§ (Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Mr. Bazley, Mr. Dalway).
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said: It is frequently alleged that the advocates of temperance indulge in more intemperate language than anyone else, but on the present occasion I hope I shall be able to guard myself. I may be permitted to say at the same time that it is not at all unnatural that persons who believe themselves to be in possession of a remedy for an enormous and admitted evil, and one which it is almost impossible to exaggerate, should place a very high value upon that remedy. I am not going to enter into long statistics to show the state of poverty and crime in the country, or into figures to show the extent to which that poverty and crime exist in some parts of the country; even if drunkenness is diminishing, which I do not deny, whether it is so or not, it is the cause, the great cause, of our pauperism and crime. That would form a fair basis upon which I may rest my arguments in the consideration of a measure which professes to deal with and remedy that great and almost overpowering evil. What I want the House to do is to grant the people of this country, when they are prepared for the experiment, a trial of a remedy which, wherever it has been fairly tried, has proved eminently and decidedly successful. Had the forms of the House allowed of it, this Bill might have been entitled a Bill for the Repression of Pauperism and Crime. I know that the Bill will be strongly opposed, and also that it is unpopular in the House; but my consolation is that, although many hon. Members differ from me as to the worth of the remedy proposed, there is not, I feel certain, a single person who does not sympathize with the objects its promoters have in view. The trouble to which I fear hon. Members have been put from the numbers of their letters, accompanied by Petitions for presentation to the House, from all parts of the country, shows the depth and intensity of the interest taken in the subject out-of-doors; and when that is coupled with the demonstrations which have been made by the presentations this day of so many 638 more Petitions, it speaks most strongly in favour of the measure I have to submit for the approval of the House. I cannot tell the entire number of Petitions that have been presented in favour of the Bill, but up to last night they amounted to no less than 2,337, and that number has been greatly augmented within the last few minutes. In the year 1864 I had the honour of moving the second reading of a Bill similar in character to that now before the House, but I was defeated by an overwhelming majority. All the prominent speakers against the measure based their arguments for the repression of drunkenness upon education—and I also believe in that, but it must be education of the right sort; but whilst an army of schoolmasters and clergymen are engaged in instructing the people in what is good and virtuous, there is an army of 150,000 publicans and beer-sellers teaching the people to indulge in drinking habits;—men who are paid by results, and who are licensed and empowered by the (State to promote as large a sale of drink as possible, and by that means to increase the revenue of the national Exchequer. I cannot blame the man who sets up in a certain trade for doing as much as he can. If any man enters into trade it is natural that he should desire to do as large a business as possible, and he will exert himself to do so; and I have always thought that a great deal of harm has been done to the cause of temperance by its advocates using hard language against the beer-sellers and publicans, when it is the law which enables them to engage in the trade that is primarily responsible for the results. In England publicans' licenses are granted by the justices, and before any person can obtain one he is obliged to give notice to the overseers and chief constable of the parish, and also to stick a notice of his intention on the church door, as well as on the door of the house for which a license is asked, so that the whole of the locality may know what is intended; and that course of proceeding shows as clearly as it is possible to do, that when our licensing laws were passed, it was the intention that the local opinions and wishes of the inhabitants should be consulted and considered. In 1830 the Beer Act passed, and gave the power of granting licenses to the Excise for the sale of beer, totally 639 and entirely regardless of the magisterial veto or of the wish of the inhabitants, except to the very slight extent of requiring that six householders should certify to the applicant's good character before he could, in places under 5,000 population, get the license. In Scotland the justices also grant licenses, except in the cases of burghs, where the baillies, or officers similar to that of borough magistrate in England, have the power. These baillies are elected by the people, and the Town Council elects them as aldermen are elected, so that virtually these are an elected Board, which some people think would be a great improvement upon the plan adopted in this country. In 1862 Mr. Mure's Act was passed, and under the provisions of this Bill it is competent for the inhabitants to appear at the licensing sessions, and to oppose if they think fit all applications either for renewal or new licenses, and this again shows clearly that the wishes of the inhabitants are to be consulted in the first instance. In Scotland, therefore, the licensing system is as good, and the restrictions on the trade as effective, in the estimation of many, as can be devised; and yet there is actually a greater cry for the Permissive Bill in Scotland than in England, showing most clearly that, however, admirable the licensing system, it has failed to stop drinking or remove the evils of which I complain. Both in England and in Scotland an appeal lies from the decision of the justices to the court of quarter sessions; but, except in Scotland, it is an appeal in favour of the applicant for the license, not of the inhabitants who are opposing it; and the appeal court, moreover, is one knowing comparatively little of the circumstances of the locality. In Ireland the justices grant the licenses; but there is no Beer Act similar to that in England; while the recorders, who may be taken as representing the stipendiary magistrates, grant the licenses in certain boroughs. In Ireland, however, there are drunkenness, misery, and crime, and the greatest dissatisfaction at the existing licensing laws, as is evinced by the support which Ireland gives to the Bill I have now the honour to submit to the House. The measure, however, is not at all a licensing Bill, as I do not think that any system of licensing, however carefully carried out, would effectually 640 prevent or remove drunkenness and its consequences. The Bill does not in any way interfere with or touch the licensing system as it at present exists. Where it is the wish of the inhabitants that licenses should be granted, licenses can continue to be granted as at present: but what is sought by the present Bill is the giving the power to the in-habitants of a given neighbourhood, or the great majority of them, to vote within the neighbourhood, that the granting of licenses shall no longer continue; and thus, in fact, to crystallize, as it were, public opinion into public law. The measure, it is true, is a permissive one, but although a great objection exists as to the House giving its sanction to such an Act, the permissive principle has already been adopted by the House, and where it is in force there it has worked well. I refer to the Permissive Acts with respect to public libraries, and the Health of Towns Act, and I cannot see why, when you pass Permissive Acts to promote health and education, you should object to one for promoting sobriety. Sir George Grey's Act, which was passed in the year 1864, to prevent the sale of intoxicating liquors between the hours of one and four in the morning is also permissive, as it is open to the town councils, &c., feeling so disposed, to accept or reject it; but it has worked most admirably, and already above seventy, including the principal towns of the kingdom, have adopted it; and thus there is at the present time in operation in certain parts of the country that which I may correctly term a three hours' Maine Liquor Law. I am told that whore prohibition has been put into force it has secured the desired effect. In several districts in England landlords holding large tracts of land, wisely, as I think, exercise the right of property, and prohibit the establishment of places for the sale of intoxicating drinks; and if those gentlemen were asked what was the result of their experiment they would say it has worked in a manner that is in the highest degree satisfactory, and that the inconvenience it might have at first occasioned has been more than compensated by the great benefits that have been conferred. It cannot be denied that the absence of inducements to drink works well for the labouring population situated where such is the case. The best 641 results have invariably followed. A Committee of Convocation of the Province of Canterbury was appointed last year to inquire into intemperance and its remedies, composed of several of the most eminent dignitaries of the Church of England. In the valuable Report they made I find the following passage:—There are at this time within the Province of Canterbury upwards of 1,000 parishes in which there is no public-house nor beer-shop; and where, in consequence of the absence of these inducements to crime and pauperism, according to the evidence brought before the Committee, the intelligence, morality, and comfort of the people are such as the friends of temperance would have anticipated.All I wish and ask the House to do is, to allow the inhabitants of other parishes to put themselves in a similar position. As an illustration of the principle of prohibition, I may instance individual efforts that have been made. At Saltaire, Mr. Titus Salt, the owner of Saltaire, a gentleman who was a Member of this House, exercises the power he possesses, and has prohibited any drinking-shop or beer-house being established on his property: and the comfort and the prosperity of his tenantry are a proverb in that part of the country. In the year 1849, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland instituted a close inquiry into the evil of intoxication, and came to the conclusion that the intemperance existing in the country is in proportion to its spirit licensing; and that wherever there are no public-houses for sale of spirits, there ceases to be any intoxication. That which I have said with respect to Scotland exists in Ireland. In a Petition I have had the honour to present from Bessbrook, in Ireland, in favour of my Bill, it is stated, that there are no drinking shops of any description in the place, and—one would almost think with some slight exaggeration—that neither is there any pauperism nor crime, and almost the whole of the adult population of that place, which amounts to about 3,000, have signed the Petition I have alluded to, and they petition that other places may be enabled to enjoy the same freedom. The fact is. Mr. Richardson, the landlord, objects to drinking-shops on his property: and, here again, the prohibition has been the means of bringing about the best results. The place is a border town, situated between a Catholic and a Protestant district, but such a thing as a faction 642 fight, or any disturbance, has scarcely ever been known. In a district of Tyrone, 61½ square miles in extent, from which all the whisky shops have been cleared off, the poor rates have immensely diminished, the police station has been removed, the people live in comparative comfort, and there is a great absence of pauperism and crime. That case has been quoted years ago at the Social Science Congress, and the comments of The Times at that time were to the effect that if it were true it settled the question as to the benefits of prohibition. Now I can vouch for the perfect truth of that statement, and I hope hon. Gentlemen from Ireland will rise during the debate and corroborate that which I have stated. I have no wish to weary the House with quoting similar cases from other parts of the country: but I am bound to meet an argument that is sure to be used against me, to the effect that prohibition has failed in America. Now that statement I most distinctly and unequivocally deny. No policy has been more successful when it has been tried in accordance with public opinion, and where it has been fully and fairly enforced. In all the six New England States but one, prohibitory laws are in force. One remarkable fact is, that in these States the prohibitory laws have been altered, and even, in one or two cases for a time, repealed; but wherever the issue has been fairly tried and put to the people they have invariably supported their re-enactment by an overwhelming majority. Eighteen months ago all the newspapers announced the repeal of the prohibitory law in Massachusetts. It was true it was repealed by the exertions of the liquor interest in combination with the vote of foreign immigrants and a lavish expenditure of money, and a most stringent licensing law took its place. Governor Bullock, however, refused to sign the license law, protesting that it would leave temptation to the young and the weak, spread a snare for the stranger and the unwary; that it would replace thrift with waste and abuse, and inundate quiet neighbourhoods with boisterous and reckless disorder; that it would be destructive to the influences of the family, adverse to good morals, and repugnant to the religious sentiments of the community. That speech was made on the 3rd of April, 1868, and now the originators of the 643 changes in the law have not hesitated themselves to admit that it has been a failure, and that it is a sincere regret and mortification to them, and the Legislature has determined to return to the true and wise policy of the old law by a majority of 129 to 65. There are other schemes than the Bill now under consideration before the House. I consider the Bill introduced by the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin - Ibbetson), transferring the power to license beer-shops from the Excise to the magistrates, an admirable Bill as far as it goes, but I am afraid it would not thoroughly effect the object in view. It would not improve the condition of things which existed in 1830, when there were no beer-houses, and when the evil arising from public-houses was so great that long speeches were delivered in the House condemning the whole system, calling the public-houses nests of immorality, and statements were made to prove that the whole country had been rained by them. The Beer Bill was introduced to remedy the evil, but it has failed to do so, and it would not now be sufficient to go back to the old state of things which prevailed in the year 1830. They have also tried a very wide system of licensing at Liverpool; but this also has proved, as might have been expected, a total failure, as Liverpool has become a very sink of drunkenness, and it is evident that we cannot depend upon public-house keepers to prevent intoxication. The Bill introduced last year by Mr. John Abel Smith for closing public-houses on Sunday, would, doubtless, have done a great amount of good, but I do not think it would have been an effectual cure for the evil, because I believe that more drunkenness is produced on a Saturday night than on a Sunday: and from Scotland, where the public-houses are closed on Sundays, there has come a loud cry for prohibitory legislation—in fact, almost greater than from any other part of the country. The scheme of the Government I cannot deal with on the present occasion, because I am totally unacquainted with any of its proposals, and therefore I must pass it by with the observation that next Session seems likely; to be of an extraordinary character if all the measures promised are to be brought forward. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has given 644 his assent to the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex, as being a sort of suspensory Bill, and all I ask is that my Bill may be received in a similar manner. The House will see that my Bill provides that if, after three years' trial, a majority of the inhabitants of a town are dissatisfied with its working, then it shall be set aside as far as that place is concerned. Thus, in such, parishes the liquor traffic, as at present organized, would be suspended for a time, possibly to be renewed under the improved system which the Government intend to introduce. The first objection that has been raised against the measure is that it would be impossible to carry prohibition in England. But why should that be an impossibility in this country which has been so successfully carried out in Nova Scotia and Canada, where a similar act prevails, which has been adopted by sixty-two places in Ontario, and by twenty-eight in Quebec; by three entire counties in Quebec, and by one in Ontario? With respect to the question as to the effect the passing the measure would have upon the public revenue, I am one of those who think that no amount of revenue derived from the sale of intoxicating drinks should be allowed for a moment to weigh against the general welfare of the people; and I feel quite certain that, if the present Bill were to pass, such a mass of wealth would accumulate in the pockets of the people that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find no difficulty in obtaining ample funds for carrying on the government of the country. Another argument used against the Bill is, that it would inflict great inconvenience on the minority. I admit at once that it would inflict some inconvenience, but the question for the House is whether that inconvenience is i so great as to counterbalance the vast public benefit that would arise in the i event of the House giving its sanction to the measure? You cannot pass any law that is not sonic inconvenience to a portion of the public, therefore I cannot see that that objection can be sustained as a reason why the Bill should not be read a second time. Then, again, it is said it would load to great fighting and squabbling. But do the people squabble and fight now? Do they fight over the election of Boards of Guardians for the Poor? But, supposing they do fight, it would be far better to have the fighting 645 once a year rather than the public-house rows every night, and pauperism, misery, and crime. Another argument against the Bill is that it would deprive the licensed victuallers of a monopoly which has, in a manner, been guaranteed by Parliament. That, I admit, is an objection which is worth consideration; and although my Bill does not give compensation to the licensed victuallers for the loss they would sustain. I do not object to their having compensation, should they make out a case for it. But are they in a position to demand compensation? The Duke of Wellington, when the Act of 1830 was introduced, said; that the licensed victuallers were only guaranteed their monopoly from year to year, for which their licenses were granted, and the renewal of the license conferred no right. But the reason I have not dealt with that question of compensation is that I find there is great difficulty in the matter. I want to know where that compensation is to come from, and who is to pay it? Now, with respect to the matter of compensation, what is to be said to those who have paid their lire insurances for seven years? Are they to receive compensation when the Act abolishing the fire insurance duty receives the Royal Assent and comes into operation? They are told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that they ought to have watched what is being done by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. H. B. Sheridan). And could it be said that the licensed victuallers were not watching this Bill? Those who vote for the present Bill do not vote against compensation, if a case should be made out for it. Some hon. Members wish the Bill to be referred to a Select Committee, but what is that Committee to inquire into? Select Committees have already inquired into the matter, and fully revealed the horrors of the present system; but if the Amendment is proposed for the purpose of ascertaining the best machinery by which the Bill can be carried into operation, then I shall have no objection to that course being pursued. The last objection that has been urged against the Bill is that it is making one law for the rich and another for the poor; but is such the case? It is from the rich that the great opposition comes, and not from the poor. On the contrary, the poor are most anxious that the measure should receive the sanction of Parliament. The 646 agitation for this measure has not had the great subscriptions which aided the Anti-Corn-Law League; but I may say that the measure is supported by the aristocracy of the working classes. I do hope that the House will pay some attention to the requirements of that great and deserving portion of Her Majesty's subjects. You may throw out the Bill, as you did some years ago, but that will not stop the agitation. I ask again, is it wise, when the future of the country is in the hands of the working classes, to disregard and refuse their demand for the straightforward measure I have had the honour of submitting to the House—one calculated to put an end to an acknowledged evil that exists to an alarming extent? I have to thank the House for the attention they have given me in bringing forward this question; but it is not for myself that I have trespassed so long on their attention, but for those who cannot speak in this House, who believe that their request for an extension of the privilege of local self-government ought to be granted them. They ask for no "heroic remedy." Their request is founded on justice, and I hope the opinion of the House will be that it ought to be granted, because it can do no injury to the State, and it is but reasonable and just: and if the power is granted I feel certain that it will not be used in any manner that is injurious to society, but, on the contrary, that the people will use it only for their own benefit and for the public welfare. Believing that, and again thanking the House for the kind attention they have given, I beg leave to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. BAZLEY
, in seconding the Motion, said—I believe that the Members of this House who are magistrates, and have served as grand jurors, and who have a practical knowledge of the business of quarter sessions will boar me out in the assertion that three-fourths of the crime of the country proceeds from intoxication, or intemperance. That intoxication prevails in this country to a very lamentable extent I believe will not be denied, and the only question that we are left to determine is how to meet and check the growing evil. Some short time ago the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), in a speech in which I in the main agree with him, said that he attributed 647 the prevalence of intoxication in Lancashire to the assumed fact that in that part of the country they are overworked; but I cannot agree in that, because I believe many men in that House, Her Majesty's Ministers not excepted, work more constantly than do the great mass of the industrial classes of Lancashire, I attribute a great deal of the intoxication that unfortunately exists in Lancashire to legislation, or I may say the want of it, and now it becomes imperatively necessary that something should be done to stem the tide of vice, which is ruining the morality of the working classes. It. cannot be stopped, in my opinion, but by legislative enactment and I think the voice of the people, which speaks in the thousands of Petitions presented in favour of the Bill, ought not to be disregarded. I believe it is estimated that £100,000,000 sterling are annually spent in this country in intoxicating liquor; and in our prisons, our lunatic asylums, and our workhouses large numbers of the victims of intemperate indulgence in those drinks are always to be found. I believe that the present mode of restricting the sale of liquors is anything but satisfactory; and in this respect I take it the people are the best judges of their own requirements, and I feel certain if the power given by this Bill were placed in their hands the evils arising from intoxication would in a short time become very much mitigated. I, for one, do not believe it possible to make the people entirely sober by Act of Parliament; but I do believe it to be in the power of the Legislature to take such steps as would diminish the temptations and alleviate the evil to a very great extent. Supposing, for instance, the expenditure upon drink were reduced one-half, how usefully might the £50,000,000 saved be applied to the interests of the people. I believe one of the first improvements that would take place with the money so saved would be in the dwellings of the poor. Why, for £50,000,000 they might erect 250,000 dwellings costing £200 each, and these houses would give comfortable shelter to 1,250,000 persons, to an extent as many are quite strangers to, whilst their construction would create a demand for the labour of the builder the carpenter, the spinner, and in fact to nearly every branch, of industry. I do not object to the measure 648 brought forward by the hon. Member for Essex, because any legislation that attempts to mitigate the great and growing evil would be preferable to none at all; but I think it is perfectly clear that the wisest course to pursue is to give the people themselves power of deciding whether or no the sale of intoxicating liquor shall continue in their own localities to the injury of life and property. I do hope that if the present Bill is rejected the Government will take the matter into their hands, and that next Session the Home Secretary will submit to the House a large and comprehensive measure. Even the victims of intemperance crave that this House will stay the hand of the destroyer. Every well-wisher of his country will, I feel assured, rejoice at such an event, and all will cordially approve the passing of an Act, the object of which is to increase the happiness and morality of the great bulk of the people of the realm.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
said, he rose to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He was quite prepared to admit that the hon. Baronet, and those who acted with him, were actuated by the highest and purest motives; but what appeared at the same time clear to him was that they were altogether wrong in the measures to be taken to suppress intoxication, and supposing the Bill passed, all attempts to enforce such a scheme would necessarily be attended with complete and disastrous failure. The other day, they, the House, agreed to the proposal to vest in the magistrates the power of licensing publichouses, and now they were asked to affirm the principle of a Bill by which means two-thirds of the rate-payers might pass a vote of want of confidence in the magistrates. Now what would be the effect of granting the request of the hon. Baronet? Why, that two-thirds of the inhabitants of any parish could prevent the sale within its limits, of either spirits, beer, cider, or perry, and such an enactment could only result in the people having to go to the next parish, where they could indulge in the use of spirits to any extent they thought proper, or if that was not done, a system 649 of smuggling or secret drinking would start up, which would be a great deal worse than the open evil. The mere attempt to enforce such a law would give rise, in almost every place, to a spirit of constant contention year after year and day alter day. The measure was one utterly opposed to the feelings and habits of Englishmen, and it would induce so much ill-will and agitation throughout the land that he could not understand how it was that people could be found weak enough to support its principle. By this Bill they would be raising a parliament in every parish to carry measures in opposition to the legislative measures passed by the Imperial Parliament. As he believed, there was a great difference between restriction by a good licensing system and such a scheme, as that proposed in the Bill now under consideration. By the former you still allowed every poor man in every parish to enjoy that which was a part of his daily nutriment; but, under this Bill, a number of old ladies and gentlemen might meet together and decide that the poor man should have no beer at all, because they might decide that he should have no place to buy it at. Circulars had been sent round to make it generally known that all children above the age of sixteen might sign Petitions in favour of the Bill—a matter that he could not think would be generally approved of. He did not know whether the Petitions presented in favour of the Bill had been properly signed or not, but certainly he had seen some names attached to one of those Petitions, which came from his neighbourhood; which he could not recognize. He thought such a system highly objectionable, and he should like to know whether grown-up men were to be legislated upon by children of the age of sixteen? The signatures might perhaps be those of Sunday School children, but he did not think that Petitions from children should carry a Bill of this kind. It had been said that if compensation were required in consequence of the carrying out of the provisions of this Bill, compensation would be found; but he should like to know where. Many persons seemed to think that the consumption of alchoholic drink had increased in this country; so far was this from being the case that we had it in evidence that, making due allowance for the increase of the population, 650 the consumption had decreased. When the Bill for further restricting the hours during which public-houses might be open on Sundays was brought in, magistrates, and other gentlemen of the greatest experience, gave it as their opinion that further restriction in that direction would only lead to an increase of intoxication. At a meeting held in Elgin, it was stated that when the Scotch system of restriction had been enforced it made matters worse, as people bought up drink surreptitiously, and got drunk at home. He believed that good might be done by the Bill of the hon. Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), and also, perhaps, by some regulations such as those at present in force at New York. Those people who showed themselves to be incapable of restraining themselves in the use of intoxicating liquors were treated as maniacs. Thinking, therefore, that the spirit of the Bill was totally opposed to the feelings of a large portion of the population, he moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now." and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Colonel Jerris.)
MR. G. O. MORGAN
said, that if there was a wide divergence of opinion among Members of this House as to the Bill, there was also a very striking unanimity as to the subject-matter with which it dealt. All were agreed as to the end which the hon. Gentleman had in view. They differed only as to the means by which it was sought to attain that end. Whatever might have been thought of the subject in the good old days when a gentleman was valued in proportion to the number of bottles of wine he could drink—the days when Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers and even learned Judges and reverend divines were not ashamed of being found under their own dinner tables—the days—When Isis' elders reeled, their pupils' sport,And Alma Mater lay dissolved in port"—all were now agreed that drunkenness,—long considered a disgrace in a gentleman—was the curse and the bane of our poorer classes, and the fruitful parent of crime and pauperism and every form of misery. It was not necessary to go into the question whether drunkenness had slightly decreased or not of late—its existence to a frightful extent was patent, 651 and whatever hopes they might build for the future upon the moral and intellectual improvement of the masses, for the present at least they could only hope to cope with it by means of special legislation. Then, did our present licensing system afford such means? he would appeal to the evidences of their senses. He defied anyone to walk from that House to Temple Bar and observe the splendid palaces dedicated to drink and debauchery, and the miserable crowd of men and women thronging around the doors like moths round a candle, and not admit that we were actually thrusting temptation in the way of the drunkard, and instead of merely ministering to a healthy demand by a healthy supply, were really quickening and stimulating a diseased appetite by means of an excessive and artificial supply. It was the fact, as just stated by the hon. Member for Manchester, that for two-thirds of the drunkenness which prevailed in this country our legislation was mainly and directly responsible. What then was the cure? Hitherto, our well-meaning attempts at legislation were a mere series of failures. He did not say that this Bill was a perfect Bill; he did not say that it might not be usefully amended in Committee; but he did say that it stood almost alone as an honest attempt to grapple with the evil, and until they showed him some equally efficient mode of grappling with that evil, he must and would support it. Coming to the Bill he would endeavour to deal with the arguments which the hon. and gallant Member for Harwich urged against it. First, he says that, if Parliament passes this Bill it will abrogate pro tanto its legislative functions, and delegate those functions to a local body of rate-payers, and that this was a violation of the first principle of the Constitution. But did they not already confer legislative, or quasi-legislative, powers upon these local bodies? They certainly entrusted to them a right which had been long considered the peculiar privilege of Englishmen—the right of taxing themselves—and this question was pre-eminently a rate-payers' question; for as surely as pauperism begot excess of rates, so surely did drunkenness beget increase of pauperism. The two things therefore were really connected together as cause and effect; and in vesting in the rate-payers the 652 power of deciding whether public-houses should or should not exist in their district, they were really vesting this power in a body of men who were most interested in the question, and who from their intimate knowledge of the circumstances of their own locality were best qualified to form a judgment on the subject. Indeed, he looked upon this principle of investing the rate-payers with discretionary power in this matter as one which might be most usefully extended, and that, instead of giving the rate-payers merely a right of saying "Aye" or "No" to the question, whether any public-houses at all in their district, should or should not be allowed, they should give them the power of determining what number should be permitted, and subject to what conditions they should exist. In other words, he would transfer the power of granting licenses and of controlling licensed houses from the magistrates and the Excise to the rate-payers. In saying this he said nothing contrary to the principle involved in the Bill, for if they conceded the principle of prohibition, upon which this Bill was founded, they must concede also the principle of restriction, which is nothing more than partial prohibition. The second argument against the Bill—that which, perhaps, was the most generally | insisted upon—was that this measure, if passed, would place in the hands of the majority of rate-payers in any district the means of oppressing the minority, and thus would prove an endless source of discord and discontent. Now, he thought, that was an argument which came with a very bad grace indeed from that side of the House; for since he had had the honour of a seat there he had repeatedly heard it laid down by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen that it was the acknowledged right of a majority to bind the minority by its decision, and that the first duty of a minority was to submit. Now, he confessed he did not see why the decision of the majority should be more galling if expressed in the form of the vote of a local body, than when expressed in the form of "a Parliamentary vote. They were in the habit of taking the decision of a majority of local bodies upon questions of the greatest importance every day, and when once that decision was given it was invariably received as final. But if the decision of a majority of the rate-payers was to be regarded as oppres- 653 sive, the same decision if come to and enforced by a single man ought to be regarded a sheer despotism. Now there were entire districts where the resident nobility and gentry, partly as magistrates by refusing license, and partly as landlords by inserting in leases a prohibition of beer-shops, had driven the traffic out of their estates. A writer of an article in Fraser's Magazine, dealing with the subject, gave the names of the late Prince Consort, the Dukes of Argyll, Grafton, and Buccleuch, the Marquesses of Breadalbane, Cholmondeley, and Westminster, the Earl of Shaftesbury, and the late Lord Palmerston; and he states that in Ireland, near Dungannon, there is a considerable; tract of country, extending over sixty-six square miles, in which no intoxicating liquor is sold. He did not, then, think they could make much of the argument founded upon the supposed oppression of the minority for the majority. He now came to another argument which he confessed had much more weight with him than any used by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. It was said that, by this Bill, they were punishing the innocent for the guilty; that because A and B abused a particular thing therefore they had no right to prevent C and D, who made a moderate or harmless use ox it, from doing so. Now he thought there was great weight in this objection, and the real answer to be this—In our present system the abuse of strong drinks was inseparably connected with the use, and until he saw his way to disconnecting the two he was driven to a choice of evils; he must either permit the abuse to go on with the use, or he must forbid both. It might be a clumsy and unscientific way of dealing with the question, but as far as he could see it was the only practical mode to cut the Gordian Knot. But again, the hon. and gallant Gentleman stated that the Bill made one law for the rich and another for the poor, and that if you shut up public-houses you ought to shut up clubs also. But surely the answer was obvious. Men did abuse public-houses; they did not abuse clubs. They did get drunk in public-houses, whereas they did not, as far at least as his experience went, get drunk in clubs; and this was just an instance in point, a case in which they permitted the use without also sanctioning the abuse. But, in dealing with this part of the question it 654 was only fair to consider whence the demand for this Bill came. Did the the pressure come from above or did it come from below? Did it come from the rich or the poor? His hon. Friend had told the House that upwards of 2,300 Petitions had been presented in favour of the Bill. It was easy enough to cast doubt, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman had done, upon the authenticity of these Petitions. He could only oppose his own assertion as to what he knew—he had presented between thirty and forty Petitions in favour of the Bill, signed by several thousand persons, and he knew the, signatures to be genuine. Those were all persons of the lowest class, those most exposed to temptation, and they all joined in asking to be protected against themselves. Now, how many Petitions had been presented against the Bill? As far as his (Mr. Morgan's) knowledge went, only one, and that from the licensed victuallers. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had said something about "a powerful organization." but he (Mr. Morgan) thought that the one body of licensed victuallers was as thorough an "organization" as the concurrence of the Petitions. As to power, an hon. Member of that House had said—"The honour of returning the British House of Commons is divided between the licensed victuallers and the attorneys." He thought, then, the less said about pressure and organization the better. There was, then, what he called the fiscal argument. It was said we must have a revenue, and if we had a revenue we must have taxes, and if we must have taxes what could be more convenient or more right than to levy those taxes upon a traffic of which they disapproved, and so at once raise a revenue and prevent the expansion of a noxious trade? Well, that was the very argument which had been before now urged in favour of the roulette tables of Homburg and the "hells" of Baden Baden. He had no faith in this kind of political "hedging." A system was either right or wrong, and, if it was wrong, depend upon it they could not with impunity turn it into a profit. Then it was said that many persons had invested their money in public-house property, and that by this Bill they were depreciating that properly and interfering with vested interests. But independently of the possibility of compensation, he must remind 655 the House that they were not dealing with a Railway Bill, or a Gas Bill, or a Court of Justice Bill, or any other Private Bill, in which the consideration of vested interests might be fairly and properly urged, but with the most important and difficult problem which ever engaged the attention of legislator or statesman. Now they were to eradicate this noxious weed which was choking up the mainsprings of our national life—the fungus growth which was eating into the very roots of our florid and luxuriant civilization. Surely if ever there was an occasion upon which the advocates of a great, measure were justly entitled to appeal to the first and highest maxim of English Law, Salus populi summa lex, that time was the present. Those were the arguments which after much thought and much deliberation had moved him to support this Bill. If they wanted to see them pointed and enforced read the police reports of any morning newspaper; study the contents of any Judge's charge throughout the country; walk at any hour of the night or on any day of the week through the most crowded thoroughfares or the narrowest by-ways of any of our great cities; and when they had ascertained for themselves the extent and enormity of the evil let them, if they could, come back and point out a better remedy.
§ MR. CAWLEY
said, he was unable to allow the Bill to pass with only giving a silent vote upon it. The temperance movement had his hearty support, and he hailed with satisfaction the fact that so many Petitions had been presented in favour of the Bill, as it was an indication that the working classes were anxious to bring about some improvement with respect to the drinking habits of the country. Coming, as the Petitions did, from the poor, he saw in them an inclination to effect a change, of the necessity of which they must themselves be the best judges. He felt persuaded that, if the working classes would only exert themselves in the matter, a reformation would easily be brought about. For himself, while he should always strive to do anything in his power to remedy the evils which flowed from drunkenness, he must, at the same time, be assured of the wisdom of the proposed remedies prior to lending them his support. The veal scope of the Bill was to be found in the 10th clause, which went to the abso- 656 lute prohibition of licenses, so that if the Bill were adopted in every district it would be impossible to purchase any excisable liquors at all. The analogies drawn from Local Government Acts were entirely beside the question, as the principles of those acts applied to the entire country, and he held that no Permissive Bill was sound unless the principles of it were applicable to the whole country. Under the Bill of the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) no person would be able to procure in certain districts any liquor at all, unless he manufactured it in his own house or premises, and he did not think it would be possible to adopt the measure as a general enactment. He looked to the spread of education as the main hope of repressing intemperance. Drunkenness would not disappear until men had learned that they must exercise self-control and restraint in the use of intoxicating drinks. Believing that these articles were given for our benefit—though as desirous of doing anything that would induce a diminution in the amount of drunkenness as any hon. Member in the House—he could not for a moment consent to absolute prohibition. He could quite understand the benefits which were stated to have arisen in particular places by putting down public-houses, but as regards drunkenness generally, the result of forbidding the sale of liquors in one parish would be abortive, because the people who found they could not procure what they wanted in their own neigbourhood would emigrate to the districts where what they required could be obtained, and thus the drunkenness and immorality of the latter would be increased. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bazley) that the saving of £50,000,000 a year would be a great advantage to the working classes, but he could not concur in the opinion which the hon. Member had expressed as the probable mode in which the money would be expended. No one felt more strongly than himself the evil of multiplying public-houses. Though ready to give his hearty support to any measure which he considered practicable for reducing their number, he could not take upon himself the responsibility of altogether prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he rose to speak solely on his own responsibility 657 and on behalf of his constituents, who took an intense interest in the question. He desired to explain the reasons which would compel him to vote against the Bill. It was agreed on all hands that drunkenness was one of the greatest causes of the misery and poverty which existed amongst certain classes in the country. The hon. Member for Manchester had said that they could not make men moral by Act of Parliament. No doubt that was perfectly true, but it was not less true that by legislation much could be done to remove temptation out of the way of the people. At the present moment the temptation to drink was great, and it was greater, than it might, and he would say than it would be, if there had been some new legislation on the subject. The hon. Member who had brought forward the Bill stated that it was supported by the aristocracy of the working men in large-towns, and certainly no one would deny that that was a good reason why it should receive the utmost consideration at the hands of the House. In the case of any meeting, numbering 3,000 or 4,000 people, that had been held for any purpose in his own borough, he believed if a show of hands had been called for the majority would have been in favour of the Permissive Hill. This was one of those facts which made it incumbent on those who opposed the Bill to state the grounds of their opposition. Those men were so conscious of the evils of drunkenness, that when they saw, as they thought, an easy mode of getting rid of them, they readily gave it their support. He doubled, however, if, when they found how strong the proposed measure was in its operation, they would accord it the, same measure of support. He did not himself think, as his hon. Friend had said, that this was "a small Bill," or rather ''a small matter." He was inclined to say that it was a very great measure indeed, and the hon. Baronet must know that if it passed into a law it would be one of the strongest measures ever sanctioned by the House. The Bill, in point of fact, meant this, that the majority of the constituencies of England regarding not the use of intoxicating liquors but the abuse of them as an evil, should have, power to prevent persons having that use, or, at all events, to make it exceedingly difficult for them to have it, in order that others might not 658 abuse it. Now that was a very strong measure, and one which nothing but a very strong necessity could justify. No doubt the majority had a legal right to pass and enforce laws on the community; but he did not belief that the majority had a constitutional right to interfere, as the Bill proposed they should do, with the social privileges of those who did not agree with them. The House of Commons was constituted to pass laws according to the will of the majority; but it was a perfectly different thing to say they were there to give a power to the majority in particular districts to make the minority do what the majority liked. He thought the minority in any district had a right to the special protection of the House against the majority, if the matter were one in which they ought not to be socially interfered with, and he also thought that the House would be doing harm rather than good if they went in advance of public opinion. Besides, it was his opinion that the Bill, from its very nature, would lead to frequent and clandestine evasions of the law, because it was in the very nature of things that such a measure should be continually evaded by those who did not approve of its provisions. The question was whether it was right to impose such restrictions as those which were contemplated by the measure; and, if it could not be proved that it was right to do so, the wrong was only increased by that House resigning its power into the hands of a small number of the inhabitants of a district, and thus enabling the majority to disregard the wishes and the rights of their neighbours. The point was, whether it was or was not a right thing to impose such a restriction on the liberty of the subject? He believed, however, that out of this agitation they might obtain more power to check the great evil of drunkenness, and that the abuse they all deplored might be greatly lessened, if not cured, not by prohibition but by restriction. The two things should be kept distinct, and he did not see why they should not permit the rate-payers to express their opinions if they desired to impose restrictive measures. Neither did he see why, under certain limitations, the magistrates should not be obliged to take notice of such representations. In order to prevent absolute prohibition he would provide for an appeal from their decision. 659 To what authority that appeal should be made, or in what manner the power should be lodged in the hands of the rate-payers, were matters of detail which could be easily settled if the principle itself came to be adopted. At the present time, they all witnessed how whole streets became possessed by gin palaces and beer-shops, and how on that account people withdrew from those streets. Why should not they who resided there have a voice in the matter? Questions of property were no doubt, involved; but the practice hitherto had been too much to regard them as questions of property between the existing and the future publicans, whereas the rate-payers whose property frequently became almost valueless from the depreciation arising from the increase of public-houses, were equally entitled to have their cases considered. It was impossible that the settlement of the question could be put off much longer, and not so much as a Colleague, but as a Member of that House he would earnestly beg of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to consider whether it would not be one of the best modes of bringing about real and effective restriction, to give to neighbours the power of checking the increase of public-houses in their districts and causing their diminution.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, he rose for the purpose of urging on the Government the important duty of dealing with the liquor laws as soon as possible; but he hoped that when the task was undertaken it would not be in a piecemeal way, but that they would take the whole of the laws affecting the question into consideration. Although he could not give his assent to the leading provisions of the Bill, yet he thought the House was much indebted to the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and to the great organization with which he was connected, for the spirit and determination they had exhibited in forcing upon the country the consideration of the question. He did not agree with the means they proposed to adopt, but he could not but admire and appreciate the trouble and pains they had taken to bring the Motion forward. He could not and did not think that the demand now made was the result of a fictitious agitation, and anyone connected with a large centre of population must be aware that there was a deep, 660 real, and earnest feeling with regard to the present state of the law with respect to the liquor trade, and that the consideration of the whole subject would no longer brook delay. There could not be a doubt that many of the best men, amongst the working classes were most eager for legislation on the subject, because they felt that it was one which largely affected their future prospects, and it would be a marked want of consideration of the convictions of these men if the Government did not take the matter up in a determined manner. They were doing their best to put down the evils of drunkenness in their class, and it was due to them that the Government should show a desire to assist them in their most praiseworthy endeavours. Again, as an additional reason for Government action, and for their taking the subject out of the hands of private Members, it must be remembered that there were very large interests connected with the liquor trade, which have grown up in accordance with the present law, and nothing could be more serious for this or for any other trade than to be kept in suspense year after year as to what the future position might be. The leading men of the licensed victuallers were prepared to make great concessions; many of them were men of public spirit and of high character, and who performed all the duties of citizens with credit to themselves and advantage to the State, and he believed they would be ready to meet the Government half-way in any proposition they might make. He protested against the sweeping assertions that were made as to the drunken habits of the working class: a great change was passing over their feelings with regard to drunkenness, just as it had passed over those of the upper and middle classes; and this was shown by the sobriety which prevailed in the great gatherings of Foresters. Odd Fellows, and other societies that were annually held at the Crystal Palace. In Staffordshire large excursions were of frequent occurrence from the Potteries and the Black Country, and amongst the thousands he had seen in his father's park there was hardly ever a case of drunkenness to be seen amongst them, which of itself showed that there was a great improvement compared with the state of things that formerly existed. He feared very much if the hon. Baronet carried his measure, we should 661 forestall public opinion and retard the advance of those principles of sobriety which they were all so anxious to promote. He thought it was clearly the duty of the Government to speak out on the matter, and that too in unmistakable terms, and not to fear either those who were in favour of the Permissive Bill or those opposed to it; but to accept the heavy responsibility that rested on them, and to say that they would deal straightforwardly and immediately with the whole question of the liquor laws.
§ MR. LEATHAM
said, he was sure that all who had seen the disinterested zeal with which the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had devoted himself to the subject they were then considering and had marked the warm response he had met with from so many quarters, must desire if it were possible to assist him in his efforts. There was, at least, one objection, however.—and it was a formidable one—which the hon. Baronet must endeavour to remove, and that was the constitutional objection raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council. None, he Thought, would deny that it was of the essence of representative government that the class which elected—which was practically the rate-paying class—should not itself legislate. Only in matters of the merest detail had legislative powers been relegated to that class, and in no instance had that been done directly, but those powers had been relegated to persons elected by the rate-paying classes. The responsibility and trust of the House of Commons, in regard to the property and liberties of their fellow-subjects, had always been regarded as forming the key-stone of constitutional freedom. To shirk that responsibility, and to throw it back upon the class which elected but did not legislate, was in his opinion to expose, probably where they were most vulnerable, that liberty of the individual and those rights of the minority which were the peculiar boast of this country, and the special growth of a system of government which had been purposely made elaborate and complex. That, he imagined, was what was proposed to be done by the Bill, at least so far as the possible extinction of a great trade went, and the sacrifice, without compensation, of the capital embarked in it, and so far as concerned the undoubted right of 662 individuals to enjoy what, no doubt, many abused, but what at the same time was useful to many. Not content with this democratic verdict of the class in its entirety, the hon. Baronet proposed to break up the class into fragments, and upon each of these fragments he proposed to confer these Imperial powers, and that without appeal. If vestries could satisfactorily exercise the powers which the measure proposed to confer on them, it would be hard to find any question with reference to which they might not exercise the same privilege. For these reasons he could not thoroughly support his hon. Friend. Indeed, if he thought there were any immediate probability of the Bill passing the House, he should feel bound to vote against it. That, however, was a probability which he did not anticipate; but he frankly confessed that his hon. Friend's movement was an honest attempt to deal with what he was prepared to vie with him in denouncing as the gigantic curse of the country. He observed that directly the hon. Baronet disappeared from the House, the licensing question disappeared with him, and his re-appearance was simultaneous with its re-appearance in all its gravity. He believed that the agitation of which his hon. Friend was the leader would eventually result in the passing of a measure which would be free from the objections to which this Bill was open. If compelled, therefore, to vote against the Motion of the hon. Member, he should do so with extreme reluctance.
said, that one of the reasons that had been urged in favour of the Bill was that a very few Petitions, comparatively speaking, had been presented against the measure of hon. Baronet; but he thought it was not to be expected that people would be everlastingly presenting Petitions that the law might remain as it was, and it appeared to him, and he dared say the feeling was shared in by many other hon. Members, that the reasons the Petitions had not been presented was that the great majority of the people believed that there was no possibility of the Bill of the hon. Member for Carlisle passing, and that therefore there was no need to take any trouble about it. But if it were passed—of this he had no doubt—namely, that their opinions would be expressed in a way far more disagreeable 663 than in the form of Petitions. If the majority were to bind the minority in social matters there would he an intense amount of irritation in the country, and the irritation would he increased ten-fold by the fact that the majority was composed of neighbours, for people in general were not particularly fond of their neighbours. He had the greatest respect for Petitions coming from the masses; they were admirable judges of what was wanted, but he was bound to say, at the same time, that they did not know the difficulty that surrounded their demands. A great number of persons were not at all aware of the caution that was required in applying legislative remedies to evils; and, for himself, the longer he lived the less trust did he place in Acts of Parliament, because he could place less trust, in the material of which they were made—that was to say in the precision and accuracy of language. It was superfluous for anyone to say he was opposed to drunkenness, because they were all aware it was one of the greatest evils which beset society; but he thought it was rather maligning the working classes not to recognize the great improvement which had been made amongst them within the period of their own observation, and it was impossible to go through the streets of the metropolis, or of any market town, without noticing the indications of improvement. There had, however, been a great increase in the population, and it was most important that that fact should not be lost sight of when the amount of money spent in intoxicating liquors was taken into consideration. He thought it wrong to say that the legislature afforded encouragement to intoxication, for there was a fine upon every drop of liquor that went down a man's throat, and a man might be fined only for being drunk, although a man who was helplessly drunk was perhaps a less nuisance to others than he was at any other time. The title of the Bill—the Permissive Prohibitory Liquor Bill—was rather paradoxical, and had it come from the other side of the Channel some very curious and humorous remarks would have been made upon it. He objected to giving local boards the power laid down in the Bill; he also objected to the leasing power contained in the measure; and if the representative power of the country was to be increased, and an improved number of laws passed, it 664 must, in his opinion, be done in the House, and not by giving the power to an unlimited number of districts.
§ MR. DALWAY
said, he would not detain the House more than a moment in stating that he held a strong conviction that the Bill which was under consideration was eminently needed in the larger portion of the United Kingdom. As a magistrate, he had opportunities of seeing to what a great extent drinking originated crime, and he felt assured that many of the victims of the legalized temptations would hail with gratitude the power to remove the bane from their neighbourhood. As the proposal could only be put into operation in districts where a strong public opinion was registered in favour of its adoption, he thought no objection could be presented on constitutional principles. In view of the necessity for action, and being aware of the great desire which pervaded the people for the measure, the Bill had his heartiest support, and he hoped the House would allow it to pass its second reading, and to go into Committee as soon as possible.
§ MR. WALTER
objected to the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, but trusted the House would not think that he was at all disposed to undervalue the magnitude of the evil the hon. Baronet sought to control. He also felt certain that the best and purest intentions animated those who were exerting themselves in favour of the Bill; but in his opinion the provisions of the measure now under the consideration of the House would not have the effect intended. With the hon. Baronet, he believed that drunkenness was the greatest, social curse against which we had to contend; but the victims of it to be seen in the streets at night by hon. Members who walked from the House to their homes did not belong to what had been described as the working classes of the country. It was not to the beer-shop that the great amount of drunkenness which prevailed was to be attributed; gin and other spirituous liquors were far more active agents in producing the vice than beer: and if he were called upon to mention those within his knowledge who had ruined their prospects in life, had lost good situations, and had fallen from comparative ease and competence to a state of degradation, they would not be the men belonging to the 665 labouring class, following agricultural or mechanical pursuits, but they would be men of a superior class and of good education, men who had enjoyed comfortable homes and good salaries, and who, in spite of all, had fallen victims to that abominable vice. It was not such men as these that would be protected by the Bill, for they indulged in intemperance at home. The hon. Baronet who had moved the second reading of the Bill took a different view from his Seconder the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bazle), who spoke in more reasonable terms of the necessity for placing the liquor traffic under proper regulation. There was all the difference in the world between a system of regulation and one of prohibition, and whilst he was prepared to go all reasonable lengths in assisting the Government to devise more effectual means of regulating the traffic-in liquor, he was equally prepared to resist, as unconstitutional and subversive of liberty, any attempt to introduce the Maine Liquor Law into this country. Exception might be taken to the Preamble of the Bill, because it was really not the common sale of intoxicating-liquors, but the excessive abuse of them, which was the frightful source of crimp and other evils; and he could not see any justification for legislating against the sale of any commodity which was not in itself of an injurious character. It would be a logical consequence of the Bill to shut up not only the beer-houses and the public-houses, but breweries also; because if it were an immoral thing in itself, and an impolitic thing to be permitted by the State to sell intoxicating liquors, it was equally obligatory on the State to prevent the production of those liquors, and the same arguments that would justify the passing of the Bill to prohibit the sale of them, would equally justify the passing of a Bill to prevent their manufacture. The real gist of the Bill was contained in the 10th clause; and when the hon. Member for Denbighshire (Mr. O. Morgan) spoke of this as one of the most difficult of our social problems, it occurred to him that they had not found the true solution of such a problem in a clause of fifteen or twenty lines, and that simply of a prohibitory kind. If this Bill were to pass what would be the effect in a place like Manchester or Liverpool with a population of 500,000? It 666 would be competent to two-thirds of the population to prohibit the sale of any species of intoxicating drink, and it was just as reasonable to expect that we should repeal the Reform Act, or re-establish the Irish Church, or do any other utterly impossible or impracticable thing as that we should prohibit the population of Manchester or Liverpool from obtaining spirits or alcoholic and malt liquor to drink if they required them. The people would possess themselves of the forbidden liquors by hook or by crook, and, if the Bill passed, they would either buy them from the manufacturers or manufacture the drink themselves; or, in place of licensed houses over which the magistrates and police exercised control, there would be a number of houses nominally private, really kept open for the convenience of those who chose to resort to them to gratify their tastes. Of the two evils he ventured to think that this would be by far the worst, for there would be no means of detecting the offenders, the police would have no right to enter the houses, and that which was now done openly would be done secretly, and in a more mischievous manner. Allusion had been made to the New England States, as having recently reverted to the original prohibitory law, in place of the restrictive law which had existed for several years past. He would not adduce a single incident as any proof of what was going on in a whole country, but, during the time he was in America, the only place at which he saw a man dead drunk was in the streets of Boston. If he might presume to tender advice to the hon. Baronet, to whom he must give the greatest credit for his zeal and perseverance, he would appeal to him to consider whether it would not be better to leave the question in the hands of the Government, after the discussion which was held the other night on the Beer-houses Bill, and the pledge virtually given by the Government to deal with the subject. This was a question of police, and any question of police regulation brought in by the Government would receive the support of the House. But it was a serious matter to introduce for the first time so novel a principle in legislation as that of giving two-thirds, or any majority, the power—not of providing themselves with what they wanted, but of prohibiting other people from obtain- 667 ing what they wanted. No analogous case could be mentioned; and, when great landowners were referred to as having kept their estates clear of public-houses, he maintained there was an essential difference between a landowner declining to let a house on his own estate as a public-house, and a body of ratepayers saying that a house which did not belong to them should not be let as a public-house without their consent. He did not deny that it might not be expedient to consider whether the rate-payers should not have a concurrent voice with the magistrates; at all events the power of representing to the magistrates whether they considered an increase in the number of public-houses desirable. But it was one thing to regulate the number and to endeavour to adjust them to the wants of the population; it was a totally different tiling to attempt to carry out the principle of absolutely prohibiting the sale of spirituous liquors. Under all the circumstances of the case, whilst cordially concurring in the object the hon. Baronet had at heart, he must decline to vote with him, and once more he would recommend him to withdraw the Bill and leave the matter, at least until next Session, in the hands of the Government.
§ COLONEL CORBETT
said, he thought it would be extremely unadvisable for the House to interfere with the trade in the way proposed by the Bill then under consideration, until all other means had been tried and found to be ineffectual. The suggestions just made by the Vice President of the Council would, if carried out, have a beneficial effect on the liquor trade, and he, for one, thought that they ought first to have recourse to measures for the modification of the evil rather than to have recourse to exceptional legislation which would be fraught with greater evil. Sunday was no doubt the worst day, owing to the indifference of the lower class to attend places of worship; and finding the time hang heavily on their hands they resorted to the public-houses. In his neighbourhood a few of the publicans had come to a voluntary arrangement whereby they only opened their houses on Sunday for an hour and a-half in the middle of the day, and again in the evening for the same time for the supply of liquor to be drunk off the premises, and the result was satisfactory to all parties. Much good, he thought, 668 might result by the granting six day and seven day licenses, as was the case with the cabs in the metropolis; and he also thought that it would prove highly satisfactory if care was taken that the working class was supplied with a genuine and wholesome article, because nearly as many eases of drunkenness arose from the use of an adulterated article as there were from the quantity of the liquor consumed. He was by no means favourable to the proposition of giving the proposed power to two-thirds of the inhabitants; he did not think the decision of such a majority was sufficient, but to be effectual it appeared to him necessary that nearly the whole of the inhabitants should be unanimous on the subject. If such was not the case, it would produce greater indignation and more ill-feeling, and would keep the towns in a greater state of excitement than at the period of a contested election. For these reasons he was of opinion that if the Bill passed it would encourage illicit trading, and that it would thus create a fresh, evil without removing the old one.
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT
said, he was glad his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had again brought before the House his well-known Bill. It was a real attempt from a sincere quarter to deal with one of the most difficult questions of the time. The present system was supported by a powerful organization, and unless there was an organization of corresponding power on the other side it would be difficult in this House to approach the question. They were told how many Acts of Parliament were passed in reference to the liquor trade—they were almost innumerable; but those Acts had been passed under a very different condition of opinion from that now existing. They had been in the main for the regulation of the traffic, and in some instances for its extension. The next time the Government put their hand to the work they must give them a Bill unlike its predecessors. When they looked to the demoralization that resulted from excessive temptation, and the enormous waste produced by it, it must be considered that it would be a loss of time on the part of the Government to undertake to pass another measure, unless by it they would enable the people of themselves to bring about a sharp and general limitation of the traffic. He did not desire the Bill to pass in its present 669 shape, but would vote with his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle. In coming to that decision he suspected he was like other Members; for he had noticed during the debate that there was scarcely one Member who gave his entire adhesion to the Bill. He was in favour of a measure perhaps as radical as this, and based upon the same principle. The Bill proposed to call upon parishes or districts to come to a general vote whether this traffic should or should not be carried on. If a sufficient number of the rate-payers decided that it should not be carried on, then it would be totally extinguished in the district—not only the retail traffic, but the wholesale. Now, he had a very great objection to tins result. If they were dealing with dangerous or poisonous beverages, he could understand perfectly well that it might be desirable they should be procured only on a doctor's certificate; but when they reflected on the character of these beverages, and the extent to which they were consumed by the mass of the people, such beverages as Bass's and Allsopp's ales, and wines from the Rhine and Bordeaux, which certainly never did any harm to anybody, and had very remarkable tonic powers, he should greatly regret any such result. The Bill, in fact, either permitted the present system to exist, or extinguished the traffic entirely. Even if the Bill passed, the effect might be not to disturb the great evil now existing, but to allow the temptation to continue in its full strength in parts of the country where the measure would not operate. In fact, for years, and perhaps for generations, though the Bill might pass this week, all the evils of which the hon. Member for Carlisle complained would exist to as great a degree as ever in our large towns. He wanted, therefore, some more practical measure. The right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had discussed the subject very fairly, but he would go even further in the same direction. A Bill was introduced by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) two years ago, which had created a great deal of attention, and whoso principles were well known and approved. When it came into that House it was backed by a Petition, signed by 88,000 inhabitants of Liverpool, which was in itself a proof that it was highly approved by the inhabitants of that great city. It proposed 670 to have only one class of victualling houses, to do away with the licenses of magistrates, to establish certain conditions of conduct and character, and to let every one who chose get a license if he observed those conditions. But the leading feature of the scheme, in which it went beyond the proposition of the right hon. Member for Bradford, and to which he would gladly give his own adhesion, was that no new licenses should be granted without the rate-payers of the locality having a voice, and a decisive voice. It proposed further a popular veto on every existing license, and that they should not be valid in any case for a longer term than fifteen years. He should like very much to leave the rate-payers free to deal with existing licenses when they changed hands.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
explained that what he had suggested was that the rate-payers might make representations to the magistrates against the increase of public-houses, and for the diminution of their numbers, to which they should be required to assent.
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT
If this veto were given to the rate-payers, what would be the result? If there were this dislike to public-houses, and a conviction that their extreme abundance was damaging to the best interests of the population, new licenses would not be granted, and when the old houses were ill-conducted or excessive in number they would be weeded out. He had been told, in discussing the matter with hon. Members of that House, that this was the Permissive Bill in another shape, and gave the ratepayers power to extinguish the traffic if they chose. Of course it did; but if he understood it, the magistrates now had that power, and if they could only convince the magistrates, and make them somewhat fanatical on the subject, they might arrive at the same result now. But under the working of such a system as he spoke of, after the public-houses should have been diminished to the point of supplying the necessary wants of the population, there would no doubt be a change of feeling in the matter, the best houses would be undisturbed, and anyone would have the opportunity of obtaining what he wanted. He did not blame the Government for not having legislated on this subject; indeed it was notorious that the last House had been fettered on the question in a manner 671 which made it very difficult for Members to come and vote and speak exactly as they liked. Now there had been a great change of opinion on the question, and a feeling appeared to have sprung up in favour of a strong Bill. He himself was in favour of a revolutionary Bill. He found that the times were revolutionary; and the more revolutionary a measure, the butter chance it had of passing that House. Hon. Members opposite found that two years ago in dealing with the franchise; and now, as to the Church Bill, everybody knew that if it had been less extreme and loss radical, the party with which he sat would have been split in pieces. There was no use then in dealing with this question unless by a revolutionary Bill. Government might go on in inaction for some time longer, but they would never settle it unless they gave the people power to settle it for themselves.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he thought the Bill, to a great degree, objectionable on the ground that the correction of the evil of drunkenness should be left to the conscience of the individual; however, he would prefer to over-ride that fault in the legislation proposed, and give his vote in support of the Bill because of the gigantic proportions of the evil with which it sought to deal. The questions that occurred to him were many, and amongst them he should like to know whether drunkenness was to go on unchecked, and he might say almost unreproved by the Legislature, while it continued to be a frightful source of misery in domestic life? Was it to go forth that, while the people acknowledge the necessity for remedial measures, Parliament was impotent to apply them? He readily acknowledged the difficulty in the way of a Member who proposed to carry a Bill independent of the Government; but, in the absence of a declaration from the Government, he was bound to support the Bill for the sake of the Thousands who were looking for some action on the part of Parliament in the matter. With reference to what had been stated by the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter), he thought that if drunkenness amongst the upper classes was more to be reprobated than amongst the more humble, it was because the upper classes had less excuse for failing in that respect. He hoped the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid 672 Lawson) would persist in his endeavour to have the Bill read a second time, as he should not wish it to go forth that Parliament was averse from attempting any remedy for these acknowledged evils. Thousands of persons were looking forward to the passing of the Bill, and, therefore, he hoped the House would agree to the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle.
I rise, Sir, in answer to the many appeals made to me, as the representative of the Government, by hon. Members in the course of this debate, and it will be for the convenience of the House, and tend to the despatch of business, if I at once announce my own opinion and that of the Government upon the Bill at present before us. I heartily join in the numerous congratulations which have been offered to the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) on the manner in which he has introduced his Bill to the House. I have never hoard so extreme a measure brought forward with so much moderation. I need hardly say that the magnitude of the evil complained of, and now sought to be dealt with by the Bill, is fully admitted by me; and it is further impossible to deny that changes—perhaps very considerable changes—in the present system ought to be made. The question is not simply the influence of drunkenness upon crime, but it possesses even a wider scope, and is one affecting the whole happiness of the people of this country. It is not simply a question of drunkenness or no drunkenness, but of evils which touch the happiness and welfare of the people at every step. We have only to look at the wives and children reduced, if not to absolute starvation, to pinching want, through the selfishness of those to whom they have a right to look for protection, and at the multitude of opportunities cast in the way of those who, from want of education, are but ill-armed to resist temptation, to obtain some conception of the vastness of the evil. To cure this evil, the hon. Baronet by his Bill proposes to take a very short cut. He seeks not to regulate the trade in intoxicating liquors, but to give permission to those whose minds are disturbed upon the matter to put an end to the trade altogether. In other words, he desires at once to put it in the power of the better educated to stop the drunkard's supply. I think 673 that my hon. Friend would have adopted a wiser course, and would have shown more judgment, if he had brought forward a measure of a more moderate character with regard to the degree of interference of the inhabitants of a district. The extent to which rate-payers should be admitted to the control of beer-houses has never yet been fairly discussed in the House. The point was certainly introduced into a Bill that was brought in by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves); but, if I remember rightly, the modified application of the principle of interference now proposed was not thoroughly discussed in the House. I cannot but agree with those who say that the most complete remedy for the evils of drunkenness is to be found not in the legislative enactments of Parliament, but in the better education of the people, and in imbuing them with a better appreciation of their own interests. To the large amount of intellectual resources which they possess for the improvement and entertainment of their minds is due the almost entire disappearance of intemperance from the ranks of the upper classes. I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) that a great improvement has taken place in the habits of the working classes of this country. But, unfortunately, the enormous increase in our population has not been followed in the same ratio by education or mental improvement, and that is one of the causes of the evil complained of. The fact is that drunkenness does not exist amongst the permanent working classes, but there is a large portion of the population of this country vacillating between a state of semi-starvation and occasional employment, and this class it is which is tempted to resort to public-houses as a refuge from misery and often despair. In proportion, then, as the Government is able to improve the physical as well as moral and intellectual condition of such as those to whom I have referred, will drunkenness disappear. But though, as I have said, education in the largest sense is the true cure for drunkenness, I do not mean to argue that there is any reason why Government should not sanction the introduction of repressive or preventive measures against this great and growing evil. I fully admit the necessity of adopting some leniently restrictive measures. I 674 shall, perhaps, be asked why it is that with all this admitted evil, no remedy has as yet been found for the unfortunate state of things undoubtedly prevailing through drunkenness. My reply briefly is that hitherto no Government has felt itself sufficiently strong to carry such a measure as would bring about the object desired. I shall not, I think, be charged with betraying the secrets of my official position if I toll the House that there exists at the present time, in the records of the Home Office, a draft of a Bill which has been approved by successive Secretaries of State, which I believe could be made, with a few alterations, competent to effect a great improvement in the laws relating to licenses and the sale of intoxicating drinks. That Bill has not been brought forward because successive Governments have not felt sufficient confidence in their ability to carry it through the House, for, as it is well known, the influence of publicans both in boroughs and counties has always been very strong. That is one reason; another is, that all concerned in the matter have recognized it to be a dangerous thing to interfere with large private interests. The great extension of the franchise recently effected is undoubtedly calculated to dilute that influence, and Members of Parliament may in future feel themselves at greater liberty to deal with such a question as the present according to their own inclinations, and with less fear of the influence of that portion of their constituents more immediately concerned than they have hitherto done. If the House will permit me I will briefly sketch the outlines of such a Bill as I shall be glad to see presented to the consideration of Parliament. In the first place, I would say that any measure worthy of the acceptance of the House must provide security against public-houses being kept by improper and irresponsible persons; and must also provide remedies easy of application, but severe and stringent, in the event of misconduct. The Bill, it is obvious, must likewise deal with what it will be admitted on all hands is a question of great difficulty—I mean the limitation of the hours during which public-houses are allowed to remain open for the sale of liquors. In dealing with this branch of the matter, the Minister, whoever he may be, who has charge of the measure, will require the 675 courageous support of the Members of this House. Another difficult question, and one upon which I speak with less freedom, is the extent to which the restrictive power, in regard to granting licenses, should be exercised by those in whose hands that power is placed. It will be within the recollection of the House that the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Villiers's) Committee recommended putting a high price upon the license, and getting security as to the good conduct of the house; but I am bound to say that public opinion in the present day requires some further security. The question is in whom shall the power of restriction be vested? By some it is thought that it ought to be in the will of the resident rate-payers, as is shown by the current of the present debate. There are others who would like it reposed in the magistrates, and some suggest that the power of restriction should be exercised by a body specially elected for the purpose. On these different views I will not now express an opinion; but I do not hesitate to confess that I think there is some reason in the demand that the number of public-houses in a district should be uniformly regulated according to the population. I have been asked whether, on the part of the Government, I will undertake to deal with this great question? I believe it is the honest and fixed determination of the Government to take up the matter in the next Session; and I will go beyond this and tell the House that when the Government deal with it, it will be in an efficient manner. I do not say that a measure will be proposed like my hon. Friend's, which will at once deprive some portion of the people of their innocent enjoyments, and even the owners of public-houses of their properly. Such a measure the Government consider unnecessary and unjust; because, although the admitted evils of drunkenness are great, it is impossible to deny that public-houses furnish to the people the means of social enjoyment and comfort. It is not true that the majority of the people who enter public-houses do so for mischievous purposes, but numbers use them only in a proper manner. My hon. Friend has told us, as an argument in support of his Bill, that in certain districts people are perfectly satisfied to have no public-houses at all, and he drew our particular attention to the case of Saltaire. It 676 must, however, be borne in mind that when Mr. Titus Salt refused to allow—having complete command of the district—any public-houses in the neighbourhood of his own residence and property, he at the same time provided other means of recreation of a more innocent character for the people, and in this is to be found the source of their content. You will never, I feel persuaded, succeed in abolishing drunkenness unless you can provide a good substitute for public-houses in the shape of places where the people can have free access for the purpose of innocent enjoyment. My objection to the Bill of the hon. Baronet is that it is calculated not only to cause a great deal of disturbance in many parts of the country, but must almost inevitably be productive of riots. There are probably no better educated places than the States of New England, and when we find that there objections are raised against the prohibition of the sale of spirits, what may we not, expect to result from the enactment of such a measure as that proposed by the hon. Baronet in the populous towns of England, where there are such large masses of ignorant people, whose whole pleasure appears to arise from sensuous enjoyments? It is proposed by the hon. Member that a majority of two-thirds of the rate-payers of a district shall be at liberty to put the Bill in operation, but in this proportion he ignores a large proportion of those who are most interested in the matter. Two-thirds of the rate-payers leave much more than one-third of the population on the other side; or the more important part of the population, as regards this matter, because it is made up to a large extent of those who live in all the discomfort of lodgings. If the lodgers, and the other classes who are not ratepayers, are considered, there will probably be a considerable majority of the population found to be of the opposite way of thinking to those who wish to close public-houses. My hon. Friend says that he would leave the matter to be decided by the majority of the population; but, as I have just said, the question would really be decided by those least interested—interested, that is, only as far as regards peace and order—and careless how far the humbler classes of society are deprived of their pleasure. I do not think it is the duty of the Government to deprive the popu- 677 lation of the source of a great deal of comfort and innocent enjoyment, to prevent drunkenness and disorder amongst a small section. At the same time they are bound to remove, as far as they can, the causes of crime and gross self-indulgence. One great means of remedying these evils will be to prohibit the traffic in liquors during the late hours of the night. I have thus marked out the course which I think ought to be pursued to settle the question. I trust, therefore, that the House will agree with me in opposing the second reading of this Bill, a course which I should be reluctant to take, were I not prepared myself to submit a measure which I believe will be a great improvement upon the present state of the law, while it will not be felt by the great mass of the people to be an interference with their rights and comforts. The Legislature showing itself willing to take the matter in hand, I am satisfied that the people of this country will be content with a measure far less sweeping in its operation, and less unjust to the interests of a large class than that now proposed by the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. GRAVES
, on the part of his constituency, offered his thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department for the intimation he had given of the intentions of the Government on this subject next Session. Three years ago he (Mr. Graves) introduced a measure to remedy the evils complained of, but although it was backed by no less than 88,000 persons in Liverpool alone who petitioned in its favour, he withdrew the Bill in deference to the wish of the then Government, and to the pledge that they gave him that they would themselves grapple with the question. It appeared to him to be futile for any private Member to attempt to legislate on this subject, which should be left, in the hands of the Government. As the Government had now assumed the responsibility of dealing with the evils complained of, he thought that a perseverance with the present measure could do no good, but, on the contrary, that it would have the effect of impeding the intended action of the Government. Under these circumstances, therefore, he hoped the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would at once see the propriety and the wisdom of withdrawing the measure. In the 678 event of such a course not being adopted, he hoped the House would reject the Bill, on the ground that nothing could be more embarrassing to the Government and the question than the reading the Bill for a second time.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he could not conscientiously vote for the Bill passing in its present shape, though he commended the motive which prompted its introduction. He did not think it would be right to give to two-thirds of the inhabitants of a parish the power of putting down all licensed houses in that particular locality. With this exception, he was prepared to go almost any length to mitigate the evils of intemperance. As to new licenses, he could not imagine any reasonable objection to giving the inhabitants a veto upon them. If a public-house was established in a new locality, the rent of the house increased probably 50 per cent, but what was the effect upon the property surrounding and adjoining it? Why, it was depreciated to the same or a greater amount; and, therefore, why should one proprietor, who cared nothing about the interests of his neighbours, but was bent upon one object—the love of money—be permitted, for his own personal aggrandizement, to injure the property of others? If one proprietor had the right thus to injure his neighbours, why should not another be permitted to convert his house into a manufactory of fireworks, to the injury and danger of the surrounding property? By comparing the number of public-houses in certain large towns with that in other largo towns, the Home Secretary might ascertain what number of public-houses were really sufficient for a given population, and Parliament fix a limit accordingly. He was not in favour of depriving parties of licenses in a wholesale way; but vacancies would arise in more ways than one. Such licensed houses as had been convicted more than once he would deprive of the license. Again, in case of the death of the owner of a licensed house, he held that the license should not be renewed if there were a reasonable number of licensed houses already in existence. One of the master evils, however, was the means taken privately to induce magistrates to grant licenses. In his opinion it was as immoral for magistrates to act on private solicitations as it would be for the 679 Judges of the Court of Queen's Bench to listen to private solicitations with regard to decisions they should give on the case before them. He was of opinion that the body intrusted with the granting of licenses was much too large, and that a committee, consisting of, perhaps, one-third of that body should be appointed to deal with the question of licenses. Further, he should recommend that each member of the committee should sign a declaration that he would not hear any solicitations privately as to the granting of a Licence, but that everything connected with them should take place in open court. If such arrangements were made, he had no doubt it would work most satisfactorily, and that it would, in a great measure, stop an evil which was now so loudly complained of. It was said that the poorer classes would be injured if legislation of this kind were passed, but he believed that those were the very persons who would be most benefited by such legislation, and none, he felt quite certain, would be more ready to express their gratitude than the poor; for they were now pressing for such legislation.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, that one of the great matters that the General Election made all who took part in the exciting contest acquainted with was the deep and settled feeling which the better portion of the working classes took in the subject now under discussion; and all persons brought into contact with the ministers of religion, Scripture readers, and missionaries who worked in populous districts must know that they had become almost fanatics with regard to it. His own experience of hospitals and workhouses would have made him a fanatic also, if he could believe that the measure of the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would fully carry out its purpose. The present Government were not only strong in the majority they had in that House, but also in the sympathies of the working classes, and in the belief which the working classes entertained that the leading members of the Administration sympathized strongly with their interests and wishes. He hoped, therefore, that on the very first day of the next Session the Government would lay on the table a measure which would settle the question for many years to come, and that would be far bettor and more satisfactory to all 680 parties than the course proposed by the hon. Baronet. The experience of America showed that any measure very much in advance of the feeling of the people would be a failure. The supporters of this Bill alleged that it would never be in advance of the feelings of the people, because it was the people themselves who would have the decision in their own hands. But he believed it would not now be adopted by any large number of places; and what they wanted was legislation which should cope with an evil too pressing to be allowed to go unchecked. In Liverpool they cared more for putting an end to the evil than for hushing it up, and they had a regulation that anyone taken up for drunkenness must be brought before a magistrates before he could be discharged. But it appeared from a report of a chief constable in one of the largest towns in Scotland that no fewer than 22,265 persons were taken into custody in that town who were discharged by the police, without being brought before the magistrate, and whose names had not appeared in the statistics on that subject. If they had that town would have taken precedence of Liverpool in the matter of drunkenness. He believed that the majority of people out-of-doors and the majority of hon. Members were of opinion that some modification was required in the power now in the hands of the magistrates as to the granting of licenses. It might be very well to leave in the hands of the magistrates the power of deciding as to the character of a man or a house, but to leave in their hands the power of deciding how many licenses were sufficient for a neighbourhood was injudicious, and cast upon them an odious responsibility. He therefore hoped that in the measure promised by the Government they would not omit to take that matter into their consideration.
§ MR. D. DALRYMPLE
said, he was anxious to answer the challenge that had been thrown out to him—namely, to state his intentions when he proposed to move an Amendment to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. If anything were wanting to prove the policy of this course he should find it in the speeches made that day, in which it was generally admitted that the question was beset with difficulties, and that it demanded much more consideration be- 681 fore any legislation likely to cure the evil could be entered upon. Not one of the Members who had addressed the House on the subject had expressed entire approval of the measure. Before the commencement of the present Session the hon. Baronet would remember that he had made an offer to leave the matter in his more able hands, provided he would consent to refer the Bill to a Select Committee; but his offer was declined; and he thereupon gave notice of his Amendment. It would require to be shown before a Committee that there were no other remedies but such as this extreme measure afforded effectual to put down drunkenness, and that such influences as religion and education, which had such a beneficial effect upon the upper classes, would not in time similarly affect the lower. To show that he was not opposed to the object which the hon. Baronet had in view, he would follow him into the Lobby should he pro to a division. It should not, however, be forgotten that the Wise man—though, by the way, he was not exactly wise in everything—who had said "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging" had also said—Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more."—[Proverbs xxxi., 6–7.]
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he had to appeal to the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) with whom he entirely sympathized in the general object he had in view, not to press the House to a division after the debate that had taken place. He could not give his support to the Bill, and after that long and, he might add, fruitful discussion, he hoped he would consult that which appeared to be the general wish of the House—namely, withdraw the Bill; more especially as he had received the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department that the Government intend next Session to take up the question of the licensing system. Although the speech of the hon. Baronet was characterized by great ability and moderation, if had failed to remove the objections he entertained to the measure. He appealed to the House whether the whole of the hon. Baronet's speech did not point to total prohibition. The hon. Baronet had said that drunkenness was the great cause of crime and 682 pauperism; and he (Sir George Grey) could say he only differed with the hon. Baronet on that point as to a single word, because he could only admit it to be a source and not the source of pauperism and crime. They were all agreed that drunkenness was a great evil and productive of much crime; but, having listened to the whole of the debate, he had gathered that the opinion of the House was not in favour of absolute prohibition, and was not inclined to sanction the principle of this Bill, although it was not averse to some great change being made in the licensing system—a task the Government had announced its intention of taking up. He agreed with his right hon. Friend that the recent alteration in our representative system offered greater facilities than existed at any time that he remembered for dealing with this question; but what possible advantage could be gained by inducing a number of Gentlemen, who, if he was not mistaken, would be in a considerable minority, to pledge themselves to the principle of absolute prohibition, and thereby fetter them in the impartial consideration of the question when it should come in another shape before the House? The hon. Baronet had done good service in bringing the question forward; it stood now in a more favourable position than ever it did before; but all who had spoken in favour of the second reading, except one, had differed from him in some important particular. He trusted the hon. Baronet would see the expediency of adopting the suggestion that had been thrown out: and as no advantage could by any possibility accrue from dividing the House, he hoped he would refrain from doing so, and rest satisfied with the declaration he had elicited from the Government.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
, in reply, said, he did not in the slightest degree under-rate the importance of the announcement of the Home Secretary, who, if he understood him correctly, promised that in the measure to be brought forward by the Government at the commencement of next Session, very probably, a power would be inserted in the Bill giving the inhabitants the right to object to an extension of licensing in the opening of new public-houses.
said, what he meant to convey was that it would be necessary 683 to consider what restrictions might, or might not, with safety, be adopted. That, of course, would afford matter for the most anxious consideration.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, that was not the scope of the Bill he had submitted to the House. The new houses had done nobody any harm yet; the old ones had. He could not but thank his right hon. Friend for the manner in which he had spoken of the evils of drunkenness in the beginning of his speech; but he seemed to think there was a difficulty in giving to the ratepayers the power of prohibition, as the larger number, who were not rate-payers might differ in opinion and desire to have the public-houses. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) should be very glad to have a wider franchise, but he must take things as he found them, and at any rate, was the decision of the rate-payers more oppressive than the casting vote of one magistrate? His right hon. Friend had appealed to him to withdraw the Bill; he was fully aware of the good intentions of his right hon. Friend, but they all knew how many subjects would have to be dealt with during next Session, and the House, would forgive: him for saying there might be a slip between the cup and lip, and such an important measure even as that might be pushed out of the way. He did not think he should be doing his duty to those who took such an interest in the matter if he were not to ask the House to divide upon the principle of the measure. All he desired was that they should decide on the principle of the Bill, which was that licenses for public-houses and beer-shops should not be granted to those localities where there was a majority of two-thirds of the ratepayers and a strong public feeling against them.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 87; Noes 193: Majority 106.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.