orders of the Day. But if I may be permitted to recur to the French proverb which I quoted, the noble Earl so eagerly ran after his favourite red herring that he was led for the first time, and I am certain for the last time, in his life to an opposite conclusion. I beg also to assure Lord Camperdown that I entertain no animosity against him for the part which he took in the scene on Friday; but as no good purpose would be served by too much minimising, I think it my duty simply to say of the part taken by the noble Earl that it was conspicuously young. I will say I think he wished to terminate it the readiest manner an incident which he thought was beginning to be troublesome, and which, at all events, I suppose was troublesome to him. While he did not show any anxiety to discover what might be the meaning of that incident, he did not greatly care what might be the consequences of his own procedure. Well, my Lords, I am not vindictive; but I must say that, when I witnessed the Phaeton-like performance of the noble Earl, utterly oblivious of the paternal advice, "In medio tutissimus ibis," I was at that moment appalled, as I am at this moment surprised; and, for a very sufficient reason. My last previous knowledge of the noble Earl was when I hoard him deliver in your Lordships' House words which struck me greatly, words which appeared to me to soar above the spirit of Party, words of great weight and wisdom, and which I am inclined to think concurrently with other events, but not thereby losing their individual power, have exorcised an influence beyond the limits of your Lordships' House. I hope the noble Earl will see that I entertain no animosity against him, and I hope and desire for him nothing more than that he should have other opportunities of addressing your Lordships' House, and that he should avail himself of them. If I were vindictive, if I had the deplorable misfortune, as alas! your Lordships know is only too possible to have come of a vindictive race, and never to have been so favoured by Almighty God as to be able to overcome the natural tendency to retaliation, I might have availed myself of an easy, ready, and perfectly Parliamentary method of dealing with the noble Lord; for, my Lords, I should only have had to move, That it be entered upon the Journals of this House that Lord Teynham, having requested permission of your Lordships to congratulate the Marquess of Salisbury upon having appointed Colonel Trotter, of the Royal Engineers, Military Attaché at Constantinople, to the post of Consul General at Beyrout, the Earl of Camperdown moved that Lord Teynham be no longer hoard. In saying that, my Lords, I only desire to hold up to him on this occasion a mirror in which he may be enabled more calmly to view himself than he had the opportunity of doing in the exciting scene on Friday. I do not know that I have anything more to say. I hope the leaders on both sides of the House will see that this is a reasonable Motion.

Moved to resolve, as an addition to Standing Order XXL, that— When the House has tacitly and nemine contradic nte waived that or any other Order by request of a Peer to enable him to address it, no Peer shall disregard that waiver by calling or appealing to order."—(The Lord Teynham.)


I do not know that there is any reason particularly why I should follow the noble Lord; at the same time, as I was one of the three Peers who called him to order on the occasion to which he has alluded, and as he has made an exceedingly courteous allusion to myself this evening, I am ready to do so, and the more readily because I wish to take the earliest oppor- tunity of stating that in calling him to order the other day I did not wish to show the slightest discourtesy to him. I go further—and I do not think the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Feversham) will contradict me when I say that his interrogation was a simple call to order without the least desire to show any want of respect. Lord Camperdown is, I believe, in Scotland at this moment; but it is my conviction that my observation also applies entirely to him. The order of this House, unlike that of the House of Commons, rests with the House collectively and individually, and every Member is at liberty to move the House, when he thinks it necessary, with a view to the maintenance of order. The first responsibility for order rests with the leader of the House; but as long as I have been in the House, I have always observed that the leader of the Opposition is most anxious to assist the Government in questions of this sort, and it was for that reason that I intervened. The noble Marquess the other day pointed out the irregularity of the proceedings of the noble Lord; but, at the same time, Lord Salisbury said that, personally, he did not object to hear Lord Teynham, though he could not then give him any answer. That is exactly the doctrine which I have very often preached in this House; but as I think there is an inconvenience in calling a noble Lord to order, I. made the suggestion that Lord Teynham should put a question on the Paper for the next day, in which case noble Lords would be prepared to state their opinions upon the matter. It is not for me to dictate to your Lordships the course you should take with regard to the particular Motion which has just been made; but I own that if the noble Lord can find a Seconder and a Teller, I, individually, shall vote against him on the ground that he is proposing an unnecessary change in the practice of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I need scarcely say that in the action I took on Friday I had no personal motive whatever; nor, indeed, was it with any feeling of disrespect to the noble Lord that I took the course I did. I simply thought it my duty to rise to order, having waited to see whether he was going to confine himself to putting a question, or whether he was going to make remarks and raise a discussion; and I think the action I then took was in conformity with the tenour and spirit of the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House. It is there stated that where it is intended to raise a discussion upon a Motion notice of that intention should ho given the day before. Probably the noble Lord, not having been long a Member of the House, was not aware of that Standing Order, and I thought that possibly ho would be grateful to anyone who should call his attention to it. He however, proceeded with his remarks, and as he went on discussing the matter he unfortunately rendered himself liable to other interruptions. I think he will see that the Order of this House rests in the hands of your Lordships both individually and collectively as the noble Earl opposite has said. In that way this House has always maintained its own order. It is a privilege which is given to every Member, of this House, and I hope we shall long continue to exercise that privilege. I hope the House will always maintain its own order and regularity.


I am not sure, my Lords, that I can follow the noble Lord who has just sat down in his admiration of the peculiar custom of this House which places the keeping of order individually in your Lordships' hands. It has often been suggested that another mode more analogous to that which obtains in the House of Commons might be adopted. But serious difficulties have been found to arise, and no change has been made. I think when there is a difficulty with regard to order in this House a larger amount of time is expended upon the matter than is devoted to such occasions in the House of Commons; but though the rule in this House involves a larger expenditure of time, it has not been thought right that any change should be made. With regard to this particular Motion, I hope the House will not adopt it, because it is a mere reiteration of that which is at present the Standing Order of the House. If you examine the words you will see that where the Standing Order has been suspended nemine contradicente nobody shall be allowed to be called to order on account of acting contrary to that decision. That would certainly be the case as the Orders stand now. The point in which the proceedings in this case differ from those which are contemplated in the Motion is that the decision nemine contradicente was taken in a very informal manner. As the addition will make no difference in the Orders of the House, I trust it will not be adopted.

On Question, resolved in the negative.