§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that the reasons which had induced him to attempt to deal with the difficult subject of the Liquor Laws, by the introduction of the measure the second reading he now proposed, was the conviction on his own mind that it would prove a satisfactory settlement of the question involved in the interests of the public on the one hand, and the interests of the trade on the other. After the Beerhouse Act of 1830 was passed, the lax administration of the law which followed, both as regarded beerhouses, and 1410 to some extent, the public-houses which were necessarily affected by that legislation, excited an amount of public indignation which rendered some alteration of the law evidently necessary, and accordingly in 1869, he—though with much diffidence as a private Member—introduced a Bill mainly dealing with beerhouses. After much discussion, that Bill became law and came into operation in 1870; and he thought he might say that from Returns that had been obtained, as far as the working of that measure had been tried it had proved to a certain extent satisfactory. However, on that occasion, only one branch of the subject was dealt with. There were many anomalies still that required revision and amendment. For instance, at present, public-houses, except where the Publichouse Closing Act was adopted, might be kept open the whole night, whereas beerhouses were closed at fixed hours. The result was, that a man turned out of a beerhouse at the hour of closing was often able to find a public-house still open, and the landlord, unaware that he had been previously drinking, might supply him with a small additional amount of liquor, which would, however, be quite sufficient to make him liable to being locked up by the police for the night, and to imperil the license of the publican. The difference of the law as applicable to beerhouses and public-houses, and many other points as to which they had evidence, had led to the belief that some general measure was required, so that the law might be brought into harmony and placed on one uniform basis in reference to the whole of the liquor trade. The trade themselves were prepared to acknowledge the fact, and were anxious that their trade should be better regulated, and conducted under provisions which would ensure a legitimate business being carried on—which would tend not less to their own benefit than that of the public. Last year they were ready to accept his proposition; but he was afraid that what had subsequently occurred had, to some extent, encouraged a portion of the trade to think that it might be possible to resist any legislation at all on the subject. He wished, however, to warn the persons who might entertain such an idea, that if the agitation on the question were allowed to continue, and if moderate measures, which mode- 1411 rate men believed to be a fair settlement of the matter, and under which an honest trade might be carried on, were not allowed to pass, the day might come when public indignation would be so strongly roused that the people would take the matter into their own hands. Timely and moderate legislation was therefore necessary, in the interests both of the trade and of the public at large. With the view of showing that the state of the law required still further alteration, he would refer to a few Returns which had come under his notice among the mass of evidence he had consulted. In the year 1869–70 he found that, in a population of 14,778,518 in 44 counties and 121 boroughs and cities in England and Wales, there were 192,800 summary convictions for criminal offences of all kinds; of these 92,217 were convictions for drunkenness, while 21,862 were cases in which the offender was drunk, though his conviction was recorded under another head. That made a total of 114,079 cases, out of 192,800, in which the influence of drink entered in some way into the conviction. In 1870–1, in a population in England and Wales of 22,704,308, there were 397,495 summary convictions for criminal offences of all kinds; and 130,785, or nearly one-third, were convictions for drunkenness, no Return being given in this case of those convictions into which the influence of drunkenness entered. The Chief Constable of the County of Durham had written to him stating that in that county—excluding such places in it as the towns of Durham, Sunderland, Gateshead, Hartlepool, and South Shields—the summary convictions in 1870–1, in a population of 455,826 were 16,044, of which half were more or less connected with drunkenness, and 5,580 were actual convictions for that offence. Within a short time he had received a letter from a chairman of a petty sessional district, expressing his opinion of the necessity for further legislation; and the Chief Constables of the important counties of Bedfordshire, Leicestershire, and Pembrokeshire, and of the town of Devonport, had borne testimony to the beneficial working of the legislation of 1869–70, and had stated that if the law which affected beerhouses only could be extended to public-houses the benefit would be vastly greater. Another class of evidence on this subject consisted of 1412 the opinions of the Judges. Lord Chief Baron Kelly, in his charge to the Grand Jury at Durham, said—It seemed to him that the causes for trial for the most part existed in the prevailing vice and sin of drunkenness.Lord Chief Justice Bovill, at the Denbighshire Assizes, said—These more serious crimes are attributable to drunkenness, which, according to my experience, is at the root of nine-tenths of the crime committed in this country.Baron Pigott bore testimony to the same effect at Shrewsbury; and Baron Martin, at the Cornwall Assizes, said, that after an experience of 21 years on the Judicial Bench, he could declare that 99 out of every 100 cases of homicide which had come before him arose from drunkenness. To that evidence for the expediency of speedy legislation might be added the medical declaration, signed by 269 practitioners, including such men as Burrows, Paget, Sir Thomas Watson, Sir Henry Holland, Cæsar Hawkins, Sir William Fergusson, Quain, Farre, Bence Jones, and Forbes Winslow. They said—Being also firmly convinced that the great amount of drinking of alcoholic liquors among the working classes of this country is one of the greatest evils of the day, destroying, more than anything else, the health, happiness, and welfare of those classes, and neutralizing, to a large extent, the great industrial prosperity which Providence has placed within the reach of this nation, the undersigned would gladly support any wise legislation which would tend to restrict, within proper limits, the use of alcoholic beverages, and gradually introduce habits of temperance.Such evidence as he had now referred to showed that the present was not the time to sit still waiting for future legislation on the subject; but it appeared to him that they should set to work earnestly in extending the principles laid down in the Bill of 1869, and by means of uniform powers as well as salutary police regulations try to simplify and improve the licensing laws. He had made this preliminary statement, because he desired to show the necessity that existed in a public point of view for legislation on the question. He now asked the House to consider the position in which they were placed to-day with regard to this Bill. Rumour had brought to his ears an interpretation of the view, if he might so call it, of what was supposed to be the proper channel for dealing with this subject. He had been told by some one "out-of-doors" that at some time or other 1413 the Government intended to deal really with this licensing question. He naturally asked his informant for the evidence he possessed, if he possessed any, in proof of that determination, and he drew to him a picture which, if true, might throw some light on the contemplated licensing system of some future day. At first that description made him smile, and he smiled because there were points that he fancied he recognized—points and details which, to a certain extent, made him feel like a parent who had found his child in a gipsy camp—because, though he recognized the child, the garments were altered, and the weeks he had lived in that camp to a certain extent had deteriorated his morals. He entertained a strong hope that his Bill would have the effect of bringing about temperance more certainly than any sudden or violent interference with the habits of a large portion of the people. He believed they would act more wisely in seeking to attain the same end by a slow and gradual progress, rather than by having recourse to violent action; for that would not only lead to a corresponding reaction, but would from that very fact place the question in a worse position than if they approached it gradually and carefully. His hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), he was aware, differed in opinion from him on that point, and he and those who acted with him would rather deal with it in a more summary manner; but he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) ventured to think the Bill now proposed would effect the same object without producing any reaction. Instead of the means proposed by his hon. Friend producing the results he hoped for, they would have a contrary effect; for there would be always a strong party whose object it would be to keep up a constant agitation in the country on the subject. To that he had a most decided objection. Another proposition had been brought forward by his hon. Friend opposite the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther). Now, he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) would appeal to the hon. Baronet and his Friends to support him, because it would be inconsistent for them to negative a principle which was a step in obtaining the object they had in view. He was afraid, however, from the Notice his hon. Friend had put on the Paper that that support would not 1414 be given. The object of his hon. Friend, as he understood, was to do away at once with a large number of the public-houses throughout the country; but the measure he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) now had the honour to submit to the House would gradually produce the same effect. In reading the Bill of his hon. Friend, it struck him that its cardinal point related to the manner in which a licensing authority should be formed. He proposed to set up a licensing power throughout the country to grant annual licenses by means of elected paid officers; but that system, in his (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson's) opinion, would create trouble and confusion, for everyone of these elections would be fought out with an animosity and a bitterness calculated to produce the very worst consequences.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
said, he could assure his hon. Friend that no paid licensing authority was contemplated in his Bill.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
was glad to hear that that proposition did not form any part of the Bill of the hon. Baronet. But whether the magistrates were to be paid or not, great efforts would be made at every election by the opposing parties—many persons voting for men who were pledged to temperance, whilst the trade would support those who were favourable to their own views. If the ratepayers were influenced by the publicans—and that was not unlikely—a worse state of things might arise than the present, and there would probably be an increase in the number of licensed houses. He doubted whether, under such circumstances, the cause of temperance would be a gainer. The trade power was much larger than the temperance power—their organization was much more powerful, and the Bill of the hon. Baronet would produce anything but the results which it contemplated. That was not his own opinion alone—it was confirmed by many gentlemen thoroughly conversant with the subject, and, amongst others, by Sir William Bodkin, who said that every application would create and foster local contention, the more respectable inhabitants would refuse to interfere, and the evil would increase until it became intolerable. He had recently received a letter from the Chief Constable of Kent, who, in speaking of the good effects produced by the Beer Bill in his district, said it was due 1415 principally to the fact that the power of granting licenses was taken away from the Excise and given to the local magistrates. Now, he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) did not say that the authority now exercised by them was perfect; but he would assert that, having been in existence for a very long period, there were very few complaints against it, and certainly up to that time no system had been proposed which was its equal. He believed it could be amended and improved, certainly, in one way, and one only; and that was to lay down certain rules, so as to bring about a greater uniformity in the various decisions arrived at throughout the country, and a clearer explanation of the law as it existed. This Bill would have been shorter—and therefore easier passed, if he had not felt the necessity of attempting to make a codification of the present licensing laws, which would improve the licensing system of the country—it was absolutely necessary to remove from the statute book many Acts of Parliament which now encumbered it. In the leading parts of his Bill, many changes had been made since he on a former occasion introduced a Bill on the subject. He asked the House to remember that he extended the provisions of the Bill of 1869 with a view of giving greater uniformity in this measure, and he had at the same time done all he could to reduce the amount of drunkenness. He had done all in his power to arrive at a fair conclusion. He admitted that he might have misinterpreted the opinions of the country on the question; but if the House would allow the Bill to be now read a second time, and if it should appear that he had misinterpreted the feeling of the country on the subject, he need scarcely say that he should be willing to make some modification in the measure. His sole object had been to produce a fair measure on the subject—a measure which whilst protecting vested interests in the trade, would raise the value and character of the licensed houses throughout the country, and give the country an assurance of better order and regulation in public-houses. He had attempted to introduce uniformity of hours, and to rectify the evil and difficulty of dealing with drunkenness. The Bill would check adulteration, and its operation would be to bring about a general improvement in the present system, by 1416 sheltering a man from the numerous temptations which surrounded him, and by making it the interest of the vendor to deal honestly and fairly with his customers. With respect to the 14th clause, relating to the question of the extension of time proposed in granting licenses, he thought some alteration in the clause was necessary. Whilst the Bill gathered together many of the best parts of the existing licensing system, there were some changes proposed in that system which produced considerable excitement. But he would ask the House to remember that he had to bring the public-houses and beerhouses together, to introduce police regulations, to give uniformity to the hours, and to deal with the evils of drunkenness. On all the points he had endeavoured to arrive at a fair conclusion, and if the House should read the Bill a second time he could show good reason for having placed those clauses in the Bill. The 91st clause, referring to adulteration, was very much objected to; but he was quite sure if there were duly-appointed superintendents of police, with authority to act, the effect would be to give satisfaction. With respect to the vexed question of appeal, his proposition was simply the result of having attempted to arrive at a proper conclusion. He had worked out every scheme that had been brought before him, and he believed that none of them would work satisfactorily. It might be fair to consider whether it would not be possible to devise some scheme whereby a certain number of magistrates should be annually appointed to hear appeal cases, instead of their being heard as at present by the chairman and one or two other persons. His first object had been to show the House that the Bill was necessary; and his desire was to show that the Bill was an attempt to deal honestly and fairly with the different interests in the country in connection with this question. He was attempting to pass a measure which, he believed, would be a means of improving the present system—a measure which was a safe progress in the right direction, and which would not bring about a reaction, leaving matters in a worse position than that in which they now stood. He considered it all important that the question should be settled before a General Election could take place, in order that it might not be made 1417 a party question; and he believed that by passing the Bill the House would do much, aided as it must be by the educational movement, to advance and improve the moral condition of the people.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
, in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, he cordially agreed with the hon. Baronet the Member for Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), that the question was one of great importance, and that it was the duty of every man who had the interest of the country at heart, to do all in his power to grapple with the difficulties by which it was surrounded, and he therefore appreciated in the highest degree the great ability and perseverance his hon. Friend had shown during so many years in dealing with the question. His only reason for opposing the Bill was that he believed it would have a different effect from that which the hon. Baronet, with his sanguine temperament, hoped would follow from it. He agreed with the hon. Baronet on all that he had said with regard to the evil effects of drunkenness; and he particularly agreed with him in his wise warning to the trade. If a wise measure was resisted by the trade the public feeling would be roused, and a demand would arise for some still more stringent measure. He could not wonder at the notion of the trade—men naturally combined when they thought themselves threatened with evils; but he thought they might expect from so large a body as the licensed victuallers that they would have some regard for the interests of the community as well as their own. He would therefore repeat the warning given by the hon. Baronet and would say to the trade—"Beware of pushing your resistance too far, and accept any wise and moderate measure which may be offered you for the settlement of the question." If the Government last year had pressed their measure to a conclusion, it would have saved the House much trouble and spared much valuable time; but the Home Secretary missed the opportunity for settling the question. The point which he desired to impress upon the House was this—the necessity of diminishing 1418 the number of licensed houses, and thus, to a certain extent, limiting the facilities for drunkenness. It was an almost inconceivable fact that more than £100,000,000 were annually spent, in intoxicating drinks. From a Return made in 1868 it appeared that the consumption of ardent spirits amounted to 29,000,000 gallons; that the number of barrels of ale consumed was 25,000,000, and that the quantity of wine consumed was 15,000,000 gallons. The total value of these articles, calculated by the Government Returns, was no less than £101,386,280. No one could deny that a great deal of crime resulted from drunkenness, and he believed the amount of drinking to be in proportion to the facilities for drinking. The hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) did not appear to assent to that proposition. But the point on which he wished to touch was, whether in proportion as the facilities for obtaining drink were diminished, drinking would not be also diminished? There was strong evidence on this point which he would venture to read to the House. In a Report presented to the House of Lords in 1850, it was said that drunkenness was the main cause of crime, disorder, and distress in England, and that the multiplication of houses for the consumption of intoxicating liquors, the number of which had risen under the operation of the Beer Act from 88,000 to 123,000, had been itself a cause of the first magnitude not only by increasing the temptations to excess, which were thus presented at every step, but by driving the landlords of the houses to practices in order to obtain custom which were degrading to their character and injurious to the cause of morality and order. Another Report, made in 1869 to the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, declared that in many parts of the country the houses licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor were out of all proportion to the population; and a Report presented to the Convocation of the Province of York stated that all witnesses concurred in recommending a reduction in the number of licensed houses which were vastly in excess of the population. These facts appeared to him to be conclusive that if they wished to deal in a satisfactory manner with this question they must take some steps—and if possible immediate steps—to diminish 1419 the number of licensed houses. But what did this Bill do in that direction? He believed that so far from diminishing the number of licensed houses its effect would be to afford increased facilities in an opposite direction, thus aggravating all the existing evils, and throwing back the cause of temperance and of licensing reform for at least a quarter-of-a-century. Let the House look at several clauses of the Bill. By Section 22, it was provided that the licensing authorities should not refuse applications for licenses except on certain definite grounds, one of which was, that the district in which stood the house for which the license was sought was already properly supplied with licensed houses. But what was to be the standard which was to be followed in regard to what was to be considered a proper number of licensed houses? Simply this—that licenses were not to be granted to a greater extent than would provide one licensed house for every 300 of the inhabitants of the district. Why, such a provision was even worse—five times worse—than that contained in the Home Secretary's Bill of last year, for there the limit was fixed at one house for every 1,500 of the population; and it seemed to be based on a suggestion made by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) in a speech delivered in the Recess, in the course of which the hon. Gentleman tried to show that it was beef, and not beer, that was doing all the harm to the country, and that the evils complained of arose from over-eating and not from over-drinking. Certainly that speech was an after-dinner speech, and he had so great a regard for the common sense of the hon. Member for Derby that he felt bound to believe that the hon. Gentleman had had an enormously large dinner before he committed himself to such an extraordinary statement. By the 23rd clause, which was another important section of this Bill, it was provided that the local authorities should not refuse the renewal of a license to any single existing public-house or beerhouse except upon certain stated grounds. But if the justices were not to refuse, what was the use of talking about annual licenses, or the power of the magistrates? What were the magistrates to do? They might be abolished at once so far as licenses were concerned, and the subject taken to a board of ratepayers, who could not do worse than this. 1420 But how was it that it never seemed to have occurred to his hon. Friend that his Bill might be productive of evil as well as of good? He put beerhouses on the same footing as public-houses; whereas before the hon. Baronet's Act of 1869—an Act which certainly did him the greatest credit—the beerhouses did not hold so advantageous a position. The consequence was, that when the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary came to deal with the question of compensation, he found himself obliged to give them as favourable consideration as the holders of licensed victuallers' licenses. But by the 28th clause—which he regarded as much the worst clause of the Bill—it was provided that every holder of a license under the Act should be entitled to an annual certificate for the renewal of his license. That amounted, in point of fact, to a perpetual tenure of the license. Altogether, considering that it was put forward as a bonâ fide measure of reform, he looked with the greatest alarm upon this measure. He did not care whose Bill passed so it effected the object. He should be too delighted to see his hon. Friend's Bill become law if it effected a reform; but it did nothing of the kind. His hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had referred to the Bill he (Sir Robert Anstruther) had had the honour to introduce; and he thought, perhaps—he could not discuss the Bill itself—he might refer to the observations his hon. Friend had made with regard to it. His hon. Friend said that that Bill, as regarded licensing, would magnify the evils of the present system. There he joined issue with his hon. Friend; but he confessed that when he came to consider what action the Government were likely to take in the matter, he was considerably embarrassed. The Home Secretary was the same as the Home Secretary he was dealing with last year; but his right hon. Friend was now an old friend with a new face. Really, there was no sort of relationship between the proposals contemplated by the Government this year and the line they marked out for themselves 12 months ago. Last year he (Sir Robert Anstruther) urged on the Government that the moment they dealt with popular control, they missed the backbone of the whole question. Surely the time was now come when it was right and proper that people mainly in- 1421 terested in the regulation of this traffic should have something to say in the matter. And that was in accordance not only with the right hon. Gentleman's former opinions, but with the spirit of legislation in modern days. Take the Poor Law Bill—take the Scotch Education Bill—take the Public Health Bill. Last year the Home Secretary was thoroughly in favour of popular control; this year there was very little recognition of it in the Government Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman might depend upon it that if he wanted a really popular measure—a measure that should produce a practical enthusiasm in its favour—it must have the desiderated element of popular control. He did not care how the authority was to be composed, whether wholly or partly of ratepayers, or with the magisterial element; but of this he was quite sure, that if they constituted a responsible body elected by themselves, they were more likely to submit more cheerfully to any restrictions the Legislature might choose to impose than under any other circumstances. Long since, moreover, the Committees of this House reported against the magistrates as being the most desirable authority, and especially the Committee that sat in 1854; and the Home Secretary was candid enough to acknowledge that their administration had lost public respect, and could not stand. Was it, then, conceivable that in bringing in a Bill in dealing with this whole question they should be told that the Government would continue the magisterial authority as the sole licensing authority, and were not going to call in the people, who were interested in the traffic, and upon whom the burden of all the misery and its attendant evils really fell? He very sincerely trusted that the Government would take this matter into consideration before it was too late. To return to the Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for Essex, he must repeat that he firmly believed it would operate in a way diametrically opposite to the object on which his hon. Friend had set his heart; and for that reason he ventured to move that it be read a second time that day six months.
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. PEASE
said, he was sorry to say anything against the course of legislation now proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Essex(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) upon the question of licensing reform in general; on the contrary, it had always been a pleasure to him to give any help he could to that course of legislation in which the hon. Baronet had taken so much interest; it was therefore with great reluctance that he felt obliged to oppose the measure he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had this year brought before Parliament, and he did so because he did not consider that it came up to the hon. Baronet's own standard of gradual and progressive reform, or that it would bring about an improved system of licensing. It was wholly and solely on that ground that he wished to express his views on the subject. The necessity of a licensing measure having been admitted from Session to Session by the Home Secretary—it having been admitted by his hon. Friend the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther), and by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who year after year had brought the subject before the House—it was useless to discuss the question as to the need of further legislation. It seemed to him that this measure came most appropriately after the discussion which took place last night, when the House had under its consideration how the costs of the administration of justice, police, and lunatics could best be borne by the ratepayers. He was very much indebted to the Convocation of Canterbury for valuable statistical information upon these points, which enabled him to bring these facts and these expenses directly before the House. So far as regarded the expenses of the administration of justice, that Convocation came to the conclusion that out of 500 coroners' inquests in one district held within a period of 12 months, 35 per cent were owing directly to drink. Again, a rev. friend of his, the vicar of Berwick-upon-Tweed, once chaplain at Durham Gaol reported that, of the prisoners brought in, 24 per cent were drunk when committed, and 81 per cent 1423 of the whole crime arose from causes attributable to drunkenness. Again, Mr. Wright, the prison philanthropist, stated that in his inquiries into the convicts at Portland Prison, 18 out of every 20 persons sent there, or 90 per cent, owed their imprisonment to causes attributable immediately to drink. So much for the administration of justice. Then, when he came to consider the expenses of lunacy, he found again that the Convocation of Canterbury had come to the conclusion, upon evidence, that 50 per cent of the lunacy in this country was due to the same cause—intemperance. When they came to the cost of pauperism, however, the statistics were still more startling. In one union with a population of 18,000, two-thirds of the entire pauperism was traceable to drink, either on the part of the wife or the husband—more frequently the husband. In another union there was no real poverty, except that which arose out of illness or drunken habits. In another union two thirds of the pauperism, and in another 80 per cent of it, was attributable to the same cause; and one master of a workhouse declared that in 21 years' experience he had never known of a husband, wife, and children going into the workhouse, except as the result of the drunken habits of either the man or his wife; and he added that he had never seen a sober husband and wife enter. He might be told that all that arose from the want of a regular system of education throughout the country; but those who had had great experience on the subject were unable to lay down the want of education as the cause of all that intemperance. They had the striking statement of General Cartwright as to the number of public-houses and the crime in different places, and which showed the connection between crime and the facilities for obtaining drink. He said, in districts where there were from six to eight public-houses to a population of 1,000, the proportion of crime was 2.73; where there were eight and under 10 public-houses to 1,000 of population, crime stood at a percentage of 4.03; in towns which had from 10 to 12 public-houses, the percentage was 8.53; and, lastly, where there were 12 to 14 public-houses to 1,000 inhabitants, the percentage was as high as 12.61. That being the state of things, he wanted to ask, was the Bill brought in by the 1424 hon. Baronet one which would grapple with so much crime, so much destitution, so much lunacy, and so much pauperism? Wherever they looked, they found the same thing existing; and he should not have to go further than to point out the things that did exist, and still did exist, at the East-end of this metropolis, where the facilities for drink had been the greatest cause of all that penury and destitution which was deplored by them all. Connected, as he was, with the mining districts, he had had opportunities of seeing the way in which working men who came from London conducted themselves. Not long ago, many workmen from the East-end of London went into the mining districts and obtained employ; but some of them were the worst characters that had been seen. They were most intemperate. They filled the public-house, and made the village look like a little Pandemonium, especially on their pay-night. The clergymen and missionaries went to work among them and tried to induce them to attend public worship. They, however, preferred the public-house, and many old hands were actually driven away from the village alehouse. That was the state of things produced by the present public-houses, and those were the establishments which the hon. Baronet was pleased to invest with a permanent character, and to which he would give an absolute right which, if not entirely, was almost without the control of the magistrates, because Clause 23 invested in those public-houses an absolute right almost without control, and Clause 28 also relieved these men from coming back year after year for the renewal of their licenses. It was on those grounds, then, that he felt it his duty to oppose the Bill, for he believed it would rather lead to an increase of the very evils of which they complained than otherwise. As regarded the tribunal which it was proposed should have the power of granting licenses, he was content with the view of the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) that the ratepayers should have a voice in the granting of licenses. His own opinion was, that there should be a mixed tribunal consisting of ratepayers and justices. That, if constituted, would have a beneficial effect. On the one hand, the justices were a body which had not from time to time to go before their constituents to be elected. They 1425 were an independent body, and he had no doubt they would be found to be a very efficient body. But, on the other hand, there was the striking fact that there had been occasions when petitions had been presented to the magistrates numerously signed by ratepayers against licenses being granted; and yet those licenses had been granted; he therefore desired an admixture of the representatives of the ratepayers. Another difficulty was, that they had already a number of Boards throughout the country. They had Boards of Guardians, Boards of Health, Highway Boards, Education Boards, and Divisional Petty Sessions; and the fact was, that at those Boards two or three of the leading justices attended, and did most of the work; and though he did not mean to say they did not do their duty, if they amalgamated these Boards, there would be practically the same parties doing the work. He hoped that in any measure that might be passed that year, some provision would be made for the voice of the ratepayers being heard; but he knew it was a difficult matter to deal with, and it always would be so until the system of local government was changed. Now, another point in the measure which was being discussed was, that relating to the question of a Court of Appeal. The appeals to Quarter Sessions had, on the whole, he thought, worked satisfactorily; but he very much doubted if an appeal to the Secretary of State for the Home Department would be right, unless the right hon. Gentleman was able to do that which, previously, he had been unable to do—namely, lay down some rule for the licensing of public-houses, and have an efficient staff of Inspectors to assist him on whom he could rely. He knew that during last year he had to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the way in which licenses were granted by him, under the clause in the Suspensory Act. Positively, licenses were granted which, had the right hon. Gentleman known the state of the district, he might, he thought, safely say never would have been granted at all. In one instance, in the case of a small town in his own district having only 222 houses in it, and where there were already two public-houses, the Home Secretary granted a license for a third. That was rather a remarkable instance, and he could not hope that much good would come from 1426 an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, unless he were provided with Inspectors, or a confidential staff, which would enable him to examine into each particular case, to report upon its merits, clear of all local influence. He was satisfied that this was a retrograde step which they were now asked to take, as it placed a vested right in public-houses which they, who wished to see the number reduced, could not consent to. He looked on public-houses which were respectably conducted as necessary, and the Licensed Victuallers as a trade which was most useful to the community, and proper to follow; but he looked on those houses which were kept open simply for drinking, as being kept open for the purpose of absorbing the wages of the working classes. If he saw anything in the Bill of the hon. Baronet which did away with those houses, and did not create any new vested interest, he should be most happy to support him. As it was, he could not vote for the second reading, but should support the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire.
§ DR. BREWER
said, he did not lag behind any Member of that House in appreciation of the good which had been done by the hon. Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) on behalf of the object he had in view. From the communications he had received he had not come to the conclusion that those who were most largely interested in the sale of intoxicating liquors were opposed to the regulations necessary for the conducting of the traffic in which they were engaged. Such regulations were demanded, not by one class only—not by the clergy nor by medical men—but far more largely by the poorer classes themselves, in fact by the very class of persons whose well-being that House valued so much. It was supposed that in proposing some restraints on the sale of intoxicating liquors the House would be proceeding with a blind disregard of the interests of the poorer classes; but for a series of years it had been his good fortune to attend large meetings of members of those classes, and he had found that they were the loudest of all in entreating the Legislature to do all in its power to remove from them the temptations by which they were surrounded, and which they knew, as well as others knew, to be at the bottom of most of the 1427 misery and pauperism which was the curse of our country. No words could be more eloquent in support of such an appeal than was the fact itself of the dreadful amount of crime, of sickness, of insanity, and of pauperism which had resulted undoubtedly from the too great prevalence of intoxication and intemperance. What he desired most particularly to impress on the House was the constant repetition of the provocations to intoxication arising from the great increase of the houses wherein intoxicating liquors were sold. That was the great source of the evils they complained of, and whatever the House could do to prevent the multiplication of those temptations would prove, in a great measure, a cure of them. There was another thing in reference to the multiplication of those houses. In proportion to the number of those houses was the competition of those who sold spirituous liquors; and he had asked many questions of large brewers as to the trade done in them, and they had informed him that not a tithe of them could of themselves afford a fair living to the man who had the license, without supplementing this retail trade by some other business. That tempted the retailer to adulterate his wares, an offence more common than was supposed. It might be said undoubtedly that the adulteration consisted in the mere adding of water. That was not quite the case, because other things were added besides, and, as he had sometimes satisfied himself, the substances used for adulteration were not of so harmless a character. He thought the Suspensory Act of last year was in a great measure due to his hon. Friend. That measure was now accomplishing a great deal of good. It was diminishing the number of public-houses, and that was a course and direction which he thought a measure to be useful and effective must take.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he could not take credit for the Bill. No doubt he gave it his hearty support, but the Bill itself was due to the Government.
§ DR. BREWER
At all events he believed that the Suspensory Act of last year contained the basis of a most excellent measure, and some of the largest brewers had expressed their entire approval of its provisions. No doubt the principle of local popular control was 1428 one of the great objects contended for. The Bill of the hon. Member (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) was more calculated to satisfy those who might be opposed to measures for directly dealing with the diminution of existing public-houses by the popular vote, which might violently interfere with the rights of property. But there was one way in which that object might be accomplished which did not seem open to objection. If they made it a condition to the granting of a new license in a locality in which a license did not at the time exist, that one, two, or three, of the licenses of existing public-houses should be procured by the applicant as a condition precedent to his application for a new license—the number to be determined by the value of the proposed new property, and the licenses to be obtained within a limited area to be hereafter defined, he believed a considerable reduction might be made in the number of houses, and its effect would soon be seen in the speedy removal of all the houses, which were either not well conducted or were not wanted. When they had thus effected a reduction in the number of houses, they must supplement that work by introducing the principle of regulation by local control, so that no house should be allowed to be licensed in a district in which two-thirds of the ratepayers objected to have it. And in doing that they would do no injury to anyone, because no rights would be taken away from anyone; and they would at the same time prevent houses for the sale of intoxicating liquors being introduced into localities in which their introduction had been hitherto successfully resisted.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, he should vote for the second reading of the Bill. He knew something of the difficulties experienced by a private Member in dealing with so important a subject, because it was his lot, four or five years ago, to introduce a Bill on the licensing question. After a debate on his Motion for leave, he was compelled to withdraw it on the second reading, and in doing so came to the conclusion that the question could only be dealt with satisfactorily by Her Majesty's Government. From that time those who were dissatisfied with the existing licensing system had anxiously awaited the introduction of a Government measure on the subject. The Bill of last year, though unsuccessful, was 1429 an honest attempt to solve the difficulty; and now, instead of there being a dearth of measures on the subject, inconvenience was likely to be caused by the number of Bills before the House. There was the present Bill, the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther), the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and the Bill introduced last night in "another place" by Her Majesty's Government. It was clear that these various measures represented the various schools of thought in the country on this important subject, and he might remark that, out-of-doors as well as in that House, there were very strong feelings with regard to it. He, himself, was under the conviction that if they desired to deal practically with the question, they must all be prepared to give up something, as it was impossible for them all to have their own way. They must endeavour to find out a common ground on which they could legislate. For his own part, he did not approve all the details of the present measure, but he, nevertheless, should give it his support, because he believed it to be an honest attempt at legislation, and that if they applied themselves conscientiously to its improvement they might make it a practical and useful measure. Another Bill had, however, been introduced in the other House with the full responsibility of the Government. The provisions of that Bill were generally known, and would probably have to be taken as the basis of their legislation; and therefore he trusted that when it came down to that House it would be dealt with, with a determination to make it effective for its purpose. He hoped, therefore, that if the present Bill were read a second time, the hon. Baronet would be content not to press it forward any further until the Government Bill had come down to this House, and hon. Members were enabled to deal with the question with some unanimity this Session; while by giving it a second reading they would declare their opinion as to the necessity of immediate legislation. In a few years hence the public mind would be more thoroughly educated on this question, and eventually public opinion would do more than any legislation possibly could in repressing drunkenness throughout the country. Meanwhile, however, it was necessary to pass some law for the 1430 purpose of substituting the moderate use of alcoholic liquors for the abuse of them, which unhappily was now so prevalent.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, it was seldom that at a Wednesday sitting the House was called upon to vote on an issue so important as that which then awaited its decision; for that vote would irrevocably determine the tendency and course of their legislation with regard to a question on the momentous nature of which it would be idle and almost impertinent to dilate. Hon. Members would not thank any speaker who took up their time by proving to them that drink was the main source and fountain of crime, pauperism, irreligion, and ignorance; and who undertook by elaborate statistics and monotonous quotations to convince them of that which, in their capacities as landowners and employers, they knew only too well. Their business was rather as practical and responsible men, legislating on behalf of the nation, and not on behalf of their own pet theories, or their own pecuniary interests, to consider what were the evils under which the country was suffering—what remedies they demanded, and whether those remedies were contained within the pages of the Bill which the hon. Baronet had placed upon the Table. And then, if that Bill provided them with the framework of a machinery capable of dealing with evils which they all admitted, it would be their duty to accept it, and by diligent handling in Committee, to found upon it their licensing system of the future; but if, after due consideration, they found that its main provisions were not as effective and as potent as public necessities demanded and public opinion would admit, it would be their duty by a decisive vote to proclaim that they were unwilling, in the patching up of an inadequate measure, to spend the time and distract the energy, the most rigid economy of which could alone cope with a task which he believed every hon. Member of that House acknowledged to be vital to the highest interests of the country, and far removed from every consideration and prejudice of party. First and foremost amongst the evils against which were directed that host of bulky and voluminous measures, of which that was the advanced guard, stood the national sin of drunkenness, with all its attendant consequences, 1431 on the magnitude and number of which at that time of the day it would, indeed, be superfluous to dwell. It would be equally superfluous to say much on the head of adulteration. So small a proportion did that question hold in the gigantic sum total of miseries inflicted upon the people by the present condition of the drink traffic, that the excellence or otherwise of the provisions affecting adulteration should have less than an imperceptible influence on a discussion with regard to the second reading of a Bill which proposed to re-organize the entire machinery for the sale of liquors. But there was another evil resulting from the existing state of the liquor traffic more momentous than brutal drunkenness, because more widespread and more insidious. What that evil was he preferred to describe in other words than his own, because on that point the House might accept his views with suspicion, knowing that he was one of those who not only voted for the Permissive Bill, but who likewise believed it to be a justifiable and and a beneficent measure—Brewers and publicans cannot keep what they have got unless crime, pauperism, and popular demoralization are to remain as they are. The money lavished on intoxicating drinks is abstracted from the slender resources of a struggling household. It is not to any extent a question of drunkenness or no drunkenness. Time may be wasted money squandered, and health impaired in a public-house or a liquor-shop without anything like helpless or desperate drinking, Publicans' profits represent misspent money. This is the great fact to be recognized on both sides. The liquor dealers cannot too soon convince themselves that it is only a question of time and terms.Those words were found to be in the columns of a newspaper, but they were only the more and not the less significant on that account, for the journal in question was one whose habits—and he might almost say whose profession—it was never to go ahead of that effective demand for change that prevailed among the public at large. It marked an epoch and the most important epoch in the history of the question, when the ordinary Englishman, through the journal which was his mouthpiece and his representative, acknowledged that the victims of drink most worthy of the consideration of Parliament were not the drunkards who filled their cells and their lunatic asylums, but the men who were tempted by the abundance and the proximity of beershops and public-houses to spend on indulgence that profited 1432 neither themselves nor their families a-sixth or a-quarter—even a-half of their slender and hard-earned incomes. Who could doubt that payment for liquor at the village alehouse was so much stopped out of their children's bread. The fact stood that at the present rate of agricultural wages the labourer could not afford to drink. He could not afford, in justice to himself and to his family, to divert any portion of his wages from the purchase of wholesome food, warm clothing, and decent lodging, to say nothing of the most elementary instruction for his children. But how did it stand with the manufacturing districts? In one foundry near Newcastle, he was informed while staying in the neighbourhood the other day, that only 31 out of 96 men came to work on a Monday morning. Think what a lavish waste that implied of health, resources, and moral character. But for drink, the artizans of the North of England, earning as they did, the wages of a curate or a clerk, and without any necessity for the outlay demanded by real or artificial considerations of rank and position, might lead a life which, in independence and solid comfort and in moral and intellectual capabilities, might be the envy of many among their so-called superiors. In the metropolitan districts it was no better. In Mortlake, Richmond, and Twickenham, the usual weekly allowance for beer per family was 4s. 2½d., and for education 2¼d.; and he asked what sort of education could it be for a family at the average of three farthings a-head? If they wished to discover the cure for those evils, they must ascertain the cause, and for cause they had not far to seek. Let them go for it not among the members of teetotal societies—not to philanthropists, but to those classes who by their position and habits were above prejudice and averse from fanaticism. If there were any men who had a full knowledge of the question and who might absolutely be trusted as far as the interests on one side or another were concerned, they were the parochial clergy of the Church of England. In the Report framed on the evidence of the clergy of the Province of Canterbury, by Convocation, he found the following words:—The beershops were called into existence to correct mischief, already deemed intolerable, resulting from the licensed public-houses and gin-shops 1433 of the country. For nearly 40 years the nation has suffered from the operation of both causes combined. It appears as an unquestionable fact, that in proportion as the facilities in any shape for procuring intoxicating liquors are countenanced and afforded, the vice of intemperance and its dismal effects are everywhere increased.And, almost precisely similar evidence was given in the Report of the Convocation of York. What did that mean? It meant that they had 98,000 publicans, and 40,000 beersellers, besides other forms of licensed beersellers. It meant that in one town in Lancashire 28 fathers of families clubbed to keep one alehouse, and in another 25. It meant that for every shop where a man could buy honest bread and mutton to be consumed at home with his family, there were seven bars to tempt him to selfish tippling. It meant, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bruce) told them last year, that there existed a public-house or a beershop for every 182 of the population. And the more general observations of the Home Secretary, and of the sister Convocations, were amply borne out by the exact professional experience of the police. General Cartwright, Inspector General of Constabulary for the Central Division, embracing 19 English counties and six Welsh, gave a Return showing the number of persons proceeded against for drunkenness for every 1,000 of the population. It was as follows:—"Under 6 public-houses and beershops, per 1,000, 2.73; under 8, 4.03; under 10, 4.05; under 12, 8.53; and under 14, 12.61." Therefore, when ministers of all religions, politicians of all creeds, everyone who could think, everyone who could feel, everyone whose eyes were not blinded, though they might differ in all else, were agreed at least in this—that the intemperance and improvidence resulting from drink sprang directly from the facilities for drinking; it followed then, that a Bill which in that advanced and almost unanimous state of public opinion professed to settle the licensing question, but did not essentially diminish the existing number of drink shops, was worse than no Bill at all, because it threw away, perhaps for 10 years, perhaps for a generation, one of those opportunities which so seldom occurred of embodying the genuine, but, it might possibly be, transient impulses of the people in the shape of broad, effective, and permanent legislation. Let them 1434 see how the Bill dealt with the number of public-houses. Clause 22 had a pleasant and specious appearance. It forbade the licensing authority to refuse any fresh application in the following words:—In any licensing district where the number of licensed houses equals or exceeds one to every three hundred of the resident population of such district, except in the case where it can be shown to the licensing authority that any such district is regularly frequented by persons other than those resident therein.Now, he did not wish to enter into the question of whether one public-house to 300 people was not rather in excess of the natural wants of the locality; but noblemen and gentlemen, averse to the Permissive Bill, refused to allow more than one to 500 or 600. He did not wish to comment upon the dangerous elasticity of an exemption which would permit of the inhabitants of a market town being inundated with liquor shops on the plea of the weekly influx of strangers; and still worse, of all the pleasant spots in the neighbourhood of large cities being sacrificed to the supposed requirements of Sunday excursionists, which would condemn Epping and Hampstead and Richmond to see their inhabitants debauched during the six week-days for the sake of the traffic on the seventh; but what he did wish to point out to the House was, that that stipulation, whether it was in theory effective or ineffective, was not worth three minutes' discussion, for other provisions existed in the Bill which rendered it absolutely and entirely illusory. By one clause permanency of tenure had been given to all existing public-houses, and the licensing authority was absolutely forbidden to refuse, unless on the ground of personal disqualifications, or the breach of police regulations; by another, existing houses were exempted from the tests of rating and structural qualifications; by others, every possible precaution was taken, every loophole was closed up against the possibility of licenses dropping or falling through, or the number of houses being diminished. It was impossible to read the Bill without discovering that the real gist of it lay between Clauses 23 and 42; and that if not the object, at any rate the effect of it was, to give a Parliamentary title to the holders of licenses. Why, the only clause which made any alteration in their status was that which dispensed 1435 them from putting in an annual appearance before the licensing authority. What object could there be in that clause except to guarantee the publican against the possible consequences of his own carelessness? In Wolverhampton there was one public-house to 70; in Middlesborough there was one to 60. It was trifling with the House to ordain that there should be only one public-house to 300 people, when in towns like those it would at the most moderate computation, with an average increase of population, take at least half a century to reduce their number to anything like that limit. The hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) applied that knowledge of the question which they all recognized to devise and perfect a machinery for rendering existing licenses immortal, and then asked them to discuss clauses which in many places could not possibly come into operation for generations to come. Now, if more than one public-house to 300 people was too many for their remote descendants, it must be too many for their own contemporaries; and no power on earth would induce him to vote for a Bill which in one of its clauses laid down the principle, that the existing temptations to drink were vastly too numerous for the morality and welfare of their population, and then, instead of removing those temptations, employed every method which human ingenuity could devise to confirm and perpetuate them. Another respect in which the Bill appeared to fall short of the enlightened judgment of the day was in the quarter in which it proposed to place the power of granting and refusing licenses. In all matters of jurisdiction the source and fountain of authority was the Court of final appeal, and on the composition of that Court in the long run depended for good or evil the efficacy of all judicial administration. Where did the hon. Baronet propose to place the final and authoritative decision in matters of economy? He proposed to leave it in the hands where it now lies, and where no one who had studied the matter closely was willing that it should remain—in the hands of justices in quarter sessions. To many people it appeared to be an anomaly that licensing should be in the hands of a class of men neither elected by the public, nor nominated with a view to this special duty But, at any rate, the local justices might 1436 be supposed to understand the wants and circumstances of the neighbourhood, and if, after full consideration of those wants and circumstances, they had determined to refuse a license, it was monstrous that their decision should be overruled by men sitting at a distance, who, from ignorance and want of interest in the case before them, were pretty sure to yield to the dictates of good nature—and it was a pleasant thing to be good-natured to individuals at the expense of the community, of whose circumstances they were ignorant, and in whose welfare they were unconcerned. How did the hon. Baronet propose to correct that abuse? Why, by expressly excluding from the tribunal the very men who could bring to bear upon the decision of the case personal knowledge and local patriotism.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
I propose that that tribunal should merely decide questions of law, not of fact.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, it was not to be wondered at that the hon. Baronet was so careful to deprive the local element of all voice in the matter of licensing, when they saw that he, and those who undertook to deal with the question, utterly ignored the conclusion to which the enlightened judgment of the day had undoubtedly come, that some influence, direct or indirect, in the control of the drink traffic, should be given to those who knew better than any could know of them, their own wants and their own temptations. The Convocation of Canterbury declared that as the avowed object of licensing the sale of intoxicating liquors was to supply a supposed public want, the power of licensing should be placed in those who were most deeply interested—the public themselves; but he would here quote an opinion to which he should shrink from alluding, had the predecessor of the present right hon Gentleman still occupied the Chair. He alluded to a Colleague who was taken from amongst them young, but not so young, but that he had established a character for a singular and enviable acquaintance with the classes who work and suffer, and who was a pioneer in the movement now so widespread for distinguishing between the exercise of the charity which elevated and the foolish profusion which only rendered its objects degraded and dependent—the late Mr. Denison. He said— 1437I believe you are right in relying on a very considerable moral weight, which the workmen themselves would throw into the temperance scale. A very large body of the healthy working class opinion on this side there is undoubtedly. My fear is, that it may not be sufficient to stand the assaults of the more degraded, stirred up, as these would be, by the demagogues who are always eager to turn the people aside from practical improvements to remote and morbid speculations.Mr. Denison did not believe in any great constitutional purification emanating from a pothouse. He continued—It is one of those pieces of legislation which can only be built upon by the people themselves. In any other case the cry of the class tyranny is sure to be got up, and sure of some measure of success.His hon. Friend's (Sir Robert Anstruther's) Bill, which might, perhaps, be open to criticism in detail, was founded on the principle that no system of administration could be permanent or efficient which did not draw its strength and its authority from the community at large; and that principle was recognized in the Bill of the Home Secretary last year, and received still more notable tribute in the speech with which he introduced the measure. The right hon. Gentleman said—Over and above the fact that the ratepayers were the persons chiefly interested, that it was their comfort and convenience, and not that of other people that should be consulted; that they were the persons who bore nearly all the burden of the crime and misery produced by the multiplication of those houses, and by their disorderly conduct—over and above these considerations, there was another, and in his view, a most important one—namely, the advantage of enlisting the minds and hearts and feelings of the people in the thorough consideration of that subject. Let them give the ratepayers a voice in that matter—let them give them the power in some way or other of deciding how far those houses should exist among them, and they would at once create a strong public opinion; they would encourage among them that sort of feeling which among the upper classes of society had long made drunken ness disgraceful.…… If they were to create a wholesome and vigorous public opinion on the subject, they must give the ratepayers of the country some direct control over it, and that the more widely that control could, without injustice be extended, the greater would be the social advantage."—[3 Hansard, ccv. 1074–5.]These were gallant words, and on their fulfilment or non-fulfilment depended far more than many hon. Members thought—the estimation in which the Ministry to which they belonged would eventually be held by a great number of the most public-spirited and right-minded people in the country. But besides the radical 1438 defects in the ground plan of the measure, it was impossible to open the Bill at any page without lighting on some provision altogether behind the ideas of the time, and altogether inadequate to the object which they all had in view—the checking of drunkenness and the diversion of a large part of the wages of the working classes from the till of the publican. Take the nature of the licenses which the hon. Baronet proposed to institute. Take Clause 13. There was no obligation to provide lodging for the wayfarer; there was no obligation to provide tea or coffee, breakfast or dinner, for the guest who might call upon the drinkseller to justify his title of "licensed victualler." Take clauses 43 to 49—it mattered not what they took—under which he could obtain all kinds of concessions, and might be relieved from all kinds of obligations; and, strangest of all, he was apparently exempted from the operation of the 64th clause, and might with impunity sell liquor to drunken persons, police constables, and children under six years of age. But they would be told that it rested with the justices to enforce or relax these conditions. But whatever confidence they might have in the Bench, what reliance had they on the two particular justices whom, with the intimate knowledge which he was sure to have of their characters and opinions, the publican who desired a special license might choose to select? The other day, at a country town, a certain portion of the population chose to celebrate Christmas by shooting for a fat ox outside the town. A publican applied to one of the justices—a brewer—for a license; but that gentleman, though his would have been the beer that would have been sold, refused the license on public grounds, upon which the publican simply went the round of the magistrates until he found one who suited his purpose. How little importance must the hon. Baronet have attributed to those provisions in his Bill, which were supposed to be enacted in the interests of decency and sobriety, if he allowed the whim of any two justices to set any number of publicans free from all restrictions with regard to customers, hours, and premises. As he had already detained the House so long, he would pass over the many omissions of this Bill and would call attention to one point— 1439 namely, the hours and days of closing. On that point, if on no other, all who had hitherto handled this matter were agreed. His hon. Friend's Bill would close on Sunday, Christmas Day, and Good Friday, and on any Fast day or any Thanksgiving day, except between the hours of 1 and 3, and 8 and 7, and then for sale off the premises only. On ordinary days, he would open at 7 o'clock and close at 10; and he would further give the licensing authority power to close absolutely on Sunday. The Bill of the Home Secretary closed public-houses before 7 and after 10, and at 9 o'clock on Sunday evenings, and it also gave a local permissive power to close early on any days, so that it amounted to almost to absolute Sunday closing. But, he had known a publican well who refused to open his house before 7 or 8 in the morning, because he was shocked at the injury which early drinking on the way to work and on empty stomachs did to the health and the pockets of his customers. The National Union, in language which was worthy of hearty appreciation, laid down as a leading principle, this—That on the Lord's-day all houses licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor shall be closed except at dinner time, between the hours of 12 and 2, and at supper time, between the hours of 8 and 10, and that even during the time herein specified no drinking shall be allowed on the premises, except in the case of lodgers and travellers.But what had come over the National Union—by what subtle and gradual steps had it been enticed down from the high ground which it occupied some months ago, to approve of a Bill which allowed hard drinking on the Lord's-day for five hours, and began it on a weekday at 6 in the morning, and allowed it to continue till within an hour of midnight? And what had come over the hon. Baronet himself (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson)? In the month of July of last year, in commenting on the Bill of the Secretary of State, he distinctly "approved the manner in which the Bill dealt with the question of the hours during which public-houses should be opened." Why had he altered his tone since that period? But though he (Mr. Trevelyan) was surprised that the Bill had pleased the National Union, and though he was surprised that it had pleased the hon. Baronet himself, there was one class of the warmth of whose admiration and of 1440 the strength of whose advocacy of that measure did not afford the least ground for astonishment. It was worth the while of hon. Members to examine the paper of suggestions agreed upon by a congress of delegates from the London and provincial societies engaged in the various trades—wholesale and retail—affected by the laws relating to excisable liquors. As far back as the 15th of November, they would find laid down all the main points, and many of the details of the measure they were now discussing. They agreed to the following detail:—That no alteration in the rating qualification shall apply to existing public-houses and beerhouses; that no alteration is necessary in the constitution of the licensing authority, which should be left in the hands of the magistrates as at present; certificates to be in force until withdrawn or proof of misconduct, and to be transferred when required; above all, that it is not desirable, further to reduce the number of existing houses.Now, when the trade saw its proudest aspirations embodied in a Bill, it was not a matter of surprise that they should adopt the hon. Baronet as its champion. At a large and influential meeting of the Country Brewers' Society, a resolution was passed, they learnt—To support Sir Selwin-Ibbetson's Bill with certain modifications, some of which he (Sir Selwin-Ibbetson) had seen and approved of.That was a resolution which anyone could see, by the organs of the trade, had been endorsed throughout the country; and if the committee had a satisfactory interview with the hon. Baronet, he was glad to say they did not have such a satisfactory interview with the Home Secretary. He was, however, quite willing to believe that there was a time when that resolution would not have been very palpable to his hon. Friend. When in the course of last summer his hon. Friend placed a Notice of his Bill on the Paper, and put in an early entry for the race of temperance reform, he (Mr. Trevelyan) was willing to believe that he would not have been altogether pleased to have been told that it was upon his horse that the liquor interest would declare to win. But he had been led on by the worthy ambition of settling the question to make concessions which should conciliate the opposition of the licensed victuallers—[Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON: No.]—forgetting that he could not settle a disputed question 1441 by winning the unqualified support of the party in the quarrel, even if that party were the loudest and seemed for the time to be the most influential. His hon. Friend did good service in 1869, because in that year he approached a certain branch of the question from the national point of view, and did not seek the support of any individuals whatever. But they were told the case was altered. He then was dealing with the disreputable beerhouse keepers; he now was dealing with respectable licensed victuallers. He (Mr. Trevelyan) must frankly own that he had a certain sympathy with the beerhouse keepers, and looked on them, comparatively speaking, as a maligned class. There was something almost pathetic, and certainly a great deal that was true, in a paper which they had put forth complaining that—Ever since the passing of the Beerhouse Act in 1830 attempts have been made to attribute to this class of houses a large proportion of intemperance, pauperism, and crime. Recently the alleged grounds," they said, "of complaint have been accumulating against them in a manner which threatens their existence, and which, unfortunately, it is the interest of a wide branch of the trade to look upon as a consummation devoutly to be wished. The truth is"—and he (Mr. Trevelyan) was bound to say they supported their case by incontrovertible statistics—Intoxicating liquors are provocative of crime in proportion as they debauch, and they debauch in proportion to their strength. The public-house and gin-palace deal in stronger liquors than the beerhouse. They present greater incentives to drunkenness; they are open during longer hours, hence they inflict far greater injury. The beerhouse system needs reforming, but not more than do other places for the sale of drink.Before he sat down he would ask the House to consider what the licensed victuallers were. They were persons in the enjoyment of a monopoly—a very wide monopoly indeed, and one shared by 150,000 individuals—but a monopoly all the same. The power of the liquor interest was very great in the country, for it rested upon the fears of political men; but like all forms of power which rested upon that basis, was much less formidable than it appeared to be to their disordered imaginations. The feeling in the country that something decisive must be done to check drinking was very deep and very certain, and that feeling had not been weakened by the noise and violence with which the liquor sellers greeted the Government Bill of 1442 last year. If they legislated under the temporary influence produced upon their minds by the great demonstration made last Session by the publicans, they would deal a profound blow at political morality, and they would—he did not hesitate to say it—disgrace their country in the eyes of Europe. A French gentleman, writing in the most judicious and well-informed of the Paris journals, while speaking with admiration of their financial position as exemplified by the Budget, referred at the same time to the Licensing Bill of last year, and said that his admiration stopped short of envy, because there must be something very wrong below the surface of a society in which the declared interests of the country were sacrificed to the clamour of a class. And that was fully borne out by the language of those who perhaps would have done better if they had celebrated their victories more modestly. The Licensed Victuallers' Guardian of last year said—The year just passed is remarkable for the political position of trade. Once more it has come to the front. Its complete organization has vanquished the most popular Government that ever came into power, and for nearly nine months the fate of every contested election has been settled by trade influence. In vain have the heathen raged, and the people imagined a vain thing.He thought it was not supporters of the Government alone who should blush at those taunts. Everyone who desired to vindicate the supreme claim which considerations of public welfare and public virtue should always have in the eyes of the Legislature, everyone who was conscious that he was independent, and that the pewter had not entered into his soul, should resolve that he would not allow the Government to go back from the position which last year they took up, when through the mouth of the Home Secretary they asked the House toConcur in the proposition that, under the existing system of licensing, far more licenses had been issued than were required by public convenience."—[3 Hansard, ccv. 1063.]A political career was not worth having if it involved the necessity of sitting tamely down, while one was able to speak and travel, to listen to the chorus of unhallowed exultation which last year greeted the defeat of the Government in their intention of faithfully representing the interests of the community. Hon. Members might wonder at the interest 1443 which supporters of the Permissive Bill took in these rival schemes for the amendment of the licensing laws. The reason was plain enough. Even when passed, the Permissive Bill would not be put in force everywhere, at once or for a time. It was a measure which, eminently just as he believed it to be, in itself was still only a complement to more general legislation. It was good that communities which had the sense to know what it was that raised their poor rates and death rates, should have the power of keeping drinking shops from their borders, but they believed also that it was good that in every city and township throughout the country one public-house should stand where three stood now. And therefore it was that all friends of temperance, under whatever banners of whatever league, association, or alliance they might fight, would support any measure which proposed to diminish the existing temptations to drink, and would oppose any measure which, like that of the hon. Baronet, not only left them exactly where they were, but drove their roots in deeper than ever. And, as far as popular feeling was concerned, he was convinced that they might with confidence move forward in the matter, as long as the first step which they took was a bold straightforward one in the right direction. But in that Bill they were asked to do something which would please none besides those who would far rather that the licensing question was left where it was, and which contained nothing which could satisfy the moral sense of the millions of men who considered drunkenness as a national sin, and the vast sums of money spent on drinking as a national loss. Who could be so sanguine as to look on this as a settlement? Were the reports of Convocation, the life-long efforts of thousands of philanthropists, the crowded meetings, the countless Petitions, to result in a Bill which relieved licensed victuallers from their yearly attendance before the magistrates; in a Bill which the County Brewers' Society officially declared to want only one provision to make it perfect, and that was that teetotalers should not be allowed to sit upon the licensing bench; and, above all, in a Bill which gave an indefeasible Parliamentary title to all existing sellers of intoxicating liquors? However anxious some of them might be not to break with a 1444 powerful body, the attitude of the licensed victuallers convinced them that unless they were willing to take their view in its entirety, and surrender their own sense of duty, they could not long defer that catastrophe. There was an old proverb—a great favourite of George Herbert's—"Make haste to an ill way, that you may get out of it." That was one of those cases in which promptitude and courage were the truest wisdom, in which—as the matter must be handled—the sooner and the firmer it was grasped the better. The question had gone too far to be trifled with. The enemies of intemperance were too enthusiastic; the sellers of drink were too angry for any Parliament or Ministry to retain a passive attitude in the matter. As a Legislative Assembly they need not go all lengths in this matter, but they must take sides. They must declare whether they intended to do what they could to diminish the predominance of the drink traffic, or whether they thought best to let it alone; and by rejecting the Bill they would afford the first proof that they were in earnest, and that they did not quiet their own consciences and damp the public interest in the question by passing a measure specious in its scope, and utterly insufficient to the exigencies of the time.
§ MR. WATNEY
said, that the rigourously restrictive legislation on this question which was advocated in certain quarters was not in accordance with the general feeling of the country. In dealing with such a subject they should adopt, first, such regulations as they would adopt in their own case. It must not be forgotten that the public-house was to the poor man what his wine cellar was to the rich man—he wanted access to it at all seasonable opportunities—and therefore they should deal with the subject reasonably, and not approach it in any party or narrow spirit. There were two points that were involved in this question—first, who were the proper parties to exercise the powers of granting and continuing licenses? and, secondly, whether the number of public-houses should be increased or diminished? He would first take the question as to the licensing authority. At present, and for a long time past, this authority had been in the hands of the magistrates—except as regarded beerhouses, which were until lately under 1445 the Excise. The latter arrangement had not been found to work well, and in 1869 public-houses and beerhouses were placed under the control of the magistrates, who, he believed, did their duty in a manner that was generally satisfactory, and he thought a better authority could not be found. A great deal had been said as to introducing the ratepayers to a share of the controlling power. Let hon. Gentlemen try to realize for themselves what that meant. It would let the ratepayers into the granting, the transfer, or the renewal of every license; and they would have in every borough and in every division of a county a constant agitation going on. There would be, on the one hand, the friends of the publican, who wanted to help him; and, on the other, the teetotalers, animated by the contrary purpose. The teetotalers, as they had seen, would never be satisfied with things as they were, but would be constantly endeavouring to reduce the number of public-houses, and there would be a constant struggle between two bodies of the ratepayers—a state of things most undesirable. As regarded the other point—the number of public-houses and beershops—he certainly believed there were more than was desirable; but how had that arisen? It had arisen out of the lax state of things which was put an end to in 1869, since which time the number of licenses had considerably decreased, and all were agreed in desiring to see the present number still further, but fairly, decreased. Now, there were only three ways of doing that. There was, in the first place, the way in which the Government set about it last year—a method which was, practically, confiscation, because at the end of 10 years they proposed to take away, in round numbers, between two-thirds and three-fourths of the existing number of public-houses. All authorities were now agreed that that was a proposition that could not be carried out. Another plan was to buy the publicans out; but he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer would very strongly object to any public money being given for such a purpose. In point of fact, however, it would be impossible to reduce the number of public-houses in that way. It seemed to him, then, that the question came to this—they must continue the present state of things, bearing always in mind, that the popu- 1446 lation was constantly and rapidly increasing. If the House adopted this Bill—which was practically a continuance of the Suspensory Bill of last year—they would limit the multiplication of licensed houses, while the population would go on increasing, until their number was brought down to what the warmest advocates of licensing reform would deem to be a fair number in proportion to the population. At present there was one licensed house to 186 of the population, so that that limit would not be attained for some time. And it should be remembered that the Bill gave the power of transferring licenses in an overcrowded district to a new neighbourhood—and this would provide a means of reducing the number of public-houses in overstocked localities. He did not think the House could adopt either the policy of confiscation or that of purchase; it seemed to him that no other scheme for diminishing the number of houses could be adopted, and therefore he hoped the House would agree to accept this Bill. A good deal had been said about the publican not being required to come yearly to renew his license, and that consequently this Bill would perpetuate licenses. But this would only be the case where there was no complaint against the house. He presumed no hon. Member wished to take away the license of a house which was properly conducted; and the fact of a publican's not being called upon to renew his license was equivalent to saying that he had conducted his house to the satisfaction of everybody. They should also bear in mind the provisions of the Bill introduced by the Government last night. It seemed to him that that Bill was very little more than an elaborate machinery for granting new licenses. As far as he could understand the speech in "another place," the Government did not propose to make any alteration in dealing with existing houses; and, therefore, anyone who desired to see the existing number of licenses reduced would find his object better secured by this Bill. As to adulteration there were already stringent laws, which the Government or the parochial authorities might put in force; and he did not see why a Licensing Bill, properly so-called, should be encumbered with provisions of this nature. Unfortunately there was adulteration of many commodities, and such 1447 a subject was surely much more fairly dealt with in the Bill of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) than in the present measure. The connection of the grocers with this subject appeared to have been lost sight of. Grocers, under a law passed a short time ago, were enabled to sell wines and spirits in bottles; and his firm conviction was—though it might be difficult to prove it—that a large increase of the sale of spirits had arisen from that cause, and not from the multiplication of public-houses. Whether that was so or not, he held that it was only just that any Licensing Bill which undertook the regulation of what were called intoxicating liquors should include the grocers in its provisions. The only other point to which he wished to call the attention of the House was the hours of closing. As the men who used public-houses had no stock of wine or spirits in their own houses, it was necessary that the public-houses should be open at a time which suited their own convenience; and he did not think 6 o'clock in the morning too early. In fact, he thought that in a good many places they would have to allow public-houses to be opened much earlier. At Covent Garden Market men were at work all night; and if it were right that they should have anything to drink at all, he held that more latitude should be given in this matter than the Bill granted. On Sunday the houses should be open a sufficient time for everyone to get what he wanted for dinner, and also a reasonable time in the evening to accommodate those who took supper, as well as the large and increasing number of excursionists who returned home at a late hour. He reminded the House that during the debate there had been a great deal of unnecessary talk about drunkenness. He did not believe there was any more respectable class of shopkeepers than the publicans, and thought that the House ought to treat them with proper consideration, instead of passing Bills of pains and penalties. It ought to be the study of Parliament to raise that class of traders in the social scale, rather than to degrade them by such propositions as had been advanced in that House.
supported the Bill, with the full conviction that it contained within it sound principles, that it was based on a good theory, and that generally 1448 it formed a good foundation for the House to work upon. He was glad that the Government had brought in their Bill, because he thought that the House would be placed in a false position if they had to legislate without knowing the opinions of the Government. To the principle of the Bill now before them he fully assented. He believed the public-houses in this country to be a most important national institution; and that, though liable to abuse, they served purposes of great public utility; and, therefore, he thought they ought to be regulated by one general law applying to the whole of the country, and not varying in different districts. He approved the present Bill, moreover, because he thought they were bound to encourage men of good capital and of good conduct to engage in the trade, and not to do anything which might have the effect of driving respectable men from it. Everyone knew that, as a matter of fact, every man who conducted his house properly was morally certain of the renewal of his license; and it was right that he should have that certainty; because, unless he had some confidence, no man would embark his capital in the trade, and the consequence would be that the character of the publicans would be lowered. It had been objected that this Bill contained no provisions for reducing the number of licensed houses; but he anticipated that the action of the Bill would be to produce a considerable diminution. Where a neighbourhood was overstocked with these establishments they could not all thrive, and some would have recourse to improper practices. In such cases, the machinery provided by the Bill would come into play, and the number of houses would be reduced, if ill-conducted, by deprival of their licenses. He could not approve any plan which left the decision on these questions to a body elected from the ratepayers. This might be a convenient way of shelving the difficulty; but he thought the only safe plan was by the action of a general law, and not by leaving it to the enthusiasm—say, the well-meant enthusiasm—of particular districts. The result of such a system would be perpetual contests, and those not of the best kind. Men would frequently be elected to such a body because they favoured one particular house, because they were favourable to the extension 1449 of licenses, or because they desired their entire suppression. At the next election a re-action would take place, new Members would be elected, who would license an additional number of houses. He should support the Bill, because he thought it would effect much that they desired to see done without being attended by the disadvantage which he could not help thinking beset some of the other proposals on this subject.
§ MR. GREENE
hoped that the House would read the Bill a second time. He believed that the owners of beerhouses had been more sinned against than sinning. When the Beerhouse Bill was passed in 1830 the idea then was that there should be free trade in beer, and they created a beer license independent of the character of the man, and independent of the control of the magistrates. Now they turned round upon the beerhouses; but he thought it was the sin of the Legislature in creating a class of houses which were under no control. He believed that beershops under the Act of 1869 were no greater evil than public-houses, because they sold only one kind of article, and were under the control of the magistrates. He was not standing there as the owner of public-houses—in this matter he had been a free-trader. Under the Act of 1830 they encouraged a large investment of capital in breweries by men like the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) and others of whom he was a humble follower, who supplied a good wholesome article; and he hoped the House was not about to go back to the old system, and again create a monopoly; but if the measure of Her Majesty's Government last year had been carried, it would have thrown all the public-houses in the country into a few hands. If people would cease drinking altogether he, for one, should not object; but it was idle to attempt to suppress the traffic by legislation. He would give an illustration of how impossible it was to prevent drinking by suppression. In his own neighbourhood an owner of six or seven parishes, when he came into possession of his estate, abolished every public-house in them. He found, however, that still the drinking continued: the men left their homes on Saturday and came home on the Sunday morning, breaking hedges, smashing gates, and making noises of a most improper kind. 1450 Upon inquiry his friend found that there were 16 people selling spirits without licenses; he therefore established a public-house in each parish, put in respectable men; and the result was that the people had returned to habits of good order and good conduct. They could not by any legislative measure which they passed prevent drinking if the people desired. He was told that in one portion of the United Kingdom where the public-houses were closed on Sunday, there was more drunkenness than in any other part of the kingdom. As to adulteration, of which a noble Lord had given such a terrible description in "another place," he (Mr. Greene) maintained that they could not adulterate good beer. They could not adulterate such beer as was brewed by his hon. Friend the Member for Derby, and they should take care in their legislation not to injure the trade of men who supplied good wholesome beer. If they restricted the trade in beer they would have more spirits drank; and it had been found that in cases where the beer was too weak then the consumption was greater. There were some men who liked a little excitement, and he had been told that the cheapest way to get a little excitement was to drink two-pennyworth of gin and stand on your head. Although there were clauses in this Bill with which he could not agree, he hoped the question would be settled. There were vast numbers of persons interested in it, and although he would rejoice if the people needed no more drink, he thought that the interest should be protected and cared for like any other interest.
said, he was glad to express his opinion that any measure on this subject proceeding from the author of the present Bill, was entitled to the favourable consideration of the House, for his hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had been on this subject not only a most earnest and determined, but a very successful, reformer; and for himself, he might say that in the work in which his hon. Friend had engaged he desired to be regarded as a fellow-labourer, rather than an opponent. It would be a matter of great regret if so important a question as this should be looked upon as a matter to be decided on any party grounds; and though he believed that the result of an agitation would be a gain to hon. Gentle- 1451 men opposite and a loss to his own party, he was satisfied that in dealing with this question hon. Gentlemen opposite would rise superior to considerations of that nature. His hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had recommended his Bill on the ground that it was a moderate Bill. He (Mr. Bruce) did not quarrel with it on that ground, because he was convinced that the only Bill to which the House would assent must be a moderate Bill. From the means he possessed of judging, he was led to believe that the publicans themselves were anxious for a settlement of the question. What they should endeavour to do was, in his opinion, to aim at an improvement in the licensing authority, and a reduction of the number of licensed houses to something more proportionate to the public requirement. His hon. Friend, however, left the licensing authorities exactly where they at present stood—a proposal with which, after the discussion there had been on this subject, the country would not, he believed, remain satisfied. What they desired was that there should be greater responsibility, and that he believed it was impossible to attain as long as the questions relating to licensing were decided by large bodies of magistrates, whose decisions, though no doubt honestly given, were not always in conformity with the public interest, and he thought no Bill should pass that House that did not provide some security in that respect. Some reduction in the number of licenses might be made without doing anything approaching to confiscation or injustice, simply by passing and enforcing laws which were really necessary to the preservation of order. This result his hon. Friend anticipated from this measure; and if he (Mr. Bruce) could agree in that anticipation, he should have supported the Bill with pleasure. His hon. Friend anticipated that this Bill would be as effective as his former measure; but he (Mr. Bruce) confessed that after a careful examination he had failed to discover how it could be so. No doubt under the Bill of 1869 many beerhouses had been struck off the list of licensed places, and in his own county the number of beerhouses had been reduced from 1,050 to 750, by striking off those against which misconduct was proved. But, as the houses with which this Bill 1452 dealt were already under the control of the magistrates, a similar result could not be expected. The Bill of 1869 dealt with 40,000 beerhouses; but now they were to deal with 70,000 public-houses. At present the licensing justices could refuse, at their discretion, to renew a license; and they sometimes used this power if they were satisfied the house was doing harm. That was a most valuable power, and in many instances magistrates who knew houses had been misconducted had brought about a better state of things by a warning that in the absence of improvement the license might not be renewed. The difficulty of bringing charges home to publicans was notorious. For every prosecution that succeeded ten failed; but, although no conviction might be recorded against a man, the magistrates might be very well satisfied that his house was ill-kept, and that the evidence which had come before them, although insufficient to convict, was quite sufficient to justify withholding the license. The Bill of the hon. Baronet, however, did not appear to retain this power in the hands of magistrates, and, if so, it would be impossible to agree to the second reading.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he had intended to retain this power in the hands of magistrates, and if the Bill did not do so, it would be his desire to amend it in that sense.
was glad to hear that explanation, because he feared the Bill as it stood gave a vested interest to the present holders of licenses in excess of that given by the Bill of 1869. His hon. Friend had misapprehended the Government Bill of 1871 when he said that it provided that no license of any description should be issued where there was a public-house to every 1,000 of the population. The proposal of the Bill was that where public-houses were not in excess of 1 to 1,000 of population, the magistrates might exercise their discretion unfettered by a popular vote as to the granting of new licenses. The hon. Baronet, indeed, forbade the granting of licenses where there was a public-house for every 300 people; but the clause was drawn in such a way as apparently to give the magistrates no power of refusing licenses in cases where the proportion had not been reached. This clearly could not be allowed to pass. The hon. Baronet's Bill had been spoken of as being too 1453 favourable to the public-house-keeper, and he feared his hon. Friend would see there was some ground for that charge, especially in the provision forbidding the grant of any more licenses of the class known as grocers' licenses. The allegation was that places where drink could be bought for consumption off the premises encouraged drunkenness at home. Of course, persons in some cases committed excesses at home. Hon. Members and others in their station might commit excesses with wine supplied by their wine merchant; but that was no reason why the sale of wine by wine merchants should be regarded as contributing to drunkenness. He, in like manner, could not see that excesses at home constituted evidence against the granting of grocers' licenses. Various criticisms had been passed upon the Bill introduced in "another place," and his hon. Friend had intimated that the Government had transferred portions of his Bill into their own Bill. It was neither convenient nor in order to discuss a measure under such circumstances; but he desired to say that he should not be ashamed to be under an obligation of that kind to his hon. Friend; yet he was unconscious of any portion of their measure having been borrowed from the Bill under discussion, as had been suggested. He did not think the hon. Baronet could say as much in his own case. The Bill of last year provided for the extinction of licenses where several offences had been committed; the hon. Baronet had borrowed that clause, but had so altered it that it would be inoperative. His hon. Friend's Bill, however, contained several valuable suggestions—so valuable, indeed, that he trusted there would be no division of the House in regard to it. He desired, as he had already said, to be a fellow-labourer in a good work, and the Government were attempting to proceed pari passu with the hon. Gentleman in an attempt which he hoped and believed would result in beneficial legislation. He therefore asked his hon. Friend now to refrain from provoking a division, and to allow the debate on his Bill to be adjourned until the Bill of the Government was before the House. The two measures, which had both the same objects, could then be considered together, and out of them, no doubt, a good Bill could be framed.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he did not think the course which had been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman was one which his hon. Friend who had introduced this Bill should be pressed to accept. The Bill which had been introduced by the Government last night was little, if at all, known to the House, and certainly information as to most important details had not as yet been supplied. They had, in fact, as yet only a mere outline of the measure—of its details they knew nothing; while the Bill of his hon. Friend was fully before the House, and he thought they might agree to the second reading without prejudice to the Bill of the Government. He was gratified to find that the ideas which he had expressed upon this subject when he first came into the House seemed now to be generally adopted. As he understood it, the main principle of the Government Bill was to give the Executive greater authority in deciding upon who were the persons to be allowed to carry on this particular trade. That might, no doubt, be a desirable object; but it was questionable how far any external authority could with benefit override the decisions of the local magistrates. Into the details of the Bill now before them it was not his intention to enter; but he would simply say that, with the exception of the hon. Baronet who had moved its rejection, and the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), he had heard nothing in any of the speeches from either side of the House which ought to prevent the Bill from being at once read a second time. It might not be a model Bill in the sense desired by the right hon. Gentleman opposite; but he was not sure that the check which he understood was to be put on the decisions of the licensing authorities by the Government Bill would be an improvement upon the provisions of this Bill. With respect to the proportion of licensed houses to the number of the population, he thought that the proposal of his hon. Friend had been generally misunderstood. By fixing the number of houses at one to every 300 persons, it was not intended that the magistrates should be compelled to license that number of houses. They would be permitted to do so, but they would, no doubt, use their discretion according to the local circumstances. What was meant was that a fair and 1455 proper approximation to the supply to the wants of special localities should be made, and that explained the provision by which magistrates would be empowered to mate distinct arrangements for extraordinary wants. If they took the City of London as an extreme illustration of the necessity of such a provision, they would find, he believed, that between 500,000 and 600,000 persons entered the City daily who did not sleep in it at night, and were, therefore, a clear addition to the resident population whose wants required to be supplied. Hon. Members when they talked of the absolute number of public-houses in proportion to the population, seemed to think that those houses were equally distributed over the whole kingdom. That was not the case. Take Wolverhampton. In that town the public-houses were as one to every 70 of the resident population. How many years would it be before those houses could be brought down to their proper proportion? Yet at present it was impossible that they could be properly or even decently conducted. The holders must have recourse to undue means to stimulate consumption or to make unfair profits. Some provision, therefore, was necessary to prevent the re-issue of licenses to such houses. The Government Bill of last year, for the first time, proposed to recognize a vested interest in existing licenses, and proposed that the interest should last for 10 years. The present Bill also recognized a certain kind of vested interest, but did not estimate its value by any period, and required good behaviour on the part of the keeper of the house to qualify for a renewal of the license. Good character was the report of a man's neighbours concerning him so that under the 23rd clause the neighbours might cause his license to be refused if he misconducted himself. If the clause did not give that power it should do so. Holders of licenses were exposed to the same danger now, and it was absurd to suppose any person had an absolute vested interest in a license originally granted for one year during his good behaviour. But the tenant should not be the only one to suffer—in case of repeated offences the owner, who, of course, should have had notice, should be punished as well; and a very good way of securing good conduct on the part of a public-house-keeper would be to require, 1456 instead of two persons who had no interest in the matter, the house-owner to be thus bound over as security for his tenant's good conduct. Upon the question of structure, he submitted that houses should not only be properly built for the convenience of the customer, but also should offer facilities for free inspection. Many public-houses had been constructed for the purpose of allowing guilty persons to escape on the approach of the police, a state of things which should be prevented for the future in the most stringent manner. This Bill had been framed to secure adaptation for the business on the part of the building, good character on the part of the keeper, and a reduction of houses according to population. One thing more was needed. Local situation should be seen to. Nothing contributed so much to a disorderly house as its situation, when placed out of the regular beat of the policeman and away from the public thoroughfares. Bad characters resorted to such places with impunity. It was clear, therefore, that local situation was an important element to be considered. As to the question of the licensing authority, he entirely differed from the able speech of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan). He had the strongest possible objection to the proposed plan of procuring a licensing authority by election. It would create agitation and confusion, and give an opportunity to the roughs of the neighbourhood to bring every undue influence into the contest. The persons most competent to judge of the wants of the neighbourhood, the persons who were responsible for the good conduct of the neighbourhood, the persons who were best acquainted with the character of persons in the neighbourhood, were the resident magistrates, and with them should rest the sole responsibility of granting or refusing to grant a license. Therefore, as to the question of appeal, he thought—but he knew that few agreed in his opinion—there ought to be none whatever. One of the greatest objections to the present state of the law was that when a license had been refused, it was no one's business to take the matter up and carry the opposition further, and the keeper of the house, defeated in the first court, might, from the absence of opponents, succeed in the second. So it would be no person's duty to appeal against the 1457 granting of a license. Long study of the subject had convinced him that it would give more satisfaction and be more just if the authority for granting licenses were properly constituted and endowed with full responsibility. As to the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), that it would be better to leave the question to public opinion, he (Mr. G. Hardy) believed that public opinion had already come to a conclusion upon it, and that it was for the true interests of the trade itself, of the Legislature, and the country, that it should be settled at once. He thought they might safely read the Bill a second time, and adjourn further proceedings upon it, on the understanding that a Government night should be given for its future discussion, in conjunction with the measure of the Government.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he felt that he had benefited by the Bill which the Home Secretary introduced last year in framing his measure, and he thought it would have been unwise of him not to take from it anything which he believed to be beneficial. He did not think there was in this Bill anything antagonistic to the views of the Government as to the principles on which the question should be settled. With reference to the suggestion of the Home Secretary, he rather preferred that of the right hon. Gentleman who had last spoken. If the Bill were read a second time, he would undertake not to proceed with it until the Government measure had arrived at the same stage.
was anxious to meet the hon. Baronet in the most conciliatory manner possible. He desired that the two Bills should be considered together, and did not wish to place his hon. Friend's Bill in either a worse or better position than the Government's; and if that were done, it would be open to any hon. Member to move Amendments to any portion of either. With that understanding, he would not oppose the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. MORRISON
said, that the course taken by the Government was so unexpected that he should move the adjournment of the debate, by which means hon. Members would have an opportunity of considering the provisions of both Bills. The speech of the Home Secretary at the beginning of the evening 1458 gave reason to believe that the Government were to take a course the direct opposite to that which they were for taking at the close. He moved that the debate be adjourned.
seconded the Motion. They had here a Bill of 115 clauses; and it could be far more advantageously considered when they had the Bill of the Government before them. At present they knew so little of either Bill that it was impossible to chose between the two.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Morrison.)
§ MR. T. HUGHES
said, that however ready persons in the position which he occupied upon this question might have been to come to a division upon this subject before the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, it was quite impossible after that speech that those who differed entirely on the principles which he had advanced could allow a division while the speech remained unanswered. It was perfectly impossible for hon. Gentlemen holding opinions equally opposed to those of the right hon. Gentleman, and of the hon. Baronet the Member for Essex, to state them at that hour of the day. When the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) spoke early in the day, not more than 50 Members were present, and he (Mr. Hughes) protested against a division being taken in a full House which had not heard the arguments, and when those who agreed with him had brought in another Bill, which would be before the House next Tuesday. How, then, could they who supported the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire agree to a division on the merits of the question now, when they had not had an opportunity of stating their views? He therefore trusted that the House would agree to the adjournment of the debate.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
said, he hoped the House was not so unreasonable as to suppose that he would consent to the second reading of this Bill without a division;—if he were to do so, he should be stultifying his own action. He was convinced that when his hon. 1459 Friend said he desired to co-operate in perfect good feeling and good faith with the Government in this matter he spoke with sincerity; and he appealed to him to reflect upon the advantageous position the Government had offered him, and to consent to an adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. O'REILLY
thought the debate should be adjourned, because he could not agree that the Bill before the House afforded a foundation for improving the licensing system. In the first place, it comprised no change and no improvement in the licensing body. The Bill allowed no influence from the great body of the ratepayers to operate on the licensing or the regulating the number of licensed houses. Suggestions had been thrown out that such alterations might be made in Committee as would remove objections, and that it might be considered with the Government Bill. He thought, therefore, that there must be an adjournment of the debate before the second reading was agreed to.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, the time had now come when the question must be settled, but it argued badly for the settlement that the House was to go into a division in the excited state of feeling in which they now were. He trusted that temperate measures would guide the House as well as the country. The hon. Baronet had explained some of the provisions of his Bill in a sense different from that in which they had been understood by many hon. Members, and that seemed to him an imperative reason for adjourning the debate.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
rose and addressed the House amid such continued cries for a division that the hon. Member's speech was very little audible. The hon. Member was proceeding, when—
§ It being a quarter before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.