HC Deb 31 May 1881 vol 261 cc1785-94

said, he rose for the purpose of moving that the House at its rising adjourn until Thursday next. He was very happy indeed to find that there was to be no opposition to that Motion. [Sir WILFRID LAWSON dissented.] Well, at all events, the hon. Baronet who shook his head had not had the courage of his convictions. No Notice of opposition appeared in the Parliamentary Record; and if the hon. Baronet really intended to challenge his Resolution, in all fairness he ought to have signified his desire in the usual Mode. Rashness was one of the failings of youth, and he (Mr. R. Power) feared it was his failing upon that occasion; for he had spoken so often upon that important subject, that anything he might then say would be tedious as "a thrice-told tale:" He had, therefore, determined not to make a speech. [Cheers.] Really those cheers almost tempted him to break his resolve; but he would only make a foxy remarks. He vainly hoped that they might have been allowed innocently to enjoy themselves to-morrow without this miserable annual squabble. He thought that reason had at last dawned upon the obtuse mind of the temperance Baronet; and he believed that the constant beatings which the hon. Baronet had received for his misconduct upon these occasions would have had some effect upon him; but he found that he was absolutely irreclaimable—logic and argument were alike thrown away upon him, and he clearly proved by his conduct that Providence thought it necessary to inflict certain evils upon the human race. What did the hon. Baronet propose to do? He proposed to imprison the Members of the House on Wednesday, and also its hard-worked officials, Did not the hon. Baronet think that the hours occupied by the talk of hon. Members on the Liberal Benches—hours which sometimes extended to 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning—entitled the officials of the House to at least one day of rest and recreation? Never before had there been a Session notable for so few "counts-out." With regard to this question of "counts," however, he had acquired new hope now that that long lost child, the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. T. Collins) had returned to the House. "Counts," he thought, would now become a little more frequent. He would remind the House that there had been an increasing majority on the question of adjournment over the Derby Day. In 1877 the proposal was supported by 207 Members, and last year by 285. They certainly deserved a holiday considering the arduous work which they had gone through in the present Session. They had been summoned at an unusually early period, and, judging from present appearances, they were likely to sit for an unusual length of time. They had, in the prosecution of their labours, turned day into night and night into day, and their zeal in the fulfilment of their duties had been such that he believed Her Majesty had no harder-worked subjects than Her faithful Commons. He contended that all Parties in the House would be benefited by a holiday on Wednesday, and they would return to their work in a better spirit and temper than had some-times been exhibited. Anyhow, he could speak for his own Party on that occasion. For the Irish Members there had recently been nothing but interruption, Obstruction, Questions, and Amendments, coercion, and suspension. A Member of that Party hardly knew whether he was to be allowed to sit in the House, or whether he was to be consigned to a cell in Kilmainham. In fact, for an Irish Member there stood "a palace and a prison on each hand." After what he had said, no one could doubt that the Members of his Party deserved to have their physical and mental energies recruited by a holiday. If any further argument were needed to convince his Colleagues, he would remind them of the very remarkable and agreeable fact that when Plenipotentiary won the Derby in 1834, Mr. Batson made his tenants a present of one whole year's rent. He failed to see how any illustrious Colleague of his could possibly vote in antagonism to a race which had had so beneficial an effect. On the last occasion when the subject was brought forward, 42 Irish Members, who constituted all that was enlightened and intelligent among the Representatives of Irish constituencies, supported him, and only 10 foolish Irishmen, consisting of eight barristers, one clergyman, and one major, voted against him. Of course, the wants of their small Party went for little in the decision of that House; but then there were Her Majesty's Ministers, who deserved a holiday as much as any schoolboys in the country. Their troubles were not confined to that House, but extended all over the world, from Constantinople to Afghanistan, from Afghanistan to the Transvaal, from the Transvaal to Ireland, and from Ireland back to Northampton. He did not say that all the Members of the Government were entitled to a holiday on Wednesday, for there were drones as well as bees in the Government hive. But, at any rate, there was one right hon. Gentleman whom all would agree had earned the right to a holiday—he referred to the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. The number of speeches he had had to make, the number of attacks he had had to repel, the number of explanations he had had to give, the number of Questions he had had to answer, was quite sufficient to muddle the brains of any ordinary mortal, and if he was to get through the remainder of the Session with safety to himself and benefit to his Party he had better enjoy himself tomorrow on the Epsom Downs. Men of all stations, creeds, and classes, shared alike this sport. Epsom was a neutral ground where all religious and political differences were buried. He only wished they had some such burial-ground in Ireland. To show how the love of this sport permeated all classes, he might just mention that on the racecourse at York there was a celebrated spot known as "The Archbishop's Corner," where the grandfather of the present Home Secretary, in defiance of all canon law, hid himself in seine bushes in order to see the winner of a big race. He hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman inherited not only the fortune, but also the sporting proclivities of his grandfather, and that he would find himself at the Derby to- morrow. The hon. Baronet opposite thought it derogatory to the dignity of the House to adjourn for a horse race. Well, he was sorry to say that recent events had cast some doubt upon the existence of that dignity; but he would remind his hon. Friend, if he had ever read Roman history, which by-the-bye he very much doubted, that the Romans, who could not have been insensible to considerations of dignity, never met in the Forum when there was a race in the Circus. The ancient Britons, as soon as they became civilized enough, stamped their coins with equine subjects, and King Athelstan set such store upon horses that he prohibited their exportation except as presents. In his Derby Day speeches the hon. Baronet was accustomed to sneer at those who went to races. He called them "bawling blackguards." Well, that was scarcely a generous phrase. [Sir WILFRID LAWSON: I applied it only to professional. betting men.] It might be extended to others besides betting men. The loudest bawler and the biggest blackguard he had ever met in his life was a gentleman who was a paid temperance lecturer, and who died of delirium tremens. His hon. Friend's great argument was—"Let those go to the Derby who will, and let the rest stay at home and transact Business." But the Select Committees were largely composed of betting men, and both in the Committees and in the House it would be found that the statesman-like majority would go away, and the crotchetty and chimerical minority remain. He really thought that if the hon. Baronet had his way he would keep them all in the nursery and sustain them with Zoedone. He forgot the lines of the celebrated poet— The man who bath no soul for racing, Is only fit for treasons, stratagems, and water-drinking. The hon. Baronet said he was thirsty for work; but this inordinate appetite for work was not natural or healthy in man, and he would find that the most sober-souled individual must sometimes enjoy himself. He (Mr. R. Power) knew they would bear a great deal about "conscientious objections" to an adjournment over the Derby Day. Well, he did not say that a conscientious man might not be a good man; but conscientious men were generally very trouble-some as legislators, and inconvenient as friends. He would remind the House that the Derby race was entitled to respect on the score of antiquity. It was over 100 years old, and it had been sanctioned by the House of Commons for 34 years; and he doubted very much whether the Puritanical spirit was yet strong enough to prevent the Legislature from giving its countenance to an ancient and noble pastime. No sane man could have any hesitation as to the vote he should give. On the one side, they had fresh air, healthful excitement, and the indescribable pleasure of seeing the noblest horses in the world coming round Tattenham Corner and making for the winning-post amid the shouts of thousands. On the other side, they had bad air, dull repetition, and tiresome talking, and did no good either to themselves or to the country. He had forgotten that he promised not to make a speech, so he should conclude as he once heard a celebrated preacher wind up an eloquent discourse— Remember, my brethren, this is not a sermon I have been preaching to you; it is only the truth I have been telling you. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House, at its rising, do adjourn until Thursday."—(Mr. Richard Power.)


was about to speak, when—


rose to Order. He submitted that the hon. Baronet was not entitled to be heard. It was one of the Rules of the House that no Member should address the House on a subject in which he had a pecuniary interest—[Cries of "Oh!"]—and the hon. Baronet, he understood, had been betting on the result of the division. [Cries of "Oh!"]


I can only regard the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport as trifling with the House.


who rose again amid interruption and cries of "Name him!" said, he could assure Mr. Speaker it was nothing of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman could not have heard what he said. ["Order, order!"] He stated, and now repeated the statement, that he was informed the hon. Baronet had been betting on the result of the division. ["Oh, oh!"]


said, as the Speaker appeared to have overruled the objection of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton), he should proceed to give a few reasons why he could not agree with the Resolution. He admired the entertaining speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford; but it only wanted one thing—namely, a little argument. He gave no reason why that House should adjourn for a horse race except that the Romans used to do so. That was surely a poor argument to use in a Christian Assembly. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) thought it was an argument in his favour when in such an Assembly his hon. Friend was obliged to go back to a heathen assembly for a precedent. Last Friday he had read in The Morning Post, which was one of the organs of sweetness and light, the following sentence:— The Motion for the adjournment over the Derby will be moved, and Sir Wilfrid Lawson will oppose the Motion, and, if need be, take a division. He will be supported by the section of Radical Nonconformists below the Gangway, who object to adjournments on Saint days, Derby days, and all that sort of thing. He did not, however, put the Derby at all in the same category as Saints' days. He objected to it on the ground of common sense and national morality; and if he could not maintain his stand on those grounds, he hoped the House would vote against him. What did the hon. Member for Waterford mean by saying that the Derby adjournment was a time-honoured institution? It was introduced only 34 years ago by Lord George Bentinck, and he used to carry it by narrow majorities. But there were Radicals in those days. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham was a Radical then, and he and Mr. Hume used to fight Lord George Bentinck on his Motion. Of course, the adjournment got to be an habit, as evil things unfortunately did, and by-and-bye Lord Palmerston, on behalf of the Government, took it out of the hands of private Members. But that happened only 21 years ago, and then, as time went on, some of the Radical Nonconformists and disreputable people below the Gangway protested against the adjournment, and at last, to the honour of the present Leader of the Opposition in that House, who saw that the proceeding was altogether contemptible, he declared that the Government would never bring forward the Motion again, but would leave it to the Member for Waterford. It was not a time-honoured practice, but an excrescence on their proceedings. What happened last year? When the Motion was made, the Secretary of State for War jumped up and said there was no Business on the Paper for Wednesday, and that if the House met the Speaker would have to sit in the Chair from 12 to 4 o'clock, looking at an empty House and with no Business to be done. It was the favourite argument for the adjournment that no Business was put down for the Derby day. But why was that so? Because everybody said—"It is no use putting down anything on the Paper—the House is sure to adjourn." Then, when an empty Paper appeared, it was said—"The House may as well adjourn, because there is nothing on the Paper." On this occasion, however, they had got rid of that difficulty. He saw that there were no fewer than 14 most important Bills put down on the Paper for to-morrow, and, strange to say, out of the whole number only two happened to be Irish Bills. Therefore, they would be very happy indeed if his hon. Friend and all his Colleagues would go the Derby to-morrow.


asked, what was the first Bill for to-morrow?


, said it was a peculiarly Irish Bill—it was about lunacy. Strange to say, there was only one Drink Bill among the 14; but there were three Ecclesiastical Bills. One was about churchwardens, one about Church Boards, and then there was the very important Bill of the hon. Member for Mid Lincoln (Mr. E. Stanhope) as to Church patronage, and he hoped that the hon. Member would not be seduced by his Colleague (Mr. Chaplin) to visit the Derby instead of attending to that important measure. That constituted a pretty good list of Bills, and it showed that they might be better employed tomorrow than in all going to the Derby. His hon. Friend the Member for Waterford said they had met unusually early this year, and so they had; but then it must be owned that they had done unusually little, although there never was a Session requiring them more to attend to their work. His hon. Friend told them that last year he had opposed that Motion on Sabbatarian grounds; but surely nobody but an Irishman could suppose that the Derby was run on a Sunday. His hon. Friend had the modest assurance to come down there and say that the House wanted a rest; and he made an appeal ad misericordiam to the Speaker and the officers of the House. Now, he was there at 5 o'clock last Saturday morning; and who, he might ask, was the leader of those who kept them out of their beds up to that time? Why, his hon. Friend who now professed so much anxiety for the ease and comfort of the Speaker and the officers of the House.


asked the hon. Baronet to remember that on Saturday morning he appealed to his hon. Friend to give way.


believed that at half-past 4 in the morning his hon. Friend made such an appeal; and he admitted that his hon. Friend was not quite as bad as some of his Colleagues. To show that he quite realized that need of rest on the part of the Irish Members, he would tell the House what he had heard of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar). He was told that at the end of a long week of obstruction the hon. Member went to a church on Sunday, and, quite excusably, he fell asleep. Suddenly, by some peal of the organ, or by some loud expression of the clergyman, the hon. Member woke up, and, on looking round and finding but a few persons in the church', he rose and said—"Mr. Speaker, Sir, I move that the House be counted." Now, he objected to the adjournment over the Derby Day, because he said there was not a national feeling on the question; and the House ought not to take such an exceptional step save in a genuine national matter. Many people, whose opinions were worth considering, objected to the system of racing, and thought the House ought not to sanction it. The hen. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) last year cited to the House a long list of Dukes, Marquesses, and Earls, to show that racing was supported by very good men; of course it was, but a thing was not made good simply because it was supported by good men. Every evil that had maintained itself in this country had maintained itself because good men had supported it. An evil system would fall at once if it lost such support. Mr. Wyndham, the very soul of chivalry and honour, had supported bull-baiting; John Newton, the head of the Evangelical party in his day, was a slave-dealer; and they all knew, in regard to the drink traffic, that the best men in the world carried it on. If all the Dukes in the House of Lords, and all the Bishops on the Episcopal Bench, supported the Derby, that would not make it right. They must judge the thing on its merits, and they were very clear. The system of the Turf did more harm by way of demoralization than it did good by the amusement it afforded. One of the papers had attacked him on this matter in a poem, and what did it say?— Hence of late years the sport has wellnigh flown, The vices have it almost all their own. That was from an enemy; but he could give them a better quotation. In the very last book written by the departed Leader of the great Party opposite there was this passage— There was one subject on which Mr. Rodney appeared to be particularly interested, and that was racing. The Turf at that time had not developed into that vast institution of national demoralization which it has now become. If the Conservative Party regarded their late Leader, that passage ought to have weight with them. Instead of making a speech he ought, perhaps, only to have quoted those words. He said that the tendency of racing was bad, and that it ought not to be supported by the House. It had a bad effect on the people who supported it. That was seen even in the case of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire, who, although he was a member of a Diocesan Conference, had to be reproved by his Bishop because, led away by his love of racing, he had consented to act as steward of a steeple-chase on Maunday Thursday. How did they look at other countries? What a fuss they made if they saw anything wrong in any other country. He had received a circular from a body which called itself an International Association, at the head of which was the name of the Lord Mayor of London. Ho did not know whether his right hon. Friend was now in the House. He ought to be there, for he was sure that he was genuine in all his movements, and was earnest in his convictions. The circular referred to the gambling-tables of Monte Carlo, and said— The ruin and misery entailed on numbers of our fellow-creatures through the gambling-tables of Monte Carlo demand that an organized effort should he made for their suppression. But what was the difference between rolling balls over green cloth and running horses over green grass? It was all gambling. It would be a great deal better if they took the beam out of their own eye, and then they would see more clearly to take the mote out of their neighbour's eye. "That which thoudoubtest do not." If there was a shadow of suspicion that horse-racing was not the most honourable thing in the world let them not sanction it. They acted now-a-days upon "reasonable suspicion." If they had reasonable suspicion that a man in Ireland was disloyal they clapped him into prison. If they had reasonable suspicion that a Member of that House was not orthodox they expelled him; and if they had reasonable suspicion that to adjourn for a horse-race was not a dignified proceeding let them not do it. They would stand in a better position before the country if they were to act with self-denial and give up a little of their own amusement for the general good.


said, he only rose to make an appeal to the House. They had had two most excellent speeches, representing both sides; they had met to transact very serious Business. If they were to take one day as a holiday, let them not lose another. Every hon. Member must have made up his mind as to his vote, and he would now ask the House to go at once to a division.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 246; Noes 119: Majority 127.—(Div. List, No. 223.)

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