§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. O'REILLY
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that up to the year 1835 there was no permission to sell spirituous liquors in Ireland. Since the permission was given it was proved before Committees of that House that drunkenness had greatly increased. There was a general feeling in Ireland in favour of the measure, and he was happy to perceive that no notice of opposition had been entered on the Paper; he therefore hoped that the second reading 1646 would be taken without opposition. Every Irish Member, so far as he was aware, was in its favour. A very large number of petitions from all parts of Ireland had been presented, praying the House to pass it, and not a single petition had been presented against it. The petitions in its favour were numerously signed, and the Bill was supported by the sellers of liquor themselves. His hon. Friend the Member for Dublin (Mr. Pim) had that day presented a petition from 239 of the publicans of Dublin in favour of the total closing of public-houses on Sundays; and he had received communications from publicans in various parts of Ireland expressing their approval of the measure, and even suggesting an extension of its provisions. He might mention that in some parts of Ireland there had been an entire closing of the public-houses on Sundays, principally through the exertions and influence of the Roman Catholic priests. It was, however, in the power of a single publican to defeat the good intentions of all the rest. The Bill closed the public-houses altogether on Sundays so far as drinking on the premises was concerned, but permitted the sale of spirits, wine, and beer if sold for consumption and consumed off the premises between the hours of one and half past two p.m., and between the hours of eight and nine p.m. It was also proposed to allow eating-houses to supply their customers with excisable liquors at dinner, and to provide for the case of Sunday excursionists.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. O'Reilly.)
§ SIR FREDERICK HEYGATE
said, that all classes of religionists in the North of Ireland were favourable to the Bill. There was indeed a most extraordinary unanimity on the subject, and every one who had the interest of Ireland at heart must wish to see such a measure become law. Some further inquiry into the provisions and working of the Bill would, however, be necessary, and he thought the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee.
§ MR. MURPHY
said, it was not his intention to oppose the Bill; but the hon. Member (Mr. O'Reilly) was not correct in stating that not a single petition had been presented against it. He had himself presented such a petition from 750 of his constituents. He recommended that the 1647 Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, or that some further inquiry should be made, in order to protect the interests of those who sold excisable liquors. He quite admitted that the most respectable publicans and spirit dealers of Cork were in favour of legislation prohibiting the sale of liquors on Sundays.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, it was true that 750 of the constituents of his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Murphy) had petitioned against the Bill, but they were persons engaged in the sale of liquors. In Limerick, all classes were prepared to combine to prohibit the sale of liquors on Sunday, and in his part of the country the Bill was unanimously approved. For his own part, he did not see any necessity for sending the Bill to a Select Committee.
MR. PEEL DAWSON
bore testimony to the universal desire felt in the North of Ireland to see this Bill become law, and he hoped Parliament would find time to pass it this Session.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
said, he thought that the petitions in favour of the Bill did not emanate from the people of Ireland but from certain societies. If the feeling in favour of closing the public-houses on Sundays was so universal why not leave the matter to the spontaneous action of the community. Where was the need for legislation? He thought they ought to wait to see what became of the English Bill.
said, that after the general opinion expressed by the representatives for Ireland in favour of the measure he should not offer any opposition to the second reading. There had been, however, no great increase of drunkenness, and therefore there was no special evil to meet, such as that which had existed in Scotland and led to the passing of the Forbes Mackenzie Act. When the question was first mooted, he felt it to be his duty to consult persons of authority in different parts of Ireland. He accordingly addressed a letter to the Mayors of different towns. He was bound to say that much difference of opinion was expressed in regard to the expediency of this measure. The Mayor of Cork was partially in favour of such a Bill, but 1648 the Lord Mayor of Dublin was strongly opposed to it. He knew that persons quite as earnest in their efforts to put down drunkenness as the friends of the Bill had great doubts whether it would have the desired effect. The police authorities of Dublin feared that if the measure became law it would lead to a great amount of secret drinking. Some of the restrictions which had been in force in Dublin had had that effect; and even during the prohibited hours a great deal of drinking now went on in a certain low class of houses. That was a strong argument against the principle of this Bill; and, although he would admit that much public feeling had been expressed in favour of the measure, it would be but fair to allow its opponents an opportunity of going before a Select Committee and stating their objections. In the South of Ireland at this moment there were large districts in which, owing to the moral influence of the clergy and the effects of public opinion, there was not a single public-house open on Sundays; but in those districts where that system of voluntary closing existed there were many persons who doubted whether a legislative enactment of that kind would have as beneficial a result as the present arrangement resting on general consent. That, however, was a point to be fairly discussed. The details of that Bill would require alteration, and his own feeling was most decidedly in favour of an inquiry, which he did not think would take up much time, and which would give them greater means of information on that subject than they now possessed. Therefore, without making any Motion to that effect, he would suggest to the hon. Member who had charge of the measure whether he would not be more likely to further the progress of the Bill by consenting to refer it to a Select Committee.
§ Second reading deferred till Tuesday 2nd July.
§ Houses adjourned at ten minutes before Six o'clock.