§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. LAWSON
said, that in moving the second reading of the Bill, he desired to make a few observations on a subject which he was aware was not popular in that House, and the discussion of which might not be altogether convenient to some hon. Members. He thought, however, he should be able to show good reasons for the course he was about to take. It would be in the recollection of the House that last Session a promise was made, not in the House but out of doors, by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that he would introduce a Bill for an alteration and reformation of the licensing system. At the beginning of the last Session he asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he intended to bring in the Bill; and the answer was evasive. In the middle of the Session, however, the right hon. Gentleman stated distinctly that he had abandoned his intention of bringing forward any measure during that Session. On the strength of this he (Mr. Lawson) ventured towards the conclusion of the Session to move a Resolution, not committing the House to any specific mode of action, but simply stating that the existing system was unsatisfactory, and required amendment. He thought this Resolution would have met with larger support than he found that it did receive—it was not brought forward with any intention hostile to Her Majesty's Government — but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the absence — owing to indisposition—of the Home Secretary, said he should not support the Resolution, be- 1391 cause it would be useless for the Government to bring in any measure on the votes of hon. Gentlemen, or an abstract Resolution, who, when the practical proposition came before them, would all take different views; and that the proper course for him to pursue was to bring forward his own views as to the reform of the licensing system, and to discuss them freely and fully on the floor of the House. This was his apology for introducing the measure. But he thought he had another reason which would excuse his conduct, if any one should think that he was pursuing an improper course; and that was, that whatever might be the feeling of the House with regard to the Bill — and he did not say such feeling was hostile — there was undoubtedly out of doors, among a large portion of the community, a strong desire that the measure should pass. That such was the case was manifest from the number of petitions presented to the House in favour of the Bill. Their number was 18,018; of the signatures, 327,000 odd, independently of those just presented that morning. He did not wish to lay too much stress upon this. He was aware that the House looked upon petitions of this kind with distrust; and he was willing to allow a considerable discount. He admitted that the petitions might have been signed in many instances by persons ignorant of the subject, numbers of persons not qualified to give an opinion; some of the signatures might have been obtained through false pretences. He made allowance for all this; but when there were 327,000 names appended to petitions there must be a large number of persons thoroughly in earnest, and who thoroughly understood the subject on which they were petitioning the House—and the prayer of these persons was entitled to weight. There were not many of them who took part in the elections of hon. Members to their seats in that House — for the most part they belonged to the poorer classes of the community. But this was, again, an additional reason why the House should pay some attention to their prayer. One other reason he would venture to adduce. If this agitation was objected to — this growing agitation which was day by day becoming large—it was desirable that the subject should be discussed, and that hon. Members should have an opportunity of showing that the question was founded on folly or fanaticism. Another reason which justified him in bringing forward the Bill 1392 was, that although it undoubtedly met with many opponents there was not a single hon. Member who did not concur in the object with which it was introduced. The only question was whether they could so alter the law as to establish in this country an essentially sober population. It was said that the question was not a political one, but was rather one for the platform or the school than for the House of Commons. That was not true. If drunkenness were merely a private vice he should be the last person to come to the House of Commons with a Bill for putting it down; but it was eminently a political question, and the ground that a great public evil existed alone induced him to bring forward the Bill. An article had appeared in the organ of the licensed victuallers, published nearly two years ago, when the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) brought forward a Bill for extending the provisions of the Tippling Act from spirits to beer, which was read a second time and then withdrawn. In that article the Government were denounced for having supported the measure, and the licensed victuallers were called upon to use their influence against them at the next general election. The writer said—Here will come in for useful purposes that division list which we published three weeks ago. In the event of a general election it will be the duty of every licensed victualler when applied to for his vote to extract a pledge from the candidate with regard to legislation on licensed victuallers' matters. This pledge will be readily given when required by such a body at such a time.This article went on to say that this being the policy of the Government the licensed victuallers would, as they had done on previous occasions, show that as a body they were, politically speaking, the most powerful in the country. The extract then went on to state that there was conclusive evidence that Messrs. Cobden and Bright intended during the recess then approaching to agitate the country with the view of getting rid of the present Government, and that when Lord Palmerston in consequence was forced to appeal to the country, then would have come the opportunity of the licensed victuallers of England, in whose hands it would be whether he should be able to retain office or not. He hoped that nobody would accuse him after that of making the question a political one. It was frequently asserted that it was quite impossible to make the people sober by Act of 1393 Parliament; but if so, why had the Legislature passed 400 Acts of Parliament at different times with regard to the drink traffic? They had been passed solely for the purpose of preventing drunkenness. Many hon. Members said they were for free trade in the matter; but was there a single Member who would make himself responsible for introducing a measure to make the traffic in drink perfectly free throughout the country? If they would, they must bear in mind that the argument which they used went to censure the policy of every House of Commons which existed since the Revolution. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a letter which he held in his hand—and he was glad to have the statement in writing, because the right hon. Gentleman sometimes made speeches of which he gave explanations which made them more difficult to be understood—did not talk after that fashion, but admitted that fiscal interests ought not to be allowed to interfere with legislation for regulating the traffic in drink in a social and moral point of view; adding that the matter was one for the consideration of the Secretary for the Home Department—on the ground, probably, that that right hon. Gentleman was the only Member of the Cabinet who had anything to do with morality. But if, he would ask, it was not lawful to legislate with a view to the public morality in the present case, why should the sale of immoral pictures and the setting up of gambling-houses be prohibited. Parliament, in legislating against the latter, did not propose that nobody should gamble any more than he meant to propose that nobody should drink; and it was worthy of remark while upon that point that the Rev. Mr. Clay, the late chaplain of the Preston House of Correction, said he had never conversed with a single prisoner who attributed his misfortunes to gaming; but that he had conversed with upwards of 15,000 prisoners who declared that the enticements of the ale and beer houses had been their ruin. Another high authority, Lord Macaulay, also declared, in addressing the House upon the Ten Hours' Bill, that where the public health and morality was concerned it was the duty of the State to interfere with regard to the conduct of individuals. Even the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer took great credit for the legislation of the Government upon this question. Only the other night, on the proposition of the right hon. Member for 1394 the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside), the Government declared that the proper way of dealing with the question was to charge the articles a high duty, and to make them as dear as possible without letting in the smuggler. In principle that was precisely the same as the proposition which he (Mr. Lawson) now made. And Mr. John Stuart Mill, a great authority on such matters, declared that to tax stimulants for the purpose of making them difficult to obtain was a measure differing only in degree from their entire prohibition. He presumed that the Government considered that the present laws regulating the drink traffic were perfect, or they would not decline to introduce a general measure. Already this Session they had brought forward a Bill to shut up public-houses for three hours in the night when nobody visited them, and another Bill in reference to the Irish beerhouses. Were they of opinion that that was all they were equal to at present? A great many other measures had been introduced upon this question. The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) had introduced a Bill to improve beerhouses. Another proposal was what was called the Liverpool plan; but that was rejected. The hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Somes) attempted to prevent the sale of liquors one day in the week; but his Bill was rejected with even greater displeasure than that of the hon. Member for Leominster. In the course of the debate one hon. Gentleman had even thought it statesmanlike and gentlemanly to say that they ought to spit on the Bill—a Bill intended for the amelioration of his fellow-countrymen! The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had tried to persuade the House that drunkenness had decreased, and he quoted Returns from the metropolis and Liverpool. But while he spoke of 1863, the right hon. Gentleman quoted Returns of 1862. He believed that that speech was the cause why the Bill of the hon. Member for Hull had been thrown out by so large a majority. Now, in the metropolis there were, in 1858, 26,800 committals for drunkenness; in 1859, 18,700; in 1860, 18,700; in 1861, 17,059; in 1862 (the year the right hon. Gentleman quoted), 18,312; and in 1863 (a slight decrease), 17,651. In Liverpool, in 1860, there were 10,969 committals for drunkenness; in 1861 (the model year), 9,832; in 1862, 12,179; and in 1863, 13,043. He did not think that the right hon. Gentleman 1395 would again quote the eases of Liverpool and the metropolis. In 1861, over the whole of England the committals for drunkenness were 82,196; in 1862, 94,988; in 1863,94,745—a decrease of 243. With respect to Ireland, they had heard it stated the other night that there had been an increase in drunkenness there. In the face of such figures how could the hon. and gallant Member, who had given notice of an Amendment (Captain Jervis), repeat his assertion of last year, that drunkenness had so decreased as to be hardly known. The petitioners whom he represented did not complain of the magistrates who granted the licences, nor of the householders whose certificates were required before a licence could be granted, nor of the houses, nor of the publican or beerhouse keeper—but of the system. He would quote evidence of Members of that House to prove that most respectable men were engaged in this trade of a victualler. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Grenfell) had said—I do not believe that since the world began there was ever a more respectable, or more responsible, or better conducted class of men than the licensed victuallers.Another Gentleman, the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Hanbury), who confessed that 140 public-houses belonged to his firm, said before the Committee that the licensed victuallers of the present day was altogether a different character from; the victualler of twenty years ago — that they were a respectable wealthy class, and had more than any other class improved within the last twenty years. Two years ago the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) said—I can scarcely recollect a single instance of having formed an acquaintance with a licensed victualler which I had ever occasion to regret.But after his eulogium the hon. Member said that the less the licensed victuallers came before the House of Commons the better. The hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. P. W. Martin) considered them an honest honourable body, pursuing a lawful and useful trade. The grievance of those whose case he advocated, was that places for the sale of intoxicating liquors were opened, and that the exceptional privilege of keeping these places was granted to persons with the most complete disregard of the wants and wishes of the inhabitants of the districts in which they were set up. They thought that as they were professed to be for the good of the public, 1396 they ought to have a voice in the matter. It was no visionary grievance. Those who had got up the agitation had been styled enthusiasts, fools, fanatics, and Sunday school teachers, but he would show that educated men considered the traffic a nuisance. The Quarterly Review considered public-houses in no other light than as sinks of iniquity, and that no principle of political economy could justify their continuance. The Edinburgh Review of July, 1854, said that the liquor traffic — particularly the retail traffic — was a public nuisance, morally and physically injurious. The Times of the 18th of December, 1853, said —No way so rapid to increase the wealth of nations and the morality of society, as the utter annihilation of the manufacture of ardent spirits, constituting as they do an infinite waste and an unmixed evil.And The Daily Telegraph spoke of the entire trade as a "covenant with sin and death." He hoped, therefore, that it would not be said that the cry against it was only got up by enthusiasts. Did anybody ever hear of an enthusiast writing in The Times? The trade in intoxicating drinks had also been condemned by various Committees of that House; and one which sat in 1834 went so far as to recommend that when public opinion was sufficiently awakened, there should be a prohibition both of the importation and distillation of spirits, and that a law should be passed at once, for "the progressive diminution and ultimate suppression of the existing facilities and means of intemperance, as the root of almost every other vice." The Judges were almost unanimous as to the evil results of intemperance. Barons Gurney and Alderson, and Justices Erskine, Coleridge, Patteson, and Wightman, had all expressed their opinions that the large majority of crimes originated at the public-house, and that if it were not for drink, there would be no criminals to try. He did not think that any hon. Gentleman would assert that the present state of things was satisfactory. He remembered a few years ago that the late Mr. Ker Seymer, whose name he could not mention without expressing regret at the loss of one who was a credit and an honour to the House, in replying to him, said, "We may not be good logicians, but we are excellent politicians." He said that in reference to the licensing system, and the reply was received with much cheering. How, if that remark meant anything, it 1397 was that they proceeded against common sense and reason; but in the end the results were good. Now, what were the results? According to the last Census there were 26,000 prisoners in gaols; 125,000 people in workhouses; 24,000 in lunatic asylums; 11,000 houseless; 23,000 in charitable institutions; and 889,000 receiving relief; and that was in England and Wales only. Now the evidence showed beyond doubt that a great proportion of those persons had been brought to that state by drunkenness. How in the face of such facts could they say they were good politicians? He had stated the evil—he would now propose the remedy. He did not wish to interfere with the magistrates' power of deciding as to the number of licences that should be granted. He did not want to interfere with the Excise in any way except that it should be subject to the expression of public opinion of the districts. But what he proposed was, that if two-thirds of the ratepayers in a parish—he proposed two-thirds, but hon. Members might alter the proportion of the majority in any way they pleased—said they did not want those places, neither the magistrates nor the Excise should have the power to grant licences in that particular district. Some hon. Members might object to this as "the thin edge of the wedge," as a step towards the total prohibition of the liquor trade throughout the country. He could not understand the argument, "Don't let us do right, lest evil should follow." The question they ought to ask themselves was, would it be an improvement upon the present system? The measure would only come into operation where public opinion was in its favour. At present the majority in a parish might tax the minority for the support of religion. If the principle of the majority binding the minority was good for religion, it could not be bad for a matter of police. The system which he proposed had been recommended by the Commission on the Forbes Mackenzie Act in Scotland; and where, from accidental circumstances, houses for the sale of drink had been excluded from a parish, the results had been most beneficial. The Committee for the Suppression of Intoxication reported to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in the year 1849 that intemperance increased in proportion to the number of licences that were granted, and that where there were no licences there was no intoxication. In 1398 thirteen parishes in the south of Scotland, with an aggregate population of about 8,000, in which there were no drinking shops, order and peace prevailed, and the poor rates were on the lowest scale; in eight other parishes, of about equal population, in which there were twenty drinking shops, there was an unusually large amount of pauperism and crime. In the parish of Humberstone in England strong drink had never been sold, and there was not a pauper in the parish; and at Hutton Mile and at Saltair, which was built by Mr. Titus Salt, similarly beneficial effects had followed the exclusion of the liquor traffic. Landlords were perpetually using the power which they possessed to prohibit the establishment of drinking houses on their estates. Last year the hon. Member for Devonshire (Sir Lawrence Palk) said that there was not a proprietor of land who did not stipulate that no beer-shops or public-houses should be erected upon their estates without their consent. "Therefore, let them not legislate on false pretences in that House, but act there as they did in private in endeavouring to check drunkenness." Those were noble words, and he hoped that he would to-day endorse them by his vote. Last year the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) wrote a letter, in which he suggested that the Sunday Closing Bill might be made permissive. Would not the same principle apply to their closing on Mondays? The hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Buxton) had also suggested that if five-sixths of the ratepayers demanded the exclusion of houses for the sale of fermented liquors, their prayer should be granted; and the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) said the other night, that if the majority of the working people were in favour of the Sunday Closing Bill, he would vote for it. His Bill could not come into force except at the wish of the majority of the ratepayers. He was obliged to say ratepayers, because he did not know how else to construct a register; but if the hon. and learned Gentleman could show him how to include all the inhabitants, he should be ready to do so. He asked him whether, now that he brought forward a Bill which could not come into force except by the will of the people he was going to oppose him? If he did, the working people would not fail to give him that name which he so liberally bestowed upon any one who happened to differ from him, and for the rest of his 1399 political career he would be called a "canting hypocrite." ["Order, order!" Mr. ROEBUCK: Never regard it.] He was much obliged to the House for having listened to him with so much attention, and he would only ask that, before they threw out the Bill, they would carefully consider whether the power which he proposed to give to the people was one which they could exercise to the injury of the State, or whether, on the contrary, it was not the case that they could only exercise it to promote their own happiness, and to encourage that spirit of morality and love of order which were the only true foundation of the greatness of this country.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
rose to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lawson) had stated that if the measure were supported by those Gentlemen who specially represented the working classes, it might possibly pass into law. Now, no Member of the House represented the working classes more directly than he (Captain Jervis) did. There was only one person among his constituents who was not a working man, and three-fourths of them were men who worked with their hands as well as their heads. He had, therefore, a peculiar right to speak in the name of the working classes, and on their behalf he felt bound to oppose the present measure. He had also to observe that he had, much against his will, spent five months in the Maine Liquor Law States of America, and that his experience there convinced him of the utter futility of such an enactment. It was, besides, opposed to our whole constitutional system that any number of people who chose to drink nothing but water should compel other men, however limited in number, to follow their example. And how could that Bill be carried into effect with our parochial divisions? He saw in the State of Vermont—one of the States in which the sale of liquor was prohibited — persons who could not obtain drink in one district cross over a bridge into another district, where they obtained as much as they could pay for; and in the same way they would find that, under the present Bill, the same process would be carried on with still greater facility, for the distinction would be between parishes only instead of States. 1400 How did the law operate in America? In the Maine Liquor Law States the law was systematically evaded. After a dish of oysters and molasses people found placed before them some milk and water. But the inhabitants drank nothing at dinner. After a few days' experience of that practice, he asked a gentleman how he provided himself with drink? and the gentleman introduced him to a friend who, for a present of so many dollars made him a present of so many bottles of sherry, which were forwarded to his hotel. The fact was, that there was more drinking than ever in those States, only it took place clandestinely instead of openly, and in the cellar instead of at the bar or the table; the men got drunk down below, and there they were kept because the landlord knew that he would be punished if they were seen; and that system was productive of at least as large an amount of immorality as the system which it superseded. What were the reasons which had induced those States to adopt such a law? The people in them were hard-working and thrifty, but not at all hospitable. One might live a long time in Massachusetts or Vermont without being asked out to dinner; and when they did ask you the law afforded them a good excuse for saying that they had nothing but water to put before you. But after the stranger had established friendly relations with the family, when he came in they would say, "Are you thirsty?" Looking at a jug of dirty cold water, he would say, "No." Then they would tell him, "If you go to that cupboard perhaps you may find something more to your taste." The "cupboard" was a nice pantry, where there was brandy and other kinds of spirits. He had, however, to go there by himself, and to return as if he had been passing his time in no kind of self-indulgence. When families drank anything stronger than water they had to close the shutters and exclude the light of day, lest they might be detected, and compelled to pay a heavy fine. Was that a system which it was desirable to introduce into England? Were 28,000,000 of people in this country to do penance for the sake of the prejudice of a few thousand? In speaking of the increase of drunkenness the hon. Member had said nothing about the increase of population, which would help to account for the number of convictions for drunkenness; and he seemed also to have forgotten that the same persons were 1401 often convicted of the same offence. He felt himself fully justified in saying—and every one knew it to be the fact—that of late years drunkenness had been decreasing in this country, not from penal enactments, but in consequence of the spread of education among the people, and the teachings of the clergy and ministers of all denominations, and the example of the higher classes. He was himself brought into frequent communication with the working classes, and he had been surprised often not to find one of them intoxicated from one end of the week to the other. Many panaceas had been devised for the total eradication of drunkenness. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department had made one attempt in that direction. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Buxton) had also made known his views upon that subject in a pamphlet, in which he attributed all the evils on earth to drinking after ten o'clock at night. The hon. Gentleman said that if the working man bought his beer and took it home, probably there would be no drunkenness; but that if he drank it at a public-house he would be sure to stay to smoke his pipe, drink more than he ought, and go home and beat his wife. He seemed to suppose a man never beat his wife before ten p.m.; but the police reports showed that men beat their wives at all hours of the day, and in Pickwick Mr. Weller, senior, is made to say, "You know what the counsel said, Sammy, as defended the man for beating his wife with the poker—that, arter all, it was an amiable weakness." He thought that some very absurd reasons had been adduced in support of this Bill. He must protest against the time of the House being taken up with a Bill like the present for the sake of gratifying a number of benevolent old ladies and gentlemen who took an active part in the agitation of this question. It was all very well to present petitions numerously signed in favour of this measure; but if those documents were examined, and if the signatures of children and the signatures of persons obtained at the rate of 6s. a 1,000 were substracted, they would not be found to be worth much; and with reference to the petition presented by the hon. Member for Birmingham, he would venture to say that if the 18,000 signatures appended to it were put to the test the number of real petitions would be found to be much nearer 1,800.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Captain Jervis.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, I think my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lawson) has at least no reason to complain of the manner in which the House has listened to the statement which he has made on behalf of his clients throughout the country. The House has listened to his speech in a manner which proves that this is a question which is getting more hold of the mind of the country than it had some time ago, and that it cannot be treated as the vision of a few wild enthusiasts. Everybody will agree that the evil which the hon. Member has to some extent explained is a very grievous one in almost every part of the country; and more—I believe every Member will say that if any measures could be taken that did not violate any of the recognized principles on which this House acts, to help those who are making great exertions to change the people of this country from their past and, I fear, their present condition into a happier state, such measures ought to be sanctioned. Now, as to the remedy, which is the real question before us. I believe there are only two modes of remedy; the first of which is the improvement and instruction of the people — and the second, the special legislation of this House. Now, I am one of those who look rather to the improvement and education of the people, for a permanent remedy — and I think that it is quite conclusive that that must be the sheet anchor, as it were, of this question. There are hon. Members of this House older than I am, but I am old enough to remember when among those classes with which we are more familiar than with the working people, drunkenness was ten or twenty times more common than it is at present. I have been in this House twenty years, and during that time I have often partaken of the hospitality of various Members of the House, and I must confess that during the whole of those twenty years I have no recollection of having seen one single person at any gentleman's table who has been in the condition which would be at all fairly described by saying that he was drunk. And I may say more—that I do not recollect more than two or three occasions during 1403 that time in which I have observed, by the thickness of utterance, rapidity of talking, or perhaps a somewhat recklessness of conversation, that any gentleman had taken so much as to impair his judgment. That is not the state of things which prevailed in this country fifty or sixty years ago. We know, therefore, as respects this class of persons, who can always obtain as much of these pernicious articles as they desire to have, because price to them is no object, that temperance has made great way, and if it were possible now to make all classes in this country as temperate as those of whom I have just spoken, we should be amongst the very soberest nations of the earth. Well, it may be said after all this, that there is something to be done by special legislation—and I am not disposed to contradict that; and if any Member were to contradict it, it would be going in the face of experience, and certainly in the face of the opinion which has been universally held by this House. All our legislation on this question has been special. My hon. Friend says he thinks no one would dare to propose to make the sale of intoxicating drinks free — as free for example as the sale of bread, potatoes, or any of the articles of ordinary consumption. If we required no taxes I do not know how we should treat this question; but, requiring taxes as we do, it has been thought in this country, and I suspect in most other countries too — certainly in many — that there is nothing upon which taxes can be levied with greater advantage (if I may use the term "advantage" in connection with the levying of any taxes) as upon articles of an intoxicating quality. But having levied these taxes, and finding the consumption is large, the Government finds it also necessary to provide certain superintendence by the police; because, unfortunately, wherever the sale of these articles is considerable, there is found to be a state of things which is not favourable to obedience to the law, and which magistrates, policemen, and the law are called in to avert and prevent. We have this special legislation now, and my hon. Friend says not less than 400 Acts of Parliament dealing with this, question have been before the House — not all of them with a view of preventing the consumption of intoxicating liquors, but it shows what a constant and incessant attention Parliament has been obliged to pay to this subject. Now we come to the system as we find it, and ask ourselves, Can anything more be 1404 done? Under the present system, if a man wishes to sell beer only, he gets six of his neighbours to sign a recommendation that he is a suitable and respectable man. I believe also the rent of his house has something to do with it, as indicating that he is a man not absolutely without means and character. But if he wishes to sell wine and spirits he must ask the magistrates for a licence, and the licence is renewable from year to year. I think it may be generally said that this system is not satisfactory to people throughout the country. There are many magistrates who condemn the system of which they are a part; and in many towns it is said—and I think upon inquiry we should find it to be true—that the magistrates give licences too freely; and men who live in quiet streets of a town are angry with the magistrates for giving licences to houses which were not needed. We also find that there is a great diversity of action, for in some villages, towns, and districts, public-houses are much more frequent than in others; and at the same time there is a complaint that in giving licences for the sale of beer the recommendation of six benevolent neighbours is given more through kindness to the applicant than kindness to the great bulk of the neighbourhood. In some cases the number of beerhouses has been unnecessarily and mischievously increased. And now what does my hon. Friend propose? He proposes something that is entirely distinct, and to some extent, in point of fact, a revolutionary measure, with regard to this system. He proposes that two-thirds of the ratepayers of any district, parish, or town shall have the power to decide the whole of this question; and I think when the hon. Gentleman stated that proposal, an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, and an hon. Gentleman sitting near me, made gestures as if they thought the ratepayers were not represented by the working classes. But the working classes are ratepayers in a larger number than any other class, for they are generally married and have families, and live in houses that pay taxes; and therefore if you take the opinion of the ratepayers of this country on any question, you take in as clear a manner as possible the opinion of the people of the country. Well, my hon. Friend proposes that two-thirds shall decide;—but decide what? Why, by this Bill, they are to decide first of all whether any new licences shall be granted in the district to which the vote applies—that is, whether 1405 this Act shall be in force in the district—and they are to decide further whether any of the persons now licensed shall have those licences renewed at the expiration of the present year. ["No, no!" "Hear, hear!"] That is what I understand by the Bill. I believe all licences are merely granted for selling drink from year to year. I think it was one of the statements of the licensed victuallers that the magistrates had the absolute control over them, and that there was no appeal from their decision, and every year they could refuse to renew any licences if they thought fit. It will thus be seen that my hon. Friend proposes a Bill which affects some scores of thousands of persons and with regard to some millions of property, and the measure which he proposes is entirely different, I think, from anything which has ever been proposed or sanctioned by the House with regard to any other description of property or any other interest. Therefore, however sanguine I may be as to what I must call the violent success of his measure, and however desirous I may be to carry out his object, I do not think it likely that the House of Commons would consent to such a proposition as that. What is meant by the representative system is not that you should have the vote of thousands of persons taken upon a particular question of legislation—but that you should have men selected from those thousands having the confidence of the majority of the thousands, and they should meet and should discuss questions for legislation, and should decide what measures should be enacted; and therefore in this particular question I should object altogether to disposing of the interest of a great many men, and also a great many families, and a great amount of property—I should object altogether to allow such a matter to be decided by the vote of two-thirds of the ratepayers of any parish or town. By this Bill they would have the power to shut up at once, or rather at the end of the current year, as far as the sale of these articles is concerned, every hotel, inn, public-house, and beershop throughout the country, I say throughout the country, but of course I allude to such subdivisions of the country as the Bill may indicate. There would of course be a difference, for some parishes would shut them up and some would not; but that is not very much an argument against the Bill. But there might be, and I think there would be, in all probability, violent, sudden, capricious, and 1406 unjust action under this Bill, which would have a very unfortunate effect upon the interests of those immediately concerned; and I think it might also create throughout the country violent discussions on the question, and I am afraid might even produce a great and pernicious re-action against the very honest and good objects which my hon. Friend desires to carry out. For that reason, as a Member of this House, representing a very large constituency, and having my sympathies entirely with those who are endeavouring to promote temperance amongst the people, and after much consideration on this subject, I have never yet seen my way at all to give a vote which would tend to pass a measure such as that now proposed to the House. But then if there be persons who think that the sale of these articles is in itself absolutely evil and immoral—and I did not understand my hon. Friend to hold that opinion, or to have stated it to the House—but if there be persons of that opinion, they, of course, will not be influenced by any arguments of mine. I do not hold that opinion—and I think the friends of temperance throughout this country make a great mistake when they argue their cause on that ground. There is abundant ground on which to argue this question on which no man can assail or controvert them, and it is unfortunate for a great and good cause that any of its enthusiastic but illogical advocates should select arguments which cannot fairly be sustained. Now, the question comes, if this Bill were disposed of, is there nothing which the House could do to meet the growing opinion in many parts of the country that public-houses and beershops are often established with pernicious influence upon the district, and in far greater numbers than the fair wants of the people demand? I bring no charge against the magistrates. So far as I have seen, with some few exceptions of which we have heard, they perform their duty, and a disagreeable duty it is, as well as any body of men to whom you could intrust it. With regard to the householders, they are very likely to give recommendations with more regard to the persons themselves than to the wants of the public. Judging from the evidence brought before the Committees of this House, it must be admitted that public opinion does not entirely agree with the mode which is at present in existence for the granting of licences, whether they be public-houses, or beerhouses; and look- 1407 ing at the course which the Government has taken—I do not mean this Government in particular, but the course Parliament has taken in past times—I do not see any reason why the public opinion of every city, town, and district should not have something to say with regard to this matter. Now some time ago, when I was down at Birmingham, a large number of persons connected with this question had an interview with me and my hon. Colleague. We had a long discussion on the question, and I explained to them what I now wish to explain to the House—that although objecting to the Bill on the grounds which I have stated, yet it does appear to me that the House might proceed a step further than it has already done, and intrust to the ordinary local governing bodies of the cities, towns, and boroughs throughout the kingdom the decision of this question, with regard to the establishment of public-houses and beershops, and the granting of licences within the limits of their jurisdiction. You cannot put this power into the hands of the Secretary of State or the Lord Chancellor, as you do the magistrates' question; and you cannot remove it from twenty magistrates and put it into the hands of some half-dozen men in the same neighbourhood. You can make no change from where you are, unless you intrust to the municipal council, or some committee of the municipal council, in the various boroughs, the power of determining the number of licences as regards wine and spirits or beer. If you were to intrust the Council, instead of the full vote of the ratepayers, as proposed by the Bill, I think you would avoid everything like a sudden and violent interference with property, and you would avoid the capricious action which might take place if two-thirds of the ratepayers were to judge this question, and you would give to the whole body of the ratepayers through their representative in their municipal councils, the determination of a question which every day is becoming more and more an important question with the great masses of the people of this country. I know no proposal which could be made from the point where we now stand to the point of the Bill of my hon. Friend except the one which I have suggested. Generally, the municipal councils in this country perform their duties with admirable success, and there is no Bill passed in this century which has been so successful as the one 1408 which this House passed to reform the corporations. If they had further this power I think it would add to their influence and dignity; and, in all probability, the opinions of the people would be fairly carried out in reference to this question. But there is another question. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would say that this could not be done in the rural districts, where there are no corporations, and therefore my suggestion could not apply. But I think if it were attempted in the towns, and it was found more advantageous and successful than the present system, something could be found before long to extend the new system to the agricultural districts as well: but if that should be found impracticable, it is no reason for debarring the towns from the benefit. I should not have brought such a question as this before the House, and I am not so sanguine of the result of those changes as what I may call the temperance party in this House. I have not that faith in any act of the Legislature on this subject which my hon. Friend has. I believe in the effects of the instruction of the people, and of the improvement which is gradually taking place amongst them. I think that drunkenness is not on the increase but rather is declining; and I hope, whether the law be altered or not, we shall find our working classes becoming more and more sober than in past times. But as I have on many occasions been before the public as favouring the efforts of the advocates of temperance in this country, I have felt bound in some degree to state the reasons why I cannot give my vote in favour of this Bill, and to suggest, in my opinion, what this House might do by way of giving to the people through their municipal councils control over this question. By doing this you might promote temperance among the people, and at the same time avoid doing a great and manifest injustice to thousands of persons now engaged in this trade, whose property would be rendered uncertain if not altogether destroyed, which would be the result if the Bill of the hon. Gentleman should receive the sanction of the House.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Sir, I wish to state my opinions of the hon. Gentleman's Bill very shortly. I have now been many years in Parliament, and during the whole course of my experience I never heard submitted to the consideration of the House a more mischievous measure. I do not mince the matter at all. I will 1409 state why I believe it to be so. In the first place, the House is called upon to abdicate its functions. In the next place, the proposal of the hon. Member would sow dissension in every parish of the kingdom, and from the time when it came into full operation England would be no place for a peaceable man to live in. The third reason I have for considering the Bill what I have described it is, that it is eminently a measure levelled against the poor. It is, therefore, an eminently unjust and cruel Bill. Now, when I have gone through those separate propositions, I think that the House will be of opinion that I have established my points, and have done enough to show the character of the Bill. But before I proceed to discuss those points, let me make an observation or two to the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lawson) himself. In introducing the Bill he was always approaching but never actually coming to the question; but he read all sorts of extracts upon a matter upon which every one was of one mind, that drunkenness was a bad thing which every one desired to put an end to, if it was possible that it could be done. I may here be permitted to say of a large number who support the measure, that I believe them to be very well-intentioned persons. I have great faith in their intentions, but none in their intellect—and, begging pardon of the hon. Gentleman, the advocacy of this measure seems to me to be an idle means of talking before the public, and that it cannot have been seriously proposed. We have been told of persons trying to make "political capital" out of certain subjects, and I cannot understand a Gentleman proposing a measure which he knows he cannot pass, but to gratify a certain class of persons and thereby make political capital out of it. Without any further remarks upon what the hon. Gentleman has said, or the taste which he has exhibited, I will at once address myself to the three propositions I have laid down. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) has most correctly stated the real object of the representative system to be, that in all cases requiring legislation we must do for the people what the people require, and not call upon them to do for themselves that which they delegate to us. In this consists the great difference between the English constitution and those of the ancient republics. In those the whole body of the citizens was called into the market-place and asked to legislate on a 1410 particular point; the modern system takes the question out of the hands of the people and places it in those of their representatives. But the hon. Gentleman is departing from that path which policy and experience have taught us to be the true one, and he is going back to the olden times, and throwing into the hands of the people that which it was the object of the representative system to take out of them. Therefore, if we now do what the hon. Gentleman asks we shall be abdicating our functions, and thereby do a cowardly and foolish act. We shall show ourselves afraid of opposing that vast array of petitions which the hon. Gentleman has raised before us, and we shall ask the people to do for themselves what we, their representatives, have not the courage to do or the courage to refuse. The hon. Gentleman proposes to give to ratepayers of every parish and to every municipality the power of suppressing the trade in intoxicating liquors within its limits. Now what will be the effect of the measure, if passed? We have it stated that in America, where the Maine Liquor Law prevails, the people walk over a bridge into another state, where they can get what they want. Then the inhabitants of one of the prohibiting parishes who wanted strong drinks would only walk into the next parish where there was no prohibition. But let the hon. Gentleman define his intentions a little more strictly. Supposing the ratepayers of Westminster should decide to put an end to the sale of intoxicating drinks within their district, would it extend to the refreshment rooms of the Houses of Parliament. It ought to do so. And not only that, we, having abdicated our functions, must succumb to the City of Westminster, and say that they are much better able to judge of the question than we are; and as they have decided that intoxicating liquors shall not be sold within their district, they must not come within the walls of this House. Can anything be more foolish than that? Supposing, for example, we were to say that all dangerous articles should be put under a ban, and none sold—such as poisons for instance. Would any man say poisons should not be sold? No; but a wise man would say, they must be sold under proper precautions. And that is what we say now; poisons, we say, shall not be sold without due precautions are taken to let the public know that they are buying them. The same with, regard to fire. Every man is allowed to 1411 make a fire in his own chimney, but not in his neighbour's rick-yard. There are proper precautions taken against the sale of dangerous commodities, or the doing of a dangerous act; and the Government has taken the same precautions with regard to the sale of intoxicating liquors. No man can sell beer except he has obtained a certificate on the recommendation of six of his neighbours; and no man can sell wine without a licence from a magistrate; and these were wise and proper precautions. I do not go so far as the hon. Member for Birmingham, in supposing that these precautions are not sufficiently taken, and his proposal is pretty nearly as mischievous, though not quite so, as that of the hon. Gentleman. I now come to my three propositions. I say first that this is eminently a rich man's Bill. The poor man cannot lay in a stock of wine or of beer. He cannot send to the next town or parish, but he must have it nearer his own door. The poor man has no means by which he can buy that which he desires to drink mouth by month, but he must do it day by day; and as you are enabling the rich man to do that which you are depriving the poor man of the power of doing, I say it is a cruel Bill. Let it go out to the world— and I am not afraid of any imputation the hon. Gentleman can cast on me—that I say, in spite of all that has been said, that this is eminently a cruel Bill, and that it is not a Bill for the benefit of the poor. There is a class of mind so intolerant, so impatient of dissent, that in its time it has given rise to the Inquisition, burnt Servetus at the stake, and it has made the hon. Gentleman bring in this Bill. Before I sit down let me say one word with reference to the proposal that has been made by the hon. Member for Birmingham. The greater part of the speech which the hon. Gentleman has just delivered I very much admire, for I can hardly imagine wiser words expressed in a better manner; but when he began to build up instead of pull down, then I think he showed his weakness. The hon. Gentleman said, "Cannot we take a step in advance, and give to the municipal bodies the power of deciding whether or not intoxicating liquors shall be sold within their bounds?" The hon. Gentleman seems to dissent, but that is as I understand him.
§ MR. BRIGHT
What I said was that I thought it would be a great injustice 1412 that any popular vote should have the power of cutting off all the property in existing public-houses; and that rather than that should be done I would prefer giving the power to the municipality.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
That is as I understood the hon. Member. But what will be the consequence; and I ask the hon. Gentleman to listen to me whilst I endeavour to reason as quietly and as I calmly can upon that proposition. The municipal body is an elective body, and such a proceeding would put into their hands a certain power which would very much interest large classes by whom they are elected; and, as the licensing would be annual, you would have constant debates and disputes going on with reference to a matter which very much interests a large body of the inhabitants. Under the present system the power is lodged in the hands of gentlemen who are nominated by the Crown. They are magistrates for life unless something be done to the contrary; and by the very fact of holding office for life, while at the same time they are subject to the moral influence of people round them, are very much more likely to perform their duties in a manner free from that capricious action of which the hon. Member for Birmingham complains. Therefore, as between the municipal bodies and the magistrates, I am for continuing the power in the hands of the magistrates as at present. There is one argument which deserves, and which I know will receive the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite; but I cannot sit down without one word of warning, especially addressed to hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Carlisle. The public, as we have seen, are very likely to be misled—they are very likely to follow a cry, and they are likely to entertain a crochet; and I have always found that men who entertained a crochet are amongst the most intolerant of mankind. They will not hear of dissent — men who differ from them are not allowed simply to obey the dictates of their own reason, and come before them as men exercising their own reason, but they must be called, as they have been called, because they oppose this measure—drunkards; they are called immoral. I do not say by the hon. Member for Carlisle, for I cannot imagine he would be so far forgetful of good taste, though he might call me "a canting hypocrite."
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Neither do I make any personal application — I merely say what another has said, and that the House will perceive makes all the difference. Such persons call their opponents "drunkards," but that epithet does not apply to the hon. Gentleman. Some men cull them "liars"—that expression does not apply to the hon. Gentleman. I entreat those hon. Gentlemen to learn to bear opposition, and not to think all who differ from them rogues, drunkards, and liars.
§ MR. WYKEHAM MARTIN
said, he should oppose the Bill, believing it would be productive of worse evils than those that now existed. In the year 1736 an Act was passed to limit the sale of spirits, and it had been found to work very injuriously. There had been no fewer than 12,000 convictions under the Act, and it finally became—to use the words of a noble Lord in another place with respect to it—so odious and contemptible, that policy as well as humanity induced the Commissioners of Excise to mitigate the penalties imposed on those who had been convicted. If the present Bill passed, the probability was that it would create greater mischief than those against which it was levelled. If the decision in regard to the permission to open public-houses was left to the ratepayers in rural parishes, it would produce class legislation of the worst possible kind, because the great majority of cottages were not rated to the poor rates. The persons who would decide the question would be those who had the means of supplying themselves with wine and beer in quantities, and who had no occasion to resort to the public-house. He looked upon the Bill as being a piece of legislation of the worst possible kind. In civilized society, and in the complicated state of our social relations, an immense amount of capital could not be destroyed without the infliction of great and unnecessary hardship. He could not therefore vote for the second reading of the Bill.
said, he should not have troubled the House on this occasion if it were not for the fact that for many years he had been in the habit of presenting petitions in favour of Bills of this nature and then of voting against them. He thought it was due to those who had intrusted him with petitions to state why he could not possibly agree with the prayers which they contained. The practice of 1414 the English law was to pass enactments against crime itself or against overt acts, but not against acts which by construction or inference might be supposed to lead to crime. If a different principle were admitted there would soon be an end to the personal liberty of the subject He thought that the idea of intrusting to majorities all over the country the regulation of matters of this nature would be productive of a great amount of annoyance and irritation. He thought, too, the promoters of this Bill showed a great distrust of their own principles—because if the regeneration of the country was to depend upon sobriety, why was a measure like this made permissive, instead of compulsory? The irritation produced would also be increased tenfold by the notion that those by whom such a law was passed were not one whit better than themselves, if, indeed, they were half as good. Hon. Members were all anxious to put down drunkenness as much as it was possible, but they must trust to the influence of education and example, and not to the introduction of an offensive measure of this nature. He did not think that the action of municipal councils would afford a satisfactory solution of the question. It must be remembered that at present the granting of licences did not depend altogether upon the action of the magistrates, as the beerhouse licences were granted by the Excise. The magistrates, therefore, could not be held responsible for the drunkenness and immorality arising from licensed houses, the granting of which were entirely beyond their control. He was ready to give his best attention to any measure for the better regulation of public-houses, but a law that carried into effect the impulses and chance feeling of a majority in any district would strike a fatal blow at the proper action of Parliament. Nothing could be more capricious than the working of such a measure. The property in one parish would be depreciated, while that of the next parish might be increased 200 per cent by the legislation of its neighbours. The older a man became the less confidence he felt in Acts of Parliament. Every additional Act of Parliament was in truth an additional evil, unless a strong case were made out in its favour. For these reasons he should vote against the Bill.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that as every hon. Member who had addressed the House after the hon. Member for Carlisle had spoken against the Bill, he 1415 should occupy the attention of the House only a few minutes in stating the objections he entertained to the measure. His hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle had, he thought, done well in following the advice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last Session in introducing a Bill instead of a mere abstract Resolution. He would admit also that the speech of the hon. Gentleman was characterized by great moderation and fairness; nor, having regard to the number of petitions for the Bill, had his hon. Friend exaggerated the strength of public feeling in its favour Every one would sympathize with the hon. Gentleman and those who acted with him in the desire to put a check upon drunkenness, which was the source of a vast number of crimes. He must, however, differ from his hon. Friend as to the alleged increase of drunkenness. He (Sir George Grey) had on a former occasion stated, and he now repeated his belief, that drunkenness was not on the increase in this country, but that in consequence of the improved habits and education of the people and the moral influences at work among them, drunkenness was on the decline. The hon. Gentleman alleged that he (Sir George Grey) had selected the returns he had quoted on this subject last year, and that they did not give a correct view of the case; he had, however, simply referred to the latest return then on the table of the House. He was glad to find that subsequent inquiries confirmed the opinion that he then expressed on the subject. An increase of convictions was not necessarily a proof of an increase of the offence itself. The police were now spread over the whole country, and they exerted great vigilance; a new class of offences had also been created by the recent Acts of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reference to wine licences and refreshment houses. Therefore, in looking at the number of convictions, they must take into account the nature of the offences as well as the number of convictions. The hon. Gentleman ought also to bear in mind the large increase of population that was going on year by year. He entertained a decided opinion that the remedy proposed by his hon. Friend would be impracticable in large towns; but if it could be brought into operation it would create an intolerable tyranny on the part of the majority over the minority. His hon. Friend said that, as they had frequently passed laws 1416 for regulating the sale of intoxicating liquors, they were in principle favourable to the entire prohibition of the sale. That proposition he (Sir George Grey) entirely denied — there was an essential difference between regulation and prohibition, which he thought his hon. Friend had lost sight of. The hon. Member said that Parliament prohibited the sale of immoral books, and why not also of intoxicating liquors? But, because every one admitted that the sale of immoral books ought to be prevented, his hon. Friend, to be consistent, ought to propose a measure to prohibit the sale of books altogether, and allow the majority of the ratepayers to say that no shops for the sale of books should be opened. His hon. Friend had, he thought, fallen into an error in quoting the Report of the Committee of that House of 1834 on drunkenness. The Committee did not recommend, when public opinion should be sufficiently awakened, the prohibition of distillation or sale of intoxicating liquors, but merely gave this as the opinion of some of the witnesses they had examined. His hon. Friend proposed by his Bill that any number of ratepayers might set the machinery of his Bill in operation. They might, by application to the mayor of any borough, require that a canvass should be instituted to see whether the Bill should come into operation in the borough or not. This was, he thought, a most mischievous provision. In the large cities and towns there were thousands of ratepayers, and a canvass of that kind would be most prejudicial to the peace and good feeling now existing. If a majority could be obtained for putting the machinery of the Act in motion, it could not, if adopted, be disturbed for three years. The consequence would be that, after the Act was brought into operation, no person could for three years at least sell any intoxicating liquor within the limits of the borough or parish in question with the exception of those the term of whose licences had not expired. But, after the 10th of October, the time for the renewal, of licences, every public-house or beershop would be absolutely closed for the sale of intoxicating liquors, and it would not be lawful for any one to sell or buy a glass of wine, beer, cyder, or spirits in the whole of the borough. If this Bill were adopted in large places the effect would be, he repeated, an intolerable tyranny. He did not hesitate to declare 1417 that it would be quite impossible to carry such an Act into effect by any penalties that would be imposed. Supposing, however, that it could be carried into law, what hardships would it not create? It would inflict, as the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had said, cruel hardships on the poor, while it would hardly touch the rich. The rich and the middle classes would keep their cellars well stored; but the poor man had no cellars, and no beer to put into them, and he would therefore be debarred from the enjoyment of that which he (Sir George Grey) considered a perfectly innocent beverage, and which was in many cases a necessary of life. His hon. Friend failed to distinguish between the use and abuse of intoxicating liquors, and because drunkenness was a great evil, he thought the only means of preventing it was by an absolute prohibition of the sale of the common beverage of the people. Believing that Parliament was not prepared to adopt the proposal of the hon. Gentleman, he trusted that he would not press it against the manifest sense of the House. At the same time Parliament would not be wise in discouraging all legitimate means of preventing and checking drunkenness. He had on a former occasion expressed an opinion that the law was not enforced as it ought to be by those in whom its administration was vested. Great complaints were made that no effective supervision was exercised over beerhouses, and he was therefore anxious to explain the provisions of the law. By the 1 Will. IV. c. 4, if a keeper of a beershop were convicted for the third time of permitting drunkenness and disorderly conduct in his house he might be disqualified from selling beer during the space of two years. It might be said that this was not a severe punishment, because the beershop keeper would put a son or a friend in possession to carry on the business for him. The law, however, not only visited him with a personal disqualification, but declared that the house might be closed for the sale of beer. By a Return of 1861–2, it appeared that in the metropolitan districts in 1861 there were no less than forty-four beerhouse keepers convicted of a third offence; in the first five months of 1862 there were fifteen; and there was not one case in which the licence was withdrawn and the house closed. It was not generally known, he 1418 believed, that this power existed, and there was nothing more rare than closing a beerhouse for two years. If it were closed, however, the loss to the owner of the property was considerable, and he thought it would be well if the power were more frequently exercised. It would be quite impossible to carry the Bill of the hon. Gentleman into effect, and if it were practicable, the consequences would be most injurious. He, therefore, hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press his measure.
§ MR. BUXTON
said, he desired to say a few words with regard to the passages that had been quoted by the hon. Member for Carlisle from an article written by him (Mr. Buxton) many years ago, and of which, he confessed, he now felt somewhat ashamed. It might be thought strange that any man in his position should have written at all upon a question as to how drunkenness might be diminished. On the contrary, no one could have stronger motives for examining what could be done to make that traffic harmless than those who were personally connected with it. In writing that paper he had endeavoured to consider the subject as impartially as if he had not been interested in the matter himself; but certainly if he could have foreseen that the authorship of it would have been discovered, he should have written with somewhat more regard to what artists would call "keeping." At that time, however, the Maine Law seemed to be a brilliant success in doing away with pauperism and crime, and he could not, therefore, exclude the consideration whether it could be adopted in any modified form in this country. Since that time experience had shown—what common sense might have suggested—that such violent compulsion, though it might gain its end for a time, would at last prove a failure; and he was persuaded that if this Bill became law it would produce unbounded irritation and inconvenience. The hon. Gentleman's friends had not treated him (Mr. Buxton) quite fairly about that review. They had asked him to allow it to be republished; but on looking it over he had found it was so hasty and crude that he had absolutely declined. In spite of that the passages he most regretted had been republished without the context which modified them. He would not enter into the general question beyond assuring his hon. Friend of the respect he 1419 felt for him and for all who were striving to lessen that tremendous evil of drunkenness. At the same time he was persuaded that the way to cope with it was to use all possible means of elevating the character of the working class. An attempt of this kind would, he felt sure, prove futile as regarded drunkards, and unjust to those who were sober.
§ MR. HUMBERSTON
said, that as six ratepayers were at present entitled to recommend a beerhouse-keeper for a licence, in spite of the opposition of the owner of perhaps three-fourths of the property in the parish, why should not the signatures of six other ratepayers against the licence be equally efficacious to prevent the house from being opened? In these travelling days it must be remembered the inhabitants of a town would not only legislate for themselves, but also for those travellers who might visit their town.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he wished to explain why, while sympathizing with the object, he could not vote for the second reading of the Bill of his hon. Friend. He agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, that this House would be departing from its functions as a legislative assembly if it were to allow a majority to prevent the use of a thing which, though often beneficial, was in some cases liable to abuse. He could not, however, adopt the argument that this was a Bill directed against the poor rather than the rich, because in the district from which he carne he knew that the poorer classes were more in favour of the Bill than any other class. The House ought, therefore, to take that feeling into account and consider from what it had arisen. Here was u Bill which appeared on the face of it a class Bill, and yet they found large bodies of the working men strongly in its favour. There must be some great wrong at work to produce such a result. The fact was, the working classes were almost in despair of that House or that Government tackling the question; and it was because it had been so often brought under the consideration of the Government, and acknowledged by the Government and the House to demand immediate attention, and yet nothing had been done, that the working men were not disinclined to support such an extreme measure. He had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would have admitted that it was the duty of the Government to deal 1420 with the question as soon as possible. He felt quite sure that within a very short time, if not next year, one of the first measures of the next Parliament must be a Bill to deal with the government of drinking-houses, and he therefore wished to offer a suggestion. He could not agree to the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham that they should delegate to the town councils any more than to the ratepayers the power to stop the use of a thing because of its abuse. But he was not prepared to admit that they should entirely negative the principle which was behind this measure—namely, that the ratepayers should have some voice with regard to the limitation of the number of drinking-houses. The permissive principle was in reality now in operation, and he was surprised that his hon. Friend had not used it as an argument. The permissive power was lodged in the hands of the magistrates. In granting licences the magistrates usually came to a decision after hearing a debate between the attorney who represented the property which wished to open the public-houses, and the representatives of the party which did not wish it. But, even upon the low ground of property, it might be proved to demonstration that the value of property was injured by an excessive number of public-houses in a district, and it was absurd to take into account the property invested in such houses and to overlook the property not so invested. The suggestion, then, which he had to make was that the Government should take it into consideration, whether it would not be practicable to admit the ratepayers in the immediate neighbourhood to some voice which would affect the decision of the magistrates in granting licences, care being taken that they should not be enabled to stop all facilities for the sale of liquors. He thought it would be found necessary to adopt some such plan as that in any measure that might be brought forward.
said, he had no intention of saying anything on this question, but that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had taken upon himself to state the principles upon which magistrates were in the habit of acting in the granting of licences. Now he protested against any such statement as that the magistrates decided by reference to property. He (Mr. Henley) had never heard of such a principle as the hon. Gentleman had stated entering even as an element into the ques- 1421 tion of the granting or refusing of licences. The magistrates never looked to anything but the necessity for granting the licences. Many persons were of opinion that greater restraints were needed in the taking out of beerhouse licences. That subject was a difficult one, not immediately connected with the Bill, but yet a fit matter for legislation. But as for the Bill, he opposed it because he believed it to be unjust, and if passed into law it would be wholly inoperative. It was unjust because the House had no right to legislate in that way for the poor man and not for the upper classes. Would they venture to legislate that a man should not drink beer or wine if two-thirds of the ratepayers did not like it. And if the Bill were brought into operation, did not hon. Gentlemen believe that people, instead of being moderate and not refusing God's gifts of all good things, would many of them go out of the parish and drink twice as much as they otherwise would? It was human nature to do so. No man was more desirous to see temperance increasing among the people, but if it were to increase they must trust to other means. Those who had lived as long as he had must know that temperance among all classes had increased; drunkenness was now almost unknown among the higher classes, and they must trust to the good sense of the humbler classes, to the spread of education and the example of others, and not to legislation, to produce the effect aimed at by this Bill. They might rest assured that they would never make anybody temperate by legislation. For these reasons he felt bound to vote against the second reading.
§ MR. PEASE
said, that after the debates that had taken place upon that subject, and the petitions which had been presented in favour of a change in the law, he had hoped that the Government would have been prepared to introduce some measure which would show that they were ready to co-operate in the efforts of the friends of temperance. He entirely differed from the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield that this was a poor man's question. For his part, he believed that thousands and tens of thousands of the poorer classes were anxious for the passing of a measure which would contribute to diminish drunkenness, and the many evils of which it was productive.
§ MR. SCULLY
said, he wished it to be understood that the measure was to 1422 extend to Ireland, and that Irish Members had therefore an interest in the decision at which the House might arrive upon that occasion. He had been pressed very strongly by leading members of his own Church to support Bills of this description. It had been found that private efforts for the discouragement of intemperance had succeeded very well; but he differed from right rev. Prelates who thought that legislation of this kind would be successful. In the archdiocese of Cashel, with which he was connected, no liquor was sold in any public-house on the Sunday. That had been brought about by the exertions of the Catholic Archbishop, and had received the support of all classes in the community. But if that "Sunday law," as it was called, was attempted to be enforced by Act of Parliament, he had no doubt it would be broken through at once. It was generally understood that in the Great Southern and Western Railway Company of Ireland the chairman, Mr. Haughton, had taken office on condition that no sort of spirits should be sold on the line on any day of the week. But the consequence was, as he had been informed by stationmasters, that there was greater drunkenness than ever on the line, because the people brought liquor with them into the carriages. He had gone out to the refreshment tables a little while ago, and he saw several hon. Gentlemen there. ["Divide, divide!"] Hon. Gentlemen need not interrupt, for he was not going to mention names. He saw some Gentlemen taking sherry, and he asked which way they were going to vote. Some said they would vote for the Bill. He asked how they could take such refreshment and yet vote for the Bill, but they replied, "Oh! it will not be carried." It was on some such principle as that, he supposed, that the hon. Member for Maid-stone (Mr. Buxton) had published his pamphlet. As he did not think they could make people temperate by Act of Parliament, he should oppose the Bill.
§ MR. LAWSON
, in reply, said, that he rose chiefly for the purpose of apologizing to the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Roebuck) for having used too strong an expression in the course of his speech. He was very sorry for having used it. It rose from a momentary feeling of indignation at the language which had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman himself the other night in the course of a debate relating to a similar measure. With regard to the 1423 hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Buxton), he had quoted from a book published a few weeks ago by that hon. Gentleman, in which he stated that he thought it desirable upon the whole that the articles should be republished. He would only further state that he could not imagine how it would be a grievance to the poor to give them a voice in deciding whether licences should be granted for the opening of public-houses. He was quite resolved to divide the House upon the Motion.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 292: Majority 257.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for three months.
|Agnew, Sir A.||Morris, D.|
|Barnes, T.||Morrison, W.|
|Blake, J.||O'Neill, E.|
|Buller, Sir A. W.||Owen, Sir H. O.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Pease, H.|
|Davie, Colonel F,||Price, R. G.|
|Dundas, F.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Dunlop, A. M.||Robertson, D.|
|Ennis, J.||Scott, Sir W.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Seymour, W. D.|
|Ewart, W.||Tollemache, J.|
|Finlay, A. S.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Gurney, S.||Warner, E.|
|Hadfield, G.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Hamilton, Major||Wyld, J.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Ingham, R.||Lawson, W.|
|Langton, W. H. G.||Bazley, T.|