22 JULY 1882, Page 14



Sm,—Your article of July 8th, and Sir Charles Gavan Duffy's letter to the Times, to which you allude in your last issue, are both excellent criticisms of the action of the Chairman of Com- mittees in the late suspensions in the House of Commons. Doubtless, warning is the acknowledged preliminary of the exercise of the penal power, and has always been so, from the time when " to be named " involved consequences so mysterious and fearful that, to quote the dictum of a past Speaker, "Heaven only knew" them, to the present days of vulgar suspension ; but when the head and front of the offending lies in the organisation of a system of reliefs, when the incriminat- ing act of obstruction is participated in by Members both sleeping and waking, the latter carrying on the contest while the former are refreshing themselves with slumber (not inno- cent), iu order that they may continue it with renewed vigour, it is not quite clear at what particular moment the warning should be given. The offence is going to bed; as you epigram- matically put it, " it is an individual element " of the obstruc- tion "which would admit of separate justification, if not con- sidered in relation to the other elements of the case ;" but, so considered, it becomes a distinct act of wilful and persistent obstruction. To warn an honourable Member, or batch of honourable Members, that if the offence be repeated suspension would follow, would be a farce ; they do not seek to repeat it for another twelve hours, they are fresh and ready for the fray, the debate goes on within the wide limits of Parliamentary form and language for another day, and the whole object of the rule is defeated. Let Mr. Lyon Playfair's decision rest without fur- ther criticism, and stand as a precedent for this particular offence—an offence involving the grave consideration of whether physical endurance is to take the place of calm deliberation— and this unseemly episode in the history of the House of Com- mons will not be readily repeated.—I am, Sir, &c., ALFRED BONHAM CARTER.

[There would be no farce in warning a group of Members that they were organising an obstructive system ; at the same time giving the names of those whom the Speaker or Chairman believed to be thus engaged. It is perfectly certain that Mr. Mama did not belong to any such group.—En. Spectator.]