HC Deb 14 August 1901 vol 99 cc837-48

As amended (by the Standing Committee) considered.


said he had come to an agreement with the promoters of the Bill under which the Amendment he now moved would be accepted, while others of which he had given notice would not be moved.

A Clause—(Messengers of Licencees)—(Mr. Tully)—brought up, and read the first and second time, and amended, by leaving out from the word "liquors" to the end of the proposed clause.

Clause, as amended, added.

Amendment proposed— In page 1, line 9, after the word 'purchaser,' to insert the words 'or between the hour of twelve noon and two p.m., or half-past six to half-past eight p.m., to the bona fide messenger of a parent, guardian, or employer, in whose house, flat, tenement, or premises, dinner, supper, or other similar meal is then presumably being served, either for such parent, guardian, or employer, or his family or household, or his guests,"'—(Mr. James Hope.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)

said the hon. Member had set a good example in saying nothing in favour of the Amendment, and perhaps he ought to say nothing against it. He would, however, point out that in Committee when this matter was considered, the proposal was defeated by thirty-four to six. Such exceptions as to hours would make the Bill nugatory, because these were just the hours at which children were sent for liquor.

SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)

said that no doubt there were those who looked upon a man who thought beer a justifiable and popular drink as an absurd person. Yet it was the habit of a large number of our countrymen to drink beer with their meals, and they had only members of their family to fetch it. There were persons who looked upon the drinking of beer as a scandal and a sin, and the introduction of this Bill was largely due to them. It was called "intoxicating liquor" in the Bill, but there was beer of which a man could not take enough to intoxicate. Some people did not require to send their children for beer, because they kept it in the house, but in other cases there was nobody to send except the wife or the children. Hon. Members did not seem to realise what an invasion of the liberties of the working classes of this country it was that they should not be able to send one of their family for beer. He represented a working class constituency in Manchester, where there were small streets inhabited by poor people, who had to do the best they could, and there was nobody to send for beer except the, children. Hundreds of young people could be seen in the streets with jugs of beer. There was nothing to be ashamed of in that, and nothing wrong in it. He did not think there was any shame in standing up for a practice like that, which had gone on from time immemorial. It was all very well for the promoters of the Bill to try to ram their ideas down the throats of the working classes, but he believed there would be great resentment in regard to this measure from one end of the country to the other. It would cause a revulsion of feeling against temperance, which he valued as highly as any of the promoters of this Bill. The immemorial custom of getting beer brought home by one of the family was to be created into a crime. The thing was so ludicrous that if he had not great respect for the promoters of the Bill he would really think it was a grim joke. He would support the Amendment.

MR. BELL (Derby)

said he should like to say a few words in reply to the right hon. Baronet who had just spoken with regard to the amount of dinner-time drinking among the working classes. He ventured to say, from his own experience, that for every working man who had his pint or half-pint of beer for his dinner there were a hundred who did not. It was a habit among the few, and a large proportion of that few would be perfectly willing to sacrifice their half-pint of beer to dinner if there were no other convenient means of getting it than by sending their children for it; and if the passing of this Bill would tend to the bringing up of a better class of children than we had before, by removing them from the contaminating influence of the public-house, he for one should be satisfied. He, unfortunately, knew too many instances—he might almost say thousands of instances—in which the demoralisation of the homes of members of the working classes had been initiated by and was consequent upon the sending of children to the public-house for beer—and not only for beer, but for spirits also. He dared say hon. Members in this House on both sides knew there were some cases in which it was the habit of mothers to send their children for drink during the absence of the fathers, and that these women, as a consequence, sank to low depths of degradation. It had been the means of breaking up many a working man's home. He did not wish to delay the House with a long speech, but speaking for the working class of the country—or, at any rate, for the enormous section of the better part of them—he could say, without disrespect to any portion, that the superior class would be prepared to make a sacrifice, if by its means they could secure the uplifting of their own order. He trusted that after this discussion, and after the lengthy debate which took place in the Grand Committee, the House would reject the Amendment, and would refuse to assent to any proposal of the kind.

Question put, and negatived.


moved an Amendment to substitute for the words "intoxicating liquor" in the clause the words "ardent spirits." He felt strongly that it was a great hardship and injustice to prevent the humble people of this country from procuring the national drink of beer in the only way in which most of them could get it. It seemed to him that they were not acting in the interests of morality or temperance, because if a father could not get beer at home he would go to the public house and stop there. If beer should not be sent for by a member of the family, it was much more objectionable that spirits should be obtained by the sending of children for it. Beer was not always an intoxicating liquor, although it got that name from the promoters of the Bill. In 1878 he was chairman of a Royal Commission which dealt with a branch of the licensing laws, namely, grocers' licences in Scotland, and there was a considerable volume of evidence given them that it was a practice in Scotland, and he believed it was the case in Ireland, for mothers to send their children to the grocer's for spirits in cups, and to get the whisky put down in their bills as tea. This Bill would deal with that practice, which nobody would say was a wholesome one; but he maintained that no evil would result from beer being sold to children if it was clear that that liquor was to be consumed by the family. It was an absurdity to say that any harm would result from selling small beer to children in open vessels. It had been put forward as one of the crying evils of the sale of small beer to children in open vessels that they sipped it as they went home; but he should imagine that if they sipped too much they would get well boxed when they went home, and that was a sufficient precaution against the practice. He had drunk beer since he was a boy, and now that he approached seventy he could say that a moderate use of beer was not injurious after twelve years of age, although that might be the case with spirits. He begged to move.

Amendment proposed— In page 1, line 9, to leave out the words 'intoxicating liquor,' and insert the words 'ardent spirits.'—(Sir James Fergusson.)

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


said he was very glad the promoters of the Bill had the approval of the right hon. and gallant Member in regard to half the measure. By the first clause of the Bill the Act that prevented the sale of beer to children on the premises was repealed, and if the Amendment now proposed were carried a publican would be able—he did not say he would—to sell liquor to a child of three or four years of age. [Cries of "Oh."] He repeated he did not say a publican would do it, but there would be no law to prevent it.


moved. "In page 1, line 10, to leave out 'fourteen' and insert 'thirteen.'" He contended that it would be a great hardship in the rural districts if they were not allowed to send their children for the family beer.

Amendment proposed— In page 1, line 10, to leave out the word 'fourteen' and insert the word 'thirteen,'—instead thereof."—(Mr. Patrick White.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'fourteen' stand part of the Bill."


said that the age in the Bill originally was sixteen years, and it was in deference to the opposition shown to the measure that the age was reduced to fourteen years. There were good reasons why the age should remain at fourteen years.


, in moving the next Amendment, said he was thoroughly in favour of the principle of the Bill, and in moving this Amendment he had no desire to kill it. He thought the case of Ireland as distinguished from that of England was misunderstood by the promoters. In England it was generally the case that in all the large towns, and even villages, the places where intoxicating liquor was sold were public-houses pure and simple. In Ireland it was completely different. Outside the large towns he did not suppose there were twenty houses which sold liquor alone; they also sold groceries, draperies, etc. That system existed also to a large extent even in the large cities. The result of his inquiries was that out of 800 public-houses in Dublin there were only eighty public-houses pure and simple, such as they found in every part of London. The object of this Bill was twofold. First, it was to prevent children going into public-houses. In England the Bill would be effective, but in Ireland it would fail, because they could not prevent the children going into the shops where they sold beer and spirits, because they sold there also groceries and drapery. To prevent children going into these shops would be to inflict disabilities on the people of Ireland such as were not imposed on the people of England. The second object of the Bill was to prevent children sipping the drink as they went home. He confessed his abhorrence of the practice of learning children to become drunkards was too sincerely felt to induce him to offer any opposition to a measure which would prevent it; but the Bill, as amended, by the words "corked and sealed vessels" effectually prevented anything of the kind. So long as the liquor was taken away in corked and sealed vessels it was absolutely impossible for a boy or girl to sip the liquor on the way home. Why then put a limitation on the amount of liquor to be sold in a corked and sealed vessel? In the first place, it was rather ridiculous, from a temperance point of view, to say that a man who wanted liquor should not have it unless he purchased a pint—more, perhaps, than he wanted. The Bill thus encouraged a person to take more than he required, which certainly from a temperance point of view was not a satisfactory state of things. Again, this particular limitation might be made in Ireland the means of harassing every Nationalist publican in the country. Three-fourths of the publicans in Ireland were Nationalists, and the result would be that, when there was a time of stress or struggle between the Government and the people, all the forces of the administration would be directed towards harassing the publicans. The House could easily imagine a policeman having his eye on what he considered a disloyal publican, and opening a parcel in order to ascertain whether a child was carrying homo a pint, or less than a pint, of whisky. If the Bill could be made effective without that limitation, which would cause very considerable annoyance, it seemed to him it would be wise to omit it.

Amendment proposed— In page 1, line 12, to leave out from the word 'vessels' to the word 'for,' in line 13."—(Mr. Clancy.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'in quantities not less than one reputed' stand part of the Bill."


said that the object of the Bill was to take away every pretext for sending a child to a public-house at all, and as the Bill went up to the Grand Committee it fulfilled that object. The case of Ireland was very fully stated before the Committee, and it was proposed that under certain circumstances a child might be sent to fetch liquor in a closed vessel. That was only carried by a majority of one in the Committee, and the Committee limited the evil that would result from it by putting in the restriction as to quantity. If a child could be sent to fetch liquor in any quantity it would only be necessary to put even a glass of whisky into a bottle and cork it up to fulfil the law. Therefore he hoped that the House would retain the small safeguard restricting the quantity. They had done everything they could to meet the case of those who supported the Amendment, even to such an extent that some thought the Bill was now worthless.

MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY (Limerick, W.)

opposed the Amendment. If the police wished to harass publicans in Ireland they would have the power to do it whether the Amendment was inserted or not. As long as a child was allowed at all to go to a public-house the police could harass the publican. The way to prevent that was to exclude Ireland from the Bill altogether. His contention was that they should not sacrifice a measure which would do incalculable good for an Amendment of this kind. Moreover, the publicans of Ireland had not said a word against the Bill. All the expressions of opinion he had heard from publicans were entirely in favour of it. There was a memorial presented to the House in favour of the Bill signed by some of the most eminent men in Ireland, including thirty-two archbishops and bishops; the bulk of the Irish party voted in favour of it; and after it had gone through all its intricate stages in the Grand Committee and in the House, it now came back all battered and torn, thanks to the energy of the hon. Member for South Leitrim. In his opinion the Amendment was another attempt to drive a bullet through the Bill, and he would oppose it.


said he desired to support the Amendment. He admired the sincerity and the enthusiasm of his hon. friend, but his speech was not sufficiently logical to justify the position he had taken up.


said they were entirely in favour of this Bill, and he had a memorial signed by almost every eminent person in Ireland in favour of it, but thanks to the energies of the hon. Member for South Leitrim it had been entirely altered in Committee, and he for one should repudiate it and vote against the motion.


said of course every greedy publican was in favour of the Bill, and many were against him for the action he had taken. The principle of the Act had been put into operation in Liverpool for the last three years. There the magistrates prevented liquor being sold to children under thirteen years.


Order, order! The question before the House is whether liquor shall be sold in a less quantity than a pint. The hon. Member must speak to the Amendment.


said he would confine himself to the pint. The original proposal was to insert "one quart," but after a protracted discussion they obtained concession of "one reputed pint." The hon. Member for Dublin wished to have the "pint" struck out and "quart" inserted. He looked upon this Bill as the mere ghost of the one that was sent to the Upper House. He did not think much would be gained one way or the other by this Amendment, because in his opinion the Bill was now practically dead, but he would support it nevertheless.


said that the Amendment which he now proposed to move was part of the compact which the promoters had made with him. He thought the clause as it stood was a very wide one, and the reason for its being made so wide was that it was the wish of the promoters to bring clubs within the purview of the Act. He was entirely in favour of such an idea, but the form of words which was used was not the form which would carry out that object. The words "places where intoxicating liquors are Sold, delivered, or distributed." had a very wide meaning, and he wanted to insert in that sentence the word "habitually" in places where intoxicating liquors were habitually sold. It was the practice of farmers in Ireland, especially at the harvest time, to employ a number of extra men, and they would get in a barrel of beer to distribute to those men while they were at work, and it would be hard if under this Act a child could not go into her father's barn and draw the beer which was to be distributed among the men. It was never intended that this Bill should cover such a case as that, and therefore, in order to qualify the phrase in the Bill, he begged to move the Amendment standing in his, name.

Amendment proposed— In page 1, line 18, after the second word 'or,' to insert the word 'habitually.'"—(Mr. Tully.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'habitually' be there inserted."


said that this clause was not put in at the instance of the promoters of the Bill, but at the instance of the representatives of the trade. The question was fully discussed upstairs; it was a complicated legal point which he was not competent to discuss, but in the opinion of some eminent legal gentlemen on the Committee the introduction of the word "habitually" might do harm, and therefore he could not accept the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. JAMES HOPE (Sheffield, Bright-side)

said that the Bill had now a new principle which it did not contain when it was read a first time or when it was before the Committee. In the original Bill only the publican was to be penalised. As the Bill now came before the House, both the publican who supplied the child and the person who sent the child were to be penalised. The parent was to be penalised for what? For doing nothing either criminal or wrong. It might be said that by sending a child to fetch beer from a public-house the child was exposed to temptation. That might be true, but it was not the business of the State to attempt to instruct parents how to bring up their children. If they accepted such a principle as this nobody could say whore it would stop. It was a new and a dangerous principle, and one which, if it came into operation, would be deeply and bitterly resented by the working classes. He begged to move the Amendment standing in his name.

Amendment proposed— In page 1, line 21, after the word 'penalties,' to insert the words 'nothing in this section shall apply to any sale or delivery made in compliance with a particular and specific written order, signed by the parent or guardian of the person to whom the liquor is sold or delivered.'"—(Mr. James Hope.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


expressed surprise that the hon. Member, who was a representative of the greatest Catholic family in this country, should have moved such an Amendment as this. None of the Irish Members, no matter how strong they might be on the side of the brewers, had ventured to move such a degrading and loathsome Amendment.


Those are not words which should be applied to the Amendment of any hon. Member.


said he should be sorry to say any thing against the House as a whole on a matter of this kind, but he did think they were entitled to make a protest, in view of the charges made against some of his hon. friends, that it was the representative of an English Catholic family who moved such an abominable Amendment.

Question put, and negatived.

Amendment proposed— In page 1, line 28, after the word 'other,' to insert the word 'solid.'"—(Dr. Thompson.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'solid' be there inserted."


said he had no objection to the Amendment, but if the hon. Member objected—


said Members had gone away believing that the Bill would be carried in its present form. The understanding had hitherto been adhered to, and if it was departed from on the matter of sealing-wax a very large question would be opened.


pointed out that he had moved the Amendment after consultation with the hon. Member himself.


said that was before any arrangement had been come to.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed— In page 2, line 1, to leave out from the word 'with' to the word 'withdrawn,' in line 3, inclusive.'"—(Dr. Thompson.)

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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.