§ Colonel HOWARD VINCENT, Member for Sheffield (Central Division), rose in his place and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, "the danger to public property, unless steps are taken to enable Banks on or near the route of the Royal Processions, announced for the 6th July, legally to close and to defer the clearing of cheques and other securities"; but the pleasure of the House not having been signified,
§ MR. SPEAKER
called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than 40 Members having accordingly risen,
§ MR. SPEAKER
My attention has been called to two Notices which have been put down, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has obtained leave to move the Adjournment has framed his Motion in such a way that I cannot interfere. The question is as to the expediency or inexpediency of declaring a public holiday for the sake of the employés of the banks, and the Debate must be strictly confined to the point as to the safety of the bank officials in carrying securities through the streets on the day in question.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
said, he was aware that there was an urgent matter of Imperial importance to come before the House that afternoon, and he would not have trespassed upon its indulgence for even a short time if the matter he had to bring before it was not also pressing and important. He would be as brief as possible, if hon. Gentlemen opposite and below the Gangway would kindly allow him to proceed quietly and 368 without excessive interruption. He would also endeavour to confine himself strictly to the terms of his Motion. Everybody saw what immense preparations were being made to enable people to see the Royal Procession announced for that day week, and what fabulous prices were being paid for seats. There could be no doubt in the world that enormous multitudes of people would occupy the streets from a very early hour. Admirable as were always the arrangements of the Metropolitan Police, and especially under Sir Edward Bradford, their resources would be strained to the utmost next week. The banks on or near the announced routes of the Royal Procession thought that it would be absolutely impossible to carry on their business in the ordinary course. Their premises would have to be specially guarded to prevent the open doors being rushed by organised gangs of thieves. Their clerks carrying securities from bank to bank and to the Clearing House would be unable to make their way through the crowds, and the vast sums in notes and cash they collected would be in serious jeopardy. On Monday last his hon. Friend the Member for the Wimbledon Division of Surrey presented a Memorial to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject, signed by the 20 leading banks in London on behalf of their head offices and 700 country branches. It was very short, and so, perhaps, the House would allow him to read it.We, the undersigned bankers, earnestly urge the Government to re-consider their refusal to issue the Order in Council required under the Bank Holidays Act, 1871, to enable banks to close on the day of the Royal Wedding. We seek this, not only for the sake of our numerous employés, but also by reason of the risk which will attend our operations in transmitting securities from bank to bank and the Clearing House in the midst of such multitudes, and by reason also of the strain which the due protection of our open premises, if on or near the line of the Procession, will entail on the Metropolitan Police.This document was signed by Lloyds' Bank, Herries, Farquhar and Co., London Joint Stock, Barclay Ransom, Union Bank of London, London and Westminster, London and County, National Provincial, Consolidated Bank, City Bank, Smith Payne, Robarts Lubbock, Hernes, and Farquhar, Williams Deacon, Manchester and Salford, Cocks 369 Biddulph, Cox and Co., Coutts and Co., Goslings and Sharpe, Child and Co., Hoare and Co. He did not think the Prime Minister could have perused that document, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take advantage of this opportunity to alter the decision of the Government. He submitted that the views of these firms, speaking for the banking community of London and for their branches In the country, were entitled to some little consideration at the hands of Her Majesty's Government. If the Government refused to grant the facilities which the banks prayed for, what would be the inevitable result? The police, whose resources would be heavily strained, would, no doubt, have to furnish special protection parties for the banks in or near the routes of the Royal Procession. They would also have to furnish an escort for bank clerks carrying securities to enable them to pass without let or hindrance and without danger through the enormous crowds of people who would invest the whole place. And this extra protection could not possibly be afforded without denuding the suburbs, the outer Divisions of the Metropolitan Police District, of the protection which they were entitled to and which they paid for. The inevitable result would be that a large number of houses in the suburbs would be rifled, and who was going to compensate the losers of valuable property? He was authorised by the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Kennington to say that he, who was engaged in such a considerable business in London, found it would be absolutely impossible to conduct it, because none of his clients would accept delivery of goods on the wedding day. How much more difficult, then, would it be for the banks to do their business? His proposal would not deprive any single individual of a day's employment or a day's wages. He knew how bad trade was at the present time, how scanty had been employment and how reduced the wages for many mouths past; but he was also aware that the working men who had sent him to that House held that the wedding day should be a day of national rejoicing, and he was certain he was doing right in bringing this Motion forward. This was not a Party matter, and he entreated the 370 Government to let to-morrow's Gazette announce that steps had been taken to enable the banks on or near the routes of the Royal Procession upon Thursday next to close and to defer payment of cheques and other securities.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Colonel Howard Vincent.)
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH, Fife, E.)
In reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I have simply to say, in a sentence, that, having carefully consulted the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis in relation to this question, he is of opinion, in which I concur, and for which, on behalf of the Government, I make myself responsible, the hon. and gallant Gentleman's apprehensions are entirely unfounded. The resources of the police will not be unduly taxed, and they will be perfectly enabled to afford adequate protection to property.
§ MR. MARTIN (Worcester, Droitwich)
said, that while not wishing to detain the House, he desired to point out that the question was not, as the Government appeared to think, that there would be any great difficulty in protecting the premises of the banks, but that the employés of the banks were obliged to collect the money in cheques and bills falling due on a particular day. For that purpose they had to pass through all parts of the City and West End, and their personnel was well known to all the thieves about London. There was no doubt of that whatever. [Laughter.] This was no ta matter in the least of a Party character. It was well to remember that thefts were often committed at banks when there was neither tumult nor disturbance. Simply on the grounds of convenience to the traders of London, he submitted that the boon asked for ought to be granted. It had even been suggested that the banks ought to be closed on Lord Mayor's Day, because of the risk run by the clerks; and he would like further to point out that an order applying solely to London banks would not cause any general inconvenience, as in Scotland public holidays were observed which were not celebrated in this country.
§ MR. BONSOR
said, he simply wished to point out that it was the unanimous opinion of the trading community in the City that there was an existent danger unless the banks were closed on Thursday next. He had had personal communication with a large number of bankers during the last few days, and they all recognised the danger of not closing. He regretted the great want of courtesy with the wishes and desires of the City of London shown by the Government in this matter.
§ SIR F. DIXON-HARTLAND (Middlesex, Uxbridge)
reminded the House that under the law as it now stood bankers were compelled to collect cheques and bills on the day they were due, and in the event of non-payment to have them officially noted within a certain number of hours. He supported the proposition contained in the Motion, not so much on the ground of risk or danger, as because it would be absolutely impossible to carry on necessary banking business on the wedding day. Crowds in the streets would not give way for bank clerks going to and fro. Bankers were obliged by law to collect certain bills and cheques on the day they were received, and yet the law did not give them the means by which they could do so.
§ MR. BANBURY (Peckham)
pointed out to the Home Secretary that robberies had occurred in the ordinary course of business. Clerks often had to carry in their hands parcels containing securities to the value of from £10,000 to £20,000, and he wondered how the right hon. Gentleman himself would like to walk through a crowd under such circumstances. No police in the world could prevent the crowd robbing him under such circumstances.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said, he wished to dissociate himself from the speeches which had been made by supporters of the Motion. They seemed to be of opinion that the crowds which would gather in London on the occasion of the Royal Marriage would be largely composed of criminals. He would call the attention of the hon. Member who moved the Motion to the fact that at the time the procession would pass through the Metropolis the banks would be closed in the ordinary way.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)
said, he wished to put a question to the Home Secretary, who had made 372 an exceedingly brief speech on this subject. Would the right hon. Gentleman undertake to supply each and every one of the thousands of clerks who would be going on journeys from one part of London to the other, on the day in question, through enormously crowded streets with a sufficient number of policemen not only to protect him, but to enable him to arrive at his destination?
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 254; Noes 297.—(Division List, No. 174.)