§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
*THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, this is a Bill to amend the law relating to the sale of intoxicating liquors in Ireland on Saturdays and Sundays, and for other purposes connected therewith. For thirty years those in favour of temperance have been urging the adoption of this measure. Two Royal Commissions have approved the Bill, and it has passed the House of 21 Commons on at least two occasions. I believe it has also passed this House.
The Bill as it now stands passed the House of Commons by very largo majorities, and when we consider that with a population of 4,250,000 in Ireland, the sum of from £10,000,000 to £12,000,000 is annually spent on drink, I am sure that any legislation which will tend to mitigate that evil will be welcomed. This is only a small measure, but it is an excellent one. By Clause 1 the public-houses in the large towns which are exempted in the Sunday Closing (Ireland) Act of 1878, are compelled to close at 5 p.m. on Sunday instead of 7 p.m.; and by Clause 2 the hour of closing of public-houses on Saturday is 10 p.m. in cities and towns where the population exceeds 5,000, and 9 p.m. in all other towns and places in Ireland. I believe that in Scotland, where Saturday early closing is in force, it has been accompanied by the best possible results, and there is no reason why public-houses in Ireland should be kept open on Saturdays until 11 p.m.
I now come to what is called the bonâ fide traveller clause, which has created a great deal of controversy in the other House. By this clause a person residing or lodging within the metropolitan police district of Dublin, or any of the cities of Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Belfast, shall not be deemed to be a bona fide traveller unless the place where he lodged during the preceding night is at least five miles distant from the place where he demands to be supplied with liquor. Throughout the rest of Ireland the limit will remain what it is now—namely, three miles. I am well aware that this is a question which has been very much debated, and should an Amendment be moved in Committee upon it, I can only say that I have an entirely open mind on the matter. When the Bill came down from Grand Committee in the other House the limit was six miles all over Ireland, but at the last moment, on a hot night in July, when there was little time to deal with the matter, a compromise was effected and the limit reduced to five miles for the cities I have named, and three miles for other parts of the country.
I cannot pledge myself to accept any Amendment, but I repeat that I have an open mind on the matter. A great section of the trade us well as the tem- 22 perance party are desirous that the Bill should pass, and, as a compromise has been arrived at, I hope the Bill will become law without further delay, and that no Amendment will be brought forward, lest its passing should imperil the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Mayo.)
My Lords, I rise to support what my noble friend has said in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. I think the Bill is a step in the right direction, and it ought to be welcomed as such. But it is very much to be deplored that the Bill does not go considerably further, that it does not still retain the shape in which it was originally introduced into the House of Commons, or even in which it passed Grand Committee in that House.
My noble friend has alluded to the two main points in the Bill—the earlier closing of public-houses on Saturday night, and the provision with regard to bona fide travellers. In the Bill as it was originally introduced the hour of closing on Saturday was fixed at nine o'clock everywhere. That was in accordance with the recommendation of the Royal Commission presided over by Lord Peel, which has been supported by all the authorities in favour of temperance in Ireland. A very large and representative conference met this year in Dublin, of which I had the honour of being chairman. It included the bishops of both churches in Ireland and a large number of representative men. We were received by the Lord-Lieutenant and handed His Excellency a memorial, which he was pleased to receive, containing these recommendations, among others, that the hour of closing should be nine o'clock everywhere on Saturday, and that the bona fide traveller limit should be extended to seven miles.
The Bill came to the House of Commons in this form, but before it went to Grand Committee a compromise was effected by which the hours of closing on Saturday were left as they now stand in the Bill—ten o'clock in towns of over 5,000 inhabitants and nine o'clock in other districts, and the bona fide traveller limit, which now stands at three miles, was increased to six miles. After 23 the Bill passed the Committee, some strong influences were apparently brought to bear, with the result that the bona fide traveller limit was altered to five miles in Dublin and certain other cities in Ireland, and left at three miles for the rest of the country. Everyone who has considered the matter must admit that it is absurd that a man who has travelled three miles should become a bona fide traveller. I think it is very much to be regretted that this compromise was effected, and that over the greater part of Ireland the limit still remains at three miles. It is a matter of complaint among the clergy that members of their congregation who live outside the three-mile limit come in to attend Mass and then go to the public house.
It is my intention to propose an Amendment, making the bona fide traveller limit six miles. I should also like to change the hour of closing everywhere to nine o'clock on Saturday, for it is in the towns of over 5,000 inhabitants that working-men mostly remain in public-houses spending their wages, very much to the detriment of their wives and families. I do not, however, wish to do anything to imperil the passing of the Bill. That there is a rather lukewarm feeling in the other House on the subject of temperance is shown by the fact that, though the Bill was passed by a large majority on Second Reading, these compromises were effected later on.
THE EARL OF MEATH
My Lords, I hope your Lordships will pass this Bill as introduced by the noble Earl. Personally I agree with Lord Clonbrock, and should have desired to see the Bill brought into this House as it was originally introduced into the House of Commons. Your Lordships are all aware that temperance legislation has been terribly handicapped in the past, owing to the fact that the most extreme people on either side could not come to a compromise. A compromise has now been arrived at in the case of Ireland; and I sincerely hope that England, Scotland, and Wales will not prevent the Emerald Isle obtaining this most beneficent measure.
My Lords, the provisions of this Bill have been clearly outlined by the noble Earl opposite. It 24 only remains for me to say that it has the good wishes and sympathy of the Government of Ireland, and that the Chief Secretary spoke in its favour in another place and voted for it. With regard to what Lord Clonbrock has said in reference to the bona fide traveller clause, I would emphasise what has fallen from the noble Earl, Lord Meath, that this particular clause is the result of a compromise. It is owing to that compromise that the Bill has reached this House, and it is doubtful whether it would have come up here but for that compromise. If the noble Lord intends to press his Amendment, I hope he will consider whether in doing so he may not tear up this compromise and imperil the progress of the Bill. His Majesty's Government are in favour of the measure, and would be glad to see it passed.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
My Lords, I apprehend that none of your Lordships would desire to offer the slightest opposition to the Second Reading of this Bill, which I hope will pass with general consent. I quite appreciate the wisdom of the cautious words which have been used as to the introduction of Amendments imperilling the Bill. It came to your Lordships, as I understand, in its present shape as the result of a keenly-arranged compromise, and, of course, if it were sent back with any variation of those terms, except with general consent, the chances of the Bill passing into law would be greatly impaired. But I gathered from Lord Clonbrock that the Amendment he indicates would have the approval of those who are interested in the passing of this Bill, and would be just as much the result of a compromise as is the Bill in its present shape. I hope your Lordships will pass the Second Reading to-day and be extremely cautious in dealing with the next stage of the Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House to-morrow.