« ElőzőTovább »
solved in the negative, the speaker is prevented from putting the original question, as the house have refused to allow it to be put. It may, however, be brought forward again on another day, as the negation of the previous question merely binds the speaker not to put the main question at that time. If the previous question be put, and resolved in the affirmative, no words can be added to or taken from the main question by amendment; nor is any further debate allowed, or motion for adjournment before the question is put, as the house have resolved that the question be now put, and it must accordingly be put at once to the vote. In reference to this proceeding, it may be remarked, that according to the strict rule of debate, each member should speak directly to the question before the house; and, supposing this to be observed, the debate upon the previous question would be limited to the propriety of putting the question now, or at a future time; but, practically, the main question is discussed throughout. If the rule were not evaded in this manner, the main question would be altogether excluded from discussion, merely because another question had been interposed; although, by affirming the previous question, the house would have agreed that the main question was a proper one to have been offered for their decision.
"The last two questions, viz. for reading the orders of the day, and the previous question, may both be superseded by a motion for adjournment; for the latter may be made at any time (except, as already stated, when the previous question has been resolved in the affirmative), and must always be determined before other business can be proceeded with. The debate upon the previous question may also be adjourned; as there is no rule or practice which assigns a limit to a debate, even when the nature of the question would seem to require a present determination. But when a motion has been made for reading the orders of the day, in order to supersede a question, the house will not afterwards entertain a motion for the previous question; as the former motion was itself in the nature of a previous question.
"4. The general practice in regard to amendments will be explained in the next chapter; but here such amendments only need be mentioned as are intended to evade an expression of opinion upon the main question, by entirely altering its meaning and object. This may be effected by moving the omission of all the words of the question, after the word 'that' at the beginning, and by the substitution of other words of a different import. If this amendment be agreed to by the house, it is clear that no opinion is expressed directly upon the main question, because it is determined that the original words' shall not stand part of the question;' and the sense of the house is afterwards taken directly upon the substituted words, or practically upon a new question. There are many precedents of this mode of dealing with a question; but the best known in parliamentary history are those relating to Mr. Pitt's administration, and the peace of Amiens, in 1802. On the 7th May, 1802, a motion was made in the Commons for an address, expressing the thanks of this house to his Majesty for having been pleased to remove the Right Hon. W. Pitt
from his councils;' upon which an amendment was proposed and carried, which left out all the words after the first, and substituted others in direct opposition to them. Not only was the sense of the original question entirely altered by this amendment, but a new question was substituted, in which the whole policy of Mr. Pitt was commended. Immediately afterwards an address was moved in both Houses of Parliament, condemning the treaty of Amiens, in a long statement of facts and arguments. In each house an amendment was moved and carried by which all the declamation in the proposed address was omitted, and a new address resolved upon, by which Parliament was made to justify the treaty.
"This practice has often been objected to as unfair, and never with greater force than on these occasions. It is natural for one party, commencing an attack upon another, to be discomfited by its recoil upon themselves, and to express their vexation at such a result; but the weaker party must always anticipate defeat in one form or another. If no amendment be moved, the majority can negative the question itself, and affirm another in opposition to the opinions of the minority. On the very occasion already mentioned, of the 7th May, 1802, after the address of thanks for the removal of Mr. Pitt had been defeated by an amendment, a distinct question was proposed and carried by the victorious party, That the Right Hon. W. Pitt has rendered great and important services to his country, and especially deserves the gratitude of this house.' Thus, if no amendment had been moved, the position of Mr. Pitt's opponents would have been but little improved, as the majority could have affirmed or denied whatever they pleased. It is in debate alone that a minority can hope to compete with a majority: the forms of the house can ultimately assist neither party; but, so far as they offer any intermediate advantage, the minority have the greatest protection in forms, while the majority are met by obstructions to the exercise of their will.
"These are the four modes by which a question may be intention. ally avoided or superseded; but a question is also liable to casual interruption and postponement from other causes; as, by a matter of privilege, words of heat between members in debate, a question of order, a message from the other house or a motion for reading an act of parliament, an entry in the Journal, or other public document. The rule, by which such documents are permitted to be read, though not absolutely without recognition in modern times, is so far restrained by more recent regulations with regard to motions and orders of the day, that it is almost obsolete, and a member would scarcely be permitted to avail himself of it, except for the purpose of reading some document strictly relevant to the question under discussion. These proceedings, however, may obstruct and delay the decision of a question, but do not alter its position before the house; for, directly they are disposed of, the debate is resumed at the point at which it was interrupted. In the House of Commons, another interruption was sometimes caused by moving that candles be brought in; but, by a standing order of the 6th February, 1717, it was ordered,
'That when the house, or any committee of the whole house, shall be sitting, and daylight be shut in, the serjeant-at-arms attending "this house do take care that candles be brought in, without any par'ticular order for that purpose.'
"If a question be complicated, the house may order it to be divided, so that each part may be determined separately. A right has been claimed, in both houses, for an individual member to insist upon the division of a complicated question; but it has not been recognized, nor can it be reasonable to allow it, because, 1st, the house might not think the question complicated; and, 2ndly, the member objecting to its complexity, may move its separation by amendments.' pp. 216–222.
"When all preliminary debates and objections to a question are disposed of, the question must next be put, which is done in the following manner. The speaker, if necessary, takes a written or printed copy of the question, and states or reads it to the house, at length, beginning with The question is, that.' This form of putting the question is always observed, and precedes (or is supposed to precede) every vote of the house, however insignificant, except in cases where a vote is a formal direction, in virtue of previous orders; as where private bills having been read a second time, are referred to the Committee of Selection.
"In the Lords, when the question has been put, the speaker says, "As many as are of that opinion say 'content'" and "as many as are of a contrary opinion say not content;"" and the respective parties exclaim 'content' or 'not content,' according to their opinions. In the Commons, the speaker takes the sense of the house by desiring that "as many as are of that opinion say "aye,'" and " as many as are of the contrary opinion say 'no.' On account of these forms, the two parties are distinguished in the Lords as 'contents' and 'not contents,' and in the Commons as the 'ayes' and 'noes.' When each party have exclaimed according to their opinion, the speaker endeavours to judge, from the loudness and general character of the opposing exclamations, which party have the majority. As his judgment is not final, he expresses his opinion thus: "I think the (contents' or) ayes' have it;" or, "I think the (not contents' or) 'noes' have it." If the house acquiesce in this decision, the question is said to be 6 resolved in the affirmative' or negative,' according to the supposed majority on either side; but if the party thus declared to be the minority dispute the fact, they say "no; the contents' (or not contents) the ayes' (or 'noes') have it:" and the actual numbers must be counted, by means of what is called a division.
"The question is stated distinctly by the speaker; but in case it should not be heard, it will be stated again."-pp. 223, 224.
All this is fully supported by the authorities quoted in the
The chapter on amendments to questions, and on amendments to proposed amendments, is equally clear. The amendments.
may be made, 1. By leaving out certain words; 2. By leaving out certain words in order to insert or add others; and 3. By inserting or adding certain words; and of amendments no notice is required, nor is the member, who has given notice, entitled thereby to any precedence.
"Several amendments may be moved to the same question, but subject to these restrictions: 1. No amendment can be made in the first part of a question, after the latter part has been amended, or has been proposed to be amended, if a question has been put upon such proposed amendment. But if an amendment to insert or add words to a question be withdrawn, by leave of the house, the fact of that amendment having been proposed will not preclude the proposal of another amendment, affecting an earlier part of the question, so long as it does not extend farther back than the last words upon which the house have already expressed an opinion: for the withdrawal of the first amendment leaves the question in precisely the same condition as if no amendment had been proposed. Each separate amendment must be put in the order in which, if agreed to, it would stand in the amended question; but should a member, being in possession of the house, move an amendment, another member may propose to amend an earlier part of the question, and his amendment, though proposed the last, will be put first to the vote. 2. When the house have agreed that certain words shall stand part of a question, it is irregular to propose any amendment to those words, as the decision of the house has already been pronounced in their favour. But this rule would not exclude an addition to the words, if proposed at the proper time. 3. In the same manner, when the house have agreed to add or insert words in a question, their decision may not be disturbed by any amendment of those words.
"But when a member desires to move an amendment to a part of the question proposed to be omitted by another amendment, or to alter words proposed to be inserted, it is sometimes arranged that only the first part of the original amendment shall be formally proposed, in the first instance, so as not to preclude the consideration of the second amendment. The convenience of the house may also be consulted, in some cases, by the withdrawal of an amendment, and the substitution of another, the same in substance as the first, but omitting certain words to which objections are entertained. Another proceeding may also be resorted to, by which an amendment is intercepted, as it were, before it is offered to the house, in its original form, by moving to amend the first proposed amendment. This can be done when the original amendment proposed is, to leave out or to insert or add certain words: or when certain words have been left out of a question, and it is then proposed to insert or add other words instead thereof. In such cases an amendment may be proposed to the proposed amendment, and the questions put by the speaker thereupon deal with the first amendment as if it were a distinct question, and with the second as if it were an ordinary amendment.
"It must be observed, that no motion to amend a proposed amendment can be entertained, until the amendment has, for the time, assumed the place of the original question, and become, as it were, a substantive question itself; otherwise there would be three points under consideration at once, viz. the question, the proposed amendment, and the amendment of that amendment. But when the question for adopting the words of an amendment is put forward distinctly, and apart from the original question, no confusion arises from moving amendments to it, before its ultimate adoption is proposed.”— pp. 228-231.
The proceeding is no doubt complicated, yet, as bere explained, it is perfectly intelligible. The rules with reference to petitions are also given in a way to be of considerable use to those who promote petitions, to be sent up stairs to a sub-committee, to be by them classified, and to be reckoned of value according to the number of the signatures and the vigilance of the getters up, rather than according to their intrinsic importance. It is a common notion that the number of petitions has fallen off since the rules of the House of Commons have prevented any discussion on their presentation; but such is not the case. The numbers presented during the last two sessions will show how widely a knowledge of the technical rules of the House requires to be extended. During the session of 1849, there were seventy reports presented to the House by the committee on public petitions, giving an analysis of (in round numbers) 9700 petitions; in the session of 1850, their reports amounted to seventy-five, and fill two large volumes, the number of petitions having increased to 16,100, owing principally to the interest taken in the questions of admitting Jews to seats in the House, and to the closing of the post offices on Sundays.
"Without a prayer, a document will not be taken as a petition; and a paper, assuming the style of a remonstrance, will not be received.
"The petition should be written upon parchment or paper, for a printed or lithographed petition will not be received; and at least one signature should be upon the same sheet or skin upon which the petition is written. It must be in the English language, or accompanied with a translation which the member who presents it states to be correct; it must be free from interlineations or erasures; it must be signed; it must have original signatures or marks, and not copies from the original, nor signatures of agents on behalf of others, except in case of incapacity by sickness; and it must not have letters, affidavits, or other documents annexed. The signatures must be written upon the petition itself, and not pasted upon, or otherwise transferred to it. Petitions of corporations aggregate should be under their common seal. To these rules another may be added, that if the