§ (Second Reading.)
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. TRITTON (Lambeth, Norwood)
I have been called upon most unexpectedly to move the second reading of this Bill, which I confess I thought I would have very little chance of commending to the House of Commons this afternoon. The Bill which has been committed to my charge has been drawn after a long and careful consideration by the Church of England Temperance Society. I venture to say no subject at the present moment exercises more the minds of a large number of earnest men and women in this country than the question of some restriction of the hours during which public-houses are open in England. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies said in 1894 that Sunday closing was—a question which had probably excited more interest and had brought to its support more influence than any other, unless it he the reduction of public-houses.In 1897 the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, speaking in the House of Commons, said:There is a great amount of popular feeling on the side of Sunday closing. … This object is dear to the hearts of earnest men, who believe that by total prohibition on Sunday they may not only improve the keeping of Sunday in England, but may at the Same time remove many of those extra causes of intemperance which may be supposed to Occur in an interval of leisure such as Sunday should be.The Bill which I have the honour to present to the House of Commons is not a Sunday Closing Bill. It is a Bill to restrict the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sunday. The first clause says:Subject to any order made under this Act, all premises in which intoxicating liquor is sold by retail shall he closed during the whole of Sunday, Christmas Day, and Good Friday.The second clause is as follows:The licensing authority for the time being empowered by law to grant licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor may make an order permitting licensed premises in their licensing district, or in any part thereof, to lie specified in the order, to be mien on Sunday, Christmas Day, or Good Friday, during such time or times as they may by the order prescribe, not exceeding in the whole two hours on any such day, for the sale of intoxicating liquor for consumption off the premises only, and may make an order varying or revoking any previous order.544 I am not an advocate of total Sunday closing myself. It is desirable we should proceed gradually, and I believe this Bill is one which will meet with the approval of many who, though interested in the temperance question, do not see their way to advocate Sunday closing, and I hope we shall secure their votes for this measure. The subject is one to which I have devoted myself for many years, and in which I take the very greatest interest. I urge this Bill on the House, firstly, on behalf of the publicans themselves; secondly, on behalf of large numbers of public-house employees throughout the land who do not know the blessing of a Sunday's rest; and thirdly, because I believe it is a step in the right direction towards securing some check on intemperance, which is a blot on our national escutcheon. I most earnestly appeal to the House to let this modest Bill pass. It is in accordance with the feelings of a large number, not only of clergymen but of devoted men and women throughout the country, who are grieved at the terrible evil of intemperance which disgraces our land. Let it go to a Committee upstairs. We have not a great deal of work to do this session, and I appeal to the Government—I am sure I shall not appeal in vain to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, the only occupant of the Treasury bench, as his zeal in the cause is well known—but I appeal to the Government to let this Bill be read a second time, and passed into law. I venture to think that in days to come, when other Members occupy these benches, it will be said with great credit to this Conservative and Unionist Government that it used the great majority the country gave it to pass into law a measure winch cannot fail to be the greatest possible blessing not only in the present day but for all generations.
Motion made and Question proposed—
That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr.Tritton.)
§ MR. COLVILLE (Lanarkshire, N.E.)
I rise to support very cordially the second reading of this Bill. Arguments are not needed, and I merely wish to say that for the last forty-five years we have enjoyed in Scotland the blessing of Sunday closing, and it has been universally admitted that it has acted not only in the interests 545 of the publicans and all engaged in the trade, but has been an unmixed blessing to all classes of the community.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
I rise for an opposite purpose to that stated by the hon. Member. I wish to place before the House the peculiar position in which it is now Placed. We have a Bill before us which has been unexpectedly brought under our notice. I do not, of course, blame my hon friend in any shape or form. He has followed a perfectly straightforward course, as everyone who knows him would expect. But we now find ourselves called on to dead with a measure of extreme importance, and one on which great public feeling has always been exhibited as long as I can recollect, and the Treasury bench is empty with the exception of one occupant. Has the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board any mandate from his colleagues to convey their views on this subject to the House?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
None at all. I am on the Treasury bench because matters affecting the Local Government Board appear on the Order Paper, and I have no intention of dealing With other matters.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
Quite so. My hon. friend bears out my statement. He is here to discharge his own duty and to attend to a Particular question, but he is not in a position to speak for his colleagues or to afford the House any guidance as to the views of Her Majesty's, Government on a subject of such importance as that now before us. I am glad to see that my hon. friend has now been relieved from his solitary position, and that he has been joined by my right hon. friend the Under Secretary for the Home Department. I would ask my right hon. friend if he has come to state the views of the Government to the House, and if he can assure us that this matter has been fully considered by the Cabinet, or if he can present the views of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. We are all of us approaching this subject under very peculiar conditions. A Royal commission appointed by this Government is, I believe, at this very moment charged with the consideration of this subject, although I feel doubtful as to how far I am justified in saying that the 546 Royal Commission is still sitting. I observe that the Chairman of that Commission has publicly declared that the Commission is dissolved, and he has stated that in virtue of the power conferred upon him by the Commission he declared it to be dissolved. How that announcement stands from a legal point of view I hesitate to express any opinion upon. I am inclined to think it is absolutely ultra vires, consequently has no effect. But even assuming that view to be incorrect, and that the Royal Commission is discharged from further consideration of the subject, it would be very unfortunate for the House, without any official authority or guidance whatever, to attempt to deal with so important a subject. The question of the hours at which intoxicating liquors shall be retailed on Sundays is one of the most difficult problems which a Royal Commission could undertake. I have seen a draft of the rival reports of this Commission, and they reveal a very extraordinary conflict of opinion, though I am not aware that any exact official announcement has yet been made upon this subject. The hon. Member for Cockermouth would be in favour of making short work of this question, not only on Sundays, but upon any other day, and upon this subject I do not think that the hon. Member has ever drawn any distinction between one day and another. According to my hon. friend's view it is a most mischievous and injurious trade, which ought not to be merely limited to a certain number of hours, but should be absolutely extinguished for ever. That is the view which the hon. Member for Cockermouth has persistently advocated for many years. I doubt whether the Members of this House have had an opportunity of studying the report of the Royal Commission which has peen appointed, and I do not think any Member or any authoritative section of the House would care to rush pell-mell into a decision upon this thorny subject. With reference to the Bill itself, I am bound to admit that I did not regard it as a probable subject to be considered to-day, nor had I regarded it as a Bill which was likely to be taken this Session. Therefore my hon. friend in that respect shares my surprise. The promoter of not give us a memorandum or epitome, as some promoters have done, and I think he was wise in not doing that, because on the 547 face of it the measure shows pretty well what his intentions are. My hon. friend proposes that public-houses shall be closed on Sunday without any recommendation from the Executive or without any report from the Royal Commission. Besides this, he proposes to allow the licensing authority to discharge duties which have never been confided to any licensing authority before. The Bill provides that the sale of intoxicating liquors on a Sunday shall be confined to two hours, and only for consumption off the premises. I am not going to find fault with that on its merits. There is a good deal to be said in favour of meeting the views of a very large number of people who have not the luxury which a cellar affords, and who are dependent upon the nearest licensed house for the beer which they consume at their meals. Therefore I am not disposed to find fault with my hon. friend for having afforded greater facilities for the consumption of intoxicating liquors off the premises. I fail to see, on the other hand, what provision my hon. friend has made for that very interesting personage the bona fide traveller. He is a person of whom we have heard a great deal in our time. He very often performs a very arduous journey, and he is sometimes supposed to hail from a place not very far outside the area of his own parish. I presume that my hon. friend desires to guard against the spurious traveller, but I think the case of the bona fide traveller is one which ought to be seriously regarded by Parliament. I represent myself a constituency where the bone fide traveller looms very largely—probably few hon. Members are aware of the great number of attractions in the district which I have the honour to represent. Therefore I make no apology to the House for drawing attention to the very grave inconvenience and the gross injustice which a measure of this kind would inflict upon a vast number of persons for whose convenience and comfort Parliament ought to have some regard. That being so, I think I am entitled to ask how he can expect the House of Commons—practically without notice, and in face of the circumstances to which I have already drawn attention—to give a second reading to a Bill dealing with so complicated and controversial a subject. The hon. Gentleman opposite, upon the Service Franchise Bill, waived the right 548 which he undoubtedly possessed of pressing the advantage he had gained. I am not going to make this suggestion to my hon. friend, and if he will take my advice he will avail himself of the opportunity he has got; but I hope he will avail himself of it in true Parliamentary fashion by not attempting to gloss over the undoubted difficulties which surround this subject, for it is a very thorny and difficult question. I do not think myself that the Royal Commission would be wasting their time if they were to listen to the suggestions winch my hon. friend has to make. As far as I can judge, I think the time of that Commission has been very largely wasted, and I do not think that the result of its labours, whenever that resuft is forthcoming, will redound very largely to the credit of those concerned. I am quite aware that a great deal of that result is due to the system adopted by the authorities. The plan of appointing on a judicial inquiry a certain number of bigoted partisans on either side, and then bringing an equivalent number of persons supposed to have a well-balanced mind, is pernicious to a degree. I have no hesitation in saying that a large number of the members of the Royal Commission, though they are very valuable as witnesses, are in the wrong place.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member will not be in order in discussing the way in which the Commission is composed, or the manner the matter was conducted before the Royal Commission, before it has reported.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
I am glad that I am relieved from the difficulty of trying to give an account of the proceedings before the Commissioners. As you very properly pointed out, the least said about them the better. I gather that I have the assent of my hon. friend to this; he recognises the desirability and the necessity of expounding a scheme, which so far has never been done before. My bon. friend has studied this question in all its bearings for a great many years, but he has never identified himself with the extreme views held by some upon this subject. There has been a marked distinction between the moderate spirit which has actuated my hon. friend and those which have been advocated by some who hold more extreme views, who call his Bill 549 half-hearted, and look upon him as a turncoat. But they are wrong in doing so, because he has disassociated himself from the more extreme views, and he never has associated himself with the extremists who desire to annihilate such a large industry. As to the further causes of the Bill, I hoped that my hon. friend would have relieved me from the necessity of endeavouring to expound them. I think it is usual for those urging the acceptance of a Bill upon the House to discharge that duty. My hon. friend proposes to adopt for his purpose the provisions of the Licensing Acts; and, supposing that it is right for us to deal with the matter at all, that is a very reasonable course to be pursued. Therefore I shall not detain the House by going through the subsidiary clauses of the Bill. The fact remains that the House would be adopting an absolutely unprecedented course in reading a Bill of this kind a second time on this occasion; a Bill dealing with such great interests; a scheme for shutting up every refreshment house in the country, so far as consumption on the premises is concerned, without so far as I can see any provision whatever for recognising hotels, although it may perhaps appear by reference to some existing Act. So far as I can see, my hon. friend would shut up, so far as the bona fide travelling public are concerned, every hotel and licensed house in the country. As regards hotels, there is a very great distinction between the refreshment houses used by the wealthy and those used by the poor, and I have always contended that legislation of this kind is for the most part essentially class legislation. My friend has absolved himself from that extreme reform, but I cannot see that he contemplates any preferential treatment as regards hotels. The law distinctly recognises such a distinction being made, and possibly by some reference there may be sonic Act embodied in this Bill winch will carry out tins idea. So far as the Bill itself is concerned it appears upon the face of it that it would be a very crude measure, not accompanied by any of those necessary safeguards either to the trade concerned or to the community at large, of which hitherto the promoters of all measures of this kind have availed themselves. The House would be well advised to decline to deal with this matter at all. Under the circumstances, I do not wish to put my hon. friend in a position of diffi- 550 culty by moving that this Bill be read a second time six months hence, which would be the natural conclusion of my remarks. I would much rather leave it to my hon. friend to reconsider ins position under the circumstances, in order that he may have an opportunity of withdrawing the measure.
§ MR. NUSSEY (Pontefract)
We all recognise, I think—no matter what our views may be upon the temperance question, whether we are in favour of any particular measure or not—the necessity of some reform. We all desire to promote the real temperance of this country, and any such measure must have the support of this House; but there is always the danger that upon such a question as this we may legislate before the time is ripe for such legislation. I do not think any Bill which is brought before this House can be successful unless it has the full authority of the people behind it, and that being so I now propose to devote my attention to the second clause of the Bill. If I understand this Bill correctly, the second clause proposes the partial closing of public-houses on Sunday. It proposes that they may open for two hours every Sunday if in the opinion of the licensing authority it is expedient; but what I suggest is that the licensing authority, as at present constituted, is not in touch with the feeling of the people in the locality on that question. I do not see how any Member of this House can know whether a public-house in a particular district should be open for a particular time only. It is impossible to legislate in advance of local public opinion in such a matter as this; and unless you have the people with you, the police with you, and the magistrates with you, it is useless decreeing that all public-houses shall be closed on Sunday. I would much rather place tins question in the hands of the people themselves, in the hands of those who use public-houses, and who have every right to use them in fair and proper manner. We on this side of the House, who profess to trust the people, do not see why we should not give them full power over this as over other matters. I think, myself, that if the people had a right to control the public-houses there would be better beer and better whisky and a larger measure of temperance. It 551 seems to me that the motion Which I hope to move is essentially a popular one, and drafted on popular lines, and therefore I shall move, "That no Bill to restrict the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sunday would be satisfactory unless it embodies the principle of local option." That will satisfy even the aspirations of my hon. friend the Member for Cocker-mouth. He earl have no logical objection to local option on Sundays, if he advocates it for the rest of the week. Then there is the fact that the Royal Commission has not yet reported, and I would also point out that this NH is exciting a great deal of interest in the country, and that it comes here most unexpectedly on a Wednesday afternoon, on the eve of the report of the Royal Commission. Till we have that report I do think it would be better not to proceed with this Bill in its present form, but to put the whole question into the hands of the people. With that remark I beg to move my Amendment.
To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the question, in order to add the words 'no Bill to restrict the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sunday is satisfactory unless it embodies the principle of local option.'"—(Mr. Nussey.)
That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question.
§ MR. WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
I beg to second the Amendment, although it does not exactly express my views on this Bill. Although I am in favour of temperance, and of every sort of legislation that can really conduce to temperance, I must say there are restrictions in this Bill which would work very seriously against the comfort, of the working classes of this country. The point I object to most is that those depraved beings like myself who like a glass of beer, and who have not the opportunity of storing it, cannot get their beer on Sunday unless the licensing authority gives them leave. The licensing authorities vary in different places. I have no confidence in the "great unpaid" as being proper judges of when working men who like their beer should get it. I daresay they are very good judges of how much is good for the working men, but at the same time a little must be loft to the feeling of those who want to drink beer. We ought to allow 552 these to have some control over the hours of Sunday closing. I do not think any Bill will be satisfactory which goes to such an extent against the feelings of the working men, because in most places it would annoy them by cutting off their dinner beer and supper beer on Sundays. I quite recognise that something must be clone towards preventing a great many public-houses becoming drinking shops on Sunday. I do not say in all cases, but in certain cases, they do a considerable amount of harm, which by legislation might be controlled. The first necessity, however, is to get the people to back up the proposed legislation. In America, where much temperance legislation had been passed of which the people did not thoroughly approve, the result was that the law was broken to an enormous extent. I think that any Bill that deals with this subject at all might to go into the question of preventing children going into public-houses. It may be said that that question is outside Sunday closing; but I believe it is of even greater importance than Sunday closing, that the country is ready for such a measure, and that the people would support it to their utmost. We are on the verge of getting a report, or several reports, from the Royal Commission which has been considering the licensing question for three years. It is said these reports will be issued next week, and therefore I think to-day is about the most inopportune of the whole year when such a measure as this could have been brought forward. When the reports of the Royal Commission are fully considered, we should get a better Bill, that would be approved of not only by the Royal Commission itself, but by the large majority of the gentlemen opposite, and one very much more satisfactory than any mere Bill for Sunday closing or local option. I think in the near future the Unionist Government will be obliged to deal with temperance legislation, so as to reduce intemperance, and do some good without annoying and irritating a large portion of our labouring population. I dissociate myself entirely from those who are opposed to temperance legislation, and I would not for one moment, if I thought any good could conic from it, and that drunkenness would really he stopped by it, have voted against this Bill. I think that the Amendment is a very wise one, and that the people of the 553 district should have some power to say whether there should be Sunday closing or not. The licensing authorities are not sufficiently in touch with the people to justify their being entrusted with unlimited power.
§ *MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)
There is one reason why We should not read this Bill a second time. If it becomes law it will not affect any of us in this House. We shall be interfering with the comforts and necessities of a large body of Her Majesty's subjects, in the happy consciousness that we ourselves shall not be interfered with at all. That is beyond all contradiction. No one in this House is in the habit of frequenting public-houses on Sunday to have his refreshment, and to meet and have social intercourse with his mates. He has his own house, his own wine and beer cellar, and if the Bill becomes law his freedom will not be interfered with in any way. There are many reasons against the Bill becoming law. This is not the first time I have felt it my duty to oppose similar legislation; but I always do it with regret, for I desire the object aimed at as heartily as the promoters of such legislation do. I can even go as far as to say that if I really believed that this Bill would considerably diminish drunkenness I should be very much disposed to vote for it. But I do not believe that it would have that effect. I think what is proposed is illogical. This Bill deals generally with what are called intoxicating liquors. It treats all liquors alike—the fiery spirits, the strong adulterated gin, the innocent claret, and the refreshing beer, or even choice cider, so cordially and so strongly recommended to us by one hon. Member of this House. It makes no distinction between them all; no matter how infinitesimal the proportion of alcohol in them, they are at once called intoxicating liquors. I can understand the logical position of those, like the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, who consider it exceedingly wrong to drink any liquor at all—
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE
Of Course I withdraw the statement on the assurance of the hon. Baronet; but, from the public 554 action of the hon. Baronet, notwithstanding the very good tempered and vivacious way he has of airing his views, I certainly got the impression that he thought all alcoholic liquors were bad, and that the manufacture should be stopped.
§ *MR. SYDNEY GEDGE
Then the manufacture is not wrong, the drinking is not wrong, but the sale is wrong. Whatever the hon. baronet may say, there are those who hold the view that alcohol does such an infinite amount of mischief that it ought not to be manufactured or sold. That is a logical position. But it is illogical for people to say, "We do not want to close public-houses on week days. All We desire is to close them entirely on Sunday." There are others who say that it is wrong for a man to take a moderate amount of refreshment on Sunday which he enjoys on week-days; and the argument is that Sunday is a sacred day. Nobody would go further than myself in advocating the claims of Sunday as a sacred day, and a day to be devoted to rest. It would be perfectly logical to contend that everything should lie prohibited by law which interferes with the day of rest—newspapers, the sale of tobacco and cigars, the opening of public-houses, and so on. But I see no logic in permitting trains to be run, newspapers, tobacco, cigars, &c., to be sold on Sunday, and in preventing the sale of drinks because they have a proportion of alcohol in them. Why do you not prohibit all these things Because they are for the public convenience, and if they were prohibited no one would stand such an interference with liberty. it is said by some that the results would be so excellent that we ought to prohibit the sale on Sunday. I doubt whether the result would be so excellent. It would arouse in the breast of those who desire drink a determination to have it at all hazards. It is alleged that statistics show that in districts where Sunday closing prevails there is less drunkenness than in those districts where the public-houses are Open. But I remember a learned Queen's Counsel, who supported a similar bill, admitting in this House that these statistics are utterly unreliable; and a little consideration shows that that 555 must be the case. A man goes to a public-house, he drinks too much, creates a disturbance on his way home, is arrested, and appears in statistics. But suppose the public-houses are closed; the man sends for all the drink he wants, either on the Saturday night or on the Sunday during the two hours which the promoters of this Bill are good enough to allow the public-houses to be open. The drink is brought to his house, and is partaken of, not only by himself, but by his family. We have had a good deal of evidence to show that the result is very fatal to the sobriety, not only of himself, but of his children. I know from private sources which I can thoroughly trust, from a lady who has done a great deal of work among the poor in Cardiff that as the result of Sunday closing in the town there has been an increase of drinking and its fearful effects. That seems to me a very strong reason against this measure. Though the Bill permits the local authority to open the house for a few hours during the day, they might not do so. The magistrates might say that they were not disposed to open the public-houses on the Sunday, when the State has closed them. We must remember that there are a large number of unmarried workmen who, as a rule, have only a bedroom, and no place to sit in, except the common room of a public-house. And there are a large number of highly respectable workmen who, from the dearness of rent, are unable to have a separate room where they can entertain their mates and discuss where better wages can be obtained, and the like. Are these men to be driven to the corners of the streets in all weathers, because the only common room open to them is closed? Then again, look at the number of clubs which have been founded, and which it is impossible to close—not bogus clubs, but genuine clubs, Radical clubs, Conservative clubs, and Unionist clubs, all of them with bars for the sale of drink. These clubs are frequently used to escape the licensing laws and the police laws; the members get intoxicating drink late at night and on Sundays, and this has led to an increase in drunkenness. It is far better, I think, that those disposed to take too much should take the liquor under the supervision of the police, and with proper regulations, than that they should be driven to form clubs for the purpose. I myself would punish drunkenness wher- 556 ever it occurs. I would punish a man for getting drunk in his own house, just as I would punish a man for torturing a cat in his own house. In regard to the Bill before the House, from the first account we had of it from my hon. friend I thought that for once I might support such a Bill. But when I read it through, especially the second clause, 1 found it was really a Bill for the total closing of public-houses on Sunday.
§ MR. TRITTON
The hon. Member accuses me of not being quite straightforward in my description of the Bill, but I have to inform him that I read out the whole of the first and second clauses.
§ *MR. SYDNEY GEDGE
I did not for a moment suggest that the hon. Member gave a mistaken notion of the Bill. It is a Bill for the total closing of public-houses on Sunday except to those who go to fetch their refreshment. A Bill of this kind would merely create annoyance, and cause a man who is poor to be treated in a different way from his neighbour who is better off. If the people honestly wish to close public-houses on Sunday, they can do so by not frequenting them. If publicans wish to close, they are at liberty to do so; but they are afraid that, if they do, their customers will go on week days to houses which open on Sundays. They should do what they believe to be right, and take the consequences. To legislate for their protection is demoralising. There is want of logic in the Bill; the good results we all desire could not be obtained by it; it would create unfairness and inconvenience; and I, therefore, cannot support either the second reading or the Amendment.
§ MR. SAMUEL YOUNG (Cavan, E.)
Tins Bill has come upon us with surprise to-day. I read it for the first time a few minutes ago, and could scarcely find out whether it was a Bill fur the total closing of public-houses on Sunday or whether it gave authority to the licensing authority to open the houses for the off-sale of liquor. As a member of the Royal Commission, I do not know if I have a right to speak on this subject at all; but 1 think it would be very advisable not to proceed further with the Bill, at any rate until the House has full information in regard to the various questions that arise as to the opening and closing of public-houses on Sundays and weekdays, In a 557 few days, probably, the report of the Royal Commission will be issued, and until you have that report there is no use considering the matter in this crude and ill-constructed form. If the Amendment before the House is carried, the Royal Commission will have been sitting for three years to no purpose. In regard to local veto they have not given such a recommendation, nor have they given any recommendation in regard to total closing on Sunday.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
I rise to a point of order. Is the hon. Member entitled to divulge the findings of a Royal Commission that has not yet reported?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
It would be contrary to the practice of the House for an hon. Member to state what are the views of a Royal Commission of which he is a member, and which has not yet reported to Her Majesty.
§ MR. SAMUEL YOUNG
I bow to the ruling of the Chair. I may be permitted to say that this Bill does not apply to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and I have no objection to leave the English people to discuss the whole matter. On its merits, the Bill is of a most absurd construction. I think the House should wait until they get the authoritative report of the findings of the Royal Commission, and they would then be in a better position to deal with the whole question.
§ MR. GALLOWAY (Manchester, S.W.)
Few of us thought that this Bill would be reached to-day, and some of us have only seen it since we entered the House. We are, therefore, at a disadvantage in considering it. That is one reason why the House should not come to a decision on this question to-day; another reason is that the report of the Royal Commission of 24 members, which will be issued in a day or two, should be first considered. I think the House would do well if, instead of voting either for the Amendment or the second reading of the Bill, the debate were adjourned; and before I sit down I shall, with the permission of the Chair, move that the debate be now adjourned. The first observation that occurred to me in listening to the speech of the mover of the Amendment was that he claimed that they on that side of the House represent the Temperance Party. I admit that the Baronet the Member for Cocker- 558 mouth has led a party which is known as the Temperance Party; but I entirely deny that they have a monopoly of the desire to promote temperance, or that they have a special claim to call themselves the Temperance Party.
§ MR. GALLOWAY
I am glad that the hon. Baronet admits that. Instead of bandying this about as a party question, we should deal with it on broad grounds. The promotion of the cause of temperance is not a party question, and we would do far more for the interests of the temperance cause if we treated it on non-party lines. I agree with the adage that it is no use attempting to make people sober by Act of Parliament. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment said himself that no measure could achieve success if it was riot backed up by the people. If that is so, has there been any desire expressed by the people of the country for this Bill? I deny that there has been. I have received many letters from so-called temperance reformers of the wildest character. When the Scottish Local Veto Bill was coming on I had a letter from one eminent temperance leader asking me to vote for it because, he said, the Bill would bring about a sober Sunday for England! Why, the Bill did not even apply to England! Legislation proposed in this House is not considered by these people on its merits, but from a fanatical point of view. Now, I entirely deny that in this country we have a drunken Sunday, and I protest most emphatically against such an aspersion being put on the working classes. They are not drunken on Sunday or any other day of the week. I admit there is a certain amount of deplorable drunkenness and crime produced from drunkenness; but, I ask, are you going to make people sober or decrease the consumption of alcohol by Act of Parliament?
§ MR. GALLOWAY
I would ask what possible ground there is for such an assertion? What possible data can be produced, what argument can be used, in favour of that statement? Does the hon. Member assert that the working classes of this country are such a weak-kneed set of people that because a public-house door is open they cannot pass it without going in? I must say I cannot take so low and 559 mean a view of the people as that. But if the argument be true, the proper way to deal with such a state of affairs is not by closing the public-houses, but by doing everything you can to strengthen the moral courage of the people. It is not by a measure of this kind, or by Acts of Parliament id any kind, that you are going to promote the cause of temperance reform in the country. I believe ranch more could be done in the cause of temperance if some system were found whereby the alcoholic liquors sold in public-houses were not of the raw, rotten, and bad character they now are. There is no doubt that some of the spirits sold in public-houses in large towns are unfit for human consumption. Coming to the details of the Bill, the first clause provides that public-houses shall be closed on Sunday, Christmas Day, and Good Friday; but the second clause allows the licensing authority the power of leaving open the public-houses for two hours if so desired. Now, there are some who have a respect for the licensing authorities as at present constituted. Some of these authorities I admit, are particularly good, and do their administrative work in a manner that reflects credit on themselves. But there are other authorities who do not deal with the questions brought before them from a judicial point of view, but from their own point of view, leaving out of consideration the real justice of the case. I remember well discussing this matter with a magistrate in the city of Manchester, who told me that he went to every Licensing Session, and voted regularly against every licence. He believed he was acting for the best, but it is monstrous for a man holding views like that to be allowed to act in a judicial capacity. If that is the way in which the Sunday exemptions are to be given, what would happen? It would become a question of which party had a majority on the licensing authority. And if the magistrates who represent the views of hon. Members on this side of the House were in a minority, they would immediately come to the Minister responsible for the appointment of magistrates, and bring pressure to bear for the appointment of a sufficient number of magistrates to give them a majority. We all know what happened at Manchester, where the appointments were made for party purposes. What happened at Manchester was that after these gentlemen were put upon the bench the whole 560 of the licensing policy of the city of Manchester was entirely reversed. I do not say that the appointment of these gentlemen was contrary to the practice which was previously adopted, but that was the result, and it is deplorable that those whose duty it is to administer justice in this country should be appointed for party purposes, and should he put on the bench to carry out the views of any particular section of the community. If the working of this Bill were to bring about or accentuate that state of things, it would be bad from all points of view. Clause 3 refers to the provisions of the Licensing Acts of 1872 and 1874. Now, the judges of this land have complained many times that Acts of Parliament do not state exactly what they mean, and they have to look up other Acts in order to see what is meant. As far as I can understand this clause, I suppose it is intended to exclude clubs. Some hon. Members have doubts whether these words do exclude clubs. If this Bill passes without alteration, I can quite understand what an excellent means it will be for the expenditure of money, testing whether clubs are included or not. If my hon. friend intends to exclude clubs, it will be better to have it stated clearly in the Bill. For my part, I admit that there may be a great deal to be said in favour of treating clubs upon a different basis from public-houses, although I have always looked upon this as class legislation of the worst possible description. If it is right that the working man's club should he closed on Sunday, I cannot see why the clubs which the rich men frequent should not be treated in the same way. I admit that, on account of the constitution of some clubs, there should not be the same regulations as apply to public-houses, which are frequented by people of a different character, and whose ways and means of life are not of the same intellectual standard. As a matter of abstract justice, I have never been able to understand why you should treat a public-house upon one basis and a club upon another basis altogether different. If you admit the principle that you are going to treat a club on a different basis to a public-house, then there is no reason whatsoever why working people should not form themselves into clubs, and use them as public-houses, and thereby avoid altogether the object which my hon. friend has in view in bringing forward this Bill, The last remark 561 which I desire to make is on Clause 5, which says that the Bill shall not apply to Scotland, Ireland, or Wales. I presume that Wales is excluded because they have, practically, Sunday closing there already. As a supporter of the Act of Union, I think it is it pity that national measures of this kind do not treat the whole of the United Kingdom upon the same basis.
§ MR. GALLOWAY
I do not know what particular authority the hon. Member has to speak on behalf of Ireland. I have always held, and still hold, that in legislation of this kind we ought to be placed on all fours in all parts of the United Kingdom. We are in the position of not having received the report of the Royal Commission which has been sitting for three years considering this question, and we do not know what their recommendations may be, for we have had no opportunity of considering the evidence which was given before that Commission. Therefore a more inopportune time than this to consider this question could hardly have been selected. Under these circumstances I beg to move the adjournment of the Debate.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES (King's Lynn)
I beg leave to second this motion. A question of this importance should not be dealt with by a "snap" debate, for it involves nothing less than the liberties of the people of England. My belief is that the people of England believe that it is better to have liberty with drunkenness than slavery with temperance, and that it is better to have liberty with disease than slavery with health. That is the question really involved in this Bill, and it is of such importance, and has come on so suddenly, without opportunities to adequately discuss the matter, that I do not think it should be discussed in this casual way in the absence of the leaders of both parties. It is a very serious question, and it is much more serious than appears on the surface. Let me say one word as to the temperate man. We are called upon to admire the temperate man; but What is he?. Why, he is a poor, pale-blooded, infirm, unenergetic man, without generosity and without perseverance. Was Moses a temperate man, or 562 Martin Luther, or Napoleon, or any man who was any good in this world? No! Those men had great courage and energetic convictions, and they all took, on proper occasions, a certain amount of alcoholic nourishment. I do not know whether, on the motion for adjournment, I should be in order in going into the merits of the Bill. Temperance advocates themselves are an illustration of intemperance itself, for of all the intemperate people in this world there are none so intemperate as they are. They are not content themselves with their own form of temperance, but they would impose their Puritanical tyranny on their countrymen, assuming, as the promoters of this Bill do assume, that we all abuse our opportunities for refreshment. They do not ask whether a man abuses liquor or not, but they assume that he is going to abuse it. The modern history of this Question and the facts of the present day do not justify any more of these nauseating Puritanical attacks on the liberties of the people of England.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
I rise to order. I desire to know if the hon. Gentleman is in order in discussing this question on a motion for adjournment.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I think the hon. Baronet opposite ought to be obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for telling him what are the elementary rules of debate. I say that all the facts of this day prove, and increasingly prove day by day, that no such special interference with the liberties of the English people is required in the cause of temperance. I am a student of my fellow-countrymen, and I do declare most solemnly in this House that to-day temperance is making most fearful strides among the population. When I was young I remember well that nothing could be obtained at a railway station except alcoholic refreshment, which was generally beer or spirits. But now every railway station refreshment room is overflowing, I was going to say, with milk alai honey, but at least with milk and mineral waters. The poor pale glass of whisky is out of date, and modest drunkenness dare not show her face. So 563 true is this, that drunkenness is almost extinct in this country. I do declare that in this country I never see a drunken man. It is only when I cross the Channel or the Tweed that I come across an example of that almost extinct animal the drunken man; and it is a most remarkable thing that in the only countries where I see drunken men this Bill does not apply. I should like to ask the twelve great statesmen—whose names will live in history and which appear on the back of thisBill—what are they about when they bring in a Bill which is to apply tyranny in England in the name of temperance, where it is not required, at the same time leaving out of the measure Scotland and Ireland where it is required most?
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
If that is so, then it is the most striking example possible of the absolute ineffectiveness of temperance work, because there is no country in the universe where temperance reformers have had their efforts crowned with so small a success as in Ireland. I am in favour myself of refreshment, but it should be occasional and small. If a man became drunk and disorderly, I would curtail his liberty only when he interfered with the liberty of others; but if he got drunk in a quiet and orderly manner in his own house I would not interfere with him, and I wouldlet him play the fool in his own house,as Hamlet says. I do believe that all these attempts to impose what is miscalled temperance upon the English people, to prevent them being able to go into public-houses because it is assumed that they will get drunk, are destined to fail, and I believe every one of these twelve eminent statesmen whose names appear on the back of this Bill will find When the next General Election comes round that the attacks they have made upon the liberties of the English people will be very seriously and warmly resented. Now, what is it that this Bill deals with? It does not deal with drunkenness gener- 564 ally, but only with one particular occasion for getting drunk, providing you wish to. Those who have travelled in the East know the great convenience of what are known as guest-houses. Well, the public-house is the guest-house of England, as its name implies, and it is the only one left open to the poor man. The rich man has his club, and he has also his hotel, which is an expensive refuge not open to the poor man. The public-house is so named because it is a house of public entertainment, and this is where these intemperate temperance Puritans make a mistake. They assume that a man only goes into a public-house in order to get drunk; that is an entirely unwarranted assumption, which is disproved almost by everybody who frequent public-houses. Public-houses are open to all, and people frequent them in order to obtain reasonable refreshment; and it is perfectly outrageous, because one in a thousand happens to overstep the moderate limit, to call upon this House to close the whole of our public-houses altogether. In my opinion the Amendment is almost worse than the Bill itself, because it suggests, I am informed, local option. I am not afraid to say that I am dead against either Sunday closing or local option. Upon one occasion, when I was contesting an election for a small town in the Midlands, I was interviewed by a temperance deputation. They asked me, "Are you in favour of local option and the closing of public-houses on Sunday?" I replied, "What is the good of asking me those questions; you know you are all Radicals and yon mean to vote against me." They replied, "Oh, no, we put temperance before all things, and if you will satisfy us on the temperance question we shall be quite prepared to vote for you." I told them that I was against Sunday closing and local option, and that I was in favour of a little moderate drunkenness—I think I called it hilarity; at any rate, it is that sort of exhilaration which the hon. Baronet opposite gets from drinking a glass of pure water. There are people who are capable of getting drunk with their own speeches, and I believe some people can get drunk upon tea. As for myself, 1 was never drunk in my life. All I desire is that we should realise things as they actually are. No matter whether we are at leisure or engaged in social meetings, we all take a certain amount of 565 exciting food or liquor to exhilarate us, and to whip up the sluggish flow of our spirits to make us proper companions for the friends we meet. All our enjoyments are based upon the consumption of a certain amount of exciting food or liquor. The right hon. baronet opposite, probably, gets exhilarated on a mutton chop or porridge—
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I will at once bring my remarks to a close. All I wish to say now is that the whole social arrangements of this country are based upon the taking of a moderate amount of refreshment, and this Bill proposes to make a difference in that respect with regard to those who wish to obtain that refreshment. On those grounds I most strongly object to the Bill, and I second and support the motion of my hon. friend for the adjournment of the Debate, because I think that this is a far more important question than it appears to be. It is a question which involves the liberty of the people of England, and therefore it is one which should be discussed when the occupants of the front benches are present.
|Acland-Hood,Capt.SirAlex.F.||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Purvis, Robert|
|Ascroft, Robert||Gretton, John||Rankin, Sir James|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Redmond,John E. (Waterf'rd)|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Hermon-Hodge, R. Trotter||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)|
|Baldwin Alfred||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Robertson, Herbert(Hackney)|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Howell, William Tudor||Rothschild, Hn. Lionel Walt'r|
|Bathurst,Hn. Allen Benjamin||Hutchinson, Capt. G. W. G.-||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Jenkins, Sir John Jones||Russell, Gen. F.S. (Chelt'nh.)|
|Bowles,T.Gibson(King'sLynn||Kemp, George||Rutherford, John|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Kenyon, James||Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Chaloner, Captain R.G.W.||Lecky, Rt. Hon. Wm. E. H.||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard|
|Coddington, Sir William||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Cornwallis,FiennesStanleyW.||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Tully, Jasper|
|Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh||MacAleese, Daniel||Usborne, Thomas|
|Douglas-Pennant, Hon. E. S.||M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh,W.)||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H.|
|Doxford, William Theodore||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. H.|
|Drucker, A.||Marks, Henry Hananel||Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Milbank, Sir Powlett C. J.||Whiteley, George (Stockport)|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Morgan, Hn. F. (Monm'thsh.)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|FitzGerald, Sir Rt. Penrose-||Morrell, George Herbert||Williams, Jos. Powell-(Birm.)|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Morris, Samuel||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Morrison, Walter||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. (Bath)|
|Flower, Ernest||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Wortley, Rt. Hn.C. B. Stuart-|
|Folkestone, Viscount||Mount, William George||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Newdigate, Francis Alex.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Gold, Charles||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Mr. Galloway and Mr.|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Young.|
Motion made and Question proposed—
That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Galloway.)
§ SIR J. LEESE (Lancashire, Accrington)
I should not have interfered in this Debate if the hon. Member for Manchester had not made special reference to certain statements of mine. But before I take any notice of his criticisms I should like to say. that I regard this—
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The only question now before the House is whether the Debate should now be adjourned.
§ SIR J. LEESE
Perhaps I may be allowed to say that this is a very serious question, and I do not think that the Debate upon it ought to be adjourned at this stage. I should regret extremely that the consideration of this Bill should now be postponed, because it contains a principle of the greatest possible importance.
The House divided: Ayes, 95; Noes, 85. (Division List 176.)
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Jacoby, James Alfred||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Allen,W, (Newc. under Lyme)||Kitson, Sir James||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Arrol, Sir William||Lambert, George||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy||Langley, Batty||Stewart, Sir J. M'Taggart|
|Barlow John Emmott||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverp'1)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Stuart, James (Shoreditch)|
|Billson, Alfred||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Birrell, Augustine||Leng, Sir John||Tennant, Harold John|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Lloyd-George, David||Thorburn, Walter|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Lowther, Rt. Hon. J. (Kent)||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Burt, Thomas||Lyell, Sir Leonard||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Caldwell, James||M'Ghee, Richard||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Cameron, Sir C. (Glasgow)||M'Kenna, Reginald||Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.|
|Cawley, Frederick||M'Killop, James||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Clough, Walter Owen||Maddison, Fred.||Weir, James Galloway|
|Crombie, John William||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Williams, J. Carvell (Notts.)|
|Davitt, Michael||Morley, Charles (Breconshire)||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Doogan, P. C.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Duckworth, James||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|FenWick, Charles||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Oldroyd, Mark||Wilson,J.W.(Worcestersh.N.)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Pease, Alfred E. (Cleveland)||wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Gourley, Sir Edw. Temperley||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)||Woodhouse, SirJ.T.(Hudders.|
|Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||Philipps, John Wynford||Woods, Samuel|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Pickard, Benjamin||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Hayne, Rt. Hn. C. Seale-||Richardson, J. (Durham, S. E.)|
|Heath, James||Rickett, J. Compton||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Hedderwick, Thomas C. H.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs)||Mr. Tritton and Mr. Col|
|Holland,Wm. H.(York,W.R.)||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)||ville.|
|Howard, Joseph||Robson, William Snowdon|
§ Debate to be resumed upon Wednesday next.