HC Deb 09 September 1887 vol 321 cc37-40
MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)

said, be rose to oppose the second reading of the Bill for the purpose of drawing the particular attention of the House to the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, which was included in that measure. The House would, doubtless, be ready to extend to Ireland and England what were termed equal laws, although the expression had, so far as Ireland was concerned, lost much of its significance. It was well known that the intentions of the promoters of the Irish Sunday Closing Bill had not been borne out or verified. As expressed in the Act itself, the intention of the promoters of the Sunday Closing Bill was that drunkenness might be decreased in Ireland, and that thereby the material prosperity of the country would be increased. First he would endeavour to remove the stigma which had been sought to be placed on Ireland by this Bill. The facts and figures did not in any degree bear out the expectations which were formed of the Act when it was passed. It was admitted that the measure was an experimental one, but the experiment had failed, and experience had shown that it would not be successful. When the Bill was introduced, in 1878, 75 Irish Members supported it, but these Gentlemen were all of the classes who were not affected by the measure. He (Mr. J. O'Connor) had now to point out that the present Representatives from Ireland were against the Bill. The present Irish representation was drawn from the people. They knew the wants of the people. They were affected by any legislation carried in that House for the people. Though the present Irish representation was largely composed of men who wore teetotallers, and desirous of promoting temperance, they were against the continuance of this Bill, because it had failed in its object. The experience they had had for some years past of the Sunday Closing Act showed that the objects of the promoters had not been obtained, and that the opposition to the continuance of the Bill was fully justified. The habitual drunkard had not been reclaimed, while the respectable citizen was subjected to an amount of insult and humiliation. The beneficent intentions of the promoters of the Bill had not been fulfilled; but the liberties of the respectable citizens of Ireland had been curtailed. The stigma of intemperance had been placed on the Irish people by this Bill without any grounds whatever. The statistics of drunkenness in England, Ireland, and Scotland showed that. In the year 1886 in Scotland, which is the highest, and which is the country where total Sunday closing prevails—


Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is now exceeding the liberty of an hon. Member in discussing a measure included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. The hon. Gentleman cannot go into the whole principle of the Sunday Closing Bill. That is only one Bill among a great many others dealt with by the Bill before the House. When the Bill is in Committee the remarks of the hon. Gentleman will be in Order; but he is now going into the whole question of Sunday licensing, which is not in Order.


asked whether he would be in Order in pointing out that the Sunday Closing Act had failed in accomplishing the intention of its promoters?


said, that the hon. Member could not raise the principle of the Act on the second reading of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. The proper course would be to move to exclude the Act in Committee.


said, that acting on the advice of Mr. Speaker—if the Government would name a day on which, the Committee stage would be taken—he would postpone the observations which he had to make.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, 39 Westminster)

said, the Committee stage of the Bill would be taken to-morrow.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

said, there was a strong contention in Ireland that the Act, which was merely an experimental Act, had failed in its object. An inquiry into the working of the Act was promised four years ago, and he would ask the Government whether, considering the great desire of a great many people in Ireland for an inquiry, they would not order an inquiry between this Session and next as to whether the Bill had succeeded or failed in its purpose. That would only be fulfilling a pledge given when the Bill was introtroduced, and renewed year after year—it would give great satisfaction in Ireland, and would tend to ease the passage of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill through the House.

MR. BEADLAUGH (Northampton)

asked whether the Government, in view of the pledge given the Session before last, and repeated several times at the beginning of the Session, would undertake that the Employers' Liability Bill should be introduced at an early period next Session?


said, so far as he was aware, the object of the promised inquiry was to see whether the Act could be made perpetual instead of temporary and renewable. The right lion. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan), when Chief Secretary, gave it as his opinion that the Act had been successful. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) was probably aware that Irish opinion was greatly divided on the question of Sunday closing, not to speak of English opinion. The Act had been made temporary and renewable, and having been renewed, it might be presumed that it was the opinion of the various Governments that the effect of the measure had been satisfactory. He did not himself profess to have formed an opinion on the subject, and while he promised to consider the question which the hon. Member had raised, he did not wish at that moment to give a definite pledge.


said, that before the matter ended he desired to state that their object in opposing the Bill was that it should be dropped, if possible, so as to clear the way for legislation they would propose, and which would meet all sides of the question. They held that the Bill had failed in its object; but they could not have fresh legislation until it was out of the way.


said, that the hon. Gentleman would see at once that the Government could not part with the Act; they must continue the Act for the present; but it would be in the power of Parliament to deal with the question next Session as it thought best. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), he (Mr. W. H. Smith) might say that the Government were fully aware of the importance of the Employers' Liability Bill. They had prepared a Bill dealing with the liability of employers, and he had no hesitation in giving the hon. Member an undertaking that the question should be further considered during the Recess, with the view of bringing forward at the earliest possible period next Session a considerable measure on the whole subject.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.