HC Deb 09 July 1862 vol 168 cc123-8

Order for Second Reading read.


said, that he rose for the purpose of moving the second reading of this Bill. The object of it was to put the sale of beer that was consumed on the premises of the seller on the same footing as spirits when sold and consumed on the premises, by depriving the publican of the right to recover a debt under 20s. for beer consumed on the premises. The House had consented to an alteration of the old Tippling Act under which no debt could be recovered for spirits sold on the premises. That Act was altered in the present Session of Parliament by the House of Commons, and the Bill making the alteration was now before the House of Lords. If that Bill became law, debts due for spirits supplied to the buyer at his own house could be recovered in the courts of law. He did not propose to go quite so far as that with regard to beer. His Bill was limited to the recovery of debts for beer or cider actually consumed on the premises of the beerseller. It was notorious that great mischief and misery was occasioned in consequence of poor men running up a score in the public houses. He took a glass of beer himself, and he had no objection that the poor man should have his glass of beer likewise. The al- teration he proposed would not have the effect of depriving him of his glass of beer. The only enactment he wanted was that the seller should not be able to make use of the machinery of the law to recover debts due for beer under certain circumstances. His object was to take away from the seller of beer the temptation to persuade the poor man to continue to take it and to run up a score with him after the poor man had lost the use of his discretion as to what was good for him to take. The County Court Judges considered that the present working of the law produced great evil, and that nothing was more likely to check drunkenness and to promote morals than the small provision which he now proposed to the House. He had also received letters from the County Court bailiffs detailing the hardships which were produced by the present state of the law. It frequently happened that a poor man, when half intoxicated, ran up a score for beer with a particular seller, whereby the latter obtained complete control over him—threatening him with legal proceedings if he went to any other beerseller, or did any thing that was displeasing to him.

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


said, that he rose to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months. This was one of those measures suggested by sour-minded people, under the belief that they were going to make men good by Act of Parliament. His notion was, if they would mind their own business, and allow other people to mind theirs, they would do much better. The Bill was in reality a rich man's Bill. How would it affect many of the working men among his constituents? Receiving their wages fortnightly or every three weeks, they were accustomed to have their dinner at the nearest public-house, where they had a pint of beer to it, which, if this Bill passed, they would not have. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) said he liked a glass of beer himself, and that was the sort of charity which he manifested. What he liked himself was all very well; but he was a rich man—he did not want the law to take care of his liberty; but he would step forward, and, in the name of law, take care of the poor man. The Bill would only prevent the honest, industrious working man from getting his pint of beer to his dinner because he might not have money every day in his pocket to pay for it.

Amendment proposed to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."


said, that it was an extraordinary thing that Session after Session the House should be interfering with the business of publicans. The Bill was not directed against the richer classes, but against the poorer classes of the people; there being thousands of working men who in the metropolis alone take their dinners in the public-houses near their places of employment. If such a Bill were to pass, the working man would frequently have to go without his beer, and without the means of cooking his dinner.


said, that he would support the Bill, considering that it would be of benefit to the poor man, and would not injuriously affect him.


said, he thought the Bill was based on a very great fallacy—namely, that spirituous liquors and beer were in the same category, whereas they were totally different things. The poor man might drink almost a barrel of honest beer without being intoxicated. It was the noxious drugs put into his liquor by the publican, and not the beer itself, which produced intoxication. The working man required his glass of beer with his dinner to support his strength, and it would be most unjust to deprive him of the power of getting it on credit until he could pay for it with his wages.


said, that he believed that the honest hard-working man would not be affected in any shape by this Bill; but it would protect those who had not sufficient strength of mind to resist the temptation put in their way by the publican, who wished to make them run up an ale score and then to sue them in the County Court if they did not pay it. Many men were thus induced to drink on after they had lost all control over themselves, and were imprisoned because they could not pay for it, their families being mean while left to starve. An increasing number of men were brought before him as a magistrate who had indulged in intoxication in beerhouses, where no spirits were sold; and he was therefore anxious to take away the facilities enjoyed by the keeper of those places for seducing such persons into extravagance and intemperance.


begged to differ from the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, who thought the Bill a rich man's Bill, and not a poor man's. If the opposition to such a measure could be analysed, it would be found to proceed mostly from the publican interest. He had been much struck by a remark which appeared in The Times the other day in regard to the debts of honour incurred at a recent horse-race, and which could not be recovered by any legal process. The statement there made was that hardly 1 per cent of those debts remained unpaid after what was called the settling day. The Bill would not prevent the honest working man getting credit for his pint of beer, while it would discourage intemperance.


said, that he would cordially support the second reading of the Bill, at the risk of being classed in the category of "sour-minded" persons. Probably the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) thought all the opponents of the measure were, like himself, gifted with suavity of disposition and genial-mindedness. He believed that any one who had the character of an honest working man would be certain to get credit till the end of the week for the beer he consumed at his daily meal; and, on the other hand, in applying a stringent check to the large class to whom the publican could not give trust, the Bill would have a wholesome effect rather than otherwise.


said, that he had been a total abstainer for many years, and he wished to give his personal experience on this subject. He had attended many temperance meetings, and nothing could be more pleasing than the delightful statements which one heard, and the virtue which was displayed, at them. The accounts given by some of these persons of their former degradation were enough to harrow the feelings and freeze the blood. The Bill of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) was calculated to prevent some of this mischief. It would promote virtue and morals, afford the means of educating multitudes of poor children, and save many a poor wife from being broken-hearted by the depravity of her husband.


was neither a teetotaller, like the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), nor an advocate of the Permissive Bill; but he thought that the principle of the Tippling Act, if extended to beerhouses, would prevent a vast amount of immorality in Yorkshire and other counties.


said, that he would not oppose the second reading of this measure, although the motion made by the hon. Member for Bradford had certainly taken him by surprise, for he had understood yesterday that the hon. Gentlemen did not intend to proceed any further with the Bill this Session. If, however, they went into Committee, there were a few alterations which it would be necessary to introduce. The first clause went much beyond the Tippling Act, and the preamble would require some amendment. The sum of 20s. was rather a high amount to fix as the limit under which no debt should be recoverable unless it was bonâ fide contracted at one time, because it should be remembered that the price of beer and spirits was very different.


said, that he would vote for the Bill with the greatest pleasure if he thought it would have the slightest effect in repressing intemperance; but, instead of doing that, he believed the measure would only enable people to thieve as well as to get drunk. As to a man drinking 20s. worth of beer at one time, he supposed that not even the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), with all his experience, had ever met with a case of that kind. The Bill would encourage dishonest persons to go about from house to house drinking as much as they could get credit for, and never paying a single farthing. Public returns showed that drunkenness was on the decrease, and therefore the less they interfered with the trade the better.


said, that he thought there was a great difference between the case of beer and that of spirits, and he was afraid this measure would prevent the labouring man who worked at a distance from his home from getting credit for the beer he took with his dinner.


said, that as a rule, the working man did not drink beer with his meals. By far the larger quantity was consumed by him at the end of the week, the fortnight, or even the month, when he spent two or three days in continuous drinking, Undoubtedly no man ever achieved the feat of consuming 20s. worth of beer at one sitting; but they knew that after a certain number of pints the man's heart warmed, when he treated all his neighbours, and was encouraged to do so by the publican. To his certain knowledge many and many an ale score of more than 20s. had been thus run up at a single sitting.


said, that he was surprised at such a Bill as that before the House proceeding from one who professed to be a Free-trader. The measure would hold out a premium to the dishonest and designing publican to induce his customers to drink, and thus incur a liability on which they could be sued.


said, that to such an extent had the oppressive actions of the beersellers been carried, often ending in the imprisonment of their poor customers for debt, that almost every County Court Judge was in favour of a measure like the present to restrain them.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 93; Noes 90; Majority 3.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Monday next.