HL Deb 31 July 1902 vol 112 cc250-62


Bill read 3a (according to order).

Moved, That the Bill do pass.—(Lord Helper.)


My Lords, I have placed an Amendment on the Paper in terms of a proposal which I made at an earlier stage—namely, that before a drunken wife is sent to an inebriates' home as an alternative to the issue of a separation order, the consent of the husband shall be required as well as that of the wife. I do not think it is necessary in any degree to reiterate the arguments which I laid before your Lordships on that occasion. I had rather hoped that the Government would have seen their way to adopt my Amendment, but I understand, from a casual conversation in the corridor, that that is not likely to be the case. In the discussion which took place upon this matter the other day, I think the object of my Amendment was rather misunderstood. My noble friend the Chancellor of the Duchy put the objection of the Government in this form, that this Amendment would practically give the husband the power to decide whether his wife should have the option of going to an inebriates' asylum if the Magistrate was willing to send her there Now, that is not my object. My object is this—that when a husband applies to have his home rid of an intolerable nuisance the magistrate shall not be in a position to say, "No, I will not give you this relief; I will relegate your wife to an inebriates' asylum, and I hope that she may be restored to you cured." Remember, it is in the power of the magistrate to completely deprive the husband of this remedy. He can, if the husband refuses to concur in the application of the wife for relegation to an inebriates' asylum, say to that | husband, "I will not grant your application. The most that I will do for you is to send your wife to an asylum on condition that you agree to that course." It is perfectly certain, I think, that if the husband had to choose between receiving this drunken curse back into his home or getting rid of her for a limited time, he would choose the latter. The real question at issue between us is one which the House is not qualified to decide. It is whether drunkenness in a woman is curable or not. Mr. Holmes, the well-known Police-court missionary, has written to me privately to say that it is his conviction that women can be cured of habits of intoxication; but in that opinion he is opposed, as I believe, to that vast mass of medical and expert opinions. Therefore, I plead that the; husband shall not be deprived of the judicial separation for which he applies by the wife's being relegated for a short term to an asylum in the hope of a cure which, in my belief—and my belief is worth nothing if it were not supported by expert opinions as a whole—is absolutely illusory. If my words do not accomplish the object which they are intended to secure, let the Government, if they sympathise with the object, adopt words of their own which will do so. It seems to me that by this Clause they are attempting a great and beneficent, work in relieving husbands who are cursed with this infliction in their homes, but unless this sub-section of the Clause is amended as I desire, they may defeat their own object, and the wife may return, after a short period of incarceration in an inebriates' home a greater curse to her husband and her family than ever, because she will feel more secure. I take it for granted—perhaps the noble Lord will give me some indication on this point—that the magistrate, in dealing with a case of this kind, would have some sort of medical opinion to guide him in coming to a decision. If that be so, and there is confidence in the medical assessor, surely it is not too much to ask that the husband should have the same right as the wife in giving her consent to her going to an inebriates' asylum; for if the magistrate feels that the woman ought to go to an asylum, and does not think the husband justified in withholding his consent, he has the overwhelming power of refusing the husband any relief at all.

Amendment moved— In Clause 5, page 2, line 42, after 'consent' to insert 'of the husband, and.'"—(The Earl of Rosebery).


My Lords, I should like to be allowed to say a few words on this subject, partly because I was myself responsible for the provision in which the noble Earl desires to effect some change. I venture to hope that upon further consideration the noble Earl will not press his Amendment, because it would, I am quite sure, largely render ineffective the object we had in view in opening this alternative course to a magistrate when cases of this kind came before him. Our object was to give a woman who came before the Court under this, the most appalling of all circumstances, with the chance of being cast adrift upon the world from what is frequently a drunken home, she being, as too often happens in these cases, not the only guilty person, a chance, at all events, of reform. I must challenge the noble Earl's opinion that the idea of reform in cases like this is really hopeless. The records of our Police Court Missions and of the homes for inebriate women furnish ample evidence to the contrary. It is true to say that reform is a harder task in the case of women than in the case of men, and that the percentage of cases of women in which a cure is effected is smaller, but to say that the thing cannot be done, and is not being done every day, is really to misapprehend facts that are perfectly well known to those that are in the thick of these cases, and have to deal with them every week of their lives. We have, it is true, been led by the medical experts to understand that the causes which lead to inebriety on the part of women are very much more subtle than those which affect men. It is in men ordinarily a matter of mere self-indulgence; but in women there are health questions peculiar to the sex; there is the fact that they too often lack proper food and clothing—wants which the women of the working class suffer more than the men; all these things tend, in spite of efforts to the contrary, to drag women down, and bring them to that condition when such a Clause as this would apply. We desire that the magistrate should have some other choice between dismissing the case altogether and granting at once a separation order, and we believe that if a choice is not left to the magistrate, he will, in a vast number of eases, simply dismiss the case, feeling that it would be too hard lines, as the common phrase goes, to allow the women to drift out into the world homeless. Therefore, we say, that there should be some opportunity given to see what can be effected by kindly treatment, ample food and clothing and rest, and I believe that in a great number of cases the result will be such as to bring back comfort and blessing to the home. But once make it necessary in all cases that the husband's consent should be given, I believe we should defeat our object altogether. The noble Earl has in view a somewhat different class of home and husband from those to which this clause will mainly apply. There are, of course, many cases of perfectly respectable, hard-working, well-to-do husbands who have their homes ruined and degraded by the drunkenness of the wife. But these are the men who would be the very first to desire to try some other mode of reform, short of separation, to bring about peace in the home. The larger number of cases which come before the Police Courts are not of that kind at all. They are homes of the lowest type, drunken probably on both sides; but the drunken woman, being at home, is naturally a greater curse than the drunken husband. When the husband in such a case brings the wife up before the Court, he will not be the sort of man to look into the question quietly, thoughtfully, or hopefully; his desire will be to get rid of the woman altogether. In cases of that kind it surely is desirable to trust to the discretion of the magistrate, who would say, "I will not give a separation order until a chance of reform has been given to the woman." I am certain that the experience of those in the Police Courts—missionaries and the rest—dealing with these cases is practically unanimous against allowing the husband to have a discretion in this important matter. I hope that the Clause will be allowed to pass as it stands although I appreciate the noble Earl's desire to help the husband.


Why has the right rev. prelate put in the words "with the consent of the wife? He refuses a discretion to the husband, who is presumably the innocent party; he admits the consent of the wife, who is, on the assumption of the Clause, the guilty and the offending party.


Perhaps I can answer the noble Earl's question. In the first place, I have to say, on behalf of the Government, that I cannot accept the Amendment. The more consideration is given to what the result of the Amendment would be, the more conclusive do the arguments appear against it. It is asked why the words "with the consent of the wife," are inserted. This is a Clause which simply enacts what has been laid down in the Inebriates Act—namely where a woman is an habitual inebriate, and she feels in her more sober moments that there is some chance of saving herself from the position she has got into and restoring herself to ordinary life, she can say that she will enter an asylum. In this Bill we do not go beyond that principle. Having given her consent, she can be detained in the asylum for such period as is likely to bring about a cure. What is proposed is that the magistrate shall have discretion, having heard all the circumstances, to say whether or not there is a chance of the woman being cured. We think that the home ought not to be broken up unless it is absolutely necessary, and that where there is a possibility of reform, the magistrate, instead of making a separation order, shall allow the woman, if she consents—as she could do quite irrespective of this Clause—to go into an inebriates' home. The reason it is necessary to insert the words in this Clause is that in that case the charges for the wife's maintenance in the home are obliged to be paid by the husband. In many cases the home may not have been a happy one, and the woman may have been driven to drink by the cruelty and misconduct of her husband. In such a case the husband ought not to be allowed to ask for a separation order, and refuse to allow her to go to a home. He should not have the power of saying, "I will not allow her to go into an inebriates' home even with the chance of being cured." The noble Earl seems to think that is a hardship. But if she is not cured the husband can come back two or three years afterwards and ask for a separation order again, and then the case will be overwhelming, because he can say, "The remedy you suggested has been tried, but has, unfortunately, failed." I hope that the House will not accept the Amendment. If it were passed I venture to think that it would have a very serious effect on this Clause and on the good that it would do. Even in cases where the husband is sober and well-conducted, I do not believe that he will lose by not being allowed the power to say "No." The magistrates will consider all the circumstances, and will have the benefit of the opinion of a medical man if they think that necessary. In any case the Government cannot accept the Amendment.


May I be allowed to reply to the Question put to me by the noble Earl (Lord Rosebery)? As I understand the law, the position is this. There are two kinds of place to which inebriate persons can be sent, one being a reformatory and the other a home. If a person is sent to a reformatory it must be for some offence besides drunkenness; in other words, he would be sent there penally, and without his consent. In making use of homes we are not, strictly speaking, acting penally at all. No one can be sent to an inebriates' home without his or her consent, and if we were to enact that this could be done in this case without the wife's consent, we should be departing from the principles on which the Inebriates Act has proceeded. It would be a matter of imprisonment, and that the law does not contemplate.


I know that I can only speak again with the indulgence of the House, but the importance of the subject must be my excuse for intervening so often. My point is this. I do object to the consent presumably of the innocent party not being required, and the consent of the person under the influence of drink being required for this purpose. There should at least be equality in this matter, more especially as we have heard so many just enconiums of the way in which the Magistrates do their duty. Will the Government consent to omit the words, "with the consent of the wife"?


It is impossible to give equality in this matter, for there is a difference in the position of the husband and wife. The husband remains at large in his home; the wife is not allowed to do so. She is sent into a retreat, and if you do not obtain her consent to enter such a home the detention becomes imprisonment. That would be passing a sentence upon her which it was never contemplated should be passed, and that is the reason why the Government cannot accept the noble Earl's suggestion.


It has been said that the Government do not wish to make habitual intoxication in the home a crime. Though it is not a crime in the legal sense, I venture to think that it is one of the most serious crimes in a non-legal sense that can well be committed. Where there is habitual drunkenness the home becomes a perfect hell upon earth, and I do think the Legislature might well consider whether it would not be possible, I will not say to punish the wife, but at all events to do something which should place her in such a position that for some considerable time she might think seriously with regard to her past life, and future improvement. I think that very often it would be found that a woman who would refuse to give her consent when in a state of continued drunkenness would be only too thankful subsequently to discover that she had been taken out of all her misery and placed in a home. In my opinion a great many opportunities of reformation will be lost unless the last suggested Amendment of the noble Earl (Lord Rosebery) be accepted.


I think there is another argument in favour of the noble Earl's Amendment. If a wife is placed in one of these inebriates' homes the cost of her maintenance then will fall upon the husband; and, therefore, the husband ought to have some voice in her being placed in the home.


He would have to pay in the event of a separation order being granted.


Certainly; and therefore I think the other argument that the effect of including the consent of the husband would be necessarily to

Amendment negatived.


My Lords, I beg to move as an Amendment in Clause 27 (Supply of liquor for consumption off the premises) to strike out the words "except to a member on the premises," from the sentence "Intoxicating liquor shall not be supplied in a club for consumption off the premises, except to a member on the premises." I must apologise for not being in my place to move this Amendment at the Committee stage, and I should not move it at so late a period in the progress of the Bill as the present if I did not regard this as a matter of great importance. These working men's throw the woman on her own resources breaks down; for if a husband gets a separation order he has to provide for the maintenance of his wife. The right Rev. Prelate may be quite right as to the possibility of curing a woman suffering from this terrible disease; but, even so, it is only fair and just that the husband should have a voice in deciding whether he will take the course of being separated from his wife, or allow her to be incarcerated for a short term in an inebriates' home.

On Question—

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 13; Not-contents, 45.

Grafton, D. Spencer, E. Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.) [Teller.]
Carlisle, E. Brassey, L. Tweedmouth. L. [Teller.]
Carrington, E. Burghelere, L. Welby. L.
Landerdale, E. Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)
Morley, E. Hawkesbury, L.
Halsbury. E. (L Chancellor.) Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Hatherton, L.
Waldegrave, E. [Teller.] James, L.
Devonshire, D. (L. President.) Kenyon. L.
Norfolk, D. (E. Marshad.) Churchill, V. [Teller.] Killanin, L.
Northumberland, D. Cross, V. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Lamington, L.
Abercorn, M (D. Abercorn.) Hereford, L. Bp. Lawrence, L.
Lansdowne, M. St Albans, L. Bp. Lindley, L.
Winchester, L. Bp. Muskerry, L.
Denbigh, E. Newton, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Addington. L. Rathmore, L.
Ashbourne, L
Dudley, E. Avebury, L. Robertson, L.
Hardwicke, E. Balfour, L. Rowton, L.
Manvers, E. Belper, L. Stalbridge, L.
Selborne, E. Clonbrock, L. Ventry, L.
Stamford, E. Dunboyne, L. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Stanhope, E. Ellenborough, L.

clubs have proved a great difficulty in many parts of the country, especially in the colliery districts. I hailed this Bill with great satisfaction, believing that it would remove many of the objections which exist in connection with the worst clubs, while leaving the best unaffected; but if the Clause is allowed to stand as it does now, it will open the door to so much mischief, that the benefit which might otherwise ensue, for the Bill will be entirely abrogated so far as these clubs are concerned. I have heard the argument used in this connection that we had better wait and see how the provisions of the Bill work before putting further restrictions upon clubs. But the raison d'être of the Bill is that these clubs have been tried, and have been proved in very many instances to be a great evil. They are formed to a large extent for the purpose of drinking, and that being so, let us consider what will be the result of allowing liquor to be sold to members for consumption off the premises. You will perpetuate very many, if not all, of the evils which are now attendant on grocers' licences. It may be difficult to see exactly by what machinery the intention of the law will be evaded, but I can see several ways. Liquor may be supplied in the club and taken away by members and drunk in another place, and in that case, all the evils of the drinking club will be reproduced, while the club itself is conducted quite properly, and the law will be absolutely unable to touch it. Again, drink may be purchased and handed to friends outside the premises. Of course, if money passes in the transaction it renders it illegal; but it will be impossible to prove that money passed. The result will be, if the Clause is left as it stands, that these clubs will be just what they are now—merely drink shops—with this difference, that the consumption of the liquor will take place on some other premises. That is so great an evil that it is worth while trying to avoid it. It is said that this Amendment would prevent a member of a club from having his flask filled or purchasing wine at his club, but I should be ready to accept an Amendment leaving respectable clubs their liberty in that respect.

Amendment moved— In Clause 27, page 12, line 38, to leave out 'except to a member on the premises.'"—(The Duke of Northumberland).


I hope the House will not support the Amendment, as it is one which the Government cannot accept. I was rather surprised that the noble Duke gave the Government no credit for having dealt with this question of clubs in any way. As a matter of fact, the whole question has been very carefully considered, and a large part of the evil has been met by the provision in the Bill that no member of a club shall send anybody to get liquor at his club. I venture to think that the Government have gone so far in this matter as they can safely go. The noble Duke's Amendment would prevent any member of a club having his flask filled at his club or obtaining wine for consumption off the premises, which is a common practice in country districts. That argument is met by saying that exceptions could be made in particular cases. The whole principle of the Bill is that the rich man's club and the poor man's club shall be dealt with on the same ground. Under the Bill as it stands the practice of taking liquor off the premises could, if frequently indulged in, be dealt with under subsection (b) of Clause 28, which provides that a club must be conducted in good faith as a club. I do not see why a working man should not be allowed to take beer from his club in the same way as he is able to take it from a public house. There certainly might be exceptional occasions, such as cases of sickness, when it would be extremely important that facilities should be available for obtaining alcohol, and especially when public houses are closed. I believe there is a general desire on the part of working men that there should be no abuse or improper use of the privilege of obtaining liquor from their clubs. Working men's clubs are very much opposed to this Amendment, not because they wish to encourage drinking, but because they feel it would be impossible to enforce it.


I am very sorry that the Government had not accepted this Amendment, which I look upon as one of great importance in the cause of temperance. As the Clause stands, you are putting great temptation in the way of working men and of members of clubs. Men who want liquor during the hours that public houses are closed have simply to go to one of the members of a club and say, "You get the liquor for us and come to our house and help to drink it." The authorities in such cases would have very great difficulty in enforcing the law. As the Government have gone so far, I think they might go a little farther.

On Question, "That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the Clause,"

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 40; Not-contents, 12.

Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor). Stanhope, E. Hawkesbury, L.
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry). James, L.
Devonshire, D. (L President). Waldegrave, E. [Teller]. Kenyon, L.
Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal). Killanin, L.
Grafton, D. Churchill, V. [Teller]. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Lamington, L.
Abercorn M. (D. Abercorn). Winchester, L. Bp. Lawrence, L.
Lansdowne, M. Lindley, L.
Addington, L. Newton, L.
Denbigh, E. Ashbourne, L. Rathmore, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Bucclench and Queensberry). Avebury, L. Robertson, L.
Balfour, L. Rowton, L.
Dudley, E. Belper, L. Stalbridge, L.
Hardwicke, E. Clonbrock, L. Ventry, L.
Morley, E. Dunboyne, L. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss).
Selborne, E. Ellenborough, L.
Northumberland, D. [Teller] Stamford, E. Burghclere, L.
Carlisle, E. Cross, V. [Teller]. Hatherton, L.
Lauderdale, E. Hereford, L. Bp. Tweedmouth, L.
Spencer, E. Brassey, L. Welby, L.

Amendment negatived.


moved an Amendment to insert the word "mainly" after the word "club" in the following sub-section of Clause 25— In the application of this section to Oxford the Registrar of the Court of the Chancellor of the University shall be substituted for the clerk to the justices in the case of any club composed of members past or present of the University.

Amendment moved— In Clause 25, page 12, line 23, after 'club', to insert 'mainly.'"—(The Lord Chancellor.)

Amendment agreed to.


moved two Amendments in the sub-section of Clause 28 which provided that in the application of the section to Oxford the Court of Summary Jurisdiction should be the Court of the Chancellor of the University sitting and acting under the provisions of the forty-ninth and fiftieth years of the reign of Victoria, chapter thirty-one, in the case of any club composed of members past or present of the University; provided that that court should not have power to make an order that premises occupied by any such club should not be used for the purposes of a club.

Amendments moved— In Clause 28, page 13, line 43, after 'the,' to leave out the words 'provisions of the forty-ninth and fiftieth years of the reign of Victoria, chapter thirty-one,' and to insert the words, 'Oxford University (Justices) Act 1886'; and in page 14, line 2, after 'club' to insert 'mainly.'"—(The Lord Chancellor.)

Amendments agreed to.

Moved, That the Bill do pass.— (Lord Belper.)


Before the Bill passes, I should like once more to congratulate His Majesty's Government on the success which has attended their efforts, and on the skill with which, in the teeth of many difficulties, they have piloted through both Houses of Parliament a measure which I believe will do great good in the cause of temperance.


As Lord Belper, in the course of his observations upon my Amendment, said that I gave the Government no credit for what they had done. I should like to say I agree with the right rev. prelate that the measure is a most valuable one, and that we are greatly indebted to the Government for passing it.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.