§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [2nd April] proposed to Question "That the Bill be now read a second time:" and which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ Question again proposed, "That the word "now" stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that this Bill had been introduced to accomplish three objects—first, to bring under the supervision of the Excise and the police, by a new system of licensing, all houses used for the purpose of providing food or refreshment for the people; secondly, to enable some of these houses, under certain conditions, to obtain licences from the Excise for the sale of wine, without first obtaining the sanction of justices of the peace as they were now bound to do; and, thirdly, to diminish the duty now paid by wholesale dealers in wine. He might dismiss the last of these as comparatively unimportant; but he objected to the Bill because it sought to attain the other two objects. His objections were totally different from those which had been pertinaciously ascribed to him without the walls of the House. No one who knew him would suppose that his opposition to this Bill was grounded on the interest of any class of traders. No one who had any knowledge of the course which he had pursued, both in and out of doors, could over have imagined that he had objected to this Bill because it was opposed to the interest of the publicans. The first objection he had to make to the Bill was, that it proposed to lay a tax on those who were engaged in the sale of food to the people; and after the various efforts which had been made in this country to cheapen food and to give 776 every facility for living at small expense, he never expected to be called on to discuss such a proposition as this in Parliament. It was clear that in making this proposal the Chancellor of the Exchequer had had his thoughts fixed entirely on the magnificent pastrycook shops of the Metropolis, and had not bestowed a thought on the numberless small shops which were to be found in the Metropolis, and in the large towns all over the country. The exemptions which were proposed for the shops in the small towns and in the rural districts were most unjust, not to say immoral; for while the large towns, which had a small share of representation in that House, were subjected to the tax, the small towns and the country districts, which had the larger share of representation, escaped altogether. He objected, also, to the tax because, if once Parliament commenced a system of levying taxes on shops, they must be prepared, on principles of strict justice, to levy a graduated tax according to the rent. They must face the consideration of the whole question, and not decide upon a single class arbitrarily selected by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If shops of £10 rental were to pay one shilling in the pound on the rent, shops of £100 must also pay at the same rate of one shilling in the pound. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) was scrupulously exact on every question of justice when an attempt was made seven years ago to levy a tax on shops and houses; and, because the Government of the day were not able to explain all the difficulties he raised, he said it was impossible even to go into Committee to consider the question submitted by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. Yet the House was now invited by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to plunge into a system of taxation, selecting in the most arbitrary manner a particular class of shops, and without giving any explanation of the general policy on which he proceeded. The pose that his opposition to this Bill was class of shops chosen for this experiment were the very last to be selected for taxation. If any class should be taxed they ought to be those which supplied the luxuries of the rich, the superfluities, not the necessaries of life. At all events, those which supplied food to the people should not be the first subjected to taxation. He therefore hoped the House would not proceed rashly with the measure submitted to their consideration, but first of all require an explanation of the grounds on which this new method of taxation was proposed. 777 The House should consider whether this system, once adopted, would not ultimately put a tax on every shop and compel every trader to take out a licence. The question would not rest with the poor shopkeepers. Once they were taxed, they would demand that the tax should be extended to every one engaged in industry; and the continental system of finance would soon prevail, under which every trader and manufacturer would be required to take out a licence, and pay a considerable sum for it too. The argument of the shopkeepers would be, that 5 per cent on their rental was as large as 5 per cent on the rental of any other trader, and they would require that all persons engaged in industry should pay one shilling in the pound on their rental. Were they prepared to embark on such a system? The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not avoid this question. He was asking the House to impose a new duty, and he was bound to state whether he was going to adopt the policy of the French Government, and require every man engaged in business to take out a licence from the Crown, and pay on some principle proportioned to its magnitude. The subject required much further elucidation before they could safely proceed to impose such a tax. We were in a transition state. The income tax was sanctioned for one year; it was a temporary arrangement; but this new tax was not a temporary one; it promised to be permanent, and if adopted at all must be extended. It was necessary to come to some clear understanding with reference to the income tax, whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended now to make arrangements with a view to its remission at the earliest period, or adopted the policy of others who claimed to be associated with him in finance, of keeping on the income tax and making its increase or diminution the mode in which the increase or diminution of expenditure was to be met in that House. That was the spirit in which the Budget had been supported by those who claimed to be junior partners with the right hon. Gentleman in the firm recently established. Were they, then, proceeding on the principle of putting an end to the income tax altogether, in accordance with the opinions again and again expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or on the principle of maintaining it as a permanent tax? A tax of this nature on a class of shops that were very numerous and intimately connected with the supply of the community's 778 wants was one of serious import, and when thoroughly understood and put in practice would evoke a spirit of hostility to those connected with it which at no distant day they would be the first to regret. But the proposal to facilitate the sale of wine by granting licences to pastrycooks and confectioners was by far the most important part of the question. He hoped the House would not hastily or inconsiderately entertain a proposition of such immense practical importance as this without being fully satisfied that a necessity existed for new legislation on the subject, and that such legislation would promote the objects contemplated. The Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt with this part of the subject in a somewhat remarkable manner. He said he would not consent to the reduction of the wine duties unless he were satisfied that he could obtain new channels to extend the sale of the commodity, and that such a measure would not be injurious to public morals or tend to promote the inebriety of the people. In reply to the deputation who waited upon him, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that he proposed to consider the question upon its moral tendencies and the probability that it would increase sobriety, and that any considerations as to revenue would be of secondary and trivial importance. But in the House of Commons, although he connected his measure with the promotion of sobriety, he yet shadowed out to the House, in language which was not to be misunderstood, that he regarded the measure as one which was necessary in a financial point of view, and that he would understand Members, according as they supported or opposed it, to be favourable or unfriendly to the financial scheme of the Government. He hoped they might now understand that in discussing a proposition to alter the laws which had hitherto been found best for maintaining the morality of the people, they were to proceed irrespective of considerations of finance. Those laws were good and wise as far as they went, but he believed some extension of the power to repress the sale of intoxicating drinks might be made with advantage, and with this object they ought to be reconsidered at an early period. Under them authority was given to justices of the peace to license the sale by retail of all kinds of intoxicating drinks, except beer; licences to sell beer of intoxicating quality could be obtained on complying with certain conditions which might be easily evad- 779 ed; and beer of such inferior quality as to be unintoxicating could be vended without any licence whatever. Inquiry might, in his opinion, take place with advantage as to whether the restrictions imposed on dealers in beer had accomplished the purpose which was intended, or whether new regulations should be devised. The complaint of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that, owing to the effect of the law having been to separate the trades of eating and drinking, and thereby to encourage instead of repress drunkenness, it was necessary for him to propose new legislation. Was there any foundation in fact for that assertion? He totally denied that the operation of the law had been attended with any such result; and, if he were right, the main reason for the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Motion would entirely fail. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman to state in how many public-houses the trade in intoxicating drinks was carried on apart from that of eating. He did not believe that any means of obtaining such information existed, but if he wore to speculate on the point, he should say the number of cases where the trade was so divided did not exceed 5 per cent. So little doubt existed on this point that early in the reign of James I. a declaratory Act was passed, reciting,—Whereas the ancient, true, and principal use of inns, alehouses, and other victualling houses, was for the receipt, relief, and lodging of wayfaring persons, travelling from place to place, and for such supply of the wants of such persons as are not able by greater quantities to make their provision of victuals; and were not meant for the entertainment and harbouring of lewd and idle persons to spend and consume their time and money in drunken and idle manner.The law continued the same to the present day, and it was a dereliction of duty on the part of justices of the peace to grant licences without seeing that the houses in question contained suitable accommodation for persons who might be in need of it. He was free to admit that justices of the peace, especially in large towns, had not been as exact as they ought to be on every occasion. Under the old corporations much corruption had existed, and in the Metropolis there had never been proper sympathy between the justices of the peace and the inhabitants; but he denied that the general rule of conduct of magistrates throughout England hail been to grant licences unless the requirements of the law were fulfilled. The consequence was that even in the smallest towns and villages in 780 England an amount of convenient accommodation was obtainable which was unknown in any part of the Continent. If an innkeeper refused to give food and accommodation, he was liable to indictment for a criminal offence. What right, therefore, had the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that, because the trade of eating and drinking had been separated, he would abolish the control which had been so beneficially exercised? Granting licences for the sale of spirits to places that did not provide the general accommodation of a public-house was an encroachment of the last few years. Still, the number of houses set up as gin-palaces was comparatively few; they formed but a small percentage of the great body of public-houses throughout the country. The abuse of the law on this point was rather a reason for strengthening than abandoning it. The beersellers even argued, in their memorial, that their houses were better calculated to bring wine into consumption among the working classes than establishments opened for the purpose, because the working men resorted to them already for their food and other entertainment. It was, he believed, a common practice for workmen and others to buy meat and take it with them to the public-house or beershop to be cooked. The system under which beer and spirits were at present sold was of so rational a character that there was not the smallest necessity for disturbing the system of licensing. But it was contended that giving greater facilities for the sale of inebriating drinks would promote the temperance of the people. This indeed was a paradox. The more he examined it the more he was convinced it was utterly fallacious. The only way to promote temperance was to diminish the facilities for drinking. The opposition to the Bill was founded on this intelligible principle — that the intemperance of the people was precisely in proportion to the opportunities given for drinking, and the number of drinking-houses established. If he differed from the great body called the Alliance, it was not on its principle, but on the extent of its application. He did not think they could at once suppress every public-house in order to create temperance. It was a question of degree, and he accepted the principle to the extent to which it could he carried by practicable legislation. But there were few questions of opinion on which a greater mass of experience and evidence had been collected, not only as to England, but other countries. It proved 781 that wherever there was an extravagant number of drinking-houses, there would be found an extravagant degree of drinking. This was an opinion confirmed by all writers who had been great observers of manners, such as Goldsmith and Smollett. The Bill disregarded this principle and the Chancellor of the Exchequer asserted that he could effect a reform by coupling eating with drinking. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer could carry out his principle, what was the law no would have to propose? He must declare that no man should have anything to drink unless he had something to cat. If he did not enact that the seller must give his customer food before he supplied him with drink, the conditions which this legislation would impose on the trade would be of the most illusory and futile character. All that they required was that a man should say that he sold food, and then he could have a licence to sell drink. Under the existing law, however, the licensed victualler was under a legal obligation to provide the public with food as well as drink. The absolute power now confided to justices had been intrusted to them precisely because the legislation now recommended by the right hon. Gentleman bad entirely failed. It was found impossible, owing to the evasion and fraud of these tradesmen, to obtain a conviction against them; and it was therefore necessary to invest magistrates with the general discretion they now possessed in this matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer sought to revive the special legislation dictated by the wisdom of the reign of James I., which did not attain the object for which it was devised. The right hon. Gentleman wished to extend to the poor man the benefits which the rich derived from their clubs. The answer to that was, that the people could establish clubs for themselves, the law making no difference between rich and poor in that respect. The people might hire rooms, buy their own wine, have their own refreshments, and enjoy every convenience that was secured through the medium of a club to its own members. And why did they not do this? Because they did not possess the same self-restraint as the higher classes of society. Not having this good quality developed in them in the same degree, they were unable to follow the example of the rich; and therefore they went to the public-houses, where they were exposed to the temptations to which they too often succumbed. It was 782 no kindness to the working people to give them increased facilities for the gratification of their appetites, and legislation ought to guard them, as far as possible, against the consequences of their want of self-control. Men surrounded with every luxury, and with no temptation to indulge in brutal excesses, could not properly appreciate the position in which the working classes were placed. Toiling all day long, until they were often physically exhausted and depressed in mind, with no mental resources, and none of the pleasures within the reach of the wealthy, the labouring classes almost of necessity plunged into the grosser enjoyment and excitement produced by spirituous liquors. Sometimes employers hold out strong inducements to over-work, which rendered the workman the easy victim of intemperance, and thus it had almost passed into a proverb that a good workman was often a great drunkard. This was an especial reason why the temptations to intoxication should be restricted as much as possible. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had represented that there was something so charming in wine that wherever it existed in profusion sobriety was found to reign supreme. That was a very pleasing doctrine; but unfortunately it was not supported by experience. The late King of France—a man of the largest experience and most moderate views of public affairs — had declared it as his opinion that the drunkenness of Franco was occasioned by wine — that in one part of his kingdom much intemperance was caused by gin, but that wine was the great source of the evil. This was confirmed by those who had seen the horrors and debasing effects resulting from the practice of the common people resorting to the wineshops outside the barriers of Paris, where they obtained the article free of duty. What was the opinion in the Household Words ascribed to Mr. Dickens, of the inestimable advantages derived from the free wine-shops of France? It must be remembered that travellers in general only saw things on the surface; they went chiefly through fine streets and into places of fashionable resort, and saw only the polished surface of society, which led them often to think, "All is virtue abroad!" while their more minute and truthful experiences at home induced them to say that there was nothing but vice in their own country. The moment, however, that persons went abroad to make this 783 the subject of special inquiry, quite another account was given. Mr. Dickens said that the wineshops were the colleges and chapels of the poor in France where the professors of evil continued every day their lessons, where falsehood, theft and assassination were talked of and encouraged, in the midst of a moral pestilence of envy and vengeance, by the men of crime and of revolution. That was an illustration of the advantage which the Chancellor of the Exchequer expected to result to the poor from the establishment of these charming places in England. "I should be delighted," said the right hon. Gentleman, "to exchange the intemperance of Paris for that of London." But he (Mr. Ayrton) would by no means like to see such an exchange, as he believed English people would by no means be the gamers. What would hon. Members think when they were told that if the population of England consumed wine and spirits in proportion to the consumption in Paris they would drink 404,000,000 gallons of wine and 29,000,000 gallons of spirits every year? This showed we had nothing to gain by an exchange with Paris. He had recently received a letter written by a gentleman who had gone into some of the wine-drinking streets of Paris. In one establishment this gentleman saw 500 men, women, and children drinking; and he was told by the proprietor that the day before (Sunday) there were 2,000. Hundreds were more or less intoxicated. In another of these wine places the scene beggared description—one man was dragging another out by the hair into the lane, and he was informed by the cabman that he had seen from 80 to 100 lying drunk at a time in one room. Such facts as these ought to dispel the halo of poetry which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had thrown around this question by describing a wine-producing country as an Elysium; whereas, when you could penetrate behind the scenes in Paris, you found a debasement and intoxication which rivalled, if it did not exceed, anything in the vilest places in England. At Nantes, which was situated in a great wine district, so much wine was drunk before the vine disease showed itself, that a proportionate consumption in this country would amount to 1,100,000,000 gallons. At Nantes a little beer was consumed, a little cider, a harmless drink called hydromel, and no spirits at all. According to the theory of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, therefore, temperance ought to exist there; but the 784 official report of the English Consul, on the contrary, showed that drunkenness was common, and temperance the exception, and that of the country farmers who came to market nine out of ten returned home in a state of intoxication. If that were the state of things in a wine district, what was likely to be the case here? There was an absurd theory afloat that whenever there was plenty of wine there must of necessity be temperance; but there was a much sounder theory that in wine countries the people were generally poor, and could not afford to buy the strong wines that would produce intoxication. But the point to be considered now was what would be the effect of these facilities for obtaining strong wines on the part of a population whose wages were high enough to enable them to purchase it. No doubt he might be told that we must not expect to have strong wine so much as cheap wine; but if that were true then the grounds upon which the Budget had been based were unsound. One of the chief arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that we were to have cheap wine, and the question remained whether it would be strong. He (Mr. Ayrton) thought it could be demonstrated that the wine chiefly imported would be of the strongest kind. We had made a convention by which merchants could import 100 per cent of proof spirit in the shape of wine at a duty of 5s. a gallon, while the same quantity of spirit in the shape of brandy could be imported only at a duty of 8s. 6d., the Excise duty on gin being 8s. There was, therefore, a premium of 3s. 6d. in favour of introducing spirit in the shape of strong wines. They had the authority of M. Chevalier that wine containing 100 per cent of alcohol could be imported into this country at a cheaper rate than it could be possible to produce the same quantity of spirit in the shape of gin. Therefore it was clear we should have the name of wine used as a mere cover for the importation and sale of spirits. At present gin was reduced by the retailers by dilution to about 50 per cent of spirit, and yet wine containing 40 per cent of spirit was to be admitted at a lower duty. The whole history of trade was full of examples of the ability of dealers to avail themselves of regulations for their own benefit, and this had been shown in a remarkable degree in the case of wine. In Spain and Portugal the trade in wine was factitious; spirit was thrown in to give fire and strength, and because 785 our system of levying duties had made it profitable to do so. This was not a question of light wines, for in this country light wines devoid of strength would never be drunk. When it was said that the Treaty-would give us nothing but light wines, he asked the House to form their own opinions by the experience of Paris itself. M. Chevalier, remarking that we should have wine cheaper in this country than it was in Paris, described the wine sold in that city in these graphic terms:—"In the cabarets of the barriers of Paris, one finds nothing but wine doctored and mixed in twenty ways." But what security was there that wine would come to the English consumer any purer if less noxious than the Parisians obtained it. He believed that the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this subject was the result of some communications from those who seemed to believe in free trade almost as a religion, and to think that if every one were allowed to buy and sell as he liked, we should have nothing but virtue and happiness throughout the world. That, however, was a totally erroneous view. Even Manchester itself saw this, for there was no body of justices who were more impressed than the justices of that city with the inapplicability of the principles of free trade to the sale of intoxicating drinks, and it was gratifying that they had discovered some limits to the theory of free trade. It was a total misconception to think that free trade meant freedom in the sale of that which was injurious to society; for the true doctrine of free trade was— that you should have freedom in conducting trade to promote the welfare of society. But the moment you ceased to do that you forfeited your freedom; and the House had a right to come forward and say, "You shall not, under the name of freedom, do that which is wrong, and tends to promote immorality and vice." The Factory Act and many other Acts proceeded on this principle. For centuries the Legislature of this country had said that the sale of intoxicating drinks was not to be considered in the ordinary course of trade, because it had a most serious effect in reference to the welfare of society, and this was the principle which he sought to maintain. Let hon. Members recollect for a moment the consequences which would ensue from entering on a mistaken path. If they took a wrong step in this direction, they would add to that great category of misery and vice which pervaded the country; whilst 786 if they should err in the other direction, by leaving things as they were, they would do no mischief, even if they did no good. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he could not afford to create new interests; but what would he do by this Bill but create new interests?—for the people licensed under this Bill would surely complain if any subsequent legislation interfered with them, even though their interests were evidently founded on public demoralization. This was a good ground for leaving the matter as it was until they should have to deal with it for a very different purpose than merely to increase the revenue. They were told that intemperance was the source of almost all the evil and crime which afflicted this country, and they knew by long experience that intemperance was produced by the number of houses which were opened to promote it; and he, therefore, trusted that the House would pause before they gave increased facilities for such a purpose, and that they would consider that the best course to pursue was to reject this Bill, and to stand by the principle that those who dealt in intoxicating drinks were not to have freedom of trade, but were to be subject to any extent of control which the community should think right to impose. He hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be induced to take a better view of the case, and that he would no longer give himself up to the delusion that by opening new sources of intemperance he would promote the temperance of the people.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, his objections to this Bill were very simple. He objected to it because, disguise its provisions as they liked, and apply to its provisions whatever plausible arguments they liked, it was a proposal to encourage drinking— and drinking in company away from home —and, above all, it would be likely to affect a class that had not hitherto been addicted to habits of drunkenness, namely, the middle classes of the community. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, said he did not anticipate that if this Bill were passed, there would be much reduction in the consumption either of spirits or beer; and, that being so, it was perfectly clear that it was not the classes who now consumed beer and spirits that were expected to consume wine. Then a new class of drinkers was to be encouraged from among those who were too proud or too well conducted at present habitually to frequent the public-house. This Bill, in fact, was 787 framed to introduce into this country for the first time the kind of house that was known on the Continent as the café; but nobody who had lived abroad and seen the habits of the café; frequenters would desire those listless, lazy habits to be introduced among the young men of this country. It was to be feared that those who could afford to pay for wine would not frequent these places much during the week, and that Sunday afternoon would be particularly chosen for this purpose. He should be the last person to throw any impediment in the way of innocent recreation of the working and industrious classes on Sundays, and he was glad to see cheap trains to take them into the country; but just as this habit of going into the country was becoming somewhat general they were about to introduce a new sort of temptation to stay in the town:—in all our large towns we should have the café;, where on Sunday afternoons the youth of both sexes would congregate, substituted for the cheap excursion trains which carried thousands of our hard-worked population and their families into the country for fresh air and innocent enjoyment. Let them see on what the case for this Bill really rested. It rested on the simple assertion, hitherto almost uncontradicted, except in the able speech which they had just heard, that a public necessity existed for the increased sale of wine, and that new channels must be opened for that purpose. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that there were 63,000 licensed victuallers in England, but that only 25,000 of them were licensed for the sale of wine. Now there were 7,000,000 adult males in this country, and therefore we had already a wineshop for every 280 of them; in addition to which there was a wine merchant in almost every street who sold wine by wholesale, not —which was a great recommendation—"to be drunk on the premises," but in private houses for the comfort of the inmates in family and social intercouse. It was said that there would be a certain amount of convenience in allowing a person to have a glass of wine in a confectioner's shop; and if they could stop there he (Mr. Liddell) saw no reason why this should not be conceded. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer expected them to believe his very broad statement as to the absolute necessity that existed for the establishment of places where people could have eating and drinking combined, But let any Member walk along the Strand, 788 Oxford Street, Piccadilly, or Cheapside, and he would find almost at every interval of 100 yards dining rooms fitted up with every imaginable comfort, where persons would find every provision made for combining those two great delights of life, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer termed them—eating and drinking. Consequently, it was by no means true that, so far as the Metropolis was concerned, means did not exist for furnishing every requisite refreshment. There were persons who had advanced as an argument in favour of the Bill, the fact that refreshment rooms existed all over the country at the great railway stations; but that he thought was a great argument against the Bill, for it showed that whenever the public convenience required it there were refreshment places opened, proving that there was no necessity for any new law. If a law was a good one it would work well and not become inoperative, but if bad it would restrict trade and become unfavourable to the public interest and be mischievous, He believed that the existing state of things showed that there was no necessity for the proposed new law. The Chancellor of the Exchequer wished it to be believed that these refreshment houses were to be depots for the sale of pure wine. They were about to open the door to the establishment of a great amount of competition in the sale of wine; but did they ever find in any trade that excessive competition conspired to produce a good article? Did not the evidence before the Adulteration Committee prove the contrary? The wider they extended the field of competition the more inferior would be the articles and fraudulent practices would be resorted to in order to obtain custom; and if that had been found to operate in the case of other articles, à fortiori would it not happen in the case of wine? His belief was that a very large quantity of spirits would be disposed of in these refreshment places. He was justified, he thought, in saying this from the Report of the Licensing Committee and other high authorities. The Chairman of the Inland Revenue, in his evidence before the Licensing Committee, said there was always a great temptation to those who had beer licences to sell spirits, and that the great difficulty felt by the Excise and police in dealing with the beer licence was the great opportunity it gave to the evasion of the law and the supply of spirits. What reason was there to suppose that a person having a wine licence was not liable 789 to the same temptation? The next authority, Sir Richard Mayne, said that under the vintners' privilege, though they had the privilege of selling wine only, he believed they sold other things, and that it was very difficult to say whether it was wine or spirits that was served out in glasses, and to prove it in evidence. With these facts before them he could not understand how the Chancellor of the Exchequer could guard against illegal and perhaps immoral practices taking place in these wine shops. But another portion of the Bill seemed to contain more evils than the whole of the rest put together, in the permission that it gave to every sort of shop to sell wine in small quantities by retail. He could speak from personal knowledge of the effect that this was likely to produce. When in Belgium, he visited a remote village, in which was a very large store, where every kind of article was sold, and which was immensely frequented by the surrounding population. He asked the owner how it was he attracted such immense custom? to which he replied that he had a sovereign remedy for drawing custom, for to every customer who bought an article he gave a small glass of spirits; and in that way he drove an enormous trade. Did the House, he would ask, wish to introduce that system into this country, and hold out inducements for its adoption by the small dealers of this country? Mr. Haughton, a gentleman from Ireland, examined before the Licensing Committee, said that a great deal of evil attended the practice of allowing grocers to sell spirits in Ireland, and that it caused a great deal of drunkenness amongst domestic servants. Did they imagine that if the sale of wine was legalized in shops, it would not be sold, or perhaps given, to attract custom; and did the House wish to see the system encouraged? It, moreover, seemed to him to be a most unusual course to ask the House to legislate for the sale of foreign articles in this country. He had voted for the Commercial Treaty with France on the broad principle of increasing the commercial intercourse between the two countries: but he confessed he often blushed at the amount of error which appeared to manifest itself in working out the details of the Treaty. However that might be, he thought that to legislate for the introduction into this country of a foreign commodity, and to legislate for its sale, wore two different things. The latter was a matter which ought to be left to the 790 ordinary operations of trade. The arguments used in favour of the measure were identical with those used in introducing the Beer Act; but experience proved that the unrestricted sale of beer had been attended with the most mischievous consequences to the morality of the community, and he would rather encourage the sale of some beverage that would give a stimulus to English production, such as hops and barley, than create new channels to carry off the dregs and refuse of French and Spanish vineyards. What were the safeguards provided against what might be said to be the abuse of this Bill? There was a rating clause that provided that no house rated below £10 should have a licence to sell wine. Did that operate with regard to beerhouses? No, it only opened the avenue to fraud. The effect of it was that the party wont to the overseer, and getting the overseer to rate him to the requisite amount, whether the value of the house warranted it or not, he succeeded in obtaining his licence; and the same thing would happen with regard to these winehouses. Then with reference to the forfeiture of licence, the same law and power existed in regard to the publican and the beerseller—did it operate to prevent a vast amount of immorality, for the perpetration of which they were going to open up a now description of business? The Chancellor of the Exchequer ridiculed the notion that the magistrates of this country were to be the judges of the amount the people should be allowed to consume. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer could invent a mode by which the same amount of control over public order could be arrived at, the magistrates would in a body thank him for being relieved from what was a most delicate, odious, and invidious function. In saying this he believed he spoke the feelings of a great mass of the magistracy. But as long as the House placed control over the sale of liquor, to whom could it be better entrusted than to those who were the guardians of order and the poor? And so far from increasing that which was the greatest evil in the way of magisterial control, if they wished to increase their authority and not diminish their responsibility, they would, instead of opening up new classes of excise licences, place under their control all these houses including the beershops. If it was contended that the magistrates were not the fit persons to judge of the wants of the community, let them find out a fitter body, and relieve the bench of magistrates. But 791 virtually this Bill gave the magistrates no power or authority in the initiative in this matter, because, after all, all the magistrates had to do, was to ascertain whether the house was an eating-house within the terms of the Act and not a disorderly house; and any one who wished for a licence would take care that his house was well-conducted for some months previous, and there was nothing more easy than to comply with the stipulation. Virtually, there was no control. The magistrates were allowed to have control afterwards; but it was so odious and difficult to exercise it, that he thought no two magistrates in the country would be found to exercise the power given in this Bill. It did not give them the right power at the right time, and it gave them the wrong power at the wrong time. There were penalties, no doubt, many and severe; but an Excise licensed house was an evil against which no amount of penalty was available. It was a hydra-headed evil that produced and reproduced itself as fast as you put it down. If they deprived one of its licence half a dozen more would spring up. He positively denied that public convenience called for the Bill. It was true that a quarter of a million persons had signed petitions against the Bill, chiefly perhaps under the organization of the licensed victuallers and the Temperance Alliance; but there were 480 petitions presented from public meetings, which he took to be a far more correct representation of public opinion. In conclusion, he might state that he had presented a petition expressed sagaciously, and with much foresight, from 480 of the women of Newcastle—the wives, sisters, and daughters of working men there— in which they said they believed that the enlargement of the channels for the sale of foreign wines would not tend in any degree to increase the enjoyment and comfort of their homes, but that it would seriously tend to the promotion of drunken and demoralising habits, and they wished it to be understood that neither they nor their families sought for enlarged means for the sale of wines on the premises, being-convinced that such a liberty would prove highly objectionable, and materially interfere with their domestic comfort.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
said that, representing an extensive district, he wished to explain to the House his reasons for supporting the second reading of the Bill. There were three classes of persons who combined in their opposition 792 to the Bill. First, the licensed victuallers, who thought their interests would be affected by it. If he really believed that the interest of so large a class of the community, who had embarked a great capital in their trade and had been protected for so many years, were endangered by a Bill introduced for revenue purposes merely, he would not support such a measure. The second body of persons were the tee-totallers, who were adverse to any legislation whatever from which the extension of the sale of intoxicating liquors might be in any way encouraged. The third parties who were affected were the beersellers. With regard to them there could be no doubt the beerhouses established throughout the country in rural districts were often a great nuisance to the surrounding neighbourhood. The question, however, he would put to the House was this—was the law now in a satisfactory state when it did not enable a respectable man with a lady to get a glass of wine throughout the whole Metropolis unless he went to the bar of a public-house or of a gin-shop? This seemed to him to be a species of barbarism not at all desirable. Then, he might ask, was the trade in fermented liquors at present in such a condition as required no amendment? Look at the state of the Haymarket and the streets adjacent at a late hour of the night. Was that district in a state satisfactory to the public, whether they viewed this as a religious country or even as a country where licences for houses were now necessary? By the Bill a great public want might be supplied without interfering with any existing interests. Having had some experience as a magistrate, he could say that they need not be scared away by the many phantoms which had been conjured up as to the effect of increasing the number of licensed houses for the sale of intoxicating drinks. The City of London, in proportion to its size, had a larger number of public-houses than any other part of the kingdom. While Manchester, with a population of 347,000 persons, had only 485 public-houses, the City of London, with a population of only 130,000, had as many as 645 public-houses and 187 beershops, or a total of 832 houses. There were probably not sufficient licensed public-houses in Manchester to meet the public wants, and it might be better to have more of them and fewer beerhouses. Coming annually under the supervision of the magistrates, public-houses gave a better guarantee that they 793 would be well conducted than could be obtained from a beershop under licence from the Excise. The Bill contained many errors, and rather than that it should pass in its present shape, he would vote against the second reading; but he believed it was capable of amendment in Committee. So far as the Bill provided facilities for the sale of wine to those who wanted it, it was a good measure. In the City of London almost every pastrycook who desired a licence from the magistrates could get one; the only condition imposed being an honourable understanding that he would not open on Sundays, nor after eight o'clock at night on other days, nor convert his house into a ginshop. Yet in no part of England did so much sobriety and good order prevail as in the City of London. What was wanted was a class of respect able cheap eating-houses where persons who had occasion to be from home might obtain suitable refreshments. There was no occasion for these houses being kept open late at night. The most objectionable part of the Bill was that rendering it necessary for every house for the sale of any refreshments to have a licence. It certainly seemed monstrous to require a baker, who sold a few buns or biscuits over his counter, to take out a licence; and he could not help looking upon such a provision as an improper and unfair interference with the freedom of trade. He was for limiting rather than extending the hours in the evening to which these new refreshment houses might keep open, and he would fix nine in winter and ten in summer. But with regard to placing them under the supervision of the police, he would ask hon. Members how they would like, while they were regaling themselves at Gunter's in Belgravia, or Farrance's in Spring Gardens, or similar places, to see a policeman come in to take a survey of the premises and of those who frequented them? Believing, however, that the Bill might in Committee be made not only unobjectionable but even popular, he should vote for the second reading.
§ MR. PALK
said, that the principle of this Bill was to increase the consumption of intoxicating liquors. If a stranger were to be informed that this Bill, which had met with so much applause, was based upon the principles which had been repudiated thirty years ago, and that the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in bringing it forward were those used by a former Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goulburn) in 794 1830, he would express his astonishment; but if he were further told that the grand financial scheme of the right hon. Gentleman rested entirely on the consumption of spirituous liquors, and that the great bulk of his changes would lead to the demoralization of the country, he would only exclaim, "Quem Deus vult perdere, prius dementat." That was the real tendency of the measure. He did not dispute that the Bill might be amended in Committee, but he objected to the principle of a measure which was to increase the consumption of intoxicating liquors; for if the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not succeed in creating a demand for French wines, the revenue which he expected to obtain from that source would not be forthcoming, and his scheme so far would be an entire failure. Mr. Goulburn, when introducing the Beer Bill in 1830, used very nearly the same language which the right hon. Gentleman held when he recently brought forward his Budget. When Mr. Goulburn introduced the new licensing system in 1830, he denied that any injury would be inflicted on the morals of the people by an increase in the number of public-houses, and said that the Bill would at once conduce to the comfort and health of the people by affording them cheap and ready means of obtaining a more wholesome beverage, by removing them from the temptation of the common alehouse, and introducing them to other houses which would be surrounded by greater securities for good order. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer said that by this Bill wine, which had hitherto been a luxury confined to the rich, would now become a means of comfort to the poor; and he compared the intemperance in Paris with the intemperance in London. But it appeared to him (Mr. Palk) that to the intemperance of London that of Paris must be superadded, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer's scheme must prove a failure. Mr. Goulburn said in 1830 that there would be no increase in immorality by the increase of public-houses; but what took place? In 1834 a Committee of the House of Lords was appointed to inquire into the evils of drunkenness, and they reported that those evils were to be attributed, to a great extent, to beershops. In 1849 the Lords had another Committee, and they came to the conclusion that the multiplication of houses for the consumption of intoxicating liquors, which, under the Beer Act, had increased from 88,930 to 123,396, was an evil of the first magni- 795 tude, as it not only increased the temptations to drink, but induced respectable publicans, under the control of the magistrates, to adopt practices degrading to their character and injurious to morality for the purpose of attracting custom to their houses. What safeguard had they that the very same thing might not happen if they passed this Bill? The Chancellor of the Exchequer was about to create a new demand for a liquor which was not now one of great popularity, but he had failed to show that the demand for French wines would lessen the demand for spirituous liquors or promote the cause of morality and good conduct. He was positively reversing that course of progress and improvement which had guided the policy of the country for many years past. Parliament had attempted much of late years to promote the education, the religion, and the amusements of the poor; it bad founded institutions for the reformation of juvenile offenders; and having by these means given a high tone of morality to the public policy, the right hon. Gentleman would extinguish all the good that had been done by establishing free trade in drunkenness. To make his scheme realize his financial anticipations, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must erect foreign intemperance upon the intemperance of England, and the intemperance of wine upon the intemperance of spirituous liquors. His experience convinced him that the greater the facilities for drinking, the more drunkenness was multiplied. England was, indeed, arrived at a pitiable state if she could not do without a revenue derived from the degradation of the people. He trusted that hon. Members would not, for the sake of the trifling sum this Bill would raise, vote for a Bill in which the slightest error was of the deepest importance, because it would make or mar the labourer and artisan, the strength and wealth of England. Believing the principle of the Bill to be vicious, and its action most injurious, he entreated the House to refuse it a second reading.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, that if any consideration could induce him to support this Bill, it would be the deep respect he entertained for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was with the greatest reluctance, therefore, that he differed from the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman in reference to the present measure. He had considered the subject very carefully, and had taken into view the possible extension of the measure at sonic future period to 796 Ireland; for if it was good for the one country it was good for the other. This measure had been applauded on the ground that it was a part of a great scheme of finance; but it could only increase the revenue by increasing the sale of intoxicating liquors, and by permitting the sale of wine, free of those restrictions that were put on the sale of beer and spirits. It was assumed that a large quantity of wine would be consumed, over and above the present consumption of wine, beer, and spirits—That those would drink who never drank before,While those who always drank would drink the more.He suspected that some were tempted to support the measure, merely to show that they were entirely independent of the influence of the licensed victuallers; while others supported it, from dislike to the teetotallers. He was not under the influence of either of those parties. He had no interest in the licensed victuallers of this country, though be bad in those of Ireland; and he was not a teetotaller, or anything of the sort. But when he found that those two extremes of opinion united in opposition to the Bill, he could not resist the conviction that there must be something wrong about it. He had received a letter from Mr. James Haughton, of Dublin, a distinguished advocate of the total abstinence principle, pointing out that the tendency of the measure would be to increase intemperance and to create an appetite for intoxicating liquors among young people of a higher class than those who were in the habit of frequenting the public-house. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Alderman Salomons), who had professed to speak in favour of the Bill, had really spoken against it, for he objected to the inspection of pastrycooks' establishments by the police. At present no one hesitated to permit his sons or daughters to visit such places; but there would be no little danger in doing so if the children were to find people sitting drinking there, and to be supplied with any quantity of wine, while the police were not allowed to inspect the establishment. There were some very nice teashops in Greenwich, but what respectable man could venture to allow his children to enter such places if they were turned into wineshops? Greenwich would then become a perfect bear-garden, and the tea-house would he transferred into what were known in Ireland 797 as shebeen-shops, where people could get drunk on the sly. It had been observed by the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) that if the Bill passed into a law there was not a shop in London, for the sale of any commodity whatever, that might not obtain a licence for the sale of foreign wines to be drunk over the counter. The result would be that, when their wives and daughters entered Shoolbred's, or any other establishment of that sort, they would at once have a glass of wine placed at their elbows and be invited to drink it.
§ MR. HUMBERSTON
was of opinion that, in bringing forward this measure, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proceeded upon erroneous grounds. The right hon. Gentleman said, that there was a necessity for combining the business of eating with the business of drinking; but there were two operations in eating, namely, eating for pleasure and eating for business; just as in drinking, there was drinking for drunk and drinking for dry. He presumed that the eating-houses to which the Bill was intended to apply were principally those used by men of business who were unable to resort to their own homes for refreshment; and what was the advantage of combining eating with drinking in these houses? The object of an eating-house keeper at present was to provide the food required by his customers, and if any drink were required the person who wanted it put down his money, and it was fetched from the adjoining public-house. So that the eating-house keeper had no interest whatever in pressing liquor upon his customers, whilst the latter was not bound to drink anything for the good of the house, as it was termed; this he thought was a very great advantage in the existing system. The proposed system would encourage wine-selling, if found more profitable, to the exclusion of the legitimate business of an eating-house-keeper. The House having resolved to reduce the duties upon foreign wines, of course it became necessary to review the present licensing system, and see how far it might be extended to the Bill before the House; but the proposal of the Government departed much too far from that system. One objection that was urged against the existing system was, that they could not go into a confectioner's shop and get a glass of wine; undoubtedly there was great reluctance on the part of magistrates to grant licences generally. But whence did that reluctance arise? The magistrates did not 798 grant licences. They only granted a certificate of an individual's fitness to keep a victualling-house, and the person who obtained that certificate then went to the Excise, where he procured a spirit or a wine licence. Now; what he wished to point out was, that some distinction should be drawn here, and that in granting their certificate magistrates should have the option of certifying that the holder of it should be entitled to sell wine, and not that he should necessarily have a spirit licence. At present magistrates had not that option nor could they restrict their certificate in any way so as to entitle the holders to obtain a licence for the sale of wine only. The certificate once granted by magistrates entitles the holder to obtain a spirit licence as well as a wine licence, and hence the reluctance of magistrates to grant these certificates, for licences give them the power to grant a certificate for a wine licence only, and there would no longer be reluctance in granting them. In asking for an extension of wine licences to eating-houses the Chancellor of the Exchequer was going upon wrong grounds. Such refreshment houses were not required, and the only result would he their conversion into mere drinking-houses. That portion of the Bill which authorized the sale of wine by any shopkeeper was perfectly unobjectionable. It was conceived in the spirit of the Beer Bill, which was to give people the opportunity of purchasing their beer near their own houses and conveying it home for consumption in their families; though, unfortunately, the practice as regards beershops was entirely at variance with the intentions of the promoters of that measure, and beershops were now the resort of the worst characters in the country. To give to the ordinary shopkeeper the power of selling wine, and enabling any man to enter and purchase his bottle for consumption in his own house, would be entirely unobjectionable. As the Bill stood, however, anybody who placed a bit of bread and cheese in his window, to give it the appearance of an eating-house, might have a licence for the sale and consumption of wine on the premises. He thought the suggestion he had made with regard to the method of granting licences under the Bill would be a good and useful Amendment. Neither trade or revenue ought to be forced at the expense of morality; and be hoped that the Bill would either be withdrawn and another introduced, or else that it would be materially 799 modified in its provisions as regards the power of the magistrates in granting licences.
§ MR. EDWIN JAMES
wished to state the reasons which would induce him to vote against the second reading of the Bill. He was not influenced in the slightest degree by the temperance organization; for he could not help thinking there was a good deal of hypocrisy in that movement. The worthy Alderman, the Member for Greenwich, who represented a borough in which the sanctity of the Sabbath was more openly and flagrantly violated than in any other place in the kingdom, had intimated his intention to vote for the Bill, having previously stated that the public-houses in the city of London were prevented from selling on Sunday upon religious grounds.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
explained that he had said that the licences were granted to pastrycooks' shops and chop-houses on the understanding that they should not be used as public-houses or chop-houses, should not be opened on Sundays, and should close early in the evening.
§ MR. EDWIN JAMES
said, that the statement was made upon religious grounds, and it appeared to him that while supporting the Bill the hon. Alderman had used the best arguments against it. He himself opposed the measure because it would be extremely unjust and unfair towards a large number of persons, the licensed victuallers, who had invested a large capital, not in a monopoly of their own seeking, but in one which had arisen from the restrictions which had been placed upon them by the Legislature. By the common law of this land every person was at liberty to open an alehouse, a beerhouse, or a public-house in the same way as he could set up a linendraper's shop. But, inasmuch as the normal condition of public-houses was that customers were led to eat as much as possible, to drink as much as possible, and perhaps sometimes to get as intoxicated as possible, the Legislature had interfered by various Acts of Parliament to put restrictions upon these houses, and bring them under the supervision of the magistrates. Hence the restriction that they were not to be opened without a licence; those who kept them were not to allow gaming, or to permit bad characters to assemble in their houses. They had persons billeted on them: they were placed under the control of the magistracy. What was the effect of all this? It was all very 800 well for Aldermen—for the hon. Alderman himself—to say it was a very hard case that a gentleman and lady could not go into a pastrycook's shop and have a glass of claret with their bun or their buiscuit. Admitted it was—but he could tell the worthy Alderman that the pastrycooks and biscuit-bakers would never avail themselves of the measure, if it placed their shops under the surveillance of the police. But this Bill made every magistrate an inquisitor and every policeman a spy. The practical operation of the measure would be that a beerhouse-keeper would take out a refreshment licence, he would then obtain a wine licence, and would thus have what to all intents and purposes would be a public-house, and would carry on business upon the same principle as a licensed victualler, but without being subject to magisterial control. As to the value of magisterial control, they had the evidence of Sir Richard Mayne, who said that it undoubtedly tended to secure order and to the proper control of the houses. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. K. Seymer) told them that his peregrinations on leaving the House sometimes led him through the Haymarket, and he described the scenes of drunkenness and profligacy which were enacted there; but the description given by the deputation which waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this subject showed that it was in the unlicensed coffee-houses and the lobster-shops, and not in the licensed victualling houses, that the worst scenes of profligacy took place. When the hon. Member in future wandered through the Haymarket in his nocturnal perambulations from that House, he (Mr. James) wondered what his experience would be of the new wineshops. Then a great deal had been said about the Excise; but the Excise cared nothing about the morals of the people—all they cared about was the revenue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had informed the House that no one was now permitted to sell wine without also having a licence to sell spirits; but he ought to know that the reason of that was that when persons were allowed to have wine licences alone they defrauded the revenue by selling spirits. He (Mr. James) was no advocate for the present system of licensing, he thought it was much abused, and that there was a great deal of jobbery about it; but that was no reason why the Legislature should call into existence, side by side with the houses of the licensed victuallers, a class of houses which would 801 by public-houses in everything except being subject to magisterial control. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not be ignorant of these matters, because they had been fully explained to him by a deputation at the head of which was a gentleman whose name ought to have been sufficient to secure the sympathies of the right hon. Gentleman—Mr. Homer—more especially as there was reason to suppose that Homer himself was anything but a teetotaller; because we read in Horace:—Laudibus arguitur vini vinosus Homerus.He had no regard for the talk about temperance, which he did not believe the Bill would promote at all. But he thought the measure was unfair and unjust to a most important branch of trade, and he should therefore oppose the measure.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech had at least the merit of being clear and intelligible, which was certainly more than could be said for those of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) and other opponents of this measure, who had used arguments of different kinds and which were opposed to each other; but the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Marylebone came boldly forward as the advocate of the licensed victuallers and the monopoly in fact which they enjoy. His clients were the licensed victuallers, the brewers, and all persons who had invested capital in public-houses, who wished for no change, and who considered that anything that interfered with their monopoly was unjust. He was for everything as it stood, and condemned any departure from the existing system. He (Mr. Villiers) had presided over a Committee upon this subject, and had, in very good company, come to an entirely different conclusion. There were always arguments to be urged in favour of a monopoly, and it was not the first time that he had contended against them. The system which the hon. and learned Gentleman came forward to defend had been for many years universally condemned. A Committee of the House of Commons had unanimously reported that it was defective and ought to be modified, and the present Bill was framed in conformity to their suggestions. He was not a reckless advocate of free trade in intoxicating liquors: but the Committee recommended a better system than at present existed; and that was the system which this Bill carried into effect. He readily admit- 802 ted that in the interests of public morality some control ought to be exercised over houses in which intoxicating drinks were sold; and the present measure would, he thought, afford that advantage; for it provided that the parties whom it would empower to sell wine should give security for the proper management of their business, while it invested the magistrates with very large powers in deciding upon the manner in which persons seeking the privilege had conformed to the conditions required by law. The public were under a gross delusion as to the securities of the present system against the evils which arose from the sale of intoxicating liquors. In the evidence taken on this subject, magistrates admitted that they had no competency for determining who personally was fit or otherwise to have a licence, and were guided by other considerations in granting them. The Committee therefore recommended that the magistrate should not only inquire into the character of the applicants, but also take proper securities from them, and rely upon the police to enforce the restrictions under which they were to act. In this Bill that suggestion was adopted. The magistrates were to see that the persons who were licensed were responsible and respectable; they would be watched by the police, and they would be subject to all the same restrictions and penalties to which publicans and beershop keepers were liable at present. This Committee, to which so much reference has been made, was very fairly constituted. It consisted of some gentlemen who had been Chairmen of Quarter Sessions, and indeed there was hardly a member upon it, except himself, who had not acted in the commission of the peace. The inquiry itself had been promoted by magistrates, and many of the witnesses were magistrates, commissioners of police, and persons of experience in the administration of the law. They all concurred in the opinion that in the selection of persons for licences the present law was defective, and that the best security for public-houses being well conducted was the power of withdrawing a licence, coupled with increased powers conferred upon the police. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to argue as if this were an attempt to give a fresh stimulus to drunkenness and to relax restrictions which now existed. He would take issue on that point. When the Bill was first introduced, objection was taken that the magistrates had no discretion in deciding who 803 were entitled to have those licences; but this power had now been given to them; but it had had no effect upon the opposition offered to the measure. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets himself was perhaps consistent, for he believed that he had opposed the Treaty altogether, and the introduction of cheap wines particularly. But he now appeared as the mouthpiece of the teetotallers, who had not opposed the Treaty at all, which had especially the introduction of these wines in view. He had on their part to say, "True it is, we gave our sanction to the Treaty; we never said a word against the free importation of these wines, but now they are here we will do all we can to prevent their being consumed." But, if I mistake not, they shrank from appearing to be alone, and they knew that the Members that may be joining them, now being engaged in commerce, or representing those who are so, desired to have the Treaty carried out in order to exchange their cottons and crockery and linen yarns for the wine and brandy of France; and whatever they may say now as to the danger of giving the public a convenient mode of having access to these liquors, they would never have joined the teetotallers in resisting the entry of these wines into this country. The obstruction to this measure is only to prevent the Treaty having its natural effect in making foreign wines accessible to people of moderate fortune. Indeed, the teetotallers are not consistent, for they do not seek their total suppression; but by having combined with the Members connected with the publicans, they seem to demand that wine should only be consumed side by side with ardent spirits in public-houses, and not where people go in the middle of the day to get wholesome food, with no desire to drink intoxicating liquors to excess. No objection was made to a man who got his dinner at one of these eating-houses giving the money out of his pocket for wine to be fetched in for him, or indeed to his bringing it in his hand with him; it was only when it was proposed that the landlord should be allowed to lay in a few dozen of bottles in his house for his customers' consumption during the day that the outcry was raised. It was to carry such a simple point as this that all the results of the most terrible intemperance had been sought to be connected with this Bill, but all of which would cease and would never occur, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would 804 now be unopposed, if the present licensing system was retained. But, with what propriety that is to be expected I again direct anybody to the evidence collected by the House of the advantage which follows from that system. The object of the licence was doubtless only to secure the most respectable people to conduct the business and to restrict the number of the houses to the requirements of a district—but, was that the effect of it? He remembered one witness who applied to this House to be heard before that Committee. It was Admiral Hope, who had taken a great interest in the establishment of a Sailors' Home. He stated, in evidence, what he had alleged in a petition to the House, that all his efforts were defeated in consequence of the number of disorderly public-houses that were annually licensed in that neighbourhood, and the sailors being regularly waylaid and plundered of their money by persons frequenting those houses. The Superintendent of the Police of that district was then examined, and he confirmed nearly every thing which Admiral Hope had said, and informed the Committee, that in a district of half-a-mile wide, and a mile and a-half long there were 500 public-houses—347 public-houses and 152 beershops—against many of which there had been convictions as disorderly houses. When asked whether any licences were ever taken away in consequence, his answer was, that it happened very rarely indeed, but that there had been one case so flagrant that it could not be passed over; but when the publican knew what was going to happen to him, before the time for renewing the application for his licence he transferred the licence to his barman, and at the licensing day the licence was granted to the barman as a fresh person, though it was shown that the man had been present when the offence for which the conviction had been obtained was committed, and the house has been very ill-conducted since. It was said that the requirements of the district were the only rule on which the magistrates act. Well, the way in which they exercised discretion in the neighbourhood of the Sailors' Home was to grant an additional one to the 499 public-houses in existence there when Admiral Hope complained. Mr. Pownall was the great authority on licences in Middlesex. Mr. Pownall, on being asked before the Committee how it was that there were such a number of public-houses in neighbour- 805 hoods where there seemed no necessity for them, replied, "Oh, those are old districts; the trade has gone away from them." It was never found, however, that when the neighbourhood had changed and the requirements ceased licences wore withdrawn. According to the magistrates' admissions, licensing, then, is a question of property. When a licence was once granted to a house it gave an additional money value to it, and it would he unfair, as they say, to deprive a man of his property merely because of a change in the condition of the neighbourhood. This, no doubt, was just enough on the part of the magistrates; but it showed conclusively that the licensing system was only a means of giving value to property connected with the sale of intoxicating liquors—that it had nothing to do with police or the maintenance of order, or any other of the moral considerations which had been introduced into the discussion. Without referring to any of the statements which had been made as to the manner in which the magistrates exercised their functions, it was clear, from their own showing, that they were incompetent to form a decision on the merits of the applicants who came before them, and that in practice they granted licences to an extent which could only he injurious to the recipient who sought it as a privilege, and must be very demoralizing in the districts where they existed. And yet it was the omission from the Bill of the provision that the application for these wine licences should be made to magistrates, in the manner in which they are made at present, which had caused all the opposition to it. If any person wished to know what else was said of the motives that prompted the issue of licences they must refer to the blue-book containing evidence taken before the Select Committee. There was plenty of scandal recorded there, to which he should not refer. It was said that this Bill was a second Beerhouse Bill, and that everybody knew the evil the beerhouses had produced. It was very easy to say that the beerhouse system had failed—there was not anybody to affront by that whom hon. Members cared about affronting, though there were not a few Gentlemen within hearing whoso feelings would be offended if anything harsh were said about the public-house system. He had seen no evidence to show that the beerhouse system had failed, though a great deal may be said of a beerhouse that is or ought to be said of 806 a public-house. On the contrary, they had the evidence of Sir R. Mayne and others, that in some of the larger towns they were better conducted than the public-houses. In Manchester there were 400 public-houses and 1,400 beerhouses, and they were informed that drunkenness occurred in the ease only of 1 per cent of the population; while in Liverpool, where the public-house greatly exceeeded the beerhouses in number, the ratio of intoxication was 1 in 28. In all large towns it would be found that, although persons frequented beerhouses for the sake of company, and might encounter bad associates there, it was not by those establishments that drunkenness was peculiarly promoted, and probably far less so than by the licenced gin-palace. He knew among hon. Gentlemen it was said that all sorts of infamous characters assembled there, and that crimes of all sorts were concocted. But he believed that the crime that was always hold in view in those cases was poaching. But the result of the inquiries made before the Game Committee, a few years ago, merely proved that poaching, as it had existed before the passing of the Beer Act, continued to the present day; and the striking fact was mentioned by one of the Inspectors of Prisons who was examined before that Committee that one-fourth of the persons confined in gaol in this country were committed for offences against the game laws which, if he was not mistaken, was precisely the proportion mentioned to exist before the Game Committee in 1817. Another objection taken to the Bill was that it proposed to tax a class of persons who had not been taxed before— namely, the keepers of coffee-houses. Let any one who thinks that these houses should not be watched by the police, compare the beerhouses as to which so much prejudice existed, with the coffee-shops, which had so much increased of late. The fact was that many of these houses were the resort of the lowest characters, and not being under the control of the authorities could be open at all hours of the night. They had the testimony of the police that when the public and beerhouses were closed for the night the bad characters flocked to the coffee-shops, and Sir K. Mayne stated that 139 of these remained open all night in London, and were often filled with the worst characters, who, having either no homos or bad homes to return to, passed the night at these establishments. It was one of the arguments 807 against the Bill that the Government were about to impose a tax upon refreshment-houses, thereby mulcting innocent and unoffending persons; but all the evidence given before the Committee showed the extreme desirability of authorizing the police to enter all such places of public resort, which they were unabled to do without they were licensed. It was chiefly for the purpose of bringing under supervision and control coffee-houses, and places of that description, as to the character of which there was the strongest concurring testimony from people of different kinds, that they had been included in the provisions of the Bill. Indeed, on the part of certain coffee and eating-house keepers application had been made to the Committee before referred to, and a desire was expressed that some system of registry or licensing might be adopted in order that those that were respectable should be known. Another ground of opposition to the measure was that it would generally increase the facilities for the sale of intoxicating liquors, and that the system under which drinking-houses were formerly controlled would become more lax. He could only say that there was no ground for these assertions. It would influence him much if it did. He entertained the strongest possible feeling as to the necessity for repressing drunkenness; he was decidedly of opinion that the trade in intoxicating liquors ought to be regarded as distinct from every other, and that judicious restrictions should be imposed upon it. Nothing but a belief that the best security would be afforded by the vigilant control of the police, and by the caution to be exercised in the granting of licences, could induce him to support such a Bill as the present; but from the securities that its provisions required, he believed it would be harmless for evil, and it would at the same time be productive of the greatest convenience to persons of the middle classes who were in the habit of resorting to eating-houses. The persons who talked about "free trade in drunkenness" did not properly understand the phrase which they employed, and seemed only desirous of bringing discredit on opinions which they failed to appreciate. Monopoly in any particular business was not necessary to make it safe, and it was not opposed to freedom of trade to protect the public against disorder. A measure of this nature was much recommended by the altered habits of the present day. The great majority of persons 808 now lived out of town, and were consequently obliged to dine at refreshment-houses. It could not be said that any peculiar temptation was thrown in their way, for the only difference would he that, instead of sending out to procure what they required, they would be able to obtain it on the spot. There was an inconsistency in the arguments urged against this measure as well as the reduction of the duties on wine, which looked as if they were prompted by private interest rather than public good; for instance, the double objection was urged against the Bill; first, it was said, that the habits of the people would not change, and that they would never acquire a taste for foreign wines, and at the same time, it was also said, that so excessive would be the consumption, that nothing but general drunkenness would follow from its adoption; to say in fact, in one breath that the national taste was so strongly wedded to beer and brandy that it was only the educated classes who would drink wine, and to contend that everybody would get drunk on wine owing to the increased facilities which were afforded. For his own part, he did not believe that very light or low-priced wines would for a time to come suit the general taste. The spirit of legislation for the last 120 years had too strongly encouraged the taste for strong and spirituous liquors to suppose that it could all at once be abandoned; and he believed that it would be chiefly among the prudent and careful, among the middle classes that the benefit from the introduction of these wines would be principally felt.
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down deserved to be heard on this question, seeing that he had presided over one of the most laborious Committees that ever sat on the question. The Committee occupied two years in their investigation, and extracted many thousand answers from different witnesses. The opinion of the right hon. Gentleman was therefore entitled to great weight. It was not necessary for him (Mr. Henley) to disclaim the representation of the teetotallers—to which body he did not belong—or of the beersellers or publicans. If he had a client, it was the right hon. Gentleman himself; for the Bill under discussion was in every respect conflicting and contradictory of the Report of that Committee of which the right hon. Gentleman was the Chairman. It was precisely in the points on which the Bill conflicted 809 with the Report that he took exception to its provisions; and though he could not hope for the right hon. Gentleman's vote when he reminded him of the unanimous recommendation of the Committee, which he might possibly have forgotten, he yet might he able to lessen his authority with the House. If hon. Members had been asked to support a Bill founded on the representations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he for one should not have objected to it. For what had the right hon. Gentleman stated? He declared himself unfavourable, like the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, to the present system of licensing; and that he wished to do nothing but what was necessary, directly or indirectly, for his particular object—which he supposed was to sell wine, to which there could be no objection. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he wished to proceed without prejudice to the question of altering the present system. So did he; but he thought he should be able to show, not only that the Bill did prejudice the existing system, but prejudiced it in such a way as would render it absolutely impossible to alter it on any future occasion. The first object which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had in view was that the importation of wine on the reduced duty should be thrown open to the whole of the consumers. With that he quite agreed. The next object was that the sale of wine should only be restricted to the same extent as the sale of other liquors. He also agreed with that. The question then was, whether the mode in which he sought to effect that was a proper and reasonable mode; and that was the real question which they had to consider. He would shortly state to the House what the recommendations of the Committee were; he would not have troubled the House with them but for the extraordinary statement they had just heard from the right hon. Gentleman, that the Bill carried out the recommendations of the Committee. The first recommendation of the Committee was, that no intoxicating drinks should be sold without a licence. There was no difference of opinion as to that. The next was, that there should he one uniform licence for the sale of intoxicating liquors. Was the present Bill on all fours with the recommendation of the Committee in that respect? On the contrary, it was formed upon an entirely conflicting principle. The next recommendation of the Committee—and it was unanimous—was that such licences 810 should be granted by the magistrates. He would not say whether that was right or wrong, but at all events it was the recommendation of the Report. They also recommended that the sale of intoxicating liquors should be open to all persons of good character. The Bill, however, said nothing at all about character; it only provided that the licence should not be granted to persons who kept disorderly houses, and a person must be a very bad character indeed to keep a disorderly house. Was the provision of the Bill and the Report on all fours in that particular? The Committee then came to the question of coffee-houses. That was a very large category of houses, and not only applied to coffee-houses and shops, but to temperance hotels, eating-houses, and shell fish shops, with all similar places of public resort. They were not to be subject to the inspection of the police. There was a division in the Committee on that point, which was nearly the only division which took place. The right hon. Gentleman wanted to bring them under the control of the police; but the Committee said no, because they were to be visited by regularly appointed inspectors. What did this Bill provide? It provided not only that such places of public resort should be subject to the police, but it applied the same principle not only to confectioners' shops, but also to the shop of every old woman—or every young one— who sold a nut, an orange, or a glass of ginger-beer. [THE CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer intimated dissent.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head; but when he referred to the Bill he found that its provisions applied to all places in which any victuals or refreshments were sold. Well, then, oranges could very well come under the category of refreshments, for he owned that an orange was a very great refreshment to him. All those places were to be liable to pay a licence and to be open to the invasion of the police; because it was provided that every one, great or small, —(for the restriction as to £10 or £20 rent applied only to wine licences, and not to refreshment-houses)—who had a licence, was to be subject to inspection. He took the trouble the other day to walk through a large district in the neighbourhood bounded by Victoria Street on one side, the river on the other, extending from the House up to Vauxhall Bridge. He traversed most of the streets in order to see what sort of shops they were that sold oranges, and he found that there were hundreds of little shops 811 that sold oranges, fruit, bundle wood, red herrings, and other sorts of sweet-meats, and in all these shops there wore tarts and biscuits. In every one of those shops they saw small articles of that kind sold; and therefore it was not right of the right hon. Gentleman to say that they did not come within the provisions of the Bill, although he shook his head. He would be bound to say that where there was one beerhouse there were five of the shops of the character which he had described, and he mentioned the fact to show the oppression which this Bill would cause to those people. The right hon. Gentleman had made a very great speech which had taken very much with the House; he said he wanted to give increased facilities for the sale of wine, and that it was desirable that persons who sold food should he enabled to sell drink also. That was very reasonable. He (Mr. Henley) said so too. It was a very reasonable condition to apply to the wine licences or any other licences to sell drink, that food should also be sold; but the real fact was that people could buy their food cheaper in other places than they could at the licensed shops, and, therefore, they would not have the advantage it was supposed they would; whereas, on the other hand, in every place in which an ounce of food was sold, there would be placed upon the people this perpetual blister of the police. That was enacted by the Bill; it put these persons under the barrow and nuisance of the police that they might be driven to take out a wine licence. That was what the Government called promoting the morality of the people. Let those who want to take up a wine or beer licence have full liberty to do so; but do not put a restraint upon people who do not want to have such licence, by exposing them to the same inconveniences as those who do want it will be exposed to. The right hon. Gentleman had talked a great deal about the evidence given before the Committee. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would admit that if there were any point strongly established, and which would justify the Committee in their Report, it was that, having two kinds of houses open, there was a sort of competition to tempt people to do that which they would not otherwise do. But now the right hon. Gentleman proposed to set up a third set of competing houses, and this in the very teeth of the recommendation of the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman talked of magisterial security. But what was it 812 he proposed in this Bill? Did he mean to hold out to the public as a security, a delusion of this kind, which he kept dangling before the eyes of the teetotallers to make them suppose that they had got something when they had really got nothing. It was no security, inasmuch as no magistrate could put it in force. What was it that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to enact? The right hon. Gentleman proposed to give power to two magistrates in petty sessions to put a veto on a licence, issued by the Board of Excise in two or three specified cases. The one case was, if the house was not an eating-house within the meaning of the Act; or if the party keeping it did not sell anything with which wine or liquor was not usually consumed. Again, the right hon. Gentleman shook his head; but those were the words of the Act. Now, would the right hon. Gentleman point out to the House what there was in the whole range of his experience —from a sucking-pig to an orange—with which something—wine, or beer, or brandy — might not be, and was not, usually drunk? They had all heard of "cakes and ale," and of "a biscuit and sherry," or "a crust of bread and a glass of wine!" All this he considered was the "folly" part of the Bill, for it appeared to have been got by "Revenue" out of "Police," with a strong dash of "Folly" blood in it. If a person kept a disorderly house, or if disorderly people frequented it, then it appeared that there was to be a veto against the licence by the magistrates. That he called stabbing men behind their hacks. How was a magistrate to certify that a house was disorderly? That was, certainly, a word known to the law. He apprehended that what they meant by a disorderly house comprised the new term a "social evil." He also supposed it meant a gambling house. There was another class of disorderly houses against which indictments had been brought—those were houses in which there were cock-fighting, boxing, and cudgel playing carried on, and other matters of that description. But how stood the case with the magistrates if parties came before them and gave them information that houses of this description were kept open? Was it not their duty to send for the overseers and bind them over to indict those houses? That was their duty are magistrates. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Bill was framed in a spirit of confidence in the magistrates. He did not suppose that the confidence of the 813 right hon. Gentleman in the magistrates went exactly to that length, and that he intended they should act without sufficient information before them. But the House had some odd information upon this subject. A little while ago the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Lord J. Russell) in giving some wholesome advice to an inexperienced young King in whom he had taken a great interest—an interest which was also experienced by Her Majesty—used language so remarkable that he (Mr. Henley) thought he must have had the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his eye when he published it. The noble Lord was raised at a time when people wore in the habit of calling a spade a spade. The noble Lord said,—Let the Neapolitan Government arrest no man without bringing him to trial face to face with his accusers. Let them subject no man to injurious restrictions without proof of some crime or offence against public order. Let the law as it stands be equally applied to all.
§ Subsequently Mr. Elliot had written to the noble Lord as follows: —
§ "Naples, March 3.
§ "For that, although they had proofs sufficient to satisfy themselves (the Ministers) of the guilt of the persons arrested, the evidence was not such as would procure a conviction in a court of justice. 'In plainer words,' I answered, 'you have resolved to accept as conclusive the denunciations of spies whom you dare not bring face to face with the accused.' And this, without apparent shame, M. Carafa frankly admitted to be the state of the case; repeating, that he was aware they could not produce a legal conviction, but that they had no doubt whatever of the guilt of the accused."
Now what was it, let him ask, that the noble Lord and his colleagues desired the magistrates of England to do behind the backs of those persons who wanted to invest their capital in winehouses without bringing them face to face with their accusers? Why, it was clear the noble Lord was about to sanction here that very line of conduct which in the case of Naples he had so strongly denounced. But, to return to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he found a speech of that right hon. Gentleman's had been published, from which also he wished to read an extract, inasmuch as he thought it very likely the right hon. Gentleman would contradict the statements which it contained. The speech in question had been published in The Alliance newspaper, and professed to have been made in answer to a deputation which had waited upon him on the subject of granting licences. Here was his own description of a clause
in his Bill. Reference was made to the fact that beerhouse licences could not be taken away except after conviction. Now, the right hon. Gentleman was made to say in answer to that remark,
But in my Bill there is no conviction at all necessary. Any misconduct will endanger a licence. Therefore, ns to the question of control, I should be very sorry if the control provided here is not ten times the control over the beerhouses. In the first place, the man must give notice to the magistrates; in the second place, the magistrate has nothing to do but simply to certify matters of which they are sole judges. If they certify those facts, either that the house is not an eating-house in the meaning of the Act or that it is a disorderly house, frequented by disorderly persons—(what, he should like to know, was the sort of evidence which would be required to prove that it was a disorderly house; was it sufficient that certain persons belonging to the class designated as 'the social evil' had been seen going into it?)—the licence cannot issue. Now, it issues for twelve months, irrespective of any conviction at all. Therefore, under this Bill, licensed houses will be under the most absolute control, for there is no appeal whatever; nothing is required but the magistrate's certificate that it is a disorderly house; and even if the magistrates declare that fact falsely, from interested motives, still the licence cannot issue. If that is not strong enough, I do not know what is.
§ That was the Report published of the right hon. Gentleman's address to the deputation to which he referred. Now, if that language was used, he asked the House whether it was calculated to convey a true meaning of his measure to those parties who had waited on him? The right hon. Gentleman, when he spoke of magistrates acting falsely and from interested motives, seemed to forget that there was such a place as the Queen's Bench in existence. He (Mr. Henley) took it if a magistrate had acted falsely or from interested motives that there would soon he a criminal information sued out against him in that place where learned and upright Judges presided. The Lord Chancellor, too, would deem it to be his duty to strike his name out of the commission of the peace. It would be also very strange if the lawyers would not find out some mode of bringing an action against such a man for damages. But was it to be tolerated for one moment that people were to be convicted without hearing them? They bad the strongest evidence within the last few months of what ought to be done tinder such circumstances. The Lord Chancellor, in a recent case, told a most rev. Prelate that he could not decide without hearing the accused, and he took a great deal of pains to tell him why. The noble and learned Lord not only gave him 815 reasons that would be sufficient for a layman, but he reminded the most rev. Prelate that Adam himself was heard before he was judged. That reference, to be sure, might have been for the special benefit of the party with whom he was dealing. Now, in the same spirit, he (Mr. Henley) told the right hon. Gentleman that he had no right to attempt to inveigle the magistrates of England into an act which no law attempted to justify until this precious Bill of the right hon. Gentleman's came into force, namely, to damn a man's character behind his back. All sorts of reflections were even now cast upon magistrates, even in the case of a hearing in open court; what, then, would be said to them when such things would be done in secret? Why, if they were foolish enough to act under this Bill the magistrates of England would stink in all men's nostrils. He had now stated the objections he had to this Bill. It was so framed that it would be almost impossible to alter it in Committee. The effect of the Bill was to tax every private person that sold victuals. How far the particular clause which went to that end would go, he did not pretend to say; but it would go very far, and it would be useless to alter the Bill in Committee, because its whole scheme needed alteration. Before sitting down, he could not help protesting against the course Government had taken in wholly disregarding the forms of the House, and that had led them into such inconveniences as they would have escaped if the ordinary course had been taken. If they had been asked to go into Committee, as they ought to have been, then the whole question would have been well raised, and the Government would have had the advantage of the discussion to see how they should frame their Bill. The Government, however, had taken the other course, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that it was better that they should have the Bill in order that they might know what was meant to be accomplished by it. Now, they had seen it, and certainly the naked idea in Committee had received a development which no ingenuity less than that of the right hon. Gentleman could have given it. No doubt the Resolution in Committee had been framed very widely, capable of anything—hanging everybody indeed; and the Bill did go far in that direction. He should be very glad to give all proper facilities to open houses for the sale of wine. The House having chosen to alter the duties, it would be wrong not to do so. But while 816 they did so they ought not to put a pressure on those who did not want to take out those licences, and tax them for selling tarts and ices. They were bound to protect the humblest person who sold a few cakes in his shop as well as the great merchant, who could pretty well take care of himself. It was quite open to all persons who sold boiled beef and cabbage—all parties keeping an eating-house, to take a beer-licence if they liked. There was nothing to prevent it. The rent of their houses was almost always sufficient; yet, in point of practice, they seldom did take it. That certainly was some evidence that persons who carried on the trade in food did not want to subject themselves to the nuisance of having their houses invaded by policemen. Their habits were altogether different; and therefore he did not think so many would take out these licences as the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculated upon. Indeed, he could not help thinking that there was some apprehension of this kind in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman himself, and therefore this blister of the police was applied to compel the many, who otherwise would not, to take out licences, and thus, in an indirect manner, to contribute to the revenue. He heartily wished the Bill were withdrawn, in order that it might be put into a less objectionable shape, and then it might go through the House with very little trouble.
§ MR. BUXTON
rose for the purpose of denying that the agitation against the Bill had been in any way got up by the London brewers. As far as he had heard they did not care a farthing about the matter, and had entirely refused to stir in it. Indeed, it would have been surprising if they had, for no one dreamed that French wines would ever drive out ale and porter. Their competition might, perhaps, check adulteration, but that would be all. With respect to the licensing system, if the Bill were thrown out by the interest of the brewers, public opinion would be so disgusted—so right-teously disgusted—that there would be an end of the licensing system altogether. Upon these and other grounds he should have preferred to support the Bill, and would have done so if the division had taken place after the first discussion; but subsequent close thought upon the subject during the recess had brought him reluctantly to the conclusion that he must vote against the Bill, and that upon the ground which, coining from him must he knew, 817 seem an absurd, hypocritical pretence— that it would powerfully tend to promote intoxication. He would make no attempt to defend himself from the ridicule this assertion might excite, but would pass on to the question which deserved most anxious thought—whether the result of that Bill would not inevitably be a fearful increase of drunkenness. Of course, if the Bill would merely create a general consumption of claret and other light wines, every reasonable man would give it his hearty support; but the point to be looked to was whether its result would not prove to be an almost universal sale in the eating-houses and beer-shops throughout the United Kingdom, under the name and pretence of wine, of ardent spirits, that was the point to grapple with. Now, undoubtedly, the present taste of the mass of the people would crave some stronger and more stimulating drink than light claret, and he saw no possibility of preventing these wines from being mixed with brandy up to any strength whatever; and again of other ardent spirits being surreptitiously sold in conjunction with them. The Bill, no doubt, attempted to provide against that by allowing the police a free ingress into all houses where wines were sold; but he thought that no one could have studied the evidence given before the Committee on Public-houses without feeling that this would be wholly ineffectual. Sir Richard Mayne expressly told the Committee with regard to even the few existing wineshops that, practically, you could not prove in evidence whether wine was sold or other drink under its name. That difficulty would become an impossibility if, as seemed likely if the Bill were carried, from 150,000 to 200,000 places would be opened for the sale of wine. Not only common sense, but he was sorry to say, if the evidence laid before that Committee was to be trusted, experience too, had shown that, if they required the police to be constantly entering these houses and examining the contents of the bottles and casks, the practical result would be to corrupt and demoralize the police, but not to attain the end at which they were aiming. For his part, he thought it would be wrong to expose the police to so powerful a temptation. It therefore seemed to him to be as clear as daylight that the Bill would result in an universal sale of ardent spirits in almost every beerhouse and eating-house in the kingdom. To that, however, he would not object, if sound and effectual precautions were taken by the Bill against the exces- 818 sive abuse of those commodities. Were any such precautions taken? Virtually none whatever. The Bill allowed almost any one to obtain a licence from the Excise, and merely required that notice should then be sent to the magistrates, and if they chose they would be at liberty to impose a veto in the case of any individual against whom they had specific grounds of complaint. But it required no deep knowledge of human nature to feel assured that, except in the rarest cases, the magistrates would not thrust their necks into a yoke which they were not called upon to assume. When they required them to issue the licences they threw upon them a clear duty, and they did it; but it was quite another thing to grant the licences through a different agency, merely giving the magistrates leave to put themselves forward to undertake a burdensome and invidious duty not exacted from them by the law. Practically, therefore, he thought the consequence of this Bill would be the unchecked, unrestrained sale, of ardent spirits. Now, could they forget that vivid and striking experiment that was tried at Liverpool, where the magistrates granted licences to every applicant; the result being, that whereas on an average of great towns one person in 400 is taken up for drunkenness, in Liverpool one person in forty was taken up; and at last the magistrates themselves became so alarmed by the result of their own doings that they would not grant a licence to anybody. Still more emphatic was the warning given by the result of the Beer Bill? There was no one who took an interest in the wellbeing of the poor, there was not a magistrate in the United Kingdom, who did not say that the Beer Bill had wrought infinite misery; not but what it was right to allow free trade in beer, but that it was wrong, it was a cruel wrong to the working class itself, not to adopt due precautions against that liberty degenerating into licentiousness. With all this before him he felt it impossible to give his support to the Bill. On the other hand it would be only common sense to allow that free trade in wine was a necessary corollary to the commercial treaty with France. They could not dream of placing the sale of those wines under the restrictions of the existing licensing system, with its close and monopolizing character. No statesman would propose that. Then, weighing these strong but conflicting considerations, his anxious hope was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be in- 819 duced, by the expression of opinion that night, to withdraw this Bill, which excited opposition from both parties, and then at the earliest period bring in a well-considered measure, that would not attempt to draw any vain and illusory distinction between wine and spirits, but would apply to both the same system of precaution — a system at once more potent than the licensing system, and yet free from any taint of monopoly. There was no reason for supposing that such a substitute could not be found. That was not the occasion for delineating its features, but he might state in the barest words possible what he thought were the principles on which any scheme of precaution ought to be based. The licensing system was founded on the idea of checking drunkenness by restricting the number of houses for the sale of spirits. The effect of that was to give a monopoly to the selected houses, and to place in the hands of a few individuals the strange and arbitrary power of deciding for a district how much drink it wanted. Moreover, so much of the time and attention of the magistrates were taken up that they had little to bestow on the performance of their other duty—namely, that of renewing licences already granted. He would, therefore, discard that feature of the licensing system. His idea was, that instead of cutting and slashing at the whole trade they should concentrate all their force upon its abuse alone. To that end they ought to recognize the well-established fact that nearly all the worst drunkenness arose after eleven o'clock at night. He would, therefore, allow any householder to get a licence from the Excise for the sale of any liquor whatever up to that hour, paying, however, more for it than now. After eleven o'clock he would allow no house to be open for the sale of any intoxicating liquor whatever, except under a special licence for that purpose; and these night licences he would encompass with every kind of safeguard. They ought to ask a very large annual sum, both as some guarantee for respectability, and also as making them easier of control, because they would be fewer in number; but mainly as an inducement to the great mass of public-houses not to take out a night licence but to close at eleven o'clock. Again, the eleven o'clock licences should be granted and renewed each year by the magistrates; who, however, should have no power to limit the number for fear of monopoly, but whose one only duty regard- 820 ing them should be to institute a thorough investigation whether the house had been conducted during that year with due regard to order and sobriety; if not, he would require them to withhold the night licence. And to aid in that, it might be well that one police officer in each district should be a special inspector of these night houses, and make a monthly report regarding each of them to the magistrates, as a guide to them in the renewal. By these means all monopoly would be got rid of, and the sale of intoxicating drink after eleven o'clock discouraged. Instead of cutting and slashing at the whole trade, they would plant their blow upon its abuses alone. They would stand on a sound principle—that of allowing any one to prosecute the trade so long as he did so with a due regard to society; they would lay their band only on the man who had actually shown that his exercise of it was deleterious to the public welfare. The difference between such a plan, and the existing system would be just that between a law of libel and a censorship of the press. He was persuaded that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would bring forward a Bill founded on such principles, he would have the glory of having driven from every corner of the statute-book the last remnants of monopoly and protection, and of having given a telling blow to that vice which filled the land with disease, pauperism, and crime, and which was the main bar to social progress, and brought ruin to the domestic happiness of the working man. Nor need he fear any fatal opposition, for such a Bill would woo the teetotallers from the side of the drink-sellers. The publicans would be forsaken by the saints, and would have to seek aid from the sinners—a far less numerous and influential body. It might seem strange that he should give a kick to the licensing system, from which it was generally supposed that the prosperity of the brewers was mainly derived; but if, on the one hand, the licensing system really gave them a monopoly, on the other it would only be common sense for a freetrader to believe that in the long run that monopoly could not be a help to them, but a hindrance. He had always thought that protection was not so much a blunder as a wrong—not an outrage on common sense only, but on the natural freedom and rights of mankind. He could not, therefore, but wish to free the business in which he was engaged from any such stain. But in fact he was persuaded that, whatever it did for 821 other parties, to the London brewers the licensing system gave no monopoly at all. Doubtless the overthrow of the licensing system would cause them a most serious loss for a time by depreciating the property upon the security of which they had made enormous advances, but not because it would deprive them of any monopoly. If the House would allow him he would briefly explain the exact nature of the connection between the London brewers and the licensing system. It might be convenient to the House to have some precise knowledge on that point, instead of the vague surmises and gross misrepresentations that had got hold of the public mind. Of course he could only speak for the firm to which he belonged, but his impression was that the same system was pursued by all the principal London breweries. It was usually imagined that the London brewers formed a compact organized body, keenly alive to its own interest, and so powerful in its union that it could override that of the public. He would state one fact that would, he thought, dispel that illusion. He had been for fifteen years connected with that business. During that time the London brewers had met upon only two occasions to discuss any trade question whatever. The first of those occasions was when the price of barley had risen to an enormous height. Several of them met —not all, some having refused to join— and it was agreed to raise the juice of beer. In a few weeks they had to meet again and bring it down to its former level, because they found their trade was rapidly passing into other hands. The other occasion was when the extra duty was imposed on malt during the Russian war. They then all agreed to raise the price of beer in due proportion, and lowered it again as soon as the extra duty was taken off. Those were the only occasions on which any trade question had been discussed by the London brewers during the last fifteen years. Why, if they had ever so powerful an organization among themselves they could not stand out for a moment against the competition of the 2,000 country brewers, some of whom already did a large trade in the Metropolis—for instance, the Dublin stout and Burton ale brewers. The other assumption was that the licensing system had so greatly reduced the number of public-houses that the brewers had been able to get hold of nearly all, and to put in their own nominees, who therefore were in abject subjection to them. He denied that the 822 publicans in London were in subjection to the brewers. He asserted that if not all, yet far the greater number of the licensed victuallers of London were perfectly free to deal with whatever brewery they pleased. He would give the House some facts that would prove that assertion. Of those who dealt with his firm, three-fifths were out of London. No one supposed that over those they could have any control whatever. Of the two-fifths resident in London, just 17 per cent were their tenants; but of those only two were tenants at will—all the remainder had leases, in no case for less than ten years. But then of the eighty-three per cent who occupied their own houses, a largo number bad borrowed money from them to enable them to take those houses up, and it was generally thought that in taking a loan the publican bound himself to them hand and foot. Nothing could be more untrue. The publican was as free after taking the loan as he was before. Of course, while be held their loan he dealt with them; but the moment anything annoyed him, he had only to go across to any other firm, who would be too delighted to advance him the money with which he paid off his loan from the one party and transferred his account to the other. And if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would ever do them the honour to come down and examine into their system, which they would be too happy to throw wide open before him, he could give him other equally strong proofs of their entire independence.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
said, he intended to support the second Heading of this Bill, because he believed that a great body of his constituents desired that he should do so. The objections raised by the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) were all such as could be dealt with in Committee; and because he believed not only that the Bill would not, as had been stated, give increased facilities for intoxication, but that it would lead to a directly opposite result. He had found in those countries where he had to carry out extensive contracts, and whore wine was the principle beverage, that the natives employed by him were among the soberest of his workmen. For instance, in connection with the contract his firm bad undertaken for the construction of the Mediterranean Railway, upon which were some of the heaviest engineering earthworks that it bad ever fallen to his lot to construct, he had taken into his 823 employment about 3,000 of the Piedmontese peasantry. These men drank the wine of the country, they worked well, they saved money, and they took it home to their families; and he had not heard of a single case of drunkenness having occurred amongst them. Now, if this were the case there, he could not understand why, the same state of things being established, and wine rendered easily and cheaply accessible to our working men, the same result should not be attained in this country. For these reasons he felt that he was conscientiously performing his duty in supporting the second reading of the Bill.
§ SIR WILLIAM MILES
said, he assented to the principles laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer respecting the wine duties; but he wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was willing to relinquish the 4th clause of his Bill, that being the one which imposed a tax upon all refreshment-houses of whatsoever degree they might be. There were throughout the country many small shops at which were sold apples, oranges, ginger-beer, ginger-bread, &c., and which would doubtless be brought within the provisions of the Bill, as they were in every sense of the word refreshment-houses; but the proprietors were in many cases poor women in a humble condition of life, who managed to eke out an existence by the sale of the articles to which he had referred. Were such as these, then, to be compelled to pay a licence of 10s. 6d.? His own impression had been, when listening to the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the introduction of this Bill, that it was intended only to compel those refreshment-houses that sold the wine which he anticipated would, under his new measure, find its way into this country to take out licences. His vote upon the second reading of the Bill would depend entirely upon the answer the right hon. Gentleman gave to this question; for he quite approved of the licence being made compulsory where wine was sold, but should strongly oppose any attempt to impose a licence upon all refreshment-houses whether they sold wine or not.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
—The short, but, I think, most able speech of my hon. Friend (Sir M. Peto) has opened the line of remark which I should have wished to take, and has diminished the labour, such as it is, which still 824 lies before me. My hon. Friend pointed out, with a clearness which I cannot hope to do more than imitate, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) had, while giving his assent to the general principles and objects of this Bill, founded his opposition to it entirely upon mere points of detail. But for the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I should have simply said to the House, "Of course this is not the occasion on which I ask any Gentleman to vote precisely what houses shall be liable to the refreshment licence, what is the precise description of persons who shall take the wine licence, what shall be the exact conditions of magisterial interference, what the hours of closing, or whether the magistrates shall be bound to give the party a hearing; or any other of the questions that have been mooted." All those questions I should have thought would have been left to the Committee on the Bill. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will put a favourable construction on what I say, because no one contributes more valuable aid to the debates of this House by his acute and unrelenting criticism; but when he has had as much experience in framing Bills as during the last twenty years he has had in dissecting and judging Bills framed by others, I will promise him that, especially in devising new systems, he will not find it easy to avoid raising real and sound objections on the part of critics not half so keen as he is. His objections turn on two points. In the first place he complains that all refreshment houses having nothing to do with the sale of wine and strong liquors are dragged head and shoulders into this Bill; and, secondly, that we do not give the parties a right of being heard before the magistrates. Now, on the first of these points I do not think that either the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Baronet who has just spoken can have read the Bill aright. I do not know whether the language of the fourth clause is sufficient for its purpose; but I can say most unequivocally that its object is not to impose the liability to take a licence upon all houses where refreshment is sold —not to impose that liability even upon all houses where casually it may be consumed upon the premises—but to impose it upon houses which are kept open for the purpose of selling refreshment to be consumed on the premises. I mean that the consumption upon the premises is to be the business for which the house is kept open. That is the principle of this part of the 825 Bill. The right hon. Gentleman will see that the object with which the clause has been framed entirely disposes of his gingerbread, oranges, and barley-sugar cases, and all the rest of it, because these are not houses kept open for the purpose of selling refreshment to be consumed on the premises. That I hold to be clear as a matter of fact. But the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire (Sir W. Miles) is a wider one. I believe it will be answered by the exemptions in the seventh clause, which apply to all small places. At the same time, I look upon this part of the Bill as involving matter which is secondary and incidental to the main object of the measure, and which, undoubtedly, I, for my part, thought it my duty to adopt mainly in deference to the authority of a unanimous Committee of this House, and to what I know to be the views of the police authorities. To me it seems not unreasonable that, especially in large towns, in conformity with the views taken by the Committee, those houses which are kept open for the purpose of the consumption of refreshments upon the premises, and which become places of public resort and amusement, should, under certain conditions, and in principle, be brought within the superintendence of the police. And I am bound to say that I do not believe there is that great objection to the supervision of the police by this description of persons which has been supposed. I have only received one remonstrance— and one, I think, which ought to be attended to—from the bakers, who say that they occasionally sell bread to be consumed on the premises; and if they are within the operation of the Bill they certainly ought to be relieved from it. But I do not regard this portion of the Bill as forming any part of its essence, and only wish the House to give a candid consideration to the recommendations of the Committee upon this subject. Any proposals which accord with the general spirit of the suggestions made by the Committee will answer my purpose, and even if the House thought fit to strike out of the Bill all that relates to the licensing of refreshment-houses, the main object of the measure would not be affected. Then, as to the hearing before the magistrates, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) devoted so large a portion of his speech, there is only one thing which the gentlemen of the Alliance who reported what fell from me would have 826 done well to add had they recollected it. I frankly owned referring to the simple and arbitrary discretion given to magistrates, that this Bill was drawn with an almost unlimited desire to give them every possible power to decide matters of fact, and required only honesty and intelligence to give it effect. And I do say that the provisions of the Bill, as they stand, are so stringent that I believe I shall find it necessary to limit and restrain them. I so entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman, that if I had had the opportunity of reprinting the Bill at an early period, I would have inserted words to give express recognition to the right of hearing. Such being the case, the question between the right hon. Gentlemen and myself is simply one of detail, and in order to consider the details it is that I ask the House to allow the Bill to be discussed in Committee. The hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Buxton) has spoken of the position of a great and powerful party in respect to this matter. All that has been said by my hon. Friend I am sure has been said in good faith and sincerity; but I doubt whether what he has described as his own case is precisely the case of other persons in similar positions. The hon. Gentleman says, "Let the Chancellor of the Exchequer withdraw this Bill and bring in another, and he will have no difficulty in passing it." It is a very great compliment to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to suppose that, even with the assistance of my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury, of the Revenue departments, and of my official colleagues, I could frame a system novel in its application in such a way as beforehand to put aside all objections. But I am not so sanguine. I believe there is nothing like a Committee of this House, with its variety of minds, of interests, and of powers to bring to bear upon particulars, for considering the details of this measure. Then this question comes back to this point, do we mean rigidly to stand by the licensing system as it exists, or not? That is the real question before the House. It is no easy matter to raise this subject at all. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley) is one who will manfully face the question when it is raised; but he knows that it is not easy to deal with a question of this kind, and I say with unfeigned respect that the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. James) discussed to-night the claims of the licensed victuallers with an ingenuousness not often met with, although 827 those demands influence sometimes directly, sometimes negatively, the decisions of their representatives. The right hon. Genman (Mr. Henley) has fairly said that the Government, having induced the House to consent to a large sacrifice of revenue in order to admit French wines at a low duty, it was their duty to submit to the House the unsatisfactory state of the law with reference to the sale of wine in this country. It is unsatisfactory, in the first place, as to the simple sale of wine not to be drunk on the premises; and, above all, unsatisfactory a3 regards the sale of wine to be consumed in houses of refreshment. I heard the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Hardy) say that he would give every encouragement within reasonable limits to the consumption of liquors of this kind in families; but disposing of the case of families is not disposing of the whole country. We have now a social organization under which, especially in great towns, but also in smaller towns, there are hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, aye, in Loudon hundreds of thousands of persons—shopmen, shopwomen, seamstresses, agents, commercial travellers, and others—the nature of whose daily occupations would disqualify them from profiting by the boon which the hon. Member for Leominster would give them, to consume wine in their families. We plead on behalf of those classes; we desire to meet a legitimate necessity. We offer a measure which in principle aims at promoting the use of a lighter and more innocuous drink in comparison with the spirits which are sold now. That is a legitimate object of legislation, and we ask you now to allow this Bill to be considered in Committee. But then comes the real case. The question is not whether cases shall be heard by the magistrates, nor whether we should tax coffee-shops, but whether the Bill is likely to cause a great increase of intemperance, that is the only consideration we ought to entertain on this occasion; and I feel that the right hon. Gentleman opposite will not do justice to the subject if he records his vote against the second reading. It is n question whether this Bill will tend to promote and increase intemperance. Who is it that tells us such will be the case? Who are they who combine to form the opposition to this Bill upon the ground that it is likely to increase drunkenness? It is the same proposition, but it proceeds from parties who are singularly united in a sort of concordant discord. There is an 828 old fable, called, I believe, the "Vision of Hercules," which is in point. When Hercules was young, he dreamt that he came to a certain point of the road, where he was met by two figures—one the figure of Virtue, and the other the figure of Vice. He was solicited by Virtue to go one way and by Vice to go another. We are, in regard to this Bill, much in the position of Hercules, as we are encountered by two figures of Virtue and Vice. But instead of Virtue soliciting us to go one way, and Vice pressing us to go another, we have both Virtue and Vice leagued against us, both standing across the road and refusing to allow us to proceed. It is not the influence of Virtue that is formidable on this occasion. I know the virtuous motives of those who support the temperance movement, which the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. E. James) has manfully thrown overboard in his speech. The arguments used are a group of assumptions fastened together, which it is difficult to separate and to deal with. We are told that the use of wine is to be considered exactly as that of ardent spirits. These practical philosophers will not condescend to draw any distinction; they have invented phrases, "alcoholic liquids," "intoxicating liquids," and such like; but my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire could readily show them the fallacy of mixing up things which are so distinct. There is a difference between the lighter wines of Northern Europe and the gin which is consumed in rivers in our great towns. Some one has given us a deplorable description of the drunkenness that prevails in France, and I began to think that no English traveller could have made a proper use of his eyes. However, I have found a testimony which is entitled to great weight, coming from a man pledged by his sacred profession, eminent for his eloquence, distinguished and beloved for all his virtues —Dr. Guthrie. That gentleman, before he devoted himself to his present calling, resided for some time on the Continent, and in one of his works, Cities; their Sins and Sorrows, he says that he was in Brussels and Paris during periods of great national festivity, and that he did not see in seven weeks as much drunkenness in those capitals as he would meet with in seven short hours in London, Edinburgh, or any other of our large towns. That, Sir, is the testimony of an impartial witness. I have spoken of the fable of Virtue and Vice; and I appeal from them to what 829 I call the common sense of the House of Commons and of the country at large. I have heard references made to the number of petitions presented against this Bill; but I deny that this Bill is disapproved by the public opinion of England. We all know that wherever there is an organization the numbers which it commands are easily available for the purpose of signing petitions; but in this case we have the strongest evidence, from the press, from various authorities, and even from several distinguished friends of temperance, in favour of the principle of the measure. The real question is this, Will you attempt to modify or improve the present system? I grant that this Bill is so far inconsistent with the Report of the Committee that it falls short of that Report; but I hold that it is in harmony both with the spirit and even with the letter of that Report. I will refer to some of the erroneous opinions that are urged against the Bill. It is insisted by some that you should treat the use of wine, and even of the lightest wine, as you do the use of brandy, for instance. It is also insisted that you have nothing to look at except the number of houses for the sale of liquors in order to ascertain the measure of drunkenness that prevails. The case of Liverpool has been referred to, and I will show the House how untrue that is in the case of Liverpool. It is true there is a large number of public-houses in Liverpool; but I think the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Hardy) when he was dealing with this subject, and when he was referring to the case of Liverpool and Manchester, did great injustice even to those beerhouses with respect to which so much has been said. He adverted to the great difference in point of sobriety in favour of Manchester against Liverpool, but he omitted to notice that the characteristic of Manchester was that there was a greater number of public-houses with a smaller number of beerhouses, and that the characteristic of Liverpool was the reverse. It is not true that in Liverpool the offences vary with the number of public-houses. I have got before me the number of persons brought before the magistrates in Liverpool for drunkenness in a series of years, and also the number of licences granted. I find that in 1846 the magistrates granted seventeen new licences to public-houses; and in 1817 there was a diminution of 256 in the number of persons brought up for drunkenness. In 1852 the magistrates gave no new licences; and in 1853 there was an increase 830 of 1,144 in the number of persons brought up for drunkenness. In 1854 the magistrates gave two new licences; and in 1855 there was an increase of 1,018 in the persons taken up for drunkenness. Lastly, in 1857 the magistrates gave the immense number of thirty-two new licences in Liverpool; and in 1858 there was a decrease of 1,259 in the persons brought up for drunkenness. That shows you how loosely and how wildly those doctrines are thrown out. Some hon. Members may have seen a small tract in which a great number of eminent medical men in this country are made to declare that all strong liquors, under whatever condition, are extremely mischievous, and that total and universal abstinence from alcoholic drinks and intoxicating beverages of all kinds would greatly contribute to the health and prosperity of the human race. Naturally enough, I looked among the list of names for that of the gentleman of whose professional assistance I had availed myself, and by whom I have been recently advised. I found his signature appended to the document, at which I was not a little surprised, seeing I remembered that he recommended me, as a means of recovering my strength, not illiberal potations. I afterwards asked him whether he had signed that document or not; he replied that he had; and on expressing my surprise at his having done so, he assured mo that in signing it he meant nothing more than that excess of water was less injurious than excess of wine. That was the opinion of a very eminent medical man, Dr. Ferguson; and I believe it is a gross error to suppose that the testimony of those who study the health of mankind is against the moderate use of spirituous liquors. It is said by some that there can be no such thing as a moderate use of them — that the thing is altogether evil. But it seems to me that if you ought to proscribe the use of them you ought to proscribe a great many other things. Is not the love of money, for example, a3 prevalent and as universal as the love of wine? I never heard that those who denounced the use of alcoholic liquors carried their own principles with consistency into effect; and if they did so, the end of it ought to be that they should go, like the anchorites of old, and people the deserts of Egypt. But the doctrine, that the use of wine is to be treated as an unqualified mischief, and almost as a sin, is incompatible with the usages and necessities of society. That, however, is at the root of the opposition made by one portion of the opponents 831 to this Bill. One would really think that everything you have to do is to keep down the number of houses where alcoholic liquors are sold. It seems to be supposed that the whole population of England—man, woman and child—are in a state of earnest and intense anxiety to become drunkards, and that the only reason why they have not fallen into that condition is that the public-houses are too full to hold them. The present system, of which I must say in practice the opponents of the second reading of this Bill are the defenders, has peculiar characteristics, easily understood. The great abuse of that system is, that from its very nature it reduces to nil the difference between good character and bad character in the conduct of public-houses; and I will give the House an illustration. I was lately staying at the house of a magistrate in the country, and one day he had been attend-a licensing meeting, and on his return he told me that they had been adjudicating on an application for a licence for a new public-house in the village of So and So; and that they had not granted it. I asked him why? He said they did not grant it because there were two public-houses in the village already. I believe the magistrates were anxious to do their duty. I said to him, "Was the man who applied for the new licence a person of bad character?" He said "No." I asked if the two men who had a licence already were of good character. He replied, on the contrary, that they were men of very bad character. "So, then," I said to him, "because two men who are already in possession of a licence in the village are persons of bad character, you must refuse it to a third, who is a man of good character." The present system has this for its main characteristic—that it creates a compound interest in the trade, requiring of the publican capital not only to carry on his business, but likewise by way of advance, in the first instance, for that licence of which he comes into possession as a monopolist, and so placing him under a double pressure to stimulate the use of strong liquors. Is it possible to conceive a system that could more effectually paralyse the arm of magisterial power than this? There is no amendment of this Bill which I would not be glad to consider, except that which would recreate and reproduce the mischiefs of a proprietary interest in the licence. There has recently been brought before the public one of those excessively rave cases in which the renewal of a licence to a public-house 832 has been refused. The case came before the Middlesex magistrates, when the inhabitants of an entire neighbourhood petitioned for the refusal of the renewal of licences to two persons who had been originally pugilists and then publicans. The consequence of these persons having got licences was that the neighbourhood became the scene of continual disorder, and the case was so extreme that the renewal of the licences was refused. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone told the magistrates plainly that when the licences were originally given they must have known the men who had made application for them; and yet these are the kind of men who are considered fit, under the present system, to be armed with licences, and who, when they get licences, are hedged and fenced about with every obstacle that can interfere to prevent the right discharge of magisterial duties. That is the system we have now before us, and, if the last hand were wanted to be put to it, that hand was put when you invented a scheme by which the sale of spirits was kept apart from the sale of victuals; and you permitted any kind of amusement to be carried on in the houses to which your licences were given. It is this system we wish to modify; we wish to exclude that arbitrary discretion which makes the magistrates the judges of the number of houses and the quantity of liquor that ought to satisfy the demands of a district. Not because we distrust the magistrates, but because it is beyond the power of man to regulate such matters. And we think there is great virtue and hope in giving an opening for the consumption of those lighter wines which have now for the first time during many generations obtained something like justice in the arrangements of the British tariff, and in endeavouring to bring into union those two operations of eating and drinking which it has been the practical effect of our system to dissever. That is the question on which we must vote to-night; and, believing as I do that the rejection of this Bill will cause great dissatisfaction in the country, and likewise believing that it is well entitled to the approval of the House of Commons, I confidently anticipate for it a favourable verdict.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
rose amid cries for a division, and protested against the Second Reading of the Bill. It had been said that the measure was opposed by a combination of Vice and Virtue—Vice, he presumed, meaning the licensed victuallers, 833 and Virtue the temperance community. But there was another important element in consideration of the question—common sense, and in that respect the principle of the measure was directly opposed to the recommendation contained in the Report of the Select Committee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was undeterred by the warning of experience. Acting on the principles enunciated in the Report of the Committee and on those of common sense, he should vote against the Second Reading.
§ Question put,
§ The House divided: —Ayes 267; Noes 193: Majority 74.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2° and committed for Thursday.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, hon. Members were aware that in the Bill, as it now stood, the licences were printed in italics, and would not, in fact, form part of it, until agreed to in Committee of Ways and Means. He hoped, therefore, that they would permit him to go into Committee of Ways and Means at once. The licences could be discussed on the first clause of the Bill.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE and Mr. AYRTON objected to the course proposed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he refrained from pressing his request against the wish of the House. He proposed to go into Committee of Ways and Means on Thursday, before going into Committee on the Wine Licences Bill.