§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE,
in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, he much regretted the absence of his hon. Friend the Member for Fifeshire Sir Robert Anstruther), on whose behalf he moved the second, reading of the Bill. The present Bill was in some respects similar to that which was brought in by his hon. Friend two years ago; but parts of that Bill to which objection had then been taken were now admitted. It might be objected that legislation had already been proposed for Scotland during the present Session; but the Bill of the hon. Member for Glasgow relating to publicans' certificates, though valuable in itself, in no way interfered with the scope of the present Bill. In favour of the principle of the Bill he had to point out that wherever the system of restriction had been adopted in Scotland there had been a manifest diminution of intemperance; and whereas before the Forbes-Mackenzie Act Sunday used to be the heaviest day of crime in Scotland it was now the lightest. One principle of the present measure to which the promoters attached great importance was the restriction in the number of future licences to 1 for every 500 of the population. The promoters had no particular affection for the number of 500, but they had good reasons for considering that number a fair one to select. With regard to the present number of licensed houses in Scotland, he would not trouble the House with many figures; but he might mention that in Edinburgh there was 1public-house for every 238 of the population, in Glasgow 1 to every 231, in Dundee 1 to 244, in Aberdeen 1 to 175, in Dunbar 1 to 110, and in Auchtermuchty 1 to 72 of the population. Under the present system there was a very great increase of drunkenness, as 1372 was established by the Returns which had been laid on the Table of the House. With regard to the increase in the number of licensed houses, he might mention that in 1861 the public-houses in Scotland were upwards of 9,000, and the beer-houses upwards of 6,000; whereas, in 1875, the number had increased by 1,265 public-houses and 1,000 beer-houses. The increase had been in very much the same proportions with regard to grocers' licences. The Bill did not propose to deal with existing licences, and was, therefore, not open to the objection raised against the Permissive Bill, which, by taking power to put down present houses, asserted that two-thirds of the ratepayers of a parish might properly say whether the inhabitants might or might not drink beer. It had been represented to him that it would be a fair proposal to apply this provision to grocers' licences also, and he believed that would meet with very general concurrence. With regard to the general desire which existed for restricting the number of licensed houses, there could be no doubt in the mind of any one who had studied the Returns on the subject. He had heard with great surprise a statement from the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone) that the greater the number of public-houses the less would be the amount of the drinking. He held exactly the opposite opinion, and a Return which had been laid on the Table of the House this Session in regard to the licensing laws showed in a most remarkable manner the agreement of opinion in all the large towns of England that the great number of public-houses was an evil; and with regard to Scotland, there had been a kind of plébiscite taken in Edinburgh and other large towns from which it appeared that the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants were of the same opinion. The promoters of the Bill were very desirous to secure as far as possible that the sale of drink should be separate from the sale of necessaries, and consequently the Bill contained a proposal to check grocers' licences. His own wish, he confessed, had been to attack retail licences: in doing this, a blow would be struck at what was called respectable drinking in grocers' shops by persons who would not like to be seen in public-houses. This remark applied especially to women. A Return obtained 1373 by his hon. Friend the Member for Fifeshire showed that in Edinburgh, between the years 1870 and 1874, there had been a steady increase in the number of female drunkards. The present Scotch law allowed the unrestricted sale of small quantities of liquor, but did not permit it to be consumed on the premises in grocers' shops. This law was, however, constantly violated: the purchase of groceries was in many cases a mere blind, and the proof of this was found in the fact that the grocers said the 6th clause of the present Bill, which provided that intoxicating liquors should only be sold in sealed bottles of a certain size, would destroy the small shops. But it was in the small shops, in many cases, where the evil was principally rife, and these establishments were kept alive by the drinking habits of the people who frequented them. He did not believe that anybody could desire to maintain establishments of that kind. Certainly they should not be maintained as grocers' shops, for they were really public-houses in disguise. The 6th clause, to which he had already alluded in connection with the grocers, was regarded by the promoters as of great importance, because there would be a certain security if they restricted the sale of liquors to sealed bottles, and limited the sale to what was contained in a bottle, they thought they would strike a blow at the tippling caused by the purchase of small quantities of drink on the premises. He knew that many Members of the House were in favour of his proposals, but not all to an equal extent; but he ventured to claim for the Bill that it was, at all events, a moderate one. No one could have sat for years in that House without perceiving that the House would not consider a Bill on this subject that was not of a moderate character. The reception given to the Permissive Bill showed that the House would not allow existing licences to be dealt with in the manner proposed by that measure. The present Bill, however, had reference only to future licences, and it seemed to him it was a moderate and fair proposal if they abstained from interfering with existing interests. The interest taken in the Bill was shown by the number of Petitions presented in its favour. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in answer to a deputation on the 2nd of May, recom- 1374 mended that they should delay proceeding with the Bill until there should be time to consider it in the country, and ample time had been given for consideration. He (Mr. Dalrymple) need not hesitate to say that he did not expect that the Bill would go much further during the present Session, but he should be very glad, if any representative of Her Majesty's Government would express himself favourable to the principle of the Bill, for that would encourage people in Scotland who were interested in it, either to proceed with the Bill or to endeavour to present the proposal in a shape which would be more acceptable to Her Majesty's Government and to that House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Dalrymple.)
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, the hon. Member who had moved the second reading of the Bill had told them that it had already been under the consideration of the House. It was, in fact, an old friend, and was a fragment of the Bill offered them two years ago by the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire; but it seemed to him that the parts which had been cut out were the best parts of the original Bill, and that those left in were the worst. The Bill when originally introduced by the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire was really a Bill to try a great experiment in Scotland by introducing the system known as "the Gothenburg plan." That had been abandoned, and the parts of that Bill which were left in the present were those dealing with the number of licensed houses in any locality, establishing that they should not exceed 1 to 500 of inhabitants. It appeared to him that that was eminently a thing for regulation by the local authorities, and that it was not a matter for that House to legislate upon. It might be a good thing for some localities that the number of licensed houses should not exceed 1 to 500 of the population, while in other places the proper proportion would be altogether different. The hon. Member (Mr. Dalrymple) had told them that in Auchtermuchty there was one public-house to every 72 inhabitants. Nobody would believe that those 72 people kept up the public-house—the real meaning was that it was a centre of a very 1375 populous part of the country, and the whole of the surrounding district which was not enumerated among the inhabitants contributed to the keeping up of the public-houses. The matter was therefore one for the judgment of the local authorities. The most objectionable portion of the Bill was that which put an end to grocers' licences. The effect of that would be seriously to increase the present monopoly of those grocers having licences—it would make their monopoly more valuable than it was at present. He did not see that there was any great evil in a householder sending to a grocer's shop for what drink was required for the family, for some drink might be required for medicinal purposes, and it would be a great hardship to compel a family to send a servant or one of the children to a public-house to obtain a small amount of alcohol. It was proposed to restrict the sale of drink in grocers' shops to a quart bottle; and he (Mr. Anderson) thought it should be restricted to a bottle of some kind, but that a quart bottle was out of the question. He thought there ought to be no selling from the tap in grocers' shops. The clause dealing with that point was the only tolerable clause in the Bill. There was another clause putting a stop to table beer licences, but that provision was contained in a Bill which passed in the course of the present Session, and therefore it was unnecessary. There was therefore only one clause which was good, and that was unnecessary. Another clause had a certain amount of good in it, but not enough to induce him to vote for the second reading of the Bill. The other clauses were entirely wrong, and he must therefore vote against the second reading.
§ SIR HARCOURT JOHNSTONE
thought the provisions of the Bill were not such as any reasonable man could object to, though he did not think the House would adopt all of them. It would, in his opinion, be exceedingly difficult to fix a rule as to the number of public-houses in proportion to the population, because the needs of different localities very greatly varied. He himself once brought in a Bill based on the same lines as the present; but the figures he adduced might be refuted by dexterous manipulation so that he could not stand on that ground any longer. With regard to grocers' licences, there was a unan- 1376 imous opinion on the part of the county magistrates and licensing committees of quarter sessions in England that a great evil had accrued to the community in consequence of the grocers' licences. In these days we could not interfere with any vested interests, but a stop ought at all events to be put to an increase in the number of these licences. With reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) he might remark that to multiply the number of grocers' licences would increase the strength of the monopoly. He thought some of the clauses good, and hoped the House would give the Bill a second reading.
§ MR. MARTEN
rose to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months. In the first place, he objected to the Preamble, and proposed to show that the principle on which it was founded was one which this House ought not to adopt without much further consideration. In the second place, it was not expected that the Bill would pass in the present Session, and he objected to a solemn declaration of a principle which it was not intended to carry into action. In the next place, the Bill did not embody any final or conclusive proposal, but only professed to be a temporary measure. Again, if the Bill related exclusively to Scotland, he should have felt great diffidence in making observations respecting it, especially if the Scotch Members were generally agreed on the principle. But in reality the Preamble was of a general character. It bound the House to contemplate further legislation, and to accept the principle of this particular Bill until some further legislation should be introduced which would deal with the law as to the sale by retail of intoxicating liquors. If there were some particular Amendment to be introduced which the House was satisfied was an expedient thing to be carried on its own merits, without regard to further legislation, then let a Bill founded on a preamble reciting the grievance or particular point of law to be amended be introduced into the House. But they ought not at that time, on a subject which created the greatest difficulty throughout the country, to pass a Bill founded expressly not on the idea of making the present proposal of a final character, but on the principle of encouraging future legislation. Therefore 1377 he objected to the principle on which the Bill was founded, according to the recital of the Preamble. Besides, the Bill would introduce into our law a new principle which was open to the greatest possible objection—in fact, it was only another form of the Permissive Bill, for by two clauses of this Bill the popular vote was introduced. There was to be an application approved of by a majority of the persons rated towards the relief of the poor within 500 yards of the House which was to be licensed; and a similar approval had to be expressed in the case of a transfer of a licence. What was this but the principle of the Permissive Bill? The House had already repeatedly refused to recognize the principle of the Permissive Bill, which this measure involved, and he protested against the introduction of the principle in one part of the United Kingdom in a measure of a fragmentary character such as this, when Parliament had declined to apply such a principle to other parts of the country. With regard to that portion of the Bill which provided that persons living within 500 yards of a particular point should have a right to stop a particular trade in that locality, he could not see that any sufficient ground had been stated for such a proposal. Why should the immediate neighbourhood be invested with that power?—a power practically of saying whether this or that trade should be carried on in a particular locality. Why should one trade be subjected to such a restriction any more than other trades? There were many other trades which were equally or more obnoxious. There were slaughter-houses, chemical works, and other works or trades which were extremely obnoxious to many persons living in their neighbourhood; and why should not the same restriction apply to these? He denied entirely that the neighbours were the persons who ought to decide a question of this nature. The proposal with regard to investing immediate neighbours with such a power was founded on an entirely false principle. Then with respect to the proposal to limit the number of public-houses to any particular figure, that was founded on the idea that the more public-houses we had the greater would be the extent of drunkenness. He believed that the case was exactly the reverse, and that the number of public-houses tended 1378 rather to decrease drunkenness. When there was a number of small public-houses there was this probability—that in going to the one which was in his immediate neighbourhood, a man would in a measure be under the eye of his neighbours and acquaintances, and under the eye of his own family; whereas if a system of centralization were carried out, we should have huge gin palaces set up, where he would probably go and spend a much longer time and indulge in more drink. He therefore objected to this proposal to establish huge gin palaces in place of what might be looked upon as small clubs. With regard to the argument as to the number of public-houses increasing the amount of drunkenness, he had obtained statistics which showed, he maintained, that the effect was rather the reverse. In the case of Cambridgeshire, the number of public-houses was in the proportion of 1 to 110 of the population, and yet that county stood nearly at the head of the list in respect of sobriety. In Huntingdonshire, the number of public-houses was in the proportion of 1 to 104 of the population, and yet the number of cases of drunkenness there was only at the rate of 1 in every 749 of the population. On the other hand, the number of public-houses in Durham was 1 to 211 of the population, yet Durham stood nearly at the head of the list in respect of drunkenness. It was shown, therefore, conclusively that the number of public-houses tended rather to the decrease of drunkenness than otherwise. That being so, he denied that the principle upon which Clause 3 of the Bill rested was one which could be sustained. With respect to grocers'licences—a subject about which there had been a good deal of agitation in the country—all would agree as to the desirability of checking drunkenness as far as possible, but we differed as to the means of attaining that object, and he did not approve of this proposal regarding grocers' licences as one of those means. The existence of grocers' licences was at the present moment the one good thing which secured to us the supply of moderately good liquor. He believed that the publicans sympathized with the desire to take away the grocers' licences, because it would to that extent affect their profits. The grocers were placed between two fires—the publicans on the one hand, 1379 who desired the sale of liquors in their own hands, and on the other hand those who desired to stop the sale of liquor altogether. But he trusted that the House would not assent to the proposal of either party. As to the matter of restricting the quantity which grocers might sell to a quart bottle, while he did not agree as to the quantity, he objected that any rule should be introduced on the subject for one part of the country which did not apply to another. On these grounds, and considering the Bill was based on a pernicious principle, he moved the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months,"—(Mr. Alfred Marten.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he had seldom heard a speech in that House which contained so many fallacies as did the speech delivered by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Marten). There was one thing which must have occurred to every hon. Member who had listened to that speech, and that was, that every illustration in regard to a Bill specially applicable to Scotland was drawn by the hon. and learned Gentleman from England, and England alone. Here was a Bill introduced for the purpose of remedying evils which existed in Scotland, and the only proofs which the House was asked to consider in opposition to it were drawn from Cambridgeshire and the neighbouring counties. The observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman showed clearly that he did not know very much about England in regard to the matter of public-house licences; for, with respect to the limitation of the quantity of spirits which a grocer might sell to a quart bottle, he had remarked that it would be desirable that any legislation on that matter should be uniform for the whole of the United Kingdom. Now, with that remark he (Mr. M'Laren) entirely agreed; but the fact was that it was for the purpose of securing uniform legislation for the United Kingdom that this clause was introduced into the Bill. The law in England—although the hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to be ignorant of the fact—was that no person 1380 could sell less than a quart, and therefore it was not unreasonable that Scotland should come to Parliament and ask to be put on the same footing in that respect with England. It had been urged that the principle of restricting the number of new licences to 1 in 500 of the population was a new one, and hon. Members had spoken as if such an idea had never before been broached; but it was within his (Mr. M'Laren's) own memory that the Secretary of State for the Home Department under the last Government did himself bring forward a Bill of the same nature, only of a more stringent character than the present measure. Whilst the present Bill required that there should be only 1 public-house for every 500 of the population, or for every 100 families of five persons on an average, the Bill of Lord Aberdare proposed that there should be only 1 to every 1,000 of the population, or for every 200 families of five persons each. The present Bill therefore provided for double the number of public-houses which were provided for by Lord Aberdare's Bill, the official organ of the late Government; and yet the present measure was held up to the House as if it was something new in the history of legislation. Then we were told that the diminution of public-houses would lead to the erection of huge gin shops. Why, that was the case already. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had been acquainted with the state of matters in the large towns in Scotland, he would have known that those large gin palaces already abounded there, and that there was no tendency to their being diminished in number. In dealing with this subject it ought to be kept in mind that the people of Scotland knew their own interest. They knew that by this Bill they would benefit themselves without doing injury to any other part of the country, and the records of the House showed that it was a measure in favour of which an immense number of Petitions had been presented. The feeling in Scotland was undoubtedly to a large extent in favour of it. The measure, however, had been objected to on various grounds, and amongst others that it was simply a "Permissive Bill" a little disguised; but anyone who knew Scotland, and how the measure was likely to operate, must know that such was not its nature. The Permissive Bill had 1381 been described as implying the total extinction of public-houses, but to attribute that object to this Bill, and call it by such a name, seemed to him a strange infatuation. There were many streets and squares in every large town in Scotland where the houses were all private residences, and where there was not a public-house or place of business of any kind; and it had been found that a particular party, having secured a house in one of these streets, thought it advantageous to himself to convert it into a public-house. He got a licence, and made a bargain with his tenant whereby he was enabled to receive perhaps double the rent he would otherwise do for the house as a private residence. The consequence was that whilst the house which thus obtained a licence was greatly enhanced in value, the value of the properties adjacent were greatly deteriorated. He had in his eye a case where, of two or three houses next to the one which had been thus dealt with, one was unlet for a year, whilst the second and third from it were greatly reduced in rent. The contiguous properties were, in fact, all materially injured by such public-houses. He asked hon. Members who chose to consider this Bill in a fair spirit whether if some 50 proprietors agreed to erect houses of the same class in the same street, without any provision whatever in regard to public-houses, it was right that their property should be thus, injured by one of these men turning his residence into a public-house? Persons in the large towns in Scotland objected to having private residences next to public-houses, and would only lease such residences at a reduced rent. That was the explanation of the provision, that no new licence should be granted, unless the majority of the inhabitants within 500 yards of the proposed public-house were favourable to its establishment, and it was not only defensible, but it was an admirable provision, which ought to commend itself to every hon. Member of the House. In conclusion, he would not detain the House any longer, lest the measure might be talked out; and he wished only to say, that whilst he did not approve of everything which appeared in the Bill, and would be content to see it amended in some respects in Committee, he thought that the principle of the measure ought so far to be affirmed 1382 as that it should be read a second time.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
did not like to allow the discussion on the Bill to close without saying a few words expressive of his own opinions only. There were some clauses of the Bill to which he gave a hearty assent; but, on the other hand, there were certain provisions in it to which in that House he had always given opposition. The first operative clause of the Bill was the 3rd, which proposed to deal with the limitation of houses by population, and he ventured to think, and had always thought, that that was a mode of dealing with this question which was eminently unsatisfactory, and which if acted on would tend rather to set up an increased number of public-houses. Clause 4 proposed to deal with a question to which he had given his assent, though not in the way or to the extent provided for by this clause. On former occasions when the subject was under discussion, he had said it would be wise and tend very much to promote what they had all at heart—namely, the diminution of the drunkenness which existed in the country—if the sale of spirits were taken away from grocers. Whilst he was not prepared to say that the power which they had of selling wine and beer in bottles was detrimental, he did maintain that, with regard to the sale of spirits, Parliament had introduced a system which had acted prejudicially, and had increased the drinking of spirits throughout the country. So far, then, as this clause would do away with the future granting of licences for the sale of spirits to grocers throughout the country, it would have his own hearty support. With another clause which dealt also with the sale of spirits by grocers in Scotland he equally agreed, and that was the clause which limited the sale to closed vessels. He was aware that the law of Scotland allowed spirits to be sold by the glass, and he thought that such a privilege encouraged drinking. He, therefore, if grocers were to continue to sell spirits at all, wished to see their licences assimilated to the law of England in that country. With regard to another proposal which had been commented on—namely, the power of removing licences—he would remind the House that such a power was granted under the English Licensing Act to the 1383 magistrates, and he believed that the power had been most usefully exercised in reducing the number of public-houses in over-crowded districts. But he confessed that he did not agree with the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken (Mr. M'Laren) in his appreciation of the latter part of that clause, in which power was given to the ratepayers by a majority to object to the introduction of a public-house into their district. He would prefer to leave the law as it was at present, with the power that existed for insuring the owners of the property against the introduction of licensed houses into their neighbourhood if they chose to exercise it, rather than introduce the principle to which he had already objected, that any majority of the ratepayers might decide in this particular trade, and not in any other trade, as to whether it should be carried on in their district. There was only one other clause to which he need make any reference, and that he thought the House would do well to assent to—namely, the abolition of the table beer licences. If he could persuade his hon. Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple) to withdraw his Bill on the present occasion, and consider the subject carefully before another Session, he would infinitely prefer that to the House giving what he thought would be an undecided vote upon a measure which would require a great deal if not material amendment before it became law.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, although he should support the second reading, he must join the hon. Baronet in asking the hon. Member to withdraw the Bill in order that it might be more thoroughly considered during the Recess, and when they might approach the subject enlightened by that debate, and to bring in a better Bill next Session. They all knew that it would be practically impossible to carry this Bill in the present Session if anything like opposition was shown to it. At the same time, he must say that the introduction of this measure had given great satisfaction to most of the people with whom he had come in contact in Scotland, and there was a very keen interest felt amongst a large number of constituencies respecting it. They did not believe that the Bill could in its present shape become law, but they saw in it the germs of legislation which was capable of doing good 1384 service. He rather shared the view of those who thought the promoters of this Bill had not fully matured this subject in their own minds, and that was an additional reason why it should not be pushed forward in the present Session. Although he was not one of those who believed that they could make people sober altogether by Act of Parliament, still there were statistics which proved that owing to a diminution of public-houses in certain districts there had been a great reduction of intemperance, and he thought that if some such scheme as the Bill embodied were laid before the House, with the authority of the Government, it would be very popular in Scotland, would attain the object of temperance reformers, and would certainly stay the agitation for the Permissive Bill. With regard to the grocers question, he conceived that there were some difficulties about that matter which had not been laid before the House at all. It was well known that in large centres, such as Edinburgh, there were grocers who were in the position of large wine merchants as well; and to withdraw the licences from such persons might be a matter of very great pecuniary hardship; but, at the same time, his experience told him that the feeling in Scotland was favourable to dealing with grocers' licences in the way proposed by the Bill. He need not tell the House that the feelings of the Presbyterian and other Churches of Scotland were in favour of the Bill; and if it were postponed until next Session and amended in some respects, it would have a better chance of being passed into law than at present.
§ COLONEL MURE
said, that sometimes when he listened to the terrible pictures which were drawn of the evils that resulted from drink in this country, he wondered that more people did not vote for the Permissive Bill, even although he did not vote for it himself. The hon. and learned Member for Cambridge (Mr. Marten) had spoken upon this measure without seeming, as far as he could make out, to have been much in Scotland, or to have obtained much information about that country. If the hon. and learned Member had been much in Scotland, he would at least have found out one thing, and that was, that the drinking habits of the people of Scotland—more particularly of those in large towns—were not only the source 1385 of most of the crime which existed in that country, but also that they were every day producing a feeling of disgust amongst the respectable inhabitants. It was those drunken inhabitants who every year not only increased taxation, but caused an immense amount of suffering amongst women and children, and brought the people face to face with the agitation in connection with the Permissive Bill. Putting aside the enormous advantage it would be if they could get rid of the crime and suffering caused by drink, he thought that it would be a great advantage in itself if, by passing any measure of this kind, they could get rid of the agitation which otherwise would arise every year in regard to the Permissive Bill. For himself, he was convinced that the drinking habits of the people of Scotland were a great deal worse than those of the people of England. ["Oh, oh!"] In the neighbourhood of Glasgow a very strong agitation arose last year in consequence of the enormous number of licences that had been granted; and in connection with this very Bill he had had repeated representations made to him of the gross abuses attributed to the Justices in granting so many licences in that vicinity. It was unquestionably the case that if they had fewer public-houses in a place in proportion to the population they would make the exercise of police supervision much easier. He believed, moreover, that where they had a vast number of small public-houses in a district, the effect was to reduce the quality of the liquor sold. He was very glad to find that his hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) at least agreed with some parts of the Bill; and he believed that if they were to go to a division and were beaten, his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate would feel bound after the expressions that had fallen from the hon. Gentleman to bring in a Bill next Session.
§ COLONEL MURE
said, he was glad, at all events, to have one Member of the Government who recognized the evils that existed in Scotland, and was anxious to do something to mitigate them. With regard to the power of removal of licences, all they wanted was to have that power made exactly the same asit existed in 1386 England. But there was one remark which fell from the hon. Baronet which he should like to allude to for one moment. He said that the ratepayers at the present time had it in their power to reduce the number of licences. That was perfectly true—the ratepayers in burghs in Scotland had the power, if they were only to exercise it, of reducing the number of public-houses. At present the bailies were elected by the ratepayers, and the magistrates were chosen from amongst the bailies; but every time that the election of the bailies took place in Scotland what happened? The liquor question was introduced, and how did the majority vote? they voted in the interest of the licensed victuallers. And as long as that condition of things existed, he was convinced that if the House were to pass the Bill of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) to-morrow the effect would be in a great number of places exactly the contrary to what he expected.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
was glad that an hon. Member for a Scotch constituency had had the courage to tell the truth. In spite of the Forbes-Mackenzie Acts and other Acts passed with reference to Scotland, drinking in that country was greater now than it was previous to their being passed. He was himself opposed to all this kind of legislation, as he did not believe that they could improve the social habits of the people by Act of Parliament. With regard to this particular Bill, he objected to it in toto.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, he rose for the purpose of asking the Lord Advocate what the mind of the Government was on this measure. They had heard a speech from the hon. Member for Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), but the hon. Gentleman disclaimed having spoken at all in any Governmental or authoritative way, and it would be only respectful to those whose names were on the back of the Bill, as well as to a strong party in Scotland who were supporting it, if some sort of announcement were made from the front bench as to the course which the Government proposed to take.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, that the question involved in the Bill had not been considered maturely by the Government. He could only say that they gave their cordial support to the Bill brought in by the hon. Member for Glasgow re- 1387 gulating the granting of licences. That Bill had passed into an Act, but there had been no time yet to ascertain what would be the effect of it. He believed that it would effect a very considerable improvement in matters connected with public-houses in Scotland, and the Government gave their support to the Bill on that understanding. The present Bill contained several propositions, which had been supported by most of the hon. Gentlemen who had addressed the House. The hon. Baronet the Under Secretary (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) who took a great interest in this question, had expressed his opinion rather against the clauses which were contained in the first portion of the Bill as to determining the number of licences which should be granted with reference to population. He (the Lord Advocate) did not know any person who was better entitled to express an opinion on the matter than his hon. Friend, because, as he said himself, he had originally entertained a different opinion, but he came, after due consideration, to the conclusion that no good result would ensue from these clauses. The question was obviously one which required great consideration with reference to the interests of England and Ireland, it might be, as well as of Scotland. With reference to the way in which the Bill dealt with grocers' licences, he thought that the grocers were placed in a very peculiar position at present, for they were opposed to two rival interests—that was to say, those who were proposing to get rid of their licences in the interest of temperance or teetotalism, and those who were trying to get rid of their licences for the purpose of enlarging the public-house interest. He thought, upon the whole, that the measure had not received that amount of consideration which it ought to receive, and the safe course would be for the hon. Gentleman who had moved the second reading to consent to the withdrawal of the Bill to enable further time to be given for its consideration. If the hon. Member did not take that course, he must express his own individual opinion that the Bill should be read a second time on that day two months.
§ MR. ORR EWING
rose, and was addressing the House, when— 1388 It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.