HC Deb 20 May 1873 vol 216 cc171-4

moved, "That Committees shall not sit on Thursday, being Ascension Day, until Two of the clock, and have leave to sit until Six of the clock, notwithstanding the sitting of the House." The right hon. Gentleman observed that the House would probably recollect that a Motion was made last year in his absence, under the impression that it had become a matter of course that such a Motion should be made. Although the Government did not expect either a discussion or a divi- sion the Question was challenged, and on a division the Motion was negatived. There was some reference to the subject subsequently in that House, and he stated that it appeared to him that the question was one upon which it was desirable that the House should, upon a future occasion, decide. He therefore made this Motion in order to obtain the opinion of the House upon it. He was certainly under the impression that there had been a more uniform practice in respect to this matter than he found to have been actually the case. It appeared that the practice of the House had varied a good deal; but he did not find that upon any occasion, except that of last year, when the question was raised without the previous knowledge of hon. Members, that the House had actually refused its assent to a Motion restraining the Committees from sitting before 2 o'clock on Ascension Day, although in 1857 a proposal to suspend the Sitting during the whole of Ascension Day was withdrawn. On every occasion since 1856, at all events, when the Motion had been made it was carried, excepting that of last year, when it was urged, and with some force, that it would be a great hardship upon the parties connected with Committees to meet at 2 o'clock and then to adjourn at a quarter before 4 o'clock. Feeling that that objection was not without weight he now proposed that they should sit on until 6 o'clock, notwithstanding the sitting of the House. He did not urge the Motion with whatever authority belonged to a Government; but he moved it in deference to precedents substantially uninterrupted of recent years, and because, with the addition made to it, it was a becoming and proper one. Of course, he found no fault with persons who entertained a contrary opinion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Committees shall not sit on Thursday, being Ascension Day, until Two of the clock, and have leave to sit until Six of the clock, notwithstanding the sitting of the House."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


said, that last year when the Motion was made he gave Notice that on the following year he should resist such a Motion. Those who thought with him at that time believed they had then a favourable opportunity for expressing their opinions against the Motion, and accordingly they pressed for a division. The result was that the Motion was negatived. In accordance with the Notice which he then gave, he rose now to express his opposition to the Motion. There was no unbroken chain of precedent for it; in fact, the Motion was a modern one, and he ventured to say that it was a practice which ought not to commend itself to the good sense of the House. It was highly inconvenient to all those who were engaged on Committees. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to meet the objection which he had made last year by now proposing that the Committees should sit until 6 o'clock. He thought that proposal was unfair to those hon. Gentlemen who sat on Committees, and who might be desirous of attending to the Business of the House at a quarter-past 4 o'clock. It appeared to him, with all due deference to those who thought otherwise, that the religious idea connected with this Motion was not a sound one. If Ascension Day were observed by a large proportion of Her Majesty's subjects as a sacred one—like Christmas Day or Good Friday—the sense of the House would no doubt respect that feeling, and would be strongly in favour of such a Motion. He, however, believed that no such feeling pervaded the minds of the bulk of the Members of that House—certainly not amongst the Scotch, nor, he believed, amongst the Irish Members. What could be more absurd than that they should have half of a sacred day—that they should be forbidden to sit before 2 o'clock, and should then be allowed to return to their ordinary work. The fact was, that if some few Members did want to go to Church on Ascension Day, and represented such to be their feeling to their Colleagues on Committees, no doubt every consideration would be paid them, and such Committees would be adjourned over until 2 o'clock on that day. His right hon. Friend to be consistent ought not merely to say that the Committees should not meet until 2 o'clock on Ascension Day, but that they should go to Church on that day with Lord Charles Russell bearing his Mace marching before them. He hoped the House would agree with him that this practice should not be continued, and that every Member should be allowed to act according to the dictates of his own conscience.


pointed out the in- convenience which would arise from the Committees sitting beyond 4 o'clock, after the House was made. Some Gentlemen who might be interested in the Business before the House would be unable to attend until 6 o'clock, when it would, perhaps, be too late.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 181; Noes 80: Majority 101.