THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I Pursuant to the Notice which I gave last evening, I move—"That Sir Arthur Otway do take the Chair of the Committee."
§ MR. RAIKES
asked if he would be in Order in addressing the House, the Speaker having left the Chair?
§ MR. SPEAKER,
having resumed the Chair, said: The Question before the House is, "That Sir Arthur Otway do take the Chair of the Committee."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Sir Arthur Otway do take the Chair of the Committee."—(The Marquess of Hartington.)
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he need scarcely say that he did not rise for the purpose of disputing the Motion made by the noble Marquess. He thought there were few Gentlemen who had sat in that House for any extent of time and had become familiar with his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and the active and distinguished part which he had taken in the Business of the House, 1322 who would not be glad to see him at the Table. But as he believed this was the only occasion they would have of eliciting the opinion of the Government with regard to one or two matters connected with the Chairmanship of Committees in that House, he ventured for one moment to interpose, in order to obtain some statement from the noble Marquess, or from any other Member of the Government who might rise to speak on the subject, as to what where the intentions of Her Majesty's Advisers in regard to the conduct of Business in Committees of the Whole House. He was glad to have this opportunity of inviting Mr. Speaker to resume the Chair, and of calling public attention to the fact, which was too frequently ignored, that the Election of the Chairman of Ways and Means was an act not of the Government, but of the Whole House, and he ventured with all humility to throw out this suggestion with regard to future occurrences of the kind—whether it might not always be well to have the appointment made by Question put from the Chair. He was glad that one result of his intervention would be that his hon. Friend, when he took the Chair, would do so in consequence of a proceeding that would be placed on the Records of the House. It was not possible for any Member of the House to serve I on any Committee without the Question of his appointment being put from the Chair, and without his nomination being confirmed in the most complete and solemn manner; and he thought the House would do well to confirm in the most solemn and conspicuous way the appointment of an hon. Member who would have to take so important a part in controlling its proceedings. He had spoken on this subject because he believed there was no question of equal magnitude so little understood out-of-doors. Statements referring to it had appeared in newspapers generally well informed which entirely perverted the truth and deceived the public. He had seen it announced in newspapers enjoying a large Provincial circulation that the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Dodson) had been displaced from the Chair at the Table of the House in order to make room for him, and that he himself had been displaced in order to make room for his 1323 right hon. Friend, the Member for the University of Edinburgh who had just resigned the Office of Chairman. He desired to take that opportunity of giving publicly the most positive and distinct denial of the truth of those statements. It was, of course, unnecessary to remind the House that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had ceased to occupy the Office of Chairman of Ways and Means a long time before he (Mr. Raikes) had the honour of being elected to it. His right hon. Friend was succeeded by Mr. Bonham-Carter, who was not a Member of the House in 1874, the year in which that great honour was conferred upon him, nor was he (Mr. Raikes) a Member of the House when it became the duty of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh to succeed him in Office. The election to the Office of Chairman of Ways and Means had always been the special privilege of that House. It dated from the days of the later Stuarts, when the House had not: confidence in every Speaker of the time. It was owing to the suspicion that the Speakers were, by the influence of the Crown, appointed to preside over the deliberations of the House, that the Office of Chairman of Ways and Means was established, and an Officer was appointed to control the proceedings of the House upon questions so important as those of Trade, Finance, and Religion. In his opinion, it was most desirable that the misapprehension which existed out-of-doors with regard to this subject should be removed. He ventured to ask if any Member of the Government was in a position to inform the House what steps would be taken in order to give effect to the intention expressed by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government with regard to the position of those hon. Members who would be what were called casual Chairmen. He understood that the Committee of Selection, who were entrusted with the duty of nominating the Chairman's Panel, would presently submit to the House the names of certain experienced Members of the House as having been appointed by them to be the Chairman's Panel of the Standing Committees; and he believed they were also asked to infer that it would be incident to the Office of Chairman of the Standing Committees that he would be the 1324 possible locum tenens of the Chairman of Ways and Means in Committees of the whole House. He did not know whether it would be necessary to obtain a Resolution from the House on that point; the whole question had been, he would not say designedly, but obviously, left in such a state of haze and confusion that the House had little knowledge as to the precise form in which these new Officers were to be called upon to assume their part. But he ventured to inform the House that, in the case of his supposition being true, they would be rather abnormally and anomalously placed. The Chairman of Ways and Means had been hitherto recognized as the natural Chairman of Committees of the Whole House, and, in his unavoidable absence, it had been the custom for some other Member of the House to take the Chair. Were they to understand that those Gentlemen, of whose capacity he wished to speak in the highest degree, were to be appointed to the important Office of Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means without the House having an opportunity of expressing an opinion as to their fitness for the Office? They had a Chairman's Panel with regard to Election, Railway, and Canal Business, and the Committee of Selection had been furnished with powers to select Gentlemen for the arduous and delicate task of presiding over private or semi-private Committees upstairs; and although the practice had on the whole worked well in the cases alluded to, it would be for the first time in the history of the House that Gentlemen would be able to take the Chair at the Table, while the House was to be formally precluded from having any say or any right of choice as to the Officers who were to take the place of the Chairman. This was a matter on which the House was entitled to ask for information. He did not doubt that the Committee of Selection would exercise their powers with that discrimination and prudence which had always distinguished them, nor did he doubt that the Gentlemen whom they would select for this Office would be greatly respected and esteemed by the House; nevertheless, the House should bear in mind that, for the first time in its history, it would in such case be presided over and controlled by Officers in whose selection it would be expressly denied any direct voice, Without touch- 1325 ing upon other matters which would be more correctly considered when they came to discuss the question of referring the first Bill to a Standing Committee, he begged to thank the House for having allowed him, as far as he had ventured to do, to assert the historical independence of the ancient and honourable Office which his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester was now called upon to fill.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he wished on a question of Order to point out that the Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," had been put and agreed to, and that Mr. Speaker had accordingly left the Chair in sight of the whole House. The House was supposed to have gone into Committee of Supply; but the noble Marquess rose in his place when the Speaker was not in the Chair, and made a Motion that Sir Arthur Otway be Chairman of Committees. The Motion for Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair having been carried, he asked, first, whether the Order for going into Committee of Supply was not thereby discharged; and, secondly, if that was so, whether they were not sitting as a House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
In the course taken I have followed precedents established on similar occasions. On the last occasion of the nomination of the Chairman of Ways and Means being questioned by the House, the Speaker put the Question of the nomination from the Chair. I may also say that whenever a question arises which the Committee cannot determine, the Speaker, as a matter of course, takes the Chair; and, the Committee not having been completely constituted, it was my duty to take the Chair and put the Question as I have done.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
If the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Raikes) believes there is any misconception, either in the House or in the mind of the public as to the character of the appointment to the important Office of Chairman of Ways and Means, and also to that of Chairman of Committees of the Whole House, I think it is not to be regretted that he has taken this opportunity of endeavouring to put an end to that misconception by the observations he has just made. The nomination of the Chairman of Ways and I Means is purely the act of the House, and is not dependent on the will of the 1326 Government. That has always been recognized, and although the nomination has usually been made, as pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the Autumn Session, in a merely formal manner, and attracts, as a rule, little attention, yet it was for the purpose of obviating that summary mode of proceeding and giving it a more formal character, that I gave Notice that on Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair to-day is I should formally move that Sir Arthur Otway take the Chair. I do not think any other course could conveniently have been taken without departing from the precedents of the House. No doubt it would have been possible to give Notice of a formal Motion that my hon. Friend should be appointed to the Chairmanship of Ways and Means; but that would have been a course altogether without precedent, and I thought it desirable to follow as closely as possible the usual course, at the same time giving Notice of my intention to make this Motion in order that there might be no reason for any Member of the House saying that he had been taken by surprise. The right hon. Gentleman has taken the opportunity of asking some questions as to the appointment of those Gentlemen who are occasionally called upon to take the Chair in the unavoidable absence of the Chairman of Ways and Means. Sir, this is a subject on which we have not yet arrived at a final conclusion. And I think the House will see it is one which it is not desirable finally to settle until my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who has taken so large a part in the discussions that have taken place on these matters is able further to take part in them. But I can assure my right hon. Friend that the subject will not be lost sight of. There are two methods open; either, as my right hon. Friend has himself mentioned, it might be resolved by the House that the Gentlemen who are appointed by the Committee of Selection to act as Chairmen should form a panel of Gentlemen on Committees qualified to take the Chair at the Table of the House, or else the practice might be adopted of naming specially to the House a panel of Members selected from all parts of the House, who might be qualified. One of these courses I think will probably be adopted; but in either case it appears to me desirable that the 1327 sanction of the House should be obtained to the proceeding. I trust there will be no immediate necessity of deciding the point, and I think I need only assure my right hon. Friend opposite that the matter will not be put aside, but will be definitely settled after the return of the Prime Minister to the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.