HL Deb 29 June 1893 vol 14 cc303-9

Amendments reported (according to Order).


said, in the absence of Lord O'Neill, who had asked him to address the House in his place, he had to move an Amendment which would extend the beneficial operation of Saturday and Sunday closing to the six townships included within the area of the Dublin Metropolitan Police District, but outside the Municipal area of that city. From the operation of the Act of 1878 for the Sunday closing of public-houses throughout Ireland five large towns were exempted, as their Lordships were aware, including Dublin. They were closed even in so large a city as Londonderry, with a population of 33,000, and in other large towns—for instance, Lurgan, with 11,000; Galway, 16,000; Drogheda, 11,000; Lisburn, 12,000; Wexford, 11,000; and so on. The five towns exempted from the operation of the Act of 1878 were Dublin, Belfast, Waterford, Cork, and Limerick, the area of exemption in the case of the last four being the Municipal boundary, and not as in Dublin, the Metropolitan Police District, which extended much beyond the Municipal boundary, and included six large townships, incorporated and self-governing—Rathmines, with 27,000 population (smaller by 6,000 than Londonderry, which was included in the Bill); Pembroke, 24,000; Blackrock 8,000; Kingston, 17,000; Dalkey, 3,000; and Killiney, 3,600—all quite independent of the Municipality of Dublin, except as regards having the same police. The Act had been in existence 15 years, and had proved a marked success, as had been stated by Irish Chief Secretaries of different Parties, not only throughout the country districts, but in the large towns. A house-to-house canvass in Dublin had resulted in a large majority of the householders signing papers in favour of the extension of the Act in its entirety. Sir George Trevelyan said, in 1884, that the Act had proved a great and unmixed benefit where it had been in operation, and should be extended to the exempted cities. Mr. Balfour in 1889, and Mr. Morley in 1892, expressed similar opinions with regard to Sunday closing in Ireland. In 1882 a sort of plébiscite was taken in the cities on the question of entire Sunday closing. There were then 77,000 for and only 14,000 against—a majority of 63,000. It might be said that people's opinions had meanwhile changed on this subject; but he did not believe it. On the contrary, the cause of temperance had greatly increased of late years, especially in Ireland. In addition to the householders' votes, a canvass of all the ecclesiastical dignitaries had shown that 20 Roman Catholic Prelates and the entire Protestant Episcopate—13—were in favour of the extension of the Act. That was a very strong argument in a country like Ireland, which was so much led by ecclesiastical opinion. Another quite recent canvass of the Dublin clergy of all denominations had shown 2,258 in favour of entire Sunday closing. At a meeting of the inhabitants held in the Rotunda, the largest hall in Dublin, a majority of 15,000 against 70 passed a resolution to the same effect. No doubt a majority of the Corporation had decided the other way, desiring that the public-houses should be opened for a certain time on Sundays; but equally, no doubt, a number of its members were interested in the liquor trade. When the Bill was under discussion on the Committee stage, to the great surprise of himself and all who held the same belief in this matter, an Amendment was moved by Lord Rookwood which entirely altered the character of the Bill, declaring that public-houses should be open for three hours on Sunday. He should not have objected to the Amendment if it had been confined to Dublin; but it was not. It included the six surrounding townships. The Municipal Authorities of four of these townships had declared in favour of entire Sunday closing; and the Port of Kingstown had petitioned the House of Lords in the same direction. These townships possessed absolute self-government, and their wishes were entitled to as much consideration as those of the City of Dublin. Would it not be contradictory for the Government, above all others, to deny the rights of local self-government? And with respect to the Opposition, they should remember that the great Unionist victory won in the Southern Division of County Dublin was not due to the publicans, but to the Temperance Party, and that Party would be disappointed if their requests were set aside by Unionist legislators in the interest of the Nationalist publicans. These outside townships were studded with villa residences and were inhabited by merchants, well-to-do tradesmen, and intelligent artisans. He had no wish to bring forward a political discussion on this matter, and would merely ask the House to remember that on the last occasion no public expression of opinion had been made. Sailing, then, with a fair wind and on a smooth sea, noble Lords opposing had little idea that a cyclone would, as now, blow upon their proposals; and he hoped their Lordships would re-consider their decision, and would exempt, at all events, the four townships he had mentioned which had expressed an opinion adversely to Lord Rookwood's Amendment.

Amendment moved, In Clause 1, line 7, to leave out all after ("provisions of") and insert ("section one of the said Act with reference to the places in the said section excepted are hereby amended, and shall be construed as if for seven o'clock five o'clock were substituted, and as if for the said excepted places were substituted the Cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Belfast.")—(The Earl of Meath.)


said, that he also would avoid political considerations with which this Bill had nothing to do; and he only wished to emphasise some of the points which the noble Earl had brought forward. A distinction was made in the treatment of Dublin as contrasted with that of the other four cities which were exempted. In those four cities the exempted area was circumscribed by the Municipal boundary. In Dublin it was conterminous with the Metropolitan Police district. The result was that some 80,000 persons, who formed the population of the extra-Municipal district, had been excluded from what the large majority of them believed to be the advantages of this Bill. The Amendment did not propose in any way to disturb the existing boundaries, so far as the duties of the police were concerned; but at present there were some townships not two or three miles from the centre of Dublin which were outside the exempted district, and there were others at least eight miles from the centre of Dublin which were included within it; and he had not as yet found any reason why so anomalous a distinction should be made. This Amendment could not have been brought on at an earlier period, because when the Bill was read a second time it extended to the whole of Ireland; and, therefore, no objection to the boundaries of these cities, which were not exempted by that Bill, could have been raised on that occasion. It was only after the noble Lord had moved his Amendment that these exempted cities came into view, and it became necessary to determine what were their boundaries. The present Amendment, therefore, was not an after-thought. It was a matter which had been borne in mind from the first. Again, this Amendment did not propose in any way to reverse the principle of the Bill either as it was brought forward on the Second Reading or as it first came before their Lordships in Committee. That principle was, as it seemed to him, that this Bill was a boon; and that their Lordships, as a body, desired to see something like a Sunday Closing Act ultimately in force throughout Ireland; but that this closing should be reached by gradual steps, so that it might be ascertained from experience how the Bill would work and what amount of consensus of opinion there was in favour of it. He considered that this Amendment fulfilled both conditions, because there had been experience of the way in which the Bill would work in extra-Municipal areas. Queenstown stood in much the same relation to Cork as Kingstown to Dublin, and the Bill had worked well in Queenstown and other districts similar to the Dublin extra-Municipal area. In these extra-Municipal districts there was, moreover, a consensus of opinion in favour of the Bill, the expression of a wish for total Sunday closing having been shown, by the results of a plébiscite, to be in the proportion of seven or eight to one. The Petition signed by 20,000 persons in opposition to the Bill came from a large area extending over the Counties of Dublin, Wicklow, and Kildare, and embracing a population of 555,000. Moreover, it was not altogether trustworthy, He had had an opportunity of examining the signatures to it, and he found throughout it groups of names in the same handwriting, and also names of persons who gave their addresses from Mayo, Wexford, and other places outside the districts from which the petition came, and one even from this Metropolis. He had noticed there the name of a champion of temperance in another place—Mr. T. W. Russell—who would be very much surprised to find himself amongst those who had petitioned against the Bill. On the other hand, the plébiscite of householders to which the noble Earl (the Earl of Meath) had referred was carried out under circumstances which precluded anything like collusion. The townships were almost all in favour of the Bill; and he hoped their Lordships, looking at this matter altogether apart from political considerations, would feel that when expostulations from so large a body of persons had reached them they ought not to turn a deaf ear to their request.


said, he regretted exceedingly to find himself in opposition to the most rev. Prelate and also to the noble Earl. He was not prepared to look upon this matter as a bribe to the voters, and he had always tried to treat the question as a means of bringing about in the surest possible way that temperance which their Lordships all had at heart. He believed it was safer to deal by degrees, with restrictions of this sort, and to ascertain beforehand that at least a considerable majority of the population were in favour of such restrictions. As to the resolutions of the Municipal Authorities in favour of the Bill to which the noble Earl had referred, they had been passed only by a majority. In one case, where the population was 17,000, the resolution had been passed by seven Municipal Councillors against two, and those two probably represented a large number of that population. He believed that the safest course would be to wait until there was something like unanimity on the question, as in the case of the Corporation of Dublin, before attempting to carry out these restrictions. The police area, as compared with the Municipal area, was the area inserted in the old Act. This area was subject to the same Police Orders and Regulations, and it was also under the same Licensing Authority. It had been for many years exempted from the action of the Act of 1878, and he should be sorry to see it now included without a much stronger expression of opinion in its favour from these townships than had at present appeared. Under these circumstances, he believed it would be best to adhere to the old Act, and to endeavour gradually to win over the people to a general desire for its extension, rather than to force them to adopt it against the wish of a large number of those who would be affected by this proposal which might lead to all the dangers their Lordships had seen arising from too stringent legislation.


said, the noble Lord was under a misapprehension. It was not the case that the Municipal districts were under the same Licensing Authority as the City of Dublin. In Dublin the Licensing Authority was the Recorder; the other districts were under separate jurisdiction. The Recorder had written to him stating that no confusion would be caused by this Amendment.


suggested that, after all, the Recorder, who acted by himself in the City of Dublin, acted as Chairman of the Bench of Magistrates in the other districts.


My Lords, I do not propose to enter again into the general principles of the Bill before your Lordships, as we had a considerable discussion upon it on Second Reading. The matter now before us is much simpler; and in a very few words I will state the reasons for the vote which Her Majesty's Government propose to give on this occasion. We consider that, on the whole, we ought to support the Amendment of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches. It seems to me that it would be more symmetrical with the other portions of the Bill to make the area of exemption the Municipal boundary of Dublin, as in the case of the other cities mentioned. Further than this, we notice that though there is not an entirely unanimous expression of opinion on the part of the Local Bodies, the majority of them have expressed very distinctly their desire to come under the general operation of the Bill. For these reasons, I deem it my duty to support the Amendment of the noble Earl.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill to be read 3a To-morrow.