HL Deb 23 June 1886 vol 307 cc193-5

House in Committee (according to order).

Clause 1 (Sale of liquors to children to be illegal).

Amendment moved, in page 1, line 8, leave out ("supplies") and insert ("sells").—(The Earl of Milltown.)


said, he did not think that the Bill would increase the admiration which was felt for such specimens of legislation as that under consideration; but he thought the Amendment now proposed would meet objections which were felt in many quarters to the Bill, and, therefore, he did not propose to offer any opposition to its passing.


said, that while he was as strongly in favour of temperance as anyone could possibly be, yet he deprecated polemical legislation of the kind, and the passing of laws to enforce morality by means of severe penalties. He was aware of the obloquy to which he had exposed himself on previous occasions by advocating that view; but he felt bound to express his extreme objection to legislation which connived at promoting morality by penal enactment. It was not the duty of the State to enforce religion or morality by statute. He thought it a perilous course, and feared they were coming to a time in which more and more legislation of that character would be attempted. Without saying that the State could never so interfere with advantage he thought the circumstances were rare, much rarer than was commonly supposed, when it could safely act in that way. The enforcement of morality by penalty was open to two great dangers. If they made the penalties severe they would be likely to lead to a violent reaction in the direction of immorality. If they remembered how the attempts to force religion on people in the time of the Puritans led to the laxity which prevailed under the Restoration, they could not feel much encouraged to proceed on similar lines to any great extent. There was another serious danger also. The attempt of the State to enforce moral precepts by law would be likely to destroy the self-restraint of individuals, by teaching them to rely upon the State for that which every individual should do from his own sense of right. He confessed that he felt that the effect of carrying prohibitive legislation to the extent of the Bill before the House would be far different from what the promoters anticipated. History, he believed, showed that most of the great evils from which society had suffered had resulted from the State trying to do the work which the Church should have done, and also from the Church's attempting to do that which should have been done by the State; and he feared they were now doing many things by the State which ought to be left to the Church. That was not the first occasion in which he had upheld a reasonable and common-sense policy in opposition to purely fanatical views. He, nevertheless, believed that a man was more safe in kicking over a hornet's nest than in encountering a fanatic.


observed, that the right rev. Prelate might have gone a little further and said whether he opposed all legislative efforts in the direction of the promotion of temperance. The question before the House was whether young children were to be supplied with drink for their own consumption.


said, that that was just what the Bill did not prevent. What it did prevent, however, was children fetching beer in their own jugs for the use of their parents, who, being poor people, did not keep servants and who were unable to fetch it themselves.


supported the Amendment, pointing out that the clause as it stood in the Bill would render possible the prosecution of an hotel waiter who should pour out a glass of wine for a child at the bidding of the parent.


said, he believed the great evil existed both in England and Scotland in sending young children to public-houses to get spirits. He did not agree with the view expressed by his right rev. Friend (the Bishop of Peterborough) as to the intention of Parliament in promoting legislation of this sort. The object of Parliament in passing some of these measures was for the protection of society against one of its greatest dangers. With, respect to the Bill now before their Lordships, however, so far as he read it, it would be a very ineffective measure. There was no machinery whatever by which the public could test the intention of the child. The object aimed at by the Bill, however, was fairly open to the consideration of Parliament.

In answer to Viscount CRANBROOK,


expressed the opinion that prosecutions would only be successful in cases in which liquor was supplied to children and consumed by them on the premises. What the promoters of the measure desired was to prevent children from "tippling" in public-houses.


thought that words ought to be inserted declaring that to constitute an offence the consumption of the liquor must be permitted on the premises.

Amendment agreed to.

Standing Order No. XXXV, considered (according to order), and dispensed with: Amendments reported: Bill read 3a, with the amendments, and passed, and sent to the Commons; and to be printed as amended. (No. 205.)