§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Secretary Cross.)76
§ MR. MELLY
, in rising to move as an Amendment to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—In the opinion of this House, no measure for the regulation of the sale of Intoxicating Liquors will he satisfactory which affords increased facilities for drinking, and which deals unequally and unfairly with a considerable branch of the liquor trade,said, he was sorry to interpose between the House and the second reading of the measure, but he thought it was desirable to consider at that stage the two principal features of the Bill: the extension of facilities for drinking, and the new distinction attempted to be created between spirit dealers and beer sellers. He would have simply moved the rejection of the Bill, but it contained one or two police regulations of value, and should the House in Committee accept the Motions made by the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Ralph Assheton) and the hon. Member for West Kent (Mr. J. G. Talbot), the Bill might be made an amending Bill; as it stood it was a retrograde measure; in two respects a step backwards, as he would endeavour to show. It aggravated the very points complained of by the Act of 1872, and in a material degree reversed the policy adopted by both parties in 1872. It went against the feeling of the people, as had been shown by the Petitions presented that night, and against the best interests of the trade, all for the purpose of keeping open the public-houses by an additional miserable half-hour. In asking the House to discuss the question, he was aware that they laboured under some disadvantages. Lord Aberdare had been removed to "another place," and by the death of Mr. Winterbotham, Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, with the noble Lord, had been instrumental in carrying the existing Act, they had lost a Member whose eloquence and whose practical knowledge were most valuable, and whose simplicity and refinement of character endeared him to his friends. But, at the same time, he might say that they entered upon the discussion of the question with some advantages. In the first place, it had never been discussed as a party question. It had never been so treated either in that House, or in the other House of Parliament, and certainly it was not his 77 intention to treat it in a different spirit on this occasion. The main object of the Act of 1872, as originally introduced, was to secure uniformity in the hours of opening and closing, with due regard to the actual wants of the inhabitants of different localities: London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and other large centres of population, where it was proposed to be open between 6 and 12; town with 10,000 inhabitants between 7 and 11; and towns with 2,000 inhabitants between 7 and 10 o'clock. There was also no distinction made between different classes of drink shops. In 1872 there were three Bills on this subject before the House. The Government Bill was introduced into the House of Lords by the Earl of Kimberley; there was a Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Fife (Sir Robert Anstruther); and a third brought forward by his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) which he should have been glad to see adopted, because the blame of passing it would not then have fallen upon them, and because it was just the sort of measure that the present scheme, when properly amended, would develop into. But all these Bills adopted the same time for closing, and the discretion given to the justices, which found its way into the Government measure, was inserted by the House of Commons, and was not to be found in it as it originally came from the House of Lords. The beer-seller was placed by the Bill of the present Under Secretary of State for the Home Department in the same position with respect to hours as the licensed victualler. After very long discussions, carried on not only upon Mondays and Thursdays, but on hot Saturday afternoons, it was agreed to leave a discretionary and elastic power in the hands of the licensing magistrates. The present Bill proposed to take away that discretionary power, and to fix the hours within the four corners of the Act. He could show by the reports of the police Inspectors, the opinions of magistrates, and even of the trade, that the Act had worked satisfactorily; but he did not wish unnecessarily to take up the time of the House by quoting from those documents in detail. He had summarized the Reports of 160 superintendents of police. They were aware that the country was divided into three great 78 police divisions—the Northern, Southern, and Midland divisions, with the Metropolitan district as a fourth and separate division, under Colonel Henderson. The chiefs of the whole of these four divisions had expressed their complete approval of the working of the Act with respect to the hours of closing. The superintendents of police in 117 boroughs had in their Reports stated, "the Act works satisfactorily," "the Act is a boon," "the Act does much good;" and 49 chief constables of counties stated distinctly that it had greatly promoted good order during the night. The fault of the present measure was, that it proposed in all cases to extend the hours, while it took away the discretionary power vested in the magistrates. The fixing of the hours by Parliament might to some extent be regarded as an improvement, but he did not think that the power had been arbitrarily or capriciously used to the extent that was generally imagined. There were 890 licensing benches in England and Wales. By only 201 of these had the hours been altered. In 689 the hours stated in the Act of 1872 had been adopted; and in 112 out of the 201 where alterations had been made they were of a very trivial character. The justices had been too discreet to use their discretion. In Wales the greatest alterations had been made in 43 districts, but no doubt, good reasons could be shown for that by the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan.) They were all for shortening the hours. In four English boroughs the hours had been shortened, but in 154 boroughs, with a population of 6,036,000, the Act had been adopted in its entirety. The public-houses, with the exception of Liverpool and Hull, which opened at 7, opened at 6 in the morning, and with that exception the whole of the beer-houses and spirit-houses, together, 34,886 in number, closed at 11 at night. He should be told that the late General Election showed that the publicans, at all events, if not the beer-house keepers also, were largely dissatisfied with the legislation on this point. He did not, however, think that that was a fair statement of the case. What they were dissatisfied with was, not what had been done, but what had been threatened, and what they were afraid of. They objected to 79 the discretion of the magistrates, because they feared that teetotal or temperance magistrates might get on the bench and create a majority for measures of a restrictive character, which would make the houses they had purchased become bad bargains. It was that fear which made them hostile to the Act of 1872; and now, in consequence of that feeling, the House was asked not only to fix the hour of closing—to that he would make no objection—but to fix it half-an-hour later than it had been during the last 18 months, and that in face of the Petitions that had been presented against such a step from all parts of the country, and of the police Reports of the improved state of affairs throughout the length and breadth of the land. The Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary created a diversity in the hours of closing in every single thoroughfare in every town and village in England, inasmuch as the public-houses were to be closed at one hour and the beer-houses half-an-hour earlier. Now, it would be very easy for hon. Members to say—"what a deal of fuss you are making about half-an-hour;"—but in The Times of that day the case was put very concisely—To an ordinary observer, unacquainted with the details of the controversy and the interests of the trade, it may appear strange that so fierce a clamour should be raised about so small a fraction of the hours of business, but the truth is, that the period in question, though measured by minutes, is the most profitable of the whole day. The last hours, or oven half-hours, are those that pay best.Yes, they pay the best, but they cost the most—in disorder, in riot, in drunkenness, in abandoned children and penny-less widows, in ruined homes, in increased rates and taxes.More liquor, and that of a more paying kind, is consumed, and more money spent as the night draws on than at any other time. It is then that the Trade becomes brisk and thirsty souls abound. The house which can keep open the longest is the best house, and the most popular house.He wanted to say one word as to the operation of the Bill in London. There were 5,341 spirit-houses and 2,791 beerhouses in the metropolis. On the 23rd of December last the Licensed Victuallers' Protection Society sent out a circular inquiring what the trade preferred as the closing hour. Replies were received from 455 stating 80 12.30; 2,000 did not reply; and 2,874 were for 12 o'clock. The Home Secretary, in fixing 12.30, had therefore obeyed 455, and refused to obey the 2,874 who had absolutely repudiated his proposal. There was no doubt the present law was a very great inconvenience to respectable and hard-working people who were employed during the night. He was most anxious that persons whoso business began when individuals in private life—he did not mean in that House—went to bed, and who were engaged during the night in preparing those sheets of information, and those reports of the speeches made in that House, which they found upon their breakfast table in the morning, should be considered. But half-an-hour after midnight would be a very small accommodation to the workers on the Press of London, who, it might be said in sober earnestness, turned night into day; and he thought they must make up their minds to undergo some inconvenience for the sake of the great benefits which arose from this restrictive legislation. He had been told the other day of a man who, having visited his father, the Recorder of a great city, at an hotel, was told by the waiter at exactly 11 o'clock, that he must leave, as he was not lodging in the house. The father was very angry; but he forgot to tell him (Mr. Melly) that his work at quarter sessions had been diminished by the Act of 1872. With regard to such a case as that, he would throw out a suggestion which he thought might be worked up by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. Could there not be some extremely expensive licence granted to hotels of magnitude, which were not gin palaces, with their long mahogany bars and their gaudy and glaring lights, but which were really for the accommodation of a class who, in the very nature of things, were out half-an-hour or more late at night? He simply suggested whether something could not be done in that direction. But because a few hundred gentlemen of the upper classes were inconvenienced in an hotel once or twice a-year, that was no reason why something like 18,000 drinking shops should be kept open from one end of England to the other during the whole of the 12 months. The present hours were from six to 11 in 154 out of 156 towns with a population of 81 6,000,000. There were 17,654 spirit-houses which, without one single request sent up by them, and against the evidence of their magistracy and police, were to have an extra half-hour forced upon them. The House must not forget that the hours from six to 11 were fixed after due consideration. But what was the key-note lying at the bottom of that settlement? It was to meet the beer-house hours of the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, in 1869 and 1870, while the powerful Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was on the opposite bench, had brought in two of the most important measures for the promotion of temperance, sobriety, and order, that had ever been brought forward in that House. He would make an appeal to every borough Member, and ask whether there was one of them who was pledged to an extension of hours? They might be pledged for or against the Permissive Bill; to less penal clauses; to allow a publican to entertain his friends as he ought to do—and he (Mr. Melly) could not help thinking that the decisions which had been given by magistrates against publicans who had been entertaining their friends after hours in their private rooms, were the decisions of Justice Shallows, who, by such unwise decisions, did great injury to such legislation as they were now considering—but were they pledged to an extension of hours? He believed they might be pledged to uniformity of hours, but not to an extension of them. Now, who had asked for this extension? There were 450,000 inhabitants in Liverpool. Its magistrates had condemned the extension during the past week; its clergy had condemned it; its police had reported against it; and he was prepared to say that its licensed victuallers wished to be left alone. Let one single borough or county magistrate, to whom the maintenance of law and order was entrusted in his district, and to whom its peace and sobriety were dear, tell him in whose interest he would vote for that half-hour? He did not want his opinion about large cities, or about Stoke—these places were represented by hon. Members who would vote with him (Mr. Melly). Did his own constituents want this extra half-hour? He closed his case on this challenge as regarded the 82 extension of hours to spirit-houses. Now, as to the unequal treatment of beer-houses. As regarded the second part of his Resolution, the Bill would reverse the whole policy of the last six years, which was the policy of the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, and which aimed at taking beer-houses out of the hands of the Excise and putting them into the hands of the magistrates—at raising their position. The policy of the hon. Baronet had been to raise the character of beer-houses by making the rental higher, and placing them under the strictest police supervision and the most penal clauses. It was rather curious to remark what the Home Secretary called logic in connection with this subject. The right hon. Gentleman said—"If you look to the number of licences of beer-houses forfeited, you will see that in 1869"—before they were dealt with by the hon. Baronet opposite—"it was 1,479, but in 1873 it was only 13. From those figures you may judge that the conduct of those houses was greatly improved, I trust it will be still more improved, and we are anxious to do all we can to improve them." But how did the right hon. Gentleman propose to improve them? By treating them with the grossest injustice, and tempting them to break this law. There were 682 beer-houses in his borough; the owners did not, he believed, vote for him at the last election, and he hoped he should say that night nothing which would cause them to vote for him at the next. He was no friend or advocate of any drinking house, but he was an enemy to unjust treatment of any individual or trade. But how had the beerhouses behaved? There were 62,261 spirit-houses in the Provinces, and the convictions against them in 1873 were 2,297, or one in 27; there were 40,923 beer-houses, and the convictions in their cases were 1,495, or one also in 27. But if it was recollected that among the spirit-houses were reckoned hotels, these figures showed how much better behaved were the beer-houses than the spirit-houses strictly so-called. In Liverpool, where the spirit-houses were 1,934 and the beer-houses 325, one in 26 of the population got drunk; but in Manchester and Salford, where the spirit-houses were 599 and the beer-houses 2,347, only one in 43 of the population got 83 drunk, showing greatly in favour of the beer-houses. Liverpool, however, was a seaport town, and the comparison might not be altogether fair. He would, therefore, take Northampton and Leicester, midland towns; in one, they made shoes, in the other, stockings. Northampton had 70 spirit-houses, and three times as many beer-houses, and the drunken cases were one in 199¾ but Leicester had 270 spirit-houses, and exactly the same number of beer-houses, and the drunken cases were one in 200½. Therefore, it was not by records of convictions or statistics of drunkenness that they could make out a special case for dealing with the beer-houses. The Home Secretary, in speaking of the night houses, had told the House that they were the resorts of persons who were turned out of the public-houses. "These houses may be summed up in three words," he said, "they are simply the resort of prostitutes, and are kept by persons carrying on an illicit trade in spirits. Therefore, we propose that these houses shall close at half-past 12." If he (Mr. Melly) had summed up the case of these refreshment houses, instead of making such a proposal, he would have summed up in four words—"shut them up altogether." It was no great compliment to the 2,791 beerhouses in the metropolis that they should be closed half-an-hour earlier than the night houses, which had been so accurately described by the Home Secretary as the resort of unfortunate women, and as illicit dealers. Now, what was a beer-house? A beer-house in Lancashire, Staffordshire, and Cheshire, at least, was a club kept by working men's wives for the accommodation of their husbands and their husbands' friends. It was the Carlton and Reform of that large section of the working classes who were not members of the Alliance, and did not belong to the mystic brotherhood of Good Templarism. It was a place furnished with wicker chairs and deal tables; it might be it possessed a snug parlour in which men sat, in contradistinction to a place which was unfurnished, except as regarded half a mile of mahogany counter and 100 lights, and in which men stood to drink. The House would create a most unfair distinction if it dealt with these places in the unfair and unequal manner which this Bill proposed. If it did so deal 84 with them, it would be committing a breach of faith against the beer-house keepers. Under the 45th section of the Act of 1872, they had been compelled to improve their properties, and to increase their value from, say £8, £10, to £15, £20, and even £30, and now that legislation had made them so expend money, it would be obviously unjust to them to pass a Bill which reduced their goodwill value by shortening their hours of sale, while houses which did an opposition trade were allowed to remain open. He knew that beer-houses were unpopular. He knew that the worst characters occasionally congregated in low beer-houses. But those characters would not be improved by a Bill which turned them out of beer-houses at 11 o'clock, and allowed them to top up with another glass of gin at the nearest public, and mix their liquors between 11 and 11.30 P.M. He would now call the police into court in his favour. They said that the proposed distinction had raised a great deal of feeling amongst keepers of beerhouses, and would be very injurious. The Chief Constable of Stafford, Captain Congreve, had written him a letter, in which he said—The extension of hours proposed by the Bill will, I think, be in the interest only of the publican and the drunkard. Hard-working men do not want late hours. Again, the re-imposed distinction between beer-house and licensed victualler will benefit no one but the licensed victuallers. Every beer-house, or nearly every beer-house, has a licensed victualler within 20 yards, and the effect of clearing the former half-an-hour before the latter will be to accumulate all the drinking and drunken population for a short time in a very diminished area, with a probability that the several streams confluent from several rival beer-houses may develope, on meeting, quarrelsome tendencies. There will be a great temptation to the beer-house to break the law, in the hope of not losing his customers in that most profitable half-hour, when they are most drunk. Again, the inducement for a beer-house keeper to become a licensed victualler is enhanced; greater efforts will be made, and the result will be that in a greater or less degree the number of houses which sell spirits will increase. Lastly, I find that many licensed houses in this county are inferior in accommodation to many beer-houses, and in such cases especially there seems to be no reason for exceptional favour to the former.Hon. Members of the House of Commons gave similar evidence. He was really sorry for his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department. What a speech he would have 85 made against parts of this Bill had he been in a non-official position. How he would have smashed some of the provisions of the Bill of his Chief, and demonstrated that it was dead in the teeth of the legislation of recent years. What said the hon. Baronet in 1872? Speaking on the 11th of July in that year, he said he believed that irregularity in the hours of opening and closing would be injurious, as men, turned out of an early house, would make their way to one which kept open later, adding that the keeper of the later house would not know the state they were in and would serve them with drink; that they would get intoxicated, and so find themselves in the hands of the magistrates. Then, again, the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) said the other evening that he highly approved the Bill; but its main principle was opposed to that of 1872, on the back of which the name of the hon. Member appeared, under which the uniform hour of 11 was provided. There was one more quotation he would make, and it was from the speech of a right hon. Gentleman who did not now sit on the front bench, but whose name was revered in the country and respected by both sides of that House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) said—He thought it was clear that the public interest required that all houses where liquor was sold should he closed at the same time. They could arrive at but one conclusion—that if parties who had got three-parts drunk at a house which had to be closed at an earlier hour than another house close by, they would be sure to go to the one that was left open and take what was termed 'a fresh start,' and in such cases it was easy to see that convictions under the Act might he indefinitely, and in some cases unjustly, multiplied; on the other hand, if they closed all houses at the same time, men would then go home and go to bed."—[3 Hansard, ccxiii. 329, 330.]It was not necessary to add a word of argument to that quotation. It was a privilege to be able to call the right hon. Gentleman as a witness on that side of the question. He should now turn to the way in which the Bill proposed to act in respect of diversity of treatment of the different towns. The object of the Bill was said to be to accommodate the public. If it were so, its object was accomplished in a strange way. In the Metropolis there would be 5,300 spirit-houses open at 12.30; 2,800 beer-houses 86 closed at 12. In Liverpool it was the fashion to have spirit-houses, and so, even when all the beer-houses were closed, the public would be well accommodated. But in Manchester and Sal-ford the fashion was to have beer-houses, and therefore when these were closed the state of Manchester would, according to the right hon. Gentleman the Homo Secretary, be most miserable. This proposal to grant spirit-houses an extra half-hour would work most unequally as regarded almost all provincial towns. In Liverpool, spirit licences having been largely granted some years ago to beerhouses, so as to bring them under the control of the police, there were 1,934 spirit-houses and 325 beer-houses; in Manchester and Salford, where a different policy had been pursued, there were 599 spirit-houses and 2,347 beerhouses. Thus, in Liverpool, between 11 and 11.30 P.M., there would be 1,934 open houses for the sale of beer and spirits, or one for every 230 inhabitants, while in Manchester and Salford there would only be 599 houses open, or one for every 734 inhabitants. In Norwich the Bill closed 49 beer-houses, and left open 596 spirit-houses; in Coventry it closed 11 beer-houses, and left open 262 spirit-houses; in Hanley it closed 249 beer-houses, and left open 54 spirit-houses; in Birmingham it closed 1,141 beer-houses, and left open 684 spirit-houses; so much for the inequality in the treatment of towns; if it was said that the proposed change was rendered necessary for the purpose of affording accommodation to the public, those statistics would show that that object would not be attained. He had now closed his case in reference to the two main portions of his Motion, and had endeavoured to show that the extra half-hour was asked for by nobody,—that it was refused by everybody; further, that closing the beer-houses before the spirit-houses would lead to riot and disorder—would double the work of the police—would unduly interfere with that class of working men by whom the beer-houses were owned and frequented. Before sitting down, he wished to say a single word as to the general position of the trade. Under existing legislation, which it was said was unjust to the trade, the trade had got its monopoly restricted, and the value of its goodwill practically recognized. The Act of 1872 was the first 87 Act in which the value of the licence was recognized as part of the value of the house. That was a great concession to the trade. Considering the whole of the circumstances under which the trade was, he throw out a challenge. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department say that he wished to induce respectable men to enter the trade. But respectable men were induced to enter the trade by encouragement to capital, and were not frightened by penal clauses, which were not for the punishment of the respectable, but of the disrespectable man. Every conviction, every endorsed licence, every forfeited licence, every closed house, added to the money value of the respectable house by increasing its legitimate business, for even the most disreputable publican did some legitimate trade. That was the challenge he threw out. If the licensed victuallers did not like the legislation of the last eight years, if they did not choose to carry on the trade under the restrictions which Parliament considered necessary, lot them sell their houses and leave the business. He knew that in Lancashire and Yorkshire and throughout Staffordshire, since 1872, the value of spirit houses had risen by 25 percent, and he had heard from a high authority, that throughout London the increase amounted from 12 to 15 per cent. Since 1871, the effect of their legislation had been to increase the monopoly of the trade; and there were now a thousand fewer houses in England and Wales. So much for the assertion that the trade had been "harassed,"—unjustly dealt with. Prom the year 1870 the action of the Legislature had been to make the trade more strictly a monopoly. Since that year there had been a reduction of exactly 997 houses in England and Wales. Now, look at the money those took over the counter. In 1871 it had been shown that the total consumption of Foreign and British wines, spirits, beer, and all other liquors in the United Kingdom, was in value £119,000,000. In 1873 it was £146,000,000. Professor Levi said that the labouring classes drank two-thirds of all that was drunk in this country. That meant that the labouring classes drank 75 millions worth of drink in 1871, and 97 millions worth in 1873. He was not making a temperance speech, but showing the increased 88 value of the monopoly. The houses had been decreased by 1,000, and to those which remained there was an increased trade of from 16 to 18 millions across the counter to the poorer classes of the community. He thought the trade had no claim upon the House on the ground of injustice; and if it had a claim, it was, according to this Bill, a claim for increasing riot and disorder in all our cities by half-an-hour every night, a claim he moved to disallow. He must make a remark upon the inconsistency with which the Home Secretary and the Government were dealing with these social questions. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had regretted the increased consumption of spirits. The Home Secretary now brought in a Bill to increase the time during which spirits might be consumed. Last Wednesday the Home Secretary promised a Bill to reduce the hours of labour in factories. This was a Bill to increase the hours of hard work of those engaged in tap-rooms and gin-palaces. Was the atmosphere of gin-palaces less unhealthy, or their moral influence purer than that of cotton or woollen factories? Was nothing to be done in these days of Nine Hours Bills for the potboy and the barmaid? Had these no bodies that might be tired, and constitutions that might be ruined as well as the workers in factories? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had told the Royal Academy that—"There must be in a Government, unity of design, unity of purpose in their policy, a firm and flowing outline in their measures." He saw no unity of purpose, and nothing flowing in their measures except brandy and gin from 11 to 11.30 P.M. in all the great towns. He was bound to say he saw no unity of design in the various Bills of the present Government dealing with social questions, some of which might be excellent; but that particular one was not such as the country had a right to expect from a Government which was far too strong to be compelled to pander to any trade, and which sat on the Treasury Bench not to represent a party, but to govern a nation. As they were strong, so let them be firm to resist class claims, and to prefer the welfare of millions to the interests of a pampered trade. Power carried with it great responsibility, and the Home Secretary was especially responsible for the 89 maintenance of law and order, which every provision of this Bill was calculated to endanger. In conclusion, he thanked the House for the indulgence shown him. He might have argued his case upon higher, upon religious grounds, instead of basing his arguments upon law and order only. This, at least, he would assert—as there was probably not a Judge, a Recorder, or a superintendent of police who was in favour of this extension, so there was not a rector, responsible for the moral welfare of a large parish, a Nonconformist minister, labouring for the salvation of his flock amid the millions in our manufacturing districts, a Catholic priest, wearing away his life in the fœtid courts and back slums of the Irish quarter of our large towns, who was not opposed to increased facilities for drinking. Had the ministers of religion a vote here to-night, he should with certainty await their decision. But it was not without confidence that he left his Resolution in the hands of an Assembly so largely composed of chairmen of quarter sessions and justices of the peace for counties and boroughs, whose duty it was not only to make laws in this House, but to administer them in the country. In conclusion he would move the Amendment of which he had given notice.
§ MR. PEASE
, in seconding the Motion, said, he heartily agreed with the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) in regretting the absence from the House of Commons of Mr. Bruce, now Lord Aberdare, and of the late Mr. Winterbotham, who were so intimately associated in the promotion of the state of the law that it was now proposed to change. He was not going to use the strong language used in "another place," with regard to the way in which the Bill had been forced forward; but what were the facts? The Bill was brought down on the 2nd of April. It was formally "brought in" on Monday the 27th ult.; it was not delivered until the 1st of the month, and it practically did not get into the country until the 5th; and now, on the 11th, they had the second reading! The country had not had time to consider the Bill. From letters he had received up to that morning, he considered that if more time had been allowed there would have been a still stronger expression of opinion with reference to it. They had not, had 90 much more than 12 months' experience of the Act of 1872—as a matter of fact-there had only been one Brewster Sessions since it came into operation—and yet they were already called upon to amend that Act! He thought the House was entitled to some strong proof that the alterations which were proposed would amend the Act of 1872. Who was it that asked for an alteration of the law? Generally, complaint came from those who administered a faulty law, or those who suffered from its administration, or from on-lookers in the general interests of the country. Had any of these conditions been complied with in regard to the Act of 1872? Had it been found to work injuriously? Was it shown that this Bill, if passed, would make it work better? On the contrary, he should undertake to show that that Act, for the short period it had been in operation, had worked most successfully so far as the country was concerned; and that the present Bill would not have the effect of amending it. The publicans had not asked for the Bill; and., if they did not require it, he was certain from the meetings that were taking place every day that the middle classes did not ask for it; the ministers of religion viewed it with undisguised alarm; officers of the peace reported against the proposed alterations in the existing law, and the magistrates without exception were opposed to it. The Bill dealt with four points—the hours of closing; the abolition of clauses with regard to adulteration; the endorsement of licences; and the fixed minimum fine. Before speaking of the country, he wished to say a few words with reference to the metropolis. The Bill of Lord Aberdare defined the metropolis as "the City of London, or the liberties thereof, or any parish or place subject to the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Board of Works, or within four miles radius from Charing Cross." What was the district of the right hon. Gentleman? It was thus described in the Bill—"The metropolis, as defined by the Metropolis Management Act, 1855, and the adjoining places here-inafter named—that is to say"—blank! Then, what? Was the district larger or smaller? It seemed to him that the mind of the Government was not made up when the Bill was printed. Therefore, he proposed to ask the Government what they meant by their metropolitan 91 district. If the district was larger than before, so many more public-houses would by inclusion have their hours of closing extended from 11 to 12.30. If smaller, where was the consistency? The houses excluded would have their hours curtailed from 12 to 11.30. He complained of the removal of the power as to the theatre licences, the argument urged in support of its abolition being the weakest he ever heard; and he asked, were the whole 6,000 public-houses of London to be kept open for the accommodation of the few theatre-goers who frequented public-houses after leaving the 44 theatres existing in the metropolis? It was not pretended that the middle classes of London had asked for that alteration of hours. Had the working classes in the metropolis asked for the Bill?—and by the "working classes" he meant those British workmen of whom they were all proud—men who did not spend their evenings in public-houses. What about the publicans themselves? He was told the figures quoted by his hon. Friend who brought forward the Motion were very strong indeed—stronger than he represented them. Of the total 6,000 odd hundred licensed victuallers of the London trade applied to, and that replied to the circular, only 445 asked the hours to be extended to 12.30 or 1 o'clock; while 3,329 desired no change, and the rest cared so little about it that they did not reply! Therefore they were practically forcing on the unwilling publicans an extra half-hour, which would be a bane to the whole of the metropolis. He did not speak without authority in alluding to the feeling of the London trade. A few more answers subsequently dribbled in, but they were in much the same proportion—that was to say, about 13 per cent, or 890 out of 6,700, being the proportion who asked for an extension of the present hours. He thought that fact should be known, as one highly honourable to the trade. He asked the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary if he had ever gone into the East of London at a late hour of the night, and seen who it was that entered the public-houses, who were swinging the gin-palace doors backwards and forwards, the last hour during which they remained open? They were the most abject children of penury and want; a generation whose neglect and debasement were a disgrace a like 92 to our laws, our civilization, and our Christianity; and it was to these the Government proposed, by this measure, to give increased facilities to drink. Among these East London men, the education of the gutters and the public-house had already produced some lamentable fruits. A correspondent in the country, alluding to some who had been, in the spring of 1872, transplanted to an industrial district, wrote this description. He would trouble the House with a passage, showing the results as compared with others of the same class reared under happier auspices—Amongst the men who were brought from London in the summer were some of the worst characters I ever saw. Most of them were intemperate men, and for a while made our village look like a little Pandemonium, and especially on pay nights. For weeks after they came, I devoted two or three nights a week threading my way amongst them at their lodgings. Almost every word an oath. Not many of them could read or write. Both the vicar and I tried to induce them to attend some place of worship on the Sabbath-day, but very few could be found in such places. They crowded the three public-houses every Saturday night, and many of our old hands were crowded out by the fresh comers.Such were the habits fostered by late drinking! For his own part, he felt it would be better for society, better for the police, less destructive of the morals of certain districts of London, were they to licence 1,000 extra public-houses for theatre purposes than that they should have an hour's more drinking in the licensed houses that now exist. With respect to the rest of the country, what was the state of feeling? At a meeting of Barnard Castle and surrounding district licensed victuallers, hold on the 13th of January, 1874, there was some discussion on the draft Bill of the Licensed Victuallers' Protection Society of London—a Bill, by the way, whose proposal was a universal closing hour of 12 o'clock—and the second resolution passed at that meeting was as follows:—That in rural districts, villages, and most towns having a population under 10,000, it would needlessly entail on the publicans a serious loss of sleep and expense, by requiring them to keep open their houses to the general public until 12 o'clock (midnight), their customers being usually in bed by 9, 10, or 11 o'clock.Then the Barnard Castle Victuallers, like sensible men, went on to say that they ought not to be so compelled. The intelligent chief constable of the borough 93 of Middlesborough, reporting on the 5th of May this year, delivered his view of the question in these words—In my opinion, extending half an hour at nights is not required, and I believe the majority of publicans in my district do not want it. If the Bill should pass into law, the licensed victuallers would he subject to annoyances, by men in a half-drunken state turning out of the beer-houses at 11 o'clock, and then for a short time these would flock into the licensed houses and cause disorder, &c. I think it is a pity to disturb a Bill that has worked so well and done so much good.Another correspondent in the country supplied him with the following:—Called on——, formerly a sergeant in the police; he keeps the——public-house. He is all for short hours, and thinks it would be sad indeed if the publican was compelled to keep open longer hours than he does now. He would like to close much earlier. It would add much to the comfort of the publican and his family, and to the welfare of the country at large. He gave me full leave to make use of his opinion as thus expressed.The same correspondent wrote—I saw also——, of the Turf Hotel, at——, once a policeman. He said the best thing that ever happened to us was the shorter hours. I hope the time will not be extended. He hoped your efforts would be attended with success; he felt sure the trade would support your views.Another correspondent, a secretary to one of our agricultural societies, sententiously put his opinion thus—Pity but the 'publics' were closed earlier, rather than later. All publicans with whom I have spoken like the earlier time.From what he observed in the newspapers of his own part of the country, the present measure was, in its main features, received with marked disapproval. At Darlington, the town council had discussed the question, and the corporation petitioned against the Bill; one respectable licensed victualler, a member of the town council, expressing the opinion that, "as a body, the licensed victuallers of the country cared nothing about the half-hour." Again, at Stockton, Mr. T. Carrick, of Newcastle, at a public meeting held to protest against the present measure, said—They had heard a great deal about 'plundering and blundering,'—Mr. Cross had certainly 'plundered' and 'blundered' by proposing a measure of this kind. That extra half-hour meant more drunkards, more paupers, more jails, more executioners, more everything for which sober ratepayers had to pay.The fact was, as Mr. Councillor Prior, of Darlington, put it, the licensed victuallers, "as a body," had not asked for 94 the extension; and the few who did desire it were not those to whom the House of Commons ought to listen. He would further point out that the interests of the peace-loving well-to-do middle classes of the country were altogether opposed to extending the hours to that period of the night, which an hon. Member of that House had described most graphically as "the hour in which drinking merges into drunkenness;" and neither could it be pretended that any request for the extra half hour had been made by the working classes. How could such a thing be supposed? "I have gone to talk to the men about it," was the language of S. Leicester, in speaking on the Sunday Closing Bill; "they sincerely wish the drink was 1,000 miles away; that it was a guinea a pot; that is the general expression of the working men." He (Mr. Pease) could cordially join the right hon. Gentleman in deploring the extent to which the wages of working men went in the purchase of drink; but let him assure the right hon. Gentleman there was another side even to that gloomy picture of his. Workmen's wages had not all gone that gate. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of the recently increased earnings had gone into houses, furniture, and increased home comforts. In introducing the Bill the right hon. Gentleman said the country would have been so much richer, if so much drink had not been taken, and if so much waste and profligacy had not existed. The right hon. Gentleman dwelt on that theme, and pointed out how much happier the homes of the working classes might become, if their habits were different; and, then, what did he propose to them, in order to cure those evils which he admitted? Why, to remedy the evils of drunkenness and crime, and to add to the national wealth, improve the dwellings of the poor, improve their education and general condition, he proposed to keep public-houses open half-an-hour longer. Anything more ghastlily illogical than that prescription of the Home Secretary had hardly ever been brought before the House. Having already stated that the publicans of the metropolis did not ask for the extension of hours, what he asked was the opinion of the licensed victuallers in the country? In his own district, wherever he went during the last Elections, he was told on all hands by the publicans that 95 whatever he did he must vote against an extension of hours. He was not one of those who declared they had no publican supporters. He had publican supporters, and he did not want to reduce their number. Many of them told him that what they wanted was, rather to shorten than to lengthen the hours during which they might keep open. Then, the publicans in the rural districts did not require extended hours. As it was, many of their customers were in bed before the closing hour arrived. He contended that the half hour's extension was not required. With regard to the anxiety of the right hon. Gentleman about improved dwellings for the working classes, he could assure him that a great deal of their savings went into building societies for the purpose of providing their own houses, and so protecting themselves from the temptations of the public-house. Would the right hon. Gentleman increase those temptations by adding half-an-hour to the present hours? Would that not check, rather than promote, the object the right hon. Gentleman had at heart? And if the middle and working classes of the people had not asked for this legislation, neither had the clergy. Ask the Northern and Southern Houses of Convocation, whose formal resolutions in favour of restriction, not extension, of hours gave the answer! Ask those who deny themselves an indulgence which in moderation they regard as harmless, that their fellows may not be ensnared into evils inseparable from excess; and they reply, in the language of Mr. Charles Buxton, M.P., in The North British Review—We are convinced that if a statesman who heartily wished to do the utmost possible good to his country were thoughtfully to inquire which of the topics of the day deserved the most intense force of his attention, the true reply—the reply which would be exacted by full deliberation—would be, that he should study the means by which this worst of plagues can be stayed. The intellectual, the moral, and the religious welfare of our people, their material comforts, their domestic happiness, are all involved. The question is, whether millions of our countrymen shall be helped to become happier and wiser—whether pauperism, lunacy, disease, and crime shall be diminished—whether multitudes of men, women, and children shall be aided to escape from utter ruin of body and soul? Surely such a question as that, enclosing within its limits consequences so momentous, ought to be weighed with earnest thought by all our patriots.Adopting that language, he asked his 96 right hon. Friend if he had weighed this proposal with the earnest thought of a patriot when he brought in the Bill? He asked him further, had he taken counsel of those who sat on the same bench with him? And, if so, was that wretched Bill the result of his deliberations? At all events, he could not have consulted the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon), for according to Hansard, that noble Lord was reported to have said on July 27th, 1872—There could be no doubt that drinking at late hours was the cause of great demoralization. …. He appealed to the state of his own town for confirmation of this view. The justices, stipendiary magistrates, merchants, ministers of religion, all concurred in saying that those evils were to be traced to drinking after 11 o'clock at night."—[3 Hansard, ccxii. 1967.]He must further contend that the Act of 1872 had been carried amid a general chorus of approval; that it had effected manifest improvements, and driven no respectable man out of business. Hardly anyone asked for that Bill except black sheep, who were to be found in every profession, and who were, of course, to be found among the publicans. Were places like Kingston-on-Hull, which had decided to close at 10.30, to be compelled by the Bill to have the public-houses open to 11.30? The one plausible principle of the Bill was not carried out in its provisions—it took discretion from justices, but not to repose it in the Imperial Parliament—the option was transferred from the licensing magistrate to the licensed publican. As to the extension of hours being popular, it ran right in the teeth of the most popular movement of the day—that for early closing; and it was about the worst exception to that rule that Parliament could conceive, or the law enforce. With regard to the adulteration clauses, there was no doubt some plausibility in legislating to prevent adulteration in the food of the people; but he submitted that these special provisions might as well be left out of the present Bill, as our general legislation would, to a large extent, meet the case; and it was much better to have a common law than a number of special enactments. Besides, the inquisitorial character of the search given by the present adulteration clauses was one to which he thought the licensed victuallers of the country had a right to object. But his main objection was, to that which the 97 right hon. Gentleman had laid most stress upon as the principle of the Bill. If on that he had spoken warmly, it was not that his feelings, though keen, were in this matter either prompted by personal considerations or by party bias. It was because in his own native county of Durham he knew and felt the importance of the ameliorative legislation of 1872. In that county they had many provident working men; new schools, chapels, churches, built for the most part and supported by the same class; new houses, and increased home comforts, all resulting from the industrial prosperity which had prevailed; but amid all this—side by side with all this—recklessness and disorder had been seen, consequent upon excessive drinking, the convictions for drunkenness rising from 4,759 to 9,926, while crimes, even murders, had marked this saddest phase of our social degradation. Much had been done to cure that one monster evil. The clergy and ministers of all denominations had zealously co-operated in endeavouring to stay the plague; large employers had done much to aid and stimulate every good work; many teetotal organizations had, in another sphere, worked effectively to the same end; and yet they heard learned Judges on the bench, at recurring Assizes, lament the prevalency of a vice closely associated with the spread of fearful crimes. It was in answer to the appeals of such authorities as these that some slight restriction was conceded in 1872; it was now, when from the same quarters more restriction was demanded, that the power to close a little earlier than before—so recently granted—so much prized by respectable licensees and by society—was proposed, by a responsible Minister of the Crown, to be taken away! It was, therefore, he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman—and appealed to him in the name of that law and order of which he was the expositor and guardian—it was, therefore, he prayed him to stay his hand ere he asked the House of Commons to pass a Bill which, once made law, must add to the already fearful category of drunkenness, of poverty, and of crime which stained the social annals of our country.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words
"in the opinion of this House, no measure for the regulation of the sale of Intoxicating Liquors will he satisfactory which affords increased facilities for drinking, and which deals unequally and unfairly with a considerable branch of the liquor trade,"—(Mr. Melly,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he had listened with great attention to the speeches of the hon. Mover and Seconder of the Motion now under discussion, and while stating that he coincided with them in lamenting the extent to which drunkenness had increased during the last two years, he should like to bring the House back to the real question contained in the Bill of the Government, and the reasons why they had brought it forward. It was quite true the Act of 1872 had been passed by the common and general assent, and with the aid and assistance of hon. Members on both sides of the House; but he would remind those who had been Members of the late Parliament that it had been passed at a time of the year when a fair discussion of its provisions was impossible, and that in consequence of that hurried consideration, errors had crept into it which rendered it absolutely necessary that Government should now or ere long endeavour to remedy those defects; and he ventured to think that one of the gravest of those defects was one which he himself had then protested against, and that was the discretion given to the magistrates to fix the hours of closing. Those hon. Members would remember that from the very first, and during the passage of that measure, he had advocated that Parliament itself should fix the hard-and-fast line of closing, and so settle a question of such importance. In fact, there was an Amendment of his own on the Paper to that effect, and the reason why he had not moved it was simply because the clause vesting the discretion in the magistrates seemed to give so much pleasure to every section of the House at the time it was proposed, that he felt he could not obtain any support in opposition to it. They all knew that, however zealous the magistrates might be in the discharge of their duties at the Brewster Sessions, there was generally 99 a bias in their decisions; and if there was not any such bias, still the people thought that such a thing did exist. The members of the bench often entertained extreme views on this question, and it came to this, that however honestly they might act in carrying out what they believed to be for the public good, their decisions often showed that they were biassed by extreme views, and so long as that discretionary power was entrusted to them, so long would there be a constant agitation to get the hours altered. That was a grave fault in the existing measure. If they looked to the Returns of how the magistrates had exercised the discretion vested in them they could not help coming to the conclusion that the provision in question had not worked well. In most instances the magistrates had refused to incur the responsibility of fixing the hours, and that accounted for the fact that there were as many as 690 licensing districts in which the hours had not been altered. It was therefore that his right hon. Friend thought that it was objectionable to rest this discretionary power in the magistrates, and that in the Bill he made it a cardinal point that that power should cease, and that Parliament itself should fix the hours of closing. The question what the hours should be was quite a different thing, and what Government had done was merely to suggest to the House the hours which they thought the information they had received would bear out as the best and most suitable for the public convenience. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) knew how difficult it was to obtain reliable information on those points. He (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had information of a satisfactory nature from the police, from clergymen, from magistrates, and from the trade itself; but the difficulty which always existed, and which existed as much now as in the past, was that of ascertaining what the wants of the people really were. Hon. Members of the House representing their constituencies, and not any particular section of them, were, he thought, the men who were best able to interpret what the wishes of the country really were, and therefore while the Government were determined to make it, as he said, the cardinal point of the measure that Parliament should lay down the hard-and-fast line, they were prepared 100 to take hon. Members of the House into counsel in determining where this hard-and-fast line should be drawn. The idea of the trade was in favour of uniformity of hours, and that 12 o'clock should be the hour of closing throughout the country generally. He believed that this proposal had secured a large support from the trade generally. It had certainly secured the support of the metropolitan trade. But then came the question whether the London trade, in sacrificing the half-hour offered to themselves in order to arrive at uniformity, fairly represented the wants of the public; and if they did not represent the wants of the public, ought they to be heard on this point of closing at 12 o'clock, instead of at 12.30? He would leave that matter then with the remark that the Government considered uniformity of closing an impossibility. That was another cardinal part of the Bill. Having, then, fixed on those two cardinal points—first, to take away the discretionary power from the magistrate, leaving it to Parliament to determine the hard-and-fast line; and, secondly, to have nothing to do with the principle of universal uniformity—it was but right that he should now state the reasons which had led the Government to suggest to the House the hours mentioned in the Bill. First, with respect to fixing 12.30 as the closing hour in the metropolis. The Act of 1872 provided for the issue of exceptional licences to meet the wants of a certain class of the public; but they had now a large amount of evidence as to the working of that measure, which showed that the 54 houses to which those exceptional licences were granted drew away the business from other houses in their neighbourhood, which was an injustice to the trade generally, and they had, too, the most complete evidence that the class of people who frequented these houses was not the class for whose accommodation they had been intended. Instead of being frequented by those who left the theatres after 12, these houses were the haunts of those who, driven from the other houses at 12, wished to prolong the time of their dissipation. Again, the evidence showed that as a rule the theatres closed at 11.45, so that those who might have been there to witness the performance had a quarter of an hour during which they could 101 provide themselves with refreshments. However, to cover the possibility of their not being able to do so, it was thought better to insert 12.30 in the Bill for the whole, rather than continue the practice of licensing those exceptional houses. Then, as to the hour—11.30—of closing, about which hon. Members had raised such a storm, he was willing to admit that the Return obtained by the hon. Member for Stoke would, at first sight, favour the impression that the larger portion of the country was satisfied with the present arrangement; but then they had evidence from the mayors and police in different boroughs which showed a state of things which he looked upon with dread—namely, that in many places where the hours had been restricted illicit drinking had become the custom, almost the habit. The mayor of Worcester said, that in that city the curtailment of the hours had led to an increase of secret drinking. The mayor of Warrington told them that if the hour of closing were fixed at 10 o'clock, a large increase of illicit drinking would be the consequence. The mayor of Kingston-upon-Hull complained of an increase of drunkenness in consequence of private drinking occasioned by shortening the hours. The mayor of Kendal told the same story. The police of Gateshead complained of a great increase of drunkenness arising from high wages, fewer hours of labour; but, above all, from street drinking, under what was called the bottle system. People bought the spirits in the public-houses before closing hours, but drank them either in the street or in private houses. The police of Halifax, of Cumberland, Westmoreland, Salford, and Bradford made the same representation, and stated that any further restriction of the hours would cause a great increase of drunkenness.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, the letters of four of the mayors were not on the Table, being answers to letters written by himself. The statements of the police were in a pamphlet which had been circulated among hon. Members of the House.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that they meant that the drink was purchased in the public-houses before they closed and then drank in unlicensed houses.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, the Reports proved the evil results of drawing the line too tight; for if they reduced the hours too much, the result would be a large increase in the traffic for illicit drink. The difficulty in his mind was as to the propriety of reducing the hours; and in laying down 11.30 as the hour of closing the Government were influenced by the wishes of the population of large towns, who required a different system from those of small towns and the rural districts generally. As to the latter, the Return, which on the Motion of the hon. Member for Stoke had been placed on the Table of the House, showed that out of these districts, only four wished to have the hours extended, while in only 38 had they been at all curtailed, thus proving that in by far the largest number of cases the local authorities had not ventured to touch the hours at all. For those reasons the Government had placed the same hours that now existed in rural places in the Bill. There was, however, one part of the country—namely, Wales—in which singular unanimity had been shown in shortening the hours, 29 districts out of 33 having adopted that course; but it was impossible that Wales should give its hours to England. But the Government had by a clause in the Bill given the publicans liberty to reduce the hours where there was unanimity on the point, and where practically, as the wants of the district admitted, the houses were closed at an earlier hour. With regard to the morning, the Government had had endless remonstrances against the hour of 6, which was placed in the Bill; but the evidence generally was in favour of opening at an earlier hour than 7, and therefore it was thought better to leave the morning hour in the Bill as it stood. In short, the hours in the Bill as submitted to the House were merely suggestive. The hon. Member for Stoke stated that the action which he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) was now taking was contrary to that which he had before taken on this subject; but he would ask his hon. Friend to remember that 103 when he advocated uniformity it was the right hon. Gentleman the then Home Secretary who defeated him, and he believed the hon. Member for Stoke himself was among the majority. The hon. Member was, however, not justified in saying that the Bill of 1872 set up the principle of uniformity, and the Government were now endangering it. One of the chief merits of the Bill would be found in the restriction which it would impose on so-called refreshment-houses, which were really used for the purpose of carrying on drinking when the public-houses were closed. Then, as to the power of entry given to the police by the Bill of 1872. This power had not been generally abused, but it had in some instances—black-mail having been levied by the police under the provision—and therefore the present Bill, while enabling the police to enter or repress anything wrong, would take away from them the power of meddling. With regard to the record of convictions, he felt when the Bill of 1872 passed, and he felt still, that the magistrate should take on himself the responsibility of his action, and that it should not be left to depend on accidental forgetfulness whether a conviction was recorded or not. Under the Bill of the Government, the magistrate would have before him in every instance a full record of the convictions, and he would decide with perfect knowledge whether a person was fit to hold a licence or not. With regard to occasional licences, hitherto it had been open to a publican in any part of the country to set up a booth at any fair, or on a race-course, and to carry on a trade without being subject to police supervision. It was thought that this ought not to be, and that the magistrates of a district ought to decide whether the applicants for occasional licences should have them. In these minor details the Bill was framed in the spirit of the Act of 1872, and it would be found not to weaken, but rather to strengthen, what Parliament did in that year. The object of legislation should be to improve the character of the tenancies as much as possible, and to make the tenants of the houses the guardians of public order, and the result of the present measure would, he believed, secure that result. The object of the House ought to be an attempt to regulate the trade rather than to suppress it, by removing hardships 104 which at present existed, and he believed that the cardinal points of the Bill would tend to the improvement of the whole of our licensing system. As to the hours of closing, he could only repeat that, while the Government suggested what they believed to be best, they were quite prepared to let the House join them in determining what the hours should be.
asked, why it was Her Majesty's Government were so eager to introduce an uncalled-for measure like the present, so early in the Session, when there were so many other questions of social importance more deserving of consideration? The Government had referred the question of the Master and Servant Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act to a Royal Commission, Why were they unwilling that the wrongs of the publican should remain a little longer at the bar of public opinion? A distinction had been drawn as to the operation of the licensing system so far as it affected the rich and the poor; but if the working classes wanted to have intoxicating liquors they could have them as well as the rich by acting on the co-operative system: in his opinion, a good one. They did not do so, however, because they were well aware the evils intoxicating drinks were to them. As to the limit of hours in keeping public-houses open, he thought it would be better to leave this matter to the discretion of the magistrates than define it in an Act of Parliament. The Bill of 1872 arranged the matter well enough. Uniformity of hours would, in his opinion, stimulate local agitation. In the rural districts, in the harvest and hop-picking season, the magistrates should have the power of permitting publicans to open earlier than usual. In large towns a later hour was desirable. Another evil underlying the Bill was not only the extension of the hours of closing, but its tendency to increase the number of licences. It would have been better if the Government had remained firm, and said they would not allow any more licences, and only sanctioned the transfer of them from those districts where their number was so great as to make the business unprofitable. In the large towns it was not the old-fashioned public-houses that did any harm, but the large spirit bars, which were most objectionable, In the 105 northern towns, companies of Scotch brewers were buying up the public-houses to convert them into dram shops, and were acquiring adjacent houses in order to get as large a frontage as possible. Though there were certain vices in contradistinction to crimes which the Legislature could do very little in repressing, and drunkenness was one of them. The more he considered this question the more he regretted being unable to perceive any bridge to unite the great gulf which separated the fanaticism—he would not say the hon. I Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), but some of his followers were so fond of upholding—and the plausible optimism others in the House were fond of advocating; but if the Government Bill became law, he felt sure the results, in the best interests of society, would be most disastrous, and he could not understand the logic of those Gentlemen who said that it was in the cause of temperance they were working, and simultaneously gave facilities for drinking. The hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department had announced the intention of the Government to be guided by public opinion in the matter of hours, and he was glad to hear so from him, but he thought he detected in his manner and in his voice some misgiving, as if a course no less famous than that of his predecessor was opening to him, though he was sure that the Government intended to act in reference to this question in a manner perfectly honourable. He did not wish to restrict anyone, but the whole circumstances of this trade were so exceptional as to justify exceptional legislation. The one feature of the subject which he viewed with alarm was the political influence which the trade had shown itself capable of wielding. Some said that they were going to be overwhelmed by democracy under the Reform Act of 1867. Some viewed the landed interest as overbearing, and others, the Church as tyrannical, but they were trifling in comparison with the powers put forward at the last Election by this interest in general. He was sorry that at the Election, trade considerations should have been placed above every other; and that either party was to obtain the support of the trade by merely outbidding the other on the principle of competition. He thought 106 the course taken by the Government in reference to this subject was a mistaken one. Though the Act of 1872 was certainly not a perfect one, and had for a time led to some confusion, like every other Act of local administration, the public and the trade were gradually perceiving it gave satisfaction; notwithstanding it was made a "cry" at the hustings, and thrown out as a bait for candidates. He could only say that if the right hon. Gentleman was not already bewildered by the diversity of opinions he met with, there was only one suggestion with which he could honour him, and that was that after the Bill was passed, he and his Colleagues should settle down in the vicinity of one of the low spirit-bars which it was favouring, and see whether it conduced to the decency, the peace, and the comfort of the homes of the people whose well-being was so important to everyone.
§ MR. HERMON
said, he had had the honour of presenting a Petition complaining of the proposed extension of the hours of public-houses, and he was glad the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department had so clearly explained the views of the Government on the Bill. Had the Bill dealt only with the extension of the hours, he should certainly have opposed it; but he hoped the House would, after the frank statement of the hon. Baronet, assent to the second reading. He thanked the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) for having moved the Amendment, since it gave hon. Members an opportunity of stating their views on the subject. He was far from being insensible to the influence exerted by the licensed victuallers at the last Election, and the pressure brought to hear upon candidates with a view to pledge them to this or to that course, But the licensed victuallers of this country were not a bigoted class of people, and nothing in the world would have induced him to advocate an extension of hours, for he saw that the moderate hours lately acted on had proved beneficial to the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State said he had adopted the views of the House on a branch of the labour question, and that they had been embodied in a Bill which would soon come before the House under the title of the Fifty-six Hours Bill. When they considered that that 107 Bill would have the effect of giving operatives in the North, and in the manufacturing districts generally, an additional half-hour which they might devote to the library, to recreation, or to the public-house if they pleased, that circumstance, in his opinion, took away one of the arguments for the extension of the hours. He hoped, after the statement that the House itself should be the arbiter of the hours throughout the country, that it would take the measure into its consideration; because the Bill not only dealt with the hours, but with disadvantages—he might call them grievances—with which the licensed victuallers certainly had to contend. He referred in particular to a system of espionage, or inspection, which was conducive neither to the comfort of the public, nor to the satisfactory conduct of public-house business. There were several details of that kind which the Bill dealt with, and on that account it should have the attention of the House. He was aware that in urging the limitation of hours and confining them to those already fixed, he was not taking a course that was very popular. At the same time there were higher considerations than that of obtaining a seat, or of retaining it when it had been got, and he, for one, was willing to run the risk of losing it by doing that which he considered to be right. He thought the Government had taken a bold and manly course when they announced their intention of taking the vote of the Committee on the Bill to decide the question whether the public were favourable to the extension of hours or not. If the Bill was thoroughly examined it might be brought into a very satisfactory state. He was glad the Government had taken into their consideration the question of the additional half-hour given to houses in the vicinity of the theatres. It was his opinion that if it was found necessary to give that half-hour to those houses, it should have been extended to the whole of the metropolis. But if it was necessary that those who frequented those houses should have half an hour for refreshments after the performances were over, the proper course would have been for the theatres to commence their performances half an hour earlier, so that there should be no necessity for the exceptional licence. He believed that the proposed change in extending the 108 hours was unwise, as he thought the public throughout the country had become accustomed to the new hours, and beyond that, he thought the course proposed would create much harm, and would have the effect of increasing immorality, pauperism, and the poor rates. There had been of course exceptions, and in some towns in the North he believed much public inconvenience had been felt. In his town they had suffered as much as they had anywhere. He believed, however, that they had now before them a Bill which, with the assistance of the House, could be moulded to the advantage of the country. The complaints of the licensed victuallers could be redressed without destroying the good results which the public expected from this legislation. In every point of view he thought the extension of the hours would have been bad, and he was glad the Government had taken a reasonable view of the subject, in deference to the judgment and wishes of the country generally, and instead of extending hours which he thought ought rather to be reduced, were ready to accept the view of the country and of the House upon the question.
§ MR. EVANS
said, that having had more experience on the question than many hon. Members of the House, he might, perhaps, be allowed to make a few remarks on the Bill. He had been a magistrate and chairman of quarter sessions in his county, and also a town councillor and a mayor, and in those various capacities had had opportunities of noting the working of the different Licensing Acts passed at different times. He begged to assure the House that it was not his intention to criticize the Bill in any unfriendly spirit. He looked upon the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary as a man of the best possible intentions, who had had great experience as a magistrate and at quarter sessions, and he was sure he would not press on a measure which he believed to be objectionable. If he had been desirous of opposing the Bill, he should not have felt inclined to continue that opposition after the speech of the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, and indeed some of the things he had mentioned had given him great satisfaction. First, he had cleared up that portion of the Bill which related to the metropolis. 109 At first he was not prepared to give an opinion on that portion of the Bill, as he knew that late hours in the metropolis were very usual; but he was glad the hon. Baronet had completely cleared up his difficulties on that part of the Bill by stating that the special licences to houses near the theatres had been altogether a failure. He therefore thought that this fact took away the reason for extending the hour from 12 to 12.30. The decision of the Government to re-consider the hours of closing throughout the country, and to take the sense of the House and the country upon it, was very satisfactory, and he regarded with favour the proposition that early-closing licences should be issued at a reduced rate, believing that they would be largely taken out in small country places. The proposal to give a discretionary power to the magistrates in regard to penalties for the first offence would be advantageous, because it was in accordance with the general spirit of our criminal legislation. He could not, however, say the same with respect to the proposed alteration in reference to the endorsement of convictions upon licences. He thought it far better the law should be left in its present state especially with regard to endorsements for second offences. The public and the magistrates ought to understand that the intention of the law was that upon second offences the licences should be endorsed. The infliction of a fine, however heavy it might be, was a very small instrument for keeping order in public-houses; while the endorsement on a licence not only affected the publican, but it obliged the landlord—that was the owner of the house—to be very careful in seeking a responsible and respectable tenant. One thing he thought would be a great improvement in the existing law—namely, the suggested definition of the bonâ fide traveller question. It would strengthen not only the hands of the magistrates and the public, but it would be a security to publicans who wished to observe the law. The adulteration clauses had been entirely inoperative, and he could see no objection to their repeal. With regard to the question of hours, he had found that in the large town which he represented there was a universal consensus of opinion in favour of closing at 11 instead of 11.30; but it was suggested by some 110 persons that the time of opening should be 5 instead of 6, for the convenience of the working-men who came from a distance, and who were engaged in connection with the Midland Railway and large manufactories in the neighbourhood. This, however, was not his own opinion. From the number of Petitions that had been presented, and from the speeches that had been made in that House, it would seem that the opinion of the House and of the country was strongly against the extension of hours, and he believed that the result of the Government consenting to re-consider the matter and be guided by the general feeling of the country would do honour to both the House and the Government.
§ MR. ASSHETON
said, he regarded the present measure, which was simply an amending Bill to round off some of the angles of the Act of 1872, as an almost insignificant one. The original Act—that was, the Bill of 1872—was, in his opinion, one of the best measures passed by the late Government, and it had done untold good throughout the country; but it did not receive fair play, and had been blamed for the faults of the Bill of 1871. It was quite true that the measure of 1872 had certain defects, and the Government Bill aimed at remedying those defects. And what, after all, were the alterations that were made in the existing hours? The hours on the Sunday in London were the same in this Bill as they were in the existing law; and the other alteration, as regarded the metropolis, only extended the hours at night to 12.30; and the alterations in the hours of closing seemed to be only in accordance with the requirements of the places to which those alterations applied. He did not think that the alterations proposed would in any way increase the facilities for drinking on the part of the people, for the alterations with respect to opening and closing were as a general rule, so small, that in practice there would be no appreciable difference in many places. If he thought that the Bill of the Government was calculated to afford increased facilities for drinking, he trusted that he should have the courage to oppose it, but he did not see that it was fairly open to that objection. He should have been glad, however, if the Government had gone further in the 111 direction of diminishing the facilities for drinking. He did not think, for instance, that it was desirable to extend the hours of closing in places where it was the habit of the people to go early to bed. It was his intention, in Committee on the Bill, to submit certain Amendments, including a scale of closing hours which he thought might with advantage be adopted. What he would propose was that the closing hours should be as follows:—11.30 in towns with above 50,000 inhabitants, 11 in towns with 10,000 inhabitants, 10.30 in towns with 5,000 inhabitants, and 10 o'clock in country places. He was not wedded to that scale, but he thought that something of the kind might be found to work beneficially. He should vote for the second reading of the Bill, believing that it contained no objectionable provisions which the House might not in Committee satisfactorily deal with, and he trusted the Government would enter upon that stage of the measure unpledged in any respect as to details.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, he desired to call attention to a portion of the Bill which had hitherto been but slightly mentioned, and to which he entertained the most serious objections. He wished to do so at once, in order that the House and the Government might have an opportunity of considering the matter before the Bill went, if it was to go, into Committee; and the candid manner in which the Government had met the representations made to them respecting the hours of closing led him to hope that they might treat with equal candour the point on which he had to remark. The proposed enactments to which he referred consisted of the 12th clause of the Bill, and the 4th sub-section of the 28th clause. These would render almost nugatory the provisions for recording convictions on licences, which he regarded as among the most effective portions of the Act of 1872. Under the 5th, 6th, and 35th sections of that Act, convictions for allowing drinking in or near a house licensed only for the sale of liquor to be drunk off the premises, and for refusing admission to a constable, were to be recorded on the licence unconditionally; and, under the 13th, 14th, 16th, and 17th sections, convictions for permitting drunkenness or gaming, for harbouring prostitutes, or for bribing 112 or improperly entertaining a constable, were to be recorded on the licence "unless the convicting Justices otherwise direct." After three convictions recorded on the licence within five years, certain serious consequences would follow, under Sections 30, 31, and 32, in disqualifying the persons convicted from holding licences, and in temporarily disqualifying the licensed premises from being used for the sale of spirituous liquors. But by the present Bill it was proposed that a conviction should only be recorded on the licence if the Court should declare that it was to be so recorded; and if that declaration were made and the conviction was appealed from, power was to be given to the Court of Appeal to cancel the order for recording the conviction, even though the conviction itself were upheld. But there was to be no power, on the other hand, for the Court of Appeal to order the conviction to be recorded on the licence when no such order had been given by the convicting magistrates. The hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department had that evening defended the proposed change, on the ground that, as the law now stood, the magistrates might frequently fail to advert to the fact that the conviction would be recorded, without any direction being given by them for that purpose. But that was surely to impute great carelessness to the magistrates and their clerks, and great dulness to the publican, who would, in fact, be sure to apply to the magistrates for an order that the conviction should not be recorded, if he thought he had any chance of succeeding in his application. On the other hand, the necessity of maintaining the present stringency of the law was shown by some very obvious considerations. It should be remembered that for the various offences now effectively-punished by records of convictions leading to forfeiture of licence, the only other penalties were mere fines; that offences of the kind might be committed again and again without a conviction, because in most cases, all persons present—for instance, the landlord who permitted drunkenness or gambling, and his customers who indulged in those practices, liked the offence, and did not like that it should be punished; and that it might therefore pay very well to risk, for the sake of profitable 113 business, convictions which, if the law were altered as proposed, would, unless the person convicted were very unlucky, lead after all only to fines. The intended alteration was, in fact, altogether opposed, both to the general principles that should guide the framing of penal laws, and to the principle adopted by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in framing other portions of that very Bill. As to the hours of closing, the discretion given to Justices by the 24th section of the Act of 1872 was to be taken away. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid) had some doubt whether that was advisable, and whether, considering the difficulty of fixing by Act of Parliament the most convenient closing hours for every part of the country, it was not better to leave some discretion on that head in the hands of justices. But whether that were so or not, it was at least clear that the new discretion proposed to be given to the magistrates as to recording convictions, was one much more difficult to exercise than the discretion as to hours of closing proposed to be taken away. The discretion as to closing hours applied to the district generally, not to individuals, and might therefore without difficulty be exercised by a fairly sensible body of magistrates. But, how was it possible that magistrates should be impartial as to making a declaration that a conviction was to be recorded? In the first place, a magistrate could not vote for such a declaration without denying himself the luxury of indulging, at the public expense, in leniency to a neighbour who would be represented as having committed a mere venal act of misconduct. In the second place, he could not vote for such a declaration without probably damaging the property of a brewer, perhaps a sociable and agreeable gentleman whom the other magistrates liked, with whom they went shooting and hunting, and who sat with them on the bench, except while that class of business was being transacted. All those things would give the offending publican every chance of escaping a direction that his conviction should be recorded. If, nevertheless, such a direction were given, he would have the further chance of getting the direction set aside on appeal. With all these things in his favour, a man who lost his licence by convictions recorded 114 under the proposed law might well think, not that the loss was the necessary consequence of his own persevering misconduct, but that, in addition to the misconduct, it was to be attributed to a rare want of good fortune. Such uncertainty of punishment, as all who had thought on the subject would tell them, rendered the penal law well nigh useless for any deterrent or preventive purpose. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department suggested, indeed, that to make the law less stringent would bring more respectable persons into the trade. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid) was of a precisely contrary opinion. It would be admitted that the respectable person was one who determined to keep the law, and that the person not worthy of respect was he who cared not about observing the law so long as he could make a profit. He contended that nothing could be more discouraging to a man of the former class than to know that he might have to compete with one systematically exposing himself to the risks of fines in order to get an illicit but profitable business. The right course, therefore, was to adhere to the existing provisions, under which there was a reasonable certainty that a man perseveringly committing offences would be unable to remain in the trade. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State had a few days ago announced that he and the Government saw their way to a measure for improving the dwellings of the working classes in large towns, and he remarked that to provide better dwellings was the most effective mode of diminishing the temptation to drunkenness. In that view he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) quite agreed. But if there was a hope of diminishing the temptation to drunkenness on the one hand, he could perceive in that no reason why they should at once increase that temptation in another direction; and he was convinced that they would increase it, if they relaxed the stringency of the existing law, as was proposed by the Bill. He wished, before concluding, to call attention to a letter published almost immediately after the recent General Election, which appeared to him to throw considerable light, not on the reasons why this and similar changes were really proposed, but why the persons specially interested—who called themselves the trade—believed 115 them to be proposed. The author of the letter he referred to was Mr. C. Earle, who occupied no less distinguished a position than that of chairman of the Licensed Victuallers Provincial Defence League. The whole production, which appeared in the eleventh column of The Times of the 20th February, would well repay perusal; but he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) would only venture on a short extract. After demanding various changes of the law, and among others, of the provisions as to the recording of convictions, Mr. Earle proceeded as follows—Mr. Bruce was appealed to last Session, and refused to interfere with the working of the Act under the plea of not having had sufficient time to see how it worked. Therefore, the Licensed Victuallers of the United Kingdom met at Birmingham, formed the National Licensed Victuallers' Defence League, and passed resolutions to the effect that for a time they would sink their political opinions, and support no candidate at the next General Election who would not pledge himself to vote for a modification of the clauses complained of by the trade. Now, with respect to Conservative reaction, I believe the Conservatives could see a, little further than the Liberals, and promised to see, at least, justice done to the trade should they be elected; hence the Tory majority in the recent elections.Hon. Members would remark that Mr. Earle stated that "the Conservatives had promised to see at least justice done to the trade, should they be elected." This called to mind the renowned servant, who being asked, on leaving with his master a friend's house, whether he had packed up his master's clothes, replied "At least." When the letter writer asked for "at least justice" to the trade, he of course meant more than justice, and to this he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) would not object, were it not for the fact that more than justice to the trade meant less than justice to the public. He of course did not intend to imply that the Secretary of State would propose any change as to which he had not persuaded himself that it was for the advantage of the country. Yet it was disagreeable to find that the things proposed were not very unlike those which were demanded by the trade as an actual payment for value received in the shape of electioneering support. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid) would say no more, except to express his confident hope that the Government would, before the Bill should reach its next stage, 116 seriously consider whether the provisions for recording convictions were not of the essence of the Act of 1872, and whether it was possible, consistently with the public interest, to deprive those provisions of all vigour and efficiency, as was proposed by the present Bill.
§ MR. FORSYTH
begged to remind hon. Members that the Motion before the House was the second reading of the Bill. The discussion which had been going on during the greater part of the evening was, not whether the Bill should be read a second time, but about the merits or demerits of particular clauses in the Bill. What had such considerations to do with the second reading? If they agreed to the Motion, the discussion of the clauses and all the details would come on in due course, when they got into Committee. The Amendment moved by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Melly) was open to the same objection. It did not attack the principle of the Bill; it did not ask the House to reject it, but called upon the House to express an abstract opinion upon a question as to hours of opening as between two classes of persons engaged in the trade. With respect to hours of opening, he had taken a great deal of pains to ascertain the views of the trade, and so far as he could gather they were almost unanimously in favour of closing at 12 o'clock in the metropolis. They did not ask for the extra half-hour, and if it was granted, it would be in deference to the wants of the public. There was in some districts of the metropolis, in the neighbourhood of theatres, of markets, and of businesses which had to be carried on during the night—there was, he believed, a desire for later hours; but that did not affect the trade at large, who did not want longer hours, and were altogether opposed to exemptions and to favouritism of one man over another. With regard to the 2nd clause of the section, he could not help thinking that the Home Secretary had drawn the line too low. He could not help thinking that in the case of rural and small provincial towns it would not be a boon to have the hours of closing at night changed from 11 to 11.30. There was an old proverb which said it was the last straw which broke the camel's back, and he believed that the last half-hour was that which 117 was most objectionable. If he felt strongly with regard to towns of upwards of 10,000 population, he felt still more strongly with regard to towns below that number. To extend the hour would be nothing but an injury to the community. He should reserve his opinion on the clauses of the Bill until they were under consideration, but in the meantime he would say that in the borough of Marylebone they did not wish the hours to be extended, but were very desirous that they should be uniform.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, he shared in the common surprise that one, generally so wise and so prudent as the Home Secretary, could be brought to consent to some of the provisions of the present Bill. Though there had been a great outcry against the Act of 1872, the canvass of many hon. Members had shown them that the outcry was caused far more by what had been attempted than against the Act as actually passed. The present Bill would be found anything but a benefit to the respectable licensed victuallers; for that very large party in the country, described by the Home Secretary as looking for improvement from measures regulating the monopoly in the trade of drink, were content to wait in patience to see the effect of the present Act; and thus the fears of the licensed victuallers were, for the present at least, practically kept alive only by the action of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and his Friends. But the attempt thus prematurely made to disturb the recent legislation, to use the words of the Home Secretary himself—Shows that the public-houses, and all houses when? intoxicating liquors have been sold, have been fewer in number than in 1869; that they have been much better conducted; that, in consequence, the streets have undoubtedly been much more quiet and orderly; that there have been much fewer publicans convicted; and that there have been still fewer licences forfeited for the houses being badly conducted."—[3 Hansard, ccxviii. 1229.]To alter that legislation by increasing-facilities for drinking and diminishing the precautions against abuse, would most assuredly tend to unite all the great religious bodies of the country and the advocates for regulating the monopoly against the proposals for monopoly with ineffectual regulation. But if the question was to be thus re-opened, it surely was of the greatest importance that there 118 should be no inaccurate information laid before the House and the country upon the subject. Now, hon. Members would remember that the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Bill, stated that an experiment called free trade—but, more correctly, open licensing—was tried to a great extent in Liverpool, and that the result was that drunkenness increased to an enormous extent; that a change was made in the regulations; that a very much smaller number of licences were granted; and that since the change-there had been less drunkenness in the town. Now, he could not allow such an incorrect statement as that to go forth to the public with the high authority which must attach to a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman in his place in Parliament. Now, what were the facts? The experiment was tried for a short time in Liverpool; but the result was not that drunkenness increased to an enormous extent. A change was made in the regulations. A very much smaller number of licences were granted; but he regretted to say that it was the very reverse of the truth that there had been less drunkenness in the town since the change. He would state that fact on the authority of one of the very magistrates who took a leading part against the system of open or free licensing. He wrote—In the first place, the magistrates who introduced the system of free licensing—that is, of giving every respectable applicant who had suitably constructed premises a licence—never recoiled from their own experiment. The system was abandoned at a licensing session, when the composition of the Bench bad, by the retirement of some magistrates and the addition of others, been changed from what it had been when the system was adopted. None of the magistrates who had favoured open licensing ever gave in their adherence to a return to the restrictive system. The free or open licensing system was adopted at the licensing session held in the autumn of 1866. The number of apprehensions for drunkenness during the official police year which closed in the autumn of 1862, was 12,362; and for the year 1866, 12,494; so that, allowing for the increase of population in four years, se far from drunkenness having increased to an enormous extent, there was in proportion to population less drunkenness during the last year of the system of open licensing than there was in the year which preceded the introduction of that system.The figures in that letter were supplied by the police to a committee of magistrates who were appointed to report on the state of crime in the borough, and 119 were included in their report. But now, as to the remaining part of the right hon. Gentleman's assertion. He said, the restrictive system of issuing licences having been returned to at the licensing session of 1866, and Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson's Beer-house Act of 1869 having brought the issue of beerhouse licences under magisterial control, there had been a steady decrease in the number of drinking houses; and the number of public-houses and beer-houses, which in 1866 amounted to 2,806, was now only 2,313. The steady decrease in the number of drinking-houses had been accompanied by an equally steady increase in the number of apprehensions for drunkenness, which for the last year of free licensing (1866) was 12,494, while for the police year ending in autumn 1871, after five years of restrictive policy, it was 22,947. He would repeat the result concisely in figures. In the last year of restrictive licensing, before open licensing was tried, the convictions for drunkenness in Liverpool were 1 in 36 of the population; in 1866, the last year of the open licensing, instead of drunkenness having increased to an enormous extent, the convictions had fallen to 1 in 37 of the population; in 1871, after five years of restrictive licensing and a diminished number of licensed houses, instead of there being less drunkenness in the town since the change, the convictions had risen to 1 in 21 of the population; in other words, they were 50 per cent more in proportion to the population than they had been during the last year of the experiment of free trade. Instead of there having been much less drunkenness in the town since the restrictive system was returned to, drunkenness nearly doubled in the five years that followed the return to the restrictive policy. This might, to a great extent, be explained by the rise in wages, which, though small compared with the rise that had since taken place, had even in 1871 begun to be felt; but no such explanation would apply to the decrease of the numbers of convictions in proportion to population during the period of free licensing. It was not surprising that with these facts before him the writer—who, as he had said, was one of the magistrates most active in opposing this system of open licensing—had now joined the school of licensing reformers at whose head stood one of the most 120 sagacious Colleagues of the Home Secretary, the Chairman of his own Court of Quarter Sessions—he meant Lord Derby. He was convinced that the Bill before the House, if it passed in its present shape, would add very materially to the number of those who advocated that system in preference to one which was neither one thing nor the other, and by which the vested interests in drunkenness alone profited. But that was really not all. The system of free trade was not only tried in the town of Liverpool. It was also tried by the Conservative bench of magistrates in the neighbouring district of Preston and Much Woolton, which contained not only a large rural, but also a large town population, many of them being of a very rough character. The magistrates adopted that system 10 years ago, but not being Radical town magistrates, fond of change, and ready to upset any legislation a year or two after it was passed, but good honest, steady country gentlemen, they adhered to their experiment until they had a fair chance of seeing what the results were. They adhered to it still, and it was entirely unquestioned by the bench of magistrates who had carried it out. He would read an extract from the evidence of Captain Fowler, the head of the police in that district, who, being asked by one of the magistrates what had been the result of that system, replied that—There had been a marked improvement in the class of landlords, and consequently there had been less convictions since the magistrates adopted the principle of granting licences in Woolton, Prescot, &c., to all respectable men with suitable houses.The district contained large numbers of navvies and Irish labourers, and one of the magistrates said it was really surprising how orderly they were. The policy pursued was unquestioned on the bench; and when he mentioned the names of Mr. Neilson and Mr. Gibbon as two of those who were thoroughly convinced as to the wisdom of the policy the Home Secretary knew that they were two of the oldest, the most influential, and the wisest of the Conservative magistrates of the county. Now, it would be absurd to pretend that experience so limited as this, settled the question as between restriction or open trade; but he did think it important, as the question had been re-opened, that the 121 real facts of the case should be before the public, and he boldly challenged any one to show that the facts were different from what he had stated, or that they bore out the assertion of the right hon. Gentleman as to the results of the experiment on free or open trade in Liverpool. What he did say unhesitatingly was, that the worst system of all was one that gave them the evils of monopoly without those precautions which monopoly was intended to secure for them; and he hoped he might ask the attention of the House for a very few moments to testimony the weight of which he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would be the last to question, that such was the tendency of some of the provisions of the present Bill. [The hon. Member then read a letter from the stipendiary magistrate of Liverpool; a resolution passed at a meeting of the Liverpool magistrates held to consider the present Bill, and an extract from the Report of Major Greig, the chief constable of Liverpool, to the magistrates in 1873, to show that the present system of minimum penalties and endorsing licences was most salutary and ought not to be altered, and that it was not thought desirable to alter the hours of opening and closing public-houses on week days, as settled by the magistrates, from 7 A.M. to 11 P.M. He then read a letter from a Liverpool licensed victualler, the owner of several public-houses in different parts of the town, to show that the publicans of Liverpool were well content with the hours of opening and closing fixed by the Act of of 1872. Having read a letter from a great engineering firm in Liverpool, showing the advantage which had occurred to the 6,000 men employed in that and similar firms from the closing of the public-houses until 7, instead of being opened at 6 A.M., the hon. Member went on to say]:—There was another question which the Bill dealt with, and that was the endorsement of licences. The Act as it now stood gave perfect discretion to the magistrates as to whether they should endorse the convictions on the licences or not. It merely said that unless the magistrates should otherwise direct, the conviction should be endorsed on the licence. It was perfectly notorious that it was a very unpleasant task for a magistrate, who might, in addition, be a town councillor and dependent on 122 popular support, to direct that a penalty should be endorsed on the licence, and therefore the object of the provision proposed originally by the hon. Member for West Kent was to strengthen the hands of the magistrates when they felt that the conviction ought to be endorsed, but shrunk from the odium of directing such an endorsement to be made. The head constable of one of the midland counties strongly confirmed the evidence of the stipendiary magistrate of Liverpool as to the importance of that provision. He wrote—The Bill takes away from justices the disagreeable duty of making invidious distinction in hours, and at the same time restores to them an option equally invidious as to the mitigation of penalties. As a matter of fact, not one conviction in a thousand occurs when the publican has not earned within a week, by breaking the law, far more than the fine. He is always in a position to employ counsel; he has always sinned with his eyes open; and I cannot therefore see that a minimum fine of 20s. is excessive. The abolition of this minimum will be found to bring back some very anomalous scenes. The element of uncertain and singular action is again re-introduced in making the endorsement of licences the exception rather than the rule. In no other class of offence I think is it optional with the judge to declare whether or not it shall be brought in judgment against the offender in case of his again offending. If a man, after one conviction, resolve to sin no more, the record on the back of his licence can never do him any harm, and I am quite sure that the dread of its possible future consequence has a wholesome deterrent effect on publicans. There should, I think, be a uniform and unvarying record of convictions, and they should be carried forward against subsequent occupiers of premises; otherwise an unscrupulous landlord has no inducement to look for a respectable tenant. He simply lets his house from month to month, and as soon as one tenant is convicted gets a transfer of the licence. A transfer is easily got, and most difficult for the police to resist. Little by little, we have managed by repeated convictions to get rid of some of the lowest houses, but if the endorsement is to be made the exception and not the rule, we shall practically lose this power.Now, had that provision inflicted any hardship? The right hon. Gentleman stated distinctly that the number of convictions had fallen off largely, and that under the existing law the number of forfeitures of public-houses had actually fallen to 1–10th of their former amount, and of beer-houses to 1–100th of their formeramount. What better testimony could they have of the admirable working of the law, if the object of the law were, as he took it to be, not the punishment of offenders, but the prevention of offences? 123 The right hon. Gentleman said there was a growing feeling among respectable persons that they would not enter a trade under such stringent regulations. What evidence could he show of that? Was it in the largely increased value of public-house property? Did that show that there was any disinclination to enter the business? No; it was not the respectable man who would object to enter a trade because it had been made more respectable, as the Home Secretary admitted that it had been. It was the very disreputable man, who wanted to do a drunken trade, that the present stringent regulations would prevent from entering it. He did regret most deeply this proposal to unsettle legislation so recent, the effect of which, so far as it had gone, was admitted on all hands to have been beneficial. The experiment of shorter hours and more stringent police regulations had not had a fair trial. No one supposed that closing the public-houses earlier and opening them later would reform drunken people. What was contended was that the sitting late in drinking houses got people into drunken ways, and that shorter hours would therefore "gradually" increase temperate habits among the people. No one in his senses expected to influence suddenly, by any changes in the law, deep rooted habits. Now, sufficient time had not elapsed to enable the general community to judge whether the shortened hours were producing good results. No one could say what the consumption of excise liquors might have been with the high wages had not the hours been reduced. Now, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, convinced by the overwhelming testimony which had been given in that House, and received by him from magistrates, from the police, from the clergy, and from employers of labour, would consent to fix for the different districts the hours which had been found by the magistrates to be the most suitable for them; and that he would retain those precautions against disorder and excess which the magistrates and the police were so anxious to maintain, and under which, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman himself—Public-houses, and all houses where intoxicating liquors have been sold …. have been much better conducted; that, in consequence, the streets have undoubtedly been much more quiet and orderly; that there have been much 124 fewer publicans convicted; and that there have been still fewer licences forfeited for the houses being badly conducted."—[Ibid.]
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
said, he must confess that if the Legislature had to choose a particular time for amending the law, the earlier in the history of the present Parliament the better, for there could be nothing more undesirable than to legislate upon this subject late in the history of a Parliament, especially as they hoped their present legislation would be final. He sympathized so thoroughly in the object which the Home Secretary had in view, and in the statements and arguments upon which he grounded this Bill, that he could not support the present Amendment. At the same time, he had come to the conclusion that it was undesirable to extend, the time of keeping open public-houses in the country districts. The evidence showed that the restriction of hours had worked well in the country, and there was reason to believe that the slightest extension of time in the country would have a bad effect. But he could not agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the metropolis. He had communicated with some of the most intelligent magistrates in the metropolis, and he had been assured by them that it was absolutely necessary for the convenience of the public, that there should be some extension of the time during which the public-houses in the metropolis were now allowed to remain open. He, however, felt so strongly against the extension of time in the country that if he were called upon to take the Bill as it stood, and if he were called upon to say "Aye" or "No" upon it, he should be compelled to vote "No." But as the House had been told by the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department that the Government were willing to take the House into counsel on the Bill, the question of hours might be regarded as no longer a vital question. What should be the hours in the country was to be left to the House to decide, and it would be more convenient to consider them in Committee upon the clause. The question to be put from the Chair would be, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," and there was so much good in the Bill and so many evils to be corrected, that he should not feel the least difficulty in voting for the second reading, although 125 he should join heartily in Committee in amending the provision which extended the hours in the country.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, the great difficulty in which the House found itself was to know what the vital principle of the Bill was. He ventured to say that, out-of-doors, the question of hours was regarded as the vital principle. He knew not what else could be so regarded. His right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southampton (Mr. Russell Gurney) said, that so far as the hours for the country were regarded as the vital principle of the Bill, with respect to any intended alteration of them he would vote "No." But he (Sir William Harcourt) would say that the question of the hours for the country was considerably more considerable than could be the question of the hours for any single city, even if that city were London. Now, he had great respect for the opinion of his right hon. and learned Friend, especially on all matters relating to the metropolis; but there was another authority on matters relating to the metropolis for whose opinion also he had much respect—he meant the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith). That hon. Gentleman on a warm afternoon in 1872 took part in a hot discussion on the subject of the hours for the metropolis, and this was what he said—There could be no doubt the great mass of the people of this metropolis wished that the time of closing' should he 12 o'clock. Even licensed victuallers themselves looked upon that hour with favour, because they were thus relieved from the very heavy pressure of business entailed upon them, and an end put to a competition which must of necessity entail upon them great labour, anxiety, and hardship."—[3 Hansard, ccxii. 1988.]If it had not been for the advice of his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster the hour of 12 might not have been adopted. One thing characterized the Act of 1872 which he had never known with respect to any other important measure. The responsible Leader of the Opposition offered no opinion on any part of the Bill, and on all those questions affecting great and harassed interests, not a single observation fell from the present Premier, nor any of the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who then sat around him. It was not, however, because they were unable to enlighten the House, for there were among 126 them those quite capable of stating their views. He did not recollect that the present Home Secretary said anything, and there was only one Member of the present Government who did give very useful and influential advice, and that was his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department. In point of fact, to him belonged really the honours of that Bill, the advantages of which the Liberal party had reaped. Hos ego versiculos feci tulit alter honores. But his hon. Friend now told them that the hours were nothing, though there was one thing which was vital in this Bill, and that was that the discretion must be taken away from the magistrates. He (Sir William Harcourt) could not help recollecting the miserable minority in which he stood when he protested against leaving the discretion to the magistrates, and pointed out the consequences that would flow from it, and that the originator, certainly the most influential author of that very principle of the discretion in the magistrates, was his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Home Department.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
explained that at that time he had an Amendment on the Paper fixing the hours, and he assented to the principle of discretion as introduced by the Government.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he was aware of that fact, but the idea of discretionary powers originated in "another place." The first suggestion came from a very eminent person, the Marquess of Salisbury. He moved an Amendment to this effect—"Such hours not being earlier than 10 o'clock at night, or later than six o'clock on the following morning, as the licensing justices shall appoint." The noble Marquess said, and he (Sir William Harcourt) perfectly agreed with him, that drinking intoxicating liquor was not in itself a sin, and that people had as much right to drink beer just as they had a right to eat mutton, so long as they did not overdo it, and he saw no objection to allow the authorities in each county to fix the hours of closing. The noble Marquess added, that he did not think it fair that because the inhabitants of Manchester wished to enforce the closing of public-houses at 10 o'clock, the population of Hertfordshire should be obliged to adopt that hour also, and that what he desired 127 to effect was that the law should be made local in its application on that point. When the Bill came down to the House of Commons, the first suggestion of this discretionary power—which he recollected was known in that House as the elastic theory—came from his hon. Friend the Member for Fife (Sir Robert Anstruther), and thereupon the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex said he had a Notice on the Paper in reference to the question, but that after some consideration he believed the House would do better to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Fife. But more than that. The actual Motion for leaving a discretion in the magistrates proceeded from the hon. Member for West Essex, who drew up a Proviso, to the effect that in all places where the population was over 2,500, the local authority of any licensing district should have the power to vary the hours of closing or opening, as fixed by the Bill, between the hours of 10 and 12 at night and 5 and 7 in the morning. In doing so, the hon. Baronet said it was not easy to draw a hard-and-fast line, because the circumstances of some towns varied so much from others. Such was the proposition of his hon. Friend, who now came and told them that the vital principle of the Bill was non-elasticity. He (Sir William Harcourt) protested at that time against this discretionary power, and always thought it an extremely good thing to have the hours fixed. On that occasion the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) agreed with him, and said the stipendiary magistrates, the ministers of religion, and the leading inhabitants all concurred in attributing the poverty and crime of that town to drinking after 11 o'clock at night. Surely, he might remind the noble Lord that he was now a Member of a Government which proposed to create all those evils against which the magistrates, the ministers of religion, and the merchants of Liverpool had protested. So much for the question of leaving the hours of closing to the discretion of the magistrates, and he had now to ask what was to become of the customers? Were the hours suggested in the Bill to be adhered to, or was the noble Lord to come forward and propose 11.30, when all the evils he had enumerated arose from the public-houses being kept open after 11 o'clock? Now, he had 128 always held the opinion that the more these matters were left to the good sense of the public themselves the better it would be. In fact, he held it would have been better to allow things to remain as they had been before 1872. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, he knew he was in a minority on that question, as he had been before; but he had never hesitated to express his opinion upon it. He had, too, always thought that the rule with respect to the endorsement of the licences was a harsh rule, and that more discretion ought to have been left to the magistrates; but when the question came on for discussion they were placed in a position of difficulty in being deprived of the guidance of the then Opposition, which led the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) to complain that the front benches were vacant, and to say there were two ways of voting. Hon. Gentlemen might vote by being present, or they might vote by their absence in a permissive sense. When the question came up for discussion, some of them who were in a minority wished to resist it, but they found discussion impossible. In fact, the strict alliance which existed between the hon. Baronet the Member for West Sussex and the then Home Secretary settled all the material questions of the Bill, and that was one of the questions they had settled. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) had an Amendment on the Paper providing that that arbitrary rule should not be enforced; but who was the person who opposed him? Why, it was the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex, now the Under Secretary for the Home Department, declaring that he thought it entirely opposed to the principle of the Bill. Here, then, was an Act passed in the late Parliament through the powerful assistance given to the then Home Secretary by the present Under Secretary, and there was not a single finger raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite to prevent its passing. The House had been placed in a very difficult and embarrassing—if not an unfair—position by the Bill, and he ventured to say that there was not sitting on the Treasury Bench a single Gentleman who could rise and say he either remonstrated against it or advised Parliament not to accept it. Yet now they came down to 129 the House, and said, "Here is a Bill, the vital principle of which is to take away from the magistrates that discretionary power which was originally recommended to the House of Lords by the present Secretary of State for India, and to the House of Commons by the Under Secretary for the Home Department." With regard to what had been stated to be another vital principle of the Bill, when the Government came to the question of hours, they stated that they had no opinion of their own upon it, but were ready to adopt any hours the House might determine; and to show that the time of keeping open ought to be extended, the Under Secretary furnished them with what he called evidence to show that owing to the early closing, illicit drinking had been on the increase. Well, if he understood the hon. Gentleman aright, he called a man's drinking at home, after the closing hour, the spirits which he purchased before that hour illicit drinking; but in his (Sir William Harcourt's) opinion, that was the most licit drinking, unless, indeed, Government was going to propose that a man should not drink anything in his own house. It was natural a man should do so, and he had a perfect right to do it if he pleased. Then there remained the other question—he did not know if it was also a vital part of this Bill—with respect to the distinction between beer-houses and public-houses in respect to the time of closing; and here again the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex was a convert from the opposite side, inasmuch as on the 2nd of August, 1872, he made a strong speech in favour of those establishments being, as regarded that point, placed on the same footing as public-houses; and he would advise him to take courage now and adhere to those views. He knew that there was a vague suspicion among hon. Gentlemen opposite that there was some connection between beer-houses and the disappearance of pheasants, but those were the days when the beer-houses were independent of the magistrates; now that they were under the thumb of the bench, hon. Gentlemen ought not to mind the indulgence which had been granted to them under the Act of 1872. Upon what principle was it that the beerhouses were to be placed in a more inferior position than the houses of the licensed victuallers? Was it because 130 the beer-house keeper did not sell spirits? Well, his right hon. Friend had left that question also to the decision of the House, and he might find that the House might not be disposed to agree with him. He (Sir William Harcourt) did not know whether his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) would go to a division on the question. He probably would be satisfied with the triumph he had achieved that night. For his (Sir William Harcourt's) part, after what had taken place that night—after the declaration of the Government—he did not think it would be necessary to go to a division. He always thought the Licensing Bill ought to be amended, and though he would vote with the hon. Member for Stoke if he divided the House, he would prefer going into Committee for the purpose of amending the Bill.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, the House had heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite, in opposition to the second reading, a great deal about the Bill being a most flagitious measure, because it would afford enormous facilities for increased drinking. But he understood from the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken that, provided the House was allowed to settle the hours, he would not vote against the second reading. If the only objection to the Bill was that it would allow an additional half-hour for drinking, it did not deserve all the obloquy which had been thrown upon it by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He did himself think that it was a bad thing that an addition should be made to the hours at which public-houses should be open. He would suggest that in rural districts the beer-houses and public-houses should be closed at the same hour—10 o'clock—and then the invidious distinction of which the hon. and learned Member had such a horror would disappear. He based his suggestion on the ground that Parliament should legislate in accordance with the habits of the people. In the country people went early to bed, and if public-houses were kept open late, they became the resort of the more dangerous classes of the community. The question with regard to London was a difficult one. He had been struck, however, by what had been stated by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth) in a 131 speech which, among other merits, had that of brevity, that, as far as he could ascertain, the licensed victuallers were quite satisfied with 12 o'clock. But the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) a few years ago told the House that it was absolutely necessary to keep open until 1 o'clock. The Government had adopted the golden mean. He would suggest, however, that while in the centre of London, where the places of amusement and the large hotels were situated, there was considerable difficulty in closing at 12, the hour should be made half-past 12, in the outer parts of the metropolis it should be the same as in other large towns. He was the person who suggested the Amendment in the Bill of 1872 with respect to the endorsement of convictions. The proposal of the then Home Secretary was that the convictions should necessarily be endorsed; but he suggested that they should be endorsed, "unless the convicting magistrates should otherwise direct," which was the present state of the law, and that Amendment had worked well. There were, however, three points in the Bill of the Government for which they deserved credit—the first was the closing of night refreshment houses, which would be a benefit to morality; the second was providing early closing licences; and the third was allowing persons to apply for licences before the houses were built, for magistrates now found it difficult to refuse a licence to a person who had built a house and laid out money with the view of obtaining a licence: and by by means of this pressure, licences were sometimes granted upon a principle of an appeal ad misericordiam, and not upon the merits of the case. Now, as applicants would have the power of obtaining a prospective licence upon the production of plans, no such case ought to arise. He trusted the House would assent to the second reading.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
(the latter part of whose speech was imperfectly heard, owing to the impatience of the House for a division) said, that whatever might be thought of the Bill, he considered the House was to be congratulated on the tone of the debate and the eminently conciliatory spirit which had been exhibited throughout, from the speech of his hon. Friend who had moved the Amendment to that of the hon. Member who had just sat down. 132 For his own part, he could conceive nothing more derogatory to the character and influence of that House than that a question in which such large social and moral issues were involved should be treated in a party spirit, and he was glad to see that of all hon. Members who had risen on the Ministerial side of the House to support the Bill, not one of them had ventured to give it their unqualified assent. He would say, if he were a party man—which he was not—that he was glad the Bill had been brought in, because he was convinced that the Government would discover they had made a great mistake. But the grounds on which he should feel compelled to vote against the Bill were broader and deeper-seated than any party or temporary consideration. Of late years there had been strenuous and persistent attempts made to diminish drunkenness, and in that sense he said this Bill was a great step backwards. Before, however, going into that question, he would ask whether the right hon. Gentleman had proved the Preamble of his Bill? Was the Bill a good or a bad Bill? Was there any need for such a Bill at all under existing circumstances? He agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department in many of his observations with respect to the machinery of the Act adopted two years ago requiring repairs and adjustments; but was that any reason for retracting our steps altogether? There had been a great deal of unfounded abuse and misrepresentation heaped on the Act of 1872, and his noble Friend Lord Aberdare, who carried that Act, had been the most unfairly abused man in the Kingdom. It ought to be remembered that all parties in the House consented to the passing of the Act, and that whatever its merits or defects, Parliament as a whole was responsible. There were two somewhat inconsistent grounds on which alteration was demanded. One was that under the Act of 1872 drunkenness had not diminished, and the second was that the Act unduly lessened the facilities for drinking. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in the able speech in which he moved the first reading of the Bill, had frankly stated that he believed the apparent increase of drunkenness was partly due to increased care on the part of the publican, and 133 partly to increased vigilance on the part of the police. But that was not all. He contended that two years was not a sufficiently long time in which to test the operation of such an Act. Especially was that true when they remembered what kind of years they had been. The working men had had more money and more time to spend it in than at any former time. How they preferred to spend it might be illustrated from an anecdote he heard the other night from a Yorkshire ironmaster and large employer of labour, in the Smoking Room where many valuable bits of practical knowledge might be picked up. The ironmaster had a very large contract for a supply of iron to be delivered at Liverpool within a certain time. He called his men together and said to them—"Now, men, if you'll work five days a week instead of four, I'll raise your wages 25 per cent." The answer was—"Nay, master, that'll never do. We shall have more money than we want for drink and no time to drink it in." So long as working men had not acquired the habit of self-respect which now restrained gentlemen from habits of intemperance there must be restraint. It was not so long ago since even in that august Assembly, hon. Gentlemen were to be seen under the influence of liquor. In that respect the working men might be expected to improve also, and become a law to themselves, especially when they were removed from their squalid homes and placed in wholesome, cheerful, and healthy dwellings such as were advocated by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, when he told the House that he looked to them as one means of permanently diminishing the temptations to drunkenness. All that, however, as he had said, required time. Improved dwellings required time to build them; it required time to develop a taste in workmen to live in them; and the question was, whether in the meantime we were to stand aside and do nothing to arrest or diminish the progress of intemperance, so far as it could be done by preventive measures. We might as well refuse to do what was possible to be done to mitigate the effects of the famine in Bengal until we had introduced a complete system of irrigation. With respect to the actual operation of the Act of 1872, he had taken 134 the greatest care to collect the opinions of all classes in his county—magistrates, ministers of religion, farmers, and working men of all kinds—and their unanimous cry was—"Let us alone." They wanted the Act to have a fair trial, which as yet it had not had. There were two kinds of drinking which were dangerous—early drinking, and late drinking. If a man began by breakfasting on a dram, he was not likely to be either healthy or industrious. Late drinking was even more objectionable. It was in the last half-hour or hour that drink created riot and inflamed evil passions. That had been recognized in all times, and Milton had mentioned it in the lines———When night Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.If ever there was a ease in which that eminently Conservative principle—"Let well alone." should have been applied, it was in the case of the Act of 1872. Then as to the interest of the publicans. He had no desire to bear hardly upon them. But it must be remembered that they carried on a trade, which except when placed under certain restrictions, became a noxious trade. The very necessity for licensing their business implied a right to restrict it, for where there was nothing to restrict, there was nothing to licence. In all cases in which the interests of the public and those of the publican clashed, it was those of the public that must be paramount; and when they considered that last year £147,000,000 worth of drink was sold, they must surely think that pity was thrown away upon a trade such as this, which had put the greater portion of that large sum into its pockets. ["Divide!" "Divide!"] But it was the duty of the House to look to the general convenience of the public, and he found everywhere in the country evidence in favour of the Act of 1872. He paid periodical visits to his constituency, at which he was careful to ascertain their views on the principal questions of the day,—["Divide!"]—and he found among them but one opinion on the Act of 1872; and, in fact, where-ever he went, people said to him "We all like it." The magistrates, the ratepayers, and the respectable publicans liked it; and the only ones that did not like it were a few disorderly characters, 135 the curse of their neighbourhood, and one or two black sheep among the publicans. [Cries of "Divide!"] There would be no division that night, and the debate had not lasted so long that a few speeches on the Bill could not be heard. The hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State said it was all very well for them in Wales to wish for the early closing of public-houses, as their habits and their hours were early, but that hours were late in London, and London could not be bound by the hours that prevailed in Wales; but the public convenience there and in large towns required that public-houses should be kept open later than 12 o'clock. That argument, however, would not hold water, for it admitted of an obvious retort. They could say that it was not because London hours were late, that public-houses in Wales were to be kept open for hours after there was any occasion for it. They might say, also, that the 6th section gave publicans the right to close at 10 o'clock, together with certain advantages for doing so. He did not wish to be a prophet of evil, but he could not help predicting that that permission would be a dead letter; because, as a rule, the maximum hour was the only hour. ["Divide!"] The vital part of the Bill, however, was the provision that Parliament, and not the magistrates, were to fix the hours; and from whichever side of the House the proposal for giving a discretionary power to the magistrates to fix the hours of opening and closing had come, he confessed that he had looked upon it with some misgiving, as he was bound to say he did not look on country magistrates with that profound veneration which the right hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House did. He had known many decisions of magistrates which he did not like at all; but in this matter the magistrates were beyond all blame. When the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) said that the meaning of the Bill was an additional half-hour a day for drinking, he greatly understated his case, as it was really half-an-hour added at each end. No wonder the publicans were jubilant, when they had a Secretary of State who was ready to do so much to oblige them. It was hardly too much to say that the right hon. Gentleman opposite reigned by the grace of the licensed victuallers. That was one undoubted fact. Another 136 was that this Bill was drawn in the interest of the publicans. Now, did they not think that men generally would put these two undoubted facts together and would see in this measure the natural fruits of that unholy alliance? [Loud cries of "Divide!" "Divide!"] This was what might be termed the publicans' Parliament, as evidenced by the fact that more than one hon. Member on that side of the House had said to him, "I wish I could vote with you against this Bill; but I dare not." This Bill had shown that the publicans were again a power in England, and woe to the Government, woe to the party which dared to lay its little finger on them! They might disestablish Churches—they might sap the foundations of property—they might let the Army and Navy go to perdition—they might even educate pauper children—but there was one thing they must not and dare not do—they must not shut up public-houses. [The calls of the House for a Division, with other cries and interruptions, had now become so continuous that the hon. and learned Member resumed his seat.]
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he had listened with deep attention to the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan), for he himself had Welsh blood in his veins, and had frequently been there, and a more drunken set of people than he had found in Wales he never knew. It was pleasing to know that the hon. and learned Gentleman could only find fault with the licensed victuallers, and admired, he (Mr. Locke) presumed, the teetotallers. Now that was a class of persons not admired by many of his countrymen. They did not unite with them, nor did they look forward to carrying out their plans; in fact, Wales would not be what she was now, if the views his hon. and learned Friend represented were carried out. He (Mr. Locke) thought that a great deal too much fuss had been made about the Bill. It appeared to him to be a very simple Bill indeed. They must all recollect that when the Act of 1872 was passed there was a great diversity of opinion with respect to it. There were many points which were decided in a hurry; but he did not think the diversity of opinion that prevailed was of a party character. He found himself opposed on that occasion to hon. Friends 137 on his own side of the House, many of whom had vanished. Some of them were deeply regretted, while as to the absence of others they did not care a straw about it. He was bound to say that from the then Opposition benches he met with the support which he always deserved. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) had referred to him, and had said that he made a great struggle with regard to the magistrates being compelled to place upon the licence the offence which a man committed. He fought against that strenuously, but it was nevertheless carried out to a certain extent, and he was delighted to find that the present Government entertained the same view as he did, and had come to a conclusion which must be extremely satisfactory to that House, and which was peculiarly so to himself. They intended to carry the matter a step further even than he could have expected. However, he hoped they would succeed in their object, for he considered it would be an excellent Amendment, as indeed he thought all the proposed alterations would be. He looked at the present Bill merely as amending the Act of 1872, and when he heard the violent speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) who commenced the debate before dinner, he was astounded at the number of dreadful things which awaited them all if the Bill were passed. The House was not tied down to the precise words of the Amendments proposed, but every reasonable person seemed to desire that the Bill should be read a second time. There was one point to which he should like to draw attention with regard to the metropolis, because he had been connected with it for a great many years. There would be great difference of opinion as to whether the hour of closing should be 11, half-past 11, or 1 o'clock. Now, many of his constituents were theatrical, and the theatres were popular and filled well. When the performances were over, the playgoers were naturally thirsty and desirous of getting something to drink. With regard to the north side of the Thames, the hours of the public-houses in the neighbourhood of the theatres were granted an extra hour, but on the Surrey side such extension was refused. Consequently, he took upon himself to go to the Home Office and represent the 138 facts of the case, and on the following day the privilege was granted to houses near the Surrey and other theatres, and subsequently extended to Greenwich, and the then Prime Minister made no objection to it whatever. Now, having made those efforts to get the time extended till 1 o'clock, he felt it rather hard that the time should be fixed at 12.30 for all houses. When he used to practise at the Surrey Sessions he frequently visited the Surrey Theatre on his way home, and was very grateful for the pleasure which he derived from it, and he thought that those who remained to the last ought to be able to procure needful refreshment. He considered that this system of privilege should be maintained, and did not know who were opposed to it. On the other hand, why should a publican be obliged to keep open his house till 11 o'clock at night? Why not allow him to say—"I will pay less for my licence, and you must allow me to shut up if I choose at 6 o'clock in the evening." If they wished to reduce the number of public-houses in the metropolis, let them be practically diminished by allowing the publicans to close early if they desired to do so, rather than by forcing the whole of them to keep their houses open till 11 o'clock at the earliest; and where it was absolutely necessary for the convenience of the public, publicans would keep open their houses till 1 o'clock. He did not think there would be any objection to such a proposal. At all events it was well worthy of consideration. For his own part, he regarded the Bill then before the House as well calculated to improve the Act of 1872, which much required amendment and alteration, and he hoped those alterations would be carried out in a satisfactory manner.
§ MR. GREENE
said, he must at once take exception to the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) that that was a publicans' Parliament. There was no foundation for any such assertion. The Conservatives did not sit on the Ministerial side of the House because the licensed victuallers' interest did not like the Act of 1872, but because the whole country, after the confiscation of property and spoliation scheme brought in by Lord Aberdare, had no longer any confidence in the Liberal Government. The rights of property were upheld by 139 the Conservative party, and that was one of the reasons why they received and enjoyed the confidence of the people at large. As Her Majesty's Government was about taking the House into its confidence on the most important point of the Bill, it would not he necessary for him to enter upon any discussion of its details; but he hoped hon. Gentlemen on both sides would carefully consider the proposal to deprive magistrates of discretionary power with reference to the hours of closing. That which suited one part of the country would be found an inconvenient hour for another district. Indeed, he believed it would be the most difficult thing in the world to pass a Bill as regarded hours of closing and opening upon a hard-and-fast line. There should, in his opinion, be a uniform system of regulation for the licensed houses and beer-houses, for he could not, for his part, see why any difference should be made between them. For that reason, whatever restrictions and conditions were sanctioned in the one case ought to be carried out in the other.
§ MR. LOWE
said, it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, that the Bill should come as a whole under any one principle. It was simply a Bill to amend a previous Act, and it contained a number of provisions on some points of which everybody would probably approve, however much they might disapprove of others. It should be looked at fairly and impartially, and brought forward as it was, on the responsibility of the Government, they were called upon to give an opinion whether it was or was not worthy of a second reading at the hands of the House. He could not agree in many things which were stated by the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department in his interesting speech. The only reason the hon. Gentleman expressed for keeping houses in some districts open up to 11.30 was, that if they closed them at 11 o'clock, people would buy liquor, take it home with them, and that there would be illicit drinking. That was the first time he had ever heard that it was illicit to drink at any time in one's own house; for the fact was that there was nothing wrong in a working-man purchasing liquor and drinking it when and where he pleased, and it was an utter confusion of terms to call such drinking illicit. Another 140 point to which he wished to refer was the argument of the hon. Baronet with regard to keeping public-houses open until 12.30. As the law now stood, houses were obliged to close at 12 o'clock. The Home Office, however, had power by exceptional licences, to allow some houses to keep open to a later hour. The hon. Gentleman was in favour of keeping open until 12.30, because he said he had found that houses allowed to be open until 1 o'clock under exceptional licences were not frequented by playgoers—that they never went there at all, and on that ground he based his reason for keeping open until 12.30, so that they might go there. Another point seemed to him worthy of consideration. It related to the proposal to do away with the magisterial obligation to endorse each conviction on the licence. The endorsement he (Mr. Lowe) regarded as being of great value in the preservation of order and decorum, and it must be so felt by the publican himself. He, therefore, hoped the House would consider carefully before they gave their assent to the removal of that power. In the Bill he felt bound to say there were many things most worthy of consideration, and which it was very proper for the Government to bring before the House. With regard to the question of hours, resting as it did at present on local authority in separate districts, he thought it better there should be one uniform system, and he regarded that House as the best tribunal to come to a right decision as to what that system should be. Objection had been urged to the hours named in the Bill. Well, the Government had thrown the hours down on the floor of the House to be dealt with as the House liked, and it would be for the Legislature to decide. All the Government asked was for the adoption of some uniform system. It was impossible to act more fairly in the matter. The House of Commons might not be a perfect tribune, but to his mind it was best suited for the work. Another point most worthy of attention was the Government proposal for the bettor regulation of what were known as night-houses, which was much required, and which had heretofore been neglected. That had been the subject of great abuse. Lastly, there was this great evil, which was intended to be remedied by the Bill, that Government should pick 141 out certain publicans in particular localities and confer upon them lucrative privileges to the prejudice of their competitors in the trade. Speaking not only for himself, but also for his Friends he would say that that was the view which they took on this subject, and therefore he was encouraged to hope that his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) might be induced to say that he felt he had carried all he desired—namely, the two points relating to the hours and to the beer-houses, as he understood those were points which the Government were willing to submit to the decision of the House, and he was sure the hon. Gentleman would do wisely in withdrawing his Amendment. He hoped the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department would place on the Table those documents which he had that evening read to the House.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
It is not my intention, Sir, to take up the time of the House in referring to the various speeches which we have heard in the course of this debate. There is no one, I think, who can say that we have had a very lively discussion, except in the case of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Denbighshire (Mr. O. Morgan), who, if hustings speeches have been done away with, seems to have a very lively recollection of what they used to be. Her Majesty's Government have been accused of unsettling this question before the time came when it ought to be discussed again; but I think the very candid statement of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has taken the answer to that accusation out of my mouth. It will be recollected that the Act of 1872 was passed late in the Session, and in a great hurry—indeed in such a hurry that if we trust Hansard, every hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten what took place on that occasion. When I say the legislation on this point was hurried, I must say that I am not stating that for the first time, and therefore I think the right hon. Gentleman has very justly described the Bill as a Bill amending in a great number of its details an Act passed some time ago. In that view, it should be recollected that the Government are not approaching the question for the first time, they are rather in the position of a physician who is called in 142 to advise on a case which several other doctors have treated and have failed to cure. After all, it is but an Amendment Bill, and as I stated on the evening when I introduced it, I am quite prepared to find it canvassed by three different schools of thought. I was perfectly prepared to find any one of those particular schools fix on any particular portion of the Bill which did not coincide with their views, and drag it into prominence, forgetting all the rest of the measure that they might approve; and therefore I was not surprised that those who objected to the hours suggested in the Bill, should have pounced upon that one question and harried it, forgetting the character of the Bill, which was to amend in detail, and partly, too, in spirit, an existing Act of Parliament. Many Gentlemen have come to me and raised objections to the Bill, and the first question I have invariably asked them is—"Have you read the Bill?" The answer—I will not say always, but very often, nay, in the majority of cases—has been—"No, I have not read it, but there is in it, I understand, a clause increasing the drinking hours by half-an-hour." That notion has got abroad, and hence a number of Petitions have been got up against the Bill. People seem to have run away with the idea that that was the main object of the measure, and in that they have been most materially mistaken. Public opinion has, however, I am inclined to think, approved of the Bill, and all the remarks made upon it in the country Press, where we generally look for the expression of public opinion, take the broad and not the narrow view of the Bill, and have looked upon it in the light of a healing measure, and one calculated to place the trade and business of the licensed victuallers on an improved footing, and as a Bill, too, in the interests of the public at large. The Act of 1872 was, as I have said, passed in a hurry and late in the Session, and in the framing of it, I can detect the hands of two hon. Gentlemen opposite—I mean the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone) and Stoke (Mr. Melly)—and therefore I am not surprised, knowing the views of those hon. Gentlemen, at the opposition which they have offered to this measure, which proposes to amend their handy work. It seems to me that at the time when that 143 Act was passed, it was present in the mind of the late Home Secretary that the Act would surround this particular trade with pains, penalties, and police regulations, and treat those who were engaged in it in the light of criminals. No doubt, with the best intention, these hon. Gentlemen thought that the best way to stay intemperance was by putting a heavy hand on the traders in drink; but I am bound to say it was the wrong view to take. I think those traders should be treated more generously, and more like other traders, and that we should endeavour to introduce into that trade—which we cannot stop and which we must regulate—the best class of men you can, men whom you can trust to carry on the trade properly. With that view, we have proposed the clause to sweep away the adulteration clauses, which were never enforced, and were still more offensive to the trade. At the time that Act was passing through Committee there was no Adulteration Act in force, and therefore it was quite proper that those clauses should have been put into the Bill, but inasmuch as the very same day it received the Royal Assent, the Adulteration Act also received the Royal Assent, there is no reason why they should be retained, as if the licensed victuallers were to be treated differently from the other tradesmen in this country. For the purpose of carrying out those adulteration clauses, there was placed in the Bill another clause, which inflicted on the trade a greater hardship than any other. There is no doubt it was introduced with the best intentions, but it has had the worst possible effect, for it gave instructions to the police, just as Committees of this House are instructed in the Order of Reference, to enter public-houses and search every room, even the sleeping rooms, in search of any adulterated liquors, or of any articles which might be used for the purpose of adulteration, which might be concealed there. I believe that the powers Conferred by that clause have been very injudiciously worked, and that the police have acted under it in a way in which there was no necessity for them to do. However, as the Government were not prepared to carry out the adulteration clauses by sweeping them away, they swept that away also, restoring to the police the necessary provision 144 for maintaining order. Then, in order to place the publicans on the same footing with other traders, we thought it would be wise to do away with what was called the minimum penalty, and gave the justices a discretionary power to order the licence to be endorsed, instead of compelling them to do so, thereby placing them on the same footing with the other Judges, by giving them the power to use their own discretion as to what ought to be the extent of the penalty they might think proper to inflict. We also propose that instead of police supervision following conviction as a matter of course, it shall be a part of the sentence of the Judge whether such supervision shall follow or not, and we have taken care that the Judges who sit to try the matter shall have full information, because we have introduced words into the Bill which will compel the magistrates' clerk to place the record of previous convictions before them. With regard to the matter in the Metropolitan district, I have seen the record of convictions, and I find that in some instances one or two convictions have been recorded for very small offences, where the minimum penalty is one pound. Now, a man who is fined twice for a small offence of that kind will be in a worse position than one who has been fined £20 once for a very grave offence, and that is a thing which requires to be remedied. There are other parts of the Bill which have received unqualified approval from the House, and upon those I will not dwell, for I trust when they become law they will be found of the greatest possible use and value in maintaining order; but there is one matter which I feel bound to explain. It has hitherto been the law that persons who take their licences in London may go through the country, attending all the fairs and races; and they frequently take with them disreputable characters, and set up their booths in entire defiance of the local magistrates and the police. The Bill will compel them to go Before the local magistrates before they set up their booths, and the magistrates will take care that this pest is banished from the land. The next and last question is whether the magistrates shall have power to fix the hours. I will not enter into a discussion of the question now. Great dissatisfaction exists on the subject, for it is said, at one time that 145 the magistrates are given to teetotal views, at another that they are influenced by the licensed victuallers, and that from the changing constitution of the bench of magistrates there is no certainty as to what their decision will be. What the people want is that certainty; and the view of the Government is this—that if the House takes upon itself to regulate this monopoly, as it must do, and to say that the houses shall close at certain hours, it should also say what those hours shall be. Much has been said about the Bill extending the hours of drinking in London, but it does precisely the reverse. In all the exempted houses, which are fixed by the Commissioner of Police, the licence is, that they may keep open doors until 12.15; but then the people who are inside are allowed to remain drinking as long as they like up to 1 o'clock. The consequence is that these houses are frequented not by people who have been at the theatres, for whom they were intended, but by disreputable characters. Therefore, the Bill will restrict the hours of drinking, so far, at least, as those houses are concerned. A great deal has been said about illicit drinking. Now, in the City of London and the metropolis generally, the police have found that after the public-houses are closed people who have bought spirits in them are in the habit of going to refreshment-houses and cigar-shops and drinking there, and often, when the police get into the back parlours of these shops, they find two or three bottles of spirits and wine on the table. In fact, it has been ascertained that owners of public-houses take places which they open as cigar-shops, and allow those who have bought spirits from them to go and drink in those cigar-shops after their houses have closed. That is a practice which is growing in London, and that I call illicit drinking, a practice which I hope the Bill will effectually stop. As to the hours, the Government have taken the best counsel they can get, and they have suggested to the House what they believe to be the best hours; but they are quite prepared to give to any Amendments on the subject the most candid consideration. I will take the opportunity before concluding, of remarking with regard to the taunt of the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) that Her Majesty's 146 Government when in Opposition, had not taken any sufficient part in the legislation of 1872, to remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that the strongest opposition to the measure came from himself. I have stated the views of the Government fully and frankly, and I hope the House will now read the Bill a second time, with a view of going into Committee upon it.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ —(Mr. Sullivan.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
I think, Sir, the debate has been maintained very fully, and, as I understand there is no intention to divide upon the Motion, I think it would not only be unusual, but extremely inconvenient if the hon. Member should press his Amendment. The hon. Gentleman will have many opportunities of expressing his opinions on the subject when the Bill goes into Committee.
I do not move the adjournment for the purpose of obstruction—my object is bonâ fide. Not a single Irish Member has expressed his opinion on the Bill. Hon. Members should recollect that the debate has been about a Bill not before the House. We were promised by the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that clauses should be laid before the House relating to Ireland, but we have not seen them. I therefore move the adjournment of the debate, in order that we may know exactly what is to be proposed, for our country.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he wished to say a few words as to the position in which the House stood in the matter. The Bill was only an amending measure, and if the second reading were to be opposed, it must be either on the ground that the time had not arrived for further legislation on the subject, or because it was in itself radically objectionable. For his own part, he regretted that the Government had thought it their 147 duty to bring forward an amending Bill that year. But inasmuch as they had done so, it was rather a serious thing for the House to say in a matter of such administrative importance, that it would refuse to consider the Bill in Committee. When he came to look at the clauses he must say that if he had no alternative, in the event of the Bill being read a second time, but to accept them, he should at once vote against the Bill. That, however, was not the position in which the House was placed; there would be an opportunity of considering the clauses in Committee, and he thought that what most concerned the public after all was the extension of the hours; and it had been proved by the debate of that night, and by the general feeling of the country, that the proposed change was not called for, and would do great injury. He believed, too, that the sense of both sides of the House was that the Government had better withdraw that portion of their Bill. ["No, no!"] Why the Government almost acknowledged that they took that view, for that was plainly the understood meaning of their proposing to take the public into council with them. If the House could come to some general conclusion on the subject of hours now, well and good. They could not do so in 1872, and that was the cause of the discretionary power being given to the magistrates, but he did not see how the ground could be taken of refusing to consider this discretionary power in Committee. There were other provisions in the Bill which raised questions in reference to the operation of the Act of 1872 that might perhaps be open to re-consideration, and with that view, hon. Members who had supported the Motion to adjourn the debate had better leave the further discussion of the Bill for the Committee. He would also recommend his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) to withdraw his Amendment, and allow the Bill to be read a second time. He hoped the Government would not persist in the portion of their Bill which related to the hours. He wished to observe, however, that it would not be fair to the House, if the Government did persist in that portion of their Bill, for them not to produce to the House the Correspondence on which they based their recommendation.
§ MR. MELLY
said, that his object in moving the Amendment was to raise a discussion, and in that discussion they had heard from all parts of the House a condemnation of the proposal to extend the hours. He candidly admitted that the Government had quite met his views on that point in engaging to hold the question of opening and closing hours as an open question, upon which they would take the House into counsel, and with the leave of the House, he should therefore withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will, upon Monday next, resolve itself into the said Committee."
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
objected that that was not time enough for the country to consider a Bill of so important a character.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, that it was a whole week, and considering the rapid means of communication which now existed, that was equivalent to double the period 35 years ago.
protested that Ireland was being taken by surprise, as the Bill was intended, by the introduction of certain clauses which had not as yet been laid on the Table, to apply to Ireland, and no Irish Member had yet spoken in the debate.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
also hoped that the whole of the Correspondence and evidence to which the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department had referred as the grounds upon which the Government had introduced the Bill, would be laid upon the Table before the House was asked to go into Committee.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that what the right hon. Gentleman had referred to had been unduly 149 magnified, and he did not think them so important as had been assumed. He had only quoted from a few letters, which, if required, he would put into the printer's hands at once, and they might be laid upon the Table to-morrow.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
reminded the hon. Baronet that he justified his proposal with regard to the hours by the letters to which he alluded. The House ought to be enabled to judge of the evidence relied upon, and what was produced should not be confined to three or four letters.
§ In reply to Mr. O'REILLY,
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that none of the clauses in that Bill would apply to Ireland, unless a separate Bill was passed for Ireland.
§ MR. DODSON
urged that all the answers received by the Government to the Circular issued ought to be produced.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he never knew an important Bill go into Committee after such a short interval as a week. It was nothing like sufficient time.
§ MR. MELLY
said, that the first clause which would have to be considered in Committee was that of dealing with the question of hours. The magistrates in boroughs and counties in a great number of instances had not yet met to consider the Bill, and it was therefore hardly fair to fix the Committee for Monday.
§ MR. RATHBONE
moved, as an Amendment, "That the House go into Committee on the Bill on Thursday, the 4th of June."
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "Monday next," in order to insert the words "Thursday the fourth day of June next,"—(Mr. Rathbone,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'Monday next' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
again rose, and earnestly urged upon the Government to give a longer time and more information. Hon. Members on his side of the House had made a great concession in accepting the second reading 150 without a division, and the course proposed appeared to him to be riding rather rough-shod over the House.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, his recollection of the time given in previous cases of important measures was very different from that of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). It must be recollected that a fortnight had elapsed since the introduction of the Bill, and, generally speaking, a week was allowed to elapse between the second reading and Committee, and he did not at that moment recollect any instance to the contrary. However, in the conduct of the Business of the House, it would be disagreeable to press anything opposed by a considerable minority, for a considerable minority ought to be considered, and therefore with regard to the present point, perhaps the best thing would be for the House to defer the matter till to-morrow, when he would be prepared to state the course the Government would take.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill committed for To-morrow.