HC Deb 16 June 1886 vol 306 cc1655-68

Order for Committee read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


, in moving that the House do this day three months resolve itself into the said Committee, said, this Bill was another piece of grandmotherly legislation, and, as usual in such cases, it had overreached itself like vaulting ambition, and had fallen on the other side. The Bill provided that Every holder of a licence who sells, or allows any person to sell, any description of intoxicating liquors to any person under the age of thirteen years, should be liable to certain penalties. With regard to the immoral consequences attending the sale to children, he contended that they were much more likely to ensue in the case of children over the age of 13 than under that age. Another point that he wished to impress upon the House was, that if the labourer on returning from his work was compelled to go himself to a public-house for the purpose of getting a glass of beer, he would probably meet his friends there, and be induced to remain in the public-house, so that a Bill brought in to encourage temperance would have precisely the opposite result. He hoped on these grounds that the House would agree to his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Viscount Grimston,)—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he was informed that the hon. Member who had made the Motion to go into Committee had authority from the hon. Member for Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) to move that the Order be discharged, and he thought the hon. Member might very well exercise that discretion. He did not wish to weary the House with a discussion on this most ridiculous and tyrannical Bill. He contended that there was no evidence I that children became drunken by being sent for liquor, and he could hardly bring himself to believe that the late Home Secretary, with his experience, I would rise in his place and say that this proposal ought to be carried out. A Bill so wide in its scope as this, and so? very vague with regard to its provisions, ought not to be entertained by the House of Commons at this period of the Session. He asked for an explanation from the Government as to what course they intended taking with regard to the Bill.


said, this alarming Bill, which was so ridiculous and tyrannical, had been for many years, in almost identical words, in operation in Scotland, where it had never produced any mischievous effects. On the contrary, it had been found very beneficial. The Bill was identical with the Scotch Act, except that the word "supply" was used in the latter instead of "sell." He believed that the opponents of the Bill when they learned the facts with regard to Scotland on the second reading were almost ashamed of their opposition, and he thought it was understood that if any alteration were to be made in the Bill it would be by a simple Amendment in Committee. In Scotland it had been held that the word "supply" did not apply to a child going to a public-house to get beer for its parents, but for its own consumption. That was really the whole case, and a simple Amendment in Committee to that effect was all that was required.


said, that on the second reading the Home Secretary distinctly undertook on the part of the Government to see that proper clauses were inserted to meet the objections urged by those who objected to the Bill as introduced, who had not been shamed out of their opposition as had been suggested. He would like to know whether the Motion to go into Committee had been made with the assent of the hon. Gentleman whose name stood first on the Bill (Mr. Conybeare), because it had been understood that it was not his wish that the Bill should be pressed forward? It was not the case that the Scotch law was identical with this Bill. He believed that there the age was 16 instead of 13, and there were words limiting its operation in that country. He wanted to know whether they were going to punish the publican and leave the parent who sent the child to the public-house scot-free? The publican could not know the age of the child, but the parent did, and it seemed to him a strange thing to introduce legislation to punish, the former, while the latter was not subject to any penalty. While he was desirous of doing everything to promote temperance and of supporting proper legislation in that direction, it seemed to him that the Bill, as it then stood, would effect no good whatever.

MR. PICTON (Leicester)

said, he was one of those who opposed the second reading of the Bill; but he must differ from the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down as to the intention of many of those who opposed the Bill. They opposed it because it was supposed that it was intended to prevent a parent sending his child for liquor, but they now understood that the Bill would simply have the effect of forbidding the sale of intoxicating liquors to children for their own consumption. He hoped the House would go into Committee on the Bill to amend it in that direction.

MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)

said, that, unlike the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton), he was rather friendly to the Bill at first, but thought it unfortunate that parents should be prevented from sending their children to public-houses where liquor was not consumed on the premises. What the House then wanted was something better than that non-possumus and passive attitude of the Government with reference to the Bill. They wanted some assurance that Amendments with the object stated would be promoted, and without that assurance they could not assent to the Bill going on. It had been understood previously that this Bill was not intended to apply to those public-houses where drink was consumed off the premises.


said, he intended to oppose the Bill as it stood at present. It was a constant habit for working people to send out their children for the dinner beer.

MR. RITCHIE (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)

asked an assurance from the Government that the object of the Bill was only to prevent the supplying of liquor to children for consumption by the children themselves.




said, that if that was their view he would not oppose the going into Committee.


was understood to say that at present it was an offence against the law to sell spirits to any person under the age of 16. He asked whether it was the intention of the Government simply to extend the law with regard to spirits to all intoxicating liquors, and to modify the Bill so as to provide that the prohibition should only extend to consumption of liquor by the child?


said, that the Government intended in Committee to introduce provisions to that effect.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Sale of liquors to children to be illegal).


Having taken charge of the Bill for my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare), I wish to move in this clause to substitute the word "serves" for the word "sells." The effect would be to impose the penalty upon the person who serves the child with liquor, and not to restrict it to the person who sells it.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 8, leave out the word "sells," and insert "serves."—(Mr. Cossham.)

Mr. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)

I should like to know from the Attorney General what the effect of this Amendment would be?


The word used in the Scotch Act is "supplies," and I understand from my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate that the use of that word is understood to apply only to the case of persons who knowingly supply. I think the word "supplies" would be better either than "sells" or "serves." In order to prevent the penalty from attaching to the holder of a licence who innocently supplies intoxicating liquor to a child under 13, I propose to amend the clause so that it shall run in this way— Every holder of a licence who shall knowingly supply, or shall allow any person to supply, any description of intoxicating liquors to any person under the age of thirteen years," &c.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I move that the words "knowingly supplies" be inserted.

Question, "That the words 'knowingly supplies' be there inserted," put, and agreed, to.


I have to move the insertion, after the word "supplies," of the words "for his or her own consumption." I have some doubt whether, considering some of the decisions which have been given, the word "supplies" will be sufficient, and I think my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General should propose the insertion of some additional words to make the matter clear.


I think the Amendment of my hon. Friend would come in better in line 2 of the clause, after the second word "supply." The Government have no objection to the Amendment.


Perhaps the Amendment would come in better in line 10. The clause would then run— Every holder of a licence who supplies, or allows any person to supply, any description of intoxicating liquors to any person under the age of thirteen years, for his or her own consumption.

CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N., Buckingham)

I wish to propose an Amendment which would come before that, in line 9—namely, the insertion of the word "apparently." The clause would then read—"apparently under the age of thirteen."


The object of the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be covered by the word "knowingly."

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)

I desire to move an Amendment to the words "thirteen years." I think that is too high a limit. I think 10 years will be quite high enough. There are a considerable number of objections to the age of 13. It is a very doubtful age, and I would put it to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he thinks that 10 years would not be a proper limit? It is better to take some age which would be I more likely to be known for purposes of this kind than the age of 13. I will, therefore, ask the Government to accept the age of 10 years.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, to omit "thirteen," and insert "ten."—(Mr. Brodrick.)


I do not know what the hon. Member really calls a tender age. At the age of 13 a child ought to be at school. No doubt, in many instances they are not, but they ought to be. If it is good for them to drink they can drink under the supervision and control of their parents; but they certainly ought not to be allowed to obtain it on their own account.

MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

I hope that the age of 13 will be retained. I think that age is the most suitable.


If the age were reduced to 10 years, I think it would entirely destroy the value of the Bill. Personally, I should prefer to see it raised to 16, as it is in Scotland. Certainly, as a considerable part of the value of the Bill has been taken out of it by the action of the Government, I do not see why the Committee should not raise the age to 16.

CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N., Buckingham)

I shall certainly support any proposal to raise the age to 16. It seems absurd to limit it to 13, and I should like to know what hon. Member of this House would allow his own children to drink at the age of 13, or to be allowed to purchase spirits or other intoxicating liquors on his own account. I am satisfied that no hon. Member would desire a child of his own even to enter a public-house at that early age for the purpose of purchasing intoxicating liquors of any sort.

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)

I am afraid that some of these children do indulge in intoxicating liquors at a much earlier age than that. I do not know that a boy of 12 is the worse for drinking a glass of beer. But I have no objection to withdraw the Amendment, if the sense of the Committee is opposed to the change.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, after the words "thirteen years," to insert "for his or her own consumption."—(Sir Richard Webster.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I beg to move that "16"be substituted for "13."


The hon. and gallant Member is too late.


Cannot I move the substitution of the age of 16?


Not now. The words "thirteen years" have already been agreed to.

Question put, and agreed to.

Question proposed, "That Clause 1, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

MR. DUNCOMBE (Yorkshire, E. R., Howdenshire)

I have an Amendment to move in line 10, after the word "years," to insert— Unless such person applies to be served with the sanction, and at the bidding, of those under whose control he or she may be living. My object in moving this is to meet cases in which children may be sent in a bonâ fide manner to fetch beer. I am not quite sure, however, whether that object is not met by the Amendment which the Government have inserted.


Yes, it is.


Then I shall not move the Amendment.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause 2 (Legal proceedings to follow Licensing Acts, 1872–1874) agreed to.

Clause 3 (Extent of Act).


I beg to move the Amendment which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare), to add to the clause—" and Ireland." The object of the Amendment is to exclude Ireland from the operation of the Bill.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, to add "and Ireland."—(Mr. Cossham.)

MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)

I should certainly feel it my duty to protest against the inclusion of Ireland in the Bill. I remember the discussion which took place some time ago in reference to the measure, and it was then generally understood that it was to be applied to England and Wales only. The conditions of the trade in Ireland are entirely different from those which exist in England, Scotland, and Wales.


I understand that Scotland is excluded because that country is already provided for; but as Ireland is not provided for, and as there are cer- tainly children of tender age in that country, I fail to see why the Bill should not be made applicable to Ireland. I should like to know on what principle the proposal to exclude Ireland is made?


I think the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor) must have misunderstood the Amendment. The clause, as it stands, excludes Scotland, but not Ireland, and the object of the Amendment is to exclude Ireland also.


I should like some Member of Her Majesty's Government to explain why, if the Bill is promoted on the principles of temperance, and it is desirable that English children under the age of 13 years should not be allowed to obtain liquor for their own consumption, and if they do get it that the landlord who supplies it should be liable to prosecution—why it is not equally desirable that children in Ireland should be protected in the same manner?


The only reason is that the English Members, by a large majority, are in favour of the Bill, and wish it to be applied to England, while a considerable proportion of the Irish Members do not wish to see it applied to their country.

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)

I think if the right hon. Gentleman will examine the Division Lists, he will find that the majority in favour of the Bill comprised a considerable number of Irish Members. The majority of English Members present voted against the Bill. I protest against legislation being undertaken for England which is not equally good for Ireland. If there is any case for sending children to the public-house it is in England, where the majority of the people are beer drinkers, while in Ireland, where very little beer is drunk, there is no such necessity. I shall certainly take a division in favour of the inclusion of Ireland in the provisions of the Bill.

MR. RITCHIE (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)

I should like to remind the Committee that the circumstances of the case have now been entirely altered. I can understand why the Irish Members should object to the measure being extended to Ireland if it had remained in its original shape, and applied to a child who was simply sent to fetch the dinner beer. But surely no Irish Member can object to children being prevented from being supplied with beer for their own consumption. It seems to be forgotten that the Bill is only to affect the selling of drink to children for their own consumption. The objection which originally applied to the Bill certainly does not apply now, and I cannot understand why any Irish Member should raise an objection to it.

MR. HASLETT (Belfast, W.)

As an Irish Member I should certainly protest strongly against the exclusion of Ireland from the operation of the Bill.

MR. LIONEL COHEN (Paddington, N.)

If the principle of locality is to arise, I know many parts of England in which the principle of the Bill will be inoperative, because the evil which it is intended to remedy does not exist, and, as a matter of justice, I think the Bill ought to be applied to Ireland as well as to England and Wales.


If Ireland is not added the Bill will probably slip through both Houses of Parliament, whereas if Ireland is added we shall probably hear much more about it. Therefore, I think the reason the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given is not a sound reason for the omission of Ireland.


I have such a high opinion of the Irish Members that I really cannot believe that hon. Gentlemen who represent Ireland can object to the Bill as it now stands. They may very reasonably have had an objection to it as it went into Committee; but now that it has been altered and simply inflicts penalties on the holders of licences who supply intoxicating liquor to children of tender years, for their own consumption, I cannot believe that hon. Gentlemen who represent Ireland can object to it as I understand its provisions now. In this House I have always advocated equal laws for England, Ireland, and Scotland; and I should be very sorry if one of the last measures we are to pass in the present Parliament is one which is to extend beneficial provisions to the people of England from all share of which the Irish people are to be excluded.


Allow me to remind hon. Members that there may exist a difference of opinion among Irish Members on this question as well as among English or Scotch Members. I do not know what the general body of the Irish Members may be inclined to say in regard to this matter; but if the decision rested with me personally I should feel bound to give it in this instance in favour of temperance, and on behalf of the protection of children. I cannot understand why anyone who is not connected with the publicans' interest should object to the prevention of the sale of intoxicating drink for their own consumption to children under 13, whether in Ireland or in England. I, for one, certainly propose to oppose the Amendment in the interests of the children of Ireland.

MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S.)

I presume that the Bill has been brought forward for Ireland because it is understood that some social need for it exists. I do not believe that any such need exists for it in Ireland; but I must say that I am not in favour of publicans anywhere being allowed to sell drink for their own consumption to children of tender years. I shall, therefore, oppose the Motion for the exclusion of Ireland.

MR. DAWSON (Leeds, E.)

I understood that the reason why the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer supported the Amendment was that he believed a majority of the Irish Members were against the Bill; but the right hon. Gentlemen seems now to be discarded by those whom he was so anxious to please. The right hon. Gentleman made a somewhat remarkable proposition. Although he was convinced in his own mind that a certain course of action was right in itself, still, if a majority did not agree with him, he was ready to withdraw his own opinions and adopt it. That certainly seems to me to be a singular method of carrying on the legislation of this country. I should have thought that the Government would be convinced that that which is right for England would be right also for Ireland. For myself, I hope that the Bill will be extended to Ireland, because I believe that there is no measure which should be carried for one part of the Kingdom only, and not for the whole of it.

MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)

When I proposed that the provisions of this Bill should not be extended to Ireland I was not aware that the measure had undergone important alterations. I did so because I knew from personal experience that in Ireland a Bill of this kind, as originally introduced, was unnecessary, superfluous, and absurd. For that reason alone I opposed its extension to Ireland. The administration of the law in Ireland in regard to the evils which the measure proposes to remedy is perfectly satisfactory, because it may be readily understood that the police avail themselves of every opportunity they can obtain of persecuting the publican and his trade, and I was apprehensive that this provision might afford them increased opportunities for carrying on that persecution. I may say that the only case in which a child is ever sent to the public-house in Ireland, either for spirits or beer, is in a case of emergency, when a person really sick requires it. There is no such institution in Ireland as dinner beer, and children are never sent to the public-house to obtain that article of luxury. The same observation applies to supper beer. The people of Ireland never eat suppers. But I find that the Bill has been modified in certain important particulars. When I entered the House I was not aware that those modifications had been made. I now find that the evil grappled with is the supply of a child with intoxicating liquor for his or her own consumption. It is, therefore, quite clear to me that the reason for my opposition to the measure as it originally stood has been removed; and, therefore, I shall not insist on the exclusion of Ireland from the provisions of the Bill.


After the discussion which has taken place I beg to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.

Clause 4 (Short title) agreed to.

Clause 5 (Commencement of Act).


This clause provides that the Act shall come into operation on the day that it is passed. I think that such a change of the law ought scarcely to be brought into operation instantly. Some little time ought to be given so that the trade should have an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the provisions of the Act. I will therefore move, as an Amendment, to leave out the words "day of the passing thereof," in order to insert "the 1st of January, 1887."

Amendment proposed, in line 19, leave out "day of the passing thereof," and insert "1st of January, 1887.—(Sir Trevor Lawrence.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


I think the date suggested by the hon. Member is much too distant. I would suggest the 31st of July, 1886.


I am quite agreeable.

Question put, and agreed to.

Question, "That the words '31st of July, 1886,' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.



The Preamble recites that— Whereas it is expedient to protect young children against the immoral consequences resulting from their being permitted or compelled to purchase intoxicating liquors. I think the words "or compelled" are quite unnecessary and should be left out, and after the words "intoxicating liquors" there ought to be inserted "for their own consumption." I will therefore move to omit the words "or compelled."

Question, "That the words 'or compelled' stand part of the Preamble," put, and negatived.


I now propose to insert, after "intoxicating liquors," the words "for their own consumption."


I cannot accept that Amendment.


This is not the operative part of the Bill, but only recites the principle, and I think it puts it in connection with the real pro- visions of the measure. I certainly think that some such words are required.


Unless these words are inserted, I take it that it would be impossible to send a child even for his parents' beer.


I think the words as they stand in the Preamble are quite sufficient.


I do not think the hon. and learned Attorney General can have followed the words of the Preamble, because they really prevent the children from doing what the operative provisions of the Bill allow.

Question, "That the words 'for their own consumption' be there inserted,"—(Mr. E. Clarke,)—put, and agreed to.

Preamble, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.