§ *MR. LEES KNOWLES (Salford, W.)
moved—That, inasmuch as the present condition of the Law relating to Habitual Inebriates, both criminal and non-criminal, is unsatisfactory, it is desirable that the Government should introduce legislation dealing with the subject and amend and extend in particular the Habitual Drunkards Acts 1879 and the Inebriates Act 1888.He said: I wish to draw the attention of the House to a subject of considerable importance—namely, the treatment of habitual inebriates. I have tried to bring this Motion forward on several occasions in different Sessions and different Parliaments, but I have never had luck in the lottery of the ballot. It is a subject that ought to appeal to teetotallers and non-teetotallers alike, and if the Government deals effectively with this subject they will take a practical step in the direction of temperance reform. The main object of my Motion is to induce discussion, and so to assist Her Majesty's Government. A Bill dealing with this subject was mentioned in the Queen's Speech of last year, but no mention was made of it this year in the Queen's Speech. I hope the interest of Her Majesty's Government in it is not less this year than it was last year. Habitual drunkenness may be regarded from several standpoints—ecclesiastical—sin; worldly—vice; national—crime; medical—disease. It is from the medical standpoint of a disease that I wish the House to consider it, because it is considered now by those who study inebriety that it is a mental and a physical disease. Dr. Norman Kerr, Chairman of the Inebriates Legislation Committee of the British Medical Association, has said that in half of his cases, in an experience of over 25 years, he has been able to trace family history. Probably, he would have been able to trace a family history in three-fourths of the cases had it not been for the reticence of friends. The statement of Dr. Norman 1037 Kerr is amply borne out by the Inspector of Retreats, who confirms the hereditary theory. The subject is not new to the House of Commons. It was brought forward by Dr. Dalrymple in 1872; it was re-introduced by Sir Charles Cameron in 1877, and that resulted in the Habitual Drunkards Act of 1879. The history of legislation on this subject is very well set out on page 92 in the Notes of evidence taken by the Departmental Committee appointed in 1892, to which I shall presently allude. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon was Chairman of that Committee. The Report, issued in 1893, shows the widespread interest, especially on the part of the medical profession; and in that Report will be found a memorial drawn up by that profession—by the British Medical Association—consisting of something like 15,000 registered medical practitioners. And then, Sir, there are resolutions of Boards of Guardians; and, in connection with that, I may say that in my own constituency of Salford the Gaurdians have memorialised on the subject. We have also expressions of opinion from chief constables, governors of prisons, prison chaplains, and licensees of retreats; and there are innumerable petitions to the House of Commons. As regards deputations, I may say that I myself have attended deputations to Home Secretaries in various Governments. I was a member of the deputation to Lord Llandaff and of the deputation to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife when he was Home Secretary. On the latter occasion Mr. Asquith made a statement that he considered that habitual drunkenness is to be regarded rather as an effect than as a cause of bad social conditions. With regard to the present Home Secretary, I have his sympathy. In answer to a question, he said he hoped to be able to introduce before long a Measure dealing with the treatment of habitual drunkards. His use of those two words "before long" has induced me to press forward my Motion tonight. I want that Bill to be brought in as soon as possible, and, among others, for the following reasons. When the Departmental Committee to which I have alluded made their Report, they found that a considerable percentage of cures had been effected by the treatment and the discipline of retreats. They found 1038 also that the number of retreats is too small, and that a considerable enlargement and improvement of the present system must be made to effect a real and genuine benefit from these institutions. The reasons given by the witnesses for comparative failure were these. First of all, there is the want of notoriety. People know little or nothing of the institutions which at present exist for habitual drunkards. Then there is the want of proper facilities for admission, the want of power of compulsion, to which I shall more particularly allude; the insufficiency of the maximum period of detention—namely, 12 months; the difficulties of re-admission, and the difficulty of recovering escaped patients, and of dealing with refractory ones. With regard to the want of proper facilities of admission, the witnesses proposed that instead of appearing before two magistrates in the country, or before a stipendiary, with two witnesses, appearance before one magistrate or a county court judge should be sufficient, and that the appearance need not be in open court. With regard to compulsion, the witnesses proposed that the system of compulsion and detention should be legalised, and that habitual drunkards (according to Section 3 of the Act of 1879) should, under proper safeguards and after careful investigation held in each case, be treated in a manner somewhat similar to that now adopted with regard to lunatics, and detained in retreats in reformatory homes for a considerable period. The suggestion is to supplement and not replace, by compulsion, the present voluntary system. The Departmental Committee, appointed in 1892, reported in 1893, and they divided the inquiry under two heads. First of all there were criminal inebriates, and secondly there were non-criminal inebriates. As regards criminal inebriates there seems to be very little difference of opinion. The main points on which legislation with regard to criminal inebriates is required are, that the magistrates at the present time have no power to commit to retreats, and that there are no retreats for poor persons, except one or two private ones for women. The figures with regard to habitual inebriety are very startling. Dr. Norman Kerr stated recently that there were about a quarter of a million 1039 commitments every year in the United Kingdom, believed by the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies to represent 112,000 men and 33,000 women; that of these convictions 50 to 60 per cent. in the case of males, and 80 to 85 per cent. in the case of females, were for offences complicated by drunkenness. In cities 2 to 7 per cent. of habitual drunkards have had from 100 to 500 and 600 convictions. There are numbers of drunkards who have been sentenced in one year from 6 to 52 times—that is once a week. But the most serious feature, in view of the physical and moral health of their offspring, according to Dr. Kerr, is the predominance of female inebriates. The percentage of 10 convictions and upwards was, in several English prisons, of males, 14.5, of females, 3.6; in Scotch prisons, of males 26, and of females 60. Throughout the United Kingdom commitments of 10 up to hundreds of times was 60 per cent. more common among women than among men. There has been a complete failure of what has been called the short sentence system. These unfortunate individuals, who are constantly being committed and re-committed, are known by the names of "ins and outs," and the result of their commitments is that they go into prison to recruit their health and strength, and come out again to take part in another drunken bout. One could give numerous illustrations. For instance, there is the case of a woman who had upwards of 400 convictions, whose husband, a small landlord, had paid £200 in fines for her. She must have been 600 times before the police court. There are other cases of people who have spent nearly the whole of their lives in prison: for instance, one person had never been out of prison between 15 and 63 years of age. And one cannot help recalling the case of the poor woman, whose name is so familiar in our newspapers, Jane Cakebread, who was convicted something like 280 times, and afterwards taken first to a private home by Lady Henry Somerset and then to a lunatic asylum. She ought to have been sent at the very first to an inebriates' retreat. I could also give you particulars which appeared in the Blue Book of 129 appearances before a police court of one woman; and it 1040 stated that probably these figures of constant commitments and re-commitments do not represent half the number of times the persons are taken before the magistrates. There are the cases of persons who change their names, who go to other prisons, who get discharged at the police court, and who have their fines paid by their friends. Well, Sir, the Committee made various recommendations. The Committee recommended that authority, as in Section 25 of the Intoxicating Liquors (Ireland) Act, 1874, should be given to the police to apprehend, without warrant, persons drunk and incapable in public highways, places, and buildings. They recommended that reformatory institutions should be provided, aided by contributions from the Imperial and local funds, as in the case of existing reformatories and industrial institutions for juvenile offenders. They recommended also that magistrates should have power to commit to such reformatory institutions, among others, drunkards who come within the criminal law, drunkards who ill-treat or neglect their wives and families, and drunkards who are convicted of drunkenness three or more times in the previous year. As regards the second portion of the inquiry of the Departmental Committee—namely, with regard to non-criminal inebriates—it is there that the chief difficulty lies. There is one strong argument, however, for dealing, not merely with criminal inebriates, but also with non-criminal inebriates, and it is this: if you recognise criminal inebriates, then there will be an inducement for friends and relatives of habitual inebriates, who have not committed any crime, to allow them to commit some act of folly in order to bring them within the class of criminal inebriates, in order that they may be dealt with by the law. A Bill was introduced in 1895 by Lord Herschell in another place, which dealt with these two classes of inebriates, and, so far as one could gather from the Debate, there seemed to be general assent that there should be legislation for criminal inebriates, but there was not that general assent with regard to non-criminal inebriates, and it is on that phase of the Motion that an expression of opinion from hon. Members would be most valuable. Lord Salisbury and Lord Halsbury and other Peers raised the cry 1041 of interference with the liberty of the subject. We have heard that cry before. But these habitual inebriates are not free men; they are absolute slaves to this disease of inebriety, and I could give you many illustrations in support of this from letters which have been written to me by people who have to deal with these sad cases. I take up one at random, and it is as follows—In my own family I have a most painful example of the misery inflicted by one of these helpless inebriates upon his parents, his wife, and his children. In his sober moments he is moved to tears at the wretchedness he has caused; but, when he is again enticed to drink, he will pawn the shirt off his back in order to buy whisky. It is horrible. There are hundreds of such cases, I am told.That is only one of the many letters which I have received. After all, is not Parliament constantly interfering with the liberty of the subject? Look at our factory legislation for women and children. Then, again, in regard to the hours of labour of railway servants, and in sending people who contract infectious diseases to hospitals, we interfere with the liberty of the subject. One strong argument against compulsion, and in favour of this cry of liberty of the subject, is that there will be a temptation, as regards property, for the relations and friends of habitual inebriates; but such an argument might be used against compulsion in the case of the Lunacy Acts. A case of inebriety should be regarded in effect as a case of insanity or idiocy. Apparently Lord Salisbury and Lord Halsbury are in favour of legislation in the direction of compulsory restraint, if such can be accomplished without detriment to individual liberty. If, therefore, the doctors, the clergy, and the judges are fallible, surely we might appoint Commissioners of Inebriety, after the manner that we appoint Commissioners of Lunacy. If you can trust Commissioners of Lunacy, then I think you might trust, such individuals as Commissioners of Inebriety. Another difficult part of the subject is with regard to expense. When industrial homes were first proposed, the argument of expense was used against them, but experience has proved that what they cost in one way they save in another. Again, Sir, there would be a saving of 1042 police court and other expenses, and another way in which funds might be provided, apart from the question of Imperial and local funds, would be by the payment by those with means for those without means. These cases of habitual inebriety are extremely difficult to deal with. Take the case of a youth who has something like £300 a year left him by relatives or friends. He is possessed of his bread and butter for life, as he thinks. He becomes idle, and takes to drink. What can his friends do with him? He becomes an habitual inebriate. They hand him over to the doctor, but the doctor fails. Then they try, perhaps, hypnotism, the gold cure, and other cures. Then perhaps they induce him to enter a retreat. Probably he does not like the retreat, becomes refractory, and breaks away. He spends his money, becomes bankrupt, and then falls on the rates, or is sent to prison. It is extremely difficult to deal with the young who drink. Inebriates have the most fickle of wills, and in their case particularly compulsion is necessary. While I am alluding to the question of property I would like to point out that it is extremely difficult to deal with the property of an habitual inebriate. You cannot restrain him against anticipation, and if he is to receive money you must give it to some third person or persons, absolutely or, in certain events, with a gift over, and if you do that there is the risk, among others, of the money merging. I think I have pointed out the necessity of dealing with cases of non-criminal inebriates, and I hope the Government will provide a reformatory and make it a Test Retreat. The Committee recommended that the establishment of retreats should be encouraged for those who cannot provide the whole of the funds necessary for their maintenance, the residue being supplied by voluntary contributions, and, if thought desirable, by aid from the public rates; and that, with regard to such retreats, the Secretary of State should be empowered to make regulations by which a certain amount of work, suited to each particular case, should be enforced. They recommended, further, that power should be given for the compulsory committal to a retreat of persons coming within the definition 1043 of an habitual drunkard, as laid down in the Act of 1879—A person who, not being amenable to any jurisdiction, is, notwithstanding, by reason of habitual intemperate drinking of intoxicating liquor, at times dangerous to himself or herself, or to others, or is incapable of managing himself or herself, or his or her affairs"—on the application of their relations or friends, or other persons interested in their welfare, such application to be made to any judge of the High Court, any County Court judge, stipendiary magistrate, or justices sitting in Quarter or Petty Sessions, who shall decide on the propriety of the application. The Committee also recommended that the property of the person committed should be liable for his maintenance, and that the order for committal should provide, when necessary, for the appointment of a trustee of the patient's estate during the period of committal, with power to apply the same towards the support of his wife or family. I do not think that it is worth my while now to labour this subject any further. I could continue to a considerable length. I should wish, for instance, to point out that when I refer to intoxicants I should like that definition extended so as to include opium, morphine, chloral, chloroform, ether, cocaine, and other narcotics. As to foreign and colonial law, I moved recently for several Returns on the subject of habitual inebriety and hon. Members can find much that is instructive and interesting from those Returns. I would refer particularly to Switzerland and the law in force in the Canton of St. Gall with regard to treatment of inebriates to the "family council" of France and the "curator system" of Germany. If an illustration were wanted of an institution for habitual inebriates carried on by a State Government, I would refer to the Massachusetts Hospital for Dipsomaniacs and Inebriates at Foxborough, which is the only inebriate institution, I believe, opened and carried, on by a State Government. I do not wish now to speak at greater length. I have dealt with both branches of the subject: the treatment of criminal and non-criminal habitual inebriates. I wish to urge Her Majesty's Government to bring in a Bill dealing with both branches; but, if they think time will not permit of their passing 1044 this Session a Bill dealing with both, I would ask them to bring a Bill, at all events, to deal with one, viz., the criminal habitual inebriate branch. It will be one step onward, but the voice of pity will cry for a further advance. I feel confident that, in dealing with the subject of my Motion, most useful legislation would be effected by Her Majesty's Government. I have the honour to move the Motion which stands in my name.
§ DR. R. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
I do not wish to make a speech, but I rise to second the Motion. I hope the Government will stiffen their backs, and bring in a good, drastic, practical Bill, which will do something to settle this long-standing Question, and to rescue from destruction a helpless, hopeless, and mischievous class of people who have entirely lost the faculty of helping themselves.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir M. W. RIDLEY,) Lancashire, N., Blackpool
I congratulate my hon. Friend behind me on having at last succeeded in calling the attention of the House to a subject the importance of which I am sure none of us will deny. I am aware he has made several efforts to bring this matter forward, and I am happy to be able to assure him that the Government entertains no objection to accepting the Motion he has moved. My hon. Friend has referred to a promise made in the Queen's Most Gracious Speech last year that the Government would introduce a Bill on this subject. We have made no such promise this year, but I trust that I shall be able to bring in before long a Bill dealing with this subject. I can corroborate what my hon. Friend has said about the increasing desire of the country for some legislation. I have received at the Home Office during the past few months a largely increased number of resolutions, from Boards of Guardians especially, and from other local bodies, earnestly desiring that this House should endeavour in some way to deal with flagrant cases of habitual drunkenness, to which allusion has been made by my hon. Friend. And I may say also, with reference to 1045 non-criminal habitual drunkards, as they are commonly called, that I have received letters, such as the one partly read by my hon. Friend, which are exceedingly sad. We have no figures upon that particular branch of the question, but everyone who has given any attention to it will be aware, probably from their own personal knowledge, that there are many such very sad cases with which it would be very desirable to deal if possible. With reference to the magnitude of the question, if one looks at the number of persons who are convicted from time to time in the police courts, the figures are positively alarming. I do not think it is necessary to prove that to an obviously convinced House, but I will quote figures given by Lord Herschell when he introduced his Bill in 1895. According to the figures he gave, of 33,000 women sent to prison every year for drunkenness, no less than 11,000 had been convicted ten times previously, and Lord Herschell spoke of one woman who had only had one week's liberty in the 12 months. It is perfectly true, as has been said, that short sentences are of no use for the purpose of reformation. They are of no use in protecting society. Even if they do protect society it is a very expensive way of securing that protection, and the effect of giving short sentences is, that these unfortunate people come out only better prepared to lake another turn at alcohol, and their last state is worse than their first. Again, taking our local prisons, I find that in 478 cases of lunacy detected during 1895, no less than 86 were distinctly traceable to alcohol, and out of 118 deaths, 10 were traceable to the same cause. Therefore it is perfectly plain that with regard to these unfortunate people there is a strong case for endeavouring to do something by law to deal with this difficulty, and I am convinced that public feeling will support the Government in what they propose to do. Well, my hon. Friend has alluded to the special difficulties attaching to dealing with non-criminal cases. I confess that I feel this to be a very difficult portion of the subject. Notwithstanding the sadness of the cases, and notwithstanding the desire of those who are concerned with them, there is a great indisposition 1046 to undergo the necessary publicity. I do not agree with the Report of the Committee which says that persons might be committed and sentenced by one magistrate in his private room, and sent off to an inebriates' reformatory. I do not think this House would be disposed to do otherwise than safeguard in a more rigid manner the liberty of the subject. If such a suggestion were adopted there would be a danger of fraudulent accusations of inebriety being made. In the first instance, then, I think I can tell my hon. Friend that, in trying to deal with this subject, the Bill I hope to introduce before very long does not deal with the case of non-criminal inebriates, except in so far that in some respects, it makes what I hope will be certain improvements in the existing Acts, and gives certain powers which have been recommended by the Home Office Committee and other committees which have considered the subject. Well, Sir, when we come to deal with the cases of those who are convicted from time to time in our courts of drunkenness, or who are convicted of other serious offences of which drunkenness forms a very important part, then I think we are on ground which is comparatively more easy to deal with, and by a step in that direction I think the Legislature would be doing very good work. Now, Sir, I am not going to venture to trouble the House long, but it seems to me that there are two or three principles that we must bear in mind, and two or three objects we must aim at. In the first place I think that, in dealing with these unfortunate persons our efforts should be remedial and not punitive. That is to say, you do not want long sentences of imprisonment, as much as you want long enough sentences of reformatory treatment, and the legislation that I shall propose will be—following the lines laid down by the late Government of 1895—a Bill which would provide for the establishment of certified reformatories for inebriates. Then, Sir, I think it is plain from the experience of existing retreats that it requires a considerable period of detention to do an habitual inebriate man or woman much good; and I am afraid it takes longer to cure a woman than a man. I think, therefore, that the courts which are to sentence the 1047 persons to those reformatories, must be enabled to inflict a sufficiently long period of detention, and in order to secure the effective working of this system you must provide considerable safeguards to secure that the person is rightly committed; that ample power and ample security for publicity must be given, and, possibly, even the verdict of a jury must be taken. Then, Sir, I think it is desirable to provide for the separate treatment of these habitual drunkards. I observe that among the suggestions made by one of the Committees I have mentioned there is a suggestion that parts of the Poor Law establishments and other public institutions might be used for the treatment of these cases of drunkenness. From the evidence I can gather from those retreats which exist in other parts of the world, it appears to me better to face the difficulty of providing separate and proper reformatory establishments, where, under proper supervision, you can deal with those cases; and it is in that way, and I believe in that way only, you can hope to reform these unfortunate creatures. I hope, in bringing in a Bill on this subject, the Government will be prepared on their part to do something themselves in this direction, and they propose that there should be some expenditure of public money as in the case of reformatory schools some years ago, but they also rely upon the co-operation of private efforts and philanthropy. I hope that it may be possible to make some of the existing retreats still more useful—probably by the proposals in this Bill. I do not see why some of those existing retreats might not, with the assistance of legislation, become still more useful. The retreats which have been created under the legislation referred to of 1879, have done good work so far as they go. I am afraid that when one reads reports of these retreats, and the number of cases dealt with, it is rather disappointing, but, at the same time, we must remember that these institutions were rather novel in this country. They have been undertaken by men and women who were very anxious to do what they could in the matter, and, so far as their powers went, they have done a great deal of good. But the obvious difficulties of these retreats were the want of compulsion and the difficulty of detaining 1048 inebriates and so on. Now I do not think that that could be dealt with all at once, but, I do hope we shall be able to introduce legislation this Session which will deal, at all events, with criminal inebriates, and which will do something to improve legislation with regard to other cases. The Government are prepared to accept the Motion.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ SIR CHARLES CAMERON
said he could congratulate the House upon that distinct advance which had taken place in the treatment of inebriates since the question had first been brought before the House. When a similar Measure to the present was brought before it on a former occasion, he assured hon. Gentlemen that the promoters could not persuade the House to deal with it. That Measure drew attention to the fact that many of these unfortunate people and their friends were willing to submit to any treatment in the hope of being cured. It was proposed to deal compulsorily with any person, provided they were proved to be habitual drunkards, and who refused to be treated. It was also proposed to deal with the quasi-criminal habitual drunkards who are a pest to Society. As to the latter portion of the Bill, the sentiment in the House was so strongly opposed to increasing the burden on the rates for such a purpose that it had to be dropped. Experience showed that a very considerable percentage of habitual drunkards were willing to go into retreats, and for that purpose a Bill was brought in afterwards. But the House was very chary of doing anything permanently in the matter, and in the House of Lords the term of that Bill was cut down to ten years, and passed in a most mutilated form—so mutilated that it was proposed to withdraw the Measure altogether, and it was only allowed to pass on the advice given by the late Lord Shaftesbury, who had said that one never ought to lose an opportunity of imprinting a principle on the Statute Book, and gave as an illustration the Factories Act, which now overshadowed all the industries of the country, but which, upon its first introduction, was little more than a principle. 1049 The House had no idea of the intense Longing which many of these poor victims had for reformation. He (Sir Charles) happened to be the Chairman which investigated this matter in Scotland, and they visited some of these retreats, where they saw many who had drooped into a life of vice through drink. The Committee saw women there who had voluntarily immured themselves in these retreats, working for a bare subsistence for two years in the hope that they might recover and be able to take their proper places again in Society. It was with regret that he heard the Home Secretary say that he did not propose to deal with the case of the non-criminal habitual drunkards, whom many in that House would like to see placed in such a position that they might be committed to a retreat at the instance of their friends. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary spoke of their friends or relatives being able to bring them before a Magistrate, and, upon his order, getting them committed to a retreat for a year or more. But that was not the case; the Committee over which he presided considered the question of committals, and came to the conclusion that a man must be brought before the Sheriff or a County Court Judge, and not be committed by a Magistrate, and that his case might be gone into in camerâ, if he wanted privacy, or in open Court. He was perfectly certain that those who advocated the extension of powers dealing with that class of habitual drunkards would be most willing to engraft on their proposal every possible safeguard which might be considered necessary to preserve the liberty of the subject. At the present moment the liberty of the subject was not guaranteed. He could take a representative of the Home Department in nine hours to two institutions in Edinburgh, not certified under the Act, where habitual drunkards were put in, voluntarily, and involuntarily very often, and where they were kept under more stringent regulations than those which the Committee proposed. At the present moment the right hon. Gentleman had to consider the fact that one had only to set up a retreat to be able to carry on his business with the utmost disregard to the liberty of the subject. At Edinburgh there were two institutions, one of which his Committee went over, 1050 and one of the men there bitterly complained of the way in which he was kept in. The gentleman in charge told them that if a man sent in his wife as an incurable drunkard, and she was unwilling to remain there, they took her in when she was drunk and kept her until she recovered her senses, which it sometimes took her a couple of months to do. The diet was somewhat poor, and largely consisted of butter milk. That gentleman kept them in confinement for two months, and then let them out on Sunday, when there were no public-houses open and no temptation to be thrown in their way. He then gave them greater liberty, sending them out with attendants of the establishment on week-days. They were searched when they came home by the attendants, and if any of them had taken advantage of the opportunity to get liquor or money it was taken from them on their return, and the attendants of the place were given a reward for any money or liquor which they found upon the inmates, whose liberty was not guaranteed by the possibility of any inspector visiting the establishment, and who had no power to appeal to the Home Office for liberation. That institution was carried on on the same lines now as it had been for many years, without any action on the part of the authorities to safeguard the liberty of its inmates. It struck him as being absurd, when that was the state of things all over the country, in many parts of England, as well as in Scotland and Ireland, not to deal with the matter for fear of curtailing the liberty of the subject. Under the present law the temptation was for a man not to license a retreat, because, although he might acquire certain legal powers to keep his patients there by so doing, he would have to observe certain formalities, and under present conditions, whether he had legal powers or not, he did keep them in such retreats as had been referred to. With regard to the voluntary patients, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would bear in mind that a large number of them went before the magistrates and asked to be committed. They were compelled to do so. A father or a husband said: "If you will not go to a retreat I will let you starve," and that threat sent many of them to these institutions and kept them there. In 1051 one of the retreats which the Committee visited they investigated the case of a patient who desired to get out, but who stated that her husband would not keep her if she left the institution; so she had no option but to remain. He (Sir Charles) was of opinion that if the Home Secretary would take the matter up and put all these retreats under regulations it would afford a better guarantee for the liberty of the subject than the rough-and-ready system which at present existed, under which a large number of people, nominally at their own request, were immured in these retreats under the compulsion of threatened starvation. For one or two drunkards confined under the present Act, the right hon. Gentleman would find dozens or scores in unlicensed retreats, and all without that protection which would be afforded them if a licence were required for every retreat, and if he made a regulation that the licences should only be granted for persons coming within the definition of habitual drunkards. The Home Secretary had told them that he was prepared to deal with the quasi criminal habitual drunkard, and if he dealt with that portion of that subject in a bold and comprehensive fashion it would be of great benefit to the public, for these pests of society would be segregated and kept from being a source of annoyance, while they would also have a chance of permanent reformation. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman had gone so far as he had promised to do, but he trusted that on reconsideration the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to take note of the very important branch of the question to which he (Sir Charles) had referred.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I should not like this opportunity to pass without saying one word upon the subject of this Resolution. In the first place, I would congratulate my hon. Friend on the reward of his patient continuance in well-doing, and, in the next place, I would thank the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary for having so readily agreed to accept this Resolution, and for having promised to bring in a Bill dealing with the subject. There is one suggestion I should like to make to the right hon. Gentleman, 1052 and that is, that he should bring within the scope of his Bill a clause dealing with non-criminal inebriates, a class from which probably one-half of the criminal inebriates come. Criminal inebriates can almost be dealt with by prison discipline. I do not intend to occupy the time of the House to-night upon this subject, but I hope I may be pardoned for saying a word or two for Ireland in approbation of the Resolution which has been proposed by my hon. Friend, and to request that the Home Secretary will take into his favourable consideration the suggestion which I have ventured to make.
§ The Motion was then agreed to.