HC Deb 13 March 1877 vol 232 cc1861-99

, in rising to move— That it is desirable to empower the Town Councils of Boroughs under the Municipal Corporations Acts to acquire compulsorily, on pay- ment of fair compensation, the existing interests in the Retail Sale of Intoxicating Drinks within their respective districts; and thereafter, if they see fit, to carry on the trade for the convenience of the inhabitants, but so that no individual shall have any interest in nor derive any profit from the sale, said, it seemed to him to be an established fact that the English people were becoming impatient at the continued existence of intemperance, which was the plague-spot in our civilization. The popular feeling was naturally represented in that House, and found its fitting expression in the number of Bills on the subject that had been introduced this Session. In these circumstances, it would not be necessary for him to trouble the House with any statistics to show the magnitude of the evil he sought to remedy. The only question was, what remedy, if any, could be applied? Looking to the comparative failure of past legislation, he did not wonder that some persons had arrived at the conclusion that we could not expect any legislation to alter the social habits of the people, and that we must depend on moral suasion for the accomplishment of the object we all desired to attain. This was the view taken by the licensed vituallers themselves, as appeared from a resolution passed at one of their recent conferences, though their preference for moral suasion was coincident with the fact that while the moral suasion had been practised for more than 30 years it had never reduced the returns nor diminished the gains of a single person engaged in the trade. He feared that the evidence would not warrant us in believing that any better results would follow the progress of education than had followed the exercise of moral suasion. The Kingdom of Sweden was the most educated country in Europe, and yet till very recently Sweden enjoyed an unfortunate pre-eminence as the most drunken country in the world. And if there were now any change in her condition it was distinctly due to special legislation and not to any alteration in the character or amount of popular instruction. In this country, too, he found that the total number of children in average attendance at school had increased in the period over which the statistical abstract extended from 773,000 to 1,863,000. That was an increase of 140 per cent. During the same period the population had only increased by 20 per cent, while drunkenness had increased from 82,000 cases to 203,000 cases—or 147 per cent. From these figures he concluded that we had as yet no evidence to show that there were any causes at work which tended to the eradication of this great social vice, while we had many grounds for believing that it was constantly and steadily on the increase. The amount of spirits retained for consumption in this country had increased within a period of 15 years from 24,500,000 gallons to 42,000,000, or 75 per cent; of wine from 10,500,000 gallons to 17,250,000, or 65 per cent; and malt from 46,000,000 bushels to 63,000,000, being an increase of 37 per cent. Thus drinking had augmented out of all proportion to the natural increase in the population, and it was no strained conclusion to suppose that drunkenness had also increased in similar proportions. One fact was significant—in 1861 the number of persons upon whom a coroner's inquest returned a verdict of "Death from excessive drinking" was 199, but that number steadily increased, till in 1875 it amounted to 516, or 160 per cent. He was justified, therefore, in saying that drunkenness had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished. So far, he hoped, the House was with him. His next position was that we ought not to assume too lightly that legislation could do nothing to affect the social habits of the people. In a past generation our fiscal legislation led to the substitution of the heavy wines of Spain and Portugal for the clarets and Burgundies which were till then drunk by the middle and upper classes; while the passing of the Beershop Act increased enormously the facilities for drinking, and was followed by a great increase of drunkenness among the population. In the 10 years following 1830 the consumption of malt used in brewing increased by 40 per cent, and during the same period the general totals of crime increased by nearly 50 per cent. Under such circumstances it became the duty of all of us to make some contribution, however humble, towards the solution of this problem, and the country would not, he thought, be satisfied that Parliament should rest with folded arms in the presence of this great evil, waiting for a change which was very slow in coming, and which many persons believed would never come at all unless assisted by legislation. There were many Bills before the House, and among temperance reformers, at least, there was a general consensus of opinion as to the direction towards which legislation should tend—namely, either by adding to the powers of local authorities for the control of the traffic, or by some general provisions for restricting and further limiting the facilities for obtaining drink. Now he recommended his Resolution to the friends of these various Bills, because it would secure with a promptitude and efficiency what no other proposal was likely to secure the object which the promoters of all these measures had in view. He did not claim any originality for his proposals. They had been discussed by Mr. Garth Marshall, of Leeds, and by Mr. Carnegie, of Scotland; they had been introduced by Earl Grey in "another place;" and the hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Anstruther) had inserted similar provisions in a Bill which applied to Scotland. Two important principles, however, were contained in his Resolution which were not to be found in any of these Bills. In the first place, he made it an essential condition of his scheme that fair compensation should be awarded to existing interests. In his opinion, vested interests had now grown up which it would not be just to ignore. Now doubt this property was exceptional in its character, and was subject to all the incidents of legislation ejusdem generis as that by which it was at present affected; among which were the liability that the trade might be thrown absolutely open; but these incidents did not, he thought, destroy the claim of some compensation in this case. Secondly, his plan involved the exclusion of anything like private interest from the further conduct of this traffic. To this feature of the plan he attached much importance. Two hundred thousand licensed victuallers in this country were legitimately engaged in more or less successfully trying to increase their business. The result was seen in gin palaces blazing with gas, and decorated with a splendour which compared inversely with the squalor and misery of those who frequented those places; and when it was also seen that the old re spectable public houses were being transformed into spirit vaults and saloons, everybody must feel that this expenditure must have sufficient motive and that excessive drinking returned a sufficient dividend upon the investment thus made. Again, excessive competition almost forced the trade against their will to wink at abuses; while, on the other hand, the managers of a corporation acting on behalf of a community, with salaries independent of the amount of the sales of intoxicating drink, watched carefully by the ratepayers, and knowing that any proof of abuse would immediately cause the forfeiture of their appointments, would set their faces steadily against excess. It was said that the existing law contained sufficient provisions for the regulation of the traffic and the prevention of excess. These provisions, however, absolutely broke down in practice, and so it happened that in Birmingham, Liverpool, and other large towns, while there was an enormous number of persons convicted and punished for drunkenness, hardly any of the owners of public-houses were ever brought up for supplying them with drink. The House would see the reason why. The only means by which the owners could be reached would be by the employment of persons in plain clothes, a thing which would be repugnant to English feeling and which would lead in practice to grave objections. The only way, therefore, to secure the observance of existing regulations or of any which in future might be devised would be by making the interests of those who made the regulations and those who carried on the trade identical. Another most important result of the scheme would be that it would lead with absolute certainty to an immense reduction in the number of houses in which drink was sold. That would follow not only from moral and social, but from commercial and economic considerations. When we heard persons speaking of what they called free trade in liquor he was sometimes led to wonder whether they could be aware of the extent to which this supposed advantage already existed in all our large towns. Licences had been granted in times past with such freedom that they were already almost everywhere throughout the country in excess of the requirements of the people. In Birmingham there was 1 public-house to every 40 houses, and in considerable tracts of the working-class districts of the town these houses were placed so closely that the average distance between two of them was not quite 200 feet, which was probably less than the length of the House in which he was now speaking. In Liverpool a more astounding state of things prevailed. He had received a letter from a correspondent in that town, who informed him that there was a thoroughfare which extended from St. George's Hall to Kirk-dale, a mile and a-quarter in length, which contained 578 premises and shops, and of these 103, or more than one in six, were drink shops. To these shops there were 218 separate entrances—218 separate traps already baited for the unwary in the course of 20 minutes' walk. That was drinking made easy by the free trade system—a facilis descensus Averni—and where the way of destruction was so broad no one could be surprised that there were many who walked therein. Nor must the state of Birmingham and Liverpool be thought exceptional, for out of 70 large towns more than 50 had a larger proportion of licences to population, Southampton having 50 per cent more than Birmingham, and Bristol 50 per cent more than Liverpool. Half of these houses would be sufficient for every purpose, and he was confirmed in that view by finding that the provision made for the supply of bread, drapery, groceries, and butchers' meat was only one-third or one-fourth of the provision for the supply of drink. He felt certain that if the community were entrusted with the control of these drink shops, one-half of them would as a matter of course be immediately abandoned, and the remainder placed under strict control. And what would be the effect of this change upon drunkenness? Unfortunately, we had no experience to which we could appeal in this country. Comparisons between different towns would be entirely futile, because the circumstances of the towns varied so much. There was so much difference in the rate of wages, the nature of the trades, and in climate, which was a most important element, that anything like a useful contrast would be impossible. Even in Gothenburg the calculations were complicated by a great number of considerations, because during the period over which the system had extended there had been a great increase in the rate of wages, and there had been passed very stringent legislation affecting the country districts, which increased the amount of drunkenness in the town by the number of persons who came into Gothenburg on market-days, and made amends for their enforced abstinence outside by their indulgence within. But if the House would make allowance for these things, the experience of Gothenburg was very remarkable and suggestive. During the first few years after the adoption of the system the proportion of drunkards to the population was, according to the police statistics, reduced 50 per cent; and even now, after a time of unexampled prosperity, it was still 20 per cent less than in 1864. Taking a longer period, embracing times of adversity and prosperity, we found that the drunkenness during the 12 years, ending in 1875, averaged 50 per cent less than during the 12 preceding years, while during the same period in other towns where the system had not been in operation drunkenness had considerably increased. In Stockholm there had been an increase of 5 per cent, in Christiania, in Norway, an increase of more than 50 per cent. He had seen it stated in the circular to which he had already referred that the experiment at Gothenburg was not really successful, because, as shown by the statistics, there was more drunkenness in Gothenburg than in any English town. But if that were true, it did not in the least touch the fact that in Gothenburg drunkenness had very much decreased. We had great reason to doubt, however, that Gothenburg was more drunken than any English town. If he might trust his own experience and the evidence of his senses when he visited Gothenburg, the contrast would not be favourable to his own borough, although police statistics appeared to tend in that direction. He had come to the conclusion that for purposes of comparison police statistics were no guide at all. Last Saturday week, for instance, the total number of persons arrested for drunkenness in Birmingham and brought before the magistrates was 29. That was the total number debited to the town by the police statistics. But during three hours of the same Saturday night 35 public-houses selected in different parts of the town were watched by persons appointed for the purpose, and these persons reported that 9,351 males and 5,006 females came out of these 35 houses, of which number 662 males and 176 females, or a total of 838 persons, were drunk. Making every allowance for unconscious exaggeration and unintentional error, there still remained such a margin between these figures and the police statistics as would lead the House to regard the latter with considerable doubt. But, after all, the strongest evidence in favour of the Gothenburg system was its almost universal adoption in Sweden. He had seen it stated that the experiment had been adopted only in a single town under circumstances very different from what we had to deal with. On the contrary, in the 10 years following the commencement of the experiment, every town in Sweden with a population of above 5,000, except one, followed the example of Gothenburg, and recently Stockholm, the capital, a city of 140,000 inhabitants, had, by a resolution of its Town Council, with the assent of the Government, determined to put the plan in force. Under these circumstances, it appeared to him that the House would certainly be justified in assuming on the very best local evidence that the Swedes, at all events, were convinced that very great and important results had followed from the adoption of the system. The adoption of the system in England would be attended with another advantage which he thought, to a great extent, would be confined to this country. The price of spirits in Sweden was so low that there was no temptation to adulteration, but in England the liquor sold in the small beer-houses was mixed with deleterious ingredients intended to add to its intoxicating powers and promote thirst; and he was compelled to come to the conclusion that very much drunkenness was caused, not by the quantity, but by the bad quality of the drink consumed. But a municipality dealing with this matter would provide, at all events, a pure and, so to speak, wholesome beverage. In the great city of Hamburg, having many of the characteristics of our large towns, with a population of more than 250,000 and a large working-class element, drunkenness, which had been very prevalent, was greatly diminished by the adoption of a light German lager beer for the coarse spirits of the country and the Hamburg port and sherry, which they prudently reserved for their foreign customers. English municipalities would have a great chance of securing gradually and by experience the substitution of some light beer similar to that consumed in Germany, instead of the noxious stuff which now maddened and destroyed a large part of our population. The managers of the Corporations would be required, as a condition of their appointment, to revert to the old system and become bonâ fide victuallers, supplying food to the people as well as intoxicating drinks; and their houses would become more and more respectable working-men's clubs where there would be no temptation to drink for the benefit of the house or to indulge in excessive consumption. But it was said this system, whatever its merits as it stood, would inevitably lead to something else which would be inexpedient and undesirable; for instance, to corporate interference with other strictly commercial undertakings. But other trades were free in every sense, and were therefore properly left to individual enterprise; while the trade in drink, rightly or wrongly, had been created by the Legislature a practical monopoly; and it was not only right, but expedient, that the benefit of that monopoly should be secured without its evils by transferring the trade to the representatives of the community. In that case it would become not a monopoly, but co-operation for the benefit of all. In his opinion the monopoly should be handed over to the community, who should eliminate those personal interests which now stood in the way of the efficient control of the trade. It was then said that the cost of the scheme would be so excessive that no municipality would be justified in availing themselves of it. At all events, that objection was premature in the present preliminary stage—everything depended on the value to be put on the property; and until the House settled the principle on which transfers should be made, it would be impossible to form any calculation as to whether it would be safe to indulge in the scheme. He should hope that the principle accepted by the House would be that compensation should be based upon the fair market value, not upon any excessive value of the property. They might fairly proceed on the precedent of the Artizans' Dwellings Act of 1875, and in that case the Corporations might be expected to take advantage of the facilities afforded. Under that Act the Corporation of Birmingham was now engaged in acquiring no less than 120 public-houses, and what was wanted was that facilities should be extended to that and other towns to take over all the houses engaged in the same traffic. Considering that for one case of crime or pauperism and even of disease distinctly traceable to unhealthy dwellings, there were many such cases duo to the way in which the drink traffic was now carried on, there would be no lack of motive for such an extension of powers as was suggested. If these facilities were afforded, he felt confident not only that the Corporations would undertake this duty and responsibility without serious less, but also with the hope that respectable ratepayers would be relieved of a great part of the burden which the dissolute and drunken portion of the community had thrown upon them. But he now came to an argument which he was more inclined to deplore and even to resent, because it had been accepted by hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House. It was an argument which struck at the very root of Liberalism and of all local self-government. It was said that the patronage which such a scheme would involve could not be safely entrusted to the representatives of the people in our Municipal Corporations, and would lead to a tremendous amount of jobbery and corruption. This argument was unsupported by theory and condemned by facts. If true, it amounted to this—that the people were not to be trusted to manage their own affairs, and that confidence could not safely be placed in the people themselves. The Municipal Corporations already took charge of gas and water works, markets, roads, and sewage for the benefit of the public. The income from all sources of the Birmingham Corporation was £1,000,000, and its contracts for coal alone amounted to £250,000 a-year. It was continually in the market for buildings, machinery, clothing, and stores of all kinds; and the same might be said of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, and other large towns. Yet, since the passing of the Municipal Act in 1836 there was not a single case in which a Corporation had been false to the trust reposed in them; there had not been a single case of corporate jobbery, as distinct from some petty individual cases of malversation, which could be charged against these municipal authorities. Of what other national institution was it possible to say as much? Could more be said of the administration of the Departments of the State—the Telegraphs, the Post Office, the Army, and the Navy? Could as much be said of the administration of the joint-stock enterprises which sometimes excited the admiration of hon. Members? Were not the records of our Law Courts filled with scandalous reports of mismanagement, jobbery, and corruption on the part of limited liability companies? Yet during the same period there was not a single instance of similar malpractice proved against the unselfish, unpaid, if humble workers for the public good in the neighbourhoods in which they lived who now found themselves subject to so much unmerited suspicion and unfounded mistrust. He invited the House to place confidence in municipal authorities, and to believe that they would rise to the magnitude of the functions with which they might be entrusted. He was convinced that whatever were their defects they would be removed by increasing their responsibilities and by cumulating their duties, and making it the ambition of every good and earnest man to do some good in the world by taking his share in the management of these institutions. He had always regarded as one of the worst features of the legislation of 1870, that the education of the people was entrusted not to Town Councils, but to another co-ordinate local authority, and he was convinced that the result would be the deterioration of both. In the meantime, municipal work lost what it might have gained in breadth of character and elevation of aim by the co-operation of men of culture and ability, who would have been attracted by educational responsibility. He ventured to hope that no such mistake would be made in any future regulation of the liquor traffic, for he was certain that the more important were the issues that were submitted to local Parliaments, the more effective would be their administration, and the greater would be the ability and the higher the character of the men who would take part in it. If his proposal should at any future time find favour with the House and be embodied in a Bill, he did not suppose many boroughs would at first take advantage of the Facilities it would afford them, and he lid not suggest that this new experiment should be forced on the English people. He would except the Metropolis, which had not the municipal organization necessary for dealing with a subject of this magnitude. He would leave Scotland to those temperance reformers who were willing to secure sobriety only on the exact lines they themselves laid down; and he would at first legislate only in England and Wales, and then only for those municipalities which chose to take advantage of the scheme. There would remain one or two boroughs which would attempt this great experiment, and the very sense of the responsibility which led them to undertake such a duty would be the best guarantee that they would carry out the experiment in a spirit worthy of its object. He appealed to the Home Secretary to show in this, as in other cases, his appreciation of enabling and permissive legislation. In Birmingham the Town Council, by a majority of 46 to 10, and the Board of Guardians unanimously, had passed resolutions in favour of this proposal. Do not let the House suppose, as had been suggested, that this was a Party question in Birmingham. In Birmingham, as in this House and throughout the country, the general well-being of the nation was altogether superior to Party considerations, and a meeting of the Birmingham clergy, who, unfortunately, were mostly members of the Conservative Party, carried, with one dissentient, a resolution approving the principle of this scheme. It was submitted to the Wesleyan ministers with a similar result, and he had to-day presented a Petition in its favour from the Birmingham branch of the United Kingdom Alliance—a fact which he commended to the notice of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). Of course, if an experiment was made and this scheme succeeded it would rapidly spread throughout the country, as it had spread throughout Sweden, and then we might hope we had taken a practical step towards solving this intricate and difficult problem, which, as Mr. Cobden said, lies at the bottom of all political and social reform. Success would at least exclude from our political life the baleful interest of a gigantic vested interest, whose tyranny and whose insolence must be as repugnant to those who could profit by it as it was to those who were suffering from its opposition. An hon. Member suggested that the success of this proposal would also get rid of the United Kingdom Alliance, and he confessed he should not be sorry to set free the good, earnest, and able men who comprised that organization for other philanthropic work. At any rate, success would do much for the welfare of the country and for the happiness of its teeming population, and the result which was staked upon the issue was important enough, he hoped, to justify his intrusion upon the attention of the House, and to excuse the demand he had made upon its indulgence. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resolution.


, in seconding the Resolution, said, he had been compelled to come forward on this occasion by a strong desire to lift this question out of the arena of Party politics, and he rejoiced in this matter to co-operate with the hon. Gentleman opposite, whose political principles on most points were as far from his own as the poles asunder. He came forward in the interest of the public and of morality. The question was one which must be dealt with, and it could not long remain where it was. It was necessary in the interests of public health, public morals, and public order that it should soon be dealt with. The supporters of the Permissive Bill would do well to accept the verdict that was so often expressed by the House, and, withdrawing their own measure, support this proposal. Legislation on the subject of the liquor traffic had not hitherto met with success, and the best thing the House could do would be to consider how the evil could be remedied. The Permissive Bill had been rejected again and again by large and increasing majorities, because it would suppress the traffic altogether, and also because it did not recognize the principle of compensation; but those who voted against it were not justified in concluding that that was all they could do. The introduction of beer-house and of light wines and grocers' licences had not diminished intemperance. The Licensing Bill of the late Government was not a success, and he did not think the present Home Secretary would in the future view his amendment of the Act as among the first achievements of his political career. To provide facilities for the legitimate traffic, and at the same time to recognize the vested interests, would enable them to minimise the temptation which had ruined so many. The hon. Gentleman had successfully shown that his system diminished drunkenness, and its extensive adoption in Sweden ought to impress them in its favour. He expressed an opinion that corporations might very well be entrusted to carry out the system. The Legislature had recently shown a disposition to throw responsibilities of equal weight upon local authorities. Corporations were entrusted with the management of water and gasworks, and the Imperial Government itself had gone in the same direction in acquiring the management of the telegraphs. The powers recently conferred on local authorities had been well exercised. As to the cry that they would have bodies elected for the purpose of giving cheap beer, he thought they had evidence enough of the growing feeling of the people upon the subject of the regulation of the liquor traffic to trust them to refuse to sanction any such proposition. A tender view was also likely to be taken of the proposal by the trade, who had proved themselves no mean opponents to other measures. The trade deserved every consideration, and he thought it would be well if they noticed that by this proposal compensation was for the first time offered to them. They had joined in deploring the evils of the present system, and had always expressed themselves ready and willing to co-operate in any way with any reasonable scheme by which their interests were duly regarded. Under these circumstances, he hoped the House would give this measure its calm consideration, and not dismiss it at once as impracticable. The proposal was not one of visionary philanthropy, and it emanated from a town which had already distinguished itself in carrying out measures of public utility. The proposal was, no doubt, a startling one, but it came well from the town of Birmingham, which had carried out the Artizans Dwellings Act with so much spirit, and whose authorities now professed themselves willing to grapple with the great evil of drunkenness.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it is desirable to empower the Town Councils of Boroughs under the Municipal Corporations Acts to acquire compulsorily, on payment of fair compensation, the existing interests in the Retail Sale of Intoxicating Drinks within their respective districts; and thereafter, if they see fit, to carry on the trade for the convenience of the inhabitants, but so that no individual shall have any interest in nor derive any profit from the sale."—(Mr. Chamberlain.)


said, in rising to say a few words upon this question, if the House would allow him, he must, before addressing himself to the question, say how much the House was indebted to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) for the able way in which he had introduced the question, and the array of facts he had brought forward in its support—a speech not only able but temperate in the manner in which it had been argued. He would venture to say that he rejoiced to think that this subject was one clearly outside the history of Party feeling. None would believe, he hoped, from the interest that he had taken on the subject that ho was influenced by any such feeling, and he was convinced that every one of them in that House had but one earnest idea before him constantly, and that was to meet what was undoubtedly one of the great evils of our time, and by any reasonable means to reduce the drunkenness, which was to a large extent the cause of crime. The question really before the House was whether such a reduction of crime and drunkenness was likely to follow as the result of the scheme submitted to it. That scheme took its origin, as the hon. Member had told them, from a system which had for some time prevailed in the town of Gothenburg, in Sweden. They had known in that House for some time the alleged working of the system, and the hon. Member had told them that if the system were applied to England, or to part of it, he believed that a similar advantage would result in this country. Now, he ventured to think that although the hon. Member had quoted figures to show them the reduction in the number of cases of drunkenness in Gothenburg, he hardly thought they justified the unqualified praise that had been given to the system. The system had, he believed, been at work for 12 years in Gothenburg; and he was aware that during the first few years, from its introduction in 1865, it had really produced a great reduction in the number of convictions for drunkenness. The number of convictions that had taken place in Gothenburg in 1865 was 2,161, and that number was reduced in the year 1868 to 1,320. What had happened since? Had that first reduction been maintained, and had the same result continued? Nothing of the sort. In the years between 1869 and 1872 these convictions for drunkenness had increased by 881, and in the year 1874—the last year to which they had any statistics—the convictions had risen to 2,234, a number actually larger than existed before the system was introduced. The convictions, as the hon. Member had shown, were, according to the number of population, as I in 25, notwithstanding which he sought to introduce the system into England, although in this country the number of convictions was relatively smaller in the great majority of the large towns. He had in his hand a number of statistics which had been submitted by the hon. Member himself to the country, which showed that in 71 towns in England, each of which had a larger population than Gothenburg, the convictions for drunkenness were, in almost all cases, fewer. Out of these 71 towns there were only three which were remarkable for being below the figures put before the House as the proportion in Gothenburg. These three were Tynemouth, South Shields, and Liverpool, where the average number was as 1 in 20 to the inhabitants. In seven other towns it was 1 in 30, and in the remaining 61 others there was a considerably better condition of things than in Gothenburg. However, he might say that he did not wish to rely upon these statistics as being infallible, for he believed it possible by figures to prove that drunkenness had really no relation to the number of beer-houses in a district; and that, in his opinion, was another argument which went to show that they could hardly rest their case upon any statistics. Instead of having endeavoured to prove that, he should have liked him to show that drunkenness was not caused by the large number of public-houses to which reference had been made. He ventured to think that the increase in drunkenness might be attributed very fairly to two other causes. Within a few years they had had in England a very large increase of the wages of the population, and alongside of that a diminution in the hours of labour and a consequent increase in the hours of leisure. He thought that some, if not much, of the increased drunkenness was caused rather by the increasing hours of leisure accompanying the larger means suddenly acquired than to the fact of the numerous public - houses in any locality. But when it came to a question of adopting the system which had been adopted—whether with success or not he would not say — at Gothenburg, there were practical difficulties of a very serious kind which suggested themselves. In Gothenburg the inhabitants had not proceeded in the way which the hon. Member proposed with regard to this country. The system was not introduced by the Town Council, as was wished here, but by the action of a private Company, which had bought up the public-houses as a private commercial transaction and speculation, at first in a very small way — not a wholesale, but partial purchase. The Company had given £10,000 for the purchase of 40 public-houses, subsequently purchasing the other 21. The price paid for these houses, too, was very small in comparison with what would have to be paid in this country, or even in such a town as Birmingham. They would find it a very difficult thing to purchase all the public-houses in Birmingham, where they stood in the proportion of 1 to 40 of the total number of houses. Did the hon. Member suppose for a moment that it would be an easy matter to purchase the whole of these? At first, perhaps, the enthusiasm of the people might enable the Corporation to do something; but when they came to pay the compensation which the hon. Member had acknowledged must be given, the burdens that would be thrown upon the rates was almost certain to prove a drawback to the scheme, which would soon be realized by the people themselves. If, in order not to place the whole of the amount that would be entailed by such a scheme as this, it was proposed that only a certain portion of the houses were to be taken by the Corporation, that did not do away with the difficulty. Suppose the town not to be prepared for the purchase of the whole of the houses, which would entail a rate of at least 4s. in the £1 for a period of 20 years, and they took part of the number, he doubted whether there was any likelihood of the attempt becoming palatable to the people of this country. For if the system were so introduced, they would have the corporations competing with the private purchasers of public-houses, and considering that they had the power of making such regulations as they saw fit regarding them, besides that of granting or refusing the licences at will, he thought, notwithstanding the way in which the hon. Member had stated his feelings of indignation with regard to such an assertion, that such a proceeding would give rise to the imputation that corrupt means might be used. With regard to the patronage which would be thrown into the hands of the local authorities, it might be shown, no doubt, that in the matter of gas, water, and sewage works, they had acted properly and well; but he ventured to think this question of public-houses stood upon a very different footing. The public-houses were the resort of, at all events, the lower part of the population. And not only so. The publicans themselves were not the only persons to be considered. They were dealing with the influence which licensed victuallers exercised in times of election over the masses, and they had to consider whether there was not considerable danger in that influence being placed in the hands of the servants of the Corporation. Were they willing to place that gigantic political weapon in the hands of their Town Councils? The Town Council of Birmingham were persons who were perhaps above the suspicion of corruption; but were all municipal authorities, or even Watch Committees, people whom they could as readily trust in a matter of this kind? Beyond that, did the House imagine that the question of compensation was simply a question of the number of men holding licences in any particular town? There was, he might remind them, another element which entered into this question, and which affected it largely. That was the element of the brewers, who were in many cases owners of these houses. Their interests would have to be considered as well as those of the retailers who occupied the premises. There might be another danger if this matter were placed in the hands of Town Councils, which they had often heard argued in connection with the Permissive Bill. At first, perhaps, when municipalities stirred in the direction proposed by this system the public feeling might support them, and all might go well; but did anyone mean to say that those whose vested interests would be endangered, and who were said to possess considerable political influence, would not wish to see the old system restored, and would not do all in their power to bring about such a restoration? However, these were not his only grounds of opposition to the scheme. He certainly, from a letter which he had that morning received from Mr. Duff, the British Consul in Gothenburg, was inclined to believe that these objections were strengthened by the actual working of the system in Gothenburg itself. In the letter which he had received from the Consul he spoke of the evils attending it, and said that— The Gothenburg Licensing Company had a good object in view when established, but the system, it appears, has proved a failure, owing to the way in which it has been carried out, and is at present only a money-making concern, realising a large amount annually, which forms a considerable income to the town. Drunkenness in Gothenburg is great, even among the upper classes, and the lower orders consider the company's retail shops as their privileged resort. These shops are situate in the most frequented situations, right in the face of the labourers and seamen, and I consider this is a great encouragement and temptation to drinking. That, combined with some figures with regard to the amount of the profits and the amount of liquor consumed, strengthened his objections to this scheme. Accompanying the letter to which he had just referred were a number of statistics which showed that in 1865 the number of gallons drunk was 66,169, which in 1875 had risen to 329,982 gallons, whilst the money profits were £7,205 in 1865, and in 1875 £45,374. These figures encouraged him in believing that the introduction of this system to our country would not tend to the diminution of drunkenness or lessening the consumption of liquor, and he ventured to think the letter referred to showed that drunkenness was a part of the system existing in this town of Sweden. The hon. Member for Birmingham had well said that everyone who was in earnest was anxious to do his best to contribute something for the removal of this great evil; but although, perhaps, it might not appear so favourably to the hon. Member as to himself, he ventured to think that if the existing laws had been properly carried out a very large amount of the difficulties they were now enduring would not have existed. The licensing laws, combined with the Habitual Criminals Act, were admirably fitted to bring about the results aimed at if properly enforced, and if that were so they would see such results as had taken place at Luton, where from 257 convictions which had been recorded for drunkenness in 1869, they had been reduced in 1874 to 66. If properly administered, the licensing system might be made efficacious. The authorities had practically power over the criminal and drunken population, and in the counties, where they were duly administered, one-half of the criminals had gone to work, many were striving hard to retrieve themselves, and numbers had disappeared altogether. He believed that if the magistrates really would carry out these Acts, with the police to back them, they would be able in a short time to produce good results. Administration of these Acts in this way would, in his opinion, be more consonant with the feelings of the people of England than the attempt to introduce a system from which numerous evils must follow. He ventured to think that whilst they were all anxious, and no one more than himself, to see the causes of these crimes reduced, that reduction might be attained by the proper administration of existing laws, or at least with small amendments to them.


Sir, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) concluded his admirable speech with a pious aspiration that the proceedings to-night might tend to the extinction of the United Kingdom Alliance. I am sure that aspiration will find an echo in the breasts of a great many hon. Members of this House, but in no one's breast did it find a more cordial echo than in my own; for it will be the happiest hour in my life when the United Kingdom Alliance is dissolved; but I assure you, Sir, it will not be dissolved until its work is done. And I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham for having forwarded that work very much by the eloquent speech he has made to-night. There was very little in that speech with which I could not very cordially agree, and I am sure the House will forgive me for saying what pleasure it gives me to see what an advance this question has made in public opinion. I do rejoice to see this House beginning now to take up this matter in earnest. We have heard a great deal of late about the horrible atrocities in the East; the country has been aroused on that question. I am very glad that we can find some little time to turn our attention to the daily atrocities which we hear of in this country, and that under the guidance of the hon. Member for Birmingham we may soon make some efficient attack upon the cause of all those evils. This question certainly is advancing. It is only about three years since there were two men, who had not then seats in this House, but whom the public pointed out as being in every way qualified and fitted to adorn this Assembly—I mean my two hon. Friends, the hon. Member for Birmingham, who has addressed us to-night, and the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen);—but there can be no doubt that in the view of many people they were both of them looked upon as rather dangerous and revolutionary characters. Well, Sir, it gives me the greatest satisfaction to find that no sooner do they get into this House than, instead of advancing any attacks upon the great institutions of Church and State, they set themselves to revolutionize and overthrow that most monstrous of all institutions, the drink traffic, which is degrading and demoralizing this country. I rejoice to see two such valiant champions ready to do battle with what the hon. Member for Birmingham has called this "swollen tyranny." Sir, although I do not agree with everything in this Resolution, there can be no question that it would, if passed, be the most deadly blow which this generation has seen struck at the liquor traffic as it at present exists; it would be a declaration by this House that it considers the present licensing system an evil, and an irremediable evil. Now, what is that licensing system? Why, we have been told on good authority that the licensing system was intended for financial and for police purposes. Sir, for one of these purposes it has been the greatest and most triumphant success; we raise an enormous revenue by its means. But for the other purpose I maintain that it is a deplorable failure. It has failed utterly; and why? Because every individual trader in this business is paid by results. He is paid exactly in proportion to the amount of drink which he can get his fellow-creatures to consume. The object of the licensing system was to establish throughout the country a number of men who should give to their neighbours just enough to drink, and not a drop too much. There can be no other justification for limiting the trade. But that object has not been attained, and the temptation to give the consumer too much, and at the same time to make money by the extra sale, has overcome the resolution of those who deal in intoxicating liquors to preserve the public order; and the consequence is that we see from the Returns which have been quoted tonight how the country has been flooded with drunkenness and demoralization. Why these traders, who get their licences on condition of only supplying exactly enough to their customers, during the last year for which we have Returns gave an overdose to no less than 200,000 of their customers, and there were double the number of arrests that were made 10 years ago, and I think to-night we have had the argument about police vigilance exploded. Somebody generally gets up with a lot of statistics to prove that a couple of old women less have been taken up, and therefore we are on the high road to perfection; but to-night we see that all that firm reliance on statistics has been cast over. I do not know about these police being so vigilant. The hon. Member for Birmingham, in one of his pamphlets, states that at Birmingham one-fourth of the police force of that town had been themselves reported for drunkenness, so that if there has been increased activity in the police force, it seems that it has been increased activity in getting drunk; and I saw the other day that at a meeting of the Town Council of Salford a question was put to the Mayor, whether it was not true that 60 per cent of the police of that town had been reported for drunkenness, and the Mayor, like a good and prudent Mayor, declined to give any answer; and I draw my own conclusion from the reticence of the worshipful gentleman. Will anybody, after that, believe that it is the vigilance of the police that has increased the arrests for drunkenness by 100 per cent within the last 10 years? If they do, I think they must believe that in a few years more we shall all be taken up together. The hon. Member who has just sat down (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) exploded the theory of police vigilance, for he elaborately proved that the laws were not carried out as they ought to be, and as he wishes them to be carried out in future. If they are, then we shall have a vast deal more people taken up than we have now. Of course, the object of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham is to provide that this selling of intoxicating drink shall be carried on without producing those evils which all right-thinking persons so much deplore; and here is his object, stated in a report of a committee of the muncipality of Stockholm on the desirability of adopting the Gothenburg system in their town. Here is the description they gave of managers of public-houses— The manager of a public-house must possess that firmness, zeal, and discretion which are required in his difficult position, between the demands of the consumer on the one hand, and his duty to the community on the other. That is very well put—almost as well as my hon. Friend could put it himself—and that is just the object which we have had in view in the licensing system, only it so happens that the zeal of those we have licensed has outrun their discretion. In future, according to my hon. Friend, the publicans are to be so discreet that they will not allow their zeal to go so far as to supply an "extra glass." In short, he proposes that we should have at last a patriotic publican and a philanthropic potboy. He has put it very well. People are in future not to drink for the good of the house, but for the good of themselves—not for the benefit of the publicans, but for the benefit of the public; and I freely admit that is a very good object if it can be accomplished. My hon. Friend proposes to empower corporations to carry on this business. He is retaining the principle which is now so popular. He is copying the Government in their wise course, for the Government never brings in anything except Permissive Bills. The Government brings in Permissive Bills on all subjects except the drink traffic; but my hon. Friend is bolder, for he, to-night, has brought in a Permissive Bill on the drink traffic. But I must explain to the House what I think he did not dwell on so much as I think he might have done, in order to make it clear that what he suggests in the Resolution is a little different from what is now being carried on in Gothenburg. In Sweden this trade is carried on by a company, who are allowed to buy up all the licences; but my hon. Friend proposes that they should be transferred to the corporation, which makes a considerable difference, and one which ought to be considered by hon. Gentlemen in a full discussion of this subject. But before we go further and decide whether it is desirable to empower corporations to undertake this business, we ought to see whether it really has been the great success which it sometimes is said to have been in Gothenburg. Now, I take the year 1872. In that year three gallons per head of spirit were disposed of by the Gothenburg Company for every man, woman, and child in Gothenburg, being one gallon more than is consumed on an average by the entire population of Scotland. Mr. Carnegie, who is a very able, earnest, and excellent advocate of the Gothenburg system, made a speech at Edinburgh in July, 1873, in which he said that Gothenburg was making rapid strides towards becoming a model of temperance; but he published a pamphlet a little while afterwards, in 1874, I think, in which he said that he saw in 1874—or, at any rate, after his Edinburgh speech—407 more persons were taken up in Gothenburg for drunkenness than in 1873, and in fact, that in one of those years there were about three times the number of drunkards in Gothenburg that there were in Edinburgh, in proportion to the population. And I believe that at the present time the arrests for drunkenness in Gothenburg are very nearly equal in proportion to those in Liverpool, which we know is not a model of sobriety, but is as near a perfect model of drunkenness as the civilization of this age, which consists very much in promoting the sale of drink, can produce. Mr. Carnegie tried to explain it away by saying that he found those people who were arrested in Gothenburg were, a great many of them, not inhabitants of the town, but had come in from the country districts to attend the market. What an extraordinary defence! Why were those people to be made drunk any more than those who lived in the town? I thought those patriotic publicans were to know exactly how much everybody was to have. Cannot they tell how much a countryman can stand as well as a townsman? Well, you know the English custom—it is familiar to the House—the old Staffordshire saying—"Who's that?" "A stranger." "Let's throw half a brick at him!" It seems that the Gothenburg custom is this—"Who's that?" "A stranger?" "Let's make him drunk!" But, Sir, let me go into this question, and let us see what are the real facts. We have heard of Stockholm; in 1874 the proportion of arrests for drunkenness was 1 in 46. In Gothenburg it was 1 in 26. That shows—I do not wish to put the case too strongly, but it does show that Gothenburg is as yet a long way from being Paradise regained. If the House will look into the facts they will see that the real good which has been done by any of this Swedish legislation has been done when the law provided for restriction, and even prohibition of the liquor traffic altogether. We have heard to-night—and I commend it to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe)—that not a generation ago Sweden, which was the best educated country we could find, and which abounded with religious facilities also—Sweden had that free trade in drink which is advocated by the right hon. Gentleman, and the consequence was that, notwithstanding all its advantages, it was the drunkenest country in Europe. But that has been changed, not by putting the traffic into the hands of a company, but by removing the public-houses altogether. Why, when the law first came into force in Sweden, the public-houses were reduced by 40 per cent, and that made a wonderful change at once. But I must quote at full length from a pamphlet written by Mr. Balfour, an ardent advocate of this scheme. Mr. Balfour says— In estimating the practical value of the Swedish Licence Reform Act of 1855 allow me to refer to the fact that no minimum number was fixed for licence, and thus what is essentially a Permissive Prohibitory Act has existed is Sweden for the last 20 years. So vigorously have the people outside the towns used their permission to limit and prohibit, that among 3,500,000 people there were only 450 places for the sale of spirits. That is, for a population such as we have in the county of Lancaster, instead of having 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 of such general indications in that country of comfort and independence among all classes. This power of prohibition is exactly what I have asked that my fellow-countrymen may be allowed to exercise, and which this House says they are not fitted to exercise. When my hon. Friend says—"Let the corporations, if they see fit, take this matter into their own hands," I have an equal right to say—"Let the country parishes, if they see fit, remove this great source of crime altogether." I want the House to understand that it is the principle of the Permissive Bill that my hon. Friend has been advocating to-night, and, whatever you say about the Resolution, that is the real good in it. I was at one time deemed a fanatic for saying that licences to sell drink ought to be granted for the benefit of the public and not of the publicans; but times are changing. See what the leading journal says in one sentence, talking about the Irish Closing Bill the other day— It has come to be confessed by English politicians that, on a matter of local importance, deference should be paid to local wishes. Exactly; and that is why the Government consented to pass the second reading of the Irish Sunday Closing Bill the other day. Why should not other places have the same right as Ireland? Why should not the parishes of England enjoy it? Are the circumstances of Ireland so peculiar? I remember the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Delahunty) made a speech in the last Parliament, and he began his speech by saying—"Mr. Speaker, Ireland is an island entirely surrounded by water." Well, what difference does that make? Surely a parish surrounded by a ring fence has as much right to have the minds and wishes of its inhabitants consulted as the people of Ireland have, because they happen to live in an island surrounded by water. Surely all the localities have a right to say whether they will have this trade amongst them or not. Is it possible now for anybody to bring in a Bill in this House without giving it a tinge of the Permissive Bill? Why, even during the late Government—Mr. Bruce had a touch of it in his Bill; and my hon. Friend sitting below me (Sir Robert Anstruther) who is always bringing in drink Bills which are fearfully and wonderfully made, cannot get on unless he takes a little bit of the Permissive Bill. Sometimes he measures his restriction by hundreds of inhabitants and sometimes by hundreds of yards; he runs backwards and forwards, and we never know how many yards off he is—but all his Bills have a touch of the Permissive Bill. And then there is that admirable Bill which I had the pleasure of supporting last year, and which I hope I shall have the pleasure of supporting this year—the Bill of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen)—that is also a Permissive Bill. It would give the people the power of getting rid of these places if they choose, only by a different and more elaborate machinery than that which is suggested in my Bill. And, indeed, my hon. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain) does support the second reading of the Permissive Bill. I have heard him make one of the best speeches on that measure which I ever heard delivered, which, if it were not too long, I would read to the House. But this principle that he has embodied in his Resolution frightens some people. Now, I see a very excellent good Friend of mine sitting on the front Opposition bench, who looks as if he were going to speak, and I hope he is—I mean my hon. Friend the Member for Elgin (Mr. Grant Duff). He has been advocating the Gothenburg scheme, and I am delighted to see him taking up the question. But in describing the scheme of the hon. Member for Birmingham, which he did in a very clever speech, when he came to this part of it, "if they saw fit," he did not like it at all. And when he got to that part, he said— Of course the power of shutting up all the public-houses is one that would in practice never be exercised, and must have been, I should think, introduced into the plan of Mr. Chamberlain merely for the purpose of giving it logical completeness. Of course it was. My hon. Friend was not going to bring in an illogical Bill. He knew that if he gave the power to a company or a corporation, he must "go the whole hog;" he must trust them entirely, or not at all. And I think he is right; because, although it may be perfectly true, as was said by the present Prime Minister, that logic does not rule Parliament, yet I believe that logic in the end wins the day. But why should the hon. Member for Elgin say this scheme will never be carried out? Does he think that the Town Councils are so careless, stupid, degraded, and ignorant that they will like to have the liquor traffic everywhere, and all the pauperism which it brings? I hope there are Town Councils which would be wise enough, if they get the power, not only to take the trade out of the hands of the publicans, but to do away with it altogether. But I must allude to some of the objections which present themselves to this scheme. My hon. Friend talks about compensation. His Resolution is very well drawn, and he says he would give "fair compensation." So would I. I do not want to do anything unfair. Let anybody show that he is entitled to compensation, and there is no one in this House who would be more ready to vote for it than I am. But I tell you what I think — this is merely my opinion—I think that where a man has made a bargain with the public, and has paid money for the power of selling drink up to the 10th of October, on which day his licence ends, it is quite fair that if you want him to give up before that date you should pay him something. But after that I should not give him one penny of compensation. People talk about compensation; but I should like to see any first-class lawyer stand up in this House, and pledge his reputation to the statement that a publican has any right to compensation after his licence has run out. He would never be listened to afterwards, and his authority would be gone if he dared to say anything of the kind. Why, when the law has stepped in and interfered with other property, what has happened? The Factory Acts were passed; they said to certain manufacturers—"You have a big building, you shall not use this building except in a certain way, and except within certain hours children shall not be employed in them." One owner of a factory wrote to me the other day, and said the Factory Acts had lessened the value of his fixed capital by 20 per cent. But nobody has thought of giving him compensation for his loss; it was for the public good. I see the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright). There was a time when he was an agitator, like me. Well he never agitated against the wicked land- lord who sells drink. He agitated against the wicked landlord who sold corn in the old days. He said—"Here is a law by which the price of your corn is artificially raised, and by which you make use of your land at present. We will alter that law." And the law was altered, and the value of corn, and consequently the value of land, fell; and we landlords never got a penny—we were not entitled to it. Well, but I will come to later proceedings. The House has passed the second reading of the Irish Sunday Closing Bill. An hon. Member (Mr. O'Sullivan) rose in his place on the second reading and said that if this Bill were passed it would ruin between 16,000 and 18,000 publicans in Ireland, in many parts of which country they drink only on Sunday, I suppose. No doubt they have been doing most of their business on that day; but is anyone prepared to give them a penny of compensation? And I defy even this Government, which is not averse to compensating various kinds of people—I defy this Government or any other to come down to this House and propose anything so monstrous, as that because the law alters the liquor traffic those who trade in liquor shall be compensated. But I may be wrong in all this; there may be a claim to compensation, and I am quite willing to hear the arguments on that side. Indeed, I would willingly give the traders all they ask, if by that means I could get rid of them and prevent them carrying on their desolating trade. But there is another argument — and this objection comes from a great many gentlemen who are earnestly friendly to temperance, and I regret that I cannot see eye to eye with them on this occasion. They say it is very wicked to allow a corporation to carry on this trade. Let me sum up that argument in one sentence. It is an extract from a circular issued by some of our friends in the North in which they describe the Resolution of the hon. Member for Birmingham as proposing a scheme— Which seeks to give power to the corporations to impose taxes on the people for the purpose of compensating the publicans and thereafter to carry on the publicans' business in the name of the ratepayers, thus involving the whole community in the moral and social degradation that flows from the public-house. I have no objection to the last few words that I have read; but as far as I can see we are not more implicated in the moral and social degradation which flows from the public-house by adopting the plan of my hon. Friend than we are already implicated in it by our existing Legislation. Under the present system the Imperial Government sends out 150,000 tax-gatherers to collect an enormous revenue by demoralizing the people of England. The hon. Member for Birmingham has described the action of the magistrates in this matter. He said it used to be the practice to give licences as rewards for long and faithful domestic services. That is, they licensed their old butlers. At all events, they have licensed 150,000 of various kinds of drink sellers, and I think it is a very horrible thing to contemplate. A very able medical man described this system the other day as one which was raising a revenue from the graves of the people; and I do not think the language was much too strong. In a few weeks' time, when we assemble after Easter, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will come down to this House with his Budget, and tell us how he has got upwards of £30,000,000 from the taxes raised from drink; and as every Chancellor of the Exchequer does he will, after parading his millions, then—to use Lord Beaconfield's expression—"with a face arranged for the occasion," express his regret at the immorality of the working classes. Then we shall all go home delighted at the arrangement of our financial measures, little thinking of all the wretchedness involved in raising that enormous revenue from the vices of a nation. I do not know what my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) will say as to the corporation of the town he represents engaging in a traffic which he once denounced as producing crime, disorder, and madness; but I do know that if this scheme of my Eon. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain) is passed, if it come into force, and if corporations be allowed this power, there are some resolute, earnest men in every constituency in the Kingdom who will fight to the death rather than allow their corporation to enter into a trade which they consider so immoral and so destructive. They will have more regard for the welfare and happiness of the poor in their neighbourhood, and I sincerely hope they will win a victory over those who wish to carry on this demoralizing trade. I thank the House for having so kindly heard my remarks. I have endeavoured to draw attention to the good and bad points as they appeared to me in the proposition before the House. These hon. Gentlemen who believe the Gothenburg plan to be a success will support the scheme, as will those also who think that it will add to the dignity and honour of the corporations to be turned into retail licensed victuallers. I am one of those who doubt very much the truth of those two propositions. But still I feel a responsibility when I speak upon this question; and I feel that although I have my doubts as to the wisdom of parts of the scheme, it would be a very serious step to obstruct any measure which has a good tendency in this matter. I think honestly that the scheme in many respects is a fantastic one—that sober and sensible men must feel the absurdity of establishing people in a trade and telling them to do as little business in it as possible. I recognize the temptation to corporations to carry on this trade with the object of relieving themselves from the rates. I know also perfectly well that to many hon. Gentlemen the city of Gothenburg is a city of refuge to which they can fly to get a little breathing time from the furious assaults of the United Kingdom Alliance. But I support this Resolution because, with all its drawbacks, it strikes a deadly blew at the present licensing system, and because, although that is not its direct object, it does place the power of prohibiting the liquor traffic in the hands of 200 municipal councils, representing 6,000,000 of inhabitants. And, therefore, although I know that many of my best friends and supporters will say I am wrong in taking the course I propose to do, yet I cannot resist on this occasion doing what little there is in my power to support an earnest, honest, and able attempt to deal with the greatest evil of our day and generation.


said, he should vote for the Resolution, because the great city of Birmingham was ready to try this experiment if it had permission to do so; and while he should be sorry to see very many Town Councils trying it at once he should be still more sorry to see none of them try it at all. All they knew at present was that a kindred experiment had succeeded extremely well in Sweden, which possessed many features in common with our own—had succeeded, indeed, so well, that it was just about to be put in operation in the capital city of that country. Such a fact might be very far from decisive, but it raised a presumption favourable to the trial of some such experiment here. Objections had, however, been urged, with a view of showing that, though successful in Sweden, it would not be so here. Those objections he would briefly consider. It had been said that the rights of property would be interfered with. No doubt, they would, to some extent; but as no change whatever in the licensing laws could be made without more or less interfering with rights of property, that argument went a great deal too far. The question was, whether the interference proposed by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) was an undue or excessive interference. Then they were told that the plan would cause a most injurious extension of the patronage and power of Town Councils. That statement had no terrors for him. He wished to increase the patronage and power of Town Councils throughout the country, so as to make those bodies more influential and to make a seat in them more coveted. Then they were told that property of this kind had never been made the subject of compulsory purchase in a free country. What was the difference between the property now proposed to be taken and the property which could be taken under the Artizans Dwellings Act? Why, the hon. Member for Birmingham had told the House that under that Act Birmingham was positively purchasing compulsorily something like 120 public-houses. Then they were told that it would create a whole brood of borough monopolies. It would, he thought, rather extinguish a vast number of monopolies in the true sense of the word—namely, privileges given to individuals to sell for the purpose of creating a number of rights of selling, which were not in any true sense of the term monopolies at all. Then it was said that the advocates of cheap drink would fill the Council Chamber with persons pledged to maintain their interests. That was not at all probable. The moderate drinkers were in a great majority in every community, and the excessive drinkers in a minority. No doubt, elections turning purely upon questions of drinking or no drinking, such as would be elections under the Permissive Bill, would be a great evil. But the question of the management of the municipal public-houses would be merely one among many, and would form a perfectly legitimate subject of local interest and discussion. Then it was said that it was most undesirable that the public-houses and the police should be managed by the same public authority. He, on the contrary, thought that it would be most desirable, for the public-house-keepers and the police would then be acting together in sustaining the law. Then it was said that the Gothenburg plan had not prevented people from getting drunk. Was any one ever silly enough to think that it would? It had diminished the number of drunken people, and that was all; but that, surely, was a great deal. Then, it was said that the compensation required and the difficulties of the scheme generally were so gigantic that no Town Council would enter upon it. If none did, then no harm would be done; but if Birmingham entered upon it he shrewdly suspected that Birmingham would make an uncommonly good thing by it. If the various trades connected with the public-houses in Birmingham were not a good deal afraid that the town was likely to get—in case a measure founded upon this Resolution passed—a good share of the profits which had hitherto found its way into their pockets, he did not think they would have plied hon. Members with lithographed Petitions and printed statements in the way they had done. Then, we were advised to try free trade in liquor. That was the phrase used for the proposals of the Committee of 1854. But against those proposals he had to object—first, that in order to carry them we should have to overcome the united opposition of all the special advocates of temperance, plus the opposition of all the special advocates of intemperance; secondly, that when we had done it, we should not have free trade in liquor at all, but, at best, a somewhat less shackled trade in liquor than we had at present. We should never have free trade in liquor, till we made the trade of the publican as free as the trade of the baker, and no one had, as far as he knew, proposed to do that. We must have exceptional regulations in an exceptional trade. Thirdly, we should find it almost impossible to exercise that close police supervision which was a sine quâ non of these plans. The proposal of the hon. Member seemed to him the only one at present before the country which was likely, if accepted, to effect sufficient good to make it worth taking much trouble for; and if it were clear that it was not going to be accepted, there was nothing to be done, he was afraid, by legislation. We must then fall back upon the numerous indirect agencies which were working in favour of temperance in the lower strata of society, which would probably in time produce the same effect among them which a hundred agencies had done in the upper strata of society. But that would be a slow process, and if we could quicken it by doing a thing which seemed to be reasonable in itself, by giving the municipalities the completest control possible over the public-houses, while we prevented any injustice being done to existing licence-holders, he thought we ought to try to quicken it. We might, perhaps, do considerable good by legislative action, and this was the only legislation which commended itself to his mind.


If the scope of this Resolution had been strictly limited by the hard-and-fast lines of the terms in which it has been drawn up—if the question had only been one between public-houses and public-houses limited, I should have been much inclined to think that the advantages to be gained were more than counterbalanced by the dangers to be apprehended. It is, however, evident that the scope of the proposal is by no means so limited, and that the cardinal point is the transfer of the public-houses to a body duly impressed with a sense of the moral responsibility under which they have assumed the control of them. It will further be in their power to introduce not only the milder forms of intoxicating drinks, and the eatables which it was originally their province to sell, as suggested by the hon. Member for Birmingham, but also non-intoxicating drinks such as coffee, lemonade, and, especially, cocoa, for which is claimed the virtue, that it possesses more than anything else of a similar description the property of assuaging the craving for intoxicating drinks. Thus they might convert them into something of the nature of workmen's cafés, or as suggested by the hon. Member for Birmingham, workmen's clubs. Thus those who resorted to a public-house for the sake of comfort and social intercourse would not be obliged in doing so to partake of drinks of an intoxicating nature. There is also another advantage which is not so obvious on the face of it, and it is this—The persons employed by the municipal authorities to conduct the beer public-houses would, under the system of simple restriction be, as it seems to me, in rather a false position. The ordinary theory is, that he who manages a business for others, should so conduct it as if he was managing it for himself. Now the whole scope of this measure is, that he should not conduct it as if he were managing it for himself. It would be rather difficult for him, as it seems to me, to disabuse his mind of the idea that his duty was not to do the best he could for his employer by making as large a return as he could. The injunction "Surtout point de zèle," not always understood by the more highly-educated classes, would be to him a mystery. But under the conditions to which I have referred all this would be changed. The employé would be simply in the position of a man placed to conduct a business according to the instructions given him. "There are two different sorts of goods. We wish you to push the sale of this sort, and to let the other take care of itself." These are instructions of every-day occurrence, which he could readily understand, and to which he would have no difficulty in conforming. Another advantage would be, that by these means, the municipality might be enabled to recoup itself for its restricted sale of intoxicating drinks, and thus make the scheme pay. There is another advantage which, though it is rather of a prospective character, might, I think, turn out to be of much value. Under the system proposed by the hon. Member for Birmingham there would be no difficulty in closing the public-houses during the time of a contested election. This is carried out in many large towns of the United States, and there is nothing which would more contribute to order and quiet, and even the purity of an election. This, under the ordinary system, it would be difficult to do, because in the excited state of feeling then prevailing there would be a constant suspicion of political partizanship; whereas, if all the public houses were under the care of the municipality nothing of this sort could happen. I am further induced to support the Resolution by the fact that a municipality so important as that of Birmingham has approved of it, and might probably have the courage of their opinions, and carry it out. Should, then, that municipality carry it out successfully, others, no doubt, would be encouraged to follow its example. At all events, it would be tested under the most favourable circumstances. Should the corporation of Birmingham shrink from the enterprize, all I can say is that where Birmingham feared to tread no other corporation would be likely to rush in. Thus, at any rate, there would be no harm done. On the whole, then, not underrating any of the objections which may be urged against it, I think it my duty to vote in favour of the Resolution.


, believing there was much in what had been said with regard to local option, would give his support to the proposal of the hon. Member. The scheme had this especial merit—that private interest was dissociated from the desire to make people drunkards. He admitted that this was a great experiment; but, at the same time, he thought that not merely the great towns, but that rural parishes should be allowed to try it. Some hon. Members of that House endeavoured to carry out the principle put forward in the Resolution by encouraging the establishment of coffee houses where the working classes could refresh themselves without any danger of getting intoxicated. For his own part, he believed that if the corporations in cities and boroughs could get rid of the system of keeping drinking bars without food bars in public-houses, and afford sufficient accommodation of a different character, the plan would be entirely successful. He regretted to see by the statistics quoted by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department that the system now proposed had failed in Gothenburg. But that was entirely to be attributed to an increase of wages to the working classes, which amounted, in the timber trade especially, to nearly £1 a-day. That he had on the authority of a gentleman, a friend of his, who went over to buy timber, who informed him that wages had greatly increased, and so had intemperance in the same proportion.


said, he could not pretend to any great experience on this subject; but he wished to say that what experience he had had led him to join those who had been called by licensed victuallers "unpractical, but well-meaning individuals and would-be reformers." His opinion, was that under the present licensing system, the evils that arose from drink would never be lessened, but would probably be increased. The number of liquor Bills that had been produced was sufficient to show that the existing arrangement was not so satisfactory as some people contended it was. Last year a memorial was signed by 13,000 clergymen of the Church of England setting forth their conviction, derived from long and intimate acquaintance with the people, that their condition would never be improved so long as intemperance prevailed amongst them, and that intemperance would continue to prevail among them so long as the temptations to drink surrounded them on every side. This was strong evidence of the failure of the licensing system, and was evidence not to be disregarded, especially on the Ministerial side of the House. It was sometimes said that we ought to be satisfied "if we see causes at work which tend to the ultimate eradication of intemperance." But if a man were suffering from a painful disease, would he like to be told to wait in this way, and would he not wish to adopt every means for putting a stop to the disease and preventing its aggravation? He should support the Motion, because he thought it would deal a vital blow at the present licensing system, and would enable those communities who wished to do so to apply their own remedy to the evil. He was not himself prepared to vote in favour of the Permissive Bill, as he considered that that would introduce a system that might interfere with the moderate and legitimate desires of respectable people, but ho did not consider that the Gothenburg system would have this effect. He had no doubt that the agitation against the existing system would go on as long as it was considered proper and right that a great proportion of the national Revenue should depend upon, and a great portion of the national capital should be embarked in a trade which was in reality a great national curse; and, this being so he thought it desirable that something in the shape of the principle before the House should be adopted with a view to counteract so great an evil.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 51; Noes 103: Majority 52.

Acland, Sir T. D. Lawson, Sir W.
Anderson, G. Leith, J. F.
Anstruther, Sir R. Lush, Dr.
Ashley, hon. E. M. M'Arthur, A.
Balfour, Sir G. M'Arthur, W.
Beaumont, W. B. M'Laren, D.
Bell, I. L. Middleton, Sir A. E.
Benett-Stanford, V. F. Morley, S.
Biggar, J. G. Mundella, A. J.
Briggs, W. E. Mure, Colonel
Bright, rt. hon. J. O'Byrne, W. R.
Brogden, A. O'Clery, K.
Burt, T. O'Conor Don, The
Chadwick, D. Parnell, C. S.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Richard, H.
Courtney, L. H. Stevenson, J. C.
Cowen, J. Sullivan, A. M.
Crawford, J. S. Temple, rt. hon. W. Cowper-
Cross, J. K.
Dalrymple, C. Trevelyan, G. O.
Dickson, T. A. Ward, M. F.
Dilke, Sir C. W. Whalley, G. H.
Duff, M. E. G. Whitworth, B.
Ferguson, R. Whitworth, W.
Havelock, Sir H.
Howard, E. S. TELLERS.
Johnstone, Sir H. Chamberlain, J.
Kenealy, Dr. Kennaway, Sir J. H.
Ashbury, J. L. Elliot, G. W.
Assheton, R. Ewing, A. O.
Balfour, A. J. Fawcett, H.
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Forester, C. T. W.
Bass, A. Fraser, Sir W. A.
Bates, E. Freshfield, C. K.
Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H. Gallwcy, Sir W. P.
Beach, W. W. B. Gardner, R. Richardson
Blake, T.
Bruce, hon. T. Gibson, rt. hon. E.
Bruen, H. Goldney, G.
Brymer, W. E. Gooch, Sir D.
Bulwer, J. R. Gordon, W.
Campbell, C. Goulding, W.
Cobbold, T. C. Greene, E.
Collins, E. Gregory, G. B.
Corry, J. P. Grieve, J. J.
Crichton, Viscount Hall, A. W.
Cross, rt. hon. R. A. Hamilton, Lord G.
Denison, W. B. Hamilton, hon. R. B.
Denison, W. E. Hay, rt. hn. Sir J. C. D.
Dickson, Major A. G. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Dunbar, J. Hill, T. R.
Edmonstone, Admiral Sir W. Holker, Sir J.
Hope, A. J. B. B.
Egerton, hon. W. Hunt, rt. hon. G. W.
Isaac, S. Sandon, Viscount
Jenkins, D. J. Scott, M. D.
Jervis, Colonel Selwin - Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Johnston, W.
Kennard, Colonel Severne, J. E.
Knatchbull-Hugessen, rt. hon. E. Shaw, W.
Sheridan, H. B.
Knowles, T. Sherriff, A. C.
Lawrence, Sir T. Simon, Mr. Serjeant
Lechmere, Sir E. A. H. Smith, F. C.
Lloyd, S. Smith, W. H.
Lloyd, T. E. Stanley, hon. F.
Lowe, rt. hon. R Starkie, J. P. C.
Lowther, hon. W. Steere, L.
Macdonald, A. Stewart, M. J.
Maitland, J. Swanston, A.
Manners,rt. hn.Lord J. Taylor, rt. hon. Col.
Marten, A. G. Thwaites, D.
Mellor, T. W. Torr, J.
Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H. Walker, T. E.
Waterhouse, S.
Onslow, D. Watney, J.
Phipps, P. Wells, E.
Polhill-Turner, Capt. Whitwell, J.
Power, R. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Raikes, H. C. Yeaman, J.
Ripley, H. W.
Ritchie, C. T. TELLERS.
Salt, T. Dyke, Sir W. H.
Sanderson, T. K. Winn, R.