Mr. Fysche Palmer
presented a petition from the mechanics and operatives of the borough of Reading, in favour of the sale of Beer Act, and praying the House not to alter a measure which had been productive of much comfort and advantage to the petitioners without great consideration.
§ Mr. Edward Buller
had supported the Beer Bill on its introduction, in the hope it would be productive of great benefit to the poorer classes, by destroying monopolies, and giving them a good commodity, 204 but he was now sorry to admit, that the greatest injuries and mischiefs had arisen from the system. He had received letters from Lane-end, and from Hanley and Shelton—most populous districts in the county with which he was connected, which placed in most striking light the mischiefs which had resulted from the Beer-shops. One correspondent, the rev. Mr. Temple, of Lane-end, stated, that, in the year 18S5 a meeting of the Magistrates was held to consider what increase of public-houses should be allowed, and the result of their deliberation was, that five should be the number. It appeared, however, from this letter, that in the first month after the Beer Act had passed, forty-two houses were licensed, and that there were now no less than seventy-two houses of this description. In Hanley, it appeared that the population in 1795 was 6,000, and the number of public-houses thirty-five;—that the population is now 16,000, and that since the sale of Beer Act came into operation, there had sprung up 110 licensed beer-shops. In these very populous districts it was quite impossible for the constabulary to exercise a control over the beer-shops, which were frequently situated in remote places, where there was no means of seeing how they were conducted. He hoped under these circumstances that the noble Lord (the member for Buckinghamshire) would press forward the motion on this subject of which he had given notice.
§ Mr. Roebuck
denied, that the existing demoralization was to be attributed to the beer-shops, or that demoralization had increased since the passing of the Beer-bill. He should oppose any attempt to change the system, which had so much benefitted the poor classes.
considered that demoralization and crime originated rather in the use of ardent spirits than from the beer-shops, which were the means of relief and recreation of the poorer classes. He should be glad to see a measure introduced for the regulation of gin-shops.
§ Mr. Thomas Attwood
was surprised to hear from the hon. member for Bath that demoralization had not increased; for, in fact, within the period of sixteen years, the amount of crime had quadrupled. Notwithstanding this, he thought on inquiry it would be found that the increase was not to be attributed to the beer-shops, but to the difficulties, distress, and embarrassments under which the people had so long 205 laboured, and he hoped care would be taken by the House not to deliver up the beer-shops to be destroyed, as the publicans had been, at the whim or caprice of the Magistrates, without Judge or Jury. He had seen publicans, who had paid 300l. or 400l. for the good-will of a house, destroyed by the mere whisper of a he in the ear of a Justice of the Peace; and he thought it was a tremendous power to invest any man with, which would have the effect of converting honest and brave Englishmen into miserable slaves within a very short time.
Petition laid on the Table.