HC Deb 19 July 1887 vol 317 cc1476-85

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 3, inclusive, severally agreed to.

Clause 4 (Alteration of certificate forms).


I venture to move the Amendment of which I have given Notice, and which must be taken with the Schedules that stand later on. It is expedient, I think, that the closing hour in the larger towns should be so early as 10 o'clock, and, therefore, I have placed the towns with a population over 15,000 in Schedule A, and in these I propose that the closing hour should be 11, leaving them practically untouched, so far as the closing hour is concerned. Schedule B includes a certain number of coast towns, in which it seems to me it is expedient that hotels should be allowed to keep open until the hour at present fixed —11 o'clock— during the months when the population is largely increased by visitors. Elsewhere, I propose to make the closing hour 10 o'clock throughout Scotland. At this hour of the morning, I will not detain the House with a speech, but simply move my Amendment.

Amendment proposed, In page 2, line 7, leave oat all the words after "Act," and insert the words,—"The hours of closing of the licensed premises in Scotland hereinafter specified shall be;

  1. "(a.) In the case of inns and hotels, and of public houses situate in towns or burghs specified in Schedule A hereto annexed, eleven of the clock at night;
  2. "(b.) In the case of inns and hotels, and of public houses situate in towns or burghs specified in Schedule B, eleven of the clock at night during the months of June, July, August, and September, and ton of the clock at night during the other months of the year;
  3. "(c.) In the case of all other inns and hotels and public houses, ten of the clock at night;
  4. "(d.) In the case of premised licensed in respect of a certificate for dealers in exciseable liquors, and of a certificate for table beer licences granted under the seventeenth section of 'The Publicans' Certificates (Scotland) Act, 1876,' ten of the clock at night of any week day during the months of June, July, August, and September, and during the other months of the year eight of the clock at night of any week day except Saturday, or any day immediately preceding a public holiday, authorised by the magistrates, on which days the hour of closing shall be ten of the clock at night."— {Colonel Malcolm.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'The form of certificate' stand part of the Clause."

DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

As the hon. Members for Scotland are aware, this Bill was yesterday the subject of a conference as to the points of difference regarding its provisions. There was no diversity of opinion as to the expediency of an earlier hour of closing, but there was as to what that hour should be. On one side—and I think the preponderating side—the opinion expressed was that there should be a uniform hour of closing, and that that hour should be 10 o'clock, thus altering the present time of closing by one hour—namely, from 11 o'clock to 10 o'clock. It was also held that the hour of 10 o'clock should be universal throughout the country. The views of the other side are embodied in the Amendment. Now, Sir, the proposal of a uniform hour of 10 o'clock is that contained in the clause. I may mention that the Bill as it present stands does not provide for absolute uniformity; because it makes an exception in the matter of grocers' licenses. I need not enter into the reasons for that. The preponderance of feeling at the conference was against that exception being made, and it was proposed to simplify it by making a provision for the hour of 10 o'clock to be uniform, and to apply to all cases; and I propose, therefore, if the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire (Colonel Malcolm) is rejected, to accept the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for West Fifeshire (Mr. R. Preston Bruce), which provides for what I will describe as an absolutely uniform hour of closing for all licensed premises in Scotland. Now, Sir, so far as I am concerned, I believe that as to the original proposal it was a remarkable fact that at the conference there was no representative of the larger towns who got up to oppose the earlier hour of closing, and since the conference I have received protests from several places proposed to be excluded in the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member from the benefits of the earlier hour. The case is, therefore, that those who vote against the omission of the words proposed to be left out will vote for a uniform hour of closing throughout Scotland, that hour being 10 o'clock, while those who vote for the omission of the words will vote for a sliding scale of hours throughout the country.

MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)

I wish to say one word in support of my hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), and I wish to point out to the Scotch Members here how far reaching the Amendment is. The places included in this Schedule are the large Scotch boroughs, and I have taken the trouble to look through the population returns. I find that the total population of Scotland is 3,500,000, and in these large towns named in the schedule the population numbers over 1,500,000, and so that you have from one-third to one- half of the population of Scotland excluded from the benefits of this Bill. That is my first point as regards the far-reaching character of the hon. and gallant Member's Amendment. Then, Sir, I want to point this out also, that the very population which he proposes to exclude from the operation of this Bill is just the population which, unfortunately, figures most largely in the returns of drunkenness in Scotland. If you look at the returns for the year ending the 31st December, 1886, you will find that all the towns mentioned in the schedule—with only one exception, that of Ooatbridge—are named in these Returns. There is an aggregate of 40,316 cases returned, and of these no fewer than 27,870 occurred in boroughs included in the hon. and gallant Member's schedule, so that practically the operation of the schedule is this—you will withdraw from the operation of the Bill nearly one-half of the population of Scotland, and just that part where cases of drunkenness are most prevalent. Now, I have only one other word to trouble the Committee with, and it is this. One point discussed yesterday is worthy consideration now, and that is as regards the opinion, so far as it can be gathered, of the large towns on the subject. Various statements were made yesterday on the subject, but I will-quote to the House the only authority I can get, and which can be recognized by the Committee. It is the authority of the last Parliamentary investigation of the subject—the authority of the Lords' Committee on Intemperance. That Committee, about nine years ago, reported unanimously in favour of the proposal of my hon. Friend —namely, that the hours of business should be reduced by one hour in Scotland. If you take the trouble to look at the evidence, you will find that the opinion was unanimous in all large towns. I will not trouble the Committee with any of the evidence at this hour; but I may point out that the witnesses included many of the leading public men of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and other largo towns. The opinion was absolutely overpowering throughout all the large towns in favour of the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow. One point more, which also you will be able to gather from the evidence is, that this very hour of 10 to 11 o'clock at night is just the time when the worst cases of drunkenness take place, and which so largely increase the returns. Therefore I hope that the Committee will bear in mind that if they accept the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member, they will practically cut out from the Bill half the population of Scotland, and just that half which most earnestly desires to come under the provisions of the Bill. If it is desired, to make it a Bill really to promote the diminution of drunkenness, and to consult the opinion of the communities directly affected, the Committee will support my hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow.

MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)

I want to say one word on the subject of the almost unanimous opinion on the earlier closing movement. All the evidence I can collect in agricultural districts is to the effect that it is advisable to reduce the hours of opening by one hour. I do not venture to give an opinion as regards the large towns; but all I can speak from leads mo to think that the way in which the Bill is drawn, will most usefully meet the circumstances, and is most suitable.

MR. FINLAY (Inverness)

I hope, Sir, the House will not adopt the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Argyllshire (Colonel Malcolm). I object to the principle of schedules on broad grounds. I think it is perfectly impossible for this House to legislate by schedules, and supposing that it can accurately appreciate and gauge the requirements of each locality. I can understand leaving it to each locality to decide for itself; but I think it is impossible for this House to attempt to do so. I see Schedule B includes the places where public-houses are to be allowed to be open till 11 o'clock during the summer months, though they are to be closed at 10 o'clock during the other months of the year. Now, these towns consist solely of watering places on the West Coast of Scotland, and I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend that there are watering places in other parts of Scotland. I do not suggest that the schedule should be extended. I merely refer to that fact as illustrating the danger of attempting to legislate in matters which involve knowledge of so much detail in order to properly grasp the facts. It seems to me that this House should legislate on very broad lines, and personally, I am prepared to accept the hour of 10 o'clock as the closing time for all parts of the country, and for publicans and grocers alike.


I rise to support the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire (Colonel Malcolm), not because I am hostile to the hour of 10 o'clock being fixed as the closing time for Scotland, but because there are some parts of Scotland which really do not come under the same category as even the largo towns. I more especially point to the places named in Schedule B. The population on the West Coast is a continually changing one, and the fact has been brought before me by those most affected by this Bill, and though, in the winter months they close their houses at 10 o'clock, during the summer months when there is such a large influx of population from the large towns, and when there are so many travelling about, they would not be able to carry on their business properly if they closed at 10 o'clock. Therefore, I have the honour to support the Amendment.

THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)

I think it would not be right to allow this matter to go to a Division without my saying a few words upon it. I have long held a very strong view that any system which fixed one hour for the closing of public-houses in all parts must necessarily constitute a bad arrangement, for you cannot possibly fully appreciate and provide for all requirements in that way. The manners and customs of respectable people in large towns will necessarily be different to a certain extent from the manners and customs of the people living in less populous places in the country, and to fix one hour absolutely for the whole country results in this—that if you are successful in fixing a suitable time for one set of people, you choose an unsuitable hour for the others. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness says this House is a very bad tribunal for the purpose of legislating in such a matter as this, and for deciding what places shall close at one hour and what places at another. I think that that practically is the only reason he gave for his opposition, but I am afraid that if the House of Parliament is not to be considered a fit tribunal for such a purpose, the functions of the House and of this Committee would be very considerably narrowed. There are matters in which this House must be guided by principles of common sense, and I, for one, hold that common sense points strongly in this direction that the hour for the closing of public-houses and licenced premises of all kinds should be hours reasonably akin to those which are ordinarily adopted in the daily life of the inhabitants in the localities affected. Therefore, I for one shall have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire. I should also like to point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Inverness Burghs, who attacked Schedule B, on the ground that it only included watering-places on the West Coast that if he can point out any places on the East Coast of Scotland which it is desirable to add to the Schedule, my hon. and gallant Friend will no doubt include them. But the circumstances of these places on the West Coast, are eminently different to those of many towns on the East Coast, for you have on the West Coast land-locked waters, in which there is an immense number of steamers running at late hours at night, excursion steamers bringing in numerous visitors, and this necessarily makes the inhabitants keep later hours than prevail at other places. Now, Sir, on these grounds I shall certainly support my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyllshire, for I think it would be a bad arrangement to have a uniform hour. Though we all admit that the Forbes Mackenzie Act has worked fairly well, but it has not given complete satisfaction, and I think we have ample evidence, on which to agree to this Amendment. Again, everyone must know perfectly well that anything now done in this matter must be of a purely tentative nature, for in a short time you will have the establishment throughout the country of means by which the exact requirements of each individual locality will be settled according to the necessities of that locality.

An hon. MEMBER



The hon. Member asks when? Well, I can- not prophecy, but I expect and hope it will be in the immediate future. I think the country is not prepared for an absolutely universal closing at 10 o'clock, and I think hon. Members should well consider before they reject the Amendment whether they have really ascertained the opinions of their constituents on the subject.

MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

I would not venture to argue against the opinion of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate on many subjects; but, in regard to this licensing question I claim to have had even more experience than he has had. He has made references to the East Coast of Scotland, and to the difference which exists between that part and the West Coast. But neither he nor the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire have taken into consideration the fact that on the East Coast we have a very large influx of visitors at certain seasons. They come in by thousands. Again, what are we going to say with regard to the fishermen who come to Wick, Fraserburgh, Peter-head, and Aberdeen? They are to be allowed to get beer until 11 o'clock at Aberdeen, but at other places they can get none after 10 o'clock. Nothing I am sure could give less satisfaction to the country than this picking out of incidental places, and legislating for them in a different manner to the rest of the country. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Finlay) has reminded the Committee that we have been under a bad régime. I am not aware of any constituency which will say that the Forbes Mackenzie Act has not worked very great good, and given general satisfaction—except, I suppose, in the case of the Universities—but how shall we improve on it by making fish of one and flesh of another? I am quite satisfied it would be better to let this matter alone altogether than to introduce a variety of circumstances and conditions which this House is not in a position to judge upon. For instance, we shall find a man pulled up for drinking beer a few minutes after 10 o'clock one night, although the night before he could go on drinking up till 11 o'clock. These changes are simply ridiculous; and I am sure no one who has had experience in dealing with the licensing question would think of introducing such a schedule as this. I believe that, at least, three-fourths of the hon. Members for Scotland yesterday gave a decided opinion at the conference in favour of a uniform hour for the whole country, including the grocers. If the Amendment is carried, it will, consequently, be against the larger portion of Scotch opinion.


I should like to remark that there are many places on the East Coast in which the conditions are precisely similar to those on the West Coast in the matter of having a large influx of visitors during the summer months. They do not come, perhaps, by steamers, but excursion trains bring them in crowds, especially at Nairn and Wick. If it is necessary, on the grounds advocated by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, that there should be a later hour of closing on the West Coast, it is equally necessary on the East Coast.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

rose amid loud cries of "Divide!": This is not a matter to be settled by noise. We want it discussed rationally. There are three important points in this Amendment. For, with regard to the proposal that large towns should be excepted, let me point out that, as a matter of fact, the agitation for this Bill is stronger in large towns than in the smaller ones; and hon. Members for Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen have spoken in favour of a uniform hour. The second point is as to Schedule B. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness Burghs (Mr. Finlay) pointed out the danger of legislation in this direction. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyllshire (Colonel Malcolm) seems to think that there are towns only on one side of the River Clyde. But, as a fact, there are towns in Ayrshire where there are three times the number of licensed premises than can be found in some of the towns contained in the schedule; and if the privilege of later closing is to be given to towns on the West Coast, named in the schedule, why not extend it to Moffatt, Burntisland, the Bridge-of-Allan, and like places? The principle, I submit, is a very dangerous one; and the schedule is likely to cause a great deal of dissatisfaction; and I do not think any of the arguments advanced by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyllshire can be deemed sufficient to justify our voting for the Amendment. I strongly support the Bill as it stands, and hope the Amendment will be rejected.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 105; Noes 73: Majority 32.—(Div. List, No. 312.) [2.0 A.M.]

On the Motion of Dr. CAMERON, the following Amendments made:—In page 2, line 41, after "1862," insert— And of certificates for table beer licenses granted under the seventeenth section of 'The Publicans' Certificate (Scotland) Act, 1876;'

and in page 3, line 4, after "not," insert "keep open house or."

On the Motion of Mr. R. PRESTON BRUCE, the following Amendment, made:—In page 3, line 6, leave out from "eight," to end of Clause, and insert "ten of the clock at night of any day."

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 (Certificates) (restrictions as to hours of closing).

On the Motion of the LORD ADVOCATE, the following Amendment made:—In page 3, line 11, leave out from "Act," to end of Clause, and insert— Provided always, that nothing in this Act shall alter the existing Law relating to travellers or persons requiring to lodge in an inn or hotel.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Clauses agreed to.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, considered; read the third time, and passed.