HC Deb 26 March 1890 vol 342 cc1900-25

Order for Second Reading read.

*(2.55.) MR.T.W. RUSSELL (Tyrone,S.)

The Bill, the Second Reading of which I now beg to move, has at least one recommendation; it is exceedingly simple in its provisions. In the first place it does not seek to alter the Licensing Authority in any way whatever. The Licensing Authority may be, as it is now, composed of Justices, or it may be the County Council, or the Local Board. In its preamble the measure affirms that the traffic in intoxicating liquors is one of the main causes of poverty, disease, and crime, that it depresses trade and commerce, increases local taxation, and endangers the safety and welfare of the community. I do not think there are any hon. Members who will care to traverse that proposition. The Bill endeavours to find a remedy for what is undoubtedly a bad state of things. All the Irish Members will agree with me that of late years drunkenness has increased in Ireland. All the authorities—the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, the clergy of the Protestant Church, the statistics of the police—all bear me out in saying that latterly drunkenness has greatly increased. What the Bill proposes to do is to give the ratepayers of any locality a threefold choice in regard to the liquor traffic. The ratepayers may either decree that there shall be no public houses and no public sale of intoxicating liquor in their midst, or they may decide how many places for the sale of intoxicating liquor there shall be, or they may decide whether new licences are to be granted or not. Therefore, the principle of the Bill is simply that the opinion of the locality shall decide in the matter of the sale of drink, and I am curious to hear what hon. Members below the Gangway have to urge against it. So far back as 1835, when Archbishop Whateley's Commission sat to inquire into the condition of the Irish poor, this question of the liquor traffic attracted public attention, and in 1836, the Commission reported that the liquor shops all over Ireland were greatly in excess of the needs of the people. Ireland has improved in many respects since that day, but it has improved very little in this respect. Hon. Members below the Gangway will agree with me that the small towns in the South and West of Ireland are literally studded with public houses, that are not needed by the people at all. I will give an illustration. Let us take the town of Ennis, in County Clare. The population is 6,300, and there are 100 public houses. It has been generally admitted that one public house for every 500 of the population is a sufficient proportion. On such a basis, instead of 100, Ennis would have only 13 public houses. New Ross, in County Wexford, with 5,000 population has 106 drink shops; Mill street with 1,450 people has 32 houses; Ennistymon with 1,350 has 25; Mil-town Malbay with 1,400 has 36; Castle-island with 800 has 51; Portumna with 1,100 has 36; and Macroom with 3,000 has 53. Now, I do not hesitate to say that the Justices, and the Justices alone, are responsible for this congestion of public houses, and the Justices having crowded these small towns in the South and West of Ireland in this way, it is not unreasonable that they should be deprived of that power. Hence this Bill gives power to the people to instruct the Licensing Authority as to what their wants may be. No doubt the South of Ireland differs somewhat in this respect from the North, and I will now deal with two cases from the North. Lurgan, in County Armagh, has a population of 14,000. It is a busy, thriving, prosperous town, and one would imagine that there would be more liquor shops required than in small southern towns, where the same industry does not prevail. And yet, instead of 100, Lurgan has only 29 public houses, and I do not know of anyone in Lurgan who complains. Indeed, they think they are better off with this small number of public houses. I will now take another case, the town of Bess-brook, which has a population of 3,000. It also is a busy, thriving, prosperous place, and yet it has not a single public house. There total prohibition has been decreed, not by the voice of the people— that would be the proper way—but by the voice of the proprietor of the town. My position is that if the owner has the right to enforce this prohibition on 3,000 people, the occupiers of property should have the right to choose for themselves. What has been the result of the present system? I do not care what hon. Members who oppose the Bill may think of its provisions. They cannot feel satisfied with the present regulation of the liquor traffic. What even did the Bishop of Limerick do the other day? Hon. Members may differ from the Bishop on many points, but on this point, at least, ho must have the sympathy of every man. Here is a city in the South of Ireland that is not prosperous. It has a population of about 30,000, and yet it has no less than 300 public houses; and the Bishop of Limerick went to the Bench of Magistrates to remonstrate with them on the state of affairs. He charged them with the responsibility, and begged them to grant no new licences till the number should be reduced. I say that when a Bishop has to go and remonstrate with the Authorities, it is high time that the people had the power to interfere. But what are the figures as to drunkenness? For six or seven years after the passing of the Sunday Closing Act drunkenness rapidly declined.

MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)



All over Ireland. In 1887 the arrests for drunkenness were 110,903. The Sunday Closing Act came into operation in October, 1878, and there were, therefore, in that year three months of total Sunday Closing throughout Ireland; the figures for 1878 fell to 107,000. In 1879 they fell again to 98,000, and in 1880 to 88,000, and in 1881 to 78,000. In 1882 they rose to 87,000, and in 1883 to 90,000, in 1884 to 92,000, and in 1885 they stood at 87,000, while in 1888 they stood at 87,582.


Will the hon. Gentleman give us the figures in the different parts of the country where the Sunday Closing Bill was in operation and where it was not?


The figures are for the whole of Ireland, and this Bill deals with the whole of Ireland.


What about the exempted districts?


Dublin is one of the exempted cities, and there were in that city, in 1886,18,115 arrests for drunkenness—drunkenness and disorderly conduct;inl887,18,590;inl888, 20,192; an increase of more than 2,000 in that city alone between 1886 and 1888. These are the facts of the increase of drunkenness in an exempted city, and my proposal is that with the Sunday Closing Act drunkenness has declined. What, then, are the objections to this method of dealing with that question? Many Motions have been placed upon the Notice Paper. There is our old friend "this day six months." That Motion I can understand. But another Motion stands in the name of the Member for South Tipperary, and asks the House not to touch this question in view of the Local Government Bill promised by the Government. But this proposal will not in any way affect the Bill. If the Local Government Bill proposed to create a Licensing Authority this measure would be strictly relevant and in order. My proposal, so far as this Bill is concerned, is that it does not matter who the Licensing Authority is. All the Bill says is, that before that Authority can act, before they can flood towns with public houses they shall receive instructions straight from the hearthstones of the people. So great is the evil that the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church have become alarmed, and, only last week, they issued a pastoral, calling on the clergy to exert themselves in the matter. The Bishops ought not to be working in one direction and the law in the other. I hold that the function of the law is not to put temptation in people's way. It ought to make it easy for the people to do right, and difficult for them to do wrong. As matters stand, the Licensing Authorities are absolutely working against the Bishops in their work, and I ask that the people shall be given the power to restrain these magistrates from crowding the towns with licensed houses against their will. There is one question that may be raised, and, I admit, with some seriousness. Ever since this liquor traffic has been a public question the matter of compensation has been fought. I have pronounced views on that matter, and when the Local Government Bill was going through the House I opposed the compensation proposals. I am not against fair and reasonable compensation to the owners of licensed premises, but I am not in favour of that compensation coming out of Imperial taxation or local rates. I maintain that the old proposal of Mr. Bruce in this House in 1871, that where prohibition is decreed a time limit ought to be allowed, and that where restriction is enforced under this Bill those licensed proprietors who are left ought to pay those who are removed—is a fair and reasonable proposal, These are the reasons why I propose this Bill, and I now beg to move the Second Reading.

Motion made, and Question proposed' "That the Bill be now read a second time."


I rise for the purpose of proposing the Amendment which stands in my name. The hon. Member who has just moved the Second Reading of the Bill, in a very forcible speech, has stilted truly that we all agree that many evils are caused to our country and to our people by over-indulgence in intoxicating liquors. But there is one point upon which I cannot agree with him, and it is that he has the monopoly of desire among hon. Members from Ireland to promote temperance. I, too, desire the promotion of temperance in that country. I think we are all agreed as to the need for promoting it, but we disagree with regard to the manner in which that end is to be brought about. The hon. Member has alluded to the pastoral of the Bishops of Ireland, and he would have the House believe that the Bishops are at one with himself and the Party with whom he acts, in their plans for carrying out this desirable object. I defy the hon. Member or anybody else to point out in the whole course of the pastoral one idea or one expression that goes to show that the Bishops approve the methods proposed to be adopted by the hon. Gentleman. The Bishops, in the first place, lay down the proposition that it is necessary that throughout Ireland the cause of temperance should be taken in hand as a work to be carried on with the sanction and under the blessing of the Church. That is our position. We believe that this cause is to be promoted best by the voluntary action of the people under the blessing of the Church to which they belong. But the Bishops do not stop at this point for they go on to say that they are not disposed to concur with the too drastic methods proposed not only by this Bill but by many Bills which have been introduced in this House from time to time. They think it necessary, in the first instance, to explain that the word temperance has come to be used by many in an unduly restricted sense. It has not infrequently been used as if it meant precisely the same thing as total abstinence, and the Bishops call upon the clergy to carefully explain to the faithful that this is a manifest error. Temperance, they say, is one thing, and total abstinence is another; and it is essential to keep clearly in view the difference between the two. That is the opinion of the Bishops of Ireland, which has been appealed to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone.


I did not appeal to the Bishops further than this: I said that while they were promoting temperance in their way the law should not be working against them.


I maintain that the law is not working against them, and I am endeavouring to show the House that the hon. Member and his friends are beginning at the wrong end. They wish to carry legislation in a wrong direction. Our object is to place it on a more solid foundation. One principle of this Bill, to which I give my entire adhesion, is the curtailment or restriction in granting licences in Ireland, and I may say that a Bill is about to be introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Longford, and will be backed by myself, which will have in view the attainment of that end. A great deal of the evil which exists in Ireland, and elsewhere, is undoubtedly duo to the fact that there are too many licensed places, and I came away from the deliberations of the Commission on Sunday Closing in Ireland, two years ago, fully convinced that in any scheme for promotimg temperance in Ireland, one of the first proposals should be to curtail the unnecessary distribution and granting of licences. I venture to think that the excess in the number of licences encourages illicit trading, and that a restriction of the number would throw the trade in the hands of more respectable people. Now, the hon. Member for South. Tyrone quoted a number of figures, and I propose to show to the House that they were to a great extent misleading. I do not, of course, suggest that they were intentionally so, but when the hon. Member for South Tyrone pointed out that there were 100 public-houses in Ennis, he omitted to add that those public-houses were not places merely for supplying intoxicating drinks, and that they were not only intended for the accommodation of the population of Ennis itself. Any one who knows that place must be aware that enormous numbers of people come into the town marketing, and also that in the country round about there is a great scarcity of public-houses. Then, again, these licensed premises are also used for other businesses. They consist of grocers' shops and of drapery establishments.


That makes it so much the worse.


It often happens that in a small town in Ireland it is necessary for shopkeepers to carry on businesses of a varied character, otherwise they would find it impossible to get a living. Consequently, you often see one man selling, in addition to excisable liquors, paper, bread, drapery, and grocery goods. And now I come to the provisions of the Bill itself. I should like to point out, in the first place, that it gives no power to the Justices to fix the number or character of the licences required in any particular part of Ireland. The Justices would not be influenced by the opinions expressed by the people themselves, and one principal objection we have to this Bill is, that two-thirds of those who vote will have the power to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors altogether, or to say that no new licences shall be granted. Now, let us suppose, for instance, that this vote is taken in a district in which there are 100 voters. According to the Bill, one-tenth of the voters can initiate an election on the point, that is to say—10 out of the 100 voters can start proceedings under the Bill. Then, when the election takes place, it may be that only 30 will record their votes. Out of those, 20 may decide, two-thirds, so that it will come to pass that 20 persons will have the power of binding 100. The hon. Member shakes his head, but does he know—he must know—how these things work in Ireland and elsewhere. On these matters the people do not vote generally unless their votes are touted for by Associations. Very often they are away from home, and their wives or daughters fill up the papers. Even if it were ballot-voting, no expression of public opinion would be arrived at, for people will not take the smallest interest in things like these; they will not, as they will in a Parliamentary or Muncipal election, give up a day's work or put off a jouney in order to vote. The Bill, I say, might be put in operation by 20 men out of a hundred, not more than 20 per cent, of the people voting, or, at the most, say 30 per cent., and it would be a monstrous injustice to bind up a hundred people, and close public; houses, which may be a convenience to these, on the votes of 20. I cannot suppose that the House of Commons will agree to such a proposal. Then we come to the matter of licences. Suppose there are a hundred licensed houses in a district, that this first Resolution is not carried, that the sale of liquor is permitted, but that the second Resolution is carried, and that the number of licences may be reduced to a certain number specified in the notice, no provisions are to be found in the Bill for deciding upon what basis these clauses are to be carried out. First of all, it is not stated how we are to arrive at the number. Many persons might vote that the 100 houses might be reduced to 60, others to 50 or 40. How are the Justices to arrive at what the number should be? Say the number is 50, what provision is there for deciding which 50 licences shall be abolished? How is it to be decided if Smith, or Brown, or Jones, or Robinson, shall lose his licence? Is the selection to be made by favour; is it to be by judgment; if by judgment, upon whose judgment? Or are licences to be taken in alphabetical order, or by streets, or by priority of issue? These are matters upon which the House ought to be enlightened before passing this Bill. An hon. Member near me suggests Committee, but I doubt very much whether any Committee ever yet formed by the House of Commons can answer these questions in a satisfactory manner. Then, the hon. Member has referred to the question of compensation, and, of course, he very wisely and properly says he is not altogether opposed to the principle of compensation. But who are to compensate when a licence is extinguished? Is it the State, or is the compensation to come from those the value of whose property is enhanced by the restrictions upon, or extinguishment of, licenses? I find that one portion of the Bill says that a voter in any town, division, or district, by notice in writing, not later than May the next year, may put this Bill into operation. And let us suppose in Dublin, where there are 15 wards, the people of one ward decide to put the Bill into operation, and the people in a neighbouring ward do not. How will the cause of temperance be promoted by the Bill? How are oven the objects the hon. Member has in view to be attained? Would it not be quite easy for the people of one ward to go into the other, and get any drink they might require? A man who desires to get drunk will not be prevented, and only inconvenience will be put in the way of those men who make a proper use of a public-house, as many men do. The proportion of publicans in one ward will be extinguished; while in the other ward the property will be enhanced in value, and I cannot see any gain to the cause of temperance in such a proceeding. Its injustice is only another proof supporting my conviction that hon. Gentlemen, like the hon. Member for South Tyrone, by continually introducing crude, unsatisfactory, and reckless measures, help to defeat themselves; and their efforts to promote temperance are abortive. The hon. Gentleman has quoted statistics, and I could quote statistics. The Bishops of Ireland are going the right way in this matter. They are men who understand human nature, men who, above all things, know that the people will not be coerced into virtue, and who appeal to other motives; not by the addition of one more to these crude and ill-considered attempts at legislation, which never command the support of practical men. The hon. Member made considerable reference in his speech to the necessity for curtailing the power of Justices in granting licences, and there I agree with him, but he would place in the hands of the people at large the power of compelling Justices to reduce the number of licences already granted. I have endeavoured to show that this Bill will be put in operation by a very small section of people, generally a few fanatics who will go about and induce people to sign voting papers, and thus a small percentage of people would exercise a power to inflict great injury upon traders. Take the present agitated state of Ireland—though I do not base my arguments on that. I wish to argue as if the country were in a normal state—but at present this power might be put into operation with terrible effect against a certain class of traders. Suppose the Bill passed, and after May next year the people in a certain district decide that the number of licences shall be reduced—say in Ennis—from 100 to 50, so that Justices would have suddenly placed in their hands the power of reducing licences by 50 per cent.


Order, order! There is an hon. Gentleman standing with his baton.


Is it not likely that these Justices would use this power for the purpose of persecuting those publicans who are known to hold strong Nationalist opinions? I say, therefore, that Irish Nationalist Members ought to hesitate before placing in the hands of Justices this terrible engine, which undoubtedly the Justices would use against political opponents. I alluded just now to the question of compensation, and I referred to the possibility of one of the wards of Dublin deciding to close public houses. Suppose out of 100 houses 50 are closed. I think I am not going too far when I say that each of these would be worth £2,000; here you would have £100,000 worth of property swept away with a stroke of the pen and a vote brought about in the manner I have described. These are the only observations I have to offer on the provisions of the Bill, and now I come to the Resolution I have to propose, asking the House to declare the inexpediency of further legislation, pending the introduction of the Local Government Bill, of which notice has been given. We know that in the Local Government Bill proposed for England there were provisions for the regulation of the liquor traffic. These provisions were dropped, and are in abeyance for the present, but we have no reason to suppose that the Government do not intend in the Irish Bill to include some such provisions in regard to licenses, and I think the strongest argument for introducing some such provisions has been urged by the hon. Member (Mr. T. W. Russell) himself, who has declaimed against the action of justices in Ireland. I agree with him in the opinion that the Justices have abused the power in their hands. I believe they are on too intimate terms with wealthy owners and merchants and have been too inclined to grant licences where there were no excuses for doing so. I believe that strong necessity exists for altering the Licensing Authority, but until the Authority is altered by future legislation I strongly object to giving to a scratch vote of the people the power to curtail existing licences. The whole trouble in this matter in Ireland has arisen from the reckless manner in which licences have been granted, and I sincerely hope that before long we shall have before us a measure restraining this power. By restricting the issue of licences you will practically bring the trade into the hands of people whoso interest it will be to conduct their business within the requirements of the law, and to dispense better liquor than some of them now do. The reckless distribution of licences has had a most detrimental effect on the trade, I am convinced, as well as on the health of the people. The trade is so distributed that traders, to meet the cost of licences, and high, rents, are led to encourage trade by selling at unlawful hours and to increase profits by adulteration. I hope, therefore, that by a gradual process, and the refusal to grant new licences, the trade may be confined within a narrower circle. Unfortunately, it too often happens that Justices in Ireland grant licences to retired constables, who know nothing whatever about the trade, and who, released from the restraints and discipline of the force, relapse into the worst of habits. So, also, the Justices grant licences to the widows of old servants, who are in no position to know the requirements of the trade, and who often appeal against the law from sheer ignorance and incapacity. Unsuccessful farmers, too, embark in the trade, and set up houses in small towns, through the facility with which they can get licences by means of the acquaintance of somebody who is intimate with "His honour." These add the sale of drink to a grocery business, and, having no knowledge or business capacity, get into debt, ruin themselves, and bring discredit on the trade, while injuring the business of their more competent neighbours. Holding the views I have expressed, I oppose the Bill, and have put down this Resolution, and I look forward to legislation that will carry out the principle of local veto, to which I am not strongly opposed, and which, carried out in a manner that will give satisfaction to the popular will, I would support. And now I must trouble the House on another subject, and place before it some of the evidence collected by the Select Committee about two years ago, because that Committee considered not only the question of Sunday Closing, but of closing public houses on Saturday, and as this Bill has for its object not only the curtailment of licences, but the entire closing' of public-houses, it will be necessary for me to refer to the opinion of those best qualified to judge of the operation of the laws controlling the liquor trade. Before I proceed to quote, let me say that I am strongly in favour of the control of public-houses, and I would have that control exercised from chimney-top to basement. I would have public-houses open to inspection at all hours. I only wish I had the drafting of a scheme for the promotion of temperance in Ireland. [Laughter] Hon. Members may laugh; but I would draft a Bill that should be effectual; there should be no bringing in Bills year after year, which have no chance of passing, and which are often an outrage upon common sense. These Bills do not pass; it is a longtime since the House passed an Act for regulating the liquor trade in Ireland. Many of those who were in favour of this legislation have changed their opinions. When a Bill regulating the liquor traffic was last passed, those who represented Ireland in this House were men who had cellars of their own. Are 70 per cent of the Irish Members now in favour of this legislation? Certainly not. They are evenly divided on this subject; and I believe there is a strong feeling among the Irish Members that a Home Rule Parliament in Dublin would be the only Parliament capable of legislating on this subject without damage to the various interests that are concerned, while promoting, at the same time, the objects we have at heart. I do not yield to any man in a desire to promote the welfare of the Irish people; but I maintain that the passing into law of a Bill of this kind would result in evils of a very serious character. When the Committee were sitting upstairs we asked many of the witnesses what would be the effect of Sunday closing. One very important witness, Mr. Lanetti, the representative of the United Trades of Dublin, said there was a consensus of opinion, that as wages were paid on Friday nights and Saturday forenoon—


I rise to a point of order. The Bill which was before the Select Committee stands on the Orders for the 20th April. I wish to ask your ruling, Sir, whether the hon. Member is at liberty to discuss that Bill on another Bill which has no relation whatever to it?


The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to discuss the details of the Bill, but mere reference to it would be out of order.


I have not referred to the Bill, nor was it in my mind. The Bill now before the House has for its object the closing of public-houses every day in the week in any district where the people vote in favour of it; and if I can prove it to be a great hardship to close public-houses on any one day surely it strengthens my arguments against this Bill. Mr. Lanetti pointed out that the men have their wages in their pockets all day Saturday, and that the closing of public houses an hour or two earlier would be of no benefit, while it would cause great inconvenience to the working classes generally. Another result which Mr. Lanetti anticipated from early closing on Saturdays would be that the men would take homo bottles of porter over night. Further, in reply to Mr. Theodore Fry, he expressed a fear that the curtailing of hours would lead to she beening, and procuring drink illicitly. The Rev. Canon Sheehan, of Cork, who was also called as a witness, said the early closing of public-houses on Saturdays would largely increase the temptation to take drink home on Saturday nights; it would increase home drinking on Sundays, and would lead to stupid, idle, wasted Sunday mornings. Further, he said that it would be a greater evil to create home drinkers than to allow men to get drunk in public-houses. He held that 10 cases of drunkenness at home were worse than 20 cases in a public-house. The curtailment would also lead to the establishment of drinking clubs. Now, the President of the United Trades of Cork, in his evidence, said he had never tasted intoxicating liquors in his life; but his intimate acquaintance with the social life of the people had forced him to the conclusion that the evils which would be produced by closing public-houses would be greater than those which this Bill proposes to remedy. He condemned strongly the practice of home drinking, which was simply ruinous to families and children, by reason of the bad example it set. A strong feeling-exists—I think I can show—among the working classes of Dublin and Cork, and of Ireland generally, against such a measure as this; while men who are thoroughly acquainted with the requirements of the people are also opposed to a Bill like this; on the ground that it would set up greater evils than it professes to put down. A well-known priest of Belfast also gave evidence before the Committee, which had a similar bearing. Ho said— We are strongly of opinion that there are other means whereby the cause of temperance could be promoted more effectually than by this Bill. The improvement of the social condition of the working classes would do much more to promote temperance than any coercive legislation. Mr. O'Donnell, an experienced Dublin magistrate, said before the Committee — It is hopeless to expect, by any change in the law, to make the drunken classes (speaking of the labourers) more sober until there is improvement in their wretched domiciles. Similar opinions have been expressed by Resident Magistrates, doctors, and other persons well qualified to speak upon the subject. The Mayor of Sligo said—"I do not believe people can be made sol or by force or by coercion." Mr. Irving, a Resident Magistrate held that, if the houses of the poor were improved sanitarily that would be much more effectual in promoting temperance than any legislation. Dr. Burn, of Dublin, said— I think the proper way of making the people sober is to educate the masses and provide proper places of amusement for them. I now wish to lay before the House a few statistics as to the effects of Sunday closing in Ireland; and the figures I propose to quote show, I submit, that there has been a decrease of drunkenness in those parts of Ireland where the Sunday Closing Act has not been in operation, and that there has been an increase where it has been in operation. In Dublin, in the two years between April, 1877, and April, 1879, the arrests for Saturday drunkenness numbered 10,754; in the two years from May, 1885, to May, 1887, they fell to 8,440. And in. connection with these figures it is important to note the number of per sons using the public-houses. On the 10th March, 1888, 14,582 persons entered 30 public-houses; on the 18th March, 1886, the number entering 30 public-houses -was 13,426. In Belfast, in 1874, four years before the operation of the Sunday Closing Act, the number of arrests on Sundays was 396, and in 1882, after the Act had come into operation, the number rose to 512. In Belfast also the number of Saturday arrests was as follows:—1878, 2,036; 1879, 2,207; 1885, 1880; and 1886, 1,540. In Cork, in 1874, the Sunday arrests amounted to 319; in 1879, they rose to 480; and in 1884 they stood at 499. The number of Saturday arrests in that city were:—1880, 768; 1883, 557; 1884, 662; 1885, 602; 1886, 477; and 1887, 451. Judging by these results, the public will scarcely appreciate the expediency of further curtailing the trade, when past restrictions have only tended to in crease drunkenness, while where the restrictions have not been in operation arrests for drunkenness have decreased. In Waterford the Saturday arrests fell from 426 in 1877 to 225 in 1887. The passing of the Act did not effect the Saturdays; therefore, it shows that when you allow the natural inclination of the people to operate, and do not restrict their ability to get drink whenever they choose, and do not encourage them to take drink home with them, they be come more temperate. In Clonmel the number of Saturday arrests—


I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member; but these statistic, I must point out, boar on closing public-houses on a particular day; whereas this Bill deals with the prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquors.


Yes, Sir. My intention is to show that the curtailment of the hours of sale has resulted in an increase, rather than a decrease, of drunkenness, and that this Bill would have an effect contrary to that which is desired.


I consider that the statistics which the hon. Member has been quoting relates to a Saturday or a Sunday Closing Bill; but not to the Bill before the House.


I will not further refer to statistics, but will proceed with another part of the subject which I hold to be quite as important. I am strongly of opinion—and there is no stronger conviction I brought away from the sittings of the Committee—that not only the curtailment of the hours of sale, but the closing of the houses would result in an enormous increase in shebeens in Ireland. I could not make my case complete without drawing the attention of the House to the evidence given before the Committee on this head. First of all, we have the statistics given by the police of Dublin and elsewhere. It appears from these that in the Metropolitan District in 1876—before the passing of the Sunday Closing Act—the number of convictions for illicit sale was 245; whereas in 1883, after the passing of the Act, the number was 370; showing an increase of over 100 on the previous number. That is to say, that five years after the passing of the Sunday Closing Act, which reduced the hours of opening in Dublin by nearly two, the number of detected shebeens—and there is a great difference between the number of detected shebeens and the number undetected—had increased 51 per cent. In this result of the closing of public-houses compulsorily I am borne out by priests, mayors of towns, Poor Law Guardians, and every man who has ability to understand and opportunity to judge of the operation of these laws. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill gave us some very interesting statistics to show that drunkenness is on the increase. Well, that is so; but it is in consequence of restricting the proper use of public-houses. The number of cases of drunkenness before the magistrates increased from 64,506 in 1874 to 68,678 in 1882—an increase of 4,172 cases in the area embraced by the Act; while in that portion of Ireland not embraced by the Act—namely, Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Waterford—the number of cases of drunkenness taken before the magistrates decreased from 32,932 in 1874 to 19,019 in 1882, or a decrease of 13,913. These figures will, I hope, convince the House of the inexpediency of passing any further legislation on this subject. Now, I have alluded to what many of us believe to be the proper means of promoting temperance, and that is giving facilities for the building of artizans' dwellings, and increasing the comfort of the people by establishing parks and encouraging legitimate amusements, rather than bringing forward restrictive and coercive legislation. We believe that coercion will fail in its object, no matter to what it may be applied. Wherever restrictive legislation is put into operation it proves a failure. I was anxious that before this Bill came on the Report of the Royal Commission on Sunday Closing in Wales might be introduced to the notice of the House. The Report, however, has not yet made its appearance, and I can only hope that it will do so before the other Bill—for we are surrounded by measures of this kind—comes on for discussion. Sunday closing has been in operation for some years in Wales, and yet many important persons capable of forming sound judgments on social questions, and who have many opportunities of observing the operation of legislation, have reason to feel grave dissatisfaction at the working of the Welsh Act. That dissatisfaction was so strongly expressed by a Judge on the Bench, by a certain noble Lord of great influence in Wales, and by the editors of great and important Welsh newspapers, that the Government of the day appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter. Well, a very strong opinion, adverse to the continuance of the Sunday Closing Act, has been expressed. ["No, no."] I do not say by the Royal Commission; but no one can deny that such opinion has been expressed by Mr. Justice Grant, by Lord Aberdare, and by many Welsh newspapers; and I complain that in the face of such opinions as these, and before the Royal Commission has reported, we should be asked to put our seal and stamp on the crude and insufficient measure brought before our notice to-day. We are asked to proceed on lines condemned by such high authorities. We are asked to promote temperance by a method not even approved of by the Irish Bishops—even condemned by them in their Pastoral. ["No, no."] Well, I have read out the words of the Bishops, who appeal not to Acts of Parliament but to religion, and the grace which they beseech the Almighty will bestow on the people. I was able, a short time ago, when discussing the question of closing public-houses all day on Sundays, to read to the House the opinions of police magistrates, police inspectors, and chief constables, in charge of large and important districts in Scotland, who wrote saying that the Forbes Mackenzie Act had been an entire and complete failure. In many parts of Scotland, if facilities wore afforded for the gathering of information, I am sure that such information would all point to the failure of these Acts of Parliament in Scotland. And not only is it in Wales and Scotland that these Acts have been proved to be failures, but outside this kingdom many countries have been obliged to depart from the lines on which they have been legislating in this respect. Many States in America have abandoned total prohibition, and other States have only abstained from doing it because prohibition is embodied in their Constitution—and when a law is made part of a Constitution in the United State, it requires a two-thirds majority to abolish it, and that, obviously, is a majority not easy to obtain. I feel confident that if it were not for this difficulty, prohibition would disappear from the laws of the United States, and for the reason that the American people are in the habit of legislating according to the principles of common sense. In the face of these facts, I would ask the House to hesitate before accepting the principle of this Bill. I have endeavoured to show the House that if public houses are closed in some districts and kept open in others, as would undoubtedly be the case under the operation of this Bill, drunkenness will not be prevented, while the inhabitants of districts where the houses are closed will be seriously inconvenienced. I have pointed out that the Bill would be utterly inoperative, unless closing were general; and on all the grounds I have mentioned I oppose the Bill. It is, I believe, inexpedient to introduce any further legislation on this subject until the proposals of the Government on Irish Local Government are known; and, while I am as anxious as any one to promote the cause of temperance, I feel that this measure is too drastic in its principle, and would not effect the object intended, and I therefore move its rejection.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words— In view of the proposal by Government to introduce during the present Session a Local Government Bill for Ireland, it is inexpedient to further legislate for the control and regulation of the trade in excise able liquors in Ireland until the House shall have ascertained the scope and powers of such Local Authorities as it is the intention of the Government to create."—(Mr. John O'Connor.) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

(4.55.) MR. J. NOLAN (Louth, N.)

I rise for the purpose of seconding the Motion, and I wish to do so in as few words as possible after the able statement of my hon. Friend. We are all agreed as to the object which the promoters of the Bill have at heart, namely, the promotion of the temperance movement amongst the Irish people, and we only differ as to the means. The promoters of the Bill believe that the object in view will best be attained by coercion. I, for one, believe that the object in view will he better attained by education. The hon. Member for South Tyrone pointed to the great improvement that has taken place in the temperance of the people, declaring that drunkenness is less common than it used to be. I am glad to be able to bear out the hon. Member's statement in that respect. I know, as a matter of personal observation, that drunkenness in the rural districts in Ireland has become rare: whereas it was rather prevalent many years ago. But I do not admit that this happy change has been brought about by anything in the shape of coercive legislation. There were, in fact, marked changes in the habits of the people before this House resorted to coercive legislation; and, in my opinion, education, and the influence of the pastors, have produced the improvement noted. Now, we are all agreed that this measure is a very important one; but I can scarcely congratulate the hon. Gentleman in charge of it on his endeavour to force it through the House on a Wednesday afternoon in the absence of a great majority of the Members. I think the hon. Member would have better served the object he and his friends have in view if he had used his great influence with the Government to secure a whole day for the discussion of the Bill, when it might have been adequately discussed in a full House. The prohibition of the sale of drink has been tried in other countries, and not with the best results. I dare say all hon. Members received this morning a Circular containing a letter from a former Member of this House, who is himself an ardent temperance advocate. This gentleman (Mr. Plimsoll) gives his experience of the liquor law in the State of Maine. He says that there, right at the headquarters of the great Generalissimo of prohibition (General Neil Dow), he finds that, notwithstanding the fact that the sale of drink is absolutely prohibited, there are no fewer than 300 houses where drink is openly sold. Moreover, he finds that the number of arrests for drunkenness in that town is quite as large as that in most other towns of the same size in the Union, where the sale of intoxicating drink is not prohibited. I find, too, that the hon. Member for the City of Derry (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) states that when he was in the State of Maine he could walk into a grocer's shop and buy drink without the slightest difficulty. I contend that the setting a law of the kind in question at nought must have a very demoralising effect on the people. I notice also that in a debate in the other House a noble Lord said that the operation of the Maine Liquor Law had driven him into a criminal conspiracy with an innkeeper in the United States. When it produces such an effect upon one of the pillars of the State, what effect may it be supposed to have upon a humbler member of society? I yield to no one in my desire to promote temperance amongst the Irish people; but I fully believe that the promotion of temperance will not be secured by any drastic measures, such as those I find embodied in this Bill. It is for this reason that I beg to support very heartily the Amendment of my hon. Friend.

(5.3.) MR. J. WILSON (Lanarkshire, Govan)

I rise to make one or two observations in consequence of something that has fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tip-perary (Mr. J. O'Connor). I cannot sit still when I hear the hon. Gentleman state, as regards Scotland, what I consider to be entirely contrary to the facts. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the Scotch Sunday Act as an entire failure, and said he was borne out in this statement by magistrates and other officials. I am sorry to bring the hon. Gentleman to book. Last year, when the hon. Gentleman, spoke on this subject, he read an extract from a pamphlet, and led the House to believe that the statement ho quoted was that of the Lord Provost of Glasgow. I asked him for the name of the Lord Provost, and, after considerable hesitation, he said the name was that of a Roman Catholic ecclesiastic—a provost of that denomination. Sir James Kay was at that time Lord Provost of Glasgow, and that gentleman has never expressed the opinion that the Scotch Sunday Closing Act is a failure. And I am here to flatly contradict the hon. Gentleman in stating that the magistrates and other officials in Scotland are against the Sunday Closing Act in Scotland. I am satisfied of this, that no Member of Parliament, no man in any official position in Scotland will rise in the face of a Scotch audience and advocate the abrogation of the Sunday Closing Act. The hon. Member for South Tipperary condemns this Bill. It is a Bill that I highly appreciate, and I only wish the people of Scotland had an opportunity of adopting such a Bill. This Bill is a permissive Bill. It does not interfere in the slightest degree with the machinery now in operation for the granting or withholding of licenses. It is a Bill which puts into the hands of the ratepayers, who are the parties interested in the matter, the power of carrying out their wishes in regard to the liquor traffic. There is no coercion about the measure; indeed, the coercion is all on the other side, inasmuch as the present law gives power to Justices of the Peace, and to magistrates of the counties, the power to grant licences over the heads of the people, to their demoralisation and to their great hurt socially. I maintain that the philanthropist of the present day, whether his efforts are directed to religion or to charity, or to whatever else, is baulked in his endeavours by the extravagant indulgence in strong drink on the part of the people. We ought to give the people a chance of redeeming themselves from this curse, and you never can give them that chance unless you give them the opportunity of carrying into effect what they desire. We hear a great deal about the housing of the poor; I wish all success to the movement, but I hold that that success is greatly retarded by the indulgence in strong drink. Wherever you plant a licensed house, there you will find crime, immorality, poverty, and disease rampant. If we wish to do good for our fellows, we should remove every obstacle to their rise in the social scale. This Bill is a step in the right direction. The hon. Gentleman said that some doctor in Dublin says that a cure for drunkenness is to give the people the benefit of additional amusements. Within the last few days I had the pleasure of being in the company of one of the Senators of Victoria, and he told me that in his country they have eight hours work, eight hours play, and eight hours sleep; that every amusement is provided for the people, and yet they drink far more than we Britishers do. I should be very glad to see the people have more amusements than they have, hut the provision of amusements will never cure the radical evil which, is in our midst. In conclusion, I have only to say I hope the hon. Member for South Tipperary will never again declare in this House that Scotland wishes the abrogation of the Sunday Closing Act.

(5.13.) MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)

I altogether fail to see how any person who holds the opinion that the liberties of the people should be extended can possibly oppose this measure, because the only object of the Bill is to give the people the power to do what they wish. Whatever a Sunday Closing or a Saturday Closing Act may he, this Bill cannot possibly be described as coercive. It merely proposes to allow the people to prohibit, if they think fit, the sale of liquor, and to regulate the number of licences. I am very sorry that the people are not able to exercise powers of this hind in reference to a great many things in Ireland, and I certainly will support this Bill. There are, however, one or two matters which will require amendment in Committee. In the first place, the majority of two thirds is altogether too small. I think it should be a three-fourths majority. The hon. Member for South Tipperary opposes the Bill because he believes that a very small percentage of the people will vote under the powers of the Bill. He believes that only 30 per cent, of the people will vote. Does he mean to say that the remainder of the people care so very little for the subject that they will not take the trouble to vote? I assert that the people who will be opposed to this law will take more care to vote than they will to vote in regard to any other matter. I cannot sit down without remarking that if this Bill does not come to a successful ending I must attribute it very largely to the attitude taken up by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. The hon. Member holds opinions which differ very considerably from those of hon. Members on these Benches, who are just as anxious to see the evil results of excessive drinking in Ireland done away with, and if he is really anxious to do good in this case and to enlist the co-operation of hon. Members in this part of the House, he must cease to use the language in regard to us which he is in the habit of holding in different parts of the country. I received to-day a newspaper containing the pastoral letter of the Archbishop of Dublin and other Bishops on the temperance question, and I find in another portion of the paper the following quotation— The Parnellites are the body-slaves of the most murderous association of scoundrels that ever disgraced the world. I assure him that, in holding language of that kind with reference to us, he is injuring the temperance cause as it never was injured by any man before.

(5.20.) MR. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK (Whitehaven)

I should like to know why the hon. Member for Go van (Mr. J. Wilson), holding the views he does, did not endeavour to help the House last night when a Scotch Liquor Bill was on the Paper? I have always regarded the state of things in Scotland as a reason why this repressive legislation should not be advanced further. Amongst the Scotch Members there certainly is a very great difference of opinion on this subject. I had not the advantage of hearing the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, but the hon. Members who have spoken on the same side of the question have not addressed themselves to the provisions of the 15th clause. The opposition which I offer to the Bill is based entirely on what I hold to be the new principle which is to be found in that clause. Hitherto the Teetotal Party have confined their attacks to the Licensed Victuallers, but this Bill provides that the sale of intoxicating liquor shall be prohibited if the people think fit. I apprehend that is to extend to wine and spirit shops: that no wine and spirit merchant is to be allowed to carry on his avocation. I also apprehend that the Bill will extend to breweries. But there are clubs where intoxicating liquors are sold. I see that the hon. Member is a member of the Ulster Reform Club. Does he mean to say this Bill should go the length of closing that club?


I should be very glad if intoxicating liquor was excluded from the Ulster Reform Club.


The hon. Member now proposes to close all Licensed Victuallers' premises, all wine and spirit shops, all breweries, 111 clubs; indeed, every place where intoxicating liquors are sold. I, therefore, think the Bill is one of the most tyrannical measures ever proposed, and that it ought not to be accepted in a free country. The hon. Member for Fermanagh (Mr. W. Redmond) thinks the people ought to be consulted in this matter. But you only intend to consult the ratepayers, and they are not the only people interested in the sale of liquor. What right has a householder to speak for all the inmates of his house, who may number 10, 15, or 20? This Bill—

(5.25.) MR. THOMAS W. RUSSELL rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided:—Ayes 165, Noes 79.—(Div. List, No. 37.)

Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

(5.40.) The House divided:—Ayes 124, Noes 131.—(Div. List, No. 38.)

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put. Resolved, That, in view of the proposal by Government to introduce during the present Session a Local Government Bill for Ireland, it is inexpedient to further legislate for the control and regulation of the trade in excisable liquors in Ireland until the House shall have ascertained the scope and powers of such Local Authorities as it is the intention of the Government to create.