§ Order for Second Reading read.
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he was happy to think that, inasmuch as the Bill had been in the hands of Members for a considerable time, and as the question to which it referred had been the subject of much discussion both here and in the other House, it would not be necessary for him to detain the House by any lengthened statement; nor would it be necessary to enter into any justification of the Government for having introduced the measure. Salutary as had been the effect of recent legislation—for which he was happy to give credit to his hon. Friend the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson)—that legislation had always been accepted by the House as an instalment of a larger measure expected from the Government; and for many successive Sessions the Government had always announced a 958 Licensing Bill as part of its programme. This Session had been peculiarly fertile in measures relating to that subject. With regard to the measure brought forward by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), he might say, without disrespect to him, that although his ability and good temper had never failed, that measure had made no progress in the House, and it would be agreed by all who heard the discussion on the second reading that it had received at the hands of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) a more deadly blow than it had ever before received in the history he gave of the working of a somewhat similar system in the United States. Besides that, they had two elaborately-prepared measures introduced, one by the hon. Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), and the other by the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther); and while he acknowledged the great care which those hon. Gentleman had taken in the preparation of their Bills, he wished also to acknowledge, on the part of the Government, the very great courtesy with which they had consented to postpone the second reading of those Bills until the Government measure was brought forward. He thought he might venture, without presumption, to look forward, during the course of proceedings in Committee, if it should please the House to read this Bill a second time, to its treatment by those hon. Members in no captious spirit of rivalry, and that both would assist the Government in their attempt to deal with this very difficult and important question. The measure which he now recommended to the acceptance of the House was one of far smaller proportions than that which he introduced last year. In the first place, the Bill of last year was a consolidating measure. He was as much as ever convinced of the urgent necessity of consolidating the law. It was scattered over 40 or 50 Acts, and that fact alone rendered its administration very difficult. But he owed no apology to the House for not encumbering this measure with any attempt at consolidation. It was always a dangerous thing—and perhaps it should have been borne in mind last year—to attempt to combine any considerable amendment with consolidation. When the work of amendment had been completed consoli- 959 dation was easy. Nor did this Bill deal with what was also a very proper matter—the re-consideration of the Excise duties. He ventured to hope that, at no remote period, his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find it in his power to deal with that subject, convinced as he was that its reconsideration was a matter of no small national importance. The Bill also differed from its predecessors in not supplying any special system of inspection. The machinery for inspection in the last Bill he ventured to think very efficient, and when this Bill was introduced in the other House a much more modest scheme of inspection was proposed, but one which, he thought, would have proved of much value. If the Bill had passed in that form he should have anticipated no material increase in the expense of maintaining the police force throughout the country, inasmuch as a large force of police was maintained in all our large towns and populous places exclusively for the purpose of meeting and suppressing those cases of disorder which arose from the late hours to which public-houses were kept open. That source of expense would have been greatly reduced; and all the Bill would have effected would have been to secure on the part of the magistrates, chief constables, and others, proper attention to the inspection of licensed houses by making the contribution of the Treasury to the cost of a police force depend on adequate provision being made for such inspection, as well as on the fulfilment of the conditions now required by law. But the present temper of the House and the country with respect to the most modest addition to rates for any purpose, however salutary, would not induce him, unless he received very decided encouragement, to undertake to restore those clauses. So much for those points in which the Bill differed from its predecessors; now as to what it had in common with the Bill of last year. Its chief objects were two—first of all, to improve the present licensing authority without departing very widely from the present system; the other was greatly to strengthen—and not only to strengthen, but to consolidate—what might be called the police regulations. With respect to the first object—improving the licensing authority—he might remind the House that there was 960 a time when any person might open a public-house without a license from anybody; but under that system great disorders arose, and the power of granting licenses was in consequence given to the magistrates. In 1830 there was something like a return to the old system, when the Excise was enabled to grant licenses for the sale and consumption of beer on as well as off the premises. That, again, led to so many disorders that, by an unanimous vote, Parliament determined to return to the system under which the sole jurisdiction was vested in the magistrates. In the present Bill he had retained the magistrates as the sole licensing authority, and had endeavoured to improve their jurisdiction in the manner he would now explain. First of all, he took the natural division of the country into counties and boroughs. Excluding boroughs, he proposed that in all petty sessional divisions the licensing authority should remain as at present vested in the magistrates in brewster sessions. But there would be appointed annually by the justices in quarter sessions, a committee consisting of a number of justices not exceeding 12 nor less than 3, who would have power to give or withhold confirmation of the licenses granted in brewster sessions. This committee would not be enabled to grant licenses which had been refused by the licensing authority; but every license granted by the licensing authority in the various petty sessional districts would be subject to confirmation by it. The advantage of that proposal was that it enabled a selected number of magistrates, on whose independence as well as on whose intelligence reliance might be placed, to deal on something like an uniform system with the issuing of licenses throughout the petty sessional divisions. It was proposed to give the power of appeal from the decisions of the licensing authority exclusively to persons who had raised objections beforehand; and in order to prevent vexatious proceedings which might be instituted not by individuals, but by powerful societies, it was proposed that if the appellant did not succeed he should bear the costs of the appeal. In boroughs the case was different. The Bill proposed that where there was a separate commission of the peace, and there were 15 magistrates and upwards on the commission, they should form a com- 961 mittee of not more than nine nor less than three, to whom should be confided the duty of granting new licenses, and if an appeal against a grant by this body was made, it would be made to the whole body of the magistrates. In substance this plan had already been adopted with signal success in many places—including, he believed, Liverpool and Manchester—and in no instance had the general body of magistrates ever set aside the decision of their committee. The Bill, he was sorry to say, had come down to that House without providing for the case of those boroughs where there were fewer than 15 magistrates in the Commission of the Peace. He had Returns from 186 boroughs, of which only 56 had 15 magistrates; and there were, therefore, in that list 130 for which the Bill did not provide. The case was foreseen before the Bill went to the House of Lords; and, although it might be questioned whether the Government dealt with the matter in the best way, still they did have recourse to the Secretary of State, and it was provided that, where there was not a sufficient court of review, licenses should be subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State. During the past year he had endeavoured to perform honestly a duty of this kind which had been laid upon him by Parliament, and in several cases, acting on the information received, he had granted licenses which with fuller information he should have refused. This suggested an objection which would always lie against the confirmation of licenses by the Secretary of State; and the question arose what other form of security against the improper issue of licenses in these towns could be adopted, for they required some such security, perhaps, more than other towns, which possessed a more vigilant Press and more active public spirit. With regard to transfers, it was proposed that 14 days' notice must be given of an application, in order that the magistrates might receive any objections to the person to whom it was proposed to transfer the business. Upon the more important question of the renewal of licenses he had received very strong appeals from licensed victuallers, and he had yielded to the justice of their appeals. They stated that year after year they were constantly obliged to attend at great inconvenience, sometimes on more than 962 one day, before the magistrates, in order to get a renewal of their licenses, though perhaps for many preceding years no complaint had been made against them; and they also complained that they were subject to be deprived of their licenses upon charges brought forward without any notice, and charges made, not upon oath, but upon the mere ipse dixit of a policeman, or some one else, as to events that might have passed nine and ten months before the day of the Brewster Sessions. It was proposed, therefore, that unless required by the justices the holders of licenses need not attend, and that at the Brewster Sessions no charge should be received against them unless notice of it had been given seven days before the commencement of the sessions, and also that the evidence should be given upon oath. Hitherto that had not been the case, for in Brewster Sessions the magistrates sat not as a court of law, but as an administrative body; yet appeals against the decisions of the magistrates in Brewster Sessions could be prosecuted only at Quarter Sessions, which was a court of law, in which, therefore, evidence must be given on oath. Inasmuch, however, as it would be very dangerous to deprive magistrates of the power they now possessed of dealing with licenses even where there had been no previous conviction, and inasmuch as between the date of the notice and the holding of the Brewster Sessions information might reach the magistrates rendering it necessary that they should require the attendance of the applicant, provision was made in the Bill to that effect. The present Bill did not directly furnish any means for reducing the number of public-houses; but, of course, in strengthening the police clauses indirect means were provided, by which the number of houses that were ill conducted would be reduced, and there was another method by which he trusted no inconsiderable number of the worst class of houses would be struck off. Under the Act of his hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) the magistrates were authorized to bring before them all the holders of licenses to inquire into their conduct, and to refuse the certificates of those they found to be of bad character or otherwise disqualified, and no inconsiderable number of licensed premises had been closed as not being of the proper rateable value. In one 963 town in his neighbourhood, 35 of the worst conducted beerhouses were closed on that account, and more would have been closed if it had not been that the magistrates determined, in calculating the value of the house, to include the value of the license. Clearly that was not what the Legislature intended, and by this Bill he proposed that there should be a re-valuation of such houses, and that the value of the license should not be taken into account. As, however, it would be hard to deprive of their licenses persons who had conducted their houses properly, provision was made that if before the next Brewster Sessions they raised by enlargement the value of the premises to that prescribed by the Act of Parliament, they should not lose the license on the ground of deficient value. The next provision was one which he had no doubt would meet with general ayprobation, and that was for six-day licenses, the holder to pay six-sevenths of the ordinary license duty. Coming to the police regulations, which formed the more important part of the Bill, he had to state that no new offence was created by it. It was true that one offence—and, in his opinion, a very serious offence—which was provided for in the Metropolitan Police Act, was now for the first time proposed to be extended to the whole country, and that was the evasion of the law by taking drink from licensed premises for consumption in unlicensed premises. Objection had been taken to this provision; but it was a valuable one, and no complaint had been made that it had operated unjustly. This Bill might be said to divide convictions into three classes. The first were not to be recorded on the license nor to involve its forfeiture; and among these were selling spirits to children, selling by other than standard measure, illicit storing, harbouring constables, not closing premises when ordered in case of riot, and not publishing a conviction outside the house when ordered to do so. The second class, which involved the forfeiture of the license, included the selling of a liquor for which the house was not licensed—that was to say, selling wine or brandy where there was only a license for the sale of beer, the making of an internal communication between licensed premises and unlicensed premises used for public entertainment or refreshment, a second 964 conviction for adulteration, and permitting the house to be used as a brothel. This last offence involved both forfeiture of the license and perpetual disqualification of the premises. Lastly, there were eight offences which were to be recorded on the license, and they were the selling of liquor for consumption on the premises when the license was only for the sale off the premises; evasion of the law as to consumption off the premises; keeping a disorderly house, permitting drunkenness, permitting gaming, adulteration, breach of regulations as to closing, and refusal to admit constables. It would be for the House to consider the character of these offences and the penalties which attached to them in Committee. Under the Bill it was proposed that whoever committed any of those offences should have his conviction recorded on his license, and after two convictions had been so recorded a conviction for a third offence of the same class would involve the forfeiture of the license. It was also proposed that in such a case the Justices might, if they thought proper, disqualify the house for receiving a license for a limited period. He was bound to say that this provision fell far short in severity of the clause in the Government Bill of last year, and he would frankly explain the reason. It was well known that a large number of these licensed houses were the property of brewers, and it necessarily followed that if the occupier of the premises were convicted and his offence recorded upon his license it would be in the power of his landlord, the brewer, to turn him out and put another man in his place. Thus, although any number of offences might be recorded as committed in that house, by a timely change of tenant, the license would always escape forfeiture. That was the evil against which the Government attempted to guard last year. On the other hand, it was represented as a very great hardship that where two convictions had been recorded upon a license the landlord would be in the power of his tenant, a single conviction of whom would forfeit the license. The Bill, as it came from the House of Lords, was in this respect much less severe than the measure of last year, and it would be for the House to consider whether any change for the better could be made in the clause as it now stood. One offence which was severely punished by 965 the Bill was that of adulteration. For the first offence of this kind the penalty was £20 or a month's imprisonment, with or without hard labour; for the second and any subsequent offence a fine of £100, or three months' imprisonment, with or without hard labour; and in each of these cases a forfeiture of all the adulterated liquor with the vessels in which it was contained. The person so convicted would on the second and any subsequent offence be disqualified for not less than two and not more than 10 years, and the premises for not less than two and not more than five years. There was a popular impression that a very large proportion of the liquor consumed in this country was adulterated, not simply for the purpose of making a larger profit, but for stimulating the thirst of the consumer. He was far from saying that that belief might not be well founded; but he was also bound to add that having, with the assistance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Commissioner of Police, tested much of the liquor sold in London, he had not found any justification for the charge so sweepingly and generally made. That adulteration was practised in the country was undoubted; it was an offence which when detected must be severely punished; and that should be done not only for the protection of the consumer, but also of the honest dealers themselves. The House would have observed that the Bill disqualified the premises when the holder of a license had been convicted of three offences in five years. Such a punishment would be very unjust unless given with the fullest notice to the owner. It was therefore provided that there should be a register of licenses, in which the name of the owner should be entered, and that whenever an offence was committed by the occupier due notice should be given to the owner. He came now to one of the most difficult, and, at the same time, most important, parts of the Bill—the question of the closing hours. There could be no doubt that in the opinion of the magistrates, and of all who were engaged in the preservation of order, the question of the closing hours was of the very highest importance. The testimony on all hands was as strong as testimony could be that every advancing hour of the night brought with it an increasing ratio of drunkenness. In Liverpool, 966 Manchester, and Leeds something like from 43 to 45 per cent of the drunkenness occurred after 11 o'clock at night; and evidence to which he had just now referred was to this effect—that a very considerable portion of the police force might be dispensed with if the public-houses could be closed at an earlier hour. He had communicated with the stipendiary magistrates of the great towns and the chief constables as to the hours which, in their opinion, might with convenience be adopted hereafter, and with hardly an exception—he did not at that moment believe there was one—the hours fixed by the Bill had been accepted as satisfactory. At the same time, he could not deny that a considerable amount of dissatisfaction had been expressed with the hours proposed. The publicans whom he had the honour of seeing assured him that, as far as they were concerned, they were perfectly disinterested; that though they might lose something by the proposed change, yet the inconvenience of keeping open their houses at late hours was very great, and that it was a question for the public, and not for private persons to decide. They assured him, therefore, that he should have their assistance in fixing the hours. The question hitherto had been dealt with very cautiously and carefully, and he hoped they would proceed in the same manner. The first large alteration made was in closing public-houses at 12 o'clock on Saturday, and keeping them closed until half-past 12 on Sunday. That change was instantly accompanied by a very large decrease of drunkenness, and the consequence was, that on Sundays there was a far less amount of drunkenness than on any other day of the week. The next change of the law was carried by his right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), and by it public-houses in London and the neighbourhood were closed from 1 to 4 o'clock in the morning. That change was also accompanied by very great improvements. The subject was considered by the Select Committee to which reference was so often made. It was presided over by his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers), and on it sat the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Morpeth, Mr. Ker Seymer, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir John Pakington), and a number of other experienced Members 967 of the House. They reported at great length on this question of hours, and came to the conclusion that the hour of 11 might be very safely accepted in large towns out of the metropolis, the hour of 10 for the small towns, and the hour of 12 in the metropolis. Another precedent which he consulted was that of Scotland. There for a good number of years the law had been that public-houses should be closed at 11; but the magistrates had the power of further reducing the hours to 9 o'clock; so that the public-houses in Scotland might be closed at any time between 9 and 11. In the large towns the magistrates had declined to exercise any discretion, and in Dundee, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh he had never heard that any dissatisfaction had arisen at the hour of 11. It had, indeed, been stated by men whom he believed to be true representatives of a portion of the working classes, and to whom he listened with great respect and sympathy, that if public-houses were to be closed at 11 o'clock it would greatly interfere with many of their customs and habits. They stated that after the hours of labour it was usual for them to meet in public-houses—the only places really available—for the purpose of managing the affairs of their friendly and trade societies; that these affairs required considerable discussion, and frequently lasted over 11 o'clock. They objected to have the present arrangements, which worked very conveniently for them, interfered with, and their opinion carried some weight. But the great difficulty of the question of closing public-houses arose from the fact of the varying habits and practice of the different neighborhoods. In Scotland, however, the hour for closing had been fixed at 11 o'clock, and the public in that country had not been in the least inconvenienced by such an arrangement; but no one, he thought, would think of closing public-houses at 11 o'clock in London. Although, in his opinion, 11 would be the best hour if it were fixed by Act of Parliament, yet the House might come to the conclusion that a somewhat more elastic system might be adopted, both as regarded the opening of public-houses in the morning and the closing of them at night. While the Government were most anxious that some reduction should be made in the hours of closing, they were willing to abide by the decision of 968 the House on that point. If proper means were taken to ascertain what the customs of the people in our large towns required, it would be possible to introduce such a change without practical inconvenience. Indeed, if the same spirit prevailed as at Liverpool, the change might be introduced without any hesitation. He had received from Liverpool a deputation, which, he believed, spoke in the name of the whole population, and which called upon the Government to make a considerable reduction in the hours, suggesting that the hour of 10 at night would best satisfy the working classes, and that the public-houses should be opened at 7 o'clock in the morning, instead of 6. On the other hand, it had been represented to the Government that while in many places the hour of 7 would be early enough for the opening of public-houses, yet in many other places such a rule would be productive of great inconvenience. There were some classes of our population who laboured throughout the whole of the night, and who were accustomed to obtain refreshment at public-houses at a very early hour in the morning. Therefore, he thought some power ought to be given to the local authorities to vary the hours of opening. The holders of grocers' licenses at the present time were obliged to obtain a certificate from the magistrate before they could sell spirits and wine. The Bill proposed, however, to do away with this provision. No complaints of disorder had been made in reference to these grocers' licenses, although it was alleged that women sometimes bought spirits at grocers' shops and drank at home what they had bought, who would be deterred from purchasing spirits at public-houses. Such cases might possibly occur; but he did not see how they could be prevented by the licenses being given by the magistrates, instead of by the Excise. On the other hand, the Government considered it right and just that the provisions of the Bill with regard to closing hours and adulteration should be applied to grocers' licenses. The complaint frequently urged by the occupiers of public-houses was, that if while their establishments were closed the grocers might sell spirits they would be subjected to an unfair competition. The present measure was confined to England; but it was proposed to extend 969 its provisions to Ireland as far as was practicable. All the provisions relating to public-houses would be made applicable to Ireland, except those having reference to the magistrates' certificates; for he believed the existing system gave general satisfaction in Ireland. His noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland would be prepared, when the Bill got into Committee, to put Amendments on the Paper which would adapt the most useful provisions of the Bill to the state of things which prevailed in Ireland. That was a Bill eminently of details, and one which could much better be discussed and explained in Committee than on its second reading. He earnestly hoped to obtain the assistance of hon. Members on both sides of the House. While they considered the wants of the whole population, they ought not to forget the demand which was made by the best of the working classes for an alteration of the existing law. It might be that that demand was sometimes put forward in an exaggerated form; but this very exaggeration was a proof of the mischief which, in their opinion, the present system inflicted upon society. He felt satisfied he should receive a cordial support from the House, and that no party views or considerations would be allowed to enter into their treatment of this question; but that it would be dealt with in a spirit of temperance and sobriety, and with total abstinence from anything like party objects or party views.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Secretary Bruce.)
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that although he felt a little jealous of the present Bill because it had destroyed his own which aimed at the same result, yet, on the whole, he hailed the Bill of the Government with the greatest satisfaction. He was sure his right hon. Friend had no need to thank hon. Members for postponing their measures in favour of his; because it was only right upon questions of great importance that private Members should wait and see what the Government intended to do before they pressed their own. He believed that the irregularity of hours was, as regarded the opening and shutting of houses, as injurious as the length of them. Men turned out from an early 970 closing house and went to one that kept open later. The consequence was that the keeper of the last house did not know the state they were in, and served them with more drink. They then got intoxicated, got into the hands of the police, and the man's license was endangered. If the hours of closing were made the same in every district, it would, in a great measure, prevent intoxication. One of the great complaints against the existing law had been caused by the difference with which it acted on different branches of the trade, and another complaint was that there were so many Acts on the subject that it was almost impossible, even for a lawyer, to interpret the law as it stood. Complaints also arose from the inequality in magisterial decisions, which were caused by the permissive nature of most of the laws, and that inequality of decision had been productive of the greatest evil. Another point of complaint was as to the general prevalence of adulteration. There was no doubt that salt and sugar were used for adulteration in order to increase thirst, and it was therefore desirable to fix a limit of strength beyond which such adulteration should not take place. Some rules should be laid down for the guidance of magistrates in granting licenses. In the first place, the law should be simplified, as the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had himself suggested last year. To secure limitation of the number of houses, he preferred a cumulative penalty to the record of convictions proposed in the Bill. There seemed to be some injustice in recording convictions which might be for very small amounts in the same way that they recorded heavy offences; yet under the Bill it was quite possible that three such small penalties might operate against the license, though the offences would bear no just proportion to the punishment. Another matter which should form part of the rules for the guidance of magistrates was a minimum penalty, and he had the testimony of chief constables throughout the country that the rule already adopted on this point had been beneficial, and that it would be highly injurious to return to the old system. The Chief Constable of Stafford, who had been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, said that if the Government Bill passed they would soon go back to the 5s. and 2s. 6d. fines, 971 which were the delight of the publican and the despair of the police. As to the shortening of hours, while admitting that the police reports showed that closing at 11 o'clock would be highly beneficial, he could not help feeling that there was another side to the question, and that you had to consider how any sudden action of this kind would really be felt by the public at large. An attempt of the same nature was made in 1864; but the public immediately rose against the Act, which had to be repealed. When public feeling was strong, you lost ground by attempting to go too quickly; it was best to accustom the public by degrees to the benefits resulting from any change. He suggested, therefore, whether the right hon. Gentleman might not make a difference in large towns, where late hours were far more usual than in the country. If the right hon. Gentleman would extend the London hours to some of the largest towns, public requirements would probably be satisfied, the cause of good order would gain, and, at the same time, there would be no reaction. With respect to the adulteration clauses, he believed the Government had not foreseen the injustice which they might inflict upon the proprietors of public-houses from which liquor was taken to be analyzed, and he should suggest, with a view of satisfying the minds of the publicans that a sample of it, under seal, should be left with them. The Bill proposed to increase penalties; but he thought it did not increase them sufficiently for habitual drunkards, and he should propose an Amendment to the effect that drunkards convicted thrice in one year should be treated as incorrigible rogues. Sir William Bodkin and Captain Torrens agreed in thinking that habitual drunkards should be dealt with under the Rogues and Vagabonds Act, and many other authorities were of the same opinion. By this Bill it was proposed to establish a Committee of Quarter Sessions to act as licensing authority and to deal with grants of licenses; but the provisions did not apply to the smaller boroughs, although it was principally from such places that complaints had been made. He thought the scheme of a Licensing Committee might be carried much farther, and the grants of licenses in boroughs should be referred to the Committee for revision, and, in fact, 972 that all appeals might be made to that body instead of to the General Quarter Sessions. With regard to the Government scheme as to boroughs where there were 15 magistrates, he had an objection to make. According to the proposal in the Bill, there would be two separate Courts sitting at the same time, in the same room, a Committee of the bench deciding on new licenses, and the whole bench hearing applications for renewals. The Committee would afterwards refer its decisions as to new licenses to the whole body of magistrates for confirmation, and practically, he believed the confirmation would never be withheld. For that reason he considered it would be better that the appeal should be made to the Committee of Quarter Sessions, and he had placed an Amendment to that effect upon the Paper. He was sorry that the Government had left an opening for the evasion of the law by omitting the provision contained in the Bill of 1869 which compelled the owner of different licenses to close his house at the earliest hour named in any one of the licenses; and he also regretted that the present Bill, unlike the Suspensory Act of last year, laid down no rule limiting the number of public-houses to the amount of the population of a district. Then there was the question of grocers' licenses. There were very few cases throughout the country in which the police constable had direct evidence at all implicating the grocers. The grocers were a highly respectable body of traders, and the number of cases in which penalties were inflicted was few. But he wished to refer to some of the evidence relating to the effect which this change in the law would have on future grocers' licenses. The Chief Constable of Stafford said he had consulted with his superintendents, and though no great evil arose at present from these licenses, yet as soon as the public-houses closed at a comparatively early hour there was a danger of a very inferior class of traders watching their opportunity and coming in for licenses, who might be the means of neutralizing any good effect which the early closing might have had. It was argued strongly that when a certain number of public-houses were shut up a very large number of grocers would spring into the gap, and that the temptation to the grocer to evade the law would come in. The fear was, that 973 if they let in a class of grocers free from police inspection, Parliament would be giving to them power to hold out temptation which might prove beneficial to them, but which would be prejudicial to the object which this legislation had in view. The Chief Constable of Salford stated that men's wives went to the grocer's ostensibly for groceries; they were first given a glass of spirits by way of securing their custom, and they were then told that they might have any drink they liked, and that it would be charged in the bill as groceries. The Chief Constables of Blackburn and Preston gave similar testimony. Dr. Letheby, whose authority was very great, in deprecating the extension of the existing facilities for the sale of spirituous liquors by grocers, stated that it was matter of common observation among medical men that a safeguard against the evils of alcoholic drink was to be found in its sale at a tavern, where respectable people did not like to be seen going for drink; and Dr. Little, senior consulting physician of the London Hospital, said that drunkenness had been promoted by such facilities among married women, and referred to a case in which a lady had recently availed herself of them to obtain spirits in excess. There was a small town in the neighborhood of Ipswich, with a purely agricultural population, where, he was informed, at one grocer's shop it was no unusual thing to sell 100 bottles of gin to women who came to purchase their week's groceries. That was a proof that unless they adopted a uniform licensing system some loophole would be created by which parties would contrive to evade all the restrictions of this Bill. He did not say that respectable tradesmen would be found purposely to infringe the law; but he feared a number of men, seeing their opportunity, would take out these licenses to enable them by these means to get rid of the provisions of the Bill. There were also a number of points on which he anticipated there would be difficulty in the working of the measure from the only partial repeal of the present Acts. These prescribed smaller money penalties and shorter terms of imprisonment than were contained in this Bill; and as it gave over the penalties to the treasurer of the county, from which the police now derived between £800 974 and £900 a-year, which went to their superannuation fund, they would continue to lay their information under the 18th section of the old Act, by which their share in the penalties would be retained. That was a blot in the Bill. He thought also that confusion was likely to result from the inequality of the hours at which places of refreshment were to be open to the public. He directed attention to the question specially, because there were refreshment houses where liquors were not sold, but which carried on a trade of this sort: a stranger entered a refreshment house, and in answer to inquiries was told that the proprietor could not sell liquor, but that he could procure it for the applicant from a neighboring public-house. He thought that such an arrangement was calculated to lead to infringement of the law. It amounted to this—that at the refreshment shop the proprietor might allow consumption, though he could not sell. He had to apologize for having trespassed at such length upon the House. He had nothing to justify him but the interest he took in the subject and the sincere wish he entertained that a Bill should be passed this year, and that it should be a practicable, working measure, so that the question might be got rid of. There was nothing he dreaded so much as that a question of this sort should be made a subject of political agitation at an election; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, would accept certain Amendments which would be proposed in Committee, with the view of avoiding opposition, and making the Bill a practicable measure.
SIR, WILFRID LAWSON
Sir, I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Baronet who has just sat down (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson). His speech interested me, especially in the remarks he made about the grocers. I have long been of opinion that the public-houses and beershops are the greatest nuisance from which we suffer in this country. My hon. Friend pointed out the grocers as being almost as bad. Most of us have seen the interesting correspondence which has been carried on in the newspapers between the representative of the public-houses and the representative of the grocers. The public-house representative said to the grocer—"You make all the women drunk," and the grocer replied—"And you make 975 all the men drunk." One said—"You make all the people drunk in the streets," and the other retaliated by saying—"You make all the people drunk at home." I hope the right hon. Gentleman intends to be impartial. I am sure the Home Secretary must be gratified that as yet there has been no symptom of opposition to the second reading of this measure. It would, indeed, have been strange if there had been, for it is quite clear that some measure of this character is absolutely forced on any Government that sits on these benches. We have had Committees of the House of Commons appointed from time to time to report on the evils of the system; but no Government has yet been strong enough to attack the traders in strong drink, and bring in a comprehensive measure, until the right hon. Gentleman attempted to deal with the question. This Bill will, I trust, meet with better success than that of last year. But this pressure upon the Government does not come alone from temperance men, and has not been urged on the Government by temperance societies alone. The right hon. Gentleman, when introducing his measure last year, told us that he had been urged to bring on the question by magistrates, town councils, boards of guardians, judges, ministers of religion, and by all those who take an interest in the welfare of our criminal population, and all who take an interest in the working classes. I must here quote some words which were used in reference to this matter in The Times of May 2, 1871. They are as follows:—The efforts of every teacher and preacher are directed towards keeping people away from the public-house. Every man laboring in his sphere for the good of the country does his best to promote those very objects which it has now been proposed to accomplish more speedily by direct legislation. The fixed purpose of every minister of the Gospel, every active philanthropist, and every working man's friend, is to reduce the profits of the liquor traffic, to depreciate the property invested in it, and generally to produce the very consequences predicted from Mr. Bruce's Bill. …. There is a standing conspiracy of all the friends of progress against the prodigious and productive investments now declared to be in peril. …. To put the case in half-a-dozen words, the profits in which the liquor sellers now claim a vested interest are realized to a vast extent at the cost of popular degradation, vice, and misery; and the question is, simply, whether the Legislature of a country is not justified in placing, with due consideration, the welfare of a people above the gains of a trade.976 Now, all schemes which are produced in this House for altering the licensing law tend to produce a diminution in the trade or a reduction in the consumption of drink. Unless they did that, they would not be better than the paper they were written on. But until you turn the licensing system from a curse into a blessing, give the people the power themselves to remove the curse. Sir, no one, I suppose, will deny that the present system has been a failure. The fact of this Bill being brought in, the very fact of all these measures of different hon. Members being brought in, is proof that the system is a failure. It will not do for anyone to say that the system has not had a fair trial, for it has been tried in every shape. We have tried magistrates' licenses and Excise licenses, and both have failed. The House will remember what took place in 1830. We had no beerhouses then; but the Beer Act was passed intending to provide free trade in beer, and to supply the people with good and wholesome beer. But the result of that Act was a perfect curse to the country. I remember Sir Sydney Smith's account of that Act—The Beer Act is beginning to work—everyone who is not singing is sprawling—the sovereign people is in a beastly state.That was the effect of the Act more or less; but another attempt to improve the system was made by the Prime Minister in 1860, who, you will remember, introduced the Wine License Act. It was brought in with the best intention and as a supplement to our Treaty with France. The Prime Minister said he would not base free trade in wine on mercenary or political considerations—not on any party or financial considerations, but on moral and social grounds. It was an attempt to promote sobriety by Act of Parliament. I remember at the time those of us who took the temperance line opposed it, and also the publicans. As one of the newspapers said, the Government had to fight against a combination of knaves and fools—I, of course, being one of the latter. Well, but the Prime Minister succeeded in beating the combination; but I am quite sure that he will himself admit that the measure had no appreciable effect in diminishing drunkenness. It has been said, by persons who have looked into this measure, to be a source of temp- 977 tation and of evil to many. It certainly had not the effect which its promoters hoped it would have. It was said the working classes would not drink spirits if they had cheap and wholesome light wines; but I do not suppose that light wines are regarded much more by either the working classes or the middle classes than they were in these days; and yet we were told at the time that the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman was an excellent measure for the reduction of the amount of drunkenness. Then, again, a very good measure was brought in by the hon. Baronet the Member for Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), a year or two ago, which placed the beershops under the same control as the public-houses; but we are no better than we then were, because I find in the Report of the Committee—the Habitual Drunkards Committee—that drunkenness is on the increase, owing to the high rate of wages, and the increased amount of leisure which people have at the present time. So that now we are back again as regards the law on this question to where we were in 1830. The other day when the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Birley) brought forward his Bill for Sunday Closing an hon. Member got up in the House and twitted him that the Act of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lancashire (Colonel Wilson Patten), in force for a few months several years since, had been a failure. I never heard a greater mistake, for if the hon. Member would look to the records of the time he will find that the right hon. Gentleman's measure was productive of the greatest good. It was only by a manœuvre of the House that the Bill was repealed. Then, again, with reference to Forbes Mackenzie's Act, hon. Members got up in this House and complained of it; but you will not find a single Scotch Member in the House who will complain of it. It is only English Members who get up and pronounce it a failure. We have also had another Bill which has passed since I have been a Member of this House—namely, the Bill of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey). That Bill is permissive in its character, as it gives the power to the magistrates to shut up drinking places from 1 to 4 in the morning. That Bill has been very extensively adopted throughout the country. First one town adopted 978 it and then another, until there are at present a very large number of places where it is in operation. I succeeded in getting a clause inserted into that Bill extending the power to close public-houses to Boards of Commissioners who rule over small towns which are not incorporated. Town after town, I repeat, adopted that Bill, and I may say that wherever it has been adopted it has, I believe, given universal satisfaction. The principle of our present licensing system, as far as I can understand it, is that the licensed victuallers—the persons who hold the licenses—are appointed by this House, through the magistrates, as guardians of the public peace, public order, and public morality. The Legislature says—"This is a dangerous trade, because if it is allowed to be free and open it introduces intolerable evils to the community. Let us, then, intrust it to men in whom we have confidence, and their duties shall be to see that their customers get enough to drink and not too much." That is really and solely the duty to which licensed victuallers are appointed; and I must say that, in my opinion, they have not succeeded, since their customers do, in spite of their position, drink more than is good for them and for the public. I know the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass) says they do not drink enough; but that is an individual opinion, and our workhouses, our gaols, and our asylums show that there is a vast deal too much liquor consumed. But we cannot find fault with the publicans under our system. They are licensed by the magistrates, and if I was compelled to introduce a Licensing Bill I do not know where I could find body better able to grant licenses than the magistrates are. There may be a better body; but I must say I do not know of it. The licensed victuallers generally, too, are not to be run down—they are said to be, by those who know them best, most respectable men, and I do not wish to say a word against them. But excellent and good as they are, and carefully as they are appointed by the magistrates, they have, I hold, totally failed to keep the drink traffic within proper limits. Once more, therefore, Parliament must come to our aid. This Bill I look upon as a kind of code and by-law to assist the licensed victuallers in judging what they are to do, and how does it propose to do that? The 979 Bill divides itself into five heads—it relates to the time at which the houses are to be opened and closed; it imposes heavy penalties upon those who permit drunkenness or harbor drunkards in their houses; it provides for a closer inspection—though I believe that is to be taken out of the Bill—it provides strictly against adulteration, and it deals with the licensing authority. I consider that the shortening of the hours during which the houses shall remain open is by far the most important part of the measure—I should say that it is the jewel of the Bill; and if we lose that we lose very nearly everything that is worth having—I will hardly say that; but, at any rate, we shall lose the best part of the Bill. To-day at the opening of the House a monster Petition was presented that the hours may not be shortened, and this Petition was signed by 90,000 persons. It came from Manchester; but who presented it? Not either of my hon. Friends the Members for Manchester; not the Members for Salford—strangely, although their interest is closely allied with that of Manchester. Some of these hon. Members would have undoubtedly been called upon to present it; but public political opinion is in favor of the shortening of the hours, and the Petitioners were therefore unable to intrust the Petition to them, and they had to go to the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon). In order to show what the public feeling is with reference to this subject, I would point to the meeting held a short time since, which was presided over by the hon. and learned Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Straight). Although that meeting was held at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, when it might be assumed working men could not attend, and in a comparatively small room, which would only hold a few hundred people; although a comic actor had been engaged to make a speech, and although the Constitutional Association sent out a circular which I will read to the House, they did not make much of it. No one will say it was a representation of public opinion, though it was aided by Mr. Buckstone, of the Haymarket Theatre. The following is the circular to which I have alluded:—London and Westminster Working Men's Constitutional Association.—Special and important.—June 29, 1872.—Dear Sir,—A meeting will be held at St. James's Hall on Monday next, 980 'to protest against the proposed redaction of the hours which public-houses are to be allowed to keep open.' Douglas Straight, Esq., M.P., will preside, and Mr. J. B. Buckstone, of the Haymarket Theatre, and others will be present. Should the objects of the meeting meet with your approval, your attendance and that of your friends will oblige, &c.Now, it is said that these houses must be kept open until late hours at night in order that people should be able to do their business. In these days of Trades Unions we are told that it is important they should remain open in order that their business may be carried on. But, if I am not mistaken, Trades Unions and Friendly Societies, in this respect, stand upon about an equal footing. Mr. Tidd Pratt, Registrar of Friendly Societies, said that one of the greatest curses which existed was that these societies—and the remark will apply to Trades Unions also—should meet in public-houses at all. Now I want to know why there is this continual movement against my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in his endeavour to shorten the hours? In a day when the great outcry among us is for shorter hours of labour, I should like to know why the liquor trade should be excluded, and what are the objections to a reduction of the hours of those engaged in it? Surely the hours which are laid down by the Bill are enough for any purpose. The Bill still allows the houses in London to keep open for 115 hours per week; in the large provincial towns 108 per week, and the smaller towns for 101 hours per week, and they say that is not enough. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) before me. He has a Bill before the House asking that men shall not work more than 54 hours per week. [Mr. MUNDELLA: Women and children.] Well, I thank my hon. Friend for the correction, because it makes it all the better for my case. In these public-houses plenty of women work very hard, and these working men, as they call themselves, who are calling out for shorter hours for their own labour, say that 115 hours per week for the wretched people who serve behind a bar is not too much. Now, what number of people will be made to suffer in this way? If the hon. Member for Derby had been here—and he generally is if there is a Licensing Bill to be discussed—I would have told him that he might do much 981 good by agitating for a reduction of the hours of those who are engaged in this trade as he has done by leading an agitation for shorter hours among another class. The hon. Member for Derby says in a pamphlet, which he has got some one to write, that 600,000 persons are employed in these houses. Surely he ought to have been here to have urged shorter hours in their behalf. As I have said before, this question of closing hours is "the" Bill so far as the people of this country are concerned; and I heard the right hon. Gentleman talk of making it in this respect elastic—I hope he will stretch it out the right way, and make the hours even shorter and not longer. He proposes to give local bodies some control, and I will back him up in that, because that is the Permissive Bill again, only it is not as liberal as my Bill. [Laughter.] I say liberal, because it permits the magistrates to settle the question, while mine transfers the power to the people. What I say to the right hon. Gentleman is this—let him stick to the hours he has laid down in this Bill, and if he does so we will stick to him and will carry the Bill through the House; but if he wavers in this course we will throw him over, and will never believe in him again. Now, I come to the question of penalties. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the law is this at present—that a man shall not willfully or knowingly permit drunkenness or other disorderly conduct in his house or upon his premises, so that if a man gets drunk in a public-house he is to be turned out by the police, and the public have to look after him. That really is how the law has worked; and although heavy penalties may be thought to have a good effect I am not, as a rule, in favor of them. The endorsement of licenses on conviction of the holders, however, seems to me to be an excellent thing. I think it must be good, because it is so much opposed by the publicans; but it will not do to leave any option with the magistrates in this matter. The right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) pointed out some years since that if a beershop keeper is convicted three times he may be prohibited from selling beer for a period of two years. In the metropolitan district, however, there were no less than 44 convictions in 1862, and 15 in 1863; but in no case was the license 982 withdrawn and the house closed. The magistrates had this power vested in their hands, but they never put it in force; and therefore I urge on my right hon. Friend to make that part of his Bill imperative. Then as to the punishment for the drunkard—I do not want to say much about that. My doctrine is that "prevention is better than cure," and that heavy penalties will never stop drunkenness. If a man is determined to ruin his constitution, blast the hopes of his family, and go down to destruction, a fine of 5s. or 10s. will not matter much. I think there is more nonsense talked about adulteration than upon any other subject brought before the House. Public speakers and writers in the public Press utter dismal cries about adulteration; but I ask, where are their proofs? The Government analysts report that there is no extensive adulteration as to deleterious substances. There is no doubt but that salt and water are mixed with liquor; salt may make it a little nastier; but water will certainly make it more wholesome. I have one suggestion to make to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and that is, that if he would only add one word to his Bill he would make it the most beneficial measure that was ever passed into law. The list of articles the use of which is prohibited in the manufacture of liquor includes laudanum, alum, &c.; but if the right hon. Gentleman were to add the word "alcohol," his Bill would be positively perfect. If brewers put all the stuff indicated in this list into their drink, it is the most damning proof that can be adduced against the pernicious system of the liquor traffic. The Times says truly it is all very well to stop adulteration; but if you make drink so good people will only take more of it. There is a good deal of truth in that statement. Then, Sir, this Bill is called a Licensing Bill; but it has really nothing whatever to do with licensing. It is the play of Hamlet, with the character of Hamlet omitted. On the Home Secretary's own admission, it does not contain any direct scheme for reducing the number of houses; and I am rather suspicious whether it will not offer facilities for their increase. Anything having that tendency in the clauses will receive my strenuous opposition when the Bill is in Committee. I am truly sorry that the Home Secretary has not done more 983 in this matter than he has, for what the people want is a reduction of the houses at present existing. It is useless to talk about new houses and how to check them. We are suffering already from the existing houses, and the demand is that the people who suffer from them shall have some control over them. The Home Secretary, in a speech which he made in April last, 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 those 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 amongst 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 drunkenness disgraceful, which was rapidly also making it disgraceful among the working classes themselves, and which no longer permitted them to call a mere sot a good fellow, or to look on the offence of drunkenness as merely venial. He was satisfied, therefore, that if they were to create a wholesome and vigorous public opinion on that subject, they must give the ratepayers of the country some direct interest 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.]There is a Bill before this House now carrying out this view of the right hon. Gentleman—it is called the Permissive Bill. There is another Bill embodying somewhat the same principle, introduced by the hon. Baronet below me (Sir Robert Anstruther). But, although the Home Secretary has pronounced the view I have alluded to, he now says that my Bill contains a principle abhorrent to all sense of justice.
was understood to state that when he said that, he referred to the question of compensation.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
That is another matter; but what I do say is that not having introduced the popular control principle in his Bill, the right hon. Gentleman is bound to explain how it is that such a change has come over the spirit of his dream. That the ratepayers should have some control in the granting of licenses, is what the working classes demand in connection with any licensing scheme. The working 984 classes as with one voice have made this demand. The right hon. Gentleman seems to labor under the idea that my Bill is now under a cloud; but it is nothing of the sort; its prospects were never brighter. It is thought by some that my Bill has been effectually got rid of, because of the experience of an hon. Gentleman (Mr. Plimsoll), who has acquired his experience by going to America and breaking the law; but nothing can be more fallacious. In the first place, there is no law exactly like that embodied in the Permissive Bill in any part of America. In the next place, if an American chooses to come over on purpose to see whether he cannot break a given law in England, no doubt he will succeed. Now, Sir, what I do want is that the right hon. Gentleman shall incorporate in his Bill some such clause as I have ventured to put upon the Paper, and which shall give the people the power they ask for. Let him do that in his Bill for England. It will not, of course, interfere with my Bill, which applies to Ireland and Scotland as well. He must not think for a moment that this Bill will get rid of the Permissive Bill agitation. I will read to him some good advice which was given the other day by the Earl of Kimberley. In replying to a deputation that waited upon him in favor of prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquor on Sundays, the noble Earl, after quoting, as is now very much the fashion, the remarkable language used by the Bishop of Peterborough, that he would prefer England free to England sober, said—He did not attach much importance to mere figures in Petitions, as that did not afford an index to public feeling; and last year he warned Mr. Bruce that when it came to the point the Temperance party would be found to be by far the weakest, and if he wished to succeed he must have the support of the other side.So it seemed that one Cabinet Minister had advised another Cabinet Minister to throw himself into the arms of the publicans. But then came this good advice to the advocates of the Permissive Bill—After all the true test was to be found in the character of the representatives returned to Parliament, and he advised them to turn their attention in that direction if they wished any Government to further their views.We are going to adopt the advice, and make the character of the representatives returned to Parliament the true test. We do it, of course, under the 985 advice of a Cabinet Minister. I suppose the objects of Government in this Bill are three-fold. First, they wished to curtail the traffic in drink, and in this they may succeed to some small extent. Secondly, they wish to appease the publicans, and in that they will utterly fail. Let the right hon. Gentleman hear what publicans say of him. Out of one paper sent round this morning, I cull these remarks—This Bill strikes at the interests of the licensed victuallers in every direction. It will constitute an enactment of great severity, more worthy of despotic Russia than free England.Then I suppose the third idea of the Government is that they hope to settle the question; but never was there a greater delusion. With £100,000,000 spent every year in drink, and 1,000,000 paupers depending upon the ratepayers for maintenance, and a conspiracy by all good men to check the liquor traffic, who can believe that the cutting off of a few hours every day from the publicans' hours, and providing the suffering victims of drink with a little better liquor to consume, will stop the agitation that prevails against this gigantic evil? This question is one that can only be settled on grounds of justice. It is because I believe that this Bill, if it is passed into law, will diminish the trade of a ruinous monopoly, and give us a better foot-hold for our future attack, that I shall give my vote in support of the Motion for the second reading.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, that the Government having discovered how impossible it was in the present conflicting state of public opinion on the question to carry a large and comprehensive measure on it, had brought forward this limited Bill, which practically dealt only with hours and police regulations, and would leave the licensed victuallers in full possession of their monopoly. The only reason that could induce the community to support the Bill, even as a temporary settlement, would be the conviction that it would bring about some improvement in public morals and public order. The people would require to see clearly that this end was at least attained before they could be induced to continue the licensed victuallers in the enjoyment of their exceptional privileges. Indeed, it was, in his opinion, for the interest of the licensed victuallers themselves that the Bill should be an honest Bill with respect to all the 986 points with which it professed to deal. With regard to the hours of closing, he would not say anything after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, beyond observing that it seemed to him to be a most extraordinary argument that public-houses should be kept open in order to enable trade societies to meet there after 11 o'clock at night. In Liverpool most of the trade societies had established a trade hall, in order that such societies might be taken out of the public-house; and that was an example which, in his opinion, deserved to be encouraged. As to the police provision, there was, no doubt, much in the Bill that was very well considered; but in one respect it seemed to him that it would, unintentionally, not only be inefficient, but unjust, and that one of its most important provisions would only reach the less wealthy and the humbler members of the trade. He referred to the endorsement of convictions and penalties on the license. In the Bill as it stood convictions were directed to be endorsed and to remain so endorsed for five years upon the license; but if the license were transferred to another licensee the convictions were not to remain recorded against the premises. Now, what would be the effect of that provision? The smaller man, who owned and managed his own business, would be unable to purge his premises from the recorded convictions except at the cost of transferring his license and abandoning the management of his own trade, In other words, he would be deprived of an occupation from which he obtained his living, and would have to pay some one else to keep the house in his place; while the great capitalist, who owned many houses, would be able to purge his license and his premises from the cumulative effect of convictions simply by a transfer of his license to another licensee. In other words, he would be able to reap the profits of keeping a disorderly house without forfeiting his license, simply by effecting a timely change of his agents. That argument might appear, at first, not to apply to many large capitalists, who, it would be said, were only mortgagees of premises; but, in point of fact, as these mortgages were generally made conditionally on the mortgagor's dealing with those who advance the money, the capitalists did really share in the profits of 987 the trade just as much as the owners of the premises. Now, was it wise or just that those who were deriving a large share of profit from this drinking should be exempted from that responsibility for those whom they employed, and for the acts of those who were virtually their partners, to which people were subject in almost all the other relations of life? These great capitalists were the men whose gigantic profits had been derived from the existing monopoly. They were the men who really had the power in their hands, by a careful selection of those to whom they advanced their money, of diminishing the evils of the trade, and the effect of the present Bill was practically to relieve them from responsibility. When the House got into Committee it could, he thought, be shown that, in the absence of some change in that respect, the responsibility of rich capitalists would be diminished by the Bill, instead of being increased; and it could, he believed, also be shown that it would be possible to bring home to them their responsibility in such a manner as not to involve them in liability for actions over which they did not get adequate control. Then as to the question of permitting drunkenness The Bill imposed heavy penalties—too heavy, if they were to be enforced; but, at the same time, it continued the present definition of the offence. Experience had shown that that definition was so vague that it was impossible to enforce it. The statistics of any large town would show that, however numerous the convictions for drunkenness were, the convictions for permitting drunkenness were almost nil. In Liverpool, in 1872, the convictions for drunkenness were 18,010, and only those were convicted who were incapable or violent. They represent only a portion of the actual drunkenness, yet in 1872 only 16 convictions were obtained against those who had permitted this large amount of drunkenness. If the Bill were to be a practical one, its penalties might be as reasonable, as moderate, as the House liked; but they must be such as could be enforced, and such as, when enforced, should reach the persons who were deriving benefit from the transactions out of which the offences grew, and those in whose power the remedy lay.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
concurred with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down in thinking there should be some pro- 988 vision in the Bill by which, after a series of convictions, the landlord of the premises should be visited with a penalty, so that he might have an inducement to select proper persons to carry on the business. The principles which ought to be laid down were, that licenses should be granted only to men of the best character, and that before granting a new license or renewing an old license an examination of the premises should be made to ascertain whether they contained at least, one large, airy room, so that persons going to a public-house for the purpose of meeting their fellows might not have their health injured by being pent up in the close rooms where they were now obliged to assemble. He also thought that licenses might be granted for a class of houses to be open only for a short time. At markets, where the business was over early in the day, people might be willing to take licenses enabling them to keep their houses open till noon. Such an arrangement would tend to diminish the number of public-houses open at night time, and would not be unacceptable, he believed, to the publicans. There was a defect in the Bill, or rather an omission in the Bill, which ought to be remedied by giving to publicans the necessary powers to remove from their premises anyone who refused to go away at the proper hour of closing. He was of opinion that the new principle as to the assent of a permanent select body, in addition to the Petty Sessions Justices, granting licenses was a good one. The only difficulty in the matter was in reference to boroughs, and he suggested that, where a sufficient number of licensing magistrates might not be found, the Recorder in a corporate town, and a certain number of the inhabitants, who had been Mayors, might be added, with the approval of the Lord Chancellor, to the Licensing Committee. Under the miscellaneous clause, the provision to the effect that any magistrate, who was in partnership with or held any share in any company being common brewers, or retailers of beer, should be liable to a penalty of £100 for acting for any purpose under the Bill, although in accordance with the old Acts, would now create great difficulty, as such a provision would apply to any man holding a share in a railway company, for most of the railway proprietors were interested in large hotels at the railway 989 termini; and the clause would exclude many efficient men from the Licensing Committee. He thought the Bill, on the whole, was calculated to meet the requirements of the public, and to be beneficial to the community at large.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
remarked that if anything was to be done this Session it must be done quickly. It would be the more inexcusable in him to detain the House, inasmuch as he had already had an opportunity of expressing very fully his views on the general question; but one main reason why he rose was to say that it appeared to him that the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had entirely misrepresented the speech of the Home Secretary and the object of this Bill. He had tried to show that on the 3rd of April, 1871, the right hon. Gentleman had made a speech, in which he intimated his readiness to accept the principle of the Permissive Bill. His right hon. Friend was too old a bird to be caught by such chaff. The present Bill contained no provision whatever of that nature; whereas the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle would constitute a body, the main object of which would be to shut up public-houses and nothing else.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
denied that that would be the case. The ratepayers would have the decision in their own hands.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
But the hon. Baronet went this length, that he said, if you interfere with the liquor traffic, you should do away with it altogether. Now, for what purpose was it that so many Bills had been tabled? Why had he tabled one, the Government another, the hon. Baronet opposite the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) another? Why was there such a desire for legislation on the subject? Was it not because they felt the evil which the sale of intoxicating liquors produced, and because they desired to diminish that evil by degrees, and as they found opportunity? But to think of sweeping it away, that could not be done. Sweeping away was not popular control, and his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would not, they might rely, be deluded into any such notion. There ought to be popular control. He (Sir Robert Anstruther) should press for it at the proper time, 990 but not in the sense clamored for by the advocates of the Permissive Bill and his hon. Friend behind him. In his opinion, the Licensing Board should not consist entirely of magistrates. He was delighted to hear his hon. Friend the Member for West Essex declares that the present authority was by no means satisfactory; that their decisions were not satisfactory; and that a change was necessary, more especially in the smaller boroughs, to which the provisions of the Government Bill did not apply. Now, such an admission coming from the hon. Baronet was most satisfactory, and he was glad to hear the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) asserting that other than magistrates ought to be admitted to the Board. There were none so interested in diminishing the liquor traffic as the ratepayers, and the right hon. Gentleman might rely upon it that the only way to constitute an efficient Licensing Board would be to put ratepayers upon it. If he wished to be as good as his word he must adopt some system of that kind. He called upon the right hon. Gentleman, having used the words he did, to take some step and give effect to them by establishing a sound popular control. He did not think the Bill was strong enough. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman would meet him by the statement that to pass a stronger measure would be difficult, and that the Bill of last year had not found the support he expected. That Bill was withdrawn too soon. If the right hon. Gentleman had exhibited more courage he would have received more support. No doubt he would contend that it was a very ugly question, and that his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was every day attempting to make it uglier. From a party point of view this was a particularly disastrous question to touch. All the more honor, then, to his hon. Friend opposite the Member for West Essex for dealing with it as he had done, and for the bold and manly way in which he had argued out his own views what the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, however, had said was quite true. The Bill was not calculated to stop agitation, and as to being a real settlement of the question, it would prove nothing of the kind. The hon. Member for Carlisle had made the difficulty, preventing anything like bonâ fide legislation on the subject, by 991 teaching people to believe there could be no satisfactory measure short of entire prohibition. That doctrine had to some extent been accepted, and the hon. Baronet unquestionably received immense support for his Bill; but that support came from the popular control side, and not from the total prohibition side. In the Government Bill of last year there were means provided for diminishing the number of public-houses. There were no direct means in the present Bill for such a purpose; on the contrary, there were very considerable means for increasing the number. He hoped his right hon. Friend would take means to prevent their increase by continuing the Suspensory Act of last Session, which would expire next month, or by some other stroke of legislation, otherwise they would be in a worse position. The hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex had ably dealt with the grocers' license question; but he had not proposed any remedy. In his (Sir Robert Anstruther's) Bill he proposed that no more such licenses should be issued, and if the evils were as great as the hon. Baronet contended, he thought that he was bound to put a somewhat similar Amendment on the Paper. [Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON said, he had such a Notice on the Paper.] He (Sir Robert Anstruther) was extremely glad to hear that statement, and would give the proposal his support. What he really desired was to assist the right hon. Gentleman in passing the Bill, and to shore him up against the assaults of the other side. There was his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds on the alert ready to attack the right hon. Gentleman. [Mr. WHEELHOUSE dissented.] Well, if the right hon. Gentleman had the support of the hon. and learned Gentleman he would be indeed delighted. The object of any Amendments which he might propose would be to strengthen the hands of the Home Secretary, and to enable the Government to pass such a Bill as would give the largest measure of satisfaction. He earnestly trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would adhere to the main principles of the Bill, and that he would give his assent to many Amendments which were placed on the Paper with the view of strengthening it.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
said, the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) was mistaken in supposing 992 that he intended to attack the Home Secretary on this question. He only rose for the purpose of referring to two matters in connection with this Bill. The first thing to which he desired to call the attention of the Home Secretary was that it would be desirable to have an index to the measure, as they had in all Bills which originated in their own House. The other point on which he desired to impress the Home Secretary was the necessity of uniformity of closing hours. He did not refer to the case of the Press. Those connected with the Press must have places for refreshment. Their work went on during the greater part of the night, and the Home Secretary had proposed to give the magistrates power to provide for that state of things. He thought, however, he would be able to show the Home Secretary that what was good for London was more required for the manufacturing towns in the North of England. He believed that there was much less night-work within the metropolitan four miles radius than there was in the manufacturing districts. In the coal mines and factories of the North of England it was the practice to work all the night through by what was called the "night-shift principle." For the men so employed, the night was practically their day, and their fair opportunity for earning money, and it was clear that there ought to exist facilities—even where magistrates might not, perhaps, always be disposed to grant them—for those men getting some refreshment, whether in the shape of a glass of beer or, as he was happy to think was generally the case, coffee for breakfast in the morning, when they were going from or to their work. To fix the time of opening in the morning at 7 o'clock might create the greatest possible hardship in his own district (Leeds). [Mr. BRUCE: In the Bill the hour is 6.] He was glad that that was so; but if a man must be at his work at 6 precisely, it became a grave question how he was to obtain his breakfast in a cold winter's morning unless he took it with him in a can. It was the custom of the men to go a little before 6 to get their frugal meal at some place of refreshment. Again, pretty nearly all over West Yorkshire, after leaving work in the evening the working men held their friendly society and other business meetings and their quiet discussions; 993 and much inconvenience might result from closing all public-houses at an earlier hour than at present in a large town, for example, like Leeds, than which, he believed, there was no place where there was less drunkenness. No doubt when public-houses were kept open till a late hour there was, as it were, an accumulation of drinking; but still they ought not in fairness to attribute to the last hour or hour and a-half all the drunkenness which might occur. He had long been firmly convinced that the licensed victualler of the old law, not only was a highly respectable tradesman, but that of late years he had had heaped upon his head, and been practically, in the opinion of the world, made answerable for the sins, offences, and shortcomings of others. His strong opinion, even now, was that, had the Act of George IV. Been preserved in its original integrity, there would have been not the slightest necessity for the legislation now proposed; but years ago "Dii aliter visum"—though whether the Dii of those days were well advised or not, let the present position of this question determine. The two points, therefore, which he now desired to urge were—first, that there ought to be no difference between the hours of closing in their large towns and cities, especially in the North of England and the hours in London; and, second, he admitted that as far as good government in this country was concerned, midnight was not too early for the closing of public-houses. There were states of circumstances which made what was good for the metropolis equally good for country districts where there was a large working population; and it was very desirable that the working men should have reasonable opportunities for carrying out the duties incident to their daily life. After the able explanation of the Home Secretary, he sincerely hoped that he would have little difficulty in dealing with the clauses of the Bill when in Committee.
§ MR. M. CHAMBERS
said, it was a trite remark that history repeated itself. The younger Members of the House would do well to amuse or instruct themselves during the Recess by reading the accounts given of the abuses of our licensing system more than half a century ago. The Government of that day proposed to alter that system, and they said that the brewers had too much 994 power. The rule was therefore laid down that the brewers should not have any undue influence in granting licenses. Nevertheless a new excitement arose on the subject. Lord Brougham, in his admirable speech, declared that under the then existing system no humble man could get a glass of pure, good, and wholesome beer, and forthwith an Act was passed for establishing beerhouses, but capital conquered, and these houses in the course of time fell into the hands of a new class of brewers, and instead of becoming excellent establishments, as was at first thought, they became considerable nuisances, particularly in country districts; and, instead of supplying good beer, they sold a very inferior article. Those houses, he was sorry to say, had not improved of late years, and he defied any one to get a pure glass of beer in any house in London. If anyone knew where to get it he should like them to tell him. He was glad to see that the old term of "licensed victuallers" had been abandoned in the Preamble, because formerly licensed victuallers houses meant houses for providing victuals for people, but they had degenerated into mere houses for selling liquors. He regretted to find that the debate had rather turned upon the clauses of the Bill. He should not follow that course but should discuss its principles. He was not Saint or Puritan enough to condemn those who sought recreation and pleasure. The manners of the people had changed; our theatres were now open to a much later hour than they used to be. Since the practice of closing public houses at 12 o'clock was adopted, he must confess that he thought it hard that people could not get a supper with something to drink after coming out of a crowded theatre. That was almost prohibited now, and the consequence was that all sorts of devices were resorted to evade the law; and it struck him that they had been a little too rapid in their proceedings with reference to those who visited theatres. Those who went to the opera might go home and get all sorts of refreshment. Gentlemen might go to their clubs and get refreshment at 1 o'clock in the morning, and he thought that they went a little too far to arbitrarily close public-houses at 12 o'clock. It was unquestionable that during the time that many slept others were en- 995 gaged in hard work. He had himself been associated in work with literary men up to 5 o'clock in the morning, and he well knew one peculiar class of hard-working men, compositors and printers, and no one could say it was not very hard upon them that they could not get any refreshment in the night. An hon. Member, on a former occasion, had alluded to the people who worked in the day time, but quite left out of consideration the merits of the large population who were obliged to work at night. Formerly there used to be what were termed night-houses, which were intended for the accommodation of Hackney coachmen; but he supposed that as they went out such houses disappeared. There was also a large number of men employed by market gardeners who arrived at Covent Garden, perhaps, at half-past 3 or 4 in the morning, often utterly exhausted; and it was very harsh to prohibit them from obtaining a wholesome glass of beer. Many others had to work at night occasionally who ought to be allowed to get refreshment; therefore, he thought that some houses, at all events, should be permitted to remain open. With respect to adulteration, there was no doubt that it existed to a very great extent. It came out in the investigation before Mr. Scholefield's Committee that there was a class of men called "doctors," whose occupation was to visit publicans and teach them how to doctor the beer by mixing certain deleterious ingredients with it, so as to increase the quantity without apparently diminishing its strength or flavor, and it was proved distinctly that vast quantities of pernicious preparations were used, so that it was impossible in any ordinary public-house to get a good, genuine, wholesome glass of beer. It was also proved that there was really no pure gin sold at such houses, and that those who drank what they supposed to be gin over public-house bars were really drinking neither more nor less than poison. In his opinion, those who framed the Bill had not availed themselves of the information which was contained in the Reports of Committees upon the subject; and he was afraid that having brought in a Bill last year which from the stringency of its clauses gave great offence, they this year determined to bring in as "smooth-going" a measure as possible in order to throw upon the House the responsibility of making it more strin- 996 gent, and thus relieve themselves of the odium at the expense of individual Members, who would be called to justify themselves before their constituencies. He hoped they would, but feared they would not, get the Bill through Committee this Session.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, reference had been incidentally made to a Bill introduced by Mr. Scholefield, entitled "An Act for preventing the Adulteration of Articles of Food or Drink" (23 & 24 Vict. c. 84). By that Act the Vestries in the metropolis were empowered to appoint analysts, by whom the purchasers of food might have them analyzed; but there was an important omission in that Bill, inasmuch as it was merely left to the option of the Vestries to appoint these analysts, and they had never done so. With respect to the licensed victuallers, excisemen were employed to go to public-houses and take liquors from the bottles and barrels and cause them to be analyzed. The proposal of the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex, in his Bill, was that every parish should employ an Inspector, and that there should also be an analytical chemist attached to every parish, and that the appointment of these officers should be compulsory upon the parish. A great endeavour had been made to ascertain whether or not articles sold by publicans were doctored; but the attempts to ascertain that had failed, and therefore it would appear that, at all events, the great bulk of the publicans did not adulterate the liquors they sold. In his opinion, the country ought to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for having brought in this Bill. Last year, no doubt, the right hon. Gentleman brought in a measure with the very best intention; but it was clearly not pleasing to anybody. But this Bill seemed a very sensible one, and he (Mr. Locke) thought that if it were carried out, even the hon. Baronet who sat behind him (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would become pleased with it. At the last Election there was "a stand-up fight" at Plymouth. All the great questions which occupied the public mind were set aside there, and the question which was made the order of the day at Plymouth was who should return the Member—the licensed victuallers, or the supporters of the Permissive Bill. It was odd that so near to Plymouth 997 there should be a place like Devonport, where, according to his hon. and learned Friend's (Mr. M. Chambers') statement, the public drank nothing. They had no public-houses, no beer—in fact, he might say, "no nothing." Certainly that must be a place in which it was not desirable for anybody to live. But his hon. and learned Friend goes to Devonport—[Mr. M. CHAMBERS: What I said was, that publicans had no political influence.] His hon. and learned Friend said that publicans had no influence there. He (Mr. Locke) did not suppose that trading publicans had greater influence there than other people; but there must be a good many of them in Devonport, and he presumed their votes were as good as anybody else's, and if they gave a man a vote so much the better for the person who got it. There were points in the Bill which he thought must be remedied, and he had given Notice to bring the question before the House in Committee. He thought some of the clauses in the Bill were rather harsh. One of them was particularly so. It was said that where any offence had been committed in a public-house, the publican was to be taken before a magistrate, and the magistrate was to convict him, and whatever the offence might be it was to be endorsed on the license. There were a great many offences in the category—very slight offences indeed. Supposing a game at cards were played, and the publican could not prevent it, yet it might be recorded on his license. He therefore thought that the magistrate ought to have some discretion in the matter given to him, or that provision ought to be altogether expunged from the Bill. He thought the hours which public-houses were allowed to be open as provided in the Bill were not sufficient. At night there were a number of persons for whom it was positively necessary that public-houses should be open. Therefore to lay down one strict rule was altogether out of the question. He was certainly anxious that this point in the Bill should undergo revision. For his own part, he did not think that the hours that they had at present were too long. A good deal had been said in the course of the debate about licensed victuallers and grocers. Now, it must be remembered that the great bulk of the grocers sold liquors at a time when the publicans were pre- 998 vented from doing so, and that, too, on the premises. A grocer was placed in a different position with regard to the taking out of a licence to a licensed victualler, and that point was one which would require more consideration in Committee. There was another objection to the Bill. For the first time an ordinary policeman would have power given to him to interfere in a publican's business which he should never be entrusted with; but that, too, might be provided against in Committee. In conclusion, he begged to express a hope that they would get rid entirely of this question, which had caused so much uneasiness and given so much offence to a very large and most respectable body of men such as the licensed victuallers.
§ MR. D. DALRYMPLE
, though unable to agree with his hon. and learned Friend that this Bill was overladen with honey, was glad to see it introduced. He hoped, however, that the hours for closing public-houses would be rendered uniform. So far from his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. M. Chambers) having proved the necessity of keeping public-houses open in London to a very late hour, he thought he had proved the extreme desirability of closing places of amusement and public-houses at an earlier hour. He thought it would be an improvement if theatres and public-houses were closed at 11 instead of 12. It would be very difficult for him to answer the question why public-houses in Leeds and Bristol should be closed at 11 when public-houses in London were allowed to be open till 12. He entirely agreed with what the hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) had said with regard to grocers' licenses. The practice of selling intoxicating liquors in grocers' shops was increasing in this country, and if the House was going to put a heavy hand upon licensed victuallers he thought a heavier hand ought to be put upon grocers, and that steps should be taken to ascertain what was going on in grocers' shops. These matters he hoped would be discussed in Committee.
§ MR. DODSON
congratulated the Home Secretary upon having introduced a "smooth-going" Bill, as his hon. and learned Friend behind him (Mr. M. Chambers) had described it. Hitherto this question had been discussed with an earnestness and a zeal which were 999 usually reserved for theological questions. The House was now discussing a Bill which introduced no new theory and no new principle. There seemed to be no dispute as to the desirableness of amending the law of licenses. There was no dispute as to whether this was the proper time to make that change, and there seemed to be no dispute on the question whether this was a reasonable Bill. Therefore, in his opinion, there was an unwarrantable consumption of the national gas in prolonging this discussion. This Bill consisted of details, constituting a series of Amendments, in a most complicated code of laws, involving minute regulations, and he thought the House could make no progress until they went into Committee.
said, it was not to be wondered at, considering the agitation that had gone on on both sides of the question, that the Government should endeavour to do something; but he never saw a Bill which showed so much that they wanted to do something, but were utterly unable to know what to do. There was a great deal to be said in Committee on many of the penalties proposed to be imposed. He doubted whether they had been adjusted on any sound rule. It was impossible not to see that things important and things most trifling were treated in the same way. A grave offence should carry penal consequences; but there were other offences which should receive very different treatment. One thing they would have to do would be to define more accurately what they meant by a man who had been drunk. That was a very wide question. He remembered taking part in an inquiry 40 years ago as to the conduct of a body of men, some of whom were decorated with the Peninsular medals, and the only point on which the witnesses agreed was that a man could not be drunk if he could stand or speak. Liverpool and Manchester, with their large population, were to have a committee of nine magistrates, while in counties like his own (Oxford) with a much smaller population, the committee would number 12. The quorum was to be three, and there being no business more disagreeable than licensing, he feared that it would be left to three persons, just as in Select Committees upstairs the quorum was frequently the 1000 limit of attendance. In counties there might be either a general committee or a committee for each district. The former plan would, probably, be thought most convenient, and in his county containing 11 licensing districts, the committee would probably consist of one magistrate from each together with the Chairman of Quarter Sessions. Now such a committee would have little local knowledge, and would be guided by the opinion of the local member; whereas at present five or six magistrates usually transacted the business of the district—men conversant with the wants of the locality and with the character of applicants and memorialists. In boroughs having 15 qualified magistrates, a licensing committee was to be appointed, and it was provided that the action of qualified justices should not be invalid; but he saw no provision made for the contingency of a committee being appointed under an erroneous impression that there were 15 qualified magistrates. He objected also to multiplying the documents which justices' clerks were required to keep, thus tending to make petty sessions courts of record. The hon. Baronet below him (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had touched upon a point which demanded great consideration—namely, adulteration. As this Bill had been drawn, by perhaps the accidental use of the word "may" instead of "shall," it would not be necessary for the policeman who was taking away samples of liquors to inform the publican from whose house he was taking them that they were wanted for the purpose of analyzation. Now, such a proceeding could not be satisfactory to any party. It was true the samples must be sealed up if the publican required it; but the samples might be taken behind his back and without his knowing what was going to be done with them. All these points, he thought, required the gravest consideration. The Schedules included seven or eight Acts of Parliament, adopting the clauses of some, and omitting others. When, therefore, the Bill came into operation it would be rather cumbrous. He should like to see a bonfire made of the numerous statues on this subject, and hoped that in quieter times the Government would find an opportunity of consolidating the law. This would do some good; whereas this Bill was likely to give a good deal of trouble, and the 1001 Home Secretary had certainly had more than his share of trouble in bringing it forward.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
congratulated the Home Secretary on the reception the Bill had met with from both sides of the House, it being supported by the hon. Baronets the Members for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) and Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). The hours of opening and closing would require consideration, and he objected to the adoption of the term, not before used in Acts of Parliament, of "intoxicating liquors." A gentleman who took a glass of wine did not take a glass of intoxicating liquor, though if he took too many glasses he found it intoxicating. Intoxicating meant not only drunk-making but poisonous, and was a term of reproach more fitly used by the supporters of the Permissive Bill, just as the Peace Society might call a Gun Bill "a Bill for the Licensing of Murderous Weapons." He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would alter the title of the Bill.
§ MR. COLLINS
congratulated the House upon the Conservative reaction which had set in. After having confiscated the property of the Irish Church and the Irish landowners, the Government had brought in a Bill to confiscate the property of the English publicans. The English people, however willing they might have been to tolerate confiscation of property in Ireland as being an exceptional country, were not willing to see it carried out in England, and, consequently, the Government Bill of last Session had no chance of passing. The Government having learnt wisdom by experience, and having found that the present Parliament was likely to become Conservative before it died a natural death, had thrown over their former Bill, and had introduced the present measure, which he believed to be, upon the whole, a very good one, and one which was likely to pass. As to the question of the hours for closing public-houses, he thought it might be safely left to the discretion of the magistrates, because no two towns or villages were precisely the same as to their circumstances, and "a hard-and-fast-line," as proposed in the Bill, would not work well. This Bill would be much sounder if the hours during which public-houses ought to be closed were framed upon a more elastic 1002 system. He had a great desire that this question should be settled. If it were left unsettled, it would give rise to a great deal of ill-feeling in all parts of the country, and there would be always a number of fanatics led by an honest man like the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) who would be agitating on the question.
§ MR. BATES
denied a statement that at the last election for Plymouth the contest had been between the Permissive men and the publicans. Such a statement was contrary to the fact. If there was a fight it was whether Plymouth should be represented or misrepresented in this House. The Permissive men were nearly all Dissenters and Liberals, and he had declared himself a Conservative and a Churchman.
, in reply, said, the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had complained that the Bill was not comprehensive enough, and suggested various modes for enlarging its scope. The Government had dealt with that portion of the subject which they thought most pressing, leaving the question of the consolidation of the Acts to be dealt with at a more convenient season. The details of the Bill which had been criticized by the hon. Baronet would receive his attention. The hon. Members for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and Fife (Sir Robert Anstruther) appeared by their remarks to have forgotten that the changes proposed related not to the renewal of old, but to the granting of new licenses. The hon. and learned Member opposite had objected to the Bill on the ground that it contained no provision for limiting the number of public-houses; but the Bill was drawn on the principle that as long as public-houses were well managed, it was not the duty of Parliament to reduce the number of those establishments. The duty of the Government was to maintain order and not to restrict the supply of liquor to the public. Every measure which was framed for the purpose of limiting the number of public-houses must have the effect of establishing a monopoly with its attendant evils.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
rose to Order. As no Amendment had been 1003 moved, the right hon. Gentleman was not justified in entering into questions which might be much better discussed in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman ought not to avail himself, in a case of this kind, of a privilege which would be denied to a private Member.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time and committed for Tuesday next.