HC Deb 27 April 1869 vol 195 cc1763-81

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, observed that there had been a long struggle with growing intemperance on the one hand, and the attempts on the part of the Legislature to suppress it on the other. The hon. Baronet briefly referred to the Acts passed in the reign of Henry VI., in which he said the licensing system of the present day had its origin, and to the Act of 1828, which consolidated the previous Acts on the subject. Prior to 1830 licenses were granted by the Excise after a previous license had been granted by the magistrates, into which entered the question of the character of the individual to whom it was granted, the character of the house licensed, and the wants of the locality in which it was situated. In accordance, however, with the Act of 1830, beer-houses were licensed by officers of the Revenue, who might be supposed to be interested in creating as large a number of them as possible throughout the country, the only check being the insufficiency of the rateable value of the home of the applicant for a license, and the necessity of obtaining the certificates as to his cha- racter of six householders occupying houses of a certain rateable value. There was very little difficulty in obtaining the testimonial required, and the value had been frequently raised in a surreptitious manner. The result of the passing of a measure, which contained only those checks, was that drunkenness so greatly increased that a Committee of that House was appointed in 1834 to inquire into the subject. That Committee reported against the extension of beer-houses such as then existed, and, in 1839, Lord Brougham, who had been a strenuous supporter of the Bill of 1830, carried through the House of Lords a Bill for the repeal of the very measure of which he had been a few years before so warm an advocate, observing that the beerhouses were sowing the seeds, not of ignorance, but, what was ten times worse, of immorality broadcast through the land. Lord Brougham, moreover, protested against the question being made a party question; but, notwithstanding his warning, party differences were permitted to affect it and the Bill was thrown out in the House of Commons. The next step taken in connection with the subject was in 1850, when a Committee of that House reported that the beer which was sold was an inferior article, and that under the system which prevailed the morals and comforts of the poor were seriously impaired. No steps to remedy those evils were, however, taken in consequence of that Report, and, in 1853 and 1854, another Committee sat under the able presidency of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. P. Villiers) which, after an elaborate investigation of the whole question, reported in favour of uniformity of license; recommending that the distinction between beer-shops and public-houses, both as to the extent of the license and the manner in which it was granted, should be discontinued. The Committee farther recommended that the licensing authority should be the same for all houses, and that authority should be magisterial. After two such Reports one would imagine that some action would have been taken in the matter, but it was not again dealt with until a Bill with respect to it was introduced by his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy). That measure, which was in some respects similar to the present, met with considerable opposition. Some ton. Members argued that there ought to be no legislation on the subject, and that we must trust to improved education to remedy the evil; but the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) promised on the part of the Government that, if the Bill were withdrawn, another on the same subject should be matured in the approaching Recess. Eventually his right hon. Friend was beaten by a small majority, but no Bill was introduced by the Government in the following year. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) next brought in a measure relating to Ireland, and this was followed, in 1867, by the Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves). Some people had advocated entire freedom of the liquor trade as a means of meeting the difficulty, and, in 1862, the Liverpool magistrates adopted this plan and licensed every person who could produce certain certificates of character. The system was tried for four years, at the end of which period Liverpool was preeminent for drunkenness and crime in proportion to its population over every other seaport in the country. A petition was then got up, which was signed by a great number of medical men, and 31,000 of the inhabitants, and the magistrates on inquiry found that a much smaller number of beer-houses were necessary, and only licensed twenty-two. The history of the past condemned the system established in 1830. It had been proved that that system had covered the country with a class of public-houses which had tended to promote drunkenness, crime, and profligacy. The facts which were brought to light at the present day condemned the system no less emphatically. Three-fourths of the criminals who were brought before justices of the peace attributed their first step in crime to beer-houses and the associates they had met there. The Judges, in their charges, told the same story, which was repeated in the presentments made by grand juries during the last few months. From the boroughs more than 100 mayors, writing in the names of the corporations, had expressed opinions in favour of the Bill, and the chief constables of Halifax, Blackburn, Leeds, and upwards of seventy places, and the superintendents of police of numberless towns were unanimous in their condemnation of the present beer-house system. He might also refer to two letters which appeared lately in the leading journal on the "Haunts of Crime." They were written by a man who thoroughly understood what he was about, and who, in company with the police, visited a number of beer-houses which were the haunts of habitual criminals. He found letters came pouring in not only from magistrates and clergymen, but from tradesmen and every other class of the community, against that system. He had a letter the other day from a magistrate in the county which he had the honour to represent, stating that it had just been brought to his notice that a man, who had been convicted at quarter sessions of larceny, and who had previously held a public-house license, had taken out a beer-house license under the Excise, and that his house was now an established haunt of bad characters. If time permitted, he could multiply testimony of the same kind. Statistics showed that the convictions in all the counties were 1 in 29 of public-houses, and 1 in 12 of beer-houses; in all the boroughs, 1 in 20 of public-houses, and 1 in 7½ of beer-houses. He maintained that the evidence of facts, both present and past, alike condemned the system established in 1830. That evidence pointed, he thought, to uniformity of authority in the licensing of all houses of that description; also pointed in the direction of uniform magisterial control, and increased police supervision; and also indicated the necessity for an attempt to strengthen the law by giving greater facilities for the conviction of those who violated it. All those points, he believed, would be met by the adoption of that Bill. He had divided the licenses into two classes. The first class related to sale of these articles over the counter, but not to be consumed on the premises. For that first branch of the trade he had made the facilities as great as he could; but a different course ought to be pursued in regard to the consumption of these liquors in what was falsely called the poor man's club. When they knew that the unrestricted increase of the number of those places increased the adulteration of the articles consumed in them, and that the customer was expected to drink not only what he required but also for the good of the house, then it was justifiable to say that their number ought to be reduced within the limits of the wants of the country. He tried by his Bill to encourage the class of houses licensed to sell beer, but not for consumption on the premises; and, in order to check the evasion of the conditions of such licenses, he had sought by a clause to strengthen the power of conviction, while in another clause he had extended the power of the police to all beer-houses. He would likewise render the customer liable to a penalty when he forced the landlord to infringe the law; and, again, by doing away with what was called the limitation as to convictions, the keeper of the house would not only have additional motives for being careful how he carried out his license, but it would also be made the interest of the owner of the house to see that he had a proper tenant. It had been objected that, as the Bill now stood, three past transgressions might be brought forward against any man, and that he would thus be prevented from taking out a license; but it was not his intention to make that legislation retrospective, but prospective. He might be told that so grave and important a question ought not to be dealt with by a private Member, but should be left in the hands of the Government. Now, he felt very strongly not only that legislation, but that immediate legislation on that subject was necessary; and, before placing his Bill on the table, he had done everything he could to ascertain whether the Government intended to take the question up this Session; and it was only after learning that, although they would probably grapple with the subject in a future Session, they did not mean to attempt to do so now, that he had ventured, as a private Member, to propose that measure. Speaking of the probability of future legislation to be initiated by the Government, he would remind the House that, in 1857, they had a direct promise from the then Home Secretary of a Liberal Government, which was supposed to be a strong Government, that they would consider that question in the course of the Recess, and deal with it completely in the following Session. Well, the following Session came, but from accidental circumstances nothing was done in the matter; and so they had gone on for twelve years without arriving at any practical result. He did not wish to imply any doubt of the sincerity of the present Government's intention to take up the question in another year; but next Session, even though the Irish Church Bill might then be out of the way, other grave matters—for example, the Irish land question—might interfere with the fulfilment of their intention. And, therefore, he thought his Bill would be useful in the meantime in checking evils which would be assuming more and more gigantic proportions, while the Government measure might be undergoing preparation. His Bill—even if it were but a temporary stopgap—would not interfere with the future legislation which might be introduced by the Government. He went further, and said that it would assist them in their future legislation; because if, unfortunately, his Bill did not now pass, and if the Government intended to bring in a measure of their own next year, a vast number of new beer-houses would be opened, and a great many fresh vested interests thus created between this time and the next Session. He had to thank the House for the patient indulgence with which they had heard him. From a sad and mournful cause he had not been able to pay the subject the attention which he should have wished, but he felt that this question was one of such deep and vital importance that it must make its way. The evil was an old and long-standing one, and the country was thoroughly roused upon the subject. Over 800 Petitions, signed by every class in the community, had been presented, all calling loudly for a remedy; and it was because he believed that the Bill would afford that remedy, would tend to diminish the evils of which they complained, would increase morality and diminish crime throughout the country, that he ventured to recommend it to the consideration of the House. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)


said, he had listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Baronet, and there was no one who would go further in any step to check drunkenness—which was an evil apparent, above almost all the evils of the country. But he could not jump to the conclusion which the hon. Baronet had come to—that this particular system of licensing had been the cause of all the mischief which he seemed to throw upon its shoulders. A mighty agitation had come upon us from Lancashire; an agitation that had swept through the whole of the West Hiding of Yorkshire—that had diffused itself through the whole kingdom—and had finally culminated in a meeting at St. James's Hall, with an Archbishop at its head. Now, he was in favour of the object they had in view. He had looked as carefully as he could into all that had been said on the subject, and he found this to be the main burden of the song—that drunkenness is a great evil, that beer makes people drunk, that beer-houses sellbeer, and, therefore, beerhouses are a great evil. That was the clear logical deduction which was the burden of the song throughout, and therefore he had turned his attention to see whether, as unfortunately he was an old man, the evils had or had not increased in the country since this system had been enforced. Every one would allow that was a material point to consider. Now, he should hardly be surprised that some of those Gentlemen who, like himself, were alive many years before this change of the law had occurred, should turn in their graves in wonder, considering the abuse that was heaped upon them for the part they had taken with respect to the horrible shame of those restrictions in licensing. There was no sort of abuse that the English language supplied—and it was not very barren in terms of that kind—which was not applied to "the unpaid" for the way in which they executed their office in this matter. Well, he had lived to see a great change of opinion come round. He knew only one thing like it, and that was the present condition of Manchester and India with regard to cotton. In his early life Manchester did all she could to injure the cotton of India by means of high and differential duties, and now she did everything to make India grow cotton for her, except to carry her own money to India for that purpose. It seemed as if a sort of retributive justice had come upon both parties in these two cases. He admitted that the object of the beer-house legislation had utterly failed. That legislation was promoted for three purposes; one was to break up the brewing monopoly, just about the time of taking off the duty upon beer; the next was because it was supposed these houses would brew their own beer; and the third was to discourage the use of spirits. Well, there was the brewing monopoly still—these houses did not brew their own beer; and the use of spirits had increased relatively, while that of beer had rather decreased. That appeared from official Returns. Then came the question they had to consider—namely, whether, generally speaking, drunkenness had increased or decreased under the system. He had no doubt it had decreased everywhere with the exception of a very few places, and the largest of those places was Lancashire. Lancashire was at the head of all things, and in the case of drunkenness it did stand very prominent. Now, he would tell the hon. Baronet at once that he was not going to oppose the Bill. He would leave the matter to the discretion of the Government. This was part of a very large question; and if the Government thought it right that this measure should pass, he was not the person to oppose it. But he would leave the responsibility with the Government. He would, however, state a few facts in proof of what he had stated, and then he should follow the course which the Government, with full information before them, would think it their duty to take. Drunkenness was the parent of crime; and, if they did not do what they could to get rid of it, they would fail in their duty to the country. He had said that the beer-houses had not succeeded in diminishing the use of spirits, and he would state what had brought him to that conclusion. A Parliamentary Paper was issued in 1868, according to which, he found that in 1800, when the population was a little more than 9,000,800, the consumption of spirits—colonial, foreign, and home—was about 7,994,572 gallons; so that about thirty years before the passing of the Beerhouse Bill the consumption of spirits was something less than a gallon per head of the population. The quantity of malt consumed in 1801 was over 18,000,000 bushels, or in other words, as nearly as possible two bushels of malt per head. In 1831, the population then being very nearly 14,000,000, the consumption of spirits of all kinds was 12,131,000 gallons; therefore, it was still somewhat below a gal- lon per head; whereas the consumption of malt had increased to 32,963,470 bushels, or nearly two bushels and one-third per head of the population. About the year 1830, therefore, the consumption of spirits had somewhat diminished, while that of malt had increased. At least they might presume that it had, because there was a general belief—he did not know whether true or not—that malt was more or less used by brewers in the brewing of beer. Well, in 1867, according to the Registrar General's Return of the preceding year, the population was 21,400,000, and the consumption of spirits was 18,487,000 gallons—still keeping below a gallon per head; but the consumption of malt had decreased in proportion to 43,158,000 bushels, being at the rate of only two bushels per head of the population. It appeared, therefore, that the consumption of beer was higher at the time the Beerhouses Bill passed than it had been since; and unless the brewers had got rid of malt in brewing beer, the consumption of beer relatively to the population could not have increased. The next point to which he would call attention was that, in the year 1853, the late Mr. Hume obtained a Return of the drunkenness of the people of England, which extended from 1841 to 1851. In ninety out of 102 towns of 10,000 inhabitants or more, to which the official Returns referred, it appeared that 75,000 persons had been taken up for drunkenness in 1841, the population of England then being 16,000,000. In 1851 ninety-four of the same towns made Returns, and it appeared that the drunkenness had decreased to 70,000, the population meanwhile having risen to 18,000,000. He had taken the trouble of making out from the Judicial Statistics for 1867 that in these ninety-four towns drunkenness had decreased to 59,000, while the population of England had risen to 21,000,000. It was, of course, quite possible that, under another state of things, a better condition of the people might have existed; but still, taking things as they were, the condition of the people shown by these figures was not unsatisfactory, indicating as it did a turn in our favour. In the metropolis the change was quite as marked, and probably even more so; for there the administration of the police had been in one and the same hand, whereas, in other localities, changes, no doubt, had frequently occurred. At the earlier date, the population of the metropolis being then 2,000,000, upwards of 30,000 persons were apprehended for drunkenness; at the later date, the population in the police district having grown to 3,000,000, there were but 16,000 persons apprehended. He was unable to give the exact population in 1867, because the Returns were based on the Census of 1861. In Lancashire, from which county the demand for this Motion mainly came, the figures unfortunately indicated that some special causes were at work. In Lancashire, in 1861, the persons apprehended for drunkenness were 23,900 in number; but in 1867—only six years later—that number had increased to 35,800; while over the whole of England except Lancashire, there were about 64,000 cases, a state of things of which but for the official Returns they could hardly credit. What did these figures show? Why, that in England, with the exception of Lancashire, the persons apprehended for drunkenness were at the rate of 1 in every 302 persons, while in Lancashire they were at the rate of 1 in every 65 persons. Deducting those under fifteen years age, who could scarcely be supposed to be guilty of the crime of drunkenness, it would leave 1 person in every 44 taken up for that offence. Liverpool had hitherto been king in the matter of drunkenness, but last year Manchester, that ambitious town, had run ahead. One might have thought that Lancashire, being a very busy county, other counties similarly circumstanced would exhibit similar features as regarded the extent of drunkenness. An alteration in the law took place in 1861. Drunken people used to be fined 5s., or placed in the stocks; but in that year the fine was increased to 40s., or seven days' imprisonment. The West Riding of Yorkshire, with a population of 1,500,000, had 6,000 cases of drunkenness in 1861, and in 1867 but 6,063. Hence drunkenness had not progressed in Yorkshire as it had done in Lancashire, and it showed that there must be some governing influence apart from the occupations of the people, or even from the existence of beer-houses, for these were frequent in the West Riding and also in Birmingham, where drunkenness, thank God! was very limited in amount. In Leeds, 353 per- sons were apprehended for drunkenness in 1841, and in 1867 that number had grown to 1,340; beer-houses in Leeds being at the rate of 1 to 318 of the population. From the election inquiries, one would have thought that Bradford, a town close to Leeds, was not a particularly sober place, but in the official Returns it came out very handsomely. There were 550 beerhouses, or one for every 193 inhabitants in Bradford; so that if beer-houses did all the mischief that was alleged, Bradford must be, one would suppose, a very bad place. But what were the facts? In 1851, 262 persons were apprehended for drunkenness there, and, in 1867, only 191. Birmingham, with its population of 296,000, showed remarkably well. In 1848, there were 2,020 persons apprehended for drunkenness, and in 1867, he was happy to say, that number had decreased to 1,340. That result, again, was very remarkable, for beer-houses there were at the rate of one for every 227 persons. Therefore it did not seem that there was any want of beer-houses to do the mischief. In Bristol, another large place, the beer-houses were in the proportion of 1 to 238 of the population; and the drunkenness there amounted to 1,500 cases in 1841, and had fallen to 800 cases in 1867. If the Government thought it desirable that the Bill now before the House should be taken up, he, for one, should heartily support it; but, looking at the figures he had just quoted, he hardly thought there would be any great gain from the change which was recommended. He had spoken of Manchester having at last gone ahead of Liverpool,. In Liverpool, in 1841, there were no less than 17,500 persons apprehended for drunkenness; in 1867 the number had decreased to 11,900. Therefore, with all its increase of population, Liverpool was improving, though, God knew, it was still bad enough. In Manchester, where, in 1841, the convictions were 5,743, the number had, in 1867, come up to 9,742, or 1 in 37. He did not wonder at the movement which had taken place in Manchester, for, with such a state of things, the people would be glad to do anything that would do some good. He feared that no mistake existed in the case of Lancashire, because he had satisfied himself that there had been no extraordinary action on the part of the police, and the things that had accompanied drunkenness—crime and death, would prove the excess of drunkenness even if they argued back from the proportion of crime and death to that of drunkenness. In England and Wales the number of persons charged with indictable offences in 1835, 1836, and 1837 was 21,775. In the year 1865, 1866, and 1867 the number was reduced to 19,144. A great many summary offences had been taken out of the class of indictable offences and therefore no conclusion could be drawn, but there was some classes of tables in which there had been no change in the Criminal Law—the class of offences of violence against the person. In the first three years he had named there were 1,870 offences against the person, and in the last three years 2,360, being an increase of 26 per cent. The population had, however, increased between the mean years 1838 and 1866, by 38 per cent, so that for the whole of England the result was not unfavourable. The increase in all the criminal tables, except that containing larceny, was 17 per cent which, remembering the increase of population of 38 per cent, was not again unfavourable for all England. In Lancashire, the number of persons charged with indictable offences was, during the first three years, 2,576; but in the last three years it jumped up to 3,057—a fearful amount of increase. In the class of offences of violence against the person the number in Lancashire in the first period was 182, and in the second 350—an increase of 92 per cent. The increase of population in Lancashire was about 50 per cent, which did not, by a long way, come up to the increase in these offences. The indictable offences of 1867 amounted to 39,621 in all England less Lancashire, and in Lancashire alone they amounted to 15,900. The summary offences were in the same proportion. The death rate for all England, without Lancashire, was 2.266 per cent, while in Lancashire it was 3.16. He had been compelled by the communications sent to him during the last two months to look into these things. The Government might be aware of them, or they might not, but it was their duty to get to the bottom of this state of things, and apply a remedy. In 1865, the present Prime Minister, in one of his remarkable speeches at Glasgow, spoke of the general prosperity of the country, and remarked— '"These are things which touch material interests alone. There are some men—aye, high-minded men, too—who would bid you beware of such things lest they should lead simply to the worship of Mammon. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say— I do not think it is the duty of Parliament to withhold laws which are good for many, for fear of their leading to the worship of Mammon. By this I understand only that we are not to avoid doing that which is good because it may be abused to do evil. An hon. Colleague of his, the Vice President of the Council of Education, had also used expressions closely bearing upon this subject at a time when the House was occupied with a matter almost as interesting as the Irish Church—the question of salmon and the cleansing of rivers. Three or four years ago the House went rather wild on the question of salmon and the cleansing of rivers, and the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) said— The debate on the present occasion had not been carried on as a dispute between anglers and the manufacturers, but as a discussion in reference to the health of towns; and upon that principle he thought they might, having due regard to vested interests, lay down this rule—that the evils referred to ought to be removed when they could be prevented by manufacturers at such a reasonable cost as would not put it out of their power to compete with foreign countries and would not stop their trade."—[3 Hansard, clxxvii. 1349.] This was the same feeling that led our soldiers to club their muskets at Inker-man; to do and die, but never to yield. But if the Vice President of the Council was right in saying that competition with foreign countries must go on at whatever expense of health and life, and if the Prime Minister was of opinion that in some cases Mammon guided the coach, and that the opposition was so sharp that the horses were to be driven to death rather than lose the race, depend upon it, whether the water-trough was quite close, or round the corner, the horses when they were taken off would run to get their noses into it. The official statistics showed the state of things in Lancashire, and there could be no doubt that a fearful responsibility rested on them all, and what he asked of the Government was that, if the Bill was likely to stop the evil, in God's name to support it. If, on the other hand, this was only a plaster on the cancerous sore, to hide it for a moment, let them take the manly course of applying a remedy. The House was endeavouring to bring about an improvement in the country by instituting a better system of teaching; he trusted it would be the endeavour, not only to make the people better money-making machines, but to improve them really by instilling into their minds better principles, and thus enabling them to resist temptation. This could only be done by basing the education of the masses upon sound religious teaching. Whatever couse the Government took in reference to this Bill he would support them, because he thought they were the proper persons to take the initiative in this matter.


supported the Bill. The country had pronounced decidedly in favour of this Bill, and it was only by such a measure that the evil effects of beer-houses, now beyond the control of the magistrates, could be averted. They were, in fact, in many cases, no better than brothels. He endeavoured on one occasion, with the aid of the police, to expose the iniquitous practices carried on in a beer-house of this character in his own neighbourhood; but having failed to obtain a third conviction, he was unable to get rid of it. He had been recently informed that the same state of things continued there, the magistrates being powerless to put it down. He joined a deputation that waited on the Home Secretary some weeks ago, asking the right hon. Gentleman to introduce a Bill to remedy the evils, and it was not until he found that the hands of the Government were too full to entertain the subject this Session that he joined in bringing forward this Bill. There was no doubt that the publicans, but for the restrictions they were under, would be as bad as the beersellers; but if both were placed under the same magisterial control, there was every reason to believe that beerhouses would be as well conducted as public-houses. The opposition to this measure arose from the Beer and Wine Retailers' Association of the metropolis; and, indeed, if there had been no opposition from the beersellers, there might have been a fear that the Bill was not sufficiently stringent. The statistics of crime quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) hardly bore upon the question. Mr. Cobbe, the head constable of the West Riding of Yorkshire, reported that, in 1868, the number of public-houses in the West Biding amounted to 2,396, and the beer-houses to 1,614. For the same year the convictions of publicans in the West Riding were 110, or 4½ per cent of the number, and the number of convictions of beer-houses for the same year was 200, being at the rate of 12 per cent of the whole difference, or nearly 3 to 1 in favour of public-houses. In Staffordshire, in 1868, the head constable stated that there were, in his district, 2,118 public-houses and 2,648 beer-houses. For the same year there were 158 convictions against public-houses or 7½ per cent of the whole, and 394 convictions against beer-houses, which was equal to 15 per cent of the whole. His district was divided into three parts. In the rural district there were two licensed victuallers to every beer-house, and there was one conviction in every fifteen; in the mining district there was one conviction in every nine; and in the Potteries, where there were seven beer-houses to every two licensed victuallers, the convictions were in the proportion of one in five. That was conclusive as to the character of the two descriptions of houses. In the borough of Leeds there were, in 1858, 675 convictions for drunkenness, and, in 1868, 1,264 cases, an increase of 100 per cent, while the population had increased only 20 per cent. In 1860 there were 384 public-houses and 399 beer-houses; and, in 1868, there were 374 public-houses, a decrease of 3 per cent, and 565 beer-houses, an increase of 40 per cent. Thus it was clear drunkenness had increased as beer-houses increased; and the Watch Committee of Leeds had petitioned the House to the effect that this state of things would continue until all the beer-houses were under the control of the justices. The chief constable of Leeds had no hesitation in stating that, in his opinion, the great majority of these houses had a tendency to increase crime, unless a police-constable was stationed at their doors, especially those which harboured thieves and prostitutes. He further expressed his opinion that these houses would remain the pests of society as long as the present system of licensing continued in force, and that it would be exceedingly beneficial to place the licensing power in the hands of the justices. It was most important that some steps should be taken to put a stop to the evil without loss of time. He had no fear that the Government would meet the measure with a direct negative; but he was afraid that they would treat it in such a manner as to cause delay. The right hon. Gentleman might, perhaps, promise to deal with the question at some future day. A similar promise was made in 1857 by the then Secretary of State for the Home Department the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), but that promise was never fulfilled. If this question were to be postponed until next Session the mischief to be dealt with would go on increasing, and would every day become more unmanageable. The Bill of the hon. Gentleman was a very moderate one, and he warned those opposed to it that, if they refused to agree to its provisions, which treated vested interests with great tenderness, a much more stringent measure would be passed in a future Session. He trusted that the Government would press upon their supporters the necessity of not opposing the second reading of this Bill, which he believed would conduce greatly to the good order, welfare, and propriety of society.


said, that although this measure did not, in the opinion of the Government, meet all the exigencies of the case, and although, in their opinion, the question was one which required further consideration, yet he thought it might be convenient to the House to be informed that it was not their intention to oppose the second reading of the Bill. The House must recollect that there were already thirty-two Acts of Parliament in existence relating to public-houses and beer-houses, while the whole subject, in all its branches, might be amply dealt with in one Act of no greater dimensions than any one of them. Under these circumstances, it would have been the wish of the Government to have dealt with this great question during the present Session; but it needed but little apology at their hands for not having done so, looking at the press of other weighty business they had to discharge. When the question was brought under the notice of the Government they determined, after mature consideration, to inquire into the whole subject during the Recess, in order to introduce a measure at the meeting of the next Parliament, which should deal with every portion of the question. He was bound to say that, in thus recommending legislation, he was not actuated by any exaggerated view of the extent of drunkenness, nor of the evils which resulted from beer-houses in particular. The hon. Gentleman who had introduced this measure, in a speech of singular moderation and ability, had departed a little from strict accuracy in referring to the opinion of the Judges to the effect that the increase of crime was due to the increase of beer-houses and of drunkenness. The statistics of the right Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley) showed unanswerably that crime had not been on the increase of late, and that, while the population was increasing, crime had remained stationary for many years past. Therefore, if there were this close connection between drunkenness and crime, it was evident that drunkenness could not be on the increase. Those who recollected what used to be the state of the streets in our towns twenty or thirty years ago on a Saturday night and a Sunday morning could hardly refuse to admit that there had been a very considerable improvement. Then, as to the especial demerits of beer-houses, it was undoubtedly true, as had been stated, that they had been more frequently convicted for offences against their licenses than the ordinary public-houses; but, on the other hand, the latter had more frequently been convicted of a higher class of offences, in the proportion of three to one, a circumstance that was due to the lateness of the hour until which they were permitted to remain open. The fact was the more striking when it was recollected that among the public-houses were included the first-class hotels and inns throughout the country, which would, of course have to be left out of the account. It was, however, impossible to deny that there were special faults connected with the present system of licensing beer-houses, and it was also impossible to deny that there was no sufficient check upon their indefinite increase; while, on the other hand, the magistrates exercised their licensing power generally with judgment and good sense. It was clear, therefore, that there was a check exercised on public-houses which did not exist with regard to beerhouses, and there were reasons for arguing that such check might be usefully ap- plied to the latter also. But, while admitting that to be the case, the House must not forget that the result of a most careful inquiry, by the Committee of 1854, was to lead them to recommend that the licensing of public-houses ought not to be left in the hands of the magistrates. That Committee recommended that while certain duties, such as seeing that certain conditions of their licenses were complied with by all houses licensed for the sale of liquor, were intrusted to the magistrates, they should not have the power of granting or refusing those licenses. He did not deny that the House had some good reason to distrust the promises of Ministers in this matter. The subject had been regarded as one involving questions of great difficulty and delicacy, and great doubt had been entertained as to the possibility of carrying a comprehensive measure through Parliament. He had already stated the intention of the Government upon the subject; but, of course, it greatly depended upon many and various circumstances whether that intention could be carried into effect next Session. He thought, however, that the hon. Member who introduced this Bill had exercised great judgment in pressing for what might be called a suspensory measure, which should take effect until the whole question could be considered by the Government and the House. It was in that view, and not as approving the principle of the measure—as regarded intrusting magistrates with the power of licensing the beerhouses—that he, on the part of the Government, gave his assent to the second reading of the Bill. In announcing the intention of the Government to support the second reading of the Bill, he thought it right to say that, in Committee, they would move a clause to limit the operation of the Bill to a period of two years. This would be a pledge of the intention of the Government to consider the whole question with the view to more comprehensive legislation. If they failed to do so, the House would have it in their power to renew this Bill. There were several stringent provisions in the Bill which only applied to beer-houses. He did not see why they should not be extended to other houses in which intoxicating drinks were sold. That, however, was a minor matter and one which could be discussed in Committee.


observed that some of the statistics, quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), made Lancashire look very black in regard to drunkenness; but he did not think that a fair comparison could really be made from the statistics of different towns, because the instructions to the police might not be at all uniform in those towns. There were circumstances, such as the large amount of wages paid weekly, which, to a certain extent, accounted for the statistics from Lancashire. It was creditable to Lancashire that there was, in that part of England, a great desire for education, and that it had taken an early and prominent part in calling attention to the subject now under discussion. He begged to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary for consenting to the second reading of the Bill, and was sure the Government had exercised a sound discretion in doing so. It was one which had received more support from all parts of the country than any Bill introduced into that House for many years past.

SIR ROBERT CLIFTON moved the adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir Robert Clifton.)

The House divided:—Ayes None; Noes 232: Majority 232.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday 11th May.

House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.