HC Deb 11 June 1856 vol 142 cc1320-4

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said that it had for its primary object the assimilation of the law in England and Ireland with reference to the sale of spirits and fermented liquors. Having had consultations on the subject with several Members of that House and with several persons connected with the trade in Ireland, he had come to the conclusion that it would be better to restrict the operation of the Act to the precincts of the Irish metropolis, Dublin. If the House agreed to the second reading of the Bill he should have to introduce in Committee certain Amendments in order to carry out that restriction. Originally it was intended that the Bill should apply to the whole of Ireland, but on further consideration it was found to be advisable to restrict its operation to the vicinity of Dublin only. By the law, as it at present stood, the licensed victuallers throughout Ireland, and of Dublin particularly, were affected injuriously in various ways. By the 3 & 4 Will, IV., see. 4, public-houses were compelled to close at eleven o'clock at night, and not to open before seven o'clock in the morning. On Sundays they were allowed to open at two o'clock, but were obliged to close at nine o'clock, and not permitted to open again until seven o'clock on Monday morning. That state of things had no parallel in any other capital that he knew of. In England public-houses were allowed to keep open until eleven o'clock, and to open again at four in the morning. Why public-houses in Dublin should be placed on a different footing he was totally at a loss to understand, and he felt satisfied that the House of Commons would not feel disposed to sanction the continuance of a state of things which was found to operate so very injuriously on the trade of the country. By the 1st section of 3 & 4 Will. IV., and also by the 17th and 18th section, publicans were required to forward a certificate signed by six householders, by the chief constable, and by two overseers, and in addition, to produce the certificate of two magistrates. By the present Bill he proposed to do away with the necessity of householders' signatures, police signatures, and the interference of overseers. The names of six householders, as now required, were perfectly useless as a guarantee of respectability, for no man, however bad his character, could fail to get the required number of signatures if he exerted himself. Then the necessity for obtaining the signatures of constables naturally laid open those persons to a considerable degree of corruption. The practice was not carried out in England, and in Ireland it was found to be both inconvenient and wrong. He would trouble the House with a short explanation of the nature of the Bill as far as it was intended to apply to registration as it at present existed. For every registration at present a fee of 2s. 6d. to the clerk of the peace was paid, and a fee of 10s. to the chief police court. The Bill proposed to abolish those fees, and he was aware that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had an objection to doing away with those fees, because it would take away £500 a year from the poor rate, and place that amount on the inhabitants of Dublin. Now, the House and the right hon. and learned Gentleman ought to recollect that the licensed victuallers of Dublin paid an equal proportion of the common taxation paid by other trades. It was not, therefore, he maintained, either just or right that they should be required to pay £500 a year additional towards the police, which was appointed for the protection of the inhabitants at large. The police had no special duties to perform in reference to licensed victuallers; the tax, therefore, was an act of injustice towards that body of men, and ought not to be continued. He proposed, therefore, to repeal that clause in the Act which levied those fees. He would now refer to the alteration he proposed to make in the hours at which public-houses were allowed to keep open, and to that alteration he was aware that several hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House objected on the ground that to extend the time for keeping open public-houses would tend to the demoralisation of the people by promoting drunkenness. He yielded to no one in the desire to uphold the character of his fellow-countrymen; and if he thought his Bill would have the asserted effect, or would tend in any way to lower the character of the people, he would be the last man in that House to lend himself to the promotion of the measure. But he believed the fears of hon. Members were totally unfounded, and he would undertake to show that the crime of drunkenness was promoted by the present restricted hours of public-houses; that the closing of public-houses at the present early hours was a fruitful source of drunkenness and crime. He would prove by the evidence of unimpeachable witnesses, that after public-houses were closed, "jigger" shops were opened, where an illicit sale of spirits took place, and where the worst kind of characters congregated. He would state to hon. Members the opinion of an experienced magistrate, Mr. Tyrwhitt, on the subject of early closing: Mr. Tyrwhitt said— That the places of the kind kept by the defendant, and which are better known as 'jigger' shops, were the most mischievous places in ton-don. Public-houses were kept under the strictest surveillance, and very properly so; but when the respectable licensed tradesmen closed their houses, then the business of such houses as that kept by the defendant began, and was the cause of much debauchery and drunkenness. Those places and dens were known to be frequented by the worst of characters, and the worst evils of public-houses were multiplied in the worst form. Having shown that the restrictions relative to hours of business imposed on public houses did not tend to promote morality, but the reverse, and having the authority of the highest kind to appeal to—namely, a large meeting presided over by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, and also the authority of that great man, Mr. Dargan, he trusted that the House would permit the Bill to be read a second time; and at a future stage he would introduce Amendments that would do away with objections.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill he now read a second time."


said, he wished to call special attention to the fact that one of the provisions of the Bill proposed to do away with the practice of registering licences, the fees from which produced £500 a year. He had not heard that the citizens of Dublin were willing to give lip that amount. The other fee also went to relieve taxation, and was also to be abandoned. Then the Bill proceeded to deal, not only with retailers but with grocers, who might sell not less than two quarts, not to be consumed on the premises. It might he an important question as to placing grocers under the same provisions as other dealers, but that class of traders ought to be informed previously what was in contemplation. The other important alteration had reference to the hours at which public-houses should be kept open. It might, perhaps, be of benefit to alter the hours so as to make it lawful to keep open after nine on Sundays, but that could be hereafter considered. Then, with respect to altering the mode of granting licences, there were well-founded objections to the alteration proposed by the Bill, and as he could not recommend the House to agree to the second reading of the Bill, he should advise the hon. Member to withdraw his measure.


said, he was not quite satisfied with the force of the objections of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.


said, he conceived that some extension of the hours during which public-houses in Dublin were permitted to be open was requisite for the convenience of trade, but the Bill was clogged with Other provisions which he could not support.


said, he would appeal to Mr. Speaker whether the alterations proposed to be effected in the Bill did not render its further prosecution irregular.


said, that if the operation of the measure was to be limited to a particular locality the end in view must be attained by means of a private Bill.


said, he would, under those circumstances, withdraw the Bill, trusting that the Government would see that the needful changes were made.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill withdrawn.

The House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.