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The Collected Parliamentary Reports of Robin Hyde

The Mirror, October 1, 1928. p. 53 — From The Gallery: Daylight Saving

The Mirror, October 1, 1928. p. 53
From The Gallery: Daylight Saving

The worst shall be first. Let's start with this up-with-the-lark movement. Tense interest and crowded galleries characterised the introduction of the very thin, indeed emaciated version of the Summertime Bill which Mr. Sidey dandled lovingly in his arms a few nights back.

When the general measure of Daylight Saving was defeated the sponsor of the Bill was the most pathetic figure in public life. Once a year for eighteen years he had introduced his little armful to Parliament. Seventeen times Parliamentarians had turned back the baby's bonnet, scrutinised its infant features, turned up their noses and laughed aloud. But father-love was triumphant in the end—just as all the dear picture producers tell us it simply has to be—and at the eighteenth attempt, Parliament stretched forth its arms and gathered little Bill to its bosom. But it was only a passing fancy on the part of the bright lights of Molesworth Street. When the period of trial had passed, the rurals came down like wolves on the city fold and chased the toddler howling from Parliamentary precincts.574 Hope faded. But love, being stronger than political death, on the night of Wednesday the 29th, Mr. Sidey appeared in Parliament with his buffetted infant clad in a new layette.575 Parliament, having at bottom some faint traces of a heart, beamed and took the cherub by the hand. In plain words, while the whole loaf is a mere dream, we may quite well, in due course, receive a dainty slice of Summertime bread.

In the whole House there was but one discordant note—the ineffaceable Mr. Lysnar, but then, as the member for Avon said, if Mr. Lysnar had given his unqualified support to the Bill, Mr. Sidey would have rushed panic-stricken to its side to see what was the matter with it.576 But why so many speeches were delivered in favour of a proposal which nobody (exclusive of our country cousin from Gisborne) was heard to criticise, is one of those many mysteries which only a member facing an election could satisfactorily explain. Member after member rose to re-echo the sentiments of "the hon. member who has just sat down."577 However, no good thing can be got for nothing, so I suppose the Summertime measure was cheap at the price of listening for hours to vain and windy repetition.

Neat and Tidy — Or Tight and Needy

Would you prefer to be neat and tidy—or tight and needy? That seems to be the question of the moment in the House, where the Licensing Bill was introduced at a recent date.578 The Bill went into committee stages, which means, horrible to relate, that each member can speak as often as he likes on the subject. And did he? Mr. Holland twice, Mr. Lee three times, Mr. McCombs ditto, and poor Mr. Coates, who is holding the baby, so to speak, just whenever he could get a word in edgeways. There was a brisk fusillade between Mr. Coates and that so-energetic Leader of our naughty little Opposition, Mr. Holland asserting that Mr. Coates was humbugging low and high, wet and dry, by bringing in a two issue ballot bill, whilst all the time his heart yearned towards the present scheme of three issues.579 Mr. Coates denied. Mr. Holland asserted that he knew what he knew. He might with equal justice have stated that he didn't know what he didn't know. Mr. Coates challenged the honourable member to produce proofs of his full insinuations. Mr. Holland adopted a wait and hear policy. Exasperated in no small measure, our P.M. declaimed: "I challenge you now." When last heard of, Mr. Holland was still keeping his incriminating evidence to himself.580 Yes, mes amis, Parliamentarians are just like that.

Views of the Licensing question:

Mr. Coates: "Personally, I think it's the best bill that's ever been before this House—even better than the last one on the same subject, and that took some improving on."581

Mr. McCombs: "It's time the question was taken out of politics. Let the people decide, with a free, unfettered vote."582

Mr. Lysnar: "Personally, I'm tired of this humbug."583

The whole House: "Hear, hear."

Mr. J. A. Lee: "I'm going to do what I did with the previous Bill—oppose it beginning, middle and end."584

Mr. Holland: "I know what I know."585

A Reform Voice: "Argus told him."586


I must tell you something about petitions. Lovely, they are. Widow women, and cranks who want commissions sent out to admire the mode of life of the green aphis, alike bring their troubles to the commodious lap of the maiden aunt of Parliaments. For instance: in 1879, a mining disaster took place, and many were the widows and orphans consequent thereon. There was in those days no widows' pension, but the heart of the country was deeply stirred and its pockets opened, so a really creditable sum was collected for the benefit of the unfortunates. Some of it was handed around. Then, with really admirable coolness, the House passed an act laying the funds open to claimants from similar disasters. Four thousand pounds are still held in trust, but the original orphans (the widows, of course, being practically extinct) are still petitioning the House for help, without being able to touch a penny of the money that public generosity placed at their disposal.587

Reports of departments help to pass the time away. You'd be surprised at the members whom the Agricultural Report, for instance, moved to eloquence.588 For you must know that we have a silent company in the House, who, being once elected, sit tight and say nothing until the time comes for them to make sure of the next £450. As the Agricultural Department doles out the money for cow-currycombing branches, and so on, it is but natural that each district should keep a sharp eye and a keen ear trained on its pet member when reports of the Department that holds the purse strings are under discussion. But one can be reasonably sure, with any Departmental report, that everybody will want something, and say so with a loud voice, so there is never any fear that Parliament may hurry through the long list of Bills before it.

Most of these are local: but the Right to Work Bill (Mr. Fraser: "The name speaks for itself"),589 the Licensing Bill, and the final stages of the Mental Defective [sic] Bill all promise interesting hearing on their final nights.

574 Cf. Lord Byron, "The Destruction of Semnacherib," (1815), line 1.

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold.

The Complete Poetical Works, ed. Jerome J. McGann, vol. 3 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986). See also the columns for 9 July 1925, 24 July 1925 and 31 July 1925.

575 Sidey modified the Bill to grant decision-making power on the issue of Daylight Saving to local authorities. The Bill debated on 29 August was thus the retitled Summer Time (Local Empowering) Bill.

576 Lysnar raised an apparently minor objection about the role that County Council would play; see Hansard 218: 616-17. Sullivan, the Mp for Avon, remarked that if Sidey "found the honourable member for Gisborne [i.e. Lysnar] giving whole-hearted and unqualified support to it he would rush to his Bill and examine it closely to see what was wrong with it" (Hansard 218: 624).

577 Hyde is correct here; although the debate was prolonged, no-one but Lysnar raised an objection.

578 13 September. See Hansard 219: 235-81.

579 The Bill proposed a referendum on licensing to be held in the forthcoming election. The original ballot had provided three choices: continuance, state purchase and control or prohibition. The new "two-issue" ballot would only allow voters to vote for or against prohibition.

580 See the exchange in Hansard 219: 244. The official version does not record Coates using the phrase "I challenge you now" although he did apparently demand that Holland produce proof of his insinuations by remarking that "[t]he honourable gentleman knows more than the Government knows, and he must have got his information from somewhere" (Hansard 219: 244).

581 Cf. Coates's introductory remark: "I hardly think it necessary for me to go into any great detail or to make a long speech on this occasion, because the question of licensing is no doubt fresh in the memory of honourable members, and has been fairly well discussed in the press since the previous measure was introduced twelve months ago. However, I think I should point out some of the main points in the Bill, and draw the attention of honourable members to a few improvements contained in it" (Hansard 219: 235-36).

582 McCombs expressed concern at what he saw as the disenfranchisement of those who had previously supported the "third issue." See Hansard 219: 254-56.

583 See Hansard 219: 251.

584 See Hansard 219: 277-78.

585 See Hansard 219: 244.

586 A creature from Greek mythology who was covered in eyes.

587 This petition is not mentioned in Hansard.

588 See Hansard 218: 753-67.

589 There is no record in Hansard of Fraser making this remark.