§ MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if his attention has been drawn to the fact brought out by the Report of the Prison Commissioners for Scotland that the committals to prison in that country during 1898 have exceeded the average of the previous five years by more than 5,000, and that the Commissioners clearly attribute this fact to the habit of drinking to excess, which has increased among the 780 wage-earning classes to the point that it is designated in the Report as an epidemic of drunkenness; and whether, in view of these fresh facts, the Government can make some further statement as to their intention of introducing legislation to check the evil, in accordance with the preponderating wish of the Scottish people on that subject. I beg also to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if he is aware that an examination was recently made at Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow, into the cases of 245 prisoners with longest sentences; that it was ascertained that 171 of these prisoners were under the influence of drink when their crime was committed, whilst only 74 were sober; and that 101 out of these 245 crimes were committed on Saturdays, compared to an average of 28 for the other six days of the week, thereby proving, as the above is a typical example, that Saturdays are not only the days on which offences under the head of drunkenness reach their maximum, but that it is also the day on which the maximum number of serious crimes are committed; and whether, seeing the Scottish Members are at present unable to obtain special legislation to counteract a state of matters so injurious to the welfare of their country, the Government will give its attention to the matter.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I have no ground for doubting the facts to which the hon. Member calls attention in the question, although I must not he regarded as committing myself to the proposition that the increase in the number of convictions is due to an increase in drunkenness. I should imagine that the increased vigilance of the police has as much to do with it as anything, if not more. I cannot make any statement of policy on the part of the Government as suggested by the hon. Member in a subsequent question on the Paper.