HC Deb 13 May 1896 vol 40 cc1262-4

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY moved, "That Committees do not sit To-morrow, being Ascension Day, until Two of the clock."

MR. D. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon District)

said, he proposed to move an Amendment to this Motion. In the first instance, he objected to the Motion altogether as a farce. If a large body of Members really desired to attend Service to-morrow, there would be no objection on the part of anyone to their doing so; but when this Motion was carried year after year, and Members of the Church Party who voted for it were seen at the hour of Service riding in Rotten Row, it was nothing more than a piece of hypocrisy on the part of the House to pretend to the country that hon. Members were all so anxious to attend Divine Service that they could not do their Committee work. He had another objection to the Motion. If the House of Commons were going to suspend the attendance of Members on Committees for the sake of enabling them to attend a religious Service of one denomination, why should not work be suspended also for important gatherings of other denominations? Yesterday there was an important gathering of the Congregational Union, but no Congregationalist asked the House to order that no Committees should sit until Two o'clock. Another objection was that there was a good deal of congested work in the Committees. There was more private Bill work than ever this year; in fact, the bulk of the work of the House was done in these Committees, and a short time ago the Leader of the House said that the congestion of work was so considerable that they could not get on with it, and actually moved that the Grand Committee on Law should be allowed to sit after the business of the House had begun; yet they were now asked to suspend the work of the Committees for two or three hours. This was unfair to people who had gone to considerable expense with private Bills. They might have brought up 50 or 100 witnesses from the country, and expert witnesses at, perhaps, 100 guineas a day, and retained counsel who, judging from his experience of barristers, would no doubt charge their fees as on any other day. There were, however, some Committees of four or five Members, one or two of whom might be desirous of attending a Service. In that case the House compelled their attendance, and a Resolution might be passed to dispense with their services if they were really desirous of attending Divine Service. He would, therefore, move to omit all the words after "That" and to substitute the following:— the attendance of Members serving on Committees who desired to attend any religious Service to-morrow be dispensed with until Two of the clock.


I do not think I can put that Amendment. The hon. Member can Divide against the Motion, but Amendments of this description, in fact Amendments of any description to a Motion of this kind are quite unprecedented.

MR. W. ALLEN (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

contended that this Motion, if carried, would be a very serious thing for those who happened to have private Bills before Committees. Witnesses were being kept in London at enormous expense, and it was unfair to impose such a fine on those whose Bills happened to be on the Paper for to-morrow. He had got the names of a number of hon. Members who went riding and occupied themselves in other ways instead of going to Church last year, although they voted in favour of the Resolution. That showed that the House was hardly acting fairly to the country, and he thought this annual Motion ought to be dispensed with.


pointed out that one Committee of great importance which was considering a matter of great urgency would, if they met to-morrow, conclude the main part of their work, as he had reason to believe, and render it unnecessary to hold a further meeting. If the House did not meet until two o'clock, of course that Committee would not sit at all.


asked to what Committee the hon. Member referred?


The Grand Committee on Trade.


They have adjourned till Monday.


said, that was the very reason why he contended this Motion ought not to be adopted. If that Committee met on Monday it would cause some hon. Members to travel five hours or so on Sunday in order to be present. He could not understand the consistency and logic of a religious and devotional Government, which insisted on meeting two hours later to-morrow, and yet caused hon. Members to spend their Sunday in travelling. He wished the First Lord of the Treasury would consider this view of the matter. No one wished to question the devotion of hon. Gentlemen opposite as to make any light remarks as to Ascension Day, but they did wish the House to be consistent and not to make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of the serious portion of the country.

The House divided:—Ayes, 208; Noes, 87.—(Division List, No. 140.)