§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it would hardly be necessary to bring forward any reasons of apology for having ventured to ask the House to read it a second time. At the same time, it might be expected that he should give the House some reasons, as clear and succinct as he could, why he had tabled the Bill, and why he desired? the House to assent to it. In the first place, he would observe that, although there had been several Acts passed relating to the sale of intoxicating liquors during the last three or four years, no provision of any kind had been introduced applying to Scotland. In the Bill of 1871, which he introduced first to the House, and which was subsequently taken over by the Government, no reference was made to Scotland, though on the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork, it was applied to Ireland with the general consent of the Irish Members then in the House of Commons. He regretted that it was not in his power to apply that Suspensory Bill to Scotland, and that it did not occur to any of his hon. Friends to apply it either. The draft Bill of 1871 of the then Government did not apply to Scotland, nor did the Act of 1872. It would be unfair upon that ground, however, to assume that there was not a very general desire on the part of the people of Scotland for an amendment of the law relating to the sale and consumption of ardent spirits, and he thought he could show, and hon. Members connected with Scotland would confirm him, that there was a very general desire for the reform of the existing law, and that desire was unequivocally expressed at the last General Election. In fact, he was quite convinced it would have given greater satisfaction and have been for the benefit of the whole country, if the Lord Advocate introduced some reforms in the system. He could bring a good deal of evidence in support of what he said. He would allude first of all to the large number of societies calling themselves Good Templars, which had within a comparatively 547 small number of years been founded in Scotland. He did not pretend to say that he went to all the lengths that those belonging to these societies did, because they had advocated some extreme doctrines; but the numbers of Scotchmen belonging to these societies, and the earnest way in which they acted, entitled him to say that their formation constituted one amongst other evidences to be adduced, that there was a general desire in Scotland for an amendment of the law. The people of Scotland also supported the Bill of his hon. Friend near him (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), though he must say his (Sir Robert Anstruther's) belief was, that they did so not so much on account of the prohibitory character of the Bill, as on account of its admitting for the first time, that the population should have some control over the public-houses, and in the issue of the number of licences. He believed it was that popular control—in which respect he did not think the Bill even went far enough—that caused the people of Scotland to approve of the Bill. He could also adduce other reasons why they desired an amendment of the law. Let him first speak of the enormous consumption of ardent spirits in Scotland, and of the increasing consumption of them in that country. They had the other day a very interesting speech made upon the Sunday Closing in Ireland Bill by the hon. Member for Londonderry County (Mr. B. Smyth), and he quoted figures to show that the consumption of spirits in Scotland was not nearly so large as it had been—that, in fact, there was not so much drunkenness now as there was some years ago. He did not know where the hon. Member got his figures from, and he had been unable to ascertain that they were correct, for the figures which he (Sir Robert Anstruther) had obtained went to prove a state of things diametrically opposed to that set forth by the hon. Gentleman. He had taken the figures from the latest available and official Returns, and he found in Scotland, in 1869, that they consumed 5,295,329 gallons of spirits, being 1.57 per head of the population. In 1872 the consumption was 6,452,831 gallons of spirits, being 1.92 per head of the population, and that morning he had received further figures from the Revenue Department showing that, in 1873, the consumption of ardent spirits was 6,832,487 548 gallons, being 2.3, or two gallons and one-third per head of the population. His figures, therefore, did not tally with those of the hon. Member. He wished they did, because he was afraid they proved beyond all doubt, from whatever cause it arose—whether from the increasing wages that working men were receiving, enabling them to spend more money in drink; or from the increasing-desire to consume ardent spirits—that there was a serious annually increasing amount of drinking in Scotland. The statistics in reference to crime which was attributable to drunkenness also showed a very large corresponding increase. The number of persons in Glasgow convicted of drunkenness in 1869 was 4,971, while in 1873 it was 6,418, being an increase of 30 per cent. The cases of assault and breaches of peace arising out of drink were in 1869, 14,653; while in 1873, they were 17,906, showing an increase of 22 per cent. Then there was in Glasgow a very large number of persons coming under a curious category, which he did not find in the columns of any other police Report. There were in the year 1873, no less than 28,814 persons who were taken up by the police for being drunk and disorderly, who were not brought before the magistrates, but were released by the lieutenant on duty. It therefore appeared if a person in Scotland wanted to get drunk he could not choose a better place to do it in than Glasgow, where if he fell into the hands of the police he had a chance of being released without being taken before a magistrate. He would now refer to Dundee. Between 1869 and 1872 there was an increase in assaults, disorderly and drunken cases, to the extent of 56 per cent. Lord Deas, in finishing his Circuit Court said, nearly all the cases seemed very nearly to come from one cause—namely, the excessive use of intoxicating drink, sometimes by the parties who committed the offences, and just as frequently by the persons upon whom the offences were committed; because, when persons were seen to be in drink they became objects for attack. Lord Deas further said that he understood from the best information that within the last year, 1873, there had been an increase in police offences to the extent of 727 in Dundee, and it was mainly due to the use of intoxicating drink. Mr. Justice Denman, speaking 549 recently at the Liverpool Assizes said, it was a curious fact that in 13 cases of assault, either the person attacked or the person attacking was more or less drunk. Therefore, he was afraid that all the figures he had quoted as regarded Scotland went to show, the Forbes-Mackenzie Act notwithtanding, that there was a great and annually increasing consumption of spirits in that country; and that that increasing consumption of spirits and liquor was producing an annually increasing amount of crime. With regard to the number of licences, that formed a main element in his argument in favour of the second reading of the Bill. He considered there were too many of these licences. He knew it was a disputed question, many people arguing that the increase of crime was not in the same ratio as the increase of public-houses. He would not argue that it was in the direct ratio; but as they multiplied temptation, the opportunities for drinking became greater, and people yielded to these increased temptations. They often heard heard it said that a man might possibly get past three public-houses, but he could not pass a fourth. In order to show that there were a great many more of these houses in Scotland than were required by the wants of the people he would quote some figures. Edinburgh had a population of 197,581, and there were 397 inns and public-houses; the proportion of inns and public-houses to the population being one in every 498. But there were 458 grocers' licences, and if they added these to the inns and public-houses, they brought the places for selling drinks to 1 in every 231 of the inhabitants. These figures were taken from the Return moved for last year on the Motion of the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay); but he had the very good authority of a gentleman practising in the Licensing Court in Edinburgh for saying that there had been a very considerable increase in these grocers' licences, so that they now numbered 554. Dundee, with a population of 119,141, had 279 inns and public-houses, being 1 to every 427 of the inhabitants. Then there were 238 grocers' licences, which made the places for the sale of intoxicating liquors 1 to every 230 of the population. That was surely a great deal more than was needed. Kilmarnock, with a population of 23,799, had 82 public-houses and inns, and 45 grocers' 550 licences, being 1 to every 180 of the population. It was a singular fact, as they went down in the scale of towns they got up in the scale of proportion—that was to say, the smaller the place the larger the number of public-houses and drinking places in it. He should have been inclined to have supposed that the opposite would have been the result. In Airdrie the houses were 1 in 172 of the inhabitants, and in Dumfries they were 1 to every 149. In Musselburgh they were 1 to every 119, and in Haddington 1 to every 109, including grocers' licences. As they got further north, from some cause he could not explain, the proportion increased. [An HON. MEMBER: It is colder.] Yes; and beyond that, there were numbers of English gentlemen who went there to shoot. In Irvine the drinking places were 1 in 111 of the inhabitants, and in Dingwall they were 1 in 96. He submitted that these figures were worthy of consideration. Taking an aggregate of the counties, exclusive of the boroughs above 500 inhabitants, there was a population of 1,109,595, with 1,537 public-houses and inns, and 533 grocers' licences, being one in every 530 of the inhabitants; while in the boroughs over 500 inhabitants, there was a population of 2,250,423, with 6,355 public-houses and inns and 3,726 grocers' licences; being one in every 223 of the inhabitants. Taking the whole of Scotland, with its population of 3,660,118, there were 7,892 inns and public-houses, being a proportion of 1 to every 425 of the population; the grocers' licences were 4,259, the proportion of 1 to every 789 of the population; and taking inns and public-houses and grocers' licences together, there was 1 drinking place for every 278 of the inhabitants. He respectfully submitted that he had made out that part of his case—that there were too many public-houses, and that it was very desirable that the number should be reduced. He now desired to call the attention of the House to the Bill itself. He admitted at once that it was an experiment, and that it was an experiment of a somewhat novel kind, but it was an experiment they were not going to embark upon without a precedent very much to the point indeed. He alluded to the case of Gothenburg. The main object he had in view was to carry out the scheme of Mr. Carnegie 551 of Stronvar, who had given tangible proofs of his desire to see the Gothenburg system tried in Scotland. Mr. David Gillespie, advocate, had written an admirable epitome of what the system was, which he recommended to hon. Members. This Bill was divided into two parts, and was a Suspensory measure as far as Clause 6, and those clauses were separate from the Bill, and might form an Act by themselves. Now, what were the facts with regard to the Gothenburg system? They were, in his opinion, very interesting. The system was commenced in Gothenburg, in 1865, by a private company being established with a view of buying up the public-houses, the great principle being that no proprietor or manager of a public-house should derive any profit or gain from the sale of spirits. This was an object well worthy of consideration. No doubt, there were those who objected to touch the unclean thing in any form whatever; but it was quite evident that somebody must touch it; and, as some public-houses must exist, as practical men the best thing they could do was to see that they were conducted by the best and most respectable persons, and that they were were under the control of the people themselves. Well, as he had said, the Gothenburg system was started in 1865, when there were 40 public-houses in that town; and these were placed in the hands of the company, who reduced them by 23, leaving only 17 public-houses open. The result of this had eminently been to diminish drunkenness and increase the respectability of the houses. He should say, in parenthesis, that the company only bought up the public-houses, and not the grocers' licences. Now, what were the moral results of the system? When the company took over the houses, the percentage of drunkenness per annum was 6.1; while in 1868, three years afterwards, it had been reduced to 2.5. In 1869 and 1870 it remained at much the same figure, while in 1871 it rather rose, which was easily accounted for by the increased wages and prosperity of the people, and the desire to spend more wages. The fact, however, remained that at the present moment the percentage of drunkenness was under one-half of what it was when the operations of the company commenced. But this was not all. The financial success of the company had 552 been such that they had made a surplus of over £10,000—a sum equal to the entire poor rate of the town. If they could diminish drunkenness, increase the respectability of public-houses, and remit the whole of the poor rate, he submitted that it was making good use of the unclean thing, and why should they not make that use of it? It had been alleged by some persons, and he had seen it stated in a pamphlet published in Edinburgh, that the success of the system had not been so great as had been supposed, and three gentleman had been over to Sweden with a view, he had hoped, of finding out the good of the system. But, as it turned out, he was afraid they went with envious eyes. Why they should be envious, and why they should desire to make out Gothenburg to be worse then it really was, he could not conceive. He believed these gentlemen were members of the United Kingdom Alliance, and there was only this excuse to be made for them—they went over at a very bad time, for there was a large influx of the rural population into Gothenburg, with a good deal of money in their pockets to spend, and they therefore saw a larger number of drunken people than usual. He had never alleged that there were no drunken people in Gothenburg. What, he had said was, that the results of the system had proved, beyond doubt, that it was a success. The Dean of Gothenburg, the Members of the Diet, the Governor of the province, and other authorities, all concurred in testifying to the beneficial change which had taken place in the habits of the people, and they were clearly of opinion that the greater part of the drunkenness which still existed was not due to the company's public-houses, but to the sale of spirits by the grocers. As he had said, they had an enormous number of these grocers' licences in Scotland, and the Lord Advocate would confirm him when he said that a great deal of the mischief in Scotland had been done by drinking over the counters of the grocers' shops while buying tea or sugar, and that some action ought to be taken thereon. The same mischief seemed to have been caused in Gothenburg also. At a large public meeting of the Working Men's Union, held in Gothenburg last year, a conference took place between the delegates of the Union and the company, 553 and a petition relative to grocers' licences was presented from the Union to the Swedish Diet, through the Representatives of the city. In that document the petitioners set forth the great improvements in sobriety which had taken place since the establishment of the company, and asked that the grocers' licences should also be vested in the company. The Diet appointed a Committee to inquire into the Petition—and it was presumable that the Diet was more competent to form an accurate opinion as to the wants of the people of Sweden than any three gentlemen going over to Gothenburg for a fortnight, even with the best possible intentions. The Committee reported favourably on the proposed amendment, and in April last the town council decided to pass over the grocers' licences to the company, expressly stating that their object was to promote the cause of temperance. Although the present state of things was not all that the Swedish Diet could desire, it was infinitely better than that which existed in 1865, and he believed that the Gothenburg system had been a decided success. Now, all that he asked was, that there might be some opportunity of trying the system in Scotland, and he merely proposed that if any town wished to adopt the Gothenburg system of licensing, it should be at liberty to do so. The Bill differed from the one he introduced last year in two important respects. There was no compulsory clause for the buying of public-houses, as there was in the former Bill. He felt quite certain that the enacting of such a clause would give rise to a great deal of heart-burning and ill-feeling on the part of the trade, and therefore it was eliminated from the Bill now before the House. Further, he had got rid of the great inconveniences involved in the proposal of a rating power. They could not buy without money, and money could not be raised, except by means of rates, and they all knew how afraid people were of anything in the shape of a new rate—how they shrank from the idea of any addition to local taxation. One curious fact of the Gothenburg system, however, was that the buying up of houses was started without any money, and that was one of the few instances he had known in his life of a company commencing in that way and becoming wealthy. The parties received an advance from the bank, and 554 the profits were so great, that they were speedily enabled to pay off the debt, and realize a sum sufficient to remit the whole of the poor-rates. In Scotland, Mr. Carnegie had offered to lend £10,000 to the first town in Scotland that adopted the Gothenburg system; and he (Sir Robert Anstruther) thought that if the system were adopted in that country, the result would be the same as it had been in Sweden. It was with that view, and in consequence of the offer of Mr. Carnegie that he had dropped the rating part of the Bill; and he would respectfully submit to the Government that if they would consent to take up the matter, they would probably find that a large number of places were willing to adopt the Gothenburg system. No harm could be done to the trade, and that was a point which he especially wished to urge upon the House. A Petition had been received from Edinburgh complaining of the tendency of the Bill as regarded the trade; but he contended that they could not have read the Bill, or they would have found that the trade would not in any way have been injured by the legislation proposed. Instead of harm, it would increase the profits of the trade rather than diminish them; because it would limit the number of public-houses, and make the income of those which remained larger, by giving them an increased monopoly. Moreover, it would have a very beneficial effect on the trade by increasing the respectability of the houses in it. The houses which people desired to get rid of were naturally the houses of the worst class, and not those which were conducted in a respectable manner. It was also quite erroneous to suppose that the Bill was proposed with the view of harassing the trade, and imposing vexatious restrictions, for it was proposed only in order that the people might have a voice in the management of such important matters. The, evils of the present system fell upon the people in the shape of the crime, pauperism, and misery which now prevailed wherever ardent spirits were consumed by the lower classes to excess. That fell upon the ratepayers, and therefore it was not unreasonable that the ratepayers should have a voice, and a considerable voice, in the management of the public-houses. That was a point that had always been strongly felt in 555 Scotland, and it was one which seemed to him well worthy of attention. It seemed to him a very invidious task for the magistrates to decide whether or not people should have licences for public-houses, and in his opinion, it would be far better to leave it to the people themselves. So much for what he might call the adopted part of the Bill. He would like now to say a word or two about the early part of it. Clauses 3, 4, 5, and 6, as he had said before, practically constituted a Suspensory Bill for Scotland, and they were nothing more, with one or two exceptions. Now, he could state from his own experience—and he thought other Scotch Members would agree with him—that there was a strong desire on the part of a large proportion of the people of Scotland for a measure of that kind. A few months ago he attended a large conference on the subject, held at Dundee, and the conclusion arrived at was in favour of petitioning Government or of urging him to introduce a Suspensory Bill for Scotland, the effect of which would be that the issue of licences would be suspended until the number of houses in towns like Glasgow was reduced to 1 for 1,000 of the population. Moreover, in the opening of this year, Baillie Collins proposed, at a meeting of the Glasgow Town Council, that the Council should memorialize Parliament to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the operation of the licensing laws in Scotland, and, pending such inquiry, to pass a suspensory licensing law, and that motion was unanimously agreed to. He thought that a very important fact, coming from the quarter it did, for the Town Council of Glasgow were probably more keenly alive to the evils of drunkenness than the authorities of almost any other part of Scotland, perhaps owing to the large Irish element to be found in Glasgow; and hence their unanimity in the case to which he alluded. Now, the clause in his Bill was that the licensing authorities should not grant a new licence for the sale of spirituous liquors in any place where the number of public-houses exceeded 1 in 700; but he had put the number in it in italics, because that was a question that would have to be decided when the Bill got into Committee. That, however was the same number as was put in the Bill of 1872—he meant the number 700. The hon. Baronet the Under 556 Secretary for the Home Department knew that that was somewhere about the average in this country, but he (Sir Robert Anstruther) did not absolutely take that number, as that would be for the Government and the Lord Advocate to say. He had made certain exemptions in the Bill for new inns or hotels in large and rapidly increasing places, and he had also prepared a clause regarding grocers' licences. With regard to them Clause 4 provided that from and after the passing of the Act it should not be lawful for the authorities to grant a licence to a grocer for the sale of sprituous liquors, unless a licence had been granted under the existing Act. He thought that proposal would command the respect of all sensible men. He admitted it was quite impossible to interfere with existing interests, and he did not propose to touch existing grocers' licences, or to take away grocers' licences, but he proposed that they should not have a licence to sell spirits. The grocers might go on selling wine and bottled beer; but he proposed that in the future the licensing board might restrict them from selling spirits. There was nothing that was so pernicious as that power, and it was selling spirits in small quantities which did all the mischief. Accordingly Clause 6 proposed that grocers should not be at liberty to sell spirits in small quantities. He hoped that provision would have the support of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.) It was admitted that people went into grocers' shops for the purpose of purchasing groceries, and then had a dram, and that did a great deal of mischief. He proposed that grocers should not sell spirits in quantities less than a quart bottle. He had some rather curious evidence of the effects of the sale of spirits in grocers' shops which had been collected in Edinburgh. It was not altogether from a very impartial source, because it came from the Edinburgh and Leith Wine and Spirit and Beer Trade Association. It was quite clear they had evidence from philanthropists and from persons connected with the Temperance movement, and it was perhaps well that he and those who agreed with him on that should fortify themselves with testimony derived from a quarter which was totally different from the sources whence they were usually supposed to obtain evidence. Mr. Wylie, 557 who represented that association, said in April last that he believed the general impression of the trade was, that the licensing of grocers had a far worse effect than the licensing of shops where spirits were consumed on the premises. In grocers' shops, he said, it was not only men who were injured, but also their wives and families. Edinburgh, he said, was exceptional in this respect, and it was the only city in Scotland where the majority of the licences were granted to grocers. He further stated that in 1864, when the late Act was passed—und here he (Sir Robert Anstruther) thought Mr. Wylie was not quite clear as to the date of the Act—there were in Edinburgh 54 hotels, 511 public-houses, and 326 licensed grocers; whereas, now, in 1873, there were only 43 hotels, and 354 public-houses; but the whole good, unfortunately, of the decrease in the number of public-houses and hotels was done away with by the new grocers' licences; for, whereas in 1854, there were 326, there were now 504. For the purposes of his argument, he (Sir Robert Anstruther) was perfectly satisfied with Mr. Wylie's evidence. No doubt, it practically confirmed the evidence supplied from other quarters as to the evils that had arisen from the sale of small quantities of ardent spirits over the counter in grocers' shops. He did not feel justified in trespassing on the patience of the House any longer; but he would press upon the Government the desirability of giving the system a fair trial. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for a private Member to make any progress with such a measure as that; but he thought that if the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Lord Advocate would confer together on the subject, an opportunity might at all events be afforded of passing the suspensory portion of the Bill during the present year, the Bill being divided into two parts for the purpose of enabling that to be done. If the present system was a bad one, it ought to be amended, and he hoped the Government would take the whole subject into consideration, and deal with it in the manner that seemed best. He would conclude by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Robrt Anstruther.)558
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
hoped that the appeal just made to the Government to give the measure a favourable consideration would be attended to. He quite concurred with the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) as to the expediency of diminishing the large number of licensed houses now existing in Scotland; but he did not think the matter could be dealt with entirety as one of average, and it appeared to him that the limit which the hon. Baronet proposed would in some cases be too narrow. He cordially agreed with him that in small towns generally, there should be a diminution; but special provisions were necessary in the case of larger and more populous districts. With regard to the question of the possibility of introducing the Gothenburg system into Scotland, he must say that, taking the Bill as it stood, he should despair of that. The real question was—Where would it be possible to find local bodies who were intelligent and public-spirited enough to undertake such grave responsibilities? The working of the system might fall into the hands of such gentlemen as the authors of the pamphlet that had been referred to—gentlemen who, being desirous of carrying out their views, would refuse reasonable opportunities for the sale of spirituous liquors. There were strong and conflicting views on that subject in Scotland, and the people were divided to a large extent between those who wished to put down the sale of spirituous liquors altogether, and those who wished to see much larger and more opportunities afforded for the sale of them; and between the two it might be very difficult for the local authorities to carry out the proposed experiment. Further, it was possible that the matter would fall into the hands of the advocates of the Permissive Bill. He did not know whether or not it would be consistent with the views of such persons to make provision for the sale of spirituous liquors with the view of ultimately depriving people of the chance of obtaining any liquor at all, but at any rate there was a possibility of the system falling into such hands. He did not think a question like that should be dealt with by a side wind. If the House were prepared to carry out such a principle it should do so by direct means, and not by such indirect means as were included 559 in the Bill. As he understood the measure, however, it was not proposed to interfere in any way with the existing powers of the licensing authorities, and knowing they were sufficient to guard against the evils of which he complained, subject to that check, he did not see any objection to the experiment being tried.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, it was not to be expected that the Bill would be acceptable to those who thought nothing should be done in the way of legislation on the liquor question. He had observed in a well-known Scotch newspaper, that the Bill was described as one of those numerous Bills for repressing drunkenness by annoying the sellers of drink. That was a very unpleasant and gross view of the liquor traffic, and it was as much as to say that by means of the drinking habits of their fellow countrymen, the sellers of drink lived. In his opinion, the sellers of drink themselves would repudiate that idea. The Bill would also not be acceptable to those who desired the complete suppression of the liquor traffic, and that was shown by the fact that at a conference held in Edinburgh, three weeks ago, of liquor reformers from the South-eastern division of Scotland, there was passed a unanimous resolution, viewing with alarm the proposal to transfer the conduct of the liquor traffic to the local authorities, "thereby involving," as it was said, "every individual ratepayer in the direct responsibility of carrying on a traffic at war with the best interests of society." This was the kind of position taken up by those who would have their own terms or none, forgetful that in a question like this there must be some compromise made. For his own part, it was because the Bill was not an extreme measure, because it would afford the maximum of advantage with a minimum of interference with existing rights, and, moreover, because it represented an extraordinary amount of care and patience in the investigation of the subject during several years that he desired to give it his support. He now wished to protest against the idea that seemed to prevail—that those who did not take an active part in the discussions about the liquor traffic were therefore indifferent to the evils of intemperance, and to say for himself, that he did not see that it was necessary 560 to prove his interest in the suppression of intemperance by swelling the mighty list of names which formed the United Kingdom Alliance. He, and others, who might not have taken an active part, nevertheless took a deep interest in all that was done to lessen the evils of intemperance. He thought that it was too much the custom in that House to support Bills on account of their motive, and not on their merits; and for his part he never would, so long as he remained in that House, support a measure which, although it might be good in its intention, would be unworkable, and this remark was particularly applicable to the Permissive Bill. The intentions of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, and of the supporters of that measure were no doubt extremely good, but he did not think the measure could be made to work. He need not follow the hon. Baronet the Mover of the second reading in the general discussion of the details of the Bill, nor enter into the question whether the number of public-houses increased drunkenness. It was, however, well known that the larger the number of houses, the greater was the tendency to adulteration, and it was bad drink which made such havoc of the health and welfare of the people; and as regarded grocers' licences, he had reason to know that it was in these places that there was a very large amount of drinking carried on. Persons went there to drink who would be ashamed to be seen in public-houses; and, in fact, the grocers' shops were simply public-houses free from supervision. His hon. Friend (Sir Robert Anstruther) had referred to the working of the Gothenburg system; and had requested him (Mr. Dalrymple) to add, what he had omitted to state, that the principles of that system had been carried out to a wide extent in Sweden and elsewhere. A Report was invited from Mr. Erskine, the English Minister at Stockholm, and he was at first of opinion that the system had not been widely introduced; but upon further inquiry, and from answers to circulars, there was evidence that the system had been adopted in two-thirds of all the towns of Sweden. The first part of the Bill—namely, the suspensory part, was that upon which he laid the greatest stress, and the latter part of it might form a, subject for future inquiry. 561 The suspensory part of the measure aimed at the removal of acknowledged evils, and it ought to be passed, because it would give general satisfaction to the people of Scotland. He hoped under those circumstances, the Bill would be favourably received by the Home Secretary, and that he would at all events support the first part of it.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he was not one of those who thought a great deal could be done by legislation in reference to the liquor traffic; but, at the same time, all that could be done in the way of improving it and lessening its evils ought, if possible, to be done. He should, therefore, give the Bill his support, if only on the ground that, under some of its clauses, benefit to Scotland would ensue, or benefit to a portion of Scotland. If, for instance, the Bill should be adopted in 50 parishes or small towns, he thought it would be well worth the trouble of passing it. He would support the Bill, if no more than that could be done; but be believed a great deal more than that would be done. There were very large districts in Scotland where there was no public-house; there was one district which, in the North, extended 30 miles in one direction, without a public-house. In other districts they might, in like manner, be enabled to keep down public-houses. Under the Bill, it was proposed that a Board should have power to buy the existing interest of licensed public-houses. [Sir ROBERT ANSTRUTHER: If the parties are willing to sell.] He was just going to say if the parties were willing to sell—willing to dispose of the business—just as a grocer or any other trader would dispose of his business; but, in this case of a publican, he would get an additional competitor for his business in the Board. Those remaining in the trade would be benefited rather than injured. It could not, at all events, be alleged that those who remained would sustain any injury by the addition of the new competition to the old. The clause which prevented grocers from selling liquors except in reputed quart bottles properly corked and sealed, was, he thought, a provision of great value, and, if for nothing else, the Bill ought to pass. Reference had been made by the hon. Member for Fife to the great diminution of the number of public-houses in Edinburgh, and the great increase of grocers' licences. He 562 knew something of that for the past 30 years, and this was how it happened—The magistrates refused a licence in a low neighbourhood for any good cause, and the house was thus disposed of; and so it was with another, and another in the same way. Then, perhaps, the parties applied to the magistrate to give them the grocers' licence, and his humane feelings coming to his assistance, he said—"Give him a grocer's licence; he can't do much harm." In one case after another that went on. Although a large number of respectable grocers refused to sell spirits in very small quantities, or to be drunk on the premises, a number of those in low neighbourhoods, and in small towns and villages, where the mischief was mainly done, sold small quantities, and in many cases the purchasers consumed the drink over the counter. To prevent grocers from thus selling over the counter was plainly enacted in the Bill. They would do away with a great deal of illicit drinking if they prohibited the grocer from selling less than a quart bottle duly corked and sealed. Another evil was alleged in connection with certain grocers in low neighbourhoods being allowed to sell small quantities of spirits. It was alleged—and was generally believed—that spirits were put down, being had by the wife, and paid for by the husband, in the account furnished by the grocer at the end of the week, under the name of some other article, as if no spirits were obtained. If nothing but quart bottles were sold, it would rarely happen that spirits could be put in the bill that way. Then, with regard to new licences, the proposal that no new licences should be allowed beyond the supplying of one public-house to every 700 of the population—that was one public-house for every 140 families. He thought one public-house for every 140 families was quite sufficient; and he would remind the House that the proposal of the Bill was much more liberal in this respect than Lord Aberdare's, as it gave only one public-house to 200 families. This was one-third more public-houses than Lord Aberdare proposed under his first Bill. The present Bill had been so fully discussed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Fife, that he did not consider it necessary to refer to all the clauses, but he should like to refer briefly to what had fallen from the hon. Baronet with reference 563 to the statistics of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. R. Smyth). The hon. Baronet said he did not know where the hon. Member for Londonderry got his figures, and threw doubts on their accuracy. He thought the hon. Baronet had been a little rash in making that imputation, because what the hon. Member for Londonderry did was this—In order to show the benefit which had accrued from the shutting up of public-houses on "Sundays, he quoted the amount of spirits consumed in the year previous to the "passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, and he compared that with the amount consumed in 1871. He (Mr. M'Laren) believed the statement of the hon. Member was quite correct—that there had been a large decrease in drinking. The hon. Baronet had quoted some statistics of the consumption of spirits, but from the Returns he (Mr. M'Laren) had made it out to be as follows:—In 1869, 5,200,000 gallons; in 1870, 5,500,000 gallons; and in 1871, 5,600,000 gallons. The House—[Mr. M. T. BASS: Why don't you go on, and give us 1872?] He would come to that in his own way, at the proper time. The House would see that the increase in the years he had referred to was very gradual, although the population was largely increasing, particularly in the great towns, which were the centres of the consumption of spirits. Then all at once there was a great jump. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told them that last year the revenue from spirits had increased about £1,500,000, and in the year before that about £2,500,000, making an increase of about £4,000,000 of revenue on spirits in the Three Kingdoms during the last two years. Now, it was quite impossible that the state of prosperity of the working classes over the United Kingdom had not been participated in by those employed in Scotland, but it was not right to take these two exceptional years and say that they showed the regular drinking habits of the people. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass) had invited him to go on, and to state what the quantity was in 1872. That year the quantity consumed increased, to 6,610,000 gallons. He had taken those figures from the authorized source—from the Inland Revenue accounts in the Library of the House. His hon. Friend said the consumption was 564 about 200,000 gallons less—that it was 6,452,000—but the Inland Revenue said it was 6,610,000. Now, here was a leap of a million of gallons in one year; but it was in a time of exceptional prosperity and extravagant wages, a time when the coal miner was making 10s. a-day, and did not know what to do with his money. In 1873, the consumption had further increased by 200,000 gallons, the total being 6,832,000 gallons. It would be seen that the great increase was in 1872, and he contended that the statistics of the hon. Member for Londonderry were not incorrect, because he had not referred to any later year than 1871. Reference had also been made to drunkenness in Glasgow and other large towns, and to the great number taken to the police offices and discharged; and here, likewise, he thought the hon. Baronet had fallen into an error. They were told that 28,000 persons were taken up in Glasgow in one year, as drunk, and discharged, without being brought before the magistrates. That seemed a startling thing; but it would not be so startling, if the hon. Baronet had taken into account the constant repetition of the same offenders. There were persons who were taken up two or three times a-week—in fact, who were never sober—but, supposing these persons were taken up only once a-week all the year round, each one of them was set down as 50 persons. The statistics showed that there were instances where drunkards spent a considerable portion of their lives in gaol—the terms for which they were sent generally being 10 or 20 days. The 28,000 then, did not mean 28,000 separate individuals, but 28,000 cases of persons taken up. One person, doubtless, had been taken up many times, and he thought that the real facts would prove that there had not been more than 6,000 separate individuals taken up and discharged without being brought before a magistrate. He alluded to this point, because he did not think it was at all conducive to the passing of a measure of the kind, that anything exaggerated or extravagant should be stated. For the reasons he had stated at the commencement of his speech, he should give his support to the Bill.
§ SIR MATTHEW WILSON
hoped the House would reject the Bill. Its permissive character was highly objectionable, for in his opinion what the 565 House thought good and right for one part of the country should be extended to the whole, and made the law. The Bill would be an interference with the principles of Free Trade, for among other objectionable provisions, it contained a scheme for a large co-operative association for the sale of drink. It further proposed to confer on the holders of existing grocers' licences a monopoly to the exclusion of all others—a something which the House ought not to sanction. The regulation of the liquor trade was, to his mind, a very simple matter. When the House had restricted the number of houses and the number of hours during which drink should be sold, and had placed the trade under the supervision of the police, it would have done all it ought to do, and all that could be legitimately expected of it.
thought hon. Members who had listened to the debate must have had left on their minds the impression that Glasgow was the most drunken city in what some hon. Members—those who were not Representatives of Scotch constituencies—were apt to consider the most drunken country in the world. As one of the Representatives of the city in question, he begged to say a few words not merely concerning the Bill at present before the House, but in defence of the character of the country and of the city he represented. Not many days ago, the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr Ewing) had quoted elaborate statistics to prove that the consumption per head of alcohol or proof spirits in England was 30 per cent higher than in Scotland, and still higher than in Ireland. The great difference was, that in Scotland spirits were the national beverage, whereas in this country it was beer. It must be remembered, however, that beer contained a largo amount of alcohol, and made people drunk quite as well as whisky; and it was shown by the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire that taking into account the amount of proof spirit contained in beer, the quantity of alcohol consumed in England was much greater per head than in Scotland. As to the reputation for drunkenness which Glasgow seemed to have acquired it was largely owing to the stringency with which the police provisions against drunkenness were enforced. The hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) had alluded to the fact that according to 566 Glasgow police Returns 28,000 drunk and disorderly persons had been taken into custody and discharged without being brought before the magistrate. The explanation of that was simple enough. In the first place, this number included not only drunken persons, but all people guilty of disorderly conduct, whether induced by drink or not. In the second place, owing to the great stringency with which the police regulations were enforced, the police lieutenants were allowed a discretionary power to permit persons accused of trifling offences to go out on leaving pledges, and as these pledges were generally of small amount, the consequence was, that the great majority of persons so released did not think it worth while to present themselves for trial. As to the working of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, the hon. Baronet had passed some strictures upon the Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. R. Smyth) who desired to extend certain of its provisions to Ireland. He (Dr. Cameron) had no statistics by him to show how very greatly the working of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act had tended to the decrease of drunkenness; but those statistics, in a very conclusive form, were to be found in the police Returns of the City of Edinburgh. In Glasgow, also hardly one-tenth of the number of people were arrested for drunkenness and disorderly conduct on Sundays as were arrested on week days. It was his intention to support the second reading of this Bill, because it contained what he considered a valuable provision—namely, that for the reduction of the number of public-houses. In Glasgow they had one public-house to every 300 or 350 of the inhabitants. He was not at all so clear, however, of his approving of that part of the Bill which applied to the Gothenburg system. That system, he maintained, was yet upon its trial. The hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire had brought forward statistics to show that it had succeeded. He had mentioned, however, that a deputation which went over from Edinburgh to examine into the working of the system had reported quite differently; and in order to account for that difference, he had hinted that the deputation were actuated in the drawing up of their report by envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. He did not think the hon. Baronet was justified in coming 567 to that conclusion; at any rate, as much had been said against the system as in favour of it. For another reason he would not support this part of the hon. Baronet's Bill; it did not please the temperance party; it did not please the publican party—no considerable body of the people, in fact, cared one farthing about it. In Glasgow the Elections to a considerable extent turned on the question of licensing and temperance versus spirit-trade. Yet he was only spoken to on the subject of the Bill by two constituents out of a constituency of 54,000. The hon. Member for North Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke) had objected to the Bill, on the ground that in regard to the number of licences it did not give sufficient discretion to local authorities. Now, it seemed to him (Dr. Cameron) there was a great want in that direction already. In the first place, the electors chose their magistrates to a large extent in consequence of their leaning towards restriction, or otherwise, in the number of public-houses. Now, those magistrates were thoroughly acquainted with the wants of the districts over which they presided; but their decisions were liable to be overturned by the justices in the case of burghs, and of the quarter sessions in the case of counties. Another discretionary power that could be very easily introduced was, that of allowing them to grant licences for early closing public-houses. Till lately it was thought they had this power, and the magistrates of Rothesay granted licences for public-houses in a certain district to shut an hour earlier than was usual. Several publicans appealed to the Court of Session, which decided in their favour, and that decision had the other day been confirmed by the House of Lords. Now, a measure reversing that decision, and making the law as it was thought to be before the decision of the Court of Session, would allow a very useful discretion to the magistrates, without the introduction of any such revolutionary system as that of Gothenburg. Nor did he see that any case had been made out for legislation with regard to the introduction of that system, even admitting it to be most desirable. The hon. Member had told them the company in Gothenburg started without any money, and had now become very rich. Why should that not be done 568 in Scotland as well as in Sweden? If such were to be the results, he was sure, what between philanthropy and desire to make money, there would be no difficulty in getting parties to join in the scheme. Therefore, on that ground no legislation was necessary. He thought, notwithstanding what had been said to the contrary, that a number of objections urged by the temperance party were valid and good. The chief objection was that by becoming proprietors of public-houses, burghal authorities would have a motive to increase the sale of spirits. The hon. Baronet denied that it would be so; but he thought the House would agree that that had been the effect whenever the authorities had such power. Quack medicines were licensed, and did not the country grant every facility for the sale of quack medicines? The other day they had had an eloquent denunciation of the evils of betting from the Treasury Bench, yet the Post Office, touching the unclean thing, ran special wires to every race meeting, and boasted of the revenue it derived from the telegraphing of betting quotations. Government lotteries formed another instance of the same kind. So far as the Gothenburg system was concerned, he had shown it was not necessary to legislate in order to permit its introduction, if it was as successful as had been represented; and he had shown also that it was most undesirable that the liquor traffic should be put in the hands of the local authorities, and that they should be exposed to the temptation of deriving a profit from it. On the other hand, he considered the first part of the Bill most valuable, and he would have supported the second reading, even if he had not been led to understand the hon. Baronet willing to divide it into two parts.
§ MR. FORDYCE
said, that as his name was on the back of the Bill, he trusted he might be allowed to state in a very few sentences why he supported it. He had no doubt in his own mind that the drunkenness of Scotland required some measure of the sort—he meant a Bill having more powerful control over the liquor traffic, and furnishing some means of getting rid of a number of public-houses, or, at all events, preventing their increase. The statistics furnished by the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) were sufficient evidence 569 that the drunkenness of Scotland called for some measure similar to that now before them. He thought, moreover, that the people of Scotland desired some such measure. It might be said that if such was the case, how came it that they did not petition largely in its favour? It must be borne in mind that they had all just returned from contact with their constituents, and were supposed to be fully in possession of their opinions, so that it was unnecessary for them to petition. It must also be remembered that there had been no Petitions against the Bill, or, at all events, only two, and they were founded on a misconception of the real nature of the measure. Apart from that, they had evidence as to the feelings of the people. He referred to the action of the Church—to the resolution passed year after year by the General Assembly, the Free Church Assembly, and the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church. At the licensing Courts, also, they were always urged to diminish the number of public-houses. Then the views of two very important classes were unrepresented in the House, but whose opinions they were bound to take into account. They heard of women's questions. Now, if there was a question on which women had a right to express an opinion, it was that now before them, for in Scotland it was the case that men drank, and women bore the consequences. Then the agricultural labourers took a deep interest in the question, and there was surely something rotten in our system somewhere when they found the people asking the Legislature year after year to protect their virtue by removing temptations which were too strong for them. He supported the Bill because it proposed something practical. The scheme had beeen tried with success, as they had heard, in Sweden and Norway. Now, the Swedes in their drinking habits bore a close resemblance to the Scotch, and there was no reason why the same system should not be worked with the same success in both countries. He supported the Bill also as a step in the direction of the Permissive Bill, and he could not understand anyone supporting the Permissive Bill and refusing to support the measure now before them. They both seemed to him to agree in the main point—namely, throwing the control of the public-houses into the hands of the ratepayers, and removing 570 it from those who had often an interest in promoting the sale of drink. He was rather surprised to find that in many parts of the country it was objected to the Bill that it threw so much power into the hands of the ratepayers. But was there anything novel in that? What had been the course of legislation during the last 20 years? Why, simply to throw everything into the hands of the community. They had now the choice of Poor Law Boards. Road Boards, and their School Boards, and now in Scotland they proposed to give them the power of appointing their clergy. Surely, after that, the liquor traffic was safe in the hands of the community. His only apprehension was, that unless these Boards were amalgamated in some way, life would be spent in a continual series of elections. It was for some such reasons as these that he supported the Bill, without going into its details, which could be discussed afterwards in Committee. He admitted that the Bill was not perfect, but it was a step in the right direction. It was a defect in the measure which he should like to see remedied, that any parish or community adopting it could not afterwards give it up. He thought it was one of the good features of the Bill that it did not interfere with the small beer or ale traffic, which was a wholesome one, and so trifling in Scotland that the proportion of licences to the population was only 1 in 10,000. He trusted that the Government would not oppose the second reading of the Bill. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had informed them at the commencement of the Session that Scotch interests were not to be neglected, and he had no doubt that the right hon. and learned Lord had pressed that matter on the Government. He trusted that the hon. Member for Fifeshire would be able to get a second reading; or, at all events, a Select Committee to inquire into the whole of the circumstances. He believed that the hon. Baronet had had the honour of introducing a Bill which afterwards formed the basis of the measure introduced by Lord Aberdare, and he trusted that he might also have the merit of initiating legislation on this subject in Scotland.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, that that Parliament, according to many accounts, had been elected to do nothing, 571 and that the policy of the Government, according to other accounts, was one of "silence and of consideration." But there was one question on which neither the Parliament nor the Government could be idle or silent—that was the liquor question. They could not keep from drink. That might be said to be the irrepressible question of British polities, for in the House at that moment there were no fewer than seven Bills dealing with the licensing laws and the liquor traffic, and on the backs of those Bills were the names of no fewer than 30 hon. Members. Of those Bills, only one applied to the whole Kingdom, and that was his own; three of the remainder being intended to apply solely to Ireland, two to England, and the remaining one to Scotland. It was rather remarkable that a respected and influential Scotch Member should devote himself to altering the licensing laws of Scotland, for these laws had been revised and re-revised, and were now more strict than the laws of England and Ireland, and it showed the tendency of public opinion on the question when an hon. Member came forward to say that they were not strict enough. Of course, it was very pleasing to him (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) to see all these hon. Gentlemen working at the liquor laws. They were everyone of them doing what he had been abused for doing all his Parliamentary life—namely, trying to make men sober by Act of Parliament, for the principle of every one of the Bills before the House was to limit the temptation to the consumption of drink. The Sunday Bill was intended to limit the consumption of drink for a short time on Sunday; his Bill was intended to limit the consumption on Monday as well as Sunday, because he could not conceive that what produced evil on Sunday would not produce evil on Monday as well; and even the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Secretary of State for the Home Department—perhaps, considering all the circumstances, the worst Bill ever laid before Parliament—went in that direction. The right hon. Gentleman said that its object was to bring better men into the trade, and the only object the right hon. Gentleman could have in bringing better men into the trade must be that they might sell less drink. He congratulated the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire (Sir 572 Robert Anstruther) on the reception his Bill had obtained in the House. He specially liked that part of it which dealt with grocers' licences, and thought the hon. Member for Edinburgh's allusion to corked and sealed bottles a most excellent one. Properly corked and sealed bottles would do little harm so long as the corks remained in them. He also liked the suspensory provisions of the Bill. It was proposed to give no more than one public-house to every 700 of the population. It was a pity the number had not been fixed at 7,000, but that was a defect which could be remedied in Committee. There were also other restrictive propositions which he cordially supported. The second part of the Bill was permissive, and if the Committee did not accept that, there was no reason why they should not accept the first. He thought it might be objected to the Bill of his hon. Friend that there was something of centralization about it, and it certainly did look rather like that. He did not know, however, that that was a very great objection to the Bill. It was merely bringing more establishments under the control of the Government. At present the Government had the Post Office in their hands; the Telegraphs were also in their hands, and now there was a scheme for the Government taking the Railways into their hands. If ever the Government should acquire the public-houses—a proceeding to which, he must say, he was decidedly opposed—they would then evidently have a new Minister of Public Houses, who would be the Chief Publican, or Her Majesty's Purveyor of Drink; and, when a Liberal Government came into power again, that office would be filled by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), or the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass). That was a provision that was calculated to make any one opposed to the liquor traffic very uneasy at the scheme proposed by the hon. Gentleman, and the very idea that the public was to become in any way more involved in, and responsible for, that traffic, at once gave rise to alarm in the minds of very many persons. It was natural, too, that they should become uneasy when they saw what had been written concerning this trade by some of the greatest authorities. The Edinburgh Review had strongly denounced it as a public evil; and even 573 The Daily Telegraph, which supported the trade, spoke of it as "a covenant with sin and death." People read those things and, as he had said before, would naturally become more uneasy when they saw that they were to become partners in such a business. Hence, a great opposition had been got up to the scheme in Scotland, and a large meeting—convened by some eminent citizens of Edinburgh—had been held against it. At that meeting was passed a resolution, that it viewed with alarm the proposal made for transfering the traffic from private individuals to local bodies which were to divide the profits, thereby involving every ratepayer in the carrying on of a war against the best interests of society. If he thought that the Bill of the hon. Baronet would more largely involve the ratepayers in the evils and wrongs of this traffic than they were involved now, he certainly should give to it the same opposition as was expressed at the meeting at Edinburgh. He could not see, however, that the public would be more involved in the guilt of this thing—this "unclean thing," as the hon. Member forcibly called it—by the passing of the Bill than it was at present. What did they do now? They, the public, elected the House of Commons, and the Government were only a Committee of the House. At present they permitted this trade to be carried on lay a certain number of people. They said to them—"Give us so much money for a licence, and you may carry on this trade." The Government did not make any allowance for the misery, the pauperism, and the crime which resulted from the traffic; and it seemed to him that this involved the public as much as the scheme of the hon. Baronet would. He did not see that it was more wrong, more injurious, or more demoralizing to depute a certain number of men sitting at a local board to sell drink, than it was at present for the Government to sell the right to sell to anyone that came and chose to give the money for it. Again, he thought it might be said that, if in some places the action taken under the Bill of his hon. Friend, should it become law, should bring the evils of the traffic more home to the minds of good citizens than had been the case heretofore, and show the moral and horrible responsibility involved in it, it would be a step in the right direction. At the same 574 time, he did not think he could honestly oppose the Bill on the ground that it would be likely to extend those evils; and that being so, all he had to consider, as a friend of temperance—and they were all friends of temperance—he was for temperance, and for promoting it; by placing difficulties in the way of getting drink, the only difference between them being how it was to be obtained—was the nature of the scheme itself, and would it tend towards any improvement. His hon. Friend had taken the Gothenburg system as his model. In reference to that system, it should be remembered that in Sweden, in 1855, there was virtually free trade in drink; and if any hon. Member had a, hankering after free trade in drink, Le would advise him to see how it acted in Sweden in 1855. After 1855 a more restrictive system was tried, and a great improvement was the result; but it would be difficult to trace that result to its real cause without getting at all the circumstances which bore upon it. Some gentlemen who had gone to Sweden to inform themselves as to the causes of this improvement found that various opinions existed upon the subject. It was attributed by an American to the increase of Dissenters, to the Established Church, to temperance societies, and to cheap porter. Now, he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) believed that the improvement which arose at Gothenburg after the application of the Gothenburg system there, arose really from the diminution in the number of the public-houses. The public-houses were reduced by about 17. The point of the Gothenburg scheme was, that no proprietor or manager of a public-house should derive any profit from the sale of spirits. But did not his hon. Friend know that the sale of beer or porter conduced to drunkenness also, although it might be in some less degree? To uphold beer or porter was to go back to the doctrine which was held 40 years ago, when gentlemen anxious to put down drunkenness, said the way was to destroy the publican's monopoly, and let the people have cheap beer. Their ideas were adopted, and then there came free trade in beer. The hon. Gentleman thought that publicans were very strong. Let him tell the hon. Gentleman that they were strong at the time to which he referred; for the Duke of Wellington declared on the occasion 575 to which he referred, that the victory which was then achieved over the publicans was as great as that which had been achieved over Napoleon at Waterloo. The result was, that only a few months after the Act for cheap beer had been passed, Sydney Smith wrote—"The Beer Bill has begun to work. Everyone not singing is sprawling. The sovereign people is in a beastly state." The profits of the public company thus established at Gothenburg appeared to be about £10,000 per annum. But if that was so, he thought the fact would operate as a great temptation to the body that would carry on the trade. The publican had a temptation to put money in his pocket, and he much feared that the same temptation would exist in another form if the Bill were passed. It would be of no use laying down rules; for it would always be a problem to know when a customer had had as much as was necessary and when more should be refused him. Mr. Carnegie himself said it was difficult to say when a man was overloaded, or was below what might be considered the Plimsoll-line state of things, and he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was very much afraid that the keepers of public-houses would never be able to find exactly the line of safety. But let not the House suppose that the Gothenburg system was all that could be desired. Oases of drunkenness had lately been slightly on the increase there, and he believed there were more people there per annum who were arrested for drunkenness, in proportion to its population, than there were in the City of Edinburgh, respecting which they had heard some portentous statistics that very day. It had been said that the gentlemen who had reported on the Gothenburg system had done so with a foregone conclusion. But they had not done so, and when they came home they gave not their opinions, but facts, and, as far as he knew, those facts had never been controverted. They found the drinking establishments there very much like our ordinary drinking houses in England and Scotland. They noticed that in 17 minutes 83 persons went in, took their dram, and went away; and on one market day 102 persons went in in 25 minutes, took their drams, and went away—doing the very thing, in fact, that his hon. Friend wanted to do away with. The curious thing was, that only four 576 persons called for coffee, and they all took brandy with it. He hoped his hon. Friend would not suppose he was running down his scheme unfairly, all he wished was to remind the House that there were objections that ought to be brought against it. Even Bruce's Act had its faults, and holes could be picked out in it. The Home Secretary had been trying to do so lately, with very poor success, though, doubtless, he would get up something before the Government Licensing Bill came on again. What he wished to state, however, was that things would have been much worse if they had not had these changes. In England, and it did seem probable that in Gothenburg, things might have been worse if it had not been for this effort, and he could see no valid reason why the people of this country should not have an opportunity of trying whether it would not have an improving effect here also. He should, for one, not stand up against a measure, because he could not see things eye to eye with its promoters in every detail. If the Bill were carried, it would be a protest against the present system; and he would urge the Government, if they could not concede the whole Bill, at any rate to concede its suspensory powers. He thought the House might give the Bill a second reading, if it would give any satisfaction to the constituents and countrymen of the hon. Baronet. Moreover, it did to some extent recognize the only true principle in these matters, which was that the real way to stop drunkenness was to limit the temptation to the consumption of that which caused the greater part of the sins, the sorrows, and the sufferings of the people of this country.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
said, it appeared to him that they could not obtain sobriety for the population merely by restrictive licensing measures. It was by education alone, and by the general elevation of the people that they could ever hope to succeed, but the country could not wait for that. Improvements in the habits of the working men were not advancing at the rate which was desired, and he agreed with the spirit of the Bill, that it was desirable to restrict a trade which produced, when carried on improperly, such evil consequences. The Scotch Members were all agreed that the licensing system was not in a satisfactory condition, and that it should be 577 put in a satisfactory condition as soon as possible. The Bill was a moderate one, and for his own part, he would be willing to accept it as it stood with a view to amendment in Committee. Although there had been no great expression of the opinion of the people of Scotland, there had been no opposition, as there would have been, if it had interfered with their comforts or their habits. He did not know what the views of the Government were, but he thought they might allow the suspensory clauses to be passed, on the ground that they would not injuriously affect the rights of the people. This would at all events give time for the Scotch people to consider the nature of the proposals in the adoptive part of the Bill, and to give a more direct expression of their views than the House had yet before it.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, that so much had been said as to the unfortunate habits of his countrymen, that he would like to bring one point under the notice of the House before the close of this discussion. It had been truly said that the quantity of spirits consumed in Scotland had decreased within the past 20 years. There was no doubt as to that point, but there might be differences of opinion as to the cause of the discrepancies which had occurred in the annual quantities. In 1853, the quantity of spirits consumed in Scotland was upwards of 7,000,000 gallons, and in 1873, after a period of 20 years, during which the population of Scotland had much increased, the consumption of spirits was under 6,500,000 gallons. Those figures he found in Returns in the Library of the House. Now, it was somewhat singular, if the consumption of alcohol by the people of Scotland was confined to the consumption of alcohol in spirits, that they should hear so much of increased drunkenness when the population had increased, and the quantity consumed had decreased. He did not rise to disapprove of the general principle of the Bill. He had no objection to that; but he thought the House ought to remember, in discussing a question of the kind, that there had not only been a change in the condition of the population during those 20 years, but there had been a great change in the amount of duty charged on ardent spirits in Scotland. In 1853 it was only 3s. 8d. per proof gallon. Since then, the duty had been increased 578 by different stages to 10s. per proof gallon. The consequence was, that the consumption of spirits had fallen from 7,000,000 to something over 6,000,000 gallons, thus proving that people had a certain portion of their income to spend in what might be deemed a luxury, though, it might be a hurtful luxury, and that when the price was increased, they did not purchase so much as they did before. The gradual increase in drunkenness was disputed. No one could regret more than he did that the working classes had not taken advantage of the increased rate of wages during the last few years to acquire that degree of independence that they ought to acquire for the future. He hoped that the day was not far distant when their condition in these respects would be much raised and improved. They could not make people sober by Act of Parliament, but they might promote morality by diffusing education, and he trusted that the standard of elementary education instead of being lowered as it had been lately in that House would be raised for all classes. It had been mentioned that alcohol was used in this country in different forms, but alcohol was used in every country in Europe in some form or other—a fact which was well worthy of the attention of the hon. Member for Carlisle. In France, which they often heard quoted as a sober nation, if they took the quantity of alcohol used in the wines consumed, the quantity per head was in much greater proportion in France than in Scotland, and tested in this way, instead of the Scotch consuming the most alcohol they consumed less than any nation in Europe. He would like to see the evils which did exist abated; but he did not see that by any course of legislation it was possible to diminish or prevent drunkenness.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, he quite agreed with many hon. Gentlemen who had spoken, that it would be very desirable if the hon. Baronet who had introduced the measure would be willing to confine its operation to the first few clauses. He could not say with what gratification he had listened to his speech, or with what interest he had attended to the various facts on which he had based the support of his measure; and he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would see their way to assent to the second reading, with a view of hereafter 579 making considerable alteration in Committee. Two matters in the early portion of the Bill struck him much, which perhaps the hon. Baronet would alter. He alluded to the portion relating to the rural districts, where it was proposed that no house should be licensed within two miles of any other. It appeared to him that that might occasion hardship to the poor, if they were obliged to go two miles for the drink of which they were in search. Another provision was that in which the grocers were to be obliged to sell spirits in no less quantities than quarts. He was glad that the grocers had been brought before the House, because great dissatisfaction had been expressed on the discussion of the licensing question, that grocers should be allowed to sell spirits at later hours than the publicans themselves. A man might be turned out of a public-house at a late hour, and might go into a grocer's shop next door, and purchase spirits to take away and drink at home. It appeared to him to be a great objection that persons should be allowed in these places to drink glasses of whisky over the counter, but it was also an objection that they were now to be obliged to take so large a quantity as a quart at one time. With these two exceptions, he congratulated the hon. Gentleman on the Bill.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, he also hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department would consent to the Bill being read a second time, and allow it to go into Committee. During the Recess last year he had an opportunity of visiting Gothenburg, and he made special inquiries as to the operation of the licensing system there. Those who remembered Gothenburg in former days knew it as a place where it was common to see people drunk in the streets. Drunkenness, however, had now diminished to an extent which would justify the House in making a similar experiment in Scotland. As a matter of fact, food was always given with spirits in Sweden; and it was well known that spirits were less intoxicating when taken with food than when taken alone.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he had listened during the debate to the opinions expressed on the various sides of the House with regard to the means proposed in the Bill, and he certainly thought the hon. Baronet who had introduced 580 the measure (Sir Robert Anstruther) had succeeded in showing that one might draw very different conclusions from the same statistics. Not long ago the House had statistics with regard to Ireland, now they had statistics on the same facts in regard to Scotland, and two directly opposite results had been laid before the House as derived from those statistics. At the same time, he was bound to say that when they found that in 1869 the quantity of spirits consumed in Scotland was 5,250,000 gallons a-year; in 1872, 6,500,000; and that in 1873 the amount approached not very far short of 7,000,000 gallons; and when they found that the amount per head consumed in 1869 was 1.57 gallons; in 1872, 1.92; and in 1873 that it was 2.3 gallons per head, it showed a very different state of things, and it certainly agreed with what he was bound to lay before the House not long ago—namely, that the greatly increased consumption of spirits was really owing in a great measure to the large amount of wages which were thrown into the hands of those who were employed. Not only by the large increase of wages they had received, but by the sudden increase, they had really had more money placed in their hands than they knew what to do with, and they spent it in the gratification of the desires of the day. They had not known what advantage they could get out of money properly used, or the great gratification and pleasure they might have had if they had spent it in other ways. Through the formation of public opinion and the spread of education, he hoped that before long a considerable change would be effected in the habits of the people, and although he disagreed with the means proposed by the hon. Member for Carlisle for the purpose of making a difference in the consumption of liquor, yet he believed he and his friends did a considerable amount of good all over the country in endeavouring to form public opinion, especially among the working classes. He should be glad to see that opinion increased. For a man to be drunk, in whatever circumstances he might be, was a disgrace, and ought to be considered a disgrace; because if once they got the feeling that it was a disgrace to be drunk, more would be done to stop drinking than could be done by any Act of Parliament. He was 581 bound to say for his own county that he believed the idea was largely spreading among a great number of operatives, especially among those connected with religious bodies, and he believed with good results. He was not going to enter into any general remedy for the state of things which it was proposed to remedy, because he should have an opportunity of entering into that before long; but he would say now, in respect of that Bill—the Government Licensing Bill—that there had been a misunderstanding by some hon. Members of the House, and a portion of the public, as to the effect of that measure, which he believed would be practically, to a great extent, to do away with the evil which was now so much deplored. With regard to the Bill they had before them, he quite admitted that the case of Scotland might in this matter be different from that of other parts of the Kingdom. They had the Forbes-Mackenzie Act in operation for several years. He could not say the result of the passing of that Act had warranted anything like the eulogy which had been passed upon it; but he believed that when they took the case of Scotland, restrictions of that particular character did not prove effectual in the long run. If they examined carefully into the statistics of Scotland, they would not find that any great benefit had accrued from the Forbes-Mackenzie Act. The hon. Baronet who had introduced the Bill wanted them to follow a system which had come into operation in a part of Sweden around Gothenburg; but before they could take such a step, they ought to be in possession of better information than the House was now in possession of. The House knew nothing about it; they had heard a small pamphlet quoted that day, but they had not any general knowledge on the subject, and they must remember that an Act which might work: well in such a small town might not possibly work well in such a city as London. The notion of having a Board, sanctioned by the State, to buy up all the public-houses in London, and to have all the public-houses in London in one hand, or to make them all come into the hands of the Government, was a notion which he, for one, certainly thought they could not dwell upon with any serious consideration, nor did he think he need show how that would be interfering with the freedom of trade. 582 He did not see why, if that were sanctioned, there should not be a great company formed by the State for buying up all the coal mines and other mines, and he did not see where they could stop. Certainly that was not a principle which he could recommend the House for one moment to take into consideration. That was the greater part of the Bill they had in hand. He thought it was rather a strong measure for an hon. Member to say—"There is a Bill laid before you, and you are to read it a second time, and then summarily reject all the clauses but the first six," for he had understood the hon. Baronet to say that if they read the Bill a second time, he would then withdraw all the clauses but the first six. That being so, let them see what the first six clauses consisted of The first two were declaratory, and therefore there were only four. Two of these clauses were practically one, and related to the sale of spirits by the grocer. That was a question which he should be glad to hear argued in the House, in order that a just opinion might be formed upon it. The clause which was to prevent a grocer selling spirits in any smaller quantity than one quart bottle was well worthy of the consideration of the House. He did not see why a grocer was to sell a smaller quantity than that proposed, especially when, according to the testimony of Scotch Members, the selling of small quantities by grocers had produced great evils all over the country. It was, therefore, well worthy the consideration of the House that the law of Scotland as regarded grocers should be brought into harmony with the law of England, and that the grocers should not sell less quantities than quart bottles. The 3rd clause of the Bill asked the House to suspend the granting of any new licences in any town or populous place in which the number of licensed houses should exceed the proportion of one such house to every 700 of the population, and in rural districts in respect of premises situate within two miles of any other promises in respect of which a certificate had been granted. That, he understood, rather followed the Bill of his immediate Predecessor for suspending the granting of licences, except under certain conditions; but the hon. Baronet forgot that there was one great difference between the present Motion and the one brought in by Lord Aberdare. Lord Aberdare 583 was proposing to legislate on the whole question of intoxicating liquors for the public at large. He was unable to bring in a Bill that year; but he said that no more licences should be granted, until the Bill of the Government was introduced either the next year or the year after. That being so, a Suspensory Act was passed, and was continued till the year after. The object was that no new interest might be created. In regard to the Bill that was before the House, that made a great difference; and if the Government were proposing to bring in a Bill to regulate the sale of liquors in Scotland, then the precedent of Lord Aberdare might be very properly advanced by the Government. No doubt, the feeling of Scotland was in favour of reducing to a considerable extent the number of public-houses which existed there, and if the hon. Baronet would turn his attention to consider how in any way, the discretion of the magistrates might be guided to come to that conclusion, and if he could point to the House a plan for the sort of discretion which Parliament might entrust to them, that would be a matter well worthy of the consideration of the House but he believed that the Bill as drawn at the present moment took away the discretion of the magistrates absolutely and entirely. From all he had read, in nine oases out of ten they got a better class of public-houses—more quiet and orderly, if there were several public-houses than if there was only one. Experience had shown that was so. This Bill would put a stop to that, and would not enable the magistrates to exercise any discretion. Then there was an exemption in the Act which might be applied to inns and hotels of certain descriptions. He would like to know if the suggestion he had thrown out met with the approval of the hon. Baronet—that the clauses as to Gothenburg should disappear altogether?
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
I would willingly allow those clauses to drop, on condition that the Government would give me the other clauses on the second reading.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that if all the Gothenburg clauses were gone, all clauses were gone except four—those relating to grocers, and those relating to certificates to houses within a certain distance. If the hon. Member could see 584 his way to guide the discretion of magistrates, he saw no objection; but he could not have the Bill to pass in its present shape. If the 3rd clause was altered, he should see no objection to the Bill passing, on the understanding that it should be altered in Committee so as not to take away the discretion of the justices.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he must remind the hon. Member, that no Amendment having been moved, he was not entitled to address the House a second time upon the same question.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
said, in that case he would ask the indulgence of the House while he replied to the question. He felt in some difficulty, because it seemed to him that what the right hon. Gentleman had suggested was not very clear. If he knew what was suggested, he (Sir Robert Anstrufher) could then say whether it suited his views with regard to the Bill, and whether it was worth while to accept it. He was anxious to fall in with the views of the Government, because if they declared against the second reading, the Bill must be lost. It seemed to him to be far better to take it in an amended form than to lose it entirely. One remarkable feature in the discussion had been, that there was not a single hon. Member who had not entirely concurred in the suspensory part of the Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman himself was more than half inclined towards it, for he went so far, that if he would not absolutely bar the discretion of the magistrates—he said that if the discretion of the magistrates could be guided—he would not object to see some limitation placed on the number of licences that should be issued. If this meant that the magistrates should show cause why an increasing number of licences should be granted, he was willing to take words of that kind. One thing was clear, as faras Scotch Members were concerned, they had all expressed themselves in favour of the suspensory part of the Bill, and so had expressed the mind of the whole population of Scotland. If these four clauses were to remain, they would include the grocers' licences.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
said, if the right hon. Gentleman would not oppose the second reading, he would be glad to confer as to what words should he put in the Act to guide the discretion of the magistrates—if they could not agree on that, it would be easy for the right hon. Gentleman to oppose the Bill on going into Committee.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday 12th June.