§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
rose to move that a new clause, of which he had given Notice, be inserted after Clause 1. He said he trusted the clause would commend itself to the Committee's sense of justice and fair play; more especially as he believed it to be backed up by the almost universal public opinion of Ireland. For his part, he believed which the public opinion that had been brought to bear on the House, and which had influenced it in accepting the principle of the Bill, was rather that which was held by the upper classes, or what he might term the cream of Irish society, than that of the mass of the people, or that portion of them who were in the habit of frequenting public-houses. It was true that the majority of his own constituents had signed a Petition in favour of the Bill; but he thought the observations he had to make on the clause he was about to move were deserving of more consideration on account of this fact, than if his constituents, generally, had been against the Bill. He had taken some trouble during the last year or two in endeavouring to ascertain how public opinion in general was affected on this question, and he had found that, at least in those parts of Ireland in which he occasionally resided, the mass of the people were against the measure. The more respectable portion of the people—the upper classes, at any rate—approved of the principle of 861 the Bill, and, of course, all the teetotalers, the strictly temperate people, and the Sabbatarians, were in its favour; but the grounds on which they supported the measure were hardly such as would commend themselves to the Committee if they were fairly stated, because they could not be held to be really conclusive on the subject. Well, for that reason, no doubt, Her Majesty's Government had deemed it their duty to move, or to suggest, an Amendment to the 1st clause of the Bill, and, for his part, he was perfectly contented with that Amendment so far as it went; but the clause, so amended; afforded a key to the legislation which he was about to ask the Committee to sanction. The Bill, as originally brought in, had found favour with the House; but the Government had procured the insertion of an Amendment, exempting five of the largest towns in Ireland—namely, Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Waterford, and Belfast—from the operation of the measure. Now, if the universal opinion of Ireland were in favour of such a measure as this—if the people, generally, would accept it quietly and with good humour, and believed it might be beneficial in its operation—he should have nothing to say against it; but this was not the case. On the contrary, the people had challenged the exemptions that had been made, not because they were exemptions, but because of their partial and one sided character. For instance, those who lived in a number of the smaller seaport towns and watering-places, which were, at present, included in the general scope of the Bill, objected very naturally that the larger seaport towns and watering-places were exempted from the operation of the measure, and they objected, on the ground that their interests might be affected by the competition of favoured localities. With a view of remedying, in some degree, the inequality thus established, he proposed, that after Clause 1 the following clause should be inserted:—
§ (Other corporate towns and towns under town Commissioners.)
§ "All towns in Ireland other than those mentioned and provided for in Clause 1, and which are under the government of a corporation or of town commissioners, shall be restricted to the same hours only as those which apply to the city of Dublin until such time as the corporation or town commissioners of such town respectively shall by a resolution passed by an actual ma- 862 jority of the full number of members of the corporation or of the town commissioners in each case determine that such town shall come under the general provisions of the Act for the prohibition of sale of intoxicating liquors on Sunday."
§ A friend of his had said to him, after reading the proposed new clause—"I am afraid this is only the Permissive Bill in another shape;" but he was happy to say that he had been able to satisfy his friend that the clause was not at all in the nature of the Permissive Bill. It was simply a clause giving permission to each town possessing a local government of its own to veto the operation of the Act as far as its own limits were concerned. This was all it amounted to; and if, in such places, the majority of the Corporation or Town Commissioners thought fit to place their district under the operation of the Bill, it would be competent for them to do so. The general result would be, that if the measure were carried into law, the Legislature, by passing his clause, would have harnessed to it the guardians of public opinion in each locality, and have thrown upon the authorities the responsibility either of carrying the law into effect, or of refusing to do so. He was by no means in favour of Sunday drinking; on the contrary, he thought that if society would agree to do so, it should be put down as nearly as possible. ["Hear, hear!"] His hon. Friends might mean those "Hear, hears!" to some extent as derisive cheers. ["No, no!] Then, he was willing so to accept them; but he would add that there was no greater friend of temperance, or that which would promote temperance, in that House than he had been, nor one who had been more sincere and practical. He had presented the clause he was now moving to the Committee with the view of conducing not only to the cause of temperance, but also to the cause of good government, and in the hope of making the law as acceptable to the majority of the community as possible. Therefore, he asked the Committee to harness to this new legislation the Corporations and Town Commissioners of Ireland, and charge them with the responsibility of carrying it into effect. By doing this, they would only be giving a certain number of towns the right to decide whether they would, through their local representatives, give effect to the law which had found favour in that 863 House; and if that legislation should in course of time turn out to be effectual and generally acceptable to the country, no one would more rejoice at such a result than he should. He admitted that some of the arguments in favour of the Bill were unanswerable; but they were insufficient. There was no doubt that it would tend to promote decorum and a due respect for the Sabbath. Therefore, as far as externals went, the Bill was a good one; but, on the other hand, he had high authority for saying that the principle of Sunday observance might be pushed to an extent which no Christian authority would exact, and, therefore, as there were no religious dogmatic decrees against the opening of public-houses on a Sunday, he felt that it was pushing the Sabbatarian principle too far to say that for the mere purpose of promoting Sabbath decorum, and for that alone, Parliament ought to impose the restrictions contained in that Bill upon a people who did not sympathize so strongly with the measure or to the same extent as the majority in that House. There was, however, another point, which he thought the House ought to take into consideration before they decided on the rejection of his clause—the fact that, although the restriction on Sunday-drinking imposed upon the Scotch people by the Forbes-Mackenzie Act had tended to promote Sabbath observance in Scotland, it had not tended to promote the cause of temperance in the slightest degree. Sabbath decorum was very well as far as it went, and he would admit the force of the argument founded upon it, and he would aid it as far as he thought the bulk of the Irish people were willing to go. Personally, the measure as it stood would be no deprivation to him, nor to numbers of his friends who felt as he did; therefore, they had no selfish object to serve in saying—"Let the public-houses be open on Sundays as well as on other days; "but he argued that, inasmuch as the total quantity of liquor consumed in Scotland had considerably increased since the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, so that there was more drink purchased now in six days than was formerly drunk in seven, he held that it was too much to say that a similar measure in Ireland would have a contrary effect. He begged to move that the clause be added to Clause 1.864
§ New Clause—(Sir Joseph M'Kenna,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
said, that the Amendment would cut away the most valuable portion of the Bill. There were a number of towns in Ireland which were incorporated, and in all those towns an agitation would be carried on for a considerable time, in order to prevent the Commissioners from carrying this law into effect. As regarded the Bill as it now stood, not only the real majority of the inhabitants of Belfast, but the Corporation of Belfast, were in favour of restriction. If the small towns of Ireland were to have this privilege, why should not the same rule be applied to Belfast? Would they accept a proposal for the same rule to be applied to the City of Cork? Would it be fair to apply this proposal to small places, and not apply it also to large towns? Hon. Members would do well, in proposing new clauses, not to bring forward proposals which cut at the principle of the Bill. That principle had been considered. The House had affirmed it on many occasions, and it was hardly fair to come forward with a new clause which would neutralize the Bill.
§ MR. MACDONALD
said, he had no wish to interfere in this question of Irish Sunday closing, further than to say that the objection made to this clause seemed to invalidate what had been said regarding the unanimity of feeling in Ireland in respect to this Bill. If all Ireland were in favour of Sunday closing, this clause would be inoperative. It was clear, from the argument raised by the hon. Gentleman opposite, that he was afraid of trusting the people. While he repeated that he did not wish to interfere with Irish Sunday closing, the opposition to this proposal seemed to him to give abundant evidence that Irish opinion was not in favour of the Bill, or there would be no indisposition to allow the people in the various localities to choose whether they would have the principle of this Bill applied or not.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
was altogether opposed to any exemptions in this Bill; but, five towns having been exempted, he did not think the proposal of the hon. Member (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) was one which, in the point 865 of view of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald), he could refuse to support. The hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) had put forward an objection. He was really surprised to hear that objection come from him, because he had lately heard that all the towns in Ireland in the rural districts were in favour of this measure. The Town Councils, who would be empowered by a majority of votes to deal with this matter, were parties elected for the purpose of carrying out those measures which would be of benefit to the cities or towns they represented. Could there be anything more reasonable and rational than to leave to those who were responsible to the ratepayers or the people the decision of the question whether they were to have public-houses open on Sundays, or should close them at a certain time? He could conceive nothing more reasonable. With regard to this clause, his hon. Friend carried it too far; because, if he took the hours of keeping open public-houses in Dublin he would extend the time in some of the towns, and would have the public-houses open longer than at present. In the City of Dublin, he believed, the houses were open from 2 until 9.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
, for the purpose of saving the time of the Committee, wished to say that his intention was, that in no case should the previous hours be extended. Therefore, if the House agreed to the principle of his clause, he should take care that words were added to provide that no extension should take place beyond the hours at present enjoyed. As he had already promised this, he hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. M'Carthy Downing) would not waste the time of the Committee by slaying giants of his own creation.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, he had taken no part in this Bill, and he had no intention to have done so. He was not favourable to the principle, but he was induced to support this Bill because he believed the majority of Irish Members were in its favour. With regard to this Amendment, it seemed to him that the Mover made out a very respectable case. An hon. Member (Mr. Macartney) had said that if this clause passed it struck at the principle of the Bill. It ap- 866 peared to him that the principle was struck at when they exempted certain towns from its operation, as they had already done. This was one of the means that was taken to induce Members to withdraw their opposition to measures which ought to be considered in the general interest of the public at large. He, therefore, objected to freeing particular localities from the operation of general measures. What would be the consequence if the House refused the reasonable proposal now made, and which he could not in justice refuse to support? What would be the result in the case of corporate and other places? It would be giving to those towns who had got exemptions a material advantage over towns which, in point of attraction to visitors, were rivals to them. It seemed to him that would be an injustice to those towns. If, as the promoters said, the people of Ireland were unanimously, or almost unanimously, in favour of this Bill, what would be the harm of this clause? This clause would allow it to operate in the exempted towns if the inhabitants so willed it. If, on the other hand, other towns beyond the five were not to be exempted, it would be shown that exceptional legislation was forced upon them. He should have thought these great towns which had been exempted were the places of all others where this Bill was most required. He should have thought that in the small towns drinking could not be carried on to the disgraceful extent that it was in the large towns. He could not refuse to support the clause.
§ MR. RICHARD SMYTH
said, the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) must forgive him, if he differed from his opinion on the views of the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney). The hon. Member for Tyrone made this proposition—that if the principle of the proposal of the hon. Member for Youghal were accepted, then the five towns exempted from the Act should also have the liberty of accepting or refusing. He should like to know if the hon. Member who proposed this new clause, even if he were prohibited by the Rules of the House from making the proposal at this stage, would pledge himself to give liberty to the five great towns that were exempted from this Bill to vote themselves within its pro- 867 visions? The hon. Member (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) had not touched upon that. If he made a proposal of that kind, he would find himself pretty stoutly opposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and by all the force he could bring to bear. For, undoubtedly, the acceptance of this clause would seem to indicate that the Permissive Bill had been accepted by Her Majesty's Government and in particular by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He did not think the support of the right hon. Gentleman would be given to the clause, inasmuch as it would entirely stultify what the House had done with respect to this Bill. The clause of the hon. Baronet would be a one-sided proposition, unless he said that the five great towns should have the power of voting themselves within this Bill, in which case he would undoubtedly be met with stern opposition by the occupants of the Treasury Bench.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
, with regard to the proposal of the hon. Member (Mr. Richard Smyth), could only say he had no objection, but that it commended itself to him in every respect. The hon. Gentleman would do well to leave to Town Commissioners the responsibility of carrying this out in small as well as in large towns. He was prepared to vote for any Amendment to give to other towns the power of acceptance or rejection which he claimed for those not at present exempted. In saying this, he was speaking for himself alone. He would like to see the Bill passed in its entirety, if it could be so passed, with the good-will of the population; but he warned the Committee against disregarding the Petitions which had been presented to the House by persons who, as consumers, had a strong interest in the trade which would be affected by the Bill if it became an Act of Parliament.
said, it had been remarked that drowning men catch at straws, and this, in his view, was the position of the opponents of the Bill, who found themselves on their last legs, and wore anxious to fight against time by reviving former discussions on questions which had, practically, been settled. If the question of the exception of the five towns from the provisions of the Bill were to be again discussed, the House 868 might go on for 12 months without making any real progress with the Bill. He would ask whether it was in the least degree possible that the House would entertain the proposals contained in the Permissive Liquor Bill? and yet they were asked to pass the measure now under discussion, which was, to all intents and purposes, a Bill of that kind. If only differed in that its action was proposed to depend, not upon the votes of the population of the country, but upon those of their Representatives in Parliament. He, for one, thought the law ought to be the same all over the country, and that there should be no exceptional cases of exemption under the clauses of the present Bill. The supporters of the measure had only acceded, and that with great unwillingness, to the Government proposal for exceptions in the belief that if the Bill, in a modified form, were passed, there would be an overwhelming expression of public opinion in the country in favour of the repeal of the excepting provisions contained in it at some future day.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
advised his hon. Friend the Member for the County Tyrone to be more careful in his application of appellations, as otherwise it might be ruled that his phrases, like certain adjectives they had lately heard about, were out of Order. He denied that either the opponents or the supporters of the Bill were catching at straws. He should be inclined to admit, however, that the description would apply to Members who talked at enormous length against time, in order to defeat the wish of Parliament. With regard to what the hon. Member had said as to catching at straws, it was scarcely warranted. He observed that his hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone had disappeared from his place, and, as one might say, from the surface; and that kind of conduct, when a reply to what he had said was expected, certainly looked more like that of a drowning man catching at straws than anything that had been commented upon by the hon. Gentleman.
THE O'CONOR DON
said, that the Committee had no reason to complain of the manner in which the Amendment had been brought forward, and he strongly deprecated the use, on the present occasion, of any adjectives or other words that could delay the progress of the 869 Bill by provoking any personal feeling. The Amendment had been proposed most reasonably and temperately, and he would willingly accept it, if he thought his doing so would forward the passing of the Bill and be really of advantage. But he could not take this view. In the first place, he thought it would very unfairly weight the Bill. The promoters of the measure had been taunted with having accepted the Government Amendment in reference to the exception of the five large towns, and had been told that such acceptance had very disadvantageously over weighted the measure. If that were so, was it likely that they would willingly consent to go further in the same direction? Another question of importance was, whether it would be wise to intrust the powers proposed to be given to the bodies which had been suggested as those proper to be armed with the powers in question. It was true that about nine-tenths of the Town Commissioners in Ireland had petitioned in support of the Bill; but its promoters had never suggested that their opinions should be regarded as final, and that to them should be intrusted the sole power of carrying out its provisions if enacted. The Petitions of the Towns Commissioners had been only quoted concurrently with those of other authorities and persons, and had not been singled out or alluded to as absolutely conclusive. Hitherto, the Imperial Legislature had reserved to itself the right to decide all questions with regard to the rules which were to govern the sale of intoxicating liquors; and he should like to know whether the House of Commons was prepared to accept an Amendment, the effect of which would be to transfer that power to Towns Commissioners and Corporations? Further, if the House of Commons were prepared to transfer its power as far as the sale of liquors on Sundays was concerned, what earthly reason was there why they should not extend such transfer to week days also? The promoters of the Bill were charged with being actuated by Sabbatarianism—a charge which he could not admit; but he certainly could not see any argument in favour of the Amendment, unless a Sabbatarian one, which would not apply equally to a proposal that Parliament should abdicate its functions, as far as the liquor 870 traffic was concerned, on week days as well as on Sundays. Conceal it as they might, the Amendment involved the principle of the Permissive Bill; and if that principle were included in the measure before the Committee, there could not remain the least hope of its passing—at any rate, at present. If any part of the idea involved in the Amendment were to be adopted, he should prefer to go further than the Amendment did, and leave the matter to the votes of the people rather than to the dictum of the Towns Commissioners or the Corporations of boroughs and cities. The promoters of the Bill, in order to conciliate the Government, had loyally accepted their Amendment, excepting the five large towns, and upon them had since fallen the task of defending that Amendment, which they accepted unwillingly, and from motives of expediency. If now, then, the Government were inclined to adopt or accept the Amendment which had been proposed, he hoped they would insist on its being extended to the whole of Ireland. As far as he was personally concerned he could not accept the Amendment, in that it involved very serious considerations quite apart from the apparent scope of the Bill.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the Government would object most strongly to the principle contained in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Youghal being applied either to the five towns which had on the Motion of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) been excepted from the proposals contained in the Bill, or to any other places in Ireland or elsewhere in the Kingdom. At the same time, he could not say that the hon. Member was not justified in raising the question, which involved a principle of much importance. He was rather surprised to hear his hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) speaking of drowning men catching at straws; because, as far as his memory served him, it was not the hon. Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna), but the hon. Member for the County of Londonderry (Mr. Richard Smyth) who asked whether the Mover of the Amendment would object to its extension to the five towns included in the Government Amendment? He, therefore, thought that the charge of over-weighing the 871 Bill by re-opening the question of the five great towns could hardly be laid at the door of the hon. Member for Youghal. When a deputation waited upon him in reference to this subject, he stated his objection to the Bill to be that it contained the elements both of Home Rule and of the Permissive Bill. The last of these objections was stronger against the Amendment than against the Bill itself.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
thought they would have the support of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who said his hon. Friend was quite right in bringing the question forward.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he had simply expressed an opinion that the question was one which the hon. Member for Youghal was fully justified in raising. He had not said anything in its favour.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING,
accepting the correction, and adverting to the objection of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to the Amendment on the ground that it was permissive, asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would be inclined to accept the proposal if it were made compulsory in all towns of sufficient population and importance to be under the government of Commissioners or Corporations, and the hours were restricted to three instead of five? This would do practical justice, and would be taking a course of which no other towns could reasonably complain. If, after the expiration of some limited time, it were found that the Act did not work satisfactorily, it could be altered or repealed. His hon. Friend who had supported the exception of the five towns, knew perfectly well that the mayors of those towns had protested against their exception.
pointed out that the Amendment suggested could not be put until the Committee had disposed of the question as to whether the proposed new clause should or should not be read a second time.
§ MR. STACPOOLE
said, his desire was to strike at and destroy the whole Bill, root and branch, for the reason that it was a Bill which had been framed for the purpose of coercing the people of Ireland.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, some confusion existed in the minds of hon. Members concerning this Bill, owing to 872 a mixing up of ideas. It was thought that there was a too strong affinity between this proposed clause and the Permissive Liquor Bill which had been proposed for England. There was, however, a wide distinction between them to his mind. The Permissive Liquor Bill sought to enable the inhabitants of particular localities to bring themselves within the scope of a Bill which was to be passed. This particular clause sought to give the people of certain parts of Ireland the precisely contrary power, and to enable them, if they chose, to adopt the exception in their own favour which the Committee, by accepting the Amendment of the Attorney General for Ireland, had already declared in favour of the five chief towns in the country. He would, if it would be more agreeable to the promoters of the Bill, agree to the limitation being fixed at three hours; but he could not give up his contention that towns other than the five included in the Amendment to the 1st clause should have the power of saying whether they did, or did not, wish to be included in the exception. He had not alluded in any way to the means which might be adopted—by the formation of clubs, and in other ways—for the evasion of the law if the Bill became an Act, because he was anxious that progress should be made with the measure, and that it should be passed in such a form as that it would meet with acceptance among the people of Ireland generally.
§ MR. FRENCH
pointed out that the principle of the Permissive Liquor Bill was to enable the inhabitants of different localities to impose upon themselves a new law; whereas the clause now proposed was intended to enable the people living in corporate towns in Ireland to say that they wished the existing law to stand. He felt sure, speaking from personal knowledge, that the complete closing of public-houses in Ireland on Sundays would work incalculable mischief. It would not stop drunkenness, and would create a great amount of evil in other directions. There were in Ireland a great number of returned Irish Americans and other mischievous people, who would corrupt the people in the she beens and other places in which liquor could be procured, who would not be able to do nearly the same amount of harm if the public-houses were open, 873 and those using them were under the eyes of the police. Sunday was not a day on which a great deal of drunkenness existed in Ireland; and he felt sure that if the public-houses were allowed to be open during a few hours on that day, it would tend to reconcile the people to a Bill the principle of which was objected to by a very large number of them.
§ MR. SWANSTON
said, that although he had supported the Bill all through, he must point out the hardship that would arise from its operation, unless this Amendment, or something analogous to it, was adopted. In the County Cork there were a greater number of considerable towns than in any other county in Ireland—among them being Queenstown, an important port, and Fermoy, a military station of importance—and yet it was proposed that the City of Cork should alone be excepted from the operation of the Act. The result of this would inevitably be, that on Sundays the young men in the towns and villages near to Cork, instead of staying at home on Sundays, would go into the city for the purpose of getting drink. He should have liked to see the closing experiment tried for a limited period; but he could no longer support the Bill in its altered form.
§ MR. KING-HARMAN
said, he very much agreed with the hon. Member who had just sat down, that the exemption of the five towns, if justifiable in some respects, was to be thoroughly deprecated in others, and especially on the ground that it would bring the people in from the country on Sundays, and make those five large towns head-centres for drinking, so that they would become vast drinking shops for the rest of the country. If the clause of the hon. Member were passed, those drinking centres would be increased, and every small corporate town would be turned into a drinking shop, to which the country people would come in large numbers on Sundays, and probably break each other's heads before going away again. There was another objection, which was—though he wished to speak with every respect of the municipalities in Ireland, who were elected by a majority of the people—to be found in the following fact:—that a great number of those Towns Commissioners were gentlemen who were, more or less, interested in 874 what he might call the liquor traffic-Some of them were the keepers of grocery stores, where intoxicating liquors were sold, and others were interested in the brewing or the distilling trade. Now, those persons were put in rather a difficult position when they were asked to decide between the interests of the people and the interests of their own pockets. It was rather difficult to decide what to do with that clause. For himself, he would vote against it, because he considered, if the Bill was a good Bill, it ought to have a full and fair operation, at any rate, for a limited time, in order to see what the result of its working was; and he did not think, if the towns proposed were to be available for drinking purposes on Sundays, the Bill would have a fair chance.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, that his hon. Friend appeared to misapprehend what the nature of the operation of the clause would be. The hon. Member seemed to fear that the various corporate towns of Ireland might be made head centres for drinking; but he should bear in mind that the principle on which that Bill had been brought forward had been supported by those Towns Commissioners, nine-tenths of whom it was said had already petitioned the House in favour of the Bill. Now, he would throw down to the hon. Member the challenge of the nine-tenths against the one-tenth, and he would ask him if he would intrust the bodies who were so favourable to the measure with the power of the veto on the application of the Bill. The number was a very simple matter indeed. Nine-tenths might, for all he knew, have petitioned for the Bill, or, if his hon. Friend had said, nineteen-twentieths, he would have accepted the statement absolutely. But how were the signatures obtained? Why, in this fashion, the hon. Clarence Vere de Vere drove into a neighbouring village and called upon Mr. Simpson. Perhaps he wanted something from Mr. Simpson's shop, but perhaps not—however, he made a morning call. He entered into conversation with Simpson, and eventually produced a paper, saying—"Here is a paper, the object of which is to promote the cause of temperance. Do you know what we had to do at the Quarter Sessions last Friday?" Simpson replied that he did not, although very likely, he knew perfectly well. And 875 then the hon. Clarence Vere de Vere told Simpson that they had to punish a man who was drunk and misbehaving himself as the people were coming out of church. Then, of course, Simpson, on being asked, signed the paper. What else could he do? That was all a kind of æsthetic performance. Another promoter of this measure would call upon a Bishop of the Catholic Church, or perhaps he might be a Bishop of the Protestant Church, and would say to him—"My Lord, I think, although we differ upon some matters, we both have at heart the common cause of society and of Ireland." But the hon. Member forgot to mention that, out of the three Realms that were ruled over by Her Most Gracious Majesty, the one that consumed the smallest proportion of intoxicating liquors was Ireland. Nevertheless, the promoter would dwell upon the fact that some unfortunate roué in Ireland had gone to the dogs, perhaps on a Friday or a Saturday. And then he would say—"Look at what has taken place in Scotland. I hear that the Rev. Mr. O'Keefe will tell you that the greatest possible decorum prevails now in Glasgow since the introduction of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act." And then he would say—"Let us both put our shoulders to the wheel, and see what we can do." And what did my Lord do? He thought, wished, and hoped, that he was doing something very right and good, and he accordingly signed the Petition. What did he know about it? He knew nothing about it;—not half so much as he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) did. He, somehow or other, had been under the impression that the people at large had got to believe that it was well that some restriction should be passed upon the drink traffic, and that Sunday was a very much abused day in consequence of their having greater leisure on that day. He (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) had not resided in Ireland, except for a few months in the year, for the last 16 or 17 years, and then in country places, so that his knowledge was considerably restricted. But he took it for granted, at first, that the people of Ireland had accepted the principle of that Bill. He had, however, found exit since then, that not only was that not the case, but that the very people, who, it was said, had signed Petitions in favour of the Bill, were not to be relied upon as having done so. 876 He would not describe the Bill as a Coercion Bill, because the Coercion Bills that had been passed to deal with Ireland had been of a far more restrictive nature than that Bill. He wished to deal with the Bill not as a Coercion Bill. He believed that it had been brought in with the highest and most laudable motives that could actuate a Member of that House in bringing in a Bill; but what he wished to impress upon the Committee was, that they should take care that the House should not be made a party to such legislation as was proposed on the faith of Petitions got up by people who had a regular and salaried organization for obtaining signatures to Petitions. It might be true that nine-tenths of the Towns Commissioners had signed the Petitions. If that were so, let them leave to them the responsibility of carrying the law into effect if they chose to do so. He would say that, if on the Report, his hon. Friends could show that his clause would give a greater licence in point of hours to certain corporate towns in Ireland than they now enjoyed, he would be perfectly prepared to amend it in such a way that no possible addition to the present hours should be granted. He hoped that the Committee would find it right to support the clause.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
said, that he, to use the emphatic words of the hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Stacpoole), also disliked this Bill, root and branch, and his most strenuous opposition should be given to it at every stage. He said this in order to remove all possible misunderstanding with regard to the course he proposed to take in reference to this Amendment. He saw no objection to the term, as applied to this measure, of a "Coercion Bill;" for though it was true that, in the ordinary political sense of those words, it might not be so, yet, to all intents and purposes, it was a measure of intended domestic coercion, since it was a Bill introduced by a certain body of persons—call them Sabbatarians, teetotallers, friends of the people, or what they would—the promoters of which were endeavouring to coerce their poorer neighbours, the wage-earning classes of Ireland; and, moreover, this was to be done through the combined efforts of people who, he ventured to think, knew very little of the wants and requirements of the labouring popula- 877 tion, and who would not, themselves, be affected in the slightest degree by the proposed legislation. For these reasons, the Bill itself should have his most strenuous opposition; but there was another thing he disliked nearly as much, and that was any approach to the so-called principle of permissive legislation, by local option, on this subject either in England or in Ireland. Imperial legislation ought, if necessary, to take upon itself to say what was right, and to carry into execution that which was right and good. Therefore, although he should be willing to support the clause if he felt he could do so, yet, because it came so near the principle of permissive legislation, he found himself unable to vote either one way or the other—not that he shirked the responsibility, but because he was bound to oppose anything like such legislation in all matters relating to individual or domestic habits. He himself had, and could have, no personal interest in the drinking habits, or in the consumption of drink either in England or Ireland; but he was certainly opposed to all needless interference with the domestic habits of the poor. The labourer should be allowed to go to a public-house—generally his substitute for aclub—at any reasonable hour, either on Sunday or any time else, so long as he conducted himself reasonably and respectably. Why deprive him of his reasonable refreshment on that day of the week, especially when it had been shown there was less drinking on it than on any other? If it were necessary to make any change, it would be far wiser to give more control to the magistrates than to put the power into the hands of the Town Councils. So far from being an admirer of these bodies as they were now constituted, he believed most firmly that no greater legislative mistake had ever been made, than that by which the present municipalities were formed. Time was when there was, perhaps, something in a Corporation; but, elected in the present fashion, the less the municipalities had to do with legislation of this character, so much the better for them all. If the principle were once admitted into this Bill, there was no telling where it would lead or land them, but clearly into complications of every possible kind. Let the House deal with the question if it pleased; but keep off permissive legislation, especially by Town 878 Councils. He was sorry not to vote for the proposed Amendment; but it must not be therefore understood that any of his objections to the measure had been in the slightest degree altered or removed.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, he was afraid that a certain amount of confusion of ideas had been imported into the debate by the introduction of that unfortunate word "permissive." He was as much opposed to the principle of the Permissive Bill as any hon. Gentleman in that House; but, in considering the Amendment before them, with all the objection he entertained to that principle of permission, he could not for the life of him see anything in the clause introduced by his hon. Friend which would influence his judgment in supporting that clause, even with the views he entertained upon the subject of the Permissive Bill. Now, with regard to the discussion which had taken place, it had been accepted and not contradicted, that nine-tenths of the municipalities of Ireland—and he believed the number of towns under municipal law in Ireland was 110 or 111—had petitioned the House in favour of the Bill; and, therefore, the supporters of the Bill could, at all events, calculate upon the support of at least nine-tenths of those institutions. But, then there was the question of the one-tenth, which might fairly and very properly be taken into consideration by the House. He would not say, nor would he contend for a moment, that the entire number on either side were absolutely in favour of the principle of the Bill or opposed to it. But he knew, from his own experience and knowledge of some of those towns, that a few of them might be very seriously affected, he did not say in their material interests so much as in their moral interests, by the introduction of that Bill. Now, to illustrate a view of that kind, he would take the case of the borough he had the honour to represent—that of Kinsale—and he would associate with that town, inasmuch as the interests of the two were so closely identical, the case of Queenstown, which was near Kinsale. He would not touch upon the material interests of those towns, but would confine himself to the moral effect of the Bill upon those places. Both Queenstown and Kinsale were seaport towns, and places of extensive resort on Sunday by the working classes. They left the larger town of 879 Cork, and they engaged in excursions by land or by water to Queenstown and Kinsale. It was a matter of notoriety that in the case of the respectable people who left these large towns on Sundays for the purpose of recreation and enjoyment—it was a matter of certainty incontrovertible that there was no drunkenness—or, at all events, that the cases were very few of drunkenness—among excursionists, and that no objection on that score had been taken to them. Now, with regard to the moral effect—what would it be? It would be this—they gave an opportunity, by permitting the houses for the sale of intoxicating liquors in the larger town of Cork to remain open, to those respectable people of enjoying themselves in the ordinary way in town as they were now accustomed to do in the country. At present they went to the country for pure enjoyment, and not for the purpose of drinking; but if they found that in Queens-town or Kinsale there were no opportunities for taking the ordinary refreshment, which every Gentleman in that House or of a like position out of it would contend he had a right to take when it suited him. The effect upon those people would be that they would be prevented from enjoying themselves in the way that everyone in that House would endeavour to promote—that was to say, in a peaceful, respectable, and quiet way. They would be restrained, in fact, by the restrictions which were incautiously and injudiciously imposed upon them; and a great number of them would be constrained to remain in Cork, where they would be allowed to drink as much as they liked, and in that view he maintained a large amount of mischief would be done. He was not willing, for the mere purpose of obstruction, to interfere with the decision arrived at; but he would simply appeal to hon. Members, like the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheel-house), and the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. King-Harman), not to be influenced by considerations such as those that they had put forward, that was in reference to the comparison of ideas engendered by the notion of permission in legislation upon the subject of the sale of intoxicating liquors, but putting that view aside, and simply upon the merits of the question, to determine upon the vote they would give that day.
§ MAJOR O'BEIRNE
said, he should certainly oppose the Amendment, as there was no question about it that, if drunkenness were anywhere on the increase, it was in the towns. He thought it was the greatest mistake possible to have yielded a hair's breadth with regard to the towns. One inevitable result of the concessions which had been made was, that in the large towns there would be rioting and drinking going on all the Sunday. The sort of compromise he should be willing to accede to would be to open the houses in country places, five miles from town. He thought that the very fact of having to walk five miles before obtaining a drink, and then walking five miles back, would be sufficient to deter people from going for the mere sake of drinking.
§ MR. P. J. SMYTH
said, that the promoters of that Bill appeared to delight in surprises. The day before, and the day previous to that, the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors Bill was nowhere in the Order Book. To-day they came down to the House and found all the Orders swept away, and Sunday closing had the course to itself. The practice, he presumed, was regular; but he thought it needless to say it was extremely inconvenient. He should support the Amendment of his hon. Friend, but without at all being understood as approving in any way the permissive principle. There were two important towns with which he was connected concerned in that Motion. One of them was Athlone, which was a town situated partly in Roscommon and partly in Westmeath. It was a very important town, and especially the Westmeath portion of it. It had large fairs and markets, and military barracks with accommodation for 1,500 men. Moreover, the inhabitants of Athlone, to the number of 3,000, had petitioned against the Bill. That Petition was unimpeachable. Another important town in Westmeath was Mullingar, the capital of the county, which was governed by a body of Town Commissioners. That town had large military barracks, and had also, by a large majority of its inhabitants, protested against that Bill. They adopted a Petition against it, and that Petition was presented. That very Bill was once opposed, also, by Members of a Liberal Government; but it was supported by the Liberal majority 881 of to-day. If he was not mistaken, the noble Lord, who was now the Leader of the Opposition, but who, at the time to which he referred, was Chief Secretary for Ireland, strongly opposed the Bill, and characterized it as class legislation. If it was class legislation then, it was class legislation now; and yet they had the strange spectacle presented to them of the bulk of the Liberal Party, its Leader and his followers, coming down to that House day after day, and night after night, to force through it that measure of class legislation—that measure which shocked every principle of Liberalism, and was opposed to every tradition of the Liberal Party. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition said he went by mistake into the wrong Lobby the other night in a division on the Bill, in which he found himself among its opponents. The noble Lord explained his mistake, as he had a right to do. He (Mr. P. J. Smyth) hoped he might be pardoned for thinking that the mistake was not in the act, but in the explanation. They had seen, also, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) there at 3 o'clock in the morning, aiding, as much as he could, in an attempt to pass the clauses of that Bill through Committee at an hour when fair discussion on them was an impossibility.
§ MR. E. J. REED
rose to Order, asking the Chairman, whether the matters to which the hon. Member was referring were applicable to the clause under consideration?
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
submitted that the hon. Member was perfectly in Order, inasmuch as the question before the Committee was the propriety of extending to smaller, but corporate towns, what had already been conceded to the larger ones; so that the hon. Member was in no way attacking the principle of the Bill.
said, that the clause now before the Committee was one which, practically, raised the question of the propriety of applying the provisions of the Bill to all the smaller towns of Ireland; and upon such a clause it was not easy to exclude some discussion of the general objects of a Bill. At the same time, it was not usual to revert in Committee to circumstances which had taken place in the discussion of other clauses in the Bill, or to argu- 882 ments used in such discussions, except in so far as they might be directly pertinent to the immediate objects of the clause.
§ MR. P. J. SMYTH
said, that the principle for which he and the other opponents of the Bill contended, was the principle for which the Liberal Party contended a few years ago. They held that this was a Bill which affected the personal rights of man in society; and because they insisted on those rights being maintained by the House, they put on record their protest against the Bill. He did not intend to infringe upon the practice or the Rules of the House. But whatever might occur, he felt that they, at least, had been true to the great principles which should guide legislation in that House.
thought the hon. Member who had just sat down had hardly spoken to the question in charging hon. Members with gross inconsistency, in calling the Bill "class legislation," and in saying that the Liberal Party had changed their line in reference to it. The hon. Member now denounced the Bill as an outrage on the rights of man in society, and opposed to all true Liberalism; but there had been others besides the Liberal Party who had made flank movements on this question, and he would read what the hon. Member wrote in a letter in 1875 on this question to those who called a meeting in support of it at Athlone. He said—Sunday closing, as a branch of the temperance question, stands apart, and may be discussed on its own merits. In principle it has my cordial approval, and I should hold it in practice as a beneficent reform. I do not consider that the publican has, in the abstract, any more right to dispose of his goods on the Sabbath day than the butcher or the baker.["Read on!"] Let the hon. Gentleman read the letter if he would. He (Mr. Sullivan) would not interrupt the hon. Gentleman. He had read from it an extract which covered the whole scope of the Bill, not with the view of proving that the hon. Gentleman had turned right-about-face in that or any other matter, but of showing the Committee how much weight should be attached to his words, when he charged hon. Gentlemen with holding one view one day and another view another day.
§ MR. P. J. SMYTH
said, he had not a copy of the letter with him, and he 883 could not therefore read it. He could only speak of it from memory, and as well as his memory served him, the circumstances were these—He was invited to attend a meeting in favour of Sunday closing, which was to be held at Athlone. He wrote declining to attend, giving reasons for being opposed to the object of the meeting. The passages read by the hon. and learned Member for Louth were true, and he remembered the letter containing them; but they referred to voluntary Sunday closing, and he repeated that if people chose voluntarily to close their houses, he should hail it as a good reform. In the letter referred to, however, he did distinctly express his opposition to Sunday closing by Act of Parliament. He trusted that this explanation would be received with satisfaction by the House. He did not retract a word he then wrote, but adhered to every one.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
observed, that a great deal had been said in reference to this question, on the one side and on the other, and feeling and unhappy differences had been exhibited both within the House and outside it, which he very much regretted. Any observations he might now venture to address to the Committee should not have for their object the creating of an acrimonious discussion, but that of bringing them to the consideration of the question before the Committee. On two occasions only, in the many years during which this question had been agitated in the House, had he ventured to intrude his opinions upon it, and only on one occasion—when the principle it contained was brought before the House—did he give his vote one way or the other. But times had changed since then. That great principle, as it seemed to him, was now a dissolving view. He was told there were persons who supported that great measure, as it was called, on one of two grounds—one, the strong interest which they took in the cause of temperance; and the other, the feeling which some expressed that the Lord's Day ought to be kept holy. Some gentlemen had sent him a circular on the previous day respecting the English Sunday Closing Bill, and they asked him to give his support to it on the same ground of keeping the Lord's Day holy. Not even to those gentlemen 884 would he yield in holding that the due observance of the Sabbath was a thing most desirable; but they must not regard the great question of keeping the Sabbath Day holy with reference merely to the views held concerning it within the narrow limits of the British Isles. They must take a much wider view of it, and see how the same question was regarded in other parts of the world. If they did so, they would see that in both Catholic France and Protestant Germany views were held on this very question that were not in harmony with those of the gentlemen to whom he had referred. Allusion had been made in the course of these debates to the working of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act; but he did not think there was any Member of that House connected with Scotland who would say that the motive power which prompted the passing of that Act was temperance, and that Sabbatarianism had nothing to do with it. He mentioned those things en passant with regard to the view he took of the Bill in its mutilated form. No one would be able to go back to Ireland and say if this Bill passed—as pass it most probably would—that it was a Bill that had extended a great mercy to Ireland. For what did they see? They saw that on every platform on which a discussion was raised in reference to it, the state of the artizan population as regarded temperance had been the first consideration. And yet what was the result? Why, that in five of the largest towns in Ireland, where, if anywhere, the Bill should be put in operation, it would not be put in operation at all; and that while those who had promoted the Bill had declared they would accept nothing but justice, they had agreed to a compromise exempting those places, but imposing it on localities where no case had been made for its imposition. They had to consider that a Bill which had been promoted during several years for the accomplishment of a great social reform had been flung to the winds, the only five places in which it had been found to be at all necessary having been specially exempted from it; while they had a number of Gentlemen connected with an association in Dublin, wanting to cover a disastrous retreat by stating that the Irish counties which, on the authority of the Returns granted last year, were proved 885 to be most temperate were really not so, thus attempting to unfairly defame the rural districts of Ireland. He heard people say they were anxious for great social improvements. If there was room for great social improvements—and he did not say there was not—they had a right to come there and express their opinions, and endeavour to enforce them, pushing them, if necessary, to the bitter end. But that was not for those who attempted to pass a coercive measure like this. It was not for men who said—"We wish to God circumstances did not render it necessary for us to make this demand on the Government, and to coerce an unwilling people, but stern necessity compels us," to take such a course. They had before them, not a coercive measure, having for its object the carrying out of a great social reform, but they had before them instead a number of Gentlemen anxious for the passing of a mutilated Bill, in order that, at the termination of the Session, they might be able to go back to Ireland and address excited meetings of people whose views were honest but unquestionably narrow, and say to them—"We have had a great triumph." A triumph! Where would be their triumph? The Returns showed that none of the counties—take, for instance, Leitrim and Limerick—in which the Bill was to be applied, were intemperate; but, in order to assure their triumph, these Gentlemen flung to the winds those Returns and branded those counties with disgrace. There were, of course, troublesome men to be found in every county, who were always ready enough to find fault with their Representatives. He came into the House many years ago, and had ever since endeavoured to represent fairly the opinions of his constituents; but he would not for a moment remain in the House if, for the purpose of catching votes, or to avoid being unpopular, he were to desert those on whom he felt that an unwarrantable attack had been made. One other observation he would make. Of all countries that in which over-legislation was least desirable was Ireland, and especially legislation of a coercive character, when Bills restricting personal liberty—which, unfortunately, too often were introduced into that House, were presented. Right hon. Gentlemen on both sides regretted their 886 being obliged to do so, and attributed their action to unavoidable necessity; but where was the necessity here? There were, he knew, those who said—"Give us this Bill and we will soon bring in Sunday closing in the towns also." Hon. Gentlemen might think that argument had weight, and respect it accordingly. It had not for him any weight whatever. He regarded the Bill as a Bill not demanded for Ireland, and as not attaining the end for which it was brought in. The Petitions which had been presented prayed for a measure for the restriction of intemperance in the large towns, and had no connection with Sunday administration, and had been presented, not in favour of this, but of a very different Bill, and the House was called upon to forget its high position as a great legislative Assembly, and to become a white washing Committee to enable the promoters of the Bill to cover a ridiculous retreat. He wished to avoid all unnecessarily harsh language in speaking of the Bill, but in the shape in which it now presented itself to the Committee, he could only regard it as an imposture and a sham.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he entertained very strong opinions in regard to the Bill. He was glad to find that the promoters of the Bill, in addition to the days the Government had placed at their disposal for bringing forward the measure, had succeeded in inducing their Friends to give them up a Wednesday. If the Government would only find two or three days more, there might be some hope of getting out of Committee. With regard to the Amendment, it pointed directly to a question which the House was always willing to encourage—namely, the local government of towns. Both the Government and the Opposition were always willing to respect the opinions of the local authorities in the different towns, and all the hon. Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) asked was, that before the Bill was brought into operation, the opinion of the Town Council or of the Town Commissioners, as the case might be, should be taken, and their view ascertained as to the desirability of putting the Act in force. It was said that this would convert the measure into a sort of Permissive Bill. His own opinion was that it was nothing of the kind. A Permissive Bill gave power to 887 the inhabitants to impose upon people a measure which the minority might not agree with or like; but the present proposal was that power should be given to the Town Council, or other local authorities, to refuse to adopt the provisions of the Bill if they did not approve of them. It was, therefore, quite contrary to the principle of a Permissive Bill. The hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) asked if the local authorities could always be trusted to decide the question, and his hon. Friend added, that so far the Town Councils and Town Commissioners had petitioned over and over again in favour of the Bill. If that were so, there was no reason why his hon. Friend should resist the Amendment; but, on the contrary, it was a strong reason why he should support it. There was another matter that was well worth consideration. If the Bill was calculated to do good to the locality, it was not at all likely, if the power was placed in the hands of the local bodies, that they would be likely to abuse it. If they regarded it for the interests and well-being of the community, he was quite sure they would adopt the provisions of the Bill; but if, on the other hand, they thought it would be injurious and would do harm to the municipality, they ought to have the power of rejecting it. These were the reasons why, at any rate, they should have the power which the Amendment sought to give them. There was nothing unreasonable in it; it only gave them power to deal with a local question. It was not an Imperial, but a local question; and, as a local body, they ought to be able to decide whether they would call the Act into operation or not. If Parliament unwisely forced the measure upon them, they would feel that it was nothing more nor less than a Coercion Bill. With regard to the support which it had received from the Members of that House, it would be borne in mind that it had been stated that the measure, and the Amendments proposed in it, had been supported by a large majority of the Irish Members. It was as well to disabuse the disinterested Members of the Committee of that idea. It was true that the majority of the Irish Members were favourable to the Bill, and that they were opposed to some of the Amendments that had been suggested; but it 888 was right the Committee should know low the votes of the Irish Members stood upon the question. The right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) told the House that the reason he supported the Bill was that there was an overwhelming number of the Irish Members in favour of it. It was only right, therefore, to see how the votes stood. He found that, in the first division upon the Bill, 25 of the popular Home Rule Members voted for the Bill, and 19 against it. That was certainly a majority, but not the overwhelming majority the House had been over and over again led to believe was in favour of the Bill. So far as the people of Ireland were concerned, he was satisfied that more than three-fourths, or even four-fifths, of the population affected by it were opposed to its provisions. He had challenged his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) to convene a public meeting in the Phœnix Park in order to allow the people to decide for themselves whether they were in favour of the measure, but his hon. and learned Friend did not seem inclined to accept the challenge. He (Mr. O'Sullivan) found that there were five Irish Whig Members in favour of the Bill, and only one against it, and of the Irish Conservative Members, 20 were in favour of the Bill, and only two against it. What was the total result? Over and over again they had been told there was an overwhelming majority of the Irish Members in favour of the Bill—not of the Irish Party only, but of the Irish Members. One hon. Member went so far as to assert that there were 95 in favour of it; but of the total Irish votes upon the Bill, 50 were in favour of the provisions as they stood and against the Amendments, while, on the other side, there were 20 opposed to the Bill. It was true that this was a majority, but it was not an overwhelming one.
said, the hon. Member appeared to be travelling outside the clause then before the Committee, which had reference only to the application of the Bill to the smaller towns of Ireland under the charge of the Town Commissioners.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
had no intention to travel outside the Amendment, but was simply following the arguments made use of by hon. Members, as to the 889 number of Irish Representatives who were in favour of the measure. He had not thought it out of place to endeavour to show that there was not an overwhelming majority in favour of it. There were many townships surrounding the City of Dublin, and the result would be, if they passed the Bill as it stood, with the Government proposition to exempt the five large towns, and rejected this Amendment, they would prevent the people of Dublin from going beyond the city to take recreation on a Sunday. The principal place of recreation was the Phœnix Park; and if the Bill passed, the people who went there would not be able to obtain refreshment; whereas, if the Amendment were assented to, they would get it, and be able to return into the city after enjoying their holiday. If the Amendment were rejected, the result would be that every person who went into the Phœnix Park for purposes of recreation would be compelled to return to Dublin if he required refreshment. Surely, it was strange that they should be called upon to make a certain ring, and say to the people—"You may drink as much as you like within that boundary; but if you go outside of it you shall not drink at all."
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
thought his hon. Friend was labouring under a misapprehension. The clause now before the Committee would not have the effect his hon. Friend supposed, nor would such a restriction exist in regard to the neighbourhood of Dublin. As the Bill stood at present, the whole of the metropolitan district of Dublin was exempted, and all the people of Dublin would be comparatively well off. It was only to the other centres of Ireland that he wished to apply the same legislation. He had interrupted his hon. Friend, because he did not wish to remain passive while an impression was produced in favour of the clause which would be erroneous, and which was not one that he could himself sanction.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
would certainly give way to his hon. Friend, and the views which his hon. Friend expressed in regard to the Amendment; but he was certainly under the impression that if the provisions of the Bill remained unaltered, they would affect the townships around Dublin, as well as the smaller and independent towns. So far 890 as the Amendment was concerned, he had not heard a single argument against it. The hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) said that it would cause agitation; but was that a reason why the Committee should reject it? The hon. Member also asked if it would be fair to confine the Amendment to the small towns and not extend it to the large towns? He (Mr. O'Sullivan) was satisfied that those who were in favour of the Amendment would have no objection to extend it to the large towns; because he was quite sure that if the power of carrying out the provisions of the Act or not was placed in the hands of the Town Councils or Town Commissioners, they would act in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the people. He thought it was monstrous that because 2 per cent of the population of any particular place got drunk, the other 98 per cent should be punished. He should certainly vote for the Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 41; Noes 126: Majority 85.—(Div. List, No. 155.)
§ MR. COLLINS
said, that he would confine his remarks, as far as possible, to the clause which he had now to propose, and which had reference to the determination of the Act. It was to this effect—
§ (Period of determination of Act.)
§ "That this Act shall continue in force till the thirty-first day of December one thousand eight hundred and eighty-one, and no longer, unless Parliament shall otherwise determine; and, on the said day, all the provisions of any Act now in force regulating the hours of opening or keeping open of any premises for the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sunday shall come into operation and take effect as if this Act had not been passed."
§ After the ample discussion which the principle of the Bill had undergone in the House, it was unnecessary for him to travel over the arguments which had been adduced on either side, except in so far as they bore on his proposed clause. The object of that clause, as appeared, indeed, upon the face of it, was to limit the duration of the Bill to a period of about three years from the time of its coming into operation. He was anxious to elicit the opinions of hon. Members upon a tentative measure of 891 this extraordinary character, which sought to interfere with the known habits and tastes of a large section of the people of Ireland. It was only fair, just, and reasonable to ask that, if a measure of that kind was to be sanctioned at all, a limit should be put to its duration. It had been established conclusively by the evidence which had been put before the House that the amount of drunkenness on Sunday was not, at all events, very considerable. Statistics adduced in the course of the discussions on this Bill, and extending over a period of five or seven years, had shown that not more than one in 1,000 of the persons who frequented public-houses on Sundays was accused or convicted of intoxication; and even that small number probably belonged to a class of men who, under any possible circumstances or conditions, would find means to possess themselves of opportunities of becoming intoxicated. In regard to the people of Ireland, his first contention was that those who had recourse to public-houses on Sunday were not addicted to intoxication. Anyone who had had experience of the habits and character of the Irish people knew that it was almost a necessity for them to have a reasonable amount of recreation and enjoyment on the Sunday, and that any attempt to interfere with their rational enjoyments would be resisted and looked upon as a very great grievance. If, in these days, persons had recourse to public-houses on Sunday for the purpose of obtaining simple refreshment, they need not necessarily be accused of impropriety or intemperance; and he asked, what would be the feelings of those people when they found that that House had by legislation taken away from them the opportunities of enjoying their Sunday refreshment which they had possessed for years past? This would explain the object of his clause. They were all liable to err. He had no doubt whatever that the promoters of this Bill were actuated by the very best intentions, and he would spurn the imputation that the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) and the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) were advocating what they believed to be a coercive measure, damaging to the interests and happiness of the Irish people; but he repeated that even his hon. Friends, with the very best inten- 892 tions, were liable to err. He would not presume to say that they were wrong, and that the opponents of the Bill were absolutely right; but he would say, that in the circumstances it was fair to ask that if this measure was to be allowed to pass, it should be made tentative, and that it should be submitted to the country during a period of three years, in order to see the effect of it on the minds of the people, how far their prejudices or their tempers were compromised by it, and to what extent, if at all, they were likely to repudiate it. If, after three years' trial of the measure, the people, instead of finding it to be a wrong or injury, should declare it to be a great blessing, which had added considerably to their welfare and happiness, then the Gentlemen who had opposed the Bill, whether in or out of the House, would cordially associate themselves with those who had advocated it, and would not treacherously or improperly oppose the continuance of the measure. An idea presented itself to his mind, however, which led him to hesitate very much as to the policy of this legislation. Whilst they were proposing to deprive the people entirely of the inducements they at present possessed to enjoy themselves on Sunday in the open air, they were not, so far as he could see, making any attempt to open up fresh channels into which they might direct the people for purposes of enjoyment and recreation. Now, if this Act were to determine, as he proposed, in. 1881, there would be many opportunities in the meantime of discussing its policy. More particularly there would be the opportunity afforded by a General Election, which at the best could not be very long deferred, of considering what were the advantages or disadvantages which had resulted from the measure, and he had no doubt that any new Parliament which might be summoned by the Sovereign would be influenced by the same earnest and patriotic desire as was the present Parliament to do all in its power to promote the interests of the people. It was therefore important that the new Parliament which, in 1881, might be called on to re-consider this question should have every possible means afforded it for arriving at a sound and sufficient judgment. In the interests of the people likely to be affected by this Bill, he asked that some limit should be 893 put on its operations. Although he had suggested that the limit should be three years, he was not wedded to any particular period; but it occurred to him that by that time the new Parliament would have assembled, and sufficient experience would have been afforded of the operation of the Bill to enable a final judgment to be formed upon it.
§ Clause—(Mr. Collins,)—brought up and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. FORSYTH
said, that during the last and the present Session he had taken no part in the discussions on this Bill; but when the subject was introduced three years ago, he voted in favour of Sunday closing in Ireland, and he should continue to do so until the Bill had passed through all its stages. The principal reason why he supported the Bill was because he believed it to be asked for by a very large majority of the Irish people, and because it was supported by a great majority of the Irish Representatives in that House. He thought that in questions affecting the social well-being of Ireland—not political or Imperial questions—the Irish people themselves were the best judges of what would be most calculated to promote their interests. But he was bound to say that his opinion as to the unanimity of feeling, and as to the strength of the majority, had been somewhat shaken. He found that evidence was given before the Committee in that House which showed that there was a very strong feeling indeed in Ireland—by no means the feeling of the majority, but still a strong feeling—of a large minority against the operation of the Bill. And, considering the perseverance and ability with which this measure had been contested by the Irish Members, it was impossible not to see there was an influential minority in that House who were opposed to it. That being so, he had to ask himself whether it was or was not a fair thing to allow this measure to be tried as an experiment. On the one side, they were told that the greatest possible benefits would arise from the passing of this measure. That was his earnest hope, and partly his belief, On the other hand, they 894 were told by those who ought to know something of the Irish character, that very great evils would arise from it; that the people would be discontented; and that drunkenness would not be diminished. It seemed to him that, under these circumstances, it was a fair proposal to pass the Bill for a limited time, only as a matter of experiment. It was just one of those things which could be determined far batter by practice than theory. If those who, like himself, supported this Bill, were right, then the trial of it would show to demonstration that those who opposed it were wrong, and there would then be no difficulty in making the measure permanent. If, on the other hand, the predictions of those who opposed the Bill were right—if it turned out that drunkenness did not diminish, and that the Irish people were more discontented, then beyond all doubt this measure ought not to be permanent. As he understood, this question did not come before the Irish people at the General Election in 1874. Although he did not go so far as to say that this House was not to legislate upon any question which had not been made a kind of test question at a General Election, still, on a question affecting so much the habits of the people, their tastes and general well-being, he thought it was not unfair to ask that there should be an expression of opinion afforded to the Irish people at a General Election before this Bill was made permanent. He did not think the promoters of the Bill could be prejudiced by the Amendment, and therefore he should give it his support.
§ MR. SHAW
entirely agreed with the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down, although he approached the Bill from an entirely opposite point of view. He opposed the measure, but admitted that there might be parts of Ireland to which it might apply with benefit; and, therefore, he could not see how it could injure either its promoters or opponents to let it be tried as an experiment. It was a serious thing to change suddenly the social habits of the people, as was proposed by this Bill; but if the measure worked well, if it did not lead to secret, illicit, household drunkenness, and proved acceptable to the people generally, then he should be most anxious to make it a permanent measure. Knowing, as he did, the South of Ire- 895 land, and well acquainted, as he was, with the habits of the people there, he doubted very much whether the Bill would not create more evils than it was intended to cure. The habits and customs of the people in the South were quite different from those of the people in the North. The people in the South of Ireland were not Sabbatarian. They attended their places of worship; but, after being at church, they did not think it the slightest harm to indulge in amusement; and all hon. Members must know that when men engaged in open-air sports they got thirsty, and that a good many could not quench their thirst from that pure, natural, and limpid stream which some hon. Gentlemen did not go beyond. There were hundreds of cases in the South of Ireland in which strong and vigorous men, after spending a couple of hours in a match at hurling, or in some other out-door competition, adjourned to the public-house, and drank their pint of porter or their glass of whisky and water, and no harm whatever was the result. On the contrary, drunkenness, in such places, was the exception and not the rule. In the City of Cork, in which he resided, he knew that two packs of harriers were kept up by young men, who went to their places of worship on Sunday morning; but who, between 12 and 1 o'clock in the afternoon, were to be seen trooping out to the suburbs for the purpose of hunting hares. He did not think there was a bit of harm in that. He would rather see those young men so occupied than see them engaged in card-playing and other evil practices. But if hon. Members suddenly did what the Bill proposed, and thereby upset and disarranged all the habits of the people, he feared that more harm than good might be the result. He was anxious to try the experiment; but in every social movement the great object of legislation should be to meet, as far as possible, the habits of the people; and to take the people with that movement, instead of acting hastily and extremely. They should anxiously endeavour to avoid driving the people into evil courses, or confirming them in such courses, by sudden and repressive legislation. He had really imagined that the Amendment under discussion had been, to some extent, accepted by the promoters of the Bill. He hoped that it would be accepted by the Government. He believed 896 that the Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench were wise men, moderate men, and men anxious to do the best they could in this case; and, if they agreed to the Amendment, he thought hon. Members might regard the Bill as passed. No doubt, there was one contingency which, even in the event of that agreement, might prevent such a consummation; and that was the contingency of a General Election. Upon that matter, he should like if some information were forthcoming from the Government Benches. Of course, should a General Election soon occur many measures would have to be abandoned; and, probably, this amongst the number. But if a General Election were not to come for some months yet, there was still time for a discussion of the Bill. Even in that case he would look upon the measure as already substantially passed.
THE O'CONOR DON
said, he could not but admit that the Amendment had been placed before the Committee by the hon. Member for Kinsale, and by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, in a most temperate manner; and one which ought to command the attention of the promoters of the Bill. He desired to meet his hon. Friends in the spirit in which the Amendment had been proposed and supported; and, if those hon. Gentlemen would now undertake to say, on the part of the opponents of the measure, that they would allow it to pass and withdraw any hostility to it in its future stages, he, on behalf of its promoters, would accept the principle which was involved in the Amendment and permit the clause to be read a second time. But, at the same time, he should like to make one or two remarks with regard to the details of that Amendment. Three years constituted, in his opinion, too short a period. Three years would only lead to a continuous agitation during the whole of that time; and that would be a short period even for those who were engaged in the trade, a class of men against whom he had never said one word in the House. An agitation would be kept up during the whole of the three years, which could hardly fail to be prejudicial to the trade which those men carried on, and which would depreciate the value of their property. He quite understood the position which the persons to whom he referred occupied; he quite understood why they had 897 acted as they had done upon this question; he believed that the members of any other trade in the country, if similarly circumstanced, would have acted in a similar way; but he held that a period of three years would be too short both in their own interests and in those of the public. At the same time, he was quite ready to admit the principle that the Act should be only of temporary duration; and that it should be tried as an experiment. He thought that the promoters of the Bill might claim a little more than the compromise he had suggested; but, still, they did not desire to do so. The Government, at the beginning of the Session, through the mouth of the then Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had told the House what they considered ought to be done in order that the Bill might pass, and what were regarded by them as the utmost limits of concession. Had the right hon. Baronet to whom he referred said—"We will not object to the passing of this Bill, but, on the contrary, we will give you facilities for its progress, if you allow it to be of a temporary character," the promoters of the measure would at one have accepted such a proposition. But the right hon. Baronet did not do that. He proposed, in lieu of it, that certain towns should be exempted from the operation of the Bill; and now, when a concession as to the duration of the measure was asked for, he thought the advocates of the Bill might fairly have pressed upon the Government that, in the event of any such concession being made, the Bill itself should apply to the whole, and not to a part of Ireland. But while he considered that those for whom he spoke might very fairly have put forward that request, he would not press it, if the Government did not make it of themselves. Were concessions, however, all to be made on the one side without anything being received in return—and not only without anything being received in return, but with the greater part of the time being occupied with a discussion, upon every new clause, of the principle of the Bill which had been debated over and over again? He had endeavoured to meet his hon. Friends in a proper spirit; and he hoped the result would be that a conclusion would be come to which would put an end to what must be an an- 898 noying and irritating subject to many in the House.
§ MR. KING-HARMAN
said, that having given Notice of an Amendment somewhat similar to that of the hon. Member for Kinsale—an Amendment which he had not brought forward on a recent occasion in consequence of the lateness of the hour—he might be permitted to address a few words to the Committee. When he first mooted the suggestion that the Bill under consideration should be a temporary measure, he did so upon the ground that, although he had studied the question as well as he possibly could, although he was a resident in Ireland, and although he thought he understood the wishes and habits of the people, he could not make up his mind as to whether the measure would be fraught with mischief or with benefit to the community. He had admitted that a large number of influential bodies had petitioned in favour of the measure; but he had doubted whether those bodies thoroughly understood what the effect of the Bill would be if it came into operation. Upon those grounds he had hesitated—and upon those grounds he still hesitated—as to whether the Bill would be attended with the result which its promoters anticipated. If it should have the beneficial effect which some hon. Gentlemen appeared to expect, no man in all Ireland would more sincerely rejoice than himself. He desired the amelioration of his countrymen; he had not opposed the Bill in toto; but he believed that such an Amendment as that now under consideration might be adopted with advantage. Such a limitation as that proposed would yet be a very fair trial of the principle and action of the measure; and he, for one, was thoroughly disposed to accept the compromise which had been suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don), but with one exception, and that exception was this—that he considered three years would be quite sufficient. He thought that every argument which could be used against three years would be capable of being used against five years. Three years, in his opinion, would test the measure thoroughly. A General Election would take place in the interval; and the general feeling of the people could then be elicited. His belief was that the inhabitants of Ireland 899 would know sufficiently well, not in five years, but in five months, what the effect of the radical change contemplated by the Bill was likely to be. Petty sessions' records would show, the appearance of the people would show, the state of the savings banks accounts would show, whether the measure had been attended with the beneficial results which its promoters anticipated. But if, on the other hand, the in habitants of Ireland were to be as damaged, as the opponents of the Bill alleged they would be, there would be disturbance and riot within six months. As to the agitation which had been promised by some timorous supporters of the Bill, he desired to point out that agitation would probably be got up all the same, whether the measure were passed for five or for three years. There was certainly no particular charm in three years, except this—and the advantage was not inconsiderable—that that period would bring the matter to a conclusion in a shorter time. If his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon would accept three years, he would engage, on his part, to support him heartily in endeavouring to pass the Bill through its remaining stages.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he regretted that he could not support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kinsale. With reference to the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who represented Sligo, no doubt six months would suffice to show how the Bill worked; but he differed from his hon. Friend as to what would be a proper test of the opinion of the people. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of savings banks; but he did not think that the amount of money in those banks would be any test whatever. Last year, for example, there had been a bad harvest in Ireland; but next year there might be a good one, and the consequence might be that, while there might be a great deal more drinking than in the period immediately antecedent, there might also be more money in the savings banks. If this Bill were a good Bill, it ought to be passed in a chronic form, and continue to operate; but, if it were a bad Bill, it had better be debated and deliberated upon next Session, in the light of further information and experience. He did not believe that the plan which some hon. Gentlemen had advocated would apply 900 any salve whatever to those who would be affected by the measure. What the hon. Gentleman desired appeared to be a mode of silencing those who would believe themselves to suffer under unfair restrictions if the Bill were passed, what would be urged, in effect, would amount to this—"Oh! this is only a temporary measure; it will come to an end in three years, and then Parliament is not likely to deal with it again under any circumstances whatever." That seemed to him to be a condemnation carried over three years, while an absolute verdict might be pronounced in one. He would deprecate very much the Bill passing through Committee and the House in such a form as to be the cause of future agitation in Ireland. He had no special desire that this should be a test question at the next General Election. He would rather say to his constituents—"I have done my best to make the measure a fail one all round. I have not been able to do so; but Parliament has passed the Bill, and, if the country is opposed to it, Parliament can repeal it." Towards that result the ordinary machinery would be set in motion without delay; and this would be better than allowing three years to elapse during which a fresh agitation might be organized. He was very sorry to differ from hon. Gentlemen with whom he generally acted; but he would be no party to any compromise whatever on this measure. He did not intend to offer any unfair opposition to the Bill—he did not think he had done so to any measure which had ever come before the House. He believed an examination of what had taken place in relation to the Bill would clearly show that the conduct of those who were opposed to it could not be termed obstructive. At the same time, when the measure was brought on at 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning, it was surely not unreasonable or unfair to urge and claim that it should be postponed to another day. The Bill ought to be fairly dealt with; and, in his opinion, it ought either to be crushed out altogether, or passed in a chronic and not in a tentative form. A trial of the measure for three, four, or five years, would be, in the minds of many of those who would be affected by it, a sort of penal servitude for that period.
§ MR. BRUEN
said, he had been exceedingly glad to hear the conciliatory 901 speech of the hon. Member for Roscommon. In that speech the hon. Gentleman had stated his own willingness, and the willingness of the promoters of the Bill, to accept the principle of the clause which was now under discussion if, on the other hand, those who objected to the measure were willing to abandon their opposition and allow the Bill to go through, with the modifications which had been already introduced into it. He had always supported the Bill as a tentative measure. On the one hand, he believed that a great deal of good would result from its being brought into action; on the other hand, he was afraid that considerable discontent might be occasioned in some places in consequence of its operation. He also believed that a great number of those who had given their signatures to Petitions in favour of the Bill had done so without completely realizing the effect which its passing would have upon the social habits of the people of Ireland. Entertaining these opinions, he had endeavoured to ascertain the truth of them, as far as he could, by conversations with workmen and with others who would be affected by the operation of the measure; and he thought it would be only fair that those classes who might consider themselves prejudicially affected by it should, if it were now passed, have an opportunity of stating any objections they might have to it before it was re-enacted and continued. Reference had been made to the prospect of a General Election. He did not wish that the termination of the tentative operation of the Bill should take place until a certain time after the General Election. As his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth) had pointed out, it would be necessary to conduct an inquiry on the subject, to take evidence, and to find out what the result of the measure had really been. But, if the Bill was to terminate in three years, there would be no time for a new Parliament to conduct those proceedings. If, however, a period of five years were fixed upon for the tentative operation of the Act, there would be ample time for the conduct of such an inquiry as might be thought to be necessary. Not only so, but in five years the irritation which the measure might at first produce would have had time to cool down, and the 902 subject could then be approached with greater calmness and with a larger amount of experience.
§ DR. BRADY
said, he regarded the compromise which the hon. Member for Roscommon had expressed his willingness to accept as not only most creditable to the hon. Gentleman himself, but as most creditable to those who were acting with him; and he hoped that those who had hitherto so frequently and so bitterly opposed the Bill would now see it to be their interest and their duty to close with that compromise, and to act upon it. For his own part, he was quite satisfied that the great body of the people of Ireland were in favour of the measure. They had come to the conclusion that a measure such as that now before the Committee would conduce to the social and moral improvement of the community. He represented a county—Leitrim—in which there were 95,000 inhabitants, and which occupied an important position in the country. From the time that the Bill now under discussion came before the House, he had, never heard from that county a wish expressed against its principle. He had never received a Petition against it, but, on the contrary, he had received several Petitions in favour of it. There was represented in his constituency a large body of the rural population of Ireland—people who would not be supposed to come under the influence of any agitation, and who, in reality, had not come under any such influence as regarded, or from, the promoters of the Bill. But he knew that in the county of Leitrim the clergy of all denominations were in favour of the measure. He had received letters from clergymen of the Church of England, from Presbyterian clergymen, and from Roman Catholic clergymen, all impressing upon him the necessity of supporting the Bill. Under those circumstances, he had great pleasure in seeing that there was even a prospect of this matter being brought to a happy conclusion; and he only hoped that the opponents of the Bill would be wise in their generation, and accept the compromise which had been suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon.
§ MR. STACPOOLE
said, he regarded the period of three years as quite sufficient. It did not appear to him that the promoters of the Bill were making any 903 compromise; and he hoped that the Amendment which had been brought forward would be insisted upon.
§ MR. ALFRED MARTEN
said, it appeared to him that there ought to be such a limitation of time fixed upon in regard to the operation of the measure as would allow both sides an opportunity of arriving at a calm and unprejudiced judgment as to the effect of the Bill. There could be no disguising the fact that the measure had excited a strong feeling of opposition. On the other hand, it was equally clear that, in other quarters, there was a strong feeling in favour of the Bill. He was a Member of the Select Committee which sat upon this subject; and evidence of considerable importance was laid before that Committee on both sides. He might mention one fact which occurred to him at the moment. It was brought out in the course of the proceedings before that Committee, that in some cases the Bishops had imposed the closing of public-houses on Sunday within their dioceses; but, in one instance, it appeared that a river separated one diocese in which no drink could be obtained from another diocese where drink could be had, and the people were in the habit on Sunday of crossing the river into that portion of the locality where the public-houses were open for the purpose of obtaining refreshment. That showed, at all events, that a considerable amount of feeling existed on the subject. He would suggest that, in all cases of this description, they should be guided, more or less, by precedent. He had been looking into the register of temporary laws, and he had found a great many such laws on almost every subject—amongst them one which he thought might afford a useful precedent. It might be within the recollection of the Committee that six or seven years ago, a great effort was made to enforce the better observance of the Act of Charles II. in regard to the Lord's Day, and a number of prosecutions were instituted by private persons, in order, if possible, to obtain that result. But what happened? Those prosecutions caused so much annoyance to various people—although they were instituted, no doubt, with the best of motives, the better observance of the Sabbath—that the Sunday Observance Prosecutions Act had to be passed. That Act, which im- 904 posed the restraint that no prosecution should be instituted without the consent of the chief of police of the district, was treated as an experimental measure. It was only allowed to remain in operation for one year at a time, and had to be dealt with annually. That was a good illustration of what he meant; and what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander. That was a restriction of the prosecutions by those who were anxious to see certain laws enacted in regard to Sundays, and he saw no reason why the precedent should not be followed, and a fair time—say three years—be fixed for the trial of the experiment of Sunday closing. He commended the suggestion to the favourable consideration of the hon. Member for Roscommon, who had conducted a long struggle in reference to this Bill with admirable temper and fairness.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, if he were to refer to any legislation as justifying the opposition to this clause, it would be that very Act for suspension of prosecutions, prosecutions which passed some time ago, and had been renewed year by year from the time of its passing. If that was a good law to enact, its operation ought to have been made perpetual. To pass an Act which had to be renewed annually, or at the end of any stated period, was to offer a premium to agitation pro and con. If the law was passed, the traders in intoxicating drinks in the excepted towns would acquire a vested interest in Sunday trading, which might involve great difficulty at some future time between themselves and Parliament.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the Committee had allowed itself to drift into a discussion which might go on indefinitely with no real and practical result. The question was not whether the operation of the Act should be restricted to a particular number of years; but whether, broadly, the Committee would sanction any restriction at all—in other words, they were discussing the second reading of a clause, and not any detailed Amendments that might be proposed on it. As far as he was personally concerned, he thought a very strong—indeed, an almost unanswerable—case had been made out in support of the proposal to limit the duration of the Act. If ever there was a Bill 905 to which such a principle should apply, he thought it was the present one. When it was first introduced it was said over and over again—and, as he believed, most sincerely said, and at that time really believed to be the case by its promoters and advocates—that the Bill was the result of an almost unanimous wish expressed by the Irish people; but, since then, it had been shown that there was a considerable amount of dissent from the Bill, and that a good many—several, at least—of the hon. Members who originally supported the measure were now among its most active opponents. He, therefore, hoped the Committee would assent to the second reading of the clause, and that afterwards a reasonable limit should be put to the duration of the Bill.
§ MR. BENETT-STANFORD
thought it would be wise, after the clause had been read a second time, to fix the limit of duration at three years, instead of five. If the hon. Member for Roscommon would accept such a compromise, he would, if he did not gain the support, at any rate stop the opposition of several hon. Members, who had up to the present retarded the progress of the Bill.
§ MR. KIRK
said, he believed that if the Bill were enacted for three years, there would be a re-action—a revolution, in fact—which would at the end of that time overturn the Act altogether. Its supporters were anxious to push on the Bill as quickly as possible in order to get it made into law in the course of the present Session, because they knew that there was growing up against it a very strong feeling of opposition. The hon. and learned Member for Cork—the largest county in Ireland—had said, and there could be no doubt as to the accuracy of his statement, that such a feeling was growing up among his constituents. He (Mr. Kirk) represented the smallest county in the country, and he could vouch for it that his constituents were largely animated by the same feeling. During the whole of the time he had represented the county, and he included the period of his canvass, he had only once been asked to vote for the Bill. The request was made by a clergyman, who had also been a water-drinker from his boy hood. In answer to the request, he set forth his views on the subject in a letter which he addressed to the rev. gentleman. On receiving the communi- 906 cation, the clergyman consulted with several of his parishioners, and when he saw clearly what might be the result of passing this Bill, he wrote a reply to his (Mr. Kirk's) letter, in which he said he would never again ask him to support the Bill. His own reasons for not supporting the Bill were, and always had been, that he believed very disastrous results would follow upon its adoption; that the improvement in the morals of the people the promoters expected to flow from it would not follow, and that a large and important section of the Irish people were opposed to it. If the promoters of the Bill believed that its results would be advantageous, and that the majority of the Irish people were in favonr of it, there could be no reasonable objection on their part to its duration being limited; because, if their views were sound, it would be certainly re-enacted at the end of any period to which it might be limited. He admitted that he was in a minority, but he believed that if a plébiscite of the people of Ireland were taken, it would be found that a very considerable change of opinion had come about since the Bill was first introduced to Parliament. As far as the Petitions were concerned, it must be perfectly well known that those in favour of the Bill had been carefully got up by agents employed for the purpose, while no such means had been resorted to by those who were opposed to the measure. If agents had been employed to solicit signatures to Petitions against Sunday closing, the result, as far as that branch of the controversy was concerned, would have been very different. The promoters of the Bill ought to abandon the position they had taken up; because, if the mass of the people of Ireland were, as they were said to be, in its favour, the majority of Irish Members would be much larger than it was known to be at present.
said, he had all through supported the Bill, and was one of those hon. Members who sat up all night in order to assist its progress. He should still support the measure, but he appealed to the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) to accept the proposal to limit the duration of the Bill to three years. He represented a large constituency, and though among them he had heard nothing except praise of the Bill, he could not shut his eyes to 907 the fact that there had recently been a strong re-action against it, and he therefore thought it would be well to give it a trial for a limited period, in order that the opinion of the Irish people might be further tested concerning it. He deprecated any course that would have the effect of making the Bill a strictly Party question, and hoped some means would be adopted to settle the matter amicably in the course of the present Session.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, any hon. Member who had listened to the debates on this Bill must have come to the conclusion that it was high time the question was settled in some way. An opportunity for such settlement was offered to the hon. Member for Roscommon, who had charge of the Bill, by the new clause which the hon. Member for Kinsale (Mr. Collins) proposed to insert in the Bill. He thought three years was quite long enough for the trial of a law which only affected part of the population of a country, and, in the present case, would mainly embrace the population in the rural districts, the Amendment adopted in the 1st clause having excluded the five largest towns in Ireland. If the Act were found to work satisfactorily, there would be no difficulty at the end of the three years in extending it to the whole country; if it were found to work unsatisfactorily, there could be no reason for keeping a part of the population of Ireland for longer than three years under the operation of a bad law.
§ MR. MELDON
said, he differed from the hon. and gallant Baronet who had just spoken, and who seemed to think that the proposal of the hon. Member for Kinsale opened up a way to the settlement of the much-vexed question which formed the subject-matter of the Bill. The question of Sunday closing of public-houses in Ireland was not now on its trial for the first time. It had been tried in several very extensive districts, and, wherever tried, had proved successful in attaining the objects which it was intended to produce. It had been tried in the Diocese of Cashel, where the residents were people just as much disinclined to submit to coercion as any in Ireland, and had been found to be perfectly successful. His main objection to the limitation proposed was that it would create an agitation, which, if it went on until the next 908 General Election, would produce most mischievous results. It might be to the interest of the present Government to support an experimental measure, as they could not prevent a Bill of some kind passing, because they might thereby conciliate, to some extent, the publican interest in Ireland; but he, for one, could not consent to any limitation unless, by consenting to it, he could be assured that all other opposition to the Bill would be withdrawn.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, one of the main reasons which had actuated the opponents of the measure was, that they did not wish to see the strong arm of the law come down upon the middle and lower classes and allow the upper classes to escape scot free by means of their clubs, and the ability to keep as much liquor as they might want in their own houses. He thought, therefore, that it would be only fair to give the Act an experimental existence, with a view to re-enacting it, if successful, or allowing it to lapse, if it were found not to be in accord with the wishes of the majority of the Irish people.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he had listened with great attention to all that had been said in opposition to the proposal of the hon. Member for Kinsale (Mr. Collins), and could not find any tangible ground for it. The hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) had said that the promoters of the Bill had already made large concessions, but he should like to know what they were? They had certainly assented to the proposal of the Government to except five large towns from the operation of the Bill, but that could not be called a concession, because it was only done in face of the fact that a large section of the Irish people were against them, and that unless the exception was admitted they dare not face the country. That it was not a concession was shown by a statement in The Temperance Banner, the organ of the supporters of the Bill, to the effect that—The Sunday Closing Association do not approve the exception policy. We have consented to it simply at the point of the bayonet.As far as the probable effect of supporting the Bill was concerned, he was afraid that several hon. Members, whom he should be sorry to miss from the House, 909 would lose their seats from the fact of their having disregarded the views of their constituents and supported the Bill. He could not accept the proposal of the hon. Member for Roscommon to adopt the principle of the proposal made by the hon. Member for Kinsale on condition of all other opposition to the Bill being withdrawn. He, for one, should not withdraw a single Amendment which he had placed upon the Paper, and some of which, if discussed fully and fairly, would occupy two or three days at least. For instance, the Amendment in reference to the compensation clause could certainly not be disposed of in less than a day, for he did not think Parliament would destroy the business of anybody without giving them the means of getting compensation. ["Question!"] He would say no more on this subject than that the Temperance Party were so intolerant that they would, if they could, prevent any hon. Member from expressing the least opinion contrary to their views. The hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) had stated that the Sunday closing system wherever tried had been successful. What were the facts? In Tipperary, which had 16,000 inhabitants, the public-houses had been closed voluntarily for some years, and in the year 1876 the number of persons convicted of drunkenness there was 700. In the town of Newcastle West, where the population was 17,000 in number, the convictions for drunkenness in the same period were only 390. The explanation was that the public-houses being closed the people went on Sundays to shebeens, where they got bad silent Scotch spirit which sent them sick and nearly mad, and, in consequence, they had to go to the licensed houses on Monday mornings in order to get some good stuff to put them right. The result was that they got drunk, were taken before the magistrates and convicted. The hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) had stated that not more than 11 Irish Members of the House—he called them the Eleven of all Ireland—had ever voted for this Bill. This was an inaccurate statement, for it must be known to many hon. Members that as many as 22 Members representing Irish constituencies had voted in favour of the Bill. [Mr. SULLIVAN: No, no!] The hon. and learned Gentleman might say "no," but he said yes, and the Re- 910 cords of the House would prove that his statement was accurate. Well, what was the overwhelming majority of Irish Members that might have been expected in all the divisions that had taken place in favour of the Bill? Doubtless, there were two or three and twenty who were strongly in favour of the measure; but, taking all the divisions, there were 50 Irish Members who had voted for the Amendments, and yet the Committee was told that there was an overwhelming majority in favour of the Bill.
pointed out that the hon. Member was wandering from the subject dealt with by the Amendment under discussion.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he was not introducing any new argument; he was merely following up an argument that had been already introduced; but if it were displeasing to the Committee he would not pursue it. He was anxious that the principle of the Amendment should be tried, because no doubt there would be a General Election before the period proposed by it would have expired, and if the measure were in force for three years, the question would be contested at the next Election. The Committee had been told that the Irish people were in favour of the Bill; he asserted that that House had never been more imposed upon than by being induced to believe that statement, and he could not bring forward a stronger fact in its disproof than that it had been shown that throughout Ireland the promoters could not get people to advocate the measure, and had, in consequence, been compelled to send over two Scotchmen as its champions. If the Bill were once passed there was at least one thing it would do, and that was that it would get rid of the Scotch and North of Ireland influence, which had been resorted to in furtherance of the measure. He had heard no arguments on the part of those who opposed this Amendment that should convince the Committee it ought not to be passed.
THE O'CONOR DON
said, one thing was very evident to the Committee—namely, that those of his hon. Friends who opposed the Bill had not imbibed much of the "silent spirit" they had just heard of. They had been told that the promoters of the measure would not allow its opponents to speak at all, and 911 yet the Committee had been occupied from almost ever since the House had met at half-past 12 o'clock until that moment—half-past 4 o'clock—entirely on the two Amendments that had been proposed. He should like to say a few words in reply to what had fallen from his hon. Friend who had just spoken (Mr. O'Sullivan). The hon. Gentleman employed a very curious mode of reckoning; he included in the number of the opponents of the Bill every Irish Member who happened to have voted against any clause in it on all the divisions put together; but, in the case of those who supported it, he only took the greatest number voting on any one particular occasion. He would, however, challenge the hon. Member to show any single occasion on which a score of Irish Members had voted against the view taken by the promoters of the measure. But he wished to come to the question really before the Committee. He believed those who were present at the time he had replied to the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) would bear him out in saying that he had met the proposal made to him in the most candid and straightforward way. He had expressed his readiness, on the understanding that the general opposition to the principle of the Bill was withdrawn, to accept the principle of the Amendment. He did not wish hon. Members to give any pledge to withdraw all opposition to parts of the Bill which they objected to; all he said was, that he would rather trust to the good feeling and sense of the Committee; and that hon. Gentlemen opposing the Bill should feel honourably bound, without entering into pledges, not to re-discuss the principle of the measure on every clause. That was all he could reasonably expect, and he had long since expressed his readiness to allow the clause to be read a second time. With regard to the particular figure to be inserted in the clause, whether it should be three, four, or five years, that was a matter which could be determined after the principle of the clause was settled. They might possibly then be enabled to arrive at a general understanding that would meet the views of hon. Members on both sides of the House. He hoped, therefore, the Committee would at once allow the clause to be read a second time, after which they 912 could settle the duration of the limitation it affirmed.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
did not think the proposition made by the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) quite fair. The true principle of the clause under discussion was one of time, and involved the exact time to be fixed. If the clause were read a second time without the time being fixed, it would leave it open to the Committee to introduce five or seven years, or even a longer period; and he regarded this as eminently unsatisfactory, for it would only entail a division on the clause and its probable rejection altogether. He had not been in favour of the clause at all. He had thought that the Bill had better stand or fall without a limitation; but so many of his hon. Friends on both sides of the House appeared to be in favour of accepting the principle of a limitation for three years, that he would not any longer oppose the clause if it were to be understood that three years should be the limit. But if it were left open to the Committee to alter that limit, he should insist on a division being taken, and would reserve to himself the right to take any course he might think best in the matter.
§ MR. P. J. SMYTH
thought it well that there should be no misunderstanding on the point, and would therefore ask the hon. Member for Roscommon what he meant by "withdrawing the opposition to the Bill?" Did he mean that the Amendments now on the Paper should be withdrawn?
THE O'CONOR DON
said, he did not mean that. He did not ask any hon. Member who had an Amendment which he thought ought to pass to withdraw it; all he meant was, that an understanding should be come to by which the length of time that was being consumed in these discussions should be shortened. The fact was, that they had had the principle of the Bill discussed over and over again by almost every hon. Member who had spoken. The debates had not been confined to the particular Amendment before the Committee, but had been directed to what was, in reality, the principle of the Bill. All he asked was that hon. Members should not discuss the principle of the measure, but that they would accept that as having been settled, and only deal with the Amendments as they were moved.
§ MR. P. J. SMYTH
would like to ask whether the hon. Member for Roscommon would accept the limitation of three years? He (Mr. P. J. Smyth) regarded this as a fair and reasonable proposal. It came from an hon. Gentleman of very high authority, and he thought the hon. Member for Roscommon would act wisely in accepting it. The hon. Gentleman ought to regard the proposal as one that would facilitate the passage of the Bill, and he (Mr. P. J. Smyth) would add, that at no time in that House had a Private Bill received such facilities as this had received. For his own part, he could hardly be accused of having given a factious opposition to the Bill; and he would, therefore, say to the hon. Member for Roscommon, he hoped that he would accept the Amendment and its limitation of three years.
hoped the hon. Member for Roscommon would inform the Committee whether he would accept the term of limitation mentioned in the clause?
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
could not understand the course taken by certain hon. Members on that—the Opposition—side of the House, who evidently had not given the Bill much consideration, but who, probably for political reasons, thought that by grandiloquently appearing as Members of the Irish majority in the matter of this Bill they would be furthering other ends. ["No, no!"] An hon. Member below him said "No." He wished that hon. Member would get up and state how much he knew about the Bill, and how little he knew about the opinion of Ireland upon the subject. The reason he (Sir Patrick O'Brien) had risen was to reply to the hon. Member for Roscommon, who had said that the Committee had been continually discussing the principle of the Bill. For his own part, he (Sir Patrick O'Brien) was free from this imputation, as he had not spoken above three times on the measure during the six years it had been before the House. He should like to ask the hon. Member for Roscommon, when he said that they discussed the principle of the Bill on each occasion that it was brought forward, how it could possibly be otherwise? At one time the Bill was intended to apply to the whole of Ireland, and to make people sober in the towns where drunkenness was said most to prevail. That Bill having been withdrawn, they had another 914 on a new principle, and then they had a third on some other principle; and yet the hon. Member for Roscommon got up and said it was a shame to go on discussing the principle of the Bill, quite overlooking the fact that at every new Sitting on the subject the Bill exhibited a new principle. What, he asked, was the principle of the Bill now? Was it that its application was to be limited to a few counties in Ireland where there was no drunkenness? If this were so, he could well understand hon. Members opposing the measure, and fanatical people outside the House crying "Question!" for he knew that there were no fanatics in the House, and, of course, what he was saying could not apply to hon. Members. What, he asked, was the nature of the proposition of the hon. Member for Kinsale (Mr. Collins), and what was the answer to it? It was generally admitted that it was for the public to say what was their opinion about a great social change of this sort, and the Amendment asked that the Bill should only be enacted for a period of three years, when a new Parliament might pronounce upon its working; and the hon. Member for Roscommon told them to try this great panacea for the remedy of Irish grievances, before which every other question was as nothing, for an indefinite time. However, if it must be so, let them pass the Bill; they had had enough of it; they had discussed it ad nauseam, and now that it only referred to a few places in Ireland, and the drunken portion of the population had been excluded, let them carry the measure. The hon. Member for Kinsale said, let them carry the measure over the next Dissolution, and he suggested three years. And, putting aside all tall talk, of which they had already had enough on both sides of the House, and looking at the matter from a common-sense point of view, he asked, was there anyone, apart from Sabbatarians and temperance preachers who would say that it was not a fair proposal to allow the country to settle the question as to whether the measure had proved effectual, and a renewal was desirable? He hoped the Committee would support the hon. Member for Kinsale in his Amendment.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, the words of the Amendment were that the Act should continue in force until the 31st of 915 December, 1881; when, unless Parliament should otherwise determine, the existing laws should again come into operation; and he wished to know whether the hon. Member for Roscommon would accept this limitation? It was useless to beat about the bush. The hon. Member for Roscommon talked of concession; but what concession had he made to any one Amendment? The fact was, that the opponents of the Bill had withdrawn six Amendments in order to conciliate the House and allow it to make progress with the measure at an early hour in the morning, and it was too bad for the hon. Member for Roscommon to say they had made no concessions. If they could not obtain a definite understanding from the hon. Gentleman on this question, it would be necessary to divide the Committee.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
understood that the hon. Member for Roscommon had given up any idea of entering into a bargain on this subject, and that the Committee was at that moment considering the question as to whether a limitation of a period not yet to be named should be adopted. Consequently, he thought that the questions which were being addressed to the hon. Member for Roscommon would be more appropriate after the clause had been read a second time.
§ MR. RICHARD SMYTH
felt bound to say that he could not understand why his Friends below the Gangway persisted in requiring from the hon. Member for Roscommon a pledge that he would accept a limitation of three years. The hon. Member had conceded the second reading of the clause containing the principle of limitation to three years, and if the clause were read a second time, it would then have to be decided whether the period of three years should be struck out and another term inserted involving a longer period. The advantage of the clause as it stood was all on the side of those who contended for a three years' limit.
§ MR. MURPHY
need scarcely say that he had taken no part in this debate—he alluded to the present occasion—and if the Committee would bear with him, he would only keep them from a division for a very few moments. When the House had voted for the second reading of the Bill, it had done so under the impression that a vast majority of the Irish 916 people were in favour of it. ["Question!"] If he might be permitted to say so, it was a question of taste as to whether hon. Members should thus interrupt one who had hitherto abstained from saying one word during the debate. He understood the position to be this—the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) suggested that the new clause proposed by the hon. Member for Kinsale (Mr. Collins) should be passed, and reserved to himself the liberty of proposing an Amendment extending the time from three to five years. [An hon. MEMBER: Seven.] An hon. Member said seven years; perhaps some other supporter of the Bill would say 14; but he thought there should be some finality. He need scarcely say that he had always been opposed to the passing of a restrictive and compulsory measure such as this. He did not want to interfere with voluntary action; but he objected to a measure which he knew was not in accord with the opinions of the classes who would be affected by it. However, he was never opposed to the proper conduct of Business, or to anything that was really practical; and, although he could not bind himself not to oppose the measure, if on another occasion it should be the pleasure of the House to say it should not pass, he must certainly subscribe to the idea of the hon. Member for Roscommon that the new clause should be allowed to be read as it then was, and that they should afterwards discuss whether the period mentioned in it should be further extended. For his own part, he thought that three years would afford ample time for the country to judge of the necessity of continuing the measure; but this was a matter to be discussed after the principle of imposing a limitation had been settled.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Clause read a second time.
moved, in line 2, to leave out the words "eighty-one," and insert the words "eighty-five."
thought his hon. Friend (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) a little precipitate, inasmuch as he (Mr. Sullivan), had not resumed his seat. Besides, while he had spoken but once 917 that day, his hon. Friend had spoken 15 times. He thought the Committee had wisely decided that the Bill should be a terminable Bill, and the only question remaining on this clause was as between three years and seven years. He thought that anyone looking at this question practically would see that three years would be too short a term; while, on the other hand, there were several precedents for seven years. If he were to launch forth on the general question, he, too, could speak almost interminably upon it; but he thought it better to move his Amendment to the clause as briefly as possible.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 2, to leave out the words "eighty-one," and insert the words "eighty-five,"—(Mr. Sullivan,)—instead thereof.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
, in rising to move that the Chairman report Progress and ask leave to sit again, said, it was only fair to the Committee that he should explain the reason why he did so. He had no desire that the Business of the Committee should be in the least degree delayed, and although his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), had some warranty for saying that he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) had spoken on several occasions during that Sitting, he had taken up no longer time than was requisite in addressing him-self to the subjects under discussion. In the present instance, he thought the Committee had not had time to consider the principle of the clause. He had not been in favour of the second reading of the clause just passed, and he did not think that the limit of three years was a satisfactory one. In his opinion, next Session, or the Session afterwards, if the measure did not turn out to be a success, it ought to be repealed. His hon. Friends who usually acted with him had thought it best to accept a limitation, and the only period before them then was that contained in the clause; but the whole principle of that clause would be utterly set aside and subverted if the Bill were to be extended over the approaching Dissolution of Parliament, and, probably, over even the next subsequent Dissolution. He accepted the three years' principle unwillingly, and, if it were not assented to, he should persist in his Motion for reporting Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir Joseph M'Kenna.)
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not persevere with his Motion, because he considered that the present was by far the most convenient time of any that was likely to be at their disposal for settling this question. There had been considerable discussion on the point already, and he thought the Committee was in a position to decide it. He must add that he was rather surprised to hear the promoters of the Bill making the suggestion which had been put forward, that the limitation of the measure should be seven years.
wished to say that he was not a promoter of the Bill, and that he had made his suggestion emphatically in disagreement with the too conciliatory views of his hon. Friends behind him.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, if the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) had not been authorized by the promoters of the Bill, he presumed the hon. and learned Gentleman would not expect the Committee to support his Motion.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
offered, if the principle of three years were accepted, to withdraw his Motion.
THE O'CONOR DON
thought the opponents of the Bill were pressing their views very hardly. They seemed to think that the promoters were to have no opinion at all as to the length of time the measure should be in operation. He had accepted the principle of the clause, because he thought that by so doing he should be met in a conciliatory spirit by his opponents. At the same time, he had distinctly stated that he thought three years too short a term; and what he would now venture to suggest was, that the limit should be five years. He believed that this would meet a great many of the objections on both sides. If the term were three years only, the agitation for the renewal or discontinuance of the measure would commence almost immediately; but if it were five years, the agitation would not begin until a short time before the expiration of the term. His desire was that the agitation should be put an end to, and he also wished to 919 see the measure fairly tried. Five years would enable them to have a fair trial for at least two years of the existence of the measure, as no one would think it of any use to agitate during so long a period as five years, inasmuch as their energies would thereby be wasted; and, if during the two years of quiet they might thus expect to have, the feeling of the country were found to be against the measure, he had no doubt there would be no effort to re-enact it; while, on the other hand, if the feeling were in its favour, any agitation against it would be unsuccessful. Therefore, while having no fear as to the result of the experiment, he respectfully asked the Committee to accept his suggestion; and he would also ask the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), who, although a supporter of the measure, was not one of its promoters, whose name was not on the back of the Bill, and who had no responsibility whatever in making any proposal on the subject, to withdraw his Amendment, in order that the figures "1883" might be substituted for "1881."
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he could not withdraw his Motion on the understanding suggested by the hon. Member for Roscommon.
§ MR. MURPHY
said, it was his intention to make some observations on the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Louth provided it was fairly before the Committee. Another Motion being now before the Committee, he must postpone those remarks.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
assured the Committee that though he had always opposed the Bill, it was not his desire improperly to throw obstacles in the way of its progress. He wished to make some observations on the question whether the Bill should be passed for three or for five years; and, in his view, it would not be fair to insist on reporting Progress at that hour.
§ MR. KING-HARMAN
pressed the hon. Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) to withdraw the Motion for reporting Progress. There was now a simple issue before the Committee—whether the Bill should be passed for three, five, or seven years.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.920
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN
said, two interesting discoveries had been made within the last few minutes. The Committee had been told by the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) that there was to be agitation in Ireland. He had understood from the hon. Member, on every occasion that the Bill had been hitherto under discussion, that the Irish people were all in favour of it. It appeared now that there would be agitation among the Irish people. He (Major O'Gorman) thought so himself; but he was glad to hear it from that quarter. The other discovery was, that the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) was not a promoter of the Bill. He (Major O'Gorman) understood the hon. and learned Member to have said at some public meeting in Ireland, or to have written in some public paper, that he hoped he would never see Heaven until this Bill was passed.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
asked the Committee to confine their attention, at present, to a somewhat lower level than that to which the hon. and gallant Member (Major O'Gorman) had called their attention. He would suggest that the withdrawal of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Louth was unnecessary at present. The Question to be decided at present was, whether the date 1881 should stand part of the clause. Whether that date should be replaced by 1885 would be a question for after consideration.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
asked, whether the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Louth was not to omit the date from the clause, in order to insert one which would be equivalent to prolonging the operation of the Bill for seven years, and whether this was not the Question that would be put?
The Amendment is to leave out "eighty-one," in order to insert "eighty-five." That amounts to two separate Questions. It is possible for the Committee to affirm the one without affirming the other. The first Question is that the words "eighty-one" stand part of the clause.
THE O'CONOR DON
asked the Committee to vote with him for the omission of "eighty-one," not with the view of inserting the words proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Louth, but with the view of inserting words which would limit the operation of the Bill to five years.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
wished to know whether, in the event of the hon. and learned Member for Louth not carrying his Amendment, it would be competent for the hon. Member for Roscommon to move that a different date be inserted.
If the Committee decide to omit the words "eighty-one," it will be open to the Committee to insert "eighty-five," as proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Louth, or "eighty-four," or "eighty-three," or "eighty-two."
§ Question put, "That the words 'eighty-one' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 143; Noes 176: Majority 33.—(Div. List, No. 156.)
§ THE O'CONOR DON moved that the words proposed to be inserted should be "eighty-three."
The Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Louth is before the Committee, and must either be withdrawn or negatived before other words can be proposed.
said, if the Amendment were withdrawn by permission of the Committee, it would be open to any other Member to move the insertion of other words; but, by the usual courtesy of the House, the priority of moving an Amendment would be given to the promoter of the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
complained that the front Opposition Bench had not assisted the minority to gain any concession. He thought they were much mistaken if they expected to gain 922 much credit in Ireland for the course they had adopted; and he trusted that when that Bench did yield something to a large and influential minority, it would be remembered that they had, from beginning to end, supported a Bill which, in his opinion, was utterly opposed to the traditions of the Liberal Party. He hoped the Committee would now consider that if not three years, at least, some shorter period than five years, should be agreed upon. He would suggest that four years should be the period.
§ MR. STACPOOLE
said, a fair compromise having been offered but not accepted, negotiation ought now to be at an end. He moved that the Chairman report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Stacpoole.)
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
hoped the proposal would not be persisted in. There had been great complaints that the Bill was brought in for consideration at late hours. He himself joined in these complaints, and it would be wrong now to acquiesce in the proposition to report Progress. If any hon. Member objected to the term of years proposed by the hon. Member for Roscommon, he might move another term that would commend itself to the Committee as the more reasonable course.
It is not competent to move that until after the Amendment of the hon. Member for Roscommon has been disposed of.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA,
remarking that he might address himself to the general Question as there was a Motion to report Progress before the Committee, urged his hon. Friend (the O'Conor Don) to make a small concession by adopting the date suggested by the hon. Member for the County of Cork. Otherwise, it would be impossible, in the time left for debate, to make further progress that night.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
thought that if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Roscommon were carried, it would not be competent for the hon. Member for County Cork to move the 923 insertion of 1882. He would take this opportunity of expressing his concurrence with the hon. Member for County Cork in the observations he had made. As one who had been a strong supporter of Liberal opinion in that House for over 25 years, he must express surprise at the manner in which, en bloc, the front Opposition Bench had gone against the expressed opinion of many men in the House who, in times of difficulty, had supported them.
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
said, it appeared to him unfortunate if, when the Committee were upon a basis of compromise, some middle term could not be agreed upon. He suggested the 1st August, 1882.
pointed out that the words 31st December were already adopted, and it would be impossible to go back to alter them.
THE O'CONOR DON
thought the hon. Member for Londonderry had not fully comprehended the effect of his Amendment, which would be to make the period even shorter than was suggested by the hon. Member for County Cork. He presumed that he meant to suggest August, 1883. If a compromise of that kind would meet his hon. Friends, if they would consent that the Bill should continue in operation to the end of the Session which succeeded 1882, then he would not object to the compromise. That would be, say, four years, and a Session of Parliament.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
was not decided whether it was open to him to move an Amendment on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Roscommon. If so, he would propose the end of December, 1882.
directed that the hon. Member could say "No" to the Amendment, and if it were negatived, he could then propose his own words.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, that if the hon. Member for Roscommon insisted on dividing on this, they might as well go on with Progress. If the hon. Member would agree to insert December, 1882, the clause would be passed and the thing would be done. If not, it would be necessary to take the sense of the Committee.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, it appeared to him that the proposals of the hon. Members for Youghal, Cork, and Londonderry were exactly the same; and 924 as the hon. Member for Londonderry had been a staunch supporter of the Bill, perhaps his suggestion would carry some weight with the promoters of the Bill. The hon. Member for Roscommon had suggested an Amendment which could not in Order be put; but did he think it worth while to endanger the passing of the Bill after all that had taken place for the sake of a question involving a few months? He understood the clause would be allowed to pass if the suggestion of the hon. Member for Londonderry were taken.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
did not believe the hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Stacpoole) would ask to report Progress. An element of dissension had been introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan). A great many Members thought the feeling of the Committee was in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna); but when the front Opposition Bench was against them, it was impossible for them to carry their Amendment. The hon. Member for Ennis was quite right in introducing his Motion to report Progress. It was well known that the feeling of the Committee was in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member for Youghal, and yet no concession had been made; and, under these circumstances, the hon. Member for Ennis was quite right to proceed with his Motion.
THE O'CONOR DON
held that he had made concessions. He had conceded the principle that the Bill should be terminable, and then an hon. Member moved to report Progress. He wanted to show that he was desirous of meeting the proposal now made. He would accept the proposal of the hon. Member for Cork County. He begged to omit 1883, and he would accept 1882.
§ MR. STACPOOLE
thought the feeling of the Committee was decidedly in favour of three years. He would withdraw the Motion to report Progress.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Major O'Gorman.)
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
trusted the hon. and gallant Member would not perse- 925 vere. What was now before the Committee was an entirely new proposal, and was accepted by both Parties.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
would ask his hon. and gallant Friend to withdraw. He thought they had gone so far that they ought to be satisfied.
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN
said, that the Bill was so vicious that he was determined by all the means in his power to exasperate the people of Ireland against it. He would prefer that the Bill should be deferred for an interminable period. [Cries of "Withdraw!"] He should not withdraw.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Amendment (The O' Conor Don) agreed to.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN moved to report Progress.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.