HC Deb 03 July 1872 vol 212 cc601-18

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving "That the Bill be now read a second time," said, he was not very sanguine of success; but still he felt convinced that the movement in favour of the closing of public-houses on Sundays had made great progress out-of-doors, and that there was a strong impression in favour of it among many Members of that House. In former debates reference had been made to the Report of the Select Committee appointed in 1868, on the Motion of the late Mr. John Abel Smith, to inquire into this subject. That Committee did no doubt report that, considering the present system had worked satisfactorily, they were of opinion that further legislation of a restrictive character was not required; but it was his (Mr. Birley's) opinion that if the same hon. Gentlemen were again to consider the question, they would not bring downstairs such a Resolution as that, for it was the general conviction that further restrictive legislation was imperatively needed. There was abundant evidence of the desire on the part of the public at large for the closing of the public-houses and beerhouses on Sundays. They heard it emphatically expressed by the magistrates, by the ministers of religion, and by the people at large. Nay, more, there was a strong feeling in favour of it among the keepers of public-houses themselves. He would not say the majority of them were in favour of it; but, at all events, he would say that there were as many in favour of it as were opposed to it. There were, however, some hon. Members who said that, however desirable the measure might be, it was inapplicable to the present state of society in this country—that it could not stand—that it would not be submitted to by the people of England. He confessed that there was some difficulty in the question from that point of view; but it could all be easily overcome, if they would only trust to the good sense and judgment of the people themselves. Had he not reliance on that, he would not be a party to any of the Bills now before the House for interfering with the sale of intoxicating liquors. It must be on the fair expression of the feeling of the people, and on that only, that any restriction like this ought to be imposed upon them. He was willing to admit that the very rigid-ness of the rule of universal closing, which he advocated, in itself constituted a difficulty, as rules which might not be suitable to one place would not be suitable to another. It might be that some places were ripe for legislation of this kind, while others were not. He often wished they could go back to the old Court Leets, and that they might be permitted, in their different manors, to enact by-laws for the good conduct of all residing on the manor. It seemed to him that there was, in the jurisdiction of those Courts, an admirable combination of authority and of local self-government, and that drunkenness was kept down by the free voice of the people, which was much better than the hard iron rule of the police. From the old records it was quite clear that the management and control of public-houses and inns frequently engaged the atten- tion of those tribunals, and it seemed to him there was greater temperance in those days than was the case now. He did not attribute that to greater purity or virtue, for there were other causes a work. In the first place, there was a greater supervision with respect not only to the sale, but to the quality of the beer. In the next place, there was very little spirits consumed; and lastly, the people had not much money to spend He found that in one case, where a man was fined 6d. for an assault, on it being presented that he was intoxicated at the time he committed the assault, he wasfurther fined 5s., so that his drunkenness was considered a ten-fold aggravation of the offence. He did not, however, wish it to be supposed that that was the proportion which it was intended to establish between the one offence and the other; but, at all events, it showed that they were then prepared to inflict heavy penalties for the offence of drunkenness. He would now direct attention to the state of the law in the colonies on this subject. In Melbourne the closing of public-houses on Sunday had led to the most beneficial, moral, and social results. As a confirmation of that fact, he would read the following letter from a gentleman who had filled a responsible position in that colony:— I know well what scenes disgraced our streets in Melbourne before the passing of the Sunday Closing Act, and I know well also the order and prosperity now observed therein. I have travelled through most parts of Europe, have traversed the United States, and have a fair knowledge of Great Britain; but in no place have I seen so great an amount of sobriety, cheerfulness, and rational enjoyment on the Sunday, without the opening of hotels, as in Melbourne. In spite of the assertion that drink is sold within closed doors, and that no pressure is particularly exerted to enforce the law, there is public spirit enough in that enlightened community to recognize the value of the Act, and sufficient firmness to maintain it. Apart from the mere religious question, it is believed quite possible to enjoy life on Sunday without the sale of alcoholic drinks. Men take their wives and children with them for recreation on part of that day, instead of selfish indulgence, as in other places, at the public-house. In Canada, too, the law worked well, and there the public-houses were closed all through Sunday. It was the same in Newfoundland. In Bermuda, the tavern-keepers could supply intoxicating liquors on Sundays to travellers and guests, and that not separately, but in conjunction with other refreshments. In New Zealand, too, the law of Sunday closing was in force, and worked well. He should have thought that Melbourne might not have been beforehand with this country in the course it had taken in this matter. There was another Bill with the same object now before the House—for the prevention of the sale of intoxicating liquors in Ireland on Sunday. That Bill had not hitherto met with any direct opposition. One of the greatest objections that had been raised against the passing of the Bill was, that it was of that class of legislation which indicated that "there is one law for the rich and another for the poor;" and it was argued that while the rich man had his "club" to go to on the Sunday, the poor man had not. He ventured to say that very few of that class who had clubs went to and used them on Sundays; while, on the other hand, the public-houses were frequented by large numbers of the labouring classes on that day, many of whom habitually indulged to excess in them. He was not one of those who advocated the abridgement of the rational enjoyments of the working classes; on the contrary, he would extend them. The public-houses, appropriated to their proper uses, were intended for the supply of necessary refreshment for the working classes; but he did not think it desirable that they should be open on the Sunday. If English working men had their clubs not for indulgence to excess, but as places for resort for necessary refreshment and comfort, there would be no opposition to them. He felt that the objects of the measure which he was now advocating were well worthy the consideration of this House. Let the House consider what was the effect of keeping public-houses open on Sunday. It was a day which, instead of being regarded as a blessing, was by many devoted to excess in drinking, and was thus rendered productive of evil; it was a day on which the hard earnings of the week before were sadly wasted; it was a day on which the excessive indulgence in intoxicating liquors left the labouring man less able to do his work on Monday than he found himself when leaving work on the Saturday evening; and it was a day on which, more than any other day of the week, he should abstain from such excess. He (Mr. Birley) had not thought it necessary to trouble the House either with details of the Bill, or with, statistics that had been before it on former occasions, when the subject was debated; but he felt that in submitting the Bill to the consideration of the House he had done his duty to his constituents and to the country; and he did so, not that he was very sanguine of immediate results, but in the great hope that in the future they should find a united people of all classes willing to apply a remedy to the great evil which the Bill was intended to deal with. He would conclude by moving the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Birley.)


in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, said, he wished to give every credit to the hon. Member who had moved that it be read a second time. With all respect for the hon. Gentleman, however, he looked upon the Bill as a "libel" on the great mass of the labouring people of this country. What the hon. Member was bound to do he had failed to do. When trying to impose restrictions upon the people, what he was bound to do was to prove that a large majority of the people of the country were addicted to drunkenness and indulgence in intoxicating liquors on Sunday. Now, he had not done that. When the hon. Member tried to find facts to fortify his position he failed in his effort. Let the hon. Member say what he liked, anyone who looked at the measure must come to the conclusion that it was an attempt at class legislation, and that it was a Bill that would affect the labouring class alone, and not the upper and middle classes. Why should the labouring man, who was living from hand to mouth, and who had no means of procuring refreshment, be precluded from obtaining what was necessary for him at the public-house? The upper and middle classes throughout the country could have everything they required at home, or at their clubs. But the labouring man had no club, and if that Bill was permitted to pass, the door of the public-house would be shut against him, whilst the rich man would have what he desired at his mansion or his club. He asked the House, was that the way to encourage loyalty in the labouring classes? He maintained that the arguments in support of such legislation as that now proposed came to and meant this—that the labouring classes of this country were so addicted to drunkenness that they could not control their passions; but that had never been proved. He knew that there was a great cry that the Bill was much required; but they knew how the agitation was got up, and how representations were made by a few energetic men, who got up returns contrary to what was actually the case. For instance, he had received that morning from Leeds a memorial that might, for aught he knew, have been intended for presentation to that House, but which was addressed to himself. It spoke strongly of the evils of drunkenness, and was signed by 77 ministers of religion. He had no doubt that those clergymen objected to the present state of the law relating to the system with which the Bill of the hon. Member proposed to deal; but he was satisfied that if they considered the matter, and looked at it carefully, and not from any narrow stand-point, they would draw different conclusions from those to which they had come. He must say that it would be gross tyranny to take the course proposed by the Bill—a course which would deprive the labouring classes of their undoubted right to decide for themselves whether they required refreshment or not. There were one or two points to which he wished to call the attention of the House. There were many working men throughout the country whose places of work were at long distances from the abodes of their families, to whom they could only return home on the Sunday, and ought those labouring people on that day of all others when they are with their families to be deprived of the means of getting a pint of beer? ["No, no!"] Well, he maintained that the Bill of the hon. Member would deprive them of that right. Rich men who agreed with his hon. Friend ought to shut up their wine cellars on Sunday, and thereby set an example of self-denial to the working classes. There was another class of men alluded to by the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) last year—the men who slept in lodgings, but got their food in public-houses—who were often most valuable workmen. He asked the House what those men were to do if this Bill became law. Where were they to get their dinner and the pint of beer, which, whether that Bill passed or not, they were determined to have? Another most strange thing in regard to that Bill was, that if a man chose to leave his wife and children to take their dinner alone, and walked or took the train five miles into the country, he could get as much beer as he liked. What would be the effect of such a Bill in London? It was not uncommon for gentlemen—and even Members of that House—to go to Greenwich or Richmond on Sundays and dine, and not restrict themselves to the use of water. The great mass of the people whom hon. Members on the opposite side were now flattering, would say—"You pass a measure to prevent us getting our beer—which we have a perfect right to have—and you allow your own Members to go to Greenwich, Richmond, or anywhere beyond five miles, where they can get as much drink as they choose." He was satisfied that they could never, by any enactment on the subject, prevent drinking in this country. Such legislation was opposed to the habits of the people; and if they closed the public-houses to morrow, they would only drive drinking into the back streets and slums. They would not stop it, but they would make it a more discreditable thing than the excess of it was now. What was needed was, to take care that the people should have pure, unadulterated drink. It was not the amount of drink that men took that made them so beastly drunk and produced such scenes in their large towns; because, in other countries, where beer was pure, and where it was largely drunk, there was scarcely any drunkenness. If they were to set to work, and instead of passing these absurd and impracticable measures, take care that the people were not poisoned when they drank the national beverage, they would do more to remove drunkenness than by any other means. The promoters of the Bill seemed to ignore the fact that restraints of this kind had been adopted, and had totally failed and he was surprised that the hon Member had not informed himself of what had been the effect of legislation in times past. Colonel Wilson-Patten's Act was passed in 1854. That Act limited the hours of drinking on Sunday to between one and two and from six to ten. But it worked so hardly and created so much discontent, that in the next year a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into its operation. That Committee reported as follows:— Tour Committee are further convinced, from the evidence produced before them, that the Act of last Session restricting the sale of beer and other liquors during certain hours on Sunday has been attended with unnecessary inconvenience to the public, and they therefore feel it to be their duty to recommend to the immediate consideration of the House an Amendment of the Sale of Beer Act, 1854, which will admit of the opening of the licensed houses from one to three and from five to eleven in the afternoon of Sunday. He would ask the House whether, after the experience of that Act, which only restricted the hours of opening on Sunday by about two hours, they were going to commit, not the same error, but a greater error than was committed on that occasion? They should in these matters be guided by experience, and not by sentiment. The hon. Member had referred to a similar Bill applicable to Ireland; and he (Mr. Fielden) had only to say that he would have taken the same course with regard to that Bill, if the hon. Member who had charge of it had not chosen to talk out his own Bill.


I did not talk out the Bill. The Speaker interrupted me, and stopped my speech at a quarter to six o'clock.


said, that that was only another way of putting it. It was common to say that Members talked out their Bill when they talked till a quarter to six, and as the hon. Gentleman knew that he could not speak longer than that, it might be concluded that he talked out his own Bill. With regard to the colonies, they must be very careful before they acted on evidence from them, without knowing the character, habits, and circumstances of the people. In Yorkshire, before he was elected, he remembered that a Permissive Bill man told him that the law regarding the sale of intoxicating liquors worked perfectly well in Maine. He made inquiry of other persons who had travelled in Maine, and who were capable of observing what they saw, and he found that the law was a dead letter, and that anyone could get as much drink as he liked. They must be careful of adopting the legislation of the colonies or other countries, unless they knew all the facts. He believed that if they passed the Bill it would not have the effect which the hon. Member wished it to have, and that it would be looked upon as a piece of class legislation by the labouring people, and he therefore begged to move the rejection of the Bill.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this daythreemonths."—(Mr. Joshua Fielden.)

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


said, the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had addressed to the House an argument which, for want of a better name, he would call the rob-a-poor-man-of-his-beer argument. Whatever force that argument might have alone, used against the Permissive Bill, he maintained that it had no force and application when addressed to the Bill under discussion. Nine out of ten men who went to public-houses on Sunday went there not for rational enjoyment, not for the purpose of recruiting exhausted nature after a hard day's work, but simply and solely for the purpose of getting fuddled. That was a day on which they could have no work to do. The hon. Member talked a great deal about the hardship which the Bill would inflict on the poor working man who wished to spend the Sunday in the bosom of his family, and who desired to have his jug of beer fresh from the public-house. That was a mere matter of detail, and as one of the promoters of the Bill he was quite willing to insert a provision giving liberty to public-houses to sell beer to be drunk off the premises. It was not against these persons—it was not against the industrious artizan who wished to enjoy his dinner and his jug of beer on Sunday—that the Bill was aimed. It was aimed against a very different class of persons. The Bill was intended to protect those miserable beings whom anyone who had walked through the streets of London, Leeds, or Liverpool must have seen huddled together round the doors of the gin-palace, trying to tear themselves away from the terrible temptation, and hovering like moths round a lighted candle. These were the persons whom the Bill sought to protect against themselves. The hon. Member objected to the Bill that it curtailed the liberty of the individual, but the same thing might be said of any legislation: it was so of the Factory Acts, it was so of the Mines Bill, it was so of the Licensing Bill; in fact, if they pushed the argument to its proper conclusion, they would keep the public-houses open throughout the whole of Sunday, because it was quite possible that a man would feel thirsty between the hours of 11 and 1 or 3 and 5, and wish to slake his thirst at a public-house. All these questions were questions of degree, and the question which they should put to themselves was this—did the paramount interests of society require that these restrictions should be imposed? He did not think hon. Members knew what a great parent of drunkenness in general this Sunday tippling was. A man found himself in possession of a holiday and a week's wages. His home was not very attractive. He had no resources, in the sense in which they used the word. All places of amusement were closed to him. He did not go—and probably had not the clothes to go—to church; but there was one place which was open to him, and that was the public-house. The result was that he acquired a taste for drinking which grew into a permanent habit; and was not that a thing at which it ought to strike by legislation? The hon. Member said that the Bill would not work, but it did work in Scotland. A similar measure worked perfectly well in Glasgow; and according to the evidence of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren), that city had been actually saved the building of an additional wing to the prison since the Forbes M'Kenzie Act came in force, an argument which was unanswerable to a Scotchman. It was said that the Bill introduced one law for the rich and another for the poor, and that if they shut up public-houses they ought, by parity of reasoning, to shut up clubs. If clubs were used for the same purpose for which public-houses were used, he would be in favour of shutting them not only on Sunday, but every other day in the week. There was, however, no analogy between the two. Men went to public-houses to get drunk. ["No, no!"] Well, they got drunk there; but as a general rule men did not go to club to get drunk. No doubt the effect of the Bill was to introduce a different system for clubs and public-houses; and, under those circumstances, it was most important they should know what were really the opinions of the working classes on the subject. If they went to Wapping and interrogated the intelligent classes there, they would declare by a large majority in favour of the Bill. That would be especially the case with their wives and children, because they knew that it was that habit of Sunday tippling which made the day of rest the blackest day of all the seven—which made it, instead of being a blessing to the working man, fraught with misery in the present, and helpless, hopeless ruin in the future.


My hon. Friend (Mr. Birley) quoted the testimony of clergymen against Sabbath desecration as a fearful evil. I admit this; but it seems to me that it is quite natural that ministers of religion, from the very nature of their education, should support a Bill like this. The hon. Member for the Eastern Division of the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Fielden) said we ought not to take the colonies for our example in this respect. If so, then we ought not to take their example in politics and other social questions. I hope the House will consider the vast amount of crime resulting from intemperance, and support the Bill of my hon. Friend.


I have not been disappointed in the triumphant defence from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) of the operation of the restrictive law in Scotland. That Act has been in existence for 17 years, and for the last 10 years no Petition has been presented for its repeal. That fact is so triumphant a defence of the measure that I do not wonder that the hon. Member for the Eastern Division of the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Fielden) carefully avoided that part of the question. The hon. Member said drunkenness had diminished on Sundays. Let me read a passage from a Dublin paper, The Freeman's JournalThe police courts presented a frightful appearance this (Monday) morning. A great majority of those in attendance bore marks of violence, such as black eyes and broken heads. In the northern division there were 140 cases, and in the southern 114. A person looking at the crowd without knowing the cause would think a great battle had taken place. [An hon. MEMBER: That was not in England.] In deference to the feelings of English hon. Members, I have not quoted, as I might have done abundantly from English newspapers, for in them I find cases of drunken navvies dashing out the brains of their paramours and murdering their children on Sundays. In Scotland, there were cases quite as bad arising from drunkenness, before the passing of their Bill. Their stock objection against the Bill was that it was a piece of class legislation. It was said—"If you permit a rich man to take his glass of ale or brandy in his club, why should not the poor man be permitted to go into the whisky shop and do the same thing?" There is no analogy between the whisky shop and the club-house? In the club-house, the social position of every member is ascertained before admission, and the club-house is not, like the whisky shop, open to every comer. No one not a member will be served in the club-house, but the whisky shop is open to all—and this indiscriminate admission is, in itself, an incentive to crime. In some portions of Ireland—through the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy—no member of the trade sells strong drink on Sunday, and the effect has been most beneficial. Crime and drunkenness have diminished, and morality and domestic happiness have greatly increased. I should like to see club-houses open for the poor on the same principle as they are established for the rich. It was said, educate the people; but we cannot wait for this. When I see my neighbour's house on fire I must first endeavour to extinguish the flames; that is a matter of immediate necessity, and then provide measures for the better education of the people. Another pathetic picture drawn was that on Sunday the poor man could not get his glass of beer for dinner. Cannot he get it on Saturday. ["Oh!"] It was objected that it would not keep. Well, that was a good argument for closing on Sunday; for if the beer was so bad that it would not keep a single night, the poor man would take care to buy beer on the next Saturday that would keep, and the seller of bad beer would lose his custom. It was said that the closing of public-houses on Sundays would give rise to illicit drunkenness. That was not likely, for the publicans themselves would act as most efficient policemen to prevent a result so contrary to their own interests. The hon. Member (Mr. Fielden) said that Colonel Wilson-Patten's Bill had led to many complaints; the reason was because it was a partial closing Bill. Had the houses been closed on the whole of Sunday then the people would have provided for themselves beforehand; but the partial system led to disappointment. The failure of the partial system was, however, no argument against total closing.


I cannot understand why hon. Members should come before the House to ask for a law to prevent a particular class of men from obtaining intoxicating liquor on a particular day of the week, or why they should draw distinctions between one day and another in this respect, and make such a pretence of wishing to pass this Bill for the good of the working classes. Is drunkenness a vice confined to a particular class? I dare say many hon. Gentlemen in this House know very well that that is not the case. Why, then, should hon. Gentlemen be so desirous to put these restrictions on working men alone? There is a good deal of humbug spoken in the House about the working men. In England one man is as good as another, and what business have we to pat the working man on the back and say—"You're a very good fellow, but we must keep you from drinking on Sundays." Why, the working man has just as much right to buy his glass of beer, and drink it on Sunday as any hon. Member has to go into his dining or smoking-room and refresh himself. The hon. Member for Denbighshire said that people went to public-houses on Sunday purposely to get drunk; but I do not believe it. I am not an advocate for keeping the public-house open the whole of Sunday; but that being the working man's leisure day, he should be afforded reasonable opportunities for obtaining refreshment. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If you exclude the workman from the whisky shop, exclude the gentleman from his club. I wish to see working men's clubs accessible to the working men, where they may obtain rational recreation and reasonable refreshment. I cannot see, however, that a crime is worse because it is committed on Sunday than if committed on Monday. To reduce the number of public-houses will have some effect in putting a stop to drunkenness. The spread of education will, however, do more than the closing of public-houses on Sunday. I have myself been in countries where public-houses are closed on Sundays, and I know that the result of those restrictions is the very opposite of that intended by the Bill. The working classes ought certainly to have increased opportunities afforded them of obtaining rational recreation on Sundays, and thus of avoiding the temptations that surround them. At present it may be said that, with our museums and public galleries shut up on Sundays, the only alternative left to the working man is to promenade the streets, with gin-palaces staring him in the face at every corner. If we pass such a Bill as this into law, there will be a violent reaction against it. The working men will not submit to be treated differently from other classes in this respect, and a strong feeling will be aroused if the House shall pass a measure so harsh, unreasonable, and arbitrary as this. Then there is another objection to the Bill—namely, the definition of a traveller. I consider that portion of the Bill particularly absurd, because the declaration that a person shall not be held to be a bonâ fide traveller, unless he is five miles from his home, will lead to the construction and maintenance of a cordon of public-houses and large refreshment houses all round our towns, specially devoted to supplying the wants of the so-called travellers. Besides which, it seems to me supremely ridiculous to declare that a person who has had a hot walk of three or four miles cannot need and shall not procure refreshment, while a person who has travelled three miles in a railway carriage is to be allowed to obtain as much as he pleases. In conclusion, I think the Bill is well meant; but its passing will stimulate a violent and general agitation through out the country, which, I believe, the promoters of the measure will be the first to deplore.


said, he intended to vote against the Bill—first, because he thought the question was one which, if dealt with at all, should be dealt with by the Government, and not by any private Member; secondly, because if the Bill passed, it would inflict a peculiar and special hardship on the working classes; and, thirdly, because the Bill applied to the country as well as to large towns, the circumstances being entirely different. Take the case of a small hamlet in a rural district. A son employed at a distance say of four or five miles during the week, naturally desired to pay his parents a visit on Sunday. Would it not be a great hardship that he should be prevented from getting a glass of beer, or, as in the county with which he was connected, a glass of cider? The evils aimed at by the Bill could not be put down by such legislation. One of the most effectual ways of doing so would be, so far as possible, to raise the character of public-houses themselves. It was in the back streets and slums, and in public-houses and beershops of low standing, that drunkenness and disorder were fostered. He recollected an instance of that in a town which he frequently visited. There was in a back street such a public-house as he had described. Some alterations removed a considerable amount of property, and threw the quarter open. A respectable shopkeeper erected a heap of materials in front of the public-house, in order, as he said, to shut it out from the public view, but he advised him to "take all that stuff away," and let the public-house become public. The result war that its character was improved, and a short time after it sold for double its former value. The Bill would not in any shape attain the objects of those who had introduced and supported it, and he should give an unhesitating vote against the second reading.


said, he only rose to remind the House of what had taken place some years ago, when a Bill was passed far less stringent than the present. In 1853 that House agreed to a Bill for closing public-houses during certain hours, on the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman below him (Colonel Wilson Patten). That Bill gave rise to general dissatisfaction, and even caused something like violent riots in Hyde Park and the neighbourhood. Mr. Henry Berkeley made a Motion to refer the subject to a Select Committee, which he (Mr. Cobbett) seconded, and at the same time presented Petitions numerously signed against the Act. The Committee was appointed, he was a Member of it, and it only sat for five days, when Sir William Clay, then Member for the Tower Hamlets, intimated, on the part of the Government, that if a Bill were introduced restoring the hours to their former limits on Sundays no objections would be made. That course was adopted, and within a short time after the Bill became law the obnoxious restrictions it imposed were swept away. That Act only related to London and to a part of Sunday; whereas this Bill would shut up public-houses all Sunday over the whole country. That was a policy which he hoped the House would not be so impolitic as to adopt. Assuredly, that Bill would be taken by the working classes as aimed specially at them, and would be, as on former occasions, resisted by them. He was surprised at the language used by the hon. Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan), who said that the working classes only went to the public-houses on Sundays in order to get fuddled, and he hoped that expression would be withdrawn. So far from there being any truth in the statement, there were thousands of working men who at considerable expense compared with their limited means, and with great and laudable energy, took their wives and children a few miles into the country on Sundays for fresh air and recreation, and who only used public-houses for needful refreshment for themselves and families. He objected to the Bill on another ground—namely, that it left the vexed question of what constituted a "traveller" on Sunday still unsettled, and on these grounds, as well as by the light afforded by past experience, he earnestly hoped the House would not agree to the Bill.


said, he would briefly state to the House the reasons why he could not vote for the Bill. He had some experience of places where the sale of liquor was absolutely forbidden. When he was in Philadelphia he found that no intoxicating drinks were allowed by law to be sold; but it was within his own knowledge that one had nothing to do but to ask in order to have whatever amount of liquor was required. In Boston he was told—and the fact was confirmed by a public notice, which he saw posted up at the principal entrance—by the waiter of the principal hotel that persons who wanted drink on Sundays sent their orders on Saturday nights, in order that the waiters might be ready to deliver them on Sunday morning. In the city of Montreal, where a similar regulation existed, the fact was that the law was evaded in a very simple manner. The public-houses were not allowed to be open; but you had only to open the door for yourself in order to get everything you wanted. In addition to that fact, the legal officer had informed him that the prohibition of open drinking had only increased the practice of private drinking to excess on Sundays. In fact, while sympathizing with the objects of the Bill, he felt that it had gone far beyond the actual requirements of the case, and that it would inevitably cause great dissatisfaction throughout the country, and so tend to impede the progress of beneficial and practical legislation upon the subject.


There is no doubt that the proposition contained in the Bill is supported by a considerable number of the working population of the country; but let it be borne in mind that there is now before the House of Commons a comprehensive Government measure dealing with the whole question of the sale of intoxicating liquors. In that Bill there is a clause specially dealing with the question of Sunday traffic, and when we come to that clause it will be quite open to the hon. Gentleman to move any Amendment he pleases. Under those circumstances, it does seem to me to be mere waste of time to continue this discussion.


said, he rose for the purpose of stating to the House that it seemed to him that some of the hon. Members who brought forward the Bill were quite ashamed of themselves. This was the first time they had a discussion on the question of the total abolition of liquor traffic on Sundays. That was a most remarkable proposition, but no arguments had been adduced in favour of it. Then there was another question which he should wish to see cleared up. Some time ago there was a Bill brought forward by the late Mr. John Abel Smith. What was the fate of that Bill? The Bill itself did not pretend to put a stop to drinking on Sundays. It merely limited the hours of sale on Sunday, as was done before by the Bill referred to by the hon. Member for Oldham. Well, what became of Mr. Smith's Bill? It was referred to a Select Committee—a Committee of 15. The Chairman was a Scotchman, and it might fairly be supposed that he would be enamoured of the plan in operation in Scotland with respect to Sunday liquor traffic. But what did he say? He said that Scotland was different from England—that it would be absurd to attempt any re- duction of the hours wherein liquor was to be sold on Sunday. The Bill was negatived by an immense majority—thrown out by the proportion of 12 votes to 3; and the Report which had been that day alluded to, but not sufficiently, stated that it was totally unnecessary to have any legislation in the proposed direction, inasmuch as drunkenness was rapidly diminishing in the country. ["No, no!"] He believed he heard his hon. Friend the hon. Baronet behind him (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) say "No;" but the fact was that drunkenness had diminished and was—["Order, order!"]

And it being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.

House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.