HC Deb 15 June 1881 vol 262 cc614-26

Order for Committee read.


, in moving that it be an Instruction to the Committee to include Monmouthshire in the provisions of the Bill, said, he believed more than one-half of the inhabitants of Monmouthshire were Welsh. They were Welsh in language, religion, and feeling, and they did not wish to be separated from those whom they considered their brothers. In ancient times Monmouthshire formed part of the dominion of Wales; but by the Reform Act of 1832, Monmouthshire was included in England. The boundary between Mon-mouth and Wales consisted entirely of manufactories and collieries, with some 25,000 inhabitants; and these people would, if the Bill passed in its present shape, be able to cross the river Rumney into Monmouth and find all the public-houses open. If Monmouthshire was included in the scope of the Bill, the boundary would consist of an agricultural district, and the inhabitants would have no means of passing to a purely English county to get intoxicating liquors. It was the general wish of the inhabitants that Monmouthshire should be included in the Bill, and at a public meeting in Newport a resolution to that effect was carried by 5 to 1. A house-to-house canvass had been made on the subject in Ebbw Vale, a large manufacturing district, and 90 per cent were in favour of the total closing of public-houses on Sundays. He therefore moved that it be an Instruction to the Committee to include Monmouthshire within the operation of the Bill.


, in seconding the Motion, said, that, as regarded the legal question, there could not be any doubt that by the effect of certain Acts of Parliament Monmouthshire was excluded from Wales; but they were now dealing with a social question, and they should consider whether the inhabitants of Monmouthshire, although not legally Welsh people, were not Welsh people in feeling, and it was well known that they entertained a strong feeling with regard to Sunday closing, The South Wales sentiment on this question ran over, as it were, into Monmouthshire, and therefore he felt convinced that that county ought to be included in the provisions of the Bill. Unless it was so included, the colliers in the villages all along the Glamorganshire side of the river Rumney would simply have to cross a bridge to the Monmouthshire side, and then be able to "boose" as they liked on Sundays.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Committee, That they have power to extend the provisions of the Bill to Monmouthshire."—(Mr. Carbutt.)


said, he did not wish to enter into the historical part of the question; but there was no doubt Monmouthshire was now part of England. Previously to the Reign of Henry VIII., Wales consisted of eight counties, and when Henry VIII. deemed it right to establish his authority clearly and distinctly, and to establish a good administration of the law in that district, he added four counties to his Kingdom of Wales—Brecon, Radnor, Merioneth and Denbigh—a portion of the Welshmarches he attached to Shropshire, another portion to Herefordshire, the Forest of Dean to Gloucestershire, and he created the new county of Monmouth; and the Statute which created that distinction declared that henceforth the law of England, as distinct from Wales, was to be administered in Monmouthshire. In a subsequent Act it was declared that the Kingdom of Wales consisted of 12 counties. From that time, not only in the administration of the law, but in Acts of Parliament, Monmouthshire had always been treated as a portion of England and not of Wales. It had never been anything more than belonging to the Welsh marches. He was sorry to have to meet the Motion with a negative; but he felt that it would be, as a matter of principle, dangerous and inexpedient to yield to it. It would be carrying the principle of separate legislation for portions of the United Kingdom to the fullest extent to legislate for Wales and for one county of England. If they were to legislate for the county of Monmouthshire there was no reason why they should not legislate for a portion of a county, or even for a particular town or parish. Although Monmouthshire was a Welsh-speaking district, that was not sufficient to justify the adoption of separate and distinct legislation.


said, although he agreed with the Motion, he hoped the hon. Member for the Monmouthshire Boroughs would not endanger the Bill by pressing it. If he went to a division the danger was that the Bill might be lost altogether.


said, he must express his intense satisfaction at the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General. In one sense, however, that speech had been delivered too late. It ought to have been given on the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, for it completely advanced the argument which he (Mr. Warton) used in opposition to the second reading, and showed that when the hon and learned Attorney General broke himself away from Party politics, he could as clearly as possible expose the fallacies of Liberal legislation. The great fallacy was in trying to set up different little laws all over England, breaking the United Kingdom into sections for the purpose of carrying out the fads and fancies of fanatics. If the Principality was to be separated, why not the counties? The hon. and learned Attorney General had pointed out the reductio ad absurdum. This showed what would become of local option and other attempts to fritter the government of this Empire into ridiculously small parts to suit the fancies of localities. It was not too late for the Government to consider the course on which they were now proceeding. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. C. H. James) had thrown some light upon this subject. He had told them that the miners would pass across the river into Monmouthshire for the purpose of "boosing" on Sundays. The hon. Member had also told the House that the whole feeling of Wales was in favour of this Bill. If that were the case, why should these poor Welshmen want to get across the river to get drink? The fact was, they were men before they were Welshmen, and if they wanted drink, they would get it, whether that Bill was passed or not. That showed what utter nonsense the whole Bill was. Men ought to be allowed to drink what they liked, and they ought not to be restrained from drinking by people who did not drink themselves.

Question put, and negatived.


said, he had challenged a division.


said, that the challenge had not reached him. In any case, it was too late to take that course now.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, that before the Speaker left the Chair he must ask the House to consider not only what had taken place this Session, but also on the same subject last Session. When this Bill came up last year, they were told that the licensing question had been already before the House; that several Resolutions were passed, one as to local option, one as to Sunday closing not merely as applied to Wales, and on that occasion the Prime Minister stated the question of the Licensing Laws was to be dealt with by the present Government, and that local option was one of the main points to which they would direct their attention. But when the Bill now under consideration came before the House, the hon. Member for Warwick (Mr. Peel), speaking on behalf of the Government, declined to vote for the Bill. The hon. Member on that occasion said— He thought they were getting into somewhat of a strange position in regard to the licensing question generally. They had already passed a number of abstract Resolutions, and abstract Resolutions of a particularly abstract character. The other night the Resolution on local option was carried by a majority which he thought was unexpected, and which reversed the opinion come to by the last Parliament. They had also passed a Resolution on Sunday closing in uncompromising terms. It was quite true that immediately afterwards an Amendment was passed unanimously, or at least without a division, recognizing the importance of making a distinction between the country and the Metropolis‥‥ It was, perhaps, necessary to remind the House of what the Prime Minister had said that the question of licensing would form an essential portion of the work to be done by the present Parliament, and the right hon. Gentleman went further and said that in his opinion an integral portion of that measure would have to be local option. The hon. Member then proceeded to state on behalf of the Government that— By passing such abstract Resolutions as had been passed, and by passing this Bill, they would heap up such a multitude of recorded opinions of the House that it would be extremely difficult to deal with the whole question when it "was taken in hand‥‥ He could not but see that great difficulties were likely to arise from passing a Bill which laid down, in a sweeping manner, that all public-houses in Wales during Sunday were to be closed."—[3 Hansard, ccliii. 1178–9.] That was the official statement on behalf of the Government last Session. He (Viscount Emlyn) wanted to know what change had taken place in the position of the question which had now induced the Government to come forward and back up this Bill with the weight of their authority? They officially stated one thing one Session, and changed their minds absolutely before the next. A great point was made by the Prime Minister of the unanimity of Wales upon this subject. It was quite true that an endless number of Petitions had been showered in in favour of this Bill; but since the Government had pledged themselves to assist the measure he found a curious change had come over the Welsh people, and many towns were now loudly crying out and petitioning to be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. He could assure the House that the feeling in Wales was by no means unanimous in respect to the Bill.


, in moving that the House resolve itself into the said Committee that day six months, remarked that the Government had changed their mind on this question, because when they first came into power they had not determined which section of the Radical Party was to lead and which was to follow; but it was now perfectly clear that the Radicals outnumbered the Liberals, and the Government were shaping their policy accordingly.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. Warton,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he would also urge the Government to state whether they intended to give some explanation of their change of front.


said, he did not think that any explanation was required. There really had been no change of front. When the Bill had come on for its second reading, the Prime Minister had expressed a hope that it would pass that stage, seeing the amount of local feeling by which it was supported; and he (Mr. Courtney) thought he would be doing his best to facilitate the progress of the Bill by saying as few words as possible now.


said, he did not think the hon. Gentleman had answered the question. No reason for the change of opinion referred to had been given, and thus a further illustration had been afforded of the force of the words written by the author of the "Biglow Papers"— A merciful Providence fashioned us holler, A-purpose that we might our principles swaller. He (Mr. P. A. Taylor) had already stated his reasons for opposing the Bill, and he had since seen no reason to alter them. He felt bound to renew that opposition, thinking, as he did, that its object was an unjust one. They had now before them a strange kind of animal, known by the name of local option, of which very few of them knew very much. He had not voted against local option, because he held with Mr. Mill that regulation was justifiable, and because he preferred that it should be in the hands of the people rather than of the magistrates; but the light afforded by this Bill would suffice to show them all what local option would mean as soon as the Temperance Party came into the possession of a little power. There was in the country a large Party recognizable as the Party of conscious virtue, and their tenets consisted of oppressing the poorer members of the community. This Party was divided into two sections, the Sabbatarians and the Teetotallers, and when they united their forces it was almost impossible to resist them. Every now and then the leaders of these two sections seemed to meet for the purpose of discussing whether there was not something fresh they could do in the way of oppression—whether there was not some new portion of the community whose little enjoyments they could interfere with. They could not carry out their beneficent tyranny here in London, because they knew they might have the Hyde Park riots over again. Having succeeded in Scotland, and finding that England would not yet stand it, they had resolved to see what they could do with the little unfortunate population down in Wales; and, accordingly, the whole power of agitation had been put in motion to limit the liberties of the people of Wales. They obtained the signatures—repeated probably a considerable number of times—of Sunday scholars and of large classes of people with this peculiarity, that the Bill would not touch them in any way. It was said that the people of Wales were unanimously in favour of the Bill. Well, if they were, what necessity was there for the Bill? No one wanted to force beer on Sundays down the unwilling throats of the people of Wales. In proportion as they were desirous of being sober on Sundays, the necessity for such a Bill diminished. It was, however, a strange fact that while the Welsh people were unanimous—as it was said—in favour of the Bill, their Representatives expressed a fear that if Monmouthshire were not included within its operation, thousands of them would cross the border on Sundays in order to reach the public-houses. For his part, he found it somewhat difficult to reconcile these assertions. He had received a letter from one of the largest towns in Wales thanking him for his opposition to the Bill, begging him to continueit, and expressing the hope that they might be exempted from its operation if it should pass. But if the Bill could not be thrown out, he would be no party to exemptions, because it was by exemptions that the poorer classes became burdened with the weight of a measure of this kind.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 123; Noes 29: Majority 94.—(Div. List, No. 251.)

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Preamble postponed.

Clause 1 (Premises where intoxicating liquors sold to be closed on Sundays in Wales).


proposed to insert in the clause words to exempt the borough of Cardiff from the operation of the Bill. This was one of two boroughs upon which he proposed to take the opinion of the Committee. The Bill as it stood was applicable to Wales generally; but there was a large floating population in the borough of Cardiff, and he had presented a Petition signed by 16,000 of the adult inhabitants of the town against the application of the measure to Cardiff. He was aware that there had been a Petition presented on the other side, even signed by a larger number of names; but he must tell the Committee that he had been assured an examination of that Petition would show that it bore the signatures of a good many of the junior members of the families of the gentlemen who had signed the Petition he had himself presented. Indeed, he was informed by those who had placed the Petition in his hands that although one gentleman, who was an adult and the head of a family, signed the Petition in favour of the exemption of Cardiff from the operation of the Bill, there were no less than five juvenile members of the same family, of various ages, one as old as 4 and the eldest having reached the mature age of 12, and all of them attending a Sunday school, had placed their names to the Petition in favour of the measure. The head of the family did not himself adopt the view of the rest of the family, but he thought he had a right to have an opinion upon the subject as well as his children of that tender age. But, apart from the question of the number who had signed the respective Petitions, there were circumstances to which he would invite the attention of the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) if he happened to be present. The population of Cardiff differed very much from that of "Wales generally. It was a great commercial centre; it had a large floating population, and, he believed, with the exception of six or seven, every licensed victualler in Cardiff had signed a Petition asking that Cardiff should be exempted from the operation of the Bill. He did not know that that in itself was a very powerful argument, except as a reply to the allegation made on the second reading of the Bill that the licensed victuallers themselves desired this legisla- tion. He was told that in Cardiff particularly, if this Bill passed as it now stood, an evil existed which would be very considerably augmented—and that was the establishment of working men's clubs, which were only intended for the purpose of enabling the members to get drink. In these clubs the people were able to get just as much drink as they could get in the public-houses; but they got it without any of the police supervision or regulation that was enforced in the case of properly-regulated public-houses. These were the statements which had been made to him as a reason why this Amendment exempting the town of Cardiff should be moved. He must say that his acquaintance with Cardiff extended over a considerable number of years. He therefore knew the inhabitants well, and he believed there was ample foundation for the distinction now sought to be established between the town of Cardiff and the rural population of Wales.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, after the word "Wales," to insert the words "except the borough of Cardiff."—(Sir Hardinge Giffard.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, he must object to the limitation of the provisions of the Bill, however tyrannical he regarded them. He had no doubt that the people in the town whose claims were represented by the hon. and learned Gentleman were highly respectable and wealthy; yet, simply because they had greater political power, it was asked that they should be exempted from the operation of a measure which was nevertheless to be imposed upon the lowest and most helpless classes of the community. That would be class legislation in its worst form, and he should certainly divide the Committee against it. He had himself received a Petition against the Bill from one of the large towns of Wales. It was signed by a majority of the people in the town, and especially of the working classes. He had no hesitation, however, in saying that although he regarded the Bill as a vicious measure, he would not vote for the exemption of any part of Wales from its operation.


(who rose amid loud calls for a division), said, the question was one of too much, consequence to be decided hastily. It was a constant but a very bad habit on the part of the other side of the House to call out "Divide !" before a question had been properly considered. It was not altogether a question between the poorer classes of the rural population of Wales and the wealthier district of Cardiff; but in regard to Cardiff another question came in. Cardiff was a large and important sea-port. It did not consist simply of Welshmen who wanted to hinder other people from drinking, but it comprised a large number of sailors. [Cries of "Divide!"] Those who shouted out "Divide!" evidently did not know how many sailors there were in Cardiff. Why should we tell all foreign nations, through their sailors, that we had passed this extraordinary law, and that the English people could not trust the inhabitants of a particular part of the people to have beer on a Sunday? They certainly would go away under the impression that Wales was a most degraded part of the United Kingdom, and such a horrible place of wickedness that no portion of the people could be trusted with half-a-pint of anything. But, however wise it might be to give Welshmen the power of tyrannizing over the majority of their own population, was it wise that they should tyrannize over the foreign sailors who frequented their port? After working hard at sea they had surely a right to enjoy themselves in harbour. Was it considered wrong that a sailor should occasionally have a little pleasure and enjoyment? He presumed the reason why the sailors were not to be cared for was that they did not possess votes, and that they were not canvassed by the great Liberal Party in Wales. They were only a fluctuating population; but, nevertheless, he did hope that hon. Members would seriously consider the question whether it was wise to tell all the nations of the earth, by means of the sailors who frequented the port of Cardiff, that the Welsh were not a people who could be trusted with drink.


said, they had heard a great deal about the tyranny of the majority; but it appeared to him that in these discussions they were placed more or less under the tyranny of the minority, or, what was even worse, the tyranny of one man. The course taken by the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) was becoming almost intolerable. [Cries of "Question !"] It was intolerable that these interruptions to the progress of Public Business should constantly proceed from one Member.


I must remind the hon. Member for Gateshead that the question is simply whether the borough of Cardiff should be exempted from the operation of the Bill.


did not think that the remarks of the hon. Member who had just sat down would tend very much to facilitate the progress of the Bill. If every hon. Member regarded it as his special duty to get up and lecture every other Member who happened to differ from him, the discussions which took place in the House were likely to be very much prolonged. With regard to the Amendment moved by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard), he wished to state the reason why he could not give it his support. He did not approve of the Bill, and he had already entered his protest against it. But if the measure was to pass, let the large towns feel the weight of it. The practice of signing Petitions off-hand was becoming a great nuisance. They all knew how Petitions were got up. As a rule, they were not got up by the localities, but were sent down from head-quarters; and probably some of the hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway could tell where they came from. He believed that the Petitions sent up from Cardiff upon this question represented more than the entire adult population of the town, and certainly to that extent their value was diminished. But the first thing they found, when it was thought that the Bill would pass, was a cry from Cardiff and all the large towns—" For goodness sake, don't let us come under it! "They were perfectly ready that everybody else should come under it, but they were anxious to back out of it themselves. He presumed, from the courtesy with which he was received by the Government Bench when he asked for information as to any change of policy on the part of the Ministry, that he could hardly expect to receive further information now as to their views. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department said the Government had not changed their opinions; but he said nothing of the opi- nions expressed last Session on behalf of the Government by the hon. Gentleman who recently held the Office which he (Mr. Courtney) now held.


remarked, that a good deal of stress had been laid upon the way in which the Petitions from Cardiff in favour of the Bill were signed. He therefore wished to call the attention of the Committee to a Minute from the Report of the Committee on Petitions, stating that the Petition presented by the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) from Cardiff had a large number of names appended to it which had been signed more than once, and that many of them were in the same handwriting. He had gone carefully through the Petition, and he thought that the Committee had made a very mild Report upon it.


thought that one or two of the observations which had been made in the course of the discussion might have been spared. He believed that a Petition, which purported to come from 16,000 inhabitants, was entitled, at the least, to mention. He only wished to add that, in moving the Amendment, he was following exactly the same precedent as that taken upon the Irish Sunday Closing Bill when it was proposed that five large towns, some of them with a less population than Cardiff, should be exempted from the operation of the Bill. He had taken the trouble, not only to read the Petition, but to send for the persons who had prepared it, and they told him that although, peradventure, when lying in the office there might have one or two cases such as the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine) had referred to, yet that in substance and in fact the Petition did represent the feeling of a considerable portion of the adult population of Cardiff. Then surely that was a matter which ought to be considered. He was quite aware that he had been told more than once that on this subject he was in a minority; but it was only recently that he had learned that minorities had no rights.

Question put.

The Committee divided: Ayes 27; Noes 118: Majority 91.—(Div. List, No. 252.)


said, he had also intended to move the exemption of the borough of Swansea from the operation of the Bill; but, after the decision at which the Committeee had already arrived, he did not propose to divide again.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 2 (Application of Licensing Acts).


wished to ask the hon. Member in charge of the Bill whether, under this section, any provision was made for bonâ fide travellers?


said, the exceptions were in accordance with the Acts of 1872 and 1874.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.


moved, after Clause 3, to insert the following Clause:— (Sale of intoxicating liquors at railway stations.) Nothing in this Act contained shall preclude the sale at any time at a railway station of intoxicating liquors to persons arriving at or departing from such station by railway.

Question, "That the Clause be there added," put, and agreed to.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to beconsidered upon Friday.