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Breach Of Privilege

Volume 41: debated on Tuesday 10 August 1920

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My Lords, as Lord Great Chamberlain I have to call attention to a regrettable incident which took place yesterday during the sitting of the House.* The Right Hon. A. Carlisle, a Privy Councillor for Ireland, standing upon the steps of the Throne, took upon himself to interrupt the proceedings of your Lordships' House by a disorderly observation. This is a grave offence against the dignity and decorum of the House of Lords, and I have felt it my duty to bring the matter to your Lordships' notice.

If I may say so, my Lords, I think the Lord Great Chamberlain is entirely justified in bringing this incident before your Lordships' House and in characterising it in the strong language which he has employed. I was not here myself yesterday afternoon, and therefore I only became acquainted with the incident when I returned to London late in the evening and when I perused in the papers this morning exactly what had passed. The Lord Great Chamberlain has described the incident as "regrettable." It was indeed a deplorable incident—an incident, I believe, without precedent in the previous history of this House, and without desiring to magnify its importance I think the Lord Great Chamberlain was quite justified in saying that it involved a grave affront to the dignity of your Lordships' House.

In these circumstances we have to decide what to do. Not having been present I can form no opinion as to how far the incident in question and the interruption by the Irish Privy Councillor (whose name has been given) may have been deliberate, or may have been the result of sudden impulse; it may have been one or the other. In
* See OFFICIAL REFORT of 9th August, column 1026.
either case I think it would be in consonance with our dignity to give the right hon. gentleman who thus offended an opportunity of making an explanation, and, if he so thinks fit, of tendering an ample apology to your Lordships' House. I would therefore suggest to your Lordships that on the whole the best way to proceed would be that a letter should be written to the right hon. gentleman in question, calling his attention to the gravity. of the offence that he committed and inviting an explanation from him. When that explanation has been received, it will be my duty to offer such advice to your Lordships' House upon the matter as I can and for you to decide what further action, if you so desire, you will take.

If my advice be followed, there only remains the question as to the manner in which and the source from which this letter should emanate. The Lord Great Chamberlain is the official custodian of the Palace of Westminster, and this offence was committed on territory which is under his control. At the same time the affront was one which was directed at your Lordships' House; you were the sufferers; it was your dignity that was impugned. If your Lordships are inclined to favour the course that I propose, I should be willing myself to assume the responsibility on behalf of the House of addressing to the right hon. gentleman, Mr. Carlisle, a letter of the nature I have indicated.

I think your Lordships will probably all agree that the course proposed by the noble Earl the Leader of the House is one which would be thoroughly satisfactory. Having been present, I am sorry to say, on the occasion in question, I am sure it was not an incident which your Lordships would wish to pass over without very serious notice, and the course which the noble Earl proposes seems to me to be quite adequate to meet the occasion.