HC Deb 05 May 1886 vol 305 cc348-52

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Sir Joseph Pease.)

MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)

, in rising to move, as an Amendment— That it be an Instruction to the said Committee that they have power to extend the provisions of the said Bill to all houses, shops, and buildings, or any part thereof, occupied or used by any club, society, or association in which intoxicating liquors are sold or supplied to the members of the said club, society, or association, for consumption in the said house, or shop, or building, or any part thereof, said, he wished to know what was the principle which the House had given its assent to when it agreed to the second reading of the Bill? Was it that drinking on Sundays was a wrong in itself, or that the meeting together for conversation and social enjoyment in public-houses was idle and frivolous waste of time, and also a wrong thing? He hardly knew on what other principle the entire closing of public-houses on Sundays could be affirmed. If the object of the Bill was to prevent people from spending their time in idle gossip, and from drinking on Sundays, that object was in no way carried out by the Bill as it stood. The Bill, in its present shape, referred to nothing but public-houses, and these places formed but a very small proportion of the agencies by which drink was distributed on Sundays, and only a very small part of the means by which people assembled to waste their time on that day. There was no doubt that if this Bill passed in its present shape it would lead to an enormous increase in the number of what were called drinking clubs. It was notorious that the effect of closing public-houses in Cardiff had been to extend and increase to an enormous extent these drinking places; and he was told that an active member of the temperance organization there had deplored that he was ever a party to closing public-houses on Sunday, having become convinced that it had been the means of greatly increasing drinking on that day. If they were to affirm the principle that drinking and meeting together for social converse was wrong, then they ought to affirm it honestly all round and impartially, and especially to affirm it where it would touch themselves, because if they were to put an end to the compromise by which public-houses were allowed to be open at particular hours on Sunday, they might be preventing other people from doing that which at present they could do themselves. The answer to that would be that a club was nothing more than a private house, in which people collected to talk and drink, if they pleased, as in their own house. He was astonished that in these days, when so many legal fictions were being abandoned, such threadbare and flimsy pretexts should exist at all. A club was no more a private house than a public-house, and the only difference between it and a licensed public-house was that the consumption must be upon the premises, and that there must be some sort of subscription and membership. But the subscription might be only half-a-crown, and there might be 500 members. He was told that there were many such clubs in a large district in the neighbourhood of Leeds; and if there were generous rules for the admission of strangers by members, no one could help imagining that more grievous public-houses did not exist, and that these clubs encouraged the evils attributed to public-houses to a larger degree. He had heard of these drinking clubs held at places with a rental of 1s. 6d. per week, and in all these places drinking took place from morning to night. An hon. Member had told him that publicans were greatly in favour of the Bill, because if it passed as it stood they thought they could turn their houses into clubs, and so get rid of police control and the rates and taxes they now had to pay. It was notorious that drinking clubs prevailed in some Lancashire towns, and he only avoided giving particulars because he did not like to single out particular places and clubs. He had, however, a list of them and their members, which he believed would astonish some hon. Gentlemen. Now, such legislation as that went beyond the spirit of fair compromise, and would give rise to far greater evils than any that at present existed. If idleness and drinking were to be discouraged on Sundays, what, he would ask, could be easier than the simple alteration he suggested—namely, to provide that the word "premises" should be taken to mean— Any place or building occupied or used by any club, society, or association in which intoxicating liquors are sold or supplied to the members. What could be fairer than that? If they did not pass the Instruction, they would be open to the charge that they were content to place burdens upon others which they objected to bear themselves. Every hon. Member ought to be anxious to get rid of an imputation of that kind. He trusted that hon. Members who had shown so much courage in extending to humble people that most useful law, that they should stay at home on Sundays and not drink at public-houses, would with equal courage apply the principle to themselves, and prohibit unlicensed as well licensed houses from opening on Sunday. By passing the Instruction they would snow their desire for really effective legislation, and get rid of the reproach that they made one law for the poor and another for the rich. No doubt hon. Members on his side of the House would be glad to carry his proposition into effect, and, if necessary, to shut up the Carlton Club on Sundays. Thus, by abstaining from going to their clubs, in which they now, perhaps, were wicked enough to indulge in social converse, and even in political discussion, on Sundays, they would set a good example to the humbler classes for whom it was proposed to legislate by this Bill.

SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)

seconded the Amendment.

Motion made and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the said Committee that they have power to extend the provisions of the said Bill to all houses, shops, and buildings, or any part thereof, occupied or used by any club, society, or association in which intoxicating liquors are sold or supplied to the members of the said club, society, or association for consumption in the said house, or shop, or building, or any part thereof."—(Mr. Addison.)

SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)

said, if the House would allow the Bill to go into Committee that day he would undertake to move immediately to report Progress, as he did not see in their places one or two of his hon. Friends who usually sat opposite, and who had put down Notices of Amendments. He believed the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Addison) was perfectly correct in moving the Instruction. He (Sir Joseph Pease) could not attempt to vie with the hon. and learned Gentleman in regard to technical knowledge of the Forms of the House; but he believed the Instruction of the hon. and learned Gentleman was so entirely outside the scope of the Bill that he would not, under the Rules and Orders of the House, have been able to move it in Committee on the Bill, though he was quite at liberty to move it on the Motion to go into Committee. He could not, however, help thinking there was a great absence of logic in the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend. By the Bill he (Sir Joseph Pease) did not intend to deal with the privileges of either the rich or the poor in regard to clubs. He had left the rich man his club, and he had left the poor man his club; and when the hon. and learned Gentleman called the attention of the House to the position of things in Wales, he (Sir Joseph Pease) must remind him that the great difference between that Bill and the Welsh Sunday Closing Act was that this Bill allowed the poor man to go into the public-house for two hours during the Sunday afternoon, and two hours during the Sunday evening, in order that he might procure for home consumption his dinner and supper beer. He (Sir Joseph Pease) had never said that the Sunday drinking of a glass of beer was wrong, or that Sunday conversation was wrong. All those things were conjured out of his hon. and learned Friend's own consciousness. If he accepted the Motion he should go far beyond the scope of the Bill, and beyond that which he believed to be absolutely necessary. He had made careful inquiries, so far as his own district was concerned, and he could, without hesitation, say that there was no working men's club in Durham or in the North Riding of Yorkshire in which intoxicating liquors were sold on Sunday. Taking it as a whole, he objected to the Instruction to the Committee as entirely outside the scope of the Bill. If the poor man thought he was robbed in any way of his rights in regard to his frequenting the public-house, the Bill would allow him to go to his club; and he had sufficient faith in the working men of the country to believe that if they did think it necessary, in consequence of the passing of the Bill, to establish clubs, they would be found to drink in moderation. He trusted that his hon. and learned Friend would be content with the speech he had made. He (Sir Joseph Pease) would assure the House that he had no wish to interfere with the reasonable facilities of the people to obtain liquor on the Sunday. He hoped the House would support him in resisting this Instruction.


said, he earnestly protested against the Bill, the object of which was to further restrict a particular and respectable trade, without, in the least, checking the evils of intemperance in other respects, which it left altogether untouched. For instance, the Bill did nothing to stop drinking on steamboats, or to regulate the hours of sale on board. The whole object seemed to be to put further restrictions on a licensed trade, and to drive people to drinking clubs, which were open during the time of Divine Service, and were frequented by hundreds of women as well as men. It was a grievance that while the Temperance Party were endeavouring in one direction to stop what they considered a small evil, they were actually encouraging by their silence, or want of legislation, a very much larger evil, which was gradually springing up in all the great towns.

Question put, and negatived.

Main Question, put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause (Hours of closing on Sunday).

Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Sir Joseph Pease,)—put, and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Friday 7th June.