Cuckfield Parliamentary Debating Society.
The Cuckfield House of Parliamentarians had before them at their last 'sitting' (Wednesday) the burning question of Sunday closing. The Rt. Hon. Member for Brighton, in bringing forward the motion, said that he did so in the interests of the publicans, the mortality among whom, as a body, was the heaviest in England. By the passing of the Sunday Closing Bill the publican would be enabled to enjoy the necessary rest and recreation demanded by the laws of nature.
He referred to the Early Closing Associations of other trades and said the British Public seemed to ignore the number of hours the publican worked. Thousands of barmen and barmaids did not know the benefit of a few hours’ recreation from one week’s end to another.
'Pass this measure', said the Hon. Member, 'and give them a little liberty'. Sunday Closing was compulsory in Scotland and Ireland, and he maintained that the people of England were a step behind the times in this respect. In his opinion the British public were entitled to demand that the special temptations placed in their way by public houses being opened on Sundays should be removed.
The state had interfered and limited the hours of Sunday opening; why not prohibit Sunday opening at all? He thought it inconsistent and unjust for innocent trades to be prohibited from trading on Sundays, while such a pernicious trade as the sale of intoxicants was allowed to be carried on. (Loud Applause).
The Hon. Member for Halifax, who led the opposition, said he stood there as the friend of the poor man and publican - (Hear, hear) - for assuredly these two parties would suffer most by the passing of the Bill. Experience showed that total closing of public houses on Sundays led to illicit sale and surreptitious consumption of liquor, a process that could not fail to lower the morality of the population.
To the richer people Sunday Closing would be no inconvenience, for were not their cellars filled with the choicest brands? But to deprive the poor man from procuring refreshment from the public-house on Sundays would be a grave abuse, if the 'pubs' were closed the same law should hold good for the rich man's cellar. (Hear, hear). The carrying out of such a proposal would create an embittered and indignant feeling among a large majority whose habits and requirements would be materially interfered with.
travellers' trade lost
To travellers Sunday closing was a question of paramount importance. 'Fancy', said the Hon. Member, 'travelling all day and then finding the 'pubs' closed. Then again the adoption of this measure would involve a serious loss to the publican, and would this be just without some compensation? — (No, no).
The motion was only an embodiment of teetotal tyranny and Sabbatarian severity, and should therefore be resisted, rather than conceded. (Cries of Oh, Oh!) Referring to Sunday Closing in Scotland, the Hon. Member remarked that as their whiskey was the national drink, that could be procured on Saturday, but to do that with beer stood a good chance of getting it spoilt. (Laughter, and cries of 'Not Cuckfield beer'). Sunday Closing had been tried in some places, and in many cases was found to have been productive of more harm than good. The Hon. Member then concluded a rattling speech by appealing to the 'House' not to adopt such a measure as the one before them. (Applause).
The Rt. Hon. Member for Bristol said that from what he knew of the drink traffic in the city of which he was the representative, he was sure it would be a great boon, both to the publicans and the public, if licensed houses were closed on Sundays.
They proved a great attraction to a good many who could ill afford to spend the money they did there. Besides, there was the publican’s health to be considered. With regard to closing the rich man’s cellar, he thought such a proposal sheer nonsense. The rich man drank at his leisure, while the poor man, who had not much time during the week, was apt to take to excess on Sundays. (Cries of 'No, no'), he considered the question of compensation a ridiculous one. He should strongly support the motion, if for no other plea than that the publican wanted rest. (Applause).
distract the drinkers instead
The Rt. Hon. Member for Battersea rose to support the opposition, and in doing so said he was sorry there were no publicans present, because he felt they would be pleased to see the interest that was taken in them and theirs. (Laughter). The policy of Sunday Closing was a milk-and-water affair. His opinion was that if people were provided with more amusements, such as Sunday lectures, music, or cricket, they would not be so anxious to go to the public-houses. (Hear, hear).
The Rt. Hon. Member for Oxford asked how many of England’s homes were spoilt bv the father spending Sunday at the public-house ? The motion might be hard on travellers, but surely they could do without the trade for one day in the week. He wanted to impress on all members present the desirability of fitting a good example, and that the Bill was not to debar a man from having his beer on Sunday, but to slop the trading in the same. (Applause).
The Rt. Hon. Member for Fulking was sorry he should have to differ from some of his friends and vote against the motion. (Cheers and counter cheers). Ho agreed with reforms of a national character, but certainly not with a conspiracy set on foot to take food out of people's mouths. Fortune or misfortune might have placed people in the possession of a public-house, and they should not try to do them harm. (Hear, hear). A man suffered thirst on a Sunday as well as other days, and they were nowhere divinely told to abstain from eating or drinking on tho Sabbath. Why should they patronise the milkman and not the publican? (Laughter). In concluding, hesaid a well-kept inn was an acquisition to any place. (Applause).
The Hon. Member for Horsted Keynes vote to give the 'House' a maiden speech, in which he acquitted himself well. The question before them was, he said, of great importance to the working man. How many thousands of people came out of the towns into the country on a Sunday. Were they to close the 'pubs' to them ? (No, no.)
Health warning labels
He thought instead of closing public-houses, it would be better for the brewers to brew better beer. (Hear, hear). Such stuff as there was about ought to be labelled in the same manner as margarine, so that people may be cautioned when they were going to be poisoned. (Laughter).
The Rt Hon. Member for East Cuckfield wanted the authority of the Hon. Member’s statement that beer was not pure. 'If it is not poisonous, it is bad enough to give people a beastly headache', was the answer given, amid the laughter of the House.
The Rt Hon. Members for Battersea, Bristol, and Oxford, and the Hon. Member for Halifax having addressed the House, the Mover was called upon to sum up. In the course of his remarks the Rt Hon. Member said that Sunday Closing in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales had worked well, and drunkenness had greatly decreased on that day. Remember, he said, the publicans themselves would welcome this Sunday Closing Bill, it being almost entirely owing to competition that most of them keep open.
The Speaker having put the motion to the House declared it lost by the narrow majority of one.
A local wag writes us, that though the publicans were not present en masse the sinners were.
The House has rather a revolutionary motion for tomorrow (Wednesday), viz: 'That in the opinion of this House, the House of Lords should be abolished' — moved by the Right Hon. Member for Battersea, seconded by the Hon. Member for Leicester.
The Secretary, or any of the Members, will be pleased to issue passes, admitting the public to tho 'Visitors’ Gallery'.
Mid Sussex Times 7 February 1893
Photograph: Speaker at Hyde Park Corner London, 1947. Wikimedia public domain image.
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.