HL Deb 18 March 1901 vol 91 cc213-5

Commons Message considered (according to Order).

Moved, "That this House do concur in the following resolution communicated by the Commons, viz., ' That it is expedient that a Select Committee be appointed to join with a Committee of the Lords to consider the accommodation available in the House of Lords when the Sovereign is personally present in Parliament, and the advisability of substituting Westminster Hall on such an occasion for the House of Lords.'"—


My Lords, before this motion is carried I desire to make a few observations upon the subject to which it refers. I quite admit that it is only reasonable that the Members of the other House of Parliament should have adequate accommodation when they attend this House at the opening of Parliament, and I hope that this Committee when appointed, will carefully consider whether that accommodation cannot be given in this House instead of having to resort to the alternative suggestion. I believe that very adequate accommodation could be provided in this House. The members of the Privy Council, when they attend our debates, are in the habit, as your Lordships know, of standing at the foot of the Throne. I would suggest that Privy Councillors should, at the opening of Parliament, instead of standing at the foot of the Throne, occupy the galleries above and on each side of the Throne. That seems to be a very natural place for them. Then I would give the whole of the opposite end of the House to Members of the House of Commons. They would have the Bar as usual, and the space on both sides of the Bar. In addition, they could occupy the side galleries which, at the opening of Parliament, are given up to ladies, and the galleries behind the Press Gallery. I believe if that were done there would be ample accommodation for those Members of the House of Commons who desired to attend, as well as for the Privy Councillors. The rest of the House would be given up to Peers and Peeresses as now. There would be ample accommodation for them. The Diplomatic Gallery could remain as usual. I hope, therefore, that this Committee will consider whether the necessary accommodation for Members of both Houses at the opening of Parliament cannot he provided in this House instead of substituting Westminster Hall as suggested. Except for the capacity of that hall, I do not know that it can have any other advantage. It is an old, gloomy, dingy-looking place, with a heavy roof, which looks down upon the spot where the ancient Monarchy of England was despoiled and its occupant brought by cruel hands to the scaffold. Is that a proper place for the opening of Parliament? To make it suitable for such a brilliant ceremony great expense would have to be entailed, and it would have to be decorated in a manner which would ill become its architecture. Altogether, the proposal seems to me a very unwise one, and I trust that before adopting it the Committee will take into consideration whether proper accommodation cannot be provided in this Chamber.

On Question, agreed to; and a Message ordered to be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.