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Presentation Of Petitions—Standing Orders—Ireland—Waterford Election Petition—Question

Volume 202: debated on Friday 1 July 1870

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said, he would beg to ask the hon. Member for Wal- sall, If he will state what authority there is, in the Standing Orders or elsewhere, for the distinction suggested by him on Thursday between cases in which it is, and cases in which it is not, proper to present Petitions in the mode commonly adopted by laying them upon the Table of the House, without openly reading the prayer; whether the Committee of Public Petitions act upon any fixed rule in selecting the Petitions to be presented; and, whether there is any rule that no Petition shall be printed which complains of the manner in which a public servant has discharged his official duties?

said, in reply, that the hon. Member seemed to desire to put him through a sort of Civil Service examination on the Standing Orders. In answer to the first Question, he could only say that the hon. Gentleman had failed to understand the purport of his remarks yesterday in answer to a Question on the same subject. He had never suggested that there was any authority in the Standing Orders or elsewhere for a distinction in the mode of presenting Petitions to that House. There was only one mode of presentation recognized—that the Petitions should be personally presented by hon. Members in their places;—when the Question was put, "That the Petition do lie on the Table." But in the case of a Petition containing such grave charges on the character of a Judge in the discharge of his judicial duties it would have been more consistent with Parliamentary practice and propriety if the hon. Member, in presenting the Petition, had drawn attention to the allegations which it contained, in order to give an opportunity to any hon. Member to challenge the House on the Question whether the Petition should or should not lie on the Table. It was not the custom of the House to receive Petitions which were disrespectful to the Judges, and he found from the Journals of the House that in February, 1821, a Petition complaining of Mr. Justice Best was put forward, and after a debate and Division was rejected. In this, of all Petitions, there was the least need for departing from the usual rule. As to the second Question, it was always the wish of the Committee on Public Petitions to make their Reports the faithful echoes of the public opinion of the country, by print- ing those Petitions which required to be brought specially under the notice of the House. The Committee also printed Petitions of individual grievances when necessary. In reply to the third Question, he had to say that there was no such rule as the Question referred to; but there was a rule on which the Committee had acted, and which he as Chairman of the Committee should always do his best to carry out—a rule not to print any Petition which contained libellous matter or attacks on individual character. When the Committee refused to print a Petition it was always competent for any hon. Member to move that it be printed.

said, he would beg to ask Mr. Speaker, If it is competent for the House to decline to receive any Petition which is respectfully worded, and which does not make any demand on the Consolidated Fund?

; The Standing Orders relating to Petitions presume, in every case, that a Member presents a Petition, rising in his place and presenting the Petition to the House; and the Question is then put, "That the Petition do lie on the Table." The Standing Orders, therefore, confine themselves to such regulations as will confine Members within certain limits. Hon. Members may state the material allegations of a Petition and read its prayer; but it is the understood form that every Member in presenting a Petition does it publicly in his place; and he cannot do that without stating that it is for or against some Bill or other subject-matter. Where allegations are directed towards individuals, the ordinary course would be for the hon. Member to state material allegations, and to have the Petition read by the Clerk at the Table, and then it would be a question for the House whether the Petition should lie on the Table or not. These are the Standing Orders relating to Petitions.