HC Deb 02 July 1867 vol 188 cc918-22

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


moved, as an Amendment, that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. He reminded the House that the evening that this measure was read a second time, there was a Notice preceding it on the Paper for the second reading of a similar Bill for England, and that the hon. Gentleman who had charge of that—the English Bill — unexpectedly postponed it in consequence of the lateness of the hour at which it came on. The result of that was that the Bill now before the House came on for discussion without any notice to the Irish Trade. On the reading of the Order, however, he (Mr. Murphy) took occasion to observe that, although he did not wish at that stage to oppose the second reading of the Bill, he thought that a fuller inquiry ought to be made into the matter before the House undertook to legislate upon it, and that he especially thought that a Select Committee should be appointed to enquire into all the details having reference to the subject matter of the Bill. The fact was that the parties who felt interested in this measure were under the impression that the English Bill would be first considered, when the nature and principles of the proposal would be fully discussed, and, therefore, none of the Irish Members were prepared to debate it. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, however, then admitted that the subject matter of the Bill was one which deserved a fuller inquiry in the interests of all parties; and although the noble Lord was not, as he said, prepared to oppose the second reading of the Bill, he suggested to the hon. and gallant Member for Longford that a Select Committee should be appointed to make further inquiry. The object of the Bill was to restrict the trade in liquors on Sundays, and it professed to provide further restrictions against their consumption in public-houses. The object of the promoters was, no doubt, most laudable, nor did he for a moment question the purity of their motives. He agreed as fully, as freely, and as largely as the most ardent of them in the desirability to do something to abate the nuisances which he admitted at present existed. But no matter what might be the philanthropy, no matter what might be the motives of those who professed that they wished to do great service to the human race, and to the Irish race in particular, he asked them in regard to the material interests of others not to be neglectful of those who, under the sanction of the Legislature, had invested their capital in this particular trade. That capital ought not to be prematurely interfered with without fuller inquiry. He wished that that inquiry should take place, not only in the interests of the capitalists, but also in the interest of the Gentlemen who were promoting this Bill, and of those who were the guardians of the public peace. So far as to the interests of those who had embarked their capital in the spirit trade, all they desired was that there should be a full, free, and frank opportunity for inquiry before a Select Committee, or some other tribunal, so that they might be enabled to give evidence on their own behalf. If that inquiry were instituted the House would then be able to decide how far their interests as traders could be protected consistently with the interests of the public and the protection of public morals. The profession of the Bill was, that it was necessary to impose increased restrictions on the sale of liquors on Sundays, and that as Acts of Parliament already passed with that object had not been effective, it became necessary to enlarge and enforce those powers. In that preamble he entirely agreed, but he distinctly disagreed as to the means proposed for carrying out that intention. What will the Bill do? Its promoters saw that the sale of liquors on Sundays had a demoralizing effect, and that therefore it ought, in the interests of society, to be put a stop to. But how would they effect that? They would not do away altogether with the sale of liquors; they would not close the public-houses on Sundays, but they would allow the sale to be carried on within certain hours; but, allowing that, they would not suffer the liquors to be consumed when bought. [Mr. SMITH: Consumed on the premises.] He thanked the hon. Gentleman for the correction. How did it alter the case whether the liquor was to be drunk at the counter, or outside the shop? How could the publican prevent the man who came into his house, and paid his three-pence for a glass of whiskey from drinking it on the premises. The landlord would not have time to stop every customer from drinking his beer or whiskey if he chose at the front of his bar. It was absurd to suppose that he could. The police would be in constant requisition to carry out the law. In Cork there were 467 public houses; in Dublin there were 3,000. The policemen were in the same proportion. These figures were referred to by persons learned in these matters, but he could not help recurring to that point — what difference morally did it make whether a man drank a certain quantity of ardent spirits on or off the premises? It appeared that eating-houses were to be exempted from this restriction. He could not understand this arrangement. Why were beer-shops to be opened when public-houses were closed? Under all the circumstances of the case, he thought the matter should be referred to a Select Committee in order to ascertain how the objects of the Bill might be best carried into effect. He would therefore move that the order for going into Committee be discharged in order that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.

Amendment proposed, To leave oat from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Order for the said Committee be discharged,"—(Mr. Murphy.) —instead thereof.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he hoped that the House would assent to the Motion of the hon. Member. They could all have but one object, which was to endeavour to arrest drunkenness in every possible way; but from the information he had received from official persons and others in Ireland he believed that if the Bill passed in its present shape evils of an almost greater character might be created by the encouragement of a description of low beerhouses and irregular houses of the very worst kind. If they attempted legislation in the sense of this measure it would be necessary to review the whole licensing system in Ireland; for it would be manifestly unjust to restrict the sale of liquors in public-houses without imposing the same if not greater restrictions upon beer-houses, wholesale grocers, and others, who deal largely in spirits, and who would take advantage of such a prohibition to drive a trade which would be injurious to the public. He believed there would be time during the present Session to enter into the question, and with the information which would be laid before them by a Select Committee the House would be in a better position to legislate upon the subject than they were now.


said, he strongly objected to the Amendment. There were some thousands of petitions in favour of the Bill, and but one petition against it, while not a single Irish Member had spoken against the measure. There were three reasons why the proposal to refer the Bill to a Select Committee would defeat the measure. In the first place, there was not time for the inquiry. In the second place, it was not to be supposed that they would get fourteen Members willing to sit on it in the Dog-days. In the third place, a Committee sitting in London could not investigate the subject with advantage. If, on the other hand, the Bill were allowed to pass, he would guarantee to assist his hon. Friend in every way next year in procuring a Commission or Committee to inquire into the working of the Bill.

The House divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 92: Majority 21.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That the Order for the said Committee be discharged.

Ordered, That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee.