§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (12.25.) MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I do not propose to detain the House many minutes in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. Two years ago the Irish Chief Secretary told a deputation that the time for argument had passed, and the time for action had come. It does seem rather absurd that a Bill of this sort, which year after year has been passed by a large majority, is not become the law of the land. What is the history of the question? In 1878, Sir Stafford Northcote, the then Leader of the House, knowing the feeling in Ireland, gave a Saturday Sitting in order that the Irish Sunday Closing Bill should be passed through Committee. Unfortunately, a timid sort of feeling seemed to prevail, either in this House or in another place, and the Bill was then limited to four years' working. It thus expired in 1882, and for the last eight or nine years it has been included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I think the unanimous opinion of all parties in the House is that that is not a proper state for a question of this kind to occupy. In 1883 and 1884 Bills to make the Act permanent were brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs (Sir George Trevelyan), then Chief Secretary for Ireland. In 1877 a question was raised by a member of the trade in Ireland as to the Bill still continuing in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and the Chief Secretary stated that a Committee would be appointed the next year to consider the question. A Committee was appointed, and in 1888 it sat very 586 patiently, heard a large number of witnesses, and then reported the present Bill to the House. I was asked by that Committee to take charge of the Bill, and in each succeeding year I have endeavoured to pass it into law. In 1888 my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) had a Bill providing for the closing of public houses in Ireland earlier on Saturday nights. The Second Reading of that Bill was passed by a large majority, and the Bill was referred to the same Committee, who reported that it should be included in the Bill now under consideration. The evidence in support of that part of the question was quite as strong, and, in the opinion of a good many people, even stronger than the evidence given in favour of the total closing on Sunday in Ireland. I quoted last year the opinion of a considerable number of witnesses who came before the Select Committee, but I do not propose to do so on the present occasion. I will merely state that amongst those witnesses there were 15 official witnesses—Coroners, Police Inspectors, Magistrates, and others— and, without exception, every one of those official witnesses gave evidence strongly in favour of the Bill. I admit that on one point there was a little diversity of opinion. One or two of the Police Magistrates connected with Dublin did not think it would be expedient that the total closing should apply to Dublin. The Committee reported, and it will be found that the overwhelming opinion of the people of Ireland is strongly in favour of this measure. Those Members who represent constituencies in the North of Ireland are confronted with the assertion that the feeling of Sabbatarianism in the North of Ireland is one of the great reasons for the Bill. I deny the statement. I am quite willing to admit that Sabbath observance in the North of Ireland prompted a feeling in favour of the measure, but if any one will read the evidence given by other witnesses from other parts of Ireland they will see how small a bearing this point has on the question. If they will read the evidence of Canon Sheehan, of the City of Cork, they will see that a very strong Catholic feeling is greatly in favour of the Bill. A deputation from all parts of Ireland came to London last year to pray the Chief Secretary not to admit 587 any Amendment with regard to the five cities. The present Attorney General for Ireland saw the deputation, which was composed of representatives of each of the cities proposed to be omitted. I was very much struck with one of the speeches made to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. There were three parish priests from the City of Water-ford, and the chief parish priest told the Attorney General that in his city he was quite sure nineteen-twentieths of the people were greatly in favour of this Bill. The Committee which reported the Bill proposed to amend the law on four points. They said that the Act should be made permanent, that the five cities should be included, and they suggested an Amendment in regard to the bonâ fide traveller clause; and, in the fourth place, added to the Bill the measure brought in by the hon. Member for South Tyrone for the earlier closing of public houses on Saturday. One word upon the opposition to the measure. Last year a number of Amendments were placed on the Paper; I am glad to see that that form of opposition has ceased, and that now the only Amendment is that the Bill should be read a second time on this day six months. There have been a large number of public open meetings held in all parts of Ireland in favour of the Bill, and the trade has never dared to have a single open public meeting in opposition to the Bill. That seems to me a clear expression of public opinion in Ireland. As to the proceedings in connection with the Bill last year, a Division was taken after a Debate of two or three hours, and rather more than three-fourths of the Members voted for the Second Reading. The Division List showed that only 13 or 14 out of the 102 Representatives of Ireland went into the Lobby against the Second Reading. That in itself shows how hollow is the opposition. In conclusion, I desire to say that if the House is pleased to read the Bill a second time to-day, I would propose to refer it to the Standing Committee on Law, in the hope that it may be passed into law this Session. I trust the House will at least, by as large a majority as was obtained last year, pass the Second Reading and thus consult the wishes and wants of the Irish people.
Motion made, and Question proposed, " That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Lea.)
§ (12.35.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
The hon. Member who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill has, no doubt unconsciously, fallen into an error which he will perhaps allow me to correct before I address myself to the merits of the Bill. He said that two Members of the Committee who reported upon the question represented the trade. As a matter of fact only one of them —the late Mr. M'Donald — represented the trade; the other Irish Member was altogether unconnected with the trade. We complained at the time of the composition of the Committee. We thought then, as we think now, that this legislation is unnecessary and vexatious, and we said that the Committee was composed of gentlemen who were professedly advocates of teetotal and temperance principles, and whose opinions were to be regarded as foregone conclusions. I oppose the Bill on the ground that the people of Ireland have made no demand! for it, and that there is no proof whatever that any Irish public opinion is in favour of it. The Mover of the Bill says that the majority of the Irish people support the measure. I traverse that statement at once, and I say that a large proportion of the meetings in favour of the Bill have been got up by professed advocates of the temperance cause, and that they have been promoted—I will not say by agitators—but by gentlemen who have appeared in the capacity of peripatetic advocates of the doctrines of teetotalism. I maintain that such meetings do not reflect public opinion, and that they have been held in halls, and attended by persons who are opposed altogether to the sale of alcoholic liquors. I maintain further, that such meetings form no real test of public opinion. There is only one way of arriving at a test, and that is the election of Parliamentary Representatives. Has this ever yet been made a test question at an election?
§ MR. FLYNN
The hon. Gentleman says "Yes." May I ask in how many constituencies? Certainly not in half a dozen; two at the outside; and I regard that fact as a primâ facie proof that there is no demand for this legislation; and my contention is that this is preeminently a branch of legislation which should be left to the decision of the 589 Irish Members. We have heard a great deal of late in favour of Local Option. It is a principle on which the popular voice ought to be heard, but that principle is directly opposed to this kind of legislation. It was shown before the Select Committee that not only the Trade Societies, but many Corporations in Ireland, were opposed to the Bill. The Corporations of Cork, Dublin, and Limerick, and the Trade Associations of those towns, petitioned against it. I do not know how the matter stands in Belfast; but the mover of the Bill has certainly not convinced the House that the working men of Belfast are in favour of it. People who can afford to keep a stock of liquor in their own houses ought not to legislate on such a point for the working classes unless the working classes ask for it; and my contention is that no popular demand in Ireland in favour of the measure has been shown. Until that is done, no case for the Bill can be made out. At a trades meeting in Limerick two years ago, it was resolved to protest against the Bill on the ground that if it became law the result would be to encourage the illicit sale of drink, and thus to promote vice and intemperance. That resolution emanated from a body which represented every class for which this legislation is intended. Similar resolutions were passed in Cork, Waterford, and Sligo. So far as the official witnesses are concerned, their testimony cannot be regarded as conclusive. Let me refer to the figures in regard to arrests on the Saturday night and Sunday. I have figures down to 1886, which give the number of arrests in all Ireland; and I find that in Dublin, including Kingstown and Dalkey, with a population of 350,000, there was only an average of 21 arrests on the Sunday. Certainly that does not exhibit a very alarming amount of drunkenness. In Cork, with a population of 104,000, the arrests were 7; in Waterford, with a population of 30,000, 2; in Limerick, with a population of 38,000, 2.3; and in Belfast, with a population of 208,000, 7.3. I have obtained Police Returns from the City of Cork a few weeks ago, and I find that the average number of convictions for drunkenness for Saturday drinking at the present time is one in every 1,000 of the population, which includes habitual drunkards; 590 and one in 20,000 for Sunday drinking. Surely that does not indicate a sufficient amount of drunkenness to justify a drastic measure of this sort or to show that there is any necessity for it. I repudiate altogether the idea that the people of these towns or of any part of Ireland are a drunken people, or that they are more given to drunkenness than the people of any other part of Europe. The figures go to prove quite the reverse; and the statistics of drunken ness are annually decreasing in accordance with the spread of comfort and the general progress of the people. We all hope that the percentage may diminish more and more; but I do not think that legislation of this kind will have a tendency to diminish drunkenness. The arrests for Saturday drinking in Dublin in 1878 amounted to 108; in 1885 they were 86, and last year they had fallen to 60. Let it be borne in mind that that is one of the towns where there is no Saturday or Sunday closing. In Cork the figures show that drunkenness does not prevail to any considerable extent at all; but in Sligo, where the Closing Act prevails, the arrests for Sunday drinking increased from 37 in 1880 to 41 in 1881 and 51 in 1885, showing an increase in 1885 over 1880 of more than 33 per cent. In 1887—the latest Return I have been able to obtain—the figure stood at 70, which shows that in a town where Sun day closing prevails drunkenness has in creased, and that there can be no necessity for a Bill of this kind. There arc other points connected with the Bill which are objectionable. I may instance the clause which relates to bonâ fide travellers, and which proposes to increase he limit from three to six miles. There are a good many honest and respectable working men who will walk three or four miles into the country for the purpose of getting fresh air and recreation, but who are unable to walk six or seven, and by raising the limit in the manner pro posed you are simply interfering with the rational recreation of the working man. A man who walks three or four miles into the country is fairly entitled to obtain refreshment, and if, instead of mild soda and milk, or innocent lemonade, or unexciting ginger beer he prefers ale, or a drop of Irish whisky, he is entitled to get it. The hon. Member proposes, if the Bill is read a second time, to refer 591 it to the Standing Committee on Law, and he suggests that if it is desired to amend it, the Amendments can be introduced there. But why is the extraordinary course to be taken of removing the Bill from the cognisance of a Committee of the Whole House? Although I am not over sanguine upon the point, I hope the Bill will not pass a Second Reading to-day, but if it does, and you are really in earnest, you ought to improve the Bill in the House itself, and not in the Standing Committee on Law. That Committee consists of 68 Members, only eight of whom are Irish Representatives, and seven out of the eight are professedly strong advocates of teetotalism. If that is so, you would not be treating the Bill fairly, or give those who desire to amend it any chance whatever. It ought, if it passes a Second Reading, to be referred to a Committee of the Whole House, where the Amendments brought forward would receive reasonable consideration. Take the bond fide travellers clause. It may be thought an arbitrary act to fix the limit at six miles. Why not substitute five, four, or three and a half? The question is one which ought to be decided by the House itself, and not by a Committee upstairs which may extend the limit to 10 miles instead of six. Personally I am in favour of the reduction of the present hours on Saturday. I think it would be a great advantage to close one hour earlier, but I think that is a matter to be fixed by a Committee in which the Representatives of Ireland would be able to express the feeling of their constitutents. Then, again, it may be possible to arrive at a compromise, and to shorten the hours in the cities which have hitherto been exempted, without imposing total closing. The Attorney General for Ireland is, I believe, in favour of a compromise, and he would be able to put forward the view of the Government more completely in a Committee of the Whole House than in the Standing Committee on Law. I believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is in favour of shortening the hours by one hour.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
The hon. Member is mistaken. I never made any suggestion of the kind as regards Saturdays.
§ MR. FLYNN
I should be sorry to misrepresent the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I believe he is in favour of a compromise of some kind; and I think that a decision would be better arrived at in the House itself than in a Committee, where the majority of Members are distinctly opposed to any reasonable concession. I move the rejection of the Bill chiefly and broadly on the ground that it is not demanded by the public opinion of Ireland; that there has been no expression of public opinion in favour of the Bill, and that in passing a social measure of this kind dealing with the habits and customs of the people, our first care ought to be to consult the tastes and feelings of the Irish people. Upon these grounds I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time on this day six months.
§ 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. Flynn.)
§ Question proposed, " That the word ' now' stand part of the Question."
§ (12.55.) MR. J. NOLAN (Louth, N.)
I beg to second the Amendment. The hon. Member for Londonderry seems to assume that because a similar Bill has been read a second time in this House it is unnecessary to discuss it in Committee. But I think no one will venture to dispute the proposition that there have been Bills discussed in this House time after time which have even become Acts of Parliament, but which it has been found necessary to amend, and in some cases even to repeal altogether. The hon. Member spoke of the overwhelming mass of evidence in favour of the Bill, but he carefully abstained from referring to the evidence given by gentlemen in Ireland, of wide and varied experience, against the Bill. I listened to some of the evidence given before the Committee upstairs, and I have read most of the evidence which, together with their Report, the Committee on the Sunday Closing Act for Ireland presented to this House, and I find that a large number of witnesses were of opinion—an opinion which they expressed in very clear terms indeed— that the passing of such a Bill as this would lead to the development of shebeening in Ireland to a very great extent, as well as to the development of 593 bogus clubs, and of course cause a considerable increase in the amount of home drinking, and that, with these changes, would follow the use of poisonous drinks instead of the comparatively wholesome beverages at the present time sold in licensed houses in Ireland. Of course I do not contend that all drink sold in public houses is wholesome, but I think that people who have had practical experience will say that when difficulties and restrictions are increased in the way of the sale of drink openly the quality of liquor that can be procured will be bad, and vile compounds will be sold as teetotal drinks. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill commented on the fact that no Amendments had been placed upon the Paper, but this simply arises from the fact that Members of the House generally did not anticipate this Bill coming on to-day, and doubtless the promoters of the Bill think they have executed a clever piece of Parliamentary strategy. Many Irish Members are absent from the House of Commons just now, and in their absence the hon. Member in charge of the Bill thinks this is a fit and proper time to proceed with the Bill. I may, however, remind him that supporters of the Bill are also absent, even one of those whose names appear on the back of the Bill. I certainly consider this surprise which has been sprung upon Irish Members is no credit to those who planned it, and I think they might have taken into account the fact that very large interests indeed are involved in this proposal. In the City of Dublin alone there are 800 licensed houses which will be affected should this Bill unfortunately become law. Taking these at a valuation of £2,000 each, we by easy calculation arrive at the fact that more than £1,500,000 is invested in these houses, and it is now proposed in the absence of the Dublin Members', and other Members for Ireland—the majority of Irish Members—that this £1,500,000 of capital is to be dealt with in this House without due consideration. Then, if we add the interests in the other towns to be affected by the Bill—Cork, Belfast, Waterford, and Limerick—the total will be a large one. I hope that at a later stage some Representative of the Irish Government will put this part of the case more forcibly before the 594 House than I can possibly do. For my part, I consider that for a matter of this kind, involving the interests and property of so many people, the action of the Government is required for effectually dealing with it, and it should not be left to such free lances as the hon. Members for South Derry and South Tyrone. If public houses are an evil in Ireland, then they are a much greater evil in England, since here they exist in far larger numbers. But there is this distinction: that in England the trade is strong, and consequently the gentlemen who are interested in the promotion of legislation of this kind have felt the expediency of dropping their Bill for England, and, in the absence of Irish Members, they have concentrated their attack upon the trade in Ireland. For many reasons I protest against this. The question of intemperance and the means of checking it is purely a national question; and, so far as Ireland is concerned, it should be dealt with by an Irish Representative Body appointed for that purpose, and popularly elected by the people of Ireland. I contend, with all due respect for English Members, the overwhelming majority of whom are wholly ignorant of the conditions of Irish life, that they are not in a position to pronounce upon and deal with a question like this. I can fancy that some impression will have been made upon the minds of English Members by statements I have heard on a cognate subject from the hon. Member for South Tyrone. He has spoken of the large number of public houses in certain towns in the South of Ireland, and he has made a comparison of populations in those towns. I can imagine an English Member being fairly appalled at the idea of there being so many public houses to so few inhabitants. But the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who is acquainted with some of the conditions of Irish life, did not explain to English and Scotch Members that these public houses, as he termed them, are not public houses in the English sense; they are simply shops where a general trade is carried on, and where occasionally drink is sold, and in some of which, perhaps, a gallon of whisky is not sold in a month. These are not public houses as we understand the term in England or Scotland—nothing of the sort. Drink in many of these places 595 is simply kept as an accommodation for customers when they come in from long distances from the surrounding country —and, for the matter of that, and I think in England as well as in Ireland, traders are in the habit of supplying refreshment free of charge to customers who travel into the town from a long distance, and that without licence of any kind. Now, there are not two opinions as to the proposition that intemperance is a great evil; but when we come to the cure for this evil, then serious differences of opinion arise. Intemperance is not an evil of yesterday; people got drunk before there were any public houses at all; and if public houses were abolished through the length and breadth of the land to-morrow, people would manage to get drunk still. Through many centuries we have had the promoters of three great religious systems grappling with the evil of intemperance. The Hebrew, the Christian, the Mahomedan religions have attempted to deal with it, with more or less success. But the promoters of this Bill, I suppose, claim more wisdom than Moses or Mahomet, not to mention more sacred names, and hope to wipe out drunkenness simply by an Act of the British Parliament. The cause of drunkenness, they say, is the public house—destroy the cause, and the effect will cease. Well, I remember reading of other causes being assigned for drunkenness, and, amongst others, climate has been assigned. We have been told by some great authorities that if the northern nations of Europe have the habit of drinking to excess, it is because they live in a cold climate, and that southward to the sunny South of France, Spain, and Italy people become more temperate. But this theory has become exploded by wider experience, and we find that people in Central Africa were ready fairly to wallow in drink when they got the opportunity of doing so. Not only has the habit of taking drink to excess been attributed to climate, but race and religion have also been assigned as causes. For my own part, I am not inclined to accept as gospel any of the theories propounded on the subject, and least of all am I prepared to admit, with the volume of testimony to the contrary, that intemperance is caused by the number of licensed public houses. In the Report presented by the Committee 596 which sat upstairs, we find that the majority of its Members, as might have been expected from the composition of that body, reported in favour of closing public houses in Ireland on Sunday, and that the minority also presented a Report against that Sunday closing. Between the opinions of the majority and minority it is not, perhaps, easy to arrive at a solution of this very difficult problem, and so we fall back on the evidence given before that Committee. Now, I do not want to inflict upon the House any lengthened quotations from this evidence, but I do think that some of the evidence given is worthy of the attention of the House, particularly in view of the fact that the hon. Member who proposed the Second Reading of this Bill chose to ignore the evidence given before that Committee, which tells against the case he tried to make out. I think it will be generally admitted that Mr. O'Donel, the Chief Police Magistrate of Dublin, should be recognised as a fairly good authority on a question of this kind, not merely from his training and his great experience, but also on account of his undoubted ability. On being questioned on some evidence he had given on a former occasion as to the desirability of absolutely closing public houses on Sunday Mr. O'Donel said—The strong opinion that I then gave against a total closing on Sunday, or to the early closing upon Saturday, was founded on the danger of increasing the number of shebeens, and encouraging illicit drinking, my opinion being that, apart from drunkenness arising from the facility of getting drink at those shebeens, there was a greater social demoralisation in frequenting them than in getting drunk at a public house. I stated my reasons for that to the Committee at the time, and my view remains the same as regards that.I wish to call the attention of the House particularly to this expression of opinion—I think the total closing of public houses on Sunday would inevitably result in an enormous increase in the number of the shebeen houses, and therefore would bring about a far more demoralising result and injury than leaving matters as they now are.I hope that the hon. Member who may follow me will note this expression of opinion by Mr. O'Donel, and tell us what he thinks about it. Then Mr. O'Donel went on to refer to the number of shebeen cases brought before him. In the year 1876-77, before the introduction of 597 the Act, which was to have brought about a reformation in the habits of the people who were accustomed to take drink, the total number of shebeen offences for the year was 155. In the year 1886-87, 10 years after the Act had come into operation, the number rose to 206. And then he goes on to say—It is a very curious thing which has appeared in evidence with regard to illicit drinking before 2 o'clock; that, directly 2 o'clock arrived, immediately the whole trade of shebeening ceased, and, of course, the after consumption in the city was in the public house.Now, I think there is no advocate of temperance, however strong his views, however ardent a teetotaler he may be, but will grant that if people will take drink at all, it is better that they should drink in a public house than in low shebeens, many of which are dens of drunkenness, gambling, and immorality. And now I turn to the evidence of Mr. Cameron, the Town Inspector of Belfast. He, speaking of a deputation of gentlemen engaged in the public house trade who waited upon him to express their views, says—I may say that they were a most respectable body of men, and they told me that they would have no objection to curtailing the hours of Sunday or Saturday drinking a little; but that what they did object to was, by shutting up the houses on Sunday, throwing the drinking trade into the hands of shebeens, who would give bad liquor to the people, and demoralise them far more than the respectable trade; and, no doubt, that would be the case, unless you could, by some means, counteract the evil that would come.Of course, it is open to hon. Gentlemen who are in favour of this Bill to point to the means by which the evil of the shebeens may be met; but, up to the present, none of them have been able to say there is any plan save the adoption of further coercive regulations, and several of the gentlemen who have suggested these further coercive regulations candidly confess that they are not at all sanguine that they would produce the desired effect. Well, the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading spoke of the opinion of the Catholic Bishops and clergy, and we find that Mr. Cameron, the Town Inspector of Belfast, has something to say upon this point. He is asked—Did the publicans give that as their opinion?—Yes; and it is an opinion that agrees with that of every sound person. " Do you know that it is the opinion of the Roman Catholic Bishop also?—I do.598 So the Town Inspector, the traders, and the Bishop in Belfast unite in the opinion that the proposed restriction in the hours of opening public houses in that city would lead to the extension of shebeen drinking. Then we have the District Inspector of the Royal Irish Constabulary in Waterford, Mr. Bull, giving this evidence—If you close the public houses altogether on Sundays, I would expect that you would have considerably more shebeens than you would if you opened them from 2 to 5, because the publican would lose all interest in his trade, and, consequently, we should get no information whatever from the publican; at present if there is a shebeen started, the publicans give us information about it.Evidence in the same direction is given by Mr. Jennings, District Inspector R.I.C. at Limerick. He confirms and endorses a resolution which was passed by the traders of Limerick, and to which my hon. Friend has referred—That this meeting of the congregated trades of Limerick emphatically protest against the present Bill before Parliament for the total closing of public houses on Sunday, or any curtailment of the existing hours on Saturdays and Sundays. We are strongly of opinion that, if such Bill becomes law, its results would be to encourage illicit trade, and lead to the system of introducing drink into the houses of the people, and spread very extensively the contaminating vice of intemperance.Then I go to another part of Ireland and cite the evidence of the Mayor of Sligo. He says—There is as much drink sold in Sligo at present on Sundays as there would be sold if all the public houses in the town were open. More drink is given to frequenters of low public houses and shebeens than would be given to them in respectable houses; besides, the drink supplied in these places is extremely bad.Then he goes on to give the result of some very interesting observations of his own which he had been able to make during the course of the exercise of his profession as a journalist—The arguments urged against the sale of drink on Sundays might be urged with equal justice against the sale of drink on any other day. By leaving the public houses open for a few hours on Sunday you do not curtail any man's liberty; you do not interfere with anyone's right, as you do not compel Sunday closers to enter the public houses. The early closing on Saturday night and the Sunday closing would increase the consumption of whisky in Sligo, and diminish the consumption of ale and porter.It is obvious that it is easier to carry on 599 an illicit trade in whisky than in the more bulky drinks of ale and porter. The witness goes on—Whisky is much more injurious to the health and more expensive than ale or porter. Sunday closing, in my opinion, increases the quantity of spirits illicitly distilled in the country around Sligo.He proceeds to prove his case, and says—Large quantities of illicit spirits are distilled from molasses; there are houses in Sligo in which tons of this commodity are sold in each year for the purposes of illicit distillation. Spirit thus made is most injurious to health, and the production and sale of it in the country districts is most demoralising. Any law tending to make the lawful purchase of drink more restricted must increase the quantity of spirits illicitly distilled. The statistics given by Mr. Hickson show that the convictions for drunkenness on Sunday in Sligo have increased almost 100 per cent. during the last few years. Mr. Hickson attributes the increase in the cases of drunkenness to the increase in the number of police and of the public houses. In my opinion, the increase is due to the Sunday Closing Act.That Act it is now proposed to extend to the large cities, in which, as every one must admit, it will be more difficult to put its drastic provisions into operation. It is comparatively easy to do without public houses in a small town like Sligo, but it is a very different matter in Dublin and Belfast.The fact that the sale of drink is prohibited creates an incentive to procure it, as many men take a pleasure in breaking a law which they consider to be an unjust infringement of their personal liberty. Besides, persons who would be turned out of a respectably-conducted house have their intemperate habits pandered to by shebeeners and illicit traffickers. The majority of the people of Sligo are not in any way affected by Sunday closing. Those of them who favour Sunday closing do so on the ground that the less drink consumed the better. This Sunday closing law is hateful, inasmuch as it is founded on a calumny that the Irish are a drunken people. Mr. Alderman Kidd, a Justice of the Peace for the borough, and not interested in any way in the drink traffic, told me that he was in favour of Sunday opening. In reference to small country public houses near chapels, which were referred to by Mr. Hickson in his evidence, a prohibition by the parish priest, if deemed necessary, would be far more effective than an Act of Parliament.Then the question put was this—Then your evidence, which has been given very fully, is this: that practically for that class of persons you think there is no real Sunday closing, but they are driven to deal in illicit houses?600 And the answer was—Yes, and that they are demoralised by having to go to places where disorderly conduct is carried on, and where they are allowed to get drunk, and where bad drink of all kinds is given to them.It is the experience of every man who is in the habit of travelling in Ireland, that there is not the slightest difficulty experienced in obtaining intoxicating liquors at any hour of the day, or any day in the week, in any place where this Sunday closing is supposed to be in full operation. Mr. Egan, the Mayor of Kilkenny, also gave some interesting experiences of his own. He said—I will take last Sunday. I was out in the grounds of a park having tea, and a man came down singing a song; he was drunk in my presence; one of the clergy, who was living opposite, came out to inquire where could he have got the drink. That occurred last Sunday. But I have frequently, myself, seen the same men coming out of houses drunk at 11 on Sunday; and at 2 o'clock I have frequently seen men drunk on Sunday in the street.And this was in a' town where the provisions of the Act were in full operation. But we are not confined as regards evidence on this matter to Mayors of Irish. towns or cities or to Police Inspectors We have the popular and able President of the Dublin United Trades' Council and Labour League, Mr. Mannetti, giving this evidence—I believe if you shorten the hours, or interfere with them in any way, the men will go to those beerhouses, which, in fact, are merely brothels, which will be open on Sunday, and they can get drink there, which will lead to immorality as well as drunkenness, and to other great evils of all kinds.These men, it must be remembered, are not drawing fancy pictures, but give their opinions as based on practical experience, and they give the reasons for the judgment they have arrived at on this important question. Then we have the opinion of the Rev. P. T. Tynan, D.D., of Dublin. He says—I was always myself in favour of earlier closing on Saturday, but after seeing the evidence given by Mr. Harrell with regard to the shebeens, for he said there were 188 shebeens in the centre of Dublin, and that their principal time for working was Saturday evening and Sunday night, I must confess that I regard it now as rather a doubtful matter.Some gentlemen who are in favour of this Bill are such robust advocates of it that nothing could possibly change them; but here is the evidence of this gentleman—a gentleman of great experience 601 and living in Dublin—which shows that he had preconceived notions in favour of Sunday and Saturday night closing, but was obliged to renounce them. He went on to say—If the police are unable to interfere with the shebeens, and prevent it, the result of closing the public houses at 10 o'clock or at 9 o'clock on the Saturday night would be to throw open the shebeens to people who would otherwise drink in the public houses. It is quite clear from Mr. Harrll's evidence that the police are not able to cope with the shebeens.Later on he says—
"Wherever there is a demand for drink, there will be a shebeen to supply the drink, if the legitimate house is closed, unless, of course, the police have full power to prevent shebeening,, but they cannot prevent shebeening; shebeening will go on whenever the legitimate houses are closed.With reference to the City of Belfast, the Very Rev. Patrick Convery says—I have had recourse to all means and ways to stamp out the sale of drink at prohibited hours, not merely in licensed public houses, but in shebeens. I have called personally upon those individuals, and brought the charges right home to their own teeth. I have stated to them the day and the hour when I witnessed such scenes, and I have told them that I have lodged my complaint with the Inspector of police, and with the head constable of the district, and have given the names and urged them to oppose them at the next Recorder's Licensing Sessions, and to have the same recorded upon their licences. I have even gone further; I have even incurred the odium of the people, but I was bound to do so in connection with the morals of the district. I told them that my observations should go beyond individuals, that I looked to the general good of the community at large, and I have stated to them that I would go in person to the next Licensing Sessions before the Recorder and oppose the renewal of the licence to those individuals.He speaks there of the occupiers of houses of a low class, who were in the habit of violating the conditions of their licences. Then he goes on to say—There was a partial cessation for the time of the drinking at prohibited hours, but as soon as they thought that there was an opening again they took to selling it again.Further on he says—No amount of legislation through the hands of the police or through Parliament will ever check the onward progress of drink.He is asked—Have you seen the statement concerning Glasgow and concerning Cardiff?and he replies—I have seen it. It is in a letter of my Bishop, who during his course of being a parish 602 priest in Ballycastle, in the erection of a new church, was engaged in all the large towns, in fact in the three Kingdoms, collecting money. He gives the details, in that letter which he wrote to the licensed vintners in Dublin, of his experience of the Sunday Closing Act in Glasgow. He said, so far as I can recollect (and I recollect reading it in a newspaper), that the streets might be quiet, and that order and regularity might he said to prevail; and that the police, so far as their duties outside the public thoroughfares were concerned, seemed to have very little to do; hut if he went into the lanes and closes, and into the homes of the poor, drunkenness seemed to prevail to an alarming extent everywhere he went. He said that if the Legislature thought it wise to frame their laws for the purpose of making people sober by Sunday closing, it was altogether misleading. I have heard of a statement made by some of the clergymen connected with Cardiff, and certainly from the statements that I have read in the public prints, I would be very sorry, either by word or by any means in my power, to bring about Sunday closing in the town of Belfast.My own experience of Glasgow and Cardiff is very limited, but I have visited those places and have conversed with respectable residents, and have been assured that the closing of public houses on Sundays has not put a stop to drunkenness on those days. I remember one Monday morning standing talking to a Catholic clergyman in the street at Cardiff. I saw a brewer's dray go past with a large number of empty beer barrels piled on it. The priest pointed this out to me, and asked me if I knew what it meant. Of course I did not, being a stranger, and then he informed me that the beer in the barrels had been consumed on Saturday night and Sunday in the workmen's houses. The gentleman who drew my attention to this has challenged public contradiction. I believe no one will attempt to dispute the fact that in the workmen's quarters in Cardiff the men are in the habit of clubbing together on Friday and buying a small cask of beer which they bring to the house of one of the members of the drinking club, and not only do the men drink the beer as long as they are able to sit or stand, but even the women and children take a hand at the beer drinking. Then Mr. Charles Dawson, one of the most prominent citizens in Dublin, who was well known in this House at one time, gave evidence as follows:—The probable result of the Act, in my opinion, would be this: While the conditions that I stated still exist, and while the incentives, and not only the incentives, but the 603 provocatives, to drink exist, as they do now, remain unchanged and unaltered, I am sorry to say, if that remains as it does now, the withdrawal of public opportunities will make the people resort to others more secret and more dangerous. I have that opinion. I am not an advocate for always keeping up this thing, but until yon provide a substitute for the public house, and a substitute in decent homes, I am afraid if you close early that they will drink at home, and they will drink in places less under the light of observation.He went on to quote the following very interesting figures:—In 1851, before they had the Sunday closing in Glasgow, the arrests for drunkenness were 4.5 per cent. of the population. The Act was passed in 1853, and the figures as to the arrests for drunkenness in 1861, when the Sunday Closing Bill was in operation, was 9.4 per cent. of the population; in 1871, it reached 10.4 per cent.; and in 1887, which was the last year, it was 6.5 per cent.
Mr. Commissioner Harrell
says—The opinion that I have on the question of home drinking is that I should not like to see that developed at all. I think that the habit of self-control amongst the poorer classes does not at present exist to such an extent, as to encourage the adoption of any social change which might lead them to bring drink into their own houses.He is asked—" In your opinion, would closing on Sunday have that effect?and he says—I think it would. I think the laying in of a provision on Saturday night would be very dangerous. If you could rely on their self-control, you would get rid of many difficulties which now exist in connection with many other things as well as the traffic in drink; but I would be very much afraid that laying in a supply of drink on Saturday night would lead, in all probability, to that drink being consumed on the Saturday night; it would never see the Sunday, or only the early Sunday morning.
himself a working man, is asked—What is the view of the working classes with regard to home drinking?and he replies—I believe if you introduced the question of home drinking that men will bring home drink overnight, and when the drink is there it is rather a temptation to them, and the men will take to drinking it. It has come under my own observation that bottles are lying on the table when men are found drinking at home, and you will find a child coming and taking a bottle and putting it to its head very often; I have seen that, and I would not wish to see that practice come into our homes.I am sure hon. Gentlemen who are 604 promoting this Bill agree with Mr. Mannetti that it would not be desirable to introduce this kind of drinking into the homes of the people of Ireland; and I ask those who are honestly desirous of checking the evils of intemperance to pause, and to take into account and give full consideration to the opinions and experiences of these gentlemen, who are entirely independent and unbiased witnesses. Mr. Mannetti is asked—" And it is club drinking and home drinking which, in your opinion, would lead to family dissension and discomfort?He says, in reply—
I believe it would. If you introduced home drinking, it would be an invitation to the wives and the children of our families to join in it; and from being sober wives, as we wish them to be, they would possibly become drunkards, and we object to that.There are a large number of people in this country who drink, and drink to excess, who have never in all their lives been inside a public house. One of the most eloquent advocates of temperance that I have ever listened to, and one of the most influential, stated on a public platform, and in my hearing, that he was sorry to have to say that there were many people in this country who never enter a public house at all—men of high birth, of high social standing and great wealth—who would be ashamed to be seen entering a public house at all, but yet who blast their prospects in this world and in the next by the excessive use of alcohol. If that is the case in the higher circles, where people are surrounded by everything ' wealth can purchase, what is to be expected in the case of those people who have an unfortunate craving for drink without possessing any of those great advantages? Another gentleman (Mr. Crean) was asked his opinion of home drinking, and he said—I think my opinion is this: That I would very much regret that it should creep into any section of the community, because it would just be ruinous to the families; the children of necessity would see the bad example of their fathers, and the mothers would sometimes probably indulge in liquor too, and the result would be that it would be an all-round debauch, as I have seen it. I have seen children of tender years drinking.He was then asked—'' You have seen children drink, and you think that is caused by home drinking?605 His reply was—Yes; by home drinking, certainly; and wives and husbands have not been able to refrain from drinking until they have fallen asleep over their booze.The Rev. D. Tynan also gave some interesting evidence on the subject of home drinking. He said—I consider it a worse phase of drunkenness than the drunkenness resulting from drinking in public houses, because the home drinking which leads to that drunkenness demoralises the wives and the families of the people who drink at home; whereas if a man goes to get a drink in a public house be may get drunk, but his family is not demoralised by the drunkenness.Asked whether the drunkenness in Dublin existed among men and women, Dr. Tynan said—Yes; but, at the same time, the drunkenness amongst women does not come under the observation of the police so much as it comes under the observation of the clergy. With regard to that, I might mention that in the cases which come before me of the drunkenness of women, in nine-tenths at least of those cases the drunkenness results from home drinking, and not from drinking in public houses.I would ask those gentlemen who are promoting this Bill to bear in mind that some of us who are opposed to the passage of the measure are quite as great friends of temperance as they are. I, myself, approached the subject with an open mind; and if I believed that the closing of public houses would put an end to drunkenness, and would very sensibly check intemperance in Ireland, I should be one of the first to vote for it. In fact, I should adopt even more drastic measures if it were possible to carry them into operation and put a stop to the manufacture of intoxicating drinks altogether. Of course, however, it would be idle to propose such a thing as that, and I dare say even the most sanguine advocates of temperance recognise that. If I am opposed to this Bill, it is because, in the first place, it strikes against the interests of a number of respectable men who have invested their capital and their time in the public house business. I believe it will not advance the cause of temperance; but after destroying the property of thousands of respectable men throughout the length and breadth of Ireland, it will turn the drinking habits of the people into a direction which will be more injurious to them than if they are allowed to take drink in properly licensed and respectable houses. The 606 respectable men who are engaged in the trade in different parts of Ireland are not by any means in favour of intemperance. On the contrary, I suppose that the respectable publican, both in Ireland and England, looks upon a drunkard on his premises as an unmitigated nuisance, and would be glad if he stopped away altogether. In fact, some of them take extra precautions to exclude drunkards from their premises, and to prevent them indulging in the use of alcohol on their premises. Those gentlemen whom, without meaning any offence to them, I call teetotallers, have not a monopoly of the desire to see intemperance checked. I believe, however, they are on the wrong tack altogether when they seek to check drunkenness by closing respectable public-houses and driving those who wish to get drink into places where they can get a bad quality of liquor at any hour of the night or day. This Bill is one of a very drastic character. It proposes to close the public houses in the four leading cities of Ireland during the whole of Sunday. I think the hon. Member for South Tyrone will himself admit that if you close the house of a respectable licensed trader entirely you ought to compensate him. What, then, have you to say of closing without compensation a public-house for one day in the week, and that, in some cases perhaps, the day on which the largest trade is done? One of the provisions of the Bill is that the distance for a bonâ fide traveller stall be extended from three to six miles. Do gentlemen take into account that that will inflict a very considerable amount of injury on a number of deserving men? I can give it as my own experience that in some of the watering places in Ireland, where Sunday closing is enforced, people, owing to the closing of public houses, now keep considerable quantities of drink in their apartments for the entertainment of visitors. Besides, in Ireland, in many of the places where drink is sold other articles are also sold, and either one branch of the business would have to be given up in order that miscellaneous goods might be sold, or the public would be deprived of their opportunity of making the usual purchases. Certain hon. Members would prefer, doubtless, that these men should give up their trade; perhaps they think 607 that would be a great advantage. I, on the contrary, think that it would be an advantage that if people will take drink, the trade ought to be in the hands of respectable men. It is for this reason, amongst others, that I shall, to the best of my ability, oppose the Bill. (2.3.)
§ (2.20.) SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
The hon. Member for North Cork complained of the composition of the Committee which passed the Report on which this Bill is founded. The hon. Member may complain of the composition of the Committee, but he has no reason whatever to complain of the composition of the House of Commons. And he will not be able in the future to find a House more favourable to his view than the present House of Commons. Taking the whole House, three Members to one, and taking the Irish Members, two Members to one, have already declared themselves in favour of this Bill. The hon. Member for North Cork tells us that we have no right to legislate in this matter for Ireland, but that we ought to leave the whole question to be discussed by her own Parliament. But I do not think you are doing any injury to Ireland, even if she obtained a Home Rule Parliament, to establish a system of Sunday closing of which that Parliament would be able to judge by experience. Of what the result of that experience will be, we, at any rate, have no doubt whatever. No, Sir, the true province of Local Option is to decide whether there shall be a liquor traffic or not. If there is a liquor traffic, its regulation is not a matter for the collective plébiscitary vote of the ratepayers, but for the custodians of public order, and its highest custodian of all—Parliament. The hon. Member for North Cork adduced statistics to show that the system of Sunday closing had not succeeded in Ireland. I will say that his statistics were rather old, and I now propose to give the House some statistics of a more recent date, which absolutely and entirely prove the contrary. I will quote from the most recent Returns to the House of Commons that I can find, namely, those presented in 1889; and what do I there see? Why, that the population of the exempted cities in which there is no Sunday closing is 700,000, the entire population of the country at large being 4,200,000, 608 according to the Census figures, and that the number of arrests in the exempted cities was 2,350, while in the country at large they number less than 3,400. That is to say, that while the population of the exempted cities was as one to six of the whole, the number of arrests on the other hand was as four to six, or in other words, that the operation of the existing law has improved the sobriety of the people affected in the proportion of four to one, which, I say, is quite sufficient to make it worth while for us to pass this Bill. The law works well in Ireland— that is to say, it works well in that part of Ireland where it is in force. Let us see whether it works well in our great cities elsewhere. I will take an example from Scotland. In the City of Aberdeen there were in one year 403 arrests between Saturday morning and Sunday morning, or during the period people who had been drinking in the public houses were out in the streets; but during the next 24 hours there were only 32 arrests; that is to say he Sunday was more sober than the week day in the proportion of 12 to one. In Edinburgh there were 975 Saturday arrests against 68 Sunday arrests during the year; but the hon. Member for North Louth, quoting figures, the origin of which I am unable to explain, takes the case of the city, a part of which I have the honour to represent, namely, the City of Glasgow, and tells us there were, in the course of a year, arrests for drunkenness in the proportion of 6 per cent. of the population. Sir, the population of Glasgow, according to the Government Return I have before me, including Govan, Partick, and the other suburbs, is 750,000, among whom the arrests for drunkenness during the year, were under 15,000 which is about 2 per cent. of the population, and of these, 5,900 were made on Saturday, while only 427 took place on Sunday. But it way be said, " That is all very well for a great Scotch town; how would it be in the case of a great Irish town? " Now, the Secretary to the Lord Advocate was questioned on this subject by a Select Committee on the Intoxicating Liquors '(Ireland) Bill in 1877. He was asked—When you were asked as to the facility of applying the Forbes-Mackenzie Act in Scotland, you said the Scotch were a law- abiding people. Are you aware"—609 and here I may say that perhaps the question was rather rudely put—that in Glasgow there is a large Irish population?—I am quite aware of that. Do you know what is the number of the Irish population in Glasgow?—I should suppose 100,000, very likely.Then there arose a discussion, with which I will not trouble the House, as to whether the Irish are equally law-abiding with the Scotch, after which the questioning went on—Have those 100,000 Irish given much difficulty in the way of administering the Forbes-Mackenzie Act?—I cannot say; but I never heard that they have. I never heard the suggestion that they increased the difficulty, and in one part, where there is a large population of 30,000 Irish, chiefly workpeople, there is no difficulty.Well, Sir, I say that if in the large cities of Scotland this is the case, it would also be the case in the large cities of Ireland, and there will be no more difficulty, and no less popularity attached to this Bill when it becomes law in the large districts of Ireland than is at present the case in the large districts of Scotland. The hon. Member also brings before us the case of the shebeen, and complains there will be more illicit drinking if the Bill is passed. We do not care very much whether it leads to illicit drinking or not so long as it leads to less drinking. But the statistics show Sunday closing does not lead to increased shebeening. When I was Secretary for Ireland I made a most minute examination of an enormous mass of evidence, for the purpose of satisfying myself on that matter. The evidence was confidential, and I could not give it to the House. I think, however, I shall be justified in stating the general result. I asked the Resident Magistrates whether Sunday closing had led to an increase of shebeening—a question on which, whatever their political opinions, they are well qualified to judge—and by a majority of more than ten to one they said it had not. I also asked whether it led to illicit distillation, and 71 Magistrates out of 74 said it had not. The experience of Ireland, as shown by figures, absolutely bears that out. It has been said there was a rise in the number of shebeens when the Sunday Closing Act came into force in 1878. In the whole 12 months following, the arrests for Sunday drunkenness were 2,000, as compared with 4,000 in the 610 previous year. And, 'as regards shebeening, in 1878 there were 178 evictions for shebeening, or an increase of 20, but two years afterwards they had fallen to 150, and they have gone on falling ever since. There is absolutely overwhelming proof that Sunday closing in Ireland has not led to an increase of shebeening. In the last two years in the exempted cities the convictions for illicit drinking were equal on Sunday to the rest of the week; but in the cities, where there was Sunday closing, the number of convictions for drinking in shebeens was considerably less on Sundays than on any of the other days in the week. The experience of Scotland shows that if legal drinking on Sundays were put down illicit drinking could be traced to its illegal source, but that if Sunday drinking is legalised it helps to conceal illicit drinking. I think I have answered by unanswerable figures all the points which have been rested on statistics. As to the first change made by the Bill, I think it would be a very great thing for the working population that the public houses should be closed at 9 o'clock on Saturdays. It would not only stop drunkenness, but it would enable the wife to get her husband home at an earlier hour, and with a very much larger proportion of his wages in his pocket. The other change insures that bonâ fide travellers shall have bona fides, and not go from one part of a town to what is practically another part of the same town. He will have to travel six miles instead of three to get a drink. There was overwhelming evidence laid before the Committee on Welsh Sunday closing to show that the three mile limit only meant that a man should walk from one end of the town in which he lived to the other end in order to get a drink. There is a public house in the neighbourhood of Phoenix Park on which on one Sunday 600, persons entered, in order to obtain drink, and yet not one of them was, in any sense probably a bond fide traveller. The meaning of the clause is that a man living in an hotel shall have practically the same facilities for getting drink as he would if he were at home, but that he shall have no greater facilities. I do not agree that this is making one law for the rich and another for the poor, for it has been found that in places where the liquor traffic has no existence—and there are 611 several such places in Ireland—the working man is soon able to purchase a couple of barrels of beer to drink at home if he desires to do so. It is a question of home; it is a question of encouraging men to spend their money upon those who depend upon them for the necessities of life, and for its comfort and happiness. The only question remaining is whether we shall consider the details of the Bill in Committee of the Whole House or upstairs. The fears that Irish Members will not have their fair share in the discussion are absolutely illusory; it will be within the competence of the Committee of Selection to nominate any number of Irish Members on the Committee, and I have no doubt that any Irish Member who shows he has a real interest in the question, on one side or the other, will find no difficulty in getting appointed; but in any case there is the Report stage, when the House can correct any mistake the Committee may make. The real reason for sending the Bill to a Committee upstairs is that we want to pass it. It has not been passed before, because of want of time, and now the best chance of enabling it to become law is to refer it to a Committee. A question will then be set at rest, I believe for ever, on which public opinion in Ireland is very nearly unanimous.
§ (2.42.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND(Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,): Manchester, E.
I do not propose to follow the preceding speakers in an abstract discussion of the drink question, or the propriety or impropriety of interference by Parliament with the liquor traffic, nor do 1 propose to discuss the bearing and effect of the statistics which have been put forward. The right hon. Gentleman has reminded the House that the original Sunday Closing (Ireland) Act was passed by the aid of the Conservative Government in 1878. In that year Sir S. Northcote, who was then leader of the House, gave facilities for the passing of the Bill, without which it could not have become law, and by so doing he enabled a most valuable and important experiment to be tried in Ireland. It was passed avowedly as an experiment, and was to continue in force for four years, at the end of which time it was for Parliament to determine whether it should continue. In the result, almost everybody in the 612 House felt it was quite impossible to drop the Bill, and it has been put in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act every year from that time to this. Thus three successive Governments have declared their distinct opinion, with the assent of the majority of the House, that Sunday closing is an experiment which has been tried in Ireland and has succeeded, and should be renewed. Every one must feel that to continue renewing an Act of this kind annually is an unsatisfactory way of legislating. The matter was brought under the notice of the Government by various hon. Gentlemen in 1887, and a Committee was appointed of which my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland was Chairman. Exhaustive evidence was taken on the whole subject, and, in spite of what has fallen from the hon. Members who have moved and seconded the rejection of the Bill, it is not unfair to say that the whole weight of the evidence, with comparatively insignificant exceptions, was in favour of the continuance of Sunday closing in Ireland, and of the adoption of Saturday closing after 9 o'clock. The people who gave that evidence were not drawn from one class of the community, but they represented every class and every section of opinion. The witnesses included Magistrates, police, priests and ministers of all denominations, and all were unanimous, and their unanimity was unshaken on cross examination, that Sunday closing had succeeded in Ireland and ought to be continued. That being the state of the case, the House has to decide not whether there shall be Sunday closing or not in Ireland—I regard that as a question quite amply decided —but whether Sunday closing shall be enforced in the unsatisfactory way it now is by means of an Act that has to be continued annually, or whether the legislation shall be put on a permanent basis, with such modifications as may be suggested by the Committee to which the Bill may be referred when it has been read a second time. These being the alternatives before the House, I can not doubt that they will decide in favour of the more permanent form of legislative enactment. I trust, therefore, that the House will without any undue delay pass the Second Reading of the Bill. Then will follow a Motion, which I shall support, to refer the Bill to 613 the Grand Committee on Law. The Motion for the Second Reading is not directly a Government Motion; but when it is recollected that the measure was originally passed by the aid of the Government, and that it must be continued annually by the aid of successive Governments, it cannot but be concluded that this Bill ought not to be considered in the ordinary category of Private Members' Bills, but it partakes, in a modified sense, of the character of a Government measure. If the Bill leaves the Grand Committee in a form in which the Government can accept it, I shall hope we may be able to aid its further passage through the House. With regard to the special provisions of the Bill, the form in which the Government will desire to see it pass is the form it would have taken if the Committee had adopted the original Report of the Chairman of the Committee, which recommended an amended Bill for Sunday closing and a Bill for Saturday closing. As a Bill for both objects I hope it will finally receive the assent of the Legislature.
(2.50.) SIR W.HARCOURT: (Derby)
I am sure the House will have heard with great satisfaction the statement of the right hon. Member, that the Government accept the responsibility for carrying this measure into law, a statement at which many in the House and thousands out of it will rejoice. This question has made and is making from day to day the greatest and most satisfactory progress. We began many years ago with Scotland, proceeded next to Ireland, and finally adopted similar legislation for Wales. I do not know that there has been any attempt in Scotland to overthrow the system of Sunday closing. In Wales we know that last year, or the year before, an attack was made on the principle of Sunday closing, but after careful examination of the facts, it totally failed, and the principle of Sunday closing in Wales has been approved of. We now hear from the right hon. Gentleman that the attacks on Sunday closing in Ireland are not sustained by the facts, and that opinion and evidence in favour of Sunday closing in Ireland are almost universal. The English people will naturally ask why, if Sunday closing is found to be beneficial in Scotland and advantageous in Ireland and in Wales, it should not be adopted in England. What is the difference 614 between the populations of these different sections of the United Kingdom that each should be subject to a different kind of legislation? Although the point may not be quite germane to the Bill, still it is one that must occur to all who think upon the subject. There is, however, great satisfaction in the position in which the question stands in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has a little stretched the statement I made with regard to the action of the Government; and I wish to put the matter on a basis which cannot lead to misunderstanding. I have not made the Government responsible for every stage of the Bill; that would be a pledge of too wide a character; but I do say we do not regard it as simply a Private Members' Bill, and that we hope to be able to facilitate its progress.
§ (2.55.) DR. TANNER: (Cork Co., Mid)
Although I am consistently opposed to excessive drinking, I feel bound to oppose legislation on which the sense of the constituencies has not been taken, and which I believe is objected to by a majority of the people of Ireland, and I must say 1 shall do all I can to circumvent the attempts of hon. Members to smuggle this measure through the House. I have heard of no expression of opinion from Ireland in favour of the Bill; on the contrary, I know that in every Irish constituency the majority of the people are dead against it. I cannot support legislation which does not apply equally to the rich and the poor. I am against coercion in every form, and this Bill is but one form of coercion. The object of it is defeated by the drinking clubs it brings into existence. I do not think we can do much good by coercive legislation. As a medical man I have had plenty of opportunity of seeing that the effect of the operation of the Sunday Closing Act was not by any means to stop Sunday drinking. In the City of Cork bogus clubs were established and a new bottle for the conveyance of drink was made. You never can accomplish very much by coercive legislation. On the Continent —in Berlin for instance—you find that public houses are kept open from year's end to year's end, and yet there is no excessive drinking. Restriction after restriction is proposed. First of all, you started with Sunday closing, then you 615 proposed Saturday closing, and we all know that the hon. Member for Cocker-mouth (Sir W. Lawson), has declared he will not be satisfied until public houses are closed altogether. You are going from ' step to step, and I ask you to pause and inquire whether you are on the right track. I believe that instead of doing good you are really doing harm by these restrictions. This Bill ought not to be passed without a clear expression of opinion in Ireland in its favour. Up to the present there has not been such an expression of opinion. I have ample means of knowing what the wishes of the people in Cork, my native city, are, and I emphatically assert that the moderate portion of the inhabitants of Cork are opposed to this measure. As I am anxious, as an elected Representative, to discharge my duty conscientiously, I feel obliged to vote against the Second Reading.
§ (3.8.) MR. CRILLY: (Mayo, N.)
I recognise that the right Gentleman the the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow is anxious to improve the condition of the Irish people, and I realise also that it is through the methods he proposes that the condition of our people is to be elevated. But I must dissent strongly from one phrase he used in the speech he has just delivered. I repudiate the idea that we who are against the passing of this Bill advocate and believe in the gospel of drink: that was the right hon. Gentleman's phrase. I and those who think with me in this matter are quite as anxious for the improvement and elevation of our people, for the cultivation of habits of thrift amongst our people, as the right hon. Gentleman is. If I thought that the passing of this Bill would improve to any great extent the condition of those unfortunate people in Ireland who give way to drinking habits, I certainly would be found to-day on the side of the right hon. Gentleman, but it is because I believe otherwise that I oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. I oppose this Bill, in the first place, because I believe there is no great or overwhelming demand for it on the part of the Irish people, and I oppose it because, as far as I can gather, the operation of the Sunday Closing Act of 1878 has not been the conspicuous success the supporters of the Bill try to make out. I deny that any Member or any section of the Irish 616 Members have received any commission or mandate from their constituents to support the Bill. I believe that the Bill deals with social questions which would be much better and more adequately dealt with by some authority in Ireland. I cannot say that my constituents have at any time expressed any strong opinion in regard to this matter, and I search the names given in the Lists of Divisions in the House of Commons in vain to find that amongst the Representatives of Ireland there is any overwhelming conviction that the Bill should be passed in its entirety. Last year, of the 33 hon. Gentlemen representing Irish constituencies, and who sit opposite, only 10 voted in the Division; and of the 86 Members who sit around me, only 38 took part in the Division. It is therefore absurd for any hon. Gentleman to put forward the plea that this Bill has behind it the strong and passionate endorsement of the Irish Members. This is not a burning question; and I certainly think that in view of the frequent promises of the Government that they are going to bestow some Local Government upon Ireland, this question ought to be left to the disposal and decision of the Irish people themselves. The Chief Secretary, in the few remarks he thought it worth while to address to the House, declared that the original Act was an experiment; and he went on to express his conviction that the present continuous state of experimentalising should not be continued after this year, that there should be some permanency given to a Bill of this character. But I am rather inclined to think that the Government are only inclined to experimentalise still. They are not willing to follow, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridge-ton is willing to do, their ideas to the full logical conclusion. They are not prepared to abolish. public houses altogether. The Chief Secretary protests against experimentalising, but the Attorney General for Ireland is not so deadly opposed to that position. I remember being in the House last year when this measure was discussed; and the Attorney General for Ireland was in favour of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. He was not in favour of accepting the Bill as submitted to the House, but in favour of pruning the hours as it were. I gather from the 617 remarks of the Chief Secretary to-day that in the same way he is only in favour of cutting down the time of opening on Sunday by a couple of hours, and of curtailing the hours on Saturday by a similar number. The second position I take up is that the boast [that the closing of public houses in Ireland has been a success is not one based on the actual facts. Take the Committee over which the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General presided. He and those who argue from his point of view agree in asserting that there was almost a unanimous opinion on the part of the witnesses who gave evidence before that Committee; but I deny the assertion in toto. There was a large and wholesome opinion on the part of representative men in Ireland that the Sunday Closing Act of 1878 had by no means been the success it was claimed to be. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridge-ton Division said that shebeening and illicit drinking had not increased as a result of the Sunday Closing Act, and he went on to say that certain gentlemen who made Reports to him when he was Chief Secretary bore him out in that statement. I do not desire to import any political matter into this discussion; but I cannot accept as authorities on any matter relating to social or political life in Ireland the gentlemen to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred. The Resident Magistrates of Ireland, like many other officials in Ireland, cut their coat according to their cloth. They found the right hon. Gentleman wished to have certain information, and they gave it to him. The right hon. Gentleman is glad that information coincided with his view. As a Representative of the Irish people, I assert that no trust or confidence should be placed on the words of or the statistics compiled by the Resident Magistrates of Ireland. I assert that shebeening has increased under the Act of 1878, and I can appeal for support of my contention to the evidence given before the Committee over which the Attorney General for Ireland presided. I find that in the Metropolitan District of Dublin the number of convictions for illicit drinking in 1876, before the passing of the Sunday Closing Act, was 245, whereas in 1883, after the passing of the Act, the 618 number was 370. In the matter of illici drinking Dublin may be taken as typical of the condition of the other towns in Ireland. The Chief Commissioner in Dublin presented to the Committee a Return of the number of persons who entered 30 public houses during each hour from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday the 10th of March, and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday the 18th of March, 1888. That was after the passing of the Act. The number of persons who visited the public houses on the Sunday was 13,426. There are in the city of Dublin 943 retail licences, and therefore, if 13,426 visited 30 houses we can easily calculate how many visited the 943 houses. The point I push is this, that the statistics go to show that the people go to get refreshment, not to get drunk. If the thousands of people who visit these 943 houses on Sunday are debarred from the refreshment that they can have during six days of the week, where will they go when the houses are closed? I have given the figures in reference to illicit drinking, and if you deprive these people of the ordinary facilities, the outcome of which is not drunkenness, can any man of ordinary experience doubt the result? The Bill being brought up year after year, of course, the same facts and figures are given time after time. These go to show that the Sunday Closing Act of 1878 has led to an increase in shebeening, and is likely to lead to an increase of that illegal traffic if you extend the Act by this Bill. I hold that the Act has led to an increase in drunkenness. If you take the five exempted towns, and the evidence given before the Committee to which reference has been so frequently made, you will find that in Cork, Belfast, Limerick, and Dublin, there has been, as the result of the restriction upon Sunday trade, an enormous increase in drunkenness. The reason to my mind is this, as you close the legal channels from which refreshment may be obtained, you increase the temptation to illicit drinking, and unfortunately with this drinking vice of other kinds follows. There is a great difference in the fact of a man going for his refreshment to a well- conducted public house, and having only the means of getting the refreshment he desires at a shebeen. It is no mere 619 assertion on my part, evidence before the Committee proves that in these five exempted towns there has been an increase of drunkenness, if yon compare the statistics collected before and after the Sunday Closing Act of 1878 took its place upon the Statute Book. The Chief Commissioner of Belfast handed in a Return which shows the state of things as regards that city. In the four years before the passing of the Sunday Closing Act, and when in Belfast licensed houses were open from 2 to 9 on Sundays, the annual arrests for drunkenness on Sunday were 396, but in the four years after the passing of the Act which reduced the hours of sale by two hours, the number of arrests had risen to 512. By easy calculation, we may find, if in four years of the operation of the Act the numbers had thus increased, what the increase probably is in this year of grace, 1891. Belfast may be taken as a representative town for the North of Ireland, as Cork is of the South. In Cork the result is shown thus: Four years before the passing of the Act, with the houses open from 2 to 9, Sunday arrests, 319; in 1879, the first year that the restriction of hours came into effect, arrests for drunkenness on Sunday, 488; and in 1884 after six years' operation of the Act, 499. In Limerick the results shown are: in 1877, 143 arrests; in 1887, after nine years' working of the Act, 204. I maintain that the Sunday Closing Act, so far as the five exempted towns are concerned, has been shown in its restriction upon the hours to have been a striking failure, and I say if you attempt to extend the operation of this Act, it is reasonable to suppose that the same results will follow, and the state of these towns be worse. I cannot see why if hon. Gentlemen wish to try this social experiment they should not begin with London. I cannot understand why Ireland should be selected as the field for the experiment. Why not leave this question to the intelligence and capacity of the Irish people? Why attempt here with but slight knowledge of the conditions of Irish life to settle the paltry question of how many hours public houses shall be opened in Irish towns on Saturday or Sunday? If we had an assurance that this question is about to be dealt with in a whole-hearted fashion it would be some satisfaction, but we have no 620 guarantee of the kind. The Attorney General for Ireland last year and the Chief Secretary this year have declared at that table that while they are in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill they will not commit themselves to details in Committee, but we want to know what the Government are going to do. The Irish people have given us no mandate on this subject, the majority of the people are anxious that this and other Irish local matters should be dealt with by their own Representatives. There is no strong expression of opinion of Irish Members in favour of the passing of this Bill, and in view of these facts the Bill should be held over and left to the Irish people for decision with other matters affecting the social and moral life of the people, through the means of the tribunal best fitted to give a decision—a tribunal sitting in Dublin. So I support the Amendment of my hon. Friend that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ (3.43.) COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has informed the House that no full and distinct opinion has been expressed on the part of the people of Ireland in regard to this Bill; but if hon. Members will read the names on the back of the Bill it will be found that, at any rate among the Irish Members of all classes, creeds, and shades of opinion, there is unity in trying to curtail the supply of whisky to the Irish people. The hon. Member has used a very remarkable argument; he has proved that in certain cities in Ireland, and particularly in Belfast, there has been a great increase in drunkenness, and that may possibly be, I do not contest his figures, but I say it is to these cities we want to apply the Act, and, therefore, the argument of the hon. Member supports our case that, because of the increase of drunkenness, there, the Act should be extended to the five cities now exempted.
§ MR. CRILLY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has misapprehended my point. My object in putting forward the figures was to show that, whereas before the passing of the Act by which the hours were restricted, the arrests in Belfast on Sunday for drunkenness were comparatively few, after the curtailment of 621 the hours the number of these arrests largely increased. The Act then failed in the effect intended, and the same result may be expected to follow a still further extension of the restriction.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I do not altogether follow that reasoning. Something is due to increase in population, and the argument of the hon. Member practically amounts to this—that the more public houses there are and the longer they are open, the more sober the people will be. The hon. Member for North Cork said that no ordinary Irishman could walk more than six miles without a glass of whisky; that he came to a dead standstill at the end of five miles; and that, therefore, this Bill was an unrighteous attempt on the part of the British Legislature to interfere with the prerogatives of Irish locomotion. If you could only establish a public house at intervals of five miles on Irish roads and start an Irishman at one end there is no knowing where he would get to. But I do not think the hon. Member puts these things forward as serious argument. Then the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Nolan) made a speech which shows that he has devoted much time to his subject, and he elaborated it with considerable skill. The hon. Member informed us that the effect of Sunday closing in Glasgow was that drunkenness had disappeared from the streets and taken refuge in the back slums and in the houses. That is a great improvement, and any measure which tends to remove the hideous, melancholy spectacle of drunken men staggering about the streets deserves our support. If the effect of this Bill in Ireland goes no further than that, it will effect a great improvement. The arguments used have been similar to those with which we are familiar, in reference to the Coercion Act, an argument that may be employed against any coercive legislation that the effect will be to drive crime beneath the surface. Well, the Coercion Act passed, and crime, I am happy to say, against which it was directed has been in a great measure prevented above and below the surface. If this Bill is passed, it will have the effect of striking a blow at drunkenness in cities, and of getting rid of that disgrace to a Christian land and civilised community—drunken people staggering about the streets. 622 Among my own constituents there is perfect unanimity in favour of the Bill. That opinion extends throughout the North of Ireland. Never has a Bill for Ireland been introduced which has enlisted so much public opinion in its favour as this Bill we are now considering, and which I hope the House will pass.
§ (3.50.) MR. CLANCY: (Dublin Co., N.)
We have reason to complain, I think, of the manœuvre by which this Bill has taken first place on the Orders of the Day, and in the interest of fair discussion I think due notice should have been given of the arrangement. Though the promoters of the Bill may take credit to themselves for a clever move, I may remind them that such action is apt to provoke reprisal, and may operate to the disadvantage of the Bill in its later stages. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has expressed doubts as to the serious nature of our arguments, but certainly I cannot say that seriousness is a feature in his characteristic humour. The hon. and gallant Gentleman points to the names on the back of the Bill, but these only show that there are certain Members of each Party supporting the Bill, but these Debates show conclusively that Members of all Parties oppose the Bill. Certainly there is no evidence of unanimity of opinion in favour of the Bill. Legislation of this drastic character would be intolerable in any country were it not carried out, not only with the consent, but at the instance of the overwhelming majority of the population. Such an interference with liberty cannot be defended on any ground except that the vast majority of the population demand it. I believe that there is a demand for this kind of legislation in Scotland, Wales, and in certain small districts in the North of Ireland; but I assert that outside Ulster there is no demand made for this legislation by the overwhelming majority of the population. I do not believe that any Nationalist Member can say that at the last election he was pledged one way or the other on this question. The question has not been before the electors, and no Public Body in my constituency has asked me to support this Bill. Not a single Public Body elected by the people under any franchise in North Dublin, so far as I can 623 recollect, ever asked me to support the Bill, and in the City of Dublin I am bound to say such evidence as there is is against the proposals in the Bill. Mr. Harrell, the Chief Commissioner of the Dublin Police, gave his evidence before the Committee and expressed his concurrence in the view put forward in the Resolution carried by the Corporation against this Bill, a body which he said he was sure had the welfare of the people at heart. Yet, in the face of testimony such as this from a man who stands apart from all Political Parties, who belongs neither to a temperance nor to a publican party, the House is assured by the Chief Secretary and others that the whole weight of evidence is in favour of the Bill. Mr. Harrell is a man of great experience. Before assuming his post in Dublin he was employed in Belfast, and prior to that he was employed in Ballina and other parts of the West, and his evidence can be relied on. I challenge anyone to show equally strong evidence on the other side. In the face of such evidence as this of Mr. Harrell and other witnesses before the Committee—in the face of the fact that no public demand, by meetings or in the ordinary way, has been expressed, I assert that to say that public opinion in Ireland has shown itself in favour of this Bill is to state what is not the fact. I know very well that there are in the County and City of Dublin honest and enthusiastic men who really believe that measures of this description are absolutely necessary in the interest of the people. I acknowledge that they have shown great capacity and great industry in mastering the details of this question, and great enthusiasm in calling meetings and getting up Petitions in favour of their views. But I beg the House to be on its guard against assuming for one moment that these excellent men, good-intentioned as they are, represent any but the smallest fraction of the population amidst which they live. I shall not make any protestations of my own sincerity in the matter. I believe I am correct in stating that I have never seen manifested in the usual way any overwhelming demand for this legislation in the County or City of Dublin, and, that being so, I do not feel justified in giving a silent vote or in refraining 624 from expressing my conviction that, if you pass this Bill in the present state of opinion, you will be doing it without the sanction of the overwhelming majority of the people in the City and County of Dublin, and, I believe I may say, in direct defiance of their wishes. I think it is too much taken for granted that the opponents of the Bill have formed their conclusions on insufficient evidence. I have read some evidence on the subject which I consider of great value. The evidence of Mr. Harrell proves that our contention that this Bill would lead to drinking habits among the people, from which they are now to a great extent free, is founded on experience. Then there is the evidence of Mr. O'Donel, the Chief Police Magistrate of Dublin, who stated in his evidence that the strong opinion he expressed in 1877 against total closing on Sunday, or early closing on Saturday, was founded on the danger of increasing the number of shebeens and encouraging illicit drinking. He went on to say that his view remained the same on that subject; and he thought the total closing of public houses on Sunday would inevitably result in enormously increasing the number of shebeens, and would, therefore, have a very demoralising effect. Here we have the evidence of a gentleman of undoubted intelligence and great experience; and I say that when such an opinion is expressed by a man in Mr. O'Donel's position, it becomes a serious matter for social reformers to fly in the face of it. I most strongly protest, in the name of my constituents, against the adoption of this Bill. I have received no mandate from them to support it. I have never been asked a single question on the hustings about it, and I was elected without giving any pledge on the subject. I believe that all those who were elected with me in 1885 are in a similar position. The question was not before the constituencies in 1885 or 1886.
§ MR. CLANCY
It was only temporarily law. Every one knew it was a temporary Act, and that after the election the question would arise whether it was to be renewed or not. Never the less, the question was never raised, and not a single man in Leinster, Munster, 625 or Connaught was asked whether he would support or oppose the renewal of the legislation. I know my hon. Friend the Member for West Clare has been for years a supporter of legislation of this description; and if he speaks to-day in favour of the Bill, he will speak his own convictions and not those of the men of the County of Clare, who send him to Parliament. I challenge him to say whether he said a single word about it to his constituents in 1885. I think there is every reason for refusing the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ (4.9.) MR. H. T. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN: (Kent, Faversham)
I regret that I am unable to follow the course taken by the Government and to vote for the Second Reading. Two reasons actuate me in the action I intend to take. One is, that I am strongly of opinion that the Bill involves an attack on temperance, of which I am an advocate; and the other is, that it involves an attack upon the principles of liberty. I cannot believe that it is possible to promote temperance by restrictive legislation. I believe such legislation is much more likely to promote than to discourage the consumption of intoxicating drinks. I believe that the common-sense of the individual and the existing law are generally sufficient to restrict the use of stimulants. The majority of us who use stimulants do so, 1 believe, under proper safeguards of self-respect, and the ordinary requirements of nature. Those who are a minority, who use stimulants to excess, do so at their peril and defiance of the law. Statistics have been invoked by both sides in this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow says that there is an overwhelming preponderance of statistics in favour of the Bill. The opponents of the measure urge that the vast preponderance of statistics is against it. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten that statistics with regard to open convictions for drunkenness are easily obtained, but statistics as to private drunkenness are not to be obtained so easily. The right hon. Gentleman drew a picture of the gratification of the wife of a working man when her husband returns on Saturday night with his wages in his pocket. But he might just as likely return with a bottle of beer in 626 one pocket and a bottle of whisky in another. I am inclined to think that Sunday closing has no deterrent effect; but that is not the main ground of my opposition to the Bill. Public opinion may or may not be in favour of the measure. I do not care how it goes, and I do not care for the statistics. I do not see why a majority, any more than a minority, should dictate to others what they are to eat or drink, so long as they do not break the law and cause inconvenience to the public. Measures of this kind partake of what I cannot call by any other name than grandmotherly legislation. I am sorry to see that it finds favour as much on one side of the House as on the other. Women Suffrage, Payment of Members, Compulsory Education, are all of this class. For these reasons I shall vote against the Second Reading.
§ (4.45.) MR. H. J. WILSON(York, W.R.,) Holmfirth
Complaint has been made by the hon. Member for Dublin that the opponents of this Bill have been taken by surprise, but I do not think the complaint is legitimate. It was on the Paper, and, therefore, hon. Gentlemen should have been prepared to meet it. Moreover, a statement was made in Ireland by the Primate a week ago that the measure would be taken to-day, and I myself at a meeting in London on Friday last declared that it would come on to-day, and my declaration appeared in Saturday's papers. If hon. Members do not read the Irish newspapers or the English newspapers, or the Orders of this House, they have no right to protest in this House against the change which has taken place in the Orders of the Day.
§ (4.52.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I see no reason whatever—and I have listened attentively to this Debate—to alter the position I took up on this question when it was last before the House. I then stated that it appeared to me that the question of the further development of the restriction on the sale of liquor in Ireland ought to be reserved for treatment by an Irish Assembly; in fact, that it was a question which only such an Assembly could successfully deal with. I say " the further development of restriction," because the House must remember that we are not dealing with a question of the foundation of 627 restriction; there is already a very effective law in this respect in force in Ireland. Hon. Members should bear in mind that, except in five cities, public houses are now altogether closed on Sunday in Ireland, and on week-days they are closed in the large cities at 11 o'clock, and in the smaller towns at 10 o'clock. When I compare those regulations with the regulations which elsewhere generally prevail in civilised countries, I find that the restriction in Ireland is already of such a kind that it throws upon the promoters of the Bill the onus of showing that there is special need of further restriction. Now, I say that this is a question that ought to be raised in an Irish Assembly, and that leads me to ask whether there is any probability of the establishment of such an Assembly in Ireland? We know the present Government are pledged to deal with the question of Local Government in Ireland, and I am, therefore, inclined to wait to see whether their proposals will include the establishment in Ireland of such an authority as can properly deal with this question. The doubt will probably be resolved next year, that being the last year of the administration of the present Government previous to the General Election, and the Government being under a pledge to deal with the question. Furthermore, the question of the right of the Irish people to manage their own affairs will be a leading question at the coming General Election, and until that question is settled I am unwilling to assent to the proposition that further restrictions shall be imposed by the House of Commons. It must be remembered that we are here to-day legislating for another country. This Assembly is substantially and potentially an Assembly representative not of the people of Ireland—for we have no decisive voice—but of the people of Great Britain, and I should advise you to be cautious in proceeding further in what I venture to think is open to the imputation of being an odious process of inventing and forging restrictive sumptuary laws for a people other than your own. I am of opinion that, as a rule, moral energy such as is now being developed ought to radiate from a centre, and if this is a good Bill for Ireland it is a good Bill for England. I wish to know whether English Members generally 628 would be willing to commit themselves to the principle that public houses in London and in the other great cities in Great Britain should be closed all day on Sunday? If you are ready to pass a Bill in that sense, and apply it to Eng land, and if that Bill, being applied to- England proves by experience to have-beneficial effects, I think you would be in a far better position for asking that such a Bill be applied to Ireland. But until you show your moral sincerity by applying your moral theories to your own case, I deny your moral right to proceed further in the case of Ireland. I think the principle I lay down is not an unfair one. I say that if the principle of the Bill is a good one you ought to prove your sincerity by first applying it to yourselves. Moreover, in the attempt to push this restriction to such an extreme there is an offensive assumption of superiority on the part of English men to which they are not entitled. There is in the social life of the great cities of England as much need of the and of the social reformer in this respect as in any city in Ireland. And not only is there an offensive assumption of superiority, but there is also, I think, an undeserved assumption of the in feriority of the Irish people, and I, for one, as an Irishman, refuse to accept the assumption that the Irish people are in greater need of restriction of this kind than the subjects of the Queen in any other portion of the Empire. I would say to some of my friends on this side of the House, who are in favour of the principle of Home Rule for Ireland, and of confiding to Irishmen the un fettered care of their own affairs, that when they consider themselves justified in asking for other reforms to be postponed until an Irish Parliament is established, they give me a very strong and conclusive case for asking also for the postponement of the question now before the House. Take the question of education, for instance, for I desire to be quite frank. I saw, or thought I saw, a couple of years ago, a disposition on the part of the Government to deal with certain branches of the Irish education question in a sense satisfactory to the people of Ireland as a whole. I found, however, that amongst our Liberal friends who desire to give us Home Rule there was a feeling that it 629 would be better to postpone dealing with that question until an Irish. Parliament was established. I deferred to that view because I thought the question of the greatest importance was the establishment of a supreme authority in Ireland. Well, if our Liberal friends thought it right to urge, and if I thought it right to agree that an Irish reform, on which all Irish Members were of one opinion, might fairly be postponed in consequence of the imminence of Home Rule, until it was established, may I not plead with greater force that a reform upon which there is considerable difference of opinion amongst Irish Members should be postponed until Ireland has an opportunity of dealing with it herself? I think that argument is unanswerable. On the merits of the question I take no dogmatic stand. There never has been a specific presentation of this question at a General Election, nor any declaration of the people in favour of it. I would ask any fair-minded man who has listened to the Debate, and bears in mind the conflict of testimony and opinion, whether there is any such singular and exceptional social condition in reference to drunkenness, in consequence of Sunday opening in Ireland, as entitles the House to proceed to this extreme measure? Coercion may be offensive, and may be injurious in the moral as well as in the political scale, and I think that before you proceed to deal so drastically with the habits of the people, as you would do by the present Bill, you are bound to satisfy yourself whether there is an exceptional state of things existing. I say that no such thing has been proved or anything approaching it. There is nothing peculiar in Ireland on this question of social indulgence, and there is no more reason for it than in the case of England or Scotland. Statistics show that the prevalence of Sunday drunkenness in Ireland is extremely trivial. The next question is this—is this reform desired? Reference has been made to meetings. I need not suggest how extremely easy it is to get meetings together on any subject. You can get them up to affirm that there shall be a total closing of public houses or to affirm that the sale of drink shall be freed from all restrictions. But there is no such public opinion on this 630 subject in Ireland as entitles the promoters of the Bill to declare that public opinion is on their side. As to Belfast, which city is dealt with in the Bill, I am in a position to say that the Catholic Bishop is of opinion that a further shortening of the hours of opening on Sunday is not required. Many people are of opinion that this further extension is not required by the class affected by it, and it is a cogent argument, in legislating for a free people, that legislation should be desired by the class affected by it. Moreover, there is an opinion that entire closing in the five cities would not produce the beneficial social effects anticipated, but would lead to the spread of illicit indulgence and to the deterioration of home life. I think there is considerable doubt whether this Bill would lead to the results which the promoters claim. With every desire to be impartial, I shall reserve my views on this question until it is dealt with by an Irish Assembly. I say, upon the facts we have before us, it is not conclusive that this Bill is required, that there is any wish for it on the part of the particular class affected by it, that there is a preponderating majority of the Irish people in its favour, and that if adopted it would have the desired effect. As to referring this Bill to a Grand Committee, I join in opposing that step. The Bill is one of details, and not of principle, and it is one that ought to be dealt with by a Committee of the Whole House. If it were removed to a Grand Committee upstairs, Irish Members, beyond the 7 or 8 of them out of the 100 Members who are upon that Committee, would have no opportunity of dealing with it except on the Report stage, when a Member can only speak once. This proposal to refer the Bill to a Grand Committee is a novel one, and I warn the Government that the Report stage, if they carry out the proposal, will have to be used in such a way as to serve both the Committee and Report stages. I have heard it broached in this House that Scotch questions should be referred to Scotch Members, and I have heartily supported that view. But here is a proposal to withdraw a subject from the consideration of Irish Members which specially affects their constituents. If it is supposed that we will tamely submit to that insult, I can 631 assure hon. Members they are mistaken. I hope the Government will re-consider their decision with regard to sending the Bill upstairs; that they will allow it to go to a Committe of the Whole House and not take the novel step of withdrawing from the purview of the Irish Members a subject which so closely interests them.
§ (4.35.) MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I am glad to have an opportunity of joining my voice to the very able and eloquent protest which has just been delivered against this Bill, and the method proposed to be taken on the Second Reading on the part of its supporters, by the hon. Member for West Belfast, who represents an important Division of one of the five cities affected by this Bill. I wish to direct the attention of the House to a very important incident which has accompanied this Debate on the Second Reading. The Second Reading has been moved and seconded by Irish Members, but without waiting to hear the views or opinions of any single one of the Members representing at least four out of the five cities affected, or the opinion of the hon. Member for West Belfast, the two Front Benches have vied with each other in their alacrity to support the Second Reading of the measure. I am not surprised at the Chief Secretary taking that course; I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has shown any inconsistency in supporting the Second Reading against the opinions of the Irish Members, because the right hon. Gentleman has throughout his tenure of office always firmly maintained that it is for the whole Imperial Parliament and the body of English Members to decide questions relating to any portion of Ireland, and that it is not for him to ascertain the opinions of Irish Members or of the Representatives of different interests in Ireland with reference to legislation that may be brought before the Imperial Parliament from time to time. But the two right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton—cannot plead the same excuse. They have always announced, at least in recent years, that they desire to hand over the duty of deciding on Irish questions to Irish 632 Members and an Irish Assembly. On a question of how much Irishmen should eat or drink, the right hon. Gentlemen surely might have shown their attachment to the principles they have so loudly proclaimed on so many English platforms, by waiting until they had heard the opinions of Irish Members, and especially the opinions of those who represent the cities affected by the Bill, before they rushed forward with that charming display of Liberal pharisaism in their attempts to make the Irish people sober by Act of Parliament. With regard to this question of sobriety, I waited to hear what is to be said for the shutting up of public houses on Sunday in Cork, and I have waited in vain; no statistics have been brought forward to show that there is any exceptional intemperance. On the contrary, the statistics show that the City of Cork is an unusually sober one; I understand that not one in 20,000 of the population are arrested for drunkenness on Sunday. No one would dare to propose such a measure as this for any English city, and surely English Liberals and Radicals, who have pledged themselves to the principle of Home Rule, and who denounce all English legislation for Ireland on the ground that it comes in a foreign garb, might have waited for some cases to be set up of exceptional intemperance before they support this Coercion Bill, for it is one. Is any case made out for doing for these Irish cities what would not be done in the case of any large English city? No attempt has ever been made to show in the case of these Irish towns that there is any exceptional drunkenness or crime arising out of intemperance. Therefore, it is fair to complain of the course taken by the two Front Benches in accepting the principle of the measure without waiting to hear a word from those Members representing the five cities most intimately concerned, and without waiting to hear the opinion of Irish Members generally. That Irish opinion has never been expressed upon the question except in a negative sense. I have searched the Divisions which have been taken during the present Parliament upon similar Bills. I searched the Division Lists of the present Parliament in connection with similar Bills, and I find that only an insignificant minority of the 105 Irish 633 Representatives ever voted in favour of the Second Readings, while only a very-small fraction ever spoke in favour of those measures. My constituents have not instructed me on the question, but I am firmly persuaded that they are opposed to the Second Reading of the Bill. The Bill is one which will affect important trading interests in the cities concerned; and it will largely affect the habits and the comfort of the poorer classes; and before this Second Reading is jumped at by both the Front Benches, the Liberal Party should pause to ascertain the views of those concerned. Taking the Bill on its merits, I doubt very much whether it will effect its object. The Sunday Closing Act which was passed for Ireland in years gone by has not in the slightest degree diminished intemperance or the consumption of alcohol in Ireland. The Returns show an increase of intemperance since the Sunday Closing Act was passed, so that instead of diminishing it has increased drunkenness. This Bill is one of the many ways for meeting the evils of intemperance—one of the many nostrums brought forward by both Parties for dealing with intemperance in Ireland. One day it is a Bill for closing public houses every day in the week; another day it is a Bill for closing them on Saturday, and on the third occasion it is a Bill for Sunday closing, and yet again it is a Bill to set up what is called local option. This is one of the many proposals that have been made for the purpose of checking what is undoubtedly a great evil—the evil of intemperance. But I deny that the experience of the measure already in existence throughout the counties of Ireland has shown that it has tended to check the intemperance which undoubtedly does prevail in Ireland, and, perhaps, in a corresponding degree in England and Wales. Until it has been shown that any measure of success has attended the working of the existing measure throughout the rural districts, your case for extending such an exceptional Act of Parliament to the five large cities included in this Bill falls utterly to the ground. But if the Bill were ever so good, and under ordinary circumstances ever so likely to effect its object, yet, in all probability, you would find that you would be disappointed with the results, and 634 painfully so. The measure would come to Ireland as one which has not been sought for by her Representatives in the first instance, and which certainly has not been sought for by her people. There has been almost an entire absence of Petitions with reference to it, and no pledges or declarations were sought for or obtained from Members' on the subject at the General Elections of 1885 and 1886, or at any subsequent by-election. The Bill will come to Ireland as a patronising attempt on the part of the majority of the English Members in the House of Commons to make the Irish people sober. The Irish people will naturally say, " Make yourselves sober first." Why should this experiment be made upon the body of the Irish people? Perhaps on the principle of Fiat experimentum in corpore vili. Anything is good enough for Ireland, no matter how doubtful its character. No doubt that is the view of the great majority of the Liberal Party in the House, but a measure conceived under such auspices is foredoomed to failure. The Irish people will naturally say this is a part of the insolent system to which we have been accustomed for so many years on the part of the English nation; and we decline to believe in our excessive drunkenness in comparison with our kind English friends. The Irish people will doubt the bona fides of this measure, and will do their best to circumvent it, as the measures in existence have already been circumvented. In some parts of Ireland there are people who obey the provisions of the Act by walking the requisite number of miles to constitute themselves bonâ fide travellers, merely for the purpose of defeating the law, and people thereby cultivate a taste for strong drink who would naturally shrink from entering the public houses of their own villages. Now, Sir, I wish to ask whether the House thinks that this is a Bill in reference to which Irish feeling should not be consulted? If this measure does not involve one of those questions on which Irish opinion ought to be heard what question could possibly come within that category? On what possible subject have Irish local claims and wishes a better right to be regarded than on the question before the House? It is all very well for hon. Members above the 635 Opposition Gangway to pledge themselves to Home Rule and to the right of Ireland to make her own laws; but they seem to think that they absolve their consciences by cheering the hon. Member for West Belfast when he urges that the Bill should be referred to a purely Irish Committee. I cannot accept this as enough from men who know perfectly well that the proposal of the hon. Member for West Belfast has not the slightest chance of being accepted. If they wish to be consistent they should leave to Irishmen the settlement of this delicate question, which is surrounded by difficulties, and the solution of which would demand all that is best and most experienced in Irish public life, when the time comes for the Irish people to make their own laws in an Elective Assembly in Dublin. If hon. Members do not wish to prejudice this question beforehand by their meddlesome interference and bungling attempts to legislate in reference to the wants of people whom they cannot possibly understand, and in reference to a matter of which they are profoundly ignorant, then they will vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. If they believe that the time is near when Ireland will decide these questions for herself, if they believe their own platform declarations, they will vote against the Bill, knowing that no time will be lost by leaving the consideration and settlement of the question to the Parliament which we all hope to see soon established in Dublin.
§ (4.59.) MR. M. HEALY (Cork)
I do not intend to assist the opponents of this Bill, and to prevent the House from coming to a decision upon it. I only rise for the purpose of assuring the House that neither on this nor on any other public question does the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down represent the City of Cork. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to test the truth of my words let him keep the promise which he made to his constituents.
§ (5.0.) SIR J. M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)
I wish to point out with regard to what has been said, and in reference to the relative sobriety of the Irish and Scotch people, that it has been shown by the published Returns that although the population of Scotland is 1,000,000 less than that of Ireland, the consumption of whisky in Scotland 636 exceeds that of Ireland by 1,000,000 gallons. I believe the weight of evidence goes to show that most of the people of Ireland are opposed to the increased restrictions proposed by this legislation.
§ SIR J. M'KENNA
I refer to the proposed closing of public houses in the five large cities where now several hours trade is permitted on Sundays. Those residing in large communities wish to have an opportunity of meeting one another in social intercourse for a few hours on Sundays, as well as, or perhaps more than, on other days. If you are going to force Sunday closing on the large towns in Ireland, why do you not enforce it on the large cities and towns in England? I think the votes of the Metropolitan Members on this question will be very closely watched by their constituents. I believe that if this drastic legislation is carried it will actually tend to defeat the object aimed at, and that the consumption of ardent spirits will be increased instead of being diminished, as in the case of Scotland, to which I have referred.
§ (5.4.) MR. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
In the earlier days of this movement I was in favour of a Bill such as this, and I allowed Mr. Biggar to put my name on the back of one. I am one of those who can distinguish between drink and drunkenness. There are many classes of intemperance, and some of the language I listened to a few minutes ago did not impress me as being temperate. I hold that this is a matter which might very well be left to an Irish Parliament for decision. If the Radicals and Liberals above the Gangway are so anxious to give us Home Rule let them leave this question to the Irish. It is purely an Irish question, and I do not see why the people of England should be so desperately solicitous about the welfare of the Irish, or about the amount of drinking that goes on there. Their anxiety altogether surpasses my comprehension. I know one thing, and that is, that there is more drinking in the City of London than in all Ireland. Why do not you start this machinery for Sunday closing in your own enlightened city? Why do you not set us the example? How can you expect us to accept it unless you do? Again, in London there is more crime resulting from 637 drink than there would be in Ireland even if its population were twice as large as it is. Some of those who are in favour of passing this Bill are Coercionists in more senses than one. They always vote for coercion of every description. They say that drunkenness ought to be abated. But this Bill will not abate it. I will tell you what it will do. It will lead to a larger amount of illicit distillation. To that I have no objection. In my own constituency we make our own whisky sometimes, despite the gaugers and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We look upon that as a method of shutting off, to some extent, some of that English tribute, every halfpenny of which we grudge. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was perfectly right in his Home Rule Bill to make a net through which this money should pass. I am not in favour of any money getting through the net. I think we have sent a larger amount of money to England through the Customs and Excise than we ought to have done. I am not in favour of the Bill, because it restricts the already restricted liberties of the Irish people, and I shall vote against it. I hope the Bill will not be carried by the votes of English and Scotch Members. I am entirely ignorant on many English and Scotch affairs, and I do not vote upon them unless I know the feeling of the majority of the people in the district. I see that not one-half of the Irish Representatives are here to-day. Can it, then, be said that this is a burning Irish question? Surely if it were it would have been possible to secure a larger attendance. I shall go into the Lobby against this measure. I say that in a dying Parliament such as this—a Parliament bereft of authority from the country—there is no right to legislate on a matter of this kind. It ought to be left to a future Parliament—English, if you will; but Irish, as I hope it will be. If Radicals and Liberals believe in an Irish Parliament, then this is one of the first measures which might be submitted by temperance reformers to such an Assembly. I am in favour of so submitting it. I am not in favour of legislating here for Ireland against the interest of the only trade you have not destroyed. You have destroyed our industries; this is the only trade which 638 survives, and it does so, I suppose, because it is a spirit. Men who earn large salaries of course would not be affected by the Bill, but it is the poor man who will suffer.
§ (5.14.) SIR C. RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
The hon. Member who last spoke began by informing the House he had endorsed the principle of a former Bill of this nature by allowing his name to be placed on the back of it, and I do not gather that he has stated any clear reason for having changed his attitude on the subject. The hon. Member for Cork, who first addressed the House as the Representative of that constituency, spoke of what he designated the hasty, inconsiderate course adopted by the two Front Benches in supporting this Bill, without first taking care to ascertain the opinion of the Irish Representatives. He levelled the reproach particularly at the Front Opposition Bench. But he appears to have made those observations in some temper, and in entire forgetfulness of the whole history of this question. The hon. Member spoke as if this question had not been discussed in past years and in previous Parliaments. He appears to have forgotten that this is a question which has almost an ancient history, and that the progress of the discussion of this question has shown not only that there was at the outset a strong body of Irish opinion in favour of a measure of this kind, but that the volume of that opinion has been increasing as the discussion has gone on. The Committee appointed in 1888 consisted altogether of 15 Members, and the majority (eight) were Irish Representatives. That Committee arrived at the conclusions embodied in the Bill before the House, that the Act of 1878 should be made perpetual, and extended to the five cities now exempted from its operation. When the question came up in Parliament last year, what was the state of the Irish representation on this point? Altogether there were 42 Irish Members who voted on that occasion, 28 for the Bill, and 14 against. In those circumstances, what warrant has the hon. Member for Cork for saying that that was not a fair proportional representation of the opinion in Ireland on the subject, or that there will be a larger proportional adverse vote on the present occasion? I have, of course, no authority 639 to speak for right hon. Gentlemen opposite; but I am empowered to say, on behalf of the Front Opposition Bench, that it is in view of the growth of Irish opinion on the question that my right hon. Friends have taken the part in the Debate of which the hon. Member for Cork complained.
§ Debate resumed.
(5.20.) MR. J. G. FITZGEEALD (Longford, S.)
I am always glad to listen to recommendations by the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down, because ever since I have known anything about him I have regarded him as what, indeed, he is—a friend of Ireland. But I think that even he in his calmer moments would not assert that 28 out of 105 Irish Members showed a fair representation of Irish opinion in favour of this Bill, or such a representation as to justify this House in carrying a Bill on an exclusively Irish topic. From the speeches to which we have listened for the last two hours one would infer that the future destinies of Ireland were in a very short time indeed to be confided to the dozen water drinkers of Cork who assemble in the back rooms of that City to listen to the orations of the junior Member. The hon. Member certainly does represent the views to an exceedingly limited extent, as I know personally, of the citizens generally of the City of Cork. I have a good deal of knowledge of the city, and I never heard yet that its trade and commerce were confided to the tender care of the junior Member for Cork. Besides, Sir, this is not a matter merely affecting Cork; it relates to Ireland generally. There is little trade or commerce in Ireland, and I am at a loss to know why a certain section of politicians in the House should introduce a Bill to restrict the only prosperous trade that the country has. Although I am an advocate for temperance, I am not desirous that the people of this country should attempt to " soberise" the people of Ireland before they have "soberised" themselves. Again, I do not believe the effect of the Bill would be to soberise the people. There is 640 another objection to which I attach great importance. If the Bill were passed its operation would be confided to people who are particularly obnoxious to some of my political friends—to the police of Ireland. It would be used as a political weapon against political opponents; it would be used to persecute objectionable persons. I think the question should be left to that Legislative Assembly which will soon be created in Dublin to manage the internal affairs of Ireland.
§ (5.26.) MR. PINKERTON (Galway)
It seems, from the course of the Debate, that the hon. Member for Cork and his supporters think that " the English wolves " are suffering from hydrophobia.
§ (5.27.)Question put, " That the word ' now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 248; Noes 94.—(Div. List, No. 132.)
§ Main Question proposed.
§ Debate arising.
§ It being half after Five of the clock, Mr. Speaker proceeded to interrupt the Business.
§ Whereupon Mr. T. W. Russell rose in his place, and claimed to move " That the Main Question be now put."
§ Question put, " That the 'Main Question be now put."
§ (5.45.) The House divided:—Ayes 276; Noes 31.—(Div. List, No. 133.)
§ Main Question, " That the Bill be now read a second time," put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, " That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Law, &c."—(Mr. Lea.)
§ Debate arising.
§ It being after half-past Five of the clock, and Objection being taken to Further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ It being Six of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put till to-morrow.
§ House adjourned at Six o'clock.