§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (2.50.) MR. CRAWFORD SMITH (Northumberland, Tyneside)
I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill in the regrettable and unavoidable absence of the hon. Member who for some years has taken this Bill under his especial care. The last debate which took place in this House upon this subject occurred in 1897, when the matter was fully debated and the Bill was rejected by a majority of eighty-seven. But many things have happened since then to make another debate upon this Bill advantageous from another point of view. A Royal Commission was considering this question in 1897, who only sent in their recommendation in 1899, and the answer of the Government at the time this Bill was being debated was that they were awaiting the decision of that Commission. That could not indicate, therefore, at that time the way in which they were prepared to act. The result of the deliberations of that 348 Royal Commission have been of extraordinary value to this country The extreme temperance party, who for a very long time have worked heroically throughout the country, are now more disposed to listen to temperate legislation than they have been in the past, and in the year 1900 in our election speeches we were able to quote from the Report of the Royal Commission, which we then had before us; and the Government last year gave great facilities to the passing of what is known as the Children's Bill, which was brought in by a private Member.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and, forty Members being found present—
MR. CRAWFORD SMITH
I was remarking that the Report of the Royal Commission gave us the chance in 1900 of stating our views, either on the majority or minority Report, and that when the Children's Bill was brought in, great facilities were given by the Government to its passage, and that it has how become law, and is not only a useful statute to the present, but also promises to be of great benefit to the rising generation. This year we have another opportunity of seeing how this Government has been influenced by the Report of the Royal Commission. They have been bold enough to produce a Licensing Bill of their own this year, which is now passing so quickly through its Committee stage that we hope it will pass into law this session. So that there is the actual indication in this House that any temperance legislation introduced will have as its source the Royal Commission's Report made in 1899. I would like to keep this debate free from those appeals from one side of the House to the other—appeals which, in my opinion, should be relegated to the platform. What the House wants is facts, so that they can form an opinion for themselves.
May I just for a few moments tell the House the position in which Sunday Closing now is? In 1854 a Bill was passed for Sunday Closing in Scotland, known as the Forbes Mackenzie Act. That Act has now been 349 in existence for nearly fifty years, and may be taken to be a useful Act, seeing that we have never heard any Scotch Member suggest that the Forbes Mackenzie Act should be, repealed. Whatever else that Act might have been, it must have been beneficial to Scotland. Then in 1878 an Act only exempting the five great cities which are analagous to our great industrial centres was passed for Ireland, and Irish Members were apparently in favour of that Act, and the Chief Secretaries who have been engaged in work over there have been in favour of its extension. In 1888 an Act was passed for Wales, which has reduced in an extraordinary degree drunkenness on Sunday. In the majority Report of the Licensing Commission there is this passage as to the working of that Act:—We see no reason to dissent from the general conclusions of the Royal Commission which inquired into this subject in 1890. We are of opinion that in Wales, as a whole, Sunday closing has been a success, especially in rural Wales, and that if, in some places, as in Cardiff, success has not been so fully maintained, improvement is discernible.We now realise the fact that among all its great Colonies and dependencies, England is the only country where the Sunday Closing Act has not been adopted. As showing the effect which Sunday closing has had in Wales, I may say that in Cardiff in 1881 with a population of 80,000, the convictions for drunkenness on Sunday were 82; in 1897, when the population was 170,000, the convictions for drunkenness were reduced to 39; and last year, with a population of 180,000, they were only 14. The people who are employed this liquor traffic on Sundays are estimated at about 300,000, and we have to consider the position not only from the point of view of those outside the public houses, but also from the point of view of those inside—and the House will agree with me when I say that there are many inside the public houses who would like to see this Bill passed into law as well as their friends outside. Since 1899 work has been going on energetically outside this House, and a petition has been signed by no less than 11,000 Church of England clergymen and 7,700 Non-conformist ministers for the passing of this Bill. In 1887 no less than 1,132,600 women signed a petition in favour of this Bill. 350 There have been no end of canvasses of householders taken throughout the country, and the majority in favour of this Bill has been simply extraordinary. A canvass of householders in England North and South resulted in 852,000 signing in favour of the Bill and 132,000 against it. No later than last week, in a canvass taken at Bournemouth, 5,200 signed in favour and 445 against; and a canvass taken in different districts of London showed 17,000 in favour and only 3,000 against. I have stated what has happened with regard to the decrease of drunkenness, and this emphasises the fact. The House is aware that the hours for opening public houses on Sunday in the Metropolis are from one to three in the afternoon and six till eleven in the evening, whereas in the country districts the hours are on Sundays 12.30 to 2.30 in the afternoon and six to ten in the evening. The majority Report of the Royal Commission, in their recommendations, mentions the following—To enact complete Sunday closing throughout England would be, in our judgment, at the present time, a step too far in advance of public opinion. We are, however, prepared to recommend the further curtailment of the time of opening to two hours at midday and two hours in the evening as a maximum. It would be advisable to leave London and the principal cities outside of the operation, at least for the time.They also add—We recommend that in the case of new licences entire Sunday closing should be one of the statutory conditions which may be imposed by the licensing authority. The Justices in some districts have been deterred from granting a six days licence by being advised by their clerks that there is a conflict between the statutory provision and the common law obligation to supply travellers and that a six days licensee might be liable under the common law for not opening his house on a Sunday to travellers. It would be well to make the matter quite clear in any legislation that takes place.The minority Report also deals with this question, which is signed by nine members of the Committee. Seventeen members signed the majority and nine the minority Report; but two of the members signed both Reports. They say—Some districts in England would probably be in favour of entire Sunday closing, while others would strenuously object. It would be wise to curtail the hours of opening to one hour at mid-day and two hours in the evening as a maximum, and to give the licensing 351 authority power to reduce the hours or to close entirely if in their discretion they should see fit to do so. In the exercise of their judgment they should be guided by the circumstances of the neighbourhood and by the expressed opinions of local bodies, deputations, and petitions.The Bill as at present drawn is for entire Sunday closing, but those who support this Bill have no intention whatever of pressing entire Sunday closing on the country. We shall be willing to propose in Committee some provision which will meet the wishes of hon. Members in this respect. The Reports of the Licensing Commission indicate the extent to which Sunday opening should be limited. Practically the difference between the one Report and the other is only one single hour, and, as I have already indicated, if this Bill goes to the Committee those who are in charge of it will be prepared to accept such a modification as is indicated in this Report as far as entire Sunday closing is concerned. So far as licensing is concerned, the Government allowed a private Member's Bill to pass last year, and they are also pressing forward their own Bill this year; and this being the next pressing question, I hope the Government will take courage, and, instead of allowing a private Member to introduce a Bill to regulate Sunday drinking in public houses, they will next session put their hand to the plough and introduce a Bill which, so far as this country is concerned, will place us in a position of freedom from this traffic during many hours of the day. I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ (3.15.) MR. COMPTON RICKETT (Scarborough)
The present state of the House does not show the state of feeling in the country, for I am told that on all sides there is a strong feeling in favour of this Bill which is to be distinguished from the ordinary temperance legislation. Therefore, in seconding the Second Reading of this Bill, I may speak more on national lines than as an advocate for temperance. I am not a professional temperance advocate. The true opinion in regard to this Bill has been shown already in this House, because this measure has been introduced by an hon. Member on the Government side, and it is also warmly supported in the 352 ranks of the Opposition. Therefore it cannot be said that in any sense those who favour this Bill desire to snatch a. Party advantage. We are appealing to the House as a whole, and we are glad to recognise that in matters affecting the moral improvement of the people there is no monoply on either side of the House in regard to legislation in that direction.
We are also claiming that this measure is not an experimental one. It is not an excursion into the domain of the faddists, for it is a measure which has already been tested in various parts of the country, and there has not been the slightest attempt to reverse the decision arrived at upon this question in regard to Scotland, Ireland and Wales. We feel also that this is not a question of local option. There are Members of the trade who are strongly opposed to local option being applied to Sunday closing whose opposition melts away in favour of a universal and national Bill. We have already found in the case of Monmouthshire and Wales great difficulties in regard to the boundary line, and if this Bill is to act justly it must be a national one. Such is the Bill which is now being considered by the House.
The objections to this Bill are more of a nature special to England than objections offered to it in principle. So far as the principle is concerned we have already been told by the mover of this Bill that a large and increasing number of those in the trade desire relief on Sundays. Anything which tends to relieve the pressure upon a trade and to lift it in the scale of respectability, which diminishes the scandals in connection with that trade certainly tends in favour and not against the trade itself. Therefore I may claim the support of those who believe that the liquor trade in some form or other is bound to continue, and of those who are not supporters of any measure of a heroic character calculated to sweep the trade out of existence. It cannot, therefore, be said that this Bill is only supported by the enemies of the trade. We know that it is impossible to fulfil the duties of any business by working consecutively on seven days in the week. Although it may be possible and practicable to substitute assistants in order to give the people in charge 353 of them relief upon some other day during the week, still that is not the same thing as giving them relief on Sundays. Those employed in public houses desire to have a holiday which is a national one, and they wish to be able to get away from their work at the same time their friends and relatives are away, and this can only be secured by a cessation of work on the one day which is recognised throughout the country; that is, Sunday.
May I say here that I should not myself be a party to any covert attempt to help the cause of religion or the Ministers of any class or order to fill their churches by closing every place of recreation or refreshment, in order to leave the inhabitants of any district no cover except the church or chapel. Recruits obtained under such circumstances would be very doubtful adherents to any religious society, and it is not with the idea or intention of such a result following; that this Bill is being promoted. Although in many other matters the Government have no responsibility and ought not to interfere with individual liberty, yet it cannot be denied that they have assumed responsibilites in connection with the liquor trade. The Government are in a sense partners of the trade, and take a debenture interest of the profits in the form of Excise. They make themselves responsible, by the rules they adopt, and by the regulation of the trade which legislation has established, for its good order and well-being. That being so, it cannot be regarded as a grandfatherly interference with the liberty of the subject for the Government to be asked to have a care for the interest and to guard against the overwork and undue fatigue of those who are thus indirectly, although not directly, civil servants. I am quite aware that there are objections raised to this Bill in the ease of England which are not applicable to Scotland and to the sister Isle, on the ground of the character of the liquor which is consumed in different parts of the United Kingdom. Whereas, from climatic or other conditions, in the northern part of this island spirit is the national form of drink, beer forms the staple liquor in England. Whiskey has the advantage that it can be 354 kept for a considerable length of time, whereas beer, if kept too long, is apt to change its condition. One of the grounds for opposing the Bill is that it is difficult to keep beer in a good condition for consumption on the Sunday, if it is to be purchased on the previous day. I do not know that that is a particularly fatal objection. The consumption of other liquor besides beer is now an extensive custom in England. I know that it is possible to keep beer, but I think that the argument based on expediency, is too strong to be set aside by so dietetic a distinction.
It is said that for purposes of drinking, clubs may be established in larger numbers and that drinking will be driven inwards. It is also said that there will be more drinking at home; that these spurious clubs will continue to exist and flourish, and do more harm than the opening of the public houses would do. I think the answer to this argument is, that clubs exist at the present time, and it is the duty of the Government to distinguish between legitimate and bogus clubs, and ascertain if they are fairly constituted, and exist for other purposes than Sunday drinking. The Government should find out whether such clubs exist for the mere purpose of drinking on Sundays, and if this is found to be the case, then such clubs should be dealt with. It is impossible to meet that objection other than by saying that the experience of Scotland, and, I believe, of Ireland and Wales, do not show that the increase in the number of clubs is so large and serious, as to counterbalance the advantages to be derived by a measure of this kind.
Again, the State cannot enter into the question of drinking at home. I need not trouble the House with the statistics of those brought before the magistrates in Scotland for drunkenness, which show an enormous diminution immediately consequent upon the adoption of Sunday closing in Scotland. That being so, there remains, I think, only the question as to whether the people of England really require a measure of this kind. I am aware that, as far as this House is concerned, hon. Members representing England, have not come down in very largo numbers today to demand this measure, but we are all aware of the number of petitions which have been sent to the House upon this question. We know 355 that statistics have been collected in different parts of the country, and there is every reason to believe that there is a demand for Sunday closing in England, extending far beyond the ranks of the professional temperance reformers. That being so, we hope that this measure will not be seriously opposed, for it is a very simple Bill, and it has the experience of other countries to support it. I think this Bill ought to be taken up by the Government, not upon the ordinary lines of temperance reform, but rather on the ground of public expediency and good order. This measure would give great satisfaction to many of the supporters of the Government as well as to many hon. Members on this side of the House, and the Government would obtain the fullest credit for such action. Not only would this measure lead to an increase of public decency, but there would be the satisfaction which we should all feel that there would be a chance of doing something for the home life of the people and for the diminution of gambling. There would also be given an opportunity to men who are unable in many cases to live decently to have one day to take stock of their belongings and their future, to lift their eyes to ideals above the surroundings of their everyday life. I beg leave to second the Motion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ (3.30.) MR. SPEAR (Devonshire, Tavistock)
I rise in order to say a few words in support of the Bill now before the House. This is a question which ought to command very great sympathy indeed. I may say that many of the publicans themselves in Devonshire and Cornwall favour such a step in legislation as the House is now being urged to take. I am glad to hear that the mover of the Bill is prepared to accept some little alteration of the Bill in Committee which will allow public houses to be open for an hour on Sunday in the middle of the day. I quite agree that this is not an ideal thing which we should aim at, but I feel certain that unless we are prepared to accept some such proposal as that we shall not succeed in carrying the Bill. I feel confident that when the 356 public have realised the advantage of a further limitation of hours on Sunday, they will soon be prepared to accept, and gladly welcome and promote total Sunday closing. I endorse all that the hon. Member has said as to the advantages which will arise from a Bill of this kind. The lifting up and elevation of home life is certainly a matter which is dear to us all, and I support this Bill because I think we should seek to avoid as far as possible in this country all unnecessary labour on the Sunday, thereby affording employees that day of rest which they have a right to claim.
I am glad that the hon. Member who last spoke appealed to the Government. As a very humble supporter of the Government, I am extremely grateful for the interest which they have shown in temperance reform. I venture to say that the name of the right hon. Gentleman who now presides at the Home Office will be respected for many years to come throughout this country for the work he has initiated in temperance reform. We all extremely deplore that he was not more successful some years ago, but his attempt failed not from any lack of energy on his part nor from any lack of desire on the part of the Government of the day to support him; it failed on account of opposition from a source which no doubt at the time was perfectly honest, but which I venture to say has since shown those promoters of temperance who took action on that occasion to be the greatest possible obstacle to the advance of temperance principles. The great assistance which the right hon. Gentleman gave to the Children's Bill last year is a matter for congratulation. That is a Bill which, since it came into force, has been appreciated on all hands, not only by the general public but by the licensed victuallers themselves. I earnestly hope that the Government will not only show their sympathy with reasonable temperance reform by pressing on the Bill which they have brought before the House, but that at the earliest opportunity they will be able to take up this question of Sunday closing and go as far as they can in the right direction to meet the reasonable present-day wishes of the people. By so 357 doing, I am certain they will have the support, as they have had in the past, of all sections of the temperance party.
§ (3.35.) MR. GROVES (Salford. S.)
When I entered the House this afternoon I did not think I should be called upon to move the rejection of this Bill. I now rise for the purpose of moving—That the Bill be read a second time this day six months.I must compliment the mover and seconder on the extreme moderation with which they have submitted their views. The hon. Member for Scarborough has declared that he is not a professional temperance advocate. I think if the Bill is to attain any measure of success, and meet with general acceptance in the House, it must not be introduced and supported solely by those who consider themselves temperance advocates.
The hon. Member also referred to the question of clubs. I suppose he is aware that a very large number of the convictions for drunkenness which take place in England are due to the abuse of the club system, which is the direct corollary of the strong administrative action of the magistrates in forcing people from those public resorts which are controlled into places which are not tinder magisterial control. It is a curious thing that similar Bills in the past have been largely advocated by Members representing Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The Bill today, however, has been moved by a Gentleman representing a constituency in the extreme North of England, and seconded by an hon. Member who has the advantage of representing that salubrious and healthy seaside resort, Scarborough. I can quite imagine that in the North of England this question presents an entirely different aspect to that which it bears in largely crowded centres of population. if is upon that ground alone, and not from my connection with the trade, that I move the rejection of the Bill. I believe most emphatically that, although the principle of the Bill may be applicable to and appreciated by certain outside districts, yet, when we come to large centres of population, the people are practically unanimous in the feeling that the Bill on its present lines should be rejected. In their opinion, 358 it is simply a piece of class legislation which will prevent them enjoying those reasonable rights to which they have been accustomed for many years past. The hon. Member for Scarborough says that it will lead to a diminution of gambling if this Bill becomes law. I deny that gambling is prevalent in public houses. It takes place outside such regulated places, and largely in those resorts to which the people are driven by the drastic legislation of which this Bill is a sample.
I do not wish to take any high falutin' attitude on this matter, but I wish to come down to the broad plane of common sense, and if we must have legislation of this kind initiated, it should be based upon such lines as will commend it to those who sent us to this House, and it must be acceptable to the communities for whom we are endeavouring to legislate. I represent a, constituency composed almost entirely of working men. There are very few in my constituency who earn more than £2 a week, and many of them do not earn £1 a week. They have no wine cellars or other means of satisfying their requirements on Sunday, as we have. Why, in the name of common sense, should this House legislate for people who cannot understand the view which we take of this matter? Why should we overlook the fact that these people object to be restricted and have their reasonable refreshment curtailed in the way this Bill proposes?
In Scotland and Wales we have samples in the working-class constituencies of the painful effects of legislation of this character. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Who has not heard of the excessive drinking on the Clyde steamboats and in shebeens on the Sunday? We have heard of the clubs in Wales, I suppose. Those clubs immediately followed the passing of the Welsh Sunday Closing Act. They are very clever substitutes to evade Sunday closing, and those clubs have led to very much greater excesses in drinking than can possibly take place in any licensed houses in the Principality. We have all heard of the five large cities of Ireland which are exempted from the operation of the Sunday Closing Bill there. Should this not make us pause 359 before endeavouring to inflict upon large working class constituencies in England a measure which I am sure will be entirely inoperative? I am not speaking as an advocate of the trade, with which I am not ashamed to be connected, but as one of the members of the trade who desires "to come down to the common level of humanity and common sense." In connection with legislation of this character I am always pleased to associate myself with true temperance reform. In this matter we should try to meet on a common platform and endeavour to see where the extremes on the one side and the other meet without undue friction. Reference has been made to members of the trade who are in favour of the Bill. I venture to say that those members are really in favour only of such reasonable curtailments of hours of opening as would meet the public demand and the convenience of those employed in the trade. I have no authority to speak for the trade or for saying that they would even meet the case in that way; but, speaking as a member of the trade, as far as my own individual opinion is concerned, that would be a common platform on which we might meet to settle the question. I would, however, like to ask whether it is fitting in a thin and languid House on a Wednesday afternoon that we should seek to settle a measure which would interfere largely with the social habits and comforts of the people. Those who are promoting the Bill would be well advised in postponing the consideration of this important matter to a more fitting occasion. The hon. Member opposite, whom I hope we shall hear very shortly, has expressed his views with a reasonableness which I am glad to say in recent years has been growing. There have been times when he would have accepted only the whole loaf. I have observed on recent occasions that he has been willing to accept a half loaf where he cannot get a whole one. I suppose that those who are mainly instrumental in presenting the views, or what are called the views, of the people of England to the House of Commons in regard to this question are those who would not be prejudiced in the slightest degree by the operation of a Bill of this kind. 360 The introduction of this measure of total Sunday closing is due to those who never use licensed houses and who never consume alcoholic liquor week-day or Sunday. I should say that considerable support would be gathered from those admirable organisations the Band of Hope Unions and the various temperance organisations. When we come to look at the signatures to petitions, it must be borne in mind that they are not obtained from persons who consume alcoholic liquor in moderation, and who use licensed houses, but from those who never use licensed houses either on week-day or Sunday. I suppose the 852,000 signatures in favour of the Bill were those of people largely drawn from the class I have referred to. I believe that a very large number of the signatures were those of people who never use a public house on any occasion, and who least of all would be inclined to use it on Sunday. It is also quite clear that a very large proportion of the 7,000 Nonconformist ministers who have been referred to as having signed the petition do not use licensed houses either week-day or Sunday.
§ MR. GROVES
I quite agree that they may be sensible men. The hon. Member believes that in twenty years from now nobody will advocate the consumption of alcoholic liquor. I know he believes that to be an absolutely true doctrine. But how can Gentlemen holding those extremely strong views attempt to legislate for people of moderate views and of reasonable requirements? I am not pleading the cause of intemperance or excess. I believe in temperance and regulation on reasonable lines, whether regulation is applied to the drink traffic or to any other traffic; but I protest against the Bill in the name of the large body of working men who do use those houses on Sundays in strict moderation and in satisfaction of their reasonable requirements. Is it right to place such restrictions as are set forth in this Bill upon a large section of the community without thinking first what the effect of those restrictions would be? The effect would be, in the first place, an attempt to 361 evade the law. You may say what you like, but that is always the effect of extremely restrictive legislation. It is said that the special drink affected is the national beverage of beer, and it is admitted that beer will deteriorate if purchased on Saturday night. But I see another difficulty. If the beer is purchased on Saturday night, whether on draught or in bottles, it will probably have no chance of going bad. It will very probably be consumed long before the Sunday dinner-time, and we all know it is said that excessive consumption on Saturday night leads to excessive thirst on Sunday. It may be said that beer can be obtained in screw-stoppered bottles, but many people do not desire to get beer in that kind of bottles, because it is higher in price than that which the working class consume. Is it worth while to introduce a Bill of this kind year after year which will never become operative, and, if passed, will have no effect in furthering the cause of temperance, whilst it will strongly interfere with the reasonable requirements of the poorer classes of the community? That is the reason why I move, very much against my own inclination, the rejection of the Bill.
§ (3.55.) MR. FLOWER (Bradford, W.)
I rise to second the Amendment for the rejection of the Measure. One might object to the consideration of the Bill this afternoon upon the ground that it was only printed yesterday and circulated this morning, and that it is impossible for hon. Members, after the prolonged proceedings of yesterday, to bring to it that freshness of judgment which is ardently to be desired among legislators. It is, however, not a little singular that the mover has already expressed his willingness to accept in the Committee stage very considerable Amendments, but this is a device with which those of us who have sat in Parliament for some time are not unfamiliar. It reflects great credit on the mover's ingenuity but I hope he will accept my assurance that it has been tried before. Now, I imagine that in seeking to have a discussion on the Bill this afternoon the promoters are actuated, not so much by the anticipation that the Bill will pass this session, as by a desire to elicit the 362 opinion of the present Parliament upon it, which has not hitherto been expressed. In previous Parliaments it was debated on, I think, two or three occasions. I remember that on one occasion it was carried by the slender majority of eight. This afternoon, when the House is, if I may say it with all respect, in a rather drowsy condition, I think both the promoters and the critics of this measure will feel that not only is there an atmosphere of unreality about our debate, but that it is carried on under circumstances of very considerable disadvantage. I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Salford. If I may venture to say so, it seemed to me to be one of the best and most moderate on the subject which I have ever heard. He truly observed that this is not a Party question, and that it is not a trade question, and I quite agree with him also in his desire not to introduce the religious question. I do not suppose that the Bill would lead either to a diminution of the quantity of the liquor sold, or of the quantity manufactured, or that it will inflict injury upon those who sell the liquor, if it were made applicable to the wholecountry. I do not think it can be held to be a trade question, or that the passage of this Pill could inflict any inquiry on those who manufacture and sell intoxicating liquors. The hon. Gentleman also said he did not wish to bring the religious aspect of the matter into question. I quite agree, and I hope that that question will not be raised in the course of this discussion. He made one observation with which. I cordially agree, and that was as to the desirability of limiting, so far as it is possible to limit it, the amount of Sunday labour in this country. I cordially and heartily sympathise with the hon. Gentleman in his desire, and I am inclined to believe that upon my votes in this House I shall show even a stronger regard than his own in favour of that view. But when you come to consider the question of Sunday labour, what are you going to do about, for example, the men who have to work upon the railways; what are you going to do about the men who deliver the milk for our afternoon tea upon a Sunday? Sir, if it is to be a breach of the law to purvey intoxicating liquor on a Sunday, surely the same thing must be said in condemnation of the dairyman 363 who supplies us with the accessory to our afternoon tea on that clay. One might quote dozens of things; one might refer to the work of the compositors, to the work of the reporters, to the work of the editors, on our daily newspapers which appear on the Monday morning, whose work is almost universally conducted on a Sunday. I do not think therefore that the Sunday labour argument quite applies.
Then the hon. Member spoke of the large number of petitions which had been signed from time to time, spread over a large number of years, and presented to this House in support of a Sunday Closing Bill. It is undoubtedly the fact that many hundreds and thousands of signatures have been attached to petitions of that kind, but there is an easier test than the reckoning up of the numbers of the petitions. I refer to the rough and ready test to which each of us can appeal in this House, the test of our own experience during contested elections. I have only fought three contested elections in my life. In the first of those the question of Sunday closing as well as the question of what is called local veto had a very small part. Unhappily, I was defeated in that contest, and my hon. friend the present Member for Camborne, who fought the constituency, was triumphantly returned. Then came 1895, and in that year—and my hon. friend will confirm me when I say that, thanks very largely to his eloquent advocacy, the temperance question was placed from his point of view very fully and adequately before the people of Bradford—what happened? I was asked whether I was in favour of a Bill for the closing of licensed premises on a Sunday, and I replied that I was not. My hon friend's views were well known in the constituency, and deeply as I deplored his defeat on personal grounds, I could not trace his failure to obtain re-election in that constituency to anything else than his advocacy of a proposal which did not commend itself to the working classes in the constituency which he desired to represent.
§ MR. FLOWER
There may, of course, have been some other motive, but as there could be nothing in the personal record of my hon. friend, I endeavoured to find in his public record some reason for his defeat in that contest. Now, reference has been made to the cases of Scotland and Ireland. With regard to Scotland I have no right to speak, I have never been to Scotland, and know nothing whatever about Scottish affairs, but with regard to Ireland, as my hon. friend the Member for Tyneside pointed out, the five large towns which are analogous to the industrial centres of this country are exempted from the operation of the Sunday Closing Act. Then comes the question of Wales There is in existence a mass of statistics which one might quote to the House in regard to Wales, but which. I forbear referring to because I do not wish to curtail the time of other Members who wish to speak upon this subject, but I think it is pretty clear that the operation of the Sunday Closing Act in Wales has led to a very large increase of the number of clubs. I believe the town of Cardiff is especially notable for the large number of clubs which exist there.
§ MR. FLOWER
I had a letter the other day from a gentleman who spoke of the operation of the Child Messenger Act in Wales, and he complained that while the publicans were carrying out the provisions of that Act in every way, the sending of children, who had been precluded from going to the public-houses, to the clubs was a practice that was greatly growing. But let me come back to Bradford. I received a deputation of licensed victuallers from Bradford last year on the question of the Child Messenger Bill, and one of the deputation said to me that what to his mind was a. most serious evil, an evil which he deprecated on public and private grounds; was the growth of these clubs, which are open at all hours of the day. He told 365 me of one in the immediate neighbourhood of his own premises, which he alleged opened at a very early hour and continued open, with the exception of a brief interval at mid-day, until a very late hour at night. On the occasion of my next visit to Bradford, I spent a Sunday morning in company with that licensed victualler in walking up and down outside the club premises, and I noticed a large number of men and lads, fifty or sixty I suppose, go into the club between ten and twelve o'clock, and my informant added that very frequently members of the club used these opportunities for obtaining drink not wisely, and left the club intoxicated at an hour when his premises were open, and he got the blame for these people getting intoxicated during the time of public worship on Sunday. This Bill does nothing to remedy that grievance, and it is not intended to.
§ MR. FLOWER
There is not a single clause or a single line in the Licensing Bill upstairs which limits the hours of opening clubs on Sunday. Then the hon. Member for Scarborough spoke about another evil, which, I think, is the greatest evil amongst young men with which the country is face to face—the evil of gambling. Yes, Sir; but is the gambling which goes on in a public house, as to which the landlord is rightly in daily fear of losing his licence, comparable with the gambling that takes place in clubs, or the gambling that takes place at the street corners in all great cities on a Sunday? This Sunday Closing Bill will do nothing to put an end to the evil of gambling. The hon. Member also spoke on the question of public decency. As to that, again I must point to the evil of clubs, and all I am prepared to agree with him. in is that there is nothing more painful to see, nothing which anyone deplores more than I, than the presence of a large number of people crowding round a public house on a Sunday evening. I think that evil would be much better met by acting on the suggestion of the hon. Member for Salford—that is to say, arrive at a reasonable limit of hours on a Sunday, rather than pursue a drastic 366 measure of this character. Sir, this Bill is class legislation—although, I suppose, every Bill the House passes must be more or less class legislation, because after all we do not legislate for ourselves until we come to such questions as death duties or income tax. When you come to deal with class legislation, it is always a good thing to try and put yourself as far as you can in the position of the ordinary everyday citizen of the community who will be affected by the Bill you are invited to pass. I do not think the habitual frequenters of licensed premises on Sunday go to those premises for any other than a perfectly legitimate purpose. If a man goes there in the dinner hour or in the hour of supper to obtain refreshments for the purpose of taking with his meal, I do not think anybody will argue that that is any other than a very innocent proceeding. Moreover, at other times he resorts to licensed promises on a Sunday for the purpose of meeting and conversing with his friends, and unless you are prepared to say that all sorts of social gatherings are illegal, I do not see how you are going to interfere with that. The fact is that the promoters of this Bill hold the opinion that the person who sells intoxicating liquor is a criminal, and the person who drinks it is a fool. That is a simple and clear issue, and it is a matter upon which they have to convince the country that their view on those two points is correct. Whenever the country has been appealed to in the matter, it has rejected their proposals.
'To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Groves.)
§ Question proposed—"That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ (4.15.) MR. CAINE
said he did not intend to reply to the personal allusions made by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, further than to say with respect to what had been said of his having lost his seat in consequence of his temperance principles, that, in spite of the fact that the licensed victuallers spent £3,000 to prevent his election, he actually polleda higher percentage of votes 367 than any other Liberal candidate within a considerable radius. That disposed at once of the argument of his hon. friend.
The two hon. Members who had moved and seconded the rejection of this Bill had based their case on various considerations. They had stated as the supposed argument of the temperance party that the Bill ought to be passed because there had been many petitions in its favour. That might be so, but the temperance party did not base their arguments in favour of this Bill upon any petitions that might have been signed. There was not an argument which he could adduce against drinking on Sunday which was not just as applicable to drinking on Monday. The first claim they made for Sunday closing throughout England was that there was nothing in the liquor trade that entitled it to different treatment from any other trade. A great deal had been said about the question of the liberty of the subject and the working man not being able to get his beer on a Sunday, but measures of this kind—in fact, all measures brought before the House—interfered with the comfort and inclination of some people; and, after all, liberty was only liberty to do as one; pleased without annoyance to one's neighbour. This trade differed in this respect from all other trades; the ordinary shopkeeper opened his shop at eight or nine in the morning and closed it at seven or eight or nine at night; the public house opened at 6.30 in the morning, and in London kept open till 12.30 at night, in large towns in the country till eleven at night, and in the country till ten o'clock. The servants in the trade were worked infinitely longer hours than servants in any other trade, during the week and on Sunday as well. This was a question of great magnitude from the point of view of labour, and he asked the House to vote upon the Bill as it stood in print, simply on the ground of justice. The many persons employed in the liquor trade worked very long hours and got no rest on Sunday. Railway men were said to work long hours, but they only had to work six days a week, and if they worked on a Sunday they got another day for rest; but in the liquor trade they worked all through the week and all day Sunday, and on holidays they worked doubly hard. They were kept with then 368 noses to the grindstone all the year for the purpose of serving the tastes of their fellows. He remembered receiving a deputation at Bradford which asked him whether he was prepared to vote for an eight hours day, and he said he was. The next day some of the men came to him again and said they could not vote for him because he supported Sunday closing. He asked them whether they were not some of the men who had come the previous day and asked him to support the eight hours day, and they said they were. He then told them to get out of the place, that they ought to be ashamed to ask him to support an eight hours day for them and deny the workers in public houses one day's rest a week.
This Bill ought to be passed into law on grounds of abstract right and justice. People employed in the liquor trade could not help themselves by trade union methods. They were unable to start a trade union, because they had to be at their work from six in the morning and work all day and on Sunday, and they could not utilise the "closed" hours on Sunday, because they wanted all those for rest. The wages of these people only averaged 21s. a week, but he had been told by a brewer that in addition to that they got two quarts of beer a day. It was the only trade in the country in which the men were paid partly in cash and partly in truck. He appealed to the House to pass this measure and allow these people to get a day's rest. Butchers and bakers and other trades closed on Sunday, and there was absolutely nothing in this particular trade to justify it in demanding from Parliament special facilities for the carrying on of its business. It was the one trade that gave more work than anything else to the House of Commons. There was not a matter which came before the House in which they had not to consider the interests of these 180,000 liquor shops trading throughout the country. We had a million paupers in the country mainly as the result of the public houses, and another million ready to take their place when those died off; and most of the crime in the country was due to the public houses. Yet this was a trade that was to keep open seven days a week. One very stupid argument in favour of the passing of this Bill had been put forward by a publican, who 369 said that these men could not sleep with a. bottle of beer in their house. That was the experience of a publican; that his customers were brought into such a condition on Saturday night that if they took home a bottle of beer to drink with their dinner on Sunday, they were bound to drink it before they went to bed. He thought a class of the community who could not keep a bottle of beer in the house for one night was not worthy of consideration. Another very important point was that in some way or other a clean day ought to be sandwiched between the Saturday night's drinking and the Monday morning's work. We were threatened with foreign competition. America got before us because she closed her liquor shops on Sunday. He had no hesitation in saying that the superiority of the United States of America over us was in the main due to the sobriety of her citizens. That was one of the main causes of her being before us. Take the case of a large boot manufactory with which he was acquainted in a town in Massachusetts—a prohibition State. The workmen received £3 a week, and always commenced work on Monday morning; but if hon. Members went to Northampton they would find the same class of men working with the same tools, but they never worked on a Monday. £180,000,000 were spent last year in drink. If we spent on drink in the same proportion as America, we should only have spent £66,000,000; while if we drank as little as Canada, we should not spend more than £34,000,000. These facts were telling against us, and could not be ignored; and unless some change was made we should go to the wall and America could take our place. Here was an opportunity of doing something. They could put a sober day between Saturday night and Monday morning. This was a question of the greatest moment to the country; it would diminish all the other evils we had to contend with, and he hoped the House would not be persuaded by those who appeared for the public house interest, but would vote in favour of this measure and put it on record that the House was in favour of liberating the masses from the perils of the liquor trade.
§ (4.30.) MR. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
I should like to say a few 370 words in answer to the hon. Gentleman who bas just sat clown, and who seems to think that those who vote against this Bill must be interested in the liquor trade. I have no connection with the liquor trade, and I shall vote against this Bill on a much higher ground. I say those who supply liquor have just as much right to be considered to have right and proper motives as the hon. Gentleman himself. I am not concerned in the reasons that led the hon. Gentleman to lose his seat in 1895. I am only saying that this is a question that should be settled on its merits, and not upon what will be gained by it at the next general election. I was rather surprised that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down brought forward no figures to show that there was a large amount of drunkenness in large towns on Sunday evenings. He said that the liquor traffic was a traffic which sold an article which it was an abomination to sell.
§ MR. BANBURY
At any rate, the hon. Member holds the opinion that the sale of intoxicating liquors is an abominable nuisance. But he is mistaken there, because the nuisance is the abuse of the liquor. He apparently goes upon the principle that no man ought to buy a glass of beer, still less to drink it. In my opinion, it is essential that people should be able to buy beer and spirits for use in a moderate way. I object to total Sunday closing of public houses, because it will tend not to diminish drunkenness, but rather to increase it. Many people desire to go round on Sunday evening and buy their pint or quart of beer for supper, but if this Bill 371 becomes law they will have to buy it the night before. Human nature is weak, and people may be induced to drink in the middle and at all times of the day. If there is any nuisance, the proper modification would be to close public houses for a longer period in the evening rather than close them altogether.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Will the hon. Member allow me to say that the mover of the Bill expressed his willingness to accept a modification of it by reducing the hours of opening to one or two?
§ MR. BANBURY
It would have been much simpler if that clause had been inserted in the Bill, instead of bringing in a measure with quite a different object. I deprecate the growing practice of bringing in a Bill, and then, when it is found that the sense of the House is opposed to it, saying "Oh, we will modify it in Committee." That is not a proper practice; a Bill ought to be brought in in the form in which it is desired to pass. The hon. Member for the Camborne Division apparently founded a large portion of his argument upon the fact that barmen work too long hours. Surely that is a question of the limitation of the hours of adult labour, and has nothing to do with this Bill. It is a question upon which many Members hold widely different views, and I, for one, even though I did not disagree with the ostensible object of the Bill, should strongly oppose any attempt to introduce the thin end of the wedge by which the hours of adult labour might be limited by law. The hon. Member also referred to the question of Sunday drunkenness. I could not see how he brought it in, because he gave us no statistics to show that on Sunday there was more drunkenness than on any other day, or that if the houses were closed on Sunday there would be no drunkenness.
§ MR. BANBURY
I think that rather bears out my contention that the opening of public houses on Sunday does not conduce to drunkenness. I thought the arguments used by the hon. Member for West Bradford regarding clubs were very strong. I believe there is nothing 372 in the new Licensing Bill which can be taken as showing that it is the intention of the promoters of that Bill to prevent clubs selling intoxicating liquor on Sunday. All that Bill does is to provide for the registration of clubs. If public houses were closed on Sundays, it would give an incentive to the opening of clubs, to which people might belong by subscribing a small sum per week; and it is more than likely that people going to those clubs would drink more than they would do if public houses were open. I, therefore, think the evils referred to by the hon. Member for West Bradford would be increased rather than diminished. This Bill is not likely in anyway to diminish intoxication, but, on the contrary, extremely likely to increase it; while, at the same time, it will press hardly upon those who, owing to social position and small means, are not able to keep a wine cellar. In fact, we are really brought back to the old argument that these are limitations which press almost entirely upon the working classes. Practically everyone who could afford to keep a cellar would be able to drink on Sunday, and it is only those who could not afford such a luxury—I am almost afraid to call it a luxury in the presence of the hon. Member for Camborne, so I will call it an abominable nuisance—who would be oppressed by such a measure as that before the House. For these reasons I shall support the rejection of the measure.
§ (4.45.) MR. HELME (Lancashire, Lancaster :)
I shall support this measure, because I honestly believe that in doing so I represent the growing sentiment of the country. We must admit that there is in the House a consensus of opinion in favour of restriction, and of endeavouring, by carefully arranged measures, to diminish the evils consequent upon an extravagant use of strong drink. No one who is familiar with the administration of our asylums, or has been brought into contact with prison life, can fail to admit that there is need for something to be done to develop the sobriety of our people. Therefore this measure appeals to me as one that will help in that direction. The welfare of a nation is of necessity promoted by the sobriety of its people, and, as the 373 vigour of the body politic depends upon the soundness of its parts, I think we are right in trying to prevent the individual from having opportunities which tempt him from the paths of sobriety. Therefore, on the general ground of the individual as well as the national welfare, I am of opinion that this measure, which might be modified so as to meet the views of those who think it goes too far (especially after the offer of the proposer and seconder) ought, at any rate, to be given a Second Reading. I hope they will be able to show that there is a strong and united feeling on both sides of the House on this matter. I am satisfied that the executive officers of the Government at the Home Office are aware of and in sympathy with this development of opinion throughout the whole country, and trust that they will be glad to give the measure a chance of passing into law.
MR. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)
I rise to put a distinct question to the mover of the Bill—as to whether the House is asked to vote for total Sunday closing, or Sunday closing as recommended by the majority and minority Reports. Those Reports are practically agreed. One recommends four hours, and the other three. That is a very small difference; and, in the face of two Reports of that nature, it seems to me extraordinary that the Sunday Closing or any other Association should attempt to force such a Bill as the present through the House. I am in favour of limited Sunday closing as recommended by those Reports, and I believe the House, whether they are interested in the trade or not, are also in favour of it. But I do object to open a Bill, circulated at breakfast time this morning, expecting it to be that which has been before the country for some time, promoted by the Church of England Temperance Society, and in agreement with the Royal Commission Reports, and then to find that it goes in for the old-fashioned total Sunday closing. I had hoped that temperance reformers had begun to see that they had better go step by step. In view of the progress which the temperance movement is making among moderate people, emphasised and focussed as it has been by the Home Secretary's Bill, I feel sorry that anything should be done to make it appear that we 374 are not united in what we—moderate temperance reformers—desire. It will make a considerable difference in the support this Bill receives when it is distinctly understood which form of Sunday closing is to be adopted. In 1897 the promoter of the Bill distinctly stated that Members would be voting for limited Sunday closing, and therefore I do not think it is good business on the part of the Association promoting the Bill to bring in a measure for total Sunday closing and then to say it can be altered in Committee. It is not a proper way to treat the House. I understood the hon. Member who introduced the Bill to say he would accept the limitation in Committee, but it is now rumoured that he has no authority to speak on behalf of those who are promoting the Bill. The House ought to know definitely upon what it is voting.
§ MR. CRAWFORD SMITH
May I make an explanation? On Monday I was informed by the Sunday Closing Association that the hon. Member who had charge of the Bill was abroad, and it was understood that there was no likelihood of the Bill having a discussion today unless it was taken up. I at once agreed to take charge of the Bill, and after considering the matter I came to the conclusion that it was much too stringent a measure, considering the Report of the Royal Commission. In my opening speech I suggested the Bill might be modified in Committee by allowing public houses to be opened for two hours at midday and two hours at night, which would probably meet the views of the majority of Members. I confess I have no authority from any Association to do such a thing, but I think, under the circumstances, we ought to accept the Report of the Royal Commission as our basis, and it is in that spirit that I moved.
§ MR. COMPTON RICKETT (Scarborough)
May I be allowed to say that we are prepared to accept the limitation?
§ MR. GROVES
I was somewhat guided in moving the rejection by the opening statement of the hon. Member. I do not think it is right that at this 375 stage of an important debate variations of this kind should be introduced. We ought to go by the Bill.
(4.52.) MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
Having heard the explanation of the mover of the Second Reading, it is quite open for the hon. Member to withdraw his Motion for the rejection of the Bill.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS
My chief purpose in rising is to say a word in reference to what has been said as to the operation of total Sunday closing in Wales. The hon. Member opposite referred to the increase of drinking clubs in Cardiff. As one who knows something of the prevailing opinion in Wales, I think it right that I should state the facts. In dealing with the question of Sunday closing, our main arguments must be based on the actual experience of those parts of the Kingdom in which the system is in operation. With regard to Scotland, I have never heard it even hinted that there existed in that country any opinion adverse to the continuance of Sunday closing. I believe it is the case also with regard to Ireland, outside the exempted cities. But there is no case in which the system has been so well and fully tested as in Wales. The Act was passed twenty-one years ago. Shortly afterwards a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the way in which it had worked. That Commission, after taking evidence in every part of the Principality, recorded its deliberate and unanimous opinion that the Act should remain, and be strengthened in many ways. That verdict has been endorsed by the Commission of 1897. In the face of those verdicts, I think it is rather unreasonable and somewhat unfair that in debates such as the present, hon. Members should refer to isolated cases with a view to discrediting the operation of the Act. Judged from the standpoint of experience, total Sunday closing in Wales has been a thorough success. I know there are difficulties, but I am not fearful of the results should the Bill in its present form become the 376 law of the land. It is undoubtedly of the utmost importance that the House of Commons should take some steps to restrict the sale of intoxicating liquors, and everyone will admit that the restriction should take place, first of all, with regard to the facilities on Sundays. I am not speaking from the Sabbatarian standpoint. We are here to deal with the question from the citizens' point of view, and anything which improves the character of the citizen of the country must be for the general benefit of the community and of the Empire as a whole. The principle involved in this measure is a very important one, and I am glad we have had the opportunity of discussing it. I have no doubt that the House as a whole is sensible of the growing sentiment of the country in favour of the Bill; and I trust that, whether or not we are able to proceed further this year, at no distant date the House of Commons will register its view, and that Sunday closing will become the law of England as it is now the law of Wales.
§ SIR WILLIAM HOULDSWORTH (Manchester, N. W.)
I do not know the intentions of the mover of the Second Reading with regard to going to a division, but probably, seeing there is not much chance, under present circumstances, of a private Bill becoming law this session, he may think the debate sufficient, at any rate, to introduce the subject. I should have no hesitation in voting for the Second Reading, although I should reserve the right of supporting, or even, if necessary, moving Amendments in Committee. I think it is important that those who conceive that ultimately total Sunday closing may be achieved, with great advantage to the country, should support the Second Reading of a Bill embodying that principle. At the same time, I am aware that the present position of things in this country is not favourable to the carrying of a total Sunday Closing Bill, and, in view of the recommendation of the Royal Commission, the extreme temperance men might at any rate consider that half a loaf is better than no bread, because to obtain a further restriction in the hours of Sunday opening would in itself be a great advance. Although I am prepared to 377 go step by step, I look forward to the time when total Sunday closing will be the rule in this country, for I cannot conceive that what is good for Scotland and Wales can be bad for England.
§ (5.2.) SIR HARRY BULLARD (Norwich)
After a somewhat short night I received for the first time this morning a copy of this Bill, and it occurred to me that it was another attack upon the trade to which I belonged. The hon. Member for the Camborne Division made one of the most temperate temperance speeches I ever heard; and if the controversy was conducted more in that spirit, greater progress would be made in the cause avowed by those who hold temperance principles. But I did not like the statement that those who were interested in the trade only came to the House in order to defeat this measure. I detest a drunken man as much as any teetotaler in the country. We wish for drink in moderation, and that people should have what they require when they require it. So far as people are concerned, I take it it that they are just as thirsty on Sunday as on any other day in the week, and L see no reason why they should not procure in moderation what they require, as well as those who belong to clubs. We have our clubs to which we can go on Sunday if we like, and at home we do not shut up our cellars on Sunday. I am a hospitable man, and generally have a few friends staying with me on Sundays. Possibly we drink more on Sundays than on any other day of the week. But we do not get drunk. We enjoy ourselves in a harmless manner. I do say, however, that unless you are going to legislate for clubs as well as publicans you will be doing a great injustice to the working man. In my own constituency we have a class of people who go on excursions; it would be very hard upon them if upon their return home from the seaside they could not get their supper beer, and have it with their wives and families. It would be equally hard upon others who would be prevented having with their pipe a glass of fresh beer on Sunday—the only day on which they can drink it at their leisure, without having to be anxiously waiting for the clang of the bell calling them back to work. Some 378 allusion has been made to America. I have been to America, and I am largely-concerned in the beer trade there. I can assure the House that there, in the places where the most prohibitive legislation exists, it is always possible to get drink if you know how to go about it. The hon. Member for Camborne referred to the hard work of barmen and to the necessity for giving leisure to the hardworked barmen and barmaids on Sundays. But the public houses do not open until one o'clock in the afternoon, and they are closed again at three o'clock until six. If I thought it would at all add to the sobriety of the nation, I, for one, should not at all object to further restrictive legislation, but the legislation ought not to be wholly directed against the publican. What about the druggist, and people of that kind? I was once in a large drug store in Colorado, and they asked me what I would have. I replied "I don't care." There was a long row of taps there, mostly labelled with the names of temperance drinks, but "Don't care" proved to be some of the finest whisky and water I had ever tasted in my life. It is my privilege to represent a city which contains more public houses in proportion to the population than any other constituency in the kingdom. It is, however, the most sober constituency in the country. This proves that the number of public houses has nothing to do with promoting drunkenness. The county of Suffolk—which is the neighbouring county—also contains a great number of public houses, but there is not a more sober class of people in the country than the inhabitants of Suffolk. I hope this Bill is not to be driven through the House on a hard and fast principle, and because one class thinks that what is good for them must be good for everyone else. I say let us have independence of action. As education goes on, people will look upon drunkenness more and more as one of the curses of the country, and education will prevent them doing what they should not do. I would advise the withdrawal of this Bill, so that we might have one with the facts in it upon which we could vote with justice and honesty, and, I hope, for the universal benefit of the Kingdom.
§ (5.10.) SIR BRAMPTON GURDON (Norfolk, N.)
I think of recent years there has been a growing feeling in favour of this Bill. Working men are much more favourable to it now than they were a few years ago. Many publicans also are in favour of it, and I believe brewers themselves are willing to accept it, if it is a universal Bill, and therefore fair to all. I have always been in favour of local control, because I believe such a Bill would be, much less likely to be evaded in a district if it was adopted by the people themselves. I should be inclined to vote for the principle of this Bill after the statement of the mover. I know it is no use at all to force this measure upon an unwilling country, but I have been so struck by the growing feeling in favour of it, that, although at previous elections I have refused to vote for such a measure, at the last general election I said that when the time came I should use my own judgment. It is, however, no use proceeding with this Bill unless you make some effort to deal with the bonâ fide traveller. It is no use preventing the labourer getting his glass of beer if a bicyclist, after a few minutes ride, can spend hours in a bar drinking. The most extensively signed petitions in favour of the Bill come from large centres of excursion traffic, which the measure would hardly touch. I admit that you cannot shut up the houses of licensed victuallers—that is, those who sell victuals as well as drink. I do not see the use of keeping open on Sunday places which are mere drinking shops. My hon. friends from Wales last year or the year before made a laudable attempt to deal with the bonâ fide traveller. There is one provision with respect to which there is some difficulty, but otherwise the Bill is well intentioned and might have been so amended as to work well. I do hope that if hon. Members in charge of this Bill are able to get it through the Second Reading, they will make some attempt to amend it in this sense.
CAPTAIN BALFOUR (Middlesex, Hornsey)
I do not wish to give a silent vote on this measure. It seems to me on the face of it to be a measure 380 which is unpractical, but I do not altogether on that account condemn it. We have evidence in the United Kingdom that Sunday closing is certainly acceptable to certain parts, but there are other parts where it would be almost impossible to put it in force. There are different conditions existing in different parts of the kingdom, and people who wish to pass one measure for the three kingdoms do not understand what the national drink in each of the three kingdoms is. I do not know myself what the national drink of the Welsh may be; in Scotland it is whisky, and if it could be kept in the house, whisky is just as good on Sunday as it is on Saturday night. The same applies to Ireland; but in England the national drink is beer, and beer on Sunday kept from the Saturday night is not so palatable as it would be if drawn immediately from the tap. I was not here when the debate began, being otherwise engaged upstairs, but I gather from hon. Members that the mover and seconder of the Bill would be willing to accept Amendments in Committee which would considerably modify the drastic character of the provisions of the Bill. In this way they hope to make the measure more suitable to England. No doubt there is a growing demand in this country for some such legislation as this, and in this matter I am strongly in favour of local option; but, looking at the success of similar legislation in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, I think a modified Bill of this kind might also be beneficial in England. I shall, therefore, vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, but shall reserve to myself the right of moving or supporting any Amendment which I consider necessary in Committee.
§ (5.15.) MR. MURPHY (Kerry, E.)
I do not think that under ordinary circumstances it would be right for an Irish Member to discuss an English Bill; but if Irish matters are to be discussed by English Members, I suppose we can take the same liberty. When one has listened to Gentlemen expressing their opinions in the interest of the trade, it occurs to me that those who feel that temperance legislation is necessary should say a word in that respect. I have had a lot of experience in connection with the working 381 of the Sunday Closing Act in Ireland, and I believe its working has been beneficial to the people. I could give fact after fact in support of that statement. Having that experience, I think I am bound to ask my colleagues to support this measure as one tending in the right direction.
§ MR. GRETTON (Derbyshire, S.)
It appears to me that the House is now in a peculiar position. The Bill which was circulated this morning has only been a short time before the House. Hon. Members, therefore, have only had the opportunity of taking the most cursory glance at its provisions. Those provisions, however, seem to be of the most drastic character, and would close all public houses all over the country for the whole of the day on Sunday. It is a curious thing that the mover of the Bill does not seem to altogether agree with the provisions of the measure placed in his hands, because he gave utterance to arguments not altogether in its favour, and he concluded by intimating that he should be prepared to accept Amendments to modify the measure in accordance with the general wishes of the House. Some of us have had more experience of Bills than the hon. Gentleman has evidently had, and we know better the course of business. We know well that no private Member in charge of a Bill has it in his power to give any undertaking of the kind. The undertaking, no doubt, is made in perfect good faith and with every good intention, but once a Bill passes its Second Reading it passes out of the control of the Member who has had charge of it. I remember well a case which occurred last year in which a similar difficulty occurred. In the Committee upstairs on that Bill some differences arose on the part of those who wished to modify the Bill and those who supported it, and there would have been no difficulty in their agreeing to some reasonable understanding upon the points of difference, but all came to nothing, because it is out of the power of a private Member to accept any responsibility for a Bill once it is read a second time. In discussing this Bill there are those who have expressed themselves in no unmeasured terms in favour of Sunday closing, and who consequently support 382 the measure to the full, but there are those with less extreme views who require some modifications as a ground of their support. If we had been discussing a Bill founded on the Report of the Royal Commission, we should have known where we are. There would then have been a clear issue before the House, and some reasonable compromise could have been effected. It is impossible to adopt such a course in the case of this Bill, and the only reasonable course is either to vote "Yes" or "No" to the proposals placed before the House in the Bill as it stands. Upon that ground I have no hesitation whatever in deciding to give my vote against the Second Reading. If a Bill of a more modified character should be introduced, I am quite prepared to reconsider the matter, but as the present Bill stands I am bound to vote against it.
§ (5 20.) MR. COHEN (Islington, E)
My hon. friend opposite said that at the last election he stated that he would exercise his own judgment on this subject. I am about to follow his example, and to exercise my own judgment. It is because I believe this Bill does not promote temperance that I intend to vote against the Second Reading. I think this Bill is like most temperance legislation. It is a measure which rather jeopardises the cause of temperance by striving after that which need not and ought not to be given. It would be, to my mind, a very dangerous thing for the House to read a Bill a second time when the majority of its supporters are not wholly in sympathy with its provisions and are relying mainly upon the promises of those who (in the most perfect faith) say that if the Bill gets into Committee they will be in favour of Amendments which will attenuate the proposals. I say that is an unworthy and an unsafe course for hon. Members to adopt. If the Bill is one of those which they cannot approve of, the most straightforward thing to do is to throw it out and let another Bill be introduced to which they can give their approval. If the new Bill should be less drastic, there might be some chance of its being passed almost unopposed. This Bill would prevent reasonable people obtaining what they reasonably require, and it would prevent people having a just 383 and reasonable indulgence on the day on which of all others they would be most likely to avail themselves of it. It would have the effect that those who desired intoxicating drink on Sunday would take care to secure a quantity on the Saturday night. Hon. Members can easily imagine with what result. Those who could not be trusted in the face of such a seductive temptation would drink to excess on the Saturday night. The Bill, to my mind, goes in the face of the Report of the Royal Commission, and I warn temperance agitators that they are not likely to promote temperance by these drastic attempts at legislation. I believe the remedy lies not so much in prohibiting all drink, as by punishment as severe as you like for excessive drinking and for drunkenness. The majority of people do not desire to prevent the reasonable consumption of liquor, nor will they ever succeed in such an attempt as this to make everyone a total abstainer on the Sunday. Those who think so never made a more grievous mistake, and I do not believe any legislation which has that object in view is likely to pass the House of Commons.
§ (5.29.) MR. SPEAKER
This Bill was only circulated this morning for the first time, and the House did not proceed to consider it until three o'clock this afternoon. I cannot, under those circumstances, accept the Motion.
§ MR. COHEN
I think there is not much likelihood of temperance legislation passing the House at the instance of a private Member. My right hon. friend has now a Bill before the House which is likely to do much more good than any Bill of this kind. We see the effect of education in the promotion of temperance in a way never before witnessed, and in a way far more likely to secure the object in view than such drastic attempts as are embodied in this Bill.
It being half past Five of the clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed tomorrow.