§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I beg to move, in page 11, line 35, after "section" to insert:and in which at least fifty per cent. of the electors entitled to vote shall have voted".My hon. Friends and I who have subscribed our names to this Amendment urge the Government to consider it earnestly. You, Mr. Speaker, have made it clear that I cannot go into the merits or demerits of Clause 6, but I think that I can say two things about the Clause without in any way infringing the rules of order.
First, Clause 6, if it is passed, will set in motion a new kind of constitutional procedure. Secondly, it could have the effect of changing the social pattern throughout Wales. On the first point, I do not think that anyone in the House would dispute that this procedure is a constitutional innovation. It is, in one sense, a national referendum, because on one particular day, to be fixed, all the people of Wales will vote on one particular issue, although, in its ultimate effect, it will have local application. A step from that kind of referendum to a referendum proper is a very small one indeed.
To those who say that this Amendment would introduce an innovation, I would say that the whole procedure is something new in our constitutional history. Personally, I do not like this procedure. If we are to have a referendum of this kind, let it reflect the views of the majority of the people of Wales. I think that is what the Government would desire.
The Government spokesman, on Second Reading and during the Committee stage, justified this procedure on the ground that we already have local option in the country for the opening of cinemas on Sundays under the 1933 Act. There is an enormous difference between local option for the opening of Sunday cinemas and this procedure. If we are to draw a comparison between local option for the opening of cinemas on Sunday and the opening of licensed 895 premises on Sunday we have to look at the result of the Sunday cinema polls.
The truth is that the Sunday cinema polls have been a travesty of democratic procedure since they started. In some cases as few as 5 per cent. of the electorate have voted in those polls and I would have thought it desirable, in this instance, to avoid a farce of that kind. It might not happen immediately, but the House must look to the future. It may well be that, if and when this poll takes place in the autumn, the vote will be relatively high, but the House should consider what may be the state of the poll in seven, fourteen, twenty-one and twenty-eight years' time.
It may be argued that the Amendment is contrary to democratic practice, a point which one or two hon. Members made in Committee. I do not agree. We want to see democracy working effectively both in the forthcoming poll and in the future. The House will be aware that there are good democracies where compulsory voting is established practice. Australia is an example within the Commonwealth. We do not go as far as that in the Amendment, and nor do we intend that, but where a social change of this magnitude is contemplated—and that is what it would be in Wales if the proposal went through—the voice of at least half the electorate should be heard.
I should have thought that the Government would have been prepared to accept this Amendment because on Second Reading the Minister for Welsh affairs said:…the Government, after very careful thought indeed, were led to the conclusion that the solution must be to find out what the people of Wales really desired…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1960; Vol. 631, c. 153.]We will not find out what the people of Wales really desire if only 5, 10 or 15 per cent. of the people vote, but only if at least half of the electorate takes part in the poll.
There may be passionate protagonists of the Clause and passionate opponents, but the House wants to be certain that the floating voter goes to the poll on this occasion and makes his opinion abundantly clear. This is not a partisan 896 issue and the arguments apply fully to those who are for and those who are against Clause 6. I hope that the Amendment will have the support of both sides of the House and that the Government will accept it.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
While I quite understand the motives which inspire the Amendment, the House will be well advised not to accept it. In his very reasonable presentation of the Amendment, the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) pointed out that in some countries the view is taken that it is desirable that there should be a very high poll, and in some parts of the world there are certain sanctions to ensure that there is. However, that has never been our practice here in our most important elections, to the House of Commons.
The House and the country generally have taken the view that in some ways, even in matters of great importance, abstaining can be a positive action. This kind of proviso, which is so much at variance with our practice, even for dealing with an important issue, would be a most undesirable innovation.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
Has the hon. Member forgotten that in Parliamentary practice the Government cannot closure a debate unless they get 100 Members in the Lobby to support them?
§ Mr. Gower
I am talking not about practice within an assembly, but public polls, which are completely different. I do not dissent from the view of the hon. Member for Anglesey about the importance of this issue, but, unlike him, I like the idea of this referendum. This is the kind of social issue about which a solution could not otherwise be reached, for we cannot have guidance about the wishes of the majority in Wales unless we hold these polls. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who asked for them?"] I would be out of order to discuss that. It is most desirable that we should have this guidance and a clear majority in the normal way, as in Parliamentary elections, will be perfectly reasonable in this case.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
I am anxious to support my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes). I find it very difficult to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), 897 who thought that the Amendment introduced an innovation which we could not accept, forgetting that, in any case, local option itself is an innovation.
This is the first of a series of Amendments designed to make the Clause and the related Schedule more workable and to ensure that local option county polls for Wales are dignified in conduct and authoritative in results. No one can pretend that the Clause and Schedule as originally presented could possibly attain those objectives. Indeed, the Schedule emerged from Committee in ruins, as the Minister of State well knows. For instance, originally it had no provision for a recount, nor even for avoiding a clash between the dates of the local option poll and a general election. Today, we have the Notice Paper littered with hasty attempts by the Home Secretary to make good the deficiencies of the draftsmen.
Even now, the mechanics of the proposed poll are deficient and, without substantial Amendments, of which this is one, we do not see how these polls can result in what I have called dignified and authoritative decisions. One requirement for such a decision is that there should be substantial participation in the voting. It is possible that in some areas the percentage voting will be very low, but I think that it will be very high in others. I am told that experience of such polls in Scotland varies in different counties. The experience of local option polls conducted under the Sunday Closing Act, 1933, is that in some instances the poll is as low as 5 per cent.
The question to be decided is far-reaching, effecting a revolutionary change in the position in Wales and involving the opening of public houses in Wales on Sundays for the first time in eighty years, and the opening of a vast number of new licensed premises and off-licence premises—not only their opening but a change from the terminal hour of 10 p.m. which is now to be 10.40 p.m. because of the addition of the 10 minutes' drinking time and the introduction of the extra half-hour by sleight of hand in the early hours of the morning by the Minister of State.
The House should, therefore, make sure that in no county or county borough is the question decided by a fractional vote of the electorate. It is reasonable, 898 when a question of this magnitude is to be decided, that at least half the electorate should participate. I very much hope that the Minister will recognise this point and will respond to the appeal so ably made by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Dennis Vosper)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) spoke of the Government Amendments to Clause 6 as being hasty Amendments for the benefit of the draftsmen. In fact, they are attempts to meet points which were raised by him and his hon. Friends in Committee. As he knows, I am anxious to make any reasonable attempt to improve the procedure for the conduct of these polls, but, although the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) spoke in modest terms, I do not see why he thought that the Government should be prepared to accept the Amendment, which, as he said, is a complete innovation.
The hon. Member correctly drew the comparison with polls for the Sunday opening of cinemas, but he might well have talked of his own election for membership of this House. I am well aware that more than 50 per cent. of the electors of Anglesey turn out when the hon. Member stands for election to this honourable House, but there is no requirement that they should do so. The county of Anglesey may be exceptional, but I doubt whether 50 per cent. of the electors turn out for local government polls. Yet no one has suggested that in any form of local government election there should be a requirement that 50 per cent. of the electors must vote.
In the procedure for these polls we are following the local government procedure and this is not the place in which to make it a mandatory requirement that 50 per cent. of the electors must turn out. Therefore, the Government cannot accept the Amendment.
I accept that this is an important matter, but, because of that, and because of what the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said earlier today, I would have thought that there would be large polls at these elections. Certainly I hope so, but I think that it 899 would be quite wrong to impose this sort of requirement, for which there is no precedent in our legislation.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I am sorry that the Minister of State is taking such a view. As he knows, we had a very interesting discussion in Committee about this matter. We shall discuss later Amendments he has put down, but I think that there are many of those Amendments which would not have been put down if we had not discussed this subject in Committee.
It is quite clear that the Home Office put in this Clause without due thought of how it would work in practice. We know what happened, and, indeed, it was not the Home Office which wanted the Clause in. The Western Mail and the Conservative Party say the Home Office did not want the Clause, but would have preferred other legislation which, I understand, is to come.
I beg the House to realise what it is doing. Let us clear out of our minds the issue of Sunday opening and consider this question as a constitutional question, as a political question. The Minister of State rejects the Amendment on the ground that it would be a complete innovation because we do not have this provision for elections in local government and to Parliament. That is quite true, but a referendum is not an innovation. There are elected members of legislative assemblies elected by referendum in several countries. They have special rules for referendum. I think that this is so in some of the Colonies. At any rate, they can make special rules for elections. That is what I am asking the House to do in this instance.
This will be an election without candidates. Candidates have personal responsibilities and a personal stake in Parliamentary elections. The Minister of State and I are old election agents. I think that one or two other Members who were members of the Standing Committee are, too. An election agent has responsibilities laid down by law.
In this election there may be people with a direct financial interest in the result. There is money in this. What are we going to do to prevent money from being the deciding voice? We shall come to that later, but that is a relevant consideration now.
900 I beg the Minister of State to consider this matter again. I beg hon. Members opposite to do so, including the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower)—if I can have his attention. I think that when he spoke just now he spoke for the first time on this Bill. I was very glad to hear his voice. So far, he has been a silent witness.
§ Mr. Griffiths
There was Second Reading. But I am glad to hear the hon. Member, although, as usual, he is supporting the Government. I put this point to the hon. Member for Barry. Does he think that this will be the last demand to come from Wales for a referendum? Some of my hon. Friends hold the view—I do not—that there ought to be a Parliament for Wales. I am not quite sure whether the hon. Member for Barry holds that view or not. I put this point to him. Suppose that those who hold that view say to the Government, "We want a referendum in Wales on whether Wales should have a Parliament or not". I wonder what the hon. Member's view about that idea would be. Let him and the House consider that by passing this Clause as it is we shall be starting something which, once it starts, will go on and grow.
It is important that we should be clear about what we are doing. This poll will repeal an Act of Parliament. I myself would much rather that this House should have the courage itself to decide one way or another upon this matter. It was the House which passed the Bill which became the Act. I would much prefer that the House should have the courage to amend it itself, if it wants to do so. But it did not have the courage, and neither did the Conservative Party. It had no mandate for this Clause. Not one hon. Member opposite mentioned this in his election address. Not one 901 Member from Wales and Monmouthshire mentioned this. Does any hon. Member deny that?
§ Mr. Gower
The right hon. Gentleman is looking at me and asking a series of questions and he has referred to me by name. What I would say in reply to his question is that this is an issue which falls into a small category of social matters not usually for party political determination, particularly as both parties—all parties—may be split amongst themselves upon an issue like this, so that it is very difficult for political candidates of any party to put them in an address effectively.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have been for obvious reasons in an unduly generous mood, but I think we shall have to pay some attention to the terms of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I wanted only to give the background to all this, Mr. Speaker.
What we say is this. In our view, in a referendum of this kind it is essential to provide rules, just as we have rules for election to Parliament or to local authorities. We elect councillors for only three years. Then they have to come back to seek re-election. We elect Members of Parliament for five years and then they have to seek re-election—or they may have to seek re-election sooner. Here, we are to have an election every seven years, an election with very important consequences. Whether we like them or not, whether we desire them or not, they are important. So it is very important, in our view, to lay down now what should be the rules, and not only for this question, because what we do here today may be taken as a precedent by others in years to come. In a matter of this kind no change of this magnitude should be made unless by a poll in which at least half—and that is not asking too much—of the electorate take part.
I have no doubt myself that in most of the places where a poll is held more than half of the electorate will take part, but I am concerned not only with this time and not only with seven years on, but with fourteen years and twenty-one years' hence. I am concerned with what may be done by other Governments who, in the future, may want to decide other social questions by a 902 referendum and who, pointing to what the Goverment propose today to do, may say, "Here is a precedent laid down by the Government in 1961. We will have a plebiscite and a referendum."
I beg everyone to put on one side the question whether or not he is against Sunday opening and simply to ask himself whether we are now to make sensible rules for now and the future. I believe that a referendum would not be of proper effect in making a change of this character, in other matters besides this, unless 50 per cent. of the electorate were to take part. To provide that is, I think, to make a sensible and democratic provision. I commend it to the House in that way, and I hope the Minister of State will think about it again.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said that he would prefer the House to make the decision, rather than leave the Welsh people to decide. I may be unduly suspicious, but I can imagine the thunder of disagreement with which would be greeted any attempt to impose a change upon the Welsh people if it were made predominatly by Englishmen.
§ Mr. Roberts
It is not too early to dispose of what the hon. Member has said. Can he show that the House is not disposing of this Welsh issue in the way he is at the moment suggesting we would object to? Is it not a fact that this Amendment is subject to an overriding veto by English Members?
§ Mr. Bennett
I think that the hon. Member might have left it to his right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly to carry on this argument, for he is well equipped to do so without support. I stick to my contention: I have sufficient admiration for the right hon. Gentleman's eloquence to know how it would have been developed in rather different circumstances.
The right hon. Gentleman eloquently insists that half, at least, of each electorate should make its voice heard on so important an issue. But that does 903 not tie up with his statement that he would have preferred the Government to make up their mind on this issue, because in that case it would have been not half of the Welsh electors but the overwhelming body of English electors who would have decided it. I find it difficult to reconcile his two arguments.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has been unjustly under fire. I must defend my hon. Friend, otherwise it might go out from the House that he is disinterested in this Welsh question. On Second Reading he tried very hard to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, but was not successful. For the right hon. Member for Llanelly, who was complaining a few minutes ago about non-selection, at the same time to criticise my hon. Friend, who had suffered from non-selection in another sphere, seems a little hard. My hon. Friend was not a member of the Standing Committee. In all the circumstances, therefore, the first conceivable occasion on which he could have raised this Welsh issue was today in the House—and my hon. Friend was on his feet to speak even before I was. I hope that that accusation has been satisfactorily met.
It has been argued that this is so substantial a question that there ought to be a minimum requirement of half the electorate voting. I agree that it is substantial and important, but I do not think that hon. Members can claim that it is more substantial and important than the issues which are decided in a General Election, when there is no minimum requirement.
It has been said that there is no constitutional precedent for this referendum, but that is no reason for not having one if there is evidence that it is necessary. There are a series of Amendment on the Notice Paper, including one dealing with polling cards, which is designed to ensure the maximum poll. In that respect, I shall have pleasure in supporting the right hon. Gentleman.
This Amendment, however, seeks to depart from the constitutional practice which applies not only to General Elections, but also to local and parish elections and even to trade union elections, in which there is no requirement for a minimum poll. I see no grounds for introducing a provision which we have 904 never introduced before unless there are far more convincing reasons than have yet been adduced.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
Members are elected to borough councils and other local authorities for a short time, whereas the Bill will pass into law provisions for a decision which will be permanent.
§ Mr. Bennett
The hon. Member is not quite right. A General Election, for instance, is for five years, and there is a provision in the Bill stating that the referendum is for seven years. In any event, therefore, we are arguing about only twenty-four months.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. Either there is much passion in the Welsh nation directed towards throwing out this "wicked" attempt to impose something which will interfere with their way of life, in which case they will flock to the polls, or else there is no such feeling, in which case an artificial procedure of this kind will no nothing other than interfere with the constitutional practice which has been followed in this country for a long time. If there is such a strong feeling in Wales it will be felt without Parliament trying to do something which we have never done in any other form of election in this country before.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas (Rhondda, West)
The decision which hon. Members take on this issue depends upon their answering a very simple question. I refer more particularly to my Welsh colleagues than to representatives of English constituencies. The short and simple question which requires a short, clear and simple answer is this: does this Amendment conflict with all the known principles of political democracy? As far as I know, there is no section of the British political constitution which includes such a reservation as is contained in the Amendment.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
Is my hon. Friend aware that in Australia voting in a Parliamentary General Election is compulsory? Is he suggesting that Australia is not a democracy?
§ Mr. Thomas
I am talking about our internal political situation. The very fact that my hon. Friend had to travel 905 10,000 miles to find a fact in support of his contention shows that he has a very weak case.
§ Mr. Thomas
I challenge any right hon. or hon. Member who represents a Welsh constituency in particular to answer this question: if he became Minister of Local Government would he write into the political constitution a provision that more than 50 per cent. of the electors must participate in the poll or else the poll will be declared null and void?
Are we discussing a principle in the Amendment or is it advanced merely as an expedient and not as a principle? If this reservation had been built into the law governing local government elections, the London County Council's administration would have been paralysed for days.
§ Mr. Thomas
All local government throughout the country would be paralysed, because few of the candidates have been returned to authorities in elections in which the poll has exceeded 50 per cent. of the electorate. The Amendment has not been put down to preserve democracy. It has been put down to destroy democracy, because my Welsh colleagues were defeated in Committee on the main principles of the Clause and they are determined to thwart the will of the Welsh people.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
My hon. Friend will note that the cheers were from the Government side of the House. There are his "Welsh people".
§ Mr. Thomas
My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) had better keep his cheers for a little later.
This is a deliberate act of political sabotage, introduced by people who claim to be the advocates of democracy, in order to hamper and deter the expression of the will of the people of Wales on this vital matter.
§ Mr. Awbery
The purpose of a referendum is to ascertain the wishes of the people. If fewer than 50 per cent. of the people vote, we are not ascertaining the wishes of the people. Is not that a democratic argument?
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas
I should have to change the terminology only a little in order to agree with my hon. Friend. The only purpose of a General Election is to ascertain the wishes and the will of the people.
§ Mr. Thomas
For five years or for seven years. The value and virtue of principles can never be determined by time. They are as vital for five minutes as for five centuries and whether the time is long or short does not matter. It is a question of principle and the time factor does not enter into it at all.
This Amendment is deliberately designed to make it as difficult as possible for the people of Wales to express their opinion on this matter. To me, there is evidence of inconsistency, there is a conflict between logic and emotion. On the one hand, we have heard many speeches, during the Second Reading debate, during the Committee stage proceedings and again today, warning the House about the emotional and political revulsion in Wales against the Bill. Hon. Members have so much confidence in what they say that now they are expressing fears that the people of Wales will not respond according to their expectations.
As has been said, the essence is that by this Bill we should find machinery to make sure that the declaration of the poll shall be a reflection of the expression of the majority opinion within the Principality. Therefore, hon. Members say that unless there is participation by 50 per cent. of the electorate the poll shall have no validity and should not be accepted.
The purpose of Clause 6 is to nullify the Sunday Closing Act of 1881. If this poll is in favour of Sunday opening it will nullify that Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is a plain fact. I do not know why anyone should quarrel with it. Here is the contradiction. The Act of 1881, which my hon. Friends are trying to preserve, was based on a minority 907 opinion in Wales at that time, as nobody can deny. It did not have behind it the opinion of the majority of Welsh people. The thirteen Members of this House who represented Welsh constituencies at that time did not carry with them the majority of the Welsh people.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
My hon. Friend will recall that the original Act of 1881 was consolidated in the 1953 Act.
§ Mr. Thomas
We find that enlightened political Welsh democrats in 1961 are defending and preserving an Act of Parliament passed in 1881 which did not reflect the majority opinion in Wales. As we all know, a substantial number of the Members of Parliament then representing Welsh constituencies were not Welshmen at all. They were the sons of English merchantmen and of the marquises and lords of England. They were not Welsh peasants, because in 1881 the propertyless peasants of Wales never had a vote. At that time the only people who could have a vote were those who owned property, and the workers and the common people of Wales had no choice in the returning of these men as Members of the House of Commons. The ironical fact is this—
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Because I was not quite sure, I have looked up the record, and I now find that my hon. Friend was a Member of this House in 1953 and that he voted for the consolidation of the 1881 Act in the 1953 Act
§ Mr. Thomas
They do say that consistency weighs on the human mind like an alp. The irony of this situation is that of the Members of Parliament who represented Welsh constituencies in 1881 and brought about Sunday closing, 90 per cent. were members of the Athenaeum Club, of the Devonshire Club, of the Naval Club and of the Reform Club, and most of them lived in London. They were prepared to bring about Sunday closing in Wales and to stop the peasant from having his drink, but they made sure that they were able to become members of the top ten clubs in London.
908 Those hon. Members who support the Amendment are basing their arguments on the principle that the only authority which they are prepared to recognise is that of public opinion. If they wish the overwhelming majority of opinion to support the necessary consent for change, why is it that they have rested so long on the 1881 Act? Let us take the position of Caernarvonshire, represented by my hon. Friend who has left the Chamber—
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. We all enjoy the speeches of my hon. Friend, but you will recall that earlier I sought to get Mr. Speaker to agree that we should discuss Clause 6 in its entirety. I will not now quarrel with the decision about that, but when I began to stray from the point I was called to order. May I ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the same tolerance shall be shown to other hon. Members with different points of view as has been shown to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas)?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
I thought that the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) was dealing with the background, but that he was dealing with it rather extensively. I may have allowed him rather a lot of latitude but I hope that the hon. Member will not trespass further.
§ Mr. Thomas
May I, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, with the greatest respect, submit that my argument is based on the fact that in speeches today it has been contended that the purpose and motive behind the Amendment is that if the poll represents less than a 50 per cent. of the electorate, it should become null and void. I submit that the hon. Members who represented Welsh constituencies for eighty years have been slipping, because the Act of 1881, which determined that public houses in Wales should close on Sundays, resulted from a minority opinion in the Principality.
I wish to give the figures relating to Caernarvonshire. In 1881, the population of Caernarvonshire was 105,000—but only 10,000 were on the register of electors. Glamorgan, with a population in 1881 of 162,000, had only 13,000 on 909 the register of electors' panel—that is, Glamorgan, excluding Cardiff, Swansea and Merthyr, because Cardiff was a constituency, although it had only one seat. The two Rhonddas was not a constituency and Aberdare was not, but Merthyr, of course, has always been a constituency.
The same pattern prevailed throughout the Principality. The total figures for Wales were 1,110,000 in population in 1881—but only 112,000 were on the register of electors. Therefore, the Act of 1881 has rested and, indeed, was founded on that very substantial and narrow minority of the people of Wales.
Hon. Members are today discussing this matter in the enlightened political democracy of 1961, when every man and woman over the age of 21 is entitled to vote. I am merely hoping that the traditional political democratic principles that have been built into our way of life in the course of the past 800 years—and have been extended to all parts of the realm—shall be preserved, and that we will resist this attempt to tamper with the machinery of political democracy in order to thwart the will of the people of Wales.
I therefore ask hon. Members to resist the Amendment and I urge all my Welsh colleagues who have any regard for the principles of democracy to heed the warnings that I have given. I urge them to look at Europe and to see what happens when someone begins to tamper with the machinery of political democracy. When that is done, no one can foresee what will be the outcome.
§ Sir D. Glover
I will, if I can—after the interesting and amusing speech of the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas)—come back to the narrow point of the Amendment, because, in my view, hon. Members should resist it.
Apart from whether it has anything to do with political passions in Wales or with a referendum, we have heard from the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) that there is compulsory voting in Australia. That is true and I should like to point out that it is compulsory voting for 100 per cent. of the electorate. There is something to be said for a system where everyone entitled to do so votes and has a sanction imposed to vote. But there is nothing whatever that can be said for deciding upon an 910 arbitrary figure of how many should vote before an election can be considered valid.
At present—and the hon. Member for Rhondda, West made this clear—the London County Council would very nearly have to resign because very few of its members are supported by 50 per cent. of the electorate. In nearly every county council in England and Wales councillors would have to resign. If an arbitrary figure is fixed—and, although I cannot be sure, I think that there is a great deal of politics behind this Amendment—I suppose that the people of Wales could be told to boycott the referendum and, as a result, stop Sunday opening. People could be told to keep away from the poll. That is the sort of thing that this Amendment might lead to. It might lead to political chicanery of the worst order.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Sir D. Glover
I only wish that that were true. I think this Amendment is machiavellian and if not, someone from over the border, either from the West or the North, or from across the Irish Sea, would soon show them how, by avoiding the poll, they could decide the issue if they wished to do so, but making sure that 50 per cent. was not reached.
For that reason alone, apart from any rights or wrongs of a local referendum, this Amendment should be rejected without any further argument.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Carmarthen)
My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) spoke of the conflict between logic and emotion in many of my hon. Friend's speeches during the Committee stage of the Bill. May I inform him that there was little logic, and a great deal of emotion, in his speech today? There was also a comparable inconsequential inconsistency about his whole attitude.
The hon. Member for Rhondda, West may draw some comfort—like the supporters of the 1881 Bill did—from the sons of aristocracy and from the members of the exclusive clubs opposite. That was a point which the hon. Member for Rhondda, West made. The 1881 Bill was supported by the very kind of people 911 who are today supporting the speech that he made this afternoon. The hon. Member for Rhondda, West said that by the Amendment we are seeking to thwart the will of the people. It is, in fact, that very will that we are trying to ensure, so that we have the maximum expression of the will of the people of Wales.
I was extremely disappointed by the answer that hon. Members received from the Minister. I hope that, before we come to the end of this debate, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give a further answer. The Government are continually saying that they are anxious to have the opinion of the people of Wales on this absolutely crucial matter. Are they going to be satisfied with the opinion of expression of only 10 per cent. of those people?
It has been said that the numbers may be greater in the first poll. That may be the case. There should be a great agitation following the passage of the Bill, and so on, and, in the first poll the voting figures may be high. The first poll, concerning cinemas, went extremely well, but, since then, the numbers taking part have fallen severely and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) pointed out, in many instances it is now only 5 per cent.
As has been pointed out, we have to think not only of this first poll but of those in seven, fourteen and twenty-one years' time. We want to be certain that we shall then be able to ascertain the views of a high percentage of the people in Wales. It is perfectly true that those who feel strongly fox or against will vote, but it is very important also to get the intermediate voter—perhaps it would be appropriate in this instance to call him the floating voter—represented in the poll.
The Minister of State said that when my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey was elected he no doubt had something like a 50 per cent. poll. I might say that when my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey and I were either elected, or not-elected, as the case may be, the poll was very much higher than 50 per cent. To say that to put some limit on this is to contravene democratic practice, is to do something heinous, something appalling to the Constitution, is really the most arrant nonsense.
912 Let us face it. If it were true that at General Elections the poll in a very high percentage of constituencies fell, as in the case of the cinema polls, to 5 per cent. and the like, it really would be time to start thinking about adopting the system in Australia, but in Parliamentary elections we have never been faced with that position—
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
Is it not a fact that in our political history we have had Governments elected on a minority vote?
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I do not think that that makes it right at all; I would not defend that. This country has suffered from the most appalling policy as a result of that, notably before the war, when the Governments did not represent the views of the people.
But that is not my point; the electoral system is totally different. Here, I say that in a matter which is of immense importance to Wales, and to the way of life of the people of Wales, we should, at any rate, be able to ensure a high percentage vote so that we may establish that it is the will of the people that is speaking.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
We must do one of two things. We must either say that we want to collect the opinion of everyone who has an opinion, in which case we do not put a minimum on the voting, or we say that we wish everyone to vote whether or not they have an opinion, in which case the Amendment should provide for compulsory voting. It does neither. All it says is that we must have a vote, not of 49 per cent. or of 51 per cent., but of 50 per cent. I have not heard one word of justification for this magic 50 per cent., in which I can see no merit at all. I therefore hope that the Amendment will be overwhelmingly rejected, as it does not offer us one of the only two reasonable choices that we could be offered.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
I should like to point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) that many Acts prior to 1884 were passed on minority votes, including the Reform Act, the 913 Factories Acts, and the Education Act of 1870. There is therefore no validity in the argument that the Sunday Closing (Wales) Act, 1881, was passed on a minority vote.
My hon. Friend challenged the motive behind this Amendment. It is always very dangerous to suspect people's motives. I venture to say that behind the Amendment there is a real and genuine motive. He also suggested that it means tampering with the democratic machine, but I suggest, and I think that I have the support of many hon. Members, that it is this innovation that is a tampering with the British constitution. We know that what is proposed is true in France, but it has never been true in this country—apart from local option voting on the Sunday opening of cinemas. It is because there is this tampering with the democratic machine that we are anxious this afternoon to put this new system on as sound a basis as possible. We know from experience that local option voting on the Sunday opening of cinemas has, in far too many instances, proved to be a farce.
I would point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West that this House is not our only democratic institution. We adopt the principle of the 50 per cent. vote, and the more-than-50 per cent. vote in other institutions, and that on democratic grounds. Would the workers come out on strike on less than a 50 per cent. vote?
§ Mr. Idwal Jones
Would a major, democratic, political party change its political policy on a small majority vote?
I come from Wales, and I now speak from knowledge of Wales. The chapels of Wales are democratic in their constitution. The members would not consider calling a minister to a church on a mere majority of members; they would want a substantial vote, and a substantial majority. That is as much a democratic principle as that which we find in this House now.
All we ask is that before we have this major change in the social life of Wales we shall have at least 26 per cent. 914 of the population in support of the change. It is surely not too much to ask that before making a major change of this kind at least 26 per cent. of the people should support it. I suggest that anything less than 26 per cent. support does not justify a change of this magnitude.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
As an expatriate Welshman, I enter with some hesitation into this debate affecting Wales, particularly as it has been made clear by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) that there are, at any rate, some Welshmen who prefer Guinnesses to Genesis. He has conjured up this democratic Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) as being something undemocratic, unconstitutional and unprecedented. I think that it is none of those things.
First, it is certainly not unprecedented. I owe what I am about to say in this matter to the learning and experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). He has disclosed things to me which indicate that Scotland can, in this respect at any rate, give a good guide to Wales. We are very glad to seek and to get allies from North of the Border when we are in trouble. It is as well that the House should know the facts and should not ride off on foolish fears that we are embarking on revolutionary changes, a development which anyone on this side would naturally regard with horror.
My hon. Friend has drawn my attention to the fact that in the Licensing (Scotland) Act, 1959, which I understand was a consolidating Measure, there are provisions which require that a certain minimum percentage of the electorate shall participate in any decision on whether there should be a change in the number of licensed premises, whether there should be any limitation in the number of licensed premises or whether there should be a no-licence resolution. Whether such a revolutionary resolution has ever got by Kilmarnock or anywhere else in Scotland, I do not know. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, yes."] I understand that it has.
915 The Licensing (Scotland) Act states thatA limiting resolution shall be held to have been adopted at a temperance poll if…(b) not less than thirty-five per cent. of the electors have voted in favour thereof…My hon. Friend has suggested 50 per cent. in the case of a limiting resolution. There is a requirement in this Scottish legislation that not less than 35 per cent. of the electors must have voted in favour of the resolution before it can be accepted.
A no-licence resolution requires, as one may expect, a larger proportion of votes. The Act states:A no-licence resolution shall be held to have been adopted at a temperance poll if (a) not less than fifty-five per cent. of the votes recorded at such a poll are in favour of that resolution"—
§ Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby) rose—
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
Just a moment—and (b) not less than thirty-five per cent. of the electors have voted in favour thereof.
§ Mr. Wise
In one of the cases which the hon. and learned Gentleman has quoted the requirement was that 55 per cent. of the persons voting, not of the total electorate, should be in favour. Is it the case in the second instance that he quoted that 35 per cent. of the total electorate or of the number of votes cast should be in favour?
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
The Act says:A no-licence resolution shall be held to have been adopted at a temperance poll if (a) not less than fifty-five per cent of the votes recorded at such a poll are in favour of that resolution…The hon. Gentleman interrupted me when I was reading the provision which answers his point, which is(b) not less than thirty-five per cent. of the electors have voted in favour thereof.Therefore, 35 per cent. of the electorate have to vote in favour and 55 per cent. of the votes recorded have to be in favour before a no-licence resolution can be adopted. There are provisions similar to those which my hon. Friend has so practically, democratically and precedently suggested.
With regard to a requisition for a temperance poll, there is a requirement in Section 113 of the Act that it shall besigned by not less than one-tenth of the electors in the area".916 There is therefore an abundance of precedents for what is proposed in legislation of an identical character.
There is a certain value, generally speaking, in the introduction of provisions of this kind. I see nothing undemocratic in compelling an important decision affecting the social life of a country to be supported by a substantial part of the electorate before a substantial change comes into force. Requirements of this kind would have a considerable educative value in our democracy. It is a matter of grave concern to us as a democracy that such a miserable proportion of the electorate bothers to vote in local council elections. It makes one tremble to think by what a narrow thread our democratic institutions hang. I should have thought that there was a good deal of merit in accustoming the people to the idea that they have a right to express an opinion and, what is more, a duty to express an opinion.
I therefore think that this suggestion is one which should commend itself to the House. I do not know the requirements of the Swiss legislation concerning referenda. Switzerland is the home of the referendum, which has played an important part in the life of that country. My recollection is that a certain percentage of the electorate must vote in that country before any matter which affects its constitution can have the effect of amending the law.
There is, therefore, precedence in our own democracy for this proposal, and the constitutionalist, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West, can set his fears at rest and can recline into the conservative anti-revolutionary state of mind which, at this stage of his life, he has apparently arrived.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I have listened with the greatest care to the speeches of my hon. Friends. There is no doubt that they hold their views about this matter strongly and sincerely and that they represent a large number of people in Wales in stating their opinions. However, it is the duty of all of us who represent Welsh constituencies in particular to listen to the debate and to make up our minds on the basis of the arguments, which is what I have been attempting to do.
917 The argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that difficulties will arise from the procedure under the Bill is valid. A referendum, although speciously a democratic instrument, may well not be so at all. My right hon. Friend's arguments are very powerful, although they apply more to Clause 6 itself than to the Amendment. The fact of having a referendum, which is an innovation in our constitution, even though there may be some forms of precedent, creates particular difficulties in the machinery of democracy which we have to consider on their merits.
Despite what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South Mr Elwyn Jones) said in quoting most ingenious precedents, I do not think that we can settle this issue by precedents. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly also argued powerfully in that sense. He was saying, in effect, that the Government were doing something entirely new in shoving a referendum into the middle of a Bill of this kind and that they were seeking to do that which they should not seek to do in this fashion. He did not rely on precedents. Because this is a new and unique kind of action, I do not believe that we can quote precedents from Scotland, New South Wales or anywhere else on the Sunday opening of cinemas which are relevant to this case.
Therefore, I believe that on this Amendment what the House has to do is to settle the matter as best it can on the merits of the argument. There seem to me to be two very serious objections—I do not say fatal objections, though if anybody can produce the answers to them, I should like to hear them—to the idea incorporated in the Amendment. The first objection seems to me to be this. We have heard a lot about the desirability of people voting in elections. I am all in favour of that. All we shall do by this Amendment, if we carry it, is to penalise the people who have voted. As far as I can see, there is no getting round this. Whether the vote goes in favour of Sunday opening or against it, we shall be penalising the people who come out to vote if we insist that there must be a 50 per cent. poll.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
My hon. Friend is developing a very good argument. It is quite true, but this is not a "once-and-for-all" matter. It is a continuing poll at seven-year intervals, and, therefore, if there were not a 50 per cent. poll the first time, there would be no change for seven years, but at the end of seven years there would be another one.
§ Mr. Foot
I think that would be a very good reason for having an Amendment providing that there should be a poll every three years. It would be a powerful argument for that proposal, but I do not think it is a rebuttal of the case I was putting, and I do not see how we can get round it. If we insist on this Amendment, we shall be penalising the people who have taken the trouble to come out and vote, and, whichever way the vote went, I should not have thought that that was a defensible proposition. At any rate, it has not been defended so far. We have had many powerful arguments presented, but nobody has defended that proposition, which would be the consequence of carrying the Amendment.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
I do not quite follow what my hon. Friend means when he says that if we insist upon a minimum participation of 50 per cent., that will penalise those who take part.
§ Mr. Foot
It will penalise them in this sense. We are told that it is very desirable that people should vote, and in the polls that have taken place throughout Wales the percentage is something like 49 per cent. Not all people vote the same way. Some vote one way and some another way, but these people are the ones who settle the matter by their votes. If the Amendment is carried, they will not be able to settle it by the vote, but will be told that the whole proposal fails because they had not been able to get the necessary 50 per cent. Therefore, those who wish to exercise their choice by going to the poll would be denied the right to exercise their choice, and I think this is still the case.
There is another factor about it. Many people in Wales, and we can see the evidence when it comes to the polls, may say that they do not want to vote one way or the other. I do not think that this is a disreputable attitude in 919 such a case as this. It would be perfectly proper for a person to say, "I know there are strong feelings on this issue in Wales, that there are some people who hold strongly and passionately that if this Measure is carried through it will not only affect Sunday opening but life in Wales generally, and I know that there are others who want to exercise their right to have a drink on a Sunday." Many people in Wales might say "I am not going to choose between them, because I do not happen to feel strongly about it one way or the other." It is not a crime not to feel strongly on this subject. Personally, as a person who likes to have a drink now and then, I am not prepared to vote against the right of somebody else to have a drink. Therefore, I come back to the attitude—"Let the people who feel strongly about it settle it".
If we carry the Amendment, we shall be robbing that person, who wishes to abstain from voting, of his right to leave the issue to the others to settle. It is a fact that there is no charge against a person who says that he does not want to vote one way or the other. It is a perfectly reputable thing to do. That person may say, for the highest reasons, that he wants the issue to be settled by the people who feel most strongly about it, and it would not be a disreputable thing to say; but, if we carry the Amendment, we shall deny people the right to be able to approach the matter in this fashion.
For these two reasons—because, if we carry the Amendment, we shall penalise the people who have voted, and, secondly, because it would be a quite creditable attitude if some people wished to abstain when it came to the poll, while still wanting to have the matter settled—I do not see why, because a number of people wish to abstain, it should invalidate the choice of those who want to choose.
For these reasons, I do not think that we shall improve this referendum procedure by carrying the Amendment. Indeed, I think that we should introduce into the procedure discriminations which are unfair.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I support the Amendment. I think that 920 all the analogies which have been drawn between the referendum and local government and Parliamentary elections are quite false. At Parliamentary elections or local government elections, one votes for a candidate, but one may or may not be voting for a party. Here, they are voting on a specific issue in regard to a branch of the licensing law. They will be voting in an election which raises the whole question of local option. In my view, all these analogies laying down percentages of polls at local government and Parliamentary elections do not bear analysis.
This is the appeal which I make to the Government. The Government have quite clearly conceded, or, at any rate, have recognised, that, in relation to local option procedure in the field of licensing, it is appropriate that a minimum percentage should be laid down. They took that point of view as recently as 1959 in regard to Scotland. That is to say, the Government recognise quite clearly that, in the field of local option on licensing matters, it was right and proper that there should be a minimum vote before we could have any exercise of local option in the field of licensing. All I ask the Government is this. Why should they depart from that approach to the problem in relation to Wales? Why, when it came to Scotland, did the Government in their wisdom think fit to insist upon minimum percentages?
I do not think that we have been greatly assisted in this matter by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones), and I do not want to remind the House of the figures, because they have been given. If the Government regarded it as just and proper that limitations of that character should be placed in the licensing laws relating to local option in Scotland, why do they depart from it in relation to Wales? All I am asking, and all that the Amendment asks, is that the same principle in the field of local option should be applied in Wales as was applied as recently as in 1959 in Scotland.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
I believe that it is agreed on all sides that the people of Wales never asked for this Bill. I asked the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) who was behind it. The hon. Gentleman is not here at the 921 moment; perhaps he has gone to try to find out. He need not have gone, because I can tell him. The people behind this Bill, particularly in regard to Clause 6, are the brewers. [Interruption.] Of course, they are. They are the bosses of the Tory Party.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
If my hon. Friend is so convinced that the brewers have this terrific influence on the Government, why is it that they forgot to tell the Government to bring it in directly themselves, and not introduce Clause 6?
§ Mr. Jones
The brewers are more subtle than that. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett) has left his place, because he opposed the Amendment. The hon. Member happens to be a lord of the manor in my constituency. Suppose that the people of Merioneth held a referendum to decide whether he, as a foreigner, should be removed from the locality and fewer than 50 per cent. took part in the poll. I wonder whether the hon. Member would accept the decision as the right one.
I hope that we do not think in terms of an ordinary election when thinking of this poll. It is a poll to decide the voice of Wales. Surely, if less than 50 per cent. of the people participate in the poll, whichever way it goes—either way—we cannot claim that that represents the voice of Wales. It may be only a minority.
Here I differ with my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot). I could not follow his arguments. When voting to elect a Member of Parliament, the electorate can be divided into three classes. There are those who support, those who are against and those who are indifferent. This is an entirely different issue.
The question that will be put to the people of Wales when the polls are held is as follows: "The existing situation has been in force since 1881. Are you in favour of it or against it?" If the people refrain from going to the polls, that can be interpreted as being against a change and, therefore, the majority would be against it.
§ Sir D. Glover
I do not think that the hon. Member can draw that conclusion. In most cases, it would mean that the people were not very interested one way or the other.
§ Mr. Jones
That is exactly my point. They do not want a change, otherwise they would take the trouble to vote.
This is a simple Amendment which I thought that the Government would readily accept. It provides that at least 50 per cent. of the people should declare one way or the other. When we have heard the opinion of 50 per cent., we can agree that that is the voice of Wales. It gives me great pleasure to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. G. Elfed Davies (Rhondda, East)
I oppose the Amendment, for a number of reasons. I agree with the contentions put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot), who has raised two fundamental points. In a democracy, it is totally unfair to penalise the man or woman who goes to vote. Let me, however, put one or two other problems which may arise. I do not like local option very much, but I must face the fact that in the Bill as it stands, that is the method that the people of Wales must follow to decide this issue.
I wish to put some of the problems which could arise if the Amendment were carried. Let us assume that in Glamorgan there is a poll of 49 per cent., 47 per cent. in favour of change and 2 per cent. against. The 2 per cent. would be given the right of winning an election which they had already lost. My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) said that all that the Amendment meant was that if 26 per cent. voted in favour of change, their decision would be carried. I have given an instance to show that 49 per cent. could vote but their decision would not be carried. That is the basis of the Amendment.
There might be a 51 per cent. vote, per cent. in favour and 2 per cent. against. Because the figure was over per cent., the decision would be valid. If, however, the 2 per cent. had not voted, the fact that they had not done so would give them something which they wanted but which they could not obtain by voting. This is a completely ridiculous situation. In view of merely these few points, the House should unreservedly reject the Amendment.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—924
§ The House divided: Ayes 75, Noes 263.925
|Division No. 187.]||AYES||[5.25 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Randall, Harry|
|Awbery, Stan||Hilton, A. V.||Rankin, John|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Holman, Percy||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Benson, Sir George||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Ross, William|
|Boyden, James||Hunter, A. E.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Cliffe, Michael||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Kenyon, Clifford||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Lipton, Marcus||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Evans, Albert||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Wade, Donald|
|Fletcher, Eric||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|George, LadyMeganLloyd (Crmrthn)||Mapp, Charles||Wllkins, W. A.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mitchison, G. R.||Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)|
|Grimond, J.||Monslow, Walter||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Moody, A. S.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Coine Valley)||Moyle, Arthur||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Owen, Will||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Hannan, William||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (RwlyRegis)||Proctor, W. T.||Mr. Bowen and Mr. John Morris|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Green, Alan|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Corfield, F. V.||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Allason, James||Costain, A. P.||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Coulson, J. M.||Grimston, Sir Robert|
|Balniel, Lord||Critchley, Julian||Gurden, Harold|
|Barber, Anthony||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Crowder, F. P.||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)|
|Barter, John||Cunningham, Knox||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Curran, Charles||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Currie, G. B. H.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Bell, Ronald||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hastings, Stephen|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Dance, James||Hay, John|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hendry, Forbes|
|Biggs-Davison, John||de Ferranti, Basil||Hlley, Joseph|
|Bingham, R. M.||Delargy, Hugh||HiH, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)|
|Bossom, Clive||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Dodds, Norman||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Bowles, Frank||Doughty, Charles||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Box, Donald||Drayson, G. B.||Hooking, Philip N.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Driberg, Tom||Holland, Philip|
|Brewis, John||Duncan, Sir James||Hollingworth, John|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Duthie, Sir William||Hopkins, Alan|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. SirWalter||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Hornby, R. P.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Eden, John||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Elliott, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Hurd, Sir Anthony|
|Bryan, Paul||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Buck, Antony||Farr, John||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bullard, Denys||Finch, Harold||Jackson, John|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Finlay, Graeme||James, David|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Fisher, Nigel||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (SaffronWalden)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Jenkins, Roy (Steohford)|
|Callaghan, James||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Forrest, George||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Freeth, Denzil||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Gammans, Lady||Kirk, Peter|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Gardner, Edward||Lambton, Viscount|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Ginsburg, David||Leavey, J. A.|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Glover, Sir Douglas||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Cole, Norman||Goodhart, Philip||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Cooke, Robert||Goodhew, Victor||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Gower, Raymond||Longbottom, Charles|
|Longden, Gilbert||Peart, Frederick||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Loveys, Walter H.||Percival, Ian||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Peyton, John||Teeling, William|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Temple, John M.|
|MacArthur, Ian||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|McLaren, Martin||Pitman, I. J.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Pitt, Miss Edith||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|McMaster, Stanley R.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Maddan, Martin||Pott, Percivall||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Maginnis, John E.||Prior, J. M. L.||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Maitland, Sir John||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Pym, Francis||Turner, Colin|
|Marsh, Richard||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Marshall, Douglas||Rawlinson, Peter||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Marten, Near||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Rees, Hugh||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Matthews, Gordon (Merlden)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Mawby, Ray||Roots, William||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Russell, Ronald||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Seymour, Leslie||Walder, David|
|Mills, Stratton||Shaw, M.||Walker, Peter|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Shepherd, William||Wall, Patrick|
|Morrison, John||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Mort, D. L.||Skeet, T. H. H.||Watts, James|
|Nabarro, Gerald||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)||Webster, David|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Smithers, Peter||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Whitelaw, William|
|Noble, Michael||Snow, Julian||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Nugent, Sir Richard||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Speir, Rupert||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Oliver, G. H.||Stanley, Hon. Richard||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Wise, A. R.|
|Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Stodart, J. A.||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Storey, Sir Samuel||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Studholme, Sir Henry||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Parker, John||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Partridge, E.||Tapsell, Peter||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Mr. Gibson-Watt and Mr. Peel.|
§ Mr. Ifor Davies (Gower)
I beg to move, in page 11, line 40, to leave out "five hundred" and to insert "two per cent. of the".
We have heard in the previous debate some very interesting speeches, one in particular from my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas), who said that Welshmen always went back to beginnings He even referred to our going back to Genesis. I do not propose to go back so far. I merely ask the House, in considering this Amendment, to come back to common sense.
The purpose of this Amendment is to establish the principle that the number necessary to requisition a poll should be relative to the electorate. This is precisely the same principle as the Government themselves applied when arguing for local option as against a national referendum. The purpose of local option was to recognise that the electoral strength of each county should be respected. The same logic should surely be applied to the requisitioning of polls.
I want to refer to the speech made by the Minister for Welsh Affairs on Second Reading. I have informed him 926 of my intent. I regret that he has not been here this afternoon so far, but he may come later. He said:Speaking as Minister for Welsh Affairs and with a full sense of responsibility, I say that it would be wholly wrong in my view if the more lightly populated and countrified counties, such as Merioneth and Cardiganshire, were asked to come into a national referendum in which they would know that their total, voting strength would count for little against the big battalions of the south."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1960; Vol. 631, c. 154.]I submit that we should be concerned with the same principle in the requisitioning of polls. The same point is involved—respect for electoral strength. I invite the House to examine the situation. I take the example quoted by the Minister for Welsh Affairs—Merioneth. This has an electoral population of 26,435 and is expected to have 500 requisitions. Glamorganshire has an electoral population of about 500,000, but it, too, is to have only 500 requisitions. Does the House consider that fair, to say the least? In this Amendment we are proposing that requisitioning should be by not less than 2 per cent. of the electors.
I want to assure my hon. Friends who have talked about the word "myth"— 927 and my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West, has referred to some mythical things in the life of Wales—that there is no myth about the proposed 2 per cent. It is a realistic figure. I go further. It is the Government's own assessment, because 500 in terms of percentage among the electors of Merioneth is about 2 per cent. The exact figure of 2 per cent. of the electors in Merioneth is 528. Thus, 2 per cent. is applied by the Government themselves by their own reasoning—and I assume that the figure was arrived at by fair mental reasoning. It is not a mythical assessment.
The Government have decided that requisitions are necessary. I have heard people asking what the point of having requisitions is, but the Government say that we must have them. They say that we must have 500, which is 2 per cent. for the lowest populated county. It is surely not common sense to believe that the same figure of 500 should apply both to the lowest-populated county and equally to Glamorganshire. In passing, I might say that in Scotland 10 per cent. of the electorate must form a requisition before there is a referendum on local option. Therefore, 2 per cent. is very reasonable. It will be fair and equitable.
No doubt it will be argued that the question of requisitions is not important because they are merely an introductory phase. Indeed, the supporters of Sunday opening make this very point. I have a circular from the Wales and Monmouthshire Sunday Opening Council which says:Requisitions form an introductory phase comparable to the nomination of candidates in parliamentary and local government elections." But this is an entirely different matter.Hon. Members have referred to this as a social question. It is nothing of the kind. I would quote as my authority the words of the Minister for Welsh Affairs in his speech on Second Reading on 28th November. I praise the right hon. Gentleman for his comment on that occasion. It was a notable contribution. I hope that he believes it. I give him full credit for it. His words were:The argument which weighs most with me personally in all this against making any change in the 79-year custom in Wales is that any change must cause deep offence to a number of people to whom the Sunday closing of public houses in Wales is not simply a question of social policy to be discussed on sociological grounds, but a question of moral faith.928 I agree that it is a question of moral faith. The right hon. Gentleman added:In my view they deserve our special respect on that account."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1960; Vol. 631, c. 150.]If those words mean anything at all, they mean that the demand for a poll should not be made too easy. To suggest a 500 requisition, equal to 0.1 per cent. in Glamorganshire, is to make it far too easy.
As some hon. Members may be inclined to do and as I have heard it said recently in speeches in Wales, it may be easy to ridicule Sunday observance in Wales and to pour scorn on the Welsh way of life and the Nonconformist conscience, but the fact remains that it exists. Mae yn bôd, mae yn gweithio. The Minister for Welsh Affairs said on Second Reading that Stopford Brooke's grandson could not be charged with utter ignorance of the Nonconformist point of view, but I say to him with great respect that if he does not support the Amendment he can be charged with disrespect to that point of view by making it far too easy for supporters of Sunday opening to win the day.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Gower
I am sure that the whole House will agree that the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. I. Davies) presented the Amendment very reasonably and that superficially, at any rate, there would seem to be a good deal of merit in what he said. His case is that if a figure of 500 is reasonable for a county like Merioneth a larger figure would be more appropriate for a county like Glamorgan and a city like Cardiff. It is an attractive line of argument, but the hon. Member seemed to attach an enormous amount of importance to this as if it was the decisive factor in the final assessment of the votes.
I submit that it would be fairly easy in any county to obtain 500 signatures and that it would be reasonably easy for the other side to obtain a larger number. I have made a hasty calculation. I believe that the effect of the Amendment would be that in Merioneth 530 would be required whereas in Cardiff 3,500 people would be required to sign a requisition. The effect in the County of Radnor would be to reduce the figure below 500. I am open to correction but I believe that these would be the results of the Amendment.
929 I do not know whether the Minister would have very powerful objections to it, and I do not think that it is as important as the hon. Member for Gower seems to imagine. It would be quite easy in Cardiff, for example, for either side to obtain 3,500 signatures and I think that it would be just as easy to obtain even 10,000 in the County of Glamorgan. At least it would not be difficult. The only question is whether it is worth the bother. The Amendment would make this a cumbersome matter. It seems to me that 500 is a reasonable figure and that the real point is that it should be established that the request for a poll is bona fide.
§ Mr. Gower
I do not think that it would be difficult. I will modify what I said. I do not think that it would be extremely difficult to get a larger number of signatories from a larger population. Proportionately it would be as easy to obtain 3,500 signatures in Cardiff as it would be to obtain 500 bona fide signatures in Merioneth. The point is whether this is important. I should have thought that the question is whether the demand is bona fide, and if 500 qualified people signed a requisition I believe that that would be reasonable. However, I do not feel very strongly about it.
§ Mr. I. Davies
The whole point is not whether there is a number of bona fide people but whether the demand is there. We are told that there is a great demand. Surely the logical conclusion of the hon. Member's argument is that there should be an extension of the logic which the Government are applying in the figure of 500 for the lowest populated county. The important principle is that we must see to it that people feel strongly enough about the 930 subject to sign a petition in numbers proportionate to the electorate.
§ Mr. Gower
I have no doubt that that could be done, but I do not think that the strength of the demand would be measured by signatures. The size of the demand or lack of it would be measured by the subsequent poll, but I would not feel strongly about this one way or the other. What I am saying is helpful to the hon. Member's case and unless there are very strong and more positive objections than I have in mind I imagine that my right hon. Friend would consider the Amendment with a good deal of sympathy.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
I should like to thank the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) for his reasonable attitude in taking no sides in the debate and in sitting on the fence. I am sure that he was as surprised as anyone when the Bill was introduced at the beginning of the Session. I am sure that neither he nor any other Conservative Member for a Welsh constituency had an electoral mandate to support these provisions being thrust upon Welsh people in this way. Now we find the hon. Member for Barry hedging back a little and trying to be on both sides.
§ Mr. Morris
I regret that I was not here. I was attending other business, but the hon. Member is now discovering the strength of opinion in his own constituency. He realises that there is feeling in Wales about the manner in which the Bill, and this Clause in particular, are being thrust upon the Welsh people without their having had any opportunity of discussion at a General Election. I hope that when this matter goes to a Division he will not vote for the Government but will retain his position firmly entrenched on the fence. I am, however, quite sure that there is no hope of that.
§ Mr. Morris
The hon. Member has put his finger on the nub of the question. Then there was about to be a vote, but no vote took place, and the hon. Member knew quite well that that would be so.
I want to place on record that the Bill and this Clause in particular were introduced without any thought whatsoever on the part of the Government. They knew nothing of the implications. The Amendment which we are trying to put into this Clause would try to remedy the lack of thought shown by the Government in rushing the Bill through without a mandate. I am quite sure that this whole matter is the work of the backroom Tories in Wales, who have always been in the backroom, who will always remain there and who have never had popular support in Wales. I dare any hon. Member opposite to go to a poll in Wales and declare that he is in favour of the Bill.
A novel principle has been introduced into this Clause. What we are seeking to do is to try to plan for the future. We ask on this side of the House, why this figure of 500 has been inserted in the Bill. I do not know whether that is the figure for other polls or referenda. We are entitled to know why the figure of 500 has been inserted. Is there any reason why it should not be 400 or 800?
My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. I. Davies) discussed the difference in the result of the application of the Amendment in the various counties of Wales. In Radnorshire it will be less than 500 if the Amendment is accepted. There is nothing wrong in that if it is a fair and democratic principle. In counties like Merioneth the figure will be a little more. What reason can there be for having the same figure for a small county like Merioneth and for the largest county, from the point of view of population, of Glamorgan?
The hon. Member for Barry asked whether it was worth the bother to have this Amendment. If it is not worth the bother of 2 per cent. of the population of the County of Glamorgan to requisition a poll, it is not worth having a poll at all. I attach great significance to the 932 hon. Member saying, "Is it worth the bother?". If it is worth the bother of 2 per cent. of the people of Glamorgan to have a poll, those people will go to the trouble of sending in properly signed requisition papers.
One of the worst features of the Clause is that for as long as this Measure continues it will operate on a seven-year basis. Every seventh year there will be a referendum, not unlike an American Presidential election, and as the end of each seven-year period approaches there will be vast activity on the part of the chapels and churches on the one side and the public houses on the other. Public life generally will suffer. If we are to have this problem every seven years, we shall be subjecting public life in Wales to frivolous polls. They will be frivolous polls if 500 people in the whole of the County of Glamorgan can demand a poll, and this will go on as long as this Measure remains in force.
Every seven years in the County of Glamorgan 500 people out of 500,000 electors can put the whole of the county to expense. The signatures can be collected quite easily. There will be no difficulty on that score. Does the House propose to accept a drastic and fundamental change in the constitution not by General Election, not by Members of Parliament, but by referenda every seven years?
It will be possible to demand a referenda in seventeen districts in Wales by a very minor number of signatures of people collected in a few public houses or chapels. Both sides can equally demand a poll. The public houses in one county may demand a poll on one occasion and in seven years' time the chapels may demand a poll.
The Amendment, in my submission, is a reasonable one. I object to the principle of having a referendum, but if we are to have it, it should be by a substantial number of the population, who feel it worth while to go to the trouble of demanding requisition papers. It would be tragic if we were to go through this pallaver every seven years in the County of Glamorgan as a result of a very small minority of signatures collected in one small sector of that great county, and that the county should be put to this expense.
933 In Committee, a higher figure of 5 per cent. was asked for. That was a reasonable demand, but it was not accepted. I put forward this plea as strongly as I can: is there anything at all against insisting that before we have this fundamental change in the constitution of the Principality of Wales, to be manifested every seven years, a substantial number of people should have to go to the trouble of making it worth while to insist that a poll takes place?
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Vosper
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) has rightly reminded the House that the point which we are now discussing applies to all polls, not only to the poll which may be requisitioned in the ensuing months by those in favour of Sunday opening, but subsequently by those who may requisition against the opening of public houses and licensed premises on Sunday. I would be the first to agree that there is some merit in the point moderately raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) that the numbers required for a requisition should be proportionate to the size of the electoral area, but, on balance, I suggest that the arrangements in the Bill are preferable.
It has been said that Parliamentary and local government elections bear no relationship to this problem, but we are following the Representation of the People Act procedure in other respects. For Parliamentary elections, ten signatures are required on a nomination form and the number is fewer for local government nominations. The nearest precedent for this case under English law is the requisition for a Sunday cinema poll. The arrangements are admittedly somewhat different, but in that case 100 signatures are required.
The hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) reminded the House that the Licensing (Scotland) Act provided that one-tenth of the electorate was required to sign the requisition, but in that case the poll can be for an area as small as a parish, so that is very different from the proposition which we are now discussing.
The Government felt that a reasonable number of signatures was required before an election should be held. The number of 500 was chosen in relation 934 to the number required for a Sunday cinema poll, but is five times that number. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) was quite right when he said that it was a question not of collecting 500 signatures, but of collecting them in the form required under the Appendix to the Second Schedule. That is no easy undertaking and it is something which may not have been fully appreciated.
If the Amendment were accepted, 3,400 signatures would be required in the City of Cardiff and 10,000 in the County of Glamorgan, but the number required in the County of Radnor would be reduced from 500 to approximately 250. It seems to me that 10,000 signatures in the form required under the Second Schedule would be too onerous a proposal to contemplate, while in the case of the smaller counties it could well be argued that the requirement was not sufficient.
Reducing the figure to 1 per cent. would make the poll too easy to requisition in many of the more scattered counties of Wales. The Government felt that the precedents should be followed and that we should stick to a number. In Committee, I promised the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that I would consider again whether the number should be 500, 600 or 800. On reconsideration, my right hon. Friend and I have concluded that 500 is a reasonable number in this connection.
§ Mr. Morris
I did not follow what the right hon. Gentleman said about the poll being made too easy. Can he repeat that?
§ Mr. Vosper
I had in mind the County of Radnor, where the number required for a requisition would be reduced to 250 if the Amendment were accepted. If on the percentage basis the figure were reduced to 1 per cent., the number would be 125 and it would then be held to be too easy to obtain a requisition in that county.
§ Mr. Morris
If the hon. Member feels that in a small county like Radnorshire reducing the number required to requisition a poll to 250 might make it too easy in that county, surely he will agree that having a figure of 500 makes it far easier in the County of Glamorgan.
§ Mr. Vosper
I would certainly think that if it were just a question of collecting 500 signatures, but I beg hon. Members to realise that it is not that and that the completion of a nomination form in accordance with the Schedule is not an easy exercise. I accept that it will be a fairly easy undertaking in Glamorgan, but care must be exercised and the undertaking should not be entered upon lightly. My advice to the House is that, on balance, the number of 500 is correct.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I am sorry that once more the Minister has turned down a very reasonable Amendment. In Committee, we suggested that the figure should be 5 per cent., and we have now suggested that it should be 2 per cent. In Committee, it was argued that 5 per cent. was too high. I am very glad that the Minister has not quoted precedent against us, for what we are seeking to do is what we do collectively as a Parliament, except that in this case there are no candidates. The House has felt it desirable and essential to take steps to prevent frivolous candidatures. When a candidate seeks nomination he must be nominated by the requisite number of electors, and if he then goes to the poll and polls less than one-eighth of the votes cast he suffers the penalty.
That is not something which has existed since 1881, but is something which has come about in more recent times. I was a member of a Speaker's Committee which considered all these matters and nobody suggested a change in that procedure which was felt to have worked very well on the whole. It is not too onerous a responsibility on a candidate that he should find £150 which, if he polls more than one-eighth of the votes, is returned, but which he forfeits if he polls less than one-eighth of the votes. The House has made that provision to prevent frivolous candidatures. We are now to have a referendum, but it will be not one referendum but a series continually over a number of years. Ought we not to make sure that we do not get frivolous demands for such a referendum?
The Minister will agree that in Committee those of us with experience of Parliamentary elections tried to bend our minds to this thought, and we all agreed that we wanted these polls to be dignified, as the polls for Sunday cinema 936 opening have not been. Those polls have been no credit to our democratic procedures. There has been an obvious use of money and people have been carted about in loads and requisition forms have been signed. I do not want that sort of thing to happen in my town, nor in my county, Monmouthshire. I beg my English hon. Friends to remember that this is a matter with which we will have to deal. I do not want requisition forms to be hawked about anywhere by anybody. That is what has happened with Sunday cinemas and I have too much respect for our democratic procedures to want to see it happen in this case.
§ Mr. Griffiths
When we were saying that the figure should be 5 per cent. we were charged with being pessimistic about the number of people who would want to vote. We have said that there are better ways of doing this and we have made several suggestions. I could take round one of these forms and ask people in the chapels and "pubs" and clubs and on the road and in the pit and outside to sign it. I do not like that procedure.
We put down an Amendment, which will show that we have given some thought to the matter. We suggested that anyone requiring a poll—now for Sunday opening and perhaps for Sunday closing in seven years—should go to an office which would be provided by the clerk of the county, or county borough, who would be under an obligation to open such offices at appropriate places throughout the area. Anyone requiring a poll would go to one of those offices and ask for a form which he would sign in the presence of the officer appointed by the clerk.
That was the suggestion we made in Committee, along with many others. We did not press them in the hope that the Minister would consider them and perhaps put forward Amendments to meet us on some of them. That is the motive which inspired us. I am sure that it is a motive shared by every Member in this House. It is not too much for us to say, is it, that we do not want frivolous 937 applications for a referendum? It means that there must be a reasonable demand.
I know the County of Glamorgan very well indeed. I spent a large part of my life in it. Is it unreasonable to ask that 10,000 should demand a referendum? They will be local electors, and they will be 10,000 in a county of 500,000 local government electors. Only 500 in Glamorgan, as my hon. Friends the Members for Gower (Mr. I. Davies) and Aberavon (Mr. Morris) said, would be quite farcical. They may decide now—I do not know—one way or the other, but in seven years' time another 500 may demand a poll to achieve the opposite. Do we want that?
I think that the number of 500 applied in Merioneth, Montgomery and Glamorgan is hardly reasonable. The Government are not enabling the matter to be treated in a dignified way. I wish that the Minister of State had considered other Amendments we put forward. I warned the Committee and I warn the House that I am afraid—and this has nothing to do with Sunday opening—of ugly things taking place. I will be frank. It has to be borne in mind that there is money in this, and I do not want even an appearance of ugly things taking place in our democratic life. That was why we proposed a number of Amendments—this is one of them, and it is a minor one of them—and that was why we proposed the one which has just been rejected by the House. I hope that the House will not reject this one.
As we said in Committee, so we say now, that since the obligation is placed upon us of deciding this matter by referendum in our country, the House should make provisions which will assist us to carry out the obligation in a dignified way.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has spoken of very ugly possibilities and a certain amount of social immorality—to call it that for want of another term—occurring in carrying out the collecting of the signatures for the requisition of a poll. If my right hon. Friend wants to minimise the possibility of all these ugly situations which might develop it is in his interest to reduce the number of signatures which are required to requisition a poll. He has 938 the solution in his own hands. If he wants to avoid those possibilities he should not increase the number and increase the burden on those people who will be collecting the signatures, but should reduce them.
I think that too much importance has been attached to the avoidance of the frivolous requisition. To my mind, a figure had to be written into the Bill as merely a nominal part of the machinery to initiate the process of the poll. It is purely nominal, serving the purpose of the formality which has to be observed to initiate a poll.
We have 36 Members for Wales in this House and it required 360 signatures to elect those Member representing over 2½ million people. Compare that number with the figure of about 80,000 to initiate a poll. I think that it is really ludicrous. Somebody here mentioned that the comparison was not a good one, but when we realise that the purpose of the 500 is to give the necessary jolt to start the democratic machine forward I cannot understand why it is not. That number is purely notional, purely to initiate what we should be doing——
§ Mr. Davies
Notional, then. However, this is not a light matter. It is a change in the law. This is not the electing of a person. We are introducing a requisition in order that the law may be changed. That is why we attach so great an importance to the requisition.
§ Mr. Thomas
The duty of all democrats is to make access to the democratic machine easier. The main provisions of the Clause have been accepted. There is machinery which the people of Wales can use if they so require, in order to express their views on this matter.
I have been a Member of the House for eleven years, and I know that whenever we have built up democratic machinery in other parts of the world, for Asiatics or Africans, people we have liberated over the past ten years, we have made every possible effort to make the accessibility and use of the machinery as easy 939 as possible. That has been our effort and we are very proud of it. I cannot understand why democrats should make accessibility of the machinery more difficult rather than easier.
§ Mr. Morris
The hon. Member keeps on harping on the duty of democrats. It is the duty of democrats who seek to have fundamental changes made in the law to say what they propose in their election addresses and in the manifestoes of their parties.
§ Mr. Thomas
My hon. Friend raises a point which is easily disposed of. No Member of this House who wrote this issue into his Parliamentary election address or manifesto could then say that he was elected on that, because that would be buried in the middle of about half a dozen other things, and, while he might think that he was elected on one thing, he really would have been elected on another.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that one would say in an election address, "Leave out five hundred and insert two per cent." but that is what we are talking about.
§ Mr. Thomas
I think that we are exaggerating the importance of this, and what I object to is that we are increasing the difficulty, making it more difficult for people to put their hands to the machinery, instead of doing everything possible to make the machinery as easily operable as possible.
For those reasons we should reject the Amendment, which is a further example of an effort being made to hamper and obstruct the operation of the Clause.
§ Mr. Ede
I heard so much bad history from my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) in a previous speech that I am certain that any advice which he tenders to the 940 House ought to be rejected straight away.
We have two suggestions before us which are being regarded as mutually destructive when, in fact, they are not. Once we move away from the representative democracy which we in this country enjoy, we have to recognise that we are travelling over unexplored territory. We are not a democracy on the model of ancient Greece, where there was a 10 per cent. elite who were the democracy living on the 90 per cent. who were slaves.
§ Mr. Ede
No doubt we were near the dark ages. On the other hand, it was little better in 1881 than in 1831. We are still very largely an experimental democracy, and I regret that the Home Secretary has tried to lure us away from parliamentary representative Government on to this basis of a referendum.
It is desirable that this machinery should be accessible now that we have decided to establish it, and it should be reasonably equally accessible to people no matter whether they live in a crowded county borough or in a scattered, thinly populated county such as some of the Welsh counties. I recollect going to establish the first combined police force, and the chairman of the standing joint committee for Radnorshire told me that he could not contemplate this until he had consulted his electors.
I thought that that was a most revolutionary thing for a chairman of a standing joint committee to say. He said that he wanted to consult his ratepayers; there was a telephone in his room and he could telephone the Mayor of Birmingham, for Birmingham paid half the rates of Radnorshire, and, I believe, still does.
§ Mr. Ede
No doubt it does.
I suggest that the best way to reconcile the difficulty of the county borough and the scattered counties is to say that there should be either 2 per cent. or 500, whichever is the less. I am not moving an Amendment, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of State has left so much to another place that this is one of the 941 matters which he might think over until the Bill is in Committee in another place. My suggestion would avoid the need to collect 10,000 signatures in Glamorgan and to have to struggle to get 500 in Radnorshire. It is a principle not unknown to this sort of thing in the near approaches which we have made to it in our Constitution.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) feels that that would meet his argument and that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise), in the wisdom which he always exemplifies appropriately, will also find it acceptable to him. We can put people to a lot of trouble to collect the appropriate number of signatures, but in the end, in a matter of this kind, each side will put itself to the trouble, and I do not see why a lot of useless energy should be expended in merely getting the formalities commenced. I suggest that if we said 500 or 2 per cent., whichever is the less, we should leave everybody capable of feeling that they were getting their own way.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I have nothing to add to the general arguments of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State except to say that, having studied the Committee proceedings closely, I realise that, as the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said, they reduced their bid from 5 per cent. to 2 per cent. The spirit in which this Amendment has been put forward has, therefore, been constructive and an attempt to find a solution.
Nevertheless, there is still a big discrepancy between the effect in Radnorshire, or some other smaller counties, and the effect in Glamorgan. A vital point made by my right hon. Friend is that these are not just names to be collected; they must be collected from people on the local register of electors, according to the Second Schedule, and that makes the provisions difficult for Glamorgan. I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The Amendment was moved by a Member for a Glamorgan constituency who should know the difficulties in the county.
§ Mr. Butler
I have looked into the matter carefully. I have some knowledge of electoral procedure and I think that this proposal might lead to the very difficulty of hawking round which the right hon. Gentleman feared. It might have some of the undesirable results which he would so much dislike.
I would point out to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who has much experience of these matters, that in intervening in a Welsh debate we are on a footing of equality. If it is of assistance to the House, before the Bill goes to another place I am ready to examine the formula put forward by the right hon. Member for South Shields. I think that it would be workable. I cannot give a definite pledge until I have examined it further, because I heard it for the first time only a moment ago. It struck my mind because some such suggestion had already been in my thoughts in listening to the debate. If the right hon. Gentleman and I can stick together as we did in the past on the Education Act, perhaps I may be allowed to look at his proposal. In the circumstances, I cannot accept the Amendment which has been moved—
§ Mr. Morris
How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile his approach to the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr Ede) with the Minister of State's statement that this Amendment would make it too easy for Radnorshire?
§ Mr. Butler
In the short time at my disposal I cannot reconcile all these difficulties, but the right hon. Member for South Shields has made a constructive suggestion and in the course of the Bill we have attempted to meet constructive suggestions. I cannot accept the Amendment, but it is reasonable that I should consider the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
I must put one or two points to the Home Secretary before he finalises his decision on the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend for South Shields (Mr. Ede). That suggestion would go below the figure proposed by the Government and in that sense is doubly inacceptable to those who support the Amendment, and to 943 the Minister of State, judging from the content of his reply to my right hon. and hon. Friends.
The Minister of State, who, I think, is genuinely interested in making these polls work—they have been wished on him by another Minister, and we have every sympathy for the right hon. Gentleman, who has to dandle this "baby"—advanced arguments in refuting the Amendment which we find unacceptable. For instance, he said that the numbers might be more difficult to obtain because the areas of population are larger. That does not follow, because the proportion of signatures necessary in an area would be few only in relation to a small population. It need not be any more difficult to collect what is a large figure in a densely populated county than to collect a few signatures in a sparsely populated area.
I must quote a precedent which was established by the Licensing (Scotland) Act, 1959, and here I think that we are on firm ground. Section 113 (1, c) of that Act provides that no temperance poll can be heldunless (c) it is signed by not less than one-tenth of the electors in the area.The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) thought that 2 per cent. was too large a percentage. But here we have a Statute providing for 10 per cent. of the electorate to sign. So far as I have been able to discover from my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies, no difficulty has arisen from the requirement of 10 per cent.
The Minister also said that it is not easy to secure the signatures because the form of requisition makes certain not inconsiderable demands. If we compare the form of requisition paper set out in the Second Schedule of the Bill with the requisition paper set out in the Ninth Schedule of the Scottish Act we find that the same requirements are made in both cases. The requisition papers require in four columns the signature, name, address and number on the register. So what difficulties arising from the intricacies of the requisition paper could possibly be encountered in Wales which have not arisen in Scotland?
Hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies have told me that no difficulty 944 has arisen on that score, so I urge the Home Secretary, following his recent intervention, to look at this again. It is a sliding scale requiring that the highly populated counties shall proportionately have a poll only if the same percentage of the requisition is obtained there as is obtained in the sparsely populated counties.
Radnor is the solitary and extreme exception which proves the rule. The proposals which we have made would work extremely well. The case of Radnor means that fewer signatures would be required than is proposed by the Government. That shows how the proportional method would relieve a very small county of what might be a burden and impose on more highly populated counties what is a reasonable burden of proof that a poll is necessary.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
I think it important that we should be absolutely clear about what the Home Secretary is to consider. As I understand, the right hon. Gentleman will consider a suggestion that the formula should be based on a maximum of 500 signatures, or 2 per cent., whichever is the lesser. That does not meet any of the arguments which have been advanced by my hon. Friends who support the Amendment. If it be the case, I hope that my hon. Friend will take this Amendment to a Division.
The expenditure in different counties and boroughs will be different. In Anglesey, Montgomery, Radnor, or Merioneth 500 signatures may be sufficient, because the expenditure involved in the poll will be reasonably similar in all those counties. But the expenditure in the counties of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Swansea or Carmarthen, or one of the bigger counties, would be infinitely greater; and by expenditure is meant public as well as private expenditure. Surely we are entitled to ask that the proportion of signatures on the requisition should be greater in proportion to the amount of money spent and time and energy consumed. I hope that the Home Secretary will consider those points.
I have not consulted my hon. Friends on the matter but I should think that 1 per cent. would be preferable to the figure of 500, or to the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede).
§ Question put, That "five hundred" stand part of the Bill:—946
§ The House divided: Ayes 229, Noes 75.947
|Division No. 188.]||AYES||[6.38 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Goodhart, Philip||Partridge, E.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Goodhew, Victor||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Gower, Raymond||Peart, Frederick|
|Allason, James||Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.||Peel, John|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Green, Alan||Percival, Ian|
|Balniel, Lord||Gresham Cooke, R.||Peyton, John|
|Barber, Anthony||Gurden, Harold||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Barter, John||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Pott, Percivall|
|Batsford, Brian||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Hastings, Stephen||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Hay, John||Pym, Francis|
|Bell, Ronald||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Hendry, Forbes||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Hiley, Joseph||Rees, Hugh|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Roots, William|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Bossom, Clive||Hirst, Geoffrey||Russell, Ronald|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hocking, Philip N.||Seymour, Leslie|
|Box, Donald||Holland, Philip||Shaw, M.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hollingworth, John||Shepherd, William|
|Brewis, John||Hornby, R. P.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hughes-Young, Michael||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Smithers, Peter|
|Bryan, Paul||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Buck, Antony||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Speir, Rupert|
|Bullard, Denys||Jackson, John||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Bullus, Wing commander Eric||James, David||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Stodart, J. A.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Callaghan, James||Joseph, Sir Keith||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Kerby Capt. Henry||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Kershaw, Anthony||Tapsell, Peter|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Kirk, Peter||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Chichester-Clarke, R.||Lambton, Viscount||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Leavey, J. A.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Teeling, William|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Lindsay, Martin||Temple, John M.|
|Cole, Norman||Litchfield, Capt-John||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Collard, Richard||Longbottom, Charles||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Cooke, Robert||Loveys, Walter H.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Corfield, F. V.||MacArthur, Ian.||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Costain, A. P.||McLaren, Martin||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Coulson, J. M.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Critchley, Julian||McMaster, Stanley R.||Turner, Colin|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Maddan, Martin||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Crowder, F. P.||Maginnis, John E.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Cunningham, Knox||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Curran, Charles||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Marshall, Douglas||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Marten, Neil||Vlokers, Miss Joan|
|Dance, James||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Matthews, Gordon (Merlden)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Mawby, Ray||Waider, David|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Walker, Peter|
|Digny, Simon Wingfleld||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wall, Patrick|
|Drayson, G. B.||Mills, Stratton||Ward, Dame Irene|
|du Cann, Edward||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Watts, James|
|Duncan, Sir James||Morrison, John||Webster, David|
|Duthle, Sir William||Mort, D. L.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Eden, John||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Whitelaw, William|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Noble, Michael||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Farr, John||Nugent, Sir Richard||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Oakshott, Sir Hendrle||Wise, A. R.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Freeth, Denzil||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Gammans, Lady||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Gardner, Edward||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Pargiter, G. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Colonel J. H. Harrison and|
|Ainsley, William||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Awbery, Stan||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Randall, Harry|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hannan, William||Ross, William|
|Boyden, James||Hayman, F. H.||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hilton, A. V.||Short, Edward|
|Cliffe, Michael||Holman, Percy||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Holt, Arthur||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Stones, William|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hunter, A. E.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Oavies, Ifor (Gower)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Wade, Donald|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Dodds, Norman||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Fernyhough, E.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Willey, Frederick|
|Fletcher, Eric||Kenyon, Clifford||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)|
|Forman, J. C.||Lipton, Marcus||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|George, LadyMeganLloyd (Crmrthn)||Moody, A. S.||Woof, Robert|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Moyle, Arthur||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Grey, Charles||Owen, Will|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grimond, J.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Mr. Bowen and Mr. John Morris.|
§ Mr. Vosper
I beg to move, in page 12, line 14, at the end to insert:Provided that if polling day at a general election for Parliament falls within the eight weeks after the end of the said period the date for the poll under this section may be more than six, but not more than twelve, weeks after the end of it, and if Parliament is dissolved after the date has been fixed by a direction under this subsection, the Secretary of State may revoke that direction and give a new direction fixing a later date.I move this Amendment to meet a point that was raised during the Committee stage of the Bill. Should a General Election intervene during the arrangements for a poll, the Committee felt that some difficulty would arise. The Amendment says that if a General Election is held during the eight weeks following the conclusion of the period allowed for a requisition, then the period allowed for the poll shall be extended from six weeks to twelve weeks to make sure that the dates of the General Election and of the poll under Clause 6 do not coincide. It also makes allowance for the possibility that the General Election might intervene after a date had been fixed for a local poll, in which case the new date is fixed.
The next Amendment, in page 12, line 21 goes with this Amendment and allows for the returning officer to issue a new notice in such circumstances.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
On behalf of my hon. Friends and I, I express our thanks to the Minister. As the right hon. Gentleman said, this point was raised during the Committee stage. The Amendment 948 covers that point and we are obliged to him for tabling it.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
I wish to support the Amendment. I am interested to see that hon. Members raised this question, for I recall that in the municipal elections of 1955, which were a fortnight away from the General Election, it was hard to make people understand that the campaigns for the two elections were being conducted at the same time.
I realise how embarrassing it would be to some people if the campaign on local option were conducted at the same time as a General Election. For instance, no hon. Member was returned to this House declaring himself in favour of Sunday opening in Wales, and if we had this local option campaign taking place within two or three weeks of a General Election it would become the all-absorbing issue—particularly in North Wales, but I believe, also in South Wales.
I certainly would not fear if that were done. However, there are those more timid people who would not like to have the question of Sunday opening caught up with the General Election, with people voting on that one issue, still in the General Election, under the passion that is roused by it. I understand that this would cause difficulty in some of the South Wales valleys as well as in North Wales. The Minister is perhaps protecting some of the people there from having to fight a General Election on this issue, so I support him.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones
I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) that we will make this a General Election issue whenever it arises—even years after.
§ Mr. Ede
The Minister of State said that the Secretary of State "shall" but the phrase in the Amendment is,…the Secretary of State may…I do not think that this is one of the occasions when it would be held that, of necessity, the word "may" meant "shall". It would be at the discretion of the Secretary of State whether he revoked the direction and gave a new one.
§ Mr. Vosper
I think that there could be an occasion on which, although the dates did appear to coincide, there was not an absolute necessity for the Secretary of State to revoke the direction, but it is certainly the intention, despite what the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) says, that the two elections shall not coincide. If there is anything in what the right hon. Gentleman says I will certainly have it put right, but I think that the words in the Amendment are correct.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I can quite understand the Government's anxiety here, particularly having regard to their miserable exhibition in South Wales at General Elections. As one representing a constituency in the heart of industrial South Wales, I would welcome this being an issue at a General Election. The Government, therefore, need not think that they are protecting us; we are, and as long as this Government are in power we will be. Were this an issue at a General Election, I am fairly certain that, knowing my attitude to Clause 6, and to the Bill in general, the majority of the licensees in my constituency would be voting for the present position.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 12, line 21, at end insert:
and if the date for the poll is afterwards altered under the proviso to subsection (3) above shall again give public notice accordingly".—[Mr. Vosper.]
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I beg to move, in page 12, line 21, at the end to insert:Provided that such public notice shall include a clear definition of the term "licensed premises" within the meaning of this Act.950 This matter was discussed at some length in Committee. I would remind the House that once this Bill becomes an Act, the machinery starts working. With the Royal Assent, the clock starts ticking, and in due course there will be a poll—and I believe that if the plans of the Government are carried out, there will be a poll this year. The question that will be put to the electors in these 17 areas—13 administrative county areas and four county boroughs is: are you for or against the Sunday opening of licensed premises? We believe that this proposed wording should be included because by the Bill we have substantially altered what is meant by "licensed premises", and this is very relevant to this issue in Wales.
Up to the present, the whole of this controversy in Wales has been conducted on the basis that what is at issue is whether the public houses should be allowed to be open on Sundays for the sale of intoxicating liquor, or, to put it in familiar terms: should the "pubs" be open? It would be fair to say that the bulk of people in Wales have so far thought of that as the issue, but it is only a small part of the issue.
Part I of the Bill applies to the whole of England and Wales, including Monmouthshire, and creates two new licences. First, there is the restaurant licence, which introduces important new features. The restaurant proprietors in the 13 counties and four county boroughs will be entitled to a licence to sell intoxicating liquors with meals, and will be entitled to that licence as of right, provided that they conform with certain conditions in the Bill—and no one would claim that the conditions were very onerous. Even the definition of a table is very wide. Therefore, if their owners so wish, thousands of restaurants in Wales will have become licensed premises before this poll takes place.
Secondly, there are the guest houses, which will also be entitled to licences as of right, subject to certain conditions. But, for the first time, the justices cannot withhold a licence on the ground that there is no public need. That ground has gone; the Government have wiped it out. It is very important that this should be understood by all those taking part in the poll. It is important that 951 we should make this known to our constituents, but there is also an obligation on the Government.
We suggested in Committee that the ballot papers should contain a definition of "licensed premises", but it was urged that it would make the paper long and confusing, so we did not press it. On the other hand, one provision is that there must be a public notice, and we say that that notice should very clearly state, "On such-and-such a date in Carmarthen"—to take my own constituency, if I may—"you will be entitled to vote, and the question that will be put to you is: are you in favour of or against Sunday opening of licensed premises? The term 'licensed premises' includes public houses, restaurants and guest houses. Therefore, when you vote, do not think that you are voting only for the little inn around the corner".
So important is it to show the controversy and propaganda which there has been about the Sunday opening of public houses that I wish to quote from the manifesto of those who are for Sunday opening entitled, "A survey: The Sunday Opening Question", issued by the Sunday Opening Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. I quote from this document simply to illustrate how desirable it is that this matter should be made clear:The inability of the licensed house, due to Sunday closing, to compete on equal terms with clubs is intensfied by the disproportionate amount of trade which occurs at weekends when most people are at leisure. From searching inquiries made, this reveals that the weakened economy retards the ability to modernise and maintain the amenities that can be offered to the public and stimulates to a somewhat higher rate than in England the decline in the number of licensed houses in Wales and Monmouthshire. The continuation of this trend could mean, ultimately, the disappearance of the inn and all it stands for, especially in the more isolated districts of Wales, for both the inhabitants and the traveller alike.7.0 p.m.
We must not think that all the licensees will be voting for this. Most of them have worked in industry. We have a strong tradition: we do not like working on Sundays. My hon. Friends who are miners, like myself, make a distinction between Sunday and Saturday. We say, "If we work on Sunday mornings, we are entitled to double 952 time. If working on Sunday means nothing, then tear up our agreements, because there is no justification for them".
This proposal will mean something to the licensee, too. He likes to have his Sundays free. He is being induced to support it on the ground that, if he has the right to open on Sundays, he will be able better to compete with his rival the club. That is the argument. But it is not only the club which will be his rival. Joe's cafe and "Gwalia View" will be his rival, too. The licensed victuallers do not like the proposal. The brewers do not mind it, because they will sell the beer in any case.
I want to make it clear to the licence holder that he has been led up the garden. He has been led to support a movement which gave him to believe that this proposal will enable him to compete on equal terms with the only rival which he has now, the club. But the Government have given him many other rivals, and he will be squeezed out.
In fairness to the licensee, and to everyone else, I want the constituents of Barry, Cardiff, Swansea and every town to know what he is voting for, whether for or against. Here, I speak only for myself. I regard it as my duty to make clear to my constituents what they are voting for. I believe that the Government have an obligation to make it clear to them.
We have already made two attempts to get our suggestion accepted. This is the third attempt. The Government should accept that the public notice should contain a clear definition of what "licensed premises" means so that the people who vote either for or against the Sunday opening of licensed premises know what they are voting on.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
I support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has said. I am sure that there is one thing on which Members on both sides of the House who know Wales would agree. The Bill is capable of bringing about great changes in the Principality. There is not a shadow of doubt about that.
In the industrial South the changes may not be as obvious as in the rural areas, but in the villages of mid-Wales and South Wales and in the rural areas of North Wales the opening of licensed 953 premises on Sundays will be a major change. At present, they open on Saturday evenings. Unfortunately, in my view—I hope that I am not bigoted—far too many young people go into public houses on Saturday evenings and literally waste their money. They do not go there merely for convivial companionship—
§ Mr. Speaker
The activities of young people are a little remote from the contents of the public notice which we are debating.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for bringing me back on to the rails. I was dealing with the question of change.
The opening of licensed premises in Wales on Sundays would constitute an enormous change in the pattern of living in Wales. When the Bill was foreshadowed and published, the general impression of people in the Principality was that it would mean that, if a majority in favour of it was obtained in the polls, public houses would open on Sundays. I am convinced that that impression still prevails in the minds of a large number of people.
The Bill, however, involves a much wider extension than that. As my right hon. Friend has said, this proposal will extend to cafés, boarding houses and restaurants. The villages and small towns in the rural areas of Wales will have not only the Sunday opening of public houses, but the cafés in competition. As my right hon. Friend said, this is something that the licensed victuallers did not expect. I believe that such a change is involved that it is only right that the Government should, when the public notices are being drafted, make it perfectly clear what "licensed premises" means so that when the poll comes the people of Wales will be clear what they are voting on. It should be made clear that, if they vote for Sunday opening, they are voting for the opening of public houses, cafés which can sell drinks with meals, guest houses and restaurants. This is an enormous extension. A far larger number of premises will be open for the sale of intoxicating liquor than was ever contemplated by the Welsh people. I warmly support the Amendment.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
I regard the Amendment as one of the most important of the Amendments which have been tabled. I believe that the people of Wales have been completely misled by the astonishing campaign which the licensed victuallers have been conducting over the past few months and even longer. It may well be that the licensed victuallers in Wales have acted in ignorance in the campaign which they have conducted because they did not know what was meant by the term "licensed premises". They have been organising meetings at which my hon. Friends the Members for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) and Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) have been in attendance.
At a meeting in Cardiff, the chairman, thinking that it was a question of Sunday opening for public houses and that "licensed premises" was a limited term, in the presence of my hon. Friends described all other Welsh Members of Parliament as being mealy-mouthed and hypocrites who were afraid to speak out on this question. Those of us who hold strong views in opposition to Sunday opening have been subjected to a campaign of vilification and abuse which, I believe, is unworthy of those campaigning for Sunday opening.
If this Amendment is accepted, it will at least reveal to the people of the Principality that the issues which are at stake are far bigger and far more radical than have been presented by those of my hon. Friends who made it look as if it was an attack on clubs, and working men's clubs in particular. There have been such unfair misrepresentations throughout the Principality by people who ought to know better that I hope the Minister will take the opportunity tonight of being definite in explaining what is involved.
So that the Minister shall understand what this definition means to us, may I remind him and the House that many of the Welsh people have a particular regard for Sunday? I know that there are hon. Members who pour scorn on Sabbatarians, and who regard Sabbatarian as a dirty word or as a term of contempt and ridicule. I was nurtured in a home in a valley in which regard for Sunday was an important part of life, and I believe that in Wales our Sunday has helped to fashion the national character.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is a long way from the contents of this notice, which makes no distinction between the Sabbath and weekdays, but refers only to licensed premises.
§ Mr. Thomas
With every respect to you, Sir, I am asking for a definition of those licensed premises which are to be opened on Sundays, not Saturday. With great respect, therefore, I plead that I have a right to say that this is a different day, and a day with a special connotation. I leave the matter there.
The scope of the Amendment will make it clear that we shall multiply the competitors with clubs and "pubs" on an enormous scale. We shall also create a very unhealthy and undesirable element in the community. I use strong words, and I will justify them. I can think of cafés in which a meal is served and in which, as the Minister said last night, as long as the proprietors state that they are willing to serve lunches and dinners, it does not matter whether the customers bother to take them.
We all know the sort of places which, in the ports of the country, can be created by the new licence, which I want defined in this Bill and in this Clause, as a result of the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend. I know places that are continually under police surveillance because of what goes on in cafes, and now we are to give them the right automatically to have a drinking licence, which they have not got at present. The Welsh people will be asked to vote for these places to be open on Sundays, as well as the more established hotels in the cities and the public houses in the smaller communities.
I ask the Minister to make it clear by accepting this Amendment that when the Welsh people are asked to cast a vote on local option, they will be deciding what sort of a Wales they want and what sort of a city we in Cardiff want. I want to know what Cardiff is to be like within the terms, which I hope the Minister will define for us tonight, of what our people will be asked to vote upon.
I agree that there are people who do not read the newspapers, except particular parts of them, and there are people who will not know what issues are involved unless, all over the community, 956 a clear definition is given of what is involved when we have local option. I want the Minister to make it clear whether he is giving an opportunity for guest houses in Barry and Porthcawl to be opened and those in Barmouth to be closed, as far as drinking is concerned on Sundays. Is this what is involved in the definition? Will he make it clear—because if there is a doubt here, how much more doubt will there be in the Principality unless it is defined in the notices?—that he really means that he is asking people to decide that they can have a drink with their meals in Swansea, but not in Llanelly? Is this what is involved? Does this mean the restaurants as well?
I hope that the Minister will be forthcoming about this matter, because it is a matter of major importance to us to see that nobody will vote in ignorance but that everyone will know exactly what is involved when they put their crosses upon the paper.
§ Mr. Idwal Jones
I must confess that, on first reading this Bill, it had a very frightening effect upon me, especially because of the new meaning of the term "licensed premises". I support my hon. Friends who have already spoken, and I agree that the people who will be asked to vote on these occasions should know exactly what they are voting for. The object of the poll will be to ascertain the voice of the people, and in calling the people to the ballot boxes to register their voices, we should make sure that they know exactly what they are voicing their opinions about.
Hitherto, "licensed premises" has meant a particular type of building. The term has meant a public house or an inn. If one asks the ordinary man in the street in Wales or elsewhere what is the meaning of "licensed premises", he will tell us that it means a public house. When this new Licensing Bill was introduced, the impression we had at the time was that there was a danger of opening public houses in Wales on Sundays. This Measure has extended the meaning of the term "licensed premises" considerably, and it is very doubtful whether the ordinary rank and file of the electors in Wales appreciate the extent to which its meaning has been extended. Today, it means premises licensed as restaurants and residential premises as well. This has been 957 a major change, and it is frightening to me, who has never seen a public house open in Wales on a Sunday throughout my lifetime, to think that I shall, before twelve months have passed, see restaurants open with licences to sell beer on Sundays.
When people are called upon to register their opinions, they should be clearly informed, and officially informed by the Government, exactly what they are voting upon. This is a very fair Amendment, in which we are not asking too much of the Government. The Government have resisted two of our earlier Amendments, although we made a fair case for them, and I suggest that if the Government resist this Amendment, I shall have to come to the conclusion that they do not wish to help the Principality of Wales.
§ Mr. Bowen
In my view, this is an eminently reasonable Amendment. Its sole object is to try to ensure that when people cast their votes at the poll, they know precisely what they are voting for. I should have thought that whatever one's view about Sunday opening and in relation to the holding of a poll, everybody in the House of Commons would be in favour of doing his utmost to ensure that when people cast their votes, they know precisely the issues to which the poll is directed.
Nobody could pretend that for the present, there is no danger of confusion. I wonder how many hon. Members, if asked to give the connotation of the phrase "licensed premises" in the 1953 Act, could give a correct answer. I very much doubt whether more than a handful could give a correct answer concerning the existing law. When one adds the complications which arise by virtue of Part I of the Bill, I am certain that, unless a great deal more information is given to the public in Wales, they will not have even the vaguest idea of what premises are covered by the phrase "licensed premises" when the poll is held.
For example, how many people will know whether the phrase relates to any club or to off-licences, to restaurants or boarding houses, to the old-fashioned inn or to the public house? The people are entitled to know this. Any reasonable step which can properly be taken to enlighten 958 them on these matters should be taken.
It will be no good if all that the public notice contains is a definition in technical terms which is merely the substitution of one technical phrase for another. If the definition from Section 165 of the 1953 Act is included in the notice, I doubt whether any member of the public will be any more enlightened as to the scope of the phrase than he is merely by the phrase itself. The Section 165 definition is "premises in respect of which a justices' licence or certificate is in force. How that would help persons who cast their vote to know in respect of what they were casting their vote, I fail to see.
I should like an indication to be given, not in technical terms, of whether the phrase covers hotels, inns, boarding houses, restaurants or eating establishments with a restaurant licence. If this were done, we should be taking steps to ensure that people who cast their vote know what they were voting for. If the poll is to mean anything, we should take all possible steps to ensure that the issues are put before those who participate in it.
§ Mr. Vosper
I was glad that the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) referred to the definition of "licensed premises" in Section 165 of the 1953 Act, because that gives an indication of the complexity of the problem. Most certainly, if that definition was put on the notice or ballot paper, the electors in Wales would be far more confused than they are already alleged to be.
It was pressed upon me in Committee that a definition should be included on the ballot paper or requisition form, but I took the view, to which I still hold, that any attempt to spell out the term "licensed premises" would add to the confusion rather than make for clarity. Certainly, the hon and learned Member for Cardigan shares that view if the notice were to follow the terms of the definition of Section 165 of the 1953 Act. That definition would be a little different from the definition of today.
The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) thought that the Bill created all sorts of different licensed premises. Restaurants, off-licences and residential premises exist under the 959 existing definition. Therefore, that complicated form of definition would still be the, sort of wording which would have to be placed on any document relating to the poll.
I should have thought that the electors of Wales were sufficiently aware of this issue and of the term "licensed premises"—although I know that the hon. Member for Wrexham disagrees with me—to understand the term "licensed premises" which is used in Section 111 of the 1953 Act, to which the Clause is directed. It is not, there-fore, a new issue, but is an old one.
What hon. Members opposite want me to do is to list the type of licensed premises which are covered by that term. That would be an impossible undertaking without getting involved in the sort of legal definition that the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan does not want. Therefore, concerning definition, one should rest upon the well-known term "licensed premises".
The desire of the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) is for the clerk to the county or county borough council in his public notice to spell out the term, presumably "licensed premises", in detail. Subsection (4) simply requires the clerk to give public notice in a manner that he thinks sufficient. Therefore, discretion is given to the clerk how to publish the notice. If the right hon. Gentleman wants me to give guidance to the clerks as to what they should include in the notice, so that they have a standard form, I should be prepared to consider the point. I would not, however, go so far as to suggest that clerks to county councils must insert in their notices all the details which hon. Members opposite have in mind in respect of the Amendment. Therefore, I must continue to resist the Amendment on the ground that it would make for confusion and not for clarity.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
The Minister has resisted the Amendment on the narrow ground that if it were accepted in its present form and if the returning officer or the clerk of the county council were required merely to give a definition of the term "licensed premises" that would lead to confussion. In resisting it on that narrow ground, the Minister has not done justice 960 to the arguments with which the Amendment was supported.
My only ray of hope from the Minister's speech was that he would be prepared to consider giving guidance to the clerks of the county councils in Wales about the terms in which the public notice should be issued. That is a matter which is worth pursuing, for this reason. The existing subsection (4) is most unsatisfactory. It gives complete discretion to the clerk of the county council to decide as he thinks fit how and what notice shall be given. Unless the Amendment or something like it is accepted, it will be essential for the Minister to go much further than he has said. He should give the House an assurance that the appropriate authorities in Wales will be required by direction and guidance from the Home Office to make abundantly clear to the electors in Wales the issues that are raised in the vote about local option.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and other hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies have pointed out, the real issue is that, in introducing this novel procedure for polls to decide local option in Wales, it is important that Parliament should make abundantly clear that the electors know precisely what they are voting about. I go further than my right hon. Friend. It is important that the electors should know by clear terms in the public notice that if they vote for Sunday opening, they are voting not merely for Sunday opening in "pubs" or Sunday opening of restaurants, but are also voting for the whole of the English system of licensed premises, which is being varied considerably by the Bill.
Section 111 of the Licensing Act, which deals with Wales, is a curious one, and the operative part of Clause 6 is that it should no longer apply. The Section provides that there shall be no permitted hours on Sunday in licensed premises in Wales and Monmouthshire, and that is all. It may well be that there are some voters in Welsh constituencies who may think it right that there should be some permitted hours of opening on Sundays for public houses, but not the full licensing system that is applicable to England and is being considerably changed by this Bill.
961 Apart from the matters to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly referred, I believe that it is essential that the electors in Wales should know that, under the Government's proposals, not only will there be this clutter of licensed restaurants but that other substantive changes in the licensing laws on Sunday opening are being made. For example, the distinctions that now exist in the hours of opening on Sunday mornings are being abolished. The provisions with regard to occasional licences are being extended. In future in England, late restaurants and night clubs will be allowed to be open not until 2 a.m. but until 3 a.m.—and not only on weekdays but also on Sunday mornings.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am not succeeding in following the hon. Member in relating this to a clear definition of the term "licensed premises" in a notice.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am submitting that the public notice should include, as part of the definition of the term "licensed premises", not merely the particular premises which are governed by the Bill but also the provision with regard to hours during which they can be open.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. I thought that I had prefaced my remarks by saying that the Minister had indicated that he would be willing to consider giving an instruction or direction with regard to the contents of the public notice.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Member was discussing a public notice to be issued by the Minister I apologise. I should not have stopped him.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Naturally, I will do my best in accordance with your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I was trying to observe that the reason which the right hon. Gentleman gave for resisting this Amendment was that he was prepared to consider sympathetically the desirability of giving some instruction to the clerks of the county councils about the contents of the public notice. I was urging that that was something which should be pursued.
962 I do not know whether that would meet the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly or not, but I hope that the Minister will pursue that line and bear in mind the necessity, in- giving such instructions, that the public notice should make it perfectly clear, not only what licensed premises will be affected by a vote in favour, but also the extent to which the permitted hours now obtaining in England will, as a result, operate in Wales.
All we are concerned about, as my right hon. and hon. Friends have pointed out, is that the issues should be fully and clearly put before the electors in an official public document. If the Minister is not prepared to accept the Amendment, I hope that he will go further than he did just now in accepting the responsibility for giving official guidance to the clerks of the county councils in that respect, rather than that the form of the notice should be left, as the Bill stands, to the mere whim and discretion of each of the clerks in each of the local authorities.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I must tell the Minister that I and the people in my constituency will be most upset by his refusal to tell us clearly, in words that they and I can understand, what we will be voting about. I shall not repeat what has already been said by my right hon. and hon. Friends about the idea which is being deliberately broadcast in South Wales, that this is merely a Bill for Sunday opening of public houses—or "pubs", as the shortened term is. But when I report to my constituents that the Government have absolutely refused to define what licensed premises are, then this Bill will be more disreputable in their eyes than it is at present.
We had the same trouble on Second Reading about what the words "meal" or "meals" might mean. I remember my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) asking the Home Secretary to tell us what the word "meal" meant. The right hon. Gentleman replied in words to the effect, "Not on your life am I going to attempt to define it."
The business of a Government who present any Bill of such immense importance as this one is to make it clear and not beat about the bush. They should 963 refrain from laying themselves wide open to charges of dishonesty and of being unconscionable in matters of this kind. I shall have to report to my constituents, who are very much exercised about this Bill. The Minister should think again.
What is the use of leaving it to the clerks of county councils? They will have as many different opinions about many parts of the Bill as have hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. The guidance should come from the Government, and should be abundantly clear. The Government should be responsible for the consequences of their own doings. If that is not done, I shall have to accuse the Government once again of being deliberately dishonest in refusing to tell the truth to our people.
§ Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)
I am a little disturbed by the Minister of State's reply. I fail to follow his difficulty in meeting the Amendment. Clause 6 (4) reads:On receipt of a requisition for a poll under this section the clerk of the county council or town clerk shall…give public notice…in such manner as he thinks sufficient of the holding of the poll.As the Bill stands, all that the clerk has to do is give notice of the holding of the poll. He does not have to give any notice at all of what the poll involves. It can be done simply by saying that the poll will be held in accordance with this Clause. That will be wholly inadequate. This will be a popular poll. Everyone will want to know whether he should vote or not. Therefore, the matter should be spelt out in perfectly simple words which every person can fully understand. There is no provision in the Bill, however, for anything of the sort being done.
As my hon. Friends have pointed out, we might have a clerk in one place taking one view and another clerk taking a different view entirely and giving a different lot of particulars in a neighbouring area; and every single one of the particulars might completely fail to bring home to a substantial number of electors what they were voting about. It does not do to give notice merely by reference to the Bill or to terms which people cannot understand.
964 It would be perfectly open for the clerk of the council, in the exercise of his discretion, simply to say that a poll would be held in accordance with Section 6 (4) of the 1961 Act. That would be a perfectly ridiculous and inadequate notice. I hope that the Minister of State will agree that this is inadequate and that something ought to be done, even if the Amendment is not accepted, to ensure that a minimum amount of information is given in every area to bring home to the people the real issues arising out of the Bill.
I appreciate that the first difficulty is that of defining what comes within the new licensed premises referred to in Part I of the Bill. The two categories of premises involved—and I do not deal with the cases where they overlap—are those referred to in Clause 1 (2, a) and Clause 1 (3, a). Both those subsections set out quite clearly the descriptions of these premises. If these descriptions were put in the notice in their rather legalistic language it would at any rate bring home to the people what the two categories are.
But I do not suggest that the Minister should even go as far as that, because in the Bill he has as a heading for Part I a reference to "Restaurants and Guest Houses". Those are his own words and his description of what he means by Part I. Those words will bring home to people who have to go to the poll more dearly than legalistic descriptions in subsections (2, a) and (3, a) what kind of premises are involved under the Bill.
The Minister could easily get over the difficulty which he has raised about Part I by simply referring to restaurants and guest houses as defined in Part I. This would bring home perfectly clearly to the electors that they are voting not only on pubs but on guest houses and restaurants.
§ Mr. Ross
I foresee a difficulty here. Clause 6 comes into force with the passing of the Bill. But Clause 1 does not. It has to await a day appointed by the Secretary of State. If we consider a time in relation to the referendum on local option and the timetable in relation to the day when justices will meet to determine the licences, it may well be that the condition of the licensed premises at the point of the first election will be entirely different, since it must 965 be held within the first two months of the passing of the Act and there will not be one of the new premises in existence at that time.
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
My hon. Friend is simply saying that in relation to this point the Bill is nonsense, but I am dealing with the Minister's own objections to the difficulty of defining what is included in Part I. I go back, therefore, to that point and ask the Minister whether he will not meet my hon. Friends to the extent of saying that he will introduce an Amendment to the Bill to provide that every clerk of a council shall give in his public notice under Clause 6 (4) a clear indication of the licensed premises in respect of which people are voting, including restaurants and guest houses as defined in Part I. This would probably go some way to meet my hon. Friends' objections. I should be glad to know what objection there is to proceeding on these lines.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Vosper
The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) has made a helpful speech. His first point, which was the point made by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) to which I previously replied, was that perhaps there should be more guidance to clerks of county councils and county boroughs and about the issue of public notices. If we were to give that guidance, it should be some standard notice common to all local authorities in Wales. I will go as far as to say that I will consider that favourably. I do not think that that is unreasonable.
The second point is more difficult. I am not convinced yet about its wisdom. The hon. and learned Member for Leicester North-East referred to bringing in restaurants and guest houses, in other words, Part I licences under the Bill, but that is only the beginning of the story. We have to consider off-licence premises, special hour certificate premises, a new category introduced last night by my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel), supper hour certificates, and the rest.
The objection of hon. Members opposite would not be met by a simple reference to Part I restaurants and guest houses under the Bill. It is very much 966 simpler in any definition in any public notice or in a ballot notice or in a requisition form to stick to the well-known term "licensed premises", but I will consider what has been said on the second point and I am favourably disposed to do something about the first point.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
I should like to pick up the point which the Minister made about reconsidering this matter in the light of what has been said today and, in particular, what was said so clearly and ably by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas). We would very much like to accept the Minister's assurance that he will look at this point, because we lay very great store by there being a clear definition of the issues to be decided by people who take part in these polls. Enough has been said to show that these polls, innovations as they are, are likely to lead at the best and with the greatest safeguards into difficulty and danger, but above all there is the clear difficulty of putting to the voters exactly what they are called upon to vote for or against.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) put the matter in a nutshell when he said that it was not enough merely to substitute for the phrase "licensed premises" another legal phrase which might be quoted from the 1953 Act. That would not do the trick. To that extent we agree with the Minister that confusion would be worse confounded, but that is not the alternative.
In particular, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East put very clearly what we tried to persuade the Minister to do in Committee. This was not to argue unduly that there must be a legalistic phraseology in a purely definitive phrase. Once we accept the legal term "licensed premises" that can be followed with a non-legal phrase, so far as it is descriptive, beginning with the word "including" because, if I may be Irish for a moment, "including" is not exclusive.
Can we have the question put, "Are you for or against the opening of licensed premises?", including a simple and short list giving the principal kinds of licensed premises involved and which have been added to as a result of the 967 Bill. That is another argument why there should be a list.
I cannot see that the canons of legality would be rocked to their foundation if we added at the end of such a list the very useful and inoffensive words "et cetera". If the Minister can reinforce his assurance that his mind is moving in the sense in which this debate has proceeded, and that he will endeavour to include in the official announcement the kind of definiton that we have urged, I and, I think, my right hon. and hon. Friends will be glad to co-operate with him in facilitating this part of the Bill. I thought that he was a little too cautious in the assurance that he gave and I hope that he will feel able to reinforce it.
Mr. Glenvil Hall
I wonder whether, by leave of the House, the right hon. Gentleman will attempt to do what my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) suggests. We dealt with this matter in Committee, when the Minister was completely unco-operative. Now we have had a long debate on a somewhat different Amendment, which avoids the difficulties which he advanced on that occasion, and, at the end of the discussion, he has given a partial indication that he might be willing to do something.
The Amendment is perfectly straightforward. It is not in absolute terms. It simply asks the Minister to write into this subsection that a clear indication must be given as to what licensed premises-are involved. It is not a long list. It is perfectly straightforward, but there are many people in Wales who live in country districts and who do not read newspapers. They do not know how much about what goes on in this place.
I am often astonished that intellectual people living in London have not the faintest knowledge about the Bill. They have not taken much notice of it. If that is so, it is obvious that many people in Wales will not really know of this change in the law, opening on Sundays, for example, until 9.30 p.m. and, in some areas, in restaurants until 3 a.m. on Sunday. They will not have the faintest idea of what is involved. The Minister and all of us are inclined to forget that a man would be getting on for 90 to know what it was to live in the days 968 of Sunday opening in Wales. It has not been going on in Wales for eighty years. Only those who were aged 5 to 10 at that distant date will realise what Sunday opening was like in Wales. Therefore, this is something quite new.
I am sorry to think, but it is probably a correct assumption, that this Measure and procedure will last for a long time. While we are doing this we might as well do it properly. Surely the Minister can have no objection to having it laid down quite definitely what people are doing when they go to vote. The Schedule is relatively vague.
The Minister has gone a long way towards meeting us. Why should he not go a little further? I am sorry if he thinks that we do not trust him, but we have reason, in the light of what has happened and the history of matters previously discussed, to realise that he is doing it very reluctantly and he has not given a wholehearted indication even now. If he will respond to the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon and tell us exactly what he proposes to do, I think that some of us will be satisfied and will not suggest that the House should divide on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Vosper
In the light of the right hon. Gentleman's last remark, if he will look at the Notice Paper he will see many Amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend to meet points made by him and his hon. Friends in Committee. We have not met those points which we thought were unreasonable, or which would not improve the legislation.
Mr. Glenvil Hall
I should not like to do an injustice to the right hon. Gentleman. I was dealing with this particular Amendment, not with others.
§ Mr. Vosper
There is no difference between us here. We both have the same object in mind, that the intention of this Clause should be fully understood by the people who have to vote. I still doubt whether, even if we limit consideration, as we are, to the notice published by the clerks to the county boroughs, and were to spell out the terms "licensed premises", that would add to the clarity. I will consider favourably, first, whether there should be some form of standardised notice for 969 clerks instead of leaving it to their discretion, and, secondly, I should like to see how it looks in the light of the various suggestions proposed by hon. Members. It may well be that "licensed premises" will, after consideration, remain the best available words. That is far as I am able to go, and I hope that it meets the wishes of the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts).
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I hope that the Minister will go somewhat further. For example, will he consider favourably the suggestion put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) that there should be a simple description of the premises included in the Bill? We want people to know that this affects "pubs," restaurants and guest houses. At the moment, they may think that it affects only "pubs."
If we do not get this assurance from the Minister we shall have to get at it through the county council clerks. Wales is a democratic country. We will be perfectly fair about this. If we wanted to gerrymander we would not bother him, but go to the place where we have fax more influence. We do not want to do that. We ask him to leave this entirely to the discretion of the county councils.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that this plea is coming from this side of the House which has the overwhelming support of the majority of people in Wales. We want to be fair to everyone and that is why I should like him to say that he will look at the suggestion. I hope that it is not improper to say that it may be possible in another place—we have some friends there—to table an Amendment in the form presented by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East. I hope that he will look at that, too.
I do not want to vote unnecessarily so I will leave the matter where it is at the moment in the hope that the Minister will consider it.
§ 8.0 p.m.970
§ Mr. Thomas
No. Sir. That is the tragedy about speaking too often.
I have no objection to the information being given in English and in Welsh. I appreciate the Minister's dilemma and I think that my legal hon. Friends will agree that if the information is presented in legal jargon there will be confusion. People must be made aware what the situation is, because in Wales this is regarded as a matter merely of Sunday opening. Welsh people do not appreciate that the Bill affects other types of licences.
Even hon. Members are not fully acquainted with all the kinds of licences with which the Bill deals and I am sure that a Gallup poll among my hon. Friends now present would reveal that not all of them could enumerate the number and types of categories of the various licences for which the Bill provides. Legalistic jargon with references to Sections and subsections is not what is required, and it should not be beyond the ability of the Home Office to find a clear and simple form of wording.
The Minister has made an important concession by agreeing that the notice shall be standardised. What my hon. Friends want is that the people of Wales, who are obsessed with the question of Sunday opening, should appreciate that the Bill also affects restaurants and the respectable boarding houses in North Wales and other types of premises.
I think that it would be inadvisable to have the general statement about the Bill's implications printed on the ballot paper, or on the back of the ballot paper, for the ballot paper should be as simple as possible, but the general notice, which is usually published outside the chapels in Wales and on public hoardings, should be in such terms that the people of Wales generally will be fully aware of what is involved. I want that for the personal reason that when the ballot has taken place, and several counties have decided in favour of Sunday opening, I do not want anybody to be able to say that the people have voted for something that they have not understood.
§ Amendment negatived.971
§ Mr. Vosper
I beg to move, in page 12, line 26 to leave out from "councillors" to "and" in line 28.
This and a series of other Amendments are designed to introduce postal voting on the lines of local government elections. This provision was omitted from the Bill as presented to the House on the ground that it might add to confusion, but I was pressed by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) to do something about it, and on this occasion I have been able to respond. I apologise for the length of the various Amendments, but they do no more than re-introduce the relevant provisions of the 1949 Act which relate to postal voting and which were omitted from Clause 6 and the Second Schedule. The only alterations are in respect of candidatures, which do not feature in these polls.
I think that the House will find that, apart from that, we are adhering to the normal procedure for postal voting in local government elections, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I am grateful to the Minister. We were disturbed when the Bill was presented to find that there were no provisions for postal votes in these very important polls. The Minister has met our case very generously. We are very grateful to him and we shall support the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Vosper
I beg to move, in page 12, line 32 to leave out from the beginning to "when" in line 36.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
(Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray): It may be convenient to discuss at the same time the Amendment to page 45, line 15, at the end to insert:5.—(1) In a county the county returning officer, and in a county borough divided into wards the mayor, may make arrangements for the votes to be counted not by electoral areas, but for the county or county borough as a whole or by such divisions of it as he thinks most convenient, and where arrangements are so made, the counting for the county or county borough as a whole or for each division of it, as the case may be, shall be carried out as it would be if that were the electoral area for which an election were being held:Provided that where arrangements are so made in relation to a county borough the 972 mayor shall act as returning officer in relation to the counting of the votes, but shall have the like powers in relation to the appointment of deputies as a county returning officer has.(2) Where the votes are counted otherwise than for the county or county borough as a whole, then on the completion of the counting or any recount for an electoral area or other division the person acting as returning officer for the purpose (if he is not the county returning officer or mayor) shall forthwith notify the county returning officer or mayor of the number of votes counted on either side, but no other step shall be taken (except proper steps for the security of the ballot papers and other documents) unless or until it is ascertained that there is not to be a recount or further recount.(3) Where it appears to the county returning officer or mayor, on the completion of the counting for the whole county or county borough, that the number of votes counted does not show a majority of more than one hundred for either side, he shall cause the votes to be re-counted and, if the decision on the poll according to the recount would differ from the decision according to the original count, to be again re-counted, and the recount or, if there is one, second recount shall be treated as determining the number of votes cast on either side.(4) The number of votes cast on either side shall in a county be notified by the county returning officer to the chairman of the county council.
§ Mr. Vosper
This Amendment relates to the arrangements for a recount. In the proposals originally submitted to the House no provision for a recount was made. A recount is the prerogative of a candidate in a Parliamentary or local government election and the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) pressed me to make some provision. The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) suggested that I should take the advice of the clerks of one or two of the authorities in Wales which would have to administer these provisions. I accepted this advice and invited three of them to come to discuss Clause 6. One was unable to come, but the other two did and I am grateful for their helpful advice. This series of Amendments was framed after discussion with them.
They agreed that a recount would be a very difficult undertaking, for the reasons which I gave in Committee, so long as the count was as dispersed as it could be in some of the larger counties. They suggested to my advisers that it should be possible to have the count more centralised than was originally provided. We have accepted their advice.
The Amendments do three things. They make it possible for the count in 973 Carmarthen, for example, to be held on a county basis, or if thought fit, on a more concentrated basis than was originally provided for. Secondly, if the county decides to count on a dispersed electorate basis, provision is made to freeze the count, at a certain stage in case a recount is necessary. Thirdly, they provide for a recount if the majority is 100 or fewer and, if necessary, for a further recount if the first recount differs from the original count. I appreciate that there is a limit of two recounts or three counts in all, but that should be adequate and would certainly provide a majority of two to one if the eventuality arose. The Amendments place an additional burden on the clerks of the local authorities, but they are willing to accept it. The Amendment will help with the administration of the Clause and meet the case which the hon. Member for Caernarvon had in mind.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
I rise warmly to thank the Minister for having made this concession. The Standing Committee did a rather good job of closely examining the Schedule as it then stood and both parties contributed to its improvement, while the Minister showed himself well aware of the difficulties involved in this novel method of ascertaining public opinion. All the major matters which we raised have been met in the spirit and by the action which we expected. On behalf of my hon. Friends, I am very glad to thank the Minister most heartily for the way in which he has met us.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: In page 13, line 10, after "an", insert "ordinary".
In line 12, at beginning insert:
(i) section forty-seven, section forty-eight except subsections (1) and (4), and in section fifty-two subsection (1) except paragraph (a) and subsection (5) (which relate to personation, plural voting and other frauds in connection with voting) shall apply.
In line 19, leave out from "(1)" to end of line 22 and insert:
(which relates to the obligations of candidates and their agents)".
§ In line 25, leave out from "practices)" to "shall" in line 28.
In line 33, leave out paragraph (b) and insert:
(iii) sections one hundred and forty-six to one hundred and forty-eight and one hundred
and fifty-one shall apply so far as they relate to offences under any provision above-mentioned prosecuted on indictment or in a magistrates' court.—[Mr. Vosper.]
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Jocelyn Simon)
I beg to move, in page 13, line 44, at the end to insert:(9) If with intent to influence persons to give or refrain from giving their votes at a poll under this section, any person after the end of the period allowed for delivering requisition papers, publishes an advertisement in a newspaper or other periodical or procures an advertisement to be so published, he shall be guilty of an illegal practice, and sections one hundred and forty-seven and one hundred and fifty-one of the Representation of the People Act, 1949, shall apply so far as they relate to offences prosecuted in a magistrates' court:Provided that the court before whom a person is convicted under this subsection may, if they think it just in the special circumstances of the case, mitigate or entirely remit any incapacity imposed by virtue of section one hundred and fifty-one.When this Clause was discussed in Committee there was a full and very interesting discussion—as one reads it: I am afraid that was one of the sittings which I missed—on an Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) to prohibit, subsequent to the public notice of a poll, any expenditure on newspaper, television or poster advertising. There was a general discussion then on the question of propaganda at the poll, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it was not possible in a poll of this sort to adopt the method of a Parliamentary election and set a limit on the total expenditure, because there are several thousands of people who may be interested on either side of the issue. He, therefore, thought the right way was to try to impose some limit on the various means of advertising which would strike a reasonable balance and also carry out the sort of purposes which Parliament had in mind in imposing a total on the sums which could be laid out at a Parliamentary election. He undertook, having discussed the matter, to give it further thought. He dealt at the time with television advertising and, I think, satisfied the Committee that that was really no issue in view of the terms of the Television Act.
Hon. Members will see that in the Amendment we have limited ourselves to publication of advertisementsin a newspaper or other periodical….975 I note that there is no Amendment to deal with television advertising. I take it that hon. Members were satisfied with that, and will not wish me to deal further with it.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
May we get this clearly on the record? The Solicitor-General gives us an assurance that Independent Television's part in the poll, whatever that part may be, if any, is governed by Act of Parliament, and that the B.B.C. will observe the rules of fair play? I mention it only so that we may get it on the record in this House as well as on the record in the Standing Committee.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. That is exactly as I understand it. The Independent Television Authority is proscribed from taking any part in controversial matters during elections. The B.B.C. is bound to observe impartiality. Independent Television will not put on—as I understand it—anything which might influence one of these polls. The B.B.C. one will simply leave to its accustomed impartiality if it decides to intervene, though I have no reason to think that it will do so.
What we are concerned with is other types of advertising. I do not know whether it is proper to mention now the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment to this Amendment and to say why we have drawn the line where we have.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is referring to our Amendment to the Amendment—after "published" to insert:or displays a poster or procures a poster to be so displayed"?
§ The Solicitor-General
Yes. I think that it would probably be convenient if I mentioned poster advertising.
There again, the matter was discussed in Standing Committee, and I think that the point was very cogently put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) who posed this question: if we are to prohibit poster advertising, how do we draw the line short of leaflets, and if we are to prohibit leaflets how do we draw the line short of public meetings designed to influence opinion? He mentioned 976 specifically public meetings which centred round places of worship which in some ways sought to influence the decision of the electors.
It is, of course, extraordinarily difficult and a matter of judgment where one draws the line fairly.
§ The Solicitor-General
I must say that that was one of the points which was not drawn to our attention. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I will certainly undertake to consider that before the Bill is considered in another place. I do not think that it is strictly relevant to this Amendment, because here we are concerned with means of advertising.
As I say, we have to decide where to draw the line. It seems quite impossible to prohibit posters, on logic, and yet allow leaflet advertising, or to allow leaflet advertising and to prohibit public meetings. There is also this consideration which we had in mind, that prohibition of poster advertising would be extraordinarily difficult to enforce. One must consider also not only the logic but the enforceability of the provisions which we write in to control a poll of this sort, particularly the position of posters which may be put up before announcement of the poll. I know from the Amendment to the Amendment that the right hon. Gentleman cannot possibly be satisfied that we have gone the whole way, but I hope that he will be satisfied that we have gone a considerable way to meet his view.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
The right hon. and learned Gentleman always presents his case in a reasonable and attractive manner. He has just addressed us in such a way that I would gladly buy him a soft drink when he comes to Wales, and I hope that he will get accustomed to them. Maybe he is already.
However, I believe that he has made a very important statement to us. I was so glad to hear that the television authorities are going to behave honourably in this matter. It would have been quite wrong if big business had been able to 977 pay its thousands of pounds to use television to influence an election where the little people have not the reasources to advance their point of view. I believe that the Minister has given us a good deal by giving this assurance about I.T.V. in which he said that I.T.V. is not allowed to take part in an election. I assume that he also meant a referendum.
§ The Solicitor-General
I was using a form of shorthand. The words of the Television Act are more specific. They prohibit any advertisementwhich is inserted by or on behalf of any body the objects whereof are wholly or mainly of a religious or political nature",or any advertisementwhich is directed towards any religious or political end".I am prepared to advise the House that that is a sufficient safeguard.
§ Mr. Thomas
After hearing those words I am satisfied. I know the people in charge of commercial television, at least in South Wales, and I have every faith that they will honourably abide by that definition. Of course, everybody has a great deal of faith in the judgment and impartiality of the B.B.C. All I hope is that they do not have any debates on the question but simply avoid it and leave it to the good sense and judgment of the Welsh people.
I turn to the question of our newspapers. In these days when advertising is so expensive it is important that the trade should not be able to buy advertisements which the temperance people could not possibly buy on the same scale. As far as possible it looks as if conditions are being laid down for a fair test to be taken.
We cannot prohibit public meetings, especially in Wales. If there were a prohibition it would be regarded as a challenge. I can well imagine the protests in Carmarthen, led by my noble Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George). I can imagine a torchlight procession in North Wales. In South Wales we should not be treating the matter lightly if the House told us that we could not hold public meetings to discuss this question before the referendum. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. Griffiths)—at all events, he is growing more learned all the time— 978 has given a great lead to Wales from Cory Hall, which is of hallowed memory to our people in the Principality.
It will be open to the licensed trade and to those who are opposed to Sunday opening to call their meetings, to address the people and to seek to persuade them, without feeling that big money is buying its way, as we saw too often in the polls which were undertaken in respect of Sunday cinemas. I saw that in Cardiff and others saw it elsewhere. We saw how the trade, realising how much money is at stake, will spend an enormous amount to get its way at the poll.
§ Mr. Thomas
Of course, but I am trying to be as kind as I can at the moment. This is a very important Amendment and I am glad that it has been put down. It has gone a long way to meet our wishes. I do not like the idea of local option at all, but I will not develop that point and test your patience, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If we are to have it, then I believe that these conditions are far more attractive than at one stage I feared.
§ Question proposed, That those words be there inserted in the Bill.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after "published" to insert:or displays a poster or procures a poster to be so displayed".The whole question of advertisements was considered fully in Committee and there was a strong consensus of opinion that, whatever the views of hon. Members on either side of the Committee, hon. Members wanted a fair poll, free from undue influence, a fair field and no favours. Hon. Members were anxious to ensure that the poll should not be unduly influenced by advertising. As a result, the Minister of State undertook to look into the whole matter, and we welcome the concession which the Government have made, which is a great step forward and will be of great help.
But it will mean that the interests which are denied the opportunity of advertising on television and in the newspapers will throw all their resources 979 and all the weight of their power into advertisement by poster. This is the one powerful instrument still left in their hands. Our Amendment to the proposed Amendment therefore seeks to impose the same penalties as are imposed in the Government's Amendment to any person displaying a poster or procuringa poster to be so displayed".Posters are a very powerful insrument of propaganda. If they were not, the brewing industry would not spend so much or take such vast hoardings in the country for advertising. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said, there is big money in this and there are big profits to be made. This is a splendid opportunity. They already have the hoardings; the machinery is there. They do not have to rush around the country, as the other side would have to do, scraping their pennies to find space. The space is there and the agencies are there. All they have to do is to press the button and they can get their posters up.
In this referendum, therefore, we may well be faced with large posters making direct appeals to the electors to vote in the referendum. We may read, "Beer is good for you on Sunday" or "Always on Sunday". These may be very attractive slogans. There is no doubt that if such advertising were allowed it would make the test extremely unequal by weighting the contest in favour of the brewing industry. The brewers have the resources and the sites. During Committee someone referred to the Lord's Day Observance Society, which has some posters, but it is fantastic to compare the resources of the brewing industry with those of the Lord's Day Observance Society. One has only to consider the very meagre sums which the society spent in the polls for cinema opening which took place some time ago. The argument simply cannot stand.
Is it not wiser to allow the argument for and against to preceed on a rational basis? What do the supporters of the opening of the public houses fear? Surely, if their case is good, they do not want the advantageous aid of Colman, Prentis and Varley, as the Government apparently do.
The Minister spoke about technical difficulties, and he asked where one 980 would draw the line. Does one draw the line at leaflets? Again, to introduce that is to try to make the impossible comparison between the propaganda value of vast hoardings and of leaflets. We will give the brewers their leaflets. We should not worry about that. Moreover, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said, no one will try to prevent public meetings in Wales. It is just not possible. Anyone trying to do that would have to bring about a revolution. Nobody has ever tried it and nobody ever will, certainly not with any success.
The Solicitor-General spoke about enforcement. He knows very well that, if the Government want to do what we suggest, they can easily find ways and means to enforce it. It is no good his telling us that it is beyond the wit of the Government to find ways and means. They can find a form of words. It is certainly not beyond the wit of the Home Secretary to find words to extricate himself from any predicament or difficulty.
The Solicitor-General is less than fair with the House when he advances the argument about technical difficulties. He has made concessions for which we are grateful. They are important concessions which we do not in any way minimise. Nevertheless, while there is this large gap left, the whole campaign will be weighted in favour of the brewing industry. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to reconsider the matter.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I think the answer is quite simple and clear—from the date on which the public notice of the poll appears.
§ Mr. Wise
I understand that, but I am referring to the type of poster. Would it be considered boosting the campaign for extending Sunday drinking if there appeared on the hoardings the simple legend "Drink more beer"? Is that an effort to persuade people to obtain 981 facilities for drinking more beer? Does it become illegal as soon as the local option election has started?
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
It is a difficult point, but I think this is the answer. Is it a poster which directs its whole purpose to influencing the vote on this particular issue?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I have the point now. Will the hon. Member turn to the Government Amendment? I think it answers his question. The words are:If with intent to influence…any person after the end of the period allowed for delivering requisition papers…and so on. That clearly defines it, and our intention is to bring what we suggest exactly within that proposal by the Solicitor-General.
§ Mr. Wise
I do not doubt the good intentions of the right hon. Gentleman and the nobly Lady, but I am pointing out that they are not easy to carry out.
It becomes illegal after the election campaign has begun, but does a poster which was legal before it began, and which is still on the hoarding, automatically become illegal after the campaign has started?
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
This point applies to the Government Amendment, because they may put advertisements saying "Drink more beer", or whatever it is, in a newspaper. The Solicitor-General has dealt with this. The Government Amendment begins by saying:If with intent to influence persons to give or refrain from giving their votes at a poll under this section…We have agreed to that, and I am putting this forward not in the case of a newspaper, but in the case of a poster on a hoarding.
§ Mr. Wise
I am sorry to be obstinate about this, but it is not the same thing. Advertisements appear in newspapers for a day or so. It is easy to stop them. A poster on a hoarding is there more or less permanently. There is a considerable difference between the two.
982 I am inclined to think that a poster saying "Drink more beer" might be illegal under the Amendment, but balanced against that there is the poster saying "Drinka pinta milka day". These legal complications exist in electoral law.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
The difficulty mentioned by the hon. Gentleman cannot arise, because the Government's Amendment to which we are proposing this Amendment makes it clear that advertisements which are not directed to influencing the poll are not affected. There must be something in them which is clearly and manifestly directed to influencing the poll. Consequently, the difficulty envisaged by the hon. Gentleman cannot arise.
§ Mr. Wise
I have enough confidence in my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General to believe that had he thought it possible or desirable to include posters he would have done so. The only possible reason for leaving out posters was the legal complications which I am certain exist.
I ask the hon. Lady to look again at this Amendment. It may be right in principle, but I am certain that the details are wrong.
I thank the hon. Lady for referring to me earlier as a son of the aristocracy. Coming from a daughter of the aristocracy, I took that as a very delicate compliment.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones
I am surprised, and indeed disappointed, that the Solicitor-General, who proposes to make it illegal to advertise in newspapers to influence electors, has not brought advertising by posters into the same category. The brewers, who are behind the Bill, are experts in poster display. Throughout the length and breadth of the country we read such posters as "A Double Diamond works wonders", "Beer is best", and so on. For years the brewers have been expert in poster display.
We have not the slightest objection to these posters as such. After all, the brewers have as much right as other traders to advertise their products. We do not object to that. We may be told that "A Double Diamond works wonders" but we are not influenced to vote for Sunday opening. This is not 983 a temperance matter. It is a matter of principle. We are doing away with a tradition which has existed in Wales for eighty years.
The purpose of the Minister's Amendment is to avoid corruption and bribery. But the Government have been bribed already. The brewers have bribed them. That is why this Clause is in the Bill. There are many way of bribing. If only the Minister would declare to this House—in a private sitting if the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes—who are the subscribers to the coffers of the Tory Party, what information that would be! But no one outside the party officers—
§ Mr. Gower
Is the hon. Member aware that the brewers are not particularly in favour of this Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and is he aware that it is being pushed by the licensed victuallers' associations? The brewers in Wales have not pushed this Bill in any way. I was assured by one of the leading brewers in Wales that there was no need for safeguards of this kind as his brewery and the brewers in Wales will not spend any money in support of this Bill.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Will my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) take it from the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil that the hirelings of the brewers—the well-paid hirelings of the brewers—have been most active and most irresponsibly eloquent in the valleys of Glamorgan?
§ Mr. G. Thomas
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) to make all these interruptions from a sedentary position?
§ Mr. Jones
I was about to say that these polls have been forced on the people of Wales, willy-nilly. They never asked for them and there should be no visible trace of corruption attached to anything which happens concerning them. Because of that, I hope that we have been able to persuade the Minister that posters and leaflets—I would even include leaflets—published by either side should be declared illegal while the campaign is on, or after a date has been fixed for these polls. I hope that at least we can persuade the Government to grant this concession.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Gower
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) that there are difficulties about this. For example—and I know that the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) will be alive to this—if the Amendment were left in its present form, a simple notice placed outside a church or a chapel reminding the members of that church or chapel that a poll is to be held and calling on them to vote in a particular way, would be illegal.
§ Mr. G. Thomas rose—
§ Mr. G. Thomas
The hon. Gentleman is my neighbour and is a well known member of the Baptist Church. I think he will be aware that the chapels would be only too pleased if all advertising were cut out of this campaign.
§ Mr. Gower
I am suggesting something which might not be regarded by them as advertising but which, nevertheless, would probably be an infringement of the law if the Amendment to the proposed Amendment is passed in its present form. The poster, or the sort of document I mentioned, would be regarded by them as the ordinary procedure they would employ in any controversy of this kind. With regard to the comments of the hon. Member for Merioneth, I expressed my personal apprehensions about this to the leading brewer in South Wales some months ago. I said that I considered that it was most undesirable that there should be large-scale advertising by the brewers. There are only a few brewers in Wales and the one with whom I spoke is probably the largest.
§ Mr. Gower
In South Wales, in Cardiff. He told me that, from the beginning, the brewers had had no particular interest in this Bill, but that it had been pushed by the licensed victuallers. He gave me his word, in answer to my expression of apprehension about large-scale expenditure on advertising by the brewers, that they had considered it together and that they proposed to spend no money on the promulgations of this campaign.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
The hon. Gentleman has been telling us that the brewer in question—the largest in Wales, he said—had no interest in this matter. Can the hon. Gentleman say, if the poll is successful from the brewer's point of view in Glamorgan, whether he would urge licensed victuallers not to open on Sundays?
§ Mr. Gower
I asked the brewer the simple question connected with this Bill and these polls. I did not ask him about any subsequent conduct by him. I merely asked about the Bill and the possible danger of this Amendment. As 986 I have said, he gave me an assurance that the brewers in Wales, collectively, were not prepared to spend any money, as I have explained.
If the hon. Gentleman is doubtful, he might ask why they are not prepared to spend any money. The reason is that they have done extremely well out of the business of supplying clubs with enormous quantities of liquor. These clubs open on Sundays. The brewers do this business at much less expense, for if they had to open public houses, they would have to pay a large number of managers at overtime rates.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West) rose—
§ Mr. Gower
At present the brewers do not have to pay these overtime rates. They supply beer in large quantities to these clubs, which provide enormous quantities of liquor to their members on Sundays. As the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin), who is not a Welsh Member, may not be aware, there is in Wales an enormous amount of club drinking on Sundays.
§ Mr. Loughlin
Is the hon. Member aware that the L.N.R. Wages Board Order is designed to ensure that for Sunday opening there is no overtime payable to managers of "pubs"?
§ Mr. Gower
Even though they have to be paid only ordinary rates, it will still be more expensive than it is to supply the present enormous quantities of beer to clubs. The brewers have not been so interested in this as have the licensed victuallers who, I recognise, might conceivably spend money on this sort of publicity. They have pressed this campaign for a long time, so I am glad that my right hon. Friend has included this valuable protection in the Bill.
While I understand the motive of the noble Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) in wishing to extend the prohibition to posters, I think that the dangers indicated by my right hon. and learned Friend are very real. One can imagine that even the 987 simple pamphlet pinned on the wall of the public house by the manager will probably be an infringement.
I agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) that in Wales, as elsewhere, this will probably mean a good deal of campaigning. I imagine that that campaigning will include some distribution of leaflets, but where to draw the line between leaflets and posters is, as my right hon. and learned Friend will confirm, a very difficult matter. I can, however, remove many of the apprehensions felt by hon. Members opposite, and possibly felt on this side, too, by repeating the assurance of the head of one of the largest breweries in Wales, who is also a prominent member of his trade association in Wales, that the brewers will not spend any money on this kind of publicity.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Before the hon. Member sits down, perhaps he will allow me to say that when I spoke earlier I did an injustice to the licensed victuallers. I said that it was they who had organised the meeting at Cardiff, which my hon. Friend addressed, whereas, of course, it was the clubs of Wales who organised that meeting. I am glad of the opportunity to put that right.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) is not only the Member for that division, but is my representative in this House. He is not, however, expressing either my opinion or that of thousands of other people in his division.
I am glad to hear from him that the brewers are coming over to us, and do not want the "pubs" open on Sundays. I am assured by many licensed victuallers in the valley that they, too, are not anxious to have the "pubs" open on Sundays, because it will mean a seven-day week for them. Perhaps the next hon. Member to speak from the benches opposite will tell us that the licensed victuallers and the brewers are coming 988 over to us. If they are, why all this trouble about the referendum?
§ Mr. Gower
But is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the licensed victuallers have pushed this campaign, and have published the pamphlet that has been produced? They have started the campaign, so why does the hon. Gentleman pretend that they are not in favour of Sunday opening, when the majority of them have pushed this campaign for a long time?
§ Mr. Awbery
I have no doubt that the struggle that will take place in a very short time will be an unequal struggle financially. Democracy, about which we have heard so much, will not enter into the matter. It will be the millionaire against the pauper and the giant against the dwarf.
About two years before the last General Election there were huge posters in my division advocating the denationalisation of certain industries. These were posted up at the expense of someone who was interested in their subject matter. As soon as the Bill becomes an Act, I visualise that every public house will be made an advertising agency for the opening of public houses in Wales on Sundays. The people of Wales do not want this.
The brewers and their associates will spend money on this, because there is profit in it. Thirty years ago we heard a great deal about the brewers putting money into the coffers of the Conservative Party because that carried with it some influence in the party. The same thing applies today. The same friends of the Conservative Party are making similar contributions, because it has an influence in the trade. I visualise that when the Bill becomes an Act the public houses will be displaying posters similar to those which we saw two years before the last election.
If the cost of advertising is to count only so many days before the referendum takes place—say, 20 days—what will happen before the 20 days are up, and who will pay for the advertising? [HON. MEMBERS: "The Government."] Of course, the Government will pay through the brewers, who will pay it out of their profits. What about the poor little dwarf, the temperance advocate who wants his children to be brought up in 989 a temperance atmosphere? He has not money to spend in this matter. The great financial weight of the brewing industry will be brought to bear on the temperance man who wishes to stop the brewers doing what they wish to do.
The Minister has tried to evolve some means by which advertising can be curbed. Whatever he does, I am convinced that nothing that we in this House do would prevent the brewing industry carrying out all the advertising which it thinks necessary. I am grateful to the Minister for doing what he has done. I am only sorry that he has not greater power so that he can stop advertising altogether.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
This is the last Amendment on the Notice Paper to Clause 6 and the last opportunity that I shall have of speaking on it. We are grateful to our colleagues from England and Scotland for their forbearance. I am sure that they understand that we have had to spend so much time on this matter simply because the Government denied us the opportunity which we wanted. I hope that this will be a lesson to the Government. If they wish to conduct business properly, they had better listen to reason. If they had done what we asked on Second Reading, we should have been able to consider the matter much more fully and would not have had to tax the patience of English and Scottish Members. I am sure that they understand. I should like to say, speaking for myself and my hon. Friends who take my view, that we are very grateful to those colleagues from England and Scotland who supported us in our Amendments.
I am sure that the Solicitor-General will not mind my saying that none of the Amendments which have been made would have been made were it not for the Amendments which we put down during the Committee stage. None was in the Bill, and if the Bill had gone through in the form in which it was brought before the House on Second Reading, and if the Second Schedule had been left as it was, and a poll had been taken without any of these Amendments having been made, we should have had, after that poll—I do not know what words to use, but the whole thing would have broken down. I have already referred 990 to the ugly scenes of which this House would have been ashamed if it had passed the Bill as it was originally.
The Bill is very much better now. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) talked about a brewer who is against Sunday opening, but he has a very simple remedy. The Bill and the poll will not compel him to open his "pubs" on Sundays, so that if he has very strong convictions about it we shall wait to see if he keeps them closed, even if the ballot was in favour of opening. We know perfectly well that the document to which reference has been made was not produced, as far as I can gather, by the licensed victuallers. They may have been associated in it, but it was produced by some body known as the Sunday Opening Council.
Along with my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), I had something to do, in another connection, with the question of expenditure on elections, and I have an idea of what this document costs. I know the licensed victuallers, and I can only say that I have some doubt whether they could rise to a standard of that kind, but that is by the way.
The Minister has met us in two ways. First, we put down an Amendment in Committee to make it illegal to promote advertising and propaganda on television or in newspapers or posters. We have been met very fully by the assurance on television and broadcasting which was given in Committee. The Solicitor-General has repeated what the Minister said in Committee, and it satisfies all of us, including my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). He has also met us on the question of newspapers, so that there are only the posters left.
I know the difficulty, and it is to define a poster. I am sure that the Solicitor-General will agree that we have a shrewd idea what his party spent on a poster campaign before the last election. I am not now a member of the executive of my party, but I was at the last election, and for many years before, and I know what these things cost. Indeed, we ourselves tried to have a poster campaign, and I know lots of things about it. First, most of the important sites in Wales are already in the hands of the brewing interests, not for 991 two days, not for a week, but for months and years. They own them.
I wonder whether the hon. Member for Barry would agree to put this point to his brewing friends. They have the sites in Cardiff; in Llanelly and in every village and town. As from the date appointed, under the Solicitor-General's assurance, and we have accepted it, first, television will have to behave in accordance with the assurance we have been given. It will be illegal and a corrupt act, under the Act of 1949, to put an advertisement in a newspaper to try to influence the vote.
So far, so good. There now remains the poster. It would be interesting to know what the Conservative Central Office paid for the poster, "Do not let Labour ruin it". There can be posters of that kind. The sites are there already. Whatever the difficulties about definition, is the Solicitor-General prepared to allow the poll to go forward when those who have the money are able to conduct a poster campaign conceivably costing £¼ million within six weeks?
We have an idea what we are talking about, because we have had to try to compete but have had to give up without starting. That is why we put down the Amendment. We are realists. We have been agents, candidates or members of the executive and we have done all this. The House ought to ensure fair play and to hold the balance evenly but the balance cannot be held evenly if the poster situation is left as it is.
What is the good of putting up a little "Wayside Pulpit" poster against the display posters on all the best sites? Coming out of Cardiff Station, one sees half a dozen of them. It would be very good if the brewers undertook to use none of those sites or posters to influence votes. That would be a test for them. But, of course, they will use them, because there is money in it and there is money in the Bill.
The Solicitor-General has not given any undertaking that he will look at the matter again. It may be that our proposal would cut out the notice advertising the meeting. I should be quite prepared to accept that disability if I could overcome the terrifying handicap of having to fight against the public 992 posters. I should have been prepared to give up the Labour Party's poster saying, "A meeting will be held here this evening" if we could have stopped the Conservative Party's spending of enormous sums on its poster campaign.
Whilst we are grateful that the Solicitor-General has met us concerning newspapers and television, I am not satisfied with what he has told us. Therefore, unless the Solicitor-General can now give us a satisfactory assurance, I feel so strongly on the matter that I am disposed to carry it to a Division and I invite my hon. Friends to support me.
§ The Solicitor-General
When moving the Government Amendment which the Amendment seeks to amend, I dealt with certain of the issues that have been canvassed in the debate. I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and to the other hon. Members who have spoken for what they have said about what we have tried to do to meet the case put by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends in Committee.
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to take credit for the fact that a great many of the Government Amendments to the Clause have been prompted by suggestions and arguments put forward by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends in Committee. We have dealt satisfactorily with the position regarding television and newspaper advertising, which could be very potent in influencing opinion, and the sole remaining issue on which we now have to come to a determination is poster advertising.
In deciding to draw the line where we did, we were actuated by two considerations. The first was to try to ensure that the contest to influence opinion should be a fairly balanced one. The second, and no less important, was to draw a line which was enforceable. It was for that reason, if for no other, that we did not go so far as to say that there must be no propaganda.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said that it would be quite absurd to prohibit public meetings, most of all in Wales, and I entirely agree. It is impractical. Equally, if one is not to prohibit public meetings, it is impossible to extend the prohibition to leaflets. 993 both on grounds of logic and on grounds of practicability. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] On the whole, I think that the difficulty is shown by the difference of opinion about whether leaflets should be included between the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) and the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones). If one were to say that leaflets should be allowed, and draw a line between them and posters, the difficulty would be very considerable.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) and the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) asked when the prohibition on advertising would start. My hon. Friend put it specifically, and asked whether, if a poster was put up before the period allowed for delivering the requisition papers, which is the test, one would be committing an offence if one left it up.
I personally agree with the legal advice, given by the right hon. Member for Llanelly and the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), that the test in the case of newspaper advertising and poster advertising, if we make this Amendment to the Bill, will be the same. First, a line is drawn at the period at the commencement of the time allowed for delivering requisition papers. No advertising or propaganda of any sort before that date could constitute an offence.
Secondly, after that date, in order to constitute an offence, the propaganda must be with intent to influence persons to give, or refrain from giving, their votes in a particular way at the poll. That is a question of fact to be determined by the courts, if necessary, in any particular case. I can conceive of a certain type of poster or leaflet which may have been put up before the relevant date and yet might be considered to be kept up with intent to influence persons. On the other hand, the ordinary advertisement which goes on year in year out would be extremely unlikely to be considered by the courts as being there with intent to influence persons to give their votes in a particular way in a certain poll.
§ Mr. Awbery
There is nothing to prevent the brewers, knowing that the vote is to take place, spending thousands of pounds beforehand.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
Perhaps I can answer the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery). He is perfectly right on the Amendment. There is absolutely nothing to prevent either side from indulging in a poster campaign. We are concerned with a very narrow issue. It is a potential poster campaign between the commencement of the poll and the date of polling. Therefore, although I think my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby was right in saying that there is a distinction to be drawn between newspaper advertising which takes place on a particular day and therefore can be switched off at the relevant date and poster advertising where the poster might remain, that was not my objection on practical grounds to the Amendment. I would be prepared to say that if that were the only objection it would not be a reason for rejecting it.
The objection is twofold. The first is the practical one of how one can enforce the prohibition of poster advertising. Newspaper advertising is easy enough. There are comparatively few people in Wales who publish newspapers, but every citizen in Wales is a potential poster of bills. Then there is the difficulty of the poster which is put up beforehand and left, and nobody knows to whom it belongs. There is that practical difficulty with posters which does not apply to public meetings and to canvassers. There is also the question of where to draw the line to keep any contest fair.
As I said in answer to the relevant question by the hon. Member for Bristol, Central, we are concerned with a very narrow interval of time, but we felt that television advertising is so powerful that it could be overwhelming during that period of time. We felt the same about newspaper advertising. With all respect to the right hon. Member for Llanelly, I cannot agree that the same applies to poster advertising, and we tried to draw the line where we felt that we held the balance fairly and ensured a reasonably fair contest while at the same time giving a chance of bringing the issues to the notice of the public.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Llanelly will not think it an impertinence when I say that, having listened to the speeches which he and his supporters have made in the course of 995 the debate, it would be impossible to under-estimate the moral force which will go into the cause which he has contended and for which I know he will continue to contend. I know that he is not alone in that and therefore I cannot for a moment regard any contest that one can foresee under conditions imposed by the Bill as being unequal. Every hon. Member who listened to the right hon. Gentleman and to the hon. Member for Caernarvon will have been impressed by the moral force that is undoubtedly available in a horrified rejection, as I recognise it to be, of the proposals in the Bill. It is one of the reasons why I say that it seems to me that where we have drawn the line is not only reasonable but fair in all the circumstances.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman not let the country know, and particularly let the brewers know, that after such and such a date the exhibiting of a poster intended to prejudice the vote one way or the other would be regarded as illegal? I put that question because we all know that posters are often obliterated not because the space is required by somebody else, but for certain other reasons. Surely, it would be common practice, according to the law, to fix a date after which the exhibiting of posters referring to the issue under discussion would be illegal.
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
I found the Solicitor-General's reply completely unimpressive. I thought that he spoke with his tongue in his cheek. I cannot believe that he himself believed very profoundly in the case which he put forward. He put forward two grounds against this Amendment. The first was that there would be very little contest because of the moral fervour of those opposed to the brewery interests. There may be moral fervour, but the question of money is rather different.
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. and learned Gentleman was not in the Chamber during most of the debate. I raised that matter in passing. Earlier, I quoted the observations of the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) in Standing Committee, where he referred to the tremendous propaganda value of the meetings which centred on the religious communities.
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
Those are meetings which obviously can take place and which this Amendment does not affect at all. I was dealing with the poster campaign and addressing myself to the specific summary of the remarks which the Solicitor-General made in his speech. If he will be so good as to follow the counter-argument, I hope that I shall make my position perfectly clear to him.
The moral fervour is one matter. The second point involved is that this would apply equally to the newspaper advertisement as to the poster advertisement. Therefore, his objection to the poster advertisement as contrasted with the newspaper advertisement collapses.
I come to the poster advertisement. The Solicitor-General said that it would be extremely difficult to stop poster advertisements because everyone in the country could put up a poster advertisement, but our Amendment does not deal with preventing them. Our Amendment provides that newspaper advertisements, in certain circumstances, shall be an offence. Presumably, if it is made an offence, it cannot physically prevent a newspaper advertisement being made. What it does is to let people know that if an advertisement is put in in these circumstances an offence will be created. If an offence is created, subject to punishment, that, of course, will restrain people from putting in newspaper advertisements.
Exactly the same applies to posters. It is no answer to say that a large number of people put up posters, because by this Amendment all those who do will be committing an offence, and that will act as a deterrent to them exactly as it will act as a deterrent to newspaper advertisements. Therefore, the two objections which the Solicitor-General emphasised in his summing up do not bear examination. Those were the main objections which he emphasised at the end of his speech and which he relied upon. Those two objections are utterly unpersuasive, and I hope that my hon. Friends will vote in favour of our proposal.
§ Mr. Idwal Jones
I was very disappointed with the reply of the Solicitor-General and I was not convinced that his reasons were practical or even genuine.
Visual aids are becoming more and more important in education. Indeed, 997 there is a generation arising which is taught more through visual aids than through reading print. Visual aids have become a medium of education, and that is our objection to posters which are a type of visual aid and a very effective type.
The making of posters is becoming a very fine art. The wording of a poster is limited, but the design of the poster can be very effective. The poster is such that it may be said of it whoever runs may read it. One does not need to stand before the poster and study it carefully, or read and inwardly digest what it says. The poster tells its tale and carries its influence and it will become more and more important to the rising generation which is now coming from our schools.
It is true that there will not be candidates at these polls, but there will be organisations. There is one which is primarily concerned with the moral aspect of the question and which has no financial gain to make. This organisation looks after the social and moral welfare of its people, who will dig deep into their pockets for finances. They will lose through the transaction. Then there is the other organisation, the business organisation, the licensed victuallers, the hotel proprietors, the owners of licensed restaurants and guest houses who stand to gain from the change and for whom the poll will be a business proposition.
Business being what it is, they will be prepared to spend in the hope of gaining more. The Solicitor-General said that he was anxious to keep the balance even, but the fact remains that the dice is heavily loaded in favour of
§ the trade and against the organisations in Wales which are anxious to preserve the country's moral and social standards. The trade has a pecuniary interest in this matter.
§ There are specialists in poster making. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lianelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said that it is a costly business. We all know of Colman, Prentis and Varley and know that they have a price, and we also know that our temperance organisations cannot afford that price while big business can. We have the ugly spectre of a major change in the social habits of a nation being determined by the sickly influence of riches and wealth. There must be a limit. If the people are to be asked to decide, let them not be influenced by subtle propaganda of apparent truths and essential falsehoods.
§ It is all very well for the Minister to say that this is a difficult problem. I am not concerned with the difficulty. We did not ask for this Measure. Wales did not ask for this Measure. The Government launched the Bill and they should have considered the difficulties before deciding to do so. I am not responsible for the Bill in any way and nor are the people of my country. No important organisation in Wales asked for it. If it is bristling with difficulties, that is not our concern. It is up to the Government to solve the difficulty by making the poll fair and even between the parties.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 83, Noes 203.999
|Division No. 189.]||AYES||[9.30 p.m.|
|Alnsley, William||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Awbery, Stan||Forman, J. C.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Galpern, Sir Myer||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)||George, LaflyMeganLtoyd (Crmrthn)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||McCann, John|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Greenwood, Anthony||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Grey, Charles||Mapp, Charles|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mason, Roy|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Grimond, J.||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Milne, Edward J.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hannan, William||Moody, A. S.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Hayman, F. H.||Morris, John|
|Diamond, John||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Oliver, G. H.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Hilton, A. V.||Owen, Will|
|Evans, Albert||Holman, Percy||Padley, W. E.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Finch, Harold||Hunter, A. E.||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Rankin, John||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)|
|Ross, William||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Thornton, Ernest||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Wade, Donald||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Whitlock, William||Mr. Idwal Jones and Mr. Bowen.|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Glover, Sir Douglas||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Altken, W. T.||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Parker, John|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Goodhart, Philip||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Allason, James||Gower, Raymond||Peel, John|
|Balniel, Lord||Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.||Percival, Ian|
|Barlow, Sir John||Green, Alan||Peyton, John|
|Barter, John||Gresham Cooke, R.||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Batsford, Brian||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Gurden, Harold||Pott, Percivall|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Bell, Ronald||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Pym, Francis|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hastings, Stephen||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bishop, F. P.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Rees, Hugh|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hendry, Forbes||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Box, Donald||Hiley, Joseph||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Roots, William|
|Braine, Bernard||Hirst, Geoffrey||Russell, Ronald|
|Brewis, John||Hobson, John||Seymour, Leslie|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hocking, Philip N.||Shaw, M.|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Holland, Philip||Shepherd, William|
|Buck, Antony||Hollingworth, John||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn|
|Bullard, Denys||Hopkins, Alan||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Erlc||Hughes-Young, Michael||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Smithers, Peter|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Jackson, John||Stodart, J. A.|
|Channon, H. P. G.||James, David||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Kirk, Peter||Tapsell, Peter|
|Cole, Norman||Leavey, J. A.||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Cooke, Robert||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Teeling, William|
|Cooper, A. E.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Temple, John M.|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Litchfield, Capt. John||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Cordle, John||Longbottom, Charles||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Cot-field, F. V.||Longden, Gilbert||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Costain, A. P.||Loveys, Waiter H.||Turner, Colin|
|Coulson, J. M.||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Critchley, Julian||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||MacArthur, Ian||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Crowder, F. P.||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Curran, Charles||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Currie, G. B. H.||McMaster, Stanley R.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Maddan, Martin||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Dance, James||Maginnis, John E.||Walder, David|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Walker, Peter|
|Deedes, W. F.||Marshall, Douglas||Wall, Patrick|
|de Ferrantt, Basil||Marten, Neil||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Mathew, Robert (Honlton)||Webster, David|
|Drayson, G. B.||Matthews, Gordon (Merlden)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|du Cann, Edward||Mawby, Ray||Whitelaw, William|
|Duncan, Sir James||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Eden, John||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Mills, Stratton||Wise, A. R.|
|Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tvne, N.)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Farr, John||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Finlay, Graeme||Noble, Michael||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Nugent, Sir Richard|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Freeth, Denzll||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Gammans, Lady||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Mr. J. E. B. Hill.|
|Gardner, Edward||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
§ Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.