§ Order for Second Reading, read.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that although the measure might not be approved in the same degree in the House as it was out-of-doors, yet he was sure every hon. Member of the House was quite in accord with him in desiring to attain the object at which the Bill aimed—namely, the mitigation or removal of the drunkenness which at present was the great curse of this country. His right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, on the last occasion when this question was debated, remarked that he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had erroneously described drunkenness as the greatest cause of our crime and pauperism; and the right hon. Gentleman suggested that it would have been better if he had said it was a great cause of our crime and pauperism. Well, he would be satisfied to adopt that definition, and would state his case on the ground that drunkenness was one of the causes of the crime and pauperism existing in this country. It was unnecessary to weary the House with many statistics, because, after all, they did not prove very much one way or the other. If intemperance were decreasing as was said, yet it was decreasing so slowly that it constituted a great evil, to which Parliament ought to direct its attention; for even if the drink consumed were nothing more than a luxury, it would be sad to see so enormous an amount of money spent upon it. Although he promised at the outset not to trouble the House with any statistics, he must confess that the advocates of the Bill were very much indebted to the researches of his hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass), who had caused a pamphlet to be published, showing that the capital invested in the drink traffic was no less than £117,000,000; while other statistics proved pretty clearly that the annual expenditure on strong drinks considerably exceeded £100,000,000. Now, he must say again he thought it truly lamentable such a sum should be expended by a country, the 918 people of which were so deeply imbued with pauperism. Then with regard to the statement that drunkenness was on the decline, he found that the judicial statistics for 1870 showed that there were 131,000 drunk and disorderly cases, as compared with 122,000 in the preceding year; in addition to those, he should ask the House to remember the immense proportion of other crimes caused directly or indirectly by drunkenness. His case was that the present law erred and was defective, because it placed a vast amount of temptation to drunkenness before the poorer classes. He did not say that the majority of his countrymen were drunkards, far from it; but there was a small minority who were totally unable to control their actions when temptations were put in their way, and who, yielding to the temptations placed before them, became a burden to themselves and a curse to the community. It was upon that ground he said the community had a right to interfere it was upon that ground he said he was justified—nay more, he was performing an absolute duty—in prosecuting his Bill. In his opinion, more harm was done by the so-called respectable houses than by low publichouses and beershops. No doubt, as was said by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse), if these temptations were removed, many people would suffer inconvenience by being deprived of the opportunity of gratifying their tastes; but this inconvenience would be as nothing compared with the benefit which would arise to the community from such temptations being removed from the mass of the people, for men would not be human beings if they did not endeavour to increase the consumption any article of which they were licensed to sell. Hence it was that, although their intentions might be of the very best, and though they hated drunkenness as much as he did, the keepers of publichouses did, in fact, contribute to the drunkenness of the country by carrying on a traffic which was 16 years ago described by The Edinburgh Review as "a public nuisance, particularly in its retail branches, physically, economically, and morally." He made no charge against the liquor sellers—indeed, he had seen reports of statements made at licensed victuallers' dinners to show that there was no class of traders in the country possessing a higher character; 919 but what he objected to was that these persons, who were the salt of the earth, specially selected by the magistrates on account of the loftiness of their moral character, should be engaged in a traffic the result of which was pauperism, misery, and degradation all over the country. That was not his opinion only; for he could cite, but that it might weary the House, a host of facts in support of his argument; but as it was, he would only mention a few. The House would remember that a few years ago a Committee of Convocation made inquiry into this subject, and, finding that sobriety and order reigned in districts in which the publichouses had been closed, reported in favour of the Permissive Bill. They had often heard, too, of what Sir Titus Salt had done in removing the temptations which existed in the midst of his manufacturing community at Saltaire, and the result was that the people all blessed him for what he had done, and trusted that he would never allow publichouses to be there again. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was speaking recently to an hon. Member of that House for one of the northern boroughs, who told him that in the neighbourhood of his works he had prohibited any publichouses being built near them, and the result was, that there was no finer class of workmen in the North of England than his; but the other day when he asked him how the system was working, he told him that another firm, close at hand, had set down some publichouses, and that his men were becoming demoralized and corrupted. Now, he said that it was a shame that such a thing should be permitted. They knew that in Scotland the success of local prohibition, wherever tried, was the same as in England; but he should like to make one statement concerning a large district in Ireland, but as the noble Lord opposite (Lord Claud Hamilton), who would probably second the Bill, would refer to it, he would merely say that over the very large territory which was represented by the noble Lord the prohibition system prevailed, and there comparative peace and prosperity reigned. He would only quote one other opinion, to contradict a statement which he saw in yesterday's Telegraph. In a leading article of that paper against this Bill, it was stated that prohibition had failed in America, 920 and that in the New England States it was dead; but what was the condition of things to-day? Why, the New England States, which were the most enlightened and refined of all the States in the Union, were the least likely to abandon the experiment. We were assured that prohibition in New England was dead. That was an anonymous statement; but the statement that he would give he had heard from the mouth of Mr. Gould, the United States' Consul at Birmingham, and it was stated at a public meeting—In the cause of education and temperance Maine is a leading State, for there was first enacted the Maine Law, which has since been extended in its leading features to all the New England States. The question is often asked, if that law is not a failure; and you can judge for yourselves when I state certain facts with which I am perfectly familiar. There are drunkenness and crime there; but the one is disgraceful, and but seldom seen among those who are considered respectable people; and crime is so lessened that only in a few of the largest towns is it necessary to maintain a police force. Windows are never closed with shutters at night, and there is a feeling of general security. Pauperism is confined to the young and helpless, or the old and feeble who are friendless. Many of the towns have no poorhouse or poor tax; and the whole State does not probably average more than two to a thousand of the inhabitants who are chargeable to the public. It may be considered oppressive to enact such laws; but a system which banishes the sickening scenes and the revolting crimes which are the results of drinking, which empties poorhouses and gives security to life and property without the omnipresence of police officers, is not especially objectionable in its repressiveness.He had heard Mr. Gould state that over about one-half of the Union the prohibitory law, in one shape or another, was on the Statute Book, and he could quote other authorities in support of the successful working of that law. He hoped, then, they would not be led away by any anonymous statements, even when they appeared in the paper which had the largest circulation in the world. The hon. Member for Leeds would no doubt refer to the ingenious modes by which the law was evaded in America, such as being asked to kiss the baby, to walk in and get your boots blacked, to come in and look at the striped pig; but the very fact of such evasions showed that the law was found to bear heavily upon persons who desired to indulge their vitiated taste for intoxicating drinks. The Home Secretary, in his speech the other day on the Licensing Bill, referring to a certain place in the North 921 of England where a landlord had tried to enforce prohibition and had failed, omitted to state that the landlord in question expressed the opinion that the evil would be remedied by the adoption of the Permissive Bill, "if such prohibition could be efficiently enforced."
The gentleman referred to finished his statement by giving a list of recommendations for the foundation of a Bill; but the proposals of the hon. Baronet were not among these.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, it might not be in his concluding recommendations, but it was in the body of his Paper. He might mention further that the place in question was as un-favourable a one as could be found for trying the experiment of enforcing prohibition, for it was inhabited by a class of people known as "Glasgow Irish," not the most reputable class, and possessed with an inordinate love of intoxicating liquors. In addition to that, the case to which the Home Secretary referred was one in which a single individual had sought to enforce prohibition; but he, on the other hand, sought only to prohibit the sale in cases where the majority of the ratepayers in a district were in favour of prohibition: in saying that, he would challenge the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Member for Leeds to bring forward any more instances of failure of prohibition, and for every one so brought forward, he would bring 20 instances of success. He did not propose to alter the existing machinery of licensing; he left that to hon. Gentlemen who had given attention to the question, and who believed in the principle of licensing, which he, for one, did not, and all he would say with regard to this branch of the subject was, that he would always support any Licensing Bill, the tendency of which was to increase the restrictions on the sale of intoxicating drinks. He might observe, however, that the Home Secretary had himself stated that the existence of Licensing Boards, resulting in the power being in the hands of the ratepayers, was likely to result in jobbery. He was much struck with the objection raised by Mr. Robertson Gladstone, of Liverpool, against free trade in licences—namely, that it would result in the nuisance of publichouses being planted in the immediate neighbourhood of the residences occupied by the upper classes. 922 Now, that was the whole tendency of a Licensing Bill—to keep the publichouses from the rich men, and set them down among the poor, and the working men. If that were so, let them place the licensing power in the hands of the poorer classes, and then an immediate outcry for a Permissive Bill would be raised among the upper classes, in order to save themselves from the nuisance to which Mr. Robertson Gladstone referred. The rich man could at present relieve himself from the disagreeableness of having to live near a publichouse by moving his residence, as a friend of his own had done; but the poor man, who must live close to the place of his daily work, could not do that. The magistrates, in granting licences, had three duties to perform: they had to consider (1) the character of the applicant; (2) the accommodation his house afforded; and (3) the wants of the neighbourhood. With the first two of these he did not propose to deal, but he wished simply to deprive the licensing body of the power they possessed in the third, to thrust publichouses upon unwilling neighbourhoods. That was the whole principle of his Bill; it was that, and nothing else. He would now say a word as to one of the details of his Bill. He proposed that in cases where a poll was taken, and two-thirds of the voters in a district failed to pronounce in favour of prohibition, the question might be raised again at the end of a year; but where the decision was in favour of prohibition, he would not allow another vote to be taken on the same issue for three years, in order that the experiment might be fairly tried. For the life of him he could not see why Parliament should object to that measure. It had already passed Permissive Bills in regard to health, cleanliness, and education of the people, but refused to extend the experiment to the question of drunkenness, which was at the root of most of the evils with which the law had to deal. Why could they not trust the working man? Many of the colonies had done so, and what was the objection here? Our whole demand is that you should not allow any body of men, especially irresponsible men, to thrust drinking places upon the people against their will. It might be said that if that Bill passed a large and profitable interest would be affected—namely, those who got their living by 923 the sale of beer; but he did not think anyone in that House would defend the system on that ground. The main reason urged against the principle of his Bill was that it would interfere unduly with the liberty of a minority of the people; but this would be far transcended by the infinite advantage of removing the temptation to drunkenness out of the way of the large body of the people. A statesman of the present day had, in one of the best speeches ever delivered in favour of the permissive principle, strongly maintained the principle of appealing to the ratepayers on matters affecting their interests, and urged that if this were done in regard to the sale of intoxicating drinks, it would tend to create in the minds of the lower classes—A strong public opinion; they would at once create among them that sort of feeling which among the upper classes of society had long made drunkenness disgraceful, which was rapidly also making it disgraceful among the working classes themselves, and which no longer permitted them to call a mere sot a good fellow, or to look upon the offence of drunkenness as merely venial. He was satisfied, therefore, that if they were to create a wholesome and vigorous public opinion on that subject, they must give the ratepayers of the country some direct interest in it, and that the wider spread that interest was, the greater would be the social advantage.That statesman was the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who opposed the Bill now before the House. On each of the four occasions when he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had brought this Bill before the House he had been met with the same answer—that the advancing education of the people would put everything to rights. On the last occasion it was added to the previous statement that Government were about to bring in a Bill which would have the desired effect, and, at the same time, conciliate all moderate men on both sides of the question. The result of this was the Licensing Bill, which, so far from attaining its object, had to be withdrawn; and, so far from conciliating everybody, procured for its author abuse from all sides, and from publicans the title of "Bruce the Communist," among many others of an equally complimentary character. He now came to the question of education; and he quite agreed, and indeed he would be the last man in the world to dispute the assertion that education would have an immense influence upon drinking, for if 924 people learnt not to drink too much, the object was gained. But it was self-control which had to be learnt; and he doubted if primary education was likely to give self-control, for it seemed to him as though some of the school boards required a little self-control themselves. Education, however, might make a change in time, by increasing the resources of the people; but it must be slow. Let your education be as good as it would, it must take years before children grew up, and when they got to that period—when they got all educated not to drink, they would not want a Permissive Bill. The people would be good and virtuous without it; he did not even know they would require a House of Commons; but until that time came they ought to remove temptation, and, as the Home Secretary had said, the working classes were united in calling upon Parliament to deliver them from temptation. It was on their behalf that he brought in that Bill—not to prevent them from running into temptation, but for the purpose of preventing temptation being thrust upon them. He would be sorry if it were supposed for a moment that he was opposing any and every scheme for improving the licensing system. He only said that his Bill, poor and incomplete though it was, would enable perhaps the people of a few places here and there, where drunkenness existed, to get clear of the evil; and it did seem hard that the people of a few country places where they were ready for it—for the Bill might possibly have no immediate application or effect in London, Manchester, Leeds, and other such places—should not be allowed the privilege of putting the measure in force. Although he did not, as a rule, attach too much value to them, he was glad to find that the Petitions in support of his Bill were very numerous indeed. Last year his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) threw a great slur upon them, and he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) dared say he did not now think the Petitions of the licensed victuallers of much value. In the year 1864, Petitions were presented to Parliament in favour of the Permissive Prohibitory Bill signed by nealy 500,000 persons; in 1869, the Petitions in the same behalf bore 800,000 signatures; and in 1870, when we had a very short time to work, 280,000 persons petitioned in fa- 925 vour of the measure. He did not know what they had got this year; but it was a fact that altogether upwards of 3,000 Petitions had been presented already. It seemed to him that the country really was weary of its growing and increasing pauperism; and the people must be astonished when they saw hon. Gentlemen of the greatest ability and energy on both sides of the House sitting up until the small hours in the morning, ably discussing how paupers were to be maintained, simply shifting the burden from the shoulders of one to those of another, and doing absolutely nothing to check the cause of all their trouble. The Licensing Bill had been withdrawn—he did not think there was much chance of the second Bill that had been promised—and, therefore, it was a question between his Bill, imperfect as it was, or nothing; and he warned the Home Secretary that if he opposed the Bill before the House he would be regarded as almost the greatest opponent of reform in the present Session. Very likely he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would be left that day in a small minority; but if hon. Members looked at the history of the movement they would see that it had advanced steadily though slowly through ridicule, misrepresentation, and abuse to its present position. The other day he had the great astisfaction of reading in the leading journal of this country an expression of opinion that those who supported the principle of his Bill were substantially in the right. And this expression came at the end of a series of articles more telling, convincing, and able in favour of prohibition than any he had ever seen in this country. He would now point out some of the minor advantages to be derived from passing this Bill to the fact that hon. Members would be spared the annoyance of receiving and presenting Petitions, of meeting deputations of their constituents, or having to account from the hustings for their vote in opposition to the measure; the Home Secretary would be spared the presence of the deputations who occasionally waited upon and bullied him at his Office; and the House generally would be spared the agony of having to listen periodically to his tiresome speech. And in addition to these, those who opposed the Bill might possibly have the satisfaction of seeing the Act fail, as they had many a time 926 predicted it would. Whatever might be the present result, however, the ultimate termination of the controversy was certain, and he, pleading on behalf of the poor and wretched, asked hon. Members of that, the first Household Suffrage Parliament, to pass this Bill quietly, and so bring innumerable blessings on the class which had elected them, instead of leaving the question to be settled in some hustings' fight, amid the heated tumult of party strife. It was because he believed that the Bill would go some length in removing the evils of which he had spoken that he now very respectfully presented it to the notice of the House. In conclusion, he begged to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE moved, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. The hon. Baronet said that the people would have their way. He quite agreed with that; but if the hon. Baronet supposed that the "way" of the people of the country was in favour of passing this Bill, he was much mistaken. When the hon. Baronet said that the Bill came from the wretched, the poor, and the destitute, he (Mr. Wheelhouse) admitted that there might be some wretched, and poor, and destitute who preferred the Permissive Prohibitory Bill; but was the House to legislate for that section of the poor, and the wretched, and the destitute, and for no other, for that was practically what his hon. Friend desired? Was it to be supposed that the people of this country, polled man for man throughout the length and breadth of the land, would say that they were, as a body, prepared to give up, in matters appertaining to their domestic and personal habits, to the majority of any parish or township? He was one of those who detested permissive legislation. He believed it was bad from beginning to end. Where legislation was good for the country the responsibility ought to be in the hands of the House of Commons, and it was not right to leave it to small bodies about the country to say that a man should not drink 927 a glass of beer or a glass of wine if he liked. With regard to the question of Petitions, he would just say that he attached more importance to the Petitions of those who had, unsolicited, opposed the Licensing Bill, than to the Petitions in favour of the present measure, which had been got up by a powerful society, with ramifications spreading over the whole country. It was also worthy of remark that he had only that morning received a Petition against the Bill from Saltaire, a place the example of which the hon. Baronet quoted in support of the second reading of his Bill. He knew nothing of that other district in Ireland which had been mentioned; but he knew something of a district in the neighbourhood of Carlisle which was not a perfect Arcadia. The villagers there resident might have to go a long way for their drink, but they did go, and, although the hon. Member for Carlisle might be kept in ignorance of what was done in this respect, drink was obtained in that district; and it would be obtained in other districts, even if the law were as the hon. Member would have it, for it would be sold illicitly. He imagined an attempt in his own parish, 22 miles long by 2½ broad, to render the compulsory clauses operative; and suggested that 10 earnest teetotallers might meet in a small room in a secluded part of the parish, and prohibit the sale of liquors throughout the whole district of 50 square miles in extent, and inhabited by 30,000 people. That was neither just nor sensible. He next deprecated the measures taken by the promoters of the Bill to excite the public in its favour, and especially condemned the publication of a blasphemous parody on the Lord's Prayer, entitled "The Publican's Prayer," which had been placarded all over Bradford. [The hon. Member exhibited the placard, and was met by cries of "Read," but said he would rather not unless it was the wish of the House. On the cries of "Read" being renewed, he read the first sentence, "Our father which art in hell," and stated that the whole of the prayer was parodied in like manner.] When such expedients as these were used by the promoters of the Bill—["No, no,"]—he argued that their case must be indeed bad. In reply to those who cried "No," he said that it was not only a fact that the Bill was placarded all over Brad- 928 ford, but that he knew who had caused it to be put there. ["Name!"] He declined to name the person; the matter was in the hands of the justices. Let the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle and the hon. Member for Leeds take the matter in hand and urge the justices to take action. Some persons were so earnest in their support of a measure as to be indiscreet, and others, though not indiscreet themselves, supported those who were, or, at least, were not loth to profit by the proceedings of their indiscreet companions. There was another matter. The House had been told that pauperism grew, and that this was to be attributed wholly and entirely to drink; but he apprehended that the result might be as well attributed to policy. Other things than drink produced pauperism and crime. But if drink alone produced pauperism and crime, were they to say that in the whole parish those who were neither paupers nor criminals should be prohibited from having a glass of beer? Who were the hon Members who would say to him—"You shall not have your glass of beer?" He did not himself drink much; but he felt strongly inclined to resist any attempt that might be made by anyone to prohibit by domestic legislation his eating, his drinking, or his dressing. What would be thought of a sumptuary law prohibiting the eating of beef? He might be told that a great deal of mischief attended the drinking of beer, which did not follow the eating of beef. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle thought the drinking of beer baneful. [Sir WILFRID LAWSON: I did not say it was painful.] He would express a hope that hon. Members who were anxious to prohibit drinking would begin by abstaining from their beer and their wine themselves. Let them shut up the clubs in Pall Mall, and let them close their own cellars, and not commence by closing the publichouses, which were, in fact, the clubs of the working men. They had been told that in a large portion of America the Maine Liquor Law had been extremely successful. But the House must recollect that this was not a Permissive Bill. Had this Bill worked well? In what position did it stand at this moment? In how many of the States of America was there a Permissive Prohibitory Bill? Some hon. Mem- 929 bers, he admitted, were genuine tee-totallers; but they were precious few and far between, and he asked whether the practice of individual Members was not a very good idea of the state of feeling throughout the country on this subject? He ventured to say that, if the first 20 men one would meet between the House and Charing Cross were asked whether they would have the sale of liquor stopped, they would all answer "No" in a most emphatic manner. [Sir WILFRID LAWSON: Hear!] If that was the hon. Member's opinion, on what grounds did he press for his measure? He assured him that if he polled the men throughout any of those districts whence favourable Petitions had come, he would find those Petitions absolutely worthless as an index of public opinion. It had always been an incomprehensible thing to him how it came to pass that the House of Commons would not let people alone, but was always imagining that somebody wanted legislating for. Believing that this measure at least was not wanted by the country, that it must remain a dead letter if passed, and that it was unjustifiable on every principle of legislation which had guided the House hitherto, he would move that it 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."—(Mr. Wheelhouse.)
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
contended that this was a measure which was very much wanted. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Wheelhouse) had told them that he feared that much greater evils than now existed would ensue if this Bill passed, inasmuch as beer would be sold surreptitiously in various parts of the country. Such might be a possible result; but by raising that objection the hon. Member acknowledged that the main evil which the Bill attempted to grapple with would be effectually secured. Then the hon. Member showed that the Bill would possibly be brought into operation by small packed meetings; but the notion was perfectly ludicrous, for every publicity must be given before the Motion was submitted to the ratepayers. Where the permissive system had been allowed fair play it had worked extremely well; for 930 instance, in the county of Tyrone, which he had the honour to represent, there was a district containing 10,000 inhabitants who had put themselves under the provisions of the Permissive Bill, and the result had been, first, the gradual extinction of every publichouse without any complaint of hardship, and then the removal of the police stations, morality and well-being had largely increased, no person had complained of any hardship, and there had been a remarkable decrease in the number of offences. The hon. Gentleman had also endeavoured to prove that the measure of the hon. Member for Carlisle was calculated to prohibit the use of beer. Now he was surprised that the hon. Member should have made such an insinuation, for he had admitted that drunkenness and pauperism were closely connected, but had stated that it was not his business to correct the evil. But the hon. Member, as a Member of the Legislature, ought to consider it his duty to endeavour to do his utmost to prevent drunkenness and pauperism. The amount spent in drink in 1869 was about £3 13s. per head or £112,000,000, whilst the amount spent on clothing was only 6s. per head; and in 1869, the number of paupers was 1,010,000; whilst in 1870, the number was 1,286,500, showing an increase of 271,500. The increase of pauperism had a close relation to the amount of money spent in drink, as was shown by the fact, that the increase of money spent in drink of late years had been in the ratio of 29 per cent, and the increase in pauperism had been 25 per cent, whilst the increase of poor and police rates had been 44 per cent. These were grave matters, which required the serious attention of the Legislature. With respect to the liquor law in America, Mr. M'Crae, who had written a work on the subject, stated that if the majority were not entirely in favour of the permissive principle legislation was useless; but where they were favourable to such legislation it had been attended with the best results. It had been stated that where the Maine Law was in force, all sorts of means were used to evade it; but no one could doubt that it tended to remove the temptation which was thrown in the way of those who desired to have such temptation removed. He was surprised at the attempt which had been made by the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheel- 931 house) to connect the promoters of the present Bill with the blasphemous publication to which he had referred. Such an attempt was unworthy of the hon. Member, and nothing could be more indiscreet than the attempt to establish a connection between the parties who had issued that Bill and the friends of the permissive movement, and he was quite convinced that the hon. Member for Carlisle had nothing whatever to do with the publication. Since the withdrawal of the Licensing Bill of the Government, he (Lord Claud Hamilton) had received the most urgent requests from Ireland to support the Permissive Bill. It was admitted on all hands that great mischief and immorality had been caused by the prevalence of intoxication; but many of the parties making that admission had not made any proposition for curing the evils of which they complained. What had been the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary with regard to the licensing system? Three years ago the right hon. Gentleman admitted the best-conducted and most intelligent of the working classes were in favour of some legislation on the subject, and said that Parliament ought to assist them in their endeavour to cure the evil which existed, and last year the right hon. Gentleman pledged himself to deal with the subject, and promised the introduction of a measure at the earliest practicable period in the present Session. He stated that it would be well if effect were given to the public feeling, and that no pecuniary considerations ought to deter Parliament from legislating on the matter; and in his speech on the Licensing Bill, he summarized all the arguments in favour of legislation in the most able manner, and the right hon. Gentleman stated that all classes admitted the evils which arose from the use of intoxicating liquors. It was impossible for anyone to have used stronger arguments in favour of legislation on the subject, and it was a matter of regret that he did not appear to be able to see his way to provide any effective remedy. He could assure the House, with regard to Ireland, that no subject occupied the public mind to so great an extent, and even last year, when the land question was before the House, he received great numbers of letters on the subject. Now, when the public mind was so much occupied, and so many thousands of persons 932 were praying for the adoption of some remedy for the evil which had been caused by legislation in relation to the Beer Acts, he considered it the duty of Parliament to remedy the evils which it had created.
§ MR. PIM
* said, he desired to mention that he had a Petition signed by 10,000 citizens of Dublin in favour of the Bill, but it was then, he understood, too late to present it. He agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone (Lord Claude Hamilton) as to the public feeling which existed in Ireland on the subject of the Bill. He had received many Petitions in its favour and a great number of letters urging him to do all he could to support it—In order to accomplish the overthrow of an accursed traffic which caused more sin and misery among the Irish population than all other causes put together.He might further mention that he had received a memorial some time since in favour of the Bill, signed by 3,200 electors, or about one-fourth of the whole constituency of Dublin; and a public meeting had lately been held there to express approval of its object, at which the chairman stated that nearly 3,000 persons of all ranks—but principally of the humbler classes, had attended, while a large number were unable to obtain admission. No doubt, Petitions in favour of the measure were got up through the instrumentality and organizations of societies. That was true; but it was equally true that these Petitions were signed with a hearty goodwill. Now, he brought these facts before the House to show the strong feeling which existed on this question in Ireland; and it was in consequence of that feeling that he considered himself bound to show substantial reason why he could not support the measure. He yielded to no one in his desire to see the evil of drunkenness diminished, and he fully agreed with the promoters of this measure as to the necessity for lessening the number of publichouses, in the hope of lessening that consumption of intoxicating liquors which prevailed so injuriously among all classes of the community, but more especially among the poorer classes. The Bill was an attempt to meet this great evil, and, therefore, as he agreed with its object, and as he felt that the subject was one which imperatively called for the attention of the House, he had never voted 933 against it, and he would not do so on this occasion either; still, he could not vote for it, for the reasons which he would now state to the House. The main principle of the Bill was to give control to the ratepayers, and with that principle he agreed to a large extent. He thought it would be right to give a control to the ratepayers as well as to the licensing justices. In his judgment, no man ought to be entitled to set up a publichouse close to another man's house without the latter having some power either to approve or to disapprove of its establishment. In London he had certainly seen publichouses close beside noblemen's mansions; but in Ireland they were not considered such agreeable neighbours; and if one was about to be to set up near to a mansion of that class the owner would use a great deal of influence to prevent the licence being granted, and when he went the right way to work he was generally successful. The poor man ought to possess the same control. The Bill, however, proposed to do a great deal more in a way of control, and it was because of the unlimited power which it would confer, that he felt compelled to refuse his support to the measure. He objected to the Bill in the first place, because he considered it to be essentially unjust. Those who possessed licences for years had a vested interest in the trade for which those licences were granted; and he objected to give to any majority of ratepayers the power to put them out of business and deprive them of their vested interests, without giving them fair and adequate compensation. In the second place, he regarded the Bill as utterly inefficient for the object it was proposed to effect. It was only in those places where it was least required that it had any chance of being put into operation. In those places where legislation was most required it would not be acted upon at all; and there things would remain in the same condition as they are now. What was really required was better supervision and control on the part of the authorities, as well as a large diminution of the number of publichouses. But even supposing that the Bill should prove effective, he maintained that this was not a matter in which the majority had a right to rule the minority. It would be a dangerous power to give to a majority, even of two- 934 thirds of the ratepayers. America had been pointed to as a precedent; but in that country power was in many cases possessed by the majority, which he hoped never would be vested in the hands of a majority in England. The power of the majority ruling the minority in a good cause might be used as a very dangerous precedent, when the object proposed to be achieved was not so good. The Bill gave no power to lessen the number of houses at which strong drink was sold, except by shutting them up altogether. Where it would not work completely it would do nothing. It would leave the present houses undiminished in number, and unregulated as at present. There was no closing on Sundays, no shortening of the hours on other days of the week. Was that what was really wanted? But the Bill proposed, where it did come into operation, to stop all trade. It interfered not only with the trade of licensed retail houses, but it went much further. It interfered not merely with ordinary publichouses, where liquor was sold for consumption on the premises, but with the wholesale trade, and with the retail sale of liquor under cork or seal, where there had not previously existed any supervision beyond that which was necessary for the purposes of excise or revenue. He asked, in all seriousness, could Parliament think of passing such a law as would in a large town or city, like the City of London, for instance, impede the free action of all wholesale and retail traders? That, in his opinion, would be a most dangerous measure, and one which the House was not likely to agree to. It was admitted by the supporters of the Bill that it would be inoperative in large towns, so that they were practically ask to legislate only in respect of rural and suburban districts. Now, suppose it was brought into operation in such districts. He would take the case of Dublin. If the system of prohibition were to be carried out in the suburbs of that city, the result would be that those who lived in the outskirts and wished to get strong drink would go into the city for it. This would increase the drinking in each of the large towns, and any increase of immorality in the large towns and cities must re-act most injuriously on the country. There were those who denied that any legislation on this subject was required—who said 935 that men could not be made either sober religious by Act of Parliament. No doubt that was the case, but it was possible to promote immorality by Acts of Parliament; and he maintained that much of the legislation on this subject had had that effect, and it was necessary now, for the welfare of the community, to amend this legislation. He had already said that he thought there was no probability of the Bill being carried into operation extensively; but the attempt to do so would produce much confusion, and would give rise to local contests, constantly renewed, producing irritation and ill-feeling. This, and the systematic evasion of the law, which would certainly ensue, would neutralize the benefits expected from the Bill. He had been strongly pressed to vote for this Bill, not only by some of his constituents, but also by his own family connections, and by many whom he esteemed very highly, and whose views and opinions had much weight with him. It was painful to him to find that he could not act in conformity with their wishes. He thoroughly sympathized with the object which the Bill was intended to effect, and therefore he would not give a vote against the second reading; but he could not support a measure which he considered unjust and unconstitutional, and which he believed would, if it became law, prove wholly inefficient.
SIR HENRY SELWTN-IBBETSON
said, he had always before this abstained from voting on the measure of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), from the feeling that so long as there was no attempt to grapple with the licensing system as a whole, any measure attempting to deal with acknowledged evils ought to be considered carefully by that House; but they were now on a different footing, for in the Licensing Bill of the Government they had an attempt, for the first time, to deal with the whole system of our licensing laws, and though that Bill had been withdrawn, yet they knew from the position of those laws, and the disturbed state of the trade caused by the uncertainty which existed as to what future legislation might be, that next Session must see, either from the Government or some private Member, a final settlement of this question. He deprecated, therefore, seeing a Bill of the ort now before the House pass, which 936 would fetter the action of the House by laying down a particular principle on which that licensing measure must be founded, before the measure was before them; more especially as the means proposed to effect the object aimed at were wholly unfitted for the purpose. The complaints of the public regarding the present licensing system were two-fold: first, as to the amount of drunkenness and consequent crime; and, secondly, that the present action of the police force in boroughs did not always properly carry out any licensing system which existed. On the other side, they must not shut their eyes to the complaints of the trade against the unequal action of the magisterial authority, in the Courts of Petty Sessions throughout the country, and the partial administration of the law in many instances by the police themselves. All these were points deserving careful consideration before any measure on the subject could be passed so as to give satisfaction to the country; and he must say that the Bill of the hon. Member for Carlisle did not do away with any one of these complaints. One of the great objections to it was, that in one of its provisions, giving power to the majority, in certain cases, of the ratepayers of a district to close all the publichouses within the area, it dealt only with those parts of the community which were good, whilst, where the majority consisted of bad men who refused to apply the principle of the Bill, it did not deal with them at all. They should begin with the parts of the community which they had most to complain of. He further objected to it, because it would take them out of the legitimate course of dealing with questions of this kind, and they would be legislating to restrict those who carried out the laws properly, because a minority were helplessly unable to restrain themselves; and besides, wherever great restrictive powers of this kind were given, they generally found they were thereby creating inducements to violate the law. The moment the power of regulating the drinking customs was overstrained and rendered oppressive he feared smuggling would be produced, and that the large evasions of the law which would be brought about would be very difficult to correct. And that conviction was strengthened by a fact which had come to his knowledge within the last few 937 weeks, and which had arisen from the attempt of Government to deal with the question of the licensing system. There had arisen—and he grieved to say it, because it might be used as a great instrument against those who were doing their very best to legislate in this matter—what were called, and what were very valuable in themselves, when not used for purposes of evasion, workmen's clubs, which were being largely established in some towns. They were started by publicans, who had been refused a licence, with small subscriptions given by working men, and for those there were no police regulations, and the hours were unlimited, while drinking could be carried on at any hour during all the days of the week, including Sundays. If these should increase rapidly, the fact was one well worthy of consideration when dealing with violent restrictive measures like that proposed by the hon. Member for Carlisle. Again, looking at the clauses of the Bill, he thought that Clause 9, giving power to the ratepayers to create a district where licences should not exist for three years, would involve great difficulty in the carrying of it out. He did not think anyone could contemplate with satisfaction the continual disturbances and animosities which the proposed restrictive power would create, for not only would there be disturbances, and constant canvassing to get the power introduced, but when it became law in any district it was open to the majority at a future time to reverse the decision, and to declare that licences should be again granted. Now, his desire was to eradicate houses which were not well conducted; but if they created houses which were allowed to exist for one year and which were abolished the next, they would be creating houses which would not have any capital invested in them, and which could not come under the restrictions as to rateable value they should like to see applied to houses of this kind generally. A Bill of this sort sinned, therefore, very gravely against the trade throughout the country, because it would keep the trade in a constant state of agitation in every district; whereas in dealing with a question of this kind, which involved Imperial interests, Parliament would only be justified in introducing a comprehensive measure which would put it to rest for some time to 938 come. There were some parts of the late Government Bill of which he approved, such, for instance, as those by which it was proposed to raise the rateable value of the houses in which intoxicating liquors were sold, and to revise the police regulations, for it was of the greatest importance that the number of licensed houses throughout the country should be reduced by degrees. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had stated that since 1869—the year in which the Wine and Beerhouse Act was passed—there had been an increase of convictions for drunkenness in large towns. From inquiries which he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had made into the working of that Act, he found that this might be accounted for by the fact that its effect was to put bad houses down; their customers were thus driven to better localities, the inhabitants of which would not tolerate drunkenness; and the police were forced to effect a greater number of arrests than before. In many places the diminution of drunkenness since 1869 was remarkable. According to the police returns, it appeared that in 1869 and 1870, out of 61,893 publichouses, 3,152 were convicted, or 1 in every 19½ and out of 46,298 beerhouses 6,371 were convicted, or 1 in every 7½ but in 1870 and 1871, out of 62,587 publichouses 2,736 were convicted, or 1 in every 22; and out of 43,645 beerhouses, 3,336 were convicted, or 1 in every 13. Colonel Cobbe, the Inspector of the Eastern and Midland Division for 1871, said, that many of the reports showed that the Beerhouse Act had been, and is likely to be very beneficial in its effects. The police were of opinion that its influence had tended in some places to lessen crime; in others, several houses of doubtful repute had been suppressed, and the beerhouses had been better conducted. Colonel Cobbe was so forcibly struck by the sudden decrease of crime in Luton, as shown by the books, that when informed by the intelligent superintendent that he attributed it to the operation of the Beerhouse Act, he asked for particulars of information, which were given in the following note:—Return of the number of beerhouses, together with the number of felonies committed in the town of Luton, with a population by Census of 1861 of 17,800 (and at the present time of nearly double that number) for seven 939 months, in the years 1867,1868, 1369, and 1870:—Beerhouses.—On April 30, 1867, 52; ditto, 1868, 55; ditto, 1869, 49; ditto, 1870, 39. Felonies.—From October, 1866, to April, 1867, 55; ditto, 1867, to ditto, 1868, 61; ditto, 1868, to ditto, 1869, 62; ditto, 1869, to ditto, 1870, 18. Other offences have decreased in the like proportion.The following is the report of Mr. W. P. Elgee, Inspector, Northern Division, Inspection for 1871:—In the course of my inspection I found a very general opinion entertained as to the satisfactory working of the Beerhouse Act. It was stated that since its passing, the licensed houses, the beerhouses especially, had been conducted in a more orderly manner than before, and a marked improvement had taken place in the state of the streets at night, and particularly on Sunday mornings.As to Manchester, Chief Constable Palin reported that there was a decrease in the number of persons proceeded against for drunkenness this year amounting to 327, from a total of 9,503, and, considering that for the previous five years the number increased at the rate of about 20 per cent per annum, the decrease, though slight, was remarkable. The noble Lord (Lord Claud Hamilton), in seconding the Motion for the second reading, had said that the Maine Liquor Law had failed where coercion was attempted; if so, it was a strong argument against that Bill, which, if it were anything at all, was a coercive measure. The hon. Baronet contended that the efforts to diminish drunkenness should be gradual and well considered; but he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) believed that this Bill would lead to constant strife and division, and that a Bill which would proceed not aggressively, but with a view gradually to improve and raise the standard of the licensed houses by police regulations, and by a limitation of the hours, so that the licensing system might be more orderly and respectable, would do more good than any violent attempt to interfere with the liberty of the great mass of the people of this country. For that reason, although he did not yield to anybody in his desire to suppress the evils of drunkenness, he was unable to support the Bill of the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, that at his first election for the borough of Southwark he had the honour of receiving a deputation from some of his constituents on the subject of the Permissive Bill, and on perusing it he did not hesitate to 940 tell them that, in his opinion, it was a most ridiculous Bill. The eloquence and energy of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had since been enlisted in its favour, and that hon. Baronet now told the House that the Bill, if passed, would have no effect whatever. [Sir WILFRID LAWSON: What I said was, that the Bill might possibly have no effect.] Then he wished to know why the hon. Baronet should come down to the House to torture hon. Members, year after year, with this Bill? Why should he deem it necessary to come down there to torture, for example, the senior Member for Dublin (Mr. Pim), and other Members who could not make up their minds on which side they should vote in order to please both sides of their constituents, and who ultimately resolved, perhaps, not to vote at all? That was a very uncomfortable state of things, and he should, therefore, ask the hon. Baronet to give up this practice of coming down annually to the House with a measure that was certain to make such hon. Members miserable—and, moreover, a measure which he admitted could possibly have no effect. If any hon. Member had seriously considered the very first clause of the Bill, he must see that it could not possibly have any effect, at all events in this Metropolis or the other large towns of this kingdom; and as this Metropolis represented some 3,000,000 of souls, that, surely, was a fact worthy of consideration in a measure which professed to be one for the good of the whole country. It could not be operative within any borough of the Metropolis. It might just possibly come into effect in some metropolitan parish; but then what would be the effect of it if it did shut the publichouses in such particular parish? Why the only effect would be to send all the people who wanted to drink into the adjoining parishes, creating, in consequence, the utmost inconvenience, confusion, and annoyance. It was much to be regretted that the Home Secretary had not introduced a measure which might have decided the great question at issue. He concurred in the views expressed by the hon. Member for Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) that it was only by encouraging well-regulated houses that they could hope gradually to make an improvement in the system. What was the evidence given in respect to the 941 closing of publichouses on Sunday in Glasgow? Why, that drunkenness had increased to a great extent, and that persons resorted to secret places where they could drink all day, without check or hindrance. Did the hon. Baronet suppose that if he carried his measure people would not drink at all? Of course they would; and he would recommend the hon. Baronet to recall to his recollection the old phrase—sic utere tuo ut alienum non lœdas. They would, if driven to it by this measure, or some similar one, establish—and they were at present actually establishing—clubs, and one case had been brought within his knowledge in which a person who had been refused a licence was now the manager of a club carried on in the very same house which was frequented by hundreds of members and visitors as members' friends, without any restriction as to days or hours. The supporters of this Bill would perhaps say they would put them down. [Mr. MUNDELLA: No, no!] Well, then, they were to remain up, and if they were to remain up, what was to prevent their becoming, in the face of the Permissive Bill, the most gigantic publichouses ever seen on the face of the earth? That was, he supposed, to be one of the beneficial points of the legislation of the new Member for Sheffield, who was so anxious to set them all right on everything; but he would recommend the hon. Gentleman, and those who supported the measure, to look a little before they spoke, and not ask Parliament on this question to jump from the frying-pan into the fire. He entertained the same opinion now that he did when the Bill was proposed 14 years ago—that it was a most ridiculous and would prove a most unworkable Bill. He wished that as many Members as possible would vote on that occasion in order to show its promoters how the land really lay; and he trusted that there would be such an expression of opinion on the subject as would have the effect of deterring the hon. Baronet from troubling the House again.
§ MR. CADOGAN
said, his constituents took a prominent and very decided position in the discussion of this question, and, in accordance with their opinion on the subject, the vote which he was going to give in favour of the Bill, was one, he confessed, he would give with considerable reluctance; but a large body of his 942 constituents were working men receiving good wages, who earnestly prayed to be relieved from the incubus of this temptation to drunkenness. He would vote for the Bill, as he said, with great reluctance, because he believed that it would prove inoperative; and because the Bill was deficient in the means of obtaining the opinion of the ratepayers, and was particularly so in not providing a proper machinery for compensation to houses suppressed under its enactment. He most cordially concurred in the principle of the Bill, and it was that principle which he wished to recognize in the giving of his vote, for those houses against which this Bill was aimed were the canker-worm and festering sore of this country. The action of the licensed victuallers, and the pressure which they had brought to bear upon Her Majesty's Ministers in reference to this question, struck him as not being free from reproach. They had no right to fight their battles by means which they should be ashamed to recognize in that House; for instance, a certain pamphlet published recently on the Licensing Bill of the Government bore a strong family likeness to the opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines). In that pamphlet it was said—"It is the right of a Government to restrain crime, but it was not the function of the Government to control vice." Now, if it were not the function of the Government to control vice, where, he asked, was legislation to begin, and where was it to end? It appeared to him that they were bound to restrain vice in every possible way; and Parliament ought not to leave the industrious classes exposed to the despotism of a tyrant trade like that of the licensed victuallers. When people saw that incomes of more than £100,000 a-year were realized by brewers, the natural conclusion was that this could be done only by an undue consumption of liquor, and therefore they asked that by some mechanism or other they should have a control over the amount of drink that might be consumed in each district.
§ MR. T. E. SMITH
said, America had been frequently referred to in the course of this debate, and as he had been in that country last year he might say a few words with regard to it. Several States in America had adopted liquor laws that differed very materially. As 943 to the State of Massachusetts, he did not deny that there was considerable evasion of the law in that State; but it was evasion of the most open character. He had never been asked to "kiss a baby" or to "look at a striped pig;" but when anyone went into the bar, he would see a notice that no liquor was to be sold, and when he gave his money to a man on one side of the bar, a man on the other side would give him his drink. But in the small towns of Massachusetts, such as Lowell and Worcester, a very different state of things existed; for publichouses did not exist at all, and the working classes, and especially Irish labourers, who received from 20s. to 25s. per week in wages, lived in better houses than those inhabited by English artizans; their wives were well-dressed, their children well-fed and cared for, and their gaols all but empty, pauperism and crime having diminished, to the lowest point. There could be no doubt that drunkenness was increasing in this country; for though the number of teetotallers had very much swelled of late years, the consumption of intoxicating liquors had also increased to a very large extent. As to the objection urged against this measure, that it would give effect to the tyranny of the majority, it should be borne in mind that all legislation was based on that principle. He hoped the second reading of the Bill would be agreed to, and that the House would show its readiness to assist the sober, steady, and self-controlled portion of the working classes in removing the evil of drunkenness from the country.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, the hon. Member for Cricklade (Mr. Cadogan), and other advocates of the Bill, had so shifted their ground that it was not very clear what part of the measure they supported. Every Member of that House felt deeply the misery which was brought on the country by the present state of things; but the real point of difference was as to the means which should be adopted to grapple with the evil, and he would appeal to hon. Members to put aside all by-views attempted to be instilled into them by the great agitation of the last fortnight; the question was much too solemn for any such influences. There was scarcely an hon. Member that had not had the strongest appeals made to him on the subject, but the Bill ought to be judged on its own merits; and on 944 them, he confessed, he felt several objections to the measure; for instance, take a town of 30,000 inhabitants, and on what grounds of justice could 10,000 of those inhabitants be deprived of the use of intoxicating drinks at the will of the other 20,000? Then was it just that no compensation should be allowed for the houses that might be closed by two-thirds of the ratepayers? No good could come from a measure stamped by such injustice. More than that, was it wise to lay the foundation in each town or parish throughout the country of a system of agitation which would probably tend more than anything else to separate class from class; the ministers of religion, the zealous philanthropists, and a small band of operatives being on one side, and the great body of the working classes on the other. Finally, it was a matter of the greatest importance that the holders of publichouses should be men of high character and respectability. He had known many publicans who had done more to put down drunkenness than half the philanthropists with whom he was acquainted. Now, were they likely to get men of character to conduct publichouses for the future if liable to be turned out every year? It would be quite otherwise, and they would find the trade handed over to men of straw. From the experience he had picked up in Scotland and elsewhere, he believed that by such a Bill as this, secret drinking would be seriously increased, and if the number of houses for secret drinking was multiplied and the law systematically evaded, nothing could tend more to demoralize the national character. Before sitting down, he must say that every friend of the working classes must feel greatly indebted to the Home Secretary for having attempted to deal with the liquor trade in a comprehensive spirit; but here he must stop, because he believed the right hon. Gentleman, by withdrawing the Bill at an unfortunate moment, had most unwillingly done a serious injury to those who were trying to settle the question. Many on that (the Conservative) side were willing to assist the Government in passing a good sound measure, and with that object had resisted great pressure from influential quarters; but that unlucky 10 years' clause made it hopeless to try to carry the Bill. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman, having abandoned the 945 10 years' clause, had not come forward resolutely and said that he would proceed with the Bill. Had he done so, there was no doubt that hon. Members would have given many a Morning Sitting to settle so important a question. There was one suggestion which he would make to the right hon. Gentleman, and that was whether it would not be well to introduce a Suspensory Bill, to forbid the granting of any further licences, for every fresh licence meant fresh compensation. It would be no hardship to anybody to introduce such a Bill, and thereby a pledge would be given, both to the Permissive Bill organization and to the country, that the Government would next year deal with this grave, solemn, and important question.
§ MR. B. SAMUELSON
said, he wished to explain why he should support this Bill now, notwithstanding that he had opposed it on previous occasions. The fact was that the Home Secretary had placed him in a dilemma by withdrawing the Government Licensing Bill without offering any assurance that the principle of placing some amount of control in the hands of the ratepayers would be carried out in the partial measure which he proposed to substitute. Now, that principle was carried out in the Bill of the hon. Baronet, and he was prepared to give it his hearty support. Considering that Parliament had been told by the Government that it was impossible to leave the licensing power in the hands of the magistrates, and that in some districts of the country there was a publichouse for every 60 inhabitants, or for every 12 bread winners, he could not allow such a state of inaction on the part of the Government to continue without offering a protest against it, and he should offer that protest by recording his vote in favour of this Bill. At the same time, he did not think the Bill, as it stood, was practicable, or was supported in its details by any one of the hon. Members whose names appeared on the back of it, except the hon. Baronet who moved its adoption.
§ SIR DOMINIC CORRIGAN
said, he opposed the Bill, which was a better course than not voting at all, and if his conduct did not please either side, he should, at all events, have the satisfaction of pleasing himself. He was as anxious as anyone to promote the cause of temperance, but he did not think this 946 Bill would have any good effect in that direction; indeed, it was more likely to have a contrary effect. If this Bill were passed, and the sale of intoxicating liquors forbidden in a particular parish, houses for selling them would start up just outside the boundaries. And what, then, would be the result? Why were Greenwich Fair, Donnybrook Fair, or St. Bartholemew's Fair abolished? Because they led to riotous scenes of drunkenness and dissipation, and such scenes would be likely to occur in this case. If the Bill could be applied at once to the whole country, which he should like to see, the case would be different, though even then he believed it would not be carried out, for coercion in matters of this kind never did and never would answer, and generally resulted in the growth of schemes tending to evasion and illicit trafficing. In China the sale of opium was prohibited under penalty of death, and yet the sale was general over the whole country.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, some reference had been made to working men's clubs, and it had been said that if they unduly restricted the liberties of the working classes in the use of intoxicating drinks, these men would establish clubs where they might drink at all hours of the day and night. Now, he knew as much about working men's clubs as any hon. Member of that House. There were hundreds of these clubs scattered up and down the country, but only three of them were formed by publicans; and the working classes had as much right to form such clubs for their own purposes as the members of the Carlton or Reform Club had to associate themselves together. If working men formed clubs, they would not allow burglars, drunkards, or prostitutes to go into them; and, moreover, the rules of many of these clubs were most stringent. They were to be closed at 10 at night; if a man were drunk there he was to be expelled the club; he was fined if he swore; and the members would not allow minors to drink with them. The passing of the second reading of this measure would stimulate the Government themselves to bring in a Bill; and under which it was to be hoped that ratepayers would have the power to prevent the multiplication of publichouses. He denied, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), that drinking had 947 increased in Scotland since publichouses had been closed on Sundays; and while in America last year, he had made inquiries into the working of the laws against the sale of liquor, and the result of his investigations had been to convince him of their beneficial effect. He was not in favour of the details of this Bill, because he did not think that permissive legislation worked well; and he should prefer that the House itself should decide upon what ought to be done. A good Licensing Bill would probably do all that was needed; but one reason why he should vote for the second reading of the Bill was because he wanted to let agitators outside know that hon. Members would not be tyrannized over by men who were interested in pandering to the vices of the people. The Bishop of Exeter said, that so long as there was no alternative measure he should support this Bill; and he should take the same course on this occasion, though his conviction was that the working men who were in favour of the Permissive Bill would be content with a veto upon the increase of publichouses, and the getting rid of late hours.
said, that if the admitted magnitude of an evil would justify the House in supporting any measure designed to check it, there would be an unanimous vote in favour of the Bill. Every word he had ever uttered as to the magnitude of the evil he was now prepared to stand by, and every day's experience satisfied him that this was not only a great evil, but the greatest of all evils with which social reformers had to contend; and the House had now, however, to decide whether an efficacious remedy for the evil was now before them, and whether they were prepared to adopt the principle of this Bill. With all respect to those hon. Members who said that they would vote for it, though they disapproved its provisions, because they were hopeless of any other remedy, he was not prepared to endorse their views, or the views of other supporters of the Bill. Already the House, by their votes, had misled the public upon the subject, for of those hon. Members who had voted for the Bill on a previous occasion, he did not belief that one-half, one-third, or even one-fourth of them were really in favour of it. Now, he objected to a measure which, in what he might safely 948 term a holy cause, diverted attention and strong feeling throughout the country from plans which were efficacious to those which were delusive; and the Permissive Bill was delusive, not only because it was a measure which Parliament never would pass, but because, if passed, it would, according to the estimates of its most sanguine promoters, be only partially applied, and thus leave untouched in the many places in which it was not adopted, all the evils—the pauperism, the misery, and the crime—which were traceable to the present state of our Licensing Laws. It was pitiable to see huge Petitions, signed by 40,000 or 50,000 confiding people, presented from Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, and other large towns in favour of the Bill, when nothing could be clearer than that, if approved by Parliament, it had not the slightest chance of adoption in any of those places. Perhaps it might be adopted in some districts in Wales, or in thinly-populated districts elsewhere; but did any person believe it would be adopted in any of the large centres of population, where the evils caused by excessive drinking were chiefly felt? Now, he earnestly desired that the House should treat this question in a manner likely to conduce to a really satisfactory solution. Hon. Members opposite had a perfect right to challenge the conduct of the Government in withdrawing the Licensing Bill; and for himself he confessed he could not overrate the disappointment and mortfication which that withdrawal had caused him. But the Government were driven, by the circumstances of the Session, to abandon some measures while they prosecuted others, the relative importance of which it was difficult to guage. The Government had undertaken to deal with certain subjects in a certain order, and some of the measures introduced had precedence of the Licensing Bill; and this being so, the Government had to consider what was possible, having reference to the period and the circumstances of the Session, and also to the fact that, perhaps through the fault of the Government or of the Minister charged with the Licensing Bill, it had excited such an amount of opposition that it could not possibly pass in what remained of the Session. The enemy of the Government in this matter was not only the inherent difficulty of the question, but 949 time itself; and desirous as hon. Members on the Opposition bench no doubt were to remedy existing evils, it was still a fact that on the other side of the House no fewer than four Notices of Motions had been given, any one of which, if carried, would have been fatal to the Bill. It was, impossible, therefore, to persevere with the Bill, unless the Government had had a far longer time for its consideration than remained at their disposal. He deeply regretted the withdrawal of the measure, for there was no amount of personal labour and no sacrifice of personal ambition which he was not prepared to make for the successful prosecution of such a Bill, feeling as he did that upon it hung issues of the greatest importance to the welfare and morality of the people. His hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had called on him to support the Permissive Bill, telling him that if he opposed it, no matter what might be the opinion of the House, he and the Government would, throughout the country, be regarded as obstructives upon the great question of repressing intoxication. Now, he hated nothing more than a tu quoque; but he was bound to say that his hon. Friend appeared to him the greatest obstructive in dealing with this question. His hon. Friend, in asking for that which he knew the House would not grant—no, not if he lived to be twice the ordinary age of man—might say he was only acting upon the old principle—"The horse that wins the race must gallop beyond the goal;" you must always ask for something more than you want or expect to obtain. Something might be said for such a course; but, on the other hand, by raising false hopes throughout the country, and attracting men's minds to false issues, the hon. Baronet was weakening the hands of those who wanted to carry a practical measure which would really repress intoxication and its concomitant evils. There were two opinions on the question under discussion. The opinion of the House generally was that it was merely necessary to impose restrictions upon the abuse of intoxicating drink. His hon. Friend, however, thought that any use of such liquor was an abuse, and wished, therefore, to stop the sale of it altogether. He called on the inhabitants of a district to say, not that there should be a limited number of publichouses, but that the sale of intoxi- 950 cating liquor should be absolutely prohibited. What would be the result of such a measure? Evasion of the law, and, more or less, open opposition to it. His hon. Friend said the permissive principle was already embodied in our legislation, mentioning such Acts as the Local Government Act; but he forgot one broad distinction between those Acts and his Bill—namely, that the former, when adopted, were adopted once for all, whereas his measure would be the signal for perpetual conflicts, renewed again and again in every district in the attempt to reverse the original vote, whatever that might be. Such conflicts would infallibly occur, continually disturbing the peace of the locality; and another evil would be that if the Act were adopted, and the vote was afterwards reversed, a class of houses would spring up far worse than those which originally existed. In dealing with this question, the object of reasonable men was to reduce the number of public-houses; to insure that they should be respectably conducted; to subject them to strict regulations; to limit the number of hours during which they should remain open; to take every possible guarantee for good management; and to encourage the establishment of working men's clubs, in which they might find the refreshment and the social relaxation they desired. Knowing the House to be in earnest in this matter, he thought that a measure aiming at these great advantages must be carried. But, so far from helping forward such a measure as he has sketched, the course taken by his hon. Friend greatly diminished its chances, because it did not receive the public enthusiasm and support which otherwise it might secure. There could be no doubt as to the decision of the House to-day; but it was to be hoped that the division would represent the real meaning of the House, for hitherto this Bill had been supported not only by those who believed in it, as the hon. Baronet did, but by those who, disapproving its provisions, yet voted for it because they wanted to stimulate the Government to bring forward annother measure, or because of great evils to the remedy of which they did not see their way. Then, again, many hon. Members really opposed to the Bill failed to vote, withdrawing from the performance of a great public duty. 951 Thus the opinion of the House had never yet been fairly tested. Such a course was not creditable to the House. The country had a right to expect that hon. Members would act not upon the dictation of large sections of their constituents, however earnest and well-meaning, but upon their own well-matured convictions. He hoped that today hon. Members would give a decisive "Aye" or "No" to the Question from the Chair. For himself, believing the measure to be an unjust one, inasmuch as it would destroy a vast amount of property, giving the owners no compensation whatever; believing it also to be delusive, inasmuch as it would not be adopted to any considerable extent, and would therefore be inoperative; and lastly, being of opinion that it stood in the way of a really practical measure, he should certainly record his vote against the second reading.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
, in reply, denied that the Bill in any way interfered with any legislation which might be in contemplation for the amendment of the licensing system; and he maintained that the Home Secretary was not justified in arguing that he blocked the way. The right hon. Gentleman had had his opportunity, but had lost it by withdrawing his Bill, and was he now to find fault with the promoters of this measure for fighting it out to the end? Not a word did the right hon. Gentleman say to indicate that he was going on with the police clauses of the Government measure, as the Prime Minister had stated. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was therefore justified in assuming that the present Bill, though it might not be perfect, was the only measure on the subject before the House. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to complain that the advocates of the permissive principle had not supported the Government Bill. Well, while prepared to support all that was good in it, they could not be expected to get up a great agitation in favour of a Bill for which they had never asked. But the truth was, that if it had not been for the United Kingdom Alliance, nobody would ever have heard of a Government Licensing Bill. A more extraordinary speech than that of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) he had never heard; for he said that the provisions of the Bill, if passed into law, would be 952 carried out by the religious people of the large towns, the leading citizens, and the best of the working classes, and opposed by the lower classes, and that that was his reason for objecting to the Bill. The noble Lord had made another statement which, to his (Sir Wilfrid Lawson's) mind, was far more remarkable than the last, for he said he knew many publicans who had done more than many philanthropists had done in putting down vice. He would ask the noble Lord if he believes in that, why he does not set up a missionary society for sending licensed victuallers everywhere to put down vice? He knows what has been done at Liverpool through the system of free trade in liquor which was authorized by the magistrates, the consequence of whose action was to make Liverpool next door to a very hell upon earth. [Cries of "Order!"]
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
I rise to Order, and desire to know whether the hon. Baronet is right in speaking of a constituency in such a way?
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, he was ready to retract the word if the noble Lord thought it offensive to have it supposed that he represented a constituency of that nature. He would only say that the course which was adopted by the magistrates at Liverpool so enormously increased crime, and degraded the whole community of the place, that they were speedily compelled to reverse their policy. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of Dublin (Sir Dominic Corrigan) was very much afraid that if this Bill came into operation, and prohibition was enacted in one parish, the people would go into another parish to procure drink. His idea of public happiness was an equal distribution of drunkards throughout the country; but does he not see that if the drunkards went over in that way, the other parish has only to put down drinking shops and thus the nuisance would be got rid of? In conclusion, in spite of the prophecies of the right hon. Gentleman that the Permissive Bill would never pass, he should persevere with it, believing that public opinion being aroused, it would be satisfied with nothing less than the removal of this great curse from our midst.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
denied that the opposition to the Permissive Bill proceeded mainly from the publicans. It 953 was far more a ratepayers' opposition, and in his own borough ratepayers said to him—"Sir Henry Hoare, you are a plain, blunt man, and we tell you plainly and bluntly that if you vote for such a Bill, with such penal clauses, out you go for Chelsea." He had not received one letter intended to intimidate him into opposition to the Bill; but he had been threatened that if he did not vote for it, he should sit for Chelsea no longer.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 124; Noes 206: Majority 82. [But see pp. 962–3.]
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.