The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1882. The Cloture Resolutions.
The discussion on the Parliamentary Procedure Bill, commonly called Mr Gladstone’s Cloture Resolutions, is of much importance to us in jthis colony, because parliamentary usage here follows that ot the House of Commons almost exactly, and the standard authorities there, May, Todd, etc., are also our authorative guides. It appears from recent telegrams that,
notwithstanding previous rumors to the contrary, Mr Gladstone’s Bill will most likely pass, nearly in its entirety. The main division seems to have been taken on the first rule, which was carried by a majority of 304 to 224, although the large majority of the Irish members voted with the Opposition. The particulars of this rule have not been furnished, but we believe it provided that the Speaker should have the power to declare a debate closed, and to put a motion at once, on a resolution to that effect being carried by a majority of the members present. The second, third, and fourth rules have also since been carried, so that it is likely that the rest, subject perhaps to some few amendments, will follow suit. It is quite easy to understand why the Parnellite members should make a dead set at what seems to be a most sensible and necessary measure. But it is not quite easy to see why the Conservative party should also oppose it. Surely neither Sir Stafford Northcote or any of his associates can suppose for a moment that it is likely to be put in force against themselves in order to stop any national discussion. Public opinion in England was so strongly In favor of free expres sion of opinion, no matter how obnoxious, that any tyrannical coercion or silencing of a speaker giving a reason for the faith that was in him would be resented strongly by an overwhelming majority out of doors at any time. Besides that, experience has shown that in England, for very many years past, the reins of Government are transferred every few years from one political party to another, and on prudential reasons alone, the Liberals of all men would be unlikely to be irrational repressionists of the liberty of speech. On the other hand, there are very strong reasons of the most obvious kind, why mere idle talk for the sake of obstruction only, should be discouraged in meetings for public business. Even in private societies of whatever kind, whose members join voluntarily, and adopt such rules as they think fit, on the spur of the moment, for transacting business, irrelevant waste of time by mere talking is not allowed. At an annual meeting of a banking or an insurance company the chairman would certainly stop any eccentric individual who should attempt to read the names of all the horses entered for the Derby, or a volume or two of the ponderous works of the Rev. Richard Baxter. So also with a young men’s debating society, the president would scarcely tolerate a discussion upon the execution of Charles 1., or the reading of a dozen pages of that valuable work, the London Post Office Directory. And in either case the chairman’s ruling would, without doubt, be upheld. We can indeed recollect one exceptional case to the contrary. It was at a meeting of the members of a Congregational church, held to consider a charge against the minister of misappropriation of church funds. One eccentric member took up a somewhat similar position to that of Messrs Parnell and McCarthy in the House of Commons lately, in the following remarkable words:—“l’m a member of « Hit.uepenaent Church, and I’ll speak when I please, and as long as I please, and as often as I please, and on any subject I please, and the Chairman shan’t stop me. Chairman may think I’m hout of border in doing so, but that’s only his opinion, it hisn’l mine.” This ultra-Protestant view of the right of private judgment, however, may be safely styled an unusual and extreme way of looking at the relative rights of private members and chairmen. For our own part we fail altogether, like Mr Frederic Harrison in a powerful review article lately published on the subject, to see why any more than a bare majority should be required in support of a Speaker’s ruling on a point of order, considering that a bare majority is constantly recognised as decisive on matters of incomparably greater importance. Indeed it is difficult for an ordinary layman to understand how it is that the Speaker of the House of Commons does not possess the necessary authority already to act. For if any one should object that there is no precedent or standing order for the Speaker’s interference to stop an obviously idle debate or interruption, we can only say that that is just where the objector is entirely in the wrong and utterly mistaken. In the first Parliament of Tames 1., just as the combined Conservatives and Parnellites wish to stop decisions on debates by mere talk now, so did servile English courtiers, endeavor by mere unmannerly noise to stop the public business then, and stonewall it. Fortuaately the Speaker, Sir Edward Phelps, was a man who knew his duty, and the majority of the House of Commons knew theirs. So, in 1604 and 1610, the following standing orders were promptly passed :—r. . “ That if any man speak impertinently, or beside the question, it stands with the orders of the House for the Speaker to interrupt him, and to know the pleasure of the House whether they will further hear him.” 2. “If any superfluous motion or tedious speech be opened in the House, the party is to be directed and ordered by Mr Speaker.” 3. “ Qui degreditur a mater id ad personam , the Speaker ought to suppress.” 4. “That if any man speak not to the matter in question, the Speaker ought to moderate.” The following additional order was also carried : —“That Mr Speaker may stop impertinent speeches.” It appears to us, therefore, that there is clearly ample precedent, as well as good common sense in favor of the cloture rules, both in England and here. Still, in order to set the whole question at rest, it is better that the matter should be settled decisively by Order of Parliament.