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covered with a rough fibre matting. answers prepared by the permanent T'he rows of benches at each sid.. are officials of the department, without the divided in the centre by a narrow pas minister being troubled with them in sage, with steps that run up from the any way, except, perhaps, occasionally, floor to the wall. This passage on when the matter inquired about is of either side is called “the gangway," and such importance that the officials think has its own special political significá- it well to obtain the opinion of their tion. Members who sit above the gang- chief in regard to it. Every day's ques. way—that is, nearer to the Speaker's' tions are then printed with the “Orders chair and the table either on the gov- of the Day," or the daily agenda of the ernment side or on the Opposition side, proceedings of the House. The answers are regarded as the out-and-out or are brought to the House, before the sitorthodox supporters of the recognized ting opens, by messengers from each leaders of their party, while those who office, in a despatch-box, one key of sit below the gangway are supposed to which is kept at the department, and be somewhat independent of the occu- the other by the minister in charge; and pants of the front bench on their side of as question-time approaches ministers the House. The Irish Nationalist mem- may be noticed entering the Chamber bers have since the rise of Mr. Parnell with their little boxes, by the door im. in 1880 sat below the gangway on the mediately behind the Speaker's chair, Speaker's left in permanent opposition, which gives handy access to the cor no matter what party may be in office; ridors leading into their private rooms. but the respective followers of the two Formerly every question was read out great political parties, the Conserva- by the member in whose name it stood tives or Unionists, and the Liberals, on the paper, but a much simpler and cross the floor according as their party more expeditious system now prevails. is "in" or "out."
The questions, as they appear on the Lower down the Chamber, on the “Orders of the Day," are numbered, and Opposition side, and close to the swing. the members responsible for them ris, doors which form the main entrance, is in their places when called on in succes. the large chair of the sergeant-at-arms. sion by the Speaker, and simply say-as Beside it is the Bar, the line of which, the case may be—“I beg to ask the marking the technical boundary of the secretary of state for the Home Depart. House, is raised about half an inch ment question No. 1,” or, “I beg to ask above the level of the floor. Over the tue chief secretary for Ireland question portals of the Chamber, and directly No. 44.” The home secretary looks up facing the Speaker, is the clock. question No. 1, or the chief secretary for
The Chamber has now rapidly filled Ireland question No. 44, from the bundle up for "question-time," which is usually of answers supplied him by the officials remarkable-if for nothing else—for the of his department, and reads it in reply; number and variety of subjects about and so on until the list of questions is which members interrogate ministers. completed. The questions and replies Two or three days' notice, at least, must are eagerly followed, evoking cheers be given of a question. One of the and counter-cheers. Oftentimes, in. clerks at the table receives the ques- deed, the reply to a question which tions in writing, and they are printed, gives dissatisfaction,if it be further with the dates on which they will be aggravated by the sarcastic or flippant asked, on the notice-paper containing manner of the minister—will precipitate announcements of coming events, the House into one of the wildest, which is circulated every morning stormiest, and most passionate scenes among the members. Copies of these that have ever disturbed its decorum. papers are also sent to the different Every obstacle to proceeding with State departments. In each depart. legislative business being now removed, ment the questions addressed to the the Speaker rises and says, “The clerk minister at its head are cut out, and the will now proceed to read the 'Orders of
the Day,' and the clerk, with a copy journment of the debate is moved by of the "Orders of the Day" in his hand, , an opponent of the government; and reads the first of the long list of bills vice-versâ, if a member of the Opposi. down for consideration. A big debate tion concludes his speech at midnight, probably follows. Mr. Disraeli once a supporter of the administration se. said, “The House of Commons is a dull cures the advantage of resuming the place, but there are moments of emo- debate on the following evening. tion.” Yes, there are moments of emo- This privilege of moving the adjourn. tion in the House of Commons which ment is always reserved to men of make the life of a member of Parlia- distinction. Sometimes there are many ment well worth living. To
claimants for the privilege. stranger the House of Commons is al. There is often a good deal of parleying ways an interesting place, and always and wrangling about it, and it is no well worth a visit. But it is most in easy task for the Whips to arrive at a teresting on the occasion of a big debate decision in the matter without wound
some important question which ing the pride and vanity of some of the arouses political passions and prej. members whose claims have been set udices, and brings down into the arena aside. There are several reasons which of the floor of the House the chiefs oi explain this eagerness to secure the the parties to fight out the issue with adjournment of the debate. A crowded tne keen and subtle weapon of the House has a most exhilarating influtongue.
ence on a speaker, and there is sure to A big debate often lasts a fortnight, be a large attendance of members at that is to say, it is carried on during the the opening of the sitting. When the Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and distinguished member who has been Fridays of two weeks, the Wednesdays called upon to resume the debate has being usually devoted to the considera- finished his speech, some man of mark tion of bills introduced by unofficial in the party on the opposite side of the members. The order in which the lead. House rises to answer him, in according members of the government and oli ance with the programme arranged by the Opposition speak is previously the Whips. These two speeches will arranged by the Whips of the different probably last till seven o'clock. parties, and the Speaker, being in. From seven till ten o'clock is known formed privately of the understanding, as the "dinner-bour;” and it is only calls on these members in the order during this period of a sitting, when a appointed, no matter how many small great debate is in progress, that small men may, at the same time, strive to or undistinguished men can have the catch his eye. A member of the Oppo. pleasure of addressing the House. sition always follows in debate a Before seven or after ten the member member of the government. The open. who can only “twinkle a taper" has no ing of a sitting, and towards its close, chance; the member who can "flare a or before and after the "dinner-hour". flambeau” then holds the field. Conse. that is, from five till seven o'clock, and quently, during the dinner-hour, when from ten o'clock till twelve-are con- the vast bulk of the members are in the sidered the best and most favorable dining-room or smoking-room of the times for speaking. It is during these House, or are dining outside, or are at periods of the sitting that the "big the theatre, the small men, or the new guns" on each side are brought into men, who desire to speak have the action. Under the rules of the House, Chamber all to themselves. There are all opposed business must cease at hardly ever more than twenty memtwelve o'clock, and the member who at bers present-sometimes the attendance that hour moves the adjournment of falls as low as a dozen or half-a-dozen, the debate has the right to open it the and these remain, not because they are next evening. If a member of the gov. interested in the speeches which are ernment speaks last at night, the ad then being made, but simply and solely
because each of them is anxious to lay slumberous tones of the gentleman his views on the subject of debate . learned in the law had ended. before his own constituents through the The Speaker's lot would indeed be in. medium of the reporter of the local tolerable if he were unable, during some paper who is above in the Press Gal- of the dreary addresses of honorable, lery.
and learned, and gallant members, to Feeble statement, pointless argument, leave his animate and apparently wideirritating iteration, are usually the awake outward semblance in the chair, characteristics of a debate during the and ramble in spirit, with a cigar as a dinner-hour. It is then that the House companion, through the life, and bustle, of Commons is a dreary place indeed. and excitement of the Strand and Fleet It is then that the bore is in his element. Street. If a thought of this kind sud. He comes down to the House fearfully denly entered the head of a member on equipped with material for his speech. his feet, and if, with a view of testing Papers, documents, and notes surround its probability, he wandered a little him while he is speaking-some being from the subject of debate, and asked in his hands, some in his hat, and others the Speaker had he got a match, or spread over the empty bench behind challenged him to walk on his head to him. The lot of Mr. Speaker during the Bar, or proceed to demonstrate that these dreary hours is by no means a the moon was really made of green happy one. Members can come and go cheese, would the Speaker hear him as they please. If they remain in the and heed him? But as the game would Chamber, they need pay no attention to not be worth the candle-for the thumb. the honorable gentleman on his feet; screw and the rack forever would probthey can chat and joke with each other, ably be the fate of the daring member or double themselves up comfortably who tried the experiment at a moment on the benches, and go roving in the when the Speaker was all alert-the land of Nod. But, save for half an hour matter must ever remain in the regions between eight and nine o'clock, when of philosophic doubt. the proceedings are suspended, Mr. The Speaker cannot put an extinSpeaker must remain in the chair, and guisher on a tiresome member. All he follow, or seem to follow all the can do is to call a member to order for speeches, however flat and discursive, irrelevance or repetition, and, on the with the deepest and most absorbing third unbeeded warning, to direct him interest.
to resume his speech. The House, howBut perhaps that air of concentrated ever, shows its resentment by disconattention the Speaker habitually wears certing cries and exclamations. A is simulated. Perhaps practice has member who was once subjected to made it possible for him to hear with considerable interruption while adout heeding. Perhaps, while he smiles dressing the House, appealed to the appreciatively at the broken-winded Speaker, Sir Spencer Compton, to put witticisms of the honorable member down the disturbance, saying that he who is speaking, he is deaf to every had a right to be heard. "No, sir," reword, and his thoughts are far, far plied the Speaker; "you have a right to away, gambolling and frolicking amidst speak, but the House have a right to green fields, bright odorous flowers, judge whether they will hear you." balmy caressing air, golden sunshine, No Speaker would venture in our days and sweet singing birds. Perhaps all to make such a ruling; but at the time the time the sweet murmurs of woods, it was delivered the duty of the Speaker or the soothing lapping of water on the was not so much to preserve order and sands, are in his ears. It is quite decorum in the Legislative Chamber as possible, indeed. We have heard more to "speak” the opinion or decision of the than once of the happy judge who could House in matters of great State concern fall asleep during the speeches of coun- and importance, and hence his title sel, and wake up when the sweet "Mr. Speaker.” But even in our days
members enjoy considerable license in The gift of lungs expressing their dissent from the views Without, alas, the gift of tongues. that are being laid before them, or their But while allowing to every man, no desire to bring an irritating speech to a matter how dull his manner or objec. speedy conclusion, by interrupting cries tionable his views, sufficient latitude to of “'Vide, 'vide, 'vide,” without having give, at an opportune time, ample to fear any reprimand from the chair. testimony of the faith that is in him, the Cries of dissent were not so decorous as House cannot stand the irrepressible late as fifteen or twenty years ago. It bore who, determined to speak on every was then the custom of honorable gen subject, rises, as a rule, at the most tlemen to endeavor to suppress senti- inopportune moment of the debate to ments obnoxious to them by barking give expression to his vague and illlike dogs, crowing like barndoor fowls, formed views at unconscionable length; bleating like sheep, braying like don
or the member, however able, wlo, in keys, and by indulging in coughing, his effort to instruct it, adopts the irri. 'sneezing, and ingeniously extended tating tone of the pedagogue or the yawning.
These members ar These interruptions are, to some men, not popular, even with their own party. only an incentive to extend the scope But while a party cannot very well join of their unappreciated remarks. "If with the enemy across the floor in showyou don't allow me to finish my speech ing their contempt and exasperation by in my own way, I'll not leave off at all,” shouting down
objectionable said a member who was regarded as a member of their own ranks, they heart. bore. The threat had the desired effect. ily sympathize in secret with these “I am speaking to posterity," said an.
demonstrations of disapproval. other member grandiloquently, in reply The House is kindest and most con. to his interruptors. “Faith, if you go siderate to the member who rises for the on at this rate,” remarked a voice from first time to address it, or to make, as the Irish quarter, “you will see your the phrase has it, his “maiden speech." audience before you.” “Sir,” said the He always gets precedence in a competi. member on his legs—but, unhappily, not tion to catch the Speaker's eye." It his last legs—"I can afford to wait.”
is well, however, that such a member It must not be supposed, from some of should display a certain amount of ner. my preceding remarks, that the House
vousness or deference, inspired by a of Commons is tolerant only of the modest appreciation of his own capaparticipation in its debates of men of bilities, or by a becoming awe of the eloquent tongues, men of great ability assembly listening to his words. If, and knowledge, men with a pleasant relying perhaps on a reputation made knack of saying funny things, or with outside the House in politics or literathe dangerous gift of saying caustic ture, he should adopt a tone of things-members, in a word, who are superiority, or an attitude of perfect interesting or entertaining. The House ease and self-confidence, he is certain to nowadays accords, for a time, to the
arouse the antipathy of members crank, the faddist, and the bore, espe. opposite, and chill even the greetings of cially if these
tiresome individuals the political friends who sit around him. show evidence of earnestness, sincerity, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain told a very and honesty, and kindliest and most good story illustrative of this peculiar indulgent of receptions. It denies its mood of the House of Commons, which ear to no
It will listen with perhaps some would ascribe to its pleasure to any man who has anything morbid self-esteem and its exalted to say; it will listen with resignation to
sense of its own importance. the windbag—the man who takes a long
When Mr. Chamberlain was first time to say what he has got to say—or elected, an old friend of his, who was even to a man who has got nothing to also an old member of the House of say—the man who has got
Commons, came to him and said:
“Would you mind, as I am an older is so anxious to hear—the last attack member, my giving you a bit of advice?" by the leader of the Opposition and the “I would be very glad to have it," re- defence by the champion of the govern. plied Mr. Chamberlain. “Well," con- ment. The House is moved by great tinued the old man, "you know you excitement during the delivery of these have come into the House of Commons speeches. There are cheers and shouts rather late, and you have come in with of defiance; and statements and denials some sort of reputation from outside. charges and recriminations are hurled The House of Commons,” he went on, across the floor of the House. It is on "does not like outside reputation—it is such an occasion that the advantages oi' accustomed to make and unmake its a diminutive Chamber are seen and own-and, as you are going very shortly appreciated. The gaslights
stream to make your maiden speech, if you down through the glass panels of the could contrive to break down a little, I ceiling on a House that is now crowded think the House of Commons would to its utmost capacity. Every membei take it as a compliment, and you would present may not be comfortably seated; be all the better for it."
but in a small Chamber like this all can The varying aspects of the House of command a complete view of the situaCommons during a big debate are very tion and hear the speeches distinctly. surprising. Members are continually This tends to keep the debate at a high entering the Chamber or leaving it by level. The audience are not compelled the portals under the clock. Imme. to give a strained attention to the diately outside these portals is the orator. They are therefore more sus. Lobby—that neutral ground of the ceptible to the music of his periods, and House of Commons where men who their cries and acclamations, reacting scowl at each other-metaphorically at on him, inspire him to higher flights 01 least-across the floor of the House dur- eloquence. ing a hot party debate, meet subse- There is also a great rhetorical adquently and soothe each other's ruffled vantage or aid to invective in having feelings by retailing racy stories. But the rival political parties on different it is now ten o'clock, and the House is sides of the Chamber, separated by a rapidly filling up again in every part. broad floor. With the enemy straight Many of the members who crowd the before him the orator can point the benches are in evening dress. They finger of scorn at them with tremendous have been dining out, or attending some effect. This was a favorite gesture of other social function, or have been at Mr. Gladstone during his passionate and a theatre and have hurried away to the emotional speeches. Flinging himself House in order to hear the two conclud- almost half-way across the table, and ing speeches of the debate. It has been shooting out his right arm, he would arranged that some leading member of point the extended forefinger at the the Opposition will speak shortly after occupants of the front bench opposite, ten o'clock, and that he will be followed his face ablaze with righteous indignaon behalf of the government by a dis- tion and infinite disdain in his, voicetinguished occupant of the Treasury while they, instead of being transfixed Bench. After that, probably about in mental agony, beamed with delight twelve o'clock the division will be that they should be the objects of the taken.
great orator's fiery rhetorical wrath. Accordingly, about ten o'clock a small But the last word has now been said. man-small, that is, in reputation and Tie great debate has closed, and now not physically-who has been so fortu. comes the division, which is oftennate as to secure the last chance of the especially when the result is uncertain unimportant men during the "dinner the most exciting and most dramatic hour," brings his speech to a conclusion episode of the debate. Let us suppose and sits down. Then follow the two that the debate is on the motion for the speeches which every one in the House second reading of some big government