§ Order for Committee read.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
, in moving that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, said, it became his duty, in accordance with a promise he made to the House some little time ago, to make a statement to them as to the views of the Government upon this matter. In the first place, he was sure the House would pardon him for a few moments whilst he stated what he really believed to be the fact, that what he said when he introduced this Bill, and also on the second reading, had been very much misunderstood and misrepresented throughout the country. He was quite aware that all things were considered perfectly fair in love and war, and he supposed also the same thing applied to politics, and therefore he had no reason to complain, but should feel as happy as he could under the circumstances. It had been stated very freely—not merely by the Members of that House but throughout the country—that he had found grievous fault with the Act of 1872 regarding this question, and also that the Act had not worked satisfactorily. What he really did state was, that the late Government in bringing forward their first Bill, though anxious to approach the question with the greatest care and consideration, showed that at that time they certainly did not understand the nature of the question with which they had to deal. He believed that throughout the length and breadth of the country that measure was universally condemned, and so was the action of the late Government upon it. He had always stated, and he stated it again, that the late Government, when they approached the second Bill in 1872—committed a mistake. He did not believe they thoroughly understood the object which every one interested in the question had in view—namely, the best 967 means of putting an end to the drunkenness which existed in this country. That was not to be effected by the restrictive clauses of that measure, which inflicted considerable hardship upon a great number of persons who were following a lawful trade, and which kept back from going into that trade many respectable persons who would have embarked their capital in it, thus tending to turn the business into less respectable channels. What he had always said was that he believed the Act of 1872 did effect, in a great portion of its clauses, a very considerable amount of good. He believed, for instance, that the change made with regard to the mode in which licences were granted was of great advantage. It was a great evil that licences should be granted, as they were, by the magistrates in quarter sessions. A great number of gentlemen, though starting with the best intentions, often came to look upon the granting of these licences not so much in the light of a judicial act as of one in which they might be rather prone to follow their own inclination. For that reason the old licensing system was distrusted throughout the country, and it was a great improvement to cast this duty upon licensing committees, where the justices all felt more individual responsibility, and treated the applications in a more judicial light than they were ever treated before. He also approved of those clauses of the Act of 1872, which related to the keeping of public order by increasing the penalties for drunkenness. Neither was he insensible to the benefits derived from those clauses which had shortened the hours for keeping public-houses open. Hon. Members would remember that formerly public-houses were practically open all night long, and it was not till the Early Closing Act came into operation that this subject was practically dealt with by this House. The Act of 1872, following up previous restrictions, defined the hours at present acted upon. The result of that enactment had no doubt been that the streets were very much quieter during the night, and greater order had been maintained than formerly; and so far as that, as a general principle was concerned, he thought no fault could be found with the working of the Act. But that law, quite irrespective of the particular clauses to which he had referred, 968 and as to the restrictions which were placed on this peculiar business, was treated in such a way as to drive respectable persons out of the trade, and unfortunately to bring into it those who were least able to conduct it according to the wishes and desires of that House. The only point on which he differed, so far as the closing hours of that Act were concerned was this—whether, when they were reducing the hours during which the public-houses should be kept open, they might not ran into the danger of going to too great an extreme and give rise to other evils which they might find it very difficult to check. They must consider whether if they tied up this trade too tightly all at once they would not be endeavouring to do that which was practically impossible—and that was to insist by Act of Parliament on the sobriety of the people. He had also been misunderstood on another point. He had been told that the clauses of the Bill which he had had the honour to propose regarding the hours of opening and closing of public-houses, were presented to this House in the interests of the publicans and not of the public; but that part of his speech which alluded to this particular subject had, he believed, been studiously forgotten by those who had spoken upon it up and down the country. What he did say when he introduced the Bill, and what he repeated now was, that he believed it to be absolutely necessary to take care in dealing with any trade—whether this or any other—that they did not carry exceptional legislation too far, so as to drive the best persons out of it. He had also stated that when they came to the question of hours, that was not a matter for the publican but for the public; and it was for this House to judge, in the interest of the public, what were the hours daring which public-houses should be kept open. He told the House that they were dealing with this peculiar trade as a regulated monopoly; and they were bound to see that the hours at which public-houses were closed were such as were not merely for the interests of the trade, or of persons who had any particular hobby or fancy with regard to shutting them up altogether, but that they were such as would practically meet the wants of the public, and at the same time conduce to public order in this matter. When he suggested the hours 969 of closing which were named in the Bill, he was particularly anxious the House should see and clearly understand that the hours were not such as the Government bound themselves to follow. He had been very roundly abused for making that statement, and for giving, as it was said, increased time for drinking. The abuse he did not object to; but one of the public Press in this country stated that he had not sufficiently or satisfactorily explained the views of the Government. He had borne that rebuke with great equanimity. It should be borne in [mind that he had stated he would not hurry on the second reading of the Bill, as he wished the House to have ample opportunity of fixing the hours of closing for themselves. He therefore thought that he had some right to complain of those persons outside the House who had very diligently gone up and down the country stating that the Government had pledged themselves to bring in a particular Bill lengthening the hours in the interests of drunkenness. When the Government had first approached the question, one of the most important questions they had to consider was what were the hours which they ought to suggest to the House. They had done so; but they had frankly acknowledged that it was a point on which the opinion of the House itself should be taken. It had been said that the Bill proposed to afford an extra half hour for drinking in the metropolis. No statement could be more inaccurate. Persons who made it were not in the least aware of what were the actual conditions of the metropolis when the Bill was introduced as well as at present; and what were the actual conditions of the closing hour? No doubt, by the Act of 1872 the hour of closing in the metropolis was fixed at 12 o'clock; but it was felt that to compulsorily close all public-houses throughout the metropolis at that hour would be too stringent a measure, and, therefore, a clause was inserted in the Act under which the Commissioner of Police was empowered to grant occasional licences in order to suit the convenience of those who frequented the various theatres. Under those occasional licences certain houses were authorized to keep open nominally until 12.15. But that was not all. The real exemption entitled persons who happened to be in the house to remain till 970 1 o'clock in the morning, or rather they were allowed to remain in the house till that time, consuming the liquor they had purchased before 12.15. The public were allowed to enter the exempted houses up to 12.15, and when once there they were allowed to remain as long as they liked up to 1 o'clock. A Question had been put to him the other night by an hon. Member (Sir John Kennaway) as to the number of exemptions granted to houses within and without the radius of one mile from Charing Cross, and having ascertained the exact figures, he was able to state that the number of exemptions granted to houses outside that radius was 81, and the number inside that radius was 48—making a total of 129 for the whole of the metropolis. Therefore it was idle to contend that under the Act of 1872 the actual hour of closing was 12 o'clock. Moreover, it was to be further borne in mind that the persons who frequented those houses and remained there until 1 o'clock were not altogether, or, indeed, in anything like the majority of cases, frequenters of theatres, but persons who went there solely to get refreshment, and for the purpose of drinking. All persons out for business or for pleasure took advantage of those houses which were allowed to remain open for an exclusive purpose. They used them until 1 o'clock in the morning, and then they were turned out into the streets. But there was another condition attaching to the case of London, which he thought the House and the country generally were against. When the Act of 1872 was brought in, it was believed that it enacted that no liquor should be consumed in the house after the time the house was closed. That had even been his own impression; but after the Act was passed, and the opinion of the magistrates was taken on the point, it was held by the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench that a reasonable time should be given after the house; closed for the consumption of the liquor that was bought before 12 o'clock. One magistrate, indeed, had laid it down that a reasonable time for the consumption would be 20 or 30 minutes after the party entered, which would bring the hour up to 10 minutes to 1 o'clock. It had been the practice of the magistrates to allow some 15 or 20 minutes for the consumption of the liquor after the time of actual purchase. Well, he had to 971 take that important point into consideration, for the practice had been very generally followed. It was perfectly idle to say, keeping this fact in view, that the hour for closing in London under the Act of 1872 was 12 o'clock. Another point persons who discussed this question seemed altogether to forget, and it should not in this discussion be overlooked. Seeing the evils which had arisen from the decisions of magistrates who refused to impose penalties on publicans who allowed persons to remain on their premises a certain time, whether 10, 15, or 20 minutes, to consume the liquor they had purchased before the hour named in the Act after which liquor should not be sold, he had given instructions to have words inserted in the Bill to prevent any such decisions being arrived at after the Act came into force, and accordingly it was stated in the Bill that when liquor was purchased either before or after the closing hour, and a person was found consuming it on the premises after the closing hour, the person so found in the house should be considered as being guilty of a breach of the Act, and the publican who allowed him to remain there should be also liable to a penalty. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: What clause makes that provision?] The 8th clause. It was there stated that—Any person who, during the time at which premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors are directed to be closed by or in pursuance of this Act, sells or exposes for sale in such premises any intoxicating liquor, or opens or keeps open such premises for the sale of intoxicating liquors, or allows any intoxicating liquors, although purchased before the hours of closing to be consumed in such premises, shall, for the first offence, be liable to a penalty not exceeding ten pounds, and for any subsequent offence, to a penalty not exceeding' twenty pounds.The very question asked by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and by the right hon. Gentleman too, what clause met that point?—was the point hon. Members seemed to forget, and gave him the right to state, as he had already stated, that the measure was misunderstood. There could be no stronger proof of that fact than the question asked by the hon. and learned Gentleman on the front Opposition bench, who took exception to his statement when introducing the Bill, and who had given Notice of an Amendment on going into Committee. So far as London was concerned, the effect of this 972 Bill in general would be to increase the hours at which houses were practically allowed to remain open by the decision of the magistrates not half-an-hour, but 10 minutes. Practically, therefore, they would be left as they were, and when they put against that the absolute closing of the exempted, they would find that the hours were placed on a far better and more intelligible understanding. They were bound to satisfy the country that this legislation was not for a class. The question had been asked of the House, "Whether, if they were going to close public-houses, they were not going to close their own clubs also?" ["Oh."] Well, he knew that the distinction between the two was a very broad one; but they should remember that they were dealing with people who did not understand distinctions, and among them were men who were turned out of public-houses at 12 o'clock, and who, if they walked down Pall Mall, found the club-houses open, and complained that in the legislation of the House on the subject certain rules were laid down for the rich and certain other rules for the poor. The practical result of closing public-houses early in London, as many apprehended would be the case, and as, indeed, he had stated on introducing the Bill, was likely to be the case, was that those people would establish clubs for themselves. [Opposition cheers.] He was glad to hear that cheer. He thought the object of all this legislation was not simply to regulate public-houses, but to put down drunkenness and drinking. But they might depend upon it that if they once got the classes who frequented public-houses into the habit of buying their own spirits, of coming together and meeting at their own clubs, they would find it a much more difficult matter to put down drunkenness and drinking in such places than when they had control over them. The result of all the information he had been able to acquire—and in this he was happy to be confirmed by what he understood was the deliberate intention of the Bill of the late Government—was this, that the same difficulty was felt by them as by him, and that the same arguments as weighed with the late Government weighed with him. The conclusion to which he had been led under all the circumstances, and which, in fact, he had formed before, was that they could 973 not close the public-houses in London before 12.30. When he first considered the question, he was met at the beginning with a great difficulty—that of determining where London should begin and where it should cease; and there did seem some difficulty in saying that the definition given in the Bill was the right one. He was free to confess, however, that the more he had looked into the question, the more he had felt himself justified in coming to the conclusion to strike out the district outside that of the Metropolitan Board of Works. Although, no doubt, there were localities outside that district as populous as those within it, they had one by one disappeared as fast as he came to study their situation and circumstances, and before the question was put to him first before Whitsuntide, to what places longer hours should be conceded, they had reduced themselves to one. He was free to confess that upon the most careful consideration he had since been able to give the subject, he had been led to the conclusion that there was not the smallest necessity for extending the boundary of the district of the Metropolitan Board of Works. [An hon. MEMBER: West Ham?] Practically it became a question in such localities, not of 10 or 15 minutes, but of an hour and a half, and that was a large question. He had determined, therefore, to throw out all outside that boundary. He bad looked every morning at the Paper, expecting to find Notice of some Motion that would help to define what London was, irrespective of the district of the Metropolitan Board of Works, but he had not found one; and his only conclusion on the subject was this—that though so many people had said that the centre of London wanted more than the district outside; yet when they came to ask those persons what the centre of London was they found that they had the greatest difficulty in saying. And on the part of all those who urged those views there was not one suggestion as to what London should be defined to be, otherwise than as the definition stood in the Act itself. He should be glad to give his attention to any other definition that might be proposed, and as one was very much wanted he should be glad to hear one laid down that would make the distinction. That being the case for London, he would now come to the case for 974 the country. When he laid the Bill before the House he stated frankly his opinion that there was a distinction between the cases of London and of the country. In the discussion of that question there was only one consideration to guide them, and upon which they could act—namely, the actual wants of the several localities. When the publicans themselves were asked this question—What do you think the hours for the country ought to be? they gave what he considered a very clear, intelligible, but very illogical answer—namely, that the hours should be uniform. This answer was illogical, for he confessed he could see no reason in it whatever. He said to them, accordingly, that they were wrong in their argument, that the question was one which the Legislature would have to consider for itself. He threw overboard, therefore, the principle of uniformity altogether. The question now was, what hours ought to be fixed. He believed that Parliament and the country were agreed that when the Legislature came to the question of the hours at which public-houses should open and close, they should be subject to certain restrictions. By the recognition of that principle, an immense difficulty was avoided. They would avoid the unseemly discussions which, as appeared from the Returns moved for by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly), had taken place on local benches of magistrates, and that would allow country places to rest at peace in the knowledge of what their hours were to be. They would avoid also an infinite diversity of hours, which in itself would be an immense advantage. It was better, he thought that a broad and intelligible principle, in which all minor differences might merge, should be laid down and established. If they would look at the Returns moved for by the hon. Member for Stoke, they would find that there was a great diversity of opinion among the magistrates upon this question. In one part of a county certain hours were fixed; in another part of the same county, in precisely the same situation, totally different hours had been fixed. He had come to the conclusion, therefore, that the magistrates, in arriving at their several decisions, though they had doubtless acted for the best, and from the best motives, were more or less biassed by their own 975 individual opinions, and the various views they took as to the particular wants of the country. Then, when they came to look to the answers given by the Mayors, they would find them to be the answers of the same class of men as had fixed the hours, and the same answers were given in each case. Where the hours were not fixed by the Act, it was said that the hours determined upon were exactly those that were granted. But there was another thing, and that was that the Police Returns showed the same general state of facts. The practical effect of these Returns was to show that, upon the whole, the Act of 1872 was working well. The streets were more quiet, and people went to bed earlier. But in the Papers that had been laid upon the Table of the House, containing the usual annual Returns of the Inspectors of Police, there was an important admission—namely, that while they all commenced in this way—"Though we are sorry to say that drunkenness has increased," they next proceeded to say—"yet the streets are quieter." They said that though the streets were quieter, there was, nevertheless, an increase of drunkenness. He said, when he introduced the second reading of the Bill, that it was thought expedient to fix the hour for 12.30 in London, and at the same time came, as he thought, to the wise and sound conclusion that in the country it should practically bell. He hoped, however, the House would bear in mind that in fixing the hour at 11, he saw the danger of promoting secret drinking, and if hereafter he should think it necessary to ask for powers to put down that system, they must bear in mind the warning he had given them. Now, on the question of secret drinking, he would ask them to examine how the facts stood. He had already stated that a great deal of that was going on in London, and they must expect to find the practice also carried on in the country; and certainly, looking to the Police Returns, especially those from the northern districts of the country, he was bound to confess that more quiet drinking, as it was termed, in private houses, went on now than for some time past. The practice was for parties to buy liquor in public-houses previous to their closing, and take it home to drink. In all the Returns it was clearly shown that this practice was mainly owing to high wages 976 and less work. Those two facts led many into the habit of purchasing, as he had already said, liquor in the public-houses, and taking it home to drink after they had closed. It was generally spoken of throughout the country as the "bottle system," and a mere evasion of the law. Then, again, let the House look at the Returns made by the Mayors of cities and boroughs throughout the country. The Act of 1872 found the habit in existence, and in the Returns he had named no fewer than 35 boroughs were named where the practice was almost general. Among them were Berwick, Bury, Derby, Kidderminster, Manchester, Warrington, Worcester, Liverpool, Stalybridge, and other towns; and if his hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Mr. Corbett) would examine those Returns, he would find that generally the limitation of the hours for keeping public-houses open had led to an increase of drinking in private and unlicensed houses. At Hull, the increase of drunkenness was largely attributed to increased private drinking. The Mayor of Newport reported that in his district Young Men's Clubs and Working Men's Clubs were forming where the parties were at liberty to drink as long as they pleased, and carried off bottles from the public-houses at closing time, or procured them from the grocers. This was the most dangerous thing which could happen for the sobriety of the country. He stated these cir-stances in order to point out that if the Government in after years should think it necessary to introduce measures to check the system, the House would remember that the mere fact of the hour of closing made very little difference—that whether it was late or early, whether 10, or 11, or 11.30, or even 12, the practice was the same. If they looked at the answers of the Mayors, they would find that wherever the hour for closing was 11.30, with the exception of Deal, drinking had not increased; and, in answer to the last question put to them in the Circular issued respecting illicit drinking, it would be found that, with the exception of Canterbury, where the matter was uncertain, no illicit drinking was going on. It was impossible to guard against the driving drinking habits from public-houses into places where it would be under less control, and it was this which led him to propose 977 11.30, though he should he glad if his apprehension proved unfounded. Let them take a group of boroughs such as Deal, Dover, Sandwich, and places in that district. In Deal the number returned as drunk was 1 in 186; in Dover, 1 in 226; in Sandwich, 1 in 235; in Canterbury, 1 in 235; in Great Yarmouth, 1 in 263; and in Cambridge, 1 in 500. But if they took Oxford, where the hour was 11.30, it was 1 in 657. Then if they went to a part of the country where a totally different system prevailed—say the Principality of Wales—instead of 1 in 657, there was in Swansea only 1 in 74. Then take Denbighshire, where it was 1 in 210, and Flintshire 1 in 110; yet the hours in those counties were 7 A.M. to 10 P.M., and the sobriety of the Principality had been much vaunted. At Hull, where the hour was 10.30, drunkenness was 1 in 81. He would next call the attention of the House to the larger towns, and especially two towns—namely, Manchester and Salford, and Liverpool. Manchester and Salford were not as large as Liverpool, but there was in the latter a larger number of public-houses. The magistrates did all they could to restrain them; but the result was that, while in Manchester and Salford it was 1 in 44, in Liverpool, despite special precautions, it was 1 in 27. He would now ask the House to compare this state of things with that which prevailed in the metropolis, where there was a much larger population, and where the hours of closing were as a rule later. Under those circumstances he had been prepared to find that there was a great deal of drunkenness; but the Returns of the Metropolitan Police District were more favourable than he had expected, inasmuch as they showed that the cases of drunkenness were only 1 in 130. With these facts before them they should be cautious not to come rapidly to the conclusion that the closing of public-houses half-an-hour earlier or half-an-hour later made any great difference. It came to this—what he believed was the object of every man—to put down the abominable extent to which drunkenness now prevailed. His own belief was that they would never accomplish that until they persuaded the people that drunkenness was a great and detestable vice the moment they got the people to see that to get drunk was a disgrace, a thing that was bad in itself, 978 and that if they indulged in drunkenness men of their own class would not associate with them—the moment they could persuade the people of this, that moment they would put an end to the evil. His fear, however, was that by attempting to place drinking under severer restrictions they would fall into the error of increasing the extent of that which they wished to put an end to, and that they would drive drinking into places where they would not have the same hold of it as they had at present. That was his great fear, and to prevent it was one of the main objects of the Bill. Since the Bill bad been introduced a new question had presented itself, and that was the question of the hours of opening, and he was somewhat surprised to find that the matter had not been brought to his attention by any deputation until after the Bill was printed. He now found, however, that there was a much greater difference of opinion upon that point than he had expected to find. In fact, the wants of the country were in this respect different. In the manufacturing districts of the North it was the wish of the working classes themselves that the public-houses should not be opened until 7 o'clock in the morning, as they had no wish to go into them until that time, and had much rather that the temptation should be kept out of their way. In the South of England, in the agricultural districts, a totally different feeling prevailed. The agricultural labourers wished to find the public-houses open when they went to work, not that they wished to drink beer, but that they wished to buy beer to take with them to their work for use at their meals during the day. He, therefore, found a considerable difficulty in drawing a hard-and-fast line with respect to these two desires, and he confessed he should like to have this question of the 7 o'clock opening satisfactorily settled; for although the hon. Members for Liverpool and Birkenhead might be able to show from satisfactory reasons that 7 o'clock was a sufficiently early hour at which to open the public-houses in those towns, still that was no reason why the other districts of the country should be placed under the same rule. What he proposed was that they should leave London and the large towns where he had stated, and work on from the 3rd clause, closing in London at 12.30, and in the country at 11 o'clock, and opening in both at 979 6 o'clock in the morning. He had now to speak of what he called the pure country. The pure country stood on a different footing from the towns in the country. The houses there were chiefly beer-houses, and the only reason why he had ever separated the beer-houses from the public-houses was simply this—that he was anxious to prevent illicit drinking, which would be sure to take place were they to allow the one to be flooded from the other. The moment they were put upon the same footing that objection vanished. He should, however, explain that when he separated them he included with the beer-houses grocers' shops, refreshment rooms, and other places licensed for the sale of intoxicating drinks. Now to come to the rural districts, to places where the population was under 2,500, and here there came this practical difficulty. The beerhouses had never been on the same footing with the public-houses. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) said it was essential that they should be, but it was not essential, inasmuch as they had gone on for years without. It might, however, be desirable. When they came to small places they must either raise the beer-house to the rank of the public-house, or reduce the public-house to the level of the beer-house; they could not keep the hours different in respect to the length of time the houses were to be kept open; and therefore, looking at the matter in the broadest and most comprehensive view, what he proposed was that the houses in the country should open at 6 o'clock and close at 10 o'clock, which would practically give them the same number of hours as the houses in the towns which opened at 7 o'clock and closed at 11 o'clock. He thought that was a fair way of dealing with the case. He did not believe, from the time this Bill had been laid before the House till now, that any serious suggestion had ever been made practically to alter any material provision of the Bill with the exception of the hours of closing. He believed the Bill had been accepted as a fair attempt, not to run counter to the measure of the late Government, but to do what that Government unfortunately did not do, because, owing to the late period of the Session when the measure was brought in, it could not be fairly discussed. This measure was consistent 980 with the whole spirit of the Act. There was not a single Member of the House who had ventured to place a Motion on the Paper that this Bill should be read a second time this day six months. Why? Because they saw it was a good and sound measure, which would conduce to the peace and good order of the country by the introduction of the early-closing licences, which would, he believed, be largely used; because it was known to be an honest attempt to settle once for all the question of the bonâ fide traveller; to place under the protection and superintendence of the police all premises where intoxicating liquors were sold, by occasional licence or otherwise; while the question as to selling at fairs and races—one of the most intolerable nuisances that ever existed—would be once for all put down. At the same time, it was known that the Bill had been drawn with the greatest fairness towards those engaged in the trade, the object being to remove all undue restrictions—to remove the annoying supervision of the police, while giving, at the same time, full powers for keeping order in public-houses; the object being, practically, to introduce a better class of men—men with capital—into the trade, with the view of having it better conducted, and, with reference to offences, to do what he believed was essential—namely, to give to the magistrates actual power as to the punishment to be inflicted, and whether it should be recorded on the licence or not. The Bill, when first introduced, was received in a fair and generous spirit by the whole Press of London. Not one single word was said against it, even by papers hostile to the Government. It was accepted as a fair settlement of a very difficult question, and he would only now read two sentences from newspapers certainly not friendly to the Government—The Times and Daily Telegraph—.They said that the Bill might be roughly described to have for its object the abolition, as far as possible, of all special and exceptional legislation surrounding that trade, and that its main principle seemed to be the true one, and to be shaped in a spirit of fairness and reason. He would say, of fairness and reason towards the trade and towards the public, for he could not forget that the leading journal, which had always taken more strongly than any other newspaper the view that it would 981 have been wiser to leave that legislation alone, said that, though the measure was fair and equitable to the publicans, the Government must recognize the wisdom of making it as innocuous as possible to the country. He was obliged to the House for the attention it had given him, and, in conclusion, he would suggest that if they dropped out the 2nd clause of the Bill and accepted the suggestion of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird), which fixed the hours at 11 instead of 11.30, the Bill would accomplish all that the Government expected of it.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Assheton Cross.)
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, in the course of a few years of Parliamentary experience, he had always observed that when a Minister thought it necessary to make a statement of more than an hour's length on the Motion for going into Committee on a Bill that had been read a second time unopposed, he did so because he thought that the Bill was somewhat in danger. His right hon. Friend had taken that course upon that occasion. He (Sir William Harcourt) should never have thought of comparing the Home Secretary of a Government with a majority of 50 or 60 to David going forth against Goliath, and he should have thought that the peroration of a Cabinet Minister's speech might have been made without quotations from any newspaper. The right hon. Gentleman had taken the position—always an interesting one—of the femme incomprise. The Members of the Government had been a great deal misunderstood. The First Lord of the Admiralty made a speech which he had to tell them oftener than once had been entirely misunderstood. The Home Secretary had also been entirely misunderstood as to the objects of this Bill, and its attitude to the Act of 1872. He would take the liberty of telling the right hon. Gentleman that he had been misunderstood with advantage, because if the Government had not been misunderstood, he (Sir William Harcourt) ventured to say they would not be sitting where they now were. The misunderstanding would probably never have taken place if the right hon. Gentleman, who had always been an influential 982 Member of that House, had said what he said to-night in 1873. Why did not he and the Gentlemen who sat around him tell them in 1873 that the Act of 1872 was a useful and beneficial measure, and that the restriction of the hours was good? and why were not they in their places to help—not the House, but the country to which they belonged—to avoid the defects that they were told this Bill was now to remedy? The right hon. Gentleman was silent on the subject, and it was a politic silence, and a silence that had been richly rewarded. He (Sir William Harcourt) ventured to observe that one of the great advantages of a change of Government was that the Government that came in followed in the line of the Government that went out. That was well, for they changed the Governments on an average every three years—a good average, which he hoped would be continued. The Governments that came followed the same policy with a few distinctions. Like physicians, they might prescribe coloured water or camomile tea; but their more important drugs were always the same. And so the Home Secretary of a great party, the allies of the publicans—["No!"]—well, he would put it, that the publicans were their allies—came forward and said that, with some small exception, his policy on the licensing question was identical with that of the late Government. [Mr. ASSHETON GROSS: No, no.] With some few small exceptions, yes. If not, he misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman the Government had been always understood to be in favour of lengthening the hours. They were going to keep thorn at what was fixed by Lord Aberdare in the towns, and in the country districts they were going to make them shorter than in the Act of the late Government. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: No.] Then the right hon. Gentleman was misunderstood again. At present, as he (Sir William Harcourt) understood it, in all country places under 2,500 of population, the hour of closing public-houses was 11 o'clock, with the exception of 70 or 75 districts, where they had adopted the hour of 10. The proposal of the Government, as he understood it, was to make 10 universal in places of under 2,500 inhabitants. But the right hon. Gentleman said that they shortened the hours against his will. The right hon. Gentleman warned them most solemnly 983 as to how they should proceed, and he told them that the longer the hours the less the drunkenness; and the climax of his argument was, that in Oxford, where there was comparatively little drunkenness, the hours of closing were 11.30. But why, if that was the case, did a Government, with a majority of 50, shorten instead of lengthen the hours? Why, if there was less drunkenness where the public-houses closed at 11.30, did they compel the towns to adopt the hour of 11? What was the meaning of a Government that believed' one thing, and did another—that forced one place to adopt 11, when 11.30 would be better, and another to adopt 10 when 11 would be better? What was the right hon. Gentleman going to do with Oxford? Oxford now closed at 11.30, and its drunkenness was of a most creditable kind. Well, but the right hon. Gentleman was going to force upon Oxford the hour of 11, and, according to his principle, was going to propagate the odious vice of private drunkenness. Why, if they were sober in Oxford, did they seek to make them less sober than they were? It was a most extraordinary proposition. But the right hon. Gentleman complained that he had been misunderstood. He (Sir William Harcourt) would tell him why. It was because in one of his former speeches about lengthening the hours he said nothing at all about class legislation. They heard nothing about the clubs of which they had been told that night. The right hon. Gentleman told them that he was going to lengthen the hours in the metropolis because people going down Pall Mall after the public-houses were closed would see the clubs open. Was he going to shut all the clubs at 12.30? Was drinking to cease in the Carlton at that hour? Was private drinking in the unlicensed house to be prohibited after that hour? If so, what was to become of hon. Members after a party division? In support of this proposal about class legislation the right hon. Gentleman read them the shocking case of Newport, and he told them that young men's clubs were formed and forming all over the country, where members drank as long as they pleased. The right hon. Gentleman accompanied that by a most pointed announcement that he was going to ask the House to arm the Government with powers to 984 put down those obnoxious practices. He (Sir William Harcourt) was against arming the Government with powers to interfere with the people, and when the right hon. Gentleman asked them to put down young men's clubs in Newport, Isle of Wight, and elsewhere; he (Sir William Harcourt) asked him, was he to apply that power to clubs at the West End, to clubs in Pall Mall, and other clubs in the metropolis? and, if not, how he was to reconcile his practice with what he had said about class legislation? The right hon. Gentleman told them that he had made those proposals as to hours because it was a cowardly thing in the House of Commons to shrink from the duty of fixing the hours instead of leaving them to the discretion of the local magistrates. If it was cowardly of the last House of Commons to shrink from that duty, where was the right hon. Gentleman? He (Sir William Harcourt) wanted to know how it was that hon. Members opposite, who thought the House of Commons was guilty of a cowardly act, allowed the Act of 1872 to pass? He objected to the discretionary power in 1872, and not one of the hon. Gentlemen opposite would support him. He said that the House ought to fix the hours or leave them alone. But the matter did not stand now as it stood then. They had thrust upon other people the duty of doing what they would not do themselves. And what had happened? They had consulted the local authorities. They had, as it were, asked their friend for his advice, and they had gone and done the exact contrary of that which he recommended them to do. Well, that was neither civil nor complimentary. Whatever might be the disadvantages of the discretionary power to local authorities, it had this advantage—that it gave them a local verdict by those who were most competent to form an opinion of what was good for the district. They had taken the verdict, and he (Sir William Harcourt) wished to know why they wished to reject it. No doubt the great majority of towns had chosen the hour of 11. Oxford and others had chosen 11.30. But all the places had taken their own hours and had grown accustomed to them, and it seemed to him that the reasons were equally strong against disturbing those hours as they were strong against disturbing the hours in 1872. Why was the demand made 985 for the change in the hours at all? Certainly the Home Secretary was quite right in saying that he did not make the change at the request of the liquor trade. He rather repudiated the notion that he would have done anything of the kind. He (Sir William Harcourt) did not see why, for they had been very good friends to him. Now, so far as he had been able to understand the opinion of the trade, they did not wish any change of the hours. He had with him that morning several deputations. One was from the Manchester Central Association of Brewers, and their spokesman authorized him to state to the House of Commons that the Manchester brewers did not require nor desire any change in the present hours. He held in his hand a paper from another body of extensive influence—the Beer, Spirit, and Wine Trade National Defence Association—whose Secretary authorized him to say that they desired no change in the hours. He had also in his hand a paper signed by the Country Brewers' Association, and the only reference they made to the hours, with the exception of a suggestion that public-houses should be open at 5 o'clock in the morning was, that they would leave the whole matter of hours to the wisdom of the House of Commons. Having communicated, too, with those who represented the trade in his own constituency, he was perfectly satisfied that all the trade wanted was to be left alone. He could not conceive, therefore, why the right hon. Gentleman should not have been content to let the question of hours alone altogether. The trade was not dissatisfied with the results to them of the operation of the Act of 1872. It had given them a monopoly of a character they little expected. Those deputations told him that the general effect of the Act of 1872 had been to raise the value of public-house property 30 per cent. Therefore the trade did not wish to disturb the arrangement, though he must say they had hardly treated the party that made it for them with the kindness that might have been expected. He could not help again putting to his right hon. Friend the question, why not leave the trade alone? The House was supposed to be rejoicing in a régime of repose, and they were living under a "Government of silence and consideration." Why was not the Home Secretary silent on this question? Why did 986 he not consider it a little longer before he touched it? They had been told that a Government, which had only been in Office for three months, could not be expected to undertake any important measures yet. The House had accepted this state of things with cheerful lassitude, and was grateful for the dolce far niente it enjoyed. Why therefore, disturb them by forcing upon them 11.30 instead of 11, or 11 instead of 10, and so on? Why should a Conservative Government make a revolution in that which greatly affected most people in this country—the hours of going to bed? Whose idea was this of the hours? He could not think it was the Home Secretary's. He had been so willing to cast the hours overboard—as if they were the Jonah of his ship—that he could not help thinking they were originally due to the pertinacious perseverance of the Under Secretary for the Homo Department. He had been so long accustomed to have a Liquor Bill in charge that he was unhappy at the idea of a Session being allowed to pass over without one. The hon. Gentleman had become a kind of political yeast, and kept the House for ever in a state of continual alcoholic Parliamentary fermentation. If the Under Secretary and the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) could only agree to strike a trace, and negotiate, at all events, a suspension of arms on the basis of the uti possidetis, Parliamentary life might again become endurable. The new proposals of the Government had no doubt removed many difficulties, and he would recommend the Government to leave the hours alone and go on to the other parts of the Bill. What was the testimony they had before them on the question of hours? The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary told them that the Government had suggested the hours named in the Bill, from the information they had received in answer to a Circular addressed to clergymen, magistrates, and chiefs of police. He (Sir William Harcourt) ventured to ask that that information should be laid upon the Table, because he believed that the answers from mayors, magistrates, clergymen, and police were in favour of leaving things as they were. But the Under-Secretary, with his great experience of Parliamentary practice and usage, said he could not lay that information on the 987 Table, because the relations of the police with the Government were of a confidential character. Why could he not lay the Papers before the House, when they related to a public question on which the Government professed to have based their conclusions upon that information? If the information given by the police was sufficient to satisfy the Government, it would surely have not less weight with the House as to the question of the hours which should be inserted in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary further said, referring to the town of Gateshead, that the police complained of increased drunkenness arising from higher wages, fewer hours of labour, and, above all, street drinking and what was called "the bottle system." This statement so surprised the authorities of Gateshead that they caused a Return to be circulated, and this Return did not appear to accord with what the Under Secretary took to be the facts. The Return stated that the drinking in private houses had increased in Gateshead; but so far from ascribing this to the shortening of the hours during which public-houses were allowed to be open, the chief of police stated his opinion that the hours were well suited to the population. It appeared to him that as the Government, through the Under Secretary, had laid such stress upon those Papers, it really was very important they should have them laid upon the Table. The hon. Gentleman shook his head; but it was a principle laid down so long ago as the time of Mr. Canning that no Member should quote from documents unless he was prepared to produce them in the House. There was all the more necessity for that in this case, seeing that the chief constable of Halifax had repudiated the views attributed to him, and that the chief constable of Bradford, in reply to his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster), had taken a similar course. He did not for one moment suppose that the Under Secretary intended to mislead the House in the slightest degree; but still, under the circumstances, it was very desirable, and even necessary, that they should have the original documents.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
wished to explain. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had asked him in a former debate from what Papers he quoted. He 988 replied that it was from these Returns, and from a statement that had been circulated among hon. Members, upon which the hon. Member for Kendal (Mr. Whitwell) rose and called his attention to the fact that these Papers were answers to questions connected, with Sunday drinking. What he said was, that as soon as he could he would produce the Papers. On refreshing his recollection the following morning, by reference to the Public Journals, he found that his impressions as to some of the Papers were not correct. He now saw that the Papers from Gateshead were not produced, and he could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that if he had known that fact he should not have quoted them.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, the hon. Gentleman had now very frankly stated that he was under an erroneous impression when he quoted from the Papers referred to; but even now he must press the question, why the other Papers were not produced, so that the House might know what were the opinions of the magistrates, the clergy, and chief constables as to the working of the shortened hours and the desirability or otherwise of extending them. But he would now go farther, and put the question on a broader ground than that of Parliamentary practice and precedent. He put the question on the ground that the Government, having shrunk from naming the hours, had thrown the difficulty of fixing them upon Parliament, while at the same time they kept back important information. If the House were to name the hours they ought to have the information. If they were called upon to do so, let them have the official Reports of the Mayors and the chief constables of police all over the country as to the working of the Act. If the Government thought it necessary to ask for that information, and then shrank from the responsibility of fixing the hours, but left it an open question for the Committee, they could not refuse to produce the information they had called for, and which they had in their possession. The Under Secretary was somewhat in the position of Balak, the son of Zipper, who put a certain question to Balaam. The hon. Gentleman had questioned his Balaam, and had proved himself superior in intelligence to the unenlightened Moabite, who did not 989 think it necessary to treat the reply of Balaam as a confidential communication. But the great argument that was held up in terrorem was that if the present hours were not lengthened there would be, as there had been, a terrible increase of illicit and private drinking. They were told of the wicked conduct of the young men at Newport, in the Isle of Wight, and other places, who had taken to drinking in unlicensed places. He was afraid that yesterday, upon Epsom Downs, for which they had taken a holiday, and even within the precincts of that House, there was a good deal of drinking in unlicensed places. But he wanted to know, whether no drinking was to be considered virtuous in future except that which took place in public-houses? In the first place, it was not easy so far to define private drinking as to fix a line at which it ought to stop; and, in the second place, unless thirst stopped at a particular period of the evening, no fixing of hours for closing public-houses would prevent people who were so disposed from drinking in their own homes until their thirst was quenched or their appetite was appeased. In old times a man was not thought the less of because he enjoyed his glass at homo with his family, which was not a licensed place, though he could nearly be charged with illicit drinking. But, again, he returned to the question, why should the hours be altered? The hour of 11 seemed to be very generally approved of throughout the country. The chief of police at Newbury was another of the persons who thought his views on the question of hours had been misrepresented. Apparently he had said somewhere that unlicensed drinking had increased in Newbury, and some one attributed to him that he had charged this upon the shortening of hours, whereupon the gentleman addressed a letter to The Times, in which he said that the shortening of hours had, by universal testimony, been most beneficial. Such a circumstance as a number of working men having joined in purchasing a quantity of liquor at the last moment, and then adjourning to some private house and becoming intoxicated was as common before the passing of the Act of 1872 as it had been since, and if public-houses were allowed to remain open till midnight such cases would still happen. The curtailment of the hours of public 990 drinking had been the means of promoting the quiet of the town to a very remarkable extent, and it was his conviction that if the hours of opening were curtailed so that men could enter on their day's work free from the temptation to indulge in intoxicating liquor it would have the most beneficial effect. That was common sense. It seemed to him that considerable misapprehension existed on the part of the Government with reference to the effect of the Reports of the Mayors and of the Police on the subject of the increase of private drinking. The admittedly considerable increase in the amount of private drinking was occasioned, not, as the Government appeared to think, by the restriction of the hours during which public-houses might be kept open, but by persons having more money to spend upon drink. When the Home Secretary quoted the case of Halifax, the men there did not say that the increase of private drinking had anything to do with the shortening of hours, neither did the police of Gateshead or Newbury; and if hon. Members looked carefully at the other police Reports they would find they did not connect the two things together. Before sitting down he would say a few words upon the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper. The object of that Amendment had been no doubt partly met by the alterations made in the original proposal, which would have made a difference in every place in the country between the beer and public-houses. That difference would now, to a great extent, but not entirely, be remedied. The beer-houses were in the situation of the dog that got a bad name, and everybody wanted to hang him. They were now, however, a regenerated institution; they had been re-baptised by his hon. Friend the Under Secretary, who had purified them, placed them under the magistrates, raised their valuations, and had altogether changed their character; so that now there was no difference between beer-houses and public-houses, and, if there was, the difference as regarded convictions was in favour of the former. It had been said that they must give the licensed victualler a longer time to keep open his house because he supplied refreshment; but he (Sir William Harcourt) believed that that was an entire delusion. He had had inquiries made into that matter. 991 and he thought that if his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State went to any gin-palace in London, and asked for a steak, instead of their giving him credit for the high and responsible position he held, they would set him down as a young man from the country unused to the ways of Londoners. He (Sir William. Harcourt) had not made the investigation himself. He was not one of those who pursued drinking in public-houses; he pursued the illicit practice of private drinking in an unlicensed house which belonged to himself. He had not made himself personally acquainted with the habits of gin-palaces, but had employed persons upon whom he could rely to go round to these houses and order beef-steaks, but they could not get them. They had also asked for beds, and there were none of them to be had. The return he had received stated as follows:—"Went to house"—he would not give the name—"saw female, asked her for a beef-steak. 'Oh, no, we cannot provide you with that" Can we have a chop, then?" We do not do that; you can get it at the dining-rooms over the way.'" And so the report went on. The men went to a large licensed victualler's and asked to be supplied with chops and steaks, and the reply was, "Oh, no; we do not do anything of the kind here; you can get them lower down, near the theatre; "and on going there they found it was a beer-house. It was an entire delusion to suppose that a beer-house was not an eating-house, and that a licensed victualler's was. The real truth was that these gin-palaces were not eating-houses, but essentially the drinking-houses. The people who most frequented them were people who had lost their appetite. Therefore, to make a distinction between beer-houses and public-houses, because one was an eating place and the other was not, was to show entire ignorance of the habits of the two kinds of houses. He had been told by a gentleman from Manchester that the meetings of clubs and friendly societies in that city were held quite as much in beer-houses as in public-houses. Then, if that was so, why were the Government going to make a distinction at all between one and the other? [Mr. CROSS was here understood to say that this point had been conceded.] If that was the case, then it was perfectly unnecessary he 992 should go on to argue that part of the question. He did not seem to have appreciated the whole extent of the concession of his right hon. Friend. Reserving for the future the consideration how Oxford would be affected by the proposal, he could, in conclusion, only congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the understanding which had at length been arrived at, which had in no small degree surprised the House, and which would, perhaps, surprise the country a good deal more. He was not altogether astonished at it himself, however. In looking at the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, all might see that the Prince Hal of Gad's Hill and Eastcheap was a very different man from King Henry V. The right hon. Gentleman had succeeded to the Throne, and he looked with a very different air upon the Bardolphs, Pistols, and Falstaffs, and even upon the hostess Dame Quickly, from that in which he had regarded them in his "sallet" days of Opposition. He could not help thinking what would be the feelings of the licensed victuallers to-morrow, when they found the right hon. Gentleman saying—Presume not, that I am the thing I was:For Heaven doth know, so shall the world perceive,That I have turn'd away my former self:So will I those that kept me company.Those on the Opposition side of the House, however, in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman, might say—I like this fair proceeding of the King's:He hath intent, his wonted followersShall all be very well provided for;But all are banish'd, till their conversationsAppear more wise and modest to the world.
§ MR. GREENE
said, it had been his intention to second the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), but the changes which the Government had introduced into the Bill had entirely destroyed the very eloquent speech he (Mr. Greene) had intended to make on the subject. He had felt that the distinction which the late Government had made between public and beer-houses was both unfair and illogical, and he congratulated Her Majesty's Government that they had been able to see their way to placing both classes of houses upon the same footing. He, however, still thought that Her 993 Majesty's Government had better have left the question of the hours of closing untouched, seeing how great a diversity of opinion existed on the subject. In the part of the country where he resided the house should be opened at 5 o'clock in the morning, and if they were to be closed till 6 the agricultural labourers would be unable to obtain their beer before going to work. His hon. and learned Friend had twitted the Home Secretary with having derived considerable advantage from the support of the publican interest, and had now rather turned round upon them. He (Mr. Greene) had never heard that the country found much fault with the Act of 1872. Whenever he had endeavoured in public to damage the late Government as much as he could, he had never used any unfair argument about that Act. There were certain provisions, such as the endorsement of licences, which were objectionable to the publicans; but, on the whole, they did not object to the Act. But what they did object to, and what they would not forget, was the Bill of Mr. Bruce, with the 10 years' clause, which was gradually to extinguish them and their trade. It reminded him of the story of the Quaker, who said—"Friend, I will not kill thee, but I will hold the head under water until it takes try breath away." The publicans had seen that the legislation of the late Government tended to disregard the rights of property, and the culminating point came when they put their finger into a hornet's nest. No man could get up in that House and deny that the proposition of Mr. Bruce's Bill was one of confiscation. With regard to the hours of closing, he quite agreed with the Home Secretary that if they were over-strict there would be a revulsion the other way. In his neighbourhood there were six parishes and but one public-house, and that was at last shut up by the landowner. This went on for some time, until it was found that drinking was, somehow or other going on, and the owner could not understand it. He caused investigation to be made, when it was discovered that there were 16 different people selling beer and spirits without a licence. The landowner had since then built a house, under his own control, in every parish belonging to him. That was an illustration that, if they drew the line too tight, they would 994 have illicit drinking. Now that justice seemed to be done to beer-houses, he hoped that the Bill would be more satisfactory to all parties, and to that end he should give it his cordial support.
§ MR. MELLY
said, that as the Government had undertaken to make the con cession as to uniform treatment of all licensed houses claimed by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford and himself, and also to abandon their proposal to lengthen the hours, and as they had thus expressed their willingness to accept both halves of the Amendment which he himself had moved, with the view of preventing any increase of facilities for intoxication, and putting beer-houses and spirits on the same footing, he thought the best course for the House to pursue would be to proceed to devote themselves in Committee to carrying the Bill into law. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had asked why, if such objections were entertained to the Bill, it had not been opposed and rejected on the second reading. His answer to that inquiry was very simple. He and those acting with him had such faith, that when the proposed extension of hours for keeping open spirit-houses was thoroughly understood, there would come forth such an expression of opinion from the magistrates, police, clergy, and the population generally, as would cause the Government to withdraw what might be called a mistaken proposition. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman should consider that his opening statement in introducing this Bill had been misunderstood or misrepresented; and so far as he was concerned, he disclaimed having done either the one or the other. The vital point in the Bill was the question of hours. It was not how great should be the penalty wherewith to punish the publican, or what security they would give the publican for his house, or by what authority licences were to be granted; but how long—for how many hours—the houses were to remain open, and the publican obliged to remain up during the night and whether the beer-house keeper was thus to be placed at a disadvantage. As the measure was introduced, it proposed to increase the number of hours; but, as he understood the Home Secretary, there would be express provisions introduced, not only preventing any extension, but as regarded 995 the rural districts, curtailing the hours of spirit-houses by one hour. He was quite prepared to consider the clauses of the Bill in Committee, and he should throw no obstacle in the way of the Bill, which, he thought, with the promised alterations, would be an eminently amending measure. On the second reading he (Mr. Melly) had pointed out its principal demerits. The Home Secretary had conceded almost all he then asked, and he became a supporter of the new measure now before the House.
§ MR. LAIRD
said, he had placed several Amendments on the Paper as to the hours of opening and closing public-houses in large towns. After the statement of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, it would not be necessary to submit to the Committee those which referred to the hours of closing. He hoped a favourable consideration would be given to his remaining Amendment, which was to the effect that in municipal boroughs or Improvement Act districts, containing a population of 20,000 or upwards, houses licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors by retail should be kept closed on week-days until 7 o'clock in the morning. He had received a great number of communications, begging him to secure the hour he had named for the places which now had them, and for others where they desired the houses not to be open earlier than 7 in the morning.
§ MR. PEASE
said, that as the Government had given Notice, through the Home Secretary, of many changes with regard to the hours in the Bill, and as they had consented to accept clauses and to consider Amendments—all of which were matters seriously affecting the scope of the Bill—he suggested that they should not proceed further that evening. The changes suggested by the Government had not been placed on the Paper, and they found themselves in an awkward situation. If they now went into Committee they would do so blindfold. He thought a great deal of time would be saved if the Bill were reprinted. He therefore suggested to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that with that view they should go into Committee pro formâ, and have Progress reported. They would then see what Amendments had been adopted, and what remained. This suggestion he made without any 996 desire to do anything but aid the Government in passing a good Bill, and he trusted it would be adopted.
§ MR. WYKEHAM MARTIN
said, he hoped the Government would reconsider the point which bore upon closing houses at 10 o'clock in country villages. Such an arrangement would naturally interfere with the comforts of agricultural labourers working allotments, and who at this time of the year remained at work until 9.30. When he ceased labour he had his glass of beer, and went to bed early. If the public-houses or beerhouses were closed at 10, he could not reach there from his allotment task.
§ MR. LOWE
said, he thought the position in which the House was placed was rather a peculiar one, because all on his side of the House understood this Bill to be one which was intended to lengthen the hours, but it was now turned into one which would shorten them. The House was also not well informed how they stood. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) had just said, without any mark of disapprobation from either side, that he understood beer-houses and public-houses were to be placed on the same footing as to hours all over the country. He understood himself that the right hon. Gentleman made the same statement; but he did not agree with the details that he had stated, because, as he (Mr. Lowe) had understood, it was his intention that the hours in London should be 12.30 for public-houses, and 12 o'clock for beer-houses.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. What I said was that the hours through out the country for public-houses and beer-houses would be uniform—namely, 12.30 in the metropolis, 11 o'clock in the towns, and 10 in the country.
§ MR. LOWE
That was an instance of what he was saying, for none of them had understood that to be the proposition. He was not inclined to say anything to impede the Government, but he would put this to them—They were going to strike out the 2nd clause, and to introduce other changes which he had not yet understood; these Amendments, every word of which might be of enormous importance, were not before the House, and with every wish to help right hon. Gentlemen opposite to carry out this measure he must say he had been very much struck with the remarks 997 they had made of censure upon the late Government for having hurried their own Bill hastily through the House. If the Government would consider the entire Change of front which they had thought it necessary to make they would see that he was asking nothing unreasonable when he asked them to consider whether it would not be actually better for the progress of the measure if they were to accede to the suggestion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Pease) and go into Committee pro formâ, giving the House time to see the exact Amendments upon the Paper. Another reason for this course was that the House had not before it the Reports of the heads of constabulary throughout the country. In reply to certain questions from the Home Office respecting the working of the Act of 1872, those Reports had been obtained by the Home Secretary. A Minister had no right to influence the mind of the House by quoting documents on which he put a particular construction unless he laid them before the House, for a different construction might be placed upon them. That was a clear axiom of Parliamentary practice. He could not help thinking that when they considered it the Government might think it right to lay the Papers before the House. It was said that to publish these Reports would be a breach of confidence, but that difficulty could be easily overcome by withholding the names. All they required was to see the information communicated by the police authorities. He was quite sure that nothing would be gained by proceeding with the Bill now; and if the Government would execute these marvellous changes and transformations they must not blame the House for not quite following them.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he thought hon. Members could have no difficulty, because, as his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cross) had said, the changes he proposed were already expressed in some shape or another in the Amendments already on the Paper. He had accepted some of those Amendments, which would come on in due form, and which had already been for a long time under the consideration of hon. Members. As to the production of documents, a Notice of Motion had been given for an early day by a right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen), and the Government were not prepared to postpone the 998 progress of the Bill till such time as he could bring on that Motion.
§ SIR HARCOURT JOHNSTONE
said, he was glad to hear the alterations proposed in the Bill by the Government. The police reports relative to the Act of 1872 were in general favourable to it. Out of 127 Returns, 118 described the results of the Act as favourable, while none of them had spoken of them as unfavourable. He wanted a further restriction of the hours, and not any increase of them. Looking at what had been urged by the advocates of the licensed victuallers on the one hand and by those of restriction on the other, he could not but think it desirable that the endless disputes which had taken place all over the Kingdom should be determined in the House of Commons; and though he was reluctant to give up the advantages of local control, he thought it best, both in the interests of the trade and of good government, that the Government should settle the hours themselves. He thought the Liberal party must take some credit to themselves for the settlement of the hours for country towns and rural districts at 10 and 11. They had been so well backed up by country Gentlemen on the Conservative side, that they had got those hours from the Government. In this the Government had shown themselves not insensible to public opinion the Bill, as originally brought in, was—he would not say an outrage, for that was an offensive expression—but a violation of or rather it would be safer to say, directly contrary to public opinion; and considering that the Government had come in with a majority of 50, and might have carried any Bill they chose, he was surprised they should, in the face of the clergy, the magistrates, the police, and a host of disinterested advisers, have brought in such a measure. However, he was not disposed to flog a dead horse. He was thankful for what the Government had done for the country, though he should have preferred their adhesion to 12 as the hour for closing in London. He was not going to quarrel with them about that, however, nor to divide the House upon it in Committee. He wished now to express his regret that the right hon. Gentleman should have referred to working men's clubs as being dangerous institutions. It was his experience of them during many years 999 that they had been, in very many localities, the best antidote to excessive drinking in public-houses; for where they existed it was found that they did not conduce to drunkenness, but that, on the contrary, cases of drunkenness were rare. He hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would not throw the weight of his influence into the scale against clubs. There were cases where the Government had very properly prosecuted clubs which were not really clubs. As a whole, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that these institutions had done good, and that in some instances some of the lowest public-houses and dram-shops had been deserted for them with very good results. The opposition the Act of 1872 had received at some places was easy to be understood. The publicans anticipated reduced profits, which anticipation had not, however, been realized; and their trade organizations had stimulated, and unduly excited the trade itself against Mr. Bruce's Bill. The right hon. Gentleman instanced Hull as a place where there had been more drinking and earlier closing, and attributed the drinking to the earlier closing; but, in Hull, there was a mixed population of Swedes, Norwegians, and other foreigners, and the magistrates had fixed the hour for closing exceptionally early, at the desire of the town itself. Had the hours been later, the drunkenness would have been infinitely greater. On the whole, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had taken a sensible view of the subject. He thought, also, he had shown a disposition to conciliate the House, and it was some satisfaction to those on the Opposition side of the House to know that they had modified a measure, and brought it more in harmony with the feelings of the country.
said, he hoped that the hours would be left untouched. He thought the House ought not to proceed further with the measure until the Police Returns were before them. In his opinion, it would be desirable to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he hoped the Government would not consent to refer the Bill to a Select Committee for the sake of the Police Returns, as they related to but one matter that was before the House, and that had been the subject of great discussion. He thought 1000 the conclusion which the right hon. Gentleman had just announced to the House and in which he was sure the House would support him, had long since been arrived at out-of-doors. He did not thin any case had been made out for referring the Bill to a Committee, and unless a strong case for the purpose were made out he did not think it desirable it should be done. They had happily been spared much agitation on the subject, and both the Government and the public had acted reasonably in reference to it.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
observed that the Opposition Members of the House were prepared to carry forward this portion of the Bill in accordance with the views expressed on the part of the Government, and without offering anything like factious opposition to it. They had not been disposed to be factious, though they would have been perfectly justified in giving Notice for that day that they could not go into Committee on the Bill without having before them the evidence of the chief constables. That course would have been perfectly justifiable, and he mentioned it to show that they did not wish to embarrass the action of the Government, provided they could show to the House that it was in a position to go into Committee on the Bill with the clauses now before them. There were, however, some technical difficulties, but which perhaps the Government could show did not really exist. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said that the House had before it every Amendment in some form or other. He should like to know, however, whether there was one extending the hours for closing beer-houses from 12 to 12.30.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) had given Notice of an Amendment for that purpose.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, his hon. and learned Friend had withdrawn his Amendment previous to going into Committee, and it was doubtful whether he would have proposed an extension limited to the metropolis.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had an 1001 Amendment on Clause 2 for treating beer-houses like public-houses.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, as Clause 2 was to be withdrawn, all the Amendments referring to it must fall to the ground. That was a technical difficulty, for he could not see how they could discuss a question that was not before them. Hon. Members on his side of the House had no desire whatever to embarrass the Government, because it was better for the licensed victuallers themselves to have the question settled as soon as possible, and he, for one, would help them in every possible way.
§ MR DILLWYN
said, he wished the right hon. Gentleman would consent to have the Bill re-committed. For his own part, he did not exactly know what the proposed alterations were to be, and they ought to have the Bill completed by the Government before they went into Committee. It was one for revising the hours, and should therefore be finished pro formâ before going into Committee.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, that he had had 14 years' experience of the House, and had never known an instance in which a Bill of so much importance had been completely re-modelled after the second reading without being committed pro formâ and reprinted. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department that he was mistaken in saying no other clause was objected to but that which related to the hours.
§ MR. ASSHETON
said, the changes introduced by the Government, which were all in the right direction, were mere matters of detail, such as altering 11.30 P.M. to 11 P.M., and 11 P.M. to 10 P.M. Surely they were perfectly prepared to go into Committee at once on these details?
§ MR. WALTER
said, he thought the responsibility of deciding whether they should go into Committee at that particular moment must rest with the Government. Considering that the provisions of the Bill as now settled by the Government appeared to be in the main acceptable to the House, if the Government were satisfied in their own minds that hon. Members on both sides were perfectly capable of comprehending the immediate bearing of the Amendments he should not object to go into Committee; but, on the other hand, he should be more satisfied if he saw the latest ideas of the 1002 Government in black and white, and if with that view, the Committee were adjourned for a few days. He believed the proposals of the Government would be extremely well received by the country; but, for the sake even of despatch, he thought it desirable that the proposal of his hon. Friend (Mr. Pease) should be adopted.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, he did not understand the Bill as it related to the hour of opening, or whether it should be 7 and not 6 o'clock on week days. In the borough which he had the honour to represent (Kingston-on-Hull), the hours were from 7 to 10.30; and, for his own part, he should certainly support the Motion for an Adjournment.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
expressed a hope that the House and the Government would persevere in having the Bill sent into Committee, for the sooner the whole question was settled the better.
§ MR. CHILDERS
reminded the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department that to Clause 2 there were three pages of Amendments, and from 40 to 50 of them referred to the question of hours. If that clause, therefore, were omitted, all these Amendments would go for nothing, and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) would not be able to propose an important one now on the Paper. He thought the course to be taken was a most unusual one. Government ought to be content with having the Bill committed pro formâ, which would give them the opportunity of having it reprinted with the Amendments they now proposed.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he was ready to take Clause 2 as it stood, with all the Amendments on the Paper; but much the simpler plan would be to pass over this clause for the present, and to make the Amendments suggested on Clause 3. Government did not propose any Amendments, but simply accepted such Amendments as recommended themselves to their approval.
§ Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Preamble postponed.
§ Clause 1 (Construction and short title of Act) agreed to.1003
§ Hours of Closing.
§ Clause 2 (Hours of closing public-houses.)
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that his only reason for proposing to pass to Clause 3 was to save time; but if hon. Members preferred to go to Clause. 2, the Government would accept the Amendments which would carry out their views.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that the regular course was to go through a clause and consider the Amendments, and this must be done before a Motion could be put to strike out the clause.
§ MR. PEASE
, who had the following Amendment on the Paper, in page 1, line 14, before "premises," to insert—" subject to the provisions of the principal Act with respect to the alterations of closing hours," said, he considered that the concession just made by the Home Secretary to suit the hours to the wants of the localities was, so far, in accordance with the object he had in view, that he would therefore not press his Amendment.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
replied that it would apply as much to them as to public-houses and beer-houses, as they were licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors by retail.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
moved in page 1, line 14, to leave out after "premises" to "public-houses," in line 16, and to insert "premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors by retail shall be closed as follows; (that is to say)."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. FORSYTH
moved an Amendment to the effect that in London the hour of closing all public-houses on week-days should be midnight, instead of giving another half hour as had been proposed by the Government. The hon. Member said, he should be extremely 1004 sorry to place himself in opposition to the Government, but happily there was no need to do this, for the Home Secretary had told them that the hours would be fixed by the wisdom of the House. He hoped to satisfy the Home Secretary of the non-expediency of extending the hours in the metropolis from 12 to 12.30. The population of the metropolis was larger than that of Scotland; therefore, in point of fact, the House was legislating for the population of a kingdom, and he hoped the utmost care would be exercised. He supposed that not three Members of the House would say that they did not wish the hour to remain at 12 o'clock, as at present. There were some people who thought that London should have an extension in time for the sake of those who went to theatres, and other places of amusement. He did not agree with them. But supposing it could be shown that they were right, what reason was there why the whole of the metropolis should be subjected to a change which both the public and the publicans did not desire? If London required special legislation because of theatres, why should not Liverpool, and Manchester, and Glasgow, each of which had several theatres, also require special legislation? He did not think that theatre-goers were so much in need of outside refreshments as had been suggested. He had never been in a theatre in his life without finding in the theatre itself whatever refreshment he wanted. There was plenty of Bass and Allsopp, and whisky and gin for those who needed them, and plenty of tea and coffee for teetotallers. In the next place, it would be found that far the greater majority of those who wont to the theatres did not go to the public-houses, and that of those who were found in public-houses after the theatres closed, the majority were those who had not been in theatres at all. He could therefore see no necessity for special legislation even within a certain radius from the theatres. They ought not, when they were dealing with a population of 3,000,000, or 4,000,000, to pass an Act which would only accommodate a very small proportion of that population. At all events, he thought there should be a limit drawn—say, a mile or a mile and a-half from Drury Lane, or any other central point—and that beyond that limit the public-houses 1005 of the metropolis should close at 12 o'clock. What was the feeling out-of-doors on this question? Some time ago he put upon the Paper an Amendment such as he was pressing now, and since he put that Amendment on the Paper—an Amendment curtailing the hour of closing till 12—he had only had one letter from a single individual objecting to it. That individual said that he had been very much disappointed in the Member for Marylebone, and that if he pressed his Amendment he would repent of it. The change, in short, was not desired and would be pernicious. He believed there existed in the public mind a strong feeling that midnight was quite late enough for drinking to go on in public-houses, and that by extending the hours for drinking a temptation to drunkenness was created. Scotland's greatest Poet wrote words which were appropriate to the view he was taking, when he said'—See social life and glee sit downAll joyous and unthinking,Till quite transmogrified they're grownDebauchery and drinking.Taking another view of the subject, he would say with confidence that the pub-beans themselves were in favour of his proposal, for it was well known that drunken men were the licensed victuallers' worst enemies, in that they lowered the character of the public-houses, drove away respectable customers, and imperilled the licences. He therefore moved his Amendment, and asked, with confidence, the Committee to pass it.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 22, to leave out the words "half an hour after."—(Mr. Forsyth.)
§ MR. CHILDERS
asked the Under Home Secretary if he could tell the House how many public-houses and beer-houses were now open in London after 12; and how many would be kept open until 12.30 if that hour were adopted?
§ SIR HENEY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that at present there were 129 houses open till 12.15. He would answer shortly the remaining part of the Question.
§ MR. MELLY
said, he could save the hon. Gentleman the trouble. 5,341 public-houses were closed at 12 o'clock, and 2,791 beer-houses, making a total of 8,132 which would be open half-anhour 1006 longer than now; 135 houses now were open after that hour by exemption. If all the houses were open the fact would be in accordance with those figures.
§ MR. PEASE
said, from the statement they had heard, the Home Secretary's argument for the extension of hours in the metropolis answered itself. The police had reported that the exempted public-houses open after 12 o'clock were used not by those who went to theatres, but by those who had not been to theatres at all, and had been turned out of the houses which closed at midnight. He (Mr. Pease) believed that working men's clubs had the effect of taking men away from the public-house, and that in these clubs they acquired a proper self-respect and came to look on drunkenness as a disgrace. Another advantage to them was that they placed no temptation before the members unnecessarily to drink. The publicans of the metropolis did not ask for 12.30, and the extension of the period of drinking to that time would only increase the vice, misery, and crime of London.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
, on the other hand, trusted that it would not be assumed that the publicans were not anxious that the hours for closing should be extended. Besides the visitors to the theatres, there were large numbers of persons, such as scone shifters, who were engaged at work in the theatres, and who required refreshment when their work was over. He could assure the House that there had been a considerable demand for an extension of the hours in the borough which he had the honour to represent (Westminster).
§ MR. MELLY
asked if the demand which he said had been made had been made openly? [Sir CHARLES RUSSELL: Yes.] If it had, it had not been made to the House of Commons. No Petition had been presented in that sense, and 10 of the Metropolitan Members would support midnight as the closing hour. There were three sets of persons who had to be taken into consideration in deciding 1007 upon this matter—the respectable classes, the disorderly classes, and the ratepayers. As regarded the respectable classes, he would say that there was no hour which could be fixed but would entail hardship. There were the people who brought flowers and fruit to the metropolis, and who needed refreshments all night. The leading thoroughfares were fragrant with violets at one season, and strawberries at another. The vast numbers of respectable men engaged in finding them their luxuries should be considered. There were others whose occupation was not so savoury—the night-soil men. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but these men, who earned their living in an honourable way, had as much right to be considered as any other class; they earned a fair day's wage by a hard night's work. There were printers by the hundred, and whole newspaper staffs, and all these would be sufferers whatever hour was fixed. What claim had the disorderly classes upon the House? Who were they? The ladies of the Haymarket and Regent Street and their friends—all that was most ruffianly, immoral, and disorderly. That section of London disgraced England. Why give it another half-hour? Ask the police. Consult the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth), with whom he (Mr. Melly) would vote. He now came to the question of the ratepayers who paid the police. The first duty of the police was to protect their property; to attend to unfastened doors and windows; to watch shops; to give notice of fires—these were matters which affected all, to which all willingly paid. Yet, while public-houses were open at night, a large number of police were, instead of attending to this duty, occupied in taking drunken persons from public-houses on stretchers to the station. He, therefore, contended that the ratepayers had a right to complain of the police being occupied in this duty a moment longer than necessary, instead of looking after their property. Then, with respect to the placing of night houses under the strict surveillance of the police, he must say that he thought the course a wise proceeding on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary; but at the very time that he was doing this he was, by extending the hour from 12 1008 o'clock to 12.30 to public-houses generally, prejudicing his intentions with regard to those night houses, for he gave them an opportunity of remaining open until 12.30 as well as the great body of the licensed houses in the metropolis. After referring to the decision of Mr. Newton in reference to these night houses, which he (Mr. Melly) contended did not apply to the point at issue, the hon. Member asked his hon. Friends who represented the provinces if they would support this extension of the hours to the London licensed victuallers, when it was determined under the Bill that in such towns as Birmingham and Liverpool public-houses were to be closed at 11 o'clock. He could not understand why an additional hour and a-half should be given to licensed houses in the metropolis. This was another metropolitan job. People already said in the country that because they lived here six months they seemed to think London was not only the centre of, but also the whole country. All the great provincial cities of 200,000 and 300,000 inhabitants were content with 11 P.M. as the hour at which disorder was to end, and peace and quiet to commence. To please 455 publicans out of 5,300, would the Committee open 8,300 spirit and beer-houses for another half-hour? He appealed to the Members for every English borough to refuse to be a party to this iniquitous job.
§ MR. HERMON
said, that the real cause of the discontent among the licensed victuallers of London was that certain exclusive privileges were given to about 129 houses in the metropolis, and he thought that if the Government had simply brought in a Bill abolishing those privileges, the licensed victuallers of London generally would have been satisfied. But it was said that the closing of the houses at 12 o'clock was hard upon persons engaged in theatres. Why, the same argument would apply to compositors connected with newspapers, and other persons engaged at night employment. He had no doubt that if the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth) was carried, the persons employed in theatres or on newspapers, and the like, would devise some means by which their wants would be supplied. He would also suggest that the theatres should close half-an-hour earlier, which 1009 would greatly facilitate matters in this respect.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY
considered that the evil "with which they had to deal in the metropolis was allowing the few houses referred to to remain open to the hour stated. He thought that while the owners of the 8,000 licensed houses in London were content with 12 o'clock being the closing hour, that hour should not be extended simply because an exemption had been made with regard to a certain number of houses in the metropolis. Then, as regarded the theatres, he was given to understand that the managers were now in the habit of bringing the performances at those places of public amusement to a close half-an-hour earlier than heretofore. Then, with reference to this extension of the hour proposed by the Bill to keep public-houses open, he was assured by Sir Powell Buxton that when he was a candidate at the last Election for Westminster he was never asked by the licensed victuallers of that city to extend the hour of closing at night from 12 to 12.30. He might add that when Birmingham and Liverpool and other great towns were content with having 11 o'clock as the hour at which licensed houses in those towns should be closed, it was really too much for them to give to licensed houses in London the privilege of being open until 12.30. He had been told by the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Boord) that both he and his constituents were strongly against the proposal of the increased half-hour. Many quiet houses in the metropolis wished to shut at 12 o'clock; and if, as he believed would be the case if the Bill passed, they were compelled to keep open up to 12.30, it would be felt as a very great hardship. If the Home Secretary would say that the hours in London were to be as at present, and at the same time do away with all exemptions as to special houses remaining open after 12, he believed it would fully meet public feeling and public convenience.
wished to say a very few words on this particular subject. As the Representative of one of the largest metropolitan constituencies (Hackney), he must state that neither during his canvass before the late election nor since his return had he heard one single word from any of his constituents as to the extension of the hours to 12.30. He thought 1010 it was but fair to make that statement, and to show that his constituents, at all events, were not in favour of any extension beyond the present hour of 12 o'clock.
§ MR. WATNEY
remarked that it was not only the wishes and the convenience of the publicans which the House had to consider, but the convenience of the public at large. Looking at the occupations of large classes of persons in the metropolis, a general shutting up of public-houses at 12 o'clock was quite absurd. Whatever might be the case with regard to the country, it could not be said that the hours named in the Bill for the metropolis were too long; and whatever might be said in favour of uniformity of closing, he trusted that the House would make an exception in the case of the metropolis, in consideration of its peculiar and exceptional position.
§ MR. SAMUDA
felt bound, as a Representative of a large metropolitan constituency (Tower Hamlets) to add his voice to that of the hon. Member for the borough of Hackney, and to state that he had not, since the introduction of the Bill, heard one word from his constituents in favour of the proposed extension, although his borough was one from which a favourable opinion might have been expected. At the last Election, although it was known that he was in favour of the restriction of drinking as much as possible, a deputation came to him and most distinctly assured him that there was no wish whatever to have the assistance of the Conservative party to extend or alter the hours fixed by the existing Act, all that was wanted being an assimilation of the hours in different localities, so that one publican might not have an advantage over another. It appeared to him that they were working away from the object which they all had in view when they went beyond the hours which were generally allowed to have been successful in practice throughout the metropolis. Experience was the best test that could be applied in such cases, and relying on that experience he contended that limitation of hours and not the increase or extension of facilities for drinking was the course the Committee ought to pursue.
§ MR. RITCHIE
wished simply to corroborate the statement which had been made by his hon. Colleague (Mr. Samuda). He had not the slightest hesitation or reservation 1011 in declaring that neither during the course of his candidature at the election, nor before nor since, had a single representation been made to him that the publicans wanted an extension of the hours, and he believed it would not be satisfactory either to the trade or to the public if the hours were to be altered the only remonstrance as to the hours of closing was against what was considered the absurd exemption of a few houses in the centre of the metropolis from the uniform hour. These houses were placed within a very small circle, and they were not only allowed but compelled to keep open ostensibly for the convenience of people who were employed at theatres and in other night occupations. The remedy for that was that the theatres should close earlier. They had heard much about the inconvenience of early closing to persons employed at the theatres and in other occupations; but they ought also to take into consideration the convenience of those who were employed in public-houses and the proprietors of those houses, who did not wish to keep open to such late hours. The provision by which the Home Secretary proposed to allow publicans to close earlier with a special licence, would to some extent meet that objection; but unless there was a general uniformity there would always be dissatisfaction. And then, again, in extending the hours to 12.30 to meet the wants of those employed at theatres, &c, it must be remembered that it was proposed to apply this throughout the entire metropolitan district, so that publicans, many miles from any theatre, would be compelled to keep their houses open until 12.30. What was required was not an extension of the hours, but uniformity of closing. What, for instance, could be more unsatisfactory than to find at Stratford, on one side of Bow Bridge, houses were closed at a particular time, while on the other they were open an hour and a-half later? He should vote in favour of general closing at 12 o'clock, as sufficient time for houses to be kept open, and oppose any further extension, as against public interest and public morality.
§ MR. W. M'ARTHUR
wished simply to add his testimony to that of his hon. Friends the Members for Hackney and the Tower Hamlets. He represented a constituency (Lambeth) of 50,000 electors. He had not had a single representation 1012 made to him in favour of an extension of the hours, and he believed that it was the last half-hour which did the most mischief in these houses. He should therefore, in the interest of his constituents, vote against the extension.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, he represented a large district of the metropolis which was included within the eastern division of Surrey, and fully concurred in the remarks of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie). At the same time he could not but regret his inability to support the Government on this clause, for he felt that not only that House, but the country at large, owed a deep debt of gratitude to the Home Secretary for the great pains and trouble he had taken in preparing the Bill which he had introduced to meet the requirements of the country, and for the fair way in which he had endeavoured to solve this difficult problem. He believed, however, that his constituents would not be benefited by the provisions of the Bill with regard to the hours of closing, but that the evils now existing of rival houses in close proximity being subject to different laws would be increased. In a particular zone in the metropolis people did, no doubt, move about later in the night than they did in other districts. It was not only that people went to the theatres for pleasure, but there were a large number employed all night in the various printing establishments, and other places where night work was carried on. All this, however, was in the centre, as it were, of London, and it would be desirable—if it could be so arranged for the public convenience—that in a small zone the houses should be allowed to be open for an extra half-hour, or even more. But in a very large portion of London no such requirement existed; and here it was he thought, that an error had been made by those who had prepared this Bill. They had assumed that one law would meet the necessities of the whole of the metropolis. London comprised a great many districts, each of which had different views and characteristics, and he thought that the regulations which applied to large towns were more applicable to the greater part of those districts than the regulations for the metropolis. There were many suburban places included in the district of the Metropolitan Board of Works 1013 where there were no shops, and no trading carried on, and where few, if any, wanted late hours or later than 11 o'clock. In some parts of Norwood, for instance, there were none; and yet in one street in that suburb there were two first-class public-houses within a few feet of each other, one of which closed at 11 and the other at 12 o'clock. That was only one of very many instances to be found all round the large circumference of what was called the metropolis, and yet the present clause intensified that evil, for the difference would be between 11 and 12.30 instead of 11 and 12. Even in the suburbs where there were shops they were not such as those of Fleet Street and the Strand, where people were about late at night, and where there was a great deal of traffic. It would be almost impossible to fix any boundary without doing some injustice; but he thought some smaller zone might be decided upon—bounded, say, by the river on the South, and including Fleet Street, the Strand, and perhaps Oxford Street, on the North, and a somewhat similar zone on the south of the river, where the hours should be extended, but beyond this district let them not, at any rate, do so. He would have supported any such proposition as that; but when he was called upon to vote for a particular clause which would affect the whole of the metropolis in the way he had described, he had no hesitation whatever in saying that he should in preference support the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth).
§ MR. LOCKE
suggested that the proposal of the Government would be of benefit to the public if the area were changed to include only the City of London and the metropolitan boroughs. For his part, he did not look with that intense horror which some hon. Members seemed to feel at the proposal to keep open the public-houses till 12.30. But if that hour were made the law, he could not see why every publican should be compelled to keep his house open till that time. It seemed to him a monstrous system to say that, because their ancestors had a right to go into a public-house and demand food and drink, that therefore the public-houses must be kept open everywhere, whether the landlords liked it or not, or whether there was any necessity for them being open or not. 1014 He thought that some alteration should be made in that provision of the law. There were a number of places in the neighbourhood of the theatres to which persons retired for supper after the performances were over, and it was but natural that they should wish to wash their supper down with something fluid. Now, was that to be put a stop to because some persons had squalmish feelings, and pulled themselves into a notion that, inasmuch as certain individuals ate and drank too much, it was not right that those who did not do so should be able to procure anything? He hoped that the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth) would give way as regarded the quarter of an hour. [An hon. MEMBER: Half-an-hour.] He (Mr. Locke) did not think that 12.30 was too late; and, as he said a short time ago in that House, he should like the public-houses to be kept open till 1 o'clock. It was argued that the theatres might close earlier than they did at the present time; but it should be remembered that they commenced very much later than they used to do. Covent Garden and Drury Lane used to commence at 7, but now a great number of the theatres did not begin till 8, and as the performances would last about four hours, he thought at least the extra half-hour should be given, so that the people coming from them might procure needful refreshment.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he was not surprised that some metropolitan Members representing outlying districts should not like any addition to the number of hours which existed under the Act of 1872; but the question which hon. Members had to ask themselves was, what extension of hours was proposed by the Bill they were now considering? Practically speaking, the public-houses did not close at 12 o'clock. The street doors, it was true, were closed when midnight came; but persons who were in the house and had purchased what they desired to drink before the closing hour arrived remained there from 15 to 20 minutes. A large number of houses were also allowed, under special licences, to keep their doors open until 12.15, and people in the house were allowed to remain until the clock struck 1. To cut down these hours to 12 o'clock would therefore be a measure of great restriction. In the year 1872, 1015 when the Act was passed, the Government did everything it could to reduce the number of hours, but they felt they could not close the houses at 12 o'clock all over the metropolis; and although they made 12 o'clock practically the closing hour, they were obliged to introduce clauses granting in particular cases exemption licences. Now what was the result? No less than 129 exemption licences had been granted. But that was not all. In the year 1873 there had been issued nearly 4,000 occasional licences for special occasions. Now, let the Committee compare what had taken place since 1872 with antecedent action as regarded the closing of public-houses. In 1871, 950 was the average of the occasional licences granted; but when the Bill of 1872 came into operation they rose to 3,896. Therefore, it was obvious there had been a great demand for additional public accommodation owing to the houses being ordered to be closed at an earlier hour. The Government had shown every reasonable wish to meet the views of the House. In this matter they had consulted high practical authorities, who had the means of becoming acquainted with the habits of the metropolis, and who were accustomed to deal with cases of this kind. The answers which he had received from the magistrates were, that they did not think they could with safety to the public recommend the closing of all public-houses over the metropolis at 12 o'clock. Now, the honourable and onerous office which he held made him responsible for the peace of the City of London; and, feeling deeply that sense of responsibility, he could not advise the Committee to sanction the closing at 12 o'clock. It was unadvisable to draw an arbitrary line that all the public-houses within one mile of Charing Cross should be closed at midnight. Many of the metropolitan theatres and places of amusement were distant more than a mile from Charing Cross. If such a line were drawn all the people who were in the habit of keeping late hours would come at night within this narrow one-mile circle, and this, in the opinion of the police authorities, was very undesirable. The people who went to the theatres, moreover, were not the only people to be consulted. Trains were arriving from all parts of the country at a late hour. What surprised him a good deal in the 1016 course of the present discussion was, that although many hon. Members had asked what was London, none of them had taken the trouble to give a definition of London proper. No doubt the point was one of some difficulty when they came to draw an arbitrary line; but let the Committee see if it could suggest any area of boundary so as to leave the outlying districts beyond the operation of 12.30 closing. Reviewing all that had been said in the course of the debate, and having given the most careful consideration to the various representations which had reached the House, if the question came to the alternative of 12 or 12.30 for closing, equally and without exemption, all over the metropolis, he must accord his support to the latter proposal.
§ Question put, "That the words half an hour after' stand part of the clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 161; Noes 126: Majority 35.
§ MR. ASSHETON
, who had given Notice of several Amendments, stated that, as the Government had accepted these Amendments in spirit, if not in their actual letter, he should not trouble the Committee by moving them.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
moved to leave out, in line 25, the words "is an urban sanitary district, and." This Amendment was necessary in order to meet the change in the provision.
§ Amendment agreed to.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
then moved, in line 25, after the word "contains," to leave out 10,000, and insert 2,500.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
asked his right hon. Friend, if he had carefully considered the question? He, for one, was very glad to see him in the position he occupied; but, with regard to this Bill, he was in a false position, and did not really understand the question. Instead of extending the hours now given, he was curtailing them. No doubt, in certain districts, the proposed alterations would have a beneficial effect; but in many of the rural districts the effect would be the reverse. People were not prepared for such a change. Public-houses in those places Were now closed at 11 o'clock, but under this Bill it would be 10 in places under 2,500 inhabitants. "What were they about to do, for example, 1017 in his locality? Every public-house in small towns and small watering-places must be closed at 10 o'clock, and when during the season, trains came in from London, would the people be satisfied? But more than that, by inserting the word "parish," they added to the evil an inconvenience. In his district there were some parishes with 2,500 inhabitants, including the town or villages in them; but an adjoining parish might have less, although the market town might be there, so that in one parish with 2,500 inhabitants the public-houses would be opened until 11, whereas those in an adjoining parish having less than that number must close at 10 o'clock. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was creating a vast number of anomalies which the people would not understand. He suggested that the insertion of the words "town or village" for "parish" of 1,000 inhabitants, and pressed it on the attention of the Government as a matter for serious consideration.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that the whole subject had received his most anxious attention. It must be remembered that beer-houses for a long time had closed at 10 o'clock, and the question was, whether it would be wise to alter an arrangement which was clear and intelligible. In the Act of 1872 the word "town "had received a definition which was perfectly incomprehensible, and he hoped that his hon. and gallant Friend would lot the words in the present clause, which he proposed to alter, stand as they were.
§ Amendment (Mr. Assheton Cross) agreed to.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
moved an Amendment in line 27 by which licensed houses, if situated beyond the metropolitan district, and in a parish of more than 2,500 inhabitants, should be closed on Saturday night at 11 instead of 11.80, as originally proposed by him.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 27, to leave out the words "half past."—(Mr. Secretary Cross.)
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
objected to the adoption of a Procrustean rule. The effect of the Amendment would be to alter the hours in all towns which could now keep open to 12 to the hour of 11, and the city he had the 1018 honour to represent (Oxford) would thus be affected. When the Act first came into operation, there were serious disturbances in Oxford; but the authorities having fixed the time of closing at 11.30, the community were now perfectly satisfied, and did not desire other people to force their hours upon them. At Cambridge the hour of closing was 12 o'clock. That borough had returned two Conservatives, and were the constituents to be told that their reward for making that return was that they should be deprived of one hour? Dover also, having gone through many political vicissitudes, at present returned two Conservatives. Canterbury, again, now returned two Conservatives, and they were to be punished for doing so by having their hours of keeping open docked by those whom they returned to support their interests. What would be said of the consistency of a Government which declared that the shortening of the hours had led to illicit drinking, and yet proposed to take that course in the case of so many towns? So far as Oxford was concerned, he protested against this hasty, ill-considered, and inconsistent proposal. They might carry the Bill; but unless they secured for it the support of public opinion, it would not long remain on the Statute Book.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
observed, that the hon. and learned Gentleman, when he relied on the Report of the Mayor of Oxford that the practice of closing at 11.30 had worked well, overlooked the next column, in which his worship said he had no doubt that closing at the earlier hour of 11 o'clock would do just as well. The hon. and learned Gentleman had been one of the strongest advocates of having beerhouses and spirit-houses dealt with in a similar manner by the Bill, and yet, speaking of consistency, he now opposed a proposition which would have that effect. As to the complaint of haste, this Bill was brought in early, ample time for its discussion was given before the second reading, the Committee was put off until after Whitsuntide, and the Government had not proposed any Amendments, but simply accepted of several of which hon. Members had given Notice some time ago.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
expressed a hope that the majority of the Committee would not concur in the view expressed 1019 by his hon. and learned Friend near him (Sir William Harcourt). He (Mr. Goschen) complained of the tone in which the Home Secretary came down to recommend these Amendments. It would be better if he would frankly state that the Government came round to the common sense of the country, and on this point he wished to know how far the Reports of the Mayors were in favour of retaining the provisions of the Act of 1872. The Government had got important evidence on this point in their hands. The House did not know what the nature of that evidence was; but clearly, before they were called upon to vote, this great mystery ought to be cleared up, and they ought to understand why the Home Secretary was now in favour of 11 and 10 o'clock, when he proposed longer hours in the original Bill. He should like to know whether the Government were really and heartily in favour of the Amendments which they had adopted, and what their supporters thought of the fact that, in respect of their first great measure, the Government had to abandon their own proposals.
§ MR. HALL
, regarding 11.30 as a reasonable hour for a town like Oxford, intended to vote with his hon. and learned Colleague (Sir William Harcourt). It was really too bad that in towns whore artizans and mechanics, did not get away from work much sooner than 8 or 9 o'clock, who had benefit-club business to transact, who wanted to smoke a quiet pipe, and who sometimes had to initiate a candidate for Parliamentary honours into the mysteries of Druidism or Antediluvian Buffaloes, should be turned into the streets at 10.30. Why should they be treated like a lot of children in this style, and forced to go to bed like "good boys "at the will of anybody whatever, or by a clause in an Act of Parliament? They had been told by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) that the last half-hour was the time which caused all the mischief. Well, they used to be told c'est le premier pas qui coûte; but here it was not the first, but the last step which was alleged to cause all the difficulty. As had been well said by a journalist on this question of half-hours, there must be a last half an hour somewhere, and why should they not give that half-hour at a time when it would suit the 1020 general convenience. The very fact that the magistrates in many of the large towns had used their discretionary power to fix 11.30 as the hour of closing was, he thought, a conclusive proof in favour of retaining that hour.
§ MR. SPENCER WALPOLE
said, he thought his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had exercised a wise discretion in proposing the Amendment he had done, after having full information from the local authorities since the Bill was introduced. If it appeared that there was a general desire to adhere to the restricted hours instead of going back to the old system in the country, he thought Parliament ought to meet that feeling with sympathy and support, and vote for uniformity so far as the provinces were concerned. So far from his right hon. Friend being found fault with for having altered his original views, he deserved the highest credit for having carefully considered the information he had received since the Bill was introduced, and for asking the Committee to make Amendments which he believed would bring it into conformity with public opinion.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
understood that during his temporary absence the Home Secretary had made some allusion to his constituents at Deal, where the hour of closing was at present 11.30, having been fixed by the local authorities in accordance with the public opinion of the place. It had been said that there had been no Petitions in favour of the general hour being 11.30. He had himself presented a Petition in favour of extension of hours, but the fact was that the hour of 11.30 being that which was named in the Bill, people had sufficient confidence in the Government to believe that they would not change their opinion, and therefore saw no necessity to petition—there would have been plenty of remonstrance against the change to 11 had it been possible to anticipate this sudden change on the part of the Government; and he must say that he thought it hard that it should be adopted off-hand, before those placed in the position of his constituents could make their objections known. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) had praised the conduct of the Home Secretary, and he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) was sure that conduct would always be honourable and straight forward 1021 in the passage of this or any other Bill through the House. But when he (Mr. Walpole) spoke of it being desirable to have something like an equality of hours throughout the country, he begged to remind the Committee of what they had already done that evening. They had fixed 12.30 as the hour of closing in the metropolis, and now they were going to take away half-an-hour in country places, making the hour 11, by which they would render more glaring than ever the inequality between the metropolis and the country, and inflict a great blow upon the country trade. But it was said that Government were acting very fairly, because, having fixed 11.30 as the hour, they had ascertained from the Reports of the Mayors and constabulary that 11 would be preferred in the country. To make that argument of any weight, the Committee should know when those Reports were in the hands of Government? Was it only recently, or were they not, as he believed, in their hands long before the second reading of the Bill, if not before its introduction? There was a dark mystery hanging over those Reports which ought to be cleared up. This was not a question between a Government and an Opposition, but one as to what was really most for the public convenience. A Government could not always adhere strictly to the views of its Members when in opposition; but it was strange that those who had twitted the late Government with having curtailed the hours should now themselves propose a further curtailment. The licensed victuallers would be surprised at the change, and would perhaps recollect the words of a former Colleague of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (General Peel), who, after a few months of office in a Conservative Government, stated in his place in Parliament that he had learned three things—that nothing was so insecure as a security; nothing had so little vitality as a vital point; and nothing was more elastic than the conscience of a Cabinet Minister. They had had a specimen of elasticity that night, but still he hoped the Home Secretary would not persist in curtailing the hours during which public-houses might be open until it had been more clearly proved that the public would not thereby be inconvenienced.
§ MR. NORWOOD
remarked that in the borough he represented (Kingston-on-Hull) the hour of closing was 10.30, and therefore he had no objection to make to the proposal before them, which would make the loss of benefit less than originally proposed. The Mayor of Hull had stated, in the reply he had made to the inquiry of the Home Secretary, that the majority of the inhabitants approved of the restrictions; but it should be known that that was merely the private opinion of that gentleman, whose reply was made under the seal of confidence, and without any authority at all from the magistrates or corporation.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, he hoped the proposition would be passed without opposition. He congratulated the Home Secretary on having made the alterations which he had announced, and said he was one of those who wanted a good Bill, and did not care from whose hands he got it—he would welcome one from hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side.
advocated 11 o'clock as a satisfactory hour for closing in boroughs; but considered that in rural parishes 10 o'clock would answer every purpose.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
expressed his thanks to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cross) for the concessions he had made to the almost universal feeling of the country. He never remembered any matter on which there was such a unanimous feeling in the district with which he was personally connected. The magistrates, the public bodies, the ministers of religion, and even the publicans themselves, all concurred in the present hour, and did not wish the extension to 11.30. He asked the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) whether it was desirable to go to a division on this matter? The House had decided almost unanimously to take away the discretion from the magistrates. A great deal might have been said in favour of that discretion, but there was a very strong feeling against it. When they were asked to replace this discretion by an uniform hour they must consider the overpowering feeling of the boroughs throughout the Kingdom. There seemed to be a feeling in the University boroughs in favour of the later hour of closing, 1023 but there were only two of them, and he hardly thought his hon. and learned Friend would ask for a division on this subject.
§ Question put, "That the words 'half past' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 42; Noes 382: Majority 340.
moved, in page 1, line 27, to leave out "one," and insert "seven," by which public-houses would be closed until 7 o'clock, instead of 1 o'clock in the afternoon of Sundays, as proposed in the Bill. This being one of a series of Amendments which raised the question of the total closing of public-houses on Sundays, the hon. Member, after giving some statistics setting forth the amount of the exports of the country, showing that the exports had doubled within 10 years, proceeded to argue from that fact the increased wealth of the people. It appeared to him that it presented a serious question for the country at large, as to whether the increase of wealth had not resulted in a great increase of drunkenness. He would not detain the House, as he felt that the subject was one of such importance that it ought to be placed in more able hands than his. The House was very likely not prepared for his measure, but he knew that there was a great feeling in favour of it. The metropolitan district would not be affected. The Sunday closing movement had the support of ministers of all denominations, while the feeling of the country on the subject had been manifested by upwards of 1,200 Petitions presented to the House within the last four or five weeks. He knew he was raising a question which could not be decided on the present occasion; but he nevertheless felt it his duty to bring it forward.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press his Amendment just then, the more especially as he would have other opportunities of bringing it forward.
§ Amendment, negatived.
§ MR. MELLY
moved, in page 2, subsection 2, line 1, to leave out "ten," and insert "nine." The question was whether the Committee wished public-houses to be closed on Sunday evenings at 9 or 10 o'clock. They were now closed in 70 towns, including Liverpool, at 9 o'clock, 1024 and he believed the general adoption of that hour would prove beneficial to the country at large.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 1, to leave out the word "ten," and insert the word "nine."—(Mr. Melly.)
§ Question put, "That the word 'ten' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 296; Noes 135: Majority 161.
§ MR. SANDFORD
moved, in page 2, line 1, to leave out "six," and insert "five." If the Bill were carried in its present form, it would, with the working classes, be re-actionary and unpopular; for although 6 o'clock might suit some parts of the North of England, the Return obtained by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) showed that in the South the condition of society was such as to render it necessary to have the public-houses opened at 5 o'clock, and this proved that it was necessary to leave some discretionary power in the hands of the magistrates.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 1, to leave out the word "six," and insert the word "five."—(Mr. Sandford.)
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
admitted that there might be special circumstances in which a different hour from that in the Bill might be required, but he could not accept this Amendment, which, if inserted in the clause, would affect all the boroughs in England. It was his intention, at the proper time, to bring forward a proposal, giving the local authorities power to grant special licences in harvest time, and on similar special occasions.
§ MR. WYKEHAM MARTIN
supported the Amendment. The bargemen and fishermen, whom he represented, went out to sea at dawn, and unless they could obtain their beer for the day before they did so, they had to endure the want of it the whole time they were out at their work.
§ COLONEL LEARMONTH
also supported the Amendment in the interest of his constituents at Colchester, who were similarly engaged.
§ MR. BULWER
also supported the Amendment, as it would be unfair that the labouring men who left home at a very early hour without breakfast or refreshment of any kind in order to get to their work should be prevented from obtaining at the public-house the refreshment which they required. The most numerously signed Petitions he had presented were all from hardworking men. They were comparatively indifferent as to the hours of closing at night; but they felt keenly the hardship of not being able to get refreshment in the morning when they were called out early by the peculiar nature of their occupation. If they drew a hard-and-fast line in that case it would inflict great hardship on the class he represented. There was no necessity for doing so. People would not rise at 5 o'clock in the morning for the mere purpose of drinking, and publicans would not open their houses unless they knew that they would have legitimate customers. The extension of the hours from to 5 o'clock would be a great boon to the classes for whom he spoke, and certainly would not interfere, as had been proved at Ipswich, either with public morality or good order. One objection urged against the Amendment was that it violated the principle of the Bill. But if any principle was to be adopted, it ought to be the principle of the Act which they were trying to amend. There was no force in the argument that, because a hard-and-fast line was fixed for the closing hours, therefore, a hard-and-fast line was to be fixed for opening. He denied that there was any analogy between the two. The Government were asked by the inhabitants of Liverpool, and other large towns, to fix 7 o'clock for opening, and by those on whose behalf he was speaking to fix 5 o'clock, and the answer given was—"We will oblige neither, but will disoblige both, by fixing the hour at 6 o'clock." For his own part, he did not believe in any attempt to make people sober or religious by Act of Parliament. He did not believe in the abolition of the Ten Commandments, and substituting for them ten sections of statute law. They must appeal to higher motives, give a better training, and trust to the more powerful influences of education, and an improved morality. In this case there would be a clear inconvenience and no advantage whatever.
suggested whether the difficulty might not be met by allowing public-houses to be open between 5 and 6 o'clock for the sale of beer to be consumed off the premises.
§ MR. MELLY
said, he did not believe that such a provision would operate satisfactorily. Who was to watch the publicans to see that it was properly carried out? He would suggest that the 55 districts in the South of England should be allowed to continue to work the Act of 1872, and also the 75 districts in the North of England; and, if necessary, they could come to Parliament for an amendment without touching the 700 districts which did not ask for any alteration.
§ MR. T. E. SMITH
was opposed to the extension of hours for early morning drinking, and trusted that the Committee would adhere to the proposition of the Government, that at any rate it would not consent to the public-houses being opened so early as 5 o'clock. Morning drinking was worse than night drinking. ["Oh, oh!"] As a large employer he could say that if a man got first one half-pint and then another, it ended in his being unfit for work all the day after.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, a glass of beer in early morning did a great deal of harm. Cold tea or coffee was much better. He cordially supported the proposition of the Government, that the hours of opening should be 6 o'clock.
§ MAJOR EGERTON LEIGH
said, there were two modes of drinking, drinking for thirst and drinking for drinking's sake. He did not believe that people would rise at 5 in the morning to drink for drinking's sake, and if they did the landlords would not find them profitable customers. There could be no harm in extending the hour of opening to 5.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, he hoped the Committee would accept the hour proposed by the Government. It was quite early enough for public convenience. Why they should insist upon having public-houses opened before the public required them and before the magistrates wished it, he could not conceive. A discretionary power would be of but little use, because when one house opened the others were obliged to do the same or lose custom. It was the opinion of the publicans themselves in Liverpool that the drinking in the early morning brought 1027 them more discredit than all the other drinking put together.
An HON. MEMBER
asked why the House should be content to fix the hour of opening at 5 o'clock in the morning in the interest of the London artizan, whilst in the interest of the artizans of Liverpool or Manchester they were content to fix it at 6 or 7 o'clock. He hoped 5 would he decided upon, leaving it discretionary with the publican whether he opened at that time or later.
§ MR. WYKEHAM-MARTIN
pointed out that in the agricultural districts, unless the labourers took their beer with them in the morning, they could not procure it the whole of the day. He thought it was not unfair to ask on behalf of these men, who worked hard and were miserably underpaid, that they should be allowed to obtain their refreshment before they commenced work in the morning.
§ LORD CLAUD JOHN HAMILTON
said, he hoped the Home Secretary would not announce his decision with regard to agricultural labourers till he had moved the Amendment which stood in his name respecting that portion of the clause.
§ Question put, "That the word 'six' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 382; Noes 52: Majority 330.
§ On the Motion of Mr. ASSHETON CROSS, some consequential Amendments were made in the sub-section, to correspond with alterations made by the Committee.
§ SIR HARCOURT JOHNSTONE
moved in page 2, line 9, to leave out "ten," and insert "nine," with a view of closing public-houses in rural districts at 9 instead of 10 on Sundays. The change could not be disadvantageous to anyone, and the publicans themselves had shown their appreciation of total closing on Sundays by adopting it in 9,000 cases. He should divide the Committee on the question.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he should not oppose the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, as it would be a fruitless effort to continue the Bill at that hour; but he hoped the Committee would be resumed 1028 on the following day. He knew that that could not be the case without private Members who had Motions on the Paper making a sacrifice of their privilege, which he was always reluctant to ask them to submit to. Some of the Motions on the Paper for to-morrow had already been withdrawn. The time of the Session was becoming valuable, and he must take that opportunity of disabusing the Committee of the idea, which was too prevalent, that this was to be a short Session of Parliament, and one in which little was to be done. On the contrary, there was a prospect of its being a long Session, and that much would be done. As far as he could judge, within a few days there would be seven measures of first-rate importance before Parliament; and, therefore, unless they husbanded their time and made some exertions, they would find themselves very greatly disappointed as to the prospect in which they had indulged. He wished to suggest that the House should again go into Committee on this Bill to-morrow (Friday.) If this was done they would be more able to deal in a timely manner with the other measures to which he had referred. With the object he had mentioned he would appeal to the hon. Members who had Motions on the Paper for to-morrow, and in particular to the hon. and learned Member for Londonderry (Mr. C. E. Lewis), who had intended to bring forward a subject of some magnitude, to forego their undoubted privileges and to postpone those Motions.
§ MR. C. E. LEWIS
, although he thought it was rather early in the Session to deprive Members of their privilege, said, he would give way to the Government, but only on the condition that other Members followed his example.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he could not suppose the hon. and learned Member for Londonderry would relinquish his privilege unless the other hon. Gentlemen followed him in the same direction. If they did so, as the Session advanced, and he could see his way to do so, he would endeavour to find other days for them.
§ MR. C. E. LEWIS
observed that as he had heard no response from the other Members, he could not give way as suggested.
§ MR. HORSMAN
, after the promise of the Prime Minister, could not imagine 1029 any Member objecting to the arrangement.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
asked the Government to give the House some assurance with regard to the Returns upon which the legislation of 1872 was founded. If that were not done, he should move that the Bill be not reported until those Papers were produced.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that when he came into office, he asked for the information referred to, and was told there was no information whatever. What there was was written on unofficial paper, and had been practically destroyed. He presumed that those were in the nature of private communications, and were not intended to be laid before Parliament. If the right hon. Gentleman looked at the Police Returns presented to Parliament in the usual way, he would see the answers they had given. The right hon. Gentleman should have sought for this information earlier in the Session.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
observed that the Under Secretary of State had quoted from one of the Papers in question, and as they had been practically used in the debate, what objection could there be to their production? The objections to their production had not come from the chief constables, nor had the criticism, and the country would not be satisfied with changes made on evidence which was not before the public.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, there was no doubt of the Rule quoted by the right hon. Gentleman that all documents referred to in debate by a Minister should be produced to the House. But these Returns did not at all affect the Bill, and they were of a strictly private and confidential character. If they were produced, it would be injurious to the public service; but he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman to move that the parties should be addressed in their public capacities, and if they chose to have their opinions made public then the Papers could be laid on the Table.
§ MR. HORSMAN
observed, that if the documents were confidential originally, they ceased to have that character, and became public documents the moment they were quoted by a Minister of the Crown in debate, and the House was entitled to call for them.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, that the Mayor of his borough had made a private communication 1030 in answer to the questions put by the Home Secretary, and he was much surprised at seeing the information he had furnished quoted by the Government.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, the House should bear in mind that the position of a Mayor and that of a policeman were entirely different, and he thought the publication of names might be prejudicial to the interests of some of those who had communicated intelligence.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
was of opinion that the Government had a right to ask the chief constables whether their communications were intended for the public; and, if so, to lay them on the Table of the House. They were entitled to have all the information given on the Bill; but it was not his wish to place the chief constables in any invidious position. He would, therefore, suggest that the Papers be produced without giving the names of the writers, or the towns from which they came.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he was willing to give the effect of the Returns, his only objection to the production of the Papers arising from a fear of jeopardizing the position of the chief constables.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
believed they were entitled to have the documents laid before them, as they were quoted in debate.
§ MR. HORSMAN
considered that, as the Home Secretary had admitted the right to call for these Papers, there was no necessity for pushing the matter farther.
§ MR. FLOYER
considered it was the Rule of the House not to refer to any document which was not upon the Table, and that if anyone did so, the objection to his action in that matter should be made at once, and not subsequently.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, the hon. Gentleman had not correctly stated the Rule of the House. It was that no Minister should quote from a document which he was not prepared to lay upon the Table of the House.
§ SIR HARCOURT JOHNSTONE
said, he was afraid the public out-of-doors would not understand those nice distinctions, and would wish to know the reliability of the Reports, which had been referred to.
§ MR. SPENCER WALPOLE
said, he thought the Rule of the House extended 1031 only to the production of the particular document which had been quoted, and did not extend to the other Reports, which were of a private character.
said, he was willing to accept the offer of the Home Secretary; but he thought the questions sent out to the chief constables ought to be given in extenso.
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, he thought it would be derogatory for the House, after settling the most important points in the Bill, to seek to shelter itself behind the non-production of those Papers.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
regarded all the proposals made by the Government as to these documents as equally unsatisfactory, and the proposal of the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Spencer Walpole) as even more unsatisfactory. Still he would not press the matter if it were clearly to be understood that it was not hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House who had violated the confidential character of these Reports.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
denied that the Homo Secretary had violated the confidential character of the Reports until, when cross-examined by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), he, in an unlucky moment, turned over some Papers which he had in his hand.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, the allusion to the Returns of the police was made by the Under Home Secretary in the course of an argument. He (Mr. Forster) thought it would be a bad precedent if the Government were to quote from Returns obtained from different towns, and then refuse to produce them, so that the House might have an opportunity of testing the accuracy of the summary which the Government compiled. He did not for a moment suppose but that the summary had been prepared with the greatest fairness; but the precedent of bringing before the House the facts so arrived at without producing the Returns would be an awkward one. There was a degree of indiscretion in quoting from these Returns, and he thought the Prime 1032 Minister would admit that if the House were to push for it, they would have a right to the production of them.
§ MR. WHITWELL
asked the Under Secretary whether he would state to the House whether any information could be supplied by the Home Office with regard to the endorsement of licences from the Returns in question?—because such information would be received with great satisfaction.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.