§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. STEVENSON,
in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said: I am glad that previous legislation has cleared away many old objections founded on the incompetency of Parliament to deal with this subject. Scotland has had Sunday Closing for 28 years; and the Irish Act was passed only after a rigid inquiry as to the success of the Scotch measure. This temporary Act in Ireland has succeeded in doing a very large amount of good, and completely justified the arguments of its promoters. I sincerely hope this Session will not close without the Irish Sunday Closing Bill being made the permanent law of that part of the United Kingdom. With regard to the present measure, there can be no doubt that it is viewed by the bulk of the people of England with great and increasing favour; and I think it is only fair that in a matter in which the health and prosperity of the people are so largely concerned the will of the people should prevail. Sunday is the day when the workman has his week's wages in his pocket, and, therefore, it is exceedingly wrong and unfair to other traders, whose shops were closed, that on that day he should be exposed to temptation, and that facilities should be provided for him to spend his week's earnings in the public-house, much to the injury of his wife 1032 and children. I call upon Parliament to put an end to the present state of things and read this Bill a second time. It cannot be urged against the measure that those whom it most directly affects have not had the opportunity of expressing their opinion upon it. On the contrary, every class of the community, and every variety of locality, has been canvassed for its opinion, with the result that wherever it has been tested, an overwhelming majority of the householders in England are found to be in favour of the proposed change. The most remarkable part of the experience of the promoters of the Bill is this—that the lower down you go in the scale of society the more earnest and eager is the desire for the passage of this measure. There can be no doubt that poor and humble people, feeling the evils of intemperance brought to their own door, are the most anxious that Parliament should interpose and entirely alter the present system. The supporters of Sunday closing in the country are gaining in numbers every day. The Corporation of Liverpool, in successive years, have shown an increasing majority in favour of the measure, and last year their Petition was unanimously adopted, and Boards of Guardians and other public bodies in the country are petitioning for the Bill. I had the honour of presenting to the Prime Minister only the other day a statement signed by 3,574 borough and county magistrates in England expressing their opinion that, in the interests of morality and good order, this measure ought to be passed. I need not remind the House of Commons of the masses of Petitions which have been presented, showing the desire of large classes of the constituencies for this measure. I think it would be found, on examination, that the large communities are even more anxious to see the Bill passed than the smaller places. Not only in the interest of the public, but in the interest of the thousands of people who are employed in public-houses, this change is desirable. The employés of public-houses ought to have a day of rest above all others, considering the nature of the trade in which they were engaged, and that the hours of opening are twice as many in the week as are permitted by the Factory Acts. I hope it is not necessary to refer to the stale beer argument; 1033 the argument, in fact, is about as stale as the beer on which it hangs. I believe that the mere convenience, if there is any, of having fresh drawn, compared with having it bought in a bottle on Saturday night, ought not to weigh for one instant against the adoption of a measure which sought, amongst other things, to give a day of rest to thousands of people who were employed throughout the week. It may be asked —"Why don't you deal with the bonâ fide traveller?" I have quite enough to do without meddling with this difficult subject. The Bill leaves the bonâ fide traveller untouched; it will not interfere in the slightest degree with the legitimate refreshment of those who come under the category of bonâ fide travellers. A Petition was presented to the House the other day against the Bill from the Licensed Victuallers, in which allusion was made to the improving morality of the people under the existing system. I am glad it is so. That is part of my case. I believe if the morality of the people were not improving I should have had less chance of passing the Bill. I will not unnecessarily occupy the time of the House; but I beg you not to lag behind public opinion in this matter, but to give the people of England what they seek as a boon, and which they cannot see should be denied them after it has been granted to the people of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Stevenson.)
§ MR. WARTON,
in moving, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said: I feel it my duty to oppose this proposal at every stage. I do not come here prepared with statistics and long notes to debate this question, for I am prepared to deal with it naked as it stands, for to my mind it is a mass of the worst tyranny. I can well understand people going a great length in a matter of this kind, for, unfortunately, there are too many fools and fanatics in the world; but what I do object to is that they should attempt to bend everyone else to their own iron will, which is tyranny of the worst character. It is said that the Bill is founded upon high principles of morality; but I cannot understand where 1034 this high principle of morality is when the bonâ fide traveller is exempted from its application. The question is, no doubt, a difficult one, for I fail to see, if people take a drive into the country on Sundays, how they can enjoy themselves if they have not the means of getting refreshment. I have no wish whatever to enter into a disputation as to what may be high grounds of morality after the lessons upon that point which we have lately had from two eminent statesmen, whose views, although they profess to agree in principle, are exceedingly divergent; but, as I have always understood, one of the great principles of morality is to do to others what you would wish them to do by you. If you do not do that, your conduct becomes immoral and tyrannical. I look upon this proposal as a piece of Radical tyranny. There is this difference between the Tories and the Radicals. The Tories endeavour to secure their object by argument and reasoning, whereas the Radicals seek to obtain theirs by force. Why should not people be left free to enjoy their Sundays as they please? For my own part, I do not see why there should be any restrictions at all. Well, that, perhaps, is an extreme view, and I only give expression to it to meet the extreme view entertained on the other side. Whenever there is an extreme view on one side, and an extreme view on the other, the result is a compromise fair and right to both, and that compromise we have now existing, is in having the public-houses open for only a few hours on Sunday, so that some respect is paid to that holy day. The poor man has very few pleasures indeed; he has to slave from Monday morning to Saturday night at his work, and a few Radicals, wrapped up ii their high feelings of virtue, wish to deprive him of his right to refresh himself, if he chooses, in a public-house on the only day he has in the week. Irishmen may drink whisky, but the English national drink is beer; and I hope Englishmen will ever have their beer. We have the high authority of the Prime Minister on our side. In his Budget speech last year the right hon. Gentleman said that beer was a liquor which might compare with the nectar of the gods; and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman sometimes quaffed the excellent beverage which our brewers 1035 make. It is only those who know nothing about the habits of Englishmen who bring forward Bills of this description. What are these poor people to do on the Sunday? Are they to go to a number of conventicles which are turned into political engines for the dissemination of Radical principles? In Wales you had a Sunday Closing Bill passed by the most studied misrepresentation. Statements were made on that Bill which had extremely little foundation. The fact is, this is the three tailors of Tooley Street over again; it is the little Radical faction who think they are going to rule the country completely. The fault is the fault of the Prime Minister, who gives way to them when they attack him with sufficient energy: but we must not let them think that there are none left in this country with the sturdy old English feeling that the natural healthy drink of the Englishman is beer. Go all round the country, and you will find that that is the real pleasure appreciated by the labouring classes. ["No, no!"] It is a very proper and reasonable pleasure, and as to the hon. Gentleman over the way who says "No, no!" to that proposition, I do not know the nature of the interruption; but I may remind him that we have been told by a very high authority that it is wrong to say "No;" but I will not quote that authority against the hon. Gentleman. I understand him to say "No" to the statement that the Englishman likes his beer. I suppose in his young days he has, like most of us, rowed on the river, and when we have been rowing on the river or playing on the cricket field, a good draught of beer is not unwelcome. I have spoken of moralists. I might go higher. The wisest man that ever lived —I am not going to quote Burns now— has said—"Let the poor man drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more." It is really a solemn question whether some people are to impose their will on others. We all love freedom, I think, and I am standing here in favour of freedom. Why should the public-houses be shut up on Sundays? Why should not people drink, then, if they like? Really this sort of opposition to well-established habits and undoubted preferences is a most unfair thing. I should like to bring in a Bill next Session for insisting that all advocates of Sunday closing should drink so 1036 much beer or so much whisky on Sundays. It would be just as evil for us to compel them to drink as for them to compel us not to drink. What is the real history of our social feeling in this country on this question? It is not 70 years ago that the expression was common in this country that a man was "as drunk as a lord," and the explanation of the expression was that drinking was supposed to be the peculiar privilege of the aristocracy. Now, in good, nay, in decent society the man who gets drunk habitually is looked upon as a disgrace. That idea is reaching the lower classes now, and legislation will not do anything. Do you suppose that our fellow-creatures among the lower classes are so indifferent that the voice of public opinion has had no influence on them? Do we not find now that among the humblest members of the working classes drunkenness is not so common as it was, and that when it does take place there is usually some substantial excuse for it? I am an advocate of temperance in the strict sense of the word—I am an advocate of moderation—and I do hope that the time is rapidly coming when, without Bills of this sort, the feelings of the country will be in favour of moderate indulgence as against excessive indulgence. I hope the time will come soon when the people of the very lowest classes will think it a disgrace to get drunk. But why should we try to enforce people to keep sober against their will? Why not leave the matter to the influence of public opinion? The question we have more immediately before us is with regard to the Sabbath, and for my part I am not what is called a strict Sabbatarian. I do not think Sunday was meant to be a day of general gloom, but that it was meant to be a day of health, liberty, and rest. It is not liberty to say that a man shall not drink what he thinks will refresh him on the Sunday. At the back of all these fanatics we have got a number of scientists; but there are two sides to this question, for there are people of equal eminence in science who think that we owe something of our brain power to the habits of our ancestors, drinking and otherwise. You cannot alter people's natures by Act of Parliament. You cannot insist upon high-dried laws making men perfectly chaste and perfectly sober—it is not practicable. I advise 1037 all those who are in favour of legislation in this matter to study carefully Shakespeare's great play of Measure for Measure; in that great work he paints plainly enough the stupidity and folly of those who try to make human nature better than it possibly can be. It is perfectly cruel—I do not scruple to use the word —for Radicals in independent social positions to come here and deprive the poor man of the only thing he has got; it shows an utter absence of Christianity and human feeling. Those who bring forward Bills like this gain nothing at all except from one another. They may lend one another a helping hand, and the whole sot of fanatical opinions may get a little support by this propping up of each other's absurdities, but they get no golden opinions from anyone else. Why, what are you to think when you hear from the hon. Member who brings this forward that he cannot grapple with one great question—when a man comes forward and says meekly and humbly that he cannot deal with a question which goes to the root of the matter? The hon. Member dare not grapple with it. He cannot prevent a man who has walked six or eight miles from being thirsty; that man, being a bonâ fide traveller, goes in to have his refreshment; and if it is such a wicked thing to have public-houses open on Sundays at all, how is that you let the bonâ fide traveller pass? If this Bill goes through, everyone will be a bonâ fide traveller—that is the tendency of England now—people will not be controlled. Hon. Members who sit opposite may be actuated by some strange notions of "moral law"— on our side of the House we like morality as much as anyone; but we do not think it much good to try and reach by Act of Parliament an imposing standard. In the present day we have between the old Whigs and Tories a lot of men with little crotchets, and it is these men who come forward against drink, against Sunday opening, against vaccination. They try in the most dishonest manner to turn the scale between the two political Parties by going to the Cabinet and putting pressure upon it in an unworthy manner. I can respect the conscientious Whig; I respect still more the honest Tory; but I say it is a piece of impertinence for people to come in with these little fanatical notions and try to throw their petty weight into the 1038 scale against one side or the other. I will ask my hon. Friends opposite one question—do they belong to any clubs? I do not like to mention the Reform Club, because there are strange dissensions in that place on a topic which is very notorious—["Question"] — I am speaking of the Reform and other Liberal clubs as places to meet in during hours when the public-houses are shut, and I must say I find here no clause to shut up, for instance, the Reform Club on a Sunday. Does not this show hypocrisy on the part of Members opposite? Suppose men of all classes had only the public-houses to go to? My position is this, that narrow-minded men cannot sympathize with the wants of their fellow-creatures, and that the situation of the poor man who may not have a club to go to is not realized by hon. Members who have plenty of facilities to drink if they like. We have not many working men Representatives in this House. I do not see one on this occasion, and I am inclined to think that they know the working man's wishes, and therefore cannot vote for this Bill, but that not wishing to annoy the Radical Party, they go away without voting. And I must say, so far as the Government is concerned, that though the Government is most respectably represented, the Front Bench is not particularly well occupied—and I do not think the Government have charged the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) with the expression of their views upon this question. I could wish that they would exhibit more firmness on occasions like the present; it is not sufficient for them merely to slink away. But, after all, I can but repeat that in my view proposals like the present are simply the outcome of a narrow mind. Members of the Radical Party too often desire to have all their own way, and, borrowing their own method, I would recommend the advocates of the measure to withdraw it, and introduce another providing for the punishment of all bonâ fide travellers who procure refreshment. It has been stated that numbers of people have signed Petitions in favour of the Bill. It must be a matter of common knowledge that Petitions are of little value, and can very easily be got up. We also have Petitions on our side—Petitions signed by adult males, who protest against its introduction. For my part, 1039 I also protest against it, on the broad ground of the necessity of maintaining our ancient freedom, our liberty to drink at whatever time we choose to drink, and on that ground I oppose, and hope the House will oppose, such a narrow and hypocritical Bill.
§ 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. Warton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
I believe, Sir, that I had the honour of bringing this question of Sunday closing into a more practical line for the consideration of this House than has been the lot of many hon. Members who have dealt with the subject. Some time ago, when the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Stevenson) proceeded to deal with the matter by way of Resolution, I was successful in carrying, without dissent, certain modifications of the Resolution which my hon. Friend then moved. I believe that the time has now come when the House is prepared to deal with the question of Sunday closing in a manner that will bring about its practical settlement. I may say that I believe, with the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House (Mr. Stevenson), that the bulk of the working class in this Kingdom are with us in favour of the Bill now before us. The difficulty we have to encounter is not so much in regard to the passing of a Bill for Sunday closing; it arises more out of the matter with which we shall have to deal when we come to the exceptions it may be necessary to provide in that measure. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stevenson) has alluded to the question of the bonâ fide traveller, as to whom I may say that in my belief he is the most bonâ fide humbug that ever existed. By the present and proposed law, any person who happened to be three miles or more away from his home on the Sunday is enabled to procure any quantity of drink be may choose to take, while the man who remains quietly at his own house, under this Sunday Closing Bill, will not be able to send to the public-house at stated times of the day for his dinner and supper beer. The House, acting on the conclusions at which it has previously arrived, will 1040 probably modify the provisions of any Sunday Closing Bill with regard to the Metropolis and other large places. I am free to admit that the Metropolis will have to be made the subject of special legislation. I very much regret the absence from this House of my hon. Friend who formerly sat for Cornwall— Mr. John Tremayne—who showed that on an investigation which had been made as to the requirements of the Metropolis, it had been found that there was an enormous number of people in London on the Sunday who had nowhere to go except to refreshment rooms, which would still have to be licensed; and also that it would only be reasonable to allow the same exception in some of the larger towns in the country where the inhabitants should be allowed to send during certain hours of the day for such beer as they may require for dinner or supper, to be consumed in their own houses; but these are necessarily matters of detail, which can only be dealt with in Committee. The great point at which we have now arrived in regard to this legislation is that instead of providing for the opening of public-houses on Sundays we are providing for the closing of such places, and, in so doing, making such exceptions as the exigencies of the time and of the people are considered to demand. If we were to carry this measure for Sunday closing too far, we should be doing, as has been done once or twice in our legislation on previous occasions, harm. I believe that the rank and file of the country are entirely with us. We have already had a Bill brought in for Cornwall, and an Act was passed for Wales in which there was an unfortunate misprint, and we have had another Bill brought in for Yorkshire, and we know that there are other Acts which have passed this House, and are at present in force for Ireland and Scotland. I may here say that I am desirous of making my remarks as short as possible, as I am anxious that in the time which remains to us we should be able to get to a division; but when we get into Committee on the Bill, if we should succeed in so doing, we can deal with the subject of providing those relaxations which the proper working of the measure may require. I have presented Petitions from every Board of Guardians in the division of the county I have the honour to 1041 represent (Durham) in favour of this measure as it stands on the Paper. In the different country districts the people are thoroughly prepared for the complete closing of the public-houses on Sundays, and in many of them they would be glad to do away with the provision which is made to meet the case of bonâ fide travellers. They think that to keep the respectable public-houses open on Sunday for travellers only produces work for those engaged in the business for very little profit, doing very little good to the traveller and less to the landlord. The Resolution which I proposed on a former occasion was to the effect that in any Sunday closing measure provision should be made for the Metropolis and other large towns, permitting the sale of dinner and supper beer for consumption off the premises, and if this Bill should get into Committee I shall be glad again to move in that direction. I have now only further to say that I heartily support the second reading; and I hope that during the short time we have to debate the measure the House will come to the conclusion that it is entitled to a second reading.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that a number of hon. Members, and himself among them, had for very long been of opinion that public-houses might be closed on Sunday for all but sale off the premises, and he would be quite prepared, for his own part, to consider a Bill which contained such a provision. He could not, however, assent to the second reading of this Bill, for he was asked here to affirm that the houses were to be closed on Sunday, subject only to the bonâ fide traveller clause. There were many difficulties attaching to a proposal of that kind, and he did not think it would be wise to assent to the second reading, waiting for the chances of Committee to introduce into the Bill the Amendments which he felt to be absolutely necessary. Nobody would dispute the enormous difficulties which surrounded the question of the bonâ fide traveller. Living as he himself did in a neighbourhood bordering upon the Metropolis, he was bound to say that something must be provided in order to meet the requirements of men who, for example, took advantage of the legislation which had enabled them to leave London and spend their Sunday in Epping 1042 Forest. Many amongst the working population of London availed themselves now of the privileges within their reach, and went into the country for their Sunday, and it was exceedingly difficult to say they should be prevented from obtaining refreshments on that day. This was a question which the country was very much interested in, and he was surprised that the Government had not thought it worth while to take a more prominent part on this occasion. The Government were distinctly prominent by their absence on this occasion; and he thought they had a right to the assistance and counsel of right hon. Gentlemen when a subject came up which possessed deep interest for the country, and which affected seriously the whole licensing trade.
§ MR. C. P. PHIPPS
I will not say that the hon. Member for South Shields has sprung a mine upon the House, because, of course, everyone was well aware that there was a chance of the Bill coming on; but I do say that hardly any Member in the House thought there was any chance of such an important question as this being discussed to-day. I think there is good evidence of this, when one looks round the House and sees the apparently little interest taken in this question. The support of this Bill mainly comes from the other side, and we see there mainly empty Benches. It is not my intention to go into the bonâ fide traveller question; but there are one or two points which should make any man pause before he commits himself to the principle of closing all public - houses on Sunday. To pass this stage on the understanding that Amendments will be brought forward in Committee would, I think, be a very dangerous course for us to pursue. This Bill is the result of an agitation that has been got up and thoroughly well worked. If the same attention had been bestowed upon other matters, probably it would have been better for the well-being of the nation at large. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Joseph Pease) said that if such a Bill were agreed to it should contain special exceptions in favour of the Metropolis; but I fail entirely to see why the same exceptions should not apply to other large towns, and you would certainly have many of them urging their strong and just claims. 1043 It is impossible, however, to make men sober by legislation. It is all very well to talk of the gigantic evils caused by intemperance, and I do not for a moment desire to say they are not gigantic; but I do venture to say this, that the intemperate among the people of England are in a very great minority. If a publican is against Sunday trading he has the remedy entirely in his own hands. There is nothing to prevent him taking out a six days' licence. Only the other day I was talking to a publican in the place I represent, and he told me he had taken out a six days' licence, and that his business had not suffered very much. I was told by a gentleman of the result of his experience on his own estate, where he had only allowed the publicans to take out six days' licences. He said the consequence was that they had more drunkenness on Sunday than they had on any other day of the week. I ought, perhaps, to say, in explanation of this, that about a mile beyond the village on his estate there are some largo ironworks and a considerable number of workmen. His experience was so unfortunate that he made up his mind to go back to the old system, and allow the publicans to take out what licences they liked. But, unfortunately, he died, and the idea was not carried out. There is another question that ought to be considered. The promoters of this legislation look at one side of the question, and entirely decline to look at any other. But supposing you have the drink bought and taken home on Saturday night. Does it not occur to hon. Gentlemen that in a great many instances the result of bringing spirits into a house will be to lead to drinking on the part of the women of the family, and demoralize the children by the spectacle of this spirit-drinking going on at home? I think that is a very serious question indeed. The arguments in favour of this Bill appear to mo to be entirely sentimental. I hardly believe there will be less drinking in the country until the tone of the people has been raised. If this Bill is passed it will inflict incalculable harm upon the people at large.
§ MR. EWART
No Member on this side of the House has spoken in favour of this Bill; but, notwithstanding the eloquent and denunciatory speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton), in which 1044 he has charged those who hold the opinions I entertain with rant, cant, and hypocrisy, I am not deterred from raising my voice in favour of this measure. The evil of drunkenness is one that everyone must admit does more in the way of producing crime, disease, and poverty, than, perhaps, all other causes put together, and is far worse in its effects than war, pestilence, and famine. The money expended in drink exceeds annually the amount of the national taxation, and it would pay off the National Debt in four years. It is well known that Sunday is among the lower classes the worst day in the week, for many of them choose that day for going to the public-house and spending their time and money away from their families. The hon. Member who last addressed the House (Mr. Phipps) referred to the evils that might be introduced into families by taking the drink home. I am not at all afraid of any such result; nor am I such an enthusiast on the subject of total abstinence that I should wish to see the poor man deprived of his beer on Sundays; but I certainly should prefer that he should provide it on the Saturday night. If he would only do this, there is no question as to the brewers being quite competent to meet his requirements on this matter. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) spoke very much as if this were a question as between one side of the House and the other—as though hon. Members on the other side of the House were in favour of the Bill, and those who sit on this side were opposed to it. Now, I differ very much from my hon. and learned Friend on this point. I believe that the Conservative feeling of the country is largely in favour of this measure, and that if a poll were to be taken upon it, the majority of the Conservatives would be found to be on the side of those who support the Bill. I have had some experience of Sunday closing in Ireland, and am glad to be able to bear my testimony to the eminent success that has attended the operation of the measure now in force in Ireland. There is nothing in the world like experience derived from actual experiment; and I have no doubt that the same good results that have manifested themselves in Ireland would be found to follow if a similar measure were to be extended to 1045 England. With regard to what has been said as to the state of popular opinion on this subject, I may instance the attitude that has been assumed by the Archbishops and Bishops of the English Church, and the active part of the clergy of the Church of England, as well as of the clergy of all denominations outside the Church, on this matter. I sincerely trust the House will agree to the second reading of this Bill.
§ MR. GIBSON
I regret that this debate, which has been going on now for an hour and a-half, has not elicited from any Member of the Government a statement of the views they hold in reference to this Bill. It is perfectly true that it came upon us somewhat as a surprise. No one can blame the hon. Gentleman who has charge of the measure for availing himself of the unexpected opportunity at this period of the Session of submitting it to the judgment of the House and the consideration of the country. The Front Opposition Bench has been adequately and fully represented for the last hour, giving every attention to the progress of the discussion. But the only Representative of the Government on the Treasury Bench was a highly-respected subordinate official (Mr. Hibbert), who, at the mere mention of the absence of the Government, has taken wings and flown. I assume that the Bill has been brought before us more with the object of ventilating the subject than any thing else. I hope, when it again comes before Parliament, it will have some drafting qualifications which have been pointed out by this debate to be needed. From morning to night, if this Bill passes, every public-house in England, Scotland, and Ireland would be closed on Sunday. I desire to ask some Member of Her Majesty's Government to give some information with reference to Ireland, which is in a somewhat different position in this important question from the rest of the United Kingdom. We are all aware that there is at present in Ireland a Sunday Closing Bill in operation—I believe beneficial operation. It has worked, on the whole, well, and in a way to insure respectful consideration for any Bill submitted for its prolongation. I think Ireland is entitled to some clear expression of opinion as to what the Government intend to do in reference to that Act, which will expire this Session 1046 if it is not renewed. I regret that no Member of the Cabinet is present, as this is a question which merits the attention of the Government. It is hardly possible to conceive a more important measure dealing with a more important subject, and the House has a right to hear the opinion of the Government upon it.
§ MR. HIBBERT
I am sorry that there is no Cabinet Minister present to take part in this discussion; but, at the same time, I must draw the attention of the House to the uncertainty which prevails with regard to the Business which comes before it on a Wednesday. I may say that when I entered the House at about 2 o'clock it was expected that the Committee on the Arrears Bill would occupy the whole of the day, and that it would not even come to a conclusion at a quarter to 6. There is no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, who, perhaps, should have been in his place while this Bill was being discussed, was misled by this anticipation in the same way as I. But I may be able to reply to the question which has been put by my right hon. and learned Friend opposite (Mr. Gibson). My right hon. and learned Friend says it includes Ireland. Well, my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Stevenson) says that it is not intended to include either Ireland or Scotland, and that if it does, as a matter of fact, include those two countries, he is quite willing to agree to the insertion of a clause to exclude them if it be considered desirable. As to what the Government propose to do with respect to Sunday closing in Ireland, I believe it is the intention of the Government to place the Irish Act in the Continuance Bill. I am not aware that it is intended to bring in a separate Bill on the subject; I think the Act is to be included in the Continuance Bill at the end of the Session. While I am on my legs I hope I may be allowed to state my own individual opinion of the Bill which is now before the House, and, in doing so, I must not be understood to give the opinion of the Government. I must say that my own individual opinion is in favour of Sunday closing, although I do not know that I entirely endorse the Bill as it is drawn. To my mind, Sunday closing is a matter very much of local feeling, and, I may state that, even in the present Session, we have had 1047 a Bill brought in from Cornwall to apply Sunday closing to that county. That measure is almost unanimously supported by the people of Cornwall, and I do not see why a Bill should not be allowed to pass, giving Sunday closing to that county. I do not see the least objection to this question being dealt with in a piecemeal manner, for, after all, it is a question of local feeling. The feeling in favour of Sunday closing is very strong in the North, and I have no doubt that, if an Act of this character were passed, difficulties in putting it into force would occur in the Metropolis and in other towns in the South of England which would not occur in the North. Under these circumstances, I do not know whether it would not be wise to deal with the question in a different manner to that suggested by my hon. Friend (Mr. Stevenson). At the same time, the working-classes, by a very large majority—certainly in the North of England—are in favour of Sunday closing. I believe if they were polled to-morrow, it would be found that an immense majority in the North of England were in favour of it; and, therefore, I do not think that I can agree with the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) that the question is one of taking away the freedom of the working-men. It might interfere with a certain portion of the working-classes; but I believe that the great majority of them are in favour of a measure of this kind. Before I sit down, I wish to add also my own opinion, that it would be much better if, instead of having to make alterations in the Bill when it has passed the second reading, the measure could be introduced with Amendments which are desired inserted in it. It would be advisable, if the Bill does not pass this year, for my hon. Friend to take the opportunity which will be offered him before the commencement of next Session of making what alterations he proposes in it.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
I think the most satisfactory way of dealing with this matter is to bring in a Bill in the shape in which it is intended to pass it. At present, a Bill is brought in, and a great number of hon. Members, in supporting it, say—"I am not going to support this Bill as it stands, but with considerable modifications, some of which may go to 1048 the very root of the matter." This is a Bill for the total closing of public-houses on Sunday; but if you are not going to close them altogether this Bill does not deserve its title. It is introducing a Bill with the very best intentions, but under false pretences. I am sorry that anything of a Party nature should be introduced into this matter, as if supporters of this Bill were on one side of the House and opponents on the other; but I think we should know what is the opinion of the Government on the matter, and I think that someone might have walked the few yards over from Downing Street to take part, in this debate. [An hon. MEMBER: They are in the House] At working men's clubs liquor is served at legal and at illegal hours; and if you draw the line too tight in your endeavour to close public-houses, you will have more drink sold at such places instead of less. I am sure that this is not the wish of hon. Members on either side of the House. I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
I beg to second the Motion. I think the course of this debate shows how very difficult it is for any private Member to bring in a Bill dealing with so large a subject as this. A measure so largo as this, affecting, as it does, or as it pretends to do, the whole of the community, must always be brought in by the Government, who have the best opportunity of finding out what the feelings of the whole community on the subject are. I do not agree with my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. J. G. Talbot) in imputing insincere motives to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stevenson). I believe he recognizes, as we do, the presence of a very great evil; and it is only with regard to the particular method by which he proposes to deal with that evil that we disagree with him. In the Bill which is now before us I think the hon. Gentleman overshoots the mark, the result of which will be rather to increase the evils which they desire to obviate than to assist in removing them. I think this is not a question to be dealt with in a private Member's Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. J. G. Talbot.)
§ MR. CALLAN
I am sorry that the late Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. 1049 Gibson) was not in the House during the whole of this debate, especially as he has referred to the absence from the Treasury Bench of the prominent Members of the Government. Had he been here at an earlier hour, and had he occupied a seat further back, so that he could have obtained a better view of the House, he would have found a Cabinet Minister lurking behind the Speaker's Chair. It is quite evident that the right hon. Gentleman who should have been here, and to whose Department this really belongs, is the Home Secretary, who was behind the Speaker's Chair during the progress of a portion of this debate; and it is equally evident that a Coercion Bill has much more fascination for him, when that Coercion Bill applies to Ireland, than when it applies to England. We have heard a great deal about the public opinion of the country. We have heard it said that the odds were 10 to I that the labouring classes would support this Bill if it was put to the vote. I have taken some trouble to go over the Petitions that have been presented. I do not know how many Boards of Guardians there are in England; but. I find that there are only Petitions from 20. One Petition is the most extraordinary Petition ever presented to this House. It is a Petition from "the inhabitants of London," and is signed by 43 persons. Then I find a large number of Petitions have been got up by would-be Pharisees, and supported by the votes of the United Kingdom Alliance—a body that extends its beneficent functions to the payment of election expenses. I find that they are principally from Independents, Wesleyans, Methodists, Congregationalists, and Baptists. I do not find a single Petition here from any Church of England body—oh! yes; I do, here's one from the Convocation of Bible Christians.
§ It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.