HC Deb 31 July 1838 vol 44 cc846-7
Mr. E. Tennent

moved the second reading of the Spirit Licences Bill. As he understood that the measure was to be opposed, he would very briefly state the reasons which had rendered its introduction expedient. In 1836, Mr. Perrin, who was then Attorney-General for Ireland, brought in a bill to regulate the granting of spirit licences in that country, and in that bill was inserted a clause prohibiting the granting of a retail licence to grocers. The object of this clause was to obviate the temptation to tipling and intemperance which was held out to servants and others by the facilities and secrecy afforded for obtaining spirits at shops where the parties were ostensibly led by other business. It was only in portions of the metropolis and not in the smaller towns of Ireland this complaint applied, in those places generally the sale of spirits formed but a portion of the business of those who were general dealers, men of character and of capital, forming usually the better class of shopkeepers and persons who had too much respect for themselves to permit their houses to be abused by intemperance of any kind. If these men were now to be forcibly excluded from this trade, it would inevitably fall into hands less safe, and be confined to parties with smaller capital and greater temptations to permit excess. The houses of the grocers were closed at early hours, and always so on the sabbath-day, which would not be the case if the sale of spirits were to be compulsorily thrown into the hands of publicans of limited means. Its object was only to continue the suspension of the act which had already been suspended for two years by an act brought in almost simultaneously with the suspended act, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; for if the act now came into operation, it would do a great deal of mischief. He moved the second reading of the bill.

Mr. Shaw

had the greatest objection to this bill, which if passed would convert all the grocers into spirit dealers, and thus increase an evil already enormous. He had exerted himself for several years to check intemperance in the city of Dublin, but if he were not assisted by the Government he could not hope for any success. He hoped therefore, that the noble Lord opposite would refuse his assent to this bill. He begged leave to move that it be read a second time that day six months.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the grocers, as a class, were more respectable than the publicans. and were more deserving of the spirit licences. If the object of the House was to repress drunkenness, it should altogether prohibit the sale of spirits. While the act appeared to be rather levelled at putting down grocers than drunkards. He had never in his life heard of any riot occurring in grocers' shops in consequence of their being permitted to hold spirit licences.

Colonel Verner

said, with respect to the grocers of that part of the country with which he (Colonel Verner) was acquainted he could bear testimony to the excellence of their character.

Lord Morpeth

felt himself in a peculiar position with respect to the bill. In the former measures which Government brought forward it was proposed to insert a clause prohibiting the sale of spirits on the premises by grocers, but a deputation of that body having been sent over from Ireland to remonstrate on the point, the clause was abandoned. A similar clause however, had been introduced by way of rider to the bill, and as he had not divided the House upon it after the deputation of grocers had left London impressed with the opinion that no such clause would be introduced, he felt almost as if he had broken faith with them, and would not therefore attempt to influence any votes upon the question.

The House divided on the second reading, Ayes 43, Noes 15—Majority 28