HC Deb 22 May 1883 vol 279 cc701-14

in moving "That the House, at its rising, do adjourn till Thursday," said, he would have been very glad had he been able to discharge the duty he had undertaken by submitting that Motion in the most formal and briefest manner possible; but he did not know if that course would be considered respectful by the House, and it might be supposed that the Motion which he had to propose was lacking in arguments by which it could be supported. He would willingly spare the House, if he could, "the damnable iteration" of arguments which had been used over and over again on the subject. He should have thought that by this time the continual dropping would have worn away the stony hearts of those who had hitherto shown themselves opposed to the very slight relaxation in their duties for which he was asking; but he was given to understand that that was not the case, and that opposition would be shown to the proposal, arising in the same quarter of the House in which they had been accustomed to see it. In moving the Resolution, he would undertake, in the first place, to be very brief; and, in the second place, to spare the House any attempts on his part to be facetious. As a citizen of, perhaps, the most serious nation under the sun, he should be very much at a disadvantage if he attempted to enter the lists with the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. R. Power), in those sallies of a delightful humour which was supposed to be the inheritance of his race. In the third place, he would undertake that whatever he might say should contain nothing approaching to political acrimony or calculated to stir up Party acerbity. He proposed to rest his appeal on the truly liberal sense of the House, and on the ground of expediency. He asked hon. Members on both sides whether it was expedient to depart on this occasion from the general custom initiated at a period of the history of that House which was not the least illustrious in its annals, and by one to whom the Party now in power owed a great part of the credit they had acquired in times past? He was told it was a pleasant sight in days of yore—those days of yore to which they had been often referred of late as being days when the debates and procedure of the House were conducted with greater decorum and dignity—to see the Prime Minister come down and move the adjournment of the House without exciting any hostile comment. He could not help thinking that it was unfortunate that it should now fall to the lot of a private Member to do that which used to be so well done by the Leader of Her Majesty's Government. He had no wish, especially in the absence of the Prime Minister, to draw any invidious comparison between the right hon. Gentleman and his distinguished Predecessor; but he thought it was to be regretted that that portion of the mantle of Elijah had not descended upon the right hon. Gentleman which would have inspired him with a true and honourable sympathy with the legitimate pastime of the people. It would be in the recollection of hon. Members that last year the custom to which he had alluded had been broken through; but the circumstances then were most exceptional. In the first place, the country had been plunged into an abyss of grief and shame by recent occurrences in Ireland; in the second place, the House was under the necessity of proceeding from day to day with the arduous and unpleasant duty of passing legislation of a most unprecedented character; and, in the third place, they were on the eve of a war which had now happily terminated. Last year it was understood that the fact of the Adjournment not being moved should not create a precedent; and now that the circumstances were normal he asked the House to revert to its old practice. The arguments by which this Adjournment had been supported had never failed to commend themselves to the House, and especially to the present Parliament, which in 1S80 carried the Motion by 285 to 115, and in 1881 by 246 to 119. He should be surprised and disappointed if the numbers for the Adjournment were lower this year. A special reason why he expected the House to adjourn this year was that the Private Bill and other Select Committees had not yet re-assembled after the Whitsun Recess, so that there would be no expense incurred in that way through deferring the Business of those Committees. The Government last night were able to make some progress in Supply, and the Bills down for to-morrow were of an insignificant and even of an undesirable description. If the Speaker were prepared to take the Chair shortly after 12 to-morrow, there was not the slightest chance of a House being made, and the only result would be that the right hon. Gentleman and the officials of the House would be imprisoned there until late in the afternoon. Therefore, he could not conceive any real or genuine opposition to the proposal he had to make. He supposed the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would vote against it; but he believed that the hon. Member would do so more from ignorance than interest. Perhaps the hon. Baronet was never at the Derby. ["Yes."] Well, then, he only went there to see what sort of a place it was, and very likely came back and said he was filled with shame and remorse. But he (Sir Henry Maxwell) had seen more Derbies, and more recent Derbies, than the hon. Baronet, and could assure him that it was by no means the rule for gentlemen to return from the Derby in a state of inebriation, or wearing false noses and sticking dolls in their hats. The hon. Baronet had already had a double innings this year. In the first place, a horse called Zoedone won the Grand National; and, in the second place, the hon. Baronet himself had secured a first place for Local Option. Then the hon. Member could not object to the Motion on the ground that the Derby led to an undue consumption of intoxicating liquors, for if he did he would assuredly receive no support from his own side of the House. Example was better than any amount of precept, and he was credibly informed that at the great Liberal réunion which took place the other night at the Aquarium it took 2,500 bottles of champagne to assuage the thirst of 1,800 members of the Liberal Party. He had no doubt that many Members would go down to the Derby whether this Motion were carried or not, in spite of the maledictions of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. The hon. Baronet was a master of malediction; but the House had got so accustomed to his condemning innocent recreations that he did not think anyone could compete with him in the lists, unless it was the Cardinal of whom we read in the Jackdaw of Rheims, that he treated his enemies in much the same way as the hon. Baronet treated those who went to the racecourse— He cursed him in sleeping, that every night He should dream of the devil, and wake in a fright; He cursed him in eating, he cursed him in drinking, He cursed him in coughing, in sneezing, in winking; He cursed him in sitting, in standing, in lying; He cursed him in walking, in riding, in flying, He cursed him in living, he cursed him in dying!— Never was heard such a terrible curse! But what gave rise to no little surprise, Nobody seem'd one penny the worse! He would not detain the House any longer, but would merely remind them that although the safty-valve was apparently but a small and insignificant portion of the steam-engine, and did not increase its power, yet it was a portion which could not be wisely dispensed with; and he thought that by assenting to this Motion the House would find that the legislative engine would work more smoothly and more effectively when they re-assembled after the short release which he asked for by this Motion.


rose to second the Motion. He approved the proposal to adjourn, because the Wednesday on which the Derby was run was the one day in the Session on which every Member expected to be able to do whatever he might please. They could never be certain of any other day. They might have a Morning Sitting, or a Sitting on Saturday; but the Derby Day had always been a holiday, and was so treated in balloting for a Wednesday at the beginning of the Session. No one but a novice would think of taking that day for bringing forward any Motion. They ought not, all of a sudden, to refuse to give this holiday; and if in future years they were not to adjourn on the Derby Day, let it be settled at the beginning of the Session by a substantive Motion, so that they might all know what they had to expect. Many Members, it should be remembered, had made special arrangements in the belief that the House would adjourn. More than one hon. Member, for example, might wish to visit an eccentric relation from whom he had expectations; and it should be observed that if the House sat the eccentric relation would not know whether the Member was in the House, or at the Derby. Others had arranged to visit their constituents. ["Name!"] Last year the noble Lord the late Vice President of the Council (Lord George Hamilton) made one of his greatest speeches to his constituents at Middlesex on the Derby Day. [Mr. MONK: Yes; but the House sat on that day.] That was an accident, and the noble Lord Could not have known the House would sit when he made his arrangements weeks before. He understood that a right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Assheton Cross) intended to-morrow to criticize the Government at Wolverhampton. That showed that there was a prevalent belief that there would be a holiday on the Derby Day. Some hon. Member said—"Let those go to the Derby who wish; but let the House sit for those who are willing to work." That was all very well; but hon. Members who expressed that opinion ought not to forget how difficult it might be to make a House. A fortnight ago the Speaker had to sit for an hour before a House could be made on a Wednesday; and to-morrow he might have to sit for four hours, for the Adjournment could not be moved before 4 o'clock, nor could a "Count" be effective. It would not be fair to render the Speaker and the officials of the House liable to such weary waiting. He would appeal to his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle—because he was a strong supporter of Local Option; and would ask him if the course he intended to pursue was not against all the principles of Local Option—if it was not opposed to all those principles that a small and obstinate minority—he did not say it offensively—should try and force their views upon the majority? That, he thought, was a strong argument why his hon. Friend should change his mind, and vote for the proposal on this occasion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House, at its rising, do adjourn till Thursday."—(Sir Herbert Maxwell.)


said, he could assure his hon. Friend, who made the Motion in a very good humoured spirit, that he did not intend to talk about drink at all, and he did not wish to curse anybody either, as the hon. Gentleman seemed afraid he should do. He did not want to attack anybody; but he wished to attack the evil system of that House giving its sanction to a great gambling festival. For some years past this Motion had been moved by different private Members—by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) two or three years ago, and after that it fell into the hands of the Irish Members. He was not at all surprised that this Motion fell into the hands of Irish Members, because they made no secret of their opinions. They were straightforward, open, and honest. They cared nothing for the credit of that House; they would be glad to bring it into disrepute. ["No, no!"] That was what they had actually said. They said that they were not there of their own wish, and that they were brought there. Therefore, he was not surprised that they supported a Motion of this kind, for they knew it made the House ridiculous. But he was surprised that the Motion should have fallen into the hands of one who had described himself as a Representative of the "most serious nation under the sun." His hon. Friend on his left (Mr. Heneage) said just now that horse-racing was very popular, and he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was not going to stand up and say that horse-racing, and all its concomitants, was not a most popular thing with the people of this country, because he knew it was popular with the aristocracy and the democracy, with Princes and peasants; and as to the newspapers, there was not even a family paper that did not devote columns and columns to the state of the "odds" every day. He was pleading to-day for the minority. Of course, it was the system in this country that the majority should rule, and on questions of public good the minority must give way; but he did not think anyone could say this was a question in which the public good was very much involved. It was only a question of their own convenience and amusement; and lie thought it would be more generous and candid if the majority of that House, strong as it was, had a little consideration for the feelings of others in this matter. They might call them prejudices; but it was one of those cases in which a strong majority would be justified in taking the honourable course of paying attention to the views of the minority. He objected to this Motion, as he had often done before, on this ground—that if they took a national step it should be for a national object; and he did not think they were justified in saying that horse-racing was a national object which should receive the sanction and imprimatur of that House. He should oppose any steps of this sort. He should oppose the Adjournment, even if it had nothing to do with horse-racing. A great public entertainment under the auspices of the "Blue Ribbon Army" would win his hearty approval; but if anyone were to propose the Adjournment of the House in connection with that entertainment, he should oppose the Motion. He should say—"No; let us respect the feelings of the drunkards." That would not be a national question, and he should object to the Adjournment for that, just as much as he did for the Derby. His hon. Friend opposite (Sir Herbert Maxwell) was afraid he would come down on racing men. He was not going to do anything of the kind; for he knew that many racing men were as honour- able as many Members of that House; and the late Baron Rothschild, who knew a good deal about them, had said that racing men were as honest as gentlemen in the City—and he was inclined to agree with him in that. He would ask the House to remember what the law said about the gambling to which they would give their sanction if they should adjourn. From the time of William III. until now, in all legislation concerning gambling, betting had been described as— Unlawful and deceitful, contributing- very much to the encouragement of idleness and impoverishment of the people; and the law, as laid down in the Act passed in the year 1868, was as follows:— Every person playing or betting by way of wagering in any street, road, highway, or other open or public place, or in any place to which the public have or are permitted to have access, shall be deemed a rogue and vagabond within the true intent and meaning of the recited Act, and as such may be convicted and punished under the provisions of that Act. He did not think that the House ought to adjourn in recognition of a sport which attracted "rogues and vagabonds," to use the words of their own Act of Parliament. In a celebrated article which appeared in The Quarterly Review in 1833, giving a most wonderful account of the Turf in those days, the writer said— Woe betide the day when Englishmen look lightly on such desperate inroads on public morals as have lately passed under their eyes on racecourses. Can this familiarity with robbers and robbing be without its influence on a rising generation? We say it cannot. He challenged anyone who knew anything about horse-racing—and there were plenty of them in the House—to say that the Turf was any better now than it was in 1833, when that article was written. He would be greatly surprised if those who knew it best did not say it was worse. It was in 1847 that this proposition to adjourn was first made in the House. Lord Palmerston was the first man who made it a Ministerial question; and it so went on until the great and good Tory Administration which was overthrown in 1880 came forward and said it would be no longer responsible for moving the Adjournment, that it must be left to private Members to move the Adjournment for the Derby, if it was to he moved at all. Now, he hoped they were going backwards in the right direction. They had got back to the time when it was moved by private Members, and he hoped to-night they should get to the time when it would be upset altogether. It was now out of the hands of the Government and the Leaders of the Opposition, and the House itself was responsible for what it did in the matter. His hon. Friend opposite (Sir Herbert Maxwell) touched very lightly upon one point of considerable importance. He hardly gave sufficient weight to the fact that last year the House did not adjourn. They broke through the evil practice, and what happened? They spent the day satisfactorily in discussing an Irish Bill. He saw the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) shake his head; but it was an Irish Bill he assured him. And who was any the worse? Those who wanted to go to the Derby went, and those who did not wish to go stayed here and attended to the Irish Bill, and they got on perfectly well without those Gentlemen who went to the race. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire did not go to the Derby last year. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) remembered him sitting on that Bench opposite like a martyr. He remembered the expression of his face. He looked as if he said—? "Here am I, a patriot, attending to my duties;" but he did not say where the right hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) had gone. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was sure that from that day to this the hon. Member had felt a better man for attending to his duty instead of his pleasure. There was also another reason why they should not adjourn on this occasion. They could not use the old argument about legislative lassitude, because they only came back last night, and they were sure to have a "Count out" to-night. Therefore it was absolutely impossible for hon. Members, with any face, to get up and say they were worn out, and really wanted a holiday. Another argument for adjournment was absent this year. It was usually said there was no Business. But this year there were 21 Orders en the Paper. Most of them were of great importance, although not, perhaps, extremely interesting. One of them was an Ecclesiastical Bill. He saw the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) present. He was sure that right hon. Gentleman would rather come down to the House and attend to an Ecclesiastical Bill than pass the day sitting on the Grand Stand. He was told the right hon. Gentleman had signed the "Whip" in favour of the Adjournment. That was utterly incredible, and he could not believe it until the right hon. Gentleman got up in his place and stated that it was so. There was another reason why they should not adjourn. He supposed that they were all, except the Irish Members, interested in the usefulness and dignity of the House, and wished the House to be respected in the country. Did they think they could be said to be taking a step which would increase the respect of the country for the House, if they spent their time in passing Gambling Acts for the purpose of putting down suburban races, and punishing boys for playing pitch-and-toss on the streets, and then, by a large majority, adjourn for the purpose of taking part in the greatest gambling celebration in the whole world? He thought it would be more dignified to discourage all the gambling and rowdyism that went on at Epsom, and that they would show the greater moral courage in breaking through rather than in following a custom which in the course of a few years they were bound to regard as "more honoured in the breach than in the observance."


appealed to both sides of the House whether they were not wasting the time of the House by continuing that discussion, because he did not suppose that any Member's vote would be influenced one way or the other, if they talked on that subject till midnight. The hon. Baronet had alluded to the Derby as a great gambling transaction; but if he were to go to the Stock Exchange he would find more gambling there every day than on the racecourse. He thought it would be much better that the House should at once proceed to a division.


said, he should not have risen to take part in the discussion, had it not been that the opposition to the Adjournment came from the side of the House in which "Radicals most do congregate." It seemed to him most undesirable that the idea should go forth that a supercilious disregard for the red letter days of the people's almanack should be a cardinal matter in the Radical creed. His hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) seemed to have an extraordinary opinion respecting the Derby. He really was under the impression that people did not drink down there; but that they engaged in gambling. [Sir WILFRID LAWSON: I did not say that they did not drink.] He confessed he was surprised that the hon. Baronet should have made a speech on the subject without saying that they did drink. The hon. Baronet seemed to have evolved out of his moral consciousness the notion that the Derby, Drink, and the Devil were convertible terms. Now, some persons, no doubt, might go to the Derby to gamble; but everybody knew that, as a matter of fact, the occasion was regarded as a species of national picnic in the fresh air. And the hon. Baronet should support it because it was essentially a democratic picnic; because, for that one day at least, and in that one place in the Island, equality ruled supremo—high and low, rich and poor, going out to enjoy the fresh air; and if there was any boisterous hilarity among thorn, it was owing rather to natural good spirits than to alcoholic spirits. The hon. Baronet said that in adjourning over to-morrow they would be preferring pleasure to duty. No doubt there was a Cato-like air of rugged virtue in voting against the Adjournment; but the constituencies were not quite such fools as some people in that—the Radical—part of the House took them to be. The constituencies wore sure to take a pretty accurate measure of the fussy and spasmodic zeal of the Catos in that quarter of the House, who came down and voted on parade occasions like that, and thus attempted to assume a virtue though they knew they had it not. He asked hon. Gentlemen to look into the past. How many "Counts out" had there been? There had been at least a dozen this year. ["No, no!"] Well, then, say half-a-dozen. Where were his hon. Friends then? Where was their zeal for the public cause then? He supposed they were dining, or engaged in some equally futile occupation—those eminent patriots! On the last Wednesday when the House met the Speaker sat in Jus Chair more than an hour before a sufficient number of Members came down to make a House, and when he himself dropped in about 2 o'clock things were not much better. Only about a dozen Members were present, and there was not a single zealous Cato among them; they were composed of Whigs, Conservatives, and such like triflers; and the discussion was upon something relating to theatres. Even the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold)—perhaps one of the most diligent Members—would admit that they could hardly waste their time more if they all went to the Derby tomorrow than if a few of them sat, as they did on the occasion to which he had referred, when they carried on an idle discussion about places of amusement, though he himself took part in it. He was told that they had passed two Bills; but even then he did not think the day had been very usefully spent. He did not think, therefore, that they would gain much by not adjourning for the Derby. He would vote for the Motion, not that he himself contemplated going to Epsom; but many others might wish to go there, and might prefer that the House should not sit. There ought to be a sufficient amount of good-fellowship among them to induce them to adjourn if there was a feeling in its favour, even on the part of a minority, and if there was no particular Business likely to be done, as nobody supposed would be the case to-morrow. The hon. Member for Beaumaris (Mr. Morgan Lloyd) proposed to ask them to-morrow to look after the discipline of the Church; but that was hardly Business of a character to conflict with the desire to adjourn over to-morrow. Sometimes they adjourned because some Members wished to go to church; others wished to adjourn to go to the Derby; and surely those wore matters in which they should give and take a little. He supported the Adjournment on its own merits, because it recognized the sound principle that life was not to consist entirely of toiling and moiling. All work and no play was a fallacious and pernicious doctrine, and one which, if preached by Radicals, would alienate from them support throughout the country. He viewed the Motion in the light of a graceful recognition of the people. It was not a question of rich men, but of all men going to the Derby; and it was a recognition, also, of the equally sound principle that life had its pleasures as well as its duties.


said, he would not detain the House. He merely wished to throw out a suggestion which might be worthy of consideration in another year. When he first entered Parliament there was no Adjournment over the Derby Day, because the House always met in the evening. It did not always follow that the House met in the evening; but he remembered that on one occasion Sir Robert Peel passed, on the evening of a Derby Day, many of the clauses of one of his Commercial Bills. He suggested that in another year the Government might arrange for the House to meet in the same way, to expedite one of the measures on which they, or some private Members, had set their hearts. He thought this practice of Adjournment was discreditable to the House. It ought to be remembered that important Business had to be done in Private Bill Committees. There was no other Court in London which adjourned on the Derby Day; and why should the House of Commons not sit also? If they did not wish to sit at 12 o'clock they could meet at 4. He thought it might be considered whether there should not be such an alteration of the Standing Orders as would allow Committees to sit even if the House adjourned.


said, he simply rose to point out that the argument of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) rested upon an unsound basis, for he had assumed that the majority of the people of this country indulged in the pastime of horse-racing; but neither he, nor any other speaker, had proved, or had attempted to prove, this position. He (Mr. James Howard) utterly denied its existence. He had, for 30 years, lived near to a racecourse, and could say that not one-tenth of the people of the neighbourhood ever attended the races; nor did a fiftieth, and, perhaps, not one in a hundred of the people of the Metropolis, had ever attended the Derby. Nor were the supporters of the Adjournment the sole lovers of sport or amusements, as they imagined. Like hundreds of other men fond of horses and genuine sport, he had a great contempt for racing, and for the specimens of men it produced. He saw no reason for the Adjournment of the House, more especially upon a false assumption. He should certainly vote against the Motion for the Adjournment.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 185; Noes 85: Majority 100.—(Div. List, No. 97.)

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