§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the question of Sunday Closing had been so often before the House that he hoped he need not detain the House many minutes in introducing this measure. A Bill similar to this had been introduced by himself and one or two of his Parliamentary Friends for several years past, especially naming Earl Percy and Mr. John Tremayne; but it was only this year that they had had the chance of fairly bringing the measure under the notice of the House. He regretted the absence from that House of some hon. Gentlemen who had assisted the movement on previous occasions, and hoped the House would, at least, accept this Bill as an honest endeavour to settle a complicated, difficult, and much-vexed question. He felt that the House and the country were not prepared to go in absolutely for entire Sunday Closing; every Sunday Closing Bill was a matter of degree; that we were in England a beer-drinking people, especially so far as the South of England was concerned; and that it would not be judicious to run Sunday Closing so far as to prevent people having what was called dinner beer and supper beer. It would not be fair, whilst allowing the bonâ fide traveller who had travelled two or three miles from his home to get what he liked, and then to prohibit a man living close by, and who stayed at home, from going into the public-house to get the beer which he desired for himself and his family. That, however, was the effect of the various measures for Sunday Closing which had been passed or introduced into that House. He knew that the absolute Sunday Closing advocates did not agree with him on that point; but he thought that, generally speaking, they might feel certain that if they tried to drive legislation of that character beyond the wishes and wants of the people they would fall into other errors which were far worse than those they intended to put an end to. He could 377 not think that it would be for the good of the working classes that, if they wanted beer on Sunday, they should be obliged to take home a stock of it on Saturday. The question of Sunday Closing was entirely a question of degree. Even his hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. J. C. Stevenson), who had worked so arduously, felt that dealing with the Metropolis was so difficult a question that he was prepared to leave it out of his Bill altogether. Personally, he (Sir Joseph Pease) had taken a great deal of pains to find out how far they could work in the Metropolitan district at all; and when the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Assheton Cross) was Home Secretary he received facilities from him, and was put into communication with persons who could help him to form a judgment. The conclusions he came to were embodied in this Bill, which, so far as the Metropolitan district was concerned, proposed only to curtail the hours of opening on Sunday evenings by two hours. At present they were open from 6 o'clock till 11 o'clock. It was held by those who were well qualified to judge that the last hour in London was the hour in which more harm was done by the public-houses being open than was done all the rest of the Sunday; and that if the hour of closing in London was altered from 11 to 10 great good would be done. London was a very difficult place to deal with. There were a great many people living in the Metropolis who had no other place on Sunday than the public-houses and refreshment houses in which to have their ordinary meals. Therefore, he had gone beyond the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords on Intemperance, who desired that the houses should remain closed in London all Sunday, except for the sale of liquor to be consumed off the premises. The main points of his Bill could be stated in a few words. It proposed to reduce the evening hours of opening in the Metropolitan district, so that the houses might be open only from 7 to 10, instead of 6 to 11. In populous places outside the Metropolitan district the hours were to be reduced to 7 to 9, instead of 6 to 10; and the houses were to be open only for the sale of beer, cider, perry, &c., for consumption off the premises, no spirits being allowed to be sold. In the country it was proposed that public-houses 378 should not be opened at all on Sunday; but neither in town or country was it proposed to alter the present law as regarded the bonâ fide traveller, or as related to railway refreshment rooms. The alterations proposed by the Bill mainly affected the evening hours, except in the rural districts, where total Sunday Closing was proposed; but even as regarded these rural districts he was quite open to return the Bill to the form in which it was introduced some years ago, giving these districts also power to procure dinner and supper beer for consumption off the premises. As to London and populous places, he proposed to leave the mid-day hours of opening as at present—namely, 1 to 3 in London, and 12.30 to 2.30 in other towns. He had found it difficult to get at the real feeling of different districts with regard to those hours. Those were his proposals; but he was not wedded to any precise details, which he should be quite willing to discuss in Committee, with a view to arriving at the best and most satisfactory settlement of the question. The hon. Member for Essex (Mr. Herbert Gardner) had just told him he thought one hour of opening at dinner time and another hour at supper time were quite enough; but dinner time and supper time varied in different places, and therefore he had left the hours very much as they were at present, except late in the evening. His hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. J. C. Stevenson) was, he knew, desirous of entire Sunday Closing, and, of course, he was entitled to try to legislate on that basis. Indeed, if he thought that the House would back him, he might try to amend the present Bill in Committee in that direction; but he (Sir Joseph Pease) did not think that either the House or public opinion out-of-doors would be prepared for the entire closing of public licensed houses on Sunday. The hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Addison) had put down on the Notice Paper an intimation of his intention to oppose the second reading of the Bill; but he (Sir Joseph Pease) trusted that he would not persevere with that intention. He had no doubt that the House would be glad to hear what the hon. and learned Member had to say in opposition to legislation on this subject; but he begged them to recollect how long Sunday Closing had been a subject of 379 discussion, and of agitation by public meetings and otherwise. The question of Sunday Closing had been taken up by the people of this country. He (Sir Joseph Pease) had attended a great many election meetings, and the question had always been put to the candidate, and generally answered affirmatively. The Judges had taken it up, and so had the magistrates and the Boards of Guardians; and he believed that there was no section of the Christian Church but had, in its collective capacity, passed resolutions in favour of Sunday Closing. There were points upon which the Bill might be amended in Committee, either by those who thought it did not go far enough, or by those who took the contrary view; but he hoped the House would give it a second reading, with the view of bringing the matter to a satisfactory and permanent conclusion, and so doing some good. Those who knew what the state of London was on a Sunday night, especially at the East End, would know that it was that last hour that was the desperate hour. He was not speaking without some knowledge of the matter, but from personal observation. Those hon. Members also who knew the state of the country towns on Sunday evenings, and the strength of public feeling throughout the country, must feel that such a judicious restriction of the hours as was proposed by this Bill was worthy of their support. He would conclude by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Joseph Pease.)
§ MR. J. C. STEVENSON (South Shields)
said, that, having for some Sessions past taken charge of the Sunday Closing Bill, he thought that he might claim the indulgence of the House if he ventured to interpose at that early stage for the purpose of explaining his own position with regard to the Bill which his hon. Friend (Sir Joseph Pease) had introduced, and the second reading of which he had just moved. He (Mr. J. C. Stevenson) ventured to call that measure a compromise Bill, and he must at once say that he regarded it as falling very far short of what the necessities of the case demanded, or what public opinion through- 380 out the country was prepared to accept. While, however, he said this, he must add that he had never expected that Sunday Closing, pure and simple, should be carried out everywhere all at once. He had, for instance, always been prepared to delay the full operation of the Bills he had introduced within the Metropolitan district. What might be done as to the Metropolis he did not then say. That might safely be left to the judgment of the large number of Metropolitan Members who had now been admitted to that House, and who would be in a position to explain their views in Committee on this Bill. But, whatever might be the case with respect to the Metropolis, he believed, as regards the rest of the country, that public opinion there was, at the present moment, fully ripe for a measure of total closing on the Sunday. As he had been unfortunate in balloting for his own Bill, and had had no opportunity of bringing it before the House during the present Session with any chance of taking the sense of hon. Members upon it, be should feel perfectly free to support the second reading of the Bill of the hon. Baronet. But, at the same time, he desired to say that in Committee he should endeavour to get rid of the unnecessary concessions, as he deemed them, which his hon. Friend had unfortunately introduced into it, with a view to make it a broader, a more comprehensive, and a more statesmanlike measure than it was as now presented to the House. The Bill would only give total Sunday Closing in the country villages. Elsewhere it would merely amount to a reduction of the hours for which public-houses were allowed to be open on Sundays, together with a certain modification in the nature of the business carried on in those houses on Sunday. Now, what he (Mr. J. C. Stevenson) contended was that his hon. Friend might have taken up a much stronger position than that, and that public opinion would have supported him in proposing a much stronger measure. The Bill before them would not, as it stood, liberate the hundreds of thousands of barmen and barmaids who now lose their day of rest, and the proper enjoyment of that day with their families. Those persons now worked longer hours than any other class of people, and therefore they, more than any others, required the Sunday rest of which 381 they were now deprived. The great demand outside the House, as was evident from the Petitions which had been laid on the Table, was not for a measure like that. It was for total closing, and not for partial closing. This was clearly the result when the opinion of localities had been taken by canvassing. There was then the same large majority against the partial opening on Sunday as there was against the continuance of the present system. He admitted that they must not go in advance of public opinion; but, on the other hand, it would be a great mistake to misunderstand it, or to fall short of it. This compromise Bill would not settle the question. It would not satisfy the public, nor would it satisfy the trade, which it involved in new and complex regulations. It created new offences, and inflicted penalties for their violation. Within the Metropolis the Sunday trade was to remain the same in character as at present, only with shorter hours; but in the suburbs of the Metropolis, and in towns and populous places, spirits might not, under this Bill, be sold at all, and beer might only be sold for consumption off the premises. The public-house would be open, but a customer could not legally get a brandy flask filled, much less could he get a glass of spirits; and a regular customer, who got his daily pint of beer on Saturday and Monday, would be asked, when he called on Sunday, if he had brought a jug with him, and would be told that if he had not he must come back next day. He appealed to his hon. Friend to say whether the irritation caused by such restrictions as these would not render it impossible to enforce them? It would be possible to enforce times of closing; but, the house being open, he was sure that to enforce a change for Sunday only in the business must lead to continual evasion of the law. Such a Bill would not stop the agitation for Sunday Closing. His hon. Friend had not availed himself of the great advance which had taken place in public opinion on this subject of recent years. In 1883 there were 6,700 Petitions, with 1,800,000 signatures, all in favour of total closing. Those Petitioners would not be satisfied with such a weak and timid measure as that before them. He would urge the Government to support the second reading of the Bill. Temperance reformers, 382 most of whom ardently supported the Liberal Government, were deeply disappointed that they gave no assistance I in the last Parliament to this most pressing measure; and their disappointment would be deepened if the Government did not help temperance reforms now. He trusted that they would give his hon. Friend facilities for going into Committee on the Bill, which he trusted would then be made stronger than it was at present. But, be that as it might, he felt convinced that a full discussion in Committee must result in a much more efficient measure than the Bill as it now stood. Such a Bill as he desired, and as would be adequate to the occasion, might be passed before the month was out; and while they were waiting for the Government proposals as to Ireland they could not spend the time better than in dealing with this far too long delayed and pressing question.
§ MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Sir, I rise to move that this Bill be read a second time upon this day six months. The hon. Baronet who moved the second reading said it was an honest attempt to settle a difficult and complex question; but the hon. Gentleman who seconded him said it was nothing of the kind; that it would settle nothing; and that the only settlement he desired was to close public-houses on Sundays altogether. Then we are told by the hon. Baronet that public opinion is entirely in favour of such a measure as this. That is an assumption which I strongly deny. I say that such an opinion is created, fostered, and nursed by a small, energetic, pushing, and fanatical section of the community, who are in reality a very small minority in the country. If I were to appeal to the same experience as hon. Members opposite have appealed to—namely, that of public meetings, I would say that I, too, have been through an election; I have had to address public meetings; and I have been asked what my opinions were upon this matter. I have declared over and over again, to the great satisfaction of the electors of a borough that I may describe as very intelligent, that I was perfectly satisfied with the law as it is, and that expression of opinion seemed to be received with very general satisfaction by those whom I addressed. The fact is, there is no dissatisfaction, I make bold to say, in the community with the law as it 383 stands. A small section are in favour of this Bill; a larger section are entirely opposed to the Bills that are being perpetually brought in to harass and annoy the licensed victuallers; and another large section are, perhaps, dubious on the point altogether. We must not forget that these hours of closing were all thoroughly discussed in 1872, when Mr. Bruce was Home Secretary. They were again further discussed in this House in 1874, and the present law is a compromise between the two Parties that then debated the matter; and I would appeal to all those who have a technical acquaintance with licensing matters whether, on the whole, it has not worked remarkably well? It is said that the religious bodies have, in their religious capacity, passed resolutions in favour of this Bill. Well, it is very hard to make an application of this kind to religious bodies without their passing such a Motion. They are told that intemperance is very much on the increase; that it is created altogether by the public-houses; that they must recognize that intemperance is a vice and a crime; and it follows that in their religious capacity they must pass such resolutions. But I ask whether the members of these religious bodies, and the great mass of working-class people in England, not in their religious capacity, but in their every day capacity, pass resolutions of this kind? Have any large body of working men, has any trades union, done so? I should like to know whether any large trades union, which may be fairly said to represent the feelings of large sections of the working classes, have ever passed a resolution in favour of restricting the liberty they now enjoy of the public-houses being opened during part of Sunday? As we are told by hon. Gentlemen opposite, this is only a first step towards something else. Now I should like to know in whose interest a Bill of this kind is brought forward? It is not in the interest of the cause of temperance, because all experience and statistics tell us that temperance has made enormous strides during the last few years. Some people attribute the progress to the depression of trade, some to the agency of temperance bodies, and a great part to the Salvation Army; but the fact is, and it cannot be disputed, that temperance under existing legislation has made 384 enormous strides, and there really is no reasonable desire whatever to cause such a reaction as this Bill, if carried, would cause. Now as to the practical application of the Bill. In London, we are told by the hon. Member who moves the Bill, he desires to introduce a very thin end of the wedge, and to knock the last hour off the London time of opening. But the hon. Member told us at the same time that a vast number of people in London can only take their meals on Sunday at a public-house or refreshment-house. If that be so, and if these people have a desire to go into the country for a little change and wholesome recreation, when they come back to London hungry and thirsty, why in the world should they have the last hour taken away from them? I consider there is a great deal of real usefulness and necessity in that last hour. The hon. Member says that most of the evil which accrues from the opening of the public-houses in London takes place during the last hour. For my part, I have never seen any of those appearances of vice and abuse between 10 and 11 o'clock in the streets of London. I make bold to say that it really would be well if, instead of reading reports of meetings and lectures on this subject, we used our own eyesight, and if we did that I think a great many of the evils would be found to be imaginary. Then, again, it is impossible to say why Sunday drinking should be allowed in London and forbidden in the country. There is nothing that people in the country are more jealous of than the attempt to favour London at their expense. Some of the provisions of this Bill are really most impracticable. For instance, one of them is that the sale off the premises is to be allowed, but not consumption on the premises. Now, what would be the effect of that? A person comes in with his jug for beer, and when the publican is looking the other way he might drink part of the beer; but that would be an offence against the law, and might lead to a very serious fine. The bonâ fide traveller, however, who is on the premises, may do it. It should not be forgotten that a public-house is not merely a place where people obtain their liquor on Sunday; it is to a large number of people a place of recreation, a place of meeting, and also a place, to some 385 extent, of social enjoyment. It is in reality the poor man's club, and why working men should be prohibited from going into it, except in this sneaking sort of way, I do not see. Another most extraordinary proposition is that in the country people should be allowed to buy beer on Sunday, but not spirits. I do not know how hon. Gentlemen from Ireland feel on that point, or whether they will urge that the Bill should also apply to Ireland. [An hon. MEMBER: They have got it in Ireland.] Yes, and it has led to an enormous increase in the consumption of spirits on Sunday. The fact is, none of these Bills which are brought in to alter the law affecting licensed victuallers are calculated to do any real good. The only way to bring about any real good, from the point of view of temperance advocates, would be, if it were possible, to bring in a Bill to prevent either the brewing of beer, or the distilling of spirits, or the importation of wine from abroad, or its manufacture in England. If hon. Members would go the entire length of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. J. C. Stevenson), and endeavour to bring in a Bill of the kind, they would then be really promoting the cause of temperance. The whole question now is simply one of distribution by means of the public-house. But when you have annoyed the publicans as much as you can you will still have dealers of every kind who supply unlawful clubs and other places with liquor. What you propose to do is to inflict some sort of injury on those who are now under police control and who are limited as to their hours, to the great benefit of unlawful drinking of every kind. That would be the practical result of measures of that kind, and in saying this I am not taking at all an eccentric view of the case. I can remember that in the borough with which I am connected—not the borough which I represent—the inventor of teetotalism, Joseph Livesey, held precisely the same views I am advocating in this House—that all the proposals to in any way restrict or cripple the trade would be perfectly useless, that legislative interference was useless, and that it was to other agencies altogether that they must look for temperance reform. In addition to that we have to remember that by the side of those agencies there have grown up 386 large agencies with offices, secretaries, and subscriptions, devoted entirely to legislative interference. I cannot help thinking that those are mischievous agencies, and they divert the energies of temperance reformers from their practical work. Legislative interference will not do any good whatever, and if it could be carried out to-morrow it would only lead to an increase of drinking in this country. But in addition to that, we ought to regard the freedom of the people of this country. Nobody, either on Sunday or week-day, is compelled to go into a public-house; and I should like to know by what right it is sought to interfere with the freedom of the person, to say not only that he should not go into a public-house, but also to fix his dinner and supper hours, and to tell him that he is free to drink such beer as he likes, but not whisky. I ask whether that is the sort of legislation that the English people—who like their freedom and their rights—are likely to submit to? I beg to move that this Bill be read this day six months.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
I beg to second the Amendment. The hon. Members who moved and seconded the Bill seem to have treated this question as one on which a large amount of public opinion was expressed at the General Election. I quite admit that there was a definite opinion expressed on the one side and on the other as to the question of the restrictions to be placed on the sale of intoxicating liquors; but so far as I know, in no constituency, in no part of the country, was any approval expressed of a measure such as this we are now considering. I think I might call the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. J. C. Stevenson) as a witness to that fact. He has told us that the measure we are now considering does not at all meet his view of the case, and that he only supports it as a stepping-stone to something of an entirely different character. But still I think those of us who believe that the opinion of the constituencies which they represent is not in favour of restrictive legislation may argue the question on the general ground whether it is desirable that the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sunday should be suppressed altogether. That question was brought under my notice on more than one occasion during the elections, and I expressed the opinion 387 then which I have expressed here—that I do not believe these restrictive measures are the mode in which we ought to endeavour to bring about a better condition of things in this country at the present time, and that opinion, as far as I can gather, was adopted by a large proportion of those whom I addressed. I be-believe that the experience of the past may guide us in coming to the conclusion that it is not by merely restricting or curtailing the hours that we are to advance the great cause of temperance in this country. I have the honour to represent a constituency (Preston) which has held a conspicuous place in temperance matters. I believe that the movement in favour of teetotalism originated there; but its supporters in that district never relied upon restrictive measures. The principle upon which they went was to educate the people into the belief that they could live happily and comfortably without making use of intoxicating liquors, and that, therefore, it was better that those who found they could not exercise the necessary degree of self-restraint should abstain altogether rather than incur the risk of excessive indulgence. Those are the principles which I desire to see adopted in this country. Notwithstanding my opposition to this Bill, I claim the right to be considered just as much an advocate of temperance as those who support it. I believe we may do a great deal even by legislation in support of the great cause of temperance. There is one direction in which some attempts will probably be made—and I hope they will be successful—during this Session to bring about an improvement, and that is the prevention of the adulteration of beer. I believe there is nothing more likely to cause the development of a depraved taste for the excessive indulgence in liquors than to be in the position of not being able to secure good liquors to satisfy a healthy appetite; and if we can do something by the passing of this Beer Adulteration Bill we shall have gone a long step in the way of making what we all desire to see—a sober as well as a free people. There is another important point. I do not think the law is at present strict enough in regard to the character of spirits that are sold. I think we ought to have some very strict regulations, not only to provide that adulterated spirits should never be sold under 388 any circumstances, but that spirits should not be sold for drinking purposes until they have arrived at a proper degree of maturity. I think we might very fairly claim that no spirits ought to be sold until they have been a sufficient number of years in bond to enable the medical faculty to be able to certify that they are in a wholesome condition. I believe that at the present moment in many parts of the country, insidious and unwholesome drinks are sold in public-houses, grocers' shops, and other places, to the great detriment of a large number of men and women in this country. There is another thing in which I think a change would be desirable in the Bill. I. think it would be well if places which are opened for the sale of refreshments, and which under Bills of this sort now have to be absolutely closed for all purposes at the hour when the sale of intoxicating drinks is prohibited, should be allowed to remain open for the sale of other refreshments. Temperance was promoted on the Continent by the café system. Hon. Members opposite have been rather shy in alluding to parts of the country in which Sunday Closing exists, and especially the Principality of Wales. The experiment has been going on there for years, and I should like hon. Members who lean to this mode of dealing with the question of intoxicating liquors and licensing, to give us before the close of this debate their candid opinion as to whether that Act has succeeded in Wales or not. Pacts have been brought before us which tend to throw a considerable doubt upon its success. One of the places where the Act appears to have been a signal failure is the borough of Cardiff. I have a list of Boards of Guardians, Town Councils, and other bodies in various towns in Wales, which declare that the Act has been a total failure. Here let me endeavour to draw a distinction between the state of things in Wales and the state of things in Ireland. Ireland, as we know, is a spirit-drinking country; Wales, in common with England, is a beer-drinking country; and it may be desirable to put restrictions on the sale of intoxicating liquors where spirits are the national drink which could not be put where beer is the national drink. Those who drink beer like to have it fresh. We all know that the mass of the popu- 389 lation have no facilities for keeping beer in their own houses, and it is inevitable that they should go to the public-house for it. I now come to the three great objections to this Bill. The first objection concerns that rank impostor, the bonâ fide traveller. I will go so far as to say that I never would vote for a Bill altering the Licensing Laws which left the bonâ fide traveller in his anomalous and absurd position. Another objection is the provision which deals with drinking clubs, and here I must go back to Wales again. It is not denied that a most fearful condition of things exist in reference to these clubs in Wales, the origin of which is to be traced to this very restriction of Sunday Closing. Not only do they exist in Wales. I am told that there are something like 90 drinking clubs in Manchester, and what would be the effect if we adopted this restriction? Would it not give every encouragement to these drinking clubs, where drinking would not go on under the control of the police as at present? My third objection to the Bill is the exclusion of railway refreshment-rooms. People in the towns are not to be allowed to carry on their business, but we are to give the Railway Companies the full privilege of carrying on this branch of their business. I want to know why it is so absolutely necessary for men who travel by rail to drink intoxicating liquors, and nobody else? I cannot imagine any reason for excluding railway refreshment-rooms from the restrictions of the Bill except one, and that is that there are always places where other refreshments besides intoxicating liquors are sold and consumed. But that is the case with many other places as well. I say it is a half-hearted measure, and does not satisfy its advocates on that side of the House. In conclusion, let me say this. I think this great subject ought not to be taken up by private individuals, but by the Government. I do not know whether any very distinct declarations of policy have been made by the Loaders of the Party opposite; but our Leader (the Marquess of Salisbury), in his speech at Newport, laid down the lines on which the question of licensing should be dealt with from his point of view, and I think those are lines which will be generally accepted, not only by one Party, but by both. It 390 should be dealt with as part of the system of Local Government, which sooner or later must be brought into the country. I have pleasure in seconding the Amendment, because I believe the Bill will satisfy very few people.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Addison.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. LEICESTER (West Ham, S.)
said, that hon. Members opposite were labouring under a great mistake in supposing that the Bill was not a popular one. He could only say, for himself, that his life had been passed in social contact with the working men of the Metropolis, and he was sent to that House by a very large popular democracy, and by what was more than any other in England a thorough working man's constituency, and on their behalf he gave his cordial support to the Bill. At every meeting they had had, that question was put to them, and they all voted for the Bill; and he might say that his hon. Colleague in the other part of the Division was also very well aware that the public sentiment was thoroughly in favour of the Sunday Closing of public-houses. When an hon. Member, like the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Addison), talked about Trades Unions not having agreed to any measure in support of it, he showed that he knew very little about Trades Unions. These questions were never brought before Trades Unions to be dealt with, because they were social questions. It must not be forgetten in debating this measure, although it really seemed to be so, that they had already got protection against the public-house by having Sunday Closing during half the day. Why should it not be granted for the whole of the day? The grounds upon which they secured what they already had were moral grounds, and he submitted that the reduction of a wrong could not make the remainder right. Working men claimed protection from the liquor traffic, for it inflicted taxation on those who ought not to be taxed. They wanted to prevent the evils of the system from falling upon them, and they could not have public-houses open on Sundays without forcing 391 untold evils upon the country. That was his object in supporting the Bill; and, on that ground, he went in for Sunday Closing and every other kind of closing if he could get it; and if they left the question to the working men of England, they would very soon make short work of the whole liquor traffic. He would ask, when had a Trade Congress ever voted against a Sunday Closing Bill? Never; for they were all in favour of sobriety and shutting up the causes of inebriety, whereas hon. Members opposite would palliate, but would not remove the cause. His idea was, that if they wanted to get rid of the effect, they must get rid of the cause, and that cause was the opening of public-houses on the Sabbath-day. With regard to railway stations, he believed that refreshment-bars at railway stations were a thousand times worse than public-houses. He had seen them doing a roaring trade at half-past 12 on Saturday nights when the public-houses were all closed. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite need not vex their souls on that question, however, as his hon. Friend (Sir Joseph Pease) would be very glad in Committee to include them within the operation of the Bill. It had been said that Sunday Closing had not succeeded in Ireland; but he had sometimes been amused at watching, in the case of those who called themselves Nationalists and Loyalists, faces which betrayed the passion of the soul; he had watched their varied emotions, and however much they might differ on polities, they dared not differ with regard to Sunday Closing. On that question both Parties were found in the same Lobby. ["No, no!"] Ah! there was no mistake about it. The same thing would be found with regard to Wales. In the last Parliament there were 29 Welsh Members, of whom 28 were Liberals and one Conservative, and the 28 Liberals voted in favour of Sunday Closing, while the Conservative voted in favour of keeping public-houses open. With regard to Scotland, it would be high treason to say that the Scotch Members were not in favour of this measure, so that there was every evidence to prove that the people of this great country—and, thank God, it was a great country—were in favour of Sunday Closing, if Parliament would only give the people a chance of being 392 sober by closing these places of temptation, by shutting up these man-traps, which somehow or other enticed a man to spend his wages, instead of being by his own fireside. It would put an end to a great deal of agitation of which hon. Members opposite complained, because agitation never thrived on full tables, only upon poteen. If they crippled the traffic, there would be more happy homes than at present, for they would bring peace and plenty to thousands of them, and many a poor child would have a dinner, when public-houses were closed, who was now deprived of it in consequence of their being open on the Sunday.
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)
Sir, the speech we have just heard, and another speech that was made earlier in the debate, show us what is the character and meaning of the Bill now before the House. The hon. Member who moved the second reading of the Bill (Sir Joseph Pease) told us it was a very moderate Bill indeed, and that it was, in fact, a compromise; but the hon. Member who has just spoken (Mr. Leicester) has declared very strongly in favour of the extreme measure of complete Sunday Closing. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Stevenson) told us that when the Bill came into Committee very considerable modifications might be introduced into it; in fact, it appears, therefore, that we are to pass the second reading, and thus enable the hon. Member for Durham to insert the thin end of the wedge, and then, in Committee, hon. Members on the Government side of the House will take care to insert the thick end after it. I know that no one has a better right—indeed, we on this side of the House cannot venture to compare with the hon. Member for West Ham and the other Labour Representatives on that side, in their experience of the habits of working men—but I think they claim a little too much when they speak in this House as if they were the sole Representatives here of all classes of the working population. I have the honour to stand here myself, as one of the Representatives of the largest industrial constituency in England; and I say that I gained my seat there after speaking very frankly indeed upon this question, and refusing, if I were elected to the House, to have anything to do 393 with measures for the introduction of Local Option or Sunday Closing. Now, I am very glad, so far, with regard to this Bill, that it docs not proceed upon the lines of Local Option; because it seems to me to be one of the chief dangers of the time that Parliament may delegate too much power to Local Boards and Assemblies, and not have the courage of laying down true principles of legislation itself upon matters as they arise. If I might offer an illustration of the danger of such a policy, I would take what happened yesterday in this House in regard to the Manchester Canal. Suppose Parliament abandoned its control of Private Bill legislation, and that we had a Provincial Council for Lancashire to decide upon such measures, then if the Liverpool representatives had a majority upon the Council, as they might easily have, we might infer, from the tone of the speeches heard yesterday, how unmercifully they would use their power in order to deprive Manchester and the inland manufacturing districts of any access to the sea, except through the great port of Liverpool. That is an illustration of the dangers which may happen if Parliament should abandon to Local Bodies the powers of legislation which we now possess; and if mischief may be done in that way, may not even still greater mischief be done in the important department of the regulation of the social habits of the people? I would no more allow separate districts to determine what men should eat and drink, how they should be clothed, or at what hour they should go to bed, than I would revive in this country the old and condemned system of allowing each town to have its own octroi duties and settle what its system of taxation should be. So far, therefore, as I have before remarked, it is a good thing to have a measure brought before us which is not framed on the lines of Local Option. But then we come to the question of Sunday Closing. One of my hon. Friends (Mr. Tomlinson) has spoken of the declaration made by Lord Salisbury at Newport with regard to the changes necessary in the Licensing Laws. I had the pleasure of listening to the great speech delivered at Newport, in October, by our honoured Leader, and I was especially struck by the very cautious tone in which he spoke of this question of Sunday Closing, because he particularly called to our recollection what happened 394 in this great Metropolis when Parliament, out of a desire to improve the habits of the people, passed in a hurry Lord Robert Grosvenor's Bill for Sunday Closing. Lord Salisbury reminded us that that Bill was repealed almost as hurriedly as it had been passed; and he said that, whatever was done in the way of Sunday Closing, the Metropolis must certainly be excepted, or you would have riots, and perhaps revolution. Knowing the marvellous intellectual resources of Lord Salisbury, I could not help thinking while I listened to that part of his speech, that he wished to convey to us, in an indirect and subtle manner, a suggestion that the principle of any legislation of this kind might easily be reduced to an absurdity; because if you once except the Metropolis from the operation of a measure of this kind, on the ground that if London were included you would have riots and revolution, see what a dangerous principle you immediately admit. You toll the inhabitants of all other towns in the Kingdom that, if they wish to be excepted from such legislation, all they have to do is to begin rioting and threatening to load us to a revolution. If we were to pass a Bill excepting the Metropolis on that ground, we should be accepting a principle which is too much in favour with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, that in these days we are to look for the true source of all wise and beneficent legislation, not in the plans of statesmen, but in the clamours and the riots of popular agitation. On that ground, I should object to any measure which would try to impose upon the whole country a law of Sunday Closing, and at the same time would except London. But now, let me turn, for a moment, to the provisions of the particular Bill before the House. If I might venture to describe it, so far as it affects this Metropolis, I should make bold to call it a Curfew Bill. It is a Bill which arbitrarily cuts off one hour at the beginning of Sunday opening and another hour at the end of the evening, so that the citizens of London who are accustomed to the existing hours would have to submit to them at a great inconvenience. The Bill, in effect, says that no Londoner should have anything to drink after 10 o'clock upon Sunday evening. What is that but saying that nobody shall be allowed to go about the streets of London after that hour? ["No, 395 no!"] Well, practically, it amounts to that. ["No, no!"] We know that the habit of roaming about the streets of London at night has been, with many great men, from Dr. Johnson down to Charles Dickens, accepted as one of the greatest enjoyments of civilized life; and if that was the case with these great men, how much more must it be the case with the thousands and tens of thousands of London citizens who have not the varied means of enjoyment which so many of us possess? Yet they will all be deprived of this great pleasure. For do you not say that you will allow men to be out, if they like, after 10 o'clock at night on Sundays, but on no account whatever are they to get a glass of anything to drink after that hour? Allow me just briefly to notice one or two other clauses in this Bill. The framer of the Bill has laid it down that within the Metropolitan district, during certain hours, it shall be lawful for a man to drink spirits, say, as far as Hammersmith; but if he goes beyond that, and gets to Kew, he shall only be allowed to drink beer, porter, cider, or perry; and if he goes beyond that radius, then he shall not be allowed to drink anything at all. Can anybody imagine more petty, more absurd, more childish regulations than these?
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
At the time the man has got to Kew he is a bonâ fide traveller, and can get what he likes.
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN
I am not speaking of bonâ fide travellers, but of residents within the districts. I perfectly appreciate the distinction as to bonâ fide travellers; but I say that nothing more childish or absurd than to attempt to pass such regulations—to dictate to men that they shall be allowed to drink spirits in one part of the Metropolis, beer in another, and then, if they live a little beyond it, they shall not have anything at all on Sundays—can well be conceived. This is the kind of Bill which is offered for our acceptance to-day; and I notice that the hon. Baronet the Member for Durham, who introduced it, was himself so little familiar with the provisions of the Bill that he actually did not know that it proposed to shut public-houses at 10 o'clock on Sunday evenings. That shows how little care the measure has received. I think with regard to all proposals for legislation of this kind the advocates of 396 temperance would do well at present to let well alone. The country is making great progress in habits of moderation. I dare say many of us can remember the time, if we may trust the distinguished writers who adorned modern Athens some 20 or 30 years ago, that it was then impossible for a respectable citizen of Edinburgh to go to bed at night with credit to himself, or without almost incurring loss of caste, unless he had consumed a considerable number of glasses of whisky toddy before he went to bed. A very great change has occurred in the habits of the people, not only in Edinburgh, but all over the country; and it would be well if Members of this House, instead of trying to pass measures of this kind, were to trust to the social influences which have already done so much good to effect further improvement in the habits of the people; and I think this House would do well to pause before passing a Bill which affords an illustration of arbitrary, unequal, and vexatious legislation.
§ MR. SHIRLEY (Yorkshire, W. R., Doncaster)
said, he felt bound to deny the assertion of the hon. Member (Mr. Maclean) that the working men were not in favour of this Bill. He had considerable experience of working men, and he said without hesitation that they were in favour of the closing of public-houses on Sunday. He could not say that the present Bill was a satisfactory one; he viewed it as being of the nature of a compromise; but, all the same, he intended to vote for it. He supported it on the principle that half-a-loaf was better than no bread; and if the Bill did not go as far as was necessary, it at least covered some of the ground.
§ MR. GREGORY (Sussex, East Grinstead)
said, he thought the provisions of the Bill went too far in totally preventing the sale of beer in the rural districts on Sundays. There were many villages which were almost towns, and other similar places, where very respectable people were in the habit of having their beer with their Sunday dinner. Again, it proposed to preserve the rights of what was known as the bonâ fide traveller, and it was unfair that a healthy man, who walked three miles, should be supplied with drink as a bonâ fide traveller, while the weak man, who could not walk three miles, would be obliged to go without it. He quite agreed that there was 397 more drinking at railway refreshment-bars on Sunday than in public-houses. It was desirable to have some alteration in the law—to have a further limit to the hours on Sunday; and he thought, with certain adaptations and modifications in Committee, especially having regard to the restriction of the sale of beer in the rural districts, the Bill would meet the exigencies of the case.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. CHILDERS) (Edinburgh, S.)
I will follow the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, because he has indicated a technical difficulty in connection with the Bill, but, at the same time, has indicated a change as regards populous places which the Bill might be made to meet. Agreeing very much with what the hon. Gentleman has said, I will state to the House the view which the Government take of the Bill, and the course which they propose to adopt and advise the House to take regarding it. Putting aside technicalities, which in my judgment may be removed, ought to be removed, and could be removed without any serious difficulty, the Bill is, after all, of a simple character. It proposes that, in the Metropolis, no serious change shall be made in the time during which drink can be obtained, or in the manner under which it may be obtained. I quite agree that it would be perfectly impossible, even for those who hold strong views on the subject, to impose upon the Metropolis the drastic provisions of a Bill such as was hurriedly passed some years ago, and which had to be repealed with some ignominy on the earliest possible occasion. Therefore, so far as the Metropolis is concerned, the proposal of the Bill is not of a serious character. All it proposes is to cut off certain hours from the time within which drink of all kinds, both spirits and beer, can be obtained; and my own impression is that, constituted as we are now, that reduction is not an unreasonable one. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Maclean) said that because no drink is allowed to be obtained under this Bill after 10 o'clock at night, therefore we ought to enact that nobody should be allowed to roam about the streets after 10 o'clock. It would lead to a great many inconveniences if we laid that down as a settled principle. People do roam about the streets, either for good 398 or for bad purposes, till very late, and if we laid down such a principle it would be impossible to apply legislation which would be of a reasonable character. So far, therefore, as the Metropolis is concerned, the proposal of the Bill is, I think, simple and not unreasonable. Then you come to the "populous places" outside the Metropolis proper; and in large towns the Bill proposes that people should be enabled to get beer at certain times on Sunday to take to their homes and to be consumed there; but, inasmuch as spirits are none the worse for being kept from Saturday to Monday, those who want to drink spirits on Sunday should get them on Saturday evening. That seems to me to be a not unreasonable proposal. The general principle that beer does deteriorate if you keep it 24 hours, but spirits do not, is sound in itself; but whether it is necessary to apply it in this particular case or not, I do not say. But the Bill goes further, and proposes in the rural districts proper, and not only there, but in towns of small size, that nobody should be allowed to get beer at all on Sunday. I must say that that is a somewhat extreme and unreasonable proposal. At any rate, if we are adopting tentative legislation on a question of this kind—legislation which ought not to run counter to the public opinion of the country—I think there would be a great deal of debate if in a large town you could get your beer on Sunday, but outside that town, in rural villages containing a small number of inhabitants, you were obliged to buy your beer on Saturday in order to drink it on Sunday. That is a point which my hon. Friend admits might be amended when the Bill is in Committee, and, speaking for the Government, I think certainly it ought to be amended in that respect in Committee. Now, let me tell the House what has been done on this subject within the last few years. In the early part of the Session of 1880 this question of buying drink on Sunday came before the House on a Motion of a very extensive character, prohibiting the sale of liquor on Sundays. The question was brought forward as a Motion on going into Committee of Supply, and a division was taken, in which the extreme view apparently received a certain majority. When the extreme view came up as a substantive Question, 399 what happened? It was moved by my hon. Friend (Sir Joseph Pease) to the effect that, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that the law which limits the hours of sale of intoxicating drinks on Sunday should be amended so as to apply as nearly as possible to the whole of that day, making provision for the sale of beer, porter, cider, or perry for consumption off the premises in the country, and for the requirements of the Metropolitan district such provisions as will be found needful to secure public co-operation in any alteration of the law. That is practically the Bill now before the House, with the single exception that it extends the power of obtaining beer on Sunday to be consumed off the premises to the whole instead of to certain parts of the country. It was held to be a very fair compromise, and passed the House unaltered. Now, that being the case, I think there is considerable ground for saying that the proposals in the present Bill, modified in the way I have suggested on what is the authority of Parliament, or at least of the House of Commons pronounced in rather a full House, and at the end of a debate which lasted two or three hours in 1880, is one well worthy the acceptance of the House on this occasion. But I should like also to say a few words as to another matter which has been referred to at some length by the hon. Member for Oldham, and as to which I think the House would do well to bear in mind the difficulties of the position, though I do not at all agree with the extreme view which the hon. Member took. The hon. Member had some difficulty to reconcile what Lord Salisbury said at Newport with the views he and others entertain and support. If I understand the opinion of Lord Salisbury, he treated the subject of general restrictions, and said that everything to do with the sale of liquor should be relegated to the Local Authorities which he proposed to set up, and amongst those restrictions was the sale of liquor on Sunday. Now, the hon. Gentleman did not, I think, quite successfully combat the view of Lord Salisbury. That view is the view which we hold, and which we have held for some; time—the view, I mean, that these questions of the sale of liquor should to a very large extent be regulated by the 400 future Local Authorities. I hope the House, whatever it does as to this Bill, will always bear that in mind, and if they pass, as I hope they will pass, this Bill, they will do so on the distinct understanding that they will reserve—when the new Local Authorities are created—to them the power of dealing, within certain limits, with this subject. Now that is the view we adopt, which we have advocated, and which we shall continue to advocate. But considering how doubtful it is when these future Local Authorities, the general principle of which is conceded by both sides of the House, will come into operation, I must say it seems to me to be wise to follow the Resolution of the House of Commons in 1880, and incorporate it in this Bill with the Amendments to which my hon. Friend has referred, and which I am prepared to support. Therefore, on that ground, I hope the House, as to present legislation, will adopt the Bill which is now before us. It is not, I need not say—certainly there is general agreement on that on both sides and among both Parties—a Party question; but it is a social question of some importance, and on which there is the authority of a distinct vote of this House; and, therefore, for the Government, I have to say that we shall support the second reading of the present Bill, and we shall do our best to introduce in Committee the Amendments suggested.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
As to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, amongst the remarkable things in it, not the least remarkable and instructive part of it is the intimation he has given us as to the prospect we may entertain of the introduction of the Local Government Bill. Why is that measure to be relegated to the dim and distant future, and the House to be asked to deal in this piecemeal and perfunctory manner with the Liquor Question, which the right hon. Gentleman admits is part and parcel of it? I have always understood that the introduction of the Local Government Bill was one of the very cardinal points of the programme, not only on this side of the House, but on the other side, and yet no prospect is held out of this measure; and we are actually 401 asked by the Government to pass, to-day, a Bill dealing with a most important social question affecting the whole country, and which, by common consent, cannot be adequately dealt with, except as part of a Local Government scheme. If the Government are of opinion that we ought at this time to pass this measure, I should, at all events, have expected that the right hon. Gentleman opposite should have given us some ground for thinking that the proposals he means the House to adopt would meet with general acceptation. There has been a great deal of experience lately in regard to Sunday Closing. It has been in operation for some time in Ireland and Wales; and, before we are asked by the responsible Government to apply that principle to the whole country, surely we might expect that he would have based upon those experiences some defence of the proposals he asks us to adopt; but we have not had a word from the right hon. Gentleman on that point. He has confined himself simply to saying that this Bill ought to pass, without giving us a single argument by which that opinion might be supported. Will this Bill, in the first place, satisfy public opinion on this question? I think we have had it conclusively proved, in the course of debate, that it will neither satisfy extreme temperance people, nor those who desire to see the law remain as it is. Now, the late Government considered that this question ought not to be dealt with by hard-and-fast legislation applied with iron uniformity to the whole country. We thought, and still think, that each district in the country should regulate its own legislation in this matter; for what might be applicable to one district would not be to another; and we thought, therefore, that we ought to leave to the districts themselves, under proper restrictions, the regulation of this question. Now, I perceive in the provisions of the Bill of my hon. Friend (Sir Joseph Pease) that he himself is also of opinion that the circumstances of different localities so far vary that the same legislative provisions are not equally applicable to all, because he has divided the country into three parts. In the country districts you may not get drunk at all on the Sunday; in popu- 402 lous places you may get drunk on beer, on the condition that it is bought and drunk off the premises; and in London you may get drunk on what liquor you please, both in the public-house and out of it. ["No, no!"] But the hon. Gentleman is of opinion that sobriety on the Sunday may be produced by shutting up the public-houses. That is the whole principle on which the Bill proceeds. Therefore he enforces complete sobriety in country places, partial sobriety in populous places, and does not enforce sobriety at all in London. According, therefore, to the hon. Gentleman's own views, different localities require different treatment; and if we carried out that principle to its logical conclusion, we should arrive at the conclusion adopted by the late Government—namely, that the localities themselves shall decide what are the principles on which they desire to regulate the liquor traffic. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers) does not approve of the Bill as it stands, but says it can be amended in Committee; but I do not think the Government can ask us to accept the second reading of a Bill, with one of the main principles of which they cannot agree. I think we have a right to say that after the intimation I have given of the policy of the late Government, we are as anxious that this question should be settled on a fair basis as any Gentlemen who sit opposite. But we hold that it cannot be settled on a satisfactory basis, if we are to go on the lines laid down in this Bill. We hold that the Bill would make us lay down a hard-and-fast line for every locality, no matter what special circumstances may exist; and that some of the most important provisions of this Bill are such as ought not to be entertained by this House. Holding that opinion, we think we cannot support this Bill. We think the Government ought to lose no time in bringing forward the Local Government Bill, about which they have talked so much, and with regard to which it appears they intend to do so little. We thought when in Office, and we think now, that no final or rational settlement of the Liquor Question could be expected until the Local Government Bill was brought forward; and therefore we were specially anxious that that Bill should stand in 403 the forefront of legislation. But we cannot see for the moment that any great public object will be attained by asking the House to pass a Bill which will be superseded and rendered absolutely nugatory directly the new Local Government Bill is passed. Let us not deal with this matter in a fragmentary fashion. Let us deal with it once and for all; and let us give the Local Authorities, under fair and proper restrictions, and with due regard to the legitimate interests of the great trade affected, power to deal with this question. Thus, and thus only, will you finally decide and place on a solid and satisfactory basis this question, which is attracting, and deservedly attracting, so much of the attention of the country.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER) (Wolverhampton, E.)
There is one thing the House has learned from the speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. A. J. Balfour), and that is what was the policy of the late Government upon the Sunday Closing Question. He has laid it down, perfectly clearly, that their policy was to relegate the question entirely to each distinct locality to decide. But I have a very strong recollection that in the last Parliament there were large numbers of us who tried to uphold that truth. Sunday Closing Bills were brought in for Durham, Cornwall, and other parts of the Kingdom, and—I will not include the right hon. Gentleman among the number—but, at all events, his Friends and the Party of which he is such a distinguished ornament constantly and successfully objected to what was called a piecemeal mode of dealing with the question. They resisted, in every shape and form, the proposal that localities should decide; and they said it was a duty which Parliament itself ought to discharge by passing a general measure. The right hon. Gentleman has asked why we have not given the experience of Ireland, where this question has been fairly tested for a considerable number of years. But during the last Parliament, and certainly during the Chief Secretaryship of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan), measures were brought in for making perpetual Sunday Closing in Ireland, and extending it to the five towns exempted from the original operation of the Act, upon the 404 ground that it was a success in Ireland. And I venture to say the Act has also been a success in "Wales. "No, no!"] I appeal to the Welsh Members as to whether it has not. I am prepared and content to take the verdict of the Welsh Members. But the point I wish to bring before the House is this—in all Bills of this kind one is not pledged to details. What the House is going to vote on is the principle of the Bill, and that is—ought the hours of opening of public-houses on Sunday to be reduced? The hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Addison), who moved the rejection of the Bill, seemed to have forgotten altogether that at present the Legislature restricted the opening of public-houses on Sundays, He argued against restricting the liberties of the individual; but if the Legislature has thought fit already to say that on Sunday public-houses shall only be open between 6 and 11, why should they not say they shall only be open between 7 and 10? You have conceded the principle already—to adopt the words of the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Leicester), who so ably represents the working men on this question—"in the interests of morality." You cannot deal with this question as you deal with other questions. We have before us an evil. Gentlemen say it is decreasing; but, at all events, one-half, if not three-fourths, of the misery, poverty, and crime of this country springs entirely from drink. We are endeavouring to resist this great curse; and I hope the House will not be misled by the argument that we are interfering with individual freedom, when it is the men on behalf of whom that appeal is made who really want their freedom protected. They want to be protected by this Bill. ["No, no!"] You say "No!" Let a working man get up in this House and contradict me. We want to prevent the spread of this evil; and we object to the intervention of the cry of individual liberty, when you have already conceded this principle, which is the principle upon which the whole Licensing Laws are based. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down says wait until the Local Government Bill is brought in. But no. We have a chance of putting on record that this House is of opinion that Sunday Closing in this country ought to be extended, 405 and there is nothing whatever in this Bill which in any way interferes with the provisions of any Local Government Bill which may be brought in.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
said, he would not detain the House more than a couple of minutes; but he thought it would be wrong that the debate on the Sunday Closing Bill should terminate without the voice of Ireland being heard upon that subject. As a Conservative Member, he therefore seized the opportunity of expressing his opinion that the Bill now before the House should be carried. There was no question with regard to which the people in the North of Ireland took a greater interest than this particular phase of the subject—namely, the closing of public-houses on Sunday. That, perhaps, interested them more than anything else in the temperance movement. The fact that Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford were not included in the Irish Sunday Closing Act was, he considered, a blot which ought to be removed as soon as possible. He regretted to hear so many voices raised against the Bill as had been from the side of the House on which he sat, Conservatives being as much in favour of temperance legislation as any other Party, and he protested against the course which some hon. Members had thought fit to pursue in that direction. He would consider it a crime if he did not protest against the idea so current in the country that temperance reform found support only on the other side—the Liberal side of the House. He had been asked to preside at a meeting of the Liverpool Conservative Temperance Association, of which all the members were Conservatives. He believed that the excessive use of alcohol was the crying curse of Christendom at the present time. National sins brought national judgment, and no national sin of their day cried more loudly for the auger of the Almighty than the drinking that was so prevalent. He urged with all the earnestness of which he was capable the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
said, the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury was not borne out by the Bill itself. The Home Secretary said, very fairly, that if this Bill were one for the total closing 406 of public-houses on Sundays, the Government could not support it; but he asked the House to consent to the second reading, in order that that particular part of it should be struck out in Committee. He thought there was a great deal to be said, especially speaking for the Metropolis, in favour of shortening the hours, and if this were a Bill the principle of which was to shorten the hours, it would receive the pretty general approbation of both sides of the House. But what they had to look to was that there were two things proposed to be done. One—a small thing in the direction of temperance legislation—was to restrict the hours of sale on Sundays, and the other was the closing of public-houses entirely throughout the country districts. And what the Government asked the House to do was to vote for the second reading, in order that the small matter should be accepted and the stronger provisions cut up. The Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) had remarked that the principle of the Bill was that the hours should be reduced; but that he did not find, on examining the Bill, was its principle, because, at the very outset, what did they find in the title? "A Bill for Closing Public-Houses on Sundays, and for making Exception for the Sale of Beer during certain Hours in the Metropolitan District." That was the title; and he would ask the hon. Gentleman how he could contend, therefore, that the principle of the Bill was to restrict the hours, when that was merely the exception? He contended, therefore, that every Member who voted for the second reading of the Bill would vote for the principle of closing public-houses on Sundays. He was bound to say that, anxious as he was to take steps in the direction of temperance legislation, he was not prepared to support a Bill for the total closing of public-houses on Sundays. He recognized that that was a matter which was essentially one for localities. There had, undoubtedly, been an enormous increase of temperance owing to the efforts of the temperance party; but he was sure hon. Members would recognize that they must proceed with extreme caution in this matter. If they closed public-houses throughout the country, they must bear in mind that that act would not affect a single Member of that House; and, therefore, looking to that fact, they 407 ought to be more than ever careful that any legislation on the subject could not be represented by any person in any quarter or in any shape or form as class legislation. He believed that evil was to be avoided by giving localities the power of dealing with the question themselves. There was a greater evil than that of Sunday drinking, and that was making it appear that that House legislated in any shape or form in the interest of particular classes of the community.
§ MR. LLOYD (Wednesbury)
, who spoke amid continued interruption, said, that it was somewhat strange that no statistics had been quoted by the supporters of the Bill, to show that such an amount of drunkenness existed throughout the country as to necessitate the passing of this Bill. No figures whatever had been quoted.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
said, he would call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the Parliamentary Returns.
§ MR. LLOYD
said, that the Parliamentary Returns were all very well; but they did not come down to date. What he was asking for were statistics which came up to that day. The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Leicester) had addressed the House upon the question, and had said that he represented the working classes upon it. Well, he (Mr. Lloyd) had taken a good deal of interest in the matter, and thought he was perfectly justified in saying that he as much represented the working classes as the hon. Member for West Ham. His (Mr. Lloyd's) contention was, that the measure was a class measure, and was directed against the liberty of the poor. That was its weak feature. If the hon. Member would go further, and say that both rich and poor should be treated alike, he would not mind following him; but when they said that a poor man should not, on a Sunday, be entitled to use a public-house which was virtually his club, and that the clubs of the rich were to remain open, he contended that the legislation was unequal, and that the Bill was meting out to the poor man a measure of justice which was not imposed upon the rich. He considered that legislation should be directed, if the sobriety of the nation was to be considered, rather to the question of the adulteration of beer, than to limiting the hours of its sale. He also 408 believed, from inquiries he had made, that the amount of drunkenness alleged to exist in this country had been very much overstated. [Cries of "Divide!"] If hon. Members desired it he would move the adjournment of the debate. [Cries of "Divide!"] He would not move the adjournment, but would conclude by saying that if hon. Members desired to produce temperance in this country by Act of Parliament, they must introduce a Bill to prohibit the sale of alcohol altogether. Partial legislation, such as they were still proposing, would not be of much use.
§ MR. MUNTZ (Warwickshire, Tamworth)
, rising amid interruption, said, he wished to make a few observations on the Bill. He yielded to no man in his desire to promote temperance, recognizing in drunkenness what had hitherto been a great curse to the country, and particularly to the working classes. But with respect to the Bill before the House, he objected to it in toto, because to his mind it was a most unfair Bill. He found that it dealt on altogether different lines with Metropolitan and with country constituencies. He stood there representing a country constituency, and he failed altogether to see why public-houses in country constituencies were to be closed entirely on Sunday while those in the Metropolis were to be left open. If it was conducive to virtue in the Metropolis that public-houses should be kept open on Sunday, it ought also to be conducive to virtue that they should be kept open in the country. He thought the subject would be more fairly dealt with in a comprehensive spirit, and that if some of them were to be made virtuous, he thought it better that they should all agree to become virtuous together. It was not merely the inconsistency of forcing people to be sober in the country, while they were allowed to get drunk in the Metropolis, but a greater question arose, whether the Bill did not savour of class legislation. Why should not the Government introduce a new measure on the subject? Why should not the Local Government Bill be framed on uniform principles as regarded the closing of public-houses? He would never consent to a measure of such irregular action as the present Bill, which would close some public-houses at one hour, and others at another. He had no less 409 interest in promoting temperance than hon. Gentleman opposite; but he would not promote that interest by means of class legislation, and by dealing with the Metropolis and with the country on that question on different lines. He should be prepared, however, to give his most careful consideration to any measure the Government might think fit to introduce in reference to Local Government. He hoped the Government would introduce such a Bill, and that it would be based on sound and wise principles, in the interests not only of the working classes, but of the upper classes. He hoped also the Government would introduce a short measure for the closing of clubs. Why they should introduce a measure only for regulating drinking among the working classes, and not also for clubs, he could not understand. They wanted a measure which would have a uniform action throughout the country, and not measures which could only be productive of unlimited confusion.
§ It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.