§ Order for Second Reading read.
MR. J. A. SMITH
, in rising to move the second reading of this Bill, said, that although it might be considered presumptuous in him to attempt to legislate upon a question of such great importance, involving such varied interests and provocative 1832 of such excited feelings, he could assure the House that he was induced to do so because he honestly and conscientiously believed that the change which he sought to effect would produce a real and marked improvement in the habits of the people, that it would diminish the intemperance which now prevailed, and which caused so much crime, disease, and death. He felt he had no option but to endeavour, at however great a personal sacrifice, to give effect to his earnest and conscientious convictions on the subject. At the outset he wished the House to understand why he had resolved to take up only a small part of the question, rather than to deal generally with the subject of licenses. In his opinion nothing could be worse than the present licensing system; but he was persuaded that a great majority of the House would agree with him that that question was too large and complicated to be dealt with by a private Member. It was one that could only be properly handled by the Government, whose attention he had trusted it would soon receive. The late Home Secretary, however, having been unable to realize the hope held out last year that the Government would take up the subject of the licensing system, he (Mr. J. A. Smith) felt that the delay which must occur in regard to it would be protracted; and as, moreover, the alteration in the law which he now proposed, if adopted, would afford in its working an experience that would prove most valuable to the Government when they came to regulate that system, he had resolved to proceed with his Bill. In asking the indulgence of the House whilst he endeavoured to perform a difficult task, he could truly state that he did not approach this question in any ascetic or exclusive spirit, nor with any desire to limit the already too limited means of indulgence and enjoyment possessed by the working classes, in whose well-being, comfort, and improvement, he felt the warmest interest. He agreed with those who declared that no man was made moral by legal enactment; at the same time he was quite as strongly convinced that the morality, the industry, and the well-being of large classes were promoted and strengthened by wise legislation. He did not bring forward this question as a religious one. He neither doubted nor undervalued the effect of the observance of Sunday, on the religious tendencies, habits, and feelings of the working classes, but he asked support for the measure on social 1833 and economical rather than on religious grounds. Nevertheless, he could not but express his grateful acknowledgments to those who, holding strong views on the subject of Sabbath observance, had seen enough in the details of his Bill to induce them to give to him their full sanction and support; and he firmly believed that a contingent effect of his Bill would be to further those objects which they had so much at heart. He confessed that he should not have had the courage to undertake this task unless he had been fully persuaded that the feelings of the working classes throughout the kingdom were on the whole greatly in favour of the change he proposed. If he was mistaken in that opinion, all he could say was that he had taken all the pains and trouble in his power to arrive at the truth. By public meetings, by conversation, by personal visits, and all other available means, he had done his best to ascertain the real, earnest sentiments of the working classes on the subject, and had satisfied himself that, from one end of the country to the other, the respectable and thinking portion of the working men were now in favour of a total closing of pub-lichouses on the Sabbath. He did not, however, propose to go that length, and he thought it would be unwise to ask the House to make so great a change in the Law as that; but it was only right that he should state that almost all the working men with whom he had been brought in contact did not approve of his Bill unreservedly, thinking that it did not go far enough. Before stating the provisions of his measure it would be convenient that he should briefly trace the course of recent legislation on the subject. In 1830 a Bill called the Beer Bill was passed, which was amended in 1840. He would say nothing further of those Bills than that he believed it was universally admitted that they had failed to effect their object. The Act of 1830 was introduced to enable the poor man to buy good beer without the intervention, invasion, or opposition of the publican; but there could be very little doubt that such a result had not been obtained, and he was not surprised, having regard to the fact that both beerhouses and licensed victuallers' houses were equally under the control of the great brewers. In 1854 there was a most important Committee on the Beer Bill. It was composed of Gentlemen peculiarly adapted for the object of the inquiry, and whose character and position gave great weight in that House to the 1834 conclusions to which they came. The Report was drawn up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers), the Chairman of the Committee, and among the valuable records of the labours of Committees of that House here were few which did more credit than his Report to the intelligence and industry of their Authors. The right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) was also a Member of that Committee, and they recommended that, with the exception of the hours from one o'clock to two o'clock, and from six to nine, all the houses for the sale of intoxicating drinks should be closed on the Sunday; and that on week days all houses should be closed from eleven p.m. to four a.m. The Report also contained recommendations for punishment by fine of any infringement of these regulations. Now, it was upon the Report of that Committee that he had ventured principally to found his Bill. The existing law was the result of the change which took place in 1855, under a Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Berkeley), and it was to the effect that all houses for the sale of beer or spirits must on Sundays be closed until one o'clock, from which hour they remained open till three o'clock; from three o'clock till five they were shut up, and opened from five o'clock till eleven o'clock. This was on Sundays. What he (Mr. J. A Smith) proposed by this Bill to do was to shut up all public houses in England and Wales on the Sunday so far as drinking on the premises was concerned—giving them four hours, from half-past twelve to half-past two and from eight o'clock to ten o'clock, for the sale of liquor over the counter to those persons who might desire to buy it and take it home with them. He could not forget that, in the same year, a Bill became law at the instance of the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, which went as far at least as the provisions which he (Mr. J. A. Smith) now ventured to suggest. That Bill was a very short Bill, but his right hon. Friend went abroad to command his regiment at Gibraltar, and the hon. Member for Bristol, alarmed at some meetings in the parks which were said to have been caused by the Bill, moved for a Committee, which sat, and whose deliberations resulted in the introduction of a Bill repealing Colonel Wilson Patten's Act. He felt justified in abstaining from entering into details or bringing forward statis- 1835 tics as to the evil effects of drunkenness, because it was admitted on all hands, that drunkenness was a source of misery and degradation to the working people, and the cause of a very large proportion of crime. He would now state as shortly as he could the convictions on which he acted in reference to this measure, and which formed the principles on which his Bill was founded. Those convictions were four. First, that drunkenness was in proportion always to the public facility for its indulgence. Secondly, that all restraints had been attended with beneficial consequences. Thirdly, that a most remarkable and most salutary change had taken place in the wishes and feelings of working men, and which it would be well and expedient for Parliament to give effect to. Fourthly, that it was undesirable in theory and policy to keep open public-houses on that day, on which the effect of so doing was most injurious, and that there ought to be no exception in favour of their being open on a day on which all other traffic was interdicted and every other shop closed by law. He would take these four grounds in detail, and state the evidence by which he supported them. The evidence was incontestable and undeniable that drunkenness was in proportion to the public facilities for its indulgence. Everyone who took an interest in the drinking trade was aware that Liverpool stood pre-eminent in its attachment to free trade in beer. The licensing system there had been gradually done away with, and free trade in drink in that town had been the practice for years past. The result of that system had made a deep impression on his mind. He held in his hand a list of towns, being either ports or other places of industry, very fairly selected for comparison with Liverpool, and he found that in Liverpool, which had 12½ times as much population as South Shields, there were 17 times as many drunken cases. Liverpool had 13 times as much population as Tynemouth and 24 times as many drunken cases. With 5 times as much population as Sunderland, it had 14½ times as many drunken cases; with 4 times as much population as Newcastle, it had 11½ times as many drunken cases; with 4½ times as much population as Hull, it had 14½ times as many drunken cases; with 13 times as much population as Yarmouth, it had 65½ times as many drunken cases; with 9 times as much population as Southampton, it had 53 times as many drunken cases; with 3 times as much population 1836 as Bristol, it had 21½ times as many drunken cases; with 7½ times as much population as Sawansea, it had 57 times as many drunken cases; with 8½ times as much population as Birkenhead, it had 19½ times as many drunken cases; and with 4J times as much population as Portsmouth, it had 4½ times as many drunken cases. He thought that he had stated enough to satisfy the House of the truth of his first position, that drunkenness was in proportion to the facilities for its indulgence. With regard to his next position, that all past restraints had been attended with beneficial results, he could say that he never yet heard of a single case in which the effect was otherwise than beneficial; but in connection with this part of the subject, he was furnished by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) with statistics relating to Scotland to which he could appeal with confidence. Taking four periods of four years each, since January 1851, it appeared that in the first four years, when the Forbes Mackenzie Act had not yet been passed, that the consumption of spirits in Scotland was 27,660,000 gallons. In the next four years after the passing of the Act the consumption of spirits was reduced to 22,674,000 gallons. In the third period of four years it was reduced to 19,572,000 gallons, and in the last period of four years the consumption of spirits in Scotland did not exceed 19,512,000 gallons, showing a decreased consumption of spirits in Scotland since Forbes Mackenzie's Act came into operation of 2,036,924 gallons per annum. The effect on crime in Edinburgh by the closing of public-houses on the Sunday was hardly less remarkable. In the Report of the Royal Commission of 1860 it was stated—In the City of Edinburgh, the closing of the public-houses on Sunday has caused quite a social revolution in favour of public decency on Sundays. According to police statistics published by the City magistrates it appears that since 1853 the cases of drunkenness taken up on all the days of the week had diminished from 5,727 to 2,313, the number during Sundays from 729 to 223, and the number from eight o'clock on Sunday morning to eight o'clock on Monday morning from 401 in 1852 to 42 in 1866. It has been of incalculable value in improving the habits of that portion of the people who formerly outraged public decency.These facts had led him to the conclusion that previous legislation for the restraint of liquor traffic on Sunday had been attended with beneficial results. His third position was, that on this subject a remark- 1837 able and most salutary change had taken place in the wishes and feelings of the working men, which it would be expedient and wise for Parliament to regard. He was not so blind as to imagine that the House of Commons would have sufficient confidence in him to accept his conclusions on such an important point; but he rejoiced that he could appeal to evidence which would have the greatest weight in that House. He would appeal with confidence to every hon. Member who represented a large constituency in England or Wales to support his assertion that a large majority of the working classes among their constituents were in favour of closing public houses on Sundays, He could speak from his own knowledge, of this feeling in Manchester. He knew that the hon. Gentleman who was lately elected there found an almost unanimous feeling in favour of closing public-houses on Sunday. [Mr. JACOB BRIGHT: Hear, hear!] He (Mr. J. A. Smith) knew that at Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Darlington, and every large town in England and Wales, he might appeal with confidence to the working men as to their feelings on this subject. If his statement were confirmed—as he was confident it would be confirmed, especially by those acquainted with the northern districts—he trusted that he would be thought justified in his third conclusion. He now came to his last point. It did appear to him utterly indefensible that, on the days when the effects of drinking were more obnoxious than on any other—for it was admitted that Sunday drunkenness was worse than that on any other day, being more general and more deep—an exception should be made, in favour of public-houses, when other trades were interdicted. He knew how difficult it was to make a change in a system that had become established; but he appealed with confidence to the great power of public opinion. He would remind the House of the extraordinary support which proposals for this change had met with throughout the country. Some years ago a Bill was introduced by Mr. Somes, then Member for Hull, for the total closing of public-houses on Sunday. In favour of that Bill there were presented petitions with very nearly 1,000,000 signatures attached. Last year petitions with the same prayer were presented with 400,000 signatures; and though he could not state the exact number of names attached to petitions of the same kind presented during this Session, 1838 he knew that they considerably exceeded 200,000. Therefore 1,600,000 people had petitioned in favour of the closing of public-houses on Sundays. He would now add a word upon the way in which the people of London would be affected by the change proposed in his Bill. He had left this till the last, because he had made great exceptions in favour of London, having regard to the peculiar habits of its inhabitants. In London, too, the power of the publicans was most extensive. He wished distinctly to be understood that he did not join in any cry against that useful and respectable class of men. He had the satisfaction of ranking among them many of the warmest supporters of his Bill, and he believed that, as a whole, they were emenently deserving of respect. Still, such of them as were opposed to any further restriction on the sale of liquors exercised great power, and he was, therefore, not surprised at the notice given by the hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) of his intention to oppose the Bill. At the same time it was but fair to tell his hon. and learned Friend that, if but one half of the statements made at a large meeting in Southwark on Monday night were true, it was more than questionable whether the hon. and learned Member had, on the present occasion, shown his usual tact in choosing the strongest side. He could not imagine a more important document than that addressed to the First Minister of the Crown by upwards of 200 magistrates in favour of the present Bill, and of the many remarkable petitions presented on the subject of his Bill there was one to which he could not forbear from alluding. It was the petition of nearly 500 publicans and beershop-keepers in London, who stated that the passing of such a Bill would be the greatest blessing and boon to them. There was also a petition which had given him the greatest satisfaction, and which would be regarded, no doubt, with special favour by the House. It came from Chester, and was signed by about 5,000 women belonging to the working classes, who stated that they approved of the Bill and that they, of all persons in the world, were the most interested in the matter. There were other petitions, to the contents of which he might allude, but he did not wish to trouble the House with them. He would wish the House to observe that there had never been, in his recollection, any measure which had called forth such a feeling of 1839 interest among the working classes as that now before them. He believed the question to be intimately connected with the best interests of the working classes; he believed that they were desirous to have a change in the law; and he believed that they would be willing to take the salutary advice offered to them by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and for which he (Mr. J. A. Smith) personally thanked him. He could not sit down without impressing on the House the importance of the questions involved in the legislation he now proposed. He did not believe that the House or the country generally was aware of the enormous interests involved in this question. He found from a Report of the Inland Revenue Commission that there were now something like 166,000 people employed in the sale of beer and spirituous liquors on Sundays. For the purpose of calculation he would take the number of persons concerned at 100,000, and supposing that each of them took in the way of business only £3 per day—though many of them received very large sums—the annual amount of money expended would be more than £15,000,000 sterling. He asked the House to think for one moment how great would be the benefit if what might be purchased with even one-half of this sum went into the bellies and on the backs of the children of working men. But there was one other circumstance to which he wished to refer. Last year an estimate was made, at the request of the Austrian Vice Consul at Manchester, as to the annual value of all the spirits, beer, and wine consumed in England. The estimate was very carefully made, and it appeared that there were consumed during the year 20,811,000 gallons of British spirits, 6,732,000 gallons of colonial and foreign spirits, 11,990,000 gallons of wine, 59,138,000 bushels of malt, which was estimated to produce 20,249,000 barrels of malt liquor. The cost of the liquors to the consumer might be taken at 20s. per gallon for British spirits, 25s. per gallon for colonial and foreign, 18s. per gallon for wine, and 1s. 4d. per gallon for beer. The working out of the estimate would show this result:—British spirits were drunk and consumed to the value of £20,811,000, foreign and colonial spirits to the value of £8,415,000, wines to the value of £10,791,000, malt liquors to the value of £48,599,000, making a gross total of £88,616,000. There was one terrible fact which he had omitted, and which he would 1840 now adduce, as it had immediate reference to the question of drunkenness, and bore directly on the habits of the poor, and it was this, that in Liverpool, during one twelvemonth, 143 children were suffocated by their mothers overlying them, and that in three-fourths of the cases the suffocation took place between Saturday night and Monday morning. He asked the House to sanction the principle of the Bill by reading it a second time. He besought them to do so in the name of social, of economical, and of religious progress. He asked it in the name of those magistrates who had given to the proposal all the weight of influence arising from their official character and experience. He asked it in the name of those hundreds of thousands of persons who had petitioned in favour of the Bill. He asked it in the name of those wretched and degraded men who were the victims of the miserable habit of drunkenness, and who felt and dreaded the temptations to which they were exposed, but were not strong enough in power of self-restraint to resist them, and who therefore required the assistance of Parliament in order that those temptations might be taken away. He asked the House to support him in what in his conscience he believed to be a moderate and reasonable attempt to overcome the most fatal and powerful obstacle in the way of all progress. He implored the House in the name of humanity at least to make an attempt with him to overcome this enemy and to get rid of this evil, which was the evil of all evils, which must be got rid of before any other evil could be completely and fairly grappled with, and any permanent improvement effected in the habits of the people.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. J. A. Smith.)
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he was sure that the House must feel very much indebted to the hon. Member for the able manner in which he had introduced the question. He (Mr. Locke) had only one fault to find, and that was that the hon. Member did not give him the same credit as he gave the hon. Member—of acting from the purest motives. The hon. Member suggested that he (Mr. Locke) had been looking about to find out the strongest side, and had made a mistake after all. Now, the truth was that his opinions on this subject had never varied. He had always considered that 1841 the attempt to make people sober by legislation must necessarily fail. The question now before the House was not, whether drunkenness was a bad thing—for everybody admitted that it was—but, whether the present Bill would prevent the spread of that vice. Both here and at the meeting in Hanover Square yesterday, statistics of drunkenness had been given by his hon. Friend, who had referred to Liverpool, where he said drunkenness was very extensive indeed, and made calculations to show that drunkenness prevailed in Liverpool much more than in any other town in this country. Now, Liverpool, he (Mr. Locke) believed, was under precisely the same law as the rest of England; but the hon. Member meant, he supposed, to say that there were more public-houses in Liverpool, and that was why there was more drunkenness. But his hon. Friend entirely omitted to refer to the fact that Liverpool was one of the greatest ports in this country, and indeed in the world. There were as many Americans and Irish in Liverpool as there were English. There were persons coming from all quarters of the world; and he maintained that the drunkenness in Liverpool was not the consequence of the facilities for drinking, but of the class of persons who came there, and who wanted to drink. He therefore held that the argument founded on the case of Liverpool failed, and that the first proposition of the hon. Member had not been proved. But the hon. Member had referred to the Forbes Mackenzie Act. Now he (Mr. Locke) was not in possession of precise statistics of drunkenness in Scotland. They were not, he believed, to be had. If a statement could have been obtained in regard to Glasgow and Edinburgh and other large towns to show the number of persons punished for being drunk, no doubt his hon. Friend, considering the time he had been engaged in this matter, would have obtained it. What, then, did his hon. Friend rely upon? He relied on the quantity of spirits consumed in any particular place. He (Mr. Locke) was not aware how that could show in any satisfactory manner what the amount of drunkenness had been. Nor had the hon. Member shown that drunkenness was on the increase. They had a right, therefore, to assume that it was diminishing. He (Mr. Locke) believed that the statistics furnished by Sir Richard Mayne would show that the proportion of persons taken up for drunkenness and fined was very much less than for- 1842 merly, and in fact bore an exceedingly small proportion to the bulk of the population. If that were so, why legislate? The next proposition of his hon. Friend was that the working classes were in favour of a restrictive Bill of this sort. Now this, in his opinion, was certainly not paying any very great compliment to the working classes. There was no law in this or any other country compelling a man to drink whether he would or no; nor could such a law be enforced if it existed. But his hon. Friend said the working classes had so little power to restrain themselves that, whether they liked or no, they must go and get drunk. The great bulk of the working classes needed no such protection as the hon. Member was desirous to give them. They were not such children as many of their professed friends would lead the House and the country to believe. They had as much sound sense as their Friends in that House, and probably more. What would his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth (Mr. Thomas Hughes) think if it were proposed to shut up his club on Sundays, lest he should enter into temptation? The Bill proposed that there should be one law for the people of Lambeth and another law for the Member for Lambeth. The hon. Member for Chichester had said he was present on Monday night at a meeting in Southwark; but that was a mistake—the meeting took place in Lambeth. He ventured to assure the hon. Member that the great body of the working men would not thank him for such a Bill. He altogether denied the position laid down by the hon. Member—that because drink could be obtained they would go and drink to excess. They could take much better care of themselves. He had met a working man only this morning casually, and asked whether the labouring classes were in favour of this Bill, and was told they were not. He had also asked the opinions of other working men—respectable, sober men—and they assured him they were decidedly opposed to legislation of this kind, and that the measure would be very unpopular. The views he had expressed he had long entertained. They could not by legislation of this sort make men sober. The next proposition of his hon. Friend was incorrect. It was said every other trade was stopped on Sunday. What did the hon. Member say to cabs and omnibuses? Did not they run on Sundays? Are all the places where people ate and drank closed on Sundays? Were tobac- 1843 conists' shops closed? The number of shops in which cigars are sold on Sundays was very great. The revenue derived from tobacco, the effects of which he believed were not very beneficial, was betwen £6,000,000 and £7,000,000. The quantity consumed must, therefore, be very great. When his hon. Friend talked of the amount spent on intoxicating drinks, it should be borne in mind that the revenue from these drinks and from tobacco amounts to nearly two-thirds of the whole revenue of the country. What did the great consumption of such articles prove? Only that people were richer than they formerly were. The working classes received higher wages, and, therefore, they spent more in these comforts and luxuries of life. Having said so much with regard to the four propositions of his hon. Friend, in all of which he (Mr. Locke) maintained the argument in support of this Bill had entirely failed, he would now say a few words on the Bill itself. It was very short; but those who had only taken it up that morning for the first time would have some difficulty in understanding it. For a short Bill he must say it was, without exception, the most incomprehensible he ever met with, His hon. Friend, probably because he was not a lawyer, did not attempt to explain its details. He dilated most ably, no doubt, on all the general arguments which had been adduced for the last thirty years, but they had been worn threadbare, and, after all, the question arose: What would be the effect of this Bill? The Bill consisted of one clause, but no one could understand that one clause unless he took the trouble to carefully look into three separate Acts of Parliament. The first of these Acts, the 18 &c 19 Vict, c. 118, was that at present in force; the second was the 9 Geo. IV., c. 61, commonly called the Licensing Act, which gave the hours during which public-houses should be allowed to remain open on the Sunday, as from one to three o'clock in the afternoon, and from five to eleven o'clock in the evening, making eight hours. Then came the Act 17 & 18 Vict., c. 79, which enacted that the number of hours should be reduced to five and a half, namely, from one to half-past two in the afternoon, and from six to ten in the evening; but that Act, which was passed in 1854, was, after inquiry by a Committee, repealed in the following year. The promoter of that measure (Colonel Wilson-Patten) would never 1844 have introduced it if he had thought it would prove so unpalatable to the people; and remembering what then occurred, he (Mr. Locke) thought perhaps the little Bill now under consideration might light a fire which would burn, not its author, but itself. His hon. Friend said this was a very small Bill; but the question involved was by no means a small one. The repeal of Colonel Wilson-Patten's Act threw them back on the Act 9 Geo. IV., c. 61, called the Licensing Act. His hon. Friend said there were great defects in the licensing system, and this Bill would show the right way to deal with it—that it was like a rocket sent up to show the direction which legislation should take. But he (Mr. Locke) believed that if the Government brought in a new Licensing Act they would treat the subject in a more artistic way. He was desirous that the whole question of the licensing system should be considered; but it should be treated in a statesmanlike manner. The statesmanlike way of dealing with a question of that kind was to introduce a general measure, and not to look only on one small point. There was no pretence for saying that drunkenness had increased; he believed that, as he said before, it had decreased; and why? In the first place, it was owing to the education of the people, and next to the fact that they were better off. People resorted to drink because they were unhappy and wanted to drown care. The well-to-do man, earning good wages, was much less likely to be a drunkard than he who was scrambling along, hardly able to keep soul and body together. It was the ragged and the wretched that generally resorted to the gin-shop; the bulk of the respectable working classes did nothing of the sort; but if they wanted spirits they had a right to have them just as much as Members of that House. Well, what was the proposal of his hon. Friend's Bill? That public-houses should be open from one till half-past two, and remain closed from that time till eight o'clock in the evening. His hon. Friend considered that that would be a great boon to the working classes. Public-houses in the country were to remain closed during the whole day so far as the consumption of beer, wines, or spirits on the premises was concerned, and during the three and a half hours they were open, wine, beer, and spirits could only be sold for consumption off the premises. Had his hon. Friend turned his attention to the inconvenience that had been created by 1845 enactments of this description? There was a long list of cases in which parties had gone into public-houses and purchased liquors to be consumed off the premises but drank them at the counter, upon which a policeman made his appearance, and the publican, who had been imposed upon, incurred a penalty. That was at present the case with beerhouses. This Bill would introduce that state of things into every house licensed by the magistrates. Again, everybody did not wish to buy beer or wine at precisely the same hour on Sundays, and great inconvenience would be occasioned by compelling people to buy their dinner-beer in the very short period allowed by the Bill. According to the Bill public-houses were to close at ten o'clock. Such a regulation had been found highly objectionable under the Bill of 1854, and would certainly be very awkward and inconvenient in the large provincial towns. Excursion trains generally arrived about ten o'clock, and after that hour no person was to be able to procure refreshment at a public-house. What was the meaning of the proviso in the Bill—This Act shall not preclude a person licensed to sell any fermented or distilled liquor to be consumed on the premises within the metropolitan police district from selling to a person lodging in his house, or to travellers, or to persons bonâ fide taking a meal at his house during the time of such meal?Certainly they did not require an Act of Parliament to allow a lodger to get a glass of beer in the house where he lodged. He could always eat and drink where he lodged. The lodger, who had great political advantages given him last year, might, so far as this Bill was concerned, say to the hon. Member, using a vulgar expression, "Thank you for nothing!" Then that extraordinary character, the bonâ fide traveller, was to still be protected. How delighted he must be that he did not yet come within the clutches of the hon. Member. Many of the supporters of the Bill were not satisfied with it. It was looked upon by them as only an instalment—as a step in the right direction. A proposition had been made to stop all railway travelling on Sunday, and what would then become of the bonâ fide traveller? But liquors were also to be sold to persons taking a meal at the house of a licensed victualler, and "during the time of such meal." Now drinking during meals was not supposed to be very beneficial; but his hon. Friend was endeavouring 1846 by Act of Parliament to compel every man who wanted a meal in a public house at a particular hour to drink during his meal or not at all. Never was there anything so tyrannical. That famous surgeon—what was his name?—who used always to prescribe blue pills, laid down the inflexible rule, "Never drink during your meals, if you wish to have health and strength to carry you through your avocations in this world." Savages, he was told by his friend from Australia (Mr. Marsh), acted upon that principle, and having no licensing Act, and not having the hon. Member to regulate their consciences, they were a most healthy people. But Abernethy did not stop there; he said, "Do drink afterwards." Moreover, he recommended a full tumbler of beer or ale if it did not disagree with a person, but that those who were in the habit of drinking their wine after dinner should continue to do so; and a pleasant old English custom that was. That, however, was to be abolished, and he did not really know what was to become of us all if the most tyrannical enactments were to be applied to every custom of domestic life and usage. Every man who thought another ought to do as he liked provided he hurt nobody else—and that was the law of common sense—was always being told that he was no friend of the working classes; but the true friend of the working classes said of them that they did not know what they were about—that they were miserable children who must go in leading strings, and be taught how every act of their lives was to be performed. These were the views he had always entertained on this subject; he had expressed them freely to his constituents when he stood for the borough of Southwark in 1857. They were approved then by his constituents, and he believed, in spite of the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. J. A. Smith), they would be approved by them again. He was not to be influenced by any intimidation of the sort which the hon. Member had employed. He asked the hon. Gentleman to take back his Bill, to re-consider the question, and not to be too hasty in his attempts to legislate on such a subject. The Bill, if passed, instead of being of service to the country, would have a most dangerous effect. Although the number of petitions in favour of the Bill was greater than that against it, nevertheless the number of signatures in opposition to the measure was vastly larger than that of the signatures in its 1847 support. In nine months the promoters of the Bill had succeeded in obtaining 2,440 petitions in favour of it, signed by 208,166 persons, while in three weeks the working classes opposed to it had sent in petitions to which 500,000 signatures were attached. The hon. Member had greatly mistaken the character of the working classes, when he represented them as requiring perpetual looking after, and as being unable to take care of themselves. In his (Mr. Locke's) opinion, the working classes possessed plenty of good sense and discretion, and to tell men, in whose hands the franchise had been placed by the Act of last Session, that they required a Bill of this kind to protect them against themselves was to insult them. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months,"—(Mr. Locke.)
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
, in seconding the Amendment, said, that he opposed the Bill for many reasons. In the first place he thought that drunkenness would be materially increased by the enactment of this measure. He did not think that the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) in speaking upon this subject, had treated the licensed victuallers very fairly. When he asked "Why don't the licensed victuallers compromise the matter?" he ought to have known that the promoters of the Bill, so far from being willing to accept a compromise, looked upon this measure as simply a step in the right direction, to be followed up by further legislation. He (Mr. Labouchere) was certain that if the licensed victuallers believed that, by any action of theirs, the peace and decency of the Sunday could be better secured they would cheerfully give their assistance towards securing those results; but it was impossible to suppose that the public interests would be served by requiring all the inns and refreshment rooms throughout the country to be closed during the whole of the Sun day. The licensed victuallers could not accept the restrictions which the Bill proposed to effect. They had invested their capital in their public-houses upon the faith that Parliament was not going to pursue a see-saw policy—to open the public-houses at one time and to shut them at another. It was true that petitions had been presented in favour of the Bill; but he 1848 asked the hon. Member whether it was not the fact that a large number of the signatures attached to them were those of young girls at school. The hon. Member said that all the women were in favour of the Bill, but he could tell him that the greatest drinkers of gin in the metropolis were the women. ["Oh, oh!"] It often happened that when the working man went to his work in the morning, leaving a shilling with his wife to provide food for the family, she immediately went with two or three other women to get a quartern of gin. The reason why the hon. Member did not wait until next Session to introduce such a Bill was because he knew that the working classes, who would be largely represented in the next Parliament, were opposed to it. A clerical friend had assured him (Mr. Labouchere) that there was a general feeling among the working men against the measure. The hon. Member spoke of the money wasted on drink by the working classes on Sunday; but was not a far larger sum wasted on the Saturday night and on the Monday and Tuesday; and he should like to know what proportion of their incomes hon. Gentlemen wasted? ["Oh!"] He denied that any more drunkenness takes place on Sunday than on other days. It had been clearly shown that, while more beer was drunk on the Sunday, there was a less consumption of spirits. The hon. Member said he did not wish to introduce the religious question into the discussion; but without doing so it was impossible to make out a case for closing public-houses on the Sunday. The Archbishop of York said yesterday, at the Hanover Square Rooms, that what he wanted was that "God's day should be entirely devoted to God's work." No one could deny the excellence of that wish; but it must be applied to the clubs as much as to the pot-house. They must not deprive the working man who made an excursion to Richmond from obtaining refreshment, whilst his richer neighbour was regaling himself at the Star and Garter. It was all very well to say that club houses were private houses: the working man could not enter into the nice distinction that was drawn. He should like to know how many persons were employed on Sundays at the clubs; for it was well known that a Member could go into a club at any hour on a Sunday and have his glass of ale or wine. The promoters of this movement had no right to obtain a verdict on a false issue. 1849 The real question before the House was whether the State had the right to prevent the innocent use of alcoholic beverages in order to put an end to their injurious use. He was opposed to all sumptuary laws, and he thought by passing this Bill they would be setting an exceedingly bad example to the next Parliament by reversing the policy pursued of late years with regard to those prohibitory Acts. A law that was passed in advance of public opinion was entirely inoperative. Hon. Gentlemen who were in favour of prohibitive laws for the sale of intoxicating liquors frequently quoted the example of America; but what had been the experience of America upon that subject? In Massachusetts public opinion had changed, and a Select Committee of the State Legislature had reported against the Maine Liquor Law, because it led to the opening of secret drinking-places, and increased drunkenness. The chief of the police at Boston represented that in 1854, the year before the adoption of the Maine Liquor Law, the number of known places where liquors were sold was 1,500, and that in 1866 they had increased to 1,515, whilst the number of drunkards had increased from 6,983 to 15,543 within the same period. And what reason was there to doubt that the same results would follow in this country? It might be desirable to have some alteration in the existing law, but he disagreed with the proposed plan. Drunkenness might be much diminished by altering the licensing system, and if the promoters of this movement were to make the licensed victuallers their allies rather than their enemies they would very soon put an end to that vice. The interests of the licensed victuallers were bound up in sobriety. [Laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh, but it was so. Any man could get drunk in his own house or in that of his neighbour, and neither of them could be punished; but if a publican permitted drunkenness on his premises he ran the risk of losing his license and of being ruined. No doubt there were disreputable publicans, but the respectable portion were not to be condemned on that ground. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) had informed him that he proposed to move an Amendment in Committee if the Bill was read a second time, and he (Mr. Labouchere) wished to know if the promoters of the Bill would accept it, because it would have a material effect on the votes of hon. Members that afternoon. The 1850 hon. Gentleman proposed to move in Committee that public-houses should be opened on Sundays from one till three o'clock and from five till nine o'clock for the sale of liquors for consumption off the premises. He (Mr. Labouchere), however, was of opinion that, if public houses were opened at all, it would be a mistake to forbid drinking on the premises. Even if they were successful in enforcing such a law, let them contemplate the state on a Sunday evening of Hampstead Heath and other localities in the suburbs, when persons would bring ardent spirits with them, and consume them in the open air.
rose to order, and asked if it was competent for the hon. Member to discuss an Amendment which was not then before the House?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, it was desirable that the House should know before going to a division whether such an Amendment would be accepted by the promoters of the Bill. Unless they did so he hoped the House would stop the further progress of the measure.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he felt considerable difficulty on this subject. He could not support the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), because it opposed all change; neither could he agree with the Bill of the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. J. A. Smith). The best course was to proceed upon the old road, and allow liquor to be sold for consumption, on or off the premises, on Sunday, but he thought the hours should be from one o'clock to half-past two, and from half-past four until nine. During those hours the working-men would be able to get all the refreshment they required, whether upon their excursions or after attending church, funerals, or christenings; and the public-houses would be shut before the time when drunkenness usually began to take place. The Government ought to agree to put a clause into any Bill of this kind to enable publicans, should they desire to do so, to take out a six days' license, for which they should pay a less sum than for the usual license; and he believed that if this proposal were adopted a large number of licensed victuallers would gladly avail themselves of the alternative thus offered them. This plan had answered well in the case of cab licenses. A great objection to the Bill was that it proposed to deal differently with 1851 the metropolis and the country generally. Drink with meals was as requisite in one place as in the other; but as the Bill was drawn it would interfere with bonâ fide travellers in the country. There never could be a better time than the present for effecting some change in the law upon the subject. There was a strong feeling among the working classes in the country in favour of a further restriction on the sale of liquors on Sunday, but, at the same time there was great objection to this Bill. He would have no objection, however, to the Bill being read a second time, upon the understanding that it should then be referred to a Select Committee, and he hoped that this suggestion would receive the approbation of the hon. Members for Southwark and Middlesex.
said, he regarded the question before the House as one that was calculated to show whether Parliament was willing to make an onward step in the regulation of the liquor traffic on Sundays. He did not think that there was any principle so strictly defined in the Bill as to bind them, if they voted for the second reading, to anything more than a willingness to consider whether they could with equity to all parties impose further restrictions on the liquor traffic. There was one observation which he had heard made to which he wished to offer a reply. It was contended that the condition of the country already exhibited a great improvement with respect to drunkenness, and that we ought to be satisfied with that improvement; but he doubted whether the improvement, which certainly was perceptible in many quarters, was uniform throughout the whole country. A very intelligent deputation, composed almost entirely of working men, who had waited upon him from Lancashire had urged—and in their arguments they were supported by the evidence of the police authorities—that the improvement in that great community was not such as had been stated, and, he believed, truly stated, by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark as the general rule. Independently of that, however, even if drunkenness was decreasing, it still remained one of the greatest scandals, disgraces, and misfortunes of the country; and he did not think that Parliament was bound to refrain from making war against it, simply because, on the whole, it was on the decline. He trusted that in any case the Government would give their assent to the second reading of the Bill after the 1852 wise recommendation made by his hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert). There were many reasons which, in his opinion, warranted the reference of the subject to a Committee of Inquiry. His hon. Friend who had introduced the measure very judiciously, appeared to found his arguments in its support upon the favour with which he believed it was regarded by the working classes of the country. For his own part, he must confess that, however much such a measure might be favoured by the chairmen of benches of magistrates and the chiefs of municipal bodies, and other persons in authority, he should look with great suspicion upon any movement for restrictive measures of this sort, if that movement were confined to the members of the upper and middle classes; and he was certainly, though it might sound somewhat paradoxical, unwilling to do good to the working classes against their will. It appeared to him, therefore, to be very important that the promoters and opponents of the Bill should have an opportunity, if they felt disposed, to bring forward evidence as to the real feelings of the working classes upon such a measure as the present one. He was inclined to believe that the general opinion in the North of England was in favour of some measure of the kind, but there might be a difference of opinion in other parts of the country. If the general opinion of the working classes could be obtained there was so much sympathy among that class in respect to measures which affected them that such an opinion must exercise a very strong influence upon the House. Another question upon which they might perhaps be enabled by this means to arrive at a valuable conclusion was, whether it might or might not be wise to introduce the principle of local legislation, power being given to the local authorities in modes which the law might specify, so as to adapt the application of principles to circumstances. He must also venture to endorse, as far as he might, the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Oldham with reference to the six days' licenses. That was a question which, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had had occasion to consider with reference to the cab trade, and the principle was one which he believed could not, in this case, be regarded as unreasonable. The distinction had, he believed, so far as it had been applied, been found to work in a most satisfactory manner, and the grounds which existed for its adoption in the case of cabs 1853 were much stronger in the case of public-houses. He trusted that the suggestion which had been made by his hon. Friend would reconcile in a great degree the diversities of opinion which existed in the House, and which threatened to occupy the whole of the afternoon in the discussion of the subject. Every consideration of equity would be on the side of such a plan; because it was but fair that a man who was prepared to forego his trade profits on Sundays should not be charged so much for his license as he who did not. He rejoiced to witness the conciliatory spirit in which the supporters of the Bill were prepared to receive the suggestions of opponents, and he could not doubt that if the hon. Member consented to send the Bill to a Select Committee the Government would agree to the second reading.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
desired to compliment his hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. J. A. Smith) in not following the example of persons who had on former occasions introduced similar Bills, by assuming to himself a monopoly of righteousness and goodness. He felt bound, at the same time, to remark that his hon. Friend, in accusing the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) of opposing the Bill on personal and politic grounds, was using an argument which might be employed with equal force against himself. It must, however, be perfectly clear that they all had the same end in view; for every man worthy the name of a Member of that House desired to contribute all in his power to the decrease of drunkenness, and the only difference was as to the means of suppressing it. He contended that every attempt to go further than the present law would fail to effect that object. It was only a few years since that they were told to be guided by experience; and there was a finger always pointing across the Atlantic, where the Maine Liquor Law was said to have conferred such incalculable benefits upon the American people. He would, however, boldly assert—and he knew that nobody could disprove it—that that law had been an utter failure. His hon. Friend said that the Maine Liquor Law was a measure which he did not approve. That might be so now, but did not everything that surrounded the Bill go to show that it was intended as an introduction to some such legislation? He had heard an observation which fell from the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone,) He did not for one moment 1854 mean to say that the right hon. Gentleman contemplated such a step; for the right hon. Gentleman was far too wise and far too well acquainted with men's characters and the way to deal with them ever to have entertained any such stupid notion. The Maine Liquor law had been carried by fanaticism in America, and that fanaticism had found friends in this country. His hon. Friend the Member for Cgichester might not intend to lend himself to such a result; but when his hon. Friend fainted on the way, others would be found ready and willing to take his place. He should be glad to know if this was really the way to deal with the working classes. The House had handed over the government of the country to the working classes, and now they appeared to think that the working classes were incapable of governing themselves, and that a Bill must be brought in to prevent a man from going wrong, when he knew he was going wrong, because he had himself not the courage or the power to prevent it. The distinction in the application of the Bill to London and the country arose, as the hon. Member for Chichester himself admitted, from the fact that the interest of the licensed victuallers was stronger in the metropolis than it was elsewhere. What, however, would be the effect of the Bill upon the working classes of London? A working man in London, who was employed in labour from Monday morning to Saturday night in occupations which he pursued steadily, quietly, and soberly in a darkened atmosphere, might reasonably wish to go into the country on Sundays, where in the company of his wife and family he could enjoy the blessing of fresh air. But Gentlemen connected with the movement advocated by his hon. Friend opposed this, and wished the working men to remain in the almost pestilent atmosphere of London rather than, as they called it, desecrate the Sabbath. He (Mr. Roebuck) could see no desecration of the Sabbath—or the Sunday, for he did not like to hear it called the Sabbath—in a man's going into the fields to breathe the fresh air and to contemplate the great works of God. That was no desecration in the mind of a civilized or educated man; but it was a desecration in the mind of the ascetics who proposed this Bill. Was it good legislation to say to a man, "You shall not have your beer," and could anyone doubt that it was this which, though not expressed, was in their minds in framing this measure? It would be said that a 1855 working man could go into the country on Sundays because there were plenty of railroads by which he might travel. That was true, but as soon as a working man got into the country he would be subjected to all the inconveniences of this measure. Supposing him to have taken with him his wife and family and his basket of provisions, but to have forgotten his bottle containing his pint or quart of beer—and if there were six children besides himself and his wife a quart would not be too much; there were hon. Gentlemen near him who could drink a good deal more—he would find that he could obtain no beer, and he must go to the next river and drink water. He (Mr. Roebuck) would ask, did his hon. Friend himself drink water on Sundays? When passing by his club on Sunday, did he not go in and read Punch and take his glass of sherry? It was wonderful how good we could be for other people. Did anybody say that that was not a true picture? He should like to see that man. The picture was a true one and a very plain one. Now, the House should remember that they were on the eve of an election in which great political power was to be placed in the hands of the working classes of the country. Was that, then, a time when a Bill of this character should be brought in—a Bill greatly affecting their interests, but upon which they had no opportunity of expressing an opinion? But it was contended that the Bill had been largely petitioned for. What were the facts? The Returns of the number of petitions and their signatures had been published up to the 13th of that month, and it appeared that 200,000 persons had signed petitions in favour of the Bill during the present Session of Parliament—petitions that had been in course of signature for the last six months. [Several hon. MEMBERS: Nine months.] Well, say nine months. But those who had been working against this Bill had only been working for three weeks, and he was told that the signatures they had procured numbered nearly 500,000. Yet the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chichester came forward and called himself the representative of the whole of the working classes. The organizers of petitions in favour of the Bill began, moreover, by asserting that they would not accept the signature of any one below sixteen years of age. Did the hon. Member for Chichester believe that promise had been adhered to? Was it not a fact that the petitions had been taken into the 1856 different schools, and that the children even had been asked to sign? It had been said that the licensed victuallers had an interest in the question. Well, so they had. But what was their power compared with that of the landowners and clergymen? The clergyman of the parish—whose knowledge of politics was not equal to his knowledge of theology—called at the cottage in the absence of the husband, and found at home the wife and the children, and he learned that when the husband had been drinking he came home and beat his wife, beat his child, and beat his dog. "Then," asked the clergyman, "are you not opposed to drunkenness?" "Oh, yes, I am." "Then," said the clergyman, "sign this petition;" so she signed the petition, under the impression that it was to put an end to drunkenness. The petitions presented that day were signed, without exception, by men—men upon whom, for the most part, they had lately conferred the franchise, and whom they had only recently admitted to a share in the Government of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire proposed that the matter should be referred to a Committee of Inquiry. He (Mr. Roebuck had listened to the arguments which had heen employed with reference to the appointment of a Commission on another question; and in that case the Commission was objected to because, it was said, it was a pretext for delaying legislation. He could not recognize a different principle in the present case. The right hon. Gentleman was a sufficiently able legislator to know what to do. He had studied the nature of mankind sufficiently to know that; by legislating in the direction of this measure, we should be landing ourselves, as the people of New England had landed themselves, upon the barren rock of the Maine Liquor Law. One word to the Government. He would ask them to be bold in their generation. They had already done things at which they looked with something like shuddering. They need be under no alarm for the hon. Gentleman's millions, because they would on examination be found to dwindle to next to nothing. And he would remind hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who feared the influence of their conduct in this matter on their future elections, that the organization of the licensed victuallers was superior to the organization of the hon. Gentleman's Friends. It must not be forgotten that the present Bill was but the 1857 offshoot of a much greater plan; for the Permissive Bill, the Sunday Trading Bill, and the anti-desecration of the Sabbath movement were all most intimately associated; and, as he had before remarked in the House, two muddy streams converged—the fanaticism of the anti-liquor gentlemen and the fanaticism of the Sabbath-preservation Yankee—when they came together the stream might be large, but it would also be muddy and shallow. He hoped that the Government would take a decided course in the matter, and would not abdicate its proper functions by consenting to the reference of this subject to a Committee. If they deserved the name of a Government they would be ready to announce a definite policy in reference to a Bill like this, which was a class measure that would not affect gentlemen at all. If such a principle as that contained in this Bill were adopted, he should certainly propose its extension to the London clubs, and if the House refused to accede to that proposal, the people would see that those who were their professed friends had solely the making of political capital in view.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that if the House had been under the necessity of accepting or rejecting the Bill in its present form, he would have had no difficulty in stating that, in his opinion, it carried restriction to a length that would inevitably lead to a reaction, which might place the House of Commons in a very undesirable position. But he felt convinced that the contradictory statements and conflicting opinions of the promoters and the opponents of such a measure could only be brought into harmony, and the law amended in a satisfactory manner, by a judicial inquiry. When they came to deal with a question like the present—a question involving £15,000,000 or £16,000,000 a year—they should remember that the people who frequent public-houses form a large portion of the community. The House, he presumed, would allow that, from his antecedents, he was entitled to disclaim any partiality for freedom of drunkenness or licensing, although he reminded hon. Members who supported the measure, that all who went into public-houses on Sundays did not go there for the purpose of indulging in drunkenness or immorality. On the contrary, many visited them for the purpose of obtaining the refreshments necessary for their comfort; and by such a measure as the one now under consideration, they would not only be closing these eatablish- 1858 ments against the drunkard, but also against that class to whose benefit and use Parliament desired they should be subservient. With regard to the licensed victuallers—men who were engaged in a trade which was to a certain extent protected and privileged—he contended that Parliament was perfectly at liberty to impose such restrictions on the sale and use of stimulants as it might consider beneficial to the community, and in the imposition of such restrictions he should regard the interests of the public and not those of the licensed victuallers. There was little doubt that the petitions for the Bill had been signed in the way pointed out by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), but no one who had seen the enormous placards in the windows of ginshops and public-houses could doubt that the licensed victuallers had made use of an extensive organization to get the petitions signed against the Bill. But the fact was that the question was connected with one that must be raised sooner or later—namely, our general licensing system. That question had undergone considerable changes of late years, partly in consequence of the Beerhouse Bill, and partly in consequence of the Wine Licenses Bill, which was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone). There could, in his opinion, be scarcely anything more unreasonable than the present state of things, by which a man who had been refused a spirit license by a bench of magistrates, could immediately go and set up a wine and beer shop without their permission. With respect to the proposal that licenses at a proportionately reduced expense should be granted for six days instead of seven, he might remark that the difference in the beer license, the expense of the license being, he believed, only £3 or £3 3s.—and the public-house license was little more—would be scarcely appreciable. If, indeed, the recommendations made by the Committee which sat some years since, and which was presided over by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers) were adopted, the plan would deserve more attention, because it was proposed by that Committee that the charge for the licenses should be increased to an extent which would warrant a difference being made. He could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) that local distinctions would be desirable. If that point was to be inquired into, it would also be 1859 necessary to consider the nature of the authority by which the local regulations were to be laid down. He, for one, should certainly under no circumstances consent to the distinction which it was proposed by this Bill to draw between London and the country. He could not, for instance, see why one rule should be applied to London and another to large places like Liverpool and Manchester. He did not agree with the hon. Member for Sheffield that gentlemen would be free from the operation of the Bill, because, as hon. and learned Gentlemen well knew, when on circuit they were in the habit of getting upon Sundays a dinner at an hotel which they would not be able to get under this Bill. He must say this was a question which required most careful and most prudent consideration. He thought the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had given most excellent advice to the deputation of licensed victuallers who waited on him the other day, and he felt with the hon. Gentleman that, although they might all desire that Sunday trading should be reduced to a minimum, it was difficult to do so without being guilty of injustice to those who sold and those who bought. He did not think that the advocates of temperance were acting rightly in endeavouring to bring about so great a change, which would be, in effect, an absolute prohibition against public-houses—which were now open for eight hours on Sundays—opening at all during those eight hours. He found by the Report presented to the House in 1857 that many people had their meals in public-houses and beershops, and he thought that secret drinking, which they must all deprecate, would be considerably increased if they imposed the excessive restriction contemplated by the Bill. By shutting one avenue another was generally opened for those who were bent upon arriving at any particular point. Having given some consideration to this matter, he had been prepared to vote against the Bill if the hon. Member for Chichester had gone to a division on the measure in its integrity. If, however, his hon. Friend was prepared to leave it to be dealt with freely and impartially by a Committee who were not to be bound by what was contained within its four corners, he was prepared to support the second reading.
MR. J. A. SMITH
said, he was quite ready to accept the suggestion which had been thrown out, as to referring the Bill to a Select Committee.
§ MR. POWELL
had intended to oppose the Motion for the second reading, but the suggestion of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) was so reasonable that he would vote for the Bill on the understanding that it was to be referred to a Select Committee. He did not for a moment believe that, under any circumstances, the measure would lead to the establishment in England of a Maine Liquor Law. It had been said that the trade in liquor was the only one that was sanctioned on Sunday. But he contended that though there were formal laws against trade on Sundays, these laws had practically become a dead letter. General trade was free, and the liquor trade was the only one that was fettered with severe regulations on Sunday. He hoped the Select Committee, to whom this Bill was to be referred, would pay great attention to the suggestion that had been made by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) of issuing six days' as well as seven days' licenses for the sale of liquor. It was not the mere difference in the money price of the licenses that would operate; but the question would be one of a moral character. Many public-house keepers would be glad of the Sunday holyday, and many a landowner, anxious for the moral improvement of his people, would make it a condition that the public-house keeper on his estate should only take out the six days' license. He trusted that Parliament would not, as on the last occasion, legislate on this subject in such a way as to arouse an agitation, in the midst of which they would be compelled to reverse their proceedings.
said: Sir, I should not have presumed to have taken part in a debate so soon after I had had the honour of being elected a Member of this House were it not that I take a great interest in this Bill, and have had of late considerable and peculiar opportunities of making myself acquainted with the wishes not only of the trade, but of the working classes upon this question. In 1865, as the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Powell) will remember, and again during the recent election, the greatest interest was taken in this matter by the electoral body, and, as the representative of one of the most important manufacturing populations, I have thus had many opportunities of forming an opinion as to the reduction of the hours of Sunday trading. I am convinced that, with some modifications, this Bill will answer its purpose, and that by reading it a second 1861 time we do not precede, but only cautiously follow in, the steps of public opinion. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) has compared the number of petitions and impugned the way in which ours have been got up. Perhaps he himself supplied the answer when he said that the organization of the licensed victuallers was superior to that of the promoters of the Bill. The trade are by no means united upon the point. In Liverpool two of the largest brewers, members of the Town Council, have begun to close their houses on Sundays, and since the 1st of March no less than sixty or eighty houses have been thus closed. Liverpool having been attacked, I may add that the free-trade system produced, in the opinion of a majority of the magistrates, such an increase of drunkenness and disorder, that during the last two licensing sessions that policy was reversed, and no licence granted to any but bonâ fide luncheon-houses, which closed at seven on week days and all day on Sunday. The beerhouse keepers at Stoke-upon-Trent wish to be put on a footing of equality with the licensed victuallers, subject to the same restrictions, but endowed with the same privileges. During the Reform debates I heard to my surprise that there were 27 per cent of working men upon the present register. Familiar as I was with the constituency, I had never met these numbers of working men, but I find that they were many of them beerhouse keepers, whose wives kept the shop while their husbands earned weekly wages. These men are as anxious as any one to have a Sunday holiday, and will hail as a boon the reduction of their hours of labour. The object of the promoters of this Bill is not so much to stop drunkenness as to stop excessive drinking on Saturday and Sunday nights. Too much use is made of the word drunkard. No legislation will stop him; if he cannot drink in public-houses he will drink in secret, and if there be only one in 100 of the population a confirmed drunkard, we need not legislate for him. But as matters now stand, the temptations in the way of the working classes to spend more money than they should in public-houses the day after their wages are paid are almost too great to be resisted. Our great object ought to be, not only to stop drunkenness, but to stop excessive drinking on Saturday nights and Sundays. The hon. Member for Sheffield has drawn a graphic picture of the mechanic taking his wife and chil- 1862 dren to the country on a Sunday afternoon, with the basket of provisions, and the omitted beer. But I could draw as graphic a picture of crowds of women and children coming to the doors of public-houses on Saturday and Sunday nights, and begging on their knees for their share, and for less than their share, of the past week's wages to support them and their children during the coming week. It is these avenues to an unnecessary expenditure that we want to close. We are all anxious to raise the working classes in the scale of education, and we look forward to a large and comprehensive scheme of education; but what stops the way is not the weekly pence for the schools, it is the want of clothes to go to school in, and no money to buy them with, in consequence of the fathers spending their wages in drink. As the right hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. G. Hardy) have both agreed to that course, I conclude the Bill will be read a second time, and then referred to a Select Committee, whence I hope it will emerge in a different shape, and that the clauses will be simplified by the omission of all these "on and off the premises" and "bonâ fide meal" paragraphs. I hope we shall have no addition to the complications which already exist, rendering the law almost impossible to obey, and quite impossible to enforce. We have already the "lodger," who always appears to have only called in for a glass of beer; and the "traveller" who has travelled from the nearest beerhouse, and the drink drawn before twelve, which always, somehow, appears to be fresh at one; and all this leads to hard swearing on the part of the publican endeavouring to avoid a fine, and of the policemen determined to get a conviction. This exception of "on the premises" it is impossible to maintain. If I send for a jug of beer it is served "off the premises." if I go myself, buy one, and then drink a glass out of my own jug, the law is broken. Why, it would take a policeman to each public-house to enforce this law. In the words of the French proverb, "a door must be open or shut." Let the trade be carried on as usual between fixed hours, and let the hours of labour be reduced to the publican by reducing the hours of sale. Of course the special exemption of the metropolis cannot be maintained; the House can never consent to one law for London and another for the large cities in the provinces; nor can 1863 I support the proposition of the hon. Member for Oldham, that the hours on Sundays should be from five to nine, as I very much prefer that they should be from eight to ten. I have now, Sir, only to thank the House for the great courtesy with which they have listened to me.
said, it was an unusual thing to refer a short Bill like the present, and one which was far from being approved, to a Select Committee. But, as he understood the matter, the whole subject was to be referred under cover of this Bill. He did not think that was a very convenient way of proceeding, because they would seem to be endorsing the principle of an unsatisfactory Bill by sending it to a Select Committee, but would receive from that Committee a Bill altogether different, and they would then have no time to consult their constituents as to the equity of its provisions. For his part, he protested in that case against being supposed to be bound by what was contained in the four corners of the Bill. Was he to understand that the Committee would have power to examine witnesses—did they intend to examine witnesses? [Mr. J. A. SMITH: Hear, hear!] He was glad to hear that—it was, in fact, what he had risen to ask. If it were distinctly understood that the whole subject would be before the Committee, none of them—the pros or the cons—would be bound by any decision to which the Select Committee might come. It was impossible to conceal from themselves that great interest was taken in this subject out of doors. It was also impossible to conceal that a great change had taken place in the habits and feeling of the working classes within the last fourteen or fifteen years. He would not therefore oppose the second reading of the Bill, though its wording was on many points rather vague. He thought those who would afterwards have to define the application of the word "meal," would have their ingenuity taxed. Some men might sit drinking for an hour, and be all that time eating a biscuit—would that be held to be a meal? Then he objected to there being one law for the country and another for the metropolis. Another important subject was how far the local authorities were to be empowered to act in order to bring the Bill into operation. That was a large subject, and if it were to be discussed in Committee, and evidence taken with regard to it, he did not think there would be much chance of speedy legislation.
§ MR. OSBORNE
said, they had heard something about this Parliament being incompetent to deal with questions of Reform on the other side of the Channel; and, considering how large a question was involved in the Bill before them, he denied the "moral competence" of a moribund Parliament to deal with it in the way proposed. It seemed to him that some private agreement had been come to in the Lobbies about the matter since the debate had commenced; some compromise had evidently been agreed on. He was against any compromise whatever, and would like to hear some answer to the admirable argument of his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck). He would not have risen but that the right hon Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) had congratulated the House that the Bill was an onward step. Instead of that he (Mr. Osborne) thought it was one of the most positively retrogressive steps which had ever been made. Could that be called an onward step which proposed one law for one part of the country and another law for another part? When the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. J. A. Smith) proposed concessions in favour of London, he evidently had the fate of Lord Robert Grosvenor's Bill before his eyes; and yet he proposed to force his measure on the country. Could that be called an onward step? To act on the suggestion of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) appeared to him to be a mere nibbling at the question. The proper course was not to send this Bill upstairs, but for the Government of the day to deal with the subject in a comprehensive manner. Let the Bill be negatived, and then let the whole licensing system be referred to a Select Committee, which they all knew would not report before this Parliament was dead. The subject was one pre-eminently fitted for the next Parliament; it affected the people. He was against your paternal system of Government, which dealt with the people of this great country, now newly endowed with the franchise, as mere children. To pass this Bill was not—to use the expression of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire—the way to make war against drunkenness; if the people were fit to have votes, they were fit to cultivate self-restraint, which was never the growth of a paternal Government. The hon. Member for Sheffield had told them he was nearly dragged to pieces by enthusiasts on this question; his experience 1865 was, that all Members for large districts were dragged to pieces by two societies—on the one side the Licensed Victuallers', and on the other the United Kingdom Alliance. They had had a speech during the debate from an hon. Gentleman who was a member of the United Kingdom Alliance, and some of his observations had struck him with the greatest horror. The hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Melly) not only desired to further restrict the hours during which public-houses might be open, but wanted a law for regulating the hours of labour. ["No!"] He had remarked it particularly, and he warned the House to beware of the course they were entering on of legislating for every petty affair. The statesmanlike course was to legislate with a view to inculcate habits of self-restraint among the working classes, not to pass Bills framed in the spirit of that before them.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
would not have troubled the House but for the very personal and not complimentary observations of his learned Friend below him. [Mr. ROEBUCK: You do not mean me, I hope?] He referred to the other hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Southwark, (Mr. Locke). He had been asked by him what he would do if it were proposed to close his club on Sunday? He would certainly vote against such a proposal. But the cases were not analogous. There was a clear distinction between public-houses and clubs. Anybody could enter a public-house who chose to do so, whereas a club was open only to a certain number of gentlemen, carefully selected. Boys and girls could, and did frequent public-houses, and met there with all sorts of bad characters. If that distinction was not clear to hon. Gentlemen, he did not know what could be made clear to them. If hon. Members knew half as much about the state of feeling among the working classes as they pretended to do, they would know that, for many years, a movement had been going on in favour of establishing clubs for working men. He heartily went with the movement, believing that nothing could be more wholesome or more useful for that class. He would advise his hon. and learned Friends to support it, instead of opposing this Bill, if they really wanted to help the working classes. He quite admitted that the borough he represented—and that which his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Locke) represented—formed the battle-ground of the question now at issue. 1866 And who were the parties respectively? On one side was the strong organization of the licensed victuallers—a force of which he should be glad to have the support, if the price to be paid for it were not too heavy—and they had used their organization in the most energetic manner to get up petitions against the Bill. They happened to have the heads both of the Established Church and of the Roman Catholic Church in his borough. Well, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the organization of the Established Church, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and the clergy under him, and the very large and powerful Baptist and Independent bodies were all warm supporters of the Bill There was not, in fact, any minister of any religion in London who was not in favour of this Bill. There was no one connected with education among its opponents. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, if so, let the person, whether schoolmaster, pupil-teacher, Scripture-reader, or person connected in any way with the education or relief of the poor, be pointed out. There might be narrowness and bigotry upon one side as on the other; but which did the House think it best to go with—the licensed victuallers or the ministers of religion? Then it was said that the Bill was an interference with the liberty of the subject. But the principle of Sunday closing had already been recognized, and the question was no longer one of principle but of detail, and of the amount of public advantage. It was simply a question, whether several hours should be knocked off the time for drinking in public-houses on Sunday evenings, the hours which those best able to judge declared were more mischievous than all the rest of the week. He was a warm friend of liberty; but there were some kinds of liberty which he did not think very valuable. Among them was the liberty of going to the devil, of which an American humourist had said that the only advantage he could see about it was that "the way was easy, and you were perfectly certain to get there." The country was endangered by a mass of pauperism—every twenty-fifth person in the country, according to the official statistics, being a pauper; and of this lamentable state of things drinking, they were assured, was the mainspring. Nobody in the House proposed the adoption of the Maine Liquor Law, or anything like it, and to assert that any one did was only to throw dust in their eyes. When they were told, by all who were 1867 qualified to speak on the subject, that this Bill would be beneficial, he trusted that it would be read a second time.
explained, that when he spoke of the hours of labour he alluded to the hours of the people employed in the trade, and begged to say that he was not a member of the Alliance League.
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, the statistics which had been adduced with regard to Liverpool were not to be relied on for purposes of comparison. Liverpool possessed an excellent and highly efficient police force, which reported every case of drunkenness, and even minute cases, such as in other places would be passed by. There was undoubtedly drunkenness enough in the locality; but it should be remembered that there was a large floating population of 20,000, principally seamen and foreigners, to aid in swelling the Returns. To the system of free trade in licenses, which had been opposed by large masses of the population, many of the evils existing in Liverpool were to be ascribed. It had been ascertained by a house-to-house canvass of 60,000 householders that 91 per cent of the inhabitants were in favour of the entire closing of the public-houses on Sunday. The question had been represented by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. T. Hughes) as one entirely between the licensed victuallers and ministers of religion; but in Liverpool that was not so; 700 of the licensed victuallers had given their signatures in favour of closing, and 150 of them, he believed, now closed voluntarily upon Sunday. The great objection which he felt to the Bill was the exception made in favour of the metropolitan boroughs. There ought not to be one law for the metropolis and another for the provinces. Unless the Bill were to be referred to a Select Committee, he should have great difficulty in voting for the second reading.
MR. J. A. SMITH
said, that he was quite willing to refer the Bill to a Select Committee; but he was not willing to undertake an inquiry into the whole licensing system. He was ready to enter into all questions that flowed naturally from the provisions of the Bill, but he did not feel competent to face the large subject of licensing. If it was meant that this Bill should be referred to a Committee to be destroyed, and for another to be substituted in its place, that he understood, and such a reference he was prepared to accept; but he was not willing to enter upon an inquiry that might last for years into the general 1868 licensing system of the country—a question which could only be properly dealt with by the Government. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had not answered his argument; but had imputed to him objects and opinions which he not only did not entertain; but which he had never entertained, and which were entirely foreign to his feelings. He knew little or nothing about the petitions which had been presented; but he utterly disbelieved the statements which had been made as to the use of improper means to obtain signatures in favour of the Bill. It had been represented that the number of signatures to petitions against the Bill amounted to 500,000. He could only say that on the 13th instant—only five days ago—a Report had been published from the Committee upon Petitions, in which the total signatures against the Bill were set down at 50,000. It certainly would be very remarkable if, in the short interval which had since elapsed, petitions bearing 450,000 signatures had been presented; and from the estimate which he had formed of the character of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), he felt sure that, if amistake had been committed, he would take an early opportunity of saying so.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
, on rising to explain, said, that he had made no imputation upon the objects or views of his hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. J. A. Smith). He had merely stated that his hon. Friend was in the hands of persons who had the objects, and entertained the views, to which he had referred.
§ MR. HARVEY LEWIS
thought it important that a clear understanding should be arrived at as to the point upon which they were about to divide, and as to the precise order of Reference. That they were all in confusion upon this point had been indicated already by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), who, with his unrivalled experience, was generally enabled to hit the right nail on the head. And he wished accordingly for some distinct explanation on the point. He concurred in opinion with the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire, that it was an exceedingly inconvenient practice to refer to a Select Committee a Bill which was condemned by a great majority of the House. He should be satisfied if the whole system of Sunday trading in liquors was referred to a Select Committee, impartially selected. 1869 If that course were adopted, the Bill ought to be negatived, instead of being read a second time. In reference to the remark, which had just fallen from the hon. Member for Chichester, as to the number of signatures to petitions, he himself had presented petitions with from 10,000 to 12,000 signatures in the aggregate within the last three days, and he had no doubt many other hon. Members had done the same.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
, interposing, appealed to the Speaker to inform the House what would be the powers of the Committee to which it was suggested that the Bill should be referred. It was "a Bill for further regulating the Sale of Fermented and Distilled Liquors in England and Wales." Would it not, therefore, be in the power of the Committee to inquire into all matters connected with the sale of liquors on Sunday in England and Wales?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Bill being referred, the power of the Select Committee would be confined to the subject-matter of the Bill, and if it was desired to proceed further, and take in the subject of the general licensing system., that could not be done without a special Instruction to the Committee.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
But, Sir, if we pass the second reading, do not we pass the principle of the Bill; and if we pass the principle of the Bill, do not we acknowledge at once that further legislation is requisite?
§ MR. SPEAKER
That question almost answers itself. Of course, if you pass the second reading, you affirm the principle of the Bill.
§ MR. HARVEY LEWIS
said, he understood, then, that the whole subject of further regulating the sale of fermented and distilled liquors on Sunday in England and Wales was to be referred to a Select Committee; and further, that neither that Committee nor the House were in the slightest degree bound by one single particle contained in the Bill.
§ MR. BOWEN
said, he wished to point out for the information of the House that the Report of the Committee on Public Petitions showed that in 100 of the petitions in favour of the Bill many of the signatures were not in the handwriting of the persons whose names they purported to be, and that the Order of the House had not been complied with. He had seen 369 petitions and on an average there were only seventy signatures to each. Therefore, he had arrived at the conclusion that the peti- 1870 tions were got up hastily—in a helter-skelter manner. They principally came from neighbourhoods possessing only scanty populations, and probably those who had signed them had not the slightest idea of the requirements of London or of the large towns.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he did not clearly understand what was to be referred to a Select Committee, and therefore was not in a position to withdraw his Amendment. If the whole question dealt with by the Bill was to be referred to a Select Committee, he should be willing to give way, but he thought that the better plan would be for the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. J. A. Smith) to withdraw his Bill, that then the whole question should be referred to a Select Committee.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he understood that the Reference would not be restricted to the clauses of the Bill, but that the Committee would be able to deal with the whole subject-matter contained within its four corners. Subject to that interpretation he apprehended that the hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) could have no objection to withdraw his Amendment.
MR. J. A. SMITH
said, that he accepted the interpretation which the noble Lord had placed upon the Order of Reference.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
suggested that the House could not, without an express Instruction, refer more than the Bill contained.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, that it was his intention, if the Bill passed a second reading, to move that it should be referred to a Select Committee, with power to take evidence upon the further regulation of the sale of fermented and distilled liquors in England and Wales.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The exact state of the case appears to me to be this. The proposal is, that if the Bill is read a second time it shall be referred to a Select Committee, before which evidence should be taken. That evidence would be confined to the subject-matter of the Bill, unless the House was, by special Instruction, to extend the powers of the Committee. 1871 As to the question of further regulating the sale of fermented and distilled liquors on Sundays in England and Wales the Committee would certainly have the power of saying to what extent liquors should be sold on Sundays, or whether they should be sold at all.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
, in order to put the matter beyond all question, gave notice that, upon the Motion for referring the Bill to a Select Committee, he should move that the Committee have power to inquire into all subjects, except the question of licensing, connected with the sale of liquors on Sunday.
§ MR. SPEAKER
suggested that the mere fact of the reference of the Bill to a Select Committee might render such a Motion unnecessary.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that if the Speaker assured him that the Committee would possess the power, without any special Instruction, he should not, of course, press the Motion of which he had just given notice. But in the absence of any such assurance he should certainly press the Motion.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL - HUGESSEN
thought it desirable that there should be no mistake as regarded the Reference. He suggested that the debate should be adjourned, in order that Instructions might be drawn up, so that the Reference might be as wide as possible.
MR. LOCKE KING
thought the Motion of the hon and learned Member for Sheffield quite unnecessary, unless he had in view some special object If he had, and would only state what it was, there would be no difficulty in ascertaining whether it came within the scope of the Committee's inquiries or not.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he had a particular object—namely, that if the Committee should think fit so to do they should have power to report, that, in their opinion, there should be no further legislation with regard to the sale of liquors on Sunday. He believed that under the simple Order referring the Bill to a Select Committee they would not have that power.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Bill in its entirety, and every part of it, will be in the hands of the Committee.
§ Bill committed to a Select Committee, with power to send for persons, papers, and records.
§ And, on March 26, Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. JOHN ABEL SMITH, Sir JAMES FERGUSSON, Mr. EVANS, Mr. MALCOLM, Mr. YORKE, Mr. FREDERICK. STANLEY, Mr. ROEBUCK, Mr. LOCKE, Mr. BERKELET, Colonel FANE (Hants), Mr. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN, Mr. HIBBERT, Mr. BAINES, Mr. JOHN BRIGHT, and MR. HORSFALL:—Five to be the quorum.