HC Deb 09 July 1858 vol 151 cc1188-90

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the operation of the laws regulating the sale and consumption of Spirituous Liquors in Scotland. About four years ago an Act came into existence for regulating the sale of spirits in Scotland, under which great evils had, he believed, arisen. It had been attempted to be shown that the consumption of spirits had largely diminished in Scotland of late years, but he thought that was largely due to other causes, and amongst them to the increase of the duty on spirits, from 3s. 8d. to 8s. 3d. per gallon. The intention of the Act was to diminish drinking by diminishing the number of public-houses, and placing them under restrictions. But the result of these restrictions had been to increase the illicit sale of spirits to a great extent. He admitted, indeed, that the number of cases of drunkenness brought before the police had diminished, but that did not give an accurate representation of the results of the Act, and of its tendency to give rise to evils of another kind. He understood that in some towns the police were extensively bribed by the keepers of illicit houses. Licensed houses had decreased in number, to the loss of the revenue, while those who kept them had in many in- stances become keepers of illicit houses so that, in some parts of Scotland, the number of illicit now exceeded those of licensed houses; whilst it was stated that, in point of fact, the Forbes Mackenzie Act was only enforced against the poor, and not against the rich. In Glasgow the number of licensed houses had diminished from 1,900 to 1,600, with a corresponding increase of illicit trade to an extent that was appalling. It was carried on by all classes of persons, young and old. And it was stated that every licensed house that was suppressed was succeeded by the establishment of an illict house, the result of the traffic in which was most injurious to the public. In Glasgow, when the Act had been put strictly in force, public opinion had declared itself so strongly against it that, in order to obtain convictions, it was necessary to employ the police as spies, which he (Lord Melgund) thought most objectionable. The police either went themselves dressed in plain clothes to places where illicit traffic was carried on, or employed men of disreputable character to frequent those places. He put it to the Government whether the employment of the police in that capacity should not at once be abolished?


said, that the views of the noble Lord were much exaggerated, and that there was an unanimous opinion amongst the magistrates, and all those interested in the preservation of the peace and the improvement of the morals of Scotland, in favour of the working of the Forbes Mackenzie Act. In Glasgow, notwithstanding an increase of population, the cases of drunkenness for the last three years had been only 53,000, whereas for the three years preceding the Act they had been 71,000. He found from Returns respecting Glasgow that in the three years from 1851 to 1853 the drunken cases of all classes were 71,648, and in the three years from 1854 to 1856, 53,146, showing a decrease of 18,502. The number of cases of persons drunk and incapable was, in the first three years, 41,234, and in the last three years 36,461, showing a decrease of 4,778. The drunk and disorderly cases, including those of persons discharged without being brought before a magistrate, numbered, in the first three years, 30,414; in the last, 16,685, showing a decrease of 13,729. Similar cases brought before a magistrate in the first three years, 21,174; in the last, 7,916—decrease, 13,258. The num- ber of disorderly persons between the years 1852 and 1854 was 16,462; from 1855 to 1857, 8,546. The number of persons drunk and taken for protection during the first three years was 57,652; in the last three years, 45,436. With regard to the Sunday cases, he found in the first three years they amounted to 1,483, in the last three years to 535, showing a decrease of about one-third.