HC Deb 07 March 1887 vol 311 cc1544-50

Order for Second Reading read.

DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

At this late hour, I will not, of course, trouble the House with any lengthened explanation of the objects of the Bill. Briefly, the object is to close licensed premises in Scotland at an earlier hour than is required at present. The hour named in the Bill is 10, instead of 11 for public-houses, and 8 in the case of licensed grocers, 10 on Saturdays. The earlier hours for grocers' premises is in accordance with the desire of some leading representatives of the trade; and since the Bill was introduced hearty-Petitions in its favour have been sent from the Association of Licensed Grocers of Edinburgh and Leith. The Bill was introduced some Sessions ago; but was blocked, and never had an opportunity of being divided upon. The present Bill has also for some days past had a block against it, though not from a Member representing any Scotch constituency. Of course, he was perfectly within his right in blocking it; but it is proper that the House should know that no Scottish Representative has thought it his duty to oppose the Bill, and that among Scotch Members there is a great preponderance of opinion in favour of the Bill, the second reading of which I now move.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Dr. Cameron.)


I bog to move that this debate be now adjourned. The Bill requires more attention than we can give it now. I know that it relates to Scotland; but it has a bearing on the general question which should be dealt with in a general measure. From what Iknowofthe restric tions placed upon the sale of liquor in Scotland, they have not been attended with any very beneficial result, neither have they in Wales. This proposal for a still further restriction in Scotland, whether it be benefioial or not, is worthy of debate; it refers to a class of legislation for the three countries, and is not to be disposed of in this summary manner.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Colonel Hughes.)

MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)

Without troubling the House for long, and imitating the brevity with which the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) has moved the second reading, I rise to cor roborate him, and express my belief that it is the general opinion in Scotland that this principle should be affirmed, and that this Bill should be read a second time. I feel assured that a large majority of the Scotch Members will support it.


Since a Division is to be taken, I may say we will consider it, for all practical purposes, a Division upon the Bill.

Question put, and negatived.

Original Question again proposed.

THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)

This Bill unquestionably deals with a very large subject; and I am quite clear about this—that whatever opinions hon. Mem bers may express on the subject, and whatever their belief as to the general opinion in Scotland on the matter, as far as I know there has been no matured opinion in Scotland at all; the proposal has not come before the constituencies in any marked manner. I would point out to the House that the Bill deals with a matter that must unquestionably be dealt with in the larger scheme that must come within the scope of general measures dealing with Local Government in England, Scotland, and Ireland. No doubt, in some parts of Scotland, it would be an advantage to have these shortened hours for licensed hounes; but whether such a provision is equally applicable to the whole country, and particularly the large towns, is quite another question. I would suggest that, at this time, the second reading should, not be pressed. It is quite impossible that matters of this kind should be dealt with in a piecemeal way. The Bill is of a sweeping character; it is for the purpose of closing all public-houses in Scotland at an earlier hour than they now close, and it is absolutely necessary that the House should know what is the feeling in Scotland on the subject before we proceed with such a Bill as this. The subject must be dealt with, as I said before, in a totally different way. The whole ten dency of the present time is towards the subject being dealt with in a comprehensive scheme of local government. If the Second Reading Motion is pressed now, I must be under the necessity of again moving the adjournment.

MR. SINCLAIR&c.) (Falkirk,

The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate says there is no matured opinion in Scotland on this subject; but I desire to say there is no subject upon which my constituents have made known their wishes with more precision; and I have no doubt many other Members have had a similar experience. I will not go into the merits of the Bill now. I will only say that if a large system of local government really were proposed dealing with the subject in an effectual way, I have very little doubt that those in charge of the Bill before the House would be prepared to withdraw it in favour of the more effective method.

MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

I must express my regret that the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate has seen fit to oppose the second reading of this Bill. I regret that a Motion for Adjournment should have been moved from this side, when a large majority of the Representatives of the people interested are in favour of the measure. I think it is by such opposition that the spirit of Home Rule is encouraged. I, therefore, desire heartily and cordially to support the Motion of the hon. Member opposite (Dr. Cameron).


When this Bill was before the House in 1885, I expressed myself in favour of it, though I also expressed my preference for having the subject dealt with in a general scheme of local government. I was, and am, ready to accept the principle of Local Option in any form. My adherence to the principle of Local Option induces me to oppose the restrictions in the Bill. I agree with the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate that a measure of this sort ought not to be discussed apart from the large measure in which it needs must be included, and I shall support the Adjournment.

VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)

Not only are we informed by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate that public opinion on this measure is not matured; but the House of Commons is not given the benefit of any detailed explanation of the provision of the Bill, or of the grounds upon which it is proposed, do not think that hon. Members can expect us, without good reasons being given, to agree to a measure that seriously restricts liberty in Scotland, and without knowing what the feeling in Scotland really is. I hope the view of the Lord Advocate will be adopted; and to give the House the opportunity of expressing an opinion, I move the Adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Debate be now adjourned." (Viscount Cranborne.)

MR. E. R. RUSSELL (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Cranborne) need be under no apprehension for the liberties of Scotland. Scotland has Representatives; and even if this were not so, the people of Scotland are perfectly competent to look after their own freedom. We are sometimes puzzled on this side of the House to know what there is in the position of the noble Lord to make him so exceedingly pugnacious on this particular subject. Unless it be that he represents—


I rise to Order. Are these observations pertinent to a Motion for Adjournment?


The hon. Member (Mr. Russell) will bear in mind the Motion before the House is the Adjournment of the Debate.


I quite submit to your ruling, Sir, but the noble Lord said, the rights and liberties of Scotland were in danger; and I wish to point out there is no danger of the kind, and that that, therefore, cannot be urged in favour of an Adjournment of the Debate under the circumstances. Perhaps the noble Lord, as representative of a principle stated in this House before—


Order, order! The hon. Member would not be in Order in continuing those remarks.

MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)

I hope this Motion for Adjournment will be withdrawn. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate has expressed his desire to know the opinion of Scotland, and that, I understand, is the ground upon which the noble Lord opposite bases his Motion. But I think that, with one exception, all hon. Members for Scotland will vote in favour of this Bill. The Lord Advocate is in his usual unfortunate position of not knowing what the opinion of Scotland is. I think it will be expressed in the Division List, if we are allowed to Divide.

MR M'LAGAN (Linlithgow)

I am glad to hear my hon. Friend (Mr. E. Robertson) express himself in favour of Local Option; but that is no reason why he should not support the Bill. It is a small Bill, and universally approved in Scotland, not with standing what the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate has said. I have heard no dissentient voice raised against it, and we have had no Petitions against it, and if there have not been a great many in its favour it is because it was taken for granted the Bill would pass. As to waiting for the Local Government Bill, I can only say that we have waited for that Bill so long that there is every reason to pass this Bill now, including the provisions of it in the Local Government Bill afterwards.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

As to the question of restricting rights, public-houses will be allowed, to be open until 10—


The hon. Member is not entitled, on a Motion for Adjournment, to discuss the merits of the Bill.


The question is simply this, whether this matter has been sprung upon the House and the country, or whether the opinion of Scotland has been taken. The ground taken up in favour of adjournment is not tenable. We have had an expression of opinion from Scotch Members all in favour of the measure, the only Member who has spoken on the other side being the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson), and he has spoken because the question came before him in his constituency, and he pledged himself to go against the measure. All other Members on both sides of the House have been in favour of the Bill, and have expressed the wish of their constituents. I think it is very undesirable that English Members should interfere, and prevent a Scotch question being discussed by Scotch Members, when from both sides there is a feeling in favour of the discussion.

MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)

I shall vote against the Motion for Adjournment, although I am opposed to the principle of the measure. But I think that hon. Members from Scotland are entitled to discuss any Bill they may bring forward, and I protest against the Government trying to check that discussion.


I must say I hope this Motion for Adjournment will be withdrawn. Although one could have wished to have had this Bill considered at an earlier hour, yet I feel sure from the silence of those from whom we might have expected opposition, that there is a strong desire the Bill should pass. It would be a great pity to burke that desire by a Motion for Adjournment.

MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

I will venture to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie), well aware, as he is, of the few opportunities private Members have of bringing on any question, to exercise his influence with the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, who, of course, has opinions for which we all have the greatest respect, except in relation to Scotch matters, for he does not understand the feeling of Scotland. On this side, we are entitled to say we find the expression of Scotch opinion; and seeing the opinion expressed in favour of the Bill, I venture to think it would be a graceful thing for the Government to allow this small Bill to pass its second reading, seeing that there is no opposition to the principle of the measure.


The reason why the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Cranborne) moved the Adjournment was, that there had been no attempt to discuss the question or to enlighten the House as to the reason why these proposals were now urged. I will venture to say there are very few Members of the House who expected a Bill of this kind, involving such grave principles, would come on so late at night. The moving the Adjournment of the Debate was in order to invite the House to express an opinion as to who ther, under these circumstances, the House should be asked now to come to a decision on the principle of the Bill. I do not understand that the noble Lord, or any other hon. Member, has any desire to weary the House with constant Motions for Adjournment. It is with a view of giving the House an opportunity of saying if a question of this magnitude should be discussed and decided at this hour.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 112; Noes 100: Majority 12.—(Div. List, No. 45.)

Debate adjourned till Wednesday.