§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ MR. THEODORE FRY
I rise, Sir, to move the second reading of the Bill for the closing of public houses on Sundays in the county of Durham; and I hope that, in doing so, I shall not have to trespass at any great length on the kind indulgence of the House. I ought to say, in the first place, that no one regrets more than I do—and this is the case, I believe, with all the promoters of this measure—that it has been found needful to introduce a Bill dealing with one county only. We should very much have preferred that the debate had taken place upon the Bill of my hon Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Stevenson), which seeks to confer the blessing of Sunday Closing upon the whole of England; but he has not hitherto been successful in obtaining a day for its second reading. I will admit, at the outset, as fully as any hon. Member can wish, that, in most cases, sectional legislation is not desirable, because it would lead to great difficulty if one law existed in one county and another in another; but the principle of sectional legislation has been affirmed over and over again, so far as the whole Kingdom is concerned, even on questions of far greater magnitude than Sunday Closing. For the three divisions of the Empire we have constantly Bills introduced affecting one or two only; and where differences already exist, as in the case of our Marriage Laws, with such far-reaching consequences, little or no attempt has been made at assimilation. The same applies to our Bankruptcy Laws, the franchise, and many other points. As regards the question before us, this House has affirmed the desirability, in many cases, of sectional legislation; and I trust that some of the Members from Scotland and Ireland will, in the course of the debate, bring forward their testimony with regard to the benefits which Sunday Closing has conferred on their respective countries. Thirty years ago 1195 the well known Forbes-Mackenzie Act was passed for Scotland. In 1878 the Irish Sunday Closing Bill received the sanction of the Legislature; two years ago the same boon was granted to the Municipality of Wales; only last year a Bill for the same object in the county of Cornwall passed the second reading, with the sanction of Her Majesty's Government; and this year the five large cities and towns of Ireland, which had been previously excluded, are to be included by the Government in the Irish Act. If we need any further corroboration of this point we have only to consider the action of this House in reference to the Resolution which has been introduced by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and which has passed with increasing majorities on each of the three occasions that it has been before this Parliament. I trust that this House will express the same opinion with regard to this measure now before it, for the closing of public-houses on Sundays in counties is simply giving effect to that Resolution on a small scale for one day in the week. We know that a great many of our Colonies have also adopted Sunday Closing within the limits of their jurisdiction. It has been so in Tasmania, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, and, perhaps, in other places; and I scarcely think that these Colonies, unless they saw benefit arising, would be inclined to retain it. The result of the Scotch law is so well known that I need not give figures, which are always unwelcome; but I will ask the House to allow me to repeat the result of three years in which Sunday Closing in Ireland has been a fact. Whether all I am about to point out is to be attributed to that I cannot say; but probably a great deal is, and I think no better testimony could be given of the value of the Act than the fact that the Government are now intending to apply it to the five large towns and cities. In 1877 the drink consumed in Ireland was of the value of £12,196,915; whereas, in 1882, it was only of the value of £11,042,520, showing a decrease of £1,154,395. Of course, as I have said, I do not attribute the whole of this decrease to Sunday Closing, as there are other agencies at work in Ireland, just as 1196 there are in England, which tend to decrease the consumption of intoxicating liquor; but, no doubt, a large amount of the decrease may be put down to Sunday Closing. We must bear in mind that in the largest towns Sunday Closing was not in operation, or only partially, the public-houses remaining open two hours less than formerly. Now, let us take the cases of conviction for drunkenness in Ireland during the three and a-half years before Sunday Closing, and three and a-half years after it. We find that there has been a reduction of 57 per cent, the number of cases having been respectively 15,942 and 6,788, showing a decrease of 9,154. In the five cities not included in the Sunday Closing Act the cases of drunkenness during the first period were 9,870, and during the second 6,573, showing a reduction of 3,297, or 33 per cent. With regard to the result in Wales, I will say only one sentence, for the reason that, as yet, we have no statistics to guide us. I have, however, been favoured with a telegram from one of the delegates present at a large public meeting which was held last night in Swansea, where numerous testimonies were given to the success of Sunday Closing, and the benefits it was bestowing upon the country. Public opinion is ripening on this question, and it is evident it is one which the Government must very soon take up and carry to a successful issue; but, in the meantime, I wish to show that in the county of Durham it is as ripe as it was in other parts of the Kingdom when Sunday Closing was granted them. It is, indeed, so overwhelmingly strong that we have fair claim to come before this House and ask for this special legislation on our own behalf. I hope, therefore, that the House will not any longer withhold from us the possession of the same advantages which it has already accorded to our fellow-countrymen in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. We are as ready in the county of Durham for the adoption of the Sunday Closing Act as they were in Ireland and Wales when it was granted to them. The public opinion of the county, I imagine, is best shown by the fact that, out of its 13 Representatives in this House, 12 are pledged to support the measure; and the 13th, who has not given in his adhesion, is now wavering, and will, I trust, feel justified in joining the rest at the close 1197 of the debate. The measure is not one? which we have pressed upon our constituents. We have not specially advocated it, or even suggested it; but it has been pressed upon us by the force of public opinion—by those who have sent us here, as I hope to show. The population of Durham, according to the last Census, was 867,586. Of these, the boroughs of Gateshead, Sunderland, Durham, Hartlepool, Jarrow, Stockton, and Darlington absorb 343,551. How is public opinion better shown than by the fact that, with the exception of that of the City of Durham—and I believe in that case there has been an oversight —the Town Councils of every borough have petitioned in favour of the Bill? Every Board of Guardians in the county has either this year, or in some previous year, signed a Petition to this House in favour of this Bill, or the Sunday Closing Bill for England. There are in the county 170 parishes; and of these 133, with, in most cases, the clergymen at its head, have taken up the matter exceedingly warmly. I am told that of the parishes only one has altogether declined to support the Sunday Closing Bill. Some have not identified themselves with the Petitioners, as they do not think the Bill goes far enough; some object to the bonâ fide traveller's clause; and others have held themselves aloof from other causes. We have got with us not only clergymen of the Church of England, but ministers of all denominations. The Bishop of the Diocese is President of the Society promoting the Bill, and with him is associated the Dean and Archdeacon, and other very well known personages in the district. We have the manufacturers and employers of labour with us, and are able to state that the working people of the county are themselves the people who have asked for the measure. Neither the Members of Parliament, the magistrates, nor the clergy have originated this Bill. It has originated from the people themselves, who desire not to live under this temptation on the Sunday, and that this reproach shall be removed from them. There have been about 100 Petitions from public meetings, and the signatures attached have been 1,617 in number, in very many cases the signatures having only been those of chairmen on behalf of the meetings. I had the honour 1198 to present a Petition yesterday containing 140,000 signatures all but 15; and that number would have been enormously increased had it not been for similar agencies at work in the county at the same time. A number of signatures from the county of Durham were attached to the Petitions presented by the hon. Member for South Shields, numbers to the Wesleyan Petition, the Presbyterian Petition, and the British Women's Temperance Petition. Altogether, it may be fairly estimated that 200,000 of the people of Durham have petitioned in favour of legislation on the subject of Sunday Closing, either for the county, or the whole of England; and this must, in itself, be a sufficient refutation to those gentlemen who maintain that we have not the working classes with us. With regard to the house-to-house canvass, we have obtained no fewer than 60,000 ayes and 2,440 noes, 2,124 being neutral, which gives only 4 per cent of noes, or 7 per cent no and neutral, and 96 per cent in favour of Sunday Closing, taking only the ayes and noes, or 93 per cent, taking the ayes, noes, and neutrals. The result-of a canvass in one pit village showed that 1,657 persons were in favour of Sunday Closing, 59 were against, and 32 were neutral, which gives 3 per cent of noes, and 5 per cent of noes and neutrals. Let me give a few statistics of the results of an impartial house canvass. In 1882, in Barnard Castle, which is an agricultural town, it was found that there were 592, including 6 publicans, ayes; 39, including 4 publicans, noes; and 47, including 5 publicans, neutrals. In 1868 the result of a canvass in Darlington was 2,682 ayes, 171 noes, and 113 neutrals. In 1878, in Stockton, there were 3,590 ayes, 308 noes, and 267 neutrals. In Jarrow, in 1880, there were 2,683 ayes, 210 noes, and 164 neutrals. In 25 places the numbers were, ayes 16,892, noes 1,317, and neutrals 966. In the large borough of Gateshead, the second largest in the county, a Eeturn was made to the effect that only three publicans were opposed to Sunday Closing. Objection will probably be taken to this Bill on the ground of its sectional character; but similar feeling to that exhibited in Durham has been shown in Yorkshire and Northumberland, two contiguous counties, from both of which similar 1199 proposals have emanated. The population of the three counties amounts to 4,187,917, or one-sixth of the whole English population, so that we cannot be said to be asking for very small or sectional legislation. We are asking for a measure in the interest of a population, three or four times as large as that of the Principality of Wales; and if our request is listened to, and it is found to work well—as I am sure it would be—the Secretary of State for the Home Department would have something to go upon in proposing the extension of the Act to the whole of the country. The passing of this measure would be exceedingly helpful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman when the Bill of the hon. Member for South Shields comes before the House. Hon. Gentlemen have asked whether there is any opposition? There is some opposition; but I believe it is of the smallest character. A few Petitions have been presented against the Bill—an exceedingly small number; I cannot tell how many, as I have not been able to trace them; but exceedingly few have come from the county itself. The testimony we have received on the other side has been overwhelming. One gentleman writes—After 36 years' experience of working men, by far the larger majority of the best men are in favour of the Bill.Another—The universal wish is for the passing of the Bill.I have several other quotations here; but I will not trouble the House with all of them. A gentleman was asking me what evidence we had that the working men are in favour of this Bill. Mr. Crawford, Secretary to the Miner's Union, writes—I am quite sure that, if balloted, an overwhelming majority of working men would vote for Sunday Closing.Mr. Jenkins, the able manager of very extensive works in the county, employing 6,000 hands, and representing a population of about 25,000 persons, says—A very considerable majority of the householders in this district are in favour of the measure. There are about 50,000 to 60,000 persons dependent on the coal and iron in the country; and, having spent a lifetime with working men, I am firmly of opinion that public-houses should be closed on Sundays.1200 There is one aspect of the question which is not a pleasant one to dwell upon, but it has an important bearing on the argument; and that is, the drunkenness found to pervade the country. I am sorry to say that amongst the rural population drunkenness exists in Durham to a greater extent than in any other county. It is at the top of the tree in regard to convictions for drunkenness. According to a recent Return, we find that in 1881 the convictions in Durham were 9,124, or 15 per 1,000, In Lancashire they were 11 per 1,000, whilst in Essex and Cambridge they were only 1 per 1,000. Sunday cases in Durham were 1,015, whilst in Cambridge they were only nine, with one-fifth of the population, or, speaking proportionately, about 40 to 1. Perhaps we should not wonder at the disproportion of these figures when we remember the different character of the population and the many who have only Sunday and a portion of another day above ground. But, Sir, I fear I have already trespassed too long on the indulgence of the House. It is needless to speak of the terrible evils of intemperance. They are admitted on all sides. Our Judges, our magistrates, our ministers, and the whole army of Christian workers throughout the country bear united testimony to the fact. We cannot spend £130,000,000 a-year in drink—of which a large portion is admitted by all to be unnecessary so far as either health or rational use are concerned —without thousands of people being annually consigned to the drunkard's grave. The question is—Can legislation assist to withstand this demon of drunkenness—"a demon worse than war, pestilence, and famine?" We believe we can do much; and we ask the House, to-day, to enable us to make the experiment, in one important county, of trying whether the prohibition of the sale of drink on Sunday may not be one means of attaining an end desired by all. This is a measure which the inhabitants of the county are practically unanimous in asking. It is only a question of time; it is a fight of light against darkness, of good against evil, of that which is of good report against that which is evil; and we ask the House no longer to hesitate when such tremendous issues are at stake. I thank the House for the patience with which 1201 they have listened to my speech, and beg to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Theodore Fry.)
§ MR. WARTON
, who had a Notice on the Paper to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, said, that, notwithstanding the eloquent peroration of the hon. Member in charge of the Bill (Mr. Theodore Fry), he must call the attention of the House to a few dry, and, he hoped he might say, sober facts. He quite understood, and did not in any degree wonder at, the adroitness with which the hon. Member glided over the question of statistics, and had only dealt with them cursorily. It was much easier to go to certain picked villages in Durham, than to deal with an entire country where a Sunday Closing Act had been in operation for upwards of three years. That was a curious argument, by which the hon. Member attempted to prove the necessity for this piecemeal legislation, by the fact that the Ministry had brought forward a Bill that Session to render the Irish Sunday Closing Bill permanent, and to extend its provisions to certain towns and cities previously exempted from its operation. What the Ministry did was no criterion on a question of statistics, and amounted to very little as an indication of what was right or proper. Further than that, as to statistics, everybody knew that they could not be relied upon, as they could generally be made to tell in any required direction. But the whole question of Sunday Closing had been tested in Ireland; and, having regard to the area, as well as the time the Act had been in operation in that country, he was not at all surprised the hon. Gentleman had not ventured to quote pertinent statistics, but had confined himself to those which had nothing to do with the question—namely, the falling-off in the consumption of liquor by a decreasing population. In Ireland, in the exempted cities and towns, there had been a positive decrease of 13 per cent in the arrests for drunkenness, while there had been an increase of 21 per cent in the non-exempted places. The Irish Judges' Charges to Grand Juries, at the recent Assizes, indicated that, in the Sunday closed dis- 1202 tricts, the increase of drunkenness still proceeded; while, in the exempted cities, an exactly opposite result formed the subject of congratulation from the Judicial Bench. The Police Reports upon which these Charges were based included the first quarter of the present year; and they showed that 1883 was not unlikely to reach the highest figures of intemperance ever before reached in rural Ireland. Lord Justice Fitzgibbon and Judge O'Brien in Munster, Baron Dowse in Leinster, and Judge Harrison in Ulster, had all the same story to tell —a great increase of drunkenness in the counties. The case was summed up by Lord Justice Fitzgibbon at Cork, at the close of the Munster Assizes. His Lordship, after congratulating the City Grand Jury on the decline of intemperance, said—It is not for me to speculate on the causes of this change—a change, however, by no means peculiar to your City; for it is a remarkable fact that, throughout this Munster Circuit, in every rural county there has been an increase, in some instances extremely large, in the number of convictions for intoxication, while in the City of Limerick and the City of Cork there has been a most remarkable diminution.He (Mr. Warton) agreed with the hon. Member for Darlington that a great deal of nonsense was talked about Petitions; and although, in this case, a great many had doubtless been presented, yet he did not place much faith in them. Some of them might be genuine and some spurious; and they, that day, had placed before them examples of Petitions done up with blue ribbon. But, passing away from that subject, he was glad to find the Government so ably represented on the present occasion by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, because he (Mr. Warton) was anxious to call attention to something directly affecting that right hon. and learned Gentleman. He wished to take the opportunity of reading an uncorrected extract from a speech made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman to a deputation from Cumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Monmouthshire, Cornwall, and the Isle of Wight. Of course, he (Mr. Warton) was not told who was there; but he saw, amongst others, that the hon. Gentleman who moved the second reading of this Bill was present. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would explain what that speech meant, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman's delicacy of feeling 1203 prevented his doing so himself. To his (Mr. Warton's) own mind, the language was most extraordinary. The members of the deputation came before the right hon. and learned Gentleman, to ask him to grant them facilities for proceeding with Sunday Closing legislation. The House well knew what that phrase meant. It meant that these Gentlemen might obtain, somehow or other, some time to which they were not entitled. He appreciated, so far, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's reply, when he said—"So far as giving you facilities, we are rather in the position of asking for them ourselves." That was fair enough; but next came the sting in the tail. "He would ask these influential gentlemen"—flattery went a long way in this world—"who represented so many parts of the Kingdom"—that was, all these sectional counties that enjoyed Sunday Closing—"and so many interests and sections of thought and sections of Party, to combine" —who was to combine them?—"to give to the Government and to the Legislature"—the Government first— "such facilities as would enable them to carry out legislation in this and other Departments." What that meant was this. There were two ways of translating the speech—the Scotch way and the American way. The Scotch way was—"I'll scratch you, if you'll scratch me;" and the American—"You roll my log, and I'll roll yours." And so the position of this powerful Ministry, which gained such a tremendous majority, was reduced to this—"We are not going to consider this question on its merits; but as you represent so many sections of thought"—of course, the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave them credit for thought, because that was another piece of compliment—"and so many sections of Party, if you will only combine to give us facilities, we will do the same for you." Was that high principle? It might be the doctrine of expediency; but a Government must be in a sorry position before resorting to such aid. He would say nothing about the Kil-mainham Treaty, because they were told, upon high authority, that there was no such thing; but he supposed that, after this, they would have a Treaty of Durham negotiated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Politeness always flowed from the lips of the Secre- 1204 tary of State for the Home Department, when he had something to gain by it for his Party. But such manifestations showed the weakness of Her Majesty's Government, who were trying to hunt with the hare and hold with the hounds —the same Government who were prepared to sacrifice the health of the troops to the dictates of cant—and the hope of these fanatics appeared to lie in that weakness. But there was one argument that had been used on the present occasion in favour of the Bill ad nauseam, and that was, of course, based upon the Petitions in its favour; but everybody knew how those Petitions were got up, and that many of the signatories were women and children, who were not fit to have an opinion. But, admitting that a large number of persons in the county of Durham—nay, supposing even that a majority of the inhabitants;—were in favour of the Bill, he (Mr. Warton) said that even that argument ought not to be decisive in a matter of this kind. He said that a statesman, who carried on the Government of the country on high moral principles, ought not to look merely to a majority in a particular district, because where was that kind of thing to stop? What was to be the limit? If they gave Sunday Closing to the county of Durham, because it was represented to be a particularly drunken county, how could they refuse it to a village, if the same plea of drunkenness were put forward? They had already a Bill for the Isle of Wight, which was less than a county; and nobody knew what was the vague and never-yet-defined area which the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) meant by his "locality" for the purposes of Local Option. The word "locality" was vague, and so was the word "inhabitants," which might mean responsible ratepayers, or might mean a parcel of women and children; and in this convenient atmosphere of vagueness the whole scheme was wrapped up. He asked distinctly, had the Government given way to that principle of Local Option or not? If they had, why did they not bring in a Bill themselves to establish Sunday Closing all over the country? If they had not, why did they not object to these county Bills, resolutely and firmly? He remembered that, during the first year of their being in Office, they put up the hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick (Mr. A. Peel), to 1205 argue against sectional legislation, which the hon. Member did, very ably and powerfully; so that when the Government were strong they objected to it, but now, he was afraid, they would not stick to their text. Probably they felt that they must carry something or other this Session, now that they had thrown over so much cargo to lighten the sinking ship. But, if they did not intend to favour these fractional measures, let them put their foot down plainly and straightforwardly. Let them show that they were guided by a principle; and then, if they only kept their supporters a little more in hand, they might be able to prevent a repetition of these pitiable spectacles of a number of sensible men, animated by a spirit of fanaticism, trying to foist upon the Legislature ridiculous measures of this kind.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES
Sir, not much has fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) that any hon. Member of the House need deal with; and the House is quite familiar with the various forms of opposition indulged in by the hon. and learned Member, not only with respect to Bills like the one now before the House, but with respect to other measures; and I also think the opinions he expresses are perfectly well understood, not only within these walls, but by the bulk of the people outside. There are one or two matters, however, upon which I should like to say a few words. The hon. and learned Member for Bridport has quoted from a statement that has been circulated this morning, amongst hon. Members, by one of the Licensed Victuallers' Protection Association. That statement demonstrates that, in the past year, there has been a considerable increase of drunkenness in Ireland, attributable, according to this statement, to Sunday Closing. We are all familiar with the very peculiar circumstances of Ireland last year; and everyone must be aware that, in times of great excitement and popular disturbance, it is probable there will be more drunkenness, and that the evils of drink will be more aggravated than at any other particular time; and, therefore, those who support this measure have a little reason to complain that garbled and delusive statistics of this nature and kind should be brought before the House just before the introduction of this Bill. The statement 1206 merely contrasts the year 1881 with the year 1882. If the House will take the three and a-half years before and the three and a-half years after the passing of the Sunday Closing Act for Ireland, it will be found that the arrests for drunkenness on Sunday stood thus—There were 15,942 arrests in the three and a-half years prior to the Sunday Closing Act, and in the three and a-half years after the passing of that Act there were only 6,788, showing a reduction of 9,156, or at the rate of 57 per cent. In the exempted cities there has been a great reduction since the shortening of the hours. For instance, there were 9,870 arrests for drunkenness in the three and a-half years previous to the passing of the Act; whilst there were only 6,573 in the three and a-half years after the passing of the Act, a reduction of 33 per cent. If you examine the Criminal and Judicial Returns for the years from 1877 to 1882 inclusive, you will find that the arrests for punishable drunkenness were—In 1877, 110,903; in 1878, 107,723; in 1879, 90,021; in 1880, 89,980; in 1881, 78,573; and in 1882 (the year upon which the whole statistics and statement of the Licensed Victuallers' Association are based) the figures increased from 78,060 in 1881 to 87,000 in 1882. There are other facts and figures with regard to the statement respecting Ireland, both general and otherwise, as to the results of the Sunday Closing Act, which I will leave other Members to deal with. I think it would be difficult to find, in the county of Durham, a feeling of opposition against the Bill that is not infinitesimal. There are two classes whom I feel are distinctly interested in passing this measure. There can be no doubt whatever that it is practically the unanimous wish of the working people this measure should become law; and, in the next place, amongst the publicans themselves—though I do not know that I can say there is a majority in the constituency I myself represent—I know there are many who would be very glad to see the closing of their houses, along with other trades people of the place, if they could have their Sunday as a day of rest and relaxation, and that, on that day, the barmaids and barmen should have some opportunity of rest. I stated that I thought the degree of opposition to the Bill was almost infinitesimal, and I will 1207 give an illustration of that. In the town of Jarrow, with which I am very familiar, there is a local branch of the Licensed Victuallers' Protection Association. In that town there is a population of 18,000, almost exclusively belonging to the working classes. A meeting was held about 10 days ago in support of my hon. Friend's Bill, and that branch of the association issued a circular, calling upon the working classes to attend the meeting, and defeat the objects of the promoters. It was only known that any opposition would be raised shortly before the meeting was held; but in a very short time after it was known large bodies of working men assembled in the hall, and the amendments that were proposed against the Bill were rejected by an overwhelming majority. I think we have reason to hope that the Government will look with favour on this proposal; and, whatever may be said against piecemeal legislation, so many of these matters are distinctly local, that I would wish, not only in this matter of Sunday Closing, but in many other matters, that far greater powers were given to different communities than they have at the present time. It is a matter for congratulation that we see so little opposition has come from the other side, and I hope this Bill will pass the second reading practically unopposed; and not only that, but that the Government will give facilities for passing it into law. There can be no doubt there will be some disappointment if, after the exhibition of public sympathy which exists on this matter in the county of Durham, or upon the general question of temperance which the people there have been much interested in, if this Session should pass with merely the affirmation of the principle, and that the Bill should not pass into the law of the land. I believe, moreover, I am speaking the feelings of many sitting on these Benches when I say we should be prepared to make considerable sacrifices to assist the Government in any attempt to pass the measure into law.
§ MR. THOMASSON
, in proposing an Amendment, said: Sir, I do not propose to enter into the general question of Sunday Closing, but will confine myself strictly to the terms of my Amendment. That question may, or may not, be a question to be dealt with by the counties; but it 1208 seems to me very clear that if it be such a question, it ought to be dealt with by representative bodies, elected in those counties, and not by this House. On the other hand, if it be a question not affecting counties, the hon. Members who are in favour of Sunday Closing should confine their efforts to the passing of a Bill affecting the whole country. At present, the House has no sufficient means of ascertaining the opinion of counties on this question. The hon. Member who moved the second reading of this Bill (Mr. Theodore Fry) has given us statistics which I admit, at the first sight, appear to point with some force to the majority of opinion in the county of Durham as being in favour of the measure; but, at the same time, I would put it to the House whether, after all, those statistics do not rather point to the fact that the people of Durham are in favour of a general Bill affecting the whole country, rather than of a local measure, because the majority of the signatures to the Petitions are in favour of the general application of the Sunday Closing principle? I also understand from the hon. Member that the Petitions from the Town Councils are of the same character. It may, however, be said that the Petitions on the general question are also to be regarded as Petitions in favour of this Bill. This argument may be employed; but while it may be said that the greater object, as a matter of course, includes the lesser, it seems clear to me that the people of the county of Durham do not wish to be singled out for particular legislation on this question. The hon. Gentleman also pointed out that 12 Members from the county of Durham were in favour of the Bill; yet on the back of the Bill I see the names of only 7 Members. I think it would have been better if the names of all the Members in favour of the Bill had been put on the back of the measure, so that we should have had an authentic representation of their opinions on this matter. As the matter stands, it is no proof that the great mass of the population of Durham want the Bill. Even if they did, that would be a strong argument in favour of the question being dealt with by the local authorities. I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the House are prepared to give proper consideration to this question; but my great objection to it is, that it seems to me 1209 clearly unfair towards private Members generally that measures in the interest of the public at large should be treated county-wise. There are 40 counties that might be so dealt with; and, as it is, I see by the Orders of the Day that there are no fewer than five other Bills relating to Sunday Closing on the Order Book, one dealing with the general question, and the rest with particular counties, and probably next year there may be 12; for it is obvious that this mode of county legislation, if it becomes a habit, may be resorted to on other subjects. In fact, there is no reason why 40 Members should not introduce 40 county licensing Bills next Session; and if that should be the case, what chance would a private Member, interested in a question affecting the whole country, have as against 40 Members, all having equal chances with himself in the ballot for places, and bringing in Bills on the same subject, but affecting only single counties? It seems to me that that method of procedure would introduce the most elaborate system of Obstruction we have ever heard of in this House. I do not, however, charge hon. Members with having any idea of Obstruction in regard to the Bills they have put on the Paper; but I say that this is what would be the practical effect of the system thus introduced, if it were allowed to develop to any great extent. I would also point out that the next measure on the Order Paper is the Labourers (Ireland) Bill. That, I say, is a far more important question than whether the public-houses in Durham should be closed on the whole of Sunday; yet, on this occasion, the Irish Members, and the House generally, are excluded altogether from discussing that subject by the measure we are now debating. I may also express my regret that the third Order of the Day, which relates to the general question of Sunday Closing, does not happen to be the second; because, in that case, the adoption of my Amendment would not have deprived the House of the opportunity of discussing the general question of Sunday Closing. I do not know whether it is the duty of the Government to protect the rights of private Members; but certainly private Members on this side of the House have shown great willingness to make sacrifices of their time and measures in favour of those of the Government; and I think the Go- 1210 vernment might very fairly have considered, before supporting the County of Cornwall Bill last Session, the general effect such a step might have on the rights and privileges of private Members. The Government propose to deal with the general question of County Government, and I am sure the House of Commons are quite ready to consider it. Possibly, licensing powers may be given to County Boards; and, in the meantime, it is not desirable to pass local Bills of this kind, which may afterwards be found to be obnoxious to the real feeling of the locality. These things are looked on as precedents, and it has been stated that the Bills for Sunday Closing in Ireland and Wales are precedents for the county measures; but I would point out that they operate in entirely the other direction, for it has never been proposed to pass a measure of Sunday Closing for any single Irish or Welsh, county. On the contrary, measures have been passed affecting those countries as a whole; and I hope that neither my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington nor this House will venture to compare either Ireland or Wales with a single English county. This being so, I fail to see what other precedent can be brought forward in support of the present Bill. I hold that a great principle is involved in the settlement of this question, and that the supporters of Sunday Closing would do well to direct their attention to measures affecting the general interests of the entire community. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
I beg to second the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Mr. Thomasson). I do not wish to speak of the Bill merely as a sumptuary law, which prevents the people from getting a glass of beer, because that has become so common that no one in this House appears to think it extraordinary at all; but in the Bill now before us there is, as it appears to me, a combination of every evil principle to which such legislation as this is open. Apart from the intolerance which declares that a man may be prevented from getting the glass of beer which he desires, there is superadded the intolerance of Sabbatarian legislation, by distinguishing one day in the week when a man may not be thirsty. And now to these impertinent interventions is added a third—the local one; and under this 1211 Bill a man may, for the present, be thirsty on Sunday outside the county of Durham, but not within. We are to have this Island, once called "Freedom's tight little Island," divided into sections, in some of which people are to be at liberty to drink beer if they like; whilst, in others, they are not to be allowed to drink at all. We are told that England is the land of liberty for everybody; and my opinion is that this country is not so large that liberty need be more confined. It seems to me that if this kind of thing is to go on, there will soon be very little, if any, freedom or liberty left in the land. As is now proposed, it is to be confined to counties. It is no longer to be Britain that is free, but particular counties; or eventually, if there is to be any spark of freedom left, with this trumpery species of legislation, spreading county by county, there may possibly, by-and-bye, be only one county, and that, perhaps, the smallest—Rutlandshire—in which there will be any street of liberty belonging to its inhabitants. I think it is anything but agreeable or creditable to see the House of Commons, composed of some of the wealthiest men in the country, and, to all appearance, not largely consisting of teetotallers—men whose personal liberty and comfort would not be touched or affected by this Bill—trooping in to the division, as will probably be the case, in order to vote away the right of working men—the poorest of the people—to obtain a glass of beer on Sundays, their supporters being the groups of Petitions signed by Sunday schoolchildren. ["Hear, hear!"] That may be a pleasing task to those hon. Gentlemen; but to me, as a democrat, it is a painful spectacle. Who are the real supporters outside of the House of such measures as this? Why, they are men not one in 50 of whom I believe will be affected by this Bill, if it becomes law. It is not the class who will suffer from the closing of the public-houses who sign these Petitions; but only a set of Pharisaical theorists, who want everybody to conform to their particular views. It is so hard to understand the reason for all this agitation, that one is almost tempted to regard it from a commercial point of view, and imagine that there must be a magnificent syndicate in the neighbourhood of Threadneedle Street, the design of which is to lower the value of property by these restrictions, in some particular part of the country, in order 1212 to buy it up on good terms, and then to sell again when the people will no longer endure such restrictions. The Bill is an attempt to interfere with democratic rights. It needs all my faith in democratic principles to view without sadness, and almost with dismay, that the first steps of an enfranchised democracy are almost always taken over the neck of individual liberty, resulting in laws, such as that we are now discussing, which, under existing conditions, no despotic aristocracy would venture to inflict. My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. W. H. James) appealed to the Government for special support, and I dare say they will give it, because it is just the sort of measure the Government would like to pass. It would please many of their supporters, and would oppress only the helpless. Besides, the zeal of new converts is proverbial. But, although we may pitchfork common sense out of nature, it will inevitably, sooner or later, be brought back; and, therefore, I shall not trouble the House now by going through the groups of failures coming of sumptuary laws. This sumptuary legislation has been a failure all the world over; it has been a failure in America, and it will lead to countless evasions. Those who are in the habit of taking long walks in the country are perfectly well aware of this; and I can give an instance of the way in which the law is evaded, which occurred to a friend of mine who was out walking with his wife in a district in which Sunday Closing prevails, and within the prohibited hours. The lady, being rather delicate, was taken unwell, and naturally wanted some refreshment; and, there being a highly-respectable public-house near, my friend applied for assistance, and the proprietor, seeing the bonâ fide nature of the case, at once admitted them, after the gentleman had stated what he wanted at the side door. On entering the house, he was at once ushered into a room, from which, to his and his wife's astonishment, they could see around the bar some 30 persons, mostly in their shirt sleeves and aprons—evidently workmen of the immediate neighbourhood—who were freely supplied with liquor. It must be borne in mind that this was during closing time on Sunday, and while a policeman, with the most stolid and unconscious look possible, stood only some 30 yards off to watch the house. That was an instance of the 1213 benefit of Sunday Closing, and it is an instance of the sort of thing which occurs now, when you only bother the people with short hours; and there will be ten times as much of it, when you come to keep them out of the public-houses altogether. In Ireland, with its Sunday Closing Act, last year, there were found 800 illicit stills—[Mr. WARTON: 830.]—against eight or nine in England. Scotland boasts of the great things done by the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, and people talk of the enormous progress that has taken place. When that comes to an official test, it does not amount to much. The Committee appointed to inquire into the question of grocers' licences reported, in 1878, that the general result of their inquiry throughout Scotland showed an increase of drunkenness in that country, even where the population had decreased. Are hon. Members acquainted with the fact that one out of every 1,452 persons were convicted of drunkenness in protected Scotland on Sunday; whereas in unprotected England arrests were made only at the rate of one in 1,635? I dare say hon. Members have seen the Papers put forward, in which it is stated that the increase of drunkenness has taken place in the protected districts, rather than in the unprotected districts of Ireland. In Galway, which is a protected town, the arrests for drunkenness increased from 800 in 1878 to 1,577 in 1880, or nearly 50 per cent; whereas in Dublin, the largest town exempted, they decreased from 17,000 in 1878 to 10,000 in 1880. Of course, I know, my protest in such matters as this is entirely unavailing; for at present, until the tide turns, the whole course of legislation is placing the population of the country at the mercy of persons who, I am quite convinced, are making a benevolent mistake.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, while willing to discuss the question of County Government, declines to consider Public Bills affecting only a single county,"— (Mr. Thomasson,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. C. M. PALMER
Sir, I should not have risen to say the few words I am about to say, but for the fact that the hon. Member who has moved the 1214 Amendment before the House (Mr. Thomasson) has referred to the fact that five of the Members for the County of Durham, although in favour of this Bill, have not put their names on the back of it. I happen to be one of those Members whose name is not on the back of the Bill, and I wish to say that it is by mere chance that that is so, and that the 12 Members alluded to by the hon. Gentleman are all earnest and anxious in their desire to see this Bill passed into law. I believe, even, as has been said, that my hon. Colleague (Sir George Elliot) is half converted to the measure. After the exhaustive speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fry), who introduced the Bill, I feel it would be improper for me to occupy the time of the House more than to say I am satisfied of the fact that there exists among the working classes of the county of Durham a very strong feeling in support of the Bill. I gather, not only from what I hear from public sources of information, but also from those who are more closely associated with the working class than I am, that the working population of the county of Durham will hail with great delight and the greatest possible amount of satisfaction the passing of this measure. The only objection that exists, and undoubtedly so, is that it is piecemeal legislation; but I reply that where you have a county so strong and so earnest in supporting a measure of this character I cannot see that their opinion ought to be set aside on this ground. I think, on the contrary, that their opinions are entitled to every consideration from the House of Commons. We have been told that if this Bill were to pass we should immediately have clubs established in all parts of the country for the purpose of Sunday drinking. For my own part, I should say that the working men of Durham are every year becoming more sober and more intelligent, so much so, that even if clubs were to be started for the purpose of being used by them on Sundays, they would be as careful and particular to eject from their midst any individuals who committed themselves by drunkenness and misconduct as we are in our own clubs here and elsewhere. I shall only further detain the House by saying I feel it my duty to give expression to the general feeling of the Members for the county of Durham, that the working classes of that county are very 1215 strongly in favour of the passing of this measure.
§ MR. T. C. THOMPSON
Sir, in supporting this Bill, I desire to say that I entirely differ from the views advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor), and I always differ from him with regret. I think my hon. Friend has misinterpreted this Act, when he says that it will interfere with the liberty of the subject. We do not purpose to interfere with the liberty of the subject generally; but what we seek is to put the publicans into exactly the same position as other tradesmen. If my hon. Friend's arguments are right, we are doing wrong in closing any shops in the county of Durham on Sundays. At present, we close the shops of the baker and draper, men who are quite as necessary, and far less injurious than the publicans. I remember, some years ago, having to canvass a large borough in the North of England, and I was then very much struck by the application made to me by poor people, who complained of the hardships of all shops being closed on Sundays. They said their husbands came home very late on the Saturday night; so late, indeed, that it was impossible for them to make use of the earnings which had come into their hands, for when they went out to the shops they found them closed. Their only means of dealing was by going to traders who were carrying on an illicit trade on the Sunday morning. I confess I was very much struck by that argument, and the contention that it was a hardship to the poor that all shops should be closed on Sunday; but if you poll the working classes, how many will you find willing to do away with the restrictions on the Sabbath? Would you find many who would vote for the mines and workshops being opened on Sundays? But if my hon. Friend's argument is true, we should open these, as well as the public-houses. The hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Thomasson) has contended that there should be no legislation for counties; but he has forgotten the physical character of the country. We are divided, in some respects, and in no respect more, than in the different employments carried on in different counties. In that part of England of which I represent the chief town we are almost entirely engaged in mining. 1216 Surely, we have a right to say that we are specially interested in this matter, and to ask for special assistance from you to enable us to carry out the work in which we are engaged. Surely, there can be no objection to that? The same thing might be said for Lancashire. Surely, the people of Lancashire could ask for legislation on the subject of the cotton trade, without Wiltshire and Dorsetshire being necessarily consulted on the subject? But if anything tends to the well-being of the country, it is that the special energy of each part of the country should be brought forth. I believe it was Richard Cobden who said that there was by far the greatest political energy developed in the small Republics. He pointed to Greece and other countries, where history taught that there was more energy developed in such small States than in the great Empires which these Republics had often put down. If that is so, why should not Durham be encouraged, by this special legislation, to develop her energies, without obtaining or asking the consent of other parts of the country? As I have said before, our occupation is chiefly in mining, and what do the workmen of Durham ask for? The population of the county is 867,000, and a Petition was yesterday presented from 140,000 persons, praying for legislation on this subject. You may ask—"Why close these public-houses? Why cannot you resist the temptation to enter them? Why, if you do not want drink, cannot you abstain, and allow those who want it to have it?" Well, you are strong moral men, and may be able to resist it; but what is the answer of the working men of Durham? It is the answer given over and over again to gentlemen who have canvassed that county—"You know we are efficient workmen. We can build ships, which will ride safely through the most violent tempests. We can go down into the bowels of the earth, and draw up coals in such quantities, that you are enabled to carry on your manufactures more cheaply than any other country in the world. We can go into the workshops, and forge iron so quickly, so carefully, that the absence of accident is a marvel; so abundantly that the only fear is, lest by our very skill, we cheapen the value of our labour. We can do all this; but there is one thing we cannot do. Strong as we 1217 are in other respects, we have not sufficient courage, if you leave the public house open, to avoid drink." I have heard that answer given by intelligent men in the county from which I come, and men from other counties will tell you the same. And is it likely that this should not be true? Is there anything in it at variance with our common humanity? What would be your conduct supposing you had no place of resort on Sunday, supposing you were deprived by the want of education from the pleasures of reading, and supposing there were no public rooms or parks to go to? What would you give way to? Possibly, to sensual gratification and degrading pursuits; and it is because these pleasures, this refinement, are denied to the working classes, that it is fair and just that you should close, in their interest, and at their request, these public-houses on the Sunday. The House has heard what the people of Durham say themselves; but by whom was this matter pushed forward? A canvass has been made of the county of Durham, village by village, and house by house—not by political adventurers anxious to obtain some political credit from it, but by the clergy of every denomination, and more especially of the Church of England, which I so much venerate, and which, in my opinion, is likely to become the Church of the future, because she is leading herself, by the self-denial and forbearance of her members, to carry out those primitive doctrines of Christianity which may yet be proved to be the truest political wisdom. By that canvass it has been found that the large majority of the people are in favour of Sunday Closing; and are you going to deny these men this right for any argument that has been advanced today? What has been the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton)? He said he was going to make a dry speech of statistics, but he soon left the statistical part of his remarks. The only statistics he put forward were with the view of showing that, by Sunday Closing, drunkenness had increased instead of diminished; and by whom was that argument used? Why, it was put forward in the papers sent us to-day by the publicans of England. Therefore, they have advanced, as an argument against Sunday Closing, that their trade would be in- 1218 creased. They would have you believe that their opposition to this Bill arises from their conviction that, by closing public-houses on Sundays, there would be more drinking. Do you believe that will be the result; and, if you do, do you believe that the publicans oppose this Bill for that reason? Can any proposition be more monstrous? My hon. and learned Friend passed away from that, and seeing the stalwart form of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department opposite him, began to abuse the Government. That is an occupation which always finds favour with many hon. Members of this House. But to return to the subject. Why do we specially want these houses closed on Sundays? Have any hon. Gentleman, in this House heard of St. Monday? Do they know that men do not go to their work on Mondays? That it is very often a day of enforced idleness, because the dissipation of the Sunday has unnerved the men for the Monday? They know that they cannot trust themselves, and their fellows—whose lives depend upon their care—know that they cannot be trusted, after the Sunday's debauch, to give the needful attention in the dangerous works in which they are employed. What do they ask? They say—"Close these public-houses on the Sunday. Take away that temptation which renders us unfit for work. We will then add to the wealth of the country. Nay, we will do more than that. We will raise our own moral character and the moral character of the people which is so dear to the House."
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, that, while sorry to incur the reproaches of his hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor), he was perfectly prepared, when the great body of the people demanded it, to give his support to a further measure of Sunday Closing; and he should do so, without feeling that he had been doing anything in the direction of imposing any restrictions on the liberties of the people. The question before the House, however, was one of procedure, and there appeared to him to be great difficulties in the way of accepting this Bill. No doubt, it would not be easy to pass a general measure; but that was not the only alternative. It was not necessary to relegate the question to a general measure. It was quite 1219 competent, he thought, for the House to give this power to the local authorities, in connection with the policy which found so much favour. That seemed to him a way of proceeding with this question very much more in accordance with the accepted principles of legislation, and more likely to avoid difficulties, than would be the passing of a measure having reference solely to the county of Durham. He hoped that they would have a County Government Bill by next Session at the latest; but if the views of Durham were now entertained, nothing was more certain than that the Order Book of the House of Commons would be crammed, page after page, with all sorts of measures dealing with counties. In his opinion, it was open to grave consideration whether the House ought to adopt this method in connection with such subjects; but, on the other hand, when he looked at the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Thomasson), he found that it asked the House to adopt a not less serious departure from the general mode of proceeding, for, by it, that hon. Gentleman asked the House to affirm that, under no circumstances whatever, would the House be a party to a Bill affecting only a single county. There were, however, certain occasions when it might be necessary for the House to pass a Bill for a single county, a Bill, for example, relating to the defence of a single county, or for matters connected with local institutions. He therefore could not support the Amendment, neither did he think the House would accept it. With regard to the Bill itself, while he sympathized with the general object the proposers had in view, and while he was certain that temperance was at the root of social, as well as of all other, reforms in this country, the question was, whether the House should, immediately preceding the consideration of important reforms in local government, legislate for a single county. So great was his hesitation upon the point that he could not take part in the vote.
§ MR. CRAIG
Sir, speaking as one who knows the county of Durham well, I think there is great justification for my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Theodore Fry) in bringing forward this Bill; and those who know anything about the mining districts will, at any rate, agree with its objects. I 1220 should like to call attention to the fact that the rights of individual liberty, as to which we have heard such an able discourse from the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor), are very good so far as they do not interfere with the liberties and interests of others. But the exercise of that liberty by those who frequent public-houses on Sunday, especially in the mining districts, does, to a great extent, interfere with the interests and the happiness of others. It brings starvation upon families; it leads to the commission of crime; and it is frequently likewise the cause of accidents which inflict a large amount of injury upon property and upon fellow-workmen. Allusion has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. T. C. Thompson) to what is called St. Monday. In the mining districts we are all familiar with it, and we know it to be a fact that on the Monday, and often even on a Tuesday, there is very little work performed by those who go to public-houses on Sunday. This means that these men subject not themselves only, but their fellow-workmen, who are engaged in the same pit, to a reduction of wages in consequence of the increased cost of production. On one occasion, at the Mining Institute, I called attention to the difference which would result if a colliery, producing about 150,000 tons of coal per annum, was worked on Monday, instead of lying practically idle on that day. As a result of a calculation I made on the subject, I found that the difference would be £7,000 or £8,000 a-year—sufficient, in fact, to give the working men an increase in their wages of something like 20 per cent, and still leave a handsome sum in the hands of the employers. That is a very serious matter, and if the closing of public-houses on Sunday would in any way mitigate that, and would lead to Monday and Tuesday being working days like other days, such a desirable result should be brought about. The hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) endeavoured to show that the removal of this temptation had led to increased drunkenness. I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member has paid much attention to that subject, or whether he has ever tried to realize in his own mind what the temptation is to a working man to see the public-house open at the end of his 1221 week's work. If we take the case of a man earning 24s. per week, and deduct from that what he pays for rent, coal, light, and clothing, we shall find that, taking six in a family, that does not allow 1d. per meal per person; and to men who are working hard all the week, and have so little to maintain them, surely the temptation must be very strong indeed when they see the public-house constantly open to receive them on Sunday, when they are released from the requirements of labour. I am fully convinced that the working population, especially in the mining districts, are by a very large majority in favour of the principle of this Bill, and that the women are especially sensible to the evils which arise from the drunkenness of their husbands. In fact, we have seen Petitions presented to-day from a great many women who have signed them. They know that their families are pinched on account of the wages that are spent, to a large extent, in the public-houses on the Sunday; and they know that their husbands' lives and their sons' lives are often jeopardized by accidents caused by the indulgence in Sunday drinking; and, being sensible of all this, we cannot wonder that they are interested in a measure such as this before the House. As to one argument that has been used—the argument against piecemeal legislation—I do not see myself why, if it be a good Bill, it should be set aside because it happens to be only a county measure. Surely, it is desirable, on its own merits, that Durham or any other constituency should bring forward a Bill of this kind, and endeavour to mitigate great evils such as those that have been mentioned; and it is for these reasons I heartily support it.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he had waited for some little while, expecting to hear what the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (the Secretary of State for the Home Department), on the part of the Government, should have to say with regard to the Bill. As he had not done so, he (Mr. J. G. Talbot) could not help giving expression to the feeling of surprise which he experienced at the silence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman on such an important matter. He considered the subject was one on which the House had a right to expect that the Government would give its advice and instruction, by stating what 1222 it intended to do. Such a measure as that of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease), containing a moderate extension of the principle of Sunday Closing, would commend itself to the general sense of the country, and ought to be supported by the House; but, when they came to consider the sweeping measure now before the House, they were in a very different position. First of all, they had to deal with the whole question of Sunday trading; and had to ask themselves, whether they were not in danger of going in advance of public opinion upon the question—which was one of degree—and so running the risk of a possible reaction in the future? They had also to ask themselves, whether it was wise to pass a Bill for the total closing of all public-houses in a thickly-populated district, in which there was probably a large floating population who were not represented in any of the Petitions that had been laid before the House? Besides this, the House had the very grave question to consider of, whether this was the best method of dealing with the subject. He considered that, instead of this being the right way, it was by far the worst way that could possibly have been conceived. He entirely disapproved of this sort of County Home Rule, with reference to a matter that was of Imperial concern, neither did he think that any county, as such, was either entitled or qualified to express an opinion on the subject. The hon. Member for the City of Durham (Mr. T. C. Thompson) almost proved the point; for, in order to support Sunday Closing by means of county legislation, he said he should be prepared to support a mining Bill brought forward for Durham, and a cotton Bill brought forward for Lancashire. But was it to be contended that, because mining was the staple occupation of Durham, and cotton the staple trade of Lancashire, Bills confined to those counties should therefore be passed dealing with these important matters? He was quite sure the common sense of the House of Commons would repudiate such an idea. As an advocate of temperance in the proper sense of the word, and as distinguished from total abstinence, and being, therefore, in favour of any proper restrictions on the liquor traffic that could be suggested in the House of Commons, he (Mr. J. G. Talbot) regarded these county 1223 measures as an absolute obstruction to a well-considered scheme of universal Sunday Closing. What would happen? If the House passed this Durham Bill, they would not be advanced a step in the direction of obtaining Homo Rule for the whole country. What was to be done for the other counties? Were they to wait until 40 Bills had been passed for the 40 counties of this country? If the country had arrived at a time when Sunday Closing was to be the rule of the whole of the community, in the name of common sense let them have a comprehensive measure for the whole of the country; meanwhile let the county Bills be withdrawn, and this miserable system of piecemeal legislation be discontinued. He wished to know, whether the Government had got an opinion on the subject; and, if they had, he hoped the Secretary of State for the Home Department would give the House some explanation of the attitude of himself and his Colleagues respecting it.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Sir, the hon. Member opposite (Mr. J. G. Talbot) is wrong in supposing that the Government have not an opinion upon this subject, and are not prepared to express it. I simply waited, as is usual in these debates, until others had expressed their opinion upon it, before giving expression to my own. This is no novel proposal, and there never has, in fact, been any doubt whatever as to what the opinion of Her Majesty's Government is upon this subject. It was expressed, in the most full and explicit manner, last year on the Sunday Closing Bill for Cornwall; and, since the passing of that measure, we have not changed our opinion, and we have nothing to alter or nothing to add to what was then said. I am willing to address myself in a practical manner to the subject; and, in the first place, I am bound to say that the arguments of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down do not assist very much the practical solution of this question. What was his last observation? He says, he does not think Sunday Closing can be applied to many of the populous parts of this country; and he asks us, therefore, in effect, to wait until we have a general Sunday Closing Bill, applicable to the whole of the country, although he knows very well that there are parts of the country to which it could not be easily applied. What does 1224 that mean but the rejection of Sunday Closing altogether in England?
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon. What I intended to say was, that I was in favour of the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease), which treats the populous places in an exceptional manner.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
That points to exactly what I call, and the hon. Member calls, piecemeal legislation. The words "piecemeal legislation" seem to have been used by the hon. Member as a disparaging epithet; but I do not see that piecemeal legislation is of necessity an objectionable kind of legislation. The hon. Member says—"Do not let us have piecemeal legislation;" but the fact is, that this House, for more than 25 years, has treated this subject as properly a subject of piecemeal legislation. It began with Scotland; and, surely, Scotland is not the whole of the Empire. The hon. Member again uses those disparaging adjectives, which, he thinks, supply the place of argument, and says—"Do not let us allow Home Rule to the counties." But you gave Scotland Home Rule on the liquor question; you gave Ireland Home Rule on the liquor question; and you gave Wales Home Rule on this question; and now you say—"Do not let us have Home Rule for Durham." The common sense of the country says that this question must be dealt with in a piecemeal manner, and it has been so dealt with in a piecemeal manner. I sympathize with the wail against Democracy which came from that stalwart Democrat, the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor). He is shocked at the result of the Frankenstein monster which he, himself, has so largely helped to create, for he has found, as the dreadful consequence of giving the people power, that they are no longer to be governed according to the views of enlightened persons as to what they ought to want, but by what they themselves believe. If my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester does not know that the progress of Democracy means government by the people, and not for the people, he has not yet learned, I think, even the catechism of Democracy. Well, no doubt, this is a democratic subject; and the question is, what do the people —it may be the whole of the community, 1225 or a section of it—desire? It will be found that, when the overwhelming opinion of the majority of the people of Soot-land was in favour of Sunday Closing, Parliament had the good sense to allow the people of Scotland to have their way in the matter. You find the same thing in Ireland; you find the same thing in Wales. Yet the opponents of this Bill say you are violating all the principles of the Constitution if you apply to other sections of the community that which you have already applied to several. We are also told that these experiments ought not to be tried; and hon. Members opposite say, that if you tried it in one place, that would be an obstacle to the adoption of the same principle elsewhere. I must say that I cannot follow that argument. Has the experiment which has been tried in Scotland, Ireland and Wales advanced, or retarded the question? Why, it has decidedly advanced it. We are in a much stronger position to judge of the matter when we find that the experiment has been tried in those parts of the United Kingdom, and that it has done no harm, but, on the contrary, so far as we can judge, it has accomplished good, and that nobody, in the counties to which it has been applied, wishes it to be revoked; but, on the contrary, they require rather that it should be extended. I would ask, what is the reason to be advanced against this proposal? Now, to my mind the question is this. Is there such an overwhelming proof of the feeling of the people, in this section of the community, as will justify Parliament taking action upon it? That, I think, is the true test. I spoke on the Resolution of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and I said — "I think it is a question of areas, and I think it is a question of opinion within those areas." I should be very glad if there were a chance, immediately, of giving, in some organized and regular manner, to these communities the means of expressing their opinions, and of giving effect to them on this question. But that is not the matter which is immediately before us. The question is, whether this community does desire this Bill? Does anybody doubt that? Let hon. Members look at the Petitions in favour of it. The hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) casts contumely upon 1226 Petitions; but it is not a question of Petitions signed by, as he says, women who are not entitled to an opinion on this subject. If there are any people in this country who are entitled to an opinion upon this subject, surely it is the women of this country. If the women of Durham, as well as the men of Durham, are in favour of a measure of this description, I know no argument more conclusive in favour of its being passed. But where are the Members of Durham to speak against this proposal? Where is the hon. Baronet who sits on the other side of this House (Sir George Elliot), who is so well acquainted with the interests of the mining population? Where is he, to protest against the measure? Everybody knows that hon. Members who sit in this House are very good barometers of the political temperature of the communities in which they live; and, do you believe that if there were any doubt whatever of the sentiment of that Democracy which my hon. Friend (Mr. P. A. Taylor) regrets, that they would not have found some spokesman from that part of the community? Everyone must know that, practically speaking, we have all that reasonable certainty of the feelings of the people in the county of Durham, that Parliament can desire, in acting on a question of this description. It is said that you ought not to allow one part of the country to have different laws from another part. That, however, is a general proposition, which has very large exceptions to it. I admit that you cannot allow particular parts of the community to have special laws affecting personal liberty; but we know perfectly well that in matters of police and sanitation you do allow particular communities to have their own bye-laws and to have legislation special to themselves. A Committee of this House upstairs, last Session, considered a Bill providing for the local authorities to deal with sanitary matters. The same principle applies to various things relating to the well-being of the population, which are different from the general laws affecting all parts of the community. Therefore, it is entirely untrue to say that Parliament does not allow particular sections of the community to have laws which are appropriate to their condition. The mining populations of Durham have very good reasons for having strong opinions on this subject, 1227 through the incapacity that is brought upon the workmen for their regular occupation by Sunday drinking. Everybody knows that the great danger of Sunday drinking is in regard to the fact that Sunday is the day which comes after the day on which wages are paid. There is the danger of a pocket full of money and of the want of regular occupation. What is the result? Why, that we have not merely the mischief produced by drinking on this particular day, but also the immense mischief to the individual himself and his fellow-workmen on the Monday, and to the country at large, owing to their incapacity to carry on their regular avocation. These are the reasons why there should be a strong opinion on the subject, and why Parliament should pay attention to that opinion. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. J. G. Talbot) says, that if you pass this Bill, you will obstruct the general Bill for the whole of the country. On the contrary, if you pass this Bill for Durham, and it is successful in producing the good effects anticipated, instead of retarding the question of applying the law to the whole of the country you will be advancing it. May be a general Sunday Closing Bill for this country would create, in various parts of the community, a strong opposition, and might be a very difficult thing to pass. But, surely, there is nothing more unstatesmanlike than to say, that if there is a good to be accomplished in one part of the country, with the wish and support of that part of the country, we should not allow it, because another part of the country would reject it, and because we cannot at present make such a measure acceptable to the whole country? The hon. and learned Member for B rid port appears to have been scandalized by the observations I made the other day, to a deputation that waited upon me, to ask the Government to give facilities for the passing of this and similar Bills. I was obliged to confess that facilities for legislation were not a commodity with which Her Majesty's Government abounds; but I told the deputation that I believed this question was not a Party question, for there are hon. Members on the other side of the House as strongly in favour of this legislation as any who sit on the Ministerial side. I said to the deputation—"The Govern- 1228 ment have great difficulties in passing measures that we think of advantage to the community; but when private Members bring forward Bills which we think are for the advantage of society at large, let all Parties combine and try and pass them." That was the spirit of my remarks, and I have nothing to withdraw, or to apologize for. For the same reason which induced the Government to support the Sunday Closing Bill for Cornwall last year, I shall, on behalf of the Government, support this Bill. Although I hope more general measures of this kind will hereafter be brought forward and applied to the country at large, I think we should do wisely in applying, them, in the first instance, to those communities who are most ready to accept them. They have in them nothing of evil, but, on the contrary, they are very beneficial. In fact, the principle of this Bill has been adopted in our great Australian Colonies, in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Those cities have felt the evils of intemperance, and adopted Sunday Closing; and I should say that the men who, in our great Colonies, have exercised the gift of self-government, and whose industries are very similar to those of the people of Durham, understand this matter thoroughly well; and if the great Colony of Australia, if Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have all been allowed by the Imperial Parliament to pass measures for the benefit of their own communities, I cannot understand the principle on which the House of Commons should refuse to the county of Durham that which it evidently desires in the shape of this Bill.
SIR GEORGE ELLIOT
said, that the subject before the House had received his very serious attention. He had hitherto maintained that the people ought to be judges for themselves as to whether their public-houses ought to be closed or not on Sundays. He had thought, more particularly in connection with that mining population, that if there was one class of men who more than another had need of liberty to move about and see their friends on Sunday and to whom facilities for enjoyment ought to be given on a Sunday, it was the mining population, for there was no class of men better disposed or more religiously inclined than they were. But such representations had been made by ministers of religion, and others most 1229 competent to give an opinion on the subject, that he felt bound, as a reasonable man, to pause before he could offer his vote in opposition to the Bill. On the whole, he felt he could neither support, nor would he vote against it, though he should have preferred that some other county than Durham should have been selected for this experiment. There was a great deal of drunkenness in Durham, but not among the miners; they had never, in his recollection, been a dissipated race, and what was now proposed to be done would touch them keenly. He would like to have seen some expression of opinion from the Trades Unions, who were so ably represented in that House. He was not aware that those powerful Bodies, which could make their voices heard upon the extension of the franchise and other questions in which they were interested, had, either by Petition or otherwise, expressed any opinion on this subject. Upon a question which affected their domestic and social life, they seemed to be totally silent. The opinion of the men who represented these institutions would have as much weight with him as anything else. He happened to have mining property in Wales, for which Parliament had passed a Sunday Closing Act. But there was a little stream which separated Monmouthshire from Wales, and the people now flocked over it on Sundays to the public-houses, and he was told that public-house property there was worth four times as much as before. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: There is a Bill for Monmouthshire.] He should have been disposed to vote for the Bill, if it had been a comprehensive and general measure. When, however, he saw such a preponderance of feeling in favour of the Bill, he bowed to it, though it was at variance with his own views.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, he wished, before the debate was closed, to give his reasons why it was his intention to oppose the second reading of the Bill, and he might say that he was well acquainted with mining populations. He felt it all the more incumbent upon him to address the House in consequence of the remarks which had fallen from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, he was sorry to see, was not now in his place, probably being 1230 much more agreeably engaged. He proposed to take his cue from the speech of his hon. Friend (Mr. J. G. Talbot), for there was no man in the world who was more anxious than himself to serve the cause of true temperance. He had two capital objections to the Bill. He was by no means converted to the principle of piecemeal legislation by the arguments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman; indeed, they had pushed him (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) further than before in the opposite direction. He must say that the observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman on that point had rather surprised him. The right hon. and learned Gentleman told them that because Scotland, Ireland, and Wales had Home Rule on this question, there was no reason why they should not have it in the county of Durham. In the first place, he (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) contended that there was no analogy between England and Scotland in this matter. Scotland, it should be borne in mind, had Home Rule to a very considerable extent. She had her own Church, her own laws, and her own procedure; and with regard to Ireland and Wales, he denied that Sunday Closing was successful in those two countries. All the objections that were urged against Sunday Closing had proved to have a true foundation in what had taken place in Ireland and Wales. He found, by studying the statistics of the question, that so far from drunkenness being diminished by the Irish and Welsh Closing Acts, there had been an increase of drunkenness in both places. As to the bonâ fide traveller, that was a fraud; and, in Scotland, obtaining drink on Sunday was merely a question of money, for there was no difficulty in anyone obtaining what one wanted in the way of liquor, if they had the money to pay for it. A man had only to say that he had come from a place a certain number of miles off and he was sure of being served with whatever refreshment he might call for. The right hon. and learned Gentleman tried to make out that piecemeal legislation was beneficial by referring to police bye-laws; but there really was no analogy in the matter. But, after all, his (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck's) strongest argument against this Bill was, that it rendered drinking on Sunday illegal on one side of the hedge, and legal on the other. The old Whig cry used to be for 1231 diversity of the suffrage; but the great Liberal Party now went in for uniformity of the suffrage. In this question, they went back to diversity; so that a man living on one side of a street, or just over the border line of a county, would be able to drink on Sunday, while a man on the other side could not. The only logical Member on the other side of the House on this question was the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who would not, if he had his way, allow drinking on either side of the street. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle supported these county Bills, however, because he thought if the House once passed small measures, it would clear the way for a large one. He (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) also objected to this Bill, because it was class legislation, and any measure of this kind was essentially class legislation. The Welsh Sunday Closing Act was passed by the aristocratic Members of the House; and, now, this Bill was being pressed on by the aristocratic and wealthy Members for the county of Durham; and he, for one, doubted their political sincerity. It appeared to him that, if working men were to be prevented from obtaining liquor on Sunday, the promoters of Bills like the present ought to apply the principle to their own cases. They ought not to consume champagne or other wine on Sunday, and ought to refrain from joining Sunday dinner parties at the Trafalgar at Greenwich, or the Star and Garter at Richmond. It seemed to him that this was a law for the working classes only; and that to be logical, if they passed laws to make it a crime for the working classes of the people to drink in public-houses on Sunday, it ought to be made equally criminal to drink at the West End Clubs, or in Buckingham Palace. Then, with regard to the practical results of such legislation. It was said that, in Durham, the miners' wages were paid on Saturday, and in many cases spent in drink on Sunday. Men did not, however, wait till Sunday to begin drinking, but, probably, commenced directly they got their money on Saturday. It was, therefore, an argument in favour of closing public-houses on Saturday and not for closing them on Sunday. Any hon. Member, who took the trouble to go into some of the poor neighbourhoods of London on 1232 Saturday afternoon and evening, would soon see for himself that the drinking took place on Saturday. It was contended that if only public-houses were closed on Sundays, then the working man would become virtuous and sober for all the rest of his life. He could not agree with such an idea. He maintained that no more drinking took place on Sundays than on any other days; certainly not so much as on Bank holidays. He found, from a Return which had been made on the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Onslow), that there were very few arrests on Sunday for drunkenness. For instance, in the county of Durham, in 1882, out of a population of 867,000, there were only 60,000 such arrests. Those figures, however, did not give a true idea as to the numbers, because, no doubt, a large proportion of the arrests that were made early on Sunday morning were attributable to Saturday drinking. In fact, the facilities for getting drunk on Sunday at the present time were very limited, as the public-houses were only open for an hour or two in the daytime, and from 6 to 11 at night. Personally, he had every desire to advance the cause of temperance, and he would be in favour of still further limiting the hours of keeping open on Sunday. But, in his opinion, there was at present no such case against the people of Durham as had been alleged by the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Theodore Fry); or, at any rate, it was not of sufficient magnitude to justify the House in violating the principles of English legislation. Believing that this was an attempt, in the name of temperance, to take away the privileges of one class, while leaving those of other classes untouched, and objecting, moreover, to piecemeal legislation, he should feel it his duty to vote against the second reading of the Bill.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
said, that, as the Representative of a large working-class constituency, he was opposed to the Bill. He regarded the subject not as a Sabbatarian matter, but as a purely social question of very great importance. He had listened with great attention to the observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and he must say that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had astonished him considerably. The right hon. and learned 1233 Gentleman said that a Democracy was government by the people, and not for the people. Government by the people must necessarily be government for the people; and, therefore, it could only be assumed, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman used the above singular phrase, that what he meant to say was that a Democracy was government by the Caucus, and not for the people. The whole of this Sunday Closing agitation arose from the action of a small number of men, actuated, no doubt, by excellent motives, but belonging to the growing class of crotchet-mongers, who took up eccentric views, and were not very charitable to those who disagreed with them. These people accused all those who opposed them as being the friends of intemperance, while they claimed for themselves the position of sole champions of temperance. Such a proposition was a gross and calumnious misstatement, and he earnestly protested against it. The views of the right hon. and learned Gentleman with regard to the advantages to be derived from piecemeal legislation he regarded as the most extraordinary ever enunciated by a Minister in that House, and they meant that the Government were pursuing their usual tactics of following, instead of leading. Indeed, could anything be more absurd than that they should have legislation in one county which was not to be carried out in another? If it were carried, out they would have, supposing that the Bill were to achieve its object, men sober in Durham and drunk in Yorkshire; and they would have England divided into zones of temperance and intemperance. That was the sort of legislation which was supported by Her Majesty's Government. The Government were afraid to bring in a general measure to deal with the whole subject, because they knew the voice of the people would be against such legislation. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Durham (Sir George Elliot) said he was not aware whether the Trades Unions had expressed any opinion on this subject. He (Baron Henry De Worms) could inform his hon. Friend that he himself had presented many Petitions from Trades Unions, representing hundreds of thousands of working men, against this Sunday Closing legislation; and, only a day or two ago, Mr. George Potter—who, it would be admitted, cer- 1234 tainly was a typical working man—told him that the working classes were immensely against Sunday Closing. Sunday Closing was a regulation which affected the poor, and not the rich. He would ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Theodore Fry) and his Friends, whether, if the public-houses were closed on Sunday, they would also close the Reform and the new National Liberal Clubs? He thought they would not; yet, to be consistent, they ought to do so, and empty their own cellars into the streets. It did not follow, because keeping open public-houses was not a temptation to hon. Members, who had the means at their command of gratifying their desire for drink at any time, that they should deprive the great mass of the people of what hon. Members themselves enjoyed. If that was a specimen of Liberal legislation, it was only Liberal in name. Take the case of a working man who left London for his Sunday holiday at Richmond. Under the Bill he would be unable to obtain any sort of refreshment from the moment he arrived there until he got home again.
§ MR. THEODORE FRY
asked to what Richmond the hon. Gentleman referred, because the Bill related only to Durham?
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
said, he was illustrating a general principle. If a man wished to enjoy his day of rest, this Bill deprived him of the chance of getting any refreshment; because, under it, to be consistent, they must close all the hotels, as the sham of the bonâ fide traveller could not go on. So that every hon. Member who went to Brighton for the Sunday would find the hotels closed to him, and he would have to return as he came. He (Baron Henry De Worms) objected to special regulations which applied to working men, who would thereby be deprived of obtaining any refreshment on their hard-earned holiday, and not to the Gentlemen who advocated this measure. How did hon. Members know what were the wishes of working men? Where was the evidence of their wishes? The House had only the statements of Gentlemen who were doctrinaires. Members of the Government said piecemeal legislation was very good, and a certain number of pieces made up the whole; 1235 so they hoped gradually to pass a measure which they could not pass in its entirety. That was the present position of the case. The statistics for Wales and Scotland showed that the amount of good predicted had not been realized by the Sunday Closing Acts. In fact, it had been exactly opposite to what the Government had predicted. In Cardiff the Head Constable reported that the convictions for drunkenness on Sunday had increased 50 per cent since the Act had been in operation. In Scotland a Parliamentary Return issued in January showed that during the last four years the convictions for drunkenness on Sunday had increased from 1,886 to 2,530. Hon. Members seemed to forget that it was impossible to compare their own social position in this matter with the position of the men whom they represented. Did they know that a working man with his family frequently occupied only two rooms; and he was only too glad to be able to leave them on Sundays? Where, in the future, would he go, and what would he do? Instead of taking a single glass of beer at a public-house, he would lay in a gallon of beer on the Saturday, and would "soak" at home from Saturday evening to Sunday night. From his experience as a magistrate he knew that would be the case, and was satisfied that, if the statistics were investigated, it would be found that the bulk of the cases of drunkenness occurred less at public-houses than from drinking at home. The passing of this Bill, so far from meeting the evil they desired to remedy, would increase it; and, therefore, he should vote against it.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he very much regretted that he had been absent from the House during the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite the Secretary of State for the Home Department. From the comments he had heard on that speech, he thought the doctrine which he understood was laid down by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that Democracy was government by the people, and not for the people, was one of very serious importance. He (Sir R. Assheton Cross) should have said that the government in this country was government by Parliament, the House of Commons being the Representatives of the people. It appeared that the reason why the Go- 1236 vernment had supported this Bill, was to avoid the responsibility of taking it on their own shoulders. He knew the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not like responsibility; for instance, he did not like the responsibility of the Water Bill on a former occasion. Probably, the experience of the last three years had shown him that if he had recognized his responsibility, and taken a little more upon himself with regard to that case, the question of water supply in London would not have been in the condition it was at present. If the Government really wished to give localities the power of dealing with the question touched by this Bill, there was only one way of dealing with it, and that was by Parliament giving to the authorities of those localities the necessary control—namely, by passing a general measure for that purpose. But to make an exception with regard to particular counties simply because it was said the inhabitants wanted it, without any official means of ascertaining the wishes of the people, was a very different thing indeed. In this case the House had no such official knowledge. He would call the attention of the House to the Preamble of this Bill, which commenced by reciting that, whereas the provisions in force against the sale in certain places of fermented liquors on Sunday were of great public benefit, it was expedient that those provisions should be extended to other places. He would ask, what official knowledge had the House to that effect? Where a Bill in Parliament contained a recital of that kind in the Preamble, the usual course was to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, to report whether the Preamble had been proved before them, and that course ought to be adopted in the present instance. Certainly, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had received a deputation, who told him the measure was desired in the county; but that was not the official proof which the House wanted. On the Orders of the Day, there were no fewer than four Bills of this character; one relating to Durham, one to Yorkshire, one to the Isle of Wight, and one to Northumberland. How was the House to decide, in each of these particular Bills, whether there was a strong local feeling in favour of it passing? That was a difficult question, to which the Government ought to give an answer. 1237 He understood there were 20 counties, in respect of which similar measures were to be brought forward. How were they to decide which to grant and which to refuse? There ought to be some plan, by which the House could ascertain whether the feeling in each of these counties was sufficiently strong to warrant them in passing the Bill. Then, how far were they to carry the newfangled doctrine, about passing measures for particular places which were said to desire them? The other day, they had a measure on the subject of contagious diseases, and it was evident that the inhabitants of the places affected by that measure were as nearly as possible unanimous in favour of the maintenance of the Acts. Why should counties be selected? If counties, why not boroughs? Why should not the city of Liverpool or the city of Manchester have a Bill to itself? If they carried the principle to its legitimate conclusion, these and other places should have special Acts; and let the House consider what confusion would ensue. Moreover, a measure of this kind would work great hardship, for, taking the case of Durham, there were populous districts exactly on the borders of the county, partly within and partly without, so that this Bill would leave the inhabitants of those districts in a singular condition. It would, therefore, be hard on the neighbouring county which might prefer to leave the Sunday Closing question as it is. It was, moreover, impossible to evade the fact that this was an Imperial question, for it must be remembered that large sums of money had been invested on the faith of licences. Publicans who took out a six days' licence were allowed a considerable remission in the duty they paid to the Government; and, if the Government meant to pass Bills of the character now before them, they must allow the same remission. He was as strong an advocate of temperance as any man, and he rejoiced to see that among the working men there was an increasing feeling in favour of temperance; but care should be taken not to go in advance of public opinion on this subject. Otherwise they would find secret clubs springing up, which, when once established, it would be exceedingly difficult to put down. He hoped, on this point, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would make 1238 some inquiries as to the secret clubs that were springing up in Wales and other places, for the House ought to have some information on the subject. He hoped the House would consider whether it was not wiser to legislate in one general measure, and that the Government would undertake the responsibility which was theirs, and which belonged to them alone. Then he thought that they would, under an altered state of public opinion, arrive at the conclusion that was generally accepted—namely, that those who had engaged in business on the faith of Parliamentary sanction were entitled to consideration; and he believed more would then be done to diminish drunkenness than by passing such a measure as this.
§ MR. HIBBERT
Sir, in the absence of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, I can assure hon. Members that he has fully satisfied himself as to the beneficial nature of this measure. I wish only to say one word more, and will not detain the House a moment in doing so. I merely wish to give expression to my opinion as to what is the feeling of the county of Durham upon this point. Out of the entire number of the Representatives for the county and borough of Durham, all, with the exception of one hon. Member, intend to vote in favour of the Bill; while the one exception is that of an hon. Member who has stated to the House that he does not intend to vote at all. This fact alone is sufficient to show that public opinion in the county of Durham is strongly in favour of the Bill.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that he was glad to hear the announcement, that if all the Members for any particular part of the country were in favour of a Bill, that was sufficient to show that the majority of the people were in favour of it. They would soon bring forward a measure conferring a considerable amount of Home Rule in Ireland, and be hoped that the same principle would then be admitted. No one had been able to refer to Ireland as exhibiting a satisfactory example of Sunday Closing except the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, he (Mr. Callan) believed, had never been in Ireland. Scotland was the most immoral and most drunken part of the United Kingdom, although Sunday Closing had been in 1239 operation for more than a generation; but in Ireland, statistics showed that convictions for drunkeness had increased in the districts subject to the Irish Sunday Closing Act to the number of 11,000, or 21 per cent, whereas, in the exempted districts, where the system was not in force, it had diminished at the rate of 13 per cent; and Mr. Justice Fitzgibbon had expressed himself in terms unfavourable to the working of the Act.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, he wished to say that, when the Irish Sunday Closing Bill came before the House, he should be prepared to refute all the arguments of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. Callan). As an Irish Member, he did not propose to take any part in the discussion of a Bill relating only to a portion of England.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 153; Noes 57: Majority 96.—(Div. List, No. 108.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
, who spoke amid great interruption, said, he had to complain of the manner in which the arguments of the opponents of the Bill had been treated by a Government, presided over by a Minister who had no mind of his own and no policy of his own. His objection to the Bill was that it was a piece of class legislation of an unjust description. The Government supported it, yielding to the clamour below the Gangway, in the hope of catching as many votes as possible. He intended to move to amend the Bill in Committee by prohibiting the consumption of intoxicating liquors in any place on Sunday.
stated, that on the division with regard to this Bill he, in common with other hon. Members serving on Committees, had been shut out from voting through not being allowed sufficient time to come down into the House.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
rose, and was proceeding to speak as to some of the clauses of the Bill, when—
§ MR. SPEAKER
called the hon. Gentleman to Order, informing him that the proper time for doing so was when the Bill was in Committee.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday next.