HL Deb 11 June 1839 vol 48 cc137-40

The Beer Act in Part Repeal Bill was reported with amendments.

Lord Brougham,

in consequence of the absence of his noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury), would postpone the third reading of the bill till Monday next.

Lord Ellenborough

said, though he doubted the expediency of the House passing such a bill, still it was important to know whether it would really be pressed during the present Session. He confessed it was very unlikely that it would be postponed, still, as that seemed to be the order of the day with all important measures, such a thing might happen.

Lord Brougham

said, there was not the lightest chance of the bill being postponed—not till the year 1842—but beyond next Monday. His object, when he introduced a measure, was for the purpose of carrying, and not postponing it. In this instance, he would not have postponed the bill till Monday, had not illness in the noble Marquess's family obliged him to be absent. He had no wish to postpone any measure brought forward by him to the Greek kalends, or what was now synonymous with them, the year 1842. His noble Friend had talked of capital invested in these beer shops, but the report of the constabulary commissioners, who had inquired into the facts, proved that many of these beer shops were kept by paupers, who scarcely possessed more furniture than a table, a chair, and a few broken jugs, in which they doled out their liquor. Though he was not friendly to frequent or long postponements, still as his bill did not compromise the good government of a whole province, he thought he might safely put it off till Monday.

The Marquess of Westminster

contended that much property was embarked in these houses, and the bill would, therefore, injure many individuals.

Earl Stanhope

impugned the correctness of the report to which the noble and learned Lord had alluded. The parties ought not to be condemned in their absence. They ought to be allowed to adduce evidence in support of their interests.

Lord Brougham

would ask why, when the bill was referred to a Select Committee, did not the noble Earl attend and make his objection? Why did he not do so when it was before a Committee of the whole House? But no; now, on the third reading, the noble Earl wanted to have witnesses called, and evidence received. Why, if they sanctioned hearing evidence in that stage of a bill, they never could get through any business. He believed that the excitement of the noble Earl was not so much elicited by the report which he had attacked as by the name which was attached to it—the name of Lefevre, the name of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Earl Stanhope

said, that to assail the interests or the character of any class of their fellow-citizens without hearing them, was to commit the grossest injustice. That report, he would affirm, was not only false, but notoriously false.

Lord Brougham

said, the noble Earl made a most serious charge against the Speaker of the House of Commons, and two other Gentlemen who had merely stated what they firmly and conscientiously believed with as much truth and sincerity as the noble Earl or any other noble Lord, could possibly feel.

Lord Ellenborough

thought there was much valuable information contained in the report.

Earl Stanhope

objected, not only to the matter of the Report, but also entirely against the recommendations contained in it. He was sure, also, that he was supported in that objection by the great mass of the people.

The Earl of Radnor

said, the noble Earl had said that Gentlemen had put their names to a report which was notoriously false. It was impossible for the noble Earl to affirm that the statements of the report were notoriously false. He (the Earl of Radnor) should say that the statements which the noble Earl had said were notoriously false were notoriously true, so far as his experience went.

Earl Stanhope

said, some isolated facts might be true, but as a general report, the inferences were notoriously false.

The Earl of Falmouth

did not think their Lordships were inclined to pass a measure, which would inflict much injustice, without affording the parties the opportunity of opposing it. The publicans had been sacrificed by hundreds, because it was said the Beer Bill would be for the good of the country. He firmly believed that there never was a more pernicious Act of Parliament passed than the Sale of Beer Act. Much of the bad spirit which now prevailed in the country, had been begun in the beer-shops. Would their Lordships protract the alteration required, because the noble Earl (Stanhope) happened to think that a Select Committee was necessary? He hoped another Parliament would not be allowed to pass over without their finding a remedy for this monstrous grievance.

The Earl of Malmesbury

was convinced that Colonel Rowan would not put his name to a Report, without being convinced of its truth.

Earl Stanhope

was perfectly aware that the report was signed by Colonel Rowan amongst others. He had no doubt that certain facts stated in the report were true, but general inferences were deduced from particular facts, and he again averred that they were false.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

said, his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Home Department, had made the best selection of persons he could to carry on the inquiry, and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) did not think the noble Lord could have found three persons more fitted for the purpose, from their talents, acquaintance with facts, and unquestionable integrity. It was true, that these commissioners had had reference only to particular facts in drawing inferences as to generals, but those particular facts were collected from various parts of the country, from various classes, and referring to different periods of time. The individuals selected to make the report, had discharged their duty satisfactorily to the Government, and, he trusted, satisfactorily to Parliament.

Report received, and bill to be read a third time.