HL Deb 15 August 1921 vol 43 cc584-95

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 2:

Permitted hours on Sundays.

2.—(1) The hours during which intoxicating liquor may be sold or supplied on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday in any licensed premises or club, for consumption either on or off the premises, shall be as follows, that is to say, five hours, of which not more than two shall be between twelve (noon) and three in the afternoon, and not more than three between six and ten in the evening:

Provided that in Wales and Monmouthshire there shall be no permitted hours for licensed premises on Sundays, or on Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday.

(2) Subject to the foregoing provisions the permitted hours on Sundays shall be such as may be fixed, in the case of licensed premises by order of the licensing justices of the licensing district, and in the case of a club in accordance with the rules of the club:

Provided that, pending any decision under this subsection, the permitted hours on Sundays Christmas Day and Good Friday, shall be the hours between half-past twelve and half-past two in the afternoon, and the hours between seven and ten in the evening.

THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH had an Amendment on the Paper to insert the following additional proviso at the end of subsection ( 1)—

Provided also that this section shall not come into operation as regards Monmouthshire until after the opinion of the county has been ascertained through a referendum and unless a clear majority of votes recorded are in its favour.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I am going to ask your Lordships to add this proviso to Clause 2. This, it will be observed, is not a question now, as it was in the Committee stage, of excluding Monmouthshire from the operation of this clause, but it is an Amendment to give Monmouthshire the opportunity of expressing its own opinion as to whether it desires in this particular instance, to remain, as it is, an English county, or to be classed with Wales in this particular legislation. It cannot be denied that there is a very great difference of opinion on this subject. Let us take the representatives of the county. It is true that in the Division in another place four of the six members representing Monmouthshire voted for the inclusion of Monmouthshire in the Bill, and two against it, but one of the four, Mr. Edwards, representing the Bedwellty Division, has distinctly stated that in his opinion there was no fair method of arriving at the desire of the people of Monmouthshire in this respect except by a plebiscite or referendum. It seems to me that it is only fair, when you are deliberately taking Monmouthshire out of English legislation and placing her with Wales in particular legislation, that you should give her a voice as to whether she agree to it or not. So far as the representatives in Parliament go, we can get no opinion from them, because three are on one side and three on the other.

Some reference was made in another place to a vote of the Trades and Labour Council at Newport, and it was said that they had passed a vote in favour of including Monmouthshire in the legislation.

This is incorrect. I have no doubt the honourable member used the letter that was sent to him in perfectly good faith, but at a meeting on Friday last of the Trades and Labour Council at Newport, they said the information was incorrect, and passed a resolution repudiating the statement made in Parliament. There is one other method of arriving at an opinion. I do not wish to make more of petitions than they are worth, but a. petition was presented to this House a few days ago bearing over 78,000 signatures that were collected in 48 hours. A petition of that sort, however careful you. may say its organisation was, must at least have touched a very large and spontaneous feeling in the county which objected to this legislation. That is not putting it too high.

I can imagine only three reasons why this request that I make, that Monmouthshire should have a referendum on this subject, can be objected to. The first that suggests itself to me is that a referendum is unnecessary because the feeling of Monmouthshire is so well known, front various circumstances of the past, that it is quite unnecessary to put the people there to the trouble of a referendum. But on the facts that I have stated it seems to me that that idea cannot be upheld, and if those who desire that Monmouthshire should be included in this Bill are so confident of the result, I cannot see why they should object to this very fair method of discovering whether their opinions are correct or not.

The next idea that suggests itself to me—and this is held, I know, by certain persons with rather extreme views—is that, whatever the feeling of Monmouthshire may be, it is good for them to have Sunday closing, and that on that ground they had better accept the blessing that is offered to them. That is the kind of argument that I should always strenuously oppose. I do not think that is the way in which legislation should be passed. I think that Monmouthshire should have the choice accorded to the rest of England, and that the people there have every right to claim to be excluded from this special legislation.

The third reason is—and I really think it underlies some of the arguments that I have heard used in favour of the inclusion of Monmouthshire—that it is not so mach for the benefit of Monmouthshire as for the benefit of Glamorganshire that this legislation should be passed. I have every desire to do anything I can for the benefit of the county of Glamorgan, with which I am closely connected, but because we in Glamorganshire have certain persons on our borders who happen to be as thirsty on Sundays as they are on the other six days of the week, and take the opportunity of going across the border into Monmouthshire on Sunday, I really do not think that is ground enough for telling Monmouthshire, whether she wishes or not: "You must be included with the Welsh counties in this licensing legislation."

I have only one more word to say. I do not think the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill can say that this is breaking any compromise. He will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that this Bill is based upon the Report of a Commission, and that that Report was accepted as the basis of the Bill and largely agreed to. The Commission made no recommendation whatever on the question of the inclusion of Monmouthshire, and more than that, they stated why it was that they did not make a recommendation. The reason was that they were not agreed on the subject. That, I think, is a very strong argument why Monmouthshire should be allowed now to express her own opinion as to whether she really wants this blessed Sunday closing or not. I hope your Lordships will think that the suggested referendum is really a fair way of finding out the opinion of the majority in Monmouthshire. I beg to move.

Amendment moved.— Clause 2, page 2, line 37, at end insert the said proviso.—(The Earl of Plymouth.)


My Lords, I understand that this Amendment of the noble Earl arises out of a debate on Friday, at which I was not present, on an Amendment of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, who consented not to press that Amendment in order that the Question might receive further discussion to-day. I think that the noble Earl would not question my right to speak with some authority on the feeling of Monmouthshire, but if, in any part of the House, there should be any doubt on that subject, I would like to point out the budget of evidence which I found here on my arrival this afternoon consisting of upwards of fifty telegrams and letters, in addition to a similar number which I received this morning at my house, all to one effect—urging me to represent to your Lordships' House the demands of Monmouthshire for the Bill to pass in the form in which it came up from the other House. Therefore, I trust that the noble Earl, who has admitted that he is not a Monmouthshire man, will not press this Amendment.

I shall not waste a moment of your Lordships' time by going into the numerous arguments that have been brought forward during the last four hundred years, during which there has been controversy on the question as to whether the land of the ancient Lords of the Marches should be regarded as English or Welsh. I am simply going to adhere to the question which is now before your Lordships—namely, the proposal that there should be a referendum on this question. I do not understand why the noble Earl has suddenly become a convert to the idea of a referendum. The constitutional referendum of this country has always been that which is taken at a General Election, and the representatives of the country in another place are entitled to speak with full authority for the areas which they represent.

I have fought three contested elections in Monmouthshire, and in all of them one of the principal planks of my platform was the extension to Monmouthshire of the Welsh Sunday Closing Act. It was made a test question. When I first became a candidate I was invariably questioned on the subject whenever I addressed a public meeting, and my answer, which was unmistakable, was never received otherwise than with satisfaction by those whom I addressed. I have never vet heard of any successful candidate for a Welsh constituency, or a Border constituency such as that of Monmouthshire, proposing as the principal plank of his platform the repeal of that Act. I do not believe that any person presenting himself now to a constituency there, and proposing such a thing, would have a chance of election. It is not a question of what is called nowadays "Pussyfoot" legislation, or any attempt to force temperance upon a particular section; it is a question of making an Act of Parliament which has been in force for thirty years really workable without inflicting a serious injury upon a large community.

The facts are these. The western and north-western parts of Monmouthshire are contiguous to Glamorgan and Brecon and the greater part of that border line passes through a very densely populated industrial area. The milling and industrial villages on either side of a purely arbitrary line are continuous, so that under the Act, as it works at present, it is possible—and I believe there are cases where it actually happens—that one end of a street is under the Act and the other end is not. That is an impossible situation. The consequence is that those who bye on the eastern side of the boundary are annoyed every Sunday by the influx of those active resisters of temperance legislation to whom the noble Earl has referred, who come to satisfy their thirst and their desire to resist this form of legislation on Monmouthshire ground. The Monmouthshire police have to be called out to keep them in order. Why should the people on the Monmouthshire side of this boundary suffer disturbance of their Sunday? Why should they be called upon to pay for the detention of drunken men from the other side of the border, and the addition, which appears in their returns, of drunken convictions as a consequence of this state of affairs?

I noticed in looking over the Report of the debate in your Lordships' House last Friday that the noble Earl presented himself as the champion of the privileges of Monmouthshire and claimed that it is an English county. As a representative of Monmouthshire I stand here for the right of Monmouth to be protected against the dumping of an undesirable class of the population from the other side of the boundary. I strongly object to the peace and quiet and order of the Sabbath day being disturbed on our side of the boundary any more than it is in Glamorganshire. If the noble Earl and his friends are dissatisfied with the Welsh Sunday Closing Act—I do not gather from his speech that he is—they should agitate to have the Act repealed. I cannot think that they can wish, having secured immunity from the disturbances of disorderly people in Glamorganshire on Sundays, to secure this additional guarantee for their quiet and comfort by an Act which permits all the disorderly elements to come into Monmouthshire and carry on their undesirable proceedings there. It is a matter merely of justice, and can be met by one of those ordinary adjustments which have to be made in order to make legislation workable.

The noble Earl last Friday dismissed in his speech the analogy of the Welsh Church Act. I beg to differ. He pointed out that it was impossible to do otherwise than include Monmouthshire under that Act, because it constituted nearly one half of the diocese of Llandaff. I understand, however, that it is already proposed to take Monmouthshire out of that diocese and constitute it into a diocese of its own. If, in an Act which has only been recently passed, it is necessary to make this geographical redistribution, surely a similar redistribution can be made in this case which an experience of thirty years has shown to be necessary. I think that if the most rev. Primate and the right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of Llandaff, had been present, I should have had powerful supporters on this occasion. I do not wish to detain your Lordships, as I know your time is of the greatest importance at the present moment, but I hope I have sufficiently expressed what I know to be the real feelings of Monmouthshire. I will read one of the many telegrams I have received, all of them to the same purpose. Licensing Bill. Tredegar Free Church Council 20 Churches representing 8,000 members and adherents solidly in favour of Sunday closing in Monmouthshire. I think it shows that there is an overwhelming consensus of opinion as to the justice of the provision in the Bill, and I hope the Government will be firm on the matter.


My Lords, your Lordships will have heard with interest. the divergent views of the two Border Lords on the question of the position in Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire. I gather that Lord Plymouth wants to have the best of both worlds for his supporters in Glamorganshire. He wants them to enjoy all the privileges and blessings of Sunday closing and also to have the right to go across the border into Monmouthshire in order to have all the other blessings of the consumption of liquors on Sunday in another county. We have had, however, a strong opinion from Lord Treowen on the general feeling which prevails on this subject in Monmouthshire. I do not know whether I ought to go into the general question as to whether Monmouthshire should be included or not in the Sunday closing portion of this Bill, as we discussed this fully on the Committee stage and your Lordships then decided to include Monmouthshire.


There was no decision. It was withdrawn.


I am much obliged. I must, however, address myself to the Amendment before the House, because the noble Earl has put forward what he no doubt, considers a practical proposal. I assure him I am not going to oppose him on some of the grounds he has put forward. I do not wish to oppose him on the ground that, whatever the feelings of the people in Monmouthshire are, this Act being a good Act, should, therefore, be imposed upon them. With pious and parental feelings of that kind I have not much sympathy. But he will see that really his Amendment is no more than a sketch and cannot carry out what he desires. The effect of the Amendment would be to exclude Monmouthshire altogether from the provisions of this Bill as regards Sunday hours, and until the referendum took place there would be no provision whatever as regards hours of opening or anything of the kind.

Again, he says"until after the opinion of the county has been ascertained through a referendum and unless a clear majority of votes recorded are in its favour." do not know what he means by a"clear majority." There are no provisions in the Bill as to how a referendum is to be conducted, who the electorate are to he, and no provisions as to how the vote is to be taken. If the Amendment did pass in its present form, it would be entirely impracticable. Suppose the principle were admitted, it would be necessary to apply, for this purpose in one county, the whole machinery of Local Option, to which, in the Temperance (Scotland) Act, 1913, a large, complicated and controversial set of provisions were devoted. I should like to put this further point. To what extent in your legislation arc you going to consider the actual feelings and opinions of the people in a very small locality? I think we have gone very far in much of our legislation in breaking up units into still smaller units; and really the noble Earl—I am surprised lie has done so—is raising the whole question of Local Option in this Amendment. I wish to point out to him that there are a great many people who might be in favour of this Amendment to exclude Monmouthshire, but who are by no means in favour of applying Local Option in this country, and certainly not of applying it on so small a scale as to one county alone. If he were to persist in this Amendment, I believe he would set up against himself a great deal of opposition which has not up to the present had an opportunity of developing.

I should like to remind your Lordships that the Royal Commission on Licensing —which reported, I admit, twenty years ago—went very fully into this question of including Monmouthshire in Wales for the purpose of Sunday closing. There were very great differences of opinion on that Commission. There was a Majority Report and a Minority Report. But both Reports were strongly in favour of including Monmouthshire in Wales for Sunday closing purposes, and, curiously enough, one of the gentlemen who signed that majority report bore the name of Lord Windsor. I can only assume, therefore, that since that date my noble friend has seen fit to change that fully considered opinion which he expressed when he signed the Report. As to the general principle of including Monmouthshire in this way, all the practical difficulties have been stated by the noble Lord behind me, and I do not propose to repeat them. Nor will I repeat the argument that I used as to the numerous precedents that were already in our Statute Book for including Monmouthshire in Wales. I will satisfy myself with pointing out that, at this very late date, I am afraid it is impossible to accept an Amendment of this kind which, as I have said, could not work and could have no practical value, even if your Lordships thought fit to pass it.


My Lords, I admit that at this very late date it is difficult to legislate. That is an observation which I have had occasion to make very often during the last few days, and the reason we are driven to these expedients is the extraordinary way in which the business of Parliament is managed by His Majesty's present advisers. I have never adopted a very decided line upon the subject of Sunday closing. I admit most frankly that it stands upon a quite different footing from a great deal of other so-called temperance legislation which comes before Parliament. There is a great deal to be said for Sunday closing. I have never denied it, and I frankly admit it now.

But when the noble Viscount opposite says that my noble friend is proposing to subdivide areas to which special legislation is adapted by his Amendment, I think it necessary to remind him that my noble friend, Lord Plymouth, is merely attempt- ing, not to go the full length, but to go sonic way towards re-enacting the condition of things which existed in Monmouthshire up to the outbreak of the war. For the purposes of this legislation, Monmouthshire was treated, not as a county of Wales, but as a county of England, and up to the outbreak of war, Monmouthshire was subjected, not to special legislation for the county of Monmouth, but to the legislation which applied to the Kingdom of. England. as a whole, as distinguished from the Principality of Wales. That was the condition of things before the war. I think, therefore, that the whole charge which the noble Viscount makes against my noble friend of trying to isolate Monmouthshire falls to the ground.

No doubt, during the period of the war, under the special conditions which obtained when Monmouthshire was subjected to total Sunday closing, it was understood by many people that when the war came to an end the old state of things would be restored. That 'was apparently the assumption made by the Committee upon whose Report this Bill is founded, and I think it is right that the point which has been made should be emphasised, that this Bill is an agreed Bill, founded upon the Report of a certain Committee, and that this particular provision does not find a place in the Report of that Committee. They did not report in favour of Sunday closing in Monmouthshire; on the contrary, they considered it and rejected it, that is to say they abstained from reporting upon it, because they were not united on the point. In other words, they decided that that was not a point upon which an agreement could be reached, and the agreed Bill, therefore, avoided the subject of Sunday closing in Monmouthshire.

It seems to me that, prima facie, those are strong points in favour of the noble Earl. Then comes upon the scene the noble Lord who sits behind me, and who speaks, as I most frankly admit, with very great authority on the subject, as a well-known representative of Monmouthshire in both Houses of Parliament. The only thing I have to say in reference to his speech is that I think he a little omitted from what he said a due regard to the feeling of the present members for Monmouthshire. He said, speaking from his own experience—almost unparalleled experience—that he always found Monmouthshire in favour of Sunday closing. That does not appear to be the universal opinion of the present members for Monmouthshire, because two of them, as I understand, voted against the proposal, and one of them voted in favour of a referendum proposal, such as has been made by my noble friend. So far, therefore, from the Parliamentary representation of Monmouthshire being in favour of the view of the noble Lord, they are divided equally, three and three.


Four voted for this inclusion; but one expressed a. pious opinion in favour of a referendum.


A pious opinion, but none the worse for being pious! An opinion, shall we say, without an adjective—




Why academic? After all, we are discussing a point of opinion—


No, of voting.


The noble Lord behind me said that all the members for Monmouthshire were, in effect, of opinion.—



THE MARQUESS OF, SALISBURY—of opinion that in Monmouthshire everybody was in favour of his view, but I find that one member for Monmouthshire —and I rather think he has only recently been elected; I think he got in at a by-election recently—questioned Sunday closing. That is a small point, but all these things go to show that, at any rate, there is by no means a complete opinion in favour of Sunday closing. I am informed that there have been great numbers of public meetings in Monmouthshire lately, and that they have taken a very strong view against Sunday closing.

I hold a letter in my hand which I hope your Lordships will allow me to read— I have been present at meetings throughout the county of Monmouth recently, and it is simply appalling to read to-day that Lord Clwyd stated in the House of Lords last evening that the great majority of the people of Monmouthshire were in favour of it. I have addressed open-air meetings in almost every centre of the county and I have no hesitation in stating that over 75 per cent. would be against it, were a referendum taken. I spoke at two meetings last week at Newport; in Queen's Square there were 8,000 people present, and nine votes against; in Cardiff Road there were 3,000 people present, and no votes against; at Pontypool there were 1,000 people present and only one voted against.

I hope your Lordships will not think I can guarantee the absolute correctness of all that I have read, but this is the information which reaches me to show that, at any rate, if I may quote my very humble opinion against that of the noble Lord, it is not so complete a case as he seemed to think when he spoke.

That is the sort of case that can be made out. What does my noble friend Lord Plymouth propose under those circumstances? He says there is a difference of opinion as to whether the people of Monmouthshire want Sunday closing or do not want it; why not ask them? Is that not a very reasonable proposal? Is it not, in the highest degree, reasonable? Here we have noble Lords coming down and saying that Monmouthshire wants Sunday closing, and then we have noble Lords coming down and saying that Monmouthshire does not want Sunday closing, and the proposal is that she should be asked whether she wants it or not. I confess it seems to me that that is not an unreasonable proposal.

Then, we come finally to the substance of the Amendment. I do not know what course Lord Plymouth is going to take upon his Amendment, and I frankly admit that I have no knowledge of the drafting of the Amendment. Whether it is a workable Amendment as it stands I cannot tell your Lordships. It seems to me to be a little sketchy in its drafting, I must admit, and. therefore I do not know what course the noble Earl will take, but I think it is profoundly to be regretted that on a matter of this importance, concerning, as it does, the welfare of the people of Monmouth and their intimate wishes, that we should be driven at the last moment to try and patch up something to suit them. Whether my noble friend's draft will be sufficiently workable to put into an Act of Parliament I cannot say, but that he has made out a strong case for a referendum I, with great confidence, submit to your Lordships.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Then (Standing Order No.XXXIX having been suspended), it was moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Bill read 3a.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons.