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by a knot of individual members to arrest legislation by means of that very procedure of the House the spirit and intent of which they were ostentatiously setting at defiance. A certain number of members combined together to prevent the progress of legislation, by way either of punishing the House for an alleged neglect of business in which they held themselves especially interested, or else of forcibly securing space for the interposition of that business. While the outward forms of the House seemed to be punctiliously complied with, they attempted, by dint of artificially sustaining interminable debates on worthless points, and repeatedly dividing the House on the question of adjournment, to govern the House by a compact and unscrupulous minority. The following strong language in reference to this conduct may be cited from a writer whose calm historical grasp of the true character of the English House of Commons, as well as his practical knowledge of its procedure, entitles him to especial respect. Mr. Reginald F. D. Palgrave, Clerk Assistant to the House of Commons, writes1: 'An attempt to injure Parlia'ment by means of its procedure, or to lower it in the 'public esteem, is not so much a breach of Parliament'ary decorum as a breach of faith with the State. For 'such an offence is the misuse of privileges and of high 'position, by those who are entrusted with that position 'by the State itself. And though it may seem strange, 'that, to assign a due place upon the old criminal code 'to so new a crime, a comparison should be sought 'among the lower types of guilt: still not less true is 'it that a Member of Parliament, who takes his seat
1 The "Home of Common*. Illustrations of its History and Practice. By Reginald F. D. Palgrave. Preface to revised edition, 1878.
'under the sanction of the oath of allegiance, and in 'defiance of that oath employs the right he so acquires
• to inflict injury or contempt upon the Constitution, 'passes into the company of faithless trustees and of 'deserters who betray their comrades.'
While, at the time of the obstruction here referred to, the House exhibited a dignified self-restraint, and even leniency to the particular offenders, it lost no time in amending its rules in such a way as to prevent, if possible, the recurrence of such scenes, and protect the general assembly against the tyranny of small and pertinacious cliques. This was effected chiefly by the passing of a rule which empowers the Speaker of the House, after calling a member twice to order, and on his still persisting in disobedience, to name the member. As the process and consequences of naming a member have been shrouded in a good deal of obscurity, it will serve to explain them, and also to describe the operation of the new rule, if the facts of its first application, as described in Hansard, are recalled.
On the 6th of August, 1878, a debate was taking place in the House of Commons on the question of allowances to the families of reserve-men in the army for the period during which they were called out for active Bervice. Major O'Gorman,—who seems to have had some personal ground of discontent at what had been done or not done,—repeatedly called out 'Hear, hear,' and 'Order,' in the course of the speech of Colonel Stanley, Secretary for War. The Speaker called upon' the hon.
* and gallant member for Waterford to desist from these 'interruptions.' Major O'Gorman defended his conduct, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer urged that he should apologise, and submit himself to the ruling of
the Chair. The Speaker said: "He owes it to the House • to make some apology for the interruption he has
persisted in carrying on. I must call upon him at once to make such apology as is due to the House.' On Major O'Gorman’s refusing, Mr. Bulwer observed : • Although the hon. and gallant member may think that • he is not exceeding his privilege, yet now that his
attention has been directed to it from the Chair, I am • sure the hon. and gallant member is too good a soldier "to refuse to submit to discipline. Major O'Gorman replied : • The Speaker has not called me to order. He has • done nothing of the sort. The Speaker then said: 'After
what has passed, I have no other alternative left me • but to name the hon. and gallant member for Water* ford, for the line of conduct he has pursued this even•ing ; I now name you, Major O'Gorman, for having interrupted the proceedings of this House by disorderly
conduct, and for having refused, when called upon by ' the Chair, to submit yourself to the judgment of the ' House. Thereupon the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved, and Mr. Lowe seconded the motion, That • Major O'Gorman, for his disorderly conduct and dis• respectful behaviour towards the Chair, be directed to • withdraw. The motion was carried, and it was further ordered that Major O'Gorman,' for his disorderly con
duct and disrespectful behaviour towards the Chair, be • directed to withdraw; that his conduct towards the • Chair be taken into consideration to-morrow;' and
that he do attend in his place to-morrow. On the next day Major O'Gorman made an ample apology to the House. The Orders were discharged, and, in the words of Hansard, the Speaker's language in concluding the matter is entered upon the Votes' as follows :
'The House has now heard the statement and apology 'of Major O'Gorman. If it should be the wish of the 'House to proceed no further in the matter, it will be 'an agreeable duty on my part to declare the will of the 'House in favour of indulgence. The House may be • assured that, while jealous for the character of this 'House, and determined, so far as lies in my power, to 'maintain order in debate, it is with great reluctance 'that I put in force the authority of the Chair, as I felt 'bound to do on this occasion.'1
Besides the contest which has been thus disclosed between the House and small bodies of its own members, another intrinsically more important contest has been waged of late, and is likely to be waged for some time to come,—that is, the contest between the claims of what are called private members of the House and the Government of the day. The subject cannot be fully discussed till, in a later chapter, the situation of the Executive Government in its relations to the House has been investigated. It is difficult to sum up in a few words the comparative value of the claims to attention which may be urged generally on behalf of Government business and on behalf of the motions or bills of private members. It is by no means true that the advantage in respect of pressing importance is invariably on the side of the Government. Nor is it true that all the more important measures urged by private members are in course of time, if they deserve it, taken up by the Government. The Government of the day is at the head of a great party, and dependent for its continued existence on the fickle breath of public opinion outside. 1 Hansard, v. ccxlii., 1380.
Government Measures and Private Business. 89
In selecting its measures it must always give a preference to those which are most desired, or most capable of being understood, by the people at large; and there will always remain outside the list of such measures a vast number of projects which, either from their technical character, or from their concerning only special classes of the community, or dealing with little appreciated though very real and pressing problems of government, have no chance of being promoted at all, except through the personal energy of private members. It is the great complaint among the more far-seeing statesmen of the present day, that the tendency brought about by the multiplication and crush of business in the House is either to defer indefinitely the schemes of private members as thus understood, or to interrupt them at some stage or other, so as to render legislation with regard to them impossible. In the formation of the most recent rules for the conduct of business in the House, the rival claims of the Government and of private members were kept in view, though it is yet to be seen how far they have been happily reconciled. Supposing all fear of intentional obstruction is got rid of, it would seem to be most undesirable to introduce any further restrictions than those which already exist in respect of such matters as speaking frequently in Committee, asking questions of Ministers, moving repeated amendments or adjournments, and the like; it being obvious that the Government of the day, by its command of a majority, by the confessed importance of its affairs, and by the corporate support it derives from all its members, can always do far more than hold its own. The new rules which have been tentatively adopted for expediting general business by restricting the right of members to make motions on