§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. LAWSON,
in rising to move the Amendment of which he had given notice,That the granting of licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors is a subject which ought not at present to be dealt with by a private Bill,said, that it might be considered an extraordinary course to oppose a Private Bill, but the fact was, it was an extraordinary Bill. It was substantially the same measure which came before the House two years ago, when, although two Cabinet Ministers spoke, and eighteen Members of the Administration voted in its favour, it was rejected by a majority of sixteen—and he hoped a similar course would be pursued on the present occasion. Moreover, he did not see how it could be called a Private Bill, seeing that it dealt with the taxation of the country; and there were clauses which, as they provided for an increase of the rate to be paid for licences, could not, he thought, properly form part of a Private Bill; but as the Speaker had informed him that they must under any circumstances be considered by a Committee of the whole House, he would not press his objection upon that point. The promoters of the Bill were the Licensed Victuallers' Association of Liverpool, and they had in their speeches and in the papers which they had circulated declared that they had designed it as a means of checking the 643 great drunkenness and consequent misery which at present existed in Liverpool, and prevailed among the middle and higher as well as the lower classes. They complained that the magistrates had granted in one year, at the last licensing session, 149, and in five years no less than 345 new licences, and, as a consequence, they alleged that drunkenness was more rife in Liverpool than in any other town in England. It had been stated that this measure carried out the recommendations of the Committee of that House, which was presided over by the present President of the Poor Law Board some twelve years ago; but that was not exactly the case. The provisions, which were in harmony with the recommendations of that Committee were, that there should be an uniform licence for all houses for the sale of intoxicating drinks, putting beerhouses and public-houses upon the same footing; that a person obtaining a licence should give a bond for his good behaviour; that the purchasers of drink at unlicensed houses, as well as the sellers, should be liable to punishment; that the fee for a licence should be raised to £30; and that the rights and privileges of existing licence holders should be saved for a period of fourteen years. These provisions had all been suggested by the Committee. The Committee, however, also recommended the appointment of special inspectors for public-houses, the closing for all but four hours on Sundays, and the closing of public-houses every night at eleven o'clock. No such provisions were included in this Bill, and therefore it came before the House as a very different plan from that recommended by the Committee of 1853. The Bill also contained a clause—which is entirely their own—providing that no licence should be granted to any house which was not rated to the poor at the amount of £50 a year—a regulation which, if carried out, he should be disposed to regard as beneficial. If that had been the whole of the measure he should not have opposed it, but it contained other provisions which were most objectionable and inadmissible. It took away the only protection which the people now had against the establishment of these houses. At present a discretion was vested in the magistrates as to the granting of licences to new houses, and that discretion the Bill took away. In addition to this, there was a most extraordinary clause, which he could best explain by reading a sentence from the pamphlet of Mr. Henry 644 Booth, a Liverpool magistrate. The Bill proposed to exempt from its operation all existing public-houses for fourteen years; and, as the gross amount at present paid for licences was £30,000 a year, it followed that if the prices were doubled, existing public-houses would have an annual exemption to the amount of £30,000 a year. Mr. Booth called this "a conciliation bonus." Now he (Mr. Lawson) saw no reason why that House should vote a "conciliation bonus" of £30,000 a year to the licensed victuallers of Liverpool, more especially when it was remembered that there were among them 200 or 300 who, according to the statements of the licensed victuallers themselves, conducted their business in so disreputable a manner that they would not permit them to be members of their association. Let the Bill be as good as it might, however, he objected to a great public question being dealt with by a Private Bill. However unwilling that House might be to discuss the question of the regulation of the sale of intoxicating drinks, there was no doubt it was one in which people out of doors felt the greatest interest; and when he brought forward a measure upon the subject he did not introduce it as a Private Bill, but openly and frankly as a Public one. Would the House now establish the principle that any five or six men in any town who could scrape together £500 with which to hire barristers to explain their views might carry out in legislation any principles as to which they could satisfy a Committee of four upstairs? The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) accused the promoters of the Permissive Bill of acting unconstitutionally, and of attempting to deal with this sacred subject, the sale of drink, in a manner which was not in accordance with the custom of Parliament. What would be say to this Bill, by which it appeared to him that an attempt was being made to smuggle a great public question through the House by means of a private measure? He hoped that the House would not be induced, either by the respect which was due to the two hon. Gentlemen who had charge of the Bill, or even by the influence of the Government, if they should be so unwise as to exert it, to read the Bill a second time. In conclusion, he begged to move that "the granting of licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors is a subject which ought not at present to be dealt with by any Private Bill."
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the granting of Licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors is a subject which ought not at present to be dealt with by any Private Bill,"—(Mr. Lawson,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, that he was surprised that the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lawson) should have taken this course. Last year that hon. Gentleman himself introduced a measure called the Permissive Bill, by which he intended to check intemperance, and now when another Bill was brought in having the same object, but not adopting his machinery, he thought it right to oppose it. The Bill was substantially the same as that of 1863, but it was a mistake to say it was supported solely by the licensed victuallers of Liverpool. Petitions in its favour had been presented from the magistrates, town-council, and select vestry of Liverpool, the Board of Guardians of the West Derby Union (the largest Union in England), and the Toxteth Park Board of Guardians. The only provisions of the Bill which were not to be found in the Bill of 1863 were the clauses whose object was to check the licensing of public-houses in neighbourhoods where they were not wanted, by fixing a ratable value to houses below which licences should not be given, which fixed the licence at the increased sum of £30 a year, and made it uniform for all houses, thus abolishing the distinction between public-houses and beershops; while, as had been stated, it carried out as many as seven of the recommendations of the Committee of 1853. There was no town in the kingdom in which greater efforts had been made to provide for the recreation and the moral and social improvement of the people than in Liverpool, and yet, notwithstanding that, there was no other town in which intemperance prevailed to so great an extent. It appeared from the Report of the Chief Constable of Police that the number of cases of drunkenness in Liverpool were in the year 1861,9,834; in 1862, 12,076; in 1863, 13,912; and in 1864, 14,002. Adding the cases of assault arising from drunkenness the number would be 17,265; and of 27,000 cases of drunkenness in Lancashire, as nearly 646 as possible one-half occurred in Liverpool. It might be said that the presence of sailors accounted for the excess; but compared with other seaports, that town showed equally unfavourably. It had been stated in print that there were in Liverpool, in proportion to the population, six times as many case3 of drunkenness as in Hull, seven times as many as in London, and fourteen times as many as in Bristol. He doubted whether that statement would be borne out by facts; but he was convinced that there was three or four times as much drunkenness in Liverpool as in any other town in the kingdom. Moreover, Dr. Buchanan, who was last year sent by the Government to inquire into an epidemic which was raging in Liverpool, reported that intemperance was one of its main causes; and Mr. Nugent, the Roman Catholic chaplain of the gaol, traced the crimes of seven-tenths of the prisoners to the same source. He had no hesitation in saying that a great portion of this state of things arose from the system of unrestricted licensing. It was easy to blame the magistrates; but hon. Members must remember that in great towns there was a large body of magistrates, and it could not be expected that they should all entertain the same views upon this subject. Some of them were favourable to granting licences, others were opposed to it; and the consequence was that there was the greatest discrepancy in the number of licences granted in each Session. In the year 1861, when those who desired to restrict licences were in a majority, only twenty-eight licences were granted; but next year a superior number of the other side were present, and they granted 124 licences. In the following year, when the friends of the restricting system were again in the majority, only thirty-six licences were given; but last year, when the other section prevailed, the number rose to 147. It could not be said that the magistrates did not punish with sufficient severity the offences of persons who held licences. In 1861, 363 penalties were inflicted, amounting to £213; in 1862, 383, amounting to £268; in 1863, 397, amounting to £506; and in 1864, 600, amounting to £957. Was there not a case for legislation, and what were the objections urged against it? They were told by the hon. Gentleman that legislation ought to be by an Imperial and not by a local measure. But how long were they to wait for this Imperial legislation? It was now ten years since the 647 Committee made its Report, and no action had been taken upon it. The opposition to this Bill proceeded from the licensed victuallers of London, and at the conference at Derby the representatives of that body objected not to local legislation, but to any legislation at all. He earnestly appealed to the House not to reject this measure, but to allow it to go before a Committee, by whom every clause might be considered and reported upon to that House.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that he should vote against the second reading of this Bill, not because it was opposed by the licensed vituallers of London, but because two public principles of immense importance were involved in it—the abolition of the discretion of magistrates in granting licences and putting all licences upon the same footing; and it would be impossible for the House to apply such principles to Liverpool without feeling itself pledged to extend them to the whole country. If the changes proposed were good for Liverpool they were good for the rest of the country, and therefore he thought the House ought not to acquiesce in the present measure. At the same time he must admit that the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Horsfall's) constituents had much reason to complain of the Government for neglecting to legislate on the subject. That the measure presented two years ago was supported from the Treasury Bench and was rejected by the House, not upon its merits, but because they could not pass such a Bill for a particular town, was a very strong reason why the Government should have kept their promises and brought in a general licensing Bill, and he could not conceive why that had not been done. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department was ready with a Bill, but afterwards declined to produce it. That refusal could not have been occasioned by the merits of the licensing question, but must have rested upon other grounds. Acting in obedience to the feelings of the country might be carried too far, and a Ministry might forget their duty in considering whether Bills would be acceptable. The Cabinet ought not to have been deterred by any electioneering considerations from introducing a general licensing measure, and if they had adopted that course the wants of the great towns would have been met, and it would not have been necessary for Liverpool now to ask for what could not be conceded.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that when the Bill was before the House two years ago 648 he supported it, and he intended to take the same course on the present occasion. The Bill, in his opinion, was founded upon right principles. It was founded mainly upon the principles recommended by the Committee which sat some years ago, and of which the President of the Poor Law Board was the Chairman, namely, that of placing the licences to all houses for the sale of intoxicating liquors on the same footing, taking away the discretionary power of magistrates, and substituting other regulations and conditions which might be more effectual in preventing the evils that now existed. His hon. Friend who had moved the Amendment however, objected that this was introduced as a Private Bill, and not as a general measure—that it applied to Liverpool and not to every other part of the country. No doubt some inconvenience might arise from bringing this forward as a Private Bill; but he would remind hon. Members of the peculiar circumstances of Liverpool. There the magistrates had, for several years past, adopted a course of action which they had a right to pursue, because the law had vested in them a discretion in the matter, and finding it impossible to constitute themselves judges of the wants of a particular neighbourhood, in regard to the opening of public-houses in the case of such an immense community as that with which they had to deal, granted licences in all cases where they were satisfied that the applicant was not a man of bad character. The result had been an enormous increase in the number of public-houses in Liverpool—attended, no doubt, with some decrease in the number of beerhouses, because, when public-house licences were so easily obtainable, there was not the same motive for applying for the beerhouse licence, and there had been, there was no doubt, a great increase of drunkenness. No doubt there were peculiar circumstances in a seaport town which led to a great amount of drunkenness, but still that was not sufficient to account for the great increase of it in Liverpool. There was nearly absolute unanimity on the part of the great public bodies of the town in desiring that the Bill should pass. Was the House, then, prepared to refuse those who brought the Bill forward the opportunity of going to a Committee to establish their case? With reference to what the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) had said about a general Bill not having been brought forward, he (Sir George Grey) could only say he was desirous of dealing 649 with the question; but he would appeal to the hon. Member for Carlisle, who was as sincere as any man in that House in his desire to check drunkenness, whether he was promoting the object he had in view by obstructing a measure in its progress through the House, which proposed to place a local check on intemperance, and might lead to a general Bill, because it was not exactly according to his own views. The influence of the licensed victuallers throughout the country was very powerful; and he need only to refer to what took place at Derby to show their determination to oppose a general measure of this kind. He had ascertained that under present circumstances, when it was not likely that the influence of licensed victuallers would be less powerful than formerly, it would be impossible to propose a general Bill of this nature with any prospect of success. He supported the Bill because he believed it would lead to a general measure.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, it was not his intention to endeavour to defend the consistency of the hon. Member for Carlisle, or to attack the Bill, but he was really going to put it to the Home Secretary whether he was doing his duty? This was really a Public Bill—let them remember that—and it was supported by the right hon. Gentleman because he fancied that by it he would get in the thin end of the wedge, and that by and by he would be able to carry out generally the principles of the Bill. What were those principles? The Legislature had thought fit to put a certain class of dealers under the surveillance of the magistrates—for that was the real situation of the licensed victuallers in this country. The right hon. gentleman believed that in one town that surveillance had not been effective, and therefore he wanted to alter the general law of the land. But any alteration of the general law of the land ought to be made by the House of Commons. Recollect what they were about to do. They were about to make an alteration of the general law of the land by means of four Members of the House of Commons. Now that appeared to him to be a dastardly mode of proceeding—and he distinctly accused the right hon. Gentleman of a deriliction of duty. It was the duty of the Home Secretary, if the principle of this Bill were right, and if he thought it should be a Public Bill, to have brought forward a proposition to that effect without reference to the notion that it was likely to be defeated by the licensed victu- 650 allers! Imagine a Secretary of State saying that, he was likely to be defeated by the licensed victuallers! Then there was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He (Mr. Roebuck) had been waited upon by persons pro and con with reference to this Bill, and had heard mysterious whispers about the effect of the influences that had been brought to bear upon the right hon. Gentleman. But the right hon. Gentleman was an honest man, who did not pretend to have any connection with either the licensed victuallers or the magistrates of Liverpool. The object of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to govern the country as it should be governed, and he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman as well as to the Home Secretary, whether, this being a Public Bill, it was for the interests of the country that its object should be accomplished through private legislation. They could sum up one, two, and three, and take the result; but it required a man of thought and power to draw general conclusions from particular instances. He appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say whether he was unable to draw a general conclusion from these individual instances of pressure upon the magistrates; because this was really the work of the magistrates of Liverpool. In their petition these gentlemen in fact confirmed their inability to perform the duty which the general law of the land imposed upon them. In that case it was the duty of the Government to bring in a general law. Nothing was more dangerous to the whole country than this piecemeal legislation. The present Session had been distinguished by legislation of this sort. He supposed it was thought that the Parliament was dying, and that it was right to impose upon it duties which could not be imposed upon it in its youth. He was an old man both in fact, and Parliamentarily speaking; but if he were a young man to-morrow, he would oppose anything like an attempt to make the House of Commons, by private legislation, do that which ought to be done by general action. Therefore he appealed to the House and to the Treasury Bench whether they were not doing anything but their duty in allowing a Private Bill to take the position of a public measure, and he appealed also to the Speaker whether this was not really a Public Bill smuggled in under the name of a Private Bill.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that having supported the object of the hon. Members for Liverpool last Session, he regretted 651 that he could not support them on the present occasion. No one was more conscious than he was of the evils which oppressed Liverpool. It was in evidence before a Committee that in two large towns, Liverpool and Wolverhampton, a system of free trade in licensing had been tried. He was a Member for an inland county, and he knew that the system had been attended with the same evils in Wolverhampton as in Liverpool. He regretted that he could not support this Bill because he saw clearly that in doing so, according to the opinion of the Home Secretary, he should be striking a blow at the principle of local self-government which had been found effectual in every place except those two. The remedy sought by his hon. Friend by this Bill rested with the magistrates of Liverpool, who seemed to be wanting in earnestness. Let the magistrates of Liverpool adopt a system of subdivision of districts; let them combine and organize as the magistrates in Middlesex and other counties did, and he believed they would find that the remedy was in their own hands.
said, he felt very strongly the objection urged against the Bill on the ground that it proposed to introduce a law for Liverpool different from that which prevailed elsewhere. In the position, however, in which Liverpool was placed, its inhabitants had only a choice of difficulties. He should support the second reading of the Bill on two grounds—first, because it was supported by a very large majority of all classes within the town itself; and secondly, because he knew enough of this question to feel that it was impossible things could go on there in the way in which they had been doing for the last few years. They had, in fact, come to a dead lock. There was one party-he believed a majority—among the magistracy which held that all licences ought to be granted or withheld without reference to anything but the character of the person applying. There was, however, a considerable minority holding a contrary opinion; and accordingly when a licensing session was held it was mere chance whether the principle of restriction or that of free trade was acted on. Both sides were in earnest—neither would give way. He had known cases where appeals were rejected upon one day by a majority of magistrates who were in favour of the principle of restriction, and on the very next day, the majority being the other way, every appeal was 652 granted, the cases being precisely identical with those rejected on the former occasion. That was a state of things not only unsatisfactory, but absolutely discreditable, and it was one for which, while the present law continued, he saw no remedy. It was a mere toss up whether the licence was obtained or not. Supported as the proposition for a change was by the opinion of the people of Liverpool, he did not think the Bill could be correctly described as an infringement of local self-government. He might be of those who desired that a general measure on the subject should be brought in and carried; but, as a measure had not been brought in, it became a question whether what could not be done over the whole country might not be done in one part of it experimentally. A great deal of drunkenness undoubtedly existed in Liverpool; but that had not any necessary connection with the principle on which licences were granted. Liverpool possessed an immense seafaring population, and every one knew what sailors were on shore. In Liverpool, also, there were above 100,000 Irish labourers, who, for the first time probably in their lives, found themselves in receipt of high wages, and among whom, therefore, it was natural that a more than ordinary degree of intoxication should prevail. In agreeing to the Bill in its present shape he would remind the House that they were not adopting it finally; they would have another opportunity of considering it when it came from the Committee; and all they were asked at present to do was to say that a sufficient primâ facie case had been made out.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, the reasons assigned by the noble Lord were valid reasons for making changes in the commission of the peace in Liverpool, but not for passing or rejecting the Bill. As an appeal had been made to the Speaker for his opinion, he should like to put before him this view also. This was a Bill affecting the Ways and Means of the year, for it proposed to alter the revenue payable into the Exchequer, and to impose a new tax on certain persons in Liverpool, raising their contributions from £3 14*. to £30. Now, he should like to know whether a Bill of this nature could be brought in by private Members? If so our finances would be in a very extraordinary position, because every Member would have a right to introduce measures affecting the taxation of the boroughs they represented. Now, whatever might be the ruling on the point of practice, the 653 House, he felt assured, would never allow taxation to be regulated purely according to the wishes of certain persons speaking through a Member of that House. He protested against the assumption that in opposing the present Bill he was in any way open to the suspicion of being influenced by feelings such as had been suggested. The course he had always taken in that House showed that he was not likely to be swayed by any influence which the publicans could bring to bear. He particularly wished to call attention to the extraordinary position assumed by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. It was true that a Report was made some years ago on the subject of licensing; but that Report had never been discussed, and there had never been any opportunity for the House to confirm or to reject its principle. Was a subject of such great importance to be passed over by a side wind, and were they blindly to adopt the whole policy shadowed out in that document? It was impossible, he maintained, to uphold the principle on which that Report was based, for it proceeded on the absurd proposition that because a man paid £30 he would take out a licence. He would pay the £30 as a matter of course—it was only so much more water put into the beer—and the tax would not affect either the number of houses or the property covered by the licences. It would, however, aggravate the present system, because men would take measures to indemnify themselves for the demands of the Government, at whose door they would lay the blame of all these irregularities. He objected to allow so great a question to be disposed of in the manner now proposed, for the benefit or convenience of any Secretary of State.
§ MR. SPEAKER
In answer to the appeal made to me on a point of form, I have to say that this Bill was brought in in the ordinary manner upon petition—whether for the benefit of a community or of an individual is the same in principle. I must, of course, draw a distinction between the form of the Bill and the subject-matter of the Bill before the House. It does not appear to me that there is anything contrary to form in the manner in which this Bill has been introduced. But the question whether the subject-matter of the Bill is proper for a Private Bill is the point now under the consideration of the House, and it is for the House, and not for myself, to give an answer on that point.
said, this was the first instance in his recollection in which it was sought to pass as a Private Bill a measure affecting the public interests of an entire community.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that if this Bill had really been brought forward as a public measure the arguments in its favour would have been quite conclusive. But though this was brought in as a Private Bill, it involved one of the gravest matters the House had to consider—whether they would allow it to be proceeded with in that form, seeing that it involved important public considerations. He recollected perfectly well that when the Manchester Education Bill was before the House he took exception to its appearing in the form of a Private Bill, because, though it might be so introduced, it involved matters of such important public consideration that he thought the House should have an opportunity of dealing with it publicly. And the House agreed with him in that view. The principles of that Bill were attempted to be introduced afterwards in a public measure; but the House rejected them. But that was not all. The present measure, as the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) had pointed out, involved a question which, if admitted, would affect the whole constitutional functions of the House of Commons—the principle that this House has the control of the taxation and expenditure of public money. Those matters were considered of such moment that they were required to be introduced in a Committee of the Whole House, But if they were to have questions of that nature introduced in a Private Bill and sent upstairs to a Committee of four Members, those four Members would be deciding a question which involved important financial considerations. When any matter was referred to a Select Committee, and the Members were unanimous, when it was supported by a majority, the decision of the Committee was generally supported by the House. But if the present Bill, or any measure of a similar kind, were sent to a Committee, and if the four best and most experienced Members of the House could be picked out and charged with the consideration of the Bill, it would still be necessary when it came down from them to discuss its provisions as a public measure; and thus the feeling of the House would be brought to bear upon the very considerations that it was now sought to withdraw from their cog- 655 nizance. For the purpose of preserving the proper action of that House with reference to matters of great public policy, he hoped the Bill would not be allowed to proceed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he wished, in reference to the constitutional question which had been raised, to state exactly how the matter stood in reference to the Exchequer. The Bill, as submitted, contained no clause whatever relating to taxation. ["Oh!"] That was the fact. It certainly did contain a clause in italics, which was an indication of what the promoters intended to ask for; but that clause the Committee on the Bill would have no power to adopt until the measure had passed through a Committee of the Whole House. The prerogative of the House as to local taxation would, therefore, be preserved entire. It was a matter of frequent occurrence that taxes, particularly those imposed by stamps, were of necessity dealt with by Private Bills, and they were dealt with under cover of a special authority given by Committee of the Whole House. That removed the objection of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton). Then, as to the objection taken by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) that the House was now dealing with a matter of public policy, and one which ought not to be dealt with by a Private Bill—he would say that all questions, in a certain sense, were matters of public policy. In the case of the Manchester and Salford Education Bill, to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred, the House was asked to deal with matters of the very highest policy in a Private Bill, and it was then held to be utterly impossible to deal with it without prejudging the case for the whole country. ["Hear!"] But was that the case in regard to the present Bill. ["Hear!"] He heard strong cheers, not exclusively, but specially from that quarter of the House which was so powerfully manned by metropolitan Members. There was no question at all that the House often treated questions of police on different grounds from questions of public policy. They dealt experimentally with questions of police in particular places. If those experiments were not successful, the Legislature was not bound to recognize and adopt them for the country at large. These matters of police were regulations bearing upon the morality of the community, and yet they were not deemed unfit to be dealt with by 656 a Private Bill. He did not say that there were not objections to this Bill, which had been stated with fairness by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley). It was a balance of difficulty. Supposing that the Government had neglected its duty—which he did not admit—was that a reason why this great local evil and mischief should continue? It was a great evil and mischief as regarded the publicans of Liverpool, who were suffering under the injurious consequences of the two systems; for on the one hand, they were all liable to be flooded by new competition; and on the other hand, there was none of that permanent change of the system that would enable them to purchase the heavy good-will they were obliged to pay on assuming these businesses. Who were the best judges in this matter? Surely the local authorities. The town counsel, the majority of the borough magistrates, the vestry, the guardians of the West Derby Union, which included one part of Liverpool, and the guardians of the Toxteth Park Union, which represented the other, were in favour of this Bill. Why had all these parties come into the field? Not because they had entered into the abstract principles on which the licensing system should be dealt with; but because they saw the grossly injurious moral and social consequences arising from the present state of things, and, seeing their way to a remedy, they asked the House to adopt the present measure. He thought that the balance of practical considerations was in favour of sending the Bill to a Committee, and he should therefore vote for the second reading.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that the objection taken by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) as to the public revenue was answered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had no doubt truly said the Committee would have no power to consider the clause printed in italics, and that this must be submitted to the House. But that clause was the main foundation of the Bill. In the reasons given by the promoters of the Bill, the addition to the public revenue by the high duties imposed was the very ground on which they rested their claims; and was the House to send this Bill to a Committee of four Gentlemen who were to have no power to discuss the foundation of the Bill? When the Bill came down again, of course the whole discussion must be renewed. The principle of this measure had been fully discussed on a 657 former occasion. He could not agree that the Government were not in fault in not bringing in a public measure on the subject. In 1857 a promise was held out by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department that he would consider the question in the then ensuing recess. In 1859 the right hon. Gentleman was again in office in company with the President of the Poor Law Board, who was Chairman of the Committee of 1854, and he had now been in office six years without attempting to do any thing, although two years ago he said that a Bill was ready. The House was now told two things—that Liverpool was an exceptional case, and next that Liverpool was to be made an example to the whole country. With respect to Liverpool, it appeared to him that it was nothing but the conduct of the magistrates that had brought about the necessity of some legislation. Tell him that the magistrates had no power to exercise discretion in granting licences! There were in Liverpool 1,800 public-houses, while there were less than 500 in Manchester. There were also 900 beerhouses in Liverpool; so that there was a drinking-house in Liverpool for every forty of the male inhabitants above fifteen. The magistrates must have known they were over-doing it, and yet they asked the House to pass a Bill for fourteen years which would leave matters in the present state, and would condone everything the magistrates had done. Even now they had power to take away some of the licences. He would admit that the licensing system throughout the country had got into such a condition that Parliament ought to interfere, but it ought not to legislate by a side wind. Let the House have the whole question before it. He agreed with his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) that there were objections to the present system of licensing, but the true remedy was not to be found in this Bill. There would be neither example nor advantage in perpetuating an evil which the magistrates of Liverpool had even now the power of remedying.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
Words added. Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That the granting of Licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors is a subject which ought not at present to be dealt with by any Private Bill.