HC Deb 23 May 1864 vol 175 cc597-602

Order for Second Reading road.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read a second time,"—(Sir Robert Peel.)


said, he thought that the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland ought to furnish to the House some explanation as to the necessity of this Bill.


said, the Bill appeared to English Members a very extraordinary one, for it would place beerhouses in Ireland on a totally different footing to that on which beer-houses in this country were placed. In this country beer-houses sold beer to be drunk on the premises, without any interference by the police; whereas, by this Bill, beer-houses in Ireland would be subject to stringent regulations, both at the hands of the magistrates and the police. Would the Government have any objection to frame a measure extending what they now proposed for Ireland to this country.


said, that he made a statement in respect to this Bill upon moving for its introduction; but as it was at an hour of the morning when very few Members were present, he would repeat the grounds upon which this measure was introduced. In Ireland, he regretted to say, the great source of crime and disorder was the intoxication which was encouraged by the beer-houses as well as by the whisky shops. In consequence of the establishment of a great many additional beer-houses, in Dublin particularly, intoxication had increased to a frightful extent, and crime had augmented in proportion, the existing law not allowing the police to enter into those houses as they were permitted to do with regard to the houses of licensed victuallers. In 1861 there were only three regular beer houses in Dublin; whereas now, owing to the extension of the trade, there were 270, in addition to 1,100 licensed victuallers and grocers' shops. In that state of things criminality of the worst kind existed. It further appeared that houses of ill fame in close proximity to those beer-houses had largely increased of late. By a defect in the law the police were powerless in preventing crime which might originate in these beer-houses, as they were not authorized to enter those house. He was aware that the Bill would create certain differences between the law of the two countries, but in Dublin and other large towns, the evil had risen to such a pitch, that the Government at his suggestion, and with the approval of the inhabitants of Dublin, had thought it right to bring forward this measure. This was not a Bill that could be considered as involving a question of revenue, hut solely one of policy. By the list he held in his hand it appeared that the number of convictions for drunkenness had increased to a frightful extent in Dublin within the last three years. In 1861 the total number of persons convicted for drunkenness in the Dublin metropolitan police districts was 8,561—namely. 5,305 males and 3,256 females; in 1862 the number was 11,269—namely, 7,199 males and 4,070 females; in 1863 the number augmented to 13,227—namely, 8,714. males and 4,513 females. Since the 1st of January last there were 6,341 convictions for drunkenness—namely, 4,338 males and 2,013 females. Now, if that rate were to continue throughout the year it would make a total of 16,912 convictions. In view of such a state of things it was impossible for the Government to resist the pressure put upon them for a new measure of legislation to check this rapidly increasing evil. Now, under the existing system there was not only a vast increase of crime emanating from those houses, but the beer which they sold was adulterated with a great many deleterious substances. He held in his hand a statement of the various articles with which they adulterated the beer. In answer to an inquiry, one beer-shop keeper said that he knew there was a good deal of "dash" put into his beer. On being asked what that meant, he said that a good deal of the Liffey entered into it. It appeared that the following ingredients were mixed with the beer: Cocculus Indicus, nux vomica, copperas to give it a head, vitriol to give it smartness, molasses to give it colour, and various other things. Under such circumstances he put it to the House whether it was not necessary, as a matter of public policy, to give the police the power of entering those public-houses. Those establishments were licensed to sell beer not on the premises. The proprietors, however, generally took out the three-guinea licence, and evaded the payment of the other guinea for a full licence, which would enable them to sell beer in smaller quantities out of the house. The time he thought had come when, in the interest of the poor man, that state of things should be put an end to. Those houses remained open to an early hour of the morning, and their customers during all that time were drugged by this horrid stuff which they called beer. The Bill would oblige those houses to close at certain hours, and would impose certain other restrictions which he trusted would hare the effect of putting a check to the evils to which he referred.


said, it was a satisfaction to know from the right hon. Gentleman that the people of Ireland were disposed to adopt beer as a national beverage instead of whisky. He was sorry to hear that the beer in that country was mixed with so many deleterious ingredients; but he was glad to observe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was sitting next the Chief Secretary for Ireland when he made his important and interesting statement, and he trusted that the House would never again hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that Ireland was in no way interested in the repeal of the malt tax. If, however, the House should hear that argument again, he trusted that it would be vigorously combated by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and that the right hon. Gentleman would, in the interest of the poor of that country, advocate the repeal of the malt tax, which no doubt tended to promote the evil of adulteration, which was quite as much felt in England as in Ireland. There would be no objection on the part of English Members to place the Irish beer-houses under due restrictions.


said, however bad the beer was which was sold in Ireland, it was nothing in comparison to the kind of spirits which the people there were obliged to drink. Those vile adulterations were caused by the higher duty which was put upon spirits, and crime and madness had increased to a frightful degree. He however, could find nothing in the Bill of the right hon. Baronet to prevent the adulteration, of the beer of which he complained.


trusted that the introduction of the present measure would stimulate the Home Secretary to bring in a measure for regulating beer-shops in England. Such a measure would receive support from his (the Opposition) side, which had besieged the Home Office for the last ten years in favour of the more stringent regulation of beer-shops. These houses might be more stringently supervised, either by magisterial licence or police supervision. He thought that some simple police regulations might be introduced which would enlist the owners of beer-houses on the side of sobriety, law, and order more strongly than at present.


said, that the police already had the power of entering every house for the sale of intoxicating liquors, and so far the Bill would assimilate and not separate the law of England and Ireland. Beer-shops were subject to restrictions which were not imposed upon public-houses. They were obliged to close at seven o'clock in the country, and at midnight in London and the large towns. They were not allowed to keep open all night like the public-houses. It was, however, he would admit, difficult to obtain convictions involving the forfeiture of the licence and the shutting-up of the house. He believed that it was possible on the third conviction for the magistrates to close the house for a limited period. He thought that if the police had the power of entering these public-houses and laying information, the law would not be so powerless as it was at present in Ireland to arrest disorder.


was glad that they had found an Irish subject in which English Members seemed to take an interest, although a collateral one. He was sorry to hear the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland admit that since he went to that country the number of houses of ill-fame had increased so largely in Dublin. He (Colonel Dickson) did not wish to oppose the second reading, but he thought the measure ought to be one of a much more complex character. It appeared to him that the only effect the Bill could have would be to interfere with the drinking of beer in Ireland. Now he was of opinion that it was most desirable to encourage the use of that beverage in Ireland, instead of the much stronger liquors to which the people were so long accustomed. He concurred with the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell) in thinking that there was nothing in the Bill to prevent the frightful adulterations that were going on. The whole system of licensing required alteration. The great curse of Ireland was the great number of; drinking shops. He hoped that the right hon. Baronet would withdraw this Bill, and introduce one of a much wider scope.


said, he saw no objection to the Bill, which aimed at the substitution of a superior class of vendors of beer. He wished he could see anything in the measure to discountenance the adulteration of beer by means of Cocculus Indicus, nux vomica, and vitriol, and to insure the sale of a more wholesome liquor. He feared that the right hon. Baronet expected too much from his Bill, and that the least injurious admixture in Irish beer was the water of the Liffey.


said, the right hon. Gentleman was greatly mistaken if he were legislating upon the notion that there were not adulterations of beer in England as well as in Ireland; because inquiries on the subject had brought to light the fact that many of those articles which he mentioned were used quite as much in adulterating the beer in this country as in Ireland, It appeared to him that there was something in the remedy suggested by the noble Lord (Lord John Manners), because if beer were made cheaper, then there would be no such temptation to adulterate. He (Mr. Henley) deprecated the principle of having a separate law for Ireland upon this subject —he thought that they ought to have only one law for both countries. He did not know precisely what was the population of Dublin, but he thought it was something about 200,000; and 13,000 convictions for drunkenness in the year was no doubt a very large proportion. In Liverpool, last year, the convictions were 12,000, out of a much larger population. He believed that if people were determined to get drunk they would effect their object in spite of all laws intended to restrain them. He was altogether averse to making the law more restrictive in Ireland than it was in England.


asked, whether the Government contemplated including brewers, who sold beer in large quantities, which was not to be consumed upon the premises, within the operation of the 6th clause?


Evidently not. The beer-house keeper was licensed to sell beer not to be drunk upon the premises, but in consequence of the want of police supervision it was drunk on the premises, and thus the law was evaded. It was now proposed to issue the three guinea licence and another at a guinea, and the police could then go in and see that tippling did not take place upon the premises. With regard to the observations of the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell) he should be delighted if the Irish people could get good beer, but it was impossible for the House to legislate as to the quality of the article. He knew that his hon. Friend (Mr. Bass) had opened several large depots for his ale in Ireland, and he hoped that the sale would be such as to lead to the introduction of a much better article than was now generally sold there.


said, he could find no clause in the Bill for the prevention of adulteration.


said, its object was not to prevent adulteration except as alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for Mallow, by raising the character of the beer-shop keeper through the supervision of the police.


said, he was sorry to dash that little bit of consolation from the right hon. Baronet's lips. In England police supervision had certainly not had that effect. He served on the Adulteration Committee, and the evidence given before them went to show that the beer in London was very much adulterated. One of the medical witnesses stated the effect of drinking a quart of London beer by a countryman was to produce coma, from the large quantity of Cocculus Indicus which found its way into it in spite of police supervision.


said, that Ireland had excellent brewers of her own.


said, he could not understand how the police were to prevent adulteration, unless they were empowered to taste it. Did the right hon. Baronet intend that the police should go round from house to house tasting the liquor sold there. He reminded the right hon. Baronet that no steps had been taken to prevent adulteration in this country. He hoped the right hon. Baronet would not in the future stages of the Bill advertise Mr. Bass's ale at the expense of Messrs. Guinness's native production.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2o, and committed for Thursday.