HC Deb 09 July 1879 vol 247 cc1970-2008

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, there had already been six Sessions of the present Parliament; and although a Bill such as he now ventured to propose had been introduced each Session, this was the first occasion on which it had reached the stage of a public discussion. The hon. Member for Hull (Mr. C. H. Wilson), who originally had charge of the Bill, gave way year after year, as well as last year, when, having secured a favourable day for the second reading, he used a wise discretion and gave it up for the purpose of enabling the Irish Sunday Closing Bill to be discussed. That measure had been promoted by the friends of temperance, and opposed in the interest of the liquor trade in this country, both sides knowing that it would be used as a most important precedent to justify a like step as regarded England. The most pleasing feature in the history of this Parliament was that a measure had been passed for Ireland which had given the very greatest satisfaction to all lovers of temperance, and religion, and morality in the Three Kingdoms. He knew it was said that questions such as the present were social questions beyond the province of Parliament; but it was too late to make that objection. Parliament had established precedents which they were perfectly entitled to follow. The liquor traffic had always been subjected to restriction and regulation, both as to time and place, and Parliament had, by the Scotch and Irish Acts, declared its competency to deal with it in the manner he now proposed. He was one of those who maintained that one day of rest in the week was a Divine institution, and ought to be regarded as such by a Christian country. It was, therefore, a great anomaly that while the ordinary tradesmen had to close their places of business, one trade, and that which was attended by the most baneful results, was allowed to proceed on the Sunday. The origin of this was obvious. Public-houses were originally intended as places of entertainment for wayfarers; but the modern gin palace was an entirely different institution. Anyone standing outside the doors of some of those places at 11 o'clock on a Sunday night would hardly be able to realize the fact that the place was in a Christian land, and the time was the evening of the Lord's Gay. He had seen this for himself in various parts of London; and he was pained to see the well-dressed and attractive-looking barmaids who were employed busily serving strong drink to the most miserable and degraded of their sex. The responsibility in these matters rested with the Parliament, for it had the power to interfere. His measure differed in character from others which had been introduced, and that mainly on account of its simplicity. It did not deal with any difficult question like that of licensing or local authorities; it did not raise the question of vested rights, because, in the discussion on the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, the House, by a deliberate vote, rejected the proposal that those interested in the traffic were entitled to compensation by reason of the abolition of the Sunday trade. Vast numbers of people in this country thought the time had arrived when a measure of this kind ought to be passed, and they would eagerly look to the decision of the House to-day. Ho would strongly urge the Government to state what they intended to do. For some time they had been in the habit of saying that they would not declare their policy on questions affecting temperance until the Committee of them House of Lords had reported. He would now ask the Government whether they would go as far as the House of Lords' Committee recommended in the matter of Sunday closing. The Lords' Committee, he thought, had been unnecessarily timid; but they had recommended that the open hours in London on Sunday should be reduced from 7 to 4. They proposed that the afternoon opening should be done away with entirely, except for selling over the counter, and that the houses should be closed at 9 in the evening instead of 11. Many friends of this measure thought the great difficulty was in its application to the Metropolis; and he should be very glad to see the Bill passed, even though, as regarded the Metropolis, it was a measure not for total closing on Sundays, but for the amount of restriction which the Committee of the House of Lords had recommended, for, in his opinion, the hours from 9 to 11 were at present the most productive of evil. They had been told that this very question led to formidable riots in Hyde Park some years ago; but that was not the case. What caused those riots was not the Wilson-Patten Act, but a Sunday Trading Bill brought in by the present Lord Ebury. He (Mr. Stevenson) was too anxious for the object he had in view not to accept au instalment of it if he could not get the whole; and he, there- fore, wished the Government to say what course they proposed to take with regard to the Bill. Ho wanted to ask them whether they would not accept the reduced hours which the Committee of the House of Lords had recommended? It should be remembered, for it was a remarkable circumstance, that in the previous movements for restricting the hours on Sundays London had taken the lead, and the large cities next followed, and then the law had been applied to the Provinces. This was the case with the closing till 1 in the afternoon on Sun- days; he hoped that if they closed on Sundays in the Provinces London would follow the example, and that, in the end, they would have one measure applying to the whole of the country. He believed every hon. Member of the House was desirous of there being some reduction of the present hours; and he believed the Chancellor of the Exchequer would at once repudiate any consideration that the Revenue would suffer in consequence of the legislation he proposed. He thought that no Chancellor of the Exchequer would interpose the question of a falling off in the Revenue to the adoption of a measure which would promote the sobriety of the people. The great question was this — Was the country prepared for a change? A vastly extended and powerful feeling had been awakened on this question; and, at the present day, the national conscience had been aroused against the great national sin of intemperance. That feeling had of late years greatly increased, even among the working classes, in whose interest it was so often said that those places should be kept open. They saw those places open near their homes, and they knew how evil was their influence. The congregations of the various churches throughout the land were awakening to the evils of intemperance. The Church of England, he believed, was placing in almost all the parishes of the country an organization directed to the reduction of intemperance by moral suasion and every other means; and this was the legislative measure on which all its members were agreed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) presented the other day a Petition signed by 100,000 members of the Primitive Methodist body, who ought to know, if any persons could, the wants of working men. He attached the greatest importance to the testimony given in favour of his Bill by that body of Christians, who so zealously worked among classes of the population which the other Churches had often failed to reach. The British Women's Temperance League had also presented a Petition in favour of the Bill, signed by 70,000 women, and entirely by women, mostly of the working classes, and many of them wives of publicans. Many of them knew how their marketing suffered on Saturday nights from the competition it had to bear with the public-house in the application of the wages. But if that was bad for them on the Saturday night, how much worse was it for them on the Sunday, when the public-house had an entire monopoly? The Rev. R. Stowell, of Christ Church, Salford, said in his evidence before the Lords' Committee that the lower they went down in the scale of society the larger was the majority they found in favour of Sunday closing. When they got to the shopkeeper it was less, and when they got to the professional classes— the friends of the working classes, as they called themselves— it was much smaller. He (Mr. Stevenson) was perfectly willing to leave this question to the decision of the working classes themselves. They who represented the boroughs in that House held their seats by the suffrages of those men, and Parliament could not legislate on the question unless it had their consent. He had no fear of them, and he believed that if Parliament did not decide the question now, hon. Members and candidates throughout the country would hear of it in a very emphatic manner during the coming Election. He also quoted the evidence of Mr. R. Whitworth before the Lords' Committee, proving the great loss of work in mines and other industries on Mondays compared with the days in the middle of the week. The Bill was free from some of the difficulties that belonged to other parts of the same great question. It did not raise, for example, the question of the Permissive Bill, or of local option, the merits and advantages of which last he recognized. The Bill addressed itself to a policy which he believed would have the support of every friend of temperance legislation; and he fervently trusted that the next step Parliament would take on behalf of the sobriety of the people would be to pass a Sunday Closing Bill. That feeling was expressed by the extreme section of the friends of temperance — the Good Templars — at their recent gathering. He also believed that it would appear, if we could get at their real sentiments, that the publicans were in favour of this Bill. It was not to be expected that they ' would very openly express that opinion; but he might mention that at the canvass in Liverpool a large majority declared themselves favourable to some such measure as the present. The other day he presented a Petition from a small number of publicans at Middlesbrough, who expressed the grievance they felt because they, unlike other tradesmen, were deprived of their day of rest. It certainly seemed anomalous that one particular body of persons, and, of all others, publicans, should be deprived of their day of rest, and he thought too much was said against publicans by friends of temperance in their denunciation of intemperance. They should be charitable to them, and make allowance for the difficulties of their business. If there was any class in the country that needed the physical, moral, and spiritual benefits of the Gay of Rest, that class was the licensed victuallers; and he maintained that this Bill was brought forward in the interest of the licensed victuallers themselves. This was not a Party question, and he should be sorry in discussing it to indulge in anything approaching to Party remarks. It had been said, however, that the Government owed a great deal to the support they received from the publicans at the last Election. Whether that was so or not he did not say; but if the Government wanted to show its gratitude to the publicans they would support the Bill, by which they would give them this rest on Sundays, and enable them to enjoy that day in the society of their families, free from the toil to which they wore now subjected. Many of them were actually doing for themselves what the Bill proposed to do for them; and he might, therefore, be asked why they did not leave the matter to them? [" Hear, hear ! "1 He heard the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) say, "Hear, hear!" but the fact was, they could not leave it to voluntary action. Publicans were exposed to competition, and were obliged in self-defence to keep their houses open. There were, however, exceptions to the rule; and he was glad to be able to refer to what Mr. Dawes, a brewer, said at a Sunday-closing meeting at Dudley. After excusing his presence there, he declared himself in favour of total Sunday closing, and said he had 12 houses under his control, and there was not one open on Sunday. They took twice as much on Saturday, however; and they found that the beer kept perfectly bright and fresh. He had received a letter also from a large brewer in the Midland counties, who did not wish' his name mentioned, but who was entirely in favour of the Bill. And a brewer in his (Mr. Stevenson's) own district had also given him the opinion that it would increase the respectability of the trade. What he had just stated ought to dispose of what had been called " the stale beer difficulty." If a working man bought his beef on Saturday, why should he not buy his beer at the same time? The difficulty was occasioned by the bad beer, which was too common; and nothing would more tend to the supply of good and wholesome beer than the necessity of supplying for the Sunday consumption beer which was sold on the Saturday. Indeed, he should not be surprised to find that if this Bill passed, publicans would announce that they sold beer warranted to keep bright and sparkling from Saturday until Monday. But, however that might be, was it not a miserable reason to assign for depriving hundreds and thousands of their fellow-citizens of their weekly rest, that it was to enable others to buy their beer fresh, instead of compelling them to buy it bottled? The fact was, that the great difficulty with many people was to keep the cork in the bottle from the Saturday to the Sunday; but Parliament need not go out of its way to legislate for that class. They heard a great deal of the Factory Acts, and a great deal of the nine hours' movement, and of the hours during which women were employed in factories. He wondered why the Factory Acts should not be applied to women and young persons employed in public-houses. Public-houses were open just double the number of hours that places under the Factory Acts were. It seemed to him that it was a serious matter indeed, and that it was the duty of Parliament to liberate those persons from their bondage. About 70 Boards of Guardians had petitioned in favour of the Bill. These were public representative bodies; they had to deal with the pauperism, and the insanity, and the evils which afflicted society, and they knew how much those evils were increased by the intemperance which abounded in the land, and that a measure that would reduce intemperance would diminish the burdens imposed on the ratepayers. These Petitions in favour of the Bill had been sent up from the most various districts of the country, from large seaports, and mining and manufacturing, as well as rural communities, and had been sent up also from as many as 21 Corporations. There was a Petition from the Salford Corporation, from which he quoted; and, indeed, throughout the North of England there was an extraordinary amount of unanimity in favour of the Bill. In the borough he represented — South Shields — the Town Council and the Board of Guardians were unanimous in petitioning in favour of the Bill. An open-air meeting on the subject, which was held in the marketplace, was attended by 2,000 people, and a resolution in favour of the Bill was unanimously adopted on the motion of the vicar. There had been a Petition in favour of the Bill from Leeds, among other places. He had attended meetings on the subject in various parts of the country, and had observed an entire absence of opposition to the Bill— a fact which was altogether unaccountable on the supposition that any considerable portion of the people were opposed to it. He maintained that the burden of proof in this matter rested with those who defended the present glaring exception to the general law of the country. It was to be observed that not a single Petition had been presented against the Bill, no Notice of opposition to it had been given, and, as yet, he did not know from what quarter it was to come. He would point out that the Bill did not interfere with the bonâ fide traveller, or with the lodger. They had been influenced in the debates on the Irish Sunday Closing Bill last year by the proof that a large majority of the Irish people were in favour of that measure. The proportion for the present Bill in England was quite as large. It was, at least, as eight in favour of it to one against. Out of 703,886 householders to whom they had sent questions as to their approval of the Bill or otherwise, 586,199 had answered " Yes; " 73,944 had answered " No; " and 43,743 were indifferent. Proof of the popular favour with which the Sunday Closing Bill was being received in Ireland would accumulate from year to year, and it would become at length impossible for Parliament to refuse a similar Bill for England. In Scotland, the Forbes-Mackenzie Act had proved most beneficial. The fact might be disputed; but it had been accepted by Parliament when it adopted a similar measure for Ireland. If it was still doubted, he would refer hon. Members to the evidence of Captain M'All the Superintendent of Police at Glasgow, and other witnesses, which was to the effect that drinking had diminished in Scotland. This matter could not rest there. They might oppose the Bill or they might not. The Bill might be defeated; but those who advocated it would still persevere. Parliament could not shut up the conscience of the country in this matter, and it would continue to make this demand until the Bill was passed. He wanted the Government to tell them what it would do. Would they turn a deaf ear to the Christian and philanthropic sentiments of the country? He trusted they would not; but that this Parliament, in its expiring days, would do itself the honour of passing a measure for closing public-houses on the Lord's Gay.

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


said, that if other duties had not called him away from London he would certainly have put down Notice of opposition to the Bill; for at least, on this as on other matters, he had the courage of his opinions. He did not put such Notice down, because he thought it probable he would not be able to be present to support the views he held on the subject. So far as the Bill was concerned, whatever the Government might say as to the length they were prepared to go, there could not be the slightest idea that this Bill could pass the second reading today. He would be extremely surprised to find that the House would be influenced by arguments such as had been advanced, or by the pressure brought to bear by a number of people who were continually endeavouring to impress upon the mind of the House that they, occupying a different position, knew infinitely better what was best for the class for which they sought to legislate than did the class most interested. Who cared for the opinion of teetotallers, Quakers, and other people, who were everlastingly telling him they were better than he was? Let them continue to enjoy that opinion; but, because they held hard, narrow, sanctimonious views, was he to be subject to coercion? He disavowed and repudiated such an idea in the strongest language. Who were they, who sought to dictate to the wage-earning classes what they should eat, what they should drink, and when they should eat, and when they should drink? At the bottom of this attempt was a large body of teetotallers, who did not really care half as much about closing public-houses on Sundays as they did for the total suppression of the sale of intoxicating liquors. It was a teetotal, not a temperance movement. It was one of six or seven steps by which these people were constantly pestering and harassing the House in the attempt to close public-houses altogether. Those who asked for this Bill preferred to ignore the fact that every publican might now, if he liked, shut up his house on Sunday. There was a hardship, it was said— but where? The sole hardship they could see was that, on the only day when the workman could really enjoy the comforts of home among his family, then he should be deprived of his glass of beer. Sunday was a day set apart for rest and recreation. It had been set apart by Divine Providence, or, at all events, by human institution, for purposes of rest and recreation; but to say that Sunday—or, as it was often called, the Sabbath, which was a Jewish institution—was to be devoted simply to church, to chapel, to psalm-singing, and other matters of that kind, was a view of things he did not agree with, and which he did not think would receive general acceptation. Friends of temperance, it was said, were unanimously in favour of this Bill. Well, he hoped he was as strong a supporter of the principles of temperance as any man alive, and yet no man detested this Bill more than he did. Ho detested it, because it was class legislation; it was an attempt to deal with the poor man's right by a minority who knew that such legislation could not affect themselves. If it was desired to adopt such legislation, let it be fairly applied; and, while shutting up the poor man's club— the public-house—let the rich man's club, as well as his own private cellars, be closed also. " Give us," said the supporters of this Bill, " give us this instalment, and you may, if you like, omit London from the purview of this measure." But why? Why except London, if the Bill was a good Bill? Especially, when the lion. Gentleman who moved the second reading of this Bill said he was in the habit of visiting public-houses in London on Sunday, and said he saw such scenes as he was sorry to witness. Then, why except London? Was it from motives of expediency? Was this the thin edge of the wedge? Let the promoters of this Bill know they never would get in a wedge by such a measure as this. If it be good to omit London, why not also Leeds Manchester, Liverpool, and all the shipping places? Was London remarkable for Sabbatarianism? Could London be trusted more than Shields? He hoped Shields was not a drunken place, though the same rule should apply there as in London. It was a measure of liberty he was told, not of restriction; but was not a man free to keep out of the public-house if he chose? Why, the whole foundation of the Bill was restriction.


I said liberty for the servants employed in these houses.


But that was not what was first said. Liberty was claimed for the Bill as a broad principle, liberty and not restriction; whereas the whole corpus vile, if he might so name it, of the Bill was restriction of the liberty of the subject, an attempt to deal with the habits of working men by those who really knew very little of the phases of the working man's life. Who asked for it? He could understand Boards of Guardians and Town Councils, who never put the restriction upon themselves, saying—" Let us do this for other people; " but would these Boards of Guardians, and other bodies represented as being eager for this Bill, would they except themselves, save only those individuals among them who were in the habit of drinking water only? Would these bodies submit to have this restriction placed upon themselves upon Sundays? Yet they thought it right to attempt to teetotalize others. Then, to his astonishment, he was told that publicans were the only class of trade continued on Sundays. Were there not railway companies running their trains on Sundays from end to end of the land? Did the hon. Member think he could put a stop to this day's traffic? Why, it was well known that many of the companies transported a very large part of their goods-traffic on Sundays. Did the hon. Member never hear of vessels leaving port on Sunday? Would he put this restriction on the shipping trade? Look at the cigar shops he would find open on Sundays from end to end of London. Let the hon. Member change his investigation from public-houses to railways, and he would find, if not at Shields, yet at the larger places, on Sundays in the booking-office, scores and scores of packages being invoiced by clerks; and he would find that in saying publicans were the only traders carrying on business on Sunday he had fallen into an extraordinary error. This was part of the large intention, attempted to be carried out by various methods, to suppress the trade altogether. It was a more insidious plan than that of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and it was all the worse for that; but it was part of the whole scheme of those who sought by this means to improve people by Act of Parliament. Every attempt at this kind of coercion he should resist. To the question, was this a practical measure, he at once answered no. It had been tried, and it would be idle to say that the Sunday Closing Act of 20 years ago would ever have been repealed if it had not been apparent that the feeling of the country was so strong that they would stand this coercive legislation no longer. The House at that time, he was told, " took a panic; " but panics were not usual in the House of Commons since the days of Cromwell, and the House was strong enough to support its own views. The only panic was, that someone found they had taken a step in the wrong direction, so far as England was concerned, and the English Legislature took upon itself, wisely for once, to go back on its own steps and redress the error it had committed. If, some 20 years' ago, it was thought desirable to retrace such a step as this, how could it be supposed that, with the increased intelligence and sobriety of the present day, that attempt could again successfully be tried? Surely it was infinitely better to let the matter remain as it was, and not attempt such legislation as this. It was hoped, said the promoter, that London, sooner or later, would follow the lead of the country— supposing this Bill applied to Leeds, Manchester, and other towns— but what assurance was there of this? It was something like that assumption on which so-called Free Trade was supported. It was said that if England adopted the principles of Free Trade foreign countries would follow; but the foreigner knew better, and London knew better than to adopt such a notion as that embodied in the Bill. They were not prepared for this change, and, indeed, if any change at all was wanted, it was in a totally opposite direction. It was not by this attempt to force people into spending all Sunday in church or chapel that they could make them good. They must give them other means of recreation. [" Hear, hear! "] He was glad to hear that cheer; but how many hon. Members who supported the Bill would support another Bill for opening museums and other places of recreation? Why, there would be an outcry wild from the same men who supported this present Bill. Sunday, they would say, was a day for religion and piety only, and so it was, but not in the sense taught by some on the other side of the House. Their idea of religion and piety was associated with the idea of all Sunday passed in churches, chapels, or meeting-houses. They would deprive the wage-earning class of this opportunity of self-help and recreation. This, they had been told, was not a Party question; but he said distinctly it was. Not a question to any extent between political Parties; but it was a Party question, in the sense that it was maintained by a party of teetotallers and would-be Pharisees against the rest of the world. Of what value were the Petitions alluded to? Why, they were all made in the same mould— got up by deacons of Independent chapels, preachers of one sort and another, and in a set form of language; they all looked upon intoxicating drink sold on Sunday as a great promoter of crime. Then, again, there was the sentiment, that could come from none but a teetotaller, that beer could be preserved as "bright and sparkling" from the Saturday to the Sunday, as when it was drawn and drank on Saturday. It required but little knowledge of beer to discover the fallacy of this; and what lecturer in chemistry could have taught the doctrine the hon. Member enunciated it was impossible for him (Mr. Wheelhouse) to imagine or discover. This was added, with a touch of satire— that there might bed a difficulty in keeping the cork in the bottle; but this was calumny upon the wage-earning class, who year by year were more or more practising habits of self-control and sobriety. If a man chose to get drunk, then the law was strong enough to deal with him; but why punish all for these transgressors? Whatever there was in the oft-quoted example of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, let it not be kept out of sight that there was this difference— that the customary drink of England was beer, and in Scotland and Ireland whisky, and whisky would keep for a day without deterioration. Canvass the wage class fairly, put to them questions likely to elicit their real opinions, instead of cut-and-dried prepared inquiries, and there would be overwhelming opinion against this coercive measure. For example, let some such inquiries as these be put to them:—First—" Do you think you can manage your own households for yourselves? " Second—" Do you want any interference with your domestic life by the Legislature? " Third—" While everybody in a different station to yourselves is left with his own cellar and his club, to go to whenever he wishes or desires, are you willing— not to say anxious— that you should not be able to get a glass of beer or spirits, except you buy the beer at least the day before you want it, if you desire to have it for your Sunday's dinner; or a little brandy, even for medical purposes, on a Sunday, to find yourself in some difficulty to get it? " And they would very soon find out the true feeling of the wage classes. On such a subject as this, he did not require any House of Lords' Committees to show or prove the general feeling. In one observation made by the Mover and his Friends he (Mr. Wheelhouse) fully concurred. They were told that this movement never should cease. Of course, with the House of Commons, as it was constitutionally formed, it was quite true that if hon. Members, though defeated, year after year, Session after Session, would still persistently continue to waste the time of the House and of the country, by reiterating and persevering in abortive attempts at legislation of this kind, no one upon earth could prevent them doing so; but how far they were justified in that proceeding was a wholly different matter. If they were so determined, no one could prevent their acting up to the old adage- Never ending, still beginning, Fighting still, and still destroying. But any such work would be found too Sisyphus-like ever to succeed. He had no hesitation in condemning this Bill as embodying class legislation of the most objectionable character, as being an unjustifiable interference with the fair liberty of the wage classes; and he, therefore, moved that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words " upon this day three months."—(Mr. Wheelhouse.)

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


said, he should give his most cordial support to the Bill. He believed that the sentiments of the country were steadily increasing in favour of this measure, and that the most beneficial results would follow its adoption. His hon. Friend who introduced the Bill had quoted from the evidence given before the House of Lords, in which it was stated with great truth that the further you penetrated, the lower down you went in the social strata, the more earnest was found to be the feeling in favour of closing public-houses on Sundays. That was very natural, because it was the lowest classes who felt the evils of the present system the most acutely. He had had some opportunity, at public meetings and elsewhere, of testing the opinion of the labouring and artizan classes of Lancashire on the subject, and he had been surprised at the amount of enthusiastic support which they gave to this Bill. The working men of Lancashire were men who gave one the idea that they would hold their own opinions, and were as anxious to prevent any interference with their liberty as any class in England, and yet they were in open meetings almost unanimous in favour of this measure. The hon. and learned Member who preceded him (Mr. Wheelhouse) had said that he thought nothing of Petitions, and thought nothing of house-to-house visitation, by which an endeavour had been made to ascertain the views of the people of this country, and had been successful in ascertaining the opinions of something like 750,000 heads of families. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) said he thought nothing of all this; but he must confess that he attached much importance to it. He was glad to see that this movement was now extending to the higher branches of society. They had had a Petition presented to that House, signed by 14,000 or 15,000 clergymen and other ministers of religion, and there was now an association called the Church of England Temperance Association which had taken up this question, and he thought that was sufficient to show that the higher and middle classes of this country were also in favour of the measure. Last year they had a great contest in that House on the subject of the closing of public-houses on Sundays in Ireland; and it would be in the recollection of all present that the measure received the support of Her Majesty's Government, given at first, it was true, very reluctantly, but afterwards, he would say, very loyally. Although the progress of that measure was obstructed by some very long debates, and upwards of 40 Divisions, it was at last carried. After being carried in that House, the Bill was sent up to the House of Lords, and in the House of Lords it met with no opposition whatever, but, in the course of two or three nights, passed into law. Whilst the Bill was in the House of Lords one short speech was made in which it was said that it was a tentative measure, and the speaker said that he trusted it would be extended to this country if it was found to work successfully in Ireland. He might say that, so far as experience showed at present, that Bill had been highly successful in Ireland. It was, perhaps, too soon to speak very positively; but certainly, from all the information which had been afforded to the House up to the present time, the measure had been very successful in diminishing intoxication and promoting the public peace in Ireland. He did not suppose that they would hear from the Treasury Bench or from the lips of any hon. Member in the House to-day that there had been any serious cause to regret the passing of that Act. It might be that some objections might be raised to that Act, even now, and it was possible that the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) might still object to it; but when the Bill was under discussion in the House of Commons, the hon. and learned Member for Leeds said that if the Bill was valuable its operation ought to be extended to England, and that Ireland ought not to have the exclusive benefit of it. That was his own view, and he wanted to extend the benefit of that measure to England. It was certainly in the minds of the supporters of the Bill last Session that that would be the case. They might on this question vary " a saying very old and true "— If that you will England win, Then with Ireland first begin. He ventured to appeal to all hon. Members of the House, whether from Ireland or Scotland, which had analogous measures, Scotland having had the benefit for many years, and Ireland only lately, to give their cordial support on this occasion, for the purpose of conferring a similar advantage upon England. It was true that the Select Committee of the House of Lords had only just made its Report, and that in their Report they did not venture to recommend the total closing of public-houses on Sundays; but they did recommend a diminution of the hours on Sundays. He should not go into this question now; but he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would take it into their serious consideration. But the reasons given by the House of Lords were not that it was undesirable to close public-houses during the whole of Sunday; but they doubted whether public opinion was sufficiently ripe for such a measure. His opinion was that the opinion of the English people was quite as ripe for the passing of such a measure as the opinion of the Irish people was last year; but there was this difference— that the classes who were less exposed to the evil and demoralizing effect of the opening of public-houses on Sundays were not so convinced of the necessity of measures being taken in England as they had been with regard to Ireland. He had always consistently supported measures for closing public-houses on Sunday, believing that though it might, in a few instances, in some degree inconvenience those who would otherwise make use of them, yet that the benefit to the community generally would counteract the inconvenience. He supported this measure because every movement in the direction that he and others who supported the Bill had in view was useful. He wished to give one or two reasons in support of his opinion. Taking the case of the spirit vaults and gin palaces, it had been said frequently in these debates that England was under entirely different circumstances from Scotland and Ireland, because in England the people drank beer, whilst in Scotland and Ireland they drank whisky. He thought if that was the case there could not be any objection to closing spirit vaults and gin palaces on the whole of Sundays. They heard so much about the deterioration of beer if kept a night after being drawn that he would really venture with some diffidence to give his own experience to the House. In his school days he remembered that the fresh beer was not very good, and it was a custom to put the beer in a bottle with a little rice and a few raisins, and that improved it very much, and it was more enjoyable than the fresh beer. Then, the question of clubs had again been raised in this debate. He thought that the experience of most hon. Members in the House was that there was no real analogy between clubs and public-houses— but, even if there was, he thought that members of clubs would not refuse to consent to their being closed on Sundays rather than continue an acknowledged stumbling-block to the success of this Bill. But the working men could have clubs themselves, and they had clubs, and he believed that working men would have more clubs than they now had if the public-houses were closed on Sundays. The fact was that public-houses were a very extravagant and expensive kind of clubs, besides being clubs of a very unsatisfactory character. There a man was expected to drink " for the good of the house." Very much had been said about gentlemen having their own cellars and working men not being able to keep a cellar; but he did not think it was worth while to go into such an argument. In his school days, when he tried the experiment with the beer which he had related to the House, the boys had their cellars, and working men could do the same. He thought it would be very easy for a working man to keep a cellar, or a similar receptacle. There was another argument which he must refer to, and that was the supposed increased private drinking that would result from the closing of public-houses. Hon. Members in that House had often dwelt very emphatically upon that question; but he was glad to find that the experience of Scotland and Ireland was in a contrary direction. He was aware that many excellent persons had demurred to the closing of public-houses on Sunday on that ground; but he could not think their view was well supported. He had nothing more to say except to express a hope that there would not be any extreme opposition to this Bill. He should give his vote to the hon. Member opposite who had introduced the Bill. The matter could not rest where it was, for there was a strong and general feeling throughout the country at large, from north to south, which would not be satisfied until the same justice which had already been given to Scotland and Ireland was given to England.


observed, that the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) had described the Bill as a coercion Bill; but it should be remembered that all legislation was more or less coercive. He maintained that if they examined the Returns prepared on the subject, it would be found that the proportion of the opinion of the ratepayers would be found to be eight to one in favour of the Bill. The cry of " coercion " against the measure which had been raised was easier to advance than an argument. His opinion was that if any element of coercion were contained in the proposals of the Bill it was the coercion of the vast majority of the people. The overwhelming portion of the people were in favour of the reform, and why should they not obtain it? Scotland had for a large number of years had this provision, and, so far as the House knew, Scotland was perfectly satisfied. Ireland had made the experiment, and they had heard nothing against it. Why not extend the same privilege to England? One objection made was, that while the Scotch and Irish peoples drank spirits, the English were a beer-drinking people, and, therefore, did not need so much restriction; but, in his opinion, the consumption of gin and brandy in this country was large enough to justify the passing of this measure. Then, there was a strong point in favour of the Bill, which was that the publicans themselves, to a certain extent, desired such a measure. It was said that they were already free to shut up their houses on Sunday if they pleased; but that was no real freedom. If any individual publican were to shut on Sundays, he would lose so severely in pocket that he could not be expected to do it. What was wanted was an Act to make all close equally, and not allow competition on Sunday between publican and publican. Many publicans said they should be glad of a day of rest, and they groaned under the tyranny of a trade which compelled them to open their houses on Sunday. On the other hand, a large number of the Sunday frequenters of public-houses, who could not resist the temptation of the open public-houses, but Who used them against their better knowledge, would find it a boon if these houses were shut up. The question, no doubt, would arise as to where the people who frequented public-house on Sunday afternoons and evenings would go, and where they would spend their time; but to close the public-houses would encourage a great movement to give the working-classes other places to go to. It would give strength to the question of opening the museums, and would give a remarkable impetus to the establishment of working-men's clubs; and the passing of thins Bill would be the commencement of an extended movement for the benefit of the social improvement of the working classes. He should support the Bill, not with the view of curtailing the present advantages and privileges of the working classes, but with a view to the increase of their real comfort, enjoyment, and benefit.


said, he approached this question with some diffidence; but he felt that in opposing the Bill it was due to himself and his constituents not to give a silent vote. The hon. Member who brought the Bill forward said that no Christians, philanthropists, or good men, could oppose it; such a statement placed himself and others in an unfair position. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Birley) was a member of several diocesan temperance societies, and so was he; the last hon. Member who had spoken (Mr. Cowper-Temple) was an advocate for coffee-taverns, and so was he. Yet, while he was as interested in the promotion of temperance as other hon. Members, still he did not see his way to support this Bill. The hon. Member for Manchester argued that public opinion was ripe on this question; but, from statistics he had been able to get, he could not agree with the hon. Member. He had a pamphlet, issued by the Lord's Day Observance Society, with reference to the working of the Licensing Act of 1872, which had an important bearing on this subject. The question was whether or not the Lords' Committee were right in believing that public opinion was not yet ripe for such a measure? He himself had not yet heard anything from the supporters of this Bill of the ill-effects of the passing of the Act of 1872, except in the case of the Metropolis, which, curiously enough, was not to be included in the operations of the Bill. In the pamphlet he had referred to, the following question had been asked:— Would you wish to see any alteration in regard to the regulations of the Act of 1872 with reference to the Lord's Day; and, if so, what change would you desire? The police were canvassed for an answer to that question; and the police of 64 districts were in favour of leaving the Act as it was, one district reported in favour of relaxing the restrictions, 20 for further restrictions, and only 27 out of the 12 answers urged total closing. The police, indeed, in their answers, testified to the great and beneficial results of the Act of 172, and thought it would be a pity to disturb the Act; while some thought there would be a great difficulty in enforcing the closing of public-houses on Sunday. Then the magistrates had returned 33 answers, and only nine of them were in favour of total closing; and out of 187 replies from clergymen and other persons only 63 were in favour of it. Of course, many of these answers were given from an entirely Sabbatarian point of' view. That evidence led him to doubt seriously whether this was an opportune time to make any change in the present law; or whether, when the Act of 1872 was working so well, it should be interfered with. There were, no doubt, many persons who would be glad to shut all the public-houses, and do away with the use of alcohol; but the question was, whether they should disturb the present law or not? To close the public-houses on Sundays would create a great deal of ill-feeling without promoting the cause of temperance. He was not indisposed still further to contract the hours during which the public-houses were opened on Sundays, so far as to say that no one but a traveller, or a person requiring it for his family, should be served with drink in a house, and to place some restrictions so as to prevent what had been designated "clubbism" in licensed houses on Sundays. He was as much opposed as any to public-houses being opened for mere tippling and joviality; he only cared for the accommodation of the traveller and the supply of the drink required for family meals, which it would he tyrannical to deny to those who could not otherwise keep it in condition. Then, there was another point to be considered, and that was that Sunday closing would probably drive people who now drank beer to drink spirits, because they kept better than beer, which would be most disastrous to the country. He was of opinion that no case had been made out for altering the law; and, although he was a strong advocate for temperance, he should vote against the second reading of this Bill.


said, that he, for one, would be quite willing to adopt the compromise suggested by the last speaker, and merely have the houses open at reasonable hours for the convenience of those who desired drink for their meals; for he wished to avoid, what would be a calamity—the substitution of spirits for beer. But as to the general protests against restriction, this was a restricted trade; and it was an admitted fact that, on the whole, people had been made better by Acts of Parliament imposing restrictions. There was no doubt that the working classes in great numbers were in favour of this Bill; and yet the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) got up in his place and said that this measure was not wanted. He (Mr. Pease) wanted to know who it was who objected to the Bill? There were no Petitions against it from his own district, while there were a very large number in favour of it. The public opinion of Leeds had been tested in various ways, and always with the result of proving that an overwhelming majority of the people were in favour of this Bill. In Manchester, Blackburn, and other great towns, there was a preponderance of public opinion in favour of the Bill. The people themselves desired it, and employers of labour had good reasons for desiring it also, owing to the large percentage of workmen who now absented themselves from their duties on Monday. In fact, it was the general opinion that the working classes would be more sober, happier, and better off, if public-houses were closed on Sunday. Public opinion in the North of England was ripe and ready for the Bill— indeed, he believed that if they canvassed the working men from town to town a large proportion would be found to be in favour of it. The old cry that it would lead to shebeening had been raised. He did not believe that it would, because, from inquiries he had made, he was convinced that shebeening did not arise so much from the desire of the public to get liquor as from the avarice of the lowest class of brewers, who, for their own purposes, set up men of their own in shebeens and paid the fines they incurred. A large number of the licensed victuallers were in favour of the measure. In an iron district of Wales 31 publicans asked for Sunday closing, 11 were against it, and 11 were neutral. In Liverpool 954 drink - sellers were in favour, and 254 against it. In Wisbeach all were in favour of closing. .The six days' licence did not meet the question, because the publicans would not like to see their customers go into other houses because their own were shut up. The licensed victuallers desired to have their day of rest like other people; but they naturally said—" What you do for one you must do for all." He therefore asked the Government to put England in the same position as Ireland and Scotland. He advocated the second reading of this Bill — although, if the House came to the conclusion to put in a clause to open public-houses for a few hours for the sale of beer to be drunk off the premises, he should not object to that compromise; but further than that he was not disposed to go.


agreed that Sunday closing was a question of the immediate future, and that the well-being of the working classes would probably be promoted by it, though not, perhaps, so much as hon. Members supposed; but he doubted whether public opinion was yet ripe for it. The mass of opinion cited by the promoters of the Bill was only, after all, a fraction of the public opinion of the country. He should like to know what the clergy and the magistracy, for instance, had to say to it. Certainly, before Parliament legislated in the sense proposed, they ought to have a larger basis of public opinion to go upon than they had at present. The measure seemed to him to share the general failing of measures of its class— it was too stringent. He believed the friends of temperance would gain more than they did if they asked for less; because, by the Permissive Bill, and even by Bills such as the present one, they placed him and others under the necessity of appearing to oppose their views, while they really, to some extent, shared them. This Bill did not involve any question of principle, but rather the well-being and convenience of the general public. The presumption was in favour of closing public-houses on Sunday; but it was idle for the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) to contend that Parliament had no right to interfere with the sale of beer on Sunday. If he had not been decided before he came down to the House, the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Leeds would have determined him to vote for the Bill. A cause that had so little to be said for it must be a very bad cause indeed. The question they had to consider was, whether this Bill would be for the convenience of the country? and he should like to see the opinion of the working classes fully expressed upon the subject before any Act was passed. That did not seem to him to have been done yet. He also would like to have the opinion of the clergy and the magistracy; and he trusted that those who had charge of the Bill would take steps to get those opinions. The matter had not been put before the householders, and the present House of Commons would not be justified in passing this Bill without a larger basis to go on than they had at present. He had based his arguments in favour of the measure, as far as they went, in the absence of any evidence to show that it would interfere with the convenience of the people; but he could not believe its effects on the morals of the people would be so great as it was supposed. In Scotland, for instance, there had been of late a marked increase in private drinking, and when staying at Edinburgh he had met a gentleman in the streets very drunk at 10 o'clock on Sunday morning. This Bill went a long way beyond the suggestion of the House of Lords' Committee, and that fact would prevent many hon. Members voting for it. It was, also, a very bad practice for Members to bring forward a measure for one thing, and then for the House to be told that they would adopt another. Many hon. Members were in favour of partial closing, and yet they were forced to vote on a question of total closing.


in supporting the Bill, said, that the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) had been, up to the present time, the only one that could be called in any way an opposition con amore to the measure. In former years they had had many hon. Members putting down Notices of opposition to this Bill; but whether hon Gentlemen had changed their minds or not, certain it was that, on the present occasion, they had not displayed any such opposition. Among those who opposed the Bill on former occasions was one of the hon. Members for Scarborough (Sir Charles Legard), who probably had changed his views on finding that 2,952 persons in that borough were in favour of total closing, as against 326 who were opposed to that arrangement. Perhaps that strong argument had its weight with the hon. Member. They had been told by the hon. and learned Member for Leeds that they on that (the Opposition) side of the House were in the position of pharisaical teachers of sobriety. But he thought they would be able to show that this preaching of sobriety would add to the prosperity of the country. Very few on this side of the House brought forward this measure as a teetotal measure, and wished to deprive the poor man of his beer; but they thought their action in obtaining the passage of this measure would tend very much to increase the prosperity and sobriety of the working class. Among the arguments against the Bill was one that while the working man would be prevented from purchasing a glass of beer on Sunday the clubs were open to the wealthy. Well, if the Metropolis were exempted, he did not know where clubs existed in which the upper classes were on Sundays provided with drink to any extent. They, therefore, considered that the Metropolis was altogether an exception. The Metropolis was always filled with thousands of strangers, who were compelled to make it their home and go to the clubs. It might, therefore, become necessary in Committee to exempt the Metropolis from the operation of the measure. An argument of this character was also raised against the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, and in consequence five of the largest towns in that country were exempted from the Act. In the same way, there was nothing to prevent the hon. and learned Member for Leeds from inducing the House to exempt the town which he represented. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Pease) proposed that there should be one or two hours set apart in the course of the day for the public-house to remain open for the purpose of supplying drink for supper and dinner. He (Mr. Wilson) believed his hon. Friend who had introduced the Bill was quite prepared to accept a suggestion of this sort— that would carry great weight with many hon. Members, who were fully aware that this was a great social question, and that the alteration would give them an opportunity of voting for this measure when they could not otherwise feel justified in doing so. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Percy) had spoken of this as a new measure; but he would remind him that it had been before the country for a very great number of years. A large number of earnest men were devoting their lives to this measure. They were holding meetings all over the country, and Petitions were being sent up to the House by hundreds — indeed, he might say by thousands — in favour of this Bill. Where at those meetings were the opponents of the measure, who had it in their power both to speak and petition against it? They had not done so. Several other lines of argument had been used against the Bill; but nearly every one of them had been met by the speakers who had addressed the House. At that time, when it was essential that a Division should be taken, in order to know who it was that supported or opposed the Bill, he would not trespass any longer upon the patience of the House. Before concluding, however, he would only say that his hon. Colleague presented yesterday to the House a Petition in favour of the Bill from the Town Council of Hull, and which bore the corporate seal. Petitions from other Town Councils and Boards of Guardians had also been presented; and if they were not to assume from those Petitions that the feeling of the country was strongly in favour of this measure, how was the House of Commons to be assured of the sentiment of the country? So far as his own constituency was concerned, he could assure the House there was a strong feeling there, not only among the inhabitants generally, but among the clergy of all denominations. He would appeal to country Gentlemen on the other side of the House to say what they did on their own properties. They were accustomed to shut up public-houses wherever they were able to do so; and, where they had shut them up, when had they a Petition from the tenants to open them again? Such a thing was unknown throughout the length and breadth of the land. The House might depend upon it that this measure would deprive a great majority of the working classes of temptation, and that in talking of robbing the poor man of his beer they were only stating half of the question, for they did not consider that the temptations of the public-houses robbed poor women and children of half their substance. This was a greater question than any hon. Members thought, and they who were interested in the commercial prosperity of the country knew that it was absolutely necessary that certain checks should be put to this great and growing evil.


declared that, as the proposed legislation would greatly interfere with the social arrange-merits of a large number of the people, who would be deprived by it of an undoubted convenience to which they had hitherto been accustomed, the subject ought not to be approached lightly, or for the mere sake of imposing upon others a particular set of views, imported, to some extent, from over the Border, as to how the Sabbath should be kept. Nevertheless, the weight of opinion in its favour, as expressed by some 500,000 householders, and the favourable results of similar measures in Ireland and the Isle of Man, had overcome his hesitation to support it. The lower one went into the social scale the stronger did the feeling in its favour appear to be. As for the magistrates, and the well-to-do classes generally, they were rather loth to express an opinion in favour of depriving the working classes of comforts and advantages which they themselves possessed. The fact that no active support was given by them to the Bill was, therefore, no argument against such legislation being tried. The publicans themselves, he believed, were favourable to it. They could not well be otherwise, seeing that it would give them what they now much needed, one day of rest in the week. Under the present state of things, barmen, barmaids, and others employed in public-houses, were employed for 17 hours on each week-day, and for seven hours on Sunday. He thought it was unnecessary and undesirable that public-houses should be kept open for so many hours as at present; and, therefore, though he did not approve of total Sunday closing, he should be in favour of restricting the hours of Sunday opening; but such a change in the law should be attended by provisions whereby liquor might be bought on Sunday at a public-house for consumption off the premises.


said, he thought the promoters of the Bill must be very well satisfied with the discussion which had taken place. There had really been no substantial opposition to the second reading. The hon. and learned Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Rodwell), after opposing the measure in a temperate and moderate manner, ended by suggesting an alteration which, to a certain extent, received the support of the promoters. The noble Lord opposite (Earl Percy) opposed the Bill, because he thought it was desirable that public-houses should be open for outside sale during one or two hours on Sunday; and he added that he thought it a very bad practice that a Bill should propose one thing, and that the House should then be asked to decide upon another. But that was the practice with respect to every Bill that was brought into the House. It was so with the last Reform Bill, which came in saying one thing, and went out saying another. Therefore, he did not think they had a right to find fault with the hon. Member who brought in the Bill because he said he would agree to modifications of it according to the wishes of those who supported its principle. He was himself of opinion that there would be a serious difficulty in the way of closing public-houses entirely on Sundays without allowing the sale of beer; but he should be prepared to support the second reading, if the Mover would consent to a modification that public-houses should be open for an hour in the middle of the day, and an hour in the evening. This was no new proposal. Similar recommendations had been made by Committees in 1834, and again in 1854; and he ventured to say that as the restriction had been increased drunkenness had decreased, and there had been more order and sobriety. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) would, probably, have made the same speech against those restrictions which had proved of so much advantage to the country, as against the present measure. He seemed to be satisfied with the law as it stood, because he said it gave satisfaction. But what was the fact as to the present law in Manchester and Liverpool, where the greatest number of apprehensions took place in the whole country for drunkenness? In Liverpool there were 2,233 licensed houses, 1,911 being public-houses, and of that number only 222 were closed on Sundays. In 1878, the apprehensions for drunkenness were 14,700, and of that number 5,000 were on Saturdays, 2,200 on Mondays, and 1,700 on Sundays. Was that satisfactory? Again, taking the hours during which the arrests were made, he found that out of that 1,700 only 17 were made prior to 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and that by far the largest number was made at a late hour at night. The example of Manchester supported the same view. In that city there were 2,583 licensed houses, 2.100 being public-houses, and 483 beerhouses, and in the year 1878 there were 7,974 apprehensions for drunkenness. Of that number, 2,617 were on Saturdays and 1,223 were on Sundays, Sundays in Manchester being the next greatest number of apprehensions for drunkenness to Saturday. It was also the case in Manchester, as in Liverpool, that there was the greatest number of Sunday apprehensions between 12 at night and 1 in the morning. That, surely, was a fair argument in favour of a change of the law; and, on that account, he thought they would be perfectly justified in imposing further restrictions with regard to the closing of public-houses on Sundays. In Ireland, the result of Sunday closing was a diminution in the arrests for drunkenness from 2,040 to 707, and the change had proved one of the most beneficent that ever came to that country. He hoped that when the Government expressed their opinion on the question they would deal with it as one affecting the happiness of the people. They had been told that the country was not ripe for the change; but he ventured to assert that the country was in advance of the House of Commons, and the discussion of to-day showed that the House itself was more ripe for it than it was three years ago. He trusted that the Government would show they were willing to progress in their legislation on this subject, and they would have the support of the country.


speaking on his own responsibility, and not for the Government, said. he should vote against the second reading of the Bill. The Bill proposed shortly and decisively to close all public-houses on Sunday. This proposal opened two questions, the first being— Were we, as a country, ripe for this total closing? and the second— What were the necessary means to enable the House to effect this closing without injury to the public generally? There was no doubt that closing public-houses on Sunday affected principally the lower classes, who, for the most part, enjoyed but one holiday in the week— namely, Sunday. The classes to which he referred had been accustomed to avail themselves of the public-houses, during the past history of the country, as places where they could meet their friends and assemble on this holiday. He had always felt that those who were in a position above that of the working classes, and who were able, to a certain extent, to indulge in their own clubs or places of amusement on Sunday, should hesitate long, and be convinced of the advantages and necessity of closing the public-houses, before attempting to deal with others as they did not deal with themselves. The tendency of legislation in the past had been to create clubs among the lower orders; and he feared that in abolishing the power of using public-houses the House would simply be setting up public-houses under another name, for the lower classes might find that in their clubs, which would not be under the control of the legitimate authorities, they could get that amount of liquor which they were at present accustomed to have on Sunday. There was no doubt that by degrees the country was becoming more prepared for a step such as the Bill proposed. Day by day they saw coffee-houses and similar institutions provided in the different towns; and lie thought, as time went on, they would have such legitimate means of amusement on Sundays for the working classes that such a measure as was now proposed might be safely proposed. He had always felt that a proposal to limit the sale of liquor on Sunday to sales for consumption off the premises would be to meet the complaint against Sunday drinking in a way which could be entertained by the House, and which would not be open to the objection to which the present Bill was liable, that it deprived the lower classes absolutely of the means of getting refreshment on Sunday. They had been asked to agree to the second reading of the Bill, on the undertaking that the measure should be altered so as to meet this view. Though, however, he had perfect confidence in the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Stevenson), and believed that he was prepared to transmogrify his Bill, he thought it would be dangerous to support the second reading of the measure, as there were many Friends of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) in the House who might not readily consent to the transmogrification once the Bill had been read a second time. He could not support a Bill which contemplated nothing else than the total closing of public-houses on Sunday. A measure which more closely followed the recommendations of the Lord's Committee would meet with a far greater share of his appoval.


said, that he should not detain the House at any great length, in as much as he was desirous of referring to one point only. He did not know whether English opinion was yet ripe for the passing of such a measure as that before them; but having last year been engaged in the passing of a Bill for Ireland connected with the subject, he would like to state the results of the operation of the Act in Ireland up to the present time. He had moved for a Return to show this, and this Return had been laid on the Table, but had not yet been printed. The Return related to the results, which were the outcome of the Act, during the first six months it was in operation. The Return referred to the two classes in Ireland—to exempted places, and the rest of the country. The House would recollect that there were five towns in Ireland which were exempted. During the period alluded to, in that part of the country where public-houses were totally closed, the number of arrests on Sunday during the corresponding period of the previous year was 2,364, and since the total closing the number had been 707, or a diminution of 70 per cent. Last year it was stated that in the exempted towns the result of the Bill would be a great increase in drinking, because, people in the neighbourhood and from districts which were not exempted would be anxious for drink, and would come to get drunk in the exempted towns. The matter, however, stood as follows:—Before the Act was passed the number of arrests in these cities was 1,976. Since the Act had been in operation the number had been 1,268, or a reduction of 30 per cent. There had been no disturbance, and those results proved that the Act had brought about a very great diminution in the number of arrests.


considered that the House was in the dark as to what the real feelings of the working men were. He was neither a brewer, a publican, or a Pharisee; but he could not agree to the Bill as it stood. It might in some degree check those people who drank on Sundays, who had been drinking on the Saturday night, and who intended to continue drinking on the Monday. But it would not stop the bonâ fide traveller from rambling about the country and drinking at all hours; and, therefore, it would not give those engaged in public-houses what evidently was one object of the Bill—a day of rest, while it would greatly increase the " sham bonâ fide traveller " nuisance, and inconvenience those who now made legitimate use of public - houses on Sundays. It had been said by those who were in favour of this Bill" Look at Ireland, and look at Scotland ! " Well, with regard to the former, the trial had only been carried on for a very short time; and he might say, as one who opposed that measure, that the sting was taken out of it when the large towns were excluded from its provisions. In regard to Scotland, he believed he could show that the benefits which Scotland had derived by the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act were due, in great measure, to other clauses in the Act besides the clause closing public-houses on Sunday, and that by passing this Bill they by no means conferred upon England the benefits which had been conferred on Scotland. There were conditions— as to hotel licences, for instance — existing there which did not exist in this country. He was reduced to this position in regard to the Bill now before them —If he voted for it, he felt he would be voting for a sham and a snare; and if he voted against it, he would be supposed to be promoting intemperance. Under these circumstances, he would neither vote for nor against the second reading of the Bill.


thought this was very much a question of physical rest to those engaged in the trade, and did not believe that if it were passed there would either be a very large number of travellers or shebeens. It was a very serious fact that so much money found its way into the coffers of the public-house on Sunday, and he had no doubt it had a serious effect on the trade of the country. When they thought of £150,000,000 being spent each year in this business, he did not think it would be a great hardship if some small portion was diverted into other channels. He quite admitted that in the South they were not so favourable to this measure as they were in the North, where, he believed, the proportion was about eight or nine to one in its favour. It might not be a perfect Bill; but the Bills of the Government were never perfect, as they were well aware. The country would, he had no hesitation in saying, be better prepared for the measure if harmless means of recreation, such as picture galleries, were open to the public on Sunday. He knew this was not a popular view amongst many who took a great interest in this question; but he felt bound to express it. He had been connected very largely in the establishment of working men's clubs; and he was bound to say that there were very few cases in which public opinion within those clubs had not been sufficient to keep men within the limits which those who proposed the clubs desired. It was true there had been a few isolated cases in which these clubs had been opened under a false pretence, sometimes by men who had failed to obtain their licences; but the representatives of the clubs had been the first to assist the Excise in putting down such acts. He had no hesitation in voting for the second reading of the Bill.


said, that he could not allow the debate to close without saying a few words on behalf of the Government. The Home Secretary himself would have been present had he not been obliged to be elsewhere on Public Business. Everyone must be impressed by the interest taken in this Bill, as was evidenced by the number of Petitions presented in its favour, and by the number of letters received from his constituents. This was especially the case in regard to the North of England. He believed that there was too much truth in the statement made by the Report of the House of Lords' Committee, that drunkenness was especially prevalent to the North of the Trent; and it was, therefore, natural that more interest should be taken on the question there than in the South of England; but he doubted very much whether this would be remedied to any great extent by the Bill which had been introduced by the hon. Member (Mr. Stevenson). It had been his (Sir Matthew White Ridley's) lot, on more than one occasion, to oppose the Bill brought on or advocated by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) for the furtherance of temperance, and for the same reasons for which he must now oppose the present Bill. The hon. Baronet introduced in the present Session a Resolution in favour of local option, and for this he obtained a large amount of support. But, subsequently, he described that Resolution as a net spread wide, in order to catch as many Members as possible. Amongst those whom he said that be had thus caught was the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who had also previously voted against the Permissive Bill. He (Sir Matthew White Ridley) was, therefore, sorry to be compelled to oppose the second reading of the measure now before the House, and, in so doing, to appear to deal in a disrespectful manner with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. The Government were quite aware of the importance of seeing what could be done to check intemperance by restricting the hours during which public-houses were allowed to remain open on Sundays, and were prepared to consider this subject more especially in the light of the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords on Intemperance. On previous occasions he had resisted propositions on this subject, on the ground that it would only be respectful to the House of Lords' Committee that they should suspend their judgment until it had reported. But they had now reported, and he might at once say that the Government were not likely to go beyond that Report. His impression was that that Report was to the effect that there should be two hours in the day during which public-houses should be open all over the Kingdom; that in the Metropolis public-houses should be open from 7 to 11 o'clock; that in populous places they should be open from 7 to 10 o'clock; and other places from 7 to 9 o'clock, for sale both on and off the premises. The question was not so simple as it appeared at first sight, and the Government had not yet had time fully to consider what action they should take in the matter. If they did something in the direction indicated by the Secretary to the Treasury, they would increase the difficulties incident to the bonâ fide traveller; and, in that case, he thought they would have to make regulations analogous to those now in operation in Scotland, and they must, therefore, have a very different measure from the present one. Now, he objected to vote for the second reading of a Bill with a view to afterwards changing its character in Committee. This Bill was one for closing public-houses on Sunday. As such, it was supported by the whole strength of the United Kingdom Alliance, who regarded it as a step towards the complete closing of public-houses. It was also supported by clergymen and ministers of various denominations, who desired, in this way, to promote a proper reverence for the Sabbath. Now, he could not go to the full length these reverend gentlemen did in making such stringent regulations for the observance of the Sabbath; but, at the same time, he fully sympathized with the desire they had to promote due respect being paid to Sunday. Some of those who supported the Bill acquiesced in the view that further restrictions upon the hours of closing were all that could be expected at the present time, and in the present state of public opinion; and some Members appeared to think that they could support the Bill, on the understanding that it should be modified in accordance with that view. The Government did not, however, think that they would be discharging their duty to the House, while they would be misleading the country, if they were to support the Bill on any such understanding. Looking at the Bill as one for the total closing of public-houses on Sunday, the Government could not support it, because they agreed with the Report of the House of Lords' Committee that public opinion was not yet ripe for such a measure. But the Government were sensible of the importance of doing something in the direction of reform in regard to the alteration of the hours of closing on Sundays. If the hon. Member pressed the Bill to a second reading, the Government would have no alternative but to vote against it.


said, as some reference had been made to clubs, he wished to say a word on that subject. In Exeter, which he represented, they had one or two of such institutions, and in one case it appeared that the club was formerly a public-house, which, at one time, did a thriving and disreputable business. As a club, it could be kept open all day and all night, and also on Sundays. The plan of membership was very ingenious. A person came in, he was asked if he was a member. If he was not, he was duly elected on payment of 6d., and was supposed to enjoy all the privileges of purchasing what he pleased. It was idle to suppose that the present Bill would put an end to drinking; if the hon. Member thought so, he would find he was very much mistaken. These clubs were quite exempt from licence laws, and Parliament must not suppose that they were going to increase temperance as long as such places existed.


said, he did not rise to oppose the second reading of the Bill, but rather to remark that if the second reading was not carried, it would be due rather to the course of conduct which had been followed by its promoters than to anything else. He could have wished that the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had expressed himself more clearly than he had done on the subject, and that, generally, there had been a fuller statement of opinion by the Government. As far as he was personally concerned, he would agree to the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, if its promoters would assent to such an amendment as would limit the sale of liquors on Sundays during certain hours, and to persons who wished a supply for home consumption. The Bill, as at present drawn, placed the resident inhabitants of a district at a disadvantage as compared with the bonâ fide traveller, in as much as the latter would be able to obtain a glass of fresh beer on Sunday, while the former would not.


said, he had stated in his opening speech that he was prepared to take an instalment of the measure; and he would be willing to accept Amendments in Committee for the sale over the counter of what was popularly known as dinner and supper beer.


must say the House was placed in a very embarrassing position by the course which the hon. Member in charge of the Bill had taken. He had himself conducted an experiment very much on the lines of the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Rodwell), and had every reason to be well satisfied with it. But the present Bill was one to prohibit the opening of public-houses on Sunday altogether; and he thought it was too late for the hon. Member to say, at the close of the debate, that he was willing so to alter his Bill that he himself would hardly know it. They were thereby placed in a very wrong and false position; and he felt so strongly that such practices were very objectionable that he would vote against the second reading of the Bill.


I think the noble Lord the Member for South Hants (Lord Henry Scott) has been unnecessarily hard upon the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Stevenson). The hon. Member brings in a Bill for closing public-houses on Sunday. The general debate has been very much in favour of the object of the Bill, and there was no urgent speech against it except that of the hon. Member for Leeds. But several objections were taken against the exclusive character of the Bill, that it was too stringent with regard to certain matters. Therefore, a proposition is made that some modification of the Bill should take place. The hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) made a suggestion which, I think, has been mentioned by other Members, that during some part of the day we should allow drink to be supplied for home use. Many hon. Members seemed to have an honest sympathy with that view, and the hon Member for South Shields said he had no objection if the House would go into Committee. That is no more than is done constantly in this House. He has a perfect right to ask the House to divide on the Bill. Pass the Bill, and it is understood that he will admit the modification which has been proposed by so many influential Members of the House. I hope the House will accede to the second reading with that understanding. My own impression is that, in the present state of public feeling, it will be as far as public opinion at present will go; but, so far, it would be of great service, and would meet with the approval of the great majority of public opinion in England and Wales, as has been sufficiently indicated by the manner in which it has been met. I rise to show that the hon. Member for South Shields is right in the course he has taken with regard to the Bill.


said, they had come down to vote distinctly on a Bill, contained in very few words, which closed public-houses on the whole of Sunday. He thought it was not fair to the House that, after the whole argument had been directed to that Bill, they should be called upon to divide upon a totally different issue, and that it should be said in the country that by now voting against the second reading they were opposing the proposition suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Cambridgeshire(Mr. Rodwell). He protested that his vote was given against the Bill as it had been presented, and not against the proposal which was being evolved out of it, and which it was said would at some future time be laid before them.


merely rose to suggest to the hon. Member for South Shields that, as the Bill which he now proposed was quite different from that which he had presented to the House for discussion, he should withdraw his Bill, and bring in another in terms of his new proposal. In order that the hon. Member might, he moved that the debate be adjourned.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Monk.)

The House divided:— Ayes 165; Noes 162: Majority 3.—(Div. List, No. 156.)

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.

House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.