§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the foundation of the Bill was a resolution which was passed some time ago at a great meeting at Exeter Hall, at which the Bishop of London, Mr. Samuel Morley, and Mr. William Fowler were present. In justification of a Bill of that kind, he thought it worth while to call the attention of the House to the fact that, a Census being taken one Saturday evening in reference to 200 public-houses in South, West, North, and East London, for the purpose of ascertaining how many men, women, and children in a given time frequented public-houses, it was found that in about three hours no fewer than 7,019 children passed in and out of these public-houses. That might be accepted as a fair specimen of what went on in other parts of the Metropolis; and they asked how many children might be found visiting the 10,000 public-houses of the Metropolis, not only during the three hours of Saturday evening, but during 105 hours that public-houses were open during the course of the week? Statements by different authorities con- 657 vinced them that they had in their midst a terrible evil, for they found that there were 250,000 boys and girls constantly becoming habituated to the surroundings of the public-house. Not only in London did this occur, but in Bristol they had the same startling state of things. There, from a Census taken in 1881, it was proved that during four hours no less than 1,200 children went into 900 public-houses. The provisions of the Bill which he had the honour to introduce were very simple. The operative clause simply prohibited every holder of a licence from selling or allowing any person to sell any description of intoxicating liquors to children under 13 years of age. With respect to that, some might think the age fixed too early; but if the opinion generally existed the provisions of the Bill could be easily altered in Committee. One reason for fixing the limit was briefly this. By Act of Parliament no child under 13 years of age could be employed full time at a factory or mine, every child under 13 years of age must attend school, and no child under 12 years of age could pledge things at pawnshops. Having these things in view, the promoters of the Bill considered they were not unreasonable in asking that children of such tender years should be protected from the permanent demoralizing influences of public-houses. Comment had been made, particularly by some newspapers, on the fact that Scotland was exempted from the Bill, and it was argued from that that there had been inconsistency. It was said that they had no objection to the people of Scotland becoming familiar with the taste of whisky, while they had an objection to English children becoming familiar with the taste of beer. The fact was that those who raised the objection were ignorant of the circumstances of the case. No licensed person in Scotland was permitted to sell intoxicating drinks to children under 14 years of age; so that the only inconsistency—if inconsistency there were—was that they wished to fix the age at a year younger than their friends over the Border. Then, again, they knew that under the provisions of the Licensing Act of 1872 no holder of a licence was permitted to sell spirits to be drunk on the premises to any young person under 16. Therefore he thought they might argue that they were simply asking the 658 House to extend the principles which had already, in a limited degree, been applied in the existing law of the country. To touch upon what he conceived to be the principal objection which might be brought against that little Bill, he could conceive it possible that many would say—"Was it not hard that poor people, who had no servants to do their errands, should be prohibited from sending their children to fetch the pot of beer from the public-house?" The answer to that was that temporary inconvenience to men or women who liked to drink was not to be compared with the permanent moral injury done to young children in going to public-houses. If the working man coming from his work desired to have beer or spirits to drink for supper or dinner, he could not see that there would be great difficulty or inconvenience in his bringing it home or calling for it at the nearest public-house on his way. Another reason was that no serious inconvenience could be done, because publicans were always ready and willing to send beer and spirits by their potboys to those who might order it to be sent at any particular time. He did say, when they saw around them day after day all the terrible evils and crime and poverty resulting from intemperance, it was the duty of the House to do whatever was in its power to stamp out those evils; and if, as he believed, they might protect the lives and the moral character of the people by a small measure like the one he had submitted, he asked the House to extend a helping hand to defenceless children, and to assist them to become sober, honest, and industrious men and women, by passing the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said, that although it was always a very serious matter to speak prejudicially of any measure to promote the cause of temperance, and especially the temperance of children, there were reasons which should induce the House to pause before passing this Bill. In the first place, the Bill had only been printed for a day or two, and while with a little more consideration he might be tempted to vote for it, he was not at present prepared to do so; because it 659 was perfectly impossible that with the numerous subjects for which attention was claimed, he or any other Member could in a few days become fully conversant with the whole facts connected with each Bill. If the Bill was pressed he would vote against it. There was no proposal to deal with the parents who sent their children for the drink; but if the Bill was to be logical in its provisions the parents, as well as the publican, should be liable to a penalty. They had heard much complaint about the State freeing parents of their responsibility; but this Bill proposed to put the responsibility of the parent on the publican, who was to become the guardian of a child's morals. It was true that the Scotch had already got legislation on similar lines; and while he bowed to the Scotch Act as one reason in favour of the Bill, it did not follow that because an Act was in operation in Scotland its principles should be introduced into an English Act. He thought the House should hesitate on this important measure. It would be very hard for many a poor working woman if, when preparing her husband's dinner, she should be deprived of the assistance of her children, and be compelled to leave the house and run for the dinner beer. While he would be most willing to do everything to prevent children frequenting the public-houses during the night, he did not think that it would be wise to prohibit children entering the public-house at all for their parents' beer.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said, he could assure the House that the question covered by the Bill had been very carefully and fully considered by a good many people for a good many months past. The London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children had had under their consideration for several months past a Bill, which he believed might be introduced into the House of Lords, dealing in one of its clauses with this question. He heartily welcomed the Bill. He was quite sure, from his experience of the best class of working men, that they would not fail to exhibit the greatest repugnance to sending their children into the public-house, and the greatest care in excluding them from the vice which the public-house subjected children to. In the United States a most stringent law had been carried into effect with this object, 660 and had been most useful in checking the demoralization of children, and in removing a great many of the evils which they had so great reason to deplore.
§ MR. THEODORE FRY (Darlington)
, in supporting the Bill, observed that the only objection that could be raised to it was on the ground that some parents would experience some inconvenience by not being able to send their children for dinner or supper beer. On the other hand, the hon. Member (Mr. Conybeare) had said that great benefit would be derived, which would counteract and balance that objection. As the last speaker had said, the large majority of the better class of working people would rejoice at a Bill of this kind—at anything, in fact, which would shelter their children from the influences of the public-house, or from the familiarity occasioned by going there. Some years since a Census was taken of young children who entered public-houses late on Saturday nights in London, and there were found to be 3,000 or 4,000. He thought that everything that could possibly be done to keep young children from going to the public-houses and in furtherance of the work of the great Body of the Band of Hope, should be done by the House of Commons; and he trusted, therefore, that the House would give the Bill a second reading.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. CHILDERS) (Edinburgh, S.)
said, the arguments of the hon. Member who had just spoken did not meet the case of this Bill, because he spoke of the children who in great numbers went into the public-house in London, and who were there treated to wine or liquor of some kind. Now, this would not be a case of selling intoxicating liquor to children, and therefore the Bill would not meet the case at all. His own opinion upon the Bill was that he thought it was one with which the House would not be much disposed to quarrel. It would be very proper indeed to prevent children of tender age from being allowed to obtain drink in the public-house; but he did not think it followed from that that parents should be altogether prohibited from sending children to the public-house for the beer they wanted for dinner or supper. But that was a matter which could be left very 661 much to the Committee. The main question of the Bill was whether liquor should be sold to a child evidently for consumption in the public-house. He thought that, taking that as the main object of the Bill, they might read it a second time, and then in Committee the question whether a child should be allowed to take away beer for its parents to drink off the premises might be raised. He should vote for the second reading of the Bill, because he thought it was intended to refer to children drinking on the premises, which ought not to be allowed.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
said, he was very much of the same opinion as the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. The question raised as to how far they should allow children to fetch beer for their parents was one of considerable importance, because that was not what they wanted to suppress. He should not oppose the second reading of the Bill; but he hoped the Secretary of State before the Committee stage would give his personal attention to the matter, in order that proper Amendments might be introduced with his authority with the object of limiting the object as described. There was only one word more he wished to say. If there was one thing in which those engaged in the trade desired more than another it was that an end should be put to this perpetually harassing legislation. He wished, therefore, very much that the Government would come forward and say what measure they meant to pass dealing with the whole question of the liquor traffic, instead of allowing an infinite variety of measures to be brought in on the subject, the only effect of which was to harass the liquor trade.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said, that after what had passed between the Home Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Assheton Cross) he should content himself by asking the House to listen very shortly to him. From his researches on this question it struck him, looking at this Bill, that a hardship might arise, especially from the way in which the present Bill was worded. He certainly sympathized very much with the views of the hon. Member (Mr. Conybeare) in bringing in this Bill, and in trying to check the evil; but in trying to check an evil 662 they often found that "too fast made too loose." And unless some provision, such as had been suggested by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, was introduced the Bill might do a great deal more harm, perhaps, than good. In his researches on the Sunday Closing Bill he took a great deal of pains in looking at and ascertaining the habits of the people on Sunday afternoons as soon as the public-houses were opened, and for this purpose he watched the public-houses in the low districts surrounding that House. He found that there were a great number of well-dressed children who went into them for beer for their parents, and came out again within a few minutes. He did not understand that the hon. Member desired to stop that; but that what he wanted to stop was children being detained in public-houses, and being sold liquor for themselves to be consumed on the premises. Then there was another point. They were going to stop little children from going into public-houses under 13 years of age; but they must be careful in sending in girls who were rather over that age. He was afraid that girls over 13 might be subject to greater temptations. Those were points which he trusted the House would not fail to consider when the Bill got into Committee. He was afraid, as the Bill stood at present, it might possibly in these respects do a great deal of harm, when the hon. Member and his Friends were desirous that the principle they were advocating should do a good deal of good.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, he wanted to make sure whether or not it was the intention of the Bill that young children should be prohibited from getting liquor for their parents. The Home Secretary said that was not the intention.
begged to correct the hon. Gentleman. What he said was that in Committee he should propose to amend the Bill, so as not to prohibit children fetching liquor for their parents.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, that that point struck at the very principle of the Bill. If the measure was to be limited to prohibiting the supply to young children of liquor for themselves to drink on the premises, he would heartily support it. But if it was to prohibit children from 663 fetching liquor for their parents, then he thought that with a philanthropic view the House would be inflicting a very great hardship. The remark of the hon. Baronet that it was more dangerous to send the elder children was one of great importance. He trusted that if the Bill was read a second time it would be on the distinct understanding that the Amendments indicated by the Home Secretary were made in Committee.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
said, they had an Act in Scotland prohibiting the sale of excisable liquor to children under 14 years, and it worked very well. But the prohibition had been held to apply only to the sale of liquor for the children's own consumption, and not to the sale of liquor for their parents. Some difficulty had been caused by the word "apparently," because it would be very hard if a publican were fined for supplying a child who was actually over 14, but looked apparently under the age; and he remembered a case which came before him on that point. The boy who was served was a very little fellow, and was apparently under 14; but the publican who served him knew that he was over 14; and he (Mr. Macdonald) decided that there could be no conviction—although he was not quite sure that in so doing he acted up to the letter of the law. There was at present an agitation among the Temperance Party in Scotland to get the Act amended, so as to make it apply to every case in which a child was served with liquor; but it appeared to him that the proper thing was to limit it to cases in which a publican allowed a child to remain on his premises for the purpose of drinking.
MR. MAGNIAC (Bedford, N., Biggleswade)
said, he hoped the House would think twice before passing this Bill. It seemed to him it would effect very great hardships in the agricultural districts. The labourers had large families, the wives were obliged to look after the children at home, and the fathers might be unable to fetch their supper beer. In such cases children were naturally sent for it, and he could not see any possible harm. As had been pointed out, these young children were not the ones who required protection so much as the older ones, who were more 664 likely to want the drink for themselves. He thought that if the Bill were passed the House would be going much too far in interfering with the operations of the daily life of the people. If fathers and mothers could not be trusted to send their own children, and to control them, he said that no control of that House would bring up those children properly. He objected to this interference with the rights of parents, and he warned the House that if it proposed to undertake the management of all the children in the country such legislation must inevitably break down. He thought the Bill was a very ill-considered and crude measure. The hon. Member who brought it in had not much experience of the House, and therefore, with the best intentions in the world, his Bill bristled with difficulties. Everybody admitted that if it passed the second reading it must be entirely altered in Committee, and that was not the form in which a Bill ought to pass the second reading in that House. Measures ought to be well considered and able to stand on their own merits, and ought not to have to be altered in principle in Committee. If a Bill were brought in the principles of which were approved, then it was well and good to give it a second reading, and the details might be altered in Committee, but never the principles. He hoped the House would not give a second reading to the Bill, which he was confident would work ill in the country, and do great injustice to parents.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
supported the second, reading of the Bill upon the understanding that the utmost circumspection would be used in examining its details when they got into Committee.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)
said, he wished to know whether the professed object of this Bill was not in conflict with its provisions? Its object was to prevent demoralization, and, with that view, to render it unlawful for a publican to supply a child, although only the messenger of its father or mother, with a pint of beer or anything else which the parents required to consume at home. Now, imagine the case of a wife and mother, with a sick husband whom she was bound to nurse at home, requiring to send one of her two children to the public-house to pro- 665 cure the usual jug of beer. One was an intelligent boy of 11 or 12 years, the other a girl of 17 or 18. Were they to be told that, if there was danger of demoralization, the danger was less for the grown young woman than for the child? Few people who reflected on the subject could doubt that the danger was greater for the grown young woman; but the House was asked to pass a law to overrule the parents' choice in such a case. He would vote against the Bill, however good the intentions of its promoters.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, North-West)
said, he thought that the Bill now before the House was an important one in its way. He must confess he had been very much surprised with what fell from the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The right hon. Gentleman knew as well as anybody the danger likely to result from ill-considered legislation. The Bill which it was intended should issue from the Committee was not the Bill that was now before the House. The Bill now before the House was explained by the hon. Member for Cornwall as a Bill to prevent children going to public-houses and purchasing beer for any purpose whatever. That was the position taken by the hon. Member for Cornwall, and it was only when he found that the Home Secretary was anxious that some relaxation should be made that he consented—if he did consont—to some alteration in Committee. Now, when such a Bill as this came before the House, it was necessary that it should be well considered and all its details understood. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) agreed with the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire that if the Bill were carried in its present form it would absolutely preclude children in rural districts going for beer to the public-house. When they considered what had been said by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway with regard to the franchise which had just been given, and, as he thought, rightly given, to the working classes of this country, they were now going, after continuing that privilege, to tell the same classes that they were not fit, and could not be trusted to look after the children. That he considered one of the most preposterous things that was ever brought before the House, for a parent who had the best interest in his children could 666 not be trusted to look after them! That was the actual proposal of the Bill; it was a slur on the working classes. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire that the right hon. Gentleman would do well to consider the whole of this question. Every day they had questions cropping up with respect to the liquor traffic. Was it fair that so respectable an interest as that of the licensed victuallers should have no guide from the Government with regard to what they intended to do? The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that he should like to see piecemeal legislation in these cases, and that every county should have the privilege of deciding for itself such questions, at any rate as far as Sunday Closing was concerned. This was a view from which he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) entirely dissented. What was good for one county was good for all. They ought to have from the Government an explicit statement of their views upon this question. It was unwise to hurry through the House of Commons a measure like this. He did not see what was going to be done with the Bill; all he could say was that if it came out of Committee with the Amendments of the Secretary of State for the Home Department it would not be the same Bill to which they were now asked to give a second reading. He, therefore, asked the House to pause before assenting to the second reading of this Bill, for they might depend upon it the Bill would disgust the working classes when they came to find out what it really was.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT) (Derby)
thought the hon. and gallant Member opposite had evinced some unnecessary indignation in regard to the proposal. The late Lord Advocate had said that that very law existed in Scotland, the words of the Scotch Act being very nearly identical with those of the present Bill, and being to the effect that excisable liquors were not to be supplied to girls and boys apparently under 14 years of age. Unless, therefore, the word "supply" differed in its legal interpretation from the word "sell" in the present Bill the two things were substantially identical; but the point could be made quite clear in Committee. He quite agreed, however, with those hon. Members who contended that children 667 should not, especially in rural districts, be prevented from bringing beer from the licensed houses to their parents. The hon. and gallant Member had addressed an objurgation against his remark that each particular locality ought to have its own measure, and preferred that there should be one general law. For himself, however, he held that in those matters each locality should judge for itself, and that what suited one locality might not suit another. He did not expect the hon. and gallant Member to pay much attention to his remarks, or to accept his authority on a question of that kind; but he might, perhaps, pay some attention to the statement of the Marquess of Salisbury, who, he might remind the hon. and gallant Member, in his speech at Newport, laid down in the broadest manner the principle that in regard to Sunday Closing the localities were, under the Local Government Bill, to be allowed to judge and to form their own opinion. Therefore he hoped that the hon. and gallant Gentleman would divert some of his wrath to Lord Salisbury. Under these circumstances, and with the general agreement that the Bill should be limited to the matters stated, he would support the second reading.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
said, he regretted that he had not been present when that discussion began, because no one with any experience of their Friday nights' discussions would have imagined that Order of the Day No. 12 would be reached or come on for serious discussion in the House. He questioned whether any right hon. Gentleman opposite could mention an instance when such a thing had occurred before. He ventured to take exception to the attitude assumed on that subject as on others by the Government. The Government seemed to think that it was perfectly legitimate to support any Bill that might be moved from below the Gangway on their own side as long as they could bring themselves to say that they agreed to some extent with the principle of the measure. Well, but had that generally been the rule on which responsible Governments had accepted legislation? If they wanted the House to agree to an abstract principle the ordinary practice was to embody it in a Resolution; but he had never heard yet, until the pre- 668 sent Government came into Office, that a responsible Administration would say that they agreed with the principle of the Bill, or would go even further and say that possibly to some extent they might agree with the principle of the Bill, and therefore they would support its second reading, although with the contents and with the machinery of the measure they entirely disagreed, and if it went into Committee they must try to alter everything that was in it. That, to some extent, was the position which the Government had taken up in this matter. It was very much the position they took up on another Bill on Wednesday—the Agricultural Allotments Bill. He ventured to think that that was an entirely new departure for the House of Commons or for a Government to take. If the Government accepted a Bill they accepted not only the principle of the Bill, but also the machinery by which that principle was to be carried out. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that if they altered this word or that word, and changed this word and substituted another word for some other word, and so on, in fact made very considerable alterations—[The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No; only one word.]—it was possible to accept the Bill. It had been said, and the Scotch Judges had come to the conclusion, that the word "sell" had not the same meaning as the word "supply;" but it did not in anyway follow that the English Judges would come to the same conclusion. He would point out that there was a great difference between Scotch habits and English habits in reference to the question of the supply of liquor. [Cries of "Divide!"] The House was exhibiting a little impatience about this matter; but why they should do so, considering the progress which had been made, he did not know. The national drink in Scotland was not the same as the national drink in England, and he ventured to doubt whether the practice of sending children, to fetch liquor from the public-house at all obtained in Scotland. It would put the working classes of this country to great inconvenience if they were to be prevented from sending children to fetch the beer for the midday meal. By the Bill a publican who supplied intoxicating liquor to a child to be taken off the premises might be liable to a prosecution at the hands of some fanatic 669 belonging to a temperance society. Did hon. Members who supported the Bill think that they were contributing to the social comfort of the working classes? He greatly doubted it. He should have thought the working classes in this country at the present day were rather hardly dealt with already, what with their low wages and legal restrictions at every step they took. He protested against the manner in which measure after measure was thrust through the House of Commons, all having for their object the cramping of individual liberty. Matters were fast coming to this—that they would be soon having it laid down exactly what the labouring classes were to do at each particular hour of the day. Was such a measure as this likely to be popular? Could hon. Members point out that there had been such a frightful amount of juvenile drunkenness as to warrant Parliament stepping in and passing such an Act as this? He imagined that what Parliament had to do was to deal with great social evils, and until they could prove the existence of great social evils Parliament should not interfere too hastily. This was a Bill about which very little had been known. It had happened to be alluded to in a leading article in a morning paper of that day; but he doubted whether any great proportion of the House of Commons had had any idea that the second reading of a Bill of this kind was to be moved, but up jumped the Government and said—"That, on the whole, they agreed, more or less, with the principle of the Bill, and that they would give it a second reading." Was that the principle on which the new House of Commons was to proceed? He would venture to press upon the House that there was a rashness, a recklessness of legislation going on at the present moment. For his own part he should certainly vote against the Bill, as he considered that no justification for it whatsoever had been put forward. The Government had acted most imprudently in accepting the second reading of a Bill which he did not think they had any intention of allowing to go any further; and he wished to enter a solemn protest against important and wide-reaching legislation of this kind being adopted without any sufficient grounds for interference having been shown to exist.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. MUNDELLA) (Sheffield, Brightside)
said, that the noble Lord who had just spoken had come down late in the evening, and had spoken evidently in ignorance of all the remarks which had been made concerning it. The noble Lord had declared his intention of opposing the second reading of the Bill, and charged the House of Commons with rashness? with recklessness, and he did not know what other strong language the noble Lord had used; and he had been particularly severe on the Government for consenting under any circumstances and with any Amendments to pass the second reading of the Bill. But did the noble Lord know that the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary, who was sitting beside him, had been in favour of the Bill, and had suggested the very words to be introduced?
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
I said that without those words it was absolutely impossible that such a Bill should be passed.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
remarked, that the right hon. Gentleman had said that he would support the second reading; and while the late Lord Advocate had given the illustration of Scotland, and had said that the Bill would do with a slight alteration, his own Colleague in the representation of Sheffield had also said that he would give the Bill, with the alterations indicated, his cordial support. Then down came the noble Lord, showing what unanimity existed on that Bench, and warned them of the rash and reckless character of the new House of Commons. The noble Lord had told them that what Parliament had to do with was great social evils, and that they should not mind the minor questions. That the way to deal with great social evils was to nip thorn in the bud—to take them at the outset, before they became great social evils. The noble Lord had spoken about altering every line of the Bill; but he thought that the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary had said that by the alteration of a single word the Bill would be put upon all-fours with the Scotch Act, and that the Scotch Act had worked very well indeed. [Mr. MACDONALD: In Scotland.] In Scotland, of course. If such a simple Amendment introduced into this Bill would make it a good Bill and check a great social evil 671 he thought that they need not be deterred by the thunders of the noble Lord, whose knowledge of the provisions of the Bill did not appear to be very great; and more especially as the Government had the support of the noble Lord's Colleagues on the Front Bench, who were nearly all of opinion that the Bill was a good one, and who had promised to support it. He (Mr. Mundella) might add that he had no doubt whatever that the Government would receive the support of the House in consenting to the second reading of the Bill, which he hoped would be carried by a large and overwhelming majority.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had spoken in a light and airy manner of the alteration necessary in this Bill; but he had omitted to notice the declaration of the hon. Member in charge of the Bill that he would not pledge himself to the Amendments which both sides of the House thought absolutely necessary.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the right hon. Gentleman talked about nipping a great social evil in the bud; but he would ask the House to consider whether it was a proper course, after an hour's discussion, to pass a Bill dealing with the interests and with the comfort of every single working man? Why had children been sent to fetch beer from public-houses for the first time in the year of Our Lord 1886? Was this a new social evil—was it so pressing that on a Friday night, after an hour's discussion in a thin House—["Oh!"]—he repeated, in a thin House—the House should sit to pass a Bill which not a single Member three hours ago thought would come on at all? Was that a kind of procedure which hon. Members thought would bring the proceedings of the House into credit with the country? He could assure them that they were very much mistaken. The House was getting into a habit of passing second readings which were never to be more than second readings, of passing abstract Resolutions which were never to be more than abstract Resolutions, and then hon. Members went into the country and spoke of the good things they were going to give the people. He could assure hon. Members that that was not the method by which the new House of Commons was 672 likely to bring itself into credit with the great mass of sound public opinion in this country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had quoted against his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) the speech of Lord Salisbury at Newport, in which Lord Salisbury told the country that in his opinion localities should be left to manage this great question, under proper limitations, for themselves. Lord Salisbury did say that. That was the opinion not only of Lord Salisbury, but of every Gentleman, he thought, on the Opposition side of the House—["No, no!"]—of everybody except the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury).
§ MR. HANBURY
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; there were a good many cries of "No, no!" from these Benches.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that the contradiction of the hon. Member was the only one that reached his ears, but he apologized. The principle he had just stated, however, was a principle that the late Government had embodied in a Local Government Bill which they proposed to introduce. He wanted to know how that principle was embodied and illustrated in the Bill before the House? The Bill left no Local Option whatever, and no jurisdiction to Local Authorities. How the Government—holding the views they did with regard to the authority Local Bodies ought to have in regard to this question—could assent to this Bill, he was utterly unable to understand. He entirely agreed with his noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill). This was a Bill which in its present shape he could not vote for on the second reading, as they had no pledge from the Mover of it that he was prepared to amend it, and it did not embody those principles of Local Option which were necessary.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, the spectacle exhibited by the Front Bench opposite placed Members in considerable difficulty. Those who were disposed to respect the late Home Secretary would have expected that his words would have some weight and authority on his own side.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, he heard every word that fell from the right hon. 673 Gentleman's lips, and though he threw out a suggestion of that kind at the end of his speech he certainly so expressed himself as to leave the impression that he was going to acquiesce in the second reading of the Bill. It was impossible for the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord to enjoy the pleasures of the table and keep themselves entirely en rapport with what passed in the House. It was a painful thing to see the late Home Secretary, who had spoken so clearly for the Bill, thrown unceremoniously overboard by the noble Lord when he came in. He could feel some pity for the noble Lord. He was a Party of his own, and required a good deal of freedom and sea room. Nothing was more entertaining and less damaging than the way he put the case. He was a master of light parts, and when he acted in burlesque they all enjoyed the fun; but when he acted a serious part he was not a credit to the House of Commons or himself. If the noble Lord complained that they had taken up this Bill hastily, what were they to say to the noble Lord himself, who said he knew nothing about it except that he casually saw a remark about it in a leading article? They could not regard the joint ideas of the Leaders of the Opposition on this subject as of any value whatever. The confusion of tongues was too great. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had been in the House when the Bill was moved he would have found that the evil in question was one of great magnitude, and that it was high time something should be done to check the evil. If the Bill was going beyond the real necessities of the case, it could be limited in Committee; but in his opinion the Bill was so simple and necessary that oven although, as the noble Lord pointed out, it was the 12th Order, it should be passed, and in Committee it could be made precisely the measure which the House wished to become law. If the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in a state of distress at that night's proceedings, let him assure them that on his side Members had had an evening of pleasure and delectation, because it had been possible for them to transact Public Business on behalf of the Temperance Cause; and if right hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords 674 would allow themselves even an extra hour to dinner, probably many of them on his side would not be very sorry.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
said, that he did not desire to refer to the speeches which they had had from the two Front Benches in reference to this Bill. It had formed a great Parliamentary controversy, and he would leave it where it was. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), who so warmly supported the Bill, had not said what Bill it was he wished to pass. The hon. Member who moved the present Bill distinctly said it was not aimed at the practice of children going to public-houses to buy beer for themselves, but at the practice of sending them to fetch beer for other people.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, he listened to the whole speech, and the hon. Gentleman said that was not what the Bill was aimed at, but that what it was aimed at was the practice of sending children to public-houses to fetch beer. It was seconded by a Gentleman on the Back Benches, who repeated that statement—namely, that it was the sending children to the public-houses to fetch beer for others which was the evil to be attacked. Then came the Representatives of the Government—the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary. Both said that that which the hon. Member who introduced the Bill wished to prohibit they would not join him in prohibiting. The Bill forbade working men and working women sending children under 13 to fetch beer from a public-house, and the Leaders of the Government distinctly said—and he (Mr. E. Clarke) hoped they would stand to the declaration—that they would not sanction any legislation of that kind. But if that was so, why should they assist that Bill to go into Committee, unless the hon. Member who proposed the Bill, or someone who was responsible for it, would accept the Bill in the form in which the Government were prepared to assent to it? He believed all sides would agree with what had been said by the Front Government Bench. If it was necessary to have a Bill to forbid publicans supplying children under 13 years of age with drink for the children themselves to consume—if such a Bill was necessary, by all 675 means let it be proposed, and it would go through the House with universal consent. But that was not the Bill which was proposed for acceptance now. It was a pity there should be any necessity for a division on the subject; because if the hon. Member who proposed the Bill meant to stand by his own words, he certainly could not hope for the support of the Government, and if he acceded to the Amendment suggested from the Front Bench, there need be no division, because the House would unanimously pass the Bill through the second reading.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
said, that as his name was upon the back of the Bill, perhaps the House would permit him to say a few words in support of the Motion for its second reading. All the hon. Members in that House who specially represented the working classes were in favour of this measure as a step in the direction of temperance. If the noble Lord were better acquainted with the wants of the working classes, he need not have taken up the position he had. He (Mr. Cossham) had mixed all his life with the working classes, and there was no question in which they took a deeper interest than in temperance.
§ MR. MURDOCH (Reading)
said, he entirely denied that the effect of the Bill would be to promote temperance amongst the working classes; on the contrary, it would tend rather to promote secret drinking in their homes. He maintained that the sending of children to the public-house for the dinner or supper beer could not be injurious.
§ MR. P. MCDONALD (Sligo, N.)
said, he was in entire sympathy with hon. Members opposite in believing that the abuse of drinking was fatal to the morality and prosperity of the people. At the same time he desired that there should be no piecemeal legislation. He desired that the question should be taken up in its entirety and dealt with by the Government in a general and comprehensive manner. They had had three Bills dealing with this subject disposed of that evening, and he regretted to find that they had been scampered through during the dinner hour. Due and proper attention had not been devoted to the subject, for it was one of vital importance to the people. He objected to the Bill also because it interfered with the privileges 676 of the people. The people nowadays had a feeling of freedom within them. They were educated, and would not easily submit to injustice or an infringement of their rights. This was a question that intimately affected the interests of the masses. It was also a piece of class legislation of the worst possible form. It touched the poor and left the rich man free. It was an attempt to "rob the poor man of his beer," which he did not think they should do. The rich man could go to his club, get gloriously drunk, and stay there all day, and all night too, and there was nobody to interfere with him; but the poor man had no place where he could get his beer except where it was vended. More over, this was an attempt to deprive men of it at dinner time. He considered that the Bill might possibly be needed for London, but unquestionably it was by no means suited for the rural districts and the great manufacturing centres. The Bill would work a serious hardship if, when a working man would have but a quarter of an hour or so in which to snatch a hasty meal, it prevented him from sending his child for a mug of beer, and insist on his going himself. It would be a decided in justice. It was not always for the mug of beer that a child was sent to the public-house. It might be for a bottle of soda-water or lemonade, or for a small bottle of whisky, which would be sealed up and inaccessible to the child. No moral injury could be done to children in such cases. He objected to these restrictive measures. He had a great deal of sympathy for the benevolent feelings of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and nobody condemned the abuse of drink more than he did; but he liked a certain freedom of action, and for himself he claimed and used it. He objected to restrictive measures of all kinds. In March last the following bodies had declared that restrictive measures had been a complete failure. The hon. Member was proceeding to read the list of bodies referred to when——
§ MR. P. MCDONALD
said, he would submit to the ruling of the Chair and confine himself to the Bill. The 1st clause imposed a penalty of 20s. for the first offence and 40s. for the second. 677 Those penalties were much too high. Then the age fixed was 13. At 13 a child had reached the age of discretion, and ought to be able to judge between good and evil. Ten years ought to be the limit. Then the Bill was only to extend to England and Wales. Why was not Scotland and Ireland included? If it was good for one country it was good for another. No legislation of a piecemeal character should be entertained on this subject, and therefore he had to express his entire disapproval of the Bill. At the same time he could not help bearing testimony to the desirability of some general and comprehensive Bill being introduced by the Government; but he protested against such a thing being left to individual and irresponsible Members.
§ MR. J. WILSON (Edinburgh, Central)
said, that Scotland already had an Act in force similar to the present Bill. If "supply" were interpreted in England as it had been in Scotland, not to include sale to a messenger, the operation of the Bill could not involve any of the hardship to parents which was the basis of all the opposition to the Bill.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said, with regard to the decisions of the Scotch Courts, he hardly thought that they could be relied on by the people of England. At all events, reference must be had only to the letter of this Bill, assisted, if explanation was required, by the remarks of the Mover, who said the object was to put down the immoral practice of the working classes sending their children—who were often the only individuals they could send—to fetch their midday and evening beer. He did not know whether he should be correct in referring to the hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. Handel Cossham) as the hon. and rev. Member—but he wished to distinguish him from his right hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach)—but he denied that he exclusively represented the feeling of the working classes in this matter. He (Sir James Fergusson) represented a constituency as largely composed of the working classes as any other in the country; and although he was not pledged one way or the other, yet when he was questioned upon this subject he denounced the restrictions which were advocated in some quarters. He was quite certain 678 that the working classes did not require these intense and close restrictions which the hon. Gentleman wished to put upon them. This Bill was one of those narrow and cramping pieces of legislation which the House ought to put down, and was another instance of the way in which these fads were likely to be pressed into the legislation of the country unless the House took a common-sense view of the question. The Bill was oppressive and spiteful, and was not in the interest of the Temperance Cause, and, interfering as it did so materially with the liberties of the people, it was not worthy of the House, or consistent with the legislation hitherto passed by the House.
MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary)
said, he objected to the Bill because it was to be applied to Ireland. He was in favour of more drastic reforms; but this Bill would defeat the object it had in view. He opposed the Bill on the ground that it was inhuman and unjust; it would close the public-houses entirely to sick persons, or those who could only get beer by sending their children for it. It would also tend to drive people into public-houses, because they would not be allowed to send children for liquors to be consumed at home. He would suggest that if the Bill got into Committee the age should be raised to 14 years as in Scotland, and that the word "supply" should be substituted for "sell." The Bill might then be workable.
§ MR. O'HANLON (Cavan, E.)
I wish to say a few words with regard to this Bill which has occupied so much of the time of the House. I wish to say that this question of the liquor trade is obstructing the ordinary Business which. Parliament should be engaged on. Three Bills affecting the trade have been before us this evening. Year after year there are a Bill, a Motion, and three or four other things affecting the trade, brought forward by private Members. Now, it is a very surprising thing to me to find that the Gentlemen who are so much against the sale of intoxicating liquor cannot agree amongst themselves to bring in one sweeping measure which will settle the liquor question now and for evermore. That is what we should like. They cannot agree about the matter, and cannot bring in a Bill that will satisfy either 679 their own Party, or the Conservatives, or the Government. The thing is most extraordinary. I am not in favour of the liquor traffic at all, and should be very glad to see a Bill introduced that would do away with it altogether. A right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke in favour of the Bill, and said that this was the proper way to deal with the matter by nipping the thing in the bud. Well, I cannot at all agree with him that this is the right way to go about the matter; I should like to ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who interest themselves in this kind of legislation, if they are prepared when they cut off this thing called drink—which is a luxury, and, as such, contributes largely to the Revenue of the country—to give the Government money from some other source in support of the Army and Navy?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that this Bill deals only with the sale of beer to children.
§ MR. O'HANLON
It only deals with the sale of beer to children, no doubt; but, to my mind, it affects householders who have their employment and domestic duties to look after in their own houses, and may desire occasionally to send a child of 12 or 13 years of age out for a mug of beer for dinner to save them selves the necessity of leaving their occupation for the purpose. The question is a very important one. To my mind this is a one-sided sort of legislation. There are a class of Gentlemen in this House who have very good cellars in their own premises, and have them stocked with wine, beer, whisky, and brandy, and I say that for them to take away the opportunity of getting a glass of beer for a population like that of London—a population of over 4,000,000 of people who are unable to procure the luxury we have in our country in the shape of a glass of milk——
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already told the hon. Member that he is irrelevant, and is not discussing the Bill. He is now continuing that irrelevancy.
§ MR. O'HANLON
With regard to the beer for the father's dinner, I mean to say that it is very important that the father should not be required to get his dinner without some sort of liquor. I must say that the raising of this liquor question three times to-night is, in my opinion, simply a matter of obstruction 680 to prevent the ordinary Business of the House from taking its proper course. I have heard hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House declare themselves friendly to the working classes. I must say they seem particularly friendly to them, so much so that they want to fine them 20s.—which means two weeks' wages—for sending their children to fetch their beer. [An hon. MEMBER: The publican, not the parent, is to be fined.] Well, why should all these penalties fall upon the publican? Why should they not fall on the guilty person or the messenger? It is not just, in my opinion, that a tax of this sort should be laid on the publican. What means will he have of knowing the age of a child? If a child of 12½ years goes into the public-house for beer, how is the publican to examine him? He may say, "What is your age?" and the child may answer, "Thirteen" or "Thirteen and a-half," and if the publican happens to give the beer on the word of the child, and if the child is only 12½ years old, then some friends of the Mover of this Bill, who will, of course, have been watching—as they are constantly doing in connection with matters of this sort—will report the circumstances, and the publican will be fined 20s. or more. I do not know why the hon. Member has made the Bill so extensive in its application. He may have some necessity for it in his own constituency in Cornwall; but if his own constituency are of a class that require such legislation that is no reason why he should apply it also to mine, who do not require any measure of the sort. It seems to me that the main object of these hon. Members is really to bring themselves before the public as educators of morality. They wish to make themselves heard and felt, particularly in the fines which, through their instrumentality, will be imposed on the poor publican. As I said, if this Bill had been brought in for the purpose of sweeping away the liquor traffic, it would have had my support; but that is not its object. The Bill will affect my constituents. I tell the hon. Member most candidly and distinctly that it is not at all necessary in Ireland; that if he wishes a Bill for Cornwall, he can have it with the greatest pleasure; and that if he brings forward such a measure he will get my undivided support. Why does the hon. 681 Member propose one sort of legislation for England and Ireland, and leave Scotland to have another kind? The age under which it is illegal to sell beer to a child in Scotland is 14; but, under this Bill, the limit is to be 13 years. This only proves to my mind that the hon. Member in charge of the Bill considers the English and Irish children far more intelligent than the Scotch. The Mover of the second reading of this Bill has not told us that the doing away with this traffic is for the purpose of increasing the traffic in coffee-houses and other places——
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already twice called the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that his observations are irrelevant. I must now ask him to discontinue his speech.
§ MR. LEICESTER (West Ham, S.)
We ought to take into account the object of the Bill itself. I see that many persons belonging to the Church of England have said that the number of people who nowadays meet on Sundays at the public-houses is something appalling; and I think that when you reflect that between 7,000 and 8,000 children have gone into 200 public-houses in the short space of three hours on a certain day it becomes a very serious matter to fathers and mothers how to stop it. The object and aim of this Bill, as I understand it, is to prevent childhood from being contaminated and depraved by the evil influence of public-houses. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen say "No!" but I would ask them this—is there one amongst them who will engage a servant who has been employed in a public-house; and, if not, why not? One hon. Member opposite said that the real danger is when the children are over 13. Well, if that is so, what becomes of the argument as to innocence? If the danger comes when they are over 13, how can it be innocent for them to fetch beer under 13? If it is dangerous up to 14, it must be dangerous under 13. I was very much amused at the argument against the Bill that it would interfere with the convenience of some people. I had thought that all laws interfered with the convenience of some persons, and how any hon. Member supposed to be possessed of representative intelli- 682 gence can have failed to learn that I am at a loss to understand. It seems to me that the question is one of the balance of advantage or disadvantage. I admit all the inferences of hon. Members; I admit that families might be put to inconvenience; but I contend that the great good to be achieved by the measure far outweighs any inconvenience which you can put in the other scale. Then, of all men in the world, we had the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) standing up for the rights of the working men. Well, I am very proud of his sudden conversion. Better late than never. I should like to know, however, how it is, when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite speak about the beer of the poor man, that they are so generously disposed? I think the poor man can take care of his own beer; but, as a matter of fact, there are 350 men in this House elected to legislate on temperance lines, if possible, to get rid of the liquor traffic altogether. I have some documents here in my possession which show that when the working man wanted a vote the noble Lord was not so generous in bestowing it upon him. Now that it is a question of beer, however, he is very generous indeed. I, for one, believe that keeping children away from public-houses will tend to their virtue and morality, and for that reason I shall go heart and soul for the measure. We hear hon. Gentlemen talk a great deal about the advantages possessed by the rich. No doubt, the rich have advantages over the poor; but that is the accident of wealth. Do hon. Gentlemen say that because wealth possesses advantages, therefore you must dismantle rich men of their riches? Under the present state of things, whatever system you may adopt, wealth must possess advantages which the poor can never enjoy. Whatever licensing laws we may have, the rich have already stocked their cellars with wine; but the poor man cannot lay in a stock of beer, to say nothing of wine; and if you base your argument upon this, I would say why do you not come down to your logical position, and say—"Get rid of the licensing law altogether?" But, as a matter of fact, wealth cannot be interfered with because it has advantages over poverty. Believing that this measure, if passed into law, will greatly 683 improve the moral tone of the working classes, I, for one, shall give it my cordial support.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
I think it is desirable that the House should, if possible, come back for a few moments to what may be called the common-sense view of the measure. Although when measures affecting the working classes are proposed from this side of the House it is a very common thing for hon. Members opposite to say that we have no right to introduce them, I trust that some of those hon. Gentlemen opposite know that there are, at any rate, a good many hon. Members on this side who do their best to ascertain what is to the advantage of the working classes, and who endeavour to pass measures based upon the result of their investigations, or who report those results to the House. I trust, also, there are many hon. Members on this side of the House who have the cause of temperance at heart. I can only say that, practically independently of Party, I shall be able to vote for any measure that promotes the interests of temperance. But when we know what this Bill proposes, as it stands, I do not think anyone who is acquainted with the working of these matters can for a moment believe that it will promote the cause of temperance. What is it that we have been striving for in our legislation? We have been striving to keep men and women who are addicted to drink out of the public-houses; and I submit to the House that it would be far better and more desirable that men and women should be encouraged to stay in their homes, and have their meals in their homes, rather than take them in the public-houses. A man who is weak and cannot resist the temptation of drink when he finds himself in a public-house will stay there. As I understand it, this measure is framed in the plainest terms to provide that intoxicating liquor shall not be supplied to any person under 13 years of age. The result of passing the Bill would be that if children are sent for their parents' beer and they are under 13 years of age, if the publican serve them, it would cause him to be subjected to a penalty. It is now said that that is not intended; but I emphatically assert that that is the object and intention of those who have brought in the 684 Bill. As I understand it, the hon. Member who moved the Bill said that that was his object. We ought really to know what is the principle of the Bill we are discussing, and, as it appears to me, the measure has been brought in with that intention. There ought to be some liberty—some recognition of freedom of will—in this matter. If there are hon. Gentlemen who think that all alcoholic liquors are bad and demoralizing, let thorn endeavour to pass measures which will suppress the sale of intoxicants altogether. I can quite understand such a state of information and such an amount of knowledge as to the nature of alcohol becoming universal that people might come to the conclusion that its sale ought to be prohibited; but at any rate, notwithstanding what has fallen from the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Leicester), we have no right to prevent sober working men from having their glass of beer with their dinner in their own homes. Working men come home for a very short time, and it may be necessary for them during the short time they are there to have their beer. I want to know what reason there is why the sending of a child of 10 or 13 years of age to fetch a father's beer under such circumstances should be regarded as a criminal act? I must say that, in the somewhat discursive and amusing speech made by the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway (Mr. O'Hanlon), it did seem to me, as he pointed out, rather a strong thing to say that a publican should be guilty of a criminal offence because he supplied beer to a child, not for the purpose of its being drunk on the premises, but for the purpose of being carried home to the child's parents, the publican having no means of knowing what the child's real age was. As I have said, I would gladly support this or any other measure if it were likely to promote the cause of temperance; but it seems to me that this is simply interfering, not with the propensities of those who are addicted to drink, or with those people who are likely to be misled into the public-house, but with the ordinary and just rights of the working man. I will be no party to anything which practically says that the working man shall not get liquor in his own house when we ourselves can get it to any extent we please in ours.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. BROADHURST) (Birmingham, Bordesley)
I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman was present when the Home Secretary spoke in regard to this measure, and described some of the limitations to the present proposal which he will make on behalf of the Government should this measure get to the Committee stage.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
The hon. Member for Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) refused to accept those limitations.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I beg pardon; the right hon. and learned Member is entirely mistaken.
§ MR. BROADHURST
It may be true that the Mover of the second reading has refused to accept the limitations; but I think, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman will consult right hon. Gentlemen on his right and left, he will find that the form which a Bill introduced by a private Member may ultimately take does not always depend upon the pleasure of the Mover. Probably the hon. and learned Member has not seen so many levellings of Bills of private Members as some of his right hon. Friends in his immediate locality. With regard to the speech which has just been made, I noticed a very general tone of similarity between it and several others which have come from the same quarter to-night, particularly as to the question of the inconvenience which they say the working classes will suffer if their children are not allowed to go to the public-houses to fetch their dinner beer. Well, Sir, my experience as a working man in many parts of the country leads me to quite a different conclusion. I do not think there would be any general inconvenience if even the Bill was passed in its present very severe form. I do not agree with the hon. and learned Member that if the beer is not fetched by the children from the public-house the parents will visit the public-house themselves to get it, and will drink it there. So far as my experience has gone, where it is the habit of the family to drink beer with their meals, there is no difficulty experienced by the parents in providing themselves with it by their own journeyings to the public-house. ["Oh!"] I do not understand what 686 that "Oh!" is about. Surely hon. Members will admit that it is as easy for a man or a woman to go to a public-house to fetch beer as it is for an infant. ["No!"] Well, where is the difficulty? I should like hon. Gentlemen to point it out. My experience is that parents usually do fetch it for themselves, and that any considerate parent would rather do that, and in many cases would rather go without it altogether, than risk sending their young children into these public-houses where they may be kept waiting for many minutes with great danger both to their present morals and to their future life. My reading in this matter leads me to make the assertion that all social reformers and all temperance advocates of all classes, at all times, have always warned the people against that association of their infant children with public-house language and conduct which naturally results from sending them to the public-house for dinner and supper beer. My opinion is that this measure is crude in the extreme, but that a great many of the working classes will most readily accept the restrictions it proposes to impose upon them. The whole drift of public opinion, whether amongst teetotallers or the moderate drinking classes, is in favour of temperance legislation of this kind, and especially where it seeks to dissociate children and young members of families from any connection or experience of the public-house, its surroundings, and its vile influences. If this Bill should go to a second reading, I shall certainly give my vote in support of it in the full confidence that I shall not by so doing be offending any considerable number of the great working class constituency which I have the honour to represent in this House. May I say one word to my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall with regard to this debate to-night? I would give him a friendly warning not to be too impatient of debate and discussion in putting forward proposals of this kind. If he had had the privilege of sitting in the last Parliament he would think himself exceedingly fortunate in having got the second reading stage of a measure of this description after one, two, or three nights' debate, let alone securing it in a debate only extending over half of a Friday evening. I am not surprised that there is considerable opposition to 687 the Bill; but I am certain of this, that if it goes to a second reading, the Bill will be carried by a considerable majority of the House, consisting not alone of Members on these Benches, but Members below the Gangway on this and the other side of the House, and of Members behind the Front Opposition Bench. I have never witnessed a more remarkable diversity of opinion on the other side of the House than I did to-night when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. A. J. Balfour) was speaking. There was scarcely an hon. Member in his immediate locality who did not differ with some part of his speech; and if I gathered the sense of his Friends rightly, they all object to the firm and determined opposition he appears to be offering to this very reasonable and wise proposal.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
I was rather surprised that the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Broadhurst) should have congratulated the hon. Member responsible for this Bill upon his good fortune in having very probably secured its second reading to-night, because, of all the circumstances which have occurred during the present Session, I think few are more remarkable than the proceedings of this evening. We have had all sorts of Bills nominally under discussion, three-fourths of which nobody could have expected would have been reached, and all of which were reached owing to the default of the Government for whom the hon. Gentlemen spoke, because they did not take the ordinary and proper course of attempting to proceed with the important Business of Supply. This is a point with regard to which we are, I think, entitled to make very grave complaint; and I shall bear it in mind when next the Government come to this House for a Vote on Account, because it will be perfectly clear that they have not utilized the time at their disposal. But, Sir, I have something more to say on the way in which the Government have let the Orders of the Day, for which private Members are responsible, take the place of Government Business, which ought to have been proceeded with, if possible, on a Friday night. There is something very remarkable in the nature of the Business which has principally occupied our time. I think if there is one 688 matter on which, if legislation is desirable, the Government of the day ought to attempt to legislate, it is this matter of the liquor laws. There is no question, upon which hasty or intemperate legislation is more likely to conflict with the established habits of the people, and, therefore, to promote a dangerous reaction against some law which Parliament may pass without due consideration. Therefore, there is no subject on which, if the House of Commons is asked to legislate, the legislation ought more certainly to be proposed by the Government of the day. Yet, what do we find? In arranging the Paper of Business for this evening Her Majesty's Government have indirectly presented no less than three measures dealing with the liquor laws in England and Ireland. They are not courageous enough to make themselves responsible for any one of these proposals. They have talked enough about this question, both in Office and in Opposition; but they have not hitherto ventured to submit their own proposals upon it to Parliament. Therefore, they take advantage of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Conybeare), who is responsible for this Bill, and of the hon. Member for Durham; and they seek, in this illegitimate way, to foist the proposals of these hon. Members on the House of Commons without themselves being responsible for the legislation. Now, I must say that that is a course which is not becoming either to the Government or to the House, and is not calculated to lead to that successful dealing with this important question which we all desire. What is the proposal that the hon. Member for Cornwall has made? He proposes in all cases to prohibit the sale of any intoxicating liquors to any person under the age of 13 years. I do not wish to dwell upon the obvious objections to such a proposal—such as the impossibility of ascertaining the age of the child—since these have already been placed before the House; but I would remind the House that we have had from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Childers) a statement of the views of Her Majesty's Government upon this question. We understand the right hon. Gentleman plainly to state, as representing the Government, that he does not approve of the wide scope of 689 the Bill as it stands, and that it would be his desire to limit it very considerably in Committee, so as to make it somewhat analogous to the existing Scotch law. Now, that is an intelligible proposal. The hon. Member the Under Secretary for the Home Department seems to think that, as a matter of course, having been suggested by the Government, that proposal will be carried. Well, I congratulate him upon his estimate of the power of the Government; but I venture to differ from him. I am not at all sure——
§ MR. BROADHURST
I beg to correct the right hon. Gentleman. I did not say that because the Government have suggested it it would be carried as a matter of course; but I suggested that it is not likely to be resisted simply because the hon. Member in charge of the Bill says he cannot accept it.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
At any rate, the hon. Member spoke very hopefully of the power of the Government in this matter. I would only remind him that when measures of this kind are supported with that fanaticism in which they are apt to originate, we have known a Government, very much like that which now occupies the Front Bench opposite, yielding all of a sudden, without an attempt to stand by the opinions they had expressed in debate. But, more than this, the Home Secretary has taken one view of the matter, and the Under Secretary for the Home Department has taken an absolutely opposite view. According to the Under Secretary, the hon. Member for Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) is right, and his Chief is wrong. He would approve of the entire proposition of the hon. Member for Cornwall. He told us a great deal about the desire of parents to keep their children from the contamination of the society in public-houses. But if such is the desire of parents, they need not send their children to the public-house. What is the use of legislating for parents who have that desire and do not at present send their children to public-houses? Then, of course, comes in that tyrannical notion which appears to dominate the minds of all true Liberals on this liquor question—namely, that in the name of those who do not want to send their children to public-houses you are to to prevent those who do send them 690 there from being able to do so. Without saying one single word in defence of a parent who would voluntarily send his child into society of that kind, I would say that the existence of such parents, in considerable numbers, is precisely why this Bill, if it should unhappily become law, would prove a disastrous failure. Either it would not be carried out—and that is the very worst thing which could happen to the law—or else, if carried out, it would be found to conflict with the everyday habits of thousands of the working men of this country. It would be found an intolerable nuisance; a reaction would set in, and there would be a demand made for the entire repeal of the Act. Then those who desire to see the sale of liquor to children for their own use forbidden will find themselves farther than ever from their object, because the law which has prevented children from going to public-houses to fetch beer for their fathers and mothers has gone too far. That does seem to be the great danger that surrounds all attempts at legislation of this kind, and that is why legislation on a liquor question should especially be in the hands of a Government, and not of a Government whose Under Secretary for the Home Department differs from his Chief, but of a Government which is able to reconcile the conflicting views of its own Members in the same Department. I trust that if we are called upon to divide on this Bill unexpectedly, to-night, that, at any rate, we shall vote upon it as it now stands, after the speech of the Under Secretary. We shall vote upon it, I hope, as, what I believe it to be, a tyrannical measure, though brought in with the best intention—tyrannical because, in order to effect a good object, it goes beyond that object, and will interfere materially with the ordinary daily habits of many thousands of our working population.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
We have had this evening, as we shall always have when these liquor questions are discussed, shilly-shally speeches from hon. Gentlemen who want to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds—who want to be supported by the publicans on the one hand, and by the temperance people on the other; but I must really congratulate the right hon. Gentleman who has just down upon having made a bold and honest liquor speech. I do 691 not agree with him, but still I am bound to congratulate him. I was somewhat surprised at the commencement of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He professed himself astonished at our having got through such a large amount of Business this evening. He was horrified at the idea of this House getting through its Business, particularly on a Friday night. He complained of the Government, and said their conduct was perfectly monstrous; and that they ought to have stepped in and have prevented all the Bills which have been divided against this evening from being reached, by going into Committee of Supply. Now, the right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that while, years ago, it was very often the custom of the House to go into effective Supply on a Friday night, for the last few years there has been hardly a single instance in which that has been done. [Laughter.] Yes, I repeat, there has been hardly a single instance in which the House has gone into effective Supply on a Friday night. But the right hon. Gentleman surely had not looked at the Paper with which we are furnished to tell us what is to take place in the evening. He must have known very well that, when it is intended to go into effective Supply, the Votes that are to be taken in Supply are set down on the Paper. Well, to-day they were not upon the Paper; therefore, he must have known perfectly well that the Government had not the slightest intention of going into Supply. The right hon. Gentleman and his Friends come strolling in late in the evening, and are exceedingly surprised that they have not had an opportunity of discussing, and possibly of obstructing, the several excellent measures that have been advanced a stage. But I think the protest of the right hon. Gentleman was still more surprising. It is a protest which comes very frequently from that Bench, and, I may say, from the Front Bench on this side also. "Why?" he said, "is the House to assent to a private Member's Bill?" Why, I would ask, is the House not to assent to a private Member's Bill? For my part, I sometimes even assent to a Government Bill. I look at a Bill on its merits, whether it comes from this side of the House or from that, or from this side of the Gangway or the other. If a Bill is a good one, I vote in favour 692 of it. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government were shirking responsibility, because they do not themselves deal with this liquor question. Let me ask him if they have had time to deal with it? They have had two nights a-week; but those nights have always been occupied, and it looks very much to me as though, for some time henceforward, not only will the Government days be occupied, but private Members' days also will be taken up by the consideration of some great and eminent measure which the Government intend to bring forward. As to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman and those who act with him, they object to this Bill because they consider that parents who like to send their children to public-houses should be allowed to do so. But we hold just the reverse. We say that they ought not be allowed to do it. We admit very fully that a great many parents do send their children to public-houses to fetch drink. Statistics have been obtained of the number of children that have gone into public-houses on certain days; but let me ask any hon. Member of this House would he wish his own children to go into public-houses—would he send his own children into public-houses? Most certainly he would not; and he knows perfectly well that children of tender age cannot gain any good by going into public-houses. I have been in public-houses, and I suppose other hon. Gentlemen have done the same; and, even at my age, I have not found the language which is ordinarily used in these places very improving. I am too old, Sir, for it to demoralize me; but I can easily conceive that it might demoralize a young child. Why, anyone who goes into these places must hear improper language used. [Cries of "No!"] I say "Yes;" and I say that if hon. Members were to poll respectable publicans themselves, either in the Metropolis or in any other part of the country, they would find that they not only object to serving children with liquor, but object to children coming into their public-houses. We were told by one hon. Member opposite that if children were not allowed to be sent to public-houses, their parents would have to go without their beer, as they would not be able to fetch it themselves. But bachelors, who have no children, drink beer with their dinner. They have to 693 get it for themselves; and why should not those persons who have children do the same? Another hon. Member has told us that the Bill ought not to apply to Ireland. Well, that is a question to be considered in Committee. In Committee hon. Members from Ireland can raise that point; and probably the English and Scotch Members will consent to their view, if it is entertained by the majority of the Irish Representatives. Another hon. Member opposite—the late Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald)—whose views do not appear to me to coincide with those of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) pointed out that the Scotch Act, which fixes the age of the children at 14, has worked extremely well. It does not injure Scotchmen, and we know that they drink more than Englishmen. [A laugh.] I speak statistically. Surely, if these Scotchmen can find time to visit the public-houses to fetch their drink, Englishmen can do the same. You may depend upon this—that there will not be one drop less beer drunk by adults if you prevent the children from fetching it. The man who wants his beer will take uncommonly good care to get his beer. If he is not able to send his child, he will go himself, or send his wife. I consider this Bill an excellent one, and I trust that it will pass a second reading this evening. There has been some discussion upon it, but not an exhaustive discussion; and I think it is likely there are other hon. Gentlemen anxious to speak, and that the discussion will continue for at least another 20 minutes.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has stated, apparently with some authority on the part of those who are responsible for this Bill, that if, when it comes into Committee, the majority of the Irish Members should desire that it should not apply to Ireland, those who are promoting it will assent to that desire. Do I understand that the hon. Gentlemen who have charge of the Bill would agree to that suggestion?
§ MR. PARNELL
That relieves me and my Colleagues from some considerable difficulty, because I am not, at present, in a position to say whether the majority of our Party are in favour of this Bill or not. Since I have had a seat in this House I have always at- 694 tempted to keep clear of these temperance questions. I have never voted on any of them, because I think that the question of temperance and of the control of the liquor trade, is one which, of all others, could most suitably and properly be left to an Irish Legislature to deal with. I believe most firmly that this House will never satisfactorily deal with the liquor traffic in Ireland. If it be understood that the promoters of the Bill will favourably take into consideration the opinion of the majority of my Colleagues as to whether or not the measure should or should not apply to Ireland, I think I may say on their behalf that those of them who, up to the present moment, have opposed the Bill, will retire from further opposition.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
Sir, this is a Bill on which it is difficult for any hon. Member to give a silent vote. For my part, I cannot join in a vote which would interfere between parent and child; that is to say, I think that the father and mother are the best judges as to where a child should be sent. I do not deny that there are cases in which the law ought to interfere between the parent and the child, but I do not think that this is one of those cases in which we should be justified in interfering. It should be remembered that the Bill is to refer to all quiet little country places, where there are small public-houses which are empty for the most part during the day, and where a child might be sent most innocently. I must, therefore, honestly say I cannot vote for the Bill as it stands. If a measure were brought in which provided that intoxicating liquor should not be sold to children for their own consumption, I would vote for it without hesitation.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's County, Birr)
I support this Bill with all my heart. Anybody who has been in the habit of walking through the streets of this Metropolis at a late hour and has seen the immorality and drunkenness which exist will, I believe, vote for a Bill which offers, however small, a remedy for that state of things. I think it is the bounden duty of any man who has a care for the welfare of children to support this Bill. I hope, as my hon. Friend has said, that when the Bill goes into Committee the question of the application of the Bill to Ireland will be decided by my hon. Friends voting for the measure.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I shall certainly be willing to agree to the exclusion of Ireland from the operation of the Bill.
MR. CARBUTT&c.) (Monmouth,
Like the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton), I do not wish to give a silent vote. I wish to say that if the hon. Member had accepted the Amendment proposed by the Government I should have supported him; but, as he has not done so, I shall vote against the Motion.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I wish to say that, after the statement of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and the assent on the part of the promoters that Ireland should be omitted from its provisions, I shall vote against the Bill.
§ SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S,)
I do not understand all the difficulties which have been raised about this Bill. I believe my hon. Friend who brought in the Bill had no idea of the amount of discussion which would take place. One would infer, from the way in which one part of the subject has been spoken of, that, to ascertain the age of a child, some people imagine that the publican would have to examine the child as a veterinary examines a horse's teeth. That sort of language, Sir, is absurd. We do not believe that respectable publicans who desire to carry on their business properly wish to have small children in their houses. I cannot imagine that any respectable publican would like to see such children shouldering their way amonst the people frequenting his house. The sending of children to public-houses, moreover, teaches them early to drink; for no one can forget that he has seen children sipping the beer which they are carrying home. There is no doubt that the principle of the Bill is a right one, and ought to be accepted. The hon. Member says that if in Scotland children are not allowed to enter a public-house before they are 14 years of age, the children in England should be treated in the same way. In this Bill it is proposed that the limit should be 13 years. For my own part, I am opposed to there being any difference in the matter as between the two countries; and I say that if the law for Scotland is 14 years, it should be the same in England, or vice versa. There is another 696 point of considerable importance, and that is that the hon. Gentleman who has brought in this Bill has been attacked because it only applies to a small part of the question. I find that hon. Members opposite, especially Conservative Members, object to large Bills which embrace large principles; and therefore many hon. Members are compelled to bring in small Bills, and so deal with questions bit by bit. We had an example of that the other day in the Women's Enfranchisement Bill. With regard to this Bill, I believe that almost all of us hold that my hon. Friend is conferring a benefit alike on the parent, the publican, and the child, by bringing in the Bill in its present form. The argument has been put forward that a parent may himself object to go to a public-house because he feels that he is not strong enough to resist the temptation to remain there, and that therefore he sends his child; and another argument is that a parent may not understand the temptation to which he exposes his child. But I believe those arguments would not have been put forward if the hon. Gentleman who used them had given them a moment's consideration, and my object in calling attention to them is simply to refute them. With regard to the liquor question, it would, no doubt, be better not to have piecemeal legislation; but the House is so burdened with Business that it seems desirable to use any opportunity we may get to deal with this question. I think my hon. Friend is lucky in having the Motion for the second reading of the Bill down to-night, when it is likely to be carried. I am satisfied that there is no feeling amongst the publicans against the Bill. My experience is that publicans are not at all slow in telling you when they have an objection to a Bill, and to the present Bill I have not heard, as coming from that class, a single objection. Therefore, if I belonged to the Conservative Party I should not be ashamed to support the Bill; and, as Liberals, although we do not get much publican support, I do not think we are doing any harm to the publicans, whom I do not wish to injure, in asking that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
There is a misapprehension with regard to the law of Scotland on this subject. The law of Scotland does 697 not allow children under 14 years of age to get drink for themselves in public-houses, but it does not prevent parents sending their children to a public-house for what they themselves want. I therefore hope the House will not support the Motion for the second reading of the Bill.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 132; Noes 115: Majority 17.—(Div. List, No. 60.)
§ Bill committed for Tuesday 13th April.