HL Deb 24 June 1862 vol 167 cc970-4

Order of the Day for receiving the Report of the Amendments read.


moved, That the said Report be now received.


moved, as an Amendment, that the Bill be re-committed. Their Lordships had not yet had an opportuity of discussing its principle, although the measure was one of great importance, and one that could stand alone. A large party considered that, in consequence of Forbes-Mackenzie's Act, there had been a great improvement in the habits of the people, and that there was much less intoxication. He (the Earl of Minto) believed, that if there was any improvement in that respect, it was among those classes that were least affected by public-house legislation—the middle and higher classes. But his great objection to this sort of legislation was this, that whereas he admitted that some little good was done by making it difficult to purchase drink, the evils produced by this system were prodigious. In proportion as the law was carried out with vigour there arose a system of drinking in unlicensed houses, and houses of that kind sprang up, producing evils that it was hardly possible to calculate. The number of convictions was large, and many persons were fined and imprisoned; and he was told that soon after the Act came into effect it was found necessary, in more than one large town, to build a new gaol or a new set of rooms, to contain the additional prisoners. He had other objections to the Bill. Formerly the magistrates had power to mitigate the penalties, but under this Bill they would not have that power. Then, as the Bill now stood, there was no appeal from the decision of the magistrate. Another objection was, that the magistrate would have power to convict on the evidence of a single witness. If they passed this Bill, they would be following up a bad course of legislation, and he hoped that their Lordships would think twice before they agreed to it.

Amendment moved, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Motion, and insert "the House do now again resolve itself into a Committee on the said Bill."


trusted their Lordships would not agree to the Motion of the noble Lord. This measure had been for two Sessions before the other House of Parliament, and had been referred to a Select Committee; it had been carefully considered and approved at county meetings in Scotland, and a great number of petitions had been presented in its favour; and on the Motion for going into Committee in their Lordships' House it had also been fully discussed. The Bill, in fact, merely carried out the recommendations of a Royal Commission, which had been appointed because there were certain restrictions under the existing Act which were deemed to be oppressive. It was proved before the Commission that that Act had wrought great good, and led to a great diminution, of drunkenness in Scotland; and it was now proposed to introduce into that country certain regulations for putting down the illicit sale of spirits which had been tried with advantage in England and Ireland.


observed that the natural effect of the restriction which had been imposed by previous legislation on licensed houses was to encourage the sale of spirits in unlicensed houses. It now appeared that clubs were being formed in Scotland to enable parties to obtain refreshments on Sunday, and he could not help thinking some of the clauses in this Bill were directed against drinking in private houses. The Bill was not framed with the view of providing proper police regulations for public-houses, but to repress what the authors of the Bill considered the crime or sin of drunkenness. He greatly objected to giving to one magistrate the power of imposing penalties; and he also objected to the provisions regarding "shebeens." He should support the Motion of his noble Friend (the Earl of Minto).


thought the speech of his noble Friend (the Earl of Minto) might have been all very well if directed against the principle of the Bill on the second reading; but he hoped their Lordships would not now be induced to retrace their steps and recommit the Bill. The main object of the Bill was to give power to make regulations to put down unlicensed houses. It also proposed to relax the law as it stood under the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, enabling hotel-keepers to provide excisable liquors for balls and parties. It was quite true that they could not make people moral by Act of Parliament, but neither could they make people healthy by Act of Parliament; yet they had passed most important measures for drainage and other sanitary improvements.


thought that the Bill should be recommitted, upon the ground that it instituted new and vexatious proceedings, and therefore required further consideration. Some of the clauses were most extraordinary. Clauses 17 and 18 proposed to suppress unlicensed trafficking in liquors, and then the following clause enacted that it should be considered sufficient proof of selling in an uncertificated house if any person other than the owner and occupier should be found drunk there. So that any person might be convicted who had the misfortune to invite a friend who got drunk to his house, provided any person would swear that the place was reputed to be a "shebeen." Could there be a more extraordinary enactment? Another was still worse. Clause 20 enacted, that if one credible witness swore that ho had reasonable ground for believing that liquors were trafficked in in a particular house, a single justice might issue a warrant to search the place; and if a quantity of spirits exceeding one gallon was found in it, the occupier was to be deemed a dealer in liquor. There was no investigation—the mere fact of finding the liquor and the evidence of one witness that he had reason to believe that a traffic in liquor was going on was sufficient. Now, supposing such a thing as that there was one justice in Argyll who was not very scrupulous, and somebody went before him, and said, "I believe trafficking in spirits is carried on in Inverary Castle;" the justice might issue a search warrant, and if more than a gallon of spirits were found there, it could be seized, his castle would be deemed a "shebeen," and his noble Friend would be convicted as a dealer in liquor. Some of the most mischievous powers of the Bill were given into the hands of one magistrate. He could not concur in the passing of the Bill with such a clause.


hoped the House would not agree to the Amendment. So far from the Bill coming upon them by surprise, it had been before Parliament in two Sessions, and been discussed in every county meeting in Scotland, and at all those meetings an opinion favourable to its principle was pronounced. It was no mere fanciful or theoretical measure, but was founded on the Report of a Royal Commission, consisting of very able men, and presided over by Sir George Clerk. The Bill introduced no new law in Scotland, because at present, by the common law of that country, it was illegal to traffic in anything whatever on Sunday; and it was only by a decision of the Court of Session, in 1832, that persons were relieved from the penalties which attached to any violation of that law. The Sunday clause was drawn up, he believed, by the Board of Inland Revenue, while the shebeen clause was copied, but with considerable modifications, from the Irish Shebeen Act.

On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Motion? their Lordships divided: —Contents 68; Not-Contents 22: Majority 46.

Westbury, L. (L, Chancellor.) Hardinge, V.
Hutchinson V. (E. Donoughmore.)
Manchester, D.
Marlborough, D. Lichfield, Bp.
Newcastle, D. Oxford, Bp.
Richmond, D. Worcester, Bp.
Bath, M. Bagot, L.
Bristol, M. Brodrick, L.(V. Midleton.)
Amherst, E. Castlemaine, L.
Bantry, E. Chelmsford, L.
Beauchamp, E. Cloncurry, L.
Belmore, E. Colchester, L.
Carnarvon, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Cathcart, E. Conyers, L.
Coventry, E. Delamere, L.
De La Warr, E. Digby, L.
Derby, E. Egerton, L.
Desart, E. Feversham, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. of Buccleuch & Queensberry.) Foley, L.
Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Hamilton, L. (L. Belhaven and Stenton.)
Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)
Lilford, L.
Granville, E. Northwick, L.
Hardwicke, E. Polwarth, L.
Harrington, E. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Lonsdale, E.
Malmesbury, E. Redesdale, L.
Mayo, E. Rossie, L. (L. Kinnaird.)[Teller.]
Rosslyn, E.
Russell, E. Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield.)
Selkirk, E.
Shaftesbury, E. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Shrewsbury, E.
Stanhope, E. Southampton, L.
Vane, E. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.) Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.) [Teller.]
De Vesci, V. Tredegar, L.
Doneraile, V. Wynford, L.
Cleveland, D. Abinger, L.
Aveland, L.
Airlie, E. Belper, L.
Camperdown, E. [Teller.] Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)
Clarendon, E. Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne.)
Cowper, E.
De Grey, E. Lyveden, L.
Grey, E. Overstone, L.
Minto, E.[Teller.] Stanley of Alderley, L.
Saint Germans, E. Stratheden, L.
Talbot de Malahide, L.
Lifford, V. Taunton, L.
Wodehouse, L.

Resolved in the Affirmative. The original Motion agreed to; the Amendments reported accordingly; Amendment moved and negatived; Amendments made; Bill to be read 3a on Thursday next; and to be printed as amended [Bill 122].