§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. T. FRY (Darlington)
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he need not detain the House very long, as the principle of the Bill was so exceedingly well known. As that, however, was the first occasion on which any county measures had come before the new Members embodying that principle, he might say, in a few words, why the county of Durham asked for special legislation on the subject. He did not hesitate to say, at the outset, that he would very much rather a Bill had been passed affecting the whole of England. He believed that, for many reasons, it would have been much more 1751 satisfactory; and if Her Majesty's Government had announced that they were really intending to take up and pass into law a general measure, it would not have been necessary for him to introduce the Bill to the notice of the House. In the absence of any such direct intimation on the part of the Government, the Representatives of the county of Durham did not feel inclined to wait any longer. Now, the two principal points which the House had to consider were, whether the principle of Local Option was to be applied to Sunday Closing in England; and, secondly, whether the county of Durham was ready for the application of the principle. So far as regarded the application of the principle of Local Option, the House had already affirmed, on three separate occasions during the last Parliament, a Motion, moved by Sir Wilfrid Lawson, declaring that Local Option, in some cases at any rate, was an exceedingly good thing; and a fortnight ago, when his hon. Friend the Member for the Barnard Castle Division (Sir Joseph Pease) brought in his Bill dealing with Sunday Closing, several Members opposite argued in favour of the application of the principle of Local Option to Sunday Closing, and thought it would be much better if the measure should be presented in that way. But it had always been found, when these questions had been before the House, that hon. Members who objected to Sunday Closing were divided into two classes; and when a measure came before the House advocating Sunday Closing for England generally, a number of Members said that they preferred that they should proceed by the counties; and when a county Bill was introduced other Members said they preferred to proceed by measures affecting the whole country. In reference to the question of Local Option, he reminded hon. Members who did not agree with him of the allusion made to the subject by the Marquess of Salisbury in the speech he recently delivered at Newport. The noble Marquess said the question of Sunday Closing was a burning one, and then went on to say—We admit that the closing of public-houses on Sundays, where that is according to the views of the population, is a legitimate act to take place.1752 That he (Mr. Fry) hoped would be considered very high authority indeed on the question of Sunday Closing. If the first point were granted, the only other point to be considered was whether the county of Durham was ready for the application of the principle of Local Option to Sunday Closing. The House would remember that in 1883, when this Bill affecting the county of Durham was read a second time, 153 Members voted for it, and only 57 against it. The Bill conferring the same privileges on the county of Cornwall was passed by this House. The measure passed its second reading in the House of Lords, and was only thrown out on the third reading by an exceedingly small majority. Now, what was the position which had been attained in the county of Durham upon this subject? There were in the last House 13 Members from the county of Durham, and 12 of these were pledged to support the measure. The 13th Representative of the county (Sir George Elliot) said in his place in the House that, although he was personally opposed to the measure, he was so fully aware of the wishes of his constituents in reference to the matter that he could not vote against the Bill, and he left the House when the division was taken. There were now 16 Members from the county of Durham, and 15 out of the 16 were in favour of the measure. Only yesterday the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the City of Durham (Mr. Milvain) put down a Notice of objection to the measure. He hoped that when, in the course of the debate, the hon. and learned Gentleman found he was the only Member from the county who opposed the Bill, he would take the course pursued by Sir George Elliot, and not vote against the Bill, which, he must know, was so largely supported by his own constituents. This was not a political question. The hon. and learned Gentleman's Predecessor in the House was one of the most earnest supporters of the measure, and his name appeared upon the back of the Bill introduced in the last Parliament. He (Mr. Fry) did not think there could be any stronger test of the opinion of the district than that 15 out of 16 Members returned by the county affected were supporters of the measure. Furthermore, every Town Council in the county of Durham, 1753 with one exception—and that, he believed, was quite accidental—had petitioned at some time or other in favour of the Bill; every Board of Guardians in the county had petitioned in favour of the Bill; and out of 170 parishes, which there were in the county, no fewer than 133 had, at public meetings, passed resolutions in favour of the measure; and on almost every occasion the clergymen of the parish were present, and supported the resolution. Of the association which was specially at work for the propagation of this object, the Bishop of the diocese was President, and the Dean and Archdeacon of Durham were active promoters of the Bill. After all, what the House generally wanted was to ascertain, if possible, the wishes of the population at large. During the Session of 1883 Petitions from the county of Durham were presented to the House, representing about 200,000 persons. One Petition, which he presented himself, bore 140,000 signatures. From a canvass of 25 places, it was found that 16,892 persons signed in favour of the measure, only 1,317 against it, and there were 966 neutral; so that there were nearly eight times as many persons in favour of the measure as the opponents and neutrals put together. He might also mention that Mr. Jenkins, who employed 6,000 hands, said there was a great feeling in favour of the Bill in his district of the county; and the hon. Member for Mid Durham (Mr. W. Crawford), who was an official of the Miners' Association, and who was not able to be present in the House that day, had stated that if they were polled there would be an overwhelming majority of working men in favour of Sunday Closing. That, he thought, was very strong evidence indeed of the very great importance attached to this measure by the people of the county. He hoped, therefore, that the House would be willing to assent to the second reading of the Bill. Some persons argued that if this county measure were passed a great deal of difficulty and annoyance would be occasioned to those who lived just over the county line. With regard to that point, he might say that in two or three Sessions of the last Parliament the counties of Northumberland and Yorkshire promoted similar measures to this and he had no doubt at all that if this measure passed into law those counties, and pos- 1754 sibly other counties, would come forward with similar Bills. It must be remembered, moreover, that Sunday Closing had produced good results both in Scotland and in Ireland, and there had been no demand for its repeal. He had now only to allude to the action which the Government took on this question in 1883. He was glad to remind the House that on that occasion they had the very cordial support of the Government, and he trusted they would have it again upon the present occasion. The then Home Secretary (Sir William Harcourt) spoke most strongly in their favour. The right hon. Gentleman was convinced that an overwhelming majority of the people of the county were in favour of the measure, and therefore he gave the Bill his warmest support. He (Mr. Pry) hoped the House would excuse him for having given these few details. What he had to say, in conclusion, was, anxious as were the people of Durham in 1883 to have Sunday Closing, it might be taken for granted that they were more ready and more anxious to have it now. Having regard to the opinion expressed by the last Liberal Government, the opinion expressed by the Marquess of Salisbury at Newport, and the opinion expressed in the House a fortnight ago by many Members of the Opposition, and to the overwhelming wish of the people of Durham, he confidently asked the House to assent to the second reading of the Bill. The hon. Member concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. T. Fry.)
§ MR. MILVAIN (Durham)
, in rising to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, that, although a young Member of the House, he would not have asked their indulgence, while he addressed a few words upon the second reading of the Bill, had he not been in the anomalous position to which the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fry) had referred. The hon. Gentleman had said that, because 15 out of the 16 Members returned by the county of Durham were in favour of the closing of the public houses in the county on Sunday, it was evident that it was the unanimous wish of the people of the county that Sun- 1755 day Closing should be applied to Durham. With every deference to the opinions of the hon. Gentleman, he begged to contradict him, and he did so upon what, to his mind, was some authority. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the fact that his (Mr. Milvain's) Predecessor was in favour of this measure. So Mr. Thompson was, and so he pronounced himself upon the hustings and in the constituency which he (Mr. Milvain) had now the honour to represent. Was it to be accepted that the people of the county of Durham were favourable to Sunday Closing because, as the hon. Member for Darlington said in 1883, Petitions were presented to the House of Commons signed by 200,000 persons? The hon. Member, as well as other hon. Members representing boroughs in the county of Durham, would be satisfied of this—that it was possible to have within a few years some revulsion of feeling. All the Durham borough Members would certainly agree with him (Mr. Milvain) that whatever was their majority in 1880, it was considerably reduced in 1885. The hon. Member had further said the county of Durham was ready for Sunday Closing. On whose testimony, he asked him, beyond that of 1883, was he in a position to say so? If it was because the county Lad sent up so many Liberal Members, he entirely differed from him. Durham was well known for its Liberal proclivities, and was at one time alluded to in a comic paper as the most "no-Tory-ous" county in England. Those who promoted the Bill had satisfied themselves by expressing their opinions on the hustings; and he denied they had the right to say that the whole county was prepared to accept, in every detail, their political programme. He did so on this ground, among others, that his opponent was a Local Optionist and Sunday Closer, and that he (Mr. Milvain) declared his creed on the subject on the platform, as he did now in that House, and beat him. There were on the register of the city of Durham 2,305 electors. Out of that number during the recent electoral campaign, which lasted only one month, he (Mr. Milvain) had personally canvassed over 2,000, and perhaps the hon. Member for Darlington and the House would be surprised to hear that out of the 2,000 whom he canvassed, there were not half-a-dozen who made 1756 it a sine quâ non that he should support Sunday Closing. ["No, no!"] He heard an hon. Member say "No;" but he declared that to him on his word, and as his experience; and if he, or any other hon. Gentleman, could pledge his own word in a contrary sense, he was at liberty do so, and to state his authority. Further, he might state that the men who made it a sine quâ non that he (Mr. Milvain) should support Sunday Closing were enthusiasts in the highest degree; they worked in the cause of Sunday Closing with a zeal and energy that was altogether exceptional. In the many meetings which he addressed during the month's electoral campaign, he was frequently asked if he would support Sunday Closing, and he as frequently denounced it as a means of obtaining an end by coercion which could be more satisfactorily and more permanently attained by means which were more Constitutional. He had every reason to believe that all the questions asked in the meetings he addressed, emanated from the same source. He submitted that if the hon. Member for Darlington and other Members for the county of Durham had personally canvassed their constituents and felt their pulse upon this question, as he (Mr. Milvain) had his, they would not come here to say that it was the unanimous wish of the people of Durham that there should be Sunday Closing. Before he left this point, perhaps he ought to say that it was a matter of some surprise to him that the hon. Member for Darlington should declare upon his ipse dixit that the county of Durham was ready for Sunday Closing, when the Bill had not been supported by a single Petition of any sort or kind. Now, the grounds upon which he always had and did now oppose the measure were, firstly, that it interfered with vested interests; secondly, that it interfered with the liberty of the subject; thirdly, that it was objectionable on the grounds of its being exceptional legislation for a particular district; and, fourthly, on the ground that he did not believe it would attain the object for which it was introduced. In the first place, he would deal with the first objection, that it was objectionable on the ground that it interfered with vested interests. Hon. Members opposite would, no doubt, admit that it interfered with vested in- 1757 terests; but they would argue that it did so in a very slight degree, that the interference was only in one day out of seven, and then only for a few hours on that one day. He would ask any fair-minded Member of that House whether it was just that anyone should thus be interfered with in the exercise of his calling? Let them suppose for a moment that a man of good character, by dint of labour, thrift, and energy, had scraped together a certain capital, which he was prepared to invest in the purchase of a house, and in procuring a licence for it. It would be said that the licence was only for a year, and depended on the man's character and conduct; but the capital was invested in the house, and what the publican maintained was that his good conduct and his character were the pledges for his security. Well, supposing it were admitted that the opening of his house for the few hours left upon a Sunday resulted in a profit of £1, that man would thus receive £52 a-year from his Sunday's trade. At 5 per cent, the measure of his losses through Sunday Closing would represent the return upon a capital of £1,040. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laughed. He knew they had a very different feeling sometimes with regard to vested interests and existing contracts to that which he entertained; but he told them they were not acting justly, and he put the matter upon higher grounds, and grounds which he submitted to the House were practically unanswerable—it interfered, he said, with the liberty of the subject, [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite laughed. [Renewed laughter.] Very different views on that subject had been held on the Benches opposite in former times; but he thought it was a principle which all might hold to-day, that the liberty of the subject should not be interfered with unless upon the strongest proof that the liberty had been abused to the detriment of a substantial proportion of the community. Now, where was the proof, he asked, that the liberty of the subject in the county of Durham as to the opening of public-houses on the Sunday in order to get beer had been abused to the detriment of a large proportion of the population? He maintained there was a total absence of any such proof. Fifteen years ago, when he was in the habit of attending the 1758 Durham Quarter Sessions, there were 108 to 115 cases set down for trial. Why? Because the sale of drink was almost wholesale; because the times were good and because the people were not educated. What was the condition now? Why, the condition of things was immeasurably altered, and, instead of there being the number he had given as formerly existing, there were only about 18 persons to be tried at Quarter Sessions. There was a diminution of crime throughout the whole county. If the hon. Member for Darlington had brought forward his measure 15 years ago, there might have been some ground for saying that the liberty of the subject had been abused to the detriment of a substantial portion of the community; but he submitted that now there was no ground for such an assertion. The proof justifying interference with the liberty of the subject ought to be much stronger in the case of exceptional legislation applicable to one county, than in the case of legislation applicable to the country at large; and during his personal canvass in the city of Durham it was his pleasure not to see in his canvass more than 10 men who were at the time in a state of intoxication. It was upon that ground that he asserted the county of Durham was not ripe for the measure proposed by the hon. Member. [Laughter.] His canvass lasted from 10 A.M. to 10 P.M., and he could speak with a greater knowledge than hon. Gentlemen who laughed. It could not possibly be said the inhabitants of his constituency were suffering from over-drinking. Again, he wanted to know on what principle they were to attack the inhabitants of the county of Durham in the centre, whereas they did not touch those who were upon the borders? He had in his possession statistics of crime, giving the Returns of the convictions for drunkenness on Sunday throughout the county. Up to September, 1885, he found that in the city of Durham the total number of resident persons convicted of drunkenness upon the Sunday was only 10 in a year; he found that throughout the whole county 216 resident persons were so convicted, and that, upon a population of 600,745, was only a proportion of somewhat over one in 2,000. When they came to consider where the average was knocked up, they found it in such 1759 places as Gateshead, standing upon the banks of the Tyne, a very densely-populated district; they found there that, out of a population of 65,000, the convictions were 65 in one year for Sunday drinking, which gave a proportion of one in 1,000. They might take it for granted that the average was knocked up somewhere in the neighbourhood of the banks of the Tyne, and that was upon the border of the two counties of Northumberland and Durham. He thought he was justified in saying that if they looked at the statistics for all the other counties of England, the case of Durham would not be found to be at all exceptional. On turning to Northumberland, he found that the total average was somewhere about the same; but at Tynemouth, where there was a population of 44,118, 70 persons who were residents in the place were convicted in the course of a year of drinking on the Sunday. In Newcastle, which had a population of 145,359, 148 persons were convicted of Sunday drinking, an average of something over one in 1,000. Now, what would be the result of Sunday Closing in Durham? It must be that injury would be done to vested interests in the adjoining counties of Northumberland, Yorkshire, and Westmoreland. People finding Durham so highly virtuous would flock into that county, and thus the vested interests of the publicans in the adjoining counties would be seriously affected. But the converse they would find much more probable—namely, that persons would flock to the adjoining counties, and there increase the drunkenness on the Sunday. This was one reason, at any rate, why there should not be this exceptional legislation for the county of Durham; but, as he had said, he opposed the Bill upon another ground—namely, that it amounted to exceptional legislation. He desired to know upon what principle it was that this law was to be made to deprive the poor of their drink when there was no law to deprive the rich of their drink? If this law was good for the poor it was good for the rich. He asked the hon. Member for Gateshead, whose name he saw on the back of the Bill, upon what principle he could go into his constituency, attend Divine worship upon the Sunday, then turn his back upon Gateshead, cross over the bridge into Newcastle, 1760 walk into his club, and enjoy drink, while his poor constituents were to be deprived of any refreshment at all? Upon that ground, if upon no other, this Bill ought to be opposed. He maintained that if the measure were passed it would not attain the end in view, and he said that from experience. The hon. Member who had moved the second reading had spoken of what was done in 1883. He (Mr. Milvain) could tell the hon. Member what was done in Durham in 1883. During the time that the Bill was before the House preparations were made by the publicans as well as by private persons to provide themselves with three-gallon kegs—with what object? ["Oh, oh!"] He heard some hon. Member say "Oh, oh!" but did that hon. Gentleman contradict him? Those three-gallon kegs were intended to be filled on Saturday nights and conveyed to private houses for the consumption of their contents on the Sunday. During his canvass in the city of Durham he came across some total abstainers who, the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Wilson) would be surprised to hear, absolutely denounced this measure, and denounced it for the reason that it would not effect the object in view—because it would do in Durham what it had done elsewhere, and spirits and beer would be conveyed into private houses on the Saturday night for consumption on the Sunday. It was quite understood in the county that men would club together to attain their object, and that they would drink at home on the Sunday, and thus set a bad example to their wives and children. He did not wish it to be assumed that he was opposed to temperance. During his candidature he did not succeed in pleasing either the publican or the total abstainer. He advocated non-political clubs, in which drunkenness should be a sufficient ground for expulsion. He advocated cocoa-palaces; he advocated the enlightenment and amusement of the people by means with which the publicans did not agree; indeed, he maintained that the evil of which complaint was made ought to be met by some other measure than the one now before the House—by such a measure, for instance, as that introduced a few days ago by the hon. Baronet (Sir Joseph Pease). The hon. Baronet's Bill dealt with the question of Sunday drinking very fairly, for it pro- 1761 vided that public-houses should only be open on Sundays during reasonable hours, and only then for the sale of drink to be consumed off the premises. That was a measure he was prepared to support, for the reason that it did not interfere with the liberty of the subject, and would not cause any individual county or place to be made the subject of exceptional legislation. There were other measures which were advocated at the present time. He thought, from his experience of the manner in which at present magistrates dealt with licences that the system worked satisfactorily, though some were of opinion their conduct was amendable, and ought to be improved. He would not touch upon the matter now; because, in the no distant future, he hoped it would be dealt with in the measure introduced by the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Sir Joseph Pease). He must really apologize to the House for having occupied its time so long as he had already done; but he felt very strongly with regard to this measure. It was not within his memory; but, if report was accurate, it might be within the memory of the last generation, that drunkenness was common at the tables of the rich. Well, as to that, it was not so now, and what was the reason? It was the advancement of education; it was because drunkenness was looked upon with disgust and loathing now by the educated classes. If this was so with the rich, why should it not be so with the poor? They were being educated; they were learning themselves that drunkenness was a crime, and that drunkenness, without a conviction even, was a disgrace. He maintained that by example and education they would be able to meet the difficulty without proceeding to ends which might be unconstitutional. For those reasons, he had objected to the Bill among his own constituents, and for those reasons also he now moved that it be read a second time on that day six months.
§ 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. Milvain.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."1762
§ MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Houghton-le-Spring)
said, that the views of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down would undoubtedly not harmonize very easily with those which he himself (Mr. Wilson) held, inasmuch as the hon. and learned Gentleman was the Member for Durham, while he (Mr. Wilson) was one of the electors for that city. Both sides of the question were, therefore, represented. The hon. and learned Member seemed to be the little leaven which leavened the whole lump, and he certainly represented that one iota of Toryism which had been sent by the entire county of Durham. He (Mr. Wilson) must confess that he was not one of the party of 10 that had been canvassed by the hon. and learned Gentleman in the city of Durham. They, it was to be presumed, saved the city from destruction. Those 10 righteous men, found not in Sodom but in Durham, were in favour of Sunday Closing.
§ MR. MILVAIN
explained that it was six men who had made Sunday Closing a sine quâ non when he was canvassing. The 10 men were intoxicated.
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, Durham was a Cathedral city, with some six or seven Dissenting and Congregational churches and chapels connected with different Religious. Bodies; and there were Good Templar Lodges and Temperance Societies; and he maintained that the great majority of the clergy, as well as of the members of those Temperance Bodies, were in favour of Sunday Closing. In the Good Templar Lodge of which he was a member there were 200 or 300 of the male members who were entirely pledged to support Sunday Closing. He would multiply six by 100, and venture to say that there were not six but 600 men in Durham who would avow openly and plainly that the time had come when the public-houses should be closed on Sunday. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the city of Durham would, perhaps, forgive him if he (Mr. Wilson) said that the opinions he had advanced upon this Sunday Closing Question were about as old as the law the hon. and learned Member practised, and were taught before the hon. and learned Gentleman was born. He (Mr. Wilson} knew the people of Durham, and he knew the working men of Durham far 1763 better than the hon. and learned Gentleman. There was held annually, in the county of Durham, a meeting of the delegates of the miners in the county, who numbered some 100 to 150 men, and of which meeting he (Mr. Wilson) was the Secretary. He could tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that not once nor twice, but many times, had this matter been discussed, and there had always been a general consensus of opinion that such a Bill as this should become law. If the House desired it, he would undertake, before next week, to supply the House with Petitions from every colliery in the county of Durham, wherein a majority of the employés, above bank and below, would say that they were in favour of closing public-houses on Sunday.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. CHILDERS) (Edinburgh, S.)
said, he rose to state the course which the Government would take in reference to this Bill. It was not very different from the Bill brought forward in 1883, when his Predecessor, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt), spoke strongly in its favour, and referred to the almost universal desire of the miners of Durham for some legislation of this character. He (Mr. Childers) proposed to take the same course as his right hon. Friend on that occasion. He might be asked how it was he supported the Bill proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnard Castle (Sir Joseph Pease), which dealt in different ways with the town and the country districts, and had said he thought the principle of the Bill was sound, but that some provision should be made to enable the people in the country districts to get their supply of beer on Sunday for a limited number of hours off the premises. The explanation was simple. The Bill was proposed for the whole country, without an expression of opinion from the people of a particular district as to whether they desired it or not; and he said he should support it as a temporary measure, until a general Act dealing with local government could be passed under which each district could deal with the question for itself, and then it would be reasonable that the power of obtaining refreshment off the premises should be retained. In the present case, however, the House had before it a Bill 1764 supported by the great majority of the people whom it would affect. He noticed that it was supported by 15 out of the whole 16 Members for Durham; and, on looking at the polls, he found that those Members represented the overwhelming majority of the people. In these circumstances, he would vote for the second reading.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS (Lancashire, S. W., Newton)
said, he had had peculiar opportunities for many years of late of knowing the habits and manners of the colliers and factory operatives in Lancashire; and he was happy to have observed growing up, not suddenly, but gradually, not universally, but very generally, a feeling in favour of habits of temperance. In some districts, indeed, that feeling among those classes had almost become a matter of religion. No one could possibly feel more thankful for such a change of opinion than he did. Formerly, intemperance prevailed to a considerable extent among the higher classes in this country; but, by the growth of a better feeling, habits of intoxication had practically ceased among those classes; and he had always held that they might also look for a similar result among the humbler orders from the influence of an improved public opinion. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings)—he was not quite sure whether he was in Order, at that present moment, in calling the hon. Gentleman by that title—had lately taken a very effective means of putting a stop to the efforts which Members of the late Government thought the wisest mode of meeting the difficulties of that question. When in Office, they declared it to be their intention to deal at once with a measure of local government for this country; and although the present Ministry had also promised to bring in such a measure, it seemed to have now receded into the dim and distant future. They had been reminded that, in his speech at Newport, Lord Salisbury had intimated that the question of Sunday Closing would be included among those questions that would be left to Local Authorities under the scheme of local government that the late Administration had intended to introduce. That seemed to be the wisest course, because then they should have been absolutely certain that it was the wish of the special locality before any 1765 measure of this kind came into operation. The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fry) had told them that the people of the county of Durham desired to have public-houses closed on Sunday; and, on the other hand, the hon. and learned Member for the city of Durham (Mr. Milvain) said that the general feeling of the inhabitants of that city certainly was not favourable to that proposal. All that only showed how much better, and how much more practical, it would be to have that question relegated to the Local Authorities, so as to get the real opinion of the community upon it. He had not quite gathered from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers), although much had been said about Local Option, whether it was the intention of the Government to bring forward a measure of that kind or not. He should have thought, if that was their intention, it would have been very much better to have waited a short time before passing this measure, in order that they might see whether a more comprehensive mode of dealing with this question might not have been found. It might be preferable to give Local Authorities the power of regulating that matter. If that Bill were passed, he certainly hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would see justice done to one class of persons to whom allusion had been made. There could be no doubt that at present all those licensed victuallers, whether in the county or the city of Durham, who had taken out existing licences, had taken them out on the faith that they would be allowed to sell liquor on Sunday as they had hitherto done; and if that Bill became law, the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to restore a portion of the money he had received for the licences of those persons whose public-houses were to be shut up on Sunday. Some years ago there had been introduced a measure by which persons could take out six-day licences at a lower rate of payment than that for licences for seven days in the week; and if the licensed victuallers of the county of Durham were to have their houses entirely closed on Sunday, it would be only fair that they should not have to pay for seven-day licences, otherwise they would be heavily mulcted by the passing of that Bill. If any such Bill was to be passed at all, he 1766 would much prefer that proposed on a former occasion by the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnard Castle (Sir Joseph Pease) to the present one; but he thought it was a question whether the hon. Member for Darlington should divide the House on his Bill at all.
said, that if he correctly understood the right hon. Gentleman's appeal, it was that whereas for the present year, which he presumed ended in September, some licensed victuallers in Durham had taken out a seven days' licence, it would be fair, if the provisions of this Bill were to come into operation, that they should be repaid the difference between the seven and six days' licence for the remaining period of the year. At first sight that seemed to be fair; and he would mention it to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order to see if a considerable proportion of the money paid should not be returned.
said, he understood it, of course, to apply to next year. If the public-houses were to be closed on Sunday, the licence would be only for six days.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said, he was unable to support the second reading of the Bill. He was an advocate of temperance, and likewise of Sunday Closing; but he was also for Sunday Closing on principles common to the whole country. It would be with reluctance that he should find himself in the opposite Lob by from the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fry); but he himself advocated temperance in a temperate way; and he held that there were many other important principles which should go hand-in-hand with temperance, among these being the liberty of the subject and regard for vested interests, which required to be carefully treated. He was sorry that the matter should be settled offhand, after only an hour and a-half's discussion. He had come to the conclusion that there was a very strong feeling, gradually increasing throughout England, in favour of Sunday Closing, whether in small rural parishes or in centres of population like Liverpool, where something like 40,000 heads of houses had signed a Petition in favour of it. There- 1767 fore, what he wished to recommend was that his temperance friends and the House should go slowly in dealing with this very important and burning question. That should all the more be done because Sunday Closing must be dealt with in any Local Government Bill; and he was glad that Lord Salisbury had put it in the forefront of his speech at Newport that he was prepared to deal boldly with that great question. When the subject of Local Government was brought forward, a crowd of other questions would come up to which the principle of Local Option would apply. He felt bound to warn the House that the principle of Local Option, if once introduced, could not be confined to the question of temperance only, for there would be a crowd of places desirous of exercising Local Option on particular questions—as, for instance, Portsmouth and Plymouth might desire to keep in operation Acts which the House the other day condemned. Being opposed to dealing in an off-hand and piecemeal fashion with those matters, he felt unable to support the Motion before the House.
§ MR. GENT-DAVIS (Lambeth, Kennington)
, who rose amid great interruption, said, he did not propose to detain the House at any great length. He could well understand the anxiety of hon. Members below the Gangway on the Government side of the House in crying "Divide, divide!" but he thought that it was one of their privileges that they should have freedom of speech. He had a few words to say on this subject; and he believed that he was quite within his rights in speaking, notwithstanding the impatience of hon. Members, and stating why he intended to oppose the second reading of the Bill. He should have thought that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Fry) would have furnished the House with reliable statistics, showing actually what the opinion of the people of Durham was upon this question. But nothing of the kind. He had no statistics to give them. It was true that he had quoted a few figures; but they had been told that figures could be made to prove anything or nothing; and he held they ought not to take away the rights of the minority of the people of Durham, even at the instance of the majority—supposing, of course, that the supporters of the measure were in a 1768 majority. He could heartily sympathize with the hon. Member that such noted local optionists as Mr. W. S. Caine and Sir Wilfrid Lawson were not now in the House; but he thought it would be well if they postponed the second reading of the Bill until they could obtain some authentic information as to the real desires of the people of Durham in the matter. At all events, he did not think that they should exclude the people of Durham from taking their glasses of beer or glasses of whisky upon the mere expression of opinion of a Board of Guardians or a Town Council, however conclusive hon. Members below the Gangway might think such views were. He objected to their interfering with the rights of the people, and he particularly objected to this piecemeal fashion of dealing with a great question. Hon. Members who were so loud in their demand for this measure should remember that they were taking away from the poor that which they permitted to the rich and well-to-do. Why was it that the publicans were specially selected for this restrictive legislation? Why were the clubs not mentioned? Was it because the hon. Member belonged to one of those clubs that he had failed to include them in his Bill? Did he wish that they should still remain open? And why were the rights and privileges of the publican to be sacrificed? The publican was heavily taxed, and was entitled to their protection; and why was he to be sacrificed to these clubs, many of which were supported by the lowest class of the community? Local Option was a craze; and to gratify a mere craze they were asked to pass this Bill. For the purpose of enabling them to ascertain the views and opinions of the people of Durham on this question, he moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Gent-Davis,)—put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 163; Noes 82: Majority 81.—(Div. List, No. 43.)
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.