§ House in Committee (according to Order).
§ Clause 1.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
said that, having found, on consultation with those interested in this matter, that Lord Rookwood's Amendment to this clause, which came after his own, for leaving out, in line 8, from the word "and," to the end of the clause, was likely to be more popular and more in agreement with public opinion in Ireland than that Amendment, he begged to withdraw it.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
said, he believed that, if time had permitted, a strong Memorial would have been forwarded from all the towns proposed to be brought under the operation of the Bill against being touched by it, but their Corporations would not meet until the beginning of next month, and therefore they would have no opportunity of sending up any resolutions to their Lordships' House on the subject. He therefore, in accepting any Amendment, desired, on the part of those who might wish to bring forward any such resolutions, to reserve to himself freedom to make any proposal at a later stage of the Bill.
§ Amendment (by leave of the Committee) withdrawn.
LORD ROOKWOOD moved, in Clause I, line 8, to leave out all the words after ("on") and to insert—
("Sundays within the Metropolitan Police District of Dublin Metropolis, and within the Cities of Cork, Limerick, and Waterford, and the town of Belfast, shall, instead of the hours now fixed by that Act, be the hours from 2 to 5 p.m.")
He apologised to the Irish Peers for venturing to interfere in a matter which concerned them more vitally than himself; but, at the same time, he perceived the dangers that might arise, especially in large cities, from any violent interference with the existing state of things until the House was satisfied not only that a majority of the people were in favour of it, but that it was practically the unanimous wish in any particular town. He was old enough to remember what, took place when a similar attempt was made to limit the hours of closing in this Metropolis, the riots which followed it, and its having to be at once abandoned; and he was certain that any attempt of the kind would throw back for years, if not entirely, endeavours to deal with the subject. He was as anxious as any of their Lordships to see the cause of temperance advanced in Ireland as well as in this country, and quite admitted that the Act of 1878 had been in the rural districts a beneficent measure, and should be made permanent, as this was proposed to be, instead of being merely a continuing Act. But in regard to the towns which had hitherto been exempted from the operation of that Act, it would be far safer to begin with them in a tentative way, and to accept the proposals of the large minority of the Committee on Hours of Closing which sat in 1877. The hours now in force were practically the proposal of Mr. Madden, the Chairman, against a large section of that Committee. Shortening the hours, instead of entirely closing on Sundays, would, he thought, be the safer course, and he therefore begged to move this Amendment; but, as it had been pointed out to him that some of the later words would refer to something different to what he had intended, he would put the Amendment in the form "to leave out all the words after 'on,' and insert—
Sundays within the Metropolitan Police District of Dublin Metropolis, and within the Cities of Cork. Limerick, and Waterford, and file town of Belfast, shall be read as if the hour of 5 o'clock were substituted therein for the hour of 7 o'clock.
§ That would carry out what he intended, and would be a better form of Amendment.
§ LORD O'NEILL
believed that Lord Rookwood had expressed the views of many of their Lordships, and he had 1215 come to the conclusion that some Amendment of the kind was inevitable. The introduction of such an Amendment might be a disappointment to some who had supported the Bill on the Second Reading; but he felt he could not recommend the supporters of the Bill to resist the Amendment of the noble Lord, in view of the opinions so strongly expressed since the Debate on the Second Reading. Still, the evidence which had been given before the Committee went to show that in Belfast the feeling was almost unanimous in favour of the adoption of the Bill, and he should therefore propose to amend the Amendment so as to extend Sunday closing to the City of Belfast. Therefore, supposing their Lordships accepted the noble Lord's Amendment, he would propose to re-amend it by leaving out the words "in the town of Belfast," and by adding at the end the words "in the city of Belfast the closing shall be for the whole of Sundays."
said, he had been asked by employers and others to adopt a similar course with regard to Limerick, from which city he presented several Petitions praying that entire Sunday closing might be extended to that city. Among the petitioners were the Young Men's Christian Association, the Baptist Church, the Congregational Church, and 66 of the principal employers and residents in Limerick, all desiring that that city should be included in the operation of the Bill. The last-mentioned Petition had also been signed by the Mayor and Sheriff of the city, and by the Protestant Bishop. The Roman Catholic Bishop, Dr. O'Brien, also was well-known to be in favour of the Bill, but was absent at the time the Petition was prepared.
THE EARL OF MEATH
had been asked to say that it was not desired to include Dublin in the Bill in the same way as the two noble Lords had suggested with regard to Belfast and Limerick. It was found that in Dublin three hours was really a little too long for the public-houses to be kept open on Sundays. The opinion prevailed in different quarters that two hours would be quite sufficient to meet the needs of those who required to go to public-houses on Sunday, and accordingly he would be prepared to support Lord Rookwood in his Amendment if the noble Lord would 1216 kindly substitute 4 o'clock instead of 5 as the closing hour.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Earl SPENCER)
My Lords, with regard to the course the Government will take on this question, I feel, I confess, some little difficulty. We should have been glad, considering the difference of opinion that exists with regard to the Amendments, to have taken time to consider the course which we think it advisable to follow. On the one hand, it is clear that in some towns, like Belfast, there is a strong opinion in favour of the Bill as originally framed. The noble Lord who spoke last but one (Lord Monteagle) appears to take the same view with regard to Limerick. On the other hand, Dublin is disposed to agree to the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord opposite, modified perhaps to the extent of one hour as referred to by my noble Friend Lord Meath. All these matters are deserving of careful consideration, and I therefore, on the whole, would be disposed to vote with the noble Lord opposite (Lord Rookwood) if it came to a Division. I would rather, however, the matter should be reserved for consideration before the Standing Committee, and then I shall be prepared on the part of the Government to take a more decisive line on the subject. Inquiries are being made-in Ireland with a view to ascertaining the general feeling of the localities concerned on the subject. I think, therefore, it would be better not to divide the House on the present occasion.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
said, if the noble Lord went to a Division he should certainly vote with him; but he thought after what had fallen from the noble Earl on the Government Bench, if a little longer delay were accorded, their Lordships would be placed in possession of the views of the people in the corporate towns affected by the Bill, who would thus be afforded the opportunity of showing whether they were or not in favour of it. Whatever action might be taken that day, he must reserve to himself liberty to consult those Corporate Bodies on the subject.
§ LORD ROOKWOOD
said, he gathered from what had been said by noble Lords that his Amendment was not really objected to, though they might wish to further amend it. If his Amendment 1217 were now engrafted in the Bill, the whole matter could afterwards be discussed in Standing Committee. None of the proposed Amendments would be prejudiced by the adoption of his own, if left open for further alteration should it be necessary.
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (The Earl of KIMBERLEY)
I would suggest to the noble Lord that be should hardly guide himself entirely by what has been said by my noble Friend. This is not a Government Bill; and although we are very glad to give assistance in the matter and to express our opinion, yet it must not be considered as decisive. My noble Friend only suggested that it might be desirable to delay amending the Bill because he was aware that careful inquiries were being made on the subject in Ireland, for there seems to be a good deal of doubt as to what is the true feeling in some of the towns. I should, therefore, much prefer that the noble Lord who moved the Amendment should not persevere with it. I must say I do not see the logic of putting it in the Bill merely to amend it afterwards. All we can say in the matter at present is that nobody seems to be in a position to afford the House all the information we ought to have before us in order to decide upon a question of considerable difficulty.
I understand the Leader of the House has made an appeal to the noble Lord opposite to withdraw his Amendment?
§ LORD ROOKWOOD
said, that under the circumstances he was not prepared to withdraw his Amendment on the present occasion. He only wished to get the Amendment fairly before the Committee to be considered on its merits, when it would be seen to be in accordance with the action which, in the general opinion, should be taken in the matter.
§ *LORD KNUTSFORD
had some doubt whether such a question as the inclusion of the towns mentioned could properly be raised before the Standing Committee, 1218 but it might be brought forward at a later stage on Report, or the Committee might now be adjourned.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I do not think there could be any objection in point of Order in those Amendments being then raised. Your Lordships will remember that it must come before the House again on Report afterwards. We do not wish to prejudice the noble Lord's Amendment in the least. We only desire that it should not be pressed now.
§ LORD HALSBURY
I do not think there would be any technical objection to this being discussed before the Standing Committee, though, no doubt, it is not the class of thing which is generally discussed there. I think it would be rather a precedent for our discussing what is more a Second Reading business than a question of this sort.
§ *LORD KNUTSFORD
It is really only a matter of convenience of procedure; and if no objection is felt to raising this question in Standing Committee, I do not see that it need be pressed now.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I understand that the noble Lord opposite would rather prefer that the Bill should come before the Standing Committee than a Committee of the whole House.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
My Lords, under these circumstances, I would suggest that the proper course would be that this Debate should be adjourned.
§ Debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House resumed; and to be again in Committee on Monday the 12th June next.