§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
rose to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months. He regretted very much the necessity of doing more than following the example set by his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, who had moved the second reading of the Bill without remark. He was as anxious as the hon. Member himself could be that, so long as the necessity existed, there should be a full and complete discussion of the question at issue between them, which was raised by what was called the Permissive Prohibitory Liquor Bill. But when he knew that his hon. Friend, after merely raising his hat to signify that he desired to move the second reading of the Bill, would have the advantage of waiting quietly, as he was fully entitled to do, until the speeches were delivered on the one side and the other, and then using (quite fairly) his right of reply, he 1822 certainly felt some difficulty in coping with the hon. Baronet on his own ground. Still he would try to do the best he could under the embarrassing circumstances under which he was placed. That difficulty, however—and he said it in no spirit of compliment to his hon. Friend, but in all sincerity, most earnestly and and from his heart—was considerably relieved by the fact that no man could have a more honest, more kindly-hearted an opponent than he now and always had in the hon. Member for Carlisle. This was not a discussion of a personal character, but one of principle—one in which his hon. Friend thought that he (Mr. Wheelhouse) was wrong, and one in which, if it was permitted him to say so, he was quite sure that the hon. Member for Carlisle was in error. In dealing with the second reading of this measure it was most desirable at the outset that he should move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months. His reason for asking the House to adopt that course was that, so far as the Bill itself was concerned, he apprehended no person could take the measure into his hands and, having read its provisions carefully, could form any but one opinion and come to no other conclusion than this—that the proposed measure, if by any accident it were adopted by the Legislature, would cause not only a furore throughout the length and breadth of the land, but would be found so impracticable as to keep every part of Great Britain in one continual scene of turmoil and hot water. Dealing, then, with the principle of the Bill, if indeed it could be said to have any principle at all, which he very much doubted, what did he find? In spite of the Preamble, to which he might possibly refer by-and-by, the measure was fraught with coercion in its worst form, and could only lead to tyranny in its most objectionable character. What did the hon. Baronet propose to do by its provisions? Why, by a majority of two-thirds of the ratepayers, not of the inhabitants or of the residents of any district, but by a majority of two-thirds of the owners or occupying ratepayers, to provide that the rest of the inhabitants, whether owners, occupiers, residents, or simply casual visitors, as well as the ratepayers, should be precluded not merely from getting a glass of beer or spirits when they felt they required one, but also from taking any alcoholic or fer- 1823 mented liquor at any time or in any form. Nay, the hon. Baronet would go further than that. It was his aim and endeavour to shut up or sweep away every single brewer, every single distiller, and, in short, every place where articles of drink were manufactured or sold; so that if the Bill passed, no one should, by any chance, be able to obtain that which he considered one of the necessaries of life. No one disliked intemperance more than he (Mr. Wheelhouse) did in all its phases and forms. He disliked intemperance not merely in drink, but intemperance in language, and indeed in every form and every shape; but however much they might dislike or be disgusted with intemperance, there was a great difference between intemperance and total abstinence, especially being made to abstain by compulsion. This Bill, however, it would be found, not merely asked people to be temperate; it did not really seek to make them so, but the Legislature was invited to pass a measure which would enforce compulsory abstinence altogether. Now, he desired to know whether a Bill which would enforce total abstinence by compulsion could be called a reasonable measure? It could not be, and he was satisfied that the issue of this debate would be, as on previous occasions, to reject the Bill altogether by an overwhelming majority. The division might be larger or smaller, for there were well-known circumstances going on elsewhere to-day which would probably affect the numbers, for instance, of this division; but whether there was any increase or diminution in the majority against the Bill, he protested most emphatically against its being regarded as any evidence of the feeling of the public with regard to the measure itself. Whether the numbers were larger or smaller, the course of the debate and the votes tomorrow morning would show that the repugnance of the House was the same, and that there was as strong a feeling and as great an objection to this measure as ever. In dealing with the question of the Permissive Prohibitory Bill he spoke with very considerable feelings of regret, seeing that he had to lament the death, within the last 48 hours, of one who was most active in his opposition to the measure—a gentleman of rare ability, whose clear-headedness and power with reference to this matter had 1824 been well known for years—a man through whose able advocacy much had been done to place the subject in its true light before the world at large. He need hardly say that he referred to Colonel Richards, the late lamented editor of The Morning Advertiser. He (Mr. Wheelhouse) wished as earnestly and as strongly as possible to point out that teetotalism, as it was called, or total abstinence, as he would prefer to call it, was not in any way connected with this Permissive Bill movement; for whilst teetotalism was a matter which anyone could practise in himself voluntarily, the Permissive Bill and everything connected with this movement was as widely removed from that which might be denominated teetotalism by moral suasion as it could be. He held in his hand a letter which showed how far the real principles of temperance, or, if they would, even those of teetotalism itself, were separate and distinct from all connection with the United Kingdom Alliance, the Permissive Bill, and the supporters of either. Here was an extract from that letter, addressed to a friend of his—I have been a teetotaller 39 years on the principle of moral suasion. If you have an opportunity will you be kind enough to state that the Bill of the hon. Member for Carlisle has nothing whatever to do with the Temperance Society? For one shilling a-year any person may be a member of the Alliance, and there is no restriction upon what he drinks, while he may all the time retain his membership. The temperance man upon the principle advocated is always consistent, while that cannot be said of the Alliance and its followers. Temperance societies of either the earlier or more modern form have nothing to do with the absurdities of the Permissive Bill.Now, he was old enough to remember a man who was happily still among them—a man than whom no one had done more for the cause of popular sobriety by establishing temperance societies, and who was loved and respected throughout the whole of the North of England—Joseph Livesey, the founder, he believed, of the first association for the promotion of temperance. To that philanthropist he felt thoroughly warranted in saying more was due in this matter than to any other man in England. Joseph Livesey did not support the principle of the Permissive Bill; on the contrary, he set his face most strongly and completely against this movement, and his views were most emphatically against 1825 the measure. He knew, as most of them did, that temperance carried on within reasonable limits was a great good, but he was anxious to be disconnected as far as possible from the promoters of the movement which culminated in this Bill. No doubt the hon. Baronet would tell them that the people of this country desired to see the Permissive Bill become law, but what evidence was there of this fact? At one time, Petitions had been presented in favour of the Bill, but these Petitions were the work of a careful organization. The agents of the Alliance sent them up in rolls and batches. He was glad, for the sake of the House and of all persons concerned, that the old fashion of petitioning, so far as regarded this Bill, had been consigned to the tomb of the Capulets. The United Kingdom Alliance had a large fund for this purpose, but they might save their money or spend it more usefully than in getting up Petitions of this kind. If his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle allowed him very humbly to suggest, there might be idealized a plan by which a large portion of the Alliance funds so gathered together could be appropriated after the fashion of the noble charitable institutions connected with the licensed victuallers'trade and other societies—namely, in providing asylums for the aged and the poor, establishing schools for the children of distressed members, and founding orphanages. Thus good use would be made of the money which flowed so copiously into the coffers of the United Kingdom Alliance. The hon. Baronet no doubt would further tell them that the measure would make the people sober by taking away from them the means of temptation which were so rife on every side. He (Mr. Wheelhouse) wished most sincerely that that doctrine had been taught when the Wine Licensing Act was pressed forward—when the grocers'licences were granted—and especially when the legislature first broke through the rule of the old licensing system, and imported a new class of public-houses into the country. Let there be no mistake about the matter. While anxious not to say a word against any existing interest, it was most unjust, unfair, and unreasonable to charge the licensed victuallers of this country—as respectable and honest-minded a body of men as could be found in the community—withthe sin of affording increased 1826 facilities for drinking, when everybody knew under what circumstances those facilities had been granted, and how those other houses had been opened. Let them hear no more, then, of these charges against the licensed victualler. Again, they were told that drunkenness was on the increase. He ventured to say without fear of contradiction that it had not increased in Great Britain, certainly not in England relatively to the enormous increase of the population; and he hoped and trusted that the time was coming when every man, whatever his station in life, from the veriest pauper to the Peer of the realm, would regard drunkenness as a disgrace, and would in his own proper person deal with it as a thing to be avoided by every respectable man. He believed that that result would be accomplished infinitely more by moral persuasion, by real teaching, of which there was now no lack of means, than by any measure of a compulsory character, whether secular or legislative. If they could not succeed by these means, depend upon it they never could hope to make men sober by Act of Parliament. He agreed with that high authority, who so well said that he would rather see men free even than made sober conpulsorily. He by no means under-estimated sobriety; but, above all things, he valued as the highest possession of Englishmen that freedom from coercion and tyrannous legislation which was his absolute birthright, and which under all circumstances he should be prepared to defend. What was the object sought by the Bill? Was it freedom? Nothing of the kind. It provided that if two-thirds of the ratepayers, gathered together anyhow, in any hole-and-corner meeting—under the authority it might be of a teetotal mayor, or possibly a teetotal chairman of a vestry—should declare that the Permissive Bill should be brought into operation within that district, then it would become ipso facto the law of the land for the next three years. Why was he to be told when he was to take a glass of wine or beer? Who were those who were to interfere with his freedom of opinion with regard to what he should eat and drink? They might as well interfere with the kind of clothes he wore, or the language he used. No man had a right to make him a slave, coerce him in the opinion he held, or say this or that was wrong, 1827 and especially wrong for people in a lower class of life. Perhaps, according to the opinion of these gentlemen, it might not be so far wrong for him or those who brought forward this Bill. Perhaps it was right that he should go to the dining or smoking-room of his club, drink there in reason and moderation, play billiards as long as he liked; but, while that was right for a man of his class, they were told they should take care that a poor man should not go to his club (the public-house) and play billiards there any longer than they liked. When he heard things of that kind, and knew, moreover, that there were places in London, places of high repute, not a thousand miles from Pall Mall, where, when a proposition was made that their billiard-room should be closed on Sundays, the club ruled to the contrary, he thought it very hard that, if that could be done in Pall Mall at any one of the large houses on either side of the street, the corresponding houses for the poor should be hermetically sealed, by the very same class of people who were called upon to legislate for Chandos Street or Drury Lane. That which was reasonable and fair for him ought to be equally reasonable and fair for the poor, and if they were to begin at all let them begin where it was sometimes said that charity began—"at home."When he found the clubs for the rich were shut up on Sundays, or that they had nothing but water-bottles on their tables, then he should be inclined to say there was something more than mere profession in all these attempts to legislate for the poor. When he found that not far from the spot on which he was standing there was nothing stronger than lemonade and coffee to be had, he should begin to think that the Lower House of the Legislature might by accident have some idea that their talk was right and that their practice might be amended. During the last Easter Recess, which he spent in the North of England, he was enabled to go over some of the large towns, and during the Whitsuntide Recess he stayed in London, in order to make, so far as he could, an investigation of a concurrent character to that which he had been pursuing in the country. During the whole of the Easter festivities, which were not so fully attended as he should like them to have been, in consequence of the inclemency of the season, 1828 but still very largely attended by all classes, not only in the borough which he had the honour to represent, but throughout the length and breadth, almost of the whole North of England from Kendal down to Derby—while about the streets and going into almost every place where it might be thought drunkenness would be found after those festivities and merrymakings, he was pleased beyond measure to be able to say that he did not think he saw three drunken men in the whole North of England, and he did not believe that the returns of the stipendiaries, the magistrates, and the police would tell them of a dozen cases of apprehension for drunkenness. But thinking it was only just and right that he should as far as possible test what London was like during the Whitsuntide festivities, when there was finer weather—and he only wished it had been finer still on the day when the hon. Baronet led so many of his followers into Hyde Park—looking at what he saw, he challenged the hon. Baronet to come into Court and say how many of his own followers, or those who differed from him, were brought up for drunkenness after these festivities. And then, forsooth, they were told that drunkenness was increasing—that people did not keep as sober as they ought to do. There would and must be in all communities persons who would exceed what was good for them, but they were comparatively few and far between; and as day by day time got older, if he might use the expression, these men were converted from the evil of their way. He did not hesitate to say that, as regarded London and the large towns, the allegation that drunkenness had increased had no foundation whatever in fact, if considered, as it ought fairly to be, in relation to the increase also of the population. Unless they could show him that a man by the moderate use of stimulants broke the law, social or Divine, he would never believe that that which had been created for the benefit and use of mankind could or ought necessarily to be stopped by the poor, the puny efforts of human legislation. No proposition could be more absurd than, because here and there some few men abused the good gifts of Almighty God, those gifts should be actually prohibited from general use. But there was another view of this question. Why 1829 was he to be subjected to that which was very like punishment, practically, because some men, or some few men, could not keep themselves as sober as it was desirable that they should do? They were told in a paper which he held in his hand that this Bill was to be passed—Because it supplied the means of enabling the people to indicate with legal effect to the licensing authority whether the traffic in their midst was desired by the inhabitants of a district, and was therefore quite compatible with any measures of licensing reform which might commend themselves to the judgment of hon. Members.In that were involved two of the greatest fallacies which could possibly be advanced. First of all, he denied that the Permissive Bill "supplied" in any way—The means of enabling the people to indicate with legal effect to the licensing authorities whether the traffic was desired by the inhabitants of a district.Not a bit of it. The ratepayers and owners were the persons who were to declare, if they could be got to declare—and a great many of them would not take the slightest trouble about making any such declaration or answering any such inquiry—upon a sort of paper "Yes" or "No" whether this Bill was to be enforced or not. As to occasional residents or anybody except the rated inhabitants or owners there was not a word in the Bill; and therefore to say it enabled the people—he liked that idea of "the people"—to indicate whether the traffic was desired or not was altogether fallacious. This Bill took care to exclude everybody except the ratepayers and owners of property in a district. If there was anybody who ought to be excluded from having a voice in this matter it was the owner of property, because he might have an interest wholly and entirely apart from that of the general inhabitancy and the general residency of the district. He had heard of districts where one gentleman, possessing the whole of the property, had chosen to exclude public-houses from the place; but did any human being imagine that anybody living in that reserved area could not get and did not get drink if he wanted it? Why, of course he did. Just round the edge of any one of those reserved districts there were public-houses, and within the dis- 1830 trict itself they would find grocers' shops and secret illicit dealing here, there, and everywhere. Did not they know perfectly well that in the sister country there were places where whiskey was said to be made up in the hills merely to defraud the revenue? And was it to be said that in England, when men wanted to satisfy their appetite, they would find any difficulty in doing it? Hon. Members knew better than that. In any reserved district the owner of the property might even find it desirable not to get rid of actual drinking if he could, because it would be interfering with the freedom of the people. Then they were told that—Therefore it was compatible with any measures of licensing reform which might commend themselves to the judgment of hon. Members.He apprehended that, so far as that House was concerned, hon. Members by a majority could pass anything they thought good, whether it was really wise or unwise. He was happy to think that in this matter there was not much chance of the Bill being passed; but when the statement went beyond that, and told them that they might pass a measure like this so as to be compatible with the licensing laws of this country, he said that was as broad a fallacy as could possibly be stated. Nobody knew better than the hon. Member for Carlisle that, if by accident a reserve district was made, either through the instrumentality of the owner or of the ratepayers, so far from that being compatible with any measure of licensing reform it would run in the very teeth of such reform and, he ventured to think, would put it back for at least 50 years. And for this reason. Outside that district there would be people who would say, "This must not be;"and there would be from end to end of that district and neighbourhood continual dissatisfaction, and, he ventured to think, everlasting turmoil and annoyance. Then the paper went on to say—Because in no other way could Parliament remove the injustice of perpetuating the liquor traffic in any district against the will of the community, for whose convenience licences were granted, and for no other alleged reason.Again, in reference to that assertion, Parliament must be very much weaker than he took it to be—it must be almost effete—if this measure was the only way in which it could— 1831Remove the injustice of perpetuating the liquor traffic in any district against the will of the community.He denied there was anything like reasoning in an allegation so broad as that. But the proposal went on to say—Because a majority necessary to its operation could prevent its adoption, except in localities or districts where the traffic was regarded as being accompanied by advantageous results.That statement was utterly baseless, except that a certain number of gentlemen, headed by the hon. Member for Carlisle and some few others, held it to be sufficient to convince the wide world that they were right and the rest wrong. So long as majorities ruled, whether they were majorities of two-thirds, or majorities pure and simple, the people of England would never follow the lead or believe in the allegation of those who had chosen to make that statement. Then the next assertion was—Because it applied to a trade which was admittedly within the province of the law, the constitutional decision by a majority; so that to oppose it was virtually to assert that the minority should rule the majority upon a question which was confessedly one for the wants and wishes of the inhabitants.He ventured to think if, upon the principle of a very famous head-constable of whom we read in Shakespeare, there had been any requirement as to what should be written, it was pretty strongly put forth in that statement. "Because it applied to a trade which was admittedly within the province of the law," "the question was admittedly one for the wants and wishes of the inhabitants." Not at all. By this Bill the inhabitants as such had nothing to do with it, unless they happened to be owners or ratepayers. Who was to define the district? Was the ratepayer on this side of the border to be placed in one position and the ratepayer on the other side in another? And by whom? Not by the majority of those within the district sought to be legislated for, but by certain irresponsible persons in the general community, who never consulted the wishes or feelings of the great mass of the people in any way, and who in nine cases out of ten, in a question such as this, had interests diametrically opposed to those of the great body of the people. When they came to consider the provisions of this Bill they found that at the end 1832 of every three years, if they got the Bill, and at the end of every one single year if they did not get it, there might be elections following elections, and feelings of the strongest possible antagonism would be aroused on all hands. Why, the country would be kept in a constant state of turmoil if the advocates of the measure did not get their way. We had now elections for municipalities, for Poor Law Guardians, for School Boards, for Local Government Boards, for Vestries, and for Vestry and Local Board wards; and still these gentlemen wanted to give us not only another election, but one which would be fraught with the greatest possible principles of antagonism, according as they were laid down by his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle himself. [Sir WILFRID LAWSON: No elections.] No elections? Perhaps not, in name; but did his hon. Friend mean to tell him that, so far as the provisions of this Bill were concerned, although there might not be elections, with banners, and drums, trumpets, fifes, and bugles, such, as his hon. Friend headed the other day towards Hyde Park, there would not be elections which, without any such paraphernalia, would still produce feelings of dislike and antagonism throughout the whole of a district? The hon. Member had only to go back to the days of the hustings in any one of the large towns in the North of England, leaving that free Alsatia of his at home, to realize the kind of elections which would take place if the Bill were brought into operation. He (Mr. Wheelhouse) wanted to avoid everything of that kind. If the Bill did not mean election—if the filling up of the voting papers "Yes" or "No, "declaring that the operation of the Bill should or should not be brought into play, was not an election, he really did not know what an election meant. He did not mean to say that an election under the provisions of the Bill might not be more quietly done than under the old plan of elections, with blue or yellow colours, and drums, fifes, and what not. But the election, being so conducted, would only tend to raise the antagonism of feeling greater and more intense in a matter of this kind. Again, referring to the paper from which he had quoted, it was stated that this Bill ought to pass— 1833Because it was not justly chargeable with class partiality, for those who would be more immediately affected by its operation were the persons who would be most benefited directly or indirectly by the effect of public order and domestic sobriety.Now, he would rather leave the question of domestic sobriety to our own households. He did not need anyone to deal with his domestic arrangements. He had never asked them to interfere with his legitimate wish as to a glass of wine or beer, and did not know what right they had to do so, any more than they had to interfere with his stables or any other matters so far as his personnel was involved. They might deal with the question of "public order" if they would, but nobody had a right to deal with his "domestic sobriety," as they called it, or domestic anything else, unless he broke the law. Then they were told that this Bill was not chargeable with class partiality. Why, what in the world was it but class partiality from beginning to end? It would allow him and his hon. Friend to go where they knew they could get what they wanted, but would deny the same right to others who were not so well off. This Bill was the greatest attempt at class legislation that was ever idealized by mortal man. He was told that the people who would be more immediately affected by its operations were those who would be most benefited directly and indirectly by its effect, but he objected most strongly to anybody telling him he must be a good boy. He had come to a time of life when he thought he knew what was good for himself, and most other people who had come to years of discretion were also able to judge for themselves. The gentlemen who had put these statements forward had their own dining-rooms and drawing-rooms and cellars, and were generally in a better class of life than the workers, toilers, or, to use a Yorkshire word, the "moilers" in our workshops and manufactories. When these gentlemen, with all their comforts surrounding them at home, with everything they wanted, told them that somebody else would be benefited to a very large extent by adopting what they wished to enforce upon them, he should like to know whether they had mixed amongst the class of people they would teach, whether they had been by 1834 their bedsides, in their cottages, and whether they had not applied to them the circumstances of their own comfortable hearths and surroundings. It was the kind of personages who did not understand the wants and requirements of the working classes who got up this agitation. The general body of the people of this country thoroughly and most emphatically repudiated it. Before they were told what was beneficial for any class of society, let those who thought they knew go where he could take them. Let them go down to Lime-house, to places in the neighbourhood of that House, to the North of England, to the great manufacturing districts of the Midlands, and see what the workers really were—see how they lived, know their work, study their requirements; and then perhaps such an allegation as that they would be directly benefited by the operation of the Bill would not be repeated. If people wanted to be benefited by the operation of temperance and sobriety there was nothing to prevent them. They could abstain from going into public-houses. Nobody compelled them to go there. But he did object to persons in an elevated position in life looking down upon a class so far below them, and whose wants they did not understand, and saying, "We are doing this for your benefit, good people;" and, with a sort of "Bless you, my children," patting them on the back as if they were very babies. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Wheelhouse.)
§ MR. MORLEY
I have never had an opportunity of speaking on this Bill before, and as I intend to vote with my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, I should like to say a few words of explanation. I should be very glad if anything could be done to divest this subject of the bitterness which attaches to it. A great deal of the antagonism, I believe, arises from an idea which is abroad that there is a large body of determined persons, the advocates of the present Bill, who have made up their minds to interfere with a trade in which large sums of money have 1835 been invested. While I believe in the principle of leaving it to the inhabitants of a district to decide as to the number of public-houses in that district, I would be no party to any proceeding which would abolish the trade without some fair system of compensation. I say this at the outset, because the law having recognized this property, just as 40 years ago it recognized a property in slaves, and the nation refused then to do away with the slave system without making compensation to the owners of slaves, so I say the public-house keepers having conducted their houses in a proper manner, and having received licences which, though only given for a year, are supposed to be continuous, I would be no party to destroying or extinguishing the public-houses without some reasonable compensation. With regard to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse), if I understand him correctly, he demurs to our interfering with men at all until they become criminal. I think that was clearly the line he took with reference to the habit of drinking producing crime. I believe it to be a legitimate object for this House, however—if there is any system which is full of danger in connection with the habits and proceedings of the people, I hold it to be a legitimate thing for the House of Commons to interfere and say—"We must restrict liberty in certain proceedings because there is possible danger for the future in connection with such habits." Whether we like it or not, we have handed over the government of this country to the working classes of the country. No doubt the changes that have been made in the electoral system have given to numbers the power of deciding what shall be done. I am unwilling that great national subjects shall be discussed and decided upon over beer in public-houses to the extent to which that goes on at present. I do not believe in interfering with the liberty of the people. I believe in permitting everything legitimate in the way of personal liberty as well as in the amusements of the people. I quite agree with that part of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Leeds—and that is about the only part in which I do agree with him—where he said that we need to interest ourselves more in the amusements of those who are now attracted to the public-houses. We do need to do 1836 something that shall act as a legitimate competition with the public-house. I have had a great deal to do with the working classes, and I have mixed with them and been very deeply interested in them, and I know that there is a growing feeling on their part that legislation on this subject is needed. That is emphatically so in Ireland, and in many places in England also, where you will find great public meetings—the admission being without ticket—filled by working men, who, with almost entire unanimity, are calling—not exactly, it may be, for this Bill, which needs seriously looking at in some of its provisions—but for distinct legislation in the direction of the curtailment of the facilities for drinking. I confess that I look with terror at the future of England, unless something is done. I am thankful that this cannot be looked upon as a Party question, for although, no doubt, a large proportion of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House support the present system, there are some honourable exceptions who believe that some remedy for the present state of things is needed. I will not trouble the House with statistics, but there is one fact which I read yesterday in an authoritative document which I must mention, and that is, that in the year—I think it was 1869, but the precise date does not much matter—the amount consumed in drink in this country was £100,000,000, and that last year it had risen to £150,000,000. If that goes on we must find some remedy, or else there is exceedingly great danger to the order and well-being of society in the future. As a citizen of London I speak the sentiments of thousands of earnest men in London—we complain bitterly of the additional half-hour's drinking which was forced on the people by the present Government, for the convenience of theatre-goers. I am sure that that half-hour is the worst half-hour of the whole day, and I think a great wrong was done to London, with its 4,000,000 of people, when that was done by the Government. I shall vote for this Bill because I wish to see progress in this direction. I do not believe the Bill is perfect, but I vote for it because I am satisfied that something is wanted. I have to do with many movements in London to save juveniles from crime and lessen misery and destitution, and I know that nine-tenths of those evils are traceable to this 1837 curse of drink. Therefore it is that I support this Bill. One of the most important things we could do would be to secure a reduction in the number of houses, for there is hardly a place in which there are not at least twice as many public-houses as the people need. The inducements to build such houses are great, and they are built without any consideration as to the necessities of the people. Another fact is incontrovertible. In Liverpool the year before last, there were 23,000 persons charged with drunkenness, and only three publicans were brought up in consequence of that state of things. That shows a laxity on the part of the magistrates which should be looked to by the Home Secretary, with the view of seeing whether the existing law is stringent enough. Public opinion is strong on this subject. There is a deep conviction on the part of the people that something is needed. While I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) with all my heart for his earnestness in this matter, I yet differ from him as to the practicability of some of his proposals. At the same time, I give my hearty support to the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. A. MILLS
protested against the practice of hon. Gentlemen charging those who sat on the Ministerial side as if they were influenced only by consideration for the interests of the publicans. He should be sorry if by any vote he might feel it his duty to give he did injury to any tradesman; but his vote would not be influenced, by any considerations of that kind—he opposed the Bill solely on public grounds, and because he believed that if carried it would not effect the object the hon. Baronet, its proposer, had at heart. It was a coercive measure, and wherever coercive measures of that kind had been tried they had failed. Stripped of all verbiage the Bill proposed to disestablish public-houses and thereby to disestablish drunkenness. He had noticed that the supporters of the Bill did not like some allusions he had made on a former occasion to the United States, and he would therefore only say that, having had real opportunities of observation, the Maine Law was utterly fruitless as a means of checking drunkenness. He would, however, come nearer home, and speak of the constituency which he 1838 had the honour to represent—that of Exeter. Owing to recent restrictions, there had been established six or seven proprietary clubs—working men's clubs—which were in reality unlicensed public-houses. He held in his hand the rules of some of them, and he knew what they were. In one case, where a man had very properly been deprived of his licence by the justices, he converted his house into a proprietary club; he kept it open at all hours and on all days; he was not subject to the licensing laws or the supervision of the police; he was no longer liable to have soldiers billeted upon him, and, although he sold liquors without restriction, not only to gentlemen but also to lady members, the Bill of the hon. Member for Carlisle would not touch him. The Bill would, in fact, disestablish licensed public-houses, and establish unlicensed public-houses under the name of working men's clubs. The Bill might be effectual to close the public-house; it would fail of its object if it left the club-house open—instead of diminishing the temptation to drunkenness the Bill would increase both the temptation and the opportunity. They were told that there was a strong feeling out-of-doors with reference to this Bill. No doubt there was a general desire to check intemperance; but the speech of the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley) was more in favour of the Bill of the hon. Member for Scarborough (Sir Harcourt Johnstone) than that now before the House. But the great thing to consider with regard to outdoor feeling was whether it was spontaneous or not. He had within the last few days received a great number of letters from his constituents—and no doubt other hon. Members had been favoured in like manner—pressing him to support the Bill of the hon. Member for Carlisle. He regretted to say that many of these letters were not post-paid, and it would be well if from their large funds the Alliance would send out with their missives a few postage stamps. A circular had fallen into his hands which was important as affecting the spontaneity of this ebullition of feeling. It was to the following effect:—United Kingdom Alliance.—The Committee beg to inform you that the second reading of the Permissive Bill is fixed for Wednesday, June 14, and Sir Wilfrid Lawson will be glad if the electors, non-electors, and even ladies. 1839 would write to your City Members a few simple, earnest words from their hearts on this important question, asking them to rote for the measure. The names and addresses of your Members are appended hereto.He did not find fault with the action of the hon. Member for Carlisle, but it was now clear that what appeared to be a spontaneous ebullition on the part of the citizens was in fact the simple and heartfelt suggestion of his hon. Friend. He did not wish to treat this question with levity—it was a question of the highest importance; but he could not help thinking that the hon. Baronet and his friends were going beyond the legitimate province of the law. He did not seem to be aware that this kind of penal legislation was very likely to provoke a reactionary feeling against the cause of temperance. His belief was that temperance would be more advanced by providing suitable dwellings, wholesome water, and pure air for the people, than by enacting penal laws, which were sure to provoke a just reaction. It was a transgression of the limits of legislation to interfere with the morals of the people in this manner. The province of legislation was simply to maintain law and order. If a reduction in the number of public-houses was essential let it be effected in some other way. Do not grant new licences where they were not required. If they closed the houses in one district what was to prevent the inhabitants from sliding into another, and providing themselves with what they required? In the United States this was the effect of the Maine Liquor Law. The best remedy for the evil, which all right-minded men deplored, was so to elevate the character of the people as to make them ashamed of drunkenness, and to expel this vice from the lower ranks of the community by the ennobling influence of Christian education.
§ DR. KENEALY
concurred in the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. A. Mills) that the opposition to the Bill was not actuated by so vile a motive as the publican interest. From his observation of the Government Party since he had the honour of a seat in Parliament, he was convinced that they were as sincerely anxious for the welfare of the humbler class of the community as any Party could be. He had listened anxiously to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Leeds 1840 (Mr. Wheelhouse), because, although he believed in the propriety of passing this Bill into law, still, he was eager to hear what the champions of the Intoxicating Power of the country would be able to say in opposition to the measure. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds had astonished him by declaring that the Bill was impracticable; but although he had listened very attentively to the hon. and learned Member's speech, in order that he might learn in what particular respect it was impracticable, he had failed to find any proof given. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds had also declared that he could see no principle in the Bill; but surely it must be apparent that the great principle involved in it was the principle of Temperance, and that it laboured to carry out on an extended scale a system of Temperance throughout the country which would be attended with the greatest possible blessing to the community. The hon. and learned Member had harped much upon coercion; but there was no coercion at all in an improper sense contemplated by the Bill. Every community which was subject to law consented to divest itself of some of its liberties, and coercion, to some extent, existed everywhere. We had laws for compulsory education—that was coercion. We had laws against gambling—that was coercion. The hon. and learned Member plaintively but energetically asked whether he was to be made a slave? A gambler might ask the same thing; but no one would listen to his wailings. The parent of a child might say—"Why am I to be compelled to send my child to school?" but his plea would not be entertained. If a drunkard or an ardent supporter of intemperance came forward and asked—"Shall I not be allowed to get as drunk as I please, and introduce misery into my family by my example—shall I not be allowed to bring up my children in pauperism and wretchedness?" the Law said—"No, it cannot be allowed." Such freedom as was asked for by the hon. and learned Member, was not freedom, but licence—nay, it was licentiousness. And it was against such abuse of liberty that all laws were aimed. The hon. and learned Member had found fault with the fact that there were certain members of the Alliance who did not believe in the principles of the Society, or, rather, who did 1841 not carry them out in practice. But that would be found to be the case in all great public movements. Hypocrites joined them for their own purposes, and could not well be excluded; but in what way could that weaken the force, or render us careless, of the convictions of the thousands of honest, virtuous, and earnest people whose hearts were in the cause? Then, the hon. and learned Member asked, was the Bill wanted by the people? For an answer to that question he need only ask any intelligent operative, or any man who really had at heart the welfare of his country, and knew its requirements. It was true that there had not been many Petitions in favour of the Bill, but neither had there been any against it. The people did not care to petition, seeing now Petitions were treated; but their feeling in favour of the Bill could not be denied. And that feeling was growing more powerful every day. He had last night attended a meeting at Exeter Hall in support of the measure, which was crowded with well-dressed, intelligent working men and women, persons who were an honour to the country that owned them—such a meeting as the intoxicating interest of this country could never assemble. As to the statement that drunkenness was not increasing, the statistics which had been given by the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. S. Morley) showed that a considerable increase had been going on, if the consumption of spirits had increased 50 per cent in 10 years. What had the hon. Member for Bristol stated?—no doubt after full inquiry—why, that whereas some six or eight years ago the money expended on drink in this country amounted to £100,000,000 a-year, it reached last year the astounding figure of £150,000,000. Only think of that. £150,000,000 squandered, not in use, but abuse; and let us realize to ourselves what blessings those millions, if spent at home, would spread, instead of being wasted at the public-house. Here was the source of vast misery—the source of crime; and in view of that fact he ventured to predict that the overwhelming opinion of the country would declare in its favour, and it would be impossible to oppose that feeling. The passing of this Bill was simply, therefore, a question of time; and it must eventually appear upon the Statute Book of the Em- 1842 pire. He agreed fully in another respect with the hon. Member for Bristol, that compensation ought to be, and must be, given to those whose property was diminished in value, or was wholly taken away from them, by the operation of the measure if it became law. He was no advocate for confiscation, but the reverse; nor did he believe that the Alliance wished it. And he would support the hon. Member, or any other, who proposed compensation for loss sustained. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds had asked—How could the opinions of the community on the subject of public-houses be ascertained fairly? and he suggested what he called "hole-and-corner meetings" as being those in which the vote would be taken. He referred the hon. and learned Member to the vast borough of Leeds, which he represented, and asked the hon. and learned Gentleman whether those words could refer to the ratepayers of such a town, two-thirds of whom would have to declare by their votes whether they were satisfied or not with the present unlimited supply of the means of drink? The hon. and learned Member had likewise complained that the ratepayers and owners of property were those in whom the power of voting proposed by the Bill would vest. In whom else ought it to vest? The ratepayers were those who, in their own persons and purses, and in the spectacles which they witnessed around them day by day, felt most bitterly the increase of taxation, which was the result of the increasing drunkenness and consequent crime of the community. He had conjured up a spectre of flags, and banners, and hustings, and all the paraphernalia of a popular election, entirely forgetting that the Bill provided for taking the votes of the ratepayers by the simple method of signing "Yes" or "No" to a printed circular. The hon. and learned Member had gone even to the length of saying that it would set every third man against his neighbour. He believed in no such result. The good sense of the English people would always lead the minority to assent to the will of the majority; the more especially as they would find out before long that the views of that majority tended only to the public welfare. The hon. and learned Member told them that the House was acting inconsistently because it had, to a certain 1843 extent, been responsible for the drunkenness of the country by the measures which it had passed. He quite agreed with the hon. and learned Member that the Acts which were passed by the Liberals, including the privilege accorded to grocers to diffuse the blessings of intoxication among their customers, had that tendency, but that was no argument against the Bill or against making some attempt to improve the existing state of affairs. He, although he sat upon the Opposition side, did not hold himself in any way responsible for, or bound by the crimes of the Whigs when they were in office; and he fully concurred in the observations of the hon. and learned Member, when he denounced Lord Brougham's Beer Act as the fertile source of crime. Then they were told that drunkenness was not on the increase; but that it was increasing was proved by the statistics which had from time to time been published. He believed that when the case came to be properly stated and properly understood, hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were quite as patriotic as any others, would be found supporting the efforts of the hon. Member for Carlisle; and, though he had no hope that this Bill would pass this year, he was satisfied that eventually it would do so, by an overwhelming majority. It was all very well to say they could not make men sober by Act of Parliament. Neither could they make men virtuous by Act of Parliament; but they passed laws to punish crime, and to make people as virtuous as they could; and he did not see why something should not be done to limit drunkenness. The way to do that was not to have public-houses as numerous as the gas lamps in the streets, or the beer barrel brought, as it were, to every man's door. If we could not make men sober, we ought not, at all events, to allure them into drink, as was effected by the present system. He felt persuaded that if the number of temptations to drunkenness were diminished, the amount of drunkenness would sensibly decrease. The hon. and learned Member had said—"Why do not the men abstain? Why do they want a law?" If all men were above weakness and human frailty, and never yielded to temptation, and were, in a word, infallible and perfect, that argument might apply; but in the present condition of 1844 humanity, weakness overcame the best resolutions, and men fell. As to the observations of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. A. Mills) that if this Bill passed the public-house interest would, as it had in the city which he represented, defy the law by establishing "proprietary clubs," he had no fears upon that head. He did not think Parliament ought to be influenced by the remote contingency of such clubs being established generally throughout the country for the purpose of setting the law at nought; but if the evil did arise to any extent after the passing of the Bill, Parliament would be willing and strong enough to deal with it. For these reasons he should support this measure.
§ EARL PERCY
said, he regretted that he felt compelled to vote against the Bill. He entirely agreed with much that had fallen from the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley), and he believed that much required to be done; nor was he without hope—although he was not certain on the point—that something might be done in the required direction by legislation. But he did not see how this could be a reason for voting for a Bill, which, in principle, was he believed unsound and mischievous, while in its result it would probably not attain the end it had in view. At the same time, he confessed he had great sympathy with the supporters of the measure, and he trusted that those who spoke on either side of the House against the Bill would express the same sentiment, for he was sure that there was much to be said for it. The evil it sought to remove was no slight one, and he did not see that much was to be gained by those who attempted to prove that it was not an increasing evil. Whether the evil was an increasing or a diminishing one, and even if it were only slowly diminishing, the fact remained that it was a fruitful source of crime, misery, poverty, and immorality; and it did not become them to take shelter under the fact that they hoped some modification had taken place, or was about to take place, in some of its worst features:—they ought rather to attempt to discover whether they could not deal with it an adequate manner. Neither did he agree with those who considered that the agitation on this question was not so great as it was supposed to be. He was quite sure, from 1845 what he had observed—limited as his observation had been—that the feeling in favour of some legislation—whether in the shape of this Bill, or a Sunday Closing Bill, which, though he did not support it, he confessed had a great deal to be said for it, or whether it took the form of some other measure—was growing in the country, and that there was a desire that something should be done by legislation to correct the evils of intemperance. He would give an instance. It was notorious that within the last few years certain societies had grown up, having temperance and total abstinence as their objects;—these societies had attained a growth in this country which he believed was unequalled by any body of persons in any other land or at any other period in the history of the world. No doubt this might be accounted for by many circumstances—by the desire many persons indulged of belonging to some society or other, or by the fact that many of the members, who were young men when they joined, left the societies when they reached a more mature age: so that the members constantly joining the societies and making them seem to be so numerous were really no criterion. All this might be true, but the fact remained, and some other reason than any he had thus assigned must be given to account for the rise of these institutions. In his opinion it was impossible to account for it except by supposing that there was a very strong feeling among the people in favour of some—he would not say restriction, because that might be used with a double meaning—but in favour of some remedy for the evils under which they laboured in respect to the sale of intoxicating drinks. And here he did not speak only of the feeling that prevailed among the mob—for he was not one who had much faith in the process of counting noses—but of a feeling that was spreading among those who knew the amount of poverty, misery, and immorality that resulted from the prevalence of intemperance. He knew that the clergy of all denominations were daily becoming more strongly in favour—not perhaps of this Bill, but of some measure that would remedy the evils they were unable to cope with among the flocks under their charge. He might be answered by the old story that it was impossible to make people sober or moral by legislation; and, al- 1846 though he admitted this, he would suggest that there was one aspect of the question that ought not to be forgotten—namely, that it was a social as well as a moral question. He was surprised to hear hon. Members assert that drunkenness was not widely extended, for instance, in the North of England. However it might be in that portion of the North of England referred to by the hon. and learned Member who made that statement (Mr. Wheelhouse), he knew that in that part of the North with which he was best acquainted, whether drunkenness was increasing or slowly diminishing, it was a crying evil. They were told that it was impossible for legislation to do much in connection with this subject; and although he was not sure that Parliament could do so much as many people seemed to suppose, he was certain that the object in view would not be effected by the Bill before the House. For many years they had been educating the people to believe that legislation was a panacea for all the ills of humanity. ["No!"] He admitted that this was rather a broad statement; but he asserted that they had taught the people to regard legislation as a remedy for a great number of evils which he frankly believed it was impossible for legislation to prevent. They had Governments—he did not intend to distinguish between the two sides—whose merits were tested by the number of measures with which they loaded the Statute Book. This sort of legislation, spread over a great many years, would lead the people to suppose that if they really had these questions at heart they could find some remedy by legislation for the evils complained of; therefore the Legislature was bound either to prove satisfactorily that they were powerless in this respect or that they had measures which, whether they were assented to by the people or not, contained provisions that did not break through the ordinary principles of freedom and justice, and that would effect the object they had in view. They had had previous legislation on this subject, but it had only touched the fringe of the evil with which this Bill proposed to deal. He did not concur in the strictures passed on the Licensing Bill of the present Government;—whatever his opinion on certain of its provisions, yet, looking at it as a whole, he thought it a measure that did not destroy the fair effects of the 1847 honest legislation of the late Government—passed, as he frankly confessed, in a right direction—while it sought to remove those provisions which were unnecessarily harassing. At the same time, it was not satisfactory, because it did not really remedy to any appreciable extent the evils of the present system. It was very common in that House to speak disparagingly of the publicans, and to talk of them as looking after their own interest. This was not fair. He knew a small village—which he would not name—which had at least the average number of public-houses, and the clergy of all denominations agreed to urge upon the publicans to take out six-day licences instead of seven-day licences. The result was that all the publicans agreed to do so except three, who stood out. The consequence was that the rest of the body said it was impossible for them to take out six-day licences if the three did not, because otherwise the custom they then had would go to the men who kept open on the Sunday. This fact showed, however, what the publicans were willing to do if it were possible; for it was not right to expect, considering what human nature was, that they would suffer in their trade solely in the interests of the partial sobriety of the place they lived in. What appeared to him to be the great faults of the measures that had been proposed with regard to intoxication were these. First, they all required compulsion for the attainment of their end. Now drinking, unlike bribery or swearing, or many other things, was not in itself wrong; it was the abuse of the practice that made it an evil—and they had no right to prevent a person doing that which was harmless. If they got the consent of the people to any measure restricting the free exercise of their just and legitimate rights, they would sooner or later, he believed, perceive worse consequences than those they wished to remove. The other great fault was that too much was expected from the passing of any measure. It was perfectly futile to expect that they could reform the pronounced drunkard, or that they could restrain all of those who had already begun their downward course from completing their dreadful progress. What they must seek to do was to take away the temptation from the rising generation. He quite agreed with this proposition; but he asked how were they to do this? It 1848 was not to be done except by great sacrifice on the part of the public, and this sacrifice would only be made if the public had really the interests of society at heart. It was easy to pass a prohibitive Bill, to prevent their neighbours from obtaining liquors which they had a perfect right to get if they chose to do so:—it was easy to pass a Bill to close public-houses on Sunday, and say "the poor man shall not have a glass of beer on a Sunday;"—but what they ought to attempt to do was to find a system which should no longer allow it to be to the interest of the publican to sell the liquor he had in his possession. He believed this to be the key of the whole question. He was not about to shadow forth a Bill on the subject. He knew who it was who were said to "rush in where angels fear to tread," and he was not so foolish as to believe that a question which had not been solved by some of the wisest heads in the country would be settled by any proposal he could make; but his belief was that if this question was to be solved at all it was to be by a provision taking from the publican the interest he had in selling the liquor he possessed. This was the principle adopted in a foreign country with much success. How far it would succeed here he knew not, but it could only be adopted at a great increase of existing burdens. He would conclude by assuring the House that he did not oppose the Bill because he was not alive to the evil it proposed to redress, but because he did not believe that the principle on which it was founded was the right one on which to proceed.
§ MR. ERNEST NOEL,
in supporting the Motion for the second reading, said, they had been told by the noble Lord who had just sat down (Earl Percy) that they had taught the people of this country to believe that almost everything could be done by legislation, and that in that they had made a mistake, and so far he agreed with the noble Lord. And the noble Lord went on to say—and in that also he agreed with him—that as they had taught the people that they could do in this House very much for their benefit, when they came face to face with a great evil like that they were now discussing, they were bound to prove either that they were powerless to act in the way of its removal, or that they had done all they could. He, for one, 1849 thought that they could not do all that was wanted by legislation. There was a great deal that must always be left undone by legislation in this matter. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for the City of Exeter (Mr. A. Mills), when he said that there were other steps to be taken before they could make this country sober; but at the same time he thought there was something which could be done by the Legislature; and it was because he was convinced that that they had not acted wisely on the question of drunkenness that he was prepared to give his vote for the Bill of the hon. Member for Carlisle; though, with other hon. Members, he thought that the measure as it now stood, if not entirely impracticable, was one which would effect but in a small degree the object which the hon. Baronet had at heart. But it was the only measure before the House at the present time which went in the direction in which they wished to go. He did not agree with hon. Gentlemen who said the principle of the Bill was temperance; in his opinion the principle was local self-government. It was that a neighbourhood had a right to say whether they thought a particular trade was a nuisance or otherwise; and if they thought it was so, power was given them by law to remove it. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) had told them that he was opposed to drunkenness; but that he was not be coerced, that he was not to be enslaved, that he was not to have his freedom interfered with by the advocates of this measure. Well, there was not a single word in the Bill to interfere with that opinion. What the Bill said was, that if a majority of the inhabitants of a neighbourhood found that the presence of public-houses in that neighbourhood was to them ruinous, or injurious, or offensive, they should have the right to say those houses should be diminished, or done away with. He thought the Bill failed in giving to the neighbourhood the power to say only that they would have no public-houses at all. It would work in very few districts, perhaps, but it would be of great advantage there: in most districts it would be a dead letter. The Bill, however, would establish the principle that a majority of those who had to pay the taxes—and those were the people whom they had made the power in this country, for it was they 1850 who elected the Members of the House of Commons—should say whether something should be done or should not be done, to get rid of what to them was a terrible evil. The noble Lord (Earl Percy) had spoken of a "tyranny;" but there appeared to him (Mr. Noel) a greater tyranny under the existing system of licensing than any spoken of by the noble Lord. The noble Lord mentioned a village in which it was proposed to the publicans to take out only a "six days licence," and close their houses on the seventh, and the noble Lord said they all agreed, with the exception of "three," who refused, and the obstinate selfishness of those three compelled the others to keep open. He should like to describe to the House a case which had come under his own knowledge, so that it might know under what tyranny some of the inhabitants of districts existed. The publican who lived in the village he was acquainted with—and there was only one at the time he was speaking of—was an honest, upright man, and the people were thoroughly content with the way in which the place was going on—might be looked upon as a little Arcadia. There was no drunkenness there, or very little. Well, a brewer of the neighbourhood looked down on them and thought they were far too happy, and he built a house fit in every way to have a licence. There was a population of 1,200 in the village, and as no magistrate would say that a second public-house in such a neighbourhoood was out of place, the brewer got his licence, and the miseries of the villagers commenced. If the working man chose to have his beer he (Mr. Noel) would be the last to say that he should not, but he must complain of the tyranny to which they were subjected by being told that in his own neighbourhood he was to have no voice in deciding whether the second public-house should be set up or not. What happened in the village was this—As they were not a beer-drinking community, means must be provided for making them drink beer; and the proprietor of the new public-house instituted all sorts of things to attract the people on holidays and on Saturdays, and during those hours on Sundays that the house remained open. The result was that the good old village publican was induced by the necessity of his trade—he would not be hard upon 1851 him—to take some steps to meet his rival; and what was the result? Why, that they had dancing-rooms opened, and many other evils were introduced into their quiet village. Drunkenness then increased until it became common with them. He looked upon it as a great tyranny for him to be called upon to pay towards the support of all the pauper families created by the public-houses. Let them do away with the Poor Law, and say that drunkards' families should not be supported by ratepayers, and he would admit that at least that part of the tyranny of which he now complained would be done away with. Talk about the shutting up of public-houses being an interference with personal liberty! The Bill would merely tend to reduce the number of places where an article accursed in its consequences was consumed, to the great injury of the consumer and the community. He could not understand how it was that the hon. and learned Member for Leeds said he had visited the large towns of the North during the Whitsuntide holidays, and though he had looked for drunkards had found none. He had heard of people seeing only what they desired to see; and the hon. and learned Gentleman must have had eyes of this nature, or looked at things through very peculiar spectacles, which enabled him to see what he liked and not see what he did not like. The hon. and learned Member told them that they should go into the houses of the labouring classes and make themselves friendly with them if they wished to know their real habits and produce any needful improvement. Now, he (Mr. Noel) had for years been in the habit of going into the houses of the labouring classes, and, more than that, he had visited frequently the poorest houses in the lowest districts of this vast metropolis, and in them he saw the strongest proofs for the necessity of restraining the sale of intoxicating liquors. What was to be done in such a pressing and important matter? Something was necessary; and when an hon. Member of the House, like the Member for Carlisle, came forward with a Bill for the purpose, he believed it was his duty, even if the Bill did not proceed exactly in the lines he desired such a measure to take, to support it. He did think, however, that the Bill as it now stood was in one respect imperfect and 1852 unjust—there was no compensation clause in it; and that omission, if the Bill was carried, would be an injustice to those whose houses might be shut up by its operation. He could not vote for the Bill, therefore, without the proviso that, if it passed, either the hon. Baronet or some one else would propose in Committee a clause which would enable ample compensation to be paid to those who might have their houses closed. That, however, was a detail which need not be dealt with on that occasion. He hoped that if a private Member was not strong enough to deal with the question, either the present or some future Government would take the matter up, and do something for the removal or mitigation of the enormous evils under which the country now laboured from this cause. The loss of life alone from over-consumption of intoxicating liquors was greater in the course of a year than ever happened in great battles, or even great wars. Every year 70,000 people were killed by drink—a greater number than those killed in any single campaign in the Russian or other wars—and the numbers killed formed only an infinitesimal portion of those otherwise injured from this cause. With the reservation he had named, he felt bound to give his support to the Bill.
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT
The hon. Member who has last addressed the House (Mr. Noel) tells us that he shall vote for the Bill although he does not wholly agree with it. Since I have had a seat in this House I have always voted for this Bill, and it is my intention to do so to-day. I must confess, at the same time, that I would rather have a more complete Bill; I prefer, in fact, the Bill of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen), but I shall vote for any Bill which is offered us, which is likely to give the public some control over the sellers of intoxicating drinks. It is not my intention to dwell upon the evil which we wish to remove. That evil is admitted. Nobody, unless it were the hon. and learned Member for Leeds, would deny its great magnitude. When I consider the character of that evil, fairly described, I think, by the hon. Member who last addressed us, it often appears to me that Parliament is extremely apathetic with regard to it. We have from time to time legislated upon it, but in the feeblest fashion; and I am 1853 entitled to say, that if we consider the results that have followed that legislation, we shall find that they are almost nothing. With regard to the present Government, it appears to me that it has rather gone back upon this question. One of the most advantageous provisions of the last Government has been repealed by the present Government. The Act of the last Government shut up the public-houses in the morning until the working people had gone to their occupations. Well, although the magistrates, ministers of religion, employers of labour, and, infact, everybody defended that particular provision, the present Government, as I think, unfortunately abolished it. Now, how is it that there is so much lethargy upon this subject? It appears to spring very much from the social conditions in which we live. Members of both Houses of Parliament, for the most part, live in good houses, and frequent the best portions of our various towns. Those of them—and there are many—who have houses in the country have influence enough always to protect their own estates or their own houses from these plague spots which do so much harm to the people; and we are so seldom brought practically into contact with this evil that we take very little pains to remove it. How do those who are of the people, and who are obliged to live very much among the people, and who, therefore, are suffering from the evil which we are now discussing, look upon it? As an indication of the course which working people generally would take, let me point out what has taken place with regard to their co-operative trading associations. These associations are numerous; a great amount of capital is embarked in them, and some of them are powerful. They are anxious to sell everything on which a profit can be made; but I believe that, without exception, the co-operative associations throughout the country refuse to sell intoxicating liquors in any shape or form. That is a proof, surely, of the tendency of those who are among the great mass of the people. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds spoke of our clubs, and he said he should be disposed to consider seriously this question if he found that the great clubs of the country were willing to put themselves in harmony with such a Bill as that before the 1854 House. I may call the attention of the House at least to one very remarkable club that is in such a position. There is no more remarkable club in England than the Manchester Athenæum. A year ago the Lord Chief Justice of England took the chair at one of its annual meetings; the Prime Minister and other distinguished men have visited it, and addressed it on various occasions. That club has about 3,000 members; it has an admirable library with a circulation of 68,000 volumes per annum, it has a restaurant where it dines 500 persons every day, it has its billiard-rooms, gymnastics, in fact, everything that a club can require; but, by common consent, not a drop of anything that can intoxicate ever enters that club. The men who belong to it are, for the most part, young men connected with the business houses of Manchester—the men who are, in fact, to be our future merchants. Now, a word or two about the objections that have been raised to this Bill. The objection that it does not provide for compensation is always produced. It appears to me that that is a detail, but I admit that for the sellers of drink who might be displaced it is a very important detail. There are two things to be said with regard to it—one is that the publican interest is far too powerful ever to allow us to dislodge it without compensating it; and the other is that the public would make such infinite gains by the reduction of this traffic that they would be most willing to make such a bargain with the publicans. Then we are told that the law would be evaded. Of course it would; every law is evaded. But where you had two-thirds of the ratepayers sufficiently in earnest to extinguish this traffic, as provided by the Bill, the opinion of that district would be all-powerful in protecting the law, and I would undertake to say that the evasions would be of very small importance. Well, then we have visions of exciting periods of taking the poll. We are told that a great evil would arise, that drink would circulate, and that everything that could demoralize the people would take place. I should like to know what the mother of a poor family whose children are impoverished by drink would say on this question, the woman who is compelled every day of her life to look at that trap to which her husband is enticed to go and spend per- 1855 haps one-fourth of the family earnings, the woman who hears every Saturday night, and sometimes oftener, the chorus of half-drunken voices, one of them perhaps that of her husband. I should like to ask her whether the evil of taking the poll would weigh at all in her estimation in comparison with that constant strain upon her life. Why, such persons would laugh to scorn idle objections of this character. Another thing we are told is that the Bill would only be partially applied. That is very true. It would not settle this question. We should have Bills introduced in this House afterwards just as we have now, and we should have to legislate with regard to those populations that would not accept the provisions of this Bill. But we are told that it is altogether wrong to interfere, as this Bill would interfere, with individual liberty. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds said we ought next to bring in a Bill to tell people what they should eat or what clothing they should wear. Well, if the time should ever come when it can be said of an article of food or dress that it produces the mischief which drink produces, I do not doubt that somebody would appear in this House in the character of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, and ask us to pass some Act of Parliament to remove the evil. I do not quite know why the House of Commons should be so very particular with regard to the question of individual liberty, if a great necessity should arise to require interference. What precedents do we set? Look for example at the Compulsory Vaccination Act. That Act of Parliament requires that mothers should bring their children at the tender age of 12 weeks, at a particular hour of the day that the parish doctor may require, in order to insert some foreign matter into the blood of those children. Yet we know that some children are killed, that many are injured, and it does seem to me that to force a man into prison because, having one child injured, he refuses to have his next vaccinated, is a more highhanded interference with individual liberty than anything that can be found within the four corners of this Bill. Let me ask the House seriously to consider what advantages would arise, and what would be the state of things if this Bill were to pass. I think I may assert that a portion of the people would put them- 1856 selves under its provisions, and would, in fact, adopt the new régime. I should feel almost sure that 10 per cent of the people of the United Kingdom would readily adopt the proposals of this Bill, or, in other words, some 3,000,000 of persons would accept it. Then what would be the result? The hon. and learned Member for Leeds would say, of course, that you would immediately in those districts "rob the poor man of his beer,"but that is not true. We should not rob the poor man of his beer, and nobody believes that we should; the only thing we should do would be to place some difficulty in the way of the poor man getting his beer. If he had a belief that beer was necessary to his health and happiness, if he had one-tenth part of the faith in this beverage that the hon. and learned Member for Leeds has, he would by domestic brewing, or by co-operative brewing, if you like, produce his own beer, and he would have it of a better quality than he does now. The Bill would not rob the poor man of his beer, and it seems to me a pity that that statement should be for ever reiterated in this House. I say, what would be the result over that 10 per cent which I suppose would accept this Bill? This would be theresult—and I believe no man will deny it—that instead of a large amount of money being injuriously spent in intoxicating liquors, a small amount would be spent, perhaps beneficially. I am not here to oppose the drinking of anything that a man likes to drink, and it may be that the little that would then be spent would be judiciously spent; but at any rate only a little would be spent. Well, then, what would be the condition of the people? They would have a great deal of money in their pockets; and what would become of it? Why, every shop that sells food, every shop that sells clothing, every shop that sells furniture would immediately feel the difference, and would be subject to a larger demand. The people would have such comfortable homes that they might hereafter lead a civilized life; the farmer who brings his produce to the market would have a higher price for it, the railways passing through these districts would have more traffic, and the churches and schools would be better filled. I say again that no Member of this House can deny that these would be the results which would follow from the acceptance 1857 of the provisions of the Bill. Your sanitary conditions would rise, and rates would fall. I believe the rates would fall so as to benefit the rural districts of England more than they are ever likely to be benefited by gifts from the Imperial Treasury, and your prisons, poor-houses, and asylums would be too big. We have been told by a speaker on my right that something like £150,000,000 are spent annually upon these drinks. Suppose you saved 10 per cent of that amount, it would be £15,000,000 sterling. Why, although it is only 10 per cent of what we spend in drink, it is a sum greater than all the home trade in cotton goods in this country. I think I may remind the House, coming from a manufacturing district and from a commercial city, that this question is assuming a commercial aspect. In the newspapers of Lancashire there is at this moment an interesting and important discussion going on upon the question of the effect upon trade of this vast consumption of alcoholic drinks. On the Manchester Exchange—the largest Exchange in the world—people are beginning to ask themselves whether there can be any good done to commerce by limiting this vast expenditure, and I have been told by men who have a right to speak upon the question that if this Bill were submitted to the frequenters of that great Exchange a majority of them would be in favour of its passing. The hon. Member who last spoke seemed to doubt whether this Bill would ever pass. I do not know whether it will ever pass—but this I do know, that the men who never know when they are beaten very often win in the end;—and my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, and thousands of earnest men behind him, do not know when they are beaten, and mean to continue this agitation for many years to come. Thirty-five years ago it was held to be impossible to repeal the Corn Laws. Men who came up from Lancashire were told by Peers of Parliament that they were madmen for expecting that they could ever repeal that law; and yet in six years, mainly owing to the fact that business men found it was necessary for the prosperity of the country, came the repeal of that law. Supposing that ministers of religion, social reformers, and business men put their heads together and come to the conclusion that each one has an enormous 1858 gain to make by restricting if not extinguishing this traffic, if that opinion should prevail in these quarters you may some day—perhaps, in a few years—have such a power of opinion in this country in favour of this or some similar Bill that the stubbornness of Parliament will be conquered, and we shall deal seriously with this question.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, he had listened very attentively to the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), and the arguments brought forward by the other supporters of the Bill in the course of the debate. He had, however, heard them over and over again in the discussion of this question, and he would simply ask what was the net result? There was no doubt that there was drunkenness, and a great deal of it—they all knew that; they all admitted it, and they were all ready to adopt any fair and practicable plan to put down that drunkenness; or if that could not be done entirely, to diminish it as far as possible. It was of no use talking about the sad cases of drunkenness, and the curse they were to husbands and wives, and all sorts of distress arising there from. That was not the question with which the House had to deal. The question really was—would this Bill, if carried, put an end to all these evils? He was strongly of opinion that it would not, and there were some facts which he thought were better than a thousand assertions. For instance, it was proved by official documents that in both Canada and the United States that, after several years' perseverance, the results were conclusive as to the utter failure of prohibitory legislation to put down drunkenness. In Canada, after many years' experience, the Permissive Bill had become a dead letter. In the State of Massachusetts a law was passed, in 1852 or 1853, prohibiting the sale of intoxicating drinks; according, however, to the report of the principal officer appointed to see that law carried out, he found a vast number of unlicensed houses established for the sale of intoxicating drinks, and the consequences were so demoralizing to the people, that he advised the abolition of that law, and the passing in its stead of a good licensing enactment as the best means of promoting temperance. In Boston, the capital of the State, after 1859 seven years' experience of a prohibitory law, it was found in 1869 there were no fewer than 3,000 places where liquor was sold in open violation of the law. The matter was brought before the Legislature of Massachusetts; and after the matter had been carefully considered for two years, on the 1st of May last year the prohibitory law was repealed, and a licensing system similar to that in this country was again adopted; and the result was that already, by the 1st January of the present year, under the sanction of the new law, 700 of the houses which had previously been engaged in an illicit trade in Boston had been shut up—and the process was still going on—while drunkenness had been diminished more than 20 per cent. Again, the report of the British Consul at Portland with respect to the position of the liquor trade in the State of Maine, with a population chiefly agricultural of about 670,000 mentioned that in 1875 the number of persons convicted of drunkenness there amounted to 1,810, whereas in the town he had the honour to represent, with a population of nearly 500,000, the total number convicted during the same time was but 2,000. It was, therefore, clear that although the sale of intoxicating liquor might be prohibited by law, people managed to get it in some way or other, and that where there was a demand there would be a supply. The Maine Liquor Law was unfortunately still unrepealed, but the practice of illicit trading was so great that in this last year the fines for drunkenness in the county of Cumberland alone amounted to $48,000. The system of prohibition had produced the most demoralizing results. There was another point that should not be omitted in dealing with the Bill—namely, the constant turmoil and expense of the elections to determine whether houses should be closed in any town or district or not. They had already, in the election of school boards and town councils, had sufficient experience of the waste of time, money, and temper to which these manifold elections gave rise. The annual voting under this Bill would become an intolerable nuisance, and he thought this fact, should weigh not only with the House but the hon. Member for Carlisle. Small minorities might become not only troublesome, but expensive; and he could mention a case 1860 in which in a single school-board election the expenses on both sides amounted to no less than £11,000. If any useful result could be produced the matter would be different, but it was evident from the facts he had referred to that, do what they might to prohibit the sale of drink, the people would still obtain it, and the trade would become still more demoralizing than before. They had heard a great deal of the excellent effect produced in Scotland by the passing of what was called Forbes-Mackenzie's Act. It had been stated that under the operation of that Act the consumption of spirits had decreased. Statistics showed that, on the contrary, it had greatly increased. He held in his hands the Returns of the quantities of spirits, home and foreign, consumed in England, Ireland, and Scotland, in the years 1871 to 1875. He did not go back to 1870, because since then changes had been made. He found from these Returns that the quantity of foreign spirits in 1873 charged with duty for consumption in England was 8,692,901, and in 1875, 9,993,601; in Ireland, in 1873, 587,758 gallons; in 1875, 610,226 gallons; while in Scotland the quantity was, in 1873, 978,769, and in 1875, 1,309,537 gallons. It would thus be seen that in the only one of the Three Kingdoms in which such a system as that now proposed had been tried the result had been a very large increase in the consumption of spirits. Taking the increase of population and other things into account, he thought the present system was working very fairly, and he saw no reason for breaking it by such an extreme change as that proposed by this measure, which would be a fruitful source of public excitement, irritation, contention, and expense, and would certainly, judging by the facts he had referred, to, not diminish, but rather increase drunkenness and demoralization. For these reasons, he hoped the House would refuse its sanction to a measure by which it was sought to put down by legislation an evil for which education and the general improvement of society were, in his opinion, the best, if not the only remedies.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, there were many persons in the same position with himself in regard to this question—namely, that while they admitted the enormous evils that drunkenness occa- 1861 sioned, they were not prepared to go so far as the hon. Member for Carlisle, and trusted that some way would be discovered of introducing a practical reform. Not feeling himself capable of pointing out this way, he was driven to support his hon. Friend, who was setting himself the task of redeeming this country from a tremendous evil, for he felt it would be a wrong done to society if one were to endeavour to interpose any obstacle to the progress of a measure which was aimed at evils so dire as those that they all acknowledged. The Bill of the hon. Member for Carlisle did not in many respects meet his views in the way it was proposed to deal with the enormous evils of drunkenness; still, it was a step in the right direction, and he should feel bound to vote for the second reading. With respect to the crime, demoralization, and numerous evils caused by the prevalence of drunkenness there could be no doubt. Every day's current news gave accounts of quarrels, personal injuries, suicides, and murders arising from the immoderate indulgence in strong drink. He entirely denied the assertion that drunkenness was on the decline as proved by the absence of crime during the Whitsun holidays, for he had selected from the London and provincial newspapers several cases of crime which had occurred within that period, the details of which would lead one to imagine they had been committed in the realms of the King of Dahomey, and not in a country which had enjoyed the advantages of Christianity for sixteen or seventeen centuries. This state of things justified the hon. Member for Carlisle in bringing forward this measure, which called on those who suffered from the result of the public-houses to say whether they would allow a trade to be carried on in the midst of them which created so great a nuisance. Hon. Members who professed as earnest a desire to see the evils coped with as the advocates of the present measure, objected to it on the ground that it was an unjust and unrighteous interference with the public liberty. He did not say that he went the entire length of his hon. Friend in asking that the Bill should be passed in its present shape—it was possible that it might be too strong a measure to entrust the inhabitants of any neighbourhood with the power of prohibiting entirely the sale of intoxicating 1862 drink within that district. And here he desired to correct a misconception which existed with respect to the scope of this measure—it was not the consumption, but the sale of intoxicating drinks which was prohibited. It had already been pointed out by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) that the consumption was not interfered with, and it would be quite possible for those who thought it necessary to procure drink as an article of diet to supply themselves with it. But apart from that consideration, he wished to point out to hon. Members that the main principle of the Bill was local control over this trade. If Parliament, which was representative of the electors of the whole nation, had undertaken to control this traffic, surely it was only going a little step further in the direction of local Government if they asked the ratepayers in their various districts to do for themselves what Parliament did for the entire Kingdom. He appealed to those who found themselves unable to go the full extent of the prohibitory clauses of his hon. Friend's Bill to at least register their votes in favour of the principle of popular and local control. This being the ground upon which he supported this measure, and driven to it as he was by the dreadful calamities which were daily occurring, and. which were harrowing one's soul and disgracing alike their Christianity and civilization, he meant to vote for the second reading.
§ MR. STORER
said, he thought the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) were unanswerable; and he might further remark that the catalogue of crimes referred to by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had no bearing whatever on the issue before the House. It was no argument, either in favour of it or against it, to say that some persons of that class which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) called the "residuum" got drunk upon a holiday, and made a violent use of the knife. It was, he considered, rather an extraordinary fact that every argument which had been used in the course of the debate in favour of free trade had proceeded from the Conservative Benches; while all the arguments which favoured the destruction of individual liberty were brought forward by those who were supposed to 1863 be included in the great Liberal Party. Those who were continually impressing them with the excellence, the power, the learning, education, and intelligence of the people were the very persons who sought by means of this measure to restrain the people from the exercise of that intelligence on which they seemed to set so much value—they would not even entrust these intelligent persons with the liberty to choose whether they would drink or not. For his own part he would leave them to their own free choice. He thought the very proposal of so arbitrary a measure as this for a free country was very extraordinary, especially as they well knew that wherever measures of this kind had been tried they had proved to be perfect and decided failures. The hon. Member had also remarked that if the public-houses were abolished the people in the manufacturing districts might brew their beer at home. He might remark that if the malt tax were repealed, the rural population would brew their beer at home; and in his belief the key of the question of drunkenness was to be found in the question of domestic brewing. If the labourers could get good home-brewed ale, they would discontinue to frequent public-houses. The public-houses supplied an article which the public had come to consider a necessity of life. If they would have furnaces and factories and mills and other occupations requiring great bodily exertion on the part of those employed in them, they must allow those men to drink to the extent they thought necessary to sustain their physical energy. They might very well regulate the hours at which intoxicating liquors might be sold, but they could not shut up the public-houses entirely without creating a greater nuisance than the one they were anxious to suppress. He lived in a part of the town where he could see of how great a use the public-houses were to the working classes—more especially to the carters coming in to the early markets, and who were from the very nature of their employment obliged to take refreshment. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) had referred to the repeal of the Corn Laws, and augured from that that this Bill would ultimately become law; but if it did, it would be attended with as many disappointments as had been the passing of the Act in question.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
Sir, I do not agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Storer) in thinking that the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) who spoke just before him made an unanswerable speech; his arguments might be very good, but his facts were a little wanting. The hon. Member began by referring to the legislation upon this subject which has taken place in Canada, and he said that a scheme which had been tried there, and which was of a permissive character, had totally failed. But if he goes to Canada at this moment he will find that there is upon the Statute Book an Act with regard to the sale of intoxicating drinks far stronger than the Bill I am now proposing to the House—a Bill which gives the power of vetoing the issue of these licences to a bare majority; and that Act has been carried into operation in many parts of Canada, and has given satisfaction wherever it has been carried out. So much then for Canada. The hon. Member for Birmingham next travelled to Massachusetts, and he produced the Act which was passed in 1875 as the latest production of the Legislature of that country regarding licences. I was glad to hear him say, when he handed it to me, that he considered the law in Massachusetts a great deal better than we had it in this country. So do I. I am not going to read the clauses of that Act, but I may say that they are very stringent, and the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) would quail if he thought there was any chance of its being inflicted upon his friends and clients in this country. Well, the hon. Member for Birmingham said the law of Massachusetts was better than our law—and I again repeat so it is; but then it is a permissive law, for it enacts that licences shall only be granted by those who are elected for the purpose by the people. Then the Act also says, "but nothing in this Act shall be so construed as to compel said mayor and aldermen or select-men to grant licences." It is therefore the Permissive Bill in another sense; and if there is any consistency in the hon. Member for Birmingham, and if he believes that the law in Massachusetts is better than the law we at present live under, he is bound to vote for my Bill. I have been led into this transatlantic disquisition by the remarks of the hon. Member for 1865 Birmingham; but how does this question stand at home? We shall all agree that it is becoming very fast, if it has not already become, the irrepressible question of British social politics. I was very glad to see this morning what the Home Secretary said to a deputation which waited upon him in reference to this matter yesterday. He gave them a reception which, I am sure, from what I have heard, gave the greatest pleasure, owing to the courtesy and consideration with which the right hon. Gentleman met them. The right hon. Gentleman said the advocacy of this subject was not confined to teetotalers; he saw that it was a question which interested good citizens who wished to promote the happiness and well-being of the country. I have already said that this is an irrepressible question. The late Government tried to deal with the matter with the view of putting it upon a satisfactory footing; and the present Government, when they came into office, tried to deal with it, and endeavoured to make the licensing laws satisfactory; but I regret that they should have rather reversed the legislation of their Predecessors. Therefore, that being the state of the case, I am happy in one thing—namely, that there is an end of the old objection that we cannot make people sober by Act of Parliament. Both political Parties, as I have shown, have admitted that legislation can do much to make, or, if I may use the expression, to unmake the sobriety of the people. I contend that we must deal with this matter by law. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) said that we have a perfect right to enforce the law against those people who get drunk, but that we have no right to interfere with the means of getting drunk any more than we have a right to say what sort of clothes a man shall wear, or what language he shall use. But the law does deal with those subjects. If the hon. and learned Member came down to the House dressed in a manner which does not accord with propriety, he would soon find what the law would do with him; and if he used language either in the House or out of it—which I am sure he would not do—but which is called strong and bad and disgraceful language—he would find himself in the arms of the police. Well, then, we have got rid of the argument that the law can do nothing in this 1866 matter. We are here especially to make laws for the benefit of the people, and the question which presents itself is this—Is the present law the best which we evolve out of our deliberations to diminish and check drunkenness? I think I shall carry the House with me pretty well in saying that it is not the best; because if we look at the Notice Paper of this House we shall find that no fewer than nine Bills have been introduced this Session with the object of dealing with this matter, backed by no fewer than 37 Members, and all of them going in different directions with the same purpose in view. Some of these Bills abolish the magistrates as the licensing authority; some want to do away with the appeal Courts; some want to destroy beer-shops; and my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Sir Harcourt Johnstone) is making a tremendous attack upon the grocers. He is possessed with a strong antipathy to them, and so far as I can make out of his views and the intentions of his friends, they have come to the conclusion that the 3,000 licensed grocers do as much harm as the 70,000 publicans. There are also other Bills dealing with this trade upon a Sunday having reference both to England and Ireland, and all these Bills are intended to diminish the evil and to check and diminish the sale of drink, and thus by that means to curtail the profits of the publican. We cannot by legislation do anything else except in this direction, and, therefore, to the best of my humble ability, I have supported all those Bills. But it is much better they should be brought on by hon. Members than by myself. People say, Why don't you do this, that, or the other to bring about an alteration in the licensing system? I reply that I do not believe in licences at all—and I would say let those who believe in them try to improve the system. They can do the business better than I can. My creed is a clear one—very likely I am quite wrong, but there is no mistake about it—I believe that every trade which is for the benefit of the people ought to be perfectly free, but a trade which is not for the good of the people ought not to be licensed and fostered, but should be prohibited. I believe this trade we are talking about to-night is not a good trade; and I will not give my own opinion upon the point, but that 1867 of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), who, I am glad to see in his place, and who I hope will give me the benefit of his opinion upon this measure by-and-by. He has described the evil of the liquor traffic as this—that people are allowed to deal in articles which produce crime, disorder, and madness; and that is a description which warrants me in saying that the trade is a bad one. I agree with much that has been said in this debate to the effect that we cannot go beyond public opinion in attacking a trade like this. If the trade is carried on in a place and in a community which believes it to be a good trade and for their benefit, then I admit you will have great difficulty in keeping it down; and for that reason I have constructed and drafted this Bill, which can only apply to cases where there is a strong public opinion which will lead to its being enforced by the wish of the people. Then this Bill is not antagonistic to any one of the Bills which I have already mentioned, or to any scheme of licensing reform which anybody may think it right to bring before this House. It is not antagonistic to these schemes, but is intended to supplement them. If any one of these schemes should be adopted, and be found to work well, then no one will desire to do away with it; but if they all fail I am sure the hon. Members who introduced them will not say they wish the trade to be carried on under a system which is unsatisfactory to the community. But after all, are hon. Members aware that we are living in this country already under a Maine Law, but unfortunately with an exception? By the general law of the country, no one is allowed to sell a drop of these drinks to his neighbour, because they are dangerous to the public welfare; but exceptions have crept in, and now the magistrates are allowed to grant the privilege to certain persons to make money by carrying on this trade if they are so minded. The magistrates are not an elected but a selected body—selected for their social or hereditary position, for their pecuniary condition or their political professions. I do not find fault with them; I am a magistrate myself, and I would not like to cast blame upon a body with whom I act. I heard the other day a strong defence of the magistracy by my hon. and gallant Friend the 1868 Member for Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot), who told us that we need not be afraid of the magistrates, for it was not likely they would do anything very wrong so long as the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) was alive. Under these conditions, it appears they cannot get into any very great scrape—so that their jurisdiction may be described as a benevolent despotism tempered by Taylor. But let them be as good or as bad as they may, I do hold the opinion that we put into their hands a power which they cannot safely be entrusted with; in fact, no body of men can safely be entrusted with it. After all, they are only human; and what a great temptation is placed in their hands, when by a stroke of the pen they may add hundreds or thousands of pounds to the value of a house when a man applies for a licence. What a door is open here for jobbery—a door so wide, that many may be tempted to enter. And who will say that there is not a large amount of jobbery carried on in connection with this licensing business? It will not be denied, on the other hand, that the magistrates have very fairly, in other cases, done their duty. They have tried to find out what is good for the community, and have acted honestly upon their opinions. I have nothing to do with their motives; but what I say is, let us look at the results, and if our experience shows that where they have not exercised the power Parliament has conferred upon them good has followed, and where they have exercised the power and set up a trade upon their own authority, and there great and serious evils to the public have resulted, then I say that this is a system which requires amending. Well, then, I come with my Bill as a measure intended to meet the difficulty and the evil, and I say let the magistrates be restrained from exercising those powers which Parliament has entrusted to them in those places where the people declare that they would rather those powers were not exercised at all. I have heard it laid down in this House by high legal authority that the magistrates have only three questions to decide upon in granting these licences: first, is the applicant a man of good character; secondly, is the house a good and suitable one for the purpose? thirdly, do the people require the house. I would say let the magistrates by all means deal with the first two points; let them judge 1869 of the character of the applicant and the nature and suitability of the house; but when it comes to the requirements of the public, let the public judge for themselves. The hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. A. Mills), who has made the strongest speech yet against my Bill, said, at the conclusion of his remarks, that he had no objection to the number of houses being reduced according to the requirements of the neighbourhood; so that even he, like the hon. Member for Birmingham, is in favour of my Bill without knowing it. But if people say they require no number at all, why should not their wishes be met?—for they have as much right to declare that they require none at all as others have to say they want two or five houses, or whatever the number may be. On the present occasion, however, I only want to discuss the principle of the Bill; and the principle of it is simply that these licences should only be granted for the good of the public. I have copied the details of the Bill and the machinery of it from many other Permissive Acts which are already in existence. As to the notice and to the number who shall give the notice, the system of taking votes and the majority required to decide the matter, they are all matters of detail. I say that two-thirds of the inhabitants or ratepayers shall give a vote which shall be decisive. The hon. Member opposite, who sits for East Aberdeenshire, has put a Notice upon the Paper by which we are to have a proposition of seven-ninths, but that is simply a matter of detail. The hon. Member has put the Amendment down for Committee, and I am sure I shall not quarrel with him. I will do anything with pleasure when we get into Committee, and all I wish is that the House would allow us to reach that stage by assenting to the second reading. Now, Sir, is this plan worth trying—a plan by which licences shall only be granted for the benefit of the public and not for the benefit of the publican? Of course, the answer to me is that if the Bill came into operation there would be much greater discomfort to the general community than there would be benefit to the population from the operation of the Act. Well, that is a fair matter of argument, and those who believe it would produce evil are bound to vote against the Bill. But some people have exaggerated views of the evil. The 1870 hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) a year ago made a speech at a licensed victualler's dinner—I always read his speeches—and he said he should die if this Bill were to pass and public-houses were shut up. No one would regret to bring about such a circumstance more than myself, because the hon. and learned Member is a very amiable opponent. The hon. and learned Member stated yesterday to the licensed victuallers—and not many days pass, as a rule, without his being amongst them somewhere—that his policy was all fair and square: therefore I cannot have a better opponent than he is, and I hope he will not suffer the evil consequences he has alluded to—because I understand there is an idea that he will be raised to some high rank in consequence of the efforts he made to get rid of the Irish Sunday Closing Bill of last year. But, as to the operation of this Bill, surely the evils are so great at present that we might incur a little inconvenience, I would go even further and say, even run a little risk, for the sake of granting a benefit which we believe would arise from this Bill. I need not attempt to weary the House to-day as to the evils of drunkenness. I remember in former days I ventured to say in this House that I believed drunkenness was the greatest cause of crime and pauperism in this country; and Lord Aberdare, with whom I have had a good many good-humoured controversies upon this matter, said I was wrong; that I ought to have said one of the greatest causes of crime and pauperism. But I have never heard yet what is the other cause which is greater—so I still maintain that drunkenness is the greatest. I was very glad to hear the straightforward and manly speech of the noble Lord opposite (Earl Percy) today. It is clear that I shall not get his vote, but he spoke in a kind and sympathizing manner. He said he was not going to enter into the question whether drunkenness was increasing, decreasing, or was stationary, and I think he was wise not to enter into statistics which may prove anything. As an instance, not long since an inquiry was made of a colonel of a regiment in Africa as to the health of the teetotalers in his regiment, and he sent back a report that 50 per cent of them had died and 50 per cent had been invalided. Well, that rather alarmed the Temperance party; but the 1871 report was quite accurate, for there were only two teetotalers in the regiment, and one of them died from the bite of a serpent, and the other had been sent home with a broken leg. That, however, shows the unreliability of statistics. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr.Rathbone) there, is a great statistician—he has pored over statistics to such an extent that he is convinced the number of public-houses does not affect the drunkenness of the people, but I do not think he will be successful in convincing anyone else. Surely the broad facts which meet us every day are sufficient to convince the public what really is the state of affairs. We have had a period of high wages, and I should have imagined that it would have brought comfort and happiness to the working classes. In some cases this may have been the case; but those who know the country will say that generally the comfort and happiness of homes has not very much increased by these high wages, because the wages have been spent in the public-houses which have been got up to tempt men from their homes and families. Take the Inspectors' reports. They say in the North and East drunkenness is increasing, but that in the South and West it was decreasing, because there had been strikes and the wages were lower—showing that as long as you have public-houses, high wages were more often a curse than a blessing to the working man. Lord Aberdare at the Social Science Congress, at Brighton, last year, said that during a long strike in his part of the country, in Wales, notwithstanding the distress which prevailed, there was a remarkable absence of crime, because people could not get money to spend in public-houses. We have therefore three elements—men, money, and public-houses. Take away the money from the men and drunkenness ceases; but I say leave the money with the men and take away the public-houses. No one denies the existence of this drunkenness, except hon. Members when they get up to speak against the Permissive Bill. We have heard from hon. Gentlemen who understand mercantile matters what is the state of the country—we are told we are in view of bad and trying times. We hear rumours in the manufacturing districts that the mills will have to go on short time: but what I want to see is instead of the mills 1872 going on short time that we should pass a measure which may possibly place public-houses on short time. There is a little pamphlet lately printed referring to the licensing system of Sweden. The writer says—What is essentially a Permissive Prohibitory Act has existed in Sweden for the last 20 years. So vigorously have the people outside of towns used their permission to limit and prohibit, that among 3,500,000 people there are only 450 places for the sale of spirits. That is, for a population such as we have in the county of Lancaster, which has 7,000 spirit licences and 8,000 beer and wine licences, they have only 450, besides a certain number of houses for the sale of weak beer. This it is which has so helped Sweden to emerge from moral and material prostration, and which explains the existence in that country of comfort and independence among all classes. In the country parishes, except where relay inns for changing horses exist, public-houses are now very seldom met with.The people of this country, I contend, have a perfect right to put themselves into a similar position of comfort and happiness. The Gothenburg plan has been proposed; and I have no objection at all to it if anyone wishes to try it. It is that public-houses should be taken from the hands of the publicans, who have an interest in the amount of business done, and transferred to the local authorities, who have no interest in the matter, and who if they make a profit will spend it for the good of the town. By this scheme people would be made to drink not for the good of the publican, but for the good of the public. It might be an improvement on the present plan; but even if it were adopted, why, I ask, should even the local authorities be allowed to force these places for supplying drink on the people if they do not want them? I can tell the House a rather curious thing which shows that even the plan I allude to would require to be supplemented by my measure. In Padiham it happened that a beer shop came into the possession of the local authority, and it was proposed to re-let it and to spend the money realized in that way for the benefit of the town. Well, the people heard of it, and they said—"You should not do that." The local authority upon this said—"Well, you shall do as you like. We will take a vote on the subject, and according to the view of the majority the house shall be carried on, the profit realized going for the good of the town, or it shall be shut up." A vote was taken, and it was 1873 decided by a large majority that the revenue accruing from the beer shop should be given up and that the house should be closed. Let us bring in the Gothenburg scheme if you approve of it; but when you have got it in let me have my little supplement, which would prevent the forcing of public-houses on the people against their own wish. I have often quoted the case of Bessbrook, in Ireland, where for years and years there have been no public-houses and no drinking shops, and I have the accumulated evidence of everyone who goes there to the effect that the state of things there is most pleasant, and that the people are quite satisfied. The other day, or not long ago, a vote was taken in this place as to whether or not they should have public-houses there; and it was decided by a majority of no less than 6 to 1 that the present state of things should continue. Why not, I ask, allow our fellow-countrymen to have the same advantages as these people enjoy? What argument is there against it? I come here year after year and appeal to the House on the same subject; and although my Bill is rejected, I never hear a sound argument snowing why the people of this country should not have the power of local self-government. We know what a vast amount of good has been done wherever these public-houses and beer shops have been removed. We have had reports from Scotland and from elsewhere where these houses have been abolished showing the good results of the change. We ourselves know of good landlords who have cleared their property of these houses, and by so doing they have gained the applause of all good men and the thanks of their neighbours. But where these places are put down you ought, if you are logical, to interfere with the landlords, and say—"You are misusing your property, and we will legislate to make you give the people that which you are depriving them of." But you know perfectly well that the removal of temptation must remove the evil to a certain extent. The late Prime Minister said on one occasion that it was the duty of the Government to make it as easy as possible for a man to do right, and as difficult as possible for him to do wrong. I maintain, however, that our licensing system does the very reverse, and that it makes it easy for a man to do wrong and difficult for 1874 him to do right. Sir, after the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) I must be allowed to read one or two extracts to the House. They are not very long, but in my opinion they are important, because America has been referred to, and the state of things there will perhaps be given to show that prohibition is a total failure. Let me read a document to the House which is from the highest responsible authority you can get in the State of Maine—namely, the late Governor of that State. I will read that, and then what the Governor for the present year says, and I will leave the House to judge between the gossip which the hon. Member for Birmingham has repeated and the straightforward evidence of responsible individuals. In August, 1875, the Governor of Maine said—The influence of the law has been salutary, not only in mitigating the dramshop evil, but also in promoting good order, thrift, and sobriety. Lately, the execution of the law has improved from year to year, until dramshops have, practically, ceased to exist in the rural portions of the State, in which are found more than three-fourths of our population, and even in the cities, where it is always more difficult to restrain vice and crime, open tippling shops have been largely reduced, and in many almost entirely closed. So general has become the conviction that the policy of prohibiting the dramshops, on the whole, restrains the evils of the liquor traffic immeasurably beyond any conceivable system of licence or regulation, that all organized opposition to the Maine Law has ceased in this State, and at least two-thirds of our people give it a hearty support.In 1876, Mr. Connor, Governor of Maine, said in his annual Message—The law, as a whole, fairly represents the sentiments of the people. Maine has a fixed conclusion upon this subject. It is that the sale of intoxicating liquors is an evil of such magnitude that the wellbeing of the State demands and the conditions of the social compact warrant its suppression.The Report of the Select Committee of the Canadian Senate to consider the Report of the Government Commissioners to the United States to inquire into the results of prohibitory legislation, March, 1875, had this passage—The Report of the Government Commissioners shows clearly that the prohibitory law of the States of Maine and Vermont has been well enforced, and has largely diminished crime and pauperism, and that its beneficial effects upon the community have been so fully proved by the experience of over 20 years that there is 1875 now no attempt made to repeal it, while in the other States visited—although the law was not so generally enforced—wherever is was brought into full operation the same result of the diminution of crime invariably followed. In the cases where the prohibitory law was for a short time repealed intemperance and crime immediately increased to so marked a degree that prohibition was soon re-enacted.Consul Murray (Report for 1875)—As regards the towns and villages there can be no manner of doubt that the law has been nearly successful.That is the evidence of a man who has been quoted up and down in all the newspapers during the last Recess as proving that the Maine Law has been a failure. I know it is of very little use my making these quotations. Some one will get up and say that he has been in Boston or some other American city, that he has there met a man with a dark lantern in the street, and notwithstanding the law has gone with him, and that they have had rum together. Such evidence as this, however, is of little value—I like to see tangible proofs brought, and these I have read to the House. Now, of course, I shall be met by the old argument that this Bill is one of permissive and not Imperial legislation. But our present law is permissive. No magistrates are compelled to grant licences—they are only permitted to do so; and I wish to make very little addition to our present permissive law. I wish to say in my Bill that the magistrates shall grant licences as they do now, but not when the people are opposed to it. But even if my measure proposed a new permissive law, it should not be opposed by hon. Members on the other side of the House, because the present Government is a permissive Government. One after the other the Acts they bring in are permissive, and last year whilst sitting in my place I heard with delight the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government use these words—"I regard permissive legislation as the characteristic of a free people." I thought when I heard him say that that the words were spoken by him, like the good Radical that he was, is, and ever will be. Permissive government is a thing to which my Tory friends have lately become converted. I have been told that my Bill could not be carried out; but that is no argument for hon. Gentlemen opposite, because 1876 the Agricultural Holdings Bill was a permissive measure—that has not been carried out although it has been passed. In fact, I have heard it very highly extolled on that very ground. In that case they passed a law which a person can contract himself out of with some little difficulty. The legislation I propose differs from that, inasmuch as it would not be for people to contract themselves out of it but to contract themselves into it. There is another argument against the Bill—namely,that it will only come into operation in places noted for their sobriety. Why, Sir, I want to protect sober places and keep them sober. Now-a-days a flourishing village, where men are getting good wages and happy homes, and are accumulating a little money, is the place that the publican fixes on. He says—"There is a mine of wealth here, and if I can only start a shop I shall draw the money these people have accumulated from their pockets into my coffers." If my Bill were passed it would be possible to prevent publicans coming into a village and spreading crime and pauperism amongst the community. It would be helping the working man and the upper classes also. We have heard a good deal about Knightsbridge Barracks recently. When a deputation, waited upon the Duke of Cambridge and represented the Knightsbridge Barracks as an isthmus of barbarism and a disgrace to the neighbourhood, what did he say? He said—"It is not my soldiers who cause these disturbances in the neighbourhood. It is the public-houses. Don't bother me with your deputation, but get the licensing magistrates to shut up the public-houses." Another objection to the Bill is that I do not provide compensation for the publicans, who might have to shut up shop in those cases where it was put into force. That, I say, is a matter which is entirely one for Committee. I want to know before I give an opinion what the publican is to be compensated for and who is to compensate him? If anyone will bring me in a bill and show me that it is a legitimate one and one that ought to be paid, I shall be quite willing to pay it. I do not know why a man who has paid a certain sum for a privilege to be enjoyed for a year should be supposed to be going on enjoying it, and should be 1877 bought out if, with the sanction of the House, the magistrate, or the ratepayers declined to renew the bargain with him. I consider that the public have a bargain with the beerseller for a year, and at the expiration of the 12 months can decline to renew it. Let any one make a case for compensation for the publican, I say, and no one will be more ready to compensate than I shall be Then how about the Bill of the late Government. I cannot appeal to that of the present Government, because they did not take away any privileges by it. Gentlemen on this side of the House supported their Government when they brought forward their measure to shut up the public-house, especially the lower class of houses, during a portion of the time when they did their most profitable trade. No one said anything about compensation then, and no one gave the publicans in Scotland compensation when they were compelled to shut up their houses all day on Sundays. Let hon. Gentlemen look at home and see what they have done for themselves before they talk tome about not providing compensation clauses. I think I have gone through the objections to my Bill, and I do think my plan is a simple and a just one. I am afraid, however, good as it is, and just as I believe it to be, it does somewhat suffer from the imperfect way in which I bring it before you; because I understand that the other day the Judge Advocate General (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) said, whilst speaking on the subject, that—the Permissive Bill was yearly rejected by the House by increasing majorities, owing to Sir Wilfrid Lawson's mismanagement of the case.From this it would seem that the Judge Advocate thinks the Bill is a good one, because he says its failure was owing to mismanagement. From this it appears that the Bill would get on better in other hands, and I trust some day the Judge Advocate will bring it in himself. At a dinner of Licensed Victuallers not long ago, the hon. Member for East Staffordshire declared I was the "Prince of Humbugs," and called me the arch enemy of the trade. Another hon. Gentleman—the Member for Worcestershire—said I was a monomaniac. The hon. Member for Exeter, too, not long ago, was at a licensed victuallers' 1878 meeting, and delivered an address, and there was a reverend gentleman present, who, in speaking to the publicans addressed them as "My Christian friends," and then went on to say that he wondered how the Bishop of the diocese could associate with me—a course by which he thought the episcopalian office was dragged through the dirt. He also said that he did not think I had the slightest belief in the cause I espoused. Does he think that no one can believe in anything but beer? I have read all his speeches, and there can be no doubt that he believes firmly in beer. The demand for some measure of this kind continues with unabated force. That has been admitted by all the speakers who have addressed the House this afternoon. There is no doubt—and I think no one will contradict me—that a measure of this kind is supported by almost all the best and most intelligent and most earnest of the working classes, and no wonder. They cannot see why they are not to be trusted the same as their fellow-countrymen in Canada—when gambling was prevalent amongst the higher classes the State interfered and swept all the gambling houses away—why, therefore, should not the working classes be protected in a similar way? The right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) said some years ago that no meeting could be called in his part of the country, on any subject, which would not endorse this demand. You know, as well as I do, that although we live in a time of political apathy or deadness no question can command such enthusiasm in large towns, especially in the North, as can this. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds will admit this, because he is a candid opponent. The hon. and learned Member always has an argument ready against the Bill. Last year, when we had numerous Petitions, he said—"Oh, Petitions are of no use. They go for nothing;" but this year he taunts us with having none at all. All the religious denominations are taking this question up, and a memorial signed by nearly 7,000 clergymen of the Church of England was recently presented to the two Archbishops, praying that something might be done to diminish the plague of drunkenness, and virtually urging that if nothing else could be suggested that they should 1879 give their support to the principle of the Permissive Bill. There is a strong feeling on the question, however badly I represent the views of those who are in favour of the Bill, and you may be sure that this matter cannot be got rid of by gibe, jest, and disdain. The time has come, you may depend upon it, when, if you are to allay this agitation, it must be done by some sound and solid argument by men of influence in the House. Working men cannot see why they may not be allowed to protect themselves from the incursions of capitalists who come among them to make money out of their misery. You may say they are too ignorant, too weak and stupid, to be allowed the exercise of the power I claim for them. If that is so, then surely they are too weak and too ignorant to have this temptation put before them. On the other hand, you may say—and many do say—that they are intelligent and independent. If that is so, then there is still less reason to hand them over, tied hand and foot, to the mercy of the magistrates and the publicans. I am not sanguine enough to suppose that the House will sanction the measure to-night. You will throw it out again, as you have done before, by a larger or a smaller majority, as the case may be, and there will be the usual rejoicing in the trade which is so ably represented by the hon. and learned Member for Leeds. Still, I think in the course of the year, when we all of us read the records of the crime—the murders and outrages—which follow upon the liquor trade, those who have helped to throw this Bill out will feel a little compunction and regret that they did not do something to check the misery and pauperism of the country. You do nothing. Everything is rejected. The Bill of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen), which was more comprehensive than mine, was refused. That of the hon. Member for Scarborough (Sir Harcourt Johnstone)—a very small measure, directed against the evil arising from the large issue of grocers'licences—is opposed by the right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), and is thus in all probability defeated. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. R. Smyth) urged on by the unanimous wish of the Irish people, desires to shut up the public-houses in his country for one day in the week; but the Govern- 1880 ment are throwing every obstacle in his way. Last year the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. James) endeavoured to introduce a clause in the Artizans'Dwellings Bill to prevent a public-house being built near the dwellings which would arise under the Act; but the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would not accept it. It is a pity that this sort of thing should continue. We are an assembly here of rich men, and we do not of course realize all the misery that the public-houses are bringing on our poorer neighbours. We do not see it every day, but it is felt by those classes, and they feel hurt at seeing this House turn away from considering this question which affects them. They claim to be allowed to protect themselves from their greatest evil. But I tell you that this measure will receive the sanction of Parliament some day; and if it was passed to-day the House would do no disgrace to itself, but, on the contrary, it would do very much to promote the order, and the morality, and the happiness of the great mass of the people.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
I am sure that, had my right hon. Friend the Judge Advocate General (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck), been present here to-day, he would not have been so rash as to assert that the course represented by the Bill before the House has not one of the very ablest advocates in the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. I venture at the outset to say to the hon. Baronet that that Gentleman, and those who sit with him on this side of the House, are as anxious as he can possibly be to reduce to the very utmost extent the evils he has been denouncing. Of that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department has given conclusive proof at his reception, on the previous day, of the deputation which waited on him in reference to this very question. The question before the House is a practical one—it is to say whether the Bill now before the House is the best method of dealing with this grave matter. It is admitted on all hands that there is a very great and serious evil to be dealt with when, to some considerable extent, there is abuse in the consumption of intoxicating drinks. It has also been admitted, after very great attention devoted to the subject, that the best way of coping with 1881 the question is by regulation rather than by restriction, and that the best way of promoting that regulation is by strengthening the powers of the magistrates in promoting order. To that end of late years all the measures of the Legislature have been directed; and it is because the powers given to the magistrates have not gone so far as the hon. Baronet thinks they ought to have gone that he now complains of the working of the system altogether. I propose, however, only to deal with the principle of the hon. Baronet's proposals, and I venture to think the House will hesitate before it gives its sanction to a scheme that attacks the rights of property in the way that the Bill now before the House does. It is true that a publican's licence only gives him the right of carrying on business for a year; but the custom of the licensing law has been to recognize his right to carry it on as long as he conducts his business in a manner beyond reproach; and relying on that understanding, a large amount of capital has been embarked in the trade. And the Bill gives no compensation. The Legislature will never sanction the arbitrary decision of the majority of ratepayers in a district to deprive a man of his property and his business. Let us look, too, at the practicability of the measure, and at its working. If the hon. Baronet's Bill passed, and the vote of a majority closed the houses in a particular district, the defeated minority would set to work, and, rapidly becoming a majority, would perhaps in the very next year compel them to re-open those same houses; and the district, in the meanwhile, would be a scene of turmoil, confusion, and passion. But, more than all that, I ask the House whether the passing of the Bill would not at once deprive us of the great safeguard we possess for the good conduct of those houses, from the fact that capital is vested in them, and that the occupier knows that it is staked on the good conduct of his business? Would not the fact that no compensation is given tend to do away with that safeguard? The whole gist of the arguments used to-day in favour of the Bill comes to this—Are you prepared to entrust to the local districts the power of legislation on this question? If you are, I say you will be commencing a system which you may 1882 not be able to stop, for other questions will arise in which it will be proposed to proceed in the same way; for the House will be practically confessing its inability to legislate on the subject by handing over to the caprice or accidental state of opinion prevailing at a particular time among the inhabitants of a locality the power Parliament has hitherto exercised itself. If you do, you will have legislation of different kinds exercised in different places, according to the views of the majority that may prevail in those places. Surely nothing can be more detrimental to the interests of the country than to have your laws administered according to caprice or accident. But surely there are other ways in which the House can deal with this subject of intemperance in a more practical manner than the hon. Baronet proposes, and without acting so arbitrarily as regards property. He complains that the House has rejected every measure that has been brought forward from his point of view. But if the House would really cope with this evil in a manner likely to be effective, it must do so by giving greater power to the magistrates of the country—by giving them a more complete control over all the houses so as to limit them to the wants of the district—and by considering whether, under the circumstances, restrictions should not be applied to the sale of spirits throughout the country, so as to limit the facilities which have of late been so largely extended. It is only in those houses where magistrates have not full control that the number of licences have increased; if the magistrates have shown so much discretion in the exercise of the powers they at present have, surely we may expect good results if further powers are entrusted to them. In that way I think very beneficial results may be obtained, and by unobjectionable means. The Bill of the hon. Member will be operative, as has been urged, precisely in those places where it is not needed, while it will fail to affect those in which a remedy is really needed. That view is practically expressed by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. E. Noel), when he says that he shall vote for the Bill, not because he likes or approves it, but simply as a protest against the present law. When hon. Members advance an argument of 1883 that nature their course is hardly calculated to advance the cause which they have at heart. They are, in fact, advocating what they have no faith in—a course which does not add to the dignity of the discussions of the House of Commons. Looking at the details of the Bill, there are some points which seem to have been entirely overlooked by the hon. Baronet. He has provided a system for taking votes in a kind of election with regard to this matter; he has provided also that the votes shall be returned on a certain day and counted; but he has taken no care to guard against the fraudulent counting of the votes. There is no provision such as applies in Parliamentary elections to provide that the votes shall be counted in the presence of those who are interested on either side; and practically the whole matter in regard to elections is left in such a crude state that the hon. Baronet would find, if the Bill went to a Committee, that almost every provision would have to be remodelled. I believe that it would be impossible to pass the measure in its present shape, and I feel that any Bill should carry with it the views of the general body of the House. The hon. Baronet has told us that he is prepared to adopt the various suggestions which have been made to him, and he acknowledges that they would effect an improvement in the Bill. Now, I am of opinion that a Bill dealing with so serious and so grave a question ought to be more carefully prepared; and, at the same time, I am persuaded that in rejecting the measure the House will not be understood to assert that it is not interested in the suppression of drunkenness, but will merely say that this is not a practical mode in which the subject can be dealt with.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 81; Noes 299: Majority 218.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for three months.