MAJOR STUART KNOX
wished, as a Member of that House, to ask the Speaker, Whether he had not a right to put a question upon a matter affecting the privilege of the Members. In the course of the debate during the last two or three days Gentlemen had come in the House at about twenty minutes to four o'clock, and, after putting tickets in the backs of the seats, they had placed their hats in the seats they wished to occupy for the remainder of the evening. During their absence an Officer of the House, with great courtesy he would say, had taken those hats away, and left their owners to seek for them in the lobby. He wished to ask, whether this course had been pursued in consequence of the orders of the Speaker, and whether it was right that Members of the House of Commons should be treated in that way?
§ MR. HUNT
stated, that previous to the present Session he had always understood that it was a rule of the House that papers or cards might not be left by Members on the Benches in order to preserve certain seats, but if they left their hats, it was sufficient evidence that they were in or about the House. That being the case, hon. Members were allowed to retain the places where the hats were left provided they were taken up just previous to the time of prayers. That day he had had the misfortune to be serving on a Committee upstairs, and being anxious to secure a seat he had come down and placed his hat, in the shape of a representative, on the seat which he usually occupied. Having done that, he returned to his duties, and about twenty minutes before four o'clock he came to the House in time for prayers, intending to take his hat and his seat, and found, to his great astonishment, his hat in the possession of the Doorkeeper, and another Gentleman in his place. Now, if the old rule were to be infringed upon and hon. Members serving upon Committees could not leave anything in the House by which they could preserve their seats, it would come to this, that the idlers of the House would be able to obtain seats during the debates, while the working men would be debarred from doing so. He could not believe that that would be the wish of the House, and he also thought that some courtesy should be shown to those who spent a great part of their time in the Committee-rooms upstairs. If that rule should not be adhered to, Members would not be willing to serve on Committees.
MR. LOCKE KING
likewise complained of the inconvenience to which he had been subjected by the infringement of this rule of the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Some years ago the House made an Order to the effect that the only mode of securing a seat for the evening should be for Members to be in attendance at the time of Prayers. It was found that great inconvenience resulted from leaving a glove or a book in order to secure a place, because it might be removed inadvertently, or by accident, and the consequence was disagreeable discussions between hon. Members. The Order of the House is that the only way to secure a seat shall be by attendance at prayers, and that then a card shall be placed at the back of the seat. I have given no further order or direction upon the subject. Ques- 1766 tions were put to me in the course of last Session, and I asked the Serjeant-at-Arms whether he conceived that be had authority to issue directions under the Order adopted by the House? He said he conceived that he had; and he has in the exercise of his discretion given instructions which give effect to the Order in the manner intended by the House. Of course, it is entirely in the power of the House to make any further Order it may think suitable for the general convenience of Members.
§ MR. SANDFORD
complained that he left his hat on a seat that day, while he went to the table to get a card for the back of his seat, and when he returned from the table he found that his hat had been removed. He thought if such directions as had been complained of had been given by the Serjeant-at-Arms he was guilty of a great dereliction of duty—and that some further instructions ought to be given to the Serjeant-at-Arms to prevent the recurrence of such a thing.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
stated that, under the present arrangements, it was really impossible for Members to secure seats in the House when engaged upon Committees. The accommodation was inadequate. Now that the House was about to enter on what appeared likely to be a long series of debates, it was important that the Representatives of larger and important interests should be enabled to hear, and, if they desired it, to take part in them. Various important suggestions had been made on the point, but the reply generally was that so large a sum of money had been expended on the inconvenient House in which they were sitting that the outlay necessary to make further alterations in it could not be afforded. He thought it better, however, that it should be at once acknowledged that an error in the construction of the House had been committed, and that it was expedient it should in some way be so enlarged as to furnish a decent amount of space for the accommodation of Members.