HC Deb 25 May 1886 vol 306 cc35-40
MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

, in moving, "That this House, at its rising, do adjourn until Thursday next," said: I need not state that I would not have given Notice to move the adjournment of the House had I not been aware that I was perfectly in Order, and had I not learnt that the Prime Minister did not contemplate moving it himself. Sir, the tendency of the age is to reduce, as far as possible, the hours of labour of working men. Experience has proved that short hours produce more good work than long hours, and that those who take holidays do more work than those who do not. With this object we have lately frequently legislated, and established Bank Holidays. We owe, undoubtedly, our first duty to those who sent us here; but, having fulfilled that first duty, we have a second duty—which I trust we shall never forget—to ourselves. A Committee of Procedure is now sitting upstairs. I trust the result of the deliberations of that Committee will be to shorten our hours of labour. We must not forget that we hold a sacred duty from our Predecessors—to maintain the short hours of relaxation which we have received from them, and it is our duty to transmit the good which we have received from our Predecessors to our Successors. In these days of change, when institutions the most sacred are menaced, let us, at least, hold firm to something. The man who would tamper with our holidays is either a bad man, or he is a crotchety man, or he is a Scotchman. The Session now lasts habitually from the commencement of February until the commencement of September. During that time we are in the habit of adjourning twice—once at Easter, and once at Whitsuntide. But within the last 30 or 40 years exhausted nature has claimed its right, and it has been the habit to take an adjournment on some Wednesday between those ecclesiastical festivals. I need not say that while the holiday is desirable for us, it is still more desirable for you, Sir, and the officials connected with the House. You and they are obliged always to be here. We are sometimes able to snatch an hour without our country suffering for our absence. But, considering the length of the hours which the officials work here during the week, and the intelligence and zeal with which they perform their duties, it would be barbarity at which humanity really shudders to deprive them of this holiday to which they are accustomed. The holiday this year has been all the more needful than in other years. We have been discussing questions of great importance. The discussion has been a great strain upon us, and that strain will continue, very likely, for some time. We ought, therefore, to have an off-day; it will be good for us both physically and morally, and we shall be enabled to return ready to renew the discussion with great and continuous eloquence. I have looked at the Orders of the Day for to-morrow. I find the first three Orders relate to Irish Bills. I have no doubt Members interested in those Bills would be quite ready to come here and deal with them if the House wished it. But, such is their regard for the social amenities, I am inclined to think that if the House wished to adjourn they would be ready to forego that pleasure—all the more because we have now a Bill before us which, if it pass, will relegate the consideration of these Bills to a domestic Legislature in Ireland. I will point out to those who complain that we are interfering with the Business of the House; that if we were to meet tomorrow we should not do any great Business; but we should be engaged in an interesting, but somewhat academic, discussion on Irish explosives and Irish lunatics. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) asks—"Why should we take this holiday tomorrow?" My answer is—Why should we not? There are circumstances connected with to-morrow which lead me to think that if we are to have our annual holiday between Easter and Whitsuntide, tomorrow would be a very convenient day. Perhaps the House is not aware that there is a great and important meeting going on at the present time. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy says that if this Motion were allowed I might next be asking the House to adjourn for a prayer meeting. There is a prayer meeting going on now. At the present season the members of the Society of Friends have a prayer meeting which lasts about a week, and Wednesday is an important day of that meeting. We should be consulting the feelings and the wishes of the Society of Friends if we were to adjourn to-morrow. There is a further reason. I gather that on some Downs in the neighbourhood of London, at a place called Epsom, there is to be a contest between certain horses for a prize. I understand that it is an annual custom to hold this contest. Certain Gentlemen in this House take considerable interest in the amelioration of the breed of horses. They consider that these contests tend to the production of a better breed of horses, and they are anxious to be present. I would not think of putting the Motion for adjournment on that ground; but I am also told that a vast concourse of the toilers of the Metropolis are in the habit of visiting Epsom Downs on this day, making it the pretext of a picnic. They go down in trains and other vehicles, and they camp out in the open air, which at that spot, I believe, is most salubrious, and after a modest repast they return home braced up and re-invigorated. I believe there are many Members of this House who take an interest in seeing these poor people enjoying themselves in this Arcadian fashion, without knowing or caring much themselves about horseracing; these Members are in the habit of going down and witnessing that innocent scene. I am quite aware that this national picnic has been described in other terms in this House. I know that my friend Sir Wilfrid Lawson, whose absence from the House we all regret, a man of great wisdom in other things, somehow on this particular point used to have what I may call a Derby mania, for he insisted that this was a species of orgie of drunkenness. I can assure the House from personal observation that such is not the case. I have been there myself. I have happened to find I myself on the Downs on several of these occasions, and I am bound to say I have never seen a single drunkard there. [Mr. DILLWYN: Oh, oh!] I take this dissent of my hon. Friend as a compliment de viro pietate gravis. I know what the fact is, and I cannot suppose that everybody arrested their drinking when I came there, and resumed it when I went away. Certainly I saw men in excellent spirits; but they went down there to be in excellent spirits. I saw persons eating a great deal of indigestible food, which made me envy their appetites and their digestion; but I do say that, so far from being an orgie of drunkenness, there is exceptionally little drunkenness at the Derby. We must remember that we ourselves a short time ago passed an Act to establish Bank Holidays, and certainly there is not more drunkenness at the Derby than there is on a Bank Holiday. Well, Sir, as I have said, if we were asked to adjourn simply for this race, I should say that it would be rather a strong recognition of racing, to which some persons might object; but, on the other hand, I assert that if we are to have a holiday between Easter and Whitsuntide—and that, I think, is fully admitted by everyone in the House—there is no reason why we should not have a holiday to-morrow. Simply because, on the one hand, members of the Society of Friends are anxious for that day to be chosen for the most important of their meetings; and, on the other hand, Gentlemen are anxious for it to be chosen, some of whom I have no doubt are going down to this race, some simply to sympathize with the enjoyment of the multitude. These questions are not questions of principle; it is not a principle whether we will have a Wednesday this week or a Wednesday next week it is rather one of social convenience. It seems to me we ought to consult the feelings alike of political friends and of political opponents; and, though we may not entirely agree with them, if we think that any considerable number of the House do consider that one particular day would be agreeable to them, we ought to fix our holiday for that day. Sir, for these reasons I beg to move that the House at its rising do adjourn till Thursday next.

MR. ISAACS (Newington, Walworth)

said, that he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion. In asking the House to adjourn over the Derby Day he did so for no purpose of his own. He was not desirous of going to the Derby, having seen it a score or more of times. He should be rather disposed to go to bed, and take the rest which the late hours of the House would not allow hon. Members to obtain, and ask his people not to disturb him until the race was run and the result could be announced. He reserved, however, his right to change his mind in that respect. But he would appeal to the House to accede to the Motion on behalf of a very considerable section of its Members who had been returned for the first time from the other side of St. George's Channel, many of whom had had no opportunity of seeing the great equine performance which would take place to morrow. He made this appeal, too, on the ground that one good turn deserved another. His hon. Friend the Member for Waterford City (Mr. E. Power) had on no less than three previous occasions made this Motion, in order that English Members might go to the Derby; and he thought now the time had come when English Members should return the compliment, so that hon. Members from Ireland might also go. Those hon. Members were eminently deserving of a holiday, for a more hard-working, more deserving set of men was not to be found within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster; and he thought it only right that English Members should give them some respite from their labours by adjourning over to-morrow.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House, at its rising, do adjourn until Thursday next."—(Mr. Labouchere.)


said, that he was unable to make a facetious speech, and he would not attempt to make a formal speech like the hon. Member who had just sat down. He would only say one word, that he had no objection to a holiday; but he did object to this particular Wednesday being chosen for that holiday. He had no objection to people going to see the race. If this Motion was carried, perhaps he might go himself. He did not think there was any great harm in racing; but he did think there was great harm in the fact that this annual race was made a great gambling saturnalia. He had been there pretty often, and he sympathized with the multitude. With respect to what had been said about drunkenness, he could say that, although he had not seen great drunkenness at the Derby, he had seen some. In his view, this country ought not to give any public recognition to this race, but should rather set its face against it. It was a great gambling saturnalia. Not only people who went to the race, but thousands and millions of people who did not go were encouraged to begin gambling by the race; and he thought that House ought not afford its sanction to any gambling institutions. It might be said that the Stock Exchange was a greater gambling institution than the Derby, and that it was tolerated; but that was no reason why public recognition should be given to this gambling saturnalia, which affected a much larger class. For these reasons he must vote against the Motion.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 251; Noes 150: Majority 101.—(Div. List, No. 106.)

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