HC Deb 10 August 1878 vol 242 cc1721-48

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill he now read the third time."—(The O'Conor Don.)


in rising to move the re-committal of the Bill, said, that a glance at the Order Paper would explain to hon. Members why they were brought there at an unusual hour, on an unusual day, and for an unusual purpose. It was to ratify a certain memorandum of agreement between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his hon. Friend the Schouvaloff of Sunday Closing in charge of the Bill. Hitherto, the Bill had been opposed on principle as needlessly and unwisely restrictive of personal liberty. On that ground the House of Commons, aided by a policy of facilities foreign to the usages of Parliament, had decided against them. He was now obliged to take another ground, and ask the House to view this Bill in relation to a great national industry. He assumed that both the supporters and the opponents of the Bill were equally animated by respect for vested interests. His object, his sole object, therefore, in moving the re-committal of the measure was that in Committee an agreement might be arrived at consonant with justice, whereby vested interests should be protected. An injury directly inflicted upon any class affected indirectly the whole body of the people. He did no more than claim, on behalf of a numerous and influential body of his fellow-countrymen, the benefit of an admitted principle of the Constitution. He would not strain the principle of compensation. It should only apply, in his opinion, where the interests affected were bonâ fide vested interests, and where the damage inflicted was direct, palpable, and immediate, and not where it was indirect, vague, or remote. The licence in Ireland was on the same footing as in England. The police regulations differed somewhat; but in both countries the same right of transfer existed, and in both the holder of a seven-day licence had a vested interest in the house to which it was attached. He might forfeit his licence by misconduct; but so long as he fulfilled the conditions of the contract, he might dispose of his licensed house for a valuable consideration; he might bequeath it by will; if he died intestate, it passed to his legal representative; it was, to all intents and purposes, property recognized and protected by the law. The late Sir Frederick Shaw, who, as Member for the Dublin University, held at one time a distinguished position in that House, filled afterwards for a long series of years and with distinction the office of Recorder of the City of Dublin. He invariably ruled that the licence attached to the house and constituted a bonâ fide vested interest. His successor, Mr. Falkiner, the present Recorder, attempted to do that which the House of Commons was then doing, or attempting to do, by this Bill—that was, changing the seven-day licence into a six-day licence, and what happened? Mr. Falkiner's ruling was reversed by the unanimous judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench. This occurred only last year. The case of the publicans was argued by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick City (Mr. Butt). He (Mr. P. J. Smyth) now asked the earnest attention of the House to these emphatic words of the Lord Chief Justice— I do not think the Court should be influenced by any opinion that the number of public-houses in this city is an evil which should be diminished. If the fact be so, the authorities may most properly refuse to add to the number. But existing vested interests should not be extinguished, even with a legitimate object, without compensation. Surely that was conclusive. There they had the clear and distinct declaration of the highest legal tribunal that the seven-day licence was an existing vested interest, that to change that licence into a six-day licence would be the extinction of that vested interest, and that it ought not to be done, even with a legitimate object, without compensation. Would the House of Commons assume the grave responsibility of rejecting that solemn decision by legislating in defiance of it? Would it, for the sake of a wretched experiment, run the risk of bringing into disrepute in Ireland and elsewhere, and shaking confidence in the dicta of the constituted exponents of the law? Assuredly it would fare ill with law and order if the day should ever arrive when the judgments and decisions of the Superior Courts in matters relating to the construction of Acts of Parliament and the administration of the law should cease to be regarded as conclusive by Parliament and the nation. Parliament had from time to time altered the hours of opening and closing. Those changes, doubtless, might have caused a momentary inconvenience to the seller and consumer; but the right to sell and consume on every day of the week remained intact, the seven-day licence remained intact, and the vested interest was undisturbed. They might regulate, but they could not destroy. They might take one hour off every day of the week; but they could not wholly obliterate any one day of every seven for which the licence was given. To do so would be to annul the contract and to extinguish a vested interest, and they could not annul and extinguish any vested interest without compensation. Parliament had regulated the hours of factory working. But such regulation inflicted no special wrong. Had it ever entered the brain of any man that Parliament could or would close all the factories in the Kingdom on one working day of every week throughout the year? It could do that, perhaps; but compensation would follow, as a matter of course. Parliament might decree a Bank holiday or two.


It could several.


Name them.


Good Friday. It has done so.


His hon. Friend mentioned Good Friday, and he was quite welcome to the exception which proved the rule. In that case, the loss or the advantage, whichever it might be, was shared by the whole community, and there was no special damage suffered by any one particular class. In fact, the principle of compensation did not there arise. An hon. Member had just reminded him that compensation was not awarded to the Scotch publicans. But if, at the time of the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, a Scotch Member had been able to point to a decision such as that of the Court of Queen's Bench, which he had quoted, declaring that the Scotch licence, like the English and the Irish licences, was a vested interest which could not be extinguished without compensation, was it not a moral certainty that a claim for compensation would have been unhesitatingly admitted by this House? The licences, however, in Scotland were not on the same footing as the English or the Irish licence, for licences in Scotland had always been, and were now, under the control of the magistrates to a degree not required in either England or Ireland. He felt sorry that the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was not in the House. The hon. Member had made a remarkable statement on this subject of compensation. The quotation he was about reading he took from The Alliance News, whose authenticity, he presumed, would not be questioned. Well, the hon. Baronet observed— I have heard it said that 18,000 Irish publicans will he ruined if the Sunday Closing Bill passes, but nobody proposes compensation should be given to them. Now, he (Mr. P. J. Smyth) did not pretend to be anybody; but somebody had actually proposed that compensation be given to them—Irish publicans though they were—and he would show that somebody—even the hon. Baronet himself—was hound to support the Motion before the House. In the same speech, the hon. Baronet proceeded— I do not say that compensation ought not to be given, but I will wait until we get into Committee to hoar what the arguments are before I agree to grant compensation. But if you explain the matter to me satisfactorily I shall not object to compensation. You must, however, make out a good case. These words were uttered with reference to the Permissive Bill; but they applied with a hundred-fold greater force to the Sunday Closing Bill. In the Permissive Bill the probable injury was indirect, uncertain, and remote. In the Sunday Closing Bill, the injury was direct, certain, and immediate, proceeding from the direct action of the law. Now, if he were justified in claiming the support for this Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, he was justified in claiming more than support—he claimed "facilities"—from Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, speaking on behalf of the Government, said that the question of compensation should be settled before a Bill of a permissive character could be considered. Why, then, must Sunday closing be considered and facilitated, and no word about compensation uttered from the Treasury Bench? Was it because the victims were Irish traders only? That would be a narrow and mistaken view, for if the Motion now before the House were rejected, it would be found hereafter that a wrong principle embodied in legislation might have wider consequences than were at first contemplated. He had no desire to detain the House further. He ventured to believe that he had established his case. Let the House pass this Bill if it so pleased— this—he could not avoid calling it so indefensible Bill. But as they valued justice, as they cherished the principle of property, as they respected the legal tribunals of the land, he asked them to look to it at least that legitimate vested interests were protected, and he asked no more. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the re-committal of the Bill.


seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "be" to the end of the Question, in order to add the word "recommitted,"—(Mr. P. J. Smyth,)—instead thereof.

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


said, he hardly thought that his hon. Friend could be serious in proposing the Motion which he had made, considering that this Bill had gone into Committee in January last, and this was the 10th of August, and there had been unexampled opportunities for discussing every imaginable Amendment in Committee. He thought the mere fact that this proposal for com- pensation was put off till this date proved that it could not be intended, even by its proposers, to be seriously entertained. As to the proposal itself, he was bound to say that, even if introduced legitimately, and at the proper time, he could not entertain it. His hon. Friend had himself most distinctly proved in his speech that the claim for compensation was of the most technical character. He admitted that the Legislature might reduce the number of hours of sale on any day in the week; that it might fix the particular hours in the day in which sales were to be permitted; and so long as any time was permitted on every day in. the week no claims for compensation could be made. For instance, the House might reduce the hours of sale on Sundays to the limit of half-an-hour, and it might fix that half-hour at half-past 2 in the morning, and, according to the argument of his hon. Friend, no claim for compensation could be made; but let that half-hour, which would be practically useless, be abolished, and then the claim arose. He put it to the House and to his hon. Friend, whether he was not right in arguing that a claim of this sort was of the most technical character? And was the Legislature to be bound by such technicalities? A Court of Law might be bound by them. A Court had only to administer the law as it found it. It was bound to confine itself to the exact limits of the letter of the law. But the Legislature was not so bound. And when his hon. Friend told them that Parliament might reduce the hours of sale on any and every day in the week, and to any extent except total closing, and that, under such circumstances, no right to claim compensation existed on the part of the traders, he destroyed his whole case; for he reduced the claim to one of the purest technicality, which, however proper it might be for discussion in a Law Court, was wholly out of place before a Legislative Assembly. Parliament had over and over again interfered with and reduced the hours of sale. In doing so, it had probably, he might say certainly, interfered with the profits of the traders. No compensation was given in these cases. No compensation was even asked for, and, according to the doctrine laid down by his n. Friend, no compensation could be claimed. Spirit traders took licences under the special condition and know- ledge that Parliament could and would interfere with and regulate the hours of sale as it thought proper; and it was the merest special pleading to argue that although the Legislature could justly and, without granting compensation, close the houses on every day in the week with the exception of half-an-hour, and could fix that half-hour at a time when most people would be in bed, yet it could not close the houses for that half-hour without a justifiable claim for compensation arising. His hon. Friend's own admission proved that he could not be really in earnest in making this proposal. If the opponents of the Bill really believed there was any case for compensation, would they not have brought it forward at an earlier stage of the measure, instead of some of the Amendments, which he was going to say were of a very trumpery character, or, at all events, which were of minor importance, as compared with that which the hon. Member had how submitted? Under these circumstances, it would be impossible to accede to the proposal of the hon. Member for Westmeath, a proposal which, if the House were in Committee, they would not think of sanctioning.


said, he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. P. J. Smyth), because he considered it was a reasonable proposition. There were plenty of precedents to show that this was a case in which compensation should be given. It was true that the Forbes-Mackenzie Act was an instance to the contrary. He did not see how, as the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) had done, they could draw a parallel between shortening the hours of sale and stopping the sale altogether. The argument that, if the houses were allowed to open for half-an-hour in the middle of the night, it would meet the objection, was childish. That would not compensate the trader for his loss. There were many precedents for compensation being given in a case of this kind, and he did not see why the House should deviate from it in this instance. His hon. Friend had complained because this proposition was not brought forward earlier; but the fact was, the hon. Member for Westmeath did bring it forward, and the Speaker ruled that he was out of Order. With regard to precedents, he would take the House back to the period of the abolition of Slavery. That was a trade abhorred by every Englishman; but notwithstanding that, when the planters were being deprived of only one-fourth of the labour which they got from their slaves, they were awarded £20,000,000 compensation. And yet it was now proposed to deprive 17,000 or 18,000 men in Ireland, who were legally licensed to carry on a certain business, and from which a large portion of the Revenue of this country was derived, of one-seventh of their trade, and they were to be refused compensation. In some of the country places, a mile or two away from the towns, nearly one-half of the business was done on Sundays, and in these cases it was altogether wrong to say that the retailers of drink were being deprived of one-seventh of their trade. They would probably be deprived of one-half their trade if this Bill passed. As to the abolition of Slavery, Sir Robert Peel, in supporting the measure for compensation, said, that they were depriving the planters of one-fourth of the labour of their slaves, and— Should the House turn round upon them, with a view of defeating their claim to compensation, it might, indeed, be empowered to do so; but we should incur an imputation upon our good faith such as had never been previously equalled. Parliament was, in his opinion, bound to make the planter full compensation. Mr. Stanley, in making the proposal on behalf of the Government, said, the object was— To advance to the planters a loan of £15,000,000 sterling, in consideration of the sacrifice on their part of the fourth of the labour of their slaves. The proposal of a loan was afterwards abandoned, and a grant of £20,000,000 was voted by Parliament as compensation. Then, again, he would refer to the railway system. When land was taken for the purpose of a railway, it was incumbent upon the promoters of the line to pay not only for the value of the land absolutely required, but to give compensation for injury which might be caused to property adjacent to the railway. Then there was the Army Regulation Act. It was declared illegal by the Act of Geo. III., for any officer to give one single shilling over the regulated price for his commission; and yet, when the Army Regulation Act was passed, they were allowed the Ml price paid for their commissions. Then, when the Irish Church Act was passed full compensation was given to every person, down to the youngest juniors, for the loss sustained by the passing of that Act. And, again, in the case of the Irish Land Act, the right of compensation was admitted to such an extent as to include even compensation for improvements. There was nothing which could be brought forward in which that House had not for centuries given compensation when any person was being deprived of his right, and yet it was now proposed to abolish one-seventh part, and in some cases much more, of the trade of 17,000 or 18,000 persons in Ireland, without giving them any compensation whatever. Would the House sanction such an injustice? Hon. Gentlemen from the North of Ireland might be anxious to pass this Bill; but they should, at least, be just, and not pass it at the expense of those who were getting their living by this trade. His hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon appeared to think more of this Sabbatarian measure than he did of the Irish Education Bill, respecting which he refused to give way when his own Bill was brought up on Report. It might be as well to remind the House of the working of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act in Scotland; and he would quote from The Scotsman, one of the highest authorities on the subject. An hon. Member from Scotland, whose name he would not mention, had told the House of Commons that "No one in the North now questioned the value of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act," whereupon The Scotsman said— There are a great many people here who question its 'value,' and there are none whose statements with regard to the general condition of the country do more to put the 'value' of that piece of legislation in a questionable light than those who support the attempt to coerce the population into sobriety. They never open their mouths to speak upon this subject without deploring the enormous increase that is taking place in the drunkenness of the country, and producing statistics to prove that such is the case. So many more gallons of whisky are being consumed per head of the population, so many more arrests for drunkenness are being made by the police, such and such an increase per cent is taking place in female intemperance, &c. We are all only too familiar here with the thrilling and three times thrice-told tale. But then, all the time that this frightful development of national debauchery has been proceeding, the Forbes-Mackenzie Act has been hard at work restricting the hours of daily drinking, and extinguishing entirely the sale of drink during the seventh part of the year, that seventh part, moreover, being the very part during which it is supposed drinkers would be most at leisure and disposed to indulge their propensity. English and Irish Members of Parliament point to this fact, and contend that if Scotland, with the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, is, on the showing of its most ardent temperance reformers, outstripping in drunkenness the respective countries which have no Forbes-Mackenzie Act, the evidence is not in favour of that Act. He maintained that similarly, after a very short trial, the evidence would not be in favour of the Act in Ireland either. The people would be driven to drink in private and she been houses, over which the police had no control, and the consequence would be greater demoralization and increased drunkenness. The Scotsman proceeded— How was this argument met? By quoting from the Edinburgh Police Returns to show that fewer people are found drunk in the streets on Sunday since the Forbes-Mackenzie Act closed the public-houses. That may be true; but it does not meet the allegation that since the Forbes-Mackenzie Act shut the public-houses on Sundays, the Scotch people have taken to drinking more than ever, and much more than the Irish or English, on other days of the week. He maintained, without fear of contradiction, that the same result would obtain in Ireland if this Bill passed. He could assert as a positive fact that in those parts of Ireland where the Sunday closing of public-houses was carried out voluntarily, there was a larger amount of drunkenness than in places where the voluntary closing system was not adopted. If," continued the article, "an advocate will insist upon being guided by the statistics, he ought to be of opinion that if the Forbes-Mackenzie Act protects the Sundays, it abuses the other days, and if it is good for Sabbatarian purposes, it is not good for real temperance purposes. So this Bill might be good for promoting Sabbatarian ideas; but it would not further the cause of temperance. If the intention of the promoters of the Bill was to promote temperance, they would have proposed to close public-houses on some other day in the week in which there was more drunkenness, for it had been shown, over and over again, that in Ireland Sunday was the one day in the week on which there was less drunkenness than on any other day. The Government had exempted from the opera- tion of the Bill the five large towns where there was the largest amount of drunkenness. They said, in effect— "We know you want to get drunk in the large towns, and we will leave you to do it; but in the country places, where you don't want to get drunk, we will close the public-houses, and not allow you to get drunk." So much for the consistency of the Government. If it is good for Sabbatarian purposes, it is not good for real temperance purposes. May there not be some connection of cause and effect between these two inferences? If a nation is drilled into the superstition that temperance is simply a sort of 'Sabbath' propriety, may they not be disposed to put it off with their Sunday clothes? The Forbes-Mackenzie Act virtually says—'Six days shalt thou drink,' and it seems to be taken at its word. What rational argument could be given for the view that people should be more sober on the Sabbath than at other times? The eloquence of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Charles Lewis) and of the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) had not shown that temperance would increase if this Bill passed. The House had never heard what the Bill was really intended for. They suspected it was a Sabbatarian measure, and not one in the interests of temperance; because if it were in the interests of temperance it would propose the closing of public-houses, not on the most sober day of the week, but on the most drunken days, and at fairs, markets, and so forth. And yet," concluded the article in The Scotsman, "what else is the meaning of Sunday closing? Legislation based on Pharisaism will never make a people better or morally stronger. All that it does is to foster the common enough tendency to believe that sham solemnity, skin-deep virtue, and moral whitewash, in some way or other make up for the want of that simplicity, veracity, and seriousness of character which are indispensable to self-control or any other genuine excellence. Forbes-Mackenzieism has every appearance of being more decorous than wholesome. He hoped the House would have too much respect for itself to allow such a tyrannical and unjust Bill as that now before them to be run through the House of Lords in three or four days at the end of the Session. At any rate, he hoped the House of Lords would have too much respect for itself to allow it to pass in that way. In Newcastle West, in his own county, 11,059 persons, chiefly working men, had petitioned against this Bill, while the Petition in its favour was signed by only 450 names, notwithstanding the fact that the paid agents of the Alliance were there for two days canvassing for signatures. He did not see that many Petitions in favour of the Bill had been presented, either by the hon. Member for Roscommon (The O'Conor Don), or the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), and yet those hon. Members thought they had a right to force this Bill upon the people. He admitted that there were a large number in Ireland who were in favour of this Bill, but they were, for the most part, those who would not be affected by it. They were men who never had to resort to public-houses at any time, having well-stocked cellars of their own. A good deal had been said about the Petitions in favour of this Bill. These were got up by pious old ladies of the Moody and Sankey type, and by Sunday school teachers, who got little boys and girls to sign their names without their knowing in the least what they were signing. He challenged the promoters of the Bill to produce a single Petition on their side signed by bonâ fide working men and women, who would be inconvenienced by the passing of this Bill. Out of 24 Petitions presented during one week in favour of this measure 13 came from places in England; and out of 11 similar Petitions presented in another week, 10 came from England and Scotland. If the promoters of the Bill would consent to drop it for the present Session, he would challenge them to hold public meetings on the question during the Recess, to have a disinterested person appointed as umpire, and the votes of the people taken, and he promised that if the promoters of Sunday closing had a majority in their favour he would not next Session raise his voice in opposition to the Bill. But he felt that he was not representing a class in that House. He did not belong to either Whigs or Tories, but was a representative of the people, and quite as much of non-electors as of electors; and he felt that he should not be discharging his duty honestly and fairly to those non-electors if he allowed this Coercion Bill to pass without, not merely protesting against it, but without using every means in his power to defeat it; because, view it as they would, it was as much a Coercion Bill as the Crimes and Outrages Bill. The position of the Government was most inconsistent. They would not admit that the Bill was theirs, and yet they gave greater facilities for passing it than he ever remembered to have been given to any other private Bill. They had given to its promoters three clear days, and only on the preceding day they were led to suppose that the Government intended to proceed with Business of their own that day, but when the House met they found this private Member's Bill first on the Paper. It was entirely unprecedented for the House to be discussing such a measure on a Saturday. He gave every credit to the temperance party, because they were sincere and zealous in trying to convert the people from drunkenness; but he gave no credit to the Sabbatarian element, which was the backbone of this Bill. He believed they cared very little about the temperance party or about the demoralization of the people of Ireland. Their idea was to introduce the Scotch Sabbatarian system into Ireland. In many of the country districts in Ireland the sale of intoxicating liquors formed only a small portion of the trade of the shopkeepers. They sold all sorts of things—tea and sugar, bread and butter, powder and spades, and almost everything that could be mentioned. Under this Bill these people would be obliged to close their shops altogether, even against the sale of groceries; because if a policeman found any customer on licensed premises during prohibited hours, he could proceed against him and secure a conviction. He would only say, in conclusion, that he hoped the House of Lords would not so far stultify itself as to hustle this Bill through at this late period of the Session.


deeply regretted, for the sake of the Speaker and also of the officers of the House, that they should have been called upon to sit on Saturday for any purpose whatever, and more especially for that upon which they were now assembled, and for that reason he would endeavour to shorten any observations he had intended to make as much as possible. So far as the question of compensation was concerned, he did not propose to add one word to the arguments which had been advanced, and which he thought were both convincing and conclusive. He would deal with the third reading of this Bill, and with its antecedents and concomitants. This measure was about as undesirable as any that could be presented to a Legislature; and he ventured to assert that there was no body of a governmental character in Europe, with the exception of that of Great Britain, which would for a moment have entertained it. Personally, it did not matter to him what became of this Bill. Not one of its promoters would be affected by its passing, and probably that was the case also with nearly everyone who had the honour of a seat in that House. They were not going to shut up their own cellars or deprive themselves of a single glass of wine. They were not going to allow the Legislature to deal with them and their tastes, to say nothing of their interests. The object of the promoters of this Bill was to deal with a class infinitely below them—a class that could not speak for itself in that House to the same extent as the promoters could. To pass a measure of this kind was to deal with one class as if they were different beings from those occupying another station in life. He did not believe in class legislation, or in interfering with a man's domestic relations and habits in any way so long as he did not bring himself within the restraint of the criminal law. To tell a man that such legislation as this was not intended to coerce him and would be no interference with his rights, was to tell him what was at variance with the truth. He did not agree with teetotalers or their principles, and in that disagreement he was supported by nineteen-twentieths of the world at large. Under those circumstances was he to give up his views, was he to be coerced in his action by a body of people for whose views he had not the slightest approximation to respect, and who sought, at all times and under all circumstances, to force what they called their principles— what they meant by their principles he scarcely knew — absolutely down the throat of everyone who differed from them? What had been the conduct of the Government with regard to this Bill? In the first instance, the House was told that certain facilities would be afforded for passing it. Then the Government said that perhaps a day might be given. That day was given. Then after that, another day was appropriated to it; and now, at the last moment, when the opposition—which had been most legitimately conducted on principle from beginning to end—seemed in the ordinary course about to be successful, an opposition which would have given further time to see whether this Bill really was or was not desired in Ireland, the Government of the country—no, not the Government of the country, but certain Members of the Government, it being doubtful whether even a majority on the Treasury Bench —by a course of action as unprecedented as it was possible to conceive, caused the House to assemble on a Saturday morning at the close of the Session for the express and sole purpose of forcing this measure through the House if possible. It was only now that the House had learned from the Treasury Bench—the Members of which were at this moment conspicuous by their absence—that this Bill, which was originally a private Member's Bill, had been taken up by the Government. Surely, in all fairness, the Government ought to have given an earlier intimation of their policy. If the opponents of the Bill had been told that, at whatever cost and under whatever circumstances, the Treasury Bench was determined, after the principle of the Bill had been sold to the Government, to pass the wasted remnant of the measure, they could have understood such conduct, since, at all events, it would have been fair, open, and above-board. But what were the facts with regard to this Saturday Sitting? Last night the inference drawn from the statements of the Government was that to-day's Sitting was required for the Telegraphs Bill, and this morning hon. Members were astonished to find that this Bill had been postponed for the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Ireland) Bill, in order that the latter might be forced through the House. That was not just, it was not right, and, what was more, the means by which this had been effected would recoil on the heads of those who used them. They were told that the measure had been practically accepted by the House, and in reply he would call attention to the state of the Benches on both sides at the present moment. This Bill, if it passed at all, would pass by a scratch vote, and the Government would have done more to estrange and alienate its own supporters than any Government ever did before. They were told that this measure in some way or other was for the good of the people. ["Hear, hear!"] That sentiment was cheered by the only occupant at the present moment of the Government Bench. But in what way, and under what circumstances, would it benefit the people? It might be an intention to carry out certain principles in given ways; but to tell him that it was for the good of the people, to say that no single human being keeping within the law should have the opportunity of taking that which he thought reasonable, that which he thought necessary, at reasonable times and under reasonable circumstances, Sunday though it be, was to tell him what a child might be induced to believe, but what no man of full age would credit for one moment. Good of the people! [Mr. C. S. PARKER: Hear, hear!] Why should the House legislate for the alleged good of the people in matters in which the people could legislate very much better for themselves than the hon. Member for Perth, or anybody else? Then it was said that there had been a large number of Petitions presented in favour of the Bill; but it was one of the abuses of the right to petition to cover the floor of the House with Petitions got up by organizations — teetotal, Sabbatarian, or otherwise. He repeated, that the floor of the House had been deluged with Petitions signed by children in Sunday schools, who could not know anything about the merits of the question, and whose signature was strongly requested, if not absolutely demanded, of them. He maintained that this Bill did a substantial injustice to all publicans who had seven-day licences. No one doubted the power of the Government to do anything it pleased, to confiscate pretty nearly every vested interest, and to deal with any individual or right by Statute; but it was a wholly different matter to say that the Government was justified in so acting; and he was thankful to say there was an outside public which judged of the acts of the Government always carefully, sometimes partially, but, at the same time, with a knowledge, perhaps better than those in the House, as to who were the wire-pullers on occasions such as these. Could anyone doubt that this was a wire-pulling business from beginning to end—that there were people outside who were trying to force this Sab- batarian legislation upon Ireland? If they were right in trying to do so, who should deny that it was equally right to force precisely similar legislation on England? Why did not the Government give the teetotal organization facilities for introducing and passing similar legislation for England? If the teetotal organizations themselves had a particle of principle left, let them attempt to carry a similar Bill for England! Why deal with the matter piecemeal? The answer was clear—that no Government dare accept the proposition for Sunday closing in England. But the laws of the two countries were based upon the same principle, and, therefore, what was good for Ireland must also be good for England. This Bill was called a Sunday Closing Bill, but it was no such thing. It was a measure which, in the first instance, was emasculated, then it was eviscerated, and now it only remained a skeleton of dry bones. He would tell the House why the five large towns were excluded from the operation of the Bill. It was because it was perfectly well known that any attempt at Sunday closing in those towns would have caused such a furore throughout Ireland, that through the instrumentality of those cities an agitation fatal to the success of the Bill would have taken place. Why should the man of Belfast not be treated like the man of Armagh? Why should not the man in county Antrim be treated similarly to the inhabitant of county Clare? The standard of the Bill was deserted, the principle cut adrift, and the Bill now simply sought to coerce the peasant population in places where there was no need of a measure of this description; while the large towns, which, if any, were the places that needed restrictive legislation most, were left out of the operation of it altogether. The consequence of this Bill would be the result that had followed the Forbes-Mackenzie Act in Scotland. There would be secret, illicit, and constant consumption of intoxicants, and the she-been houses would largely increase. Could anyone doubt for a moment that there would be illicit distilleries multiplied without end, and all over Ireland a man with a keg of spirits moving about here, there, and everywhere over the vast moorlands and mountain sides and, he regretted to add, uncultivated wastes of Ireland? That such would be the consequence was as palpable as that the sun shone on a cloudless midsummer morning. In conclusion, the hon. and learned Member denounced the Bill as class legislation, and characterized it as devoid of all fairness, equity, and justice.


said, he did not mean to enter into a discussion of the general question, as he understood the question was now narrowed to this point—should compensation be given to the publicans because of this Bill? The hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. P. J. Smyth) had noticed the fact that no compensation had been given to the Scotch publicans when the Forbes-Mackenzie Act was passed, and he got rid of that difficulty by saying the systems of licensing in the two countries were not analogous. He, as a Scotch Member who knew something of the English and Irish system of licensing, asserted that they were analogous, and that, in so far as they differed, the claim of the Scotch publican for compensation was much stronger than that of the Irish publican. Before the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, the Scotch publican was able, if he liked, to keep his house open for 20 out of the 24 hours of Sunday, the only hours during which he was bound to close being the hours of public worship—from 11 to 1 and 2 to 4. Now, he understood the publicans in Ireland could only keep their houses open for seven hours on Sunday at present. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) was pleased, in support of his argument, to make certain statements in reference to Scotland. But one part of the hon. Member's statement completely upset the other, for while he contended that drunkenness had increased since the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, he forgot that drunkenness could not be produced without whisky or some other intoxicating drink. If, then, there was more whisky consumed now than before the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, where was the grievance of the publican? People could not get whisky by dipping a pitcher into a running stream. They must go to the dealers and buy it. If, therefore, it had been a consequence of the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act that more trade was now done in the six days than was formerly done in seven, Parliament, instead of having done the publicans any harm, had been their benefactor by liberating them, and their families and servants, from labour one day in seven, and yet letting them enjoy the same income as before the change took place. The hon. Member had quoted, from a newspaper published in the city he (Mr. M'Laren) represented, an assertion that drunkenness and the consumption of spirits had greatly increased in Scotland since the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act. It might be true—and he (Mr. M'Laren) believed it was true—that on other days of the week than Sunday there were more police cases than there were before the passing of that Act; and, for anything he knew, it might also be the fact that there was more whisky consumed than before the passing of the Act. But account must be taken of the increase of population. The population of Edinburgh before the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act was about 161,000, and now it was about 217,000. Thus, while there had been an increase of more than 50,000 in the population, there had been comparatively little increase in the amount of drink consumed, and not a great increase in the number of police cases arising from it. But the question was not a comparison of the absolute number of cases with a small population and with a large population, but the proportion which the cases bore to the population at the different periods; and if they took that test, they would probably find that there had been rather a diminution in the amount of drinking in Scotland since the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act. There was a more striking example in the case of Glasgow. It was said there were more cases of drunkenness in Glasgow now than before the passing of that Act; but the population of Glasgow had within that time increased by 200,000. Did those 200,000 persons drink no whisky, produce no police cases, and was profligacy unknown amongst them? They must make it a question of proportion, and if they did this they would probably find that there was less drunkenness and fewer police cases now than before the public-houses were closed on Sundays in Scotland. The more they examined into the subject, the more manifest would they find the benefits of the Act. There was another qualification which the hon. Members left out of sight altogether, and which it was indispensable to include in any fair compromise. It was well known that the workmen, having had exceptionally prosperous times and high wages within the last few years, had spent a great proportion of those wages in drink; whereas, in times prior to the recent commercial prosperity, the wages were lower, and they were not able to spend so much as they had recently done in that way. This was proved by the fact that the Excise Returns had been falling off during the present year, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) was consequently alarmed at the extent of the decrease in the Revenue. Had this arisen from the spread of temperance principles? By no means; it had arisen from the fact that the workmen had not now so much money to buy drink with as they had in recent years. This point was one of great importance in arriving at a safe conclusion on this class of questions. He would not enter further into the subject, as he sympathized with the Speaker, who had been in the Chair so long, and he (Mr. M'Laren) would not be a party to prolonging that cruelty towards him by continuing the discussion.


believed that the time for opposition to the Bill had passed away. He had himself been an opponent of the Bill; but those who opposed it had lost opportunities in the earlier phases of its introduction and discussion in this House for opposing it more effectually than was possible now. He had lately regarded the passing of this Bill as a foregone conclusion, and consequently had avoided occupying the time of the House to no purpose. The hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. P. J. Smyth) had raised a very important question in the right of the sellers of drink to be recompensed for the loss of a portion of their trade, which was a question affecting not only the sellers, but also those engaged in the production of the drink. It was, however, a question which could not be fully discussed on the third reading of this Bill, as it would require far more time than was likely now to be devoted to its consideration. It had, too, been neglected when the Bill was before the House earlier in the Session, and at this late period was only now presented in its full light. If a division were taken on the question now, it could not well be re-opened at a future time. He suggested to the hon. Member for Westmeath that he would better serve the purposes of justice, and better carry into effect any claim which might underlie his Motion, by not now proposing to take a division on the point. The Bill ought to be allowed to be read a third time, and next Session a Committee might be moved for to inquire into the foundation of this claim, which was made on behalf of the people whose trade was proposed to be diminished by the Bill.


I have no desire to resume this moribund discussion. I believe it to be impossible to carry out successfully any opposition to this Bill. A large number of Members of this House owe their places to a trade agitation, and it seems to me that a large number of them who have felt galled at being returned to Parliament by such an influence have taken the first opportunity of showing a kind of mock independence of all trade interests; and that, caring little for Irish peasants and Irish citizens, they have rushed forward with the highly moral sentiments that have so much distinguished them in the course of this Bill, but which were not exhibited by them at the hustings during the elections of 1874, to assist in ensuring its passing. I should have thought that in a question of such great social import they would have examined it a little, and that they would have exhibited the true qualities of statesmanship by extending their views to England as well as to Ireland. They have not done this; but, the Bill being an Irish Bill, they have, perhaps, proceeded on the safe maxim, Fiat experimentum in corpore vile. They have determined to try their nostrum in Ireland—but with what intention? First, they asked a number of enthusiasts in that country, whose honesty I have never impugned, their views on this subject; but, instead of asking the people who were to be affected by it, they said—"No, there is an hon. Gentleman at the head of the temperance society in such and such a place; there is another gentleman who presides over the Sabbath arrangements in such and such another place in the North of Ireland; and another gentleman who directs the movements of the Presbyterian body in another place. These are the gentlemen we will inquire of, and we will disregard the humble man, in whose name we profess to act." I have ventured before to express this opinion in the House. I have said that a time would come when hon. Gentlemen would regret the course they are now taking with this Bill. The whole question seems, at this stage, however, to have practically resolved itself into a pure question of trade; and, that being so, the House did surely feel that if it interferes with any vested interest, it should have a fair regard for that interest. Instead of that, what do we see, however? The hon. Gentlemen who represent in England the publican's interest are conspicuous by their absence. There is not a borough in Yorkshire, or in London, or in the South of England, interested in the present Bill, that would not look around in vain for its supporters of the interests of the trade. My hon. Friend who has just spoken has advised the adjournment of the question he has raised to the limbo of a coming Session for investigation by an impossible Committee. I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath, however, if he means business, that if he can find only three Members to follow him into the Lobby, to insist upon a division upon the equitable principles he wishes to assert. He should do so, if only to protest against the principle of this Bill in that respect. Many times have I known the same demand made when the Land Question has been under consideration. We had the demands for compensation from owners of land. They said —"Is the British Parliament not going to pay us what we gave for our properties? Remember what we did for maintaining British interests and British opinion. Give us something for our interest, which is of great value." Well, my hon. Friend near me has made that appeal for a much smaller interest, and he is told to pass it by as something not worth discussion. It may not be worth discussion—probably it is not—but it is worth a division, and if my hon. Friend goes to a division I shall heartily support him.


Sir, I have felt it my duty to protest against this Bill at every stage, and I protest against it now, at its final one in this House—against its principle, and against its conception. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who has last spoken in advising the hon. Mover of the Amendment to go to a division upon it. I advise him to do so, because it will show that in persisting in their intention of putting their hands into the poor man's pocket the promoters of this Bill will not listen to reason or justice. This Bill, instead of bearing the title it does, should be entitled "A Bill for Promoting the Domestic Consumption of Liquor in Ireland." In Scotland, the effect of the very same measure has been to increase private drinking in the homes of the people. I know Ireland well, and whisky is an expensive article for the common people, who can only use it on exceptional occasions. On ordinary days I have found it impossible to get it in country public-houses; but the effect of this Bill would be to drive the people into the habit of whisky drinking, and to check the use of beer as an article of growing consumption in the South of Ireland. If the Government had told us that they meant to take up this Bill, we should have known where we were, and we might have fought it out. They did not do that, but said they would "give facilities" for it. We now see, however, that if only the requisite pressure can be brought to bear on the Treasury Bench they will do anything. I never remember so much time wasted on any Bill before, and all for the want of decision on the part of those who conduct Public Business in this House. I have myself a right to complain. The Local Courts of Bankruptcy (Ireland) Bill has been thrown overboard for this wretched bit of sentimentality, which the Irish people have not asked for, and which they will fling from themselves with disgust as soon as they come to understand it. There is also the Grand Juries Bill, a Bill of the greatest importance to Ireland, which has been lost for the hours and the days which have been wasted upon this abortion of a Bill. I strongly advise my hon. Friend to go to a division upon his Motion, though I shall not attach much importance to the mere numerical result.


Sir, it is not my intention to detain the House with any lengthened observations in relation to the Motion now before it, the more so as the part I have taken in this Bill is already well known, and, perhaps, too well known, to many hon. Members. I do not think, indeed, that I could say very much in reference to it without stating again many things which I have already said on the subject; but I cannot help saying that I think, as regards the whole course of this Bill, and in relation to the conduct of it during the last two years, Her Majesty's Government should have given some certain indication as to what that conduct would have been. If, in 1876, without any facts before them, or anything from the promoters to induce them to affirm the principle of the Bill, Her Majesty's Government, who voted against it at that time, had said they objected to it, and would continue to object to it, that would have been all very well that Session. But it would be in the recollection of the House that when, at the end of that Session, the hon. Member in charge of the Bill got up and asked the Government for facilities for passing its second reading, the right hon. Baronet the then Chief Secretary for Ireland said emphatically— We cannot see, at this period of the Session, that it is possible to do anything of the kind. All I can say is, that if between this and the next Session of Parliament the Government do consider this matter, they will consider the whole subject de novo." In 1877, when the Bill was again brought in, we saw how the Government had re-considered the Bill. It was referred to a Committee to consider the propriety of exempting five principal towns from its operation, although the Chief Secretary had previously intimated that all towns exceeding 10,000 inhabitants should be exempted. Without any inquiry, without entering into any possible investigation as to how the rest of the country was to be treated, the Committee confined the inquiry altogether to these five towns, and the Government then said—"If our Amendments are accepted, we shall give facilities for the passing of the Bill." I do not think that the course adopted has been consistent or logical. If the exemption was good, it was good for all; if it was bad, it was bad for all. I will not trouble the House further on this subject. Let me now say that what I rise for principally is to enter my protest against the passing of this Bill in any shape. I wish to renew my protest against the principle enunciated by this Bill, which has not been asked for by those whom it affects. The Bill notoriously proceeds from an organized confederacy, not belonging to the Irish people, but apart from, and separated from them. This is a measure begotten, I believe, under a combination of self-interest, misinformation, and misdirected zeal, brought forth in an atmosphere of self-complacency, and nurtured and fed and swollen into preposterous dimensions by an artificial pabulum miscalled "public opinion;" created, manufactured, and manipulated by the well-paid zeal of officials, and of the peripatetic stipendiary Apostles of an organized confederacy. It is not a measure emanating from the Irish people, or asked for by them. It is a measure, on the contrary, that is certain to be received by them with soreness and indignation, a measure that will be evaded, a measure that is not defended even by its own promoters, and which the House is not asked to pass as an ordinary measure in the ordinary way, but a measure which has been pressed forward on the one single representation that it was called for by the people of Ireland. I shall not now go into the proofs I have given over and over again that Sunday is the day on which there is least intemperance in Ireland; next, that this Bill would not, even if Sunday was the day of the greatest intemperance, attain the ends it has in view; and, thirdly, that so far from the mass of the Irish people desiring the Bill, it is notorious that the very contrary is the fact. Not the least attempt has been made to answer the objections I have urged against this Bill. The only argument I have heard on the part of those who support it is— "Why should a minority dare to defeat and control a majority?" An observation has been made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) with regard to the working of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act in Scotland, and I am sorry the hon. Member is not now in his place to hear my reply to him. Everyone knows that the advocates of Sunday closing passed that measure, not so much with the hope of restraining Sunday drunkenness, but professedly with a view of lessening the drinking habits of the people by making a break in the week during which drink would not be accessible. That desire, of course, was quite apart from the traditional respect of the Scottish people for Sunday. Now, an increase had taken place in the amount of drink in Scotland since the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, and the hon. Member for Edinburgh excused it by arguing that though the amount of drinking has increased, it has increased in a smaller ratio than the population. But I have in my hand the Report of the Grocers' Licensing (Scotland) Committee, laid before the House on the 26th of March last, and that Report states that there has been an increase of drunkenness throughout Scotland; and though that increase may be to some extent explained by the increase of population, as it has not increased in proportion to the increase of population, yet it has increased in certain places where the population has decreased. Now, I want to know how, with statistics picked out of one place and out of another place, it can be contended against such an authority that, notwithstanding the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, drunkenness has not increased in Scotland? What, indeed, are we to argue from these authorities, but that Sunday closing has not in any way tended to lessen the evil against which it was aimed? But I have figures here for the City of Glasgow which are absolutely startling. In the year 1854 the population of Glasgow was 360,000, and the number of persons arrested for drunkenness was 13,616. In the year 1874 the population had increased to 550,000, and the number of persons arrested to 30,606. Thus, while the population had not nearly doubled in the interval, the number of arrests for drunkenness had far more than doubled. I protest against this Bill, because I do not think that a Bill brought in by a private Member, and originated by means which I shall not refer to, has not received the consideration which it ought to do from Her Majesty's Government before they gave such extraordinary facilities for its passing, and also because they have not been made aware of the feelings of the Irish people on the subject. I agree that in the North of Ireland the people of the upper and middle classes are in favour of it. The Presbyterian and Scotch Sabbatarian element is also a powerful element of the support it has received, and the bulk of the educated classes of the North are anxious for the outward observance of the Sabbath. But that is no reason to justify the passing of a sumptuary law like this, which is not suited to the habits of the people—a law which cannot and will not be observed by them, and against which they have protested over and over again. I have only further to say that the opposition to this Bill has been founded on a deep sense of its unjust and arbitrary character, and that so small a number of hon. Members as constitute the minority would not have dared to raise such an opposition to it had they not felt themselves backed by the feelings of the people. What the effect of this Bill will be time will show; and if, as I apprehend, its consequences will be unfortunate, that it will increase rather than decrease drunkenness among the people, I cannot conceive that its present promoters and supporters will resist the demand for its repeal.


Sir, the opponents of this Bill have now raised as strong a protest against its passing as, in my own judgment, I think is right; and, having done so, I would urge on those hon. Gentlemen who, like myself, are opposing it, to allow a division to be come to at once, and though, of course, we shall be beaten, yet it will be an indication that to the very last we had not changed our views. It is very hard that we should have to come here to-day, and we must all feel that the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair has been subjected to very great inconvenience. It is impossible for us, however, consistently with the views we hold with regard to this Bill, to give even an implied sanction to it. Her Majesty's Government have taken a very unusual course in allowing it to be taken to-day at all. We discussed that question last night, however, and I am not going to resume it now. I have not opposed the Bill in view of the interests of any particular class of the community. I wish once more to state that most distinctly. I have not taken up the cudgels merely on behalf of the publican interest, though I know that has been the reason alleged, and no doubt will be alleged, outside this House. I have opposed it on the higher ground of its Being a coercive and restrictive measure, affecting exclusively the middle and lower classes of society; and as long as I have a seat in this House I shall oppose to the utmost of my powers a Bill which I consider so pernicious in its character. I think it is as bad a Bill as I have ever known introduced; but, at the same time, it is due to the dignity of the House and of the Chair that this debate should not be further protracted; and I would, therefore, earnestly ask hon. Gentlemen not to go on fighting the Bill any longer, but, having made the strongest protest against it in their power, to allow a division to be taken on the question at once.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 63; Noes 22: Majority 41.—(Div. List, No. 270.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.

House adjourned at Three o'clock till Monday next.