§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Robert Anstruther.)
§ MR. J. MAITLAND
said, he was not aware until that morning that it would have fallen upon him to state the objects of the Bill on the second reading, and he must therefore ask the indulgence of the House. The present measure was drawn on lines similar to those of the Bills which the hon. Member for Fife-shire (Sir Robert Anstruther) had introduced in previous Sessions, and that fact rendered it less necessary that he should go minutely through all its clauses. He would deal with the matter in a general way, and point out what he thought were the two main objects of the Bill. It proposed, first, to make a change both in the publicans' and grocers' licences; and, in the second place, it proposed to make an alteration in the mode in which grocers sold excisable liquors, especially spirits, at the present time in Scotland. He must say that he looked upon the second part—the alteration which it was proposed to introduce into the mode of selling liquor in grocers' shops—as the most valuable part of the Bill. There was a great difference in the law of Scotland and that of England in regard to the mode in which grocers sold liquor. In England grocers were not allowed to sell liquor in anything less than a quart bottle, which must be corked and sealed; but in Scotland, on the other hand, grocers were, unfortunately, permitted to sell any quantity, no matter how small, in an open vessel. The result of the traffic so conducted was most mischievous. The grocer's shop became simply a public-house, and one into which people were 1902 tempted who would shrink from entering an avowed public-house; and, moreover, the wives and children of the working classes, and even of those in a better position, who frequently went to those shops for other articles, were tempted to obtain liquor. From what he had heard from his own constituents, from others of the working classes, from clergymen, and others who took an interest in social reform, he was convinced there was no more fruitful source of drunkenness in the community than this, and that it was the great cause of what he believed to be an increasing evil —namely, drunkenness among women. He hoped that the Home Secretary would be induced to assimilate the law of Scotland on this matter to the law of England. He could not conceive what possible grounds there could be to refuse that which was the almost unanimous wish of the people of Scotland, and what the people of England actually enjoyed. Now, as to the matter of licences. The proposal of the hon. Baronet adopted the ideas which were popular in Scotland; he purposed to effect an alteration in the law in the way of restriction, and the way in which he would do it was this: He proposed, in the first place, that the licences should be reduced until there was not more than one to every 500 of the population. In the second place, he proposed that when that limit had been reached it should then be in the power of the ratepayers living within 500 yards of a proposed public-house to say whether such public-house should be established. For himself, ho would candidly state that he would rather have seen the power placed in the hands of all the ratepayers of Scotland. But that was not the proposal of the hon. Baronet; and the hon. Baronet had undoubtedly a right to propose what he pleased to the House, and he (Mr. Maitland) supported the Bill on the principle that half a loaf was better than no bread. The people of Scotland were in favour of restriction, and believed that a diminution in the number of licences diminished the amount of drunkenness. In such towns as Perth, Linlithgow, and the Fourth Ward of Glasgow, and other places which had been canvassed, the great majority of the electors had declared themselves in favour of restriction; and some had gone so far as to sign a declaration, of the principle of 1903 which he confessed himself too much of a politician altogether to approve, in these words—In anticipation of the Parliamentary elections, we, the undersigned electors, do hereby promise to vote only for those candidates who distinctly promise to vote for a permissive prohibitory Bill for Scotland.There were 369 electors on the roll of Linlithgow, and of that number 190, or considerably more than half, signed the declaration. In Glasgow in the Fourth Ward, out of 3,762 electors on the roll 2,045 signed the declaration. Now, when it was the fact that so large a proportion of the electors in Scotland were in favour of such a measure as the Permissive Bill, it certainly went to show that there was a decided feeling in favour of restrictions such as were proposed in the measure before the House. So much then for the opinion of the people of Scotland; and he thought he might safely assert that the people of Scotland had a right to be heard upon this licensing question, and that their opinion should not be outweighed by the votes of English Members so far as regarded their own country. English Members ought not to come down to the House to decide a matter like this having reference to Scotland alone. The two countries stood in very different positions in this matter. Scotch drinking, speaking roughly, was a very different thing from English drinking. In Scotland the drinking that did mischief was dram-drinking. That was not so in England. In England people drank a great deal of liquor with their meals; but that was not the custom in Scotland. There people went to the public-house in the morning and afternoon and took drams, either alone or with their companions; but they did not drink liquor as they did in England, as refreshment with their meals. Such a thing as drinking at dinner was quite unknown among the common class. He would therefore ask English Members to bear in mind that they had a very much worse form of drinking to deal with in Scotland. In England, as he had heard, many people objected to "robbing a poor man of his beer," and he had a certain sort of sympathy with that sentiment; but it was impossible to have any feeling of the kind with the dram-drinking that went on in Scotland. The only other point to which 1904 he desired to advert was this—he should like to argue the question whether these restrictions would put an end to the prevalence of excessive drinking or not. It was exceedingly difficult to obtain anything like satisfactory statistics on that matter. But there was one place to which so much reference had been made last night that he thought he might cite it as an instance of the extreme success with which the diminution of public-houses had been attended. He meant the case of Gothenburg, referred to by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). Two or three years ago the Gothenburg system became well known in Scotland, and it was thought desirable by those who took an interest in the question that there should be some more accurate knowledge of what was being done and with what result. Accordingly some leading citizens of Edinburgh, who could be trusted to make candid inquiries and make an unprejudiced report, went over to Gothenburg; and the result they arrived at was this—that it was found that the benefit alleged to have taken place in consequence of the peculiar system adopted there was entirely due to the fact that the number of public-houses had been largely diminished. It was not, he believed, mentioned by the hon. Member for Birmingham yesterday, that shortly after the system was introduced into Gothenburg the number of public-houses was reduced from 40 to 23, and the cases of drunkenness, which in 1865 were 2,070, were reduced to 1,424. That was a striking instance of the fact that a diminution in the amount of drunkenness could be brought about by a diminution of the licensed houses, and he hoped a similar result would be attained in Scotland by the passing of this Bill—which he now begged to leave to the consideration of the House.
§ COLONEL MURE
said, that year after year Parliament was called on to consider the drinking habits of the people, and year after year they became more and more impressed with the great evil which existed in the intemperance of the people; and year after year they were baffled in their attempts to bring about a diminution of that evil. But he could not help thinking that this year they had made a stride in advance. All, he thought, would agree with him that the speech of the hon. Member for Birming- 1905 ham (Mr. Chamberlain) last night might be considered as a step in advance. It was a serious attempt to attack the evil of drunkenness from what might almost be called a new point of view; and he thought that when they saw Members of the House of the ability and of the earnestness of the lion. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), the hon. Member for Birmingham, and the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther), all agreeing to some extent, though disagreeing on some points—yet all turning their attention to one thing, the diminution of drunkenness—he could not but think that those who felt strongly on this question might feel encouraged, and that the licensed victuallers had more reason for apprehension this year than they had ever had before. A great deal had been said, and repeated ad nauseant, to the effect that they could not make people sober by Act of Parliament. That, indeed, was a phrase that had become quite household words in this argument. He (Colonel Mure) could not think that the phrase should be accepted as an axiom or as a decided truth. It had been used over and over again, whenever an amelioration of the people had been attempted which was thought to invade vested interests. Looking to what took place with regard to the Factory Acts. When they were proposed the same argument was used—they were told that they were invading vested interests, they were told that they were attempting to protect women and children, and men also, and it was said that before there could be a proper state of things brought about people must become humane, which they could only be of their own accord. They were told, in short, that they could not make people humane by Act of Parliament. He quite agreed that they could not make people humane by Act of Parliament—he quite agreed that no legislation of this or any other country could alter men's feelings of humanity; but they could put it out of the power of those whose self-interest made them inhumane to continue to act with inhumanity towards those over whom they had power. It was the same with this question of drunkenness. Though it was true they could not make people sober by Act of Parliament, they could diminish the facilities for insobriety, and in that way they could prevent people from getting drunk by Act of 1906 Parliament. They, who felt strongly on this question, did not desire to attack the publicans—they quite recognized their vested interests, but they recognized that the way in which they must attack drunkenness and its attendant evils was only and solely through the diminution of the number of publicans' licences and the regulation of the trade of publicans. Now, with regard to the measure of the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther), there were two principal points in it. One was the retail of liquor by the grocers, and the other the diminution of the number of public-houses in proportion to the number of the population. He did not wish to say much about the sale of liquor by the grocers; but he would like to say one word as to the diminution of the public-houses. Many statistics had been brought before the House showing that there was not much relation between the number of public-houses and the population; and instances had even occurred where the number of public-houses had been diminished, but the amount of drunkenness had not diminished. He thought, however, other factors came into play in that question. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) in his speech last night showed that although on one night in Birmingham there were only 29 people taken up for drunkenness, it was ascertained that a very large number of people —700 men and 500 women—had entered 30 public-houses in the course of a few hours, and that a large proportion of them were drunk, although they did not come within the cognizance of the police. One of the evils caused by the undue number of public-houses was the excessive amount of retail dealing it brought about. Where the numbers were few a retail trade was beneficial, as producing useful competition; but when the numbers became excessive it brought about another description of traders, who were compelled by competition to decrease the price of the articles they sold, and compensate themselves by deteriorating the quality. Moreover, the more retail the trade the less the qualifications requisite for it. If this were so in all the retail trades, it was especially so in the publicans' trade. A much larger number of people embarked in the trade than there were legitimate means of making a profit for, and they were reduced 1907 at last to the necessity of cheating the public by selling liquor of an inferior quality. But this was not the worst—the publicans were able not only to sell a deteriorated article, but to adulterate the article in which they dealt in such a manner as to create an excessive desire for it. Therefore, they had more power than other retail dealers to force an enormous sale. That was the evil of an excessive retail trade in liquors. Now, with regard to the proportion of public-houses to the population, that was a more important matter. Statistics had been quoted, but they were almost worthless. He would put the case this way—Suppose it should suddenly happen that no man, woman, or child resident in Glasgow drank more than was good for him—why the publicans would be ruined. Did not this show that there was an enormous excess of public-houses and licensed grocers in Glasgow? The ratio of the facility to obtain liquor which was needful to the population, and the drinking which merely resulted in drunkenness, was exactly defined. The number of publicans who would be ruined would show exactly the number of unnecessary houses there were; and, per contra, he imagined that if they were to succeed in reducing the number of houses, the result would be that they would not pander to a desire for liquor in its injurious form, but would come to such a mean as would supply the rational wants of the people. Another point he had to urge was that with the enormous number of public-houses that existed, particularly in the small towns, it was impossible to supply police supervision. In Scotland, particularly in the villages, they had an admirable police force; but it was impossible that they could properly supervise the public-houses whilst there were so many of those places. In his own neighbourhood was a village of some 8,000 or 9,000 inhabitants. There were 50 public-houses — places for the retail of liquor — there, but the police force only numbered two or three men—that number being considered proportionate to the requirements of the neighbourhood. The result was that the publicans, licensed victuallers, and grocers were almost practically withdrawn from the supervision of the police; and though that body was effective in checking ordinary outrage and crime, it was almost impotent to check the large 1908 amount of drinking and drunkenness and continual breaking of the law of the publicans and the public. But there was one point which was the most melancholy of all in this matter. There was no Member of that House, whether he took a special interest in the question or not, who did not deeply deplore the intemperate habits of the people of this country. We were a byword amongst nations on account of this. There was no country in the world so prosperous as ours; there was no country with such extended power as we had; there was no country which had done so much for civilization as we had. But there was also another thing that was quite as true — that there was no country so much cursed by drunkenness and its attendant evils as this country, or that suffered so much from its attendant evil — pauperism. People would be astonished, were they to look back at the records of the last few months, to see how frequently the Judges on their circuits had pointed out that almost all the crime—the murders and open violence, the sin, the misery, the neglect and suffering within the family circle—was caused by the drinking habits of the people. Then, he asked, why was it we did not earnestly tackle the question? He put no blame on hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who sat on the other side of the House, nor on any one on his own—he said they were at this moment overshadowed by, as the hon. Member for Birmingham called it last night, an insolent power—the power of the licensed victuallers. Another great difficulty in their way was the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer derived a large proportion of his revenue from the drinking habits of the country. He supposed it was within the experience of every Member of the House who had gone through a contested election to have been "battered"—to borrow a word from the Secretary of State for War—with deputations. First, perhaps, there would come the advocates of temperance; then would come men of the other side, who, whilst claiming also to be the friends of temperance, would warn the candidate that if he took any of those steps which, as some believed, would tend to the prevention of drunkenness, they would vote against him, and otherwise do their best to prevent his return. He remembered the experience of a friend of his who, 1909 one evening during a contested election, worn and weary and "battered" with deputations, was waited upon by a party of gentlemen, about whom he was not sure whether they were publicans or the friends of sobriety. The spokesman entered into a very earnest expression of opinion in favour of temperance; and his friend, concluding that they were of the latter class, cut short the discussion by intimating that he was delighted to find that they were in favour of sobriety, and that he meant to do his best to favour their views. But to his surprise he was immediately warned that if he pledged himself to the support of any measures attacking the vested interests of the publicans they would vote against him. That was an exemplification of what frequently occurred at contested elections. There was, in fact, no one that dared invade the vested interests of the publicans—not that we were not ready to acknowledge the gigantic evils of drunkenness, but because of their unfortunate power and influence in the country — the growing power and influence which warped the best aspirations of the people, and exercised a most lamentable effect upon both the House and the country. Until the people were better educated they would not be able to pass a measure such as that now before the House. But the remedy would come some day, though not in the way expected by some. It would not come in the simple way of men being taught reading, and writing, and arithmetic, and geography; but it would come, when they came to be politically better educated, that the people would rise in indignation, and say to Parliament—" We trust to you, for you alone have the power to attack this great evil which has arisen in the land, and to provide us some protection against this unfortunate national vice of drunkenness."
§ SIR GRAHAM MONTGOMERY
wished to say, in reference to the plan now before the House, that he thought the time had not yet arrived when they ought to be called upon to express an opinion on the question of reducing the number of public-houses. Only last year an Act was passed for Scotland in reference to the sale of intoxicating liquors, the main object of which was this same one of reducing the number of public-houses. So, until the result 1910 of that measure had been ascertained, they were not, in his opinion, called upon to say "yea" or "nay" to the question involved in the present Bill. Then, again, there was another principle involved to which the House was scarcely prepared, he thought, to give assent—he meant the introduction of the ratepayer element. With reference to the grocers licences, he did not think they had sufficient information to enable them to deal with that subject. Before making up his mind he would like to know if it were really true, as was alleged, that grocers were in the habit of selling drink to women and children, and of allowing drinking in back rooms in an illegal manner. He was quite sure it was not the case with respectable grocers in Scotland — and that being so, he wanted to know why a law should be passed to the injury of the reputable members of the trade simply because there were some carrying on their business in an illegal manner. Before any legislation was attempted on this point there ought to be a full inquiry. As to the proposal that grocers should not be allowed to sell spirits except in a quart bottle closed and sealed, he considered that such a regulation would be a serious interference with the respectable members of the trade, and he did not see that they had any right to take away the privileges which they at present possessed until an abuse of those privileges had been proved against them. He knew that the question before the House had been investigated in times past, but he was not satisfied that the inquiry had been complete and sufficient.
§ MR. BAXTER
I think that the fact that both yesterday and to-day this House has been engaged in discussing the liquor question in itself sufficiently proves that there exists a very widespread feeling that the laws relating to the sale of intoxicating drink are not in a satisfactory condition, either in England or Scotland, and that they require amendment and amelioration. I am sure, too, that no one will grudge the time which has been spent in discussing this question—one socially the most important of the present day. I think that the more the whole matter is examined, the more will every candid mind be ready to admit that the difficulties and greater and greater as we proceed with our investigation. Now, I agree with 1911 my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure) on a few points. I agree with him that there is no more discreditable phase in the social life of this country than the great influence possessed by the publicans, and exercised especially at election times—and I, for one, should be inclined to join in any movement which would do anything to bring about the destruction of that influence. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) seems to think that Scotland has got some particular mode of its own for dealing with the question of excessive drinking, for he proposed to exempt that country from the operation of his measure. But that is not so; there is a widespread difference of opinion in Scotland as to the remedies best to be employed; but I may say that the Gothenburg system has more supporters there in proportion to the population than it has in England, because it is believed that if the scheme were adopted it would lead to a reduction in the number of public-houses, and that it would, to a great extent, prevent the exercise of publican influence at elections. I agree again with the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire that although it is impossible to make people sober by Act of Parliament, it is yet quite within the province of Parliament to make enactments which shall tend to improve the habits of the people. But that, of course, must be done with great care. We must be guided in all things by the past experience and the present circumstances of the country. Now, it is very long ago since I first began carefully to study this question, and, singularly enough, I began to study it in the State of Maine. I have travelled in that State when it was under the prohibitory law, and I have also seen the Prohibitory Liquor Law at work in other States of the Union—and I must candidly say, from what I saw, I cannot recommend its adoption in England. The effect in that country of attempting to do what is simply impossible—namely, the total prevention of the sale of liquor —is very visible and very lamentable. The Americans, on the other hand, have tried free-trade in liquors, but have found the results even worse than those of the Maine Law; and thus we are driven to the conclusion that the medium course wise one, and that a great deal of good may be done by a careful system of 1912 licensing restriction. There are people who say—and the doctrine is becoming more and more talked about—that the number of public-houses has nothing to do with the amount of drunkenness. I cannot say I agree with that conclusion; and, moreover, the weight of testimony is against it. All my sympathies are with the Bill of the hon. Member for Fifeshire, and I wish I could entirely support it; but a careful consideration of its details leads me to doubt the wisdom of his procedure at the present time. Last year we passed an Act constituting an entirely new licensing authority all over Scotland, and it was passed, not by narrow majorities, but with the consent of both parties in this House, and which was agreed to by persons holding all sorts of opinions as to the remedies that should be employed. For the very reason that the present Act was passed with such general assent, we may look forward to its producing beneficial results. I think that a great deal yet remains to be done; but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fifeshire that before we attempt anything else we should wait to see how the present law operates. But my objection does not end here; I am afraid that the proposed law would have a tendency to create vested interests, and I have a perfect horror of vested interests in this matter of the liquor trade, because they have already been the obstacles in the way of all measures tending to the good of the country. The hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire, in his interesting speech, did not really touch the principles of this Bill; and the hon. Member for Kirkcudbright (Mr. Maitland), in seconding the Motion for the second reading, actually said he did not agree with some of the provisions of the measure. It was said that under the Bill public-houses would be greatly reduced, and would be placed under proper restrictions. Now, I must confess that I do not like this system of referring everything to the votes of a majority. I do not think that we ought to take the vote of the inhabitants of a district as to the establishment of a particular public-house. I believe that such a system would give rise to canvassing and to much quarrelling, and to the improper exercise of influence on both sides; and this, as it appears to me, would be most dangerous to the local good government 1913 of the country. It is also proposed that grocers should not be permitted to sell liquor in smaller quantities than a quart bottle; and I have no doubt that a great deal may be said in favour of a change in this respect. In my younger days, when, probably, I was as enthusiastic as the hon. Member for Fifeshire now is, I drew up a Bill with this very object, but, being a little cautious, I took care to read all the evidence that could be found on the subject before even laying it upon the Table of the House. Now, I cannot quite agree with the hon. Member for Kirkcudbright that there is an absolute concurrence of opinion as to the evil done by the sale of liquor in grocers' shops. On the contrary, the more I have looked into this part of the subject the more evidence I found to strengthen the opposite conclusion. No doubt there are evils—very great evils—in the present system; but we have reason to believe that those evils are diminishing, and that the temptations offered by grocers' shops are not so strong as they are described to be. But on this I agree—that we want information before we commit ourselves to any legislation on this matter. There is one great danger which we must keep in view: if you alter the law you may attract to the public-houses, where liquor is sold on the premises, those women and servants and young people who now get their liquor from grocers' shops. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Fifeshire will not press his Bill in its present form—not that I have any sympathy with those who are opposed to any legislation at all; on the contrary—and I wish the Home Secretary would make a note of this—I believe that the time has come in Scotland for another step in advance in this question. Public opinion has been maturing very rapidly on this subject of late. The present Act in force there has proved so beneficial in its operation that no Scotch Member has ventured to propose any amendment or alteration in a retrograde sense; and, moreover, the working classes are now prepared to accept some further restrictions as to hours. The old hours of labour have been abridged, and in many cases the labour itself is not so excessive as it used to be, and the working classes have derived great advantages, physical and moral, from the operation of the present law. There was at one time no 1914 greater curse in Scotland than the morning dram of whisky; but that has been in a great measure abolished by the regulation which does not permit public-houses to open before 8 A.M. I would suggest whether it is not worth consideration that some investigation should be made for the purpose of testing the opinion of the people of Scotland as to taking another step in advance in the way of restricting the hours of sale. The Government, I think, after seeing how the new Licensing Authority works, would do well to consider whether by the appointment of a Select Committee or a Royal Commission they should not test the opinion of the people of Scotland in favour of still further restrictions. I am not, as I have said, strongly opposed to the Bill, and if an investigation be entered upon, it should be under the authority of the Secretary of State.
SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSONI
I do not propose to contest the principle laid down by the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure), and repeated by the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), that we are bound to endeavour, as far as we can, to restrict by Act of Parliament so great an injury to the country as the drunkenness that is acknowledged to prevail. But, Sir, I will point out to the hon. and gallant Member that what he has quoted with regard to the Factory Acts, and our having taken steps already to limit the action of people under those Acts for the benefit of the women and children in the country, is exactly the system with which we have proceeded in treating the licensing question. Taking the licensing trade out of all other trades, because we feel that it is capable of being injurious to the people, we have said that therefore it requires regulations and restrictions of a very severe kind; and the character of the whole legislation dealing with this question in the past has been to strengthen those restrictions, in order, if possible, from them to produce the results we all desire to bring about. I do not wish to rely upon the evidence of statistics as to the relation between the increase in the number of public-houses and the increase of drunkenness, for so much must be eliminated from the consideration of the question, and so much depends upon the character of a district, upon the nature of the employment and 1915 the amount of wages, that it is utterly impossible upon figures, showing so many houses and so many convictions, to come to any conclusion as to the relative connection of the one with the other. But with regard to this Bill of the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther), he will remember, as I do, that in the measure he introduced to the House last year there were some points to which, from my own previous convictions on the subject, I gave a hearty concurrence. Ever since, for instance, I took an interest in the subject I have said that I believed that the permissive sale of spirits by grocers throughout the country was one which affected prejudicially our licensing system, and I said that, on the ground which I have always maintained, that the number of people who formerly went to public-houses to procure this sort of intoxicating liquor has been marvellously increased through the facilities that were offered to them when they went out to make their purchases. I never can believe but that when people go out for the legitimate purpose of buying tea, coffee, or other groceries, and have spirits put before them, and if they are, as we are so often told, offered these spirits and have them pressed upon them by the shopkeepers, it must tend very much to increase drinking in private houses. And if we turn to the question of Scotland I think the argument is even stronger, because there the law allows the grocer to sell by glasses instead of in closed bottles. It is quite true that the law provides that the liquor so sold shall not be consumed on the premises; but will any hon. Member tell me that that is a law which is absolutely carried out, or that the facilities for pressing a glass upon the customer and consuming it in secret in the shop is not by far more frequent than the drinking carried on in other places? I believe myself—and I am only speaking my own individual feeling on this question—that the system of spirit selling by grocers has been prejudicial to the domestic history of that country. I believe a part of the grocers' licensing system introduced in this country—that is, the sale of light wine and beer inclosed in vessels—may not be so prejudicial; and perhaps even the spirits sold in bottles, as proposed in this Bill, might not be so prejudicial; but that is not 1916 what I, speaking for myself alone, should like to see carried out. But having said thus much on my own account with regard to a subject in which I have taken the greatest interest, and on which I really believe the question of repression of drunkenness very much hinges, I will only say further that, as long as the law remains as it is, no restrictions will enable you to diminish, as you would like, the number of licensed houses in the country, for, in fact, grocers' shops would practically take the place of public-houses. As soon as you reduce the number of public-houses the grocers will spring up and take their places, and they can obtain their licence on easier terms than the publican can. They have to fulfil certain conditions as to character and the rateable value of their houses, and on those conditions being fulfilled the grant of a licence is unconditional and absolute. Consequently the grocer, as long as he remains a seller of spirits, will take the place of a public-house wherever you reduce the number in a district. But agreeing with the hon. Baronet as I do in his efforts at least to diminish the sale of spirits by a class of traders who I do not think ought to be entrusted with the sale of this particular article, there are clauses and parts of his Bill to which, as he is quite aware, I have before objected, and to which I must allude. The clause, which would enforce in all districts a limit of houses to the population has always, as he is aware, met with opposition from me. I oppose that clause because I believe it would be perfectly unworkable. I believe by it you never can test in any way the proper amount of accommodation required in a district; and I will mention to the House one or two cases which I think bear that out. The case of Brighton in this country is one in which, if you limited the number of houses to the absolute population belonging to the town itself, the accommodation would be utterly inadequate to the amount required for the enormous mass of people who flow into that town during certain seasons of the year. The same may be said of almost every watering place in this country. But taking the other side, and looking at the number of places which would be absolutely prevented having any house at all if the proposed limit of houses to 1917 population was agreed to: take the case of Pitlochrie, in Scotland, where the population amounts to only about 200 people, and yet during two or three months in the summer that population is swollen to about 2,000. Or take the case of Bolton Abbey in England. At some periods of the year there are hardly any residents there at all—certainly not more than 200—and yet at certain times the influx of people there is so great that it would be impossible to limit the number of houses to population in the way the hon. Baronet has proposed. But I have, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose has also stated—I have the strongest possible objection to another clause in the Bill, and that is the clause which will make it necessary that the consent of a majority of the people within a given distance should be obtained before a house could obtain a licence. Sir, I believe that clause to be fraught with every possible inconvenience. In the first place, who is to decide by whom the 500 yards are to be fixed? How would you arrive at the conclusion that a man who lived just outside that distance had not a far greater interest for or against a public-house being opened than anyone living within the 500 yards? But the particular ground on which I object to it is that it would lead to every sort of corruption. The parties pro and con. the application for a publichouse would be working these inhabitants, bribing them, and doing everything to foment discord amongst them before the case came to he heard by the magistrates. These people have at the present moment power to take the necessary steps to oppose the granting of licences. Our existing law says that any inhabitant is to be heard before the justices, and memorials presented to the justices will be considered on their merits; so that the inhabitants have the opportunity of stating their case, and, if they can prove it, of getting a licence refused. Now, it has been said that the Act which was passed last year is a reason for staying legislation on the present occasion; and to a certain extent I agree with that. I must, however, point out that that Act does not go so far as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose imagines; because what that Act really set up was, as he says, a new licensing authority; and it made that licensing 1918 authority subject to the approval of a Licensing Committee, similar to the English system under the Act of 1874. But the weak part is, as I have pointed out, with regard to the grocers' licences proposed to be dealt with. These grocers' licences are practically outside the Bill of last year. They are, from the conditions on which they must be granted, in England as well as in Scotland, practically outside the jurisdiction of the magistrates for any beneficial purpose of restriction; and, therefore, I do not believe that the measure of last year really affects this question as much as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose seems to suppose. At the same time, I admit there is much force in what has fallen from him with regard to the necessity for more time. Last year I pointed out to the hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Anstruther) that he had made this proposal without placing before the House any facts with regard to the allegations about drinking in grocers' houses. I myself, having strong feelings on this question, have endeavoured to collect evidence upon it; but numerous as the statements of the evils are, I have never been able to get any practical cases brought before me. I am aware of the difficulty of getting such practical cases, and, if anything, those difficulties strengthen the argument which has been used, that some further inquiry by proper authority should take place in order to test those allegations. Individually, my feelings are strongly in favour of portions of the Bill of the hon. Baronet; but it contains so many clauses to which I should certainly give my strongest opposition that it would limit the Bill almost to Clause 5, which relates to grocers' licences, and under those circumstances I think the hon. Baronet would exercise a wise discretion in not forcing it upon the House without a little more information than we at present possess with regard to what I believe to be the strongest part of his Bill.
§ MR. M'LAREN
My hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir Graham Montgomery) began by urging the necessity of additional information, and that has been conditionally assented to by the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department. Now, I never object to inquiry on any subject, and I should be delighted to get more information than 1919 we now possess; but I believe there is a great deal of information within our reach if we only take the trouble to look at it. There is a most interesting and instructive little book that came out within the last fortnight, called the Report of the Inland Revenue Commissioners, and I would urge hon. Members who want information on this subject to take up that book, and spend half-an-hour in skimming the pages that refer to the consumption of spirits—and let me tell them, as an inducement to do so, that they will not find it all dry reading. The Commissioners have been unusually particular in analyzing the consumption of spirits, not merely in the United Kingdom, but in the several portions of the Kingdom, and comparing them. I think the great cause of lamentation is that the quantity consumed, both of beer and spirits, has gone on annually increasing—not merely in proportion to the population, but far beyond it. Sir, this little book gives the consumption of beer per inhabitant of the United Kingdom 10 years ago, as compared with the present time. Ten years ago it was 29 gallons per individual, and it is now 35 gallons. I do not speak alone of male adult persons—I include every child at the breast, as well as the most aged toper in the Kingdom. Every man, woman, and child is included. The consumption of spirits 10 years ago was less than one gallon per head—the actual quantity was .963 of a gallon. Now the quantity consumed is nearly 1 and a-third of a gallon per head (1.289). That is a very great increase of consumption, and something ought to be done to try to check it. If you look at the analysis, you will find that in England the quantity consumed is 1⅛ gallon per head; in Scotland, 2 and rather more than a-third per head; while Ireland consumes 1 and rather more than a-third per head. You will see that my countrymen evidently come in for a great deal of blame for the consumption of ardent spirits. But if you look at the column of beer, you will find the tables turned, and proof indubitable that the consumption of alcohol —including that in the beer—is much greater in England than in either Scotland or Ireland. Ten years ago the consumption was 37 gallons per head in England, and it is now upwards of 43 gallons. Now, Scotland consumes in the shape of beer only 12 gallons a-head, and 1920 Ireland 14 gallons per head. And the consumption of beer in Scotland has decreased from 13 gallons to 12 gallons; but in Ireland it has nearly doubled, having 10 years ago been only 7¾ gallons. With regard to the subject of illicit distillation, of course the more of it that goes on the more do the parties carrying it on drink, though they seem to drink less. The only difference is, that a large quantity of the whisky drunk has not paid duty. I find that the detections in England, as stated by the Commissioners, were only 8, in Scotland 1, and in Ireland 796. I think you may take one case of detection to represent ten cases of illicit distillation; and though Ireland seems to consume a great deal less whisky than Scotland, yet it by no means follows that Ireland does not drink much whisky without paying duty for it. Now, a great deal has been said about the grocers' licences, and it has been assumed that all grocers are against the restrictions proposed in the Bill of the hon. Member for Fife-shire; but such is by no means the case. Two years ago I presented a Petition agreed to at a meeting of the most respectable grocers of Edinburgh, signed, I think, by some 80 or 90 petitioners, who prayed that the separation of the two trades might be entire and complete. I have just one word to say further, and that is about the cost of licences. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not present—but perhaps some little bird may give a hint to him which will be worthy of his consideration. Sir, when the Forbes-Mackenzie Act was passed, Mr. Wilson, the then Secretary to the Treasury, introduced a new schedule, and said that it was intended to make it apply to England and Ireland in the succeeding Session. But to this day nothing has been done in this direction, and I will show you the injustice that now exists. A licensed house of £10 rated in England and Ireland pays £2 4s. 1d.; in Scotland it pays £4 4s. A house from £20 to £25 in England and Ireland pays £6 12s. 3d.; in Scotland, £9 9s. A house at from £30 to £40 pays here and in Ireland £8 16s. 4d., in Scotland £10 10s., and while rating is the rule in the sister Kingdoms, the real rent is taken in Scotland—thus increasing the injustice. Scotland has been made the subject of an experiment, which has answered tolerably 1921 well—that is to say, there has been no grumbling about it—but I expect that is because it is not known how the publicans in England and Ireland are favoured. The hint that I would give to the Chancellor of the Exchequer is that equal justice should be done in all parts of Her Majesty's dominions. There should be no fiscal law saying that the Scotchman shall pay so much and the Englishman and the Irishmen so much. They ought to pay the same, and I would point out by this equalization an increased revenue of £1,750,000 might accrue to the revenue of the country. But I will go further. A house that would be worth £2,000 without a licence would be worth £3,000 with a licence, and in many parts of the Kingdom the value would be doubled. The State, in effect, through the Licensing Authorities, gives a bounty of £1,000 or more to the owner when they give his house a licence, and I think the State is entitled to take something in return for that present—they should not merely levy a licence duty on the seller of beer and spirits, but they might demand a still larger payment from the owner, the value of whose property they have enhanced 50 per cent. I was much surprised to hear an hon. Member say he did not believe that grocers' licences materially conduced to the increase of drunkenness. If the hon. Member had inquired into the operation of the system in the poorer neighbourhoods, he would have found that every additional licence granted becomes a mission station for promoting evil of every kind. Everyone who starts in this line tries to create a business for his shop, and there is not the slightest doubt that the licensing of grocers greatly tends to increase drunkenness. For the reasons I have stated, Sir, I approve of the Bill of the hon. Baronet, but I shall be quite prepared to see some of the Amendments which have been suggested adopted in Committee, and some of the clauses left out. I hope, however, that the clause which relates to grocers' licences will not be objected to by Her Majesty's Government, as being, in my humble opinion, of inestimable value.
§ SIR WILLIAM CUNINGHAME
said, he would not detain the House at any length, but he wished particularly to call attention to the fact that while the hon. Member for Peebles 1922 (Sir Graham Montgomery) thought it desirable that further information should be obtained before the House embarked in legislation with respect to grocers' licences, the interesting statistics which had been quoted by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) did not bear at all on that question, but merely showed to what extent the consumption of spirituous liquors had increased in late years. While, like the hon. Member for Peebles and the right hon. Member for Montrose, he objected to that part of the Bill which dealt with grocers' licences, he approved of the measure as a whole, and would vote in its favour. The clause bearing upon grocers' licences he considered to be merely one of detail, which could be amended in Committee. He approved of the Bill, because he considered it an assertion of the principle that the number of public-houses through the country ought to be decreased, and it appeared to him that the only plan for carrying out that object was the one recommended by the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire. He thought it would be an immense advantage to have the number of public-houses diminished, and that not only would it tend to reduce drunkenness but it would be for the advantage of publicans themselves because if some of the houses were dosed, the trade of the remaining houses would be increased; and thus the better class of publicans would be able to improve their houses, and would not be so likely to fall into the temptation of providing bad liquor and allowing irregularities. That appeared to him to be a strong argument in favour of the Bill. He would not dwell much on the temperance part of the question, because he very much doubted whether the decrease of drunkenness brought about by diminishing the number of the public-houses would be as great as the author of the Bill imagined; but he thought the advantage derived from reducing the number of public-houses would be so great that he should support the Bill merely on that account, and he thought that when some amendment had been made in the scale as to the proportion of public-houses to the population, the measure would be a very good one. It was obvious that the scale must be altered, because one scale would clearly not be suitable for the whole country. In rural 1923 districts, for instance, the scale proposed by the hon. Baronet would create a monopoly which certainly would not be to the advantage of the consumer. With regard to grocers' licences, the same advantage was not likely to result as in the case of public-houses. If they diminished the number of grocers' licences, it by no means followed that the quantity of liquor sold by the grocers would be decreased. People did not send to the grocers for liquor by accident. In many cases reducing the number of those licences, so far from being an advantage, would be a great disadvantage, as women and children sent out at night to get spirits might have to go considerable distances in order to obtain it. A great deal might be said in favour of taking away grocers' licences altogether. He thought the granting of them originally was a mistake; but it had been done, and it was questionable whether it could be undone; because, although it might be denied by some that there were vested interests in the matter, he did not believe that 'the House generally would take that view. He should be glad to see the hon. Baronet drop the grocers out of the Bill altogether, for it did not seem to him that the two trades were at all on the same lines. He certainly agreed with the hon. Member for Peebles that Parliament ought not to legislate until abuses were really proved to exist. When the Bill was in Committee he should propose an Amendment with regard to grocers' licences. On the grounds he had stated he should vote for the second reading of the Bill, believing that if it was amended in Committee in the direction he had indicated it would be a useful measure.
§ VISCOUNT MACDUFF
said, that if his hon. Friend the Member for Fife-shire (Sir Robert Anstruther), who had introduced this Bill, intended to go to a division, he regretted that he should not be able to give him his vote; for although he would yield to no man in his desire to further the cause of temperance, he could not see that that object would be obtained by this Bill. The limitation of licences to an arbitrary number of the population seemed to him to be a principle which would be more fruitful of discord than productive of temperance. He thought that the framers of the 3rd clause could hardly have thoroughly considered the power of local influ- 1924 ence in small towns; for it seemed to him that that clause contained a principle which would keep small places in an eternal tempest. Each district would witness the constant struggle of would-be publicans, and clever canvassers in their employ would demoralise the place in their ceaseless intrigues to mould the opinions of the community. In a word, the Bill seemed to him to be an attempt to introduce into Scotland, under a faint disguise, the Permissive Bill, which, in spite of able advocacy, had always been defeated by large majorities in that House. If the hon. Members who promoted this Bill were in favour of that principle, why should they introduce it by a side-wind into Scotland, when they would have full opportunities of supporting the Permissive Bill itself, the gist of which was so well known to the country? As to grocers' licences, he was bound to confess that the 5th clause would be productive of good results, and it would assimilate the law to that of England—the present undesirable practice on the part of every small grocer retailing spirits would be done away with, thereby putting an end to some of the sources of drunkenness which now prevailed. But why, to secure this alteration—which, after all, was little more than a police arrangement — introduce a principle which, he ventured to think, could never be found to work? If his hon. Friend had confined his efforts to prevent grocers from retailing spirits in small quantities, he should have willingly given him his support. He believed that a certain number of Petitions had reached that House, and he had himself presented two in favour of the Bill; but they had chiefly emanated from excellent and earnest reformers, whose efforts to promote their good work led them so far that they sometimes failed to consider the practical difficulties in the way of carrying their principles into law. Some had even said to him—" Never mind what principle is introduced, but vote for any Bill which is a protest against drinking." He thought that a most astounding doctrine, and although it might have been a very convenient one for the supporters of the startling proposals of last night, it was one to which he, for one, could not subscribe. But he was well aware that in many parts of Scotland this question had excited a 1925 good deal of interest; and therefore he would not by recording his vote against the Bill stand in the way of his hon. Friend's efforts to improve their licensing laws, if he saw his way towards doing so. His hon. Friend's object was one with which he greatly sympathized; but his means, he feared, were powerless to attain it, and to some extent they were objectionable. Therefore, at the present stage of the question, which he had always thought to be one surrounded with the greatest difficulty, if his hon. Friend pressed his Bill to a division, ho should not take part in it.
§ MR. ORR EWING
Were this not a very grave subject it would be somewhat amusing to watch the course of well-intentioned people who bring in Bill after Bill, year after year, for regulating the habits as to drink of the lower classes of Scotland. We have had four Acts of Parliament passed from the year 1828 up to 1876. A very good measure was passed last Session by the senior Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), but during that time I presume I do not exaggerate when I say that we might multiply that number by a hundred to represent the Bills brought in. What has been the result? Total failures. We were informed last night by the junior Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) that the consumption of spirituous liquors had increased by 40 per cent in the last 15 years; and in a paper which has been put into the hands of Members a similar statement is made. But, Sir, these attempts at legislation are not confined to this century, for we find that they have been going on for the last three centuries. Is it not strange that these well-intentioned people, knowing these facts, will not re-consider their line of action and their policy, admit that what they have hitherto done has been a total failure, and ask themselves the cause? The cause, Sir, is not difficult to find. The cause is that it is impossible by Act of Parliament to make a people either sober, virtuous, or religious. The only kind of legislation which would effect that purpose would be an Act which would prohibit the manufacture of spirituous liquors altogether, and stop their importation. But no hon. Member has ever thought of attempting to pass a measure such as that. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir 1926 Wilfrid Lawson) acts upon a different principle. We know that in his own social life he consistently acts the self-denying part, and takes nothing himself; but I do not think I am committing any breach of social etiquette when I say that I believe at no table in this great city shall you find wine of every sort in greater abundance or of better quality. When I look across the House at the benign countenance of the right hon. the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), who stated in this House that the corks were never out of his bottles, and see his ruddy cheeks and remember the noble sport to which he is so much addicted, I sometimes question to myself when he has landed a noble salmon from one of the beautiful rivers in our romantic glens, whether when he bands out to his gillies that without which they could not exist, he does not also, to warm his blood and nerve his hand for the next noble fish, also take a little drop himself of our national drink. I should like to ask, as a representation has been made that drunkenness has increased in Scotland, whether drunkenness has increased in Scotland with the increased consumption of spirits, wine, and beer? The statistics show that the consumption has slightly increased, allowing for the increase in the population; but I must remind the House that until the last 30 or 40 years illicit distillation was carried on to an enormous extent in Scotland, and therefore you cannot with any accuracy compare the statistics as to the consumption of spirits in Scotland then and now. I would like to ask whether the consumption of spirits has increased in anything like a proportion with the increase in other luxuries of life—such, for instance, as tea and sugar. I do not think it has. The consumption of tea in 1845, when our beneficent policy of Free-trade commenced, was 1½ lb per head of the population; it is now 4½ lb —an increase of 300 per cent. The consumption of sugar, again, has increased since 1845 from 19 lb to 65 lb now—or nearly 400 per cent increase. Thus the increase in the consumption of spirituous liquors is not at all in proportion to the increase in the consumption of these and other luxuries. While we have increased the consumption, however, there has not been an increase in drunkenness, for the increase has legitimately arisen from the 1927 greater wealth enjoyed by all classes of society. I believe that drunkenness has greatly decreased in Scotland, but the consumption has nevertheless increased —and it is because the people are living more generously. They take spirits more regularly and have a small quantity in each day, instead of taking large quantities at times as they used to do. It is said that in the society of the upper and middle classes now-a-days you rarely see a drunken man. It is very true; but I question much whether the consumption of spirituous liquors by the upper and middle classes has not increased beyond that of the working classes. Our forefathers had not the opportunity for the frequent social intercourse that we have, and this explains the change. We now have social meetings every day, instead of as formerly once or twice a-month; and I believe that the working classes, under the influence of their excellent temperance societies and the Good Templars, are greatly improving in their habits, and will continue to improve. This I know as concerns my own workpeople—that when I began business there was seldom for a day or two after pay-day that we were not troubled by people who were so drunk that they were unfit for work. At the present moment the thing is of the rarest occurrence, and I think you may judge from my experience that the habits of the working classes are greatly improved. The only part of the Bill of my hon. Friend of which I approve is the 5th clause, which I certainly think would be an improvement on our present system of grocers' licences. I highly approve of those licences, and think they are the least offensive kind of licences we can have; but I think it is objectionable that they should have power to sell spirits openly, for they may be tempted by a good customer coming in to sell spirits over the counter, and so to break the law. Very frequently, I know, grocers lose their licences in that way, and therefore I am of opinion that no grocer should be allowed to sell spirits, wine, or beer, except in bottles, sealed. I rather differ with the hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Anstruther) as to limiting it to so large a quantity as one-sixth of a gallon. I think it should be one-twelfth of a gallon, and if he will do that I will support that part of his Bill. I cannot support any other part of it. At one time I was 1928 of opinion that licences should be restricted to some such number as that he stated—of one in 500. But my experience in the burgh of Dumbarton has changed that. There they have an energetic body of magistrates, and they not only confine the public-houses to one in 500, but have also induced the publicans of that ancient burgh to close at 10 o'clock. What was the result? Was there any good result at all? Not at all. I believe that the drunkenness of that burgh is as great as ever it was—I believe that it is perhaps one of the most dissipated burghs we have in the West of Scotland. Our experience there only shows how difficult it is to restrain people's habits. I read an account of the last meeting of magistrates for granting licences. I was amused and struck by the remarks of the Baillies in giving them. They complimented the publicans on the honest way in which they had fulfilled their promise to shut at 10 o'clock—an hour earlier than the time to which the law allows them to keep open. But they said—" We highly disapprove the custom of giving out bottles of whisky just as 10 o'clock strikes. The consequence is that the people drink the whisky in the streets, or in their own homes, instead of in your houses, and we have greater disturbances than we had before." This shows you cannot restrain people by legislation if they have the desire. I would like to ask the hon. Baronet whether he was not greatly struck with the observation of the junior Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) in giving his statistics last night, that in Birmingham there was a licence for every 40 people. Does he not think his proposal too great a difference between England and Scotland?
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. He has made a mistake. I think the hon. Member said one house in 40.
§ MR. ORR EWING
Well, I understood it was one in 40 persons. From the statement placed in our hands, we find the number of licences given to the principal towns in Scotland is one in175, one in 244, one in 231, one in 252. Has the hon. Gentleman any information as to the sobriety of these four towns? Is Dundee, the lowest, more sober than Aberdeen, with one licence to every 175 inhabitants, or Glasgow, or Edinburgh? 1929 I question it very much indeed. Does he think that restricting a licence to one in 500 will have any effect on people if he leaves us any public-house at all? Would it be likely to make any alteration in the habits of the people? I think it is perfectly fallacious to suppose so. I have no objection to restriction, but I would not place it at one in 500. In towns, instead of having more licences, I think there should be fewer, because there people can easily get what they want; but in the country one in 500 would not do. You might go 20 miles in Argyllshire without finding that number of people. For my part, I think it would be a very good thing if you could abolish them altogether. But, at the same time, so long as you have them, you cannot restrain the people. In face of the statistics we have heard quoted, I would be inclined to support any Bill which would improve the state of matters; and if I thought this Bill would do this in the slightest degree, it should have my hearty vote; but such is not my opinion. Anyone who heard the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham last night, and the picture he drew of the industrial classes in that town, must have felt an anxious desire to do anything to remedy that fearful state of things. But while I do not believe the remedy is to be found in Acts of Parliament, I believe we shall do what we wish by moral persuasion. I have the greatest confidence in the influence of temperance societies, of Good Templars, of the pulpit, and of schools—not schools from which the Bible is banished, but schools in which religious teaching is given—schools which make the Bible the Book of Books and the foundation of conduct. I believe that as a nation cannot make itself free without itself striking the blew, so neither can a people become sober or virtuous except by being instructed in their youth in those great principles of self-denial, of temperance, of faith, hope, and charity, which are to be found in that Book, and which I am sorry to say the School Board of Birmingham have excluded from their schools.
§ MR. ANDERSON
I hope the admirable suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh will not be lost upon the Lord Advocate or 1930 the Home Secretary. As to the equalizing of the excise duties between the three countries, the injustice is even greater than as stated by my hon. Friend, because, while in Scotland the charge is upon real rents, in England and Ireland it is upon the valued or rate rent. The Lord Advocate told us the other day we had nothing to complain of in Scotland; but we do make complaints, and I would like to impress upon him that our complaint is not entirely of want of legislation, it is also on account of the unfair discrepancies in taxes and in many other matters. We have never had a Lord Advocate who has had sufficient influence or ability to be able to save us from these things, and the present Lord Advocate has a great opportunity before him, if he will take up this matter. This is by no means the only one, for there are many others in which Scotland is unfairly dealt with, both in the money taken from her in taxation, and in the money given back. I think it quite idle to say anything to the House about the evils of drunkenness, but when my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshir e described them in glowing terms, and concluded by recommending this Bill, I am bound to say that I thought it a most impotent conclusion, as the Bill is not of such a character as would be likely to do any great amount of good. When the hon. Member for Fifeshire introduced the Bill a few years ago it was really a good Bill, and I was willing to support it at that time. The principal part of that Bill contained proposals similar to those which we were discussing last night, but since then the hon. Baronet has eliminated all the best part of his Bill, and it comes before us now as it did last year, as a very poor and small measure; and I suppose he was deterred from including in his Bill the Gothenburg plan for the same reasons that the hon. Member for Birmingham explained last night, when he said he believed that we Scotch were so deeply interested in proposals of our own that we would not be reformed except by plans of our own. But as regards the Gothenburg plan, I believe it would be far easier in Scotland than in England, because in Scotland the licence is a personal matter to the man who holds it, and therefore he only has a vested interest; but in England you have not 1931 only the holder of that licence but the brewer, who is the real proprietor, and the licence appertains not to the individual, but to the house itself, and therefore the vested interest is more complete. That makes the question much more difficult to deal with in England. We in Scotland can deal with it with much greater facility, and I believe the people of Scotland are more nearly ready for its adoption than the people of England are. This Bill proposes to reduce licences to one in every 500 of the population. If that be a good thing at all it is clearly a thing for local regulation, and it is not a thing which can be put in an Act of Parliament to apply to the whole country equally, because what suits one place will not suit every other. But I doubt whether it is a good thing, because the effect of it will be to create a more strong and a more wealthy vested interest than that which exists, and therefore an interest which will be found more difficult ultimately to deal with. It works in a way which is most prejudicial to the communities. If you take two houses absolutely equal in building cost, and give one a licence while the other has none, the one is worth about twice as much as the other. Why should a man, merely because he owns a house where drink is sold, have his property made infinitely more valuable by a State-created monopoly than that of a man who owns a grocer's, tailor's, or any other shop? I say that when the State creates a monopoly of this sort, the State should secure for the people of the country the benefits of that monopoly, and should not give it to any individual whatever. It is for that reason that I approve of the Gothenburg system more than any other proposal that has been suggested. As regards municipalities in Scotland, this regulation as to one in every 500 of the population is absolutely unnecessary, because the Bill passed last year really gives the whole power of licensing into the hands of the electors; and all the electors have to do is to elect town councillors, who would elect magistrates, who would give them as few licences as they want. If, therefore, there is any need at all, it can only be in the counties, where the magistrates are not elected. Then, with regard to the restrictions of the 5th clause, about grocers selling smaller quantities' than one quart, the effect of limiting the 1932 quantity to that amount will either be to compel poor people to buy a much larger quantity than they need, and keep it open in their houses, or it will compel them to send their children or wives to public-houses to get drink when they wanted only small quantities. There is something good in the proposal, and if the hon. Member would limit it to a bottle, without naming any size, the difficulty and expense of bottling would, I think, be a sufficient check upon the quantity sold, and upon tippling in the shop. The small bottles, such as are used regularly at railway refreshment-rooms, should not be prohibited. A good deal has been said about the statistics of drunkenness; they are utterly worthless as regards the comparison of two different places, because they depend entirely upon the instructions given to the police in those places. I should like to tell the Home Secretary something that came under my notice in London three weeks ago. I was walking along Victoria Street and saw a woman so helplessly drunk that she could not walk. She fell down within 20 yards of a policeman, and became very violent and troublesome. The policeman never looked at her, and when I appealed to him and to another policeman, he said his orders were never to interfere with people who were merely drunk. In Glasgow or anywhere in Scotland the persons would have been taken to the station-house, and would have appeared in the statistics among the drunk and incapable, and that is how the statistics are made up. Here in London, by giving orders to the police to ignore all these cases, you may make your City appear beautifully virtuous and sober; whereas in Scotland, where all drunken persons are taken up, the statistics make it appear really worse than we are. I think there is something to be said about the restriction of hours and the necessity of further inquiry. I think it is possible that the people of Scotland are now ripe for some further restriction of hours, and if the Government would make some inquiry into that, and also into the effect of the grocers' licences, I think some good might be done. I have very little doubt myself that, at least in many parts of Scotland, it would be found that the people approved of a further limitation of hours, and that that 1933 would do some practical good; but I see no practical good in this Bill, and therefore I feel bound to oppose it.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
This Bill has two or three different proposals in it, and I should be glad to say two or three words in explanation of the feelings which I entertain towards it. I confess that the two propositions in the 3rd and 4th clauses appear to me to be entirely unnecessary. I object entirely to the proposition that 500 persons in the rural districts require nearly the same amount of inn accommodation as persons in a more thickly populated town, and I entirely object to leaving the number of public-houses to any popular vote. Such a law would, I think, be extremely disadvantageous to the public peace. I demur entirely to the statement that there is no improvement in the condition of Scotland as regards intemperance. I will give a little bit of evidence on the point which may perhaps present a different view of the case from that which is entertained by some hon. Members. I went to sea some 43 years ago, and of course in the early part of my service I only revisited my native country occasionally. When I went to sea every bargain in the market town was settled with a dram, and one knew pretty well who would be the worse for liquor, for it was naturally to be supposed that everybody would be so. By-and-by, when in the course of a few years I returned, it was not known who would be the worse for liquor. It was known that a number of persons would be so, but the proportion was unknown. It was an unknown quantity. Now it is again the case that, as of old, it is exactly known who will be the worse for liquor, but that is because they are merely a few recognized topers in the district who always get the worse for liquor, and who will continue to get the worse for liquor whatever regulations you impose. The character of our countrymen is traduced when it is said the condition of Scotland now is the same as it was 43 years ago, and that after all the legislation on the subject of intemperance, and the education of the people, the habits and customs of the people have not improved in that respect. I differ, therefore, from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fife in regard to the 3rd and 4th clauses of his Bill. But if we come to the 5th clause, I am entirely at one with 1934 him. It may be necessary that there should be further inquiry, but I cannot conceive why the grocers' licence in Scotland should permit the sale of smaller quantities of liquor in their shops than are sold in this country. It seems to me that when a woman goes to a grocer's shop to buy her coffee, tobacco, or snuff, or whatever article she may require, it is impossible to conceive that she will not, in a largo number of cases, get her discount in intoxicating liquors. I know that according to law it should not be consumed on the premises, but will any hon. Gentleman connected with Scotland tell me that it is not? Is he quite sure that the thimbleful of liquor, given as discount, is not swallowed, I will not say at the counter, but at some conceivable place, which in the conscience of the two parties may be conceived to be "not on the premises? "That I conceive to be the worst system which could be legalized for teaching many persons whom we do not want to be made drunken to go drinking at improper hours and in improper places. If the hon. Member for Fifeshire would take the 3rd and 4th clauses out of his Bill, and put it before the House with the proposal of the 5th clause pure and simple, he would have my earnest support. Perhaps the Lord Advocate will do the House the favour of instructing it as to his opinion of the best method of advancing this part of the Bill for the benefit of the country—whether by some mode of inquiry, or by introducing some specific Bill, to carry out this clause, which I believe would be to the advantage of the country. I am sorry to have interposed between the House and Scotch Members proper, who have much more right than I have to address the House on this subject; but having some experience of Scotland, I thought I might make some of these remarks with advantage.
§ MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN
said, he did not think the hon. and gallant Member who had just sat down (Sir John Hay) had any need to excuse himself for placing his valuable opinion before the House in a Scotch debate. But in what he had said, he had followed the general rule of this discussion. It must have been remarked by every one present that no one had got up in support of this Bill who did not propose to throw over at least one-half of it. Even his 1935 hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcudbrightshire (Mr. Maitland), who so clearly stated its provisions, indulged in the very faintest praise of some of the extreme provisions of the Bill, and since his speech, it must have been observed that, as a rule, so surely as a speaker was in favour of amending in some way the respecting grocers' licences, he was law against the restriction of the number of public-houses; and so surely as he was in favour of restricting public-houses, he wished the clause relating to grocers' licences left out of the Bill. Now, these were the two main provisions of the Bill. It proposed with regard to licences to suspend the granting of further licences, and it proposed to do so, as stated in the Preamble of the Bill, until further legislation was proposed on the question; but, as stated in the enacting clauses, they were to be suspended until the licences came down to a certain proportron to the inhabitants. These two views of the matter appeared to be somewhat inconsistent. With regard to a suspensory Bill, depending upon future legislation, he would say, with deference to his hon. Friend, that Parliament had not been in the habit of passing suspensory Bills unless there were some definite and precise promise or intention on the part of Government or Parliament to legislate; and that to suspend the operation of our ordinary laws in the expectation that possibly at some time or other some legislation would take place was entirely unknown in any Bill to which the assent of this House had been asked. Then the Bill more definitely proposed a rule of one licence to 500 inhabitants. Now he did not think it was necessary to add anything to what had been said on that point by his hon. Friend who spoke from the Treasury Bench (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson). It was quite obvious that the circumstances of the different districts varied so much that to lay down a sort of Procrustean bed and try to fit all parts of the country to it would be a cause of great inconvenience, inequality, and injustice. Then there was great force also, he thought, in much that had been said in regard to the creation of vested interests. There was some weight also to be attributed to the fact that it would create inequality as between holders of licences. For instance, in some cases the holder of a 1936 licence would be able to dispose of the goodwill of his business, while in others, the limit having been reached, he would not be able to do so. It appeared to him there were the greatest difficulties in the way of Parliament laying down a general rule of this kind applicable to the whole of Scotland. But he could not express too strongly his own view of the general intention of the Bill. He was entirely in favour of minimizing public-houses. He thought too many facilities for drinking existed in Scotland; but at the same time he thought they ought to be judged and dealt with by local authorities — at any rate, this House should not, without hesitation and inquiry, commit itself to an arbitrary rule of this kind. Then, coming to the 5th clause, as to grocers' licences —there again, though he did not believe it had ever been definitely proved, yet knowing what human nature was, there could not be any doubt that the rules as to grocers' licences were infringed, and that this was a source of great evil in a community. He would venture to suggest to his hon. Friend, that if his Bill ever got the length of being considered in Committee, he might very well accept either the proposal of the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr Ewing) or that of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), and either substitute a pint for a quart in the "bottle clause," or simply use the words, "a sealed bottle," without determining the quantity. In that case he should think the grocers would have little to complain of. On the whole question he would like to press upon the House and the Government the expediency of the Government themselves taking up this question. They had, every year, Bills brought in by private Members. They did not agree with each other; none of them very much liked each other's Bills—but they all tended in the same direction. In fact, it was almost difficult to find a Scotch Member who had not either a Bill in his pocket or the plan of a Bill in his head. But they did not approve of each other's plans. His hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), he believed, looked with supreme pity upon this effort, and accepted the Gothenburg system only as a pis aller; there were others who had each a special nostrum of his own, with regard to licensing boards, and so forth. He (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) 1937 found the great bulk of the people of Scotland were of opinion that something should be done to check drunkenness, and to limit and diminish the facilities for drinking; but with regard to those who supported particular Bills, it was to be remarked that it was always the same people who sent up Petitions to that House in favour of the Permissive Bill, the Gothenburg system, that which was known as Sir Robert Anstruther's Bill, or any other Bill on the subject of the licensing laws. It was not that they much approved of the specific provisions of the Bill, which very likely they had not read at all, but they knew it was a well-intended effort to deal with a great evil, and therefore they supported it. That being almost the universal feeling of Scotland, no one having supplied a proposal on which all could agree, and yet all of us being united in thinking that something ought to be done, was it not the proper thing to call upon the Government first of all to ascertain the facts both for themselves and for us by issuing a Royal Commission, or in some other way? His hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State concluded his speech by asking the hon. Member for Fife not to press his Bill, because they had not the necessary information; but he did not say how they were to get the information. Let the Government get the information first, which they had the means of procuring, and when they had done so, let them propose a measure justified by the results of their inquiry. Then they would be saved from the necessity of considering measures like the present, with the object of which they might greatly agree, but which did not come before them supported by the authority either of recent evidence, or of the opinion and judgment of the responsible Executive Government.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
As I introduced this Bill to the notice of the House last Session in the absence of the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther), I beg to be allowed to say a few words on the present occasion. My hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) suggests in his perplexity that the Government should legislate on this subject. That is always a safe suggestion—and it is particularly safe at the present moment, because I do not believe there is the smallest chance of Her Majesty's Government legislating 1938 upon this subject. He further suggests that there should be a Royal Commission. Inquiry is very valuable, and no doubt an investigation by a Royal Commission would be very important. But sometimes inquiry is instituted for purposes of delay, and where an evil is very great I question if inquiry is always the very best remedy. I am far from saying information is not needed on this subject; but even if it were, to judge by the speeches made to-day, there is the greatest difference of opinion upon the points upon which an inquiry is necessary. The hon. Baronet the Member for Peebles (Sir Graham Montgomery) was the first hon. Member to suggest further inquiry. He said special inquiry was needed on the subject of grocers. On the opposite side of the House no such statement has been made—in fact, it has been generally admitted that there is the greatest possible abuse in the present system with regard to grocers; and that the law is constantly evaded and broken in reference to the sale of small quantities of liquor not being consumed on the premises. From the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State—the most favourable speech yet made on the Bill—and also from the speech he made last Session, I know that he is in favour of the 5th clause of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr Ewing) spoke of those who attempted to legislate on this question as "well-intentioned persons." He, at all events, has no sympathy with us whatever. I am the more surprised at his indifference because he mentioned that the chief town of the county which he represented was the most dissipated in the West of Scotland—a character which I for one would have hesitated to give to it. I therefore wonder all the more that he should be desirous of extinguishing the Bill before the House. I observe there is an alarming concurrence between the two front benches in opposition to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) made an excellent speech upon the Bill —no one could doubt the sincerity with which he spoke on the evils of drinking; but the conclusion to which he came was exactly the conclusion which those come to who desire that nothing shall be done. The inference from his speech apparently was that he was going to vote against 1939 the Bill. I was interested in his manner of deprecating the popular veto on this subject. He especially condemned the 4th clause of the Bill, which alludes to the popular voting in opposition to licences. That was the part of his speech most applauded on the side of the House on which I sit, and I confess I am surprised at that part. I think the noble Lord who spoke afterwards (Viscount Macduff) fell into an error in attributing to that part of the Bill the character of a Permissive Bill. There is a manifest difference between the propositions of this Bill and the Permissive Bill, inasmuch as this Bill only deals with the creation of new licences, and it is only in regard to them that it is desired that the popular feeling should be consulted. The hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) threw some contempt on statistics. It is a very awkward thing when in this House statistics are lightly spoken of. At one time, when we attempt any legislation of this kind, we are told we have not sufficient information, and Returns are asked for from the Home Office. Then, when those Returns are obtained, there is doubt thrown upon them, and we are told how little such statistics are worth. It will not do so to discredit the statistics thus obtained, for we have really no other authoritative documents to appeal to. These who are interested in the Bill have modified it from time to time by dropping out of it certain proposals in deference to the opinion of the House, without dropping out of it what we thought most valuable. The present Bill is therefore a small one, containing only principles which we think important. It is quite plain that there is a strong feeling in favour of the so-called "bottle clause," but some difficulty is felt about the reduction of licences to one in 500. The Home Secretary at the Home Office yesterday suggested a serious difficulty in reference to this clause. He stated that there must be places where the population varied very much at different times of the year. I know myself there are seaside places where the population is small in the winter and very large in the summer. I do not shrink from the difficulty the right hon. Gentleman has here pointed out, and I distinctly admit that something must be done if the Bill should ever reach Committee to meet such a case as that. The right hon. 1940 Gentleman pointed out, also, that there were small places in process of growth where, according to this arrangement, there would not be a public-house at all. I also say that something should be done to meet such a case as that. But for all that, I do not believe there is anything wrong in the principle we propose, and I know that the number 500 has not been decided upon without considerable thought, and with the view of meeting particular cases. If it is alleged that the reduction of facilities for drinking does not furnish a good result, I would ask him to consider the state of things owing to the change made in the law in Scotland with regard to Sunday. The senior Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) obtained a Return last year upon this subject. Before the Forbes Mackenzie Act, Sunday was the heaviest day for crime in Scotland—it is now shown to be the lightest. In the different burghs during 1875 the total number arrested for drunkenness was 61,000. Of these arrests 38,000 were "drunk and incapable," and 23,000 were "drunk and disorderly." Of the "drunk and incapables" 1,106 were arrested on Sunday, and 37,000 odd on the other days of the week; while of the "drunk and disorderlies" 1,273 were arrested on Sunday, and on the other days 21,000. In all, 2,000 were arrested on Sunday for 58,000 on other days. These figures show that when there has been a reduction in the facilities for drinking in Scotland, a speedy and valuable result has followed. An old statement has been repeated to-day that persons are not made sober by Act of Parliament. I wish a short Act could be passed to prevent that statement being made again in this House for years to come; for I believe that well-worn statement, though a truism in one sense, is absolutely false in the sense it is intended to convey. Our difficulty is in finding a right remedy for the existing insobriety, for some part of every measure introduced on the subject is adapted to do good. If the Government would only suffer some such Bill as the present to go into Committee with the intention of dealing with it hereafter as the House might think fit, it would mitigate the evil. In the debate on the Gothenburg system last night we did not have the advantage of hearing the opinion of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I hope 1941 that in this debate, however, we shall be favoured with it, and I hope he will be found to be as favourable to the Bill as I know the Under Secretary of State to be. There is one circumstance for which we may be thankful on the present occasion. It is that we are not dealing with a foreign country. Last night we were much occupied with the circumstances of a foreign country, and there was a very convenient Consul quoted to the House in a manner somewhat to damage the subject then before it. I am thankful to think that no convenient Consul is likely to be quoted to us to-day, and the facts of which we speak are really familiar to us all. With regard to grocers' licences, I have heard with surprise the statement of the hon. Member for Peeblesshire (Sir Graham Montgomery) that the abuses of grocers' licences were not notorious. He said that more inquiry was needed on the subject; but I hold that the fact is undeniable that there are very great abuses, so much so that I think it is rather for those who disagree with us to prove that it is not so than for us to prove that it is so. I will not detain the House longer; but I hope that we may hear the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State on the subject; and I will only say further that whatever the fate of the Bill may be, I trust something will be done to encourage those who, in however inadequate a manner, have endeavoured to deal with a great evil by the work they have undertaken.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
The Bill before us professes merely to be a temporary remedy to some great evil. It is assumed that we cannot wait till the Legislature provides a general measure for the liquor traffic. As this is so, we ought to be told two things —first, whether there is any alarming increase in the drunkenness of Scotland which justifies a suspensory measure; and, second, we ought to have proofs that the measure proposed will inevitably lead to sobriety. The question is not new, for it has been under anxious consideration for centuries. Even Milton put it very clearly when he said—Who shall be the rectors of our daily rioting? and what shall be done to inhibit the multitudes that frequent those houses where drunkenness is sold and harboured?Has the question advanced much fur- 1942 ther in its clearness? If it is contended that we are more drunken now than in former periods of our history, I wholly deny it. Let any hon. Member who believes this read the debates on the passing of the Gin Act in the time of George III., and they will see that the state of drunkenness was described in words which would be absurdly inapplicable to our present condition. Drunkenness is like mortality; it may be greater at one time than at another, but in the steady progress of civilization it, on the whole, largely decreases. When there has been, as lately, a sudden increase of employment and large wages, the ignorant, the improvident, and the uncultivated will go into the public-houses in time of prosperity, just as they go into the workhouses in times of adversity—but over a long period these inequalities disappear in a general lowering of the level of drunkenness. There are two ways of dealing with the state of drunkenness, which, though lessened, is still justly a scandal to our advancing civilization. The one is to remove the places of temptation; the other is to train the population to resist temptation. The hon. Baronet prefers the first plan by rather a rough-and-ready way. He refuses to grant more licences if there be already enough to give one public-house to 500 of the population, and he would even refuse this accommodation if one-half of the ratepayers in a district objected to it; so that his Bill is a Permissive Bill as well as a suspensory one. In its effects it raises important monopolies to existing public- houses, and will render it more difficult to deal with them hereafter. As a Bill giving to the ratepayers a voice in the matter, it is not required, for the Act of last year, in burghs at least, empowers ratepayers as a whole to exercise a legitimate influence over excessive licensing. As a restricting and suspensory Bill, the hon. Baronet is bound to show us that sobriety is invariably the result of restriction. I see no experience of that in comparing Scotland with England. Restriction is much greater in Scotland. The licences are more costly. There are grocers' licences in both countries, and we may leave them out of account; but, in Scotland, the public-houses are only half as numerous to the population as in England. The houses are open for fewer hours on week-days, and not at 1943 all on Sundays; and yet, with all these restrictions, Scotch drunkenness, as ascertained by the arrest of the "drunk and incapable "and the "drunk and disorderly," is about twice as great as in England. We have been going on with restrictions since 1851; but the ratio of drunkenness has increased from 1 in 104 to 1 in 64. I do not attach much value to Police Returns of drunkenness; but, cetrainly, they cannot be quoted in favour of restriction. Well, then, I cannot support this Bill. I did vote with my hon. Friend (Sir Robert Anstruther) in 1874; but then he had the Gothenburg principle as the chief feature in his Bill. I desire to see that fairly tried as an experiment, and wish to see licensed victuallers really what their name implies—obliged to sell victuals with drink; for, physiologically, drink does infinitely less harm with food than when taken alone. The most scientific and, I believe, practical principle of legislation would be to allow only malt liquors, with a small percentage of alcohol, to be sold without food, and strong liquors, when drunk on the premises, to be sold only in conjunction with food. I should like to see public-houses working men's clubs, for the refreshment and rational enjoyment of the people, as we often see on the Continent, and not mere drink-shops as in this country. But there is no such object contemplated in this Bill. I believe far more in training our population to habits of sobriety, and to resist temptations to drink, than I do in treating them as unworthy of confidence, and only fit to be goaded into soberness by Acts of Parliament. The higher classes of this country have received this training in the past two generations, and how much drunkenness has diminished among them! Their temptations have not been decreased—they have largely augmented. Clubs and hotels are open to them in large numbers; but a higher morality, combined with a public reprobation of excess, has proved the most powerful restriction. It is in improving the habits of our working classes, in raising their culture, in promoting their amusements, in elevating their occupations, that we must look for an increased sobriety among our population.
§ MR. MACDONALD
I should like to say a few words on this subject—particularly with respect to the 5th clause in the 1944 Bill of the hon. Member for Fifeshire. I think no one will charge me with being strongly desirous of restrictive measures. I have opposed the Bill of the hon. Member for Carlisle; last night I opposed the Motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), and very likely will again oppose the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. But while I have that feeling in regard to those measures, I do think the time has come when something should be done, particularly on the subject which is dealt with by the 5th clause of the Bill. The hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) said that we had no information on this matter. Let me tell the hon. Member that if he travelled more amongst the people of Scotland—if he visited the villages and towns of those burghs which he represents—he would easily see and learn that on this point he required very little information. The grocer's licence as it is now used, I venture to say, is the nurse of drunkenness. What is the custom? I speak not from a theoretical knowledge, but from what I have seen in the large manufacturing and mining districts. I say that the little children are sent to the grocers' shops for a small quantity of goods to blind the husband, who is busily at work; but it is not all goods that are got, but there is a little bottle conveyed in the basket, and that little bottle must be, in too many instances, filled with whisky for the use of the mother when the husband is doing his hard daily toil. The hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) says the quantity proposed in the Bill is too large, and the hon. Member for Stirlingshire spoke also about the quantity. What quantity would they wish to be taken into the house surreptitiously in this way? Do they want a half-ounce glass? I venture to say that the line adopted by the hon. Member for Fifeshire is the best line that could be adopted, because it would prevent the system I have referred to from being carried out in such an alarming extent. I speak from practical knowledge, and I could give not one name but several names, if desired, where it is customary in our large ironworks and coalworks to give a licence to a grocer and not a "sitting licence," as it is called in Scotland; and what goes on I have seen for myself more than once— 1945 it is to be seen frequently. Dozens of men come out into the public roads and streets, and stand drinking on the street, and they then go back again, and in that way get themselves into a state of beastly intoxication in coming from the works. That is a condition of things arising from grocers' licences and the manner of carrying them out. There are some portions of the Bill, particularly that which embodies the permissive principle, in which I do not agree with the hon. Member for Fifeshire; but notwithstanding that, I do trust that the Bill will be sent to Committee; and if there is anything that is wanting or anything too much as to the permissive character of the Bill, or any other feature, it can easily be supplied or eliminated in Committee. As to the question of numbers, I am strongly in favour of limiting the numbers of public-houses to the number of population that is here indicated. I again speak from practical knowledge, and from what I have seen during the whole course of my life—that in many villages in Scotland, and also in England, but particularly in Scotland, these licences are granted too numerously. There is one village I know, where, I think, the population does not amount to more than 1,100, men, women, and children, and there I think there are 13 public-houses and an hotel, and in addition one or two grocers' shops. In a large town or considerable burgh I made a calculation some years ago, and I found a spirit-shop to every 59 of the entire population. I look on the provisions of the Bill as right in this respect, because licences are got by persons so numerously that those who get them have to devise means to entrap the foolish among the people, and induce them to go into those places—thereby fostering a state of things that I hold to be entirely adverse to the wellbeing and morality of the country. I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State will agree to allow the Bill to go into Committee. As to the question of grocers' licences, anyone who is a Scotchman, and knows anything of the villages and towns of Scotland, must know that no information is needed, but that the evil is alarming, and calls for immediate treatment.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
I desire for myself to say that I am among those who are of opinion that we must look 1946 to the spread of education and to the gradual growth of a higher tone of social morality among the people of Scotland, before we shall have a complete cure of the vice of intemperance. But, on the other hand, I certainly do not belong to that class who think that those two agencies are of themselves sufficient to effect the cure. I believe that those agencies are at work, and I have greater faith than some Scotch Members who preceded me seem to have in the actual effects that have resulted from their operation. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure) has referred to the statements made by English Judges at English Assizes. I should have wished my hon. and gallant Friend had looked a little nearer home, for he would have found that on the Western Circuit, which comprises the largest and most populeus district in which criminal Courts are held on circuit by our Judges, one respected Judge, Lord Young, late a Member of this House, took occasion justly to compliment the sheriffs and magistrates in attendance, on the fact that in that district and on that circuit, serious crime was decreasing in almost the same ratio as the increase of population; and I must say that it is startling to those who take opposite views on the questions raised by this Bill, to hear it accepted in many quarters as a matter of fact that owing to intemperance crime is on the increase. I do not say that statistics are infallible, and I am not maintaining that intemperance is losing ground. On that subject, in common with many others, I do not profess to be so well informed as to be able to judge conclusively as to the remedies that should be applied; but the Bill before the House, in my humble opinion, is an unsatisfactory one for two reasons. In the first place, in both parts of it, it does not profess to grapple with or sufficiently to meet the evils which are assumed to exist, and are the only warrant for the introduction of the measure. I take it that in legislation of this class nothing is of greater social importance—because this Bill fairly belongs to the class of sumptuary laws—than that public feeling should go along with legislation on the subject in debate. Unless you carry the feeling of the community with you, the result will certainly be that when you pass a law which is looked upon by some as inflicting a 1947 hardship on their class—as having been passed without due regard to their particular interests, and without a full explanation of the facts which warrant legislation—I say you will find that that law will be thwarted or defeated, and that public opinion will, in many places, aid in so thwarting and defeating it. On the other hand, if public opinion is right in this sense, that people are agreed on the facts, and that there is a general concurrence in the nature of the remedy to be adopted, the result will be what has been practically shown, I think, by the operation of the two Acts—one passed in 1853, and the other in 1862—the one called "The Forbes Mackenzie Act," the other bearing sometimes the title of "The Mure Act," which constitute at present our legislation on this important subject along with the Act of the Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) of last year. These Acts were passed, I venture to say, with great unanimity on the part of the public; and not only so, but they professed to deal with the question, and afforded such remedies as the public were ready to accept, and—I speak of the great bulk of the community — honourably and fairly to carry out. I venture personally to doubt whether an Act conceived in what I venture to call the narrow spirit of this Bill will command in Scotland that general satisfaction which is absolutely required in order to give efficiency to a measure passed by the Legislature. The first part of the Bill is a temporary measure—a suspensory Bill, professedly and plainly so in its terms. Such measures are rare; but I venture to doubt whether a suspensory measure was ever proposed in this House or elsewhere with less justification. It deals with legislation for a certain period, and the effect is simply to take away from local and representative bodies the discretionary power which the Legislature has thought fit to confer on them by an Act passed last Session; and which, I may remind the House, has been amended, or is in course of being amended, by the Bill read the other day for the third time in this House, and now before the other branch of the Legislature. This Bill says it is the right and proper thing, before entering upon a more comprehensive scheme of legislation, to take away the power and discretion which were then conferred.
1948 As regards Clause 5, I personally hold views which coincide with those of many hon. Members who have spoken on this side. I certainly am of opinion that the sale of drink by licensed grocers should be placed under some restrictions, and that they should not sell in open vessels over the counter as is done in public-houses. But within these last few years the questions of the number of public-houses and that of the number of licensed grocers have become very much mixed up, and there are other grave questions connected with the latter class of dealers, and the trade of that class, which I think must be taken into account and considered in some larger measure than this professes to be. There are statements made upon one side and upon the other, and I have even known Members of Parliament representing the same constituencies, who differ entirely as to facts, and it is very painful to proceed to legislate upon such a state of circumstances. I do not propose to criticize this Bill in detail, but this I do say—that the whole of the provisions of the Bill are framed obviously with a view to legislation for our larger cities in Scotland, of which there are very few, and it entirely ignores the wants and wishes of our rural population, and not only the rural population, but that of many of our small villages, which receive in summer, I am glad to say, an ever-increasing quota from the population of the towns. I do not know that I have a right to speak of the public opinion of Scotland after the statements which have been made by so many hon. Members who have spoken in this debate; but I may state, for the information of the House, that during the Recess of Parliament I was visited by deputations who came to me on this subject of drink, and representing very important elements in the population of Scotland; and from the statements made to me in all fairness and honesty by these gentlemen, one could very easily gather that there was not that unanimity of sentiment or belief, either as to the state of matters requiring a remedy, or the remedy that was to be applied. On the 2nd of February, 1877, I was waited upon by a deputation who represented a large meeting that had been held in Edinburgh a short time before, and by a deputation from the Free Church of 1949 Scotland, who were supported by a number of clergymen of the Established and of the United Presbyterian Churches. The representations made by that deputation were made entirely in the interest of the object which this Bill professes to aim at—namely, the suppression of the vice of intemperance. The Rev. Dr. Begg said that all of those present entirely agreed that there should be inquiry, but that they were not committed to permissive legislation, though most of them were prepared to acquiesce in it. Another, one of the most respected clergymen in the Presbyterian Church, stated his view to be that if there was to be remedial legislation there must be reliable facts in the first instance on which to base it. I venture to say that the Bodies whom these gentlemen represented are not behind any hon. Member of this House in their earnest desire to repress the evils which they allege and find are growing out of intemperance. It appeared to me that the demand for inquiry into the facts which those gentlemen made was not unreasonable; and I cannot say that my own views upon that matter have undergone any change from what I have heard since this discussion began from both sides of the House. I can only say, in conclusion, that the demand I regard not only as a reasonable one, but it is one which, so far as concerns certain provisions of this Bill, I am certainly disposed to recommend the Legislature to follow.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
Sir, I have no reason to complain of the course which the debate has taken. Indeed, when we consider the long and ample discussion which on this side of the House was given to the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham last night, I think I ought to make my acknowledgments to those Gentlemen who were early in their places to-day, in order to spend four or five hours again in the discussion of a cognate question. Least of all have I reason to complain of the speech which has just been delivered by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate. No one can say he has not approached this question with an open mind; no one can say he has not expressed himself willing to move in advance if good cause can be shown for so doing. More than that, my right hon. and learned Friend has expressed himself with regard to a very 1950 important clause of my Bill as being of the same mind as myself, and has admitted the desirableness of passing it. That concession from the Lord Advocate of Scotland is one which I may fairly congratulate myself upon having obtained. Therefore, I may save the time of the House if I assume it is admitted on both sides that the state of the law with regard to the sale of spirits by grocers in Scotland is an evil, and ought to be amended. As to the Bill itself, it has been commented on in various ways by hon. Members on both sides of the House. One hon. Member has objected to one clause and another to another; and if I had listened to the advice and suggestions of friends I should have been like the Old Man with his Ass—my Bill would have been reduced to a sheet of blank paper. It may shortly be described as a Bill for the gradual reduction of the number of public-houses, and also for the improvement of the law relating to the sale of spirits by grocers in Scotland. I will not discuss the latter, because it is conceded by all parties as reasonable. But with regard to the first part of the Bill, some hon. Gentlemen have said that they do not approve of the suspensory clause, others that they do not approve of the popular veto contained in that portion of the measure; but oddly enough, no Member has been found to rise in his place and say there are too few public-houses in any part of Scotland. No man has been bold enough to say that—but I think I may go a great deal further, and safely say that there are a great deal too many. There was one remarkable statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) last night, who stated that, in his opinion, we might safely diminish the number of licensed houses by one-half without interfering with the legitimate wants of the people or creating anything like an unsafe monopoly. No one who is acquainted with Scotland but must know that the drinking habits of our people are the cause of the greatest misery and disaster, and that so far from diminishing, those habits are on the increase. I submit that the inferences attempted to be drawn by the right hon. Member for the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews (Mr. Lyon Playfair) were wholly worthless. The right hon. Gentleman said that "though the public - houses of Scotland are 1951 relatively few, our country is twice as drunken as England;" and to make that out he compared the number of licensed houses in England and Scotland and the amount of crime in the two countries, but omitted to take into account the licensed grocers of Scotland. The number of licensed hotels and public-houses in Scotland is 8,121, and the number of licensed grocers is 4,236. My right hon. Friend thought he was making a great point when he based his calculation upon the number of 8,000 licensed houses only, ignoring 4,236 licensed grocers entirely. That should be a caution to my right hon. Friend not to make statements of that rash and inaccurate kind. At present, however, no one has got up to say that there are too few public-houses in Scotland, and that, at any rate, is a great comfort. I will now read to the House a Return of the number of licences according to the population in the boroughs of Scotland, not confining myself to the public-houses alone, but including the grocers' licences also. In the boroughs the average proportion is that of one licence to every 198 of the population; and in the rural districts it is one licence to every 343 of the population. In some of the larger towns the proportion is much larger than what I have named. In Aberdeen, for example, where the trade is carried on under exceptionally favourable circumstances, there is one licence to every 275 of the population; in Dundee one licence to every 244; in Glasgow one licence to every 231; and in Edinburgh one to every 252. I do not think anyone will be bold enough to say, viewing these figures, that there are too few public-houses in Scotland. In relation to the effect of the number of public-houses on the state of crime in populous places, some curious figures have been circulated by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone), who has endeavoured to make it appear from them that the number of public-houses in a place and the amount of crime prevailing there are in inverse proportion to each other—that is to say, that the more public-houses there are in a town, the less crime and the fewer offences are to be found there. If that be correct, why not turn every other house into a public-house? I believe, on the contrary, that there is a direct relation between public-houses and the crime, pau- 1952 perism, and misery in a town. I very much regret that the words of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) should so soon have been forgotten. The hon. Member showed that at Gothenburg, within the last 10 years, notwithstanding all that has lately occurred—notwithstanding all the circumstances that were admitted to have taken place there during the last three or four years —there is a decrease of drunkenness of 21 per cent; while at Christiania there has been an increase of 122 per cent, and at Stockholm an increase of 60 per cent. These figures have not been disputed; and I contend, therefore, that we have an answer to those who challenge us to get up and produce figures in support of our assertions. The learned Lord Advocate had very wisely said that we must not advance beyond public opinion on this subject, and that we should proceed with caution and deliberation. I agree —but he may rest assured that he will not be hooted at in Scotland for consenting to pass a suspensory law. I think it is not too much to ask the House to enact a suspensory arrangement, with a view to the gradual diminution of the number of public-houses. I now come to that part of Clause 4 which introduces the popular veto. I would wish, whilst I am on this point, to ask what can have induced the right hon. Gentleman the Radical Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) to say he views with alarm the proposal for a popular veto being placed in the hands of the ratepayers? The right hon. Gentleman warns me that I am young, rash, and enthusiastic, while he has grown old in the service of the State, and has learned to be cautious. The right hon. Gentleman must surely be descended from a distinguished lady in Ireland who bore his name, and was well remembered as a lady desiring to remain single. So particular was she as to gentlemen, that her caution and care has been commemorated in the South of Ireland in these two lines—Don't be like Nancy Baxter,Who refused a man because he axed her.That worthy lady might have been the right hon. Gentleman's maternal grandmother. Though I admire the caution of my right hon. Friend, I do not share it. I believe that the people of this country are fully competent to exercise 1953 the control with which this Bill seeks to invest them, and that their having it will be the very best guarantee we can have that the trade will be well managed. Why is my right hon. Friend so timid? That I cannot make out; it induces me to think there must be a very curious collusion between the occupants of the two front benches that they should thus set their faces against popular control. I have, in the course of this discussion, been made the subject of most alarming charges. I have been charged with being in league with the supporters of the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), while the fact is I repudiate his Bill, as I feel that my own is infinitely superior to that of the hon. Baronet. My hon. Friend says—" You shall have the control you ask for, but only in the direction and in the manner I propose to give it." By the measure which I propose, the number of public-houses will be reduced gradually and systematically: the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle is for shutting up all the public-houses in a place at once or not at all. Which system is the better. Undoubtedly mine is infinitely the superior of the two. All permissive principles are not bad; but that of my hon. Friend is certainly weak. Its very strength constitutes its weakness, for the hard-and-fast line it contains would prevent its satisfactory working. I hope my hon. Friend will give me his vote—but as I see he is taking notes, I hope he will not give me a speech; for my hon. Friend last night reversed the part of the Prophet of old; for he was asked to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham, and his speech was really the only damaging one that was made against the proposal. If I am to choose between the two alternatives, therefore, I will have his vote and not his speech, rather than his speech with his vote; and if the hon. Gentleman would vote on my Motion without speaking I shall deem it a personal favour. Now, with respect to local control, is there anything unreasonable in it? Is it unreasonable to say that the occupants of a street or of a locality shall have a voice as to the position in which a public-house should be placed? It is not proposed by the Bill that a large vested interest shall be swept away to-morrow. What it proposes to do will be done in 1954 the mildest, the most reasonable—I was going to say the wisest manner. I think we have made out a case for public control. It is not unreasonable to seek to diminish the number of public-houses in Scotland, and that the people shall be allowed to have some voice and discretion in the matter. It has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, and also by the hon. Member for Peeblesshire (Sir Graham Montgomery), that there should be an inquiry; and the Under Secretary of State seems to think that an inquiry is feasible. I have no objection to inquiry, as I am confident it will result in substantiating what I have said, and bear me out in the ground I have taken for this Bill. I cannot know what is in the breast of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on this point, but, assuming that he means to consent to an inquiry, I think he ought also to consent to the suspensory clause of the Bill. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to grant it. It has been said that the Bill of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), passed last year, ought to have a proper trial, as it will be certain to have the effect I desire. I sincerely hope it may; but as yet it has not come into force, and there is, therefore, no argument against the second reading of the Bill on that ground. In conclusion, I would say that I am content to go to a division on the two great points to which I have adverted—first, that no fresh licences shall be granted; and, secondly, that as to the grocers' licences. These proposals, I contend, are perfectly reasonable in themselves, and will, I trust, receive the sanction of the House.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
After the long debate that has taken place upon this Bill, it is not my intention to detain the House above a few minutes. In stating what course the Government think it their duty to take upon this matter, I must make one remark on what fell from the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure). He said that year after year we had been baffled in legislation on this question. I utterly take exception to the statement, because I am quite sure that no person who takes an interest in these licensing matters will say for one moment that there is not a probability that from the measure passed 1955 last year by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) there may not—as in my opinion there may be—the greatest possible results, and until we know that the measure is a failure it is hardly fair to say that we have been baffled in any legislation in which we have taken part. I must also make one general remark on this Bill and other Bills. I do not yield to anyone as to the necessity for doing all we can to stop this vice which is becoming so prevalent throughout the country; but I do say that any steps taken ought to be taken cautiously and advisedly, and that if there is one thing more than another to be deprecated, it is this—that Bills should be brought forward year after year which have not been fully considered. Nothing is more likely to prejudice the best interests than perpetual interference year by year. My hon. Friend (Sir Robert Anstruther) hoped that this Bill might be passed to show that we could make people sober by Act of Parliament. That is my view also; but I say we have done a good deal already by the Acts passed to make people sober. That has been the course of legislation, and that probably will be the course of legislation. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baxter) that you must not rely on one course alone. There are two courses open. One is the removal of temptation from the people; the other is by restriction. I am convinced neither the one course nor the other will do alone. I feel, for my own part, that it is not enough to remove the temptation—it is not enough to train the people to resist temptation; nor will restriction do unless you have the training to strengthen it. I will not take a gloomy view of the state of public opinion among the lower orders in this matter. I know among the lower orders in my own county, and in populous towns elsewhere, there is a growing feeling, not simply arising from training, but arising from thought and deliberation, that they ought to do all they can to raise a public feeling against habits of drunkenness, and to discard as far as they can those companions who have habitually become drunkards. That is a result I can speak as having seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. I do not say that education has done it; I do not say that learning has done it. Religion 1956 and education may have done a good deal—it requires religion, education, training, and every kind of influence to be brought to bear to attain the object. But there is a growing feeling among the people themselves that they have to put down drunkenness in their class as we have to put it down in our own class. We must must remember, when we talk about the drunken habits of the people of the present day, that it is not wise for those who live in glass houses, or have lived in glass houses, to throw stones. The feeling is so great that something must be done that there is a temptation to hon. Members on both sides of the House to put their names to the backs of Bills of this character. I would advise hon. Members that abstract Resolutions in favour of temperance are one thing, and that legislation in the form of a Bill is a totally different thing. Therefore, while hon. Members are willing to take the responsibility of abstract Resolutions, they should remember to be cautious when definite proposals are made, because when you come to put a thing into the form of a Bill instead of a Resolution, the framers of the Bill are bound to show that the principles of the Bill are sound. I want to try this Bill by that test. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken, and there is not one that has not said that to one part of the Bill or the other he is opposed. The hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Anstruther) himself has said that if he had taken the advice of his Friends on his proposals, there would have been no part of the Bill left; and if I were to take the arguments that have been adduced to-night, I do not think it would be in a better position. I will, with the permission of the House, deal with the three main clauses of the Bill in a few words. First of all, the hon. Member says it is of a suspensory character. Now, I say—and I put it strongly—you have no right to bring forward a suspensory measure unless there is a prospect of immediate and decisive legislation to follow. I object to the number of public-houses being limited to one in 500 of the population. It may be very well for magistrates in given localities to diminish the number of licences according to their judgment in their own district, and they may even reduce them to one in 500 of the population—probably in some parts of 1957 Scotland that may be very right—but that is a very different thing from drawing a hard-and-fast line for the whole country, and making such a rule compulsory under all circumstances, in all places, and at all times. I think that, viewed under that aspect, the clause becomes unworkable; and I will tell you why. When you come to ask what the 500 are to be, you will be puzzled. Are you to take the general Census? Well, the general Census is taken one year in 10. It is taken on one and the same night: but at that time, according to its season, one place will be empty, another full. At what season of the year are you to calculate the number of inhabitants, and how are you going to apply the same principle to an inland town, where the population is fixed, and to a seaside or holiday resort, where it is floating? We all wish, during our holidays, to get as far away from the haunts of men as possible, and supposing you went to a small village, were you to be obliged to wait till the population reached 500 before you can have an inn; the result would be that places that might afford accommodation to scores of people at the seaside would never exist. I say, therefore, that although it might be right for magistrates to come to such a resolution, an Act of Parliament would be practically unworkable. Coming to the 5th clause—the 5th clause as it stood in the Bill of last year—I object to it as it stands. It seems to me not so much a power of popular control, which it is said there is so much disinclination to grant; it looks to me much more like proprietors' veto—that is to say, that for the future you never shall by any possibility have a new public-house started, provided there was an old one there. It is a principle which should be argued out by itself, and should not be mixed up in an "omnibus" Bill. I do not believe the House is in favour of the principle of that clause, and therefore I will not trouble the House further upon it. In the case of the grocers it is a great question how far the charge made against them is well founded. The hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Anstruther) has produced a great mass of papers, which were flourished before us, but which were "taken as read;" and he has sent me a paper containing a mass of figures which I have not been able to master. I quite 1958 agree that in the case of grocers there is a great difference of opinion as to how far their business increases drunkenness; but I may point out this—that if this grocers' clause passed to-morrow, there would be no finality about the Bill, because if the clause passed the grocers of Scotland would be placed on the same footing as the grocers in England, and you would be landed in the same difficulty as exists here. It may be a question how far it is wise or desirable to grant grocers' licences, and whether they ought to be continued or not. All I can say is, that the subject is worthy of serious consideration, and one which for my part I am willing to consider. I think so, because if it really be a fact that grocers in England or Scotland are selling spirits in the form of tea, such a state of things undoubtedly ought not to be allowed to exist. On the other hand, if it is not a fact, and I cannot think that the old and respectable grocers throughout the country would lend themselves to such a practice—I do not say that it may not be the case with regard to others, but I am speaking of the old grocers—let the charge be investigated, and if they can, let them clear themselves from it. There is no doubt of one fact—that the number of grocers' licences within the last few years has greatly increased—perhaps because of the great sale of these liquors. I suppose there is some reason for that increase; but the whole question of grocers' licences is one which I am bound to say requires investigation. The hon. Baronet says—" If that is the case, pass my suspensory Bill." No; by no means. It does not follow that because an investigation is necessary, or is to take place, that a Bill should be passed which deals with a totally different matter. I do not think it answers to be perpetually disturbing trade, and therefore I hope that whenever a Bill conies forward dealing with this matter, it will not be an "omnibus" Bill, but a comprehensive Bill. But so far as the grocers' licences go, I think the matter requires consideration. The House may ask what course we propose to take? I observe no one has moved that this Bill be read a second time on this day six months. It has been put before the House, as I expected it would be put before the House, as a Resolution in favour of temperance, and as against that no one wishes to 1959 vote. I say it is more than that. Two of the proposals I say are unworkable; and as to the third, I say the House ought not to accept it. If, therefore, I am asked what course I shall take, I do not propose to move the second reading of the Bill this day six months, but I shall certainly vote against the second reading.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 90; Noes 253: Majority 163.—(Div. List, No. 34.)