HC Deb 13 February 1882 vol 266 cc622-5

Motion made, and Question proposed, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend 'The Sunday Closing (Wales) Act, 1881.'"—(Mr Warton.)


, in opposing the Motion, said, he believed it was usual, by the courtesy of the House, to allow Bills to be introduced into the House of Commons without discussion, but there were well-known exceptions; and surely in the case of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton), who had asked leave to bring in this measure, there were good reasons for a departure from that practice. He (Mr. Evans Williams) did not, at that moment, know exactly how many Bills the hon. and learned Member had blocked in the course of the last Session of Parliament; but, looking at the Notice Paper, he found that he had blocked the introduction of three Bills for that evening alone. It was a matter of surprise, under the circumstances, to find that the introduction of this Bill had not been already blocked; but probably the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), for good reasons of his own, had withdrawn the opposition to it of which he had given Notice. There was, in addition to the reason he had given for opposing the measure, another ground upon which leave should not be given for its introduction—namely, that the Act which it proposed to amend had not yet come into force; and the reason why it had not was solely due to the action of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, who now proposed to amend it. Owing to that action, the third reading of the Welsh Sunday Closing Act was postponed to the end of last Session, after it had been passed on the second reading by an over- whelming majority; and that was because he had put down a blocking Notice against the third reading. He did this, although he had not been able to get 20 Members to vote with him against the second reading, and did not even divide against the third reading. Now, he (Mr. Evans Williams) submitted that to amend an Act perfectly well understood, and which had not yet been tried, was bad on the face of it; but that, nevertheless, was the purpose of this Bill. He had heard that the object was to limit its operation to small country places in Wales, and to do away with it altogether in the large towns. He was perfectly impartial in his opposition to this measure, because he had himself voted for a clause last Session which would have had that effect, and was the only Member from the Principality who had done so; but that had been deliberately decided otherwise then. He submitted that, for the reasons assigned, the House should not assent to the introduction of the Bill, and hoped it would emphatically reject it.


said, he should support his hon. Friend (Mr. Evans Williams) in opposing the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton). Speaking with full knowledge, he was quite sure that public feeling was against the Bill in the large town which he had the honour to represent.


said, he wished to say a few words with regard to the somewhat unexpected opposition made to his proposal to amend the Act of last year. He said the opposition was unexpected, because one of the reasons put forward by the hon. Member opposite, who had proposed its rejection, was of a very extraordinary character—namely, that because his (Mr. Warton's) discretion and sense of duty had led him to oppose many Radical measures, leave should not be given to bring in the Bill. He did not think that resentments dwelt in heavenly minds, still less did he expect to meet with them in the breasts of Welsh Members. But he also had a grievance, as well as the hon. Member who had spoken of the late period of last Session at which the Act was passed. The fact was, it would not have been passed at all if the undertaking given by the Premier had been observed; and the reason why it did pass was that a Saturday at the end of the Session was an inconvenient day, on which blocking did not apply. The hon. Gentleman had told the House that he had heard what was the object of the Bill. That was perfectly correct. He heard it from the very best authority in the Smoking Room of the House, when he (Mr. Warton) communicated to him its purport in the most confiding and friendly spirit; and the hon. Gentleman, so far as he could judge, seemed rather to agree with it than otherwise. That he should now offer the Bill this extraordinary opposition he would only say had taken him (Mr. Warton) completely by surprise. As to the statement that the Act was not yet in operation, that was no fault of his. It was the fault of those who could not draw their own Bill, and he had told the Welsh Members at the time that they did not know what its effect would be. It was, then, no reason why this Bill should not be brought in, that because, owing to the terms in which the Act of last year was drawn, it had not come into force. The fact was that, in the advocacy of that measure, certain statements were made, that not only the moral population of Wales, but even the wicked publicans themselves wanted, by a large majority, to have a Bill of the kind. But he should be able to show, when he had the opportunity of giving the figures, that in one important place in Wales—to wit, the town of Cardiff—no less than 290 publicans were opposed to it; and that was a fact he desired to bring before the House in answer to those representations. The object of the Bill was to exempt from the operation of the Sunday Closing Act towns and watering places of importance in Wales, where people constantly arriving, unless the Act of last year were amended, would find themselves deprived of the means of obtaining liquor for no crime of their own. It was, therefore, with a due regard to the interest of the people of Wales that he asked for the support of their Representatives in bringing forward this Bill.


said, he had last Session supported the Bill upon this subject introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard), and he should now support the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport.


said, he should vote for the introduction of the Bill in the usual course. He wished, however, to state that he had a distinct recollection, and he might add good authority, for saying that no pledge such as had been alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for Bridport had been given.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 18; Noes 51: Majority 33.—(Div. List, No. 7.)