HC Deb 03 April 1903 vol 120 cc1083-91


Order for Second Reading read.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said that it was an extension to Ireland of the English Act of last session on the subject of clubs and drunkenness. There was a Government Bill for carrying out a similar extension in the case of Scotland; but the measure now before the House was in charge of a private Member. Irish Members on both sides of the House were abolutely agreed in regard to the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time:"


, while thoroughly in sympathy with the main object of those who had charge of the Bill, said that when it reached the Committee Stage it would be absolutely necessary to modify some of the clauses, which were so drastic in their present shape that they must provoke reaction and defeat the desires of the promoters of temperance. He could not agree that the Bill resembled in every respect the measure of last year. Some of the provisions with regard to drunkenness were so extravagant that it would be quite impossible to carry them out. For instance, it was provided that whoever was found in charge of any person, animal, or thing, and placed the same in danger by bceoming drunk, should be liable to a fine of not more than £2, or imprisonment for a month. That was to say, that if a man was found coming home drunk from market with a basket of the most worthless crockery in his possession he could be put in prison for a month.

MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)

said that as a member of the Ulster Unionist party he hoped the Bill would be granted a Second Reading, although some modification of its provisions might be necessary in Committee.


said the Bill was a most important one, and in his opinion it treated the working classes very unfairly. Under it, if a man took a glass too much he was liable to be sent to prison for a month. The severity of some of this Bill's provisions was revolting to common sense and, if passed, must give Irishmen cause to think the English Parliament was not fit to regulate Irish affairs. He trusted that the hon. Member in charge of it would not press it until there were more Irish members present, so that the more obnoxious and severe clauses might be struck out.

SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell Peckham)

said the hon. Member who introduced the Bill had claimed that the whole Irish Party was in favour of it, whereas the only Irish Member who had spoken opposed it.


I only gave expression to my personal views.


I said the Ulster Members were not opposed to it.


said he was referring to the Irish Nationalist Members, and although the hon. and gallant Member might represent only himself he was a very representative Member, and his opinions should carry with them great weight. He found in the Bill an extraordinary provision that any person found drunk in any public place or highway while being in charge of a child, apparently under the age of seven years, shall be liable, etc. Why had the word "apparently" been introduced there?


It is in the English Bill.


suggested it did not follow that it was right to use the word. He was not at all in favour of the teetotal legislation passed during the last five or six years. He thought they would have done better if they had let it alone. It was quite possible, too, that a Bill appropriate to England might not be suitable for Ireland.


appealed to the Temperance Party whether they were not flogging a willing horse too much. The House of Commons was convinced that drunkenness and intemperance were the worst possible failings that could appertain to a nation and had done much to promote temperance during the last ten or fifteen years. In the days of their grandfathers drunkenness was not looked upon as a crime—it was treated rather as a joke and a species of amusement, especially by the upper classes. But as the evil extended to all classes a feeling began to grow that steps should be taken to put it down. Accordingly a number of men went through the country preaching the gospel of temperance. Many devoted their whole lives to the advocacy of it, and gradually a better tone began to prevail. Then came the age of legislation. The temperance party had succeeded in making their feelings and wishes known throughout the English nation, but he did think they were going too far now. To say that if a man got a glass too much at a friend's house and then proceeded homewards he should at once be locked up, even if he were only slightly overcome with drink, was going too far. Legislation of that drastic nature did not do any good, and they ought rather to look to education for the inculcation of temperance principles among all classes of society. No doubt as time went on and the lower and middle classes were educated to a higher sense of their responsibilities to the State, there would be a greater amount of temperance, and a greater belief that intemperance was disgusting not only to one's immediate friends, but to the man in the street, and to the nation at large. But to attempt to impose the penalties proposed by this Bill was carrying the matter a great deal too far. It was about the most extreme measure he had known to be placed before the House of Commons; its penalties were the most absurd he had ever heard of; and he doubted whether the temperance party were doing themselves any good by making such proposals. He regretted there were so few Irish Members present, but if he could be assured that the hon. Member the Leader of the Irish Party was in favour of the measure it would go a long way towards mitigating his opposition. In the absence of any such declaration he felt it to be his duty to oppose the Bill, because, although the promoters had an excellent object in view, he thought they had gone the wrong way to work.

MR. M'GOVERN (Cavan, W.)

expressed his surprise that English Members who knew nothing at all about Ireland, or the wants and wishes of her people, should get up one after another and talk against time in order to defeat this measure. Surely if such a Bill was good for England it was good also for Ireland. A week or two ago the Irish Saturday Night Closing Bill was opposed because it did not deal with clubs; now the very Gentlemen who opposed that measure, opposed a Bill which did propose to deal with clubs. Hon. Members ought really to exercise some discretion in their opposition to Irish feelings. He desired strongly to support the Second Reading of the Bill.

MR. MOONEY (Dublin Co., S.)

said it was a mistake to suppose that the whole of the Irish Party were in favour of this Bill. They were undoubtedly in favour of the second part, which dealt with the registration of clubs, but he personally would certainly not support a measure containing clauses of such a penal nature as were now proposed. The hon. Member for South Tyrone would have been well advised to have brought in two separate Bills, because probably every Member would have supported the proposal for the registration of clubs, that being a matter as urgently requiring consideration in Ireland as in England.


explained that his remarks had reference solely to the first part of the Bill. The purpose of the second part, in reference to the registration of clubs, was an excellent one.

COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)

said he was at first rather attracted by the statement that the Bill went on all fours with the English measure, but on examination he found that five out of the first six clauses were not contained in the English Bill at all. Some of the clauses were really extraordinary. For instance, Clause 11 proposed to enact that upon premises or in houses let in rooms, any person who was noisy without lawful excuse should be liable to a fine of 40s. or a month's imprisonment. That was one of the most extraordinary instances of temperance run mad he had ever heard of. Who was to judge of what was being noisy? What one person thought noisy another person thought musical, and what was joviality to one man was vulgarity to another. And what was a lawful excuse for being noisy? Would it be unlawful to be noisy on hearing that our Army had won a great victory? Or, if an hon. Member was blessed with a son and heir, although it would be extremely improper to be noisy near the room in which the son and heir was, surely it would not be wrong to drink the health of that son and heir elsewhere? To propose to put upon an authority the duty of deciding what was legitimate or illegitimate noise, and also what was a legitimate or illegitimate excuse for that legitimate or illegitimate noise, was practically reducing the Bill to an absurdity, and to attempt to legislate upon such lines was really making a farce of the great and glorious cause of temperance.

SIR LEWIS MCIVER (Edinburgh, W.)

said he had considerable sympathy with certain portions of the Bill, but his attitude was largely influenced by the degree of interest taken by the representatives of the country chiefly concerned. Only three Irish Members had spoken, two of whom opposed the Bill, and the other gave merely a formal assent As an upholder of the principles of local self-government, he

thought the House ought to accept that verdict of two to one against the Bill. The measure would effect drastic alterations in the social rights and privileges of certain sections of the population of Ireland, and so long as the British Parliament had to deal with Ireland her representatives were entitled to be heard. He was in favour of the latter part of the Bill, but to pass, at the fag-end of a Friday afternoon, when debate was impossible, a most severe penal measure of this entirely novel character, would inflict upon Ireland an injustice to which he must decline to be a party.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 79; Noes, 102. (Division List No. 57.)

Cust, Henry John C. Houston, Robert Paterson Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Dimsdale, Rt. Hon. Sir Jos. C. Howard, Jno (Kent, Faver'hm Robertson, H. (Hackney)
Doogan, P. C. Howard, J. (Midd., Tott'ham Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye
Doxford, Sir Wm. Theodore Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop. Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert
Duke, Henry Edward Kimber, Henry Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight
Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Seton-Karr, Sir Henry
Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Faber, George Denison (York) Lucas, Reg'ld J. (Portsmouth) Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich)
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Ed. M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh W. Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)
Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Man'r Martin, Richard Biddulph Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Fisher, William Hayes Mooney, John J. Sturt, Hon. Humphrey Napier
FitzGerald, Sir Robt. Penrose Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow) Thornton, Percy M.
Flower, Ernest Morrell, George Herbert Tuke, Sir John Batty
Forster, Henry William Morrison, James Archibald Valentia, Viscount
Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W. Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Walker Col. William Hall
Garfit, William Myers, William Henry Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E. (Taunt'n
Gibbs, Hn A. G. H. (Cify of Lond Newdegate, Francis A. N. Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick Nicholson, William Graham Williams Rt. Hn. J. Powell- (Birm.
Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nrn Nicol, Donald Ninian Willox, Sir John Archibald
Goulding, Edward Alfred Nolan, Col. J. P. (Galway, N.) Wilson, A. S. (York, E. R.)
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Nolan, Joseph (Louth, S.) Wibon-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks)
Greene, Hy. D. (Shrewsbury) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)
Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs Platt-Higgins, Frederick Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart
Harris, Frederick Leverton Pym, C. Guy
Hay, Hon. Claude George Ratcliff, R. F. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Heath, James (Staff's., N. W.) Remnant, Jas. Farquharson Colonel Lockwood and
Henderson, Sir Alexander Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine Sir Frederick Banbury.
Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Renwick, George
Horner, Frederick William Ridley, Hon. M. W. (Stalybridge