HC Deb 08 May 1893 vol 12 cc1550-7
*MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Eye)

said, he desired to move, "That the House, at its rising, do adjourn till Thursday, June 1." In so doing he was not actuated by any interested or personal considerations. He had put this Motion down at the request of some of his hon. Friends, and also on broad public and partly philanthropic grounds. When he first handed in the Motion he was informed that it ought to have come from the Prime Minister; and from 1860 to 1878 this duty was, in fact, discharged by the Leader of the House, from the Treasury Bench. He believed that it was a Liberal Prime Minister (Lord Palmerston) who started the practice, and that it was a Conservative Leader (Sir Stafford North cote) who first departed from it. In any case, he might be allowed to express the deep regret he felt that the Prime Minister's sense of duty did not permit him to-day to bring this proposal forward himself, and that his inclinations would not permit him to-morrow to avail himself of the leisure which he would thus secure. He was quite certain that however much the right hon. Gentleman might give offence to some of his sterner supporters, like the hon. Member who had given notice of an Amendment—which he understood was out of Order—he would certainly gain popularity among the masses of the country. It was not for him to offer any advice to hon. Gentlemen who chose to oppose the Motion; but he might suggest that they were under a misapprehension upon two important points. They were mistaken if they supposed that the British Democracy— Conservative, Liberal, Radical, or Irish Home Rule—were not passionately devoted to the national sport of horse-racing; and he thought they were labouring under a still greater mistake if they thought that their example of abstention from, of non-participation in, this particular race would have the smallest effect upon any man, woman, or child in the country. Hon. Members would recollect, perhaps, the words of the great essayist, who used once to sit upon the Bench opposite, about the attitude of the old Liberal Party, the Puritans, towards a much grosser and less defensible sport than horse-racing. "The Puritans," said Lord Macaulay, "hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators." That was, he submitted, a concise description of what they would be doing if they refused to adjourn for this great Democratic festival to-morrow. If they assumed a sour and fanatical posture towards this great event, the public would be entitled to say that they were not so much distressed about the injury that would be done to the morals of the people as at the notion of Members of the House being allowed to enjoy themselves with the people, and of sharing in their amusement. How often had hon. Members informed their constituents that the greatest pleasure they enjoyed was being in their company? What better opportunity could they have of proving that, for once in a way, they were in earnest than by venturing upon the Downs at Epsom to-morrow in company with the masses as well as the classes? He thought that, on a question of this sort, that House was more liable than any other body of men to assume an attitude that was open to the charge of being hypocritical. Who were they? Who were they that they should have the right to take up this very censorious and conceited attitude on the subject of horse-racing? He did not know that they had in that House as many owners of race-horses as were to be found in another place; but he believed they had a few, and that some of them occupied high places in the confidence of the Crown. And, if they were to gauge the real tastes of hon. Members of that House by humbler indications than the possession of race-horses, he would point to the fact that, not only within the gilded saloons of the Carlton Club, but also within the more chaste retirement of a rival establishment close by, there was maintained a thing called a Derby sweep, which, if it were publicly indulged in in an open space, would bring all the participators within the grasp of the law. He believed that the sincerity of Members of this House on the subject of gambling would best be proved to the world, not by resisting this Motion, but by empowering the Police Authorities occasionally to make what was called a betting raid upon the great establish- ments in Pall Mall, as well as upon some of the humbler institutions in other quarters of the town. But he could go a little further in proof of his contention that the)' had no right to take up this particular attitude on the question of the Adjournment for the Derby Day. He believed it was a melancholy truth that some amount of betting actually went on within the Avails of that House. The only case which he would venture to bring under the notice of the House was one which occurred not very long ago, when he saw just outside those doors, in the inner Lobby, a Member of the fraternity known as bookmakers, with his pocket book in his hand, plying his ordinary vocation. The matter was apparently such au everyday occurrence that nobody took any notice of it. Now he saw the bookmaker doing a little business, as he would have said, with au hon. Member of this House, and, strange to say, that hon. Member was not one of those thoughtless, stupid reactionaries—he was a Member of the Liberal Party, and now a distinguished Member of Her Majesty's Government. [Cries of "Oh!" and "Name!"] Hon. Members below the Gangway asked for the name of this Member of the Government. He could only tell them that if they thought he was saying anything that was unwarranted, or of a slanderous nature, the simplest course would be to consult the senior Law Officer of the Crown on the subject. There were a great number of considerations—[Interrupion.

Dr. Macgregor rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put "; but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Debate resumed.

*MR. RROOKFIELD, continuing, said, he wished that the Question might not only be put, but carried without any further delay. He had said that there were many other considerations which he could put before the House. He might remind hon. Members below the Gangway that it was an Irish Parliamentary Whip who used to undertake the duty of seconding this Motion. Now, by consenting to an Adjournment to-morrow, they would add a whole day to their political existence. But there was one argument which, he was sure, would secure a hushed respect from all quarters of the House. He had observed that sentimental arguments always had the greatest weight in that Assembly, and there was one sentimental argument which was invariably introduced into Motions for the Adjournment of the House, and that was consideration for the feelings of the officers of the House. Most of the officials of the House, he was informed, were very much interested in the event that was to take place to-morrow, and on their behalf he thought this proposal ought to be well received. Looking at the business view of this proposal, he would ask hon. Members what satisfaction did they derive from the experience of last year? Last year, for the first time for a great number of years, a similar Motion to the one be was now submitting was defeated by a majority of 14, and when the Speaker took the Chair at 12 o'clock on Derby Day he found 12 Members present. At 1 o'clock there were 19, at 4 o'clock there were only 35 hon. Gentlemen in attendance, and at five minutes past 4 the House adjourned without having transacted any business whatever. By assenting to the present Motion the House would give a most refreshing and conclusive answer to those accusations of hypocrisy which were so constantly and, he must say, so justly levelled against it, and would take a course which he fully believed would be at once wise and pleasant, at the same time expedient and popular. He begged to move the Motion.

MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)

said, as he moved this Resolution last year and seconded it the year before, possibly hon. Members would permit him to say half-a-dozen words on the subject in seconding the Motion now before the House. He ventured to appeal to right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite, and to ask them to consider whether, with bad seasons, swine fever, and wheat at 23s. a quarter, it would not be an act of common charity to allow hon. Members representing agricultural constituencies to go down to the Derby, possibly for the last time? He felt morally certain that in 12 months time many of them would not be in a sufficiently strong condition financially to pay for their return tickets, unless, of course, the Prime Minister brought within the region of practical politics his measure for paying them l5s. a day, with third-class return tickets. That measure might possibly put a different face on the situation. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that there was no plethora of capital in the agricultural districts, whatever might be the case in Ireland. It might possibly be a question of time, and Ministers might be unwilling to tear hon. Members from the contemplation of the great measure in which they all took such a warm interest, and in reference to which he saw that some misguided person had been commenting on and counting their Divisions, which he ventured to consider was a most reprehensible thing. But if the Government could not spare the time, surely with their solid majority of 40—which was occasionally a little more—they could, by suspending the Twelve o'Clock Rule for a fortnight, make up for the time that would be lost by adjourning to-morrow? he looked forward with the greatest interest to the speech of the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. J. E. Ellis). Nobody who had sat opposite to the hon. Member could doubt his virtues; but because he was virtuous that was no reason why others should have no more cakes and ale. He did not know whether the noble Lord the Member for Ipswich (Lord Elcho) was in his place that afternoon. He believed that on these occasions the noble Lord usually made his annual visit to the House of Commons. He need not say how much they all admired his flexibility of adaptation; and if the noble Lord were present, considering he voted for the Resolution two years ago, and against the Resolution last year, he would ask him to consider whether, in the words of hon. Gentlemen opposite, he might not find salvation and please his constituents and those who supported this Motion by again turning his coat and voting with them on this occasion?

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House, at its rising, do adjourn till Thursday 1st June."—(Mr. Brookfield.)

*MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe),

in rising to oppose the Motion, said he should have regard to the fact that discussions on this question had generally been extremely brief. As mentioned in the Amendment he had placed on the Paper, this was a comparatively recent Motion. It was first made by Lord George Bentinck in 1847. It passed unopposed at that time largely from the circumstance that it came on unexpectedly. But in the following year it was only carried by a majority of 13. It was quite true that Lord Palmerston in 1860, as head of the Government, took up the Motion; but in 1878 Sir Stafford Northcote dropped it as a Government Motion on the very good good ground that it had become an opposed Motion, and that it was not fitting that the Government should use their authority and influence to pass a Motion which had then become opposed. Since that time the Motion had had uniform success in that House until last year. He noticed sitting below the Gangway the noble Lord the Member for Ipswich, and those of them who were in the last Parliament would have missed his advocacy of the Motion that day. When this Motion was made by the noble Lord, whose sparkling humour and perfect taste and tone compelled the admiration of those who dissented from him, it was successful; but directly the noble Lord joined with the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth in opposing it it was defeated. He did not stand there to oppose that Motion and then not be prepared to appear in the House at 12 o'clock on the following day. He took it that those who opposed the Motion on the present occasion bound themselves to attend in their places and make a House to-morrow. Speaking on this subject in 1848, Mr. John Bright said— It was below the dignity of this House to make the fact of certain races being held within a few miles of the Metropolis a pretext for a holiday. That was the ground on which he now opposed the Motion. Coining there, as they did, with the earnest purpose of passing legislative measures which they believed were for the benefit of the nation, it was unworthy of them to set aside their whole proceedings because of a certain race meeting in the County of Surrey.

CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)

said, he rose for the purpose of supporting the Motion made by the hon. Member for Rye; but in doing so he was actuated by considerations very different from those which had influenced the Mover. That hon. Member had spoken on behalf of the aristocracy, but he ventured to speak for the democracy. Those lion. Members who, like himself, represented some portion of the large population of this great city dwelling South of the Thames were aware that throughout that wide area the Derby Day was looked upon almost in the light of a national holiday, and there were thousands of them who would as soon think of being absent from Epsom to-morrow as the Spanish workman would think of missing the first bull-fight of the season. The rough Radicals were not all cast in the same Puritanical mould. Many of them looked with a very lenient eye upon the foibles and follies of mankind, and even made allowance for those honourable aristocrats who felt that for one day out of the 365 they would be better employed at Epsom than in wandering, like dismal spirits, round the Division Lobbies of that House. The result of the Division on the Eight Hours for Miners Bill gave him great satisfaction. He was one of those who wished to see the hours of labour curtailed, not only for those who worked in mines, but also for the many who toiled upon the surface. But his deepest sympathy was reserved for those who passed the first portion of the day in dealing with a mass of Correspondence, and the second part of the day and all the night in dealing with an amount of Public Business fully sufficient to occupy two Legislative Assemblies, if not four, with the result that they were deprived of their fair share of Nature's great restorer. He hoped the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson) would not think he was referring to fiery alcohol. He was alluding to balmy sleep, which when it did come to weary legislators came in a long series of night-mares. He supported the Motion.


only wished to observe that if any hon. Member would get up and declare on his honour that he had something new to say on the subject the House would, no doubt, listen to him; but, in the absence of any such declaration, he begged to move that the Question be now put.

LORD STANLEY (Lancashire, S. E., Westhoughton),

for whom there had been calls), rose to continue the Debate—


The House seems desirous to hear the noble Lord.


said, that the hon. Member (Mr. Macfarlane) asked if there was anybody who could get up and say anything new about this matter. It was not his intention to accept that challenge. To a certain extent he might claim to have an interest in this question that did not pertain to anybody else in the House—he might say it was almost a personal matter. He had read—and he agreed with it—that the best way to secure the holiday was not to take up a long time discussing it that day. He could address no fresh arguments to the House, and Heaven forbid that he should try to make a fresh joke! As to the noble Lord the Member for Ipswich (Lord Elcho), this occasion seemed in years past to have been a sort of jocular benefit for him. The year before last the noble Lord proposed the Adjournment for the holiday, and last year he opposed it; and in that respect the noble Lord seemed to have done within the year what some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen also had done — namely, changed their minds, and been able to sec and vote in diametrically opposite ways. The hon. Member who opposed this Motion seemed to him to put the whole case in a nutshell. He apparently looked upon the noble Lord the Member for Ipswich as a sort of standpoint by which the House should go, so that whatever way the noble Lord spoke and voted the House ought at once to follow [Cries of "Divide!"] He would not stand longer between the House and the noble Lord, and felt certain that if his noble Friend voted for the Motion they would be able to do what they had done in times past and carry the Adjournment.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 169; Noes 281.—(Division List, No. 100.)

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