HC Deb 15 May 1901 vol 94 cc173-5

Before moving "that Committees do not sit to-morrow, being Ascension Day, until two of the clock," I think it may be convenient to inform the House that as the division on the Army resolution is by general consent to take place to-morrow, I propose to suspend the twelve o'clock rule. In doing so, however, I may say that I do not anticipate that the sitting will be protracted much beyond that hour. I move, according to precedent, the motion which stands in my name.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Committees do not sit to-morrow, being Ascension Day, until two of the clock."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)


said he had a sincere regard for the usages of all Churches and all religious bodies, and it was from no disrespect to them in regard to Ascension Day that he submitted for the consideration of the House whether the time had not arrived when this usage should be reconsidered. It was not an immemorial usage, although it originated at a distant date. It was for a considerable period suspended and afterwards resumed. At that time the services of the Church of England on Ascension Day were held much later than now, and he doubted whether any services would be going on in London to-morrow between twelve and two o'clock. Why, then, should this practice be continued? The Committee rooms upstairs were crowded with witnesses and experts brought from all parts of the country at very great expense, and every hour, indeed minute, was valuable. Moreover, many of them were Nonconformists, and while they had no objection to the services of the Church of England they did not see why, on coming to the metropolis at the expense of corporations and councils, their business should be retarded in the way it was. He thought the Government ought seriously to consider whether it was necessary to divide on this question year after year.


appealed to the House not to depart from what had been a custom for many years. Ascension Day was a festival of the highest importance in the Church of England, and it ought to be recognised by the House. It was true that their recognition of it was a very slight one, but that was no reason why it should be given up. He contended that the recognition of ceremonies was not an unimportant thing. The hon. Member for Dundee was mistaken in thinking that there would be no services going on in London to-morrow between 12 and 2 o'clock. There were services in St. Paul's Cathedral, which would not be over till a quarter past twelve. But, apart from the utilitarian view of the matter, it was their duty to respect ancient ceremonies. They might easily transact their business within four bare walls and on plain wooden benches, but he was sure they would be unwise to do so. He hoped the House would adhere to its uniform practice of recognising this great and important festival of the Church, and, by emphasising outward