HC Deb 01 August 1834 vol 25 cc902-7

Lord Althorp moved, that the House should go into a Committee on the Sale of Beer Act Amendment Bill.

Mr. Warburton

thought, that the Bill did not sufficiently consult the interests of the consumers of beer, or of those people who had invested capital under the old law. He hoped that the noble Lord, having adopted the Bill, would be able to state that he had made some alterations in it.

Lord Althorp

said, having supported the Bill all along up to the present time, he did not see why it should be supposed he was likely to make any alteration.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

thought, that the measure never could be carried into execution; and that it would destroy four-fifths of the beer-houses. He had some apprehensions, too, that it might excite disobedience to the law in more than half the parishes of England. He was a foe to drunkenness; but he maintained, that when in that House and other Houses they knew that drunkenness existed, it was too hard to legislate against the humbler classes, and thereby to deprive them of their enjoyments.

Mr. Mark Philips

said, that in a district with which he was well acquainted, in which the poor-rates were well administered, the diminution of them had been checked by the increase in the number of beer-houses.

Mr. Potter

remembered when no man could get a licence unless he were of par- ticular political opinions. That had been done away with by the present law.

Colonel Williams

did not think, that the circumstance of capital having been invested in the beer trade should prevent the House from dealing with the question. The gin-shops of the metropolis had no doubt laid out much capital in their "temples," but it did not, therefore, follow that their abuses should not be rectified.

Major Beauclerk

believed that the evils of the beer-shops had been greatly exaggerated, and he thought the present measure unnecessary.

Lord Granville Somerset

supported the Bill, persuaded that it would neither interfere with the capital invested in the trade nor with the innocent recreation of the middle classes of society.

The House went into Committee.

Lord Althorp

proposed, that at the end of the second clause the following proviso be inserted:—"Provided always, that in any parish, township, or place in which there are not ten inhabitants rated to the relief of the poor to the amount of 6l. each, the certificate of the majority of them so rated, not being maltsters, common brewers, or persons licensed to sell spirituous liquors, ale, perry, beer, &c. by retail, should be deemed a sufficient certificate for the purpose of this Act."

Mr. Warburton

did not think, that the proviso of the noble Lord went far enough. There were many parishes in which there were no more than three or four rated inhabitants at 6l., and many of the evils formerly complained of would be left unalleviated.

Lord Althorp

said, that notice had been given of a clause to render the certificate unnecessary in towns containing 5,000 inhabitants; and he now proposed that the metropolis, large cities, all towns corporate, and boroughs returning Members to Parliament, should come under that description. In large towns the evils of the beer-houses had not been felt, and, therefore, he thought it would be unnecessary to require a certificate in such cases. But with respect to the rural districts, the case was very different. He had always been opposed to the requiring of a certificate from persons before they could retail beer, provided there was reason to believe that the police restriction under which they were placed was sufficient to preserve the public peace. Notwithstanding, however, the severe penal- ties which already existed, it was found impossible to carry the law into execution, and he was reluctantly brought to the conclusion, that before a licence was granted, a certificate of previous good character should be required in the rural districts.

Mr. Aglionby

maintained, that as there were many parishes in which there were very few inhabitants rated at 6l. for the relief of the poor, the adjoining parish should be added, in order to facilitate the obtaining of the certificate.

Lord Althorp

did not think such an extreme case was worthy of being provided for.

Mr. Warburton moved as an Amendment, that "wheresoever the parish, township, or place, shall contain a smaller number of inhabitants than twenty, rated at 6l. for the relief of the poor, the persons granting the certificate shall be taken from that place and two of the adjoining parishes."

Mr. Thomas Duncombe

said, he had received a petition from the parish of Ashbourne, containing 900 inhabitants, only twenty of whom were rated at 6l., of which fourteen were disqualified from signing a certificate in consequence of being brewers or maltsters, and as the remaining six were in some way connected with them, it would be impossible to obtain the requisite certificate.

Mr. Warburton

withdrew his Amendment, and, instead of it, moved, that instead of the words, "a majority" of those rated at 6l., "one-third" should be substituted.

The Committee divided on the Amendment; Ayes 23; Noes 70—Majority, 47.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. O'Connell, J.
Attwood, T. Palmer, F.
Baines, E. Potter, R.
Beauclerk, Major Ruthven, E.
Briggs, R. Seale, Colonel
Codrington, Sir E. Sheil, R. L.
Duncombe, T. Vigors, N. A.
Ewart, W. Walter, J.
Grattan, H. Walker, C.
Hughes, H. Wilks, J.
Hutt, W. TELLER.
O'Connell, M. Warburton, H.
Mr. Walter

said, that as it appeared that the first part of the amendment, of which he had given notice was not likely to meet with general concurrence, he should forbear to press it, and confine himself to the second part, which the House would see was founded on the very principle on which the Beer Bill was originally proposed, without being liable to those abuses with which that principle was charged since it had been carried into practice. It struck at a long-existing and mischievous monopoly. Those who had breweries contiguous to the houses in which their beer was sold were a class of persons who, though but few, ought to be protected. They might gradually open the way to a better state of things with respect to the beer trade. They were liable to none of the exceptions, whether those exceptions were just or otherwise, which were taken against the mere venders of beer; they had embarked a capital, and must of course feel that attachment to good order and regularity in the management of their concerns which the possession of property generally produced. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving a proviso to exempt from the operation of the Bill any person or persons heretofore licensed, by whom a brewery had been erected for the purpose of supplying the beer sold under such license.

Lord Althorp

did not know what might be the effect of the clause which the hon. Gentleman had proposed; but he was quite sure the proviso was altogether unnecessary. Hon. Members seemed to argue that the Bill was intended to prevent the establishment of beer-shops altogether; whereas it only required as a condition that there should be a certificate of good character. Now, he did not think that brewers of a respectable standing could find any difficulty in procuring such a certificate. At all events, not knowing how far it might lead (and it might frustrate the whole provisions of the Bill), he should be under the necessity of opposing the clause.

Mr. Walter

said, his proposition was suggested by a petition from several small brewers in the neighbourhood of Reading, who had embarked sums of from 400l. to 1,000l., and who had forwarded a representation on the subject to the noble Lord. He wished to spare them the annoyance of an annual application to half-a-dozen of their neighbours for a certificate.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

hoped the noble Lord would not persevere in his objection to the clause proposed by his hon friend, the member for Berkshire. He believed it to have been a main object of the Le- gislature in passing the Beer Act to encourage the use of home-brewed beer; and the present clause would offer a premium to the keepers of beer-shops attached to their own breweries. He feared the number who vended an article of their own production was small, but, as they certainly formed the most respectable class of the trade, he joined his hon. friend in claiming for them an exemption from the humiliating process of seeking from their neighbours an annual certificate of good conduct. The noble Lord had said, that such persons would have no difficulty in procuring the required certificate, but he begged to state, that many individuals, and particularly the more respectable, had the greatest aversion to sign such documents; and he submitted to the noble Lord, that in cases where there could be no difficulty in obtaining certificates there must be the less in dispensing with their necessity.

Mr. Wilks

thought it did not go far enough. He wished that a clause had been brought forward exempting all existing establishments from the operation of this Amendment Act.

Lord Althorp

did not think it followed, because a man was a brewer of beer, that he was necessarily of a good character; but if he were so, he would find no difficulty in complying with the provisions of the Act.

Colonel Williams

objected to so much encouragement being given to brewers and retailers of beer. If the labouring classes of the community spent all their money in beer, what was to become of the bakers and butchers?

The Committee divided on Mr. Walter's Motion; Ayes 23; Noes 58—Majority 35.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. O'Connell, M.
Attwood, T. O'Connell, J.
Beauclerk, Major Palmer, F.
Briggs, R. Potter, R.
Brodie, W. B. Ruthven, E.
Carter, B. Sheil, R. L.
Codrington, Sir E. Vigors, N. A.
Ewart, W. Warburton, H.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Wason, R.
Gully, J. Wedgwood, J.
Hughes, H. TELLER.
Langston, J. H. Walter, J.
Marjoribauks, S.

On Clause 4, regulating the hours at which public-houses should open and close,

Lord Althorp

said, that his wish was, to afford permission to all beer-houses to remain open as late and commence business as early as any of the public-houses in their neighbourhood; but he found great difficulty in wording a clause so as to accomplish that object, for the licensed victuallers were not limited to any specified hours. Amongst the grounds upon which he thought an assimilation of practice desirable was this, that when persons issued from the beer-houses not quite sober, and were excluded from them, they went to the public-houses and there finished themselves with gin.

Mr. Warburton

thought, that words might be introduced declaring that beer-houses should open and close at the same hours appointed by the Magistrates for the opening and closing of the public-houses in their neighbourhood.

Mr. Greene

said, that in many parts of the country there were not any particular hours appointed by the Magistrates, and no restraints were imposed upon houses that were generally speaking orderly and well regulated.

The Clause was agreed to,

Sir Harry Verney having moved a clause requiring the consent of the resident Magistrates and a majority of the parish officers to the grant of a license,

Mr. Hughes Hughes

said, he was quite certain his hon. and gallant friend was not aware of the inconvenience to the community, or of the entire ruin to vast numbers of individuals, which would be the certain consequence of the adoption of the clause he had proposed, but which he could not believe that he seriously intended to press. He (Mr. Hughes Hughes) had himself presented a petition to the House from two of his constituents, who represented, that they had embarked 10,000l. in the trade on the faith of the permanency of the present Beer Act, and that restrictions such as that under consideration, would cause their most serious injury, if not ruin. The case of the petitioners to whom he had referred, was no uncommon one, and he therefore trusted the proposed clause would be withdrawn.

Clause withdrawn.

The House resumed; the Bill to be reported.