§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ *MR. J. C. STEVENSON (S. Shields)
In asking the House to read this Bill a second time, I have to say that on a recent occasion I was defeated on a similar Motion in a full House only by a majority of seven, when, instead of my Bill being read a second time, an abstract Resolution moved by the hon. Member for Northampton was carried, in favour of relegating the question of Sunday closing to the decision of the inhabitants of particular localities. It might have been supposed that the hon. Member for Northampton upon that would have taken the usual course of bringing in a Bill to give effect to his Resolution, but the hon. Gentleman has not done so. What I would press on the House at this moment is this—that the only practical method of dealing with this matter—if it is to be dealt with this Session at all—is by passing the Second Reading of this Bill, and amending it as may seem desirable in Committee. Those hon. Members who desire to see any step taken towards the settlement of this most urgent and important question ought to support the Second Reading. Of course, hon. Members, like the right hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck), who are not desirous that any attempt should be made to settle the question, will support the rejection of the Bill. I, however, remind the House that a very eager interest is 946 being taken in this movement by large classes throughout the country who are anxious to promote an improvement of the social condition of the people. The more democratic the Constitution has become the more interest has been taken in questions of this kind, because the people know better what is for their own interest and for the interests of their poorer neighbours. All the organizations for social improvement which are, happily, so numerous in the country look to this Bill as the first step in the way of temperance reform. Our Christian Churches, however much they may differ on points of doctrine, are unanimous in support of this reform of Sunday closing, and I ask the House whether it is going to lose another year, or whether it is going to seize the only opportunity that is likely to be presented this Session of dealing with this measure? And I would remind the House that by reading the Bill a second time to-day, it will have precedence, under the new Rules, over all Bills which have not been read a second time before Whitsuntide. The Government, by introducing clauses dealing with the Sunday Liquor Traffic into their County Government Bill of last year, admitted the importance and the urgency of the subject; and I, therefore, call upon them to support the second reading of the present measure. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle (Sir J. Pease) has a Bill on this subject on the Paper, but it is so far down that it has no chance of being considered. He proposes the same principle with considerable modifications and exceptions, and I presume he will vote for the Second Reading of my Bill, with a view, if possible, to inducing the House in Committee to adopt some of the modifications he suggests. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Talbot) has a Resolution on the paper, which would be adverse to my Bill; but he will not have an opportunity of moving it. He proposes a different remedy for the evil I desire to deal with; but I remind the hon. Member and my hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle that the only way to meet the growing wish of the country for some settlement of the question is to give the Bill a Second Reading. Sow, I should be content to secure Sunday closing in any way; but I 947 should prefer to have it as it has been given to other parts of the United Kingdom. I would rather proceed by means of a general measure than county by county, parish by parish, or town by town, as the case may be. Sunday closing began in Scotland 35 years ago. I am not going to argue the success of the system in Scotland, beyond stating that there is not a single voice raised in Scotland against it; and quoting what the late Lord Advocate stated on the subject on the 9th of May, 1888, on the Second Reading of the Public Houses (Ireland) Saturday Closing Bill. Lord Advocate Macdonald said—No Scotchman, in whatever part of the House he sat, could hesitate to concur in the statement that restrictive legislation for Scotland had bad a most beneficial effect on the community. The hon. Member for South Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor) had said that the greater the restrictions were, the less their effect was. He challenged the accuracy of that assertion, for which there was no foundation whatever. No measure passed for the abolition of Sunday trading in any part of the United Kingdom could be tested as to whether it had failed or not until it had run a far longer course than the Irish Sunday Closing Act had run.… Any attempt to remove the restriction would be met with practical reprobation on the part of the whole community of Scotland.… The bogus clubs in Glasgow, however much harm they might do, could only affect an infinitesimal proportion of the population, out of all proportion to restoring the old state of things under which public-houses were open.It was the proved success of the Scotch Act which justified this House in passing the Irish Bill. In 1883 the Government of the day, in which my right hon. Friends the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan) was Chief Secretary for Ireland, proposed to make the Irish Act perpetual, but the Bill for that purpose was then dropped. It has, however, been renewed year by year, and now the proposal is to make the Act perpetual, and to take away the restrictions which were at first imposed. Let me quote what the present Chief Secretary said to a deputation which waited upon him on the 1st of February of this year. The right hon. Gentleman said—I am one of those who certainly at the time was disposed to attach considerable weight to the objections which many conscientious men feel to the original Act—objections, I mean, founded upon the possibility of this Sunday Closing Act leading to illicit drinking, illicit distillation, and all the other arguments we are 948 familiar with, and which, I think, have been alluded to by one or two speakers in the course of the afternoon. But those arguments have been refuted by the most conclusive of all methods of refutation. They have been refuted by experience. It has become clearly manifest that every man who has had the opportunity and the desire impartially to examine the results of this legislation in Ireland during the ten years in which it has been in force has been driven, willingly or unwillingly, to the conclusion that that legislation has conferred vast benefits on the population, and that it should under no circumstances be allowed to lapse.A remarkable fact is that this legislation has always gone forward, and never backward. Defects have been discovered; abuses have been observed; but they have only led to inquiries into the operation of the Acts, which have resulted in a strengthening rather than a weakening of the law. We have heard a great deal of the effect of the Act in Wales. I do not know whether I ought to go so far as to describe the agitation in the Principality as of the nature of a scare, but certainly it has come very opportunely in view of today's discussion. No doubt much reference will be made to-day to the letters of Lord Aberdare, a statesman for whom we have all great respect, but I am anxious to hear what Welsh Members will say. I certainly should be very much surprised if the proposal for a repeal of the Welsh Closing Act came from any Welsh Member. As far as I can judge, from what I read, there seems to have been a deliberate attempt in Wales to break down the Sunday Closing Act, and it appears also that the law has not been properly enforced by those who have the duty of administering it. We had many Petitions in 1888 from Wales in favour of passing an English Sunday Closing Act. For instance, there were Petitions from nine Town Councils, including Cardiff, Beaumaris, Denbigh, and Aberystwith; 11 Boards of Guardians, including Cardiff, Wrexham, Carnarvon, Holyhead, and Carmarthen; 7 Local Boards; 66 School Boards; in all 93 representative bodies, responsible for good order, relief of pauperism, and the education of the people in Wales. I think that is much more important than the writings of one newspaper, which I understand has always been hostile to the Act. I understand the Welsh Members are perfectly willing that the operation of the Act should be fully investi 949 gated. Of the result I have no fear. I am unwilling to occupy the time of the House, but I feel compelled to make a quotation from a letter which I had from Dr. Rawlings, a medical man of Swansea. That gentleman says—As a medical man in practice here for nearly 23 years, a member of the Board of Guardians for 15 years, and now for some time past a member of the Watch Committee, I have had abundant opportunities of judging of the effects of this law. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that it has been a very great boon to hundreds who once spent their Sundays as hangers on at public-houses, who are now sober and thoughtful and most grateful for the Act. They rejoice that for one-seventh of their time they are saved from the temptation the public-houses once offered them.… Many of the more reputable publicans, who at first resented the interference, are now thankful for a quiet Sabbath.… The contrast in the main street is most marked. I can well remember how the public-houses would be crowded on the Sunday evening; and, whatever statistics may say, there must have been much more drunkenness than now when people have to go a good distance to get drink.Now, I have great misgiving as to what may be made of statistics, and, with regard to the particulars as to offences connected with Sunday drinking of which so much has been made, we had it the other day from the Under Secretary to the Home Department (Mr. Stuart Wortley) that the comparison of the three particular years with the three succeeding years could be of no value whatever, because in the latter years the statistics were framed on a wider basis. As a matter of fact, such figures ignored a number of considerations upon which we can judge whether the Acts have been beneficial or not—mere police court results ignore the benefit to the family of a man going home to his Sunday dinner without the ordeal of the open door of the public-house: they ignore the liberation of barmen and barwomen, and often boys, from the intolerable bondage of seven days' slavery a week. The working men of this country have succeeded in obtaining a Nine Hours Act, but the employés in public-houses work precisely double that number of hours. Then we hear a great deal about the bonâ fide traveller, and upon this point let me quote again from the letter of Dr. Rawlings. That gentleman says—Our trouble is chiefly with that legacy of the Licensing Act, the bonâ fide travellers clause, but the nuisance has been grossly exaggerated. 950 If, at the outset, the magistrates had taken up the position they are taking up now, since Lord Aberdare's letter, we should have had little of which to complain. Men who had journeyed three miles were permitted to go from house to house in the Mumbles until they were drunk, and then, perhaps, on their way home picked up as drunk and disorderly. In this way the evil, such as it was, was concentrated at the Mumbles, but the rest of the 80,000 or so of the population was at peace.… The County Magistrates are now interpreting the law, as they should have done at the first, and the borough stipendiary has also announced a view on which he intends to act which has already greatly reduced the evil.… The Act has been respected by an overwhelming majority of the people, and has been an unspeakable blessing.… Any inquiry will result in abundant testimony to its beneficial effect, and to the remedying of weak points in the existing Licensing Acts.Then he tells me that a few weeks ago the Town Council of Swansea passed a Resolution, without discussion, in favour of the English Sunday Closing Bill. Now, Sir, I do not attempt in this Bill to touch the Licensing Acts. These need amending, as Lord Aberdare, in his letter of the 5th of March, shows. Lord Aberdare says—I must not be taken as agreeing with you in attributing the increase of shebeens at Cardiff and its neighbourhood, of which your correspondent has given so appalling an account, wholly or even mainly to the Welsh Sunday Closing Act.… The repeal of this Act, and the restoration of the former hours during which public-houses could be lawfully opened on Sundays, would not, so far as I can judge, have the slightest effect in diminishing the evil, however much it might tend to reduce the number and extent of others.… The lower strata of the population cannot be worse than those in Glasgow and Dundee, where, in spite of some evasion, the Sunday Closing Act is effectively enforced.If there are to be any closing times we must have the difficulty of the bonâ fide traveller. Would you go back altogether to the 24 hours' opening without any restrictions whatever? There can be no doubt that this is a matter which, is deserving of the earnest and early attention of Parliament, and I sincerely trust it will be taken in hand by Her Majesty's Government, because it is one which a private Member would not be able to deal with in the same way, nor with the same hope of success, as if it were undertaken by the Government of the day. I shall not attempt to occupy any further the time of the House, as I feel that this is a case which does not require much argument, and it will not be 951 very long before the constituencies will fully inform their representatives of what are their wishes on this matter. I will only, therefore, in conclusion, put before the House the case of the publicans themselves and their families, who, under the the present system, are deprived of that home privacy which is so much valued by the rest of the community, and to whom one day of rest and quiet in the week will come as an almost priceless boon. I have already spoken of the persons employed in these houses, and with regard to them I ask the House whether any case of public necessity and convenience has been made out that can be held to justify so monstrous an anomaly as this—that while the law forbids Sunday trading in the necessaries of life and other commodities it shall continue to allow an exceptionally hurtful and dangerous trade to spread its temptations before the people on that one day of the week when, owing to the leisure it affords, the public are most liable to be brought under its evil influence. I beg, Sir, to move that this Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. J. C. Stevenson.)
§ *MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK (Whitehaven)
Sir, in moving the Amendment which stands in my name, I have no desire to repeat the arguments which I was called upon to employ when, some three months since, I addressed the House on a similar occasion; but after listening to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Stevenson), I am very much afraid I shall be compelled to break through that limitation; because, in the course of his remarks, the hon. Gentleman has practically reproduced almost everything he said when this question was last before the House. I must, however, state at the outset of my remarks that there is a noticeable exception in the speech to which we have just listened. The hon. Gentleman has made no reference whatever to London or the large population contained within the Metropolitan area. In December last he intimated that he was prepared to exclude the population of London from the operation of the Bill, and that he was ready to accept 952 exceptions in favour of the large towns, so that this great measure of Imperial legislation would, after all, be confined to small districts in the country. How the hon. Gentleman can reconcile his speech on the present occasion with that which he delivered only three months ago, I am at a loss to understand—it surpasses my humble comprehension. I regret exceedingly that the hon. Member is not now in his place, though no doubt he is engaged in a much more agreeable occupation than attending the debates on this Bill. But the hon. Gentleman made use of words to the effect that his case did not require much argument. I agree with the hon. Gentleman entirely, because from the beginning to the end of the speech we have just listened to, as well as the speech he delivered in December last, he never for one single moment approached the real issue of this question. That is the great fault which I have to find with the hon. Member and his friends. They shrink from this test. What are the grounds on which this legislation is asked for in the numerous Memorials and Petitions which from time to time find their way into this House? I have been a Member of the Petition Committee of this House, and have had opportunities which very few other hon. Members have had of seeing what the value of these Petitions is. They are all, for instance, in one common form. Most of them were written out by a particular individual and sent out around and about the country to receive what signatures they can get. I do not wish to use any word in reference to them which may be called un-Parliamentary, but if the House will allow me to use such a word as "humbug," I would say there never was such humbug in the world. Every one of these Petitions begins by saying "Whereas the Sunday drinking in public-houses is a special source of intemperance, immorality, and crime." That is the proposition which the hon. Gentleman is bound to prove, but towards proving it he has not said a single word. Neither in his speech to-day nor in the speech he delivered in December last has he attempted to make out this important part of his case by showing how, or in what way, the limited opening of public-houses—six hours in the country and seven hours in London—is a special source of 953 intemperance, immorality, and crime. Nor do we find any attempt to prove it in the few meetings which have been held in favour of Sunday closing, and here I would observe how very few and far between those meetings are. The resolutions which have been passed are all couched in very magnificent language, and roundly denounce Sunday trading and all interested in it, but yet there is no attempt whatever made to prove the case by anything like reliable evidence. My opposition to the Bill is based upon my own evidence and my own common sense. I have been living in London a great many years, and I have not seen any of those orgies—those disgraceful, revolting sights about which teetotallers speak so much, as being witnessed after 12.30 on Sunday afternoons. In the North of England, in the district with which I am politically connected, there certainly are none of those sights, and I can speak with equal positiveness of a district in the South of England where it is my fate to reside for a considerable portion of the year. All these allegations are nothing but the inventions of fanatics in order to frighten excellent and well-meaning people who do not care to take the trouble to inquire and ascertain the facts for themselves. It was a matter of common observation, which led myself and others to make still further inquiries, and the statistics which were laid on the Table on my Motion last year fell like a bombshell in the camp of the hon. Member and his friends. These statistics very conclusively showed that there was no extensive system of Sunday drinking. It is a little curious to note with what importance the Sunday closing supporters look upon statistics when they are in their own favour—that is, when the results of the Saturday night drinking is included in Sunday drinking. The moment, however, Saturday night drinking is excluded, the statistics tell a very different tale, and now, according to hon. Gentlemen, are utterly unreliable. Well may they think so, because they cut away a large proportion of the ground from the feet of the supporters of the Bill. I am not at all surprised to see hon. Gentlemen attempting to discredit these statistics, but I think the Home Office are quite able to explain their own figures. I 954 have, thanks to the Chief Constable of Allerdale, in Cumberland, in which my constituency is situate, obtained a continuation of the statistics for 1888. Allerdale contains a population of something like 60,000 people, including a very large number of miners. In 1888, in the whole of that large population, only 69 persons were arrested on Sunday for drunkenness, whereas on the other days of the week 774 persons were arrested. It is thus conclusively shown that there are a much fewer number of persons intoxicated on Sundays than on weekdays. I ask, then, is it reasonable that all the public-houses should be closed in that district simply because 1 in 69 of the people is arrested for drunkenness? Then, Sir, in the case of Wales, the hon. Member remarked that the instance of Wales had occurred very opportunely. I quite agree with him; I think it has occurred most opportunely. But, in regard to the statistics, the hon. Member seemed to suggest that there were some mala fides on the part of the Commissioner. He ought to recollect, however, that these statistics were only laid on the Table of the House by the Home Office in the latter part of last year, and that there was hardly any time for the Western Mail to make the necessary inquiries. But Wales was the great power upon which the hon. Member and his friends relied so lately as last December. The hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) then said—The Welsh Sunday Closing Act was working admirably, and was there any earthly reason why Wales should not enjoy the blessing of being sober, and why should they not extend the same blessing to England?The hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Atkinson) said—He was informed by ministers of religion, magistrates, and others in Wales, that the Sunday Closing Act passed for that country had been a great success.And the hon. Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. Bowen Rowlands) said—The Act had not had fair play in Glamorganshire, but in the rest of the Principality it bad been a decided success.But this idol which the hon. Members set up as to the success of the Sunday Closing Acts tumbled down and broke to pieces so soon as inquiry was made. In a circular delivered to me this morning, there is a false statement that— 955A disgraceful attempt is being made to discredit the Welsh Sunday Closing Act by a manipulation of Parliamentary Returns.I do not suppose the hon. Member for South Shields, with all his enthusiasm, will back up, but will repudiate, such a statement as that, because it is a severe charge, and one which reflects upon an excellent friend of mine, Lord Aberdare. I hold in my hand a Report entitled "Lord Aberdare's Challenge to the Western Mail," which shows clearly that illicit trading has greatly increased in Wales, while in England there has been a diminution; for in England there has been a diminution of 38 per cent. of the persons proceeded against for illicit dealing, while in Wales there has been an increase of 41 per cent, and taking Glamorgan alone the increase represents more than 100 per cent. That is one of the magnificent effects of the Sunday Closing Acts. Then the hon. Member said something about the attendance at the Sunday service, and how persons were prevented from attending public worship. If you look at page 35 of this pamphlet you will find that a police sergeant reported to the Commissioner—I have not been twenty times to public worship altogether since the Act came into force, for no one knows what will happen on a Sunday.That is a material answer to the question about attending Divine Service. Then at page 158 I find that Captain Colquhoun, the Chief Constable of Swansea, strongly recommended the partial opening of public-houses on Sundays. The hon. Member (Mr. Stevenson) quoted a letter from a doctor practising at Cardigan; but in this matter we have to look at the evidence of unimpeachable witnesses of position. And that is what I have done. Who are more likely to give straightforward evidence on such a question than the police officials, and it is to them we must go for information in this case. Captain Colquhoun states—That the convictions for week day drunkenness in 1888 were fewer by nearly 200 than those of 1882, while those for Sunday offences in 1872 had only once before been exceeded.Captain Colquhoun is a far better witness in this case than the doctor, whose evidence may be tinged with superstition and fanaticism. Then we come to Carmarthenshire. There the Chief Con 956 stable "unequivocally condemned the Act, which had doubled the amount of drunkenness. Before its introduction, three or four cases only of Sunday drunkenness occurred during the year. Now, however, he said, the figures were running up at an appalling rate." Then in Glamorgan, Superintendent Thomas, the officer in chage of the district, "declared that the immediate effect of the Act had been the production of a considerable increase of Sunday drunkenness." Round and about Cardiff, Superintendent Wake, the chief police officer of the division, described the Act "as the very worst piece of legislation which the police had ever been compelled to enforce." In the Merthyr and Aberdare Valleys, where there are no clubs, "shebeens are numerous, and the 'small cask' industry flourishes. This is the home of the 'belly-can,' an ingeniously constructed vessel manufactured for the sole purpose of assisting in the evasion of the law." Then Superintendent Thomas, Deputy Chief Constable of Glamorganshire, and chief of the police in the Merthyr and Aberdare district, said, in his opinion, the Act was a failure. There was much more Sunday drinking now than before the Act became operative. Then the Report says—Colonel Lindsay, by virtue of the position he occupies as the Chief Constable of Glamorgan, the premier county of the Principality, undoubtedly takes rank as the leading police officer in Wales. 'The Act was passed,' he says, 'to reduce the extent to which Sunday drunkenness prevailed—instead of which, it has produced quite the contrary effect.'I cannot, for the life of me, understand how this evidence can be resisted. The only witness whom the hon. Member has produced is this doctor at Swansea, of small weight against the important and necessarily impartial testimony of these police officials. The hon. Member talks about bonâ fide travellers and about the bogus clubs; but these will always exist; they are a consequence of the Acts; for you cannot, by legislation, stop drinking, even if you suppress clubs or increase the distance of the bonâ fide traveller from three to four or five miles. The hon. Member never referred to this district of Wales; but I have here a picture of what is called a "belly-can," and I only wish it could be photographed and placed in the Library, and thus show hon. Members to what shifts 957 Welshmen are reduced by the legislation of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am very sorry the Member for the Rhondda Valley is not here. He probably knows all about "belly-cans," though I do not mean to insinuate that he ever carried one. Now, those who live in Cardiff know that the "belly-can" is saddle-shaped, and is carried by men and women, generally the latter, full of beer under their clothes when running the police gauntlet. The average-sized can holds about four quarts. There are also "side-cans" which can be tied over the ribs. The main idea is the same in both designs. A Merthyr tinman has experienced a pronounced revival in trade since he took to making this paraphernalia—sometimes called "John Roberts"—of the Sunday drinker. But that is not all. The Commissioner says—Now we pass on to another and more aristocratic method of providing Sunday drink. The small cask industry is in an exceedingly prosperous condition in the Merthyr district. Evidence of the fact is visible in many forms. First, many of the grocers advertise the casks as a speciality. Within a stone's throw of the Police Station, one of the grocers displays on a Saturday in front of his shop, 50, 60, and sometimes even a 100 empty casks. Frequently heavily-laden wagons are encountered on the highways engaged in the work of distribution.These are the expedients which have been resorted to to evade the Sunday Closing Act in Wales, and this is the state of depravity to which the hon. Member and his Friends have brought the larger portion of the population of Wales, and to which he and they are desirous to reduce England also. Lord Aberdare's letter has appeared in the newspapers, and I shall not trouble the House with it. My Friend, Lord Aberdare, supported the Welsh Sunday Closing Act because he thought he was doing the right thing, but now he is sorry to come to the conclusion that the whole thing is a failure, and if a proposal were made for a repeal of that legislation in the House of Lords, he states that he would vote for it. I do not know that there is a more upright and single-minded man. He is always open to conviction. I had a conversation with him yesterday, and he said that he most absolutely thought a great mistake had been made in Wales. Really it seems to me that, so 958 far as that part of the case is concerned, the evidence is conclusive. Lord Aberdare, who has gone fully into the matter, regards as proved the proposition which I bring before the House, that, so far as Wales is concerned, the Sunday Closing Act is a positive failure. Then the hon. Member for South Shields says that the limited number of hours during which public-houses are open is a special source of the evils which are complained of. That proposition I have disproved. But another proposition which, in my humble judgment, is untenable, is that with regard to Sunday rest. Those who are engaged in public-houses would rather be excused, I believe, from coming under the hon. Member's proposal, by which they would lose a day's pay. But that is mere speculation. I would, however, venture to submit to the House that the hon. Member is not consistent with himself. Why does he not practise what he preaches? Why does he not stop the Sunday employment of waiters at the Clubs? Because it is not personally convenient. That is the reason. Why does he not legislate to stop railways, and omnibuses, and cabs on Sundays? Then there is reference made to the general desire of the community for this legislation. I deny altogether that any such desire exists. I say that no evidence has been adduced by the hon. Member of any such desire. On the contrary, I can show conclusive evidence that there is no general desire in London to close the public-houses on Sundays. Sir, the hon. Member (Mr. Stevenson), when he made a speech in December last, said he would be willing to drop out of the Bill the 4,000,000 inhabitants of London. Is the hon. Member going to prevent persons going down on Sunday to Greenwich, or to Hampton Court, or Richmond, as bonâ fide travellers, from obtaining refreshments when they go there? Is that legislation to propose in the 19th century and in a civilized country? The hon. Member was very cautious about leaving out the Metropolis last December. And how about the large towns which he was willing to exclude? Yes, he was too liberal. He was not strong enough to try coercion on the subject. But he appears to have been called over the coals for the speech he made, so to-day he has left out all 959 allusion to London and the great towns. Then reference has been made to Petitions. Most of them proceed from one body after they have found their origin in small Nonconformist or Dissenting communities. [Cheers] I am very glad to hear those cheers, because they prove my proposition—namely, that the larger general intelligence of the country will have nothing to do with this matter. I represent a very intelligent constituency. In that district there has only been, in the course of several years, one Petition, signed by about 46 people, and some of these signatures were doubtful. But the hon. Member was wise enough to stop that time. He did not say anything about the canvass. After canvassing six months they can only find 800,000 of the population of England who favour this legislation.There was a meeting held in Manchester last month. I have the report. It was a meeting of the Central Association for stopping the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sundays. There was nobody there, and scarcely anybody was heard of except the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Lawson). The annual report submitted that 'Sunday closing continued to work satisfactorily in Wales.'… The total receipts for the year were £2,149, as against £2,298 in 1887.There is even a deficit, and that is the result of the efforts of the Central Association. At that meeting the Rev. Canon Stowell said—They would not receive a mutilated measure. They would neither exempt London, nor would they remit a question of Imperial importance to the decision of the County Councils. Their cry was, 'The Bill, and nothing but the Bill.'I should like to know very much where the general desire is. I am quite at a loss to know how any such conclusion can be come to. Now, what is the real position? I do not think myself that the question of temperance or intemperance has anything to do with it at all. An hon. Friend of mine in this House, distinguished by his sound sense, hit the mark when he said the other day, in charging a Grand Jury—It has been a stormy question for years, but unfortunately it has always been made a political question.And that is the very great cause, almost the main reason, of this proposal. I entirely endorse that opinion. It has always been my opinion, and I am not expressing it in this House for the first 960 time. I am sorry, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby is not in his place. I do not know whether it is out of order to refer to an hon. Member as a weathercock; if it is, Sir, I withdraw the expression; but I do not know if there ever was such a political weathercock, except, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton.
§ *SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I do not know to what the right hon. Gentleman refers when he uses such language towards me. I may say I have voted for the Permissive Bill almost every Session since I have been in the House.
§ *MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
I am quite willing to withdraw the expression. But still I think the word "weathercockism" is particularly applicable to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. I cannot understand why support should be given to this, an Imperial Bill, by those who, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, supported the Durham Sunday Closing Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has voted against Local Option so recently as last December; and I cannot see how his action in this matter can be defended. I can only attribute it to the desire to secure the political support of a certain number of hon. Members. I cannot understand right hon. Gentlemen supporting those Bills and now supporting Imperial legislation, with regard to which localities can have no voice. Then there is the hon. Member for Morpeth, who was a supporter of those Bills. I should like to ask him and other Members who are connected with trades unions, why they do not get up a strike against public-houses and all publicans who do not close on Sunday? If they did that, it would finish the matter, and there would be no necessity whatever for legislation. They, however, do nothing of the kind. Then there is the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth. I never knew a man who was more inconsistent. Only the other day the hon. Baronet went to support Mr. Beaufoy, who, it seems, is a producer of British wine. The hon. Baronet observed that he wished Mr. Beaufoy did not sell British wine, and he wished nobody would drink it. Well, so do I, and I also agree with the hon. Baronet 961 that they would be a great deal better if they did not drink it. The hon. Baronet said he went there to support Mr. Beaufoy because that gentleman was in favour of Local Option. [Sir WILFRID LAWSON: Hear, hear!] Exactly, but the point is that the hon. Baronet was not in favour of Imperial legislation. I do not know that Local Option in this matter is so very much deprecated on this side of the House. I believe there is a large majority in the House in favour of it, and I know that a great number of my political friends have voted for it. But what we are now dealing with is Imperial legislation, and the question which the hon. Baronet ought to have put to the candidate he went to support was, "Are you in favour of Imperial legislation? Are you in favour of legislation that will put a stop to your own trade?" The hon. Baronet is altogether opposed to the publicans, but while he is opposed to the publicans he is not in the least degree opposed to the men who supply the publicans. The men with whom he appears on the platform are the producers. I should like to hear what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle has to say on this matter. He is a supporter of Sunday closing, although he does not practically carry it out himself. With regard to Wales, I believe that an influence is exerted there by Calvinist and Methodist ministers which is not to be found in any other country. There is no Welsh candidate who dare call his political soul his own, for it is entirely in the hands of these Nonconforming ministers. I should like also to hear the hon. Member for Denbighshire (Mr. O. Morgan) speak on this subject. I am very much afraid we shall all come round to the view so well stated by Mr. Justice Grantham, that political necessity is at the bottom of all this agitation. I should like to see the controversy carried on divested of all political elements; and I should be very glad indeed if Her Majesty's Government could see their way to granting some independent tribunal to investigate this question. I saw a paragraph in the newspapers this morning to the effect that the Government had made up their minds to grant a Commission to inquire into the Welsh Sunday Closing Act. I do not know whether that is true, but if it is, 962 I should hail it with the greatest possible satisfaction. I have always been the strongest possible advocate for temperance. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) has no right to make a denial of that sort. I have a right to say, for myself, that I am quite as temperate a man as he is. My view has always been to decrease drunkenness in this country by persuasion and force of example, and not by coercive measures, which only drive people to do things contrary to law. This has always been my view, and I have endeavoured as far as I can to enforce it. It is with that object that I now move the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ 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. Cavendish Bentinck.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ *MR. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
I should not have intervened in this discussion but for the fact that a great part of the debate has turned on the operation of Sunday closing in Wales. But, before I go further, I wish to enter my very emphatic protest against the allegation of the right hon. Gentleman that the Welsh people are in any way under the thumb of, or subservient to, their religious ministers. The reason why the ministers of religion are held in such high esteem in the Principality is simply because they are in accord with their congregations to an extent hardly to be found in other parts of the country, and I venture to tell the right hon. Gentleman that the Members for Wales are also in accord with their constituents on this subject. Now, Sir, if it be true that the Government are about to institute a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Welsh Sunday Closing Act, it behoves us to speak with a certain amount of reserve upon this subject. But I do ask hon. Members not to accept too readily all they hear on this subject. There is not only a great deal of feeling imported into it, but there are also very large pecuniary interests concerned. In such cases men are apt to believe not only 963 what they wish to believe, but what it is their interest to believe. Statistics have been quoted, but they are unreliable, and other statistics have been published which point to different conclusions. For instance, those published by the Carnarvon and Denbigh Mail give an exactly opposite result to those given in the Western Mail, as a result of inquiries made in all parts of Wales. It is said that proceedings under the Licensing Acts have increased since the Welsh Act was passed; but that increase has been inevitable, being due to the fact of the Act having been passed. Then the opinion of Lord Aberdare is quoted; but remember Lord Aberdare said there was ground for a full inquiry into the subject. Mr. Justice Grantham has also been quoted against this question being made a political question. I desire to speak with respect of the Bench of Judges, but I feel bound to say that Mr. Justice Grantham owes his elevation to the Judicial Bench as much to his political opinions as to his professional reputation. He was a strong opponent of the Welsh Sunday Closing Bill when in this House, and he appears to have carried his political prejudices with him on to the Bench. How is it, if the Act is such a failure, that the working men of Wales have expressed an almost unanimous opinion in favour of it? No doubt it has failed in some respects, but that is not because it has gone too far, but because it has not gone far enough. The question of bogus clubs is one which the magistrates might easily settle, and, if the matter were left to the County Councils of Wales, as it ought to have been, can any one doubt how it would have been settled? In the Border Counties the men get drunk in England on Sundays, but are arrested in Wales, and so Wales gets the credit of them. The remedy for that is not to repeal the Welsh Sunday Closing Act, but to pass one for England. Max O'Rell, in one of his books, says that the only places of public resort open in London on a Sunday are the churches and the gin palaces, and he adds that, on the whole, the devil has the best of it. In my opinion the gin palaces, so far from being the last, should be the first places of public resort to be closed on Sunday. Can you consistently close places for innocent recreation, such as libraries, museums, and public 964 galleries, and allow gin palaces and dram shops to remain open?
§ *MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
I have not spoken in the House on this important subject before to-day, and am unwilling to give a silent vote, because I must oppose the Bill, though I know that it is supported by many Gentlemen with whom I generally act, and who might naturally expect me to vote for it. Looking at the Bill, I observe that its enactments go far beyond its title. It is called a Bill to prevent the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sunday. It enacts that any public house in which they are sold during the week should be altogether closed on Sunday, which is quite a different thing. The Bill appears to be based on two principles. First, the duty of enforcing the observance of the Lord's Day; and, secondly, the duty of enforcing temperance. I claim to desire both objects as much as any Member of the House, but I doubt whether it would be wise or practicable for Parliament to use its powers to effect these objects by legislation. If the Bill be based upon the duty of observing the Lord's Day, I ask why it is a greater breach of that duty to sell wine or beer on a Sunday than to sell tarts or cigars? If it be right for the sake of the Lord's Day to stop the sale of one class of goods on that day, we ought to stop the sale of them all. It may be said that it is already unlawful to sell anything on Sunday, and the crime of doing so is punishable by a fine of 5s. under the Lord's Day Observance Act passed in the reign of Charles II. True; but this Bill does not propose to impose a similar fine on the sale of beer, &c., but to punish the publican who sells these things on a Sunday, or indeed, who keeps his place open on that day even though he does not then sell them, by closing his house altogether, and in fact ruining him. If, then, the Bill be based upon this ground we must treat all commodities alike and close all shops and taverns on Sunday whether alcoholic drinks be sold in them or not, and ruin the shopkeepers who venture to open them. If the Bill is based upon the duty of enforcing temperance, then that is no reason for stopping at Sunday, and public-houses ought to be closed on every day of the week, for, from the temperance point of view, it is not more important to prevent drunken 965 ness on Sunday than on any other day. Therefore, as I cannot support the closing by law of all taverns and all shops on Sunday or the total prohibition of selling alcoholic drinks on every day, I cannot vote for this Bill, which closes entirely on Sundays certain houses, because these drinks are sold there on other days. But the Bill allows alcoholic drinks to be sold on Sunday to lodgers and to bonâ fide travellers. It thereby abandons principle, and admits the considerations of convenience; and I inquire whether there are not many others whose convenience requires our consideration besides lodgers and travellers. There are thousands of people in every large town who would suffer very great inconvenience if all taverns were entirely closed. Rents being high, a married man cannot afford a house, but lives in two or three rooms. He has no convenience for keeping beer, and he has no place into which to ask a mate to come and talk with him on the leisure day. If we entirely close the only place of public accommodation, we drive these men to the corners of the streets or to the village green in all weathers. I ask what right have we Members of Parliament, who have our dining-rooms, our drawing-rooms, our cellars, and our clubs, and have plenty of room in which to see a friend and give him a glass of wine or beer, to say to our poorer neighbour who has not these conveniences, "You shall not use the only place available for your purpose." We shall be laying a heavy burden upon their backs, while we do not ourselves touch it with the tips of our fingers. This Bill therefore seems to me to be class legislation of a very objectionable kind. Experience shows that the natural desire of men to chat together and to take a glass of beer or wine while doing so is not quenched by a law preventing them from gratifying it in a particular way; and if you do shut the publics, men will find for themselves other means of getting what they want. Instead of taverns open for a limited number of hours on Sunday, under police supervision, we shall have clubs open all day, and perhaps all night, without any supervision at all. You may call them bogus clubs, and blame the magistrates for not putting them down; but there is no reason why clubs with a small subscrip 966 tion should not be as genuine as the Carlton or Reform. You cannot close clubs; you cannot prevent two men from combining to buy a bottle of wine or spirits and drinking it together—and, if two, why not three, or thirty, or 300? In 1885 I had a large Bible-class comprising over twenty men—sergeants of the police, mounted police, the second man at the railway station, small shopkeepers, head gardeners, and skilled artizans—of whom several were tee-totalers. They discussed the question of Sunday Closing in my presence, and unanimously came to the conclusion that it would do great harm to the cause of temperance to put an intolerable burden such as I have described upon thousands of working men. If he have no club, a man will take home a small cask of beer or spirits on Saturday afternoon, and he and his wife and children will drink it up on the Sunday, and you will have a whole family tipsy instead of the one man who went to the public by himself. This may not appear in the statistics, because a man who gets drunk at a public has to go home through the streets and chance the risk of being taken up as drunk and disorderly. The whole family may get tipsy at home without being found out. A relative of mine, a wealthy lady living at Cardiff, who has for twenty years devoted nearly all her time to visiting among the working classes in that town, assures me that this is the case, and that the effect of the Welsh Sunday Closing Act on the habits of the people, especially the wives and children, has been appalling. She has no interest in any brewery or tavern, and her evidence is unimpeachable, and I consider it of far more value than any statistics, which can be easily manipulated. It is stated that the working classes desire the change in the law. I do not believe that this desire is genuine. Of course, weak fellows who live in vice will throw all the fault on the tempter, and try and persuade themselves that if there had been no temptation they would not have sinned, and they say they would like Parliament to remove all temptation. The thing is impossible! and what a weak, nerveless race of men we shall produce. All the virtue of self-control evaporates when it becomes compulsory. There are two ways in which the working 967 men may now close publics on Sunday, if their desire to do so is genuine. If they will not go into public-houses, they will close of themselves, and if they are too weak for that, let them try boycotting all publics which have a seven day licence. If even our leading unions would strike against all publics which open on Sunday, seven day licences would soon be things of the past. It seems to me that the wants of different parts of the country vary greatly, and if this matter is to be dealt with at all it had better be remitted to the County Councils, and power be given to them to deal with the question, district by district, or village by village, after taking evidence as to the wants of each locality. I doubt whether total compulsory closing will ever be advisable or possible. Men will have some excitement to relieve the dulness of their lives, and as long as they know of no way of enjoying themselves other than by drinking, drink they will. A hundred years ago people of the higher classes had few tastes and amusements, and they used to drink. When I was at Cambridge, to get tipsy at a Bump supper was a common thing. My sons tell me that now such a thing is almost unknown. We are educating the masses; we are trying to give them better houses; we are gradually improving their condition and tastes, and, in my opinion, steady progress in these directions will do far more for temperance than legislation of this character. In a pamphlet which reached me this morning, written by the hon. Member for Northampton, I observed an able argument to prove, from a citizen's point of view, that it is unwise for the State to do for working men what they can do for themselves; and a very different man from the hon. Member, the Bishop of Peterborough, showed us last Sunday, in the Chapel Royal, that it injures Christianity for the State not to recognize the distinction between sins and crimes. To profane the Sabbath is a sin; for the State to enforce its observance by restraining men from doing what they like, is considered a violation of religious liberty by those who are not Christians, or do not believe in the Lord's Day. At the present time there is a fair compromise between these opposing opinions, which works very well. Upset that compromise by strin 968 gent restrictions upon liberty, and there will be a revulsion, and you will have absolute licence. Therefore, in the interests of Lord's Day observance, as well as in the interests of temperance, I feel bound to vote against this Bill.
*EARL COMPTON (York, W.R., Barnsley)
I should not have taken part in this debate if it had not been for some observations made by hon. Members opposite. They say that the working classes are not in favour of Sunday closing. Now, I have just been returned as a Member of this House. During the contest, I in the strongest possible manner said I should support Sunday Closing, and my views on this point were placarded on the walls by my opponents. Notwithstanding that, I was returned by a large majority, and therefore it is certain that, in some parts of England, at any rate, the working classes are heartily in favour of the Sunday closing movement. It appears to me that the hon. Member opposite is not in favour of Sunday Closing of any kind. With regard to the argument that Sunday Closing would increase the evil of drinking at home, I maintain that the great evil that has to be met is that of treating in public-houses. It is this treating each other that leads to so much drunkenness. I desire to see any legislation with regard to Sunday Closing applied to the clubs of the rich as well as to the public-houses of the poor. I belong to the National Liberal Club, as well as to a working-man's club in the East End, and I should like to see Sunday Closing legislation applied equally to both, and I should like clubs throughout the country treated in exactly the same manner as licensed premises, and then licences limited to six days a week. I also wish to know why London should be treated differently from the country districts in reference to this question? The hon. Member opposite has said that no steps should be taken to minimize the temptations to drunkenness, and he drew a distinction between sin and crime. There can be no difference of opinion on the fact that, unfortunately, England is suffering from a national vice which affects all conditions of life, and particularly that backbone of the country—the working classes. I have laid it down as a principle that I will vote for anything 969 that will tend to limit the hours of labour on Sunday. The hon. Member has referred to the case of omnibus drivers and conductors, but I should be disposed to limit the hours of labour on Sundays for all classes, and if I bring in a Bill to do this in regard to omnibus drivers I hope I shall have the support of the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
It is not only the omnibus men and the conductors who suffer, but it is also the hundreds of men employed in the stables and having charge of the horses which are worked in the omnibuses on Sunday. For the reasons I have given I shall give my hearty support to the Bill, and I gladly take this opportunity of expressing on behalf of a large majority of my constituents their hearty support of Sunday closing.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I listened with great attention to the hon. Member for South Shields, and I greatly admire the earnestness with which he advocated his cause. But, Sir, we are now in a very good position to judge of this question, for the House of Commons has the advantage of knowing what has been the effect of the operation of Sunday Closing Acts in Wales and in Ireland. We know to what straits people have been driven, and with what inventiveness they apply themselves in order to go behind the Act. We have heard a good deal about a certain apparatus called a belly can. I remember having read about a certain knight-errant who made war on wine sacks; perhaps we shall now have a modern Cervantes making war on these belly cans. We have seen that the Acts in operation are a failure, and we have had the argument adduced that more whip should be applied. But, Sir, I wonder how the hon. Member would like it if that growing sect, the vegetarians, should attack the eating of moat on Sundays. I think his indignant British soul would rise in revolt against such tyranny as would forbid the eating of meat on Sundays, or, indeed, on any other day. Now, Sir, I deny most emphatically that the Sunday Closing Act has been a success in Ireland, although I am proud to say that drunkenness has diminished in that country owing to the effect, not of the Sunday 970 Closing Act, but of the advice of the priests and the general tendency of civilization towards sobriety. If there is any decrease in the amount of drinking in Ireland, it is on the days when the public-houses are open, and the increase in drunkenness occurs on the one day of the week when the public-houses are shut. In 1874, four years before the passing of the Irish Act, there were in the districts where the Act was in force 68,478 cases of drunkenness before the magistrates; whereas in 1882, four years after the passing of the Act, there were in the same district 72,650 cases of drunkenness, making 4,172 cases more in those portions of Ireland to which the Act applied. On the other hand, in those parts of the country to which the Act did not apply there were, in 1874, 32,932 cases of drunkenness, and in 1882, only 19,019 cases, showing a decrease of 13,913 cases in those parts of Ireland where the Act did not apply. These figures show the weakness of the contention that the Act has done a great deal towards increasing sobriety in Ireland. The hon. Member has referred to the Report of the Select Committee which sat last year to consider the effect of the Sunday Closing Act in Ireland. Ah, Sir, let me tell the House about that. I opposed the composition of the Committee the very first day it came before the House, because I saw the Government were putting upon it a preponderating number of Members who had pledged themselves to carry legislation in the direction of Sunday closing. That Committee sat upstairs, and selected as their own Chairman a learned Member of Her Majesty's Government; and they took certain evidence. The Chairman, the Solicitor General for Ireland, a Gentleman learned in the law, a Gentleman who had declared himself in favour of Sunday closing, a Gentleman who is capable of, and is accustomed to sifting, and weighing evidence, in his draft Report advised the Committee not to recommend the House to extend the operation of the Sunday Closing Act in Ireland. But what did this remarkable Committee do; this very Select Committee, composed of such Gentlemen as the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell)? They proposed a Resolution which ruthlessly swept aside the Report of their own Chairman, and recommended the 971 House to extend the Sunday Closing Act, although that was against the evidence adduced before the Committee. The day after the Committee was formed I had a conversation with an hon. Friend of mine who had been appointed a Member of the Committee; and will the House believe it—the hon. Gentleman, before there was one word adduced before the Committee—before, indeed, the Committee had met—sat down in a facetious moment and wrote for me what was to be the Report of the Committee? What he wrote did become the Report. Referring to Wales, the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. J. Stevenson) said that at present there seemed to be something like a scare in the country. Now, what is a scare? A scare is a sudden fright. Is there a sudden fright in Wales? No. The state of things which exists there and which has converted Lord Aberdare, is the same thing that has existed ever since the Act was put into operation. Many years ago those who are the friends of the temperance cause, and those who desire the welfare of the people, have been obliged to use almost the same language as that which was used by Judge Grantham the other day. At a meeting of the St. David's Total Abstinence Society which was held at Cardiff many years ago—the meeting was attended by the late Mr. A. M. Sullivan, and Dr. Hedley, the Roman Catholic Bishop, was in the chair—Father Richardson, alluding to the drinking going on on Sunday, said—A more terrible sight could not meet the eyes of a clergyman than the scenes which were to be found in such places. The room was full to suffocation; there was a cask in the corner of the room, another stowed under the stairs, and probably another elsewhere. The neighbours handed their jugs over the backyard walls, and they were supplied more freely than they could be in a public-house. They saw young girls sitting on the knees of young men, with their arms round their necks, and both the girls and the young men the worse for drink. Not only that, but little children were taken into the room and dosed with beer until they became drunk. The next thing was the clubs. They were rendezvous, not of friendship, and not places of honest recreation, but dens of terrible drinking, and sometimes gambling. The men went in on Saturday night, and remained until two or three on Sunday morning. Then they went home, and rested over their bout of drinking, when they again returned to the club, and remained until three or four on Monday morning. He was surprised that the wives of the men did not go and pull 972 down the club-room and demand their husbands. This was the result of Sunday closing. The clubs had sprung up in consequence of there being no place where the people could go and enjoy themselves.…. He signed a Petition in favour of Sunday Closing in Wales, but his experience had changed his opinion, and he now felt that no Act of Parliament could make people sober. If they shut up one place another would open, and a man who wanted to get drink would get it some way.We hold that a curtailment of the rights of the people, and restrictions on free trade in drink lead to worse evils than those you attempt to remedy—to shebeening, to home drinking, and to club drinking. That is the evidence in Wales. What is the evidence in Scotland? The Rev. Dr. Munroe, of Glasgow, has said—A great source of crime and misery was the introduction of shebeens into the town. At the time the Improvement Trust commenced its operations there were shebeens in the town, but they were few; while at the present day there were districts in the town—some actually in the property of the Town Council itself—where every house was a shebeen. Without enlarging upon the subject, he might allude to a double block of houses. In those two blocks there were living in a kind of decent way before the demolitions began about 200 souls. There was a mixture of good and bad in it then, but the good predominated. Now, however, if you excepted a few who lived on the ground flat, where there was a little shop or two, and took the upstairs people, all were bad. The residents were not living there now in families, but in schools. Every one of the houses in the two blocks upstairs was a shebeen; almost every one of them was a brothel. In that place there were at least 200 criminals, and it was unsafe oven to pass it.But I have even better evidence than that from Scotland, Speaking of the ten o'clock movement in Scotland the Chief Constable of Stirling says—I wish I were in a position to report favourably of its operation. With very few exceptions hotel-keepers and publicans have complied with the law, few attempts having been made to sell after 10 p.m., and in some respects the effect has no doubt been beneficial, inasmuch as the streets are now more nearly clear between 10 and 11 o'clock. This gives to those who are not out-of-doors after 11 o'clock the impression that much good hag been done. I am sorry to have to report that that is only where the mischief begins. Bottles of liquor are purchased and taken to private houses, and drunken orgies are indulged in frequently to 2, and sometimes 3, o'clock in the morning. Young people of both sexes are thus brought in contact with vice which they might otherwise have escaped. Nor is this all. Shebeening, which was comparatively unknown in this county, is being discovered in several parts of 973 the county, with the result that if there are any fewer assaults, breaches of the peace, and cases of disorderly conduct committed than there were before, there are now more committed in the early hours of Sunday morning. This is not a mere matter of opinion—unfortunately, we have experience of it in nearly every town in the county.There is another matter to which I wish to refer. Our feelings, are harrowed by appeals on behalf of those who serve in public-houses. We had evidence before us last year from the very class of people on whose behalf the hon. Member for South Shields appeals to-day, and that evidence convinced me, at least, that these people had no grievance whatever. There is no man who would not be more inclined to reduce the hours of labour than myself, but these people told us that they have more time at their disposal than any other class they were aware of. They said that not only had they hours in the days to themselves, but they had a whole day holiday, and if they were obliged to serve a few hours on Sunday they were more than compensated by the leniency with which they were treated by their employers in other respects. What right have we to impose our will on these servants? If they choose to go to this work, they have a perfect right to do so. Neither have we a right to impose our will on the people with regard to drink. Lord Bramwell says—If even it is within society's right to close the public-houses, is it fair, is it just, is it expedient, because some take it to excess, that it is to be denied to millions to whom it is a daily pleasure and enjoyment, with no attendant harm? The glass of beer is taken from fifty men because one of them will take more than is good for him.I have considerable experience, not only by reason of the fact that I served on the Committee upstairs, but because I have dwelt amongst the people all my life. I prefer that you should have no necessity for a club; I prefer that a man should not be compelled to drink at home, and perhaps, therefore, to set a bad example to his family. I prefer to leave the matter to the respectable publican, whose character and interest are alike a protection to the public. I 974 oppose this Bill because it is based on false notions of freedom, and will open new ways of evil which will most assuredly lead to the destruction of morality instead of those ways which you wish to close up.
§ SIR H. SELWIN-IBBETSON (Essex, Epping)
I have not now for many years taken part in these discussions, but I will yield to no man in my wish to promote the temperance of the country. As a Chairman of Quarter Sessions, who is constantly brought into contact with that crime which is produced by drunkenness, I have seen enough to strengthen my hands in supporting any action which would be likely to produce an increase of sobriety. Perhaps in past years I have done something in that direction, because the commencement almost of the legislation of past years was the bringing of the beer-houses under the control of the Magistrates, which was a measure practically introduced by me. The six days' licence I can claim as my own, although it has not produced as much good as I could wish. The power given to Magistrates to transfer licences from one district to another was a measure which I thought also would have done much in the direction of diminishing intemperance. I am, however, satisfied by the experience of the past that if you attempt to force your legislation upon the people before they are prepared to receive it you will fail. Those who can remember the agitation which took place against Lord Ebury's Act, and the way in which the people of the Metropolis resented an interference with what they regarded as their privileges in the way of open houses on the Sunday, will share my opinion that you cannot legislate in this direction, unless the people are in favour of that legislation. I am satisfied that if this Bill were carried out in its entirety, we should have a repetition of the unfortunate scenes which took place at the time to which I referred. We must trust, I think, to the improved tone of society, and to the educational efforts, in order to bring the people into 975 a condition in which they will accept restrictions of this kind, and I do not think you have arrived at that position now. This Bill proposes practically to say to a man who has been working hard during six days of the week, and unable practically to enjoy himself during those days that on the only occasion when he does have any leisure, he will find himself absolutely debarred from taking any refreshment. I think the House will find, if it sanctions this legislation, that the people of the country are not prepared to endorse its decision. With regard to Wales, Lord Aberdare, who was Home Secretary in the Liberal Government that brought in the Act of 1872, now tells you that, living in Wales, and knowing what has been the history of that Act in his district, he has sorrowfully had to change his opinion, and that if an extending Act is brought in he will be obliged to oppose it. If in Ireland, according to the hon. Member for South Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor), the Sunday Closing Act has not been a success—["Oh, oh!"]—if from the Welsh point of view, according to the evidence of a man who has done more in the direction of temperance legislation than anyone among those I see before me, the measure is a failure, shall we be justified in forcing a Bill of this kind upon the whole of the country? According to the evidence of numbers of Chief Constables in Scotland, the Forbes Mackenzie Act is not the success that its promoters anticipated, and it has increased, as they believe, secret drinking in that country. If we are going to abolish open drinking, with the result of producing a large amount of secret drinking, our action will, in my opinion, be deleterious rather than beneficial. I hope, therefore, that the House will pause before passing a Bill which is opposed by the largo majority of working men in this country, who object to having their liberty interfered with in thin matter, and prefer not to by subjected to grandmotherly legislation. I myself prefer to trust for improving the sobriety of the people to those better means which I think are now steadily advancing, and which I believe will, in the end, bring about the state of things we desire among the working classes, just as they have done already amongst other classes of the people.
§ *MR. LEA (Londonderry, South)
I do not intend to discuss the general question, but I wish to say one word respecting the speech of the hon. Member for South Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor), who gave the House a complete misrepresentation of the views of the Select Committee of which he and I were members The hon. Gentleman led the House to believe that the Report of the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden), who was Chairman of the Committee, was completely overthrown by the majority of the members. As a matter of fact, the Report presented to the House was the Report of the Solicitor General for Ireland in all but one particular. The Solicitor General for Ireland was in favour of the stricter definition of the bonâ fide traveller; he was in favour of making permanent the Act for Sunday Closing, and he was in favour of greater restriction as to the hours of opening in the exempted towns—the time now allowed for opening being five hours, which he proposed to reduce to two or three. The Solicitor General was not, it was true, in favour of total closing in the exempted towns, but he approved the general working of the Act, and admitted the necessity of its being made permanent and extended. The hon. Member has quoted a number of statistics. Well. I find that whilst in 1877—the year before the Act was passed—the total number of arrests for drunkenness was 110,903, whereas in 1880, shortly after the Act was passed, they were reduced to 88,048, and the result was arrived at chiefly by a diminution in the number of Sunday arrests I think it was the unanimous opinion of the great majority of the Committee that bogus clubs and shebeening had been inconsiderable since the Sunday Closing Act had been in operation. That is the Report of the majority of the Committee, and it is one which, when the Bill respecting Sunday Closing in Ireland is discussed, will, I am sure, carry the overwhelming opinion of the House in favour of it.
§ *MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
I shall vote against the Second Reading of the Bill—not that I do not consider any change in the law desirable, but because I regard this as an unworkable measure. When the Bill was last before the House the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Stevenson) expressed his willingness to exclude the Metropolis, and I think other large towns, from the scope of the Bill in Committee. But if exemptions are to be made of this sweeping character the measure will be completely altered. It is not a straightforward mode of legislating to ask the House to accept the general principle underlying this Bill, upon the promise that that very principle will be altered in Committee. I feel quite certain that if, unfortunately, this Bill were to become law, it would be found quite impracticable to close all the public-houses during the whole of Sundays in large towns like London and Manchester and Leeds. Legislation on this question ought to go a little, but only a little, in advance of public opinion; but whatever it is, it should be based on some intelligible and practicable principle. I am ready to support the Bill of the hon. Baronet one of the Members for Durham (Sir J. Pease), and if the Bill now before the House is road a second time, I shall propose Amendments in that sense in Committee, being prevented by the forms of the House from moving the Amendment of which I have given notice at this stage. The noble Lord the Member for the Barnsley Division (Lord Compton) talked of being willing to close all clubs, both for rich and poor, during the whole of Sunday; but he would find it could not be done. I trust the House will endeavour to settle this question in a practical spirit.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
Will you allow me, Sir, to make a personal explanation? I have been accused of misrepresenting the views of the Solicitor General for Ireland, who unfortunately is now absent. If the hon. Member who has made this accusation looks at the draft Report prepared by the Solicitor General for Ireland he will find 978 that that Report states that, having regard to the practical unanimity of the witnesses summoned with regard to the working of the Act in the exempted towns, the Committee—Could not recommend the extension of the Act to the exempted towns, nor any curtailment of the hours of opening therein.Why did not the hon. Member read the entire Report instead of part of it?
§ *SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I am extremely glad that we have had the very interesting and, I think, conclusive speech of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lea) interposed between that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir H. Selwin-Ibbetson) and my own, though I desired to rise after the right hon. Gentleman. His presence here to-day reminds us of those old days—the good old days—when he took such an active part in temperance legislation, and we do not forgot the good work he has done. The changes he made in our laws wore made within certain limits which he is unwilling, but which we are ready, to overstep, but valuable and practical changes they were. The right hon. Gentleman says we ought not to legislate upon subjects of this kind until the people are prepared for it and are in favour of it. Well, the people are, I think, prepared for this legislation and in favour of it—or, at any rate, are very rapidly approaching to that condition of mind. I do not underrate what may be done by sobriety and education to change the habits of the people; but we trust to sobriety and education to change the minds of the people who are opposed to temperance legislation. What has been effected in regard to gaming-houses is very instructive. A hundred years ago it would have been impossible to put down gaming-houses, but as the habits of gaming diminished public opinion supported the law against gaming-houses. It is said, however, that Sunday Closing has broken down and proved a failure in those parts of the Kingdom where it has been tried. I deny this. Taking the case of Ireland, 979 the statistics show that, whereas between 1874 and 1878 the arrests for drunkenness on Sunday in those parts of Ireland to which the Sunday Closing Act subsequently applied never fell below 3,600 and sometimes exceeded 4,000, in the year that the Act passed they fell below 2,000, thereby showing that the effect of the Act was to reduce Sunday drunkenness by one-half, and cause only one family instead of two to be made miserable. Nor have the figures of Sunday drunkenness in the parts of Ireland to which the Act applies ever got back to their former proportions. More recent statistics tell the same tale. In the whole of Ireland where the Act is in force there were for the past year 2,800 arrests for drunkenness on Sunday. The population, of that part of Ireland is about 4,200,000. In the exempted towns there is a population of about 700,000, and the arrests for drunkenness on Sundays in these towns were 2,000. According to the population there ought to have been only two arrests in the exempted towns for every 12 in the rest of Ireland. But instead of two there were eight arrests, showing that in the exempted towns arrests for drunkenness on Sundays were proportionately four times as numerous as in the parts of Ireland which are under the Act. Now, let me take Scotland. The Chief Constable of Scotland in 1856, two years after the Forbes-Mackenzie Act was passed, reported as follows:—The same improvement in respect to decorum in our streets on the Sabbath Day mentioned in the first Report still continues, and on Saturday nights by 12 o'clock peace and good order is obtained, instead of as formerly a state of turmoil and disorder continuing the whole Sabbath morning. In no place is the difference more observable than in the police offices, particularly in the central office, where Sunday used to be a busy day, but is now perfectly quiet; and it is not unusual for a whole Sabbath to pass without a single case of any kind being put in.He shows that, whereas the Sunday arrests in the throe years before the Act was passed were 26, they averaged only nine in the three years afterwards. The Chief Constable of Edinburgh shows that by the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act Sunday arrests fell from 12 to 8. But it is still more interesting to look not at the Sunday arrests, but 980 at the arrests between 8 on the Sunday morning and 8 on the Monday, thus excluding what is really the Saturday night drunkenness. In all Edinburgh such arrests fell to two. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot) spoke of the impossibility of totally closing public-houses on Sundays in large and populous towns. But in Glasgow, which may be regarded as the second largest city in the Kingdom, and a vast seaport, which contains a large nomad and precarious population, no such difficulty as the hon. Member apprehends is experienced. Let me read a very short extract from a letter from a Scotch working man of my acquaintance, whose politics are not the same as my own. He says—I can well remember that there was a great amount of irritation on the closing of the licensed houses, and the constant and persistent efforts to avoid the law, but now, living amongst the working class, from my own knowledge I am glad to say that, year by year, the law is becoming more and more respected, and its benefits more fully recognized. Sunday drinking is now almost unknown, and I need scarcely add the reduction of drinking on Sunday has greatly improved the attendance at work and the fitness for work on the Monday The advantages are now in every way so evident that it would take a bold man to stand up in any audience—I do not even except an audience of drink-sellers—and plead that all houses should again be open on Sunday.There you have the answer to those hon. Gentlemen who are so anxious that the barmaids and the barmen should not be deprived of their seven days' wages in the week, for in Scotland the drink-sellers are in favour of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act. Reference has been made to the Welsh statistics, and these are certainly so curious that I shall be glad to see an inquiry made into them. The strange fact is to be noted that, whereas in England the arrests on Sunday are about one-tenth of those on other days, in Wales they are something more, but that if the county of Glamorganshire is excluded from the statistics they assume a totally different aspect—the Sunday arrests in Wales (excluding Glamorganshire) being only one in 13. It is admitted there is a strong Nonconformist feeling for this Bill. Well, there is a county where, out of a population of 125,000, about 100,000 are Nonconformists, while there is only one Nonconformist 981 magistrate out of the 130 magistrates of the county; and I am inclined to think that possibly some part of the difficulty experienced in working this Act in Glamorganshire is that the bench of magistrates are not in sympathy with the popular mind. A great deal has been said about there being one law for the rich and another for the poor. We, on this side of the House, are quite willing that there should be the same law for all; but as a matter of fact it is not one of the privileges of the upper and middle classes to go tippling at bars on Sundays. We do not want to deprive the working men of any privilege which we enjoy. On the contrary, we want him to go to his own house and enjoy himself with his wife and children. It is said that his house is a bad one. But it would not be a bad one but for Sunday drinking. I know a part of the world where there is no Sunday drinking and where there is no bad house, and no badly furnished house either. Irrespective of its other evils, Sunday drinking is expensive for the working man, who cannot afford to spend a large part of his income on drink. If a man of our class was to spend a fifth or sixth of his income on drink, you would put him in a lunatic asylum, and the poor man cannot afford to spend on his own selfish enjoyment what ought to go to his wife and children. We voted for Sunday Closing in Wales and in Ireland because we were so impressed with the horrors that had to be met that we thought local measures were desirable if Imperial measures could not be obtained, and not because we were not in favour of Imperial measures, and we trust that the House will give a Second Reading to this measure.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I wish to be allowed to make a correction in the statement I made earlier. In quoting from the Solicitor General, I referred to the wrong passage. The words used were—In view of the difference of opinion, and having regard to the different conditions of life in cities and rural districts, we could not recommend an extension of the Act, or the inclusion of the five exempted cities.
§ *MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I regret that the rules of debate preclude 982 me from moving the Amendment of which I have given notice, because the proposition embodied in the Bill is not, I think, one to be met with a direct negative, but on different lines in different localities. Sunday Closing is by no means a new subject, and before we act in a drastic manner such as this, it is well to recognize the fact that for generations it has been the habit to allow public-houses to be open on Sunday. Temperance advocates are fond of this method, and think the only way of promoting temperance is to stop the consumption of alcoholic drinks altogether. Now, all my life I have lived and worked among the poorer classes, and I have no hesitation in saying that one of the greatest evils in the land is the habit of drinking in public houses on Saturday and Sunday, and you cannot hope to effect any great change in the dwellings and habits of the people until by some means or other you get rid of this habit of sitting or standing soaking and toping at the bar of a public-house on Saturday and Sunday. But the practical question is, are we to do this by drastic legislation, or by the less heroic method which is now going on of inducing the people to promote their own improvement in the way we would wish. I am convinced that if by any means this Bill were passed into law requiring every public-house in London to be shut on Sunday, the opposition would be such that I am sure that it would be impossible to carry it out. It would be considered an act of tyrannical class legislation, and would tend, in my opinion, largely to retard the temperance movement which has been steadily going on for years, promoted by individual effort. What would be the effect of closing the public-houses? It is clear that total abstinence would not feel it. It is clear that among the middle classes, who keep their own cellars, nothing would be effected, only those would be affected who use public-houses, those who use them fairly, and those who use them unreasonably and 983 to excess. It is the class who use the public-houses reasonably whom you ought to consult; but you would act without giving them any means of appeal, without affording them the chance of giving expression to their opinions. I will venture to say that if the hon. Members who will go into the Lobby in support of this Bill a great number, probably nine-tenths, who thus vote for the total closing of public-houses, will have liquor from their own collars on their tables next Sunday. If that is the case, is it reasonable to say suddenly, to all classes who have not the advantages we have, that we will cut them off from having any alcoholic liquor on Sunday? My own opinion is that the opposition excited would be such that the real cause of temperance would be much retarded. The question of Sunday closing should be left to settle itself in each locality. Moderate men in each district, I have no doubt, would be quite willing to waive their own opinions and give up the use of public-houses on Sunday if they were consulted and had the opportunity of saying whether they would or would not have those houses open. It is said if we allow County Councils the decision on the subject, it would lead to much agitation in each district, and, I confess, I do not see why there should be any objection to that. There is an old objection to the endeavour to make people temperate by Act of Parliament, but I see no objection to allowing the reasonable men in every district the opportunity of settling the question in their own way. It does seem to me that it is condemning the proposal altogether to exclude London, for if it is desirable to have such legislation at all, it is to London the application is most needed. In different districts of London the proportion of public-houses and population varies greatly In Paddington there is one licensed house to every 192 families, while in the Strand there is one to every 23 families, in Islington one in 156, and in Brentford one in 188. The hon. Baronet opposite suggests that therefore the Strand must be very bad, but that is not the necessary inference, or that the inhabitants of the Strand include so many more drunkards, it simply means that the circumstances of the locality are very different; there is a large popula 984 tion engaged in trade there during the day; there is a large daily influx of persons to shops, theatres, the Law Courts, and other places, and therefore the district requires to be differently treated to Paddington or Islington, where there is not such a migration of population day by by day. Then it will be said if each locality settled the question for itself the drunken localities would have their own way, and so there would be no improvement, but I think the benefit of closing the public-houses in some districts would appear, and there can be no doubt that, with the practical result to point to, other districts would soon follow the good examples. For these reasons I strongly supported the Licensing Clauses in last year's Local Government Bill, giving localities the right to settle these matters for themselves. The machinery is provided in the Local Government Act, and popular representation gives full opportunity for the expression of public opinion. It would not give local option in the sense of the term which some mean by it, but I am sure it would lead to the most beneficial result. If it were considered desirable to reduce the number of licensed houses, the Licensing Clauses would have given the opportunity. True, we should have had to pay for this, but still I believe it would have been a wise and economical provision. Parliament, however, in its wisdom, did not see fit to carry out the proposal. I sincerely wish to see the hours of drinking reduced. Parliament has legislated on this point, but it does seem to me an outrageous thing that licensed houses should be allowed to be open every night in London until half-past 12, when they are not wanted for any legitimate purpose. I am sure that if hon. Members could see what goes on at places within three-quarters of a mile of where we are now assembled, they would be convinced of the advisability of reducing the hours of drinking in the Metropolis. I much regret that my Amendment is not allowable, for I am well assured that the regulation of hours for opening and the question of whole or partial Sunday closing are matters that might safely be entrusted to the settlement of each locality according to its circumstances and requirements.
§ *BARON F. DE ROTHSCHILD (Bucks,) Aylesbury
I do not wish to intervene at any length in the debate. There is no doubt hon. Members on both sides of the House express themselves warmly in favour of temperance, and the general speeches against temperance legislation are much qualified. The difficulties in the way of dosing public-houses on Sunday are no more than the difficulties that have attended many great measures; difficulties that have to be met whenever any reform of magnitude comes before the House. There is an old saying, "You cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs." Naturally in every legislative measure there will be inequalities in application and opposition excited, but I sincerely hope that if this Bill passes its Second Reading, Amendments in Committee will remedy some of the difficulties. The hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Bartley) says he would rather trust to private influence and private agitation than to legislation, but I beg him to consider how large a proportion of the population look to the action of the House of Commons for a guiding principle, and if the House accepts and approves temperance principles the movement is greatly strengthened throughout the country. We only propose to close licensed houses on Sunday, and when hon. Members say this will not tend to reduce the number of public-houses, I venture to express a different opinion. There are many public-houses in London and elsewhere that are drinking dens of the foulest description, and are kept open almost entirely by the crowds that flock to them on Sunday. Sunday closing will suppress many of these, for their main source of profit would disappear. But I will not delay the Bill, which now, I hope, will pass its Second Reading.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
The hour does not allow me to go into the matter in debate. I only wish to explain the position of the Government. The position we take up is exactly that which on the last occasion was stated by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie). We regard this as in no sense a Party measure, and we hope that hon. Members on both sides will vote according to their convictions. This, however, I may say—that we do not depart from the views we expressed in the Local Government Act of last year, that we do not believe this is a matter for Imperial legislation, but that it is eminently a subject to be left to the decision of the persons in the localities that would be affected. Differing as opinions do in different localities according to circumstances and conditions of life, no universal rule should be applied, and I would refer to experience in Wales and in Ireland as pointing in that direction. We believe that the settlement proposed in the Local Government Act last year is the proper mode of dealing with the subject. If restrictions or limitations on the freedom of using public-houses are to be imposed at all, we think they should be imposed by the local authority. I was only anxious that there should be no misunderstanding as to our position on this question.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 179; Noes 157.—(Div. List, No. 47.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the House do now adjourn.—(Mr Jackson.)