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the remedy will not prove worse than the disease. We look with some distrust on this new imitation of American methods. If we are to continue to borrow from that country, it is a pity we cannot copy some of its contrivances for preventing rash and hasty changes in the Constitution, and for interposing delay in the transformation of the fundamental laws of the land. We venture to think that the day is not far distant when the English people will have had enough, and more than enough, of American importations. The Grand Committees in Parliament have thus far worked fairly well within a limited area, But the system is only in its infancy with us. In the United States, where it has grown to maturity, it has swallowed up the Legislature. The Standing Committees have all the power in their hands, and no member of the House of Representatives, who is not also a member of one of them, has a chance of being heard. Mr. Woodrow Wilson, an American writer of good authority, has shown that the Standing Committees are at all times and under all circumstances the masters of the situation.

'The rules are so framed,' he says, 'as to put all business under their management; and one of the discoveries which the new member is sure to make, albeit after many trying experiences and sobering adventures, is that under their sway, freedom of debate finds no place or allowance.' 'One principle runs through every stage of procedure, and is never disallowed or abrogated the principle that the Committees shall rule without let or hindrance.' The House sits, not for serious discussion, but to sanction the conclusions of its Committees as rapidly as possible.'* The same results of this system will inevitably follow in this country, if the House weakly surrenders its privileges to Grand Committees. Nor are these the only results which will accrue. Lobbying will, in due season, become almost as good a 'profession' in this country as it is on the other side of the Atlantic. As Mr. Woodrow Wilson admits, one very noteworthy result of this system is to shift the theatre of debate upon legislation from the floor of Congress to the privacy of the Committee rooms.' In course of time, great public bodies, or any one with an interest at stake in legislation, will find that it is better worth while to devote attention to individual members of Committees than to the entire Legislature. Then, as Mr. Wilson suggestively says, the voter 'hears of enormous subsidies begged and obtained; of pensions procured on commission by professional pension solicitors; of appropriations made in the interests of dishonest contractors;

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* 6 Congressional Government.' By Woodrow Wilson. Boston, 1887. See Chap. II. on The House of Representatives.' and

and he is not altogether unwarranted in the conclusion that these are evils inherent in the very nature of Congress, for there can be no doubt that the power of the lobbyist consists in great part, if not altogether, in the facility afforded him by the Committee system.' We may flatter ourselves that these are developments of the Committee plan which never could be seen in this country. Why not? Great changes have been witnessed of late years in the composition of the House of Commons, and still greater changes, we do not doubt, are before us. We flatter ourselves, that we can introduce here a principle which has worked very badly in other countries, and that it will produce no ill results with us, because we live in England, and Englishmen are so different.' We have had so much to shake our national vanity of late years, that this remaining trace of it might be pardoned, if it did not happen to be fraught with so many disastrous consequences.


As for taking the Estimates from the supervision of the House, and placing them in the hands of a Grand Committee, that is a consummation devoutly to be wished' in the eyes of all Ministries. But what is the main and primary business of the House of Commons, if not to grant Supply-and to grant it, not by the hand of another, but by its own? It may, by its negligence or folly, delegate this business to a fraction of its number, but it will make a tremendous departure in its history, if it is induced to take any such step. Governments do not like their Estimates to be criticised, and it must be admitted that the criticisms are often wide of any reasonable mark, sometimes absurd, and occasionally very exasperating. But these are evils within reach of treatment. It would be perfectly right, and we believe it has now become necessary, to deprive members of the House of their privilege of speaking any number of times, and at any length, in Committee of Supply. With the exception of the mover of a reduction, who might have the right of reply, and the Minister in charge of the Vote, no member should be allowed to make more than one speech; if this restriction did not suffice to prevent obstruction, a limit of time should be insisted on. The House of Commons would suffer nothing by these changes. But to part with its own absolute and unchecked control over supply would be a wild leap in the dark. The late Lord Farnborough, Sir Erskine May, was asked a question on this subject when he was before a Select Committee of the House in 1871, Would there be any objection,' it was put to him, 'to referring the different classes of the Estimates to those Committees;' and his answer was, 'I should not venture to recommend that. I think a Committee


of Supply should certainly be a Committee of the whole House, and nothing short of that.' There was very much in this warning, and we should hope that so great an innovation upon the ancient rights and privileges of the House, as that which is involved in the proposal to send Supply to a Grand Committee, will never be carried out by the Conservative party.

Yet it is in Committee, whether of Supply or on Bills, that the greatest facilities for obstruction are afforded. Any member may speak for one, two, three, or four hours on these occasions, and when he has had time to get his 'second wind,' there is nothing to prevent him beginning all over again. Last Session Mr. Storey, of Sunderland, contrived to defeat the Savings Banks Bill-a measure designed to protect the savings of the working classes—by dilatory and obstructive discussion upon another Bill to which he had no real objection. His object was clearly perceived by the whole House, and indeed, was plainly avowed, and it was carried out in defiance of the manifest impatience and weariness of the members. But the device succeeded. The Government promised to withdraw the Savings Banks Bill, and Mr. Storey then instantly withdrew his opposition to the Bill before the House, and even recommended his friends to pass it. It is to be regretted that the Government felt that it had no alternative but to give way. We need scarcely point out that the strongest encouragement that can be given to obstruction is to permit it to succeed. Mr. Storey and his friends are not likely to discontinue tactics which have answered their purpose so well. In the speech to which we have already referred, Lord Hartington complained that none of the Governments which have had to deal with this vital question have ever yet received the support of a strong public opinion in dealing with this evil.' The reason is that the public do not understand the mystery. They have not the slightest idea of the extent to which obstruction may be, and often is, pushed. Half-a-dozen members, possessed of sufficient knowledge of the rules of the House, can easily bring proceedings to a deadlock throughout the whole of a sitting. In former times, as we are all well aware, it was only upon rare occasions that any member deliberately went to work to exhibit his contempt for the opinion of the House, and to fling himself against all its most cherished observances. If the House showed itself disinclined to pursue a discussion, or indicated its displeasure at the language or tone adopted by a particular member, scarcely any one ever thought of obstinately defying it. But now there are certain members who deem it the most meritorious act they can perform to parade their disrespect for the House to which


they belong. Even if they are ordered to resume their seats they are not disconcerted, for they are able to repeat their objectionable performances at an early moment. The penalty at present imposed is no punishment for the offence. Very often it does more good than harm to the person upon whom it falls.

There cannot be a doubt that the House will be driven, for its own protection, to deal much more severely with disorderly and contumacious members than was necessary in former times. Greater responsibility for his actions must be thrown upon each member, and the consequences of his misusing what does not belong to him-namely, the time of the public-and of degrading the House of Commons, must be made much more serious than they are now. What is the utmost that can be done by the Speaker to punish a member who is guilty of the grossest misconduct? The offender may be suspended during that day's sitting,' or for a week. If he misconducts himself a second time, he may suspended for a fortnight, and on the third occasion for a month. Sometimes an impudent prisoner tells the magistrate who has sentenced him that he could serve out his sentence ' upon his head,' and that is usually the spirit displayed by a member of the Gladstonian party, who has been suspended by the Speaker. He marches out of the House amid the cheers of his comrades, and contrives to make political capital out of his disgraceful behaviour. He goes round the country offering himself as an example of the unfairness of his political opponents. But in nine cases out of ten, especially when the House is in Committee, he can do almost anything he likes, and no one will interfere with him. On the 12th of August last, the Home Secretary was making a statement in the House of Commons when Dr. Tanner interrupted him, in what the Secretary truly described as a 'vulgar manner.' Thereupon Dr. Tanner loudly exclaimed that Mr. Matthews was one of the basest and meanest skunks that ever sat upon that bench.' What happened to him as a consequence of this outrageous breach of order? Nothing whatever. The Chairman heard the insult, and mildly called upon Dr. Tanner to apologize to the House. We had better give the sequel in the language of the Times' report, which was strictly accurate :

'Dr. TANNER.-Of course, I always bow to your orders in the most implicit and obedient way, but I do appeal to the Chair on this occasion to protect me from such utterances as have been used by the right hon. gentleman who called me a vulgarian. (Laughter.)

The CHAIRMAN.-There is no excuse for what the hon. gentleman has done. The hon. gentleman has not done what I desired him to do-namely, to apologize to the House for his conduct. (Cheers.) Dr. TANNER.

'Dr. TANNER.—What have I done? If there is anything that I have done in an undue way I shall certainly obey (cries of "Order"), but I am not going to be cowed by hon. gentlemen opposite. I shall certainly follow your ruling, Mr. Courtney, and anything you tell me to do I shall do without hesitation. (Laughter.)

6 The CHAIRMAN. Order, order. I have already directed the hon. gentleman to apologize for the violence of his language and his conduct. If he is willing to apologize I shall be glad to hear him.

'Mr. SEXTON.-Will you allow me, Mr. Courtney, to intervene ? (Cries of "Order.") I would advise my hon. friend by the ties of long comradeship in this House to withdraw at your dictation the expression he has used, and when he has withdrawn that expression I hope you will see that the interruption of "Dungarvan," although perhaps irrelevant, did not entitle the Home Secretary to use the term "vulgar."

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Dr. TANNER. I shall implicitly and without hesitation follow the advice of my hon. friend. If I have in any way offended, which unfortunately I fail to see, I shall of course express my due contrition for having offended. But at the same time, Sir (cries of "Order"), I must really say this (renewed cries of "Order" and "Don't qualify it "), that I think the expression "vulgar" was a word that was uncalled for on the part of the right hon. gentleman.

"The CHAIRMAN.-Order, order.'

Can any one be surprised to learn that, in the opinion of Dr. Tanner's friends, the victory remained with him? Such incidents as these are of frequent occurrence. They are fatal to the influence and authority of the Chair. A most gross breach of order is committed, the offender is asked to apologize, he repeats in a flippant manner a sort of burlesque of the Chairman's words, and finds that there is no weapon in the hands of the House which he has any particular reason to dread. Authority, which can be turned into ridicule and set at naught, is worse than no authority at all.

Strange as it may seem, the gravity of offences of the description we have referred to appears to be overlooked by the House of Commons itself, and by the presiding officer, when that presiding officer is not the Speaker. That error is one which has never before been made in this country, and which the Americans take good care shall never be committed in their Legislature. Disorder has, no doubt, occurred ere now in Congress, but the ruling of the presiding officer has very seldom been treated with ridicule. Nor can the House itself be insulted with impunity. The Federal Constitution itself has provided against any such contingency. The second clause of Section 5, Article I., provides that each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behaviour,


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