HL Deb 17 June 1884 vol 289 cc567-80

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that he brought forward this Bill because he knew it was strongly desired by the inhabitants of the county. Already legislation of the same class had been applied to Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, so that whether this Bill passed or not, the House had already sanctioned the principle which it contained on three different occasions. The principle having been adopted, he should hope that if he could show that an earnest desire for the Bill was felt by the inhabitants of Cornwall the House would say there was no practical reason for refusing to one county, which constituted the Duchy of Cornwall, that which had been granted to 12 counties which constituted the Principality of Wales. He knew the Bill would be eloquently opposed by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Bramwell). No doubt the noble and learned Lord would attack the Bill root and branch; but he hoped the House would remember that the principle had already been sanctioned on three occasions. They would be told, probably, that it was tyrannical, unjust, as between rich and poor, and exceptional legislation. No one could be more opposed than he was to unnecessary restrictive legislation; but he did not think the word "tyrannical" could be used for legislation which was desired by the people to whom it applied; and the demand for this Bill came almost unanimously and most earnestly from those who were to be affected by it, and who knew perfectly well how it would affect them. The suggestion that it was unjust fell to the ground for the same reasons. He spoke as President of the Cornwall Sunday Closing Association; but he had not accepted that office until he knew that the feeling of the people of Cornwall was universally favourable to the Bill. He had never on any occasion done anything to stimulate the movement in the county. He had never attended any meeting. He felt that he was one who would not be affected by this Bill; and it was only when he saw that it was desired unanimously by the people of the county that he undertook to represent them in this matter. He denied that the Bill was exceptional. Sunday closing was the rule, not the exception, so far as trading was concerned; and where exceptions were made it was not for the benefit of any industry but of the public. If it was felt that the injury to the public was greater than the convenience afforded, there was good ground for restricting such an exception as this. It would be said, too, that Cornwall was distinguished by sobriety, and that was proved by the number of the convictions for drunkenness. He admitted Cornwall was distinguished by sobriety. Such a Petition as was sent up in favour of this Bill would not have come from a county which was not distinguished by sobriety. At the same time, the number of convictions for drunkenness did not entirely prove the assertion, because these were only the cases in which drunkenness was accompanied by disorderly conduct and rowdyism, and the exceptional feature of the county of Cornwall was the absence of rowdyism. The county bad its proportion of drunkards, and they drank on Saturday nights and Sundays. Many such men signed that Petition, and did so with their eyes open, and because they felt it would be desirable to have a relief from temptation on Sundays. Some people, he knew, had no patience with any sentiment of that kind; but he must deal with men as they were. Their Lordships would regard as almost incredible a story he heard the other day from Liverpool. A man came from sea with money in his pocket, and wishing to send it on to his wife. He knew it would be all right if he could get safely to the Sailors' Home; but he knew he could not trust himself, 80 he employed a bigger man than himself, and promised him 5s. on condition that he would convey him safely, and by force, if necessary, to the Sailors' Home. There was some free fighting, but the man succeeded. He was told this by an eye-witness, who assured him it was not an unusual occurrence, and that there were men at Liverpool who were so employed. The population of Cornwall numbered, including infants, 330,685, and the 60 per cent above 16 would be 198,000. Out of that number 120,000 signed the Petition in favour of this Bill. He knew that attempts had been made to disprove some of those signatures; but after they had passed the ordeal of the House of Commons they could, only be reduced to 119,485. All the Mayors of the boroughs in Cornwall supported the measure, with one exception. Of the 13 Members of Parliament, 11 supported it, and all the county Members had their names on the Bill when it was before the Lower House. The year before last 181 meetings were held in favour of the Bill, at all of which resolutions were carried in its favour, and in almost all cases unanimously. Last year, after the failure of the Bill in this House, he was unwilling that further agitation should go on in the county. But it had been said that this was a movement which came only from one party and one school of religious thought — namely, the Nonconformists. He thought it was the best way to try and ascertain the opinion of the clergy in the diocese. He wrote to 250 parishes, and received 188 replies, of which 162 were distinctly favourable; 16 were doubtful, either because the writers could not ascertain, or thought the feeling was divided; and 10 were adverse. He thought that was fair proof that the feeling in the county continued. On application to the Nonconformists, out of 153 who were written to 118 replied, and were all in favour of the Bill. There was one point which had been strongly urged—namely, the allowance of one hour on Sunday for the purchase of beer to be consumed at home. That might be fairly discussed in Committee; but he could not himself support it, because he knew it was contrary to the wishes of those who wished for the Bill. They thought it would do a great deal of injury. Again, he would say that since this Bill was last before the House there had been evidence of the results of Sunday closing in Wales. In Cardiff and Swansea the Act had been evaded in various ways, but through the country generally it had worked well and done good; and the complaints from the large towns were such as in Scotland, under the Forbes Mackenzie Act, were speedily obviated. The only other word he wished to say related to the local character of the Act. Why was it the Licensed Victuallers, in the papers they had sent round to Members of the House, objected to the piecemeal character of this legislation, and demanded that there should be a uniform policy for the whole country? He thought it was because that would put off the whole question to the Greek Kalends. It was said the Lords Committee declined to recommend Sunday closing. But that referred only to a general Sunday Closing Bill for the whole country, which would be surrounded with enormous difficulties, especially in connection with London and other large towns. It was said, also, that the Committee declared against local areas; but that decision of the Committee referred to total prohibition by local option in parochial areas. The Committee advised, on the other hand, that localities should be assisted and allowed to make experiments for themselves in dealing with this complicated and delicate subject. That was what he asked their Lordships to allow in the case of Cornwall. If the experiment should fail, it was not a serious matter, considering the character of the county; while if it succeeded it might be a valuable guide for future legislation. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a." —(The Earl of Mount Edqcumbe.)


said, he rose to move that the Bill be read a second time on that day six months. He should not attempt to be eloquent, for eloquence was a quality which he did not possess, and without which he had managed to get on hitherto. He should simply make a plain statement, appealing—the noble Earl opposite must forgive him for saying so—to their Lordships' common sense on the matter. What was the justification for the Bill? It proposed to put an end during one day to a lawful trade, which was to continue lawful in the county except upon the one day on which it was to be stopped, and which was to continue lawful throughout the rest of the United Kingdom except where it had been particularly stopped. What justification was there for that? The trade might not be one for which their Lordships had much love, nor one which attracted their custom; nevertheless, it was a trade of very great importance to those who carried it on, and those who dealt with them. The House ought to bear in mind that this was not merely a proposal to put an end to the sale of intoxicating liquor on Sunday in Cornwall, but to put an end to the sale of all the commodities sold by those who retailed beer and spirits. Under this Bill a man who sold intoxicating liquor would not be at liberty on (Sunday to sell any other articles—such as bread, cheese, and ginger-beer. Of course, it would be impossible to have the public-houses open for one part of the trade alone; but he placed this consideration before their Lordships, in order that they might see what it was the noble Earl was asking them to assent to. But what was the justification of the Bill? The Bill was not necessary as a police regulation, because Cornwall was exceptionally sober on Sundays—that was to say, out of doors. Whether it was sober indoors was another matter, upon which he would have something to say presently; but the number of convictions for intoxication on Sunday was almost ludicrously small, and was greatly to the credit of Cornwall. There was one conviction in every fortnight— about 28 in the year—and the number of persons convicted was about one out of 12,000. Therefore, on the ground of decency and order, there was not the least necessity for the proposed measure. Who, then, asked for it? Was it those who did not drink themselves, and who wished to make the rest of mankind as good as they were? If so, he thought it a great piece of impertinence that a man should come forward and say, "You are not as good as I am; I am above all temptation. I do not want to drink, and, therefore, I desire that you shall not drink at all, for fear you should fall into temptation." Was the Bill, on the other hand, to be passed for the sake of those who drank too much? If so, here was a man who said, "I cannot resist temptation; therefore, shut up the public-houses on a Sunday. Not only prohibit my going into them, but also prevent all the sober people in Cornwall from doing so." Surely that was an unreasonable proposal. Supposing an Inspector was to enter their Lordships' houses every Saturday night as the clock struck 12, and to demand the key of the cellar, not because he thought their Lordships were going to drink more than was good for them on Sunday, but because there was one man in 10,000 in the district who might take too much —that would be intolerable, would it not? The present Bill was promoted either by the sober, who wished to make other people as good and sober as themselves, and to put an end to what might be called reasonable drinking—such as was necessary for the health and enjoyment of those who were accustomed to it— or it might be promoted by the drunkards, who, having no restraint over themselves, wished the law to step in and help their weakness. In other words, they wished others to be restrained because they could not restrain themselves. It was said that Cornwall petitioned for the Bill. One could very well understand how Petitions were got up. A man went to another, and said, "Will you sign this Petition?" It was always pleasanter to say "Yes," than "No," and so the person asked signed the Petition, thinking he would never hear about the matter again. If these Petitions were of the value attached to them, what on earth was the need for this Bill? Cornwall would shut up the public-houses of itself. Why, instead of petitioning, did not the people of Cornwall refrain from going to the public-houses, and then they would very soon shut up. But what was the meaning of limiting this Bill, if it were, as was said, a good Bill, to Cornwall? Certainly Cornwall was a very isolated district, and on that account perhaps the easier dealt with. On two sides it was surrounded by the sea; but on a large part of the third there was no natural division between it and Devonshire. Depend upon it, if people wanted drink on the Sunday they would get it, very likely by violating the law, or else by making provision for it on the previous Saturday. Whenever there was an article which one man wanted to sell, and another man to buy, they might be sure that business would be done between those two men. It was inevitable, then, that, despite all interference and restrictions, drinking would take place upon Sunday: That being so, their object should be to take care that it should be done in as decent a manner as possible. That would be better provided for by allowing the drinking to take place in the public-house under the supervision of the licensed victualler, who was responsible for the good order of his establishment, rather than in the house of the drinker, where there was not anything calculated to impose restraint upon him. There would be less drunkenness and less sottishness than if done quietly in the house of the drinker. Short time as he had been a Member of their Lordships' House, he had had to say this several times — that they were creating a new offence—an offence with which men's conscience did not go. When they made a law against stabbing, or stealing, people knew that it was wrong to stab or steal, and they had a disposition to obey the law. But when they made a law which said that a decent, well-conducted man should not do what he had been doing all his life, they made a law which would be disobeyed, and they created one of those offences with which the public conscience did not go. They would have the law broken— a thing bad in itself; because as soon as a man began to break one law he was on the high road to breaking another. They would have the publican desirous to sell, another man desirous to buy, and a regular force of spies, informers, and perjurers springing up in consequence. Therefore, let them not put this temptation in the way of the people. Why was this restriction to apply to Sunday? He desired Sunday always to be decently and decorously observed. But why restrain a man from doing on Sunday that which was not wrong in itself? If wrong in itself, why prohibit it on that particular day only? Why prohibit it in Cornwall? People from other places occasionally went there. Why should they be placed under those unreasonable restrictions. He had already referred to the proximity of Cornwall to Devonshire, and had no doubt if this Bill should pass that Devonshire folks would have a considerable number of visits from their Cornish neighbours. It was for those who proposed to pass this Bill to show why a trade which was lawful in itself, and which would continue lawful the other six days of the week, ought to be stopped. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months.")—(The Lord Bramwell.)


, in supporting the Motion for the second reading, said, that there was no question which affected the morality of the people of this country more than this drink question. It was universally admitted that drunkenness was the great national sin and the source of more crime than any other cause. Over and over again inquiries had been made into the subject, the last by a Committee of their Lordships' House; and it might be taken as the unanimous opinion of that Committee that any large measure dealing with the whole subject of drink was, in the present state of public opinion, impossible. In that Report there was an expression of regret that Liverpool was not allowed to try its free-trade system, and Birmingham the Gottenburgh system. They reported in favour of some further restrictions; and while strongly opposed to local option, the general suggestion of the Committee was that important localities, such as Birmingham, should be allowed to grapple with the evil. Now there existed in Cornwall a very strong desire to take one step for the suppression of drunkenness. It was quite true that the convictions for drunkenness in Cornwall were not numerous; but convictions were not the measure of the actual amount of drinking, but of the actual amount of drinking with disorderly conduct. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Bramwell) objected to any interference with a lawful trade. That argument might be carried too far. Was not the trade of the draper lawful? And yet they did not allow the draper to carry on his trade on Sunday. Why? Because it would violate the public con- science. But if drinking on Sunday violated the conscience of the people of Cornwall, why not allow a restriction to be placed upon it? He could very well understand why the people of Cornwall, as well as the Welsh, Scotch, and Irish people, should have expressed a strong opinion on this subject. Public opinion had been shown to be in favour of such restrictions; and he could see no reason why, having granted those restrictions in England, Scotland, and Wales, this Bill should not be passed. He was compelled to admit, however, that the experiment tried in Wales was not so successful as he could have wished it to be. In those parts of Wales which were of the same character as Cornwall success had been complete; but when they came to the large towns there was no doubt that there had been a failure to some extent, and especially was that the case in Cardiff and Swansea. There was great difficulty in determining who was a bond fide traveller; and every Sunday evening drunken sailors, coming back to Swansea after spending the day at the Mumbles, chanted a refrain of a song, "We are all bona fides." The formation of sham clubs and illicit drinking had largely contributed to that failure. This was a matter in regard to which it seemed to him that the Cornish people had a right to be heard, and he hoped their Lordships would agree to the second reading of the Bill.


remarked that the argument of the noble and learned Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill would have been practical some years ago before this system of legislation had been entered upon. It was now impossible to argue simply on general and broad grounds, because the very kind of legislation now asked for had been granted to Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Rightly or wrongly, this was a matter which was exercising the minds of a very large number of people, and if they wanted an enthusiastic unanimous meeting, they had only to advertise one for the promotion of Sunday closing. It was stated by the noble Earl who moved the second reading of the Bill that this was a question which affected the poorer classes; and there could be no doubt that the opinion of an enormous majority of the poorer people of the country was in favour of the action which their Lordships were asked to take. It was, however, in his opinion, very unfortunate that they should have this kind of piecemeal legislation. If they were to have it, Cornwall was, perhaps, the best county in which to try the experiment; it stood by itself, and was much cut off from the rest of England. There were counties very differently situated—for example, Lancashire. There was, perhaps, as much beer and spirits consumed in Lancashire in a week as there was in Cornwall in a century. Now, Lancashire projected into his diocese, between Cumberland and Westmoreland, in such a way that if Lancashire passed a Sunday Closing Bill, and Lancashire people went into the other two counties to drink, the position would be intolerable; it would be like throwing weeds into your neighbour's garden. For such reasons he objected to county legislation. But what was the alternative? Were they to reject the Bill altogether on the grounds on which they were asked to reject it? He could not make up his mind to that alternative; he would not assist to overthrow the Bill. He was quite certain it would grieve the hearts of many most earnest persons, who were working for a great object, if it were rejected; and, therefore, with a simple but strong protest against county legislation, he should support the second reading of the Bill.


said, that he naturally took a great interest in the subject, and he had a personal interest in Cornwall. The arguments advanced that night had been characterized by practical strength on one side and by theoretical strength on the other; but the practical arguments were overwhelming, while the theoretical arguments, notwithstanding the sound eloquence of the noble and learned Lord, were practically broken down on every side. The argument against restricting the trade on one day of the week was only a sound in the air. It rested with the advocates of intemperance to show that one trade should be exempted from restrictions which applied to all others. The question was not one of Imperial policy at all; it was one of police regulation, and nothing more. Everywhere they had Licensing Boards; all that was asked was that certain instructions should be given to those in Cornwall. At present they could issue licences for six days a-week, and what was asked was that in this district they should issue them only for six days a week. Enough stress had not been laid upon the reality of the unanimity which prevailed among the Cornish people upon this subject. That unanimity was not represented by any forged Petitions he could assure their Lordships. He was in the county when the subject was being discussed, and he saw a good deal of the people who took part in the discussion. He was at the time of opinion that it might be well to open public-houses in the middle of the day, and again in the evening, for the supply of family beer. At a crowded town meeting at which he was present a gentleman supported this view in an excellent and argumentative speech; but only four hands were held up in favour of it, and the rest of the meeting unanimously supported the view that the public-houses should be entirely closed. This was only one instance out of many that might be adduced. No doubt county legislation was imperfect legislation; but the advocates of more general legislation were bound to accept what they could get when such acceptance was called for by the real demand of the whole county concerned. It was the wish of the people of a certain group of licensing districts that their licences should be issued in a particular way, and he thought that the request ought to be granted.


desired to say a few words upon this question, both on account of the general interest he took in it, and the connection which he had with the county of Cornwall. At the outset he might say that he differed with some remarks which had been made as to what was thought just objection to the Bill. Whilst he supported this measure, he admitted that the objections which had been urged by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Carlisle) might be urged against all legislation of this kind —namely, that it was piecemeal. He certainly was not more enamoured, as a rule, of that kind of legislation than was the right rev. Prelate; but he thought that this was a case for such legislation; for all those who had looked carefully into the subject were aware that, unless they proceeded with piecemeal legislation in dealing with the closing of public-houses on Sunday, practically they could not proceed at all. He did not believe that anyone who had studied the subject would be prepared to suggest that all the public-houses should be closed in London. This was a very great exception to make, and showed how necessary it was to deal with the question, by piecemeal legislation unless they wished to stop all legislation on the subject. It was to him a sufficient excuse for this proceeding. The first question which naturally raised itself was whether there was such a strong feeling in the county of Cornwall in favour of this legislation as that represented by the most rev. Primate. Of this there could be no doubt, and it should have no inconsiderable weight in their dealing with this matter. He had satisfied himself that the feeling was not expressed merely by Petitions, which could be got up with the greatest ease, but by a strong and genuine feeling throughout the county. It was shared in by all classes, and everyone practically was desirous of legislation of this kind. He could see no reason why the House should reject the Bill. As the House was aware, an extraordinarily strong feeling existed throughout the country on this temperance question. Indeed, a stronger feeling prevailed with regard to it amongst the working classes than existed upon any other subject. He did not share many of the opinions held by the extreme advocates of temperance; but he asked their Lordships not to lose sight of the fact that every day the feeling was growing, and that they could not afford to neglect it, or to treat it with disdain. He quite agreed that they could not go the full length many conscientious men would have them go; but when they had a measure with such a strong desire in its favour they should give heed to the wishes of the population. There was this strong argument in favour of the proposal. The Sunday closing of public-houses had already been given to some parts of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. [Cries of "Divide!"] He could assure noble Lords that this was a subject worthy of discussion. It was all very well to cry "Divide!" but the matter was not one to be treated lightly because the dinner hour had arrived. On the grounds that there was precedent, that the measure was desired by the county affected, and that there was a general desire in the country for such legislation, he hoped their Lordships would read the Bill a second time.

On Question, "That ('now') stand part of the Motion?"

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 39; Not-Contents 57: Majority 18.

Canterbury, L. Archp. Belper, L.
Breadalbane, L. (E Breadalbane.)
Selborne, E. (L. Chancellor.)
Carlingford, L.
Carrington, L.
St. Albans, D. Clanwilliam, L. (E Clanwilliam.)
Westminster, D.
Cloncurry, L.
Cairns, E. Emly, L.
Derby, E. Kenmare, L. (.E. Kenmare.)
Feversham, E.
Kimberley, E. Monson, L.
Morley, E. Norton, L.
Morton, E. Ormathwaite, L.
Mount Edgcumbe, E. [Teller.] Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)
Northbrook, E. Robartes, L. [Teller.]
Saint Germans, E. Sandhurst, L.
Sudeley, L.
Bangor, L. Bp. Thurlow, L.
Carlisle, L. Bp. Tollemache, L.
Durham, L. Bp. Truro, L.
Rochester, L. Bp. Vernon, E.
Winmarleigh, L.
Aberdare, L. Wolverton, L.
Grafton, D. Colchester, L.
Somerset, D. De L'Isle and Dudley, L.
Bristol, M. Dinevor, L.
Exeter, M. Ellenborough, L.
Salisbury, M. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Annesley, E. Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.)
Ashburnham, E.
Beauchamp, E. Kintore, L.(E. Kintore.)
Bradford, E. Leigh, L, [Teller.]
Brooke and Warwick, E. Loftus, L. (M. Ely.)
Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)
Coventry, E.
Fortescue, E. Lyveden, L.
Hardwicke, E. Moore, L. (M. Drogheda.)
Lovelace, E.
Lucan, E. Mostyn, L.
Milltown, E. North, L.
Minto, E. Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)
Powis, E.
Redesdale, E. Poltimore, L.
Sydney, E. Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)
Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.) Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Hardinge, V. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Sherbrooke, V.
Sidmouth, V. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Templetown, V.
Teynham, L.
Abinger, L. Tredegar, L.
Bolton, L. Ventry, L.
Brabourne, L. Walsingham, L.
Bramwell, L. [Teller.] Wemyss, L. (E Wemyss.)
Calthorpe, L.
Castletown, L. Windsor, L.

Resolved in the negative.

Bill to be read 2a this day six months.