HC Deb 18 June 1862 vol 167 cc697-703

Order for Committee read.


said, that before the House went into Committee he wished to move— That it be an Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to extend the operation of the Bill and of the Act thereby amended, to the Sale of Beer, Wine, and Cider. He had opposed the second reading of the Bill, as he thought it better that the subject should remain as it was until it was dealt with by a general measure on the subject of licensing public-houses which could not long be delayed. As, however, the House had decided that the time had arrived when an alteration of the law as regarded the Tippling Act was necessary, he was desirous of making that alteration as widely useful as possible, and therefore he proposed to extend the operation of the Bill to beer and all other intoxicating drinks. As it stood, the Bill was limited to spirits and to licensed victuallers. He proposed to extend it to the keepers of beer-houses as well as to licensed victuallers. There was, he believed, a general feeling in favour of such an extension, and there could be no question of its necessity. The original object of the law was not, he apprehended, to make men sober by Act of Parliament, but to remove as far as possible the temptation to get drunk to which men were subjected. He would remind the House that a new class of public-houses had arisen since the Tippling Act passed—namely, the beer-houses—to which, had they existed at the time the Tippling Act passed, no doubt the provisions of that Act would have been made applicable. There could be no question that drunkenness was promoted by these beer-houses as well as by the public-houses, and experience showed that they ought to be placed under restrictions at least equally strict. In many instances, in the country, the working man was encouraged to run up scores at these beer-houses, and, being unable to pay, became, as it were, the slave of the beer-shop keeper, who obliged him to go on taking beer (payment being made by a shilling or two at a time) under the threat of taking proceedings against him for the recovery of the debt if he did not do so. The county court judges had testified to the evils of beer-houses, and instances were stated in which, by the system alluded to, the earnings of working men were forestalled by weeks for beer scores, while their families were reduced to the greatest suffering and distress. That view was taken by Mr. Marshall of Leeds, Mr. Harden of Salford; and, in fact, the opinion was almost general, amongst all who had opportunities of examining the subject, that the principle of the Tippling Act should be extended to these houses. Not being a total abstainer himself, he was no advocate for the Maine liquor law, but it was obvious that some means should be adopted to lessen the temptations now held out to the lower classes to waste their earnings in intoxicating drinks. There was, however, no subject which had taken such hold of the public mind as the licensing system; and it was obvious that ere long some general Bill on the subject of licensing all these houses for the sale of intoxicating liquors must be introduced by the Government.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to extend the operation of the Bill and of the Act thereby amended, to the Sale of Beer, Wine, and Cider.


said, he rose to second the Motion. It might be objected that such a provision could not be introduced into a measure the title of which was the Sale of Spirits Bill; but he thought, if that objection were urged, that the title could be altered in Committee. There could be no doubt, however, but that it was a great evil that the working classes should have such great facilities for obtaining intoxicating liquors on credit. Many a poor man had a large score run up against him when half drunk, and went on calling for more beer at a time when he had no control over himself, and when his memory was in such a state that he was not capable of checking the score which was put up against him.


said, the Tippling Act was passed during the last century, with a view of putting down drunkenness by Act of Parliament. It applied exclusively to the sale of spirits in small quantities; and though it had been generally admitted that the provisions of the Tippling Act were absurd, yet the hon. Member for Bradford proposed to extend those provisions to articles which they had never embraced before, and he hoped the hon. Member would explain why he had excluded perry from his Motion. His chief objection, however, to the proposal related to the time and manner in which it was brought forward. The House had carefully provided by a multiplicity of forms against anything like a surprise in the course of legislation. But the hon. Member for Bradford had violated the spirit, if not the letter of those rules, by bringing forward suddenly, and on very short notice, a Resolution which would seriously affect a trade in which 150,000 persons were engaged. In a Bill to remove restrictions from the sale of spirits, one would certainly not expect to find novel restrictions placed on the sale of beer. It was not right that the scope and object of the Act should thus be altered at the last moment.


said, he would admit that great evil arose from allowing scores to be run up for supplies of beer as well as of spirits; but at the same time he thought that the objection taken by his hon. Friend who had just sat down to the instruction was insuperable. It was only fair that when the interests of an extensive trade would be affected by a change in the law, the persons engaged in that trade should have due warning of it. That warning had not been given in the present instance, for the hon. Member for Bradford only put his notice on the paper which was issued on Saturday morning. He was not sure that there was not a positive objection in point of form to the course taken by the hon. Member, because the rules of the House required that any legislation affecting trade should originate in a Committee of the Whole House. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill (Mr. P. W. Martin) complied with that order; and it was a question whether the hon. Member for Bradford, in introducing matter so completely new and different from the scope of the Bill, should not have done so also. If these reasons should prevail against the acceptance of his hon. Friend's proposal, he should be sorry to say anything upon its merits.


said, he was of opinion that the Motion of the hon. Member ought to be at once rejected, as having nothing whatever to do with the subject before the House, namely, the sale of spirits. He might refer to an instance when he had been prevented introducing a clause into a similar Bill, on the ground that it was not germane to the subject of the Bill.


said, that with regard to the merits of the question, no substantial difference could be drawn between one intoxicating drink and another. The question was a moral question, and if the instruction could not be given according to the form of Parliament, he thought it would be much better that the Bill should be withdrawn, and be brought in again in the next year with the proposed provision in it. With regard to the alteration of the Tippling]Act, he could only say that that Act had been in operation for a hundred years, and he had never heard any valid objection to it, and yet it was proposed to be repealed upon the motion and authority of an unofficial Member. If such an alteration were necessary, it ought to be proposed upon official authority. He would therefore suggest that after the House had gone into Committee progress should at once be reported, in order that an arrangement might be come to as to the course which was to be adopted.


said, that with reference to the point of order raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, the necessity for an instruction arose from the Acts relating to spirits being considered to be quite a distinct class by themselves; and therefore dealing with beer, cider, and wine would be dealing with different trades. As the House could not deal with these trades without a pre- liminary Committee, if they proposed to deal with them by an instruction, they would pass by a stage which in due order and course ought first to have been gone through; and the instruction would deal with matters which, by the rules of the House, ought first to have been dealt with in Committee of the Whole House. For these reasons the objection to the proposed mode of proceeding would, if pressed, hold good.


said, that after the intimation of the right hon. Gentleman, he should, of course, withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

House in Committee.


said, he would move that the Chairman report progress. If the Tippling Act were to be amended at all, it ought to be effectually amended. He thought with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that it would be better to withdraw the Bill, and see if the Government would in the next year bring forward the consideration of the whole question of licensing and the sale of spirits.


said, he hoped the Committee would not support the hon. Member in his proposition. He agreed with the hon. Member that the instruction he had suggested was a good one; but as it was not in form, and, above all, as it would have come on the parties interested by means of a side-wind, and in surprise, he thought they ought not to jeopardize the Bill, which contained some good provisions, by adopting such a course as that suggested by the hon. Member.


said, he could not understand what was the object sought to be obtained in reporting progress. If it was intended to bring in another Bill, the proper course would be to move that the Chairman leave the chair. Moving to report progress would be merely to move that the Bill be postponed for a day or two.


said, that he had been informed by the highest authority that it would be more in accordance with order to move that the Chairman should report progress.


said, the Tippling Act was used as a means of defrauding wine merchants, and he had been that morning informed that the wine merchants of the country had held a meeting, and they had come to the resolution that they could, under the present state of the law, only protect themselves by requir- ing that none of their small customers, farmers and others, should take less than two gallons of spirits. Such was the present uncertain state of the law that they were compelled to adopt this course. The little Bill before the Committee was simply an act of justice in no way affecting the general question of temperance or the licensing system, which could be dealt with in a general measure next year.


said, he had no wish to get rid of the Bill by a side-wind. If the Committee consented to report progress, the hon. Member for Bradford might then move a Resolution in Committee of the Whole House, and introduce a Bill which might be combined with that under consideration. If, however, they passed the latter measure through Committee, that course could not be taken. The Bill, being but a partial measure, would not give satisfaction to the country.


said, the Tippling Act was, in point of fact, a part and parcel of the licensing system, and therefore the subject ought to be treated as a whole. The measure before them was not asked for by the public, but by a trade for their own benefit. He trusted, therefore, that the Committee would agree to the Motion of the hon. Member for Bradford.


said, the Motion to report progress was tantamount to moving the rejection of the Bill. He hoped therefore that the Motion would be rejected.


could not understand what object was to be gained by reporting progress. If it was to alter the Bill, that alteration could only have been effected at a former stage of the Bill. The Motion was simply by a side-wind to defeat the Bill.


said, he was opposed to the Amendment. The Tippling Act sanctioned the grossest injustice, and ought to be repealed.


said, nobody disputed the merits of the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochester. The question was, whether the matter, which formed a part of the licensing system, should be dealt with separately. The object in moving to report progress was in order to see if they could not embody the principle adopted by the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. P. W. Martin), and that of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) in the same Bill. He had no desire whatever to postpone the passing of the Bill, but, with the undestanding just announced, he should support the Motion for reporting progress.


said, it appeared from the speech of the right hon. Baronet that the whole Committee was of accord with respect to the provisions of the Bill. Well, if that were so, what objection could there be to pass it as it stood? It was obvious, that if the provisions advocated by the hon. Member for Bradford were tacked on to the Bill, they would he adding something to it about which considerable difference of opinion existed. They were arrived at the 18th of June, and the hon. Member for Rochester was exceedingly fortunate in having pushed on his Bill to that stage already; but he should like to know what chance the hon. Member would have of again bringing on the Bill for discussion if he were to consent to the Motion for reporting progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 50; Noes 130: Majority 80.

Clause 1 (Section 12 of 24 Geo. II., c. 40, repealed).


observed that it was rendered incumbent on the seller to prove that the spirits were actually delivered at the house of the purchaser, and he wished to ask what was to be proof of delivery?


said, the intention was to prevent spirits from being sold in small quantities except under exceptional circumstances, such as in case of illness. Delivery might be either by the servant of the seller or of the purchaser.


said, he thought there would be great difficulty in proving—first, that the person gave the order; and, next, that the spirits were actually delivered.


said, he objected to the word "residence," which, in legal acceptation, meant the place where the person slept. A man might live out of town, and have occasion to get the spirits sent to his place of business.


said, he wished to ask what was meant by a "reputed quart."


said, a "reputed quart bottle" was a term perfectly well understood in trade.


said, the phrase was well known, and had been employed and defended not two years ago by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He himself tried hard to discover its exact meaning, but could not arrive at anything beyond a general idea that it was a constantly diminishing quantity.


said, he thought the term "reputed quart" preferable to "reputed quart bottle," otherwise the word "bottle" might be regarded as a measure of quantity.


moved the omission of all the words after the word "shall," and to insert the words— be and the same is hereby repealed, so far only as relates to spirituous liquors sold to be consumed elsewhere than on the premises where sold, and sent to and delivered at the residence of the purchaser thereof in quantities not less at any one time than a reputed quart.

Amendment agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.

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