§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
, in rising to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, said, no one could be better pleased than he was to find his old opponent (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) back again in his place after his severe illness, ready to do battle for a cause which he had so much at heart; but which he (Mr. Wheelhouse) considered so objectionable. He would endeavour to confine himself as much as possible to the question of principle; but this was one of a class of Bills in which details and principle were so in- 252 termingled, that it was almost impossible to deal with the one without trenching upon the other. He had often thought, and, indeed, he was perfectly convinced, that the supporters of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle did not at all appreciate or realize what the Bill sought to do. There was a general impression going abroad—though he could not say it was maintained as a general rule by the hon. Member for Carlisle, but it was largely fostered by some who sympathized in his views—to the effect that this so-called Permissive Bill was only a Bill for the purpose of shutting up, some time or other, the public-houses in different parts of the country. There could be no greater error or delusion. If the Bill were allowed to be carried into operation, not only could any meeting of rate paying inhabitants, it might be by a majority of very few votes, and at the instigation of one individual mind, in any district, large or small, prevent the possibility of any person within such district getting a glass of beer or wine; but they could order that every distillery, every brewery and public-house, should be closed at once, and this, too, without the slightest attempt at compensation. Now, it was, in his mind, quite impossible to conceive any proposition more thoroughly tyrannous, coercive, and wasteful. What earthly right could there be for any man to assume to himself the power, unless there were some very cogent reason appertaining to the criminal, as distinguished from the civil law, to interfere with the domestic habits and relations of any other human being? When the total abstainer, as he so called himself, said that he required this to be done, he (Mr. Wheelhouse) should like to know who constituted him a judge for his neighbours or his friends? There was no reason why any person, if it so pleased him, should not become a total abstainer, or give up the use of the public-house. But that was no reason for interfering with the freedom of others to take reasonable refreshment of a kind supplied by public-houses. No man more utterly detested drunkenness, in all its forms and phases than he did, and to that feeling he attributed the fact that from his childhood he had followed, not the doctrines of total abstention, or of the teetotal school, as some preferred to call it, but the teach- 253 ing of the school which inculcated the strictest temperance. He was brought up in the doctrine that liquors should be used moderately as refreshments, and not abused. He believed that if his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle dealt with the question from that standpoint, instead of maintaining the principle indicated by the Bill, he would do far more to sow the seeds of temperance than anything which could result from the enactment of this coercive and restrictive measure. Men would rebel against legislation of this character, and they ought to be left to act with as perfect freedom on this question as on other matters of a domestic nature. With that argument he agreed and concurred. There were thousands and thousands of people in this country who, while they, equally with himself, detested drunkenness, would tell the House, as they had told him, that they considered the Bill an insult to their common sense and ordinary understanding; because it declared that, though they might have come to the years of discretion, they were not able to judge for themselves what they should drink. That argument was strong in its foundation, and he believed most firmly that no matter how long the hon. Member for Carlisle, or anybody else, took this Bill in hand, it never would be acceptable to the large majority of the people of England. What, he should like to know, would be said by those who were constantly preaching the doctrine of the utmost freedom of conscience and liberty of action, if, upon any other question than this, they were told that some legislator was desirous of bringing in a measure affecting their domestic habits? Why, those who were now acting with the hon. Member for Carlisle would be among the first who would say that it was an unjustifiable interference with individual liberty of action and freedom of conscience. But when they came to deal with the so-called Permissive Prohibitory Liquor Bill, all those arguments which they heard upon almost every platform of a certain character in England were thrown to the winds, and a Bill more coercive, more tyrannical, and more restrictive almost than anything Englishmen had ever known, was sought to be brought into operation. Was there any reason upon earth why a small majority in a district should have power to 254 prevent a man from getting that which he considered was reasonable refreshment? Apply the regulation of the Bill to their clothes, to their meat, to their bread, or to any other of their domestic requirements, and what would then be said? They would be warned immediately not to interfere with individual freedom of action or personal liberty. Surely the longer they lived, and the more they saw of English society, the more certain must they be that such a measure as this never could find a place in the Statute Book of the country. Again, if it be right to legislate in this direction, was it reasonable to legislate against a particular class of the community? This was an attempt at class legislation, and of the very worst, because of the very weakest, kind. Nothing could interfere to prevent any Member of that House getting whatever he wanted from his own cellar, or at his own club. The public-house was the club of the wage-earning class. The amusements of the labourer were few and far between. He sincerely wished it were not so; but the fact was that the only place where he could meet his fellow-workmen in social converse, or where he could actually have even the small share of amusement which fell to the lot of the English labourer was the public-house. He could have understood if these Gentlemen proposed to begin at the other end of the social scale, and to shut up their own clubs on a Sunday. Let them try to do that. He should like to see the effort, and the effect. But they dared not say—"Shut up the Reform Club or the Carlton Club." They did not tell them that they should not be able to get their wine, beer, or spirit at any time of the day or night, subject only to the internal regulation of the clubs themselves; but, because the public-house was the poor man's club, this restrictive scheme was to be levelled at it. In all honesty, fairness, and justice, he said, commence that legislation with their own class, and not with classes of whose wants and requirements they could not have the same knowledge. This Bill proposed to deal with the question in such a way as to provide no compensation whatever for any interest which might be affected. By a very small majority, every brewery or distillery might be shut up in districts of London, or throughout 255 the country, and by the vote of a small vestry or meeting of local ratepayers, a great brewery, like that of Messrs. Hanbury, might be closed at once without any compensation. Now, was that reasonable? Suppose such a regulation were to be applied to the palaces or parks of the nobility and gentry, what would be thought of the principle then? Yet they had just as much right to apply it to them as they had to apply it to breweries and public-houses; and if they once applied the principle, there was no limit to the oppression and tyranny to which it might lead. He should like to try to realize what would be the effect of such a measure as this in regard to such a case as his own. He was a very humble Member of the House; but he admitted that if such a principle were applied to him, either in his domestic life, his club life, or in any other capacity, he should feel that he was most oppressively ill-used; and, as far as a loyal servant of the Crown could do so, he should certainly rebel against it. Let hon. Members try to realize what their own feelings would be under such circumstances, and he had no doubt of the verdict. It was thought well, however, that they should have an occasional discussion on the subject. It enabled them to expose the real principle of the measure, and get the facts of the case dispersed throughout the length and breadth of the land. If the idea of the Bill were really carried out, he could well imagine its being said in some rural parsonage, or some quiet corner—"Oh, it will shut up the 'Blue Lion' or the 'Green Dragon,' and so people will be deprived of an opportunity of doing that which is very wrong and naughty—very wrong—or, at all events, very undesirable." But this was not by any means the whole truth, and it was not the proper way to look at this Bill. Most of them would acknowledge that, in certain places, licences might have been granted which it would have been better not to grant. But this was a totally different question, and one wholly apart from the inquiry into which they were then going. That inquiry was not whether the "Blue Lion" or the "Green Dragon" should be shut up; but whether, at the instance of a small majority, they should shut up all the public-houses in a particular district, either of the Metropolis or of the country. The very proposal of such a 256 thing to the common sense of the House of Commons bespoke its own defeat. Whatever the minority might be to-day—and it might be increased or it might be reduced, it mattered little—the result was equally a foregone conclusion. There might be a majority of 76, or of 82, or of 93; but tests of that kind could be of no value, inasmuch as they were of no consequence or importance. They knew that the measure was not supported by the general voice of the country, but was promoted solely at the instance of a few individuals, who, well meaning though they be—and he would be sorry to impeach their motives—had no right to impose their views upon others. They belonged to certain teetotal bodies, and he hoped they were always willing to practice what they preached; but they knew perfectly well that however noisy they might be, however much money they might have at their disposal, however they might deluge the country with teetotal literature, no matter to what extent they carried out their organization through the agency of a well-paid secretary and corps of officials, some of whom were not total abstainers, though they talked so much about the principle—they knew, he repeated, perfectly well that the fate of this Bill was sealed; that after this day's discussion had concluded, it would be relegated to the tomb of the Capulets, with the possible chance of resurrection towards the expiring days of the next Session of Parliament. If this Bill passed, he believed that the trade which was now carried on under the regulation and supervision of every branch of magistrates in the country would become an illicit trade; that there would spring up sheebeen-houses in the hills, and that a trade, which was now respectably conducted, would immediately become inundated by all the smugglers, all the scoundrels, all the swindlers, who could be gathered together in any "private and convenient place," as lawyers said. That would be the consequence of what was sought to be done; and he thought he was right in saying that it was infinitely better that in this country an Englishman should even commit himself in public than that he should be permitted to do so in private and without the supervision of the neighbouring magistrate and his friends. As sure as the Bill became law, would private and 257 illicit drinking largely increase. Extremes of domestic legislation, anything interfering with the habits of the people, especially with certain classes only, were to be deprecated in most circumstances, except there was the most condign and absolute necessity. If the restrictions sought to be enforced by this Bill were carried out, the whole country, from the Metropolis down to the smallest township or parish, would be up in arms against it; there would be continual agitation; and he opposed the Bill because he did not want to raise a revolutionary feeling, because he did not want to arouse dissatisfaction among certain classes of this country, because he did not want the finger of scorn pointed by the wage classes against the higher, as had been witnessed in days gone by in other countries as the result of class legislation. His earnest hope and endeavour at all times would be to legislate so that every man might be free to exercise his own sound judgment and discretion upon all his habits and customs, so long as those habits and customs did not interfere with the well-being of his neighbours. His inmost desire was that every man, whatever his position might be, should be as free in every degree as he himself liked to be free. Proceeding to deal with the details of the Bill, the hon. and learned Member said the proposal was that a paper should be left at each house, so that the occupier might categorically answer whether he was or was not in favour of the adoption of the Bill in his district; but everyone knew that papers left at houses were first examined to see whether they contained any demand for money, and, in cases where they did not, they frequently found their way behind the fire grate; and the result would be that, whereas all the teetotallers would vote in favour of the Bill, a large number of those who were opposed to it would not take the trouble to vote, so that the result would be no real indication of the feeling of the ratepayers generally, any more than were the Petitions which it was formerly the custom to present before the second reading—a practice, he was glad to observe, which had been discontinued on the present occasion. Then, again, the teetotal section of the community might agitate this question once, at all events, every year; but when the Bill had been adopted, there was 258 to be no disturbance for three years. If it were right to ask the ratepayers every year whether they would have the Bill, surely it was equally right that they should be asked every year after its adoption, whether they were in favour of its continuance. He supposed he should be told that it was all matter of detail, which could be managed when the principle of the Bill had been accepted by its being read a second time; and that reminded him of the assurance given by a candidate at a Parliamentary Election, who promised, if elected, to vote for the second reading of the Permissive Bill, but announced his intention of opposing most of its clauses in Committee, and voting against the third reading, unless he could get it altered to his liking. By that plan he tried to secure the support of the teetotallers, and also to make it up with the publicans; but he need hardly say the candidate did neither, and he was glad to state the constituency took a proper view of his character, and declined to accept him as their Representative. What he desired to see was, that those who preached teetotalism for others should practise it themselves. He had no interest in either one or other branch of the trade, and it did not matter to him one straw what became of this or any other measure of a similar character, for he knew quite well—at least he hoped—he should never be in a position in which it could affect him in the slightest degree, as to what he should eat or drink, or in one of the habits of his life. But when he was told that this was a question of the innkeepers and the publicans, he repudiated the idea that it was in their interest that he was an opponent of the Bill, or that he looked at it from a publican's point of view. With him it was a question entirely for the public. A great many people were accustomed to attend the temperance meetings at Exeter Hall, whose practice did not equal their preaching in the matter of temperance. It was a common thing to find men preaching "goody, goody, goody," to their neighbours; but such men were the first to object when it was proposed to apply the principle to themselves. So long as he found people advocating the Permissive Bill, and, whilst expressing their preference for sherbet, coffee, and lemonade, quietly taking their brandy-and-water, he should dis- 259 trust even the officials of the Association. He knew very well that amid the thousands who attended the meetings at Exeter Hall, a large proportion went from curiosity, others from a desire to see the chairman, or to recognize an old familial friend, and that after the meeting was over, 99 out of every 100 had a very good laugh at the whole proceedings. Of course, such people held up their hands—both of them—because, having come to the meeting, they did not like to leave its organizers in the lurch; but after the meeting was over, a great many before going home, turned into Haxell's, or some of the places in the immediate neighbourhood, "in order to get just what is absolutely necessary—not more you know"—to sustain them after their efforts. The hon. Baronet knew very well that his following was only small, and he hoped it would decrease considerably. He believed the common sense of England was growing against all coercive measures of this kind; and he was perfectly certain that it was enlarging against this particular measure. The minority remained much the same, while the majority was stationary, because it could not well be larger. It was also worth noticing that the Church Temperance Association, and all who believed, as he did, in temperance per se—temperance both in habits and other ways—were one and all increasingly inclined to condemn measures of legislation such as this. The Bill received less support now than it did some years ago, when its provisions were not so well understood. In conclusion, the hon. and learned Member said, he objected to the Bill wholly and solely on the ground that it was an infringement of the rights of that class of the public who were compelled—especially the travelling and commercial classes—to rely, to a large extent, upon hotels and even small public-houses for those reasonable comforts and requirements which other classes found in their own homes. He trusted to the sound sense of the House not to permit class legislation of this kind to find a place on the Statute Book of the Kingdom. He had now only to move that the Bill be read that day three months.
§ MR. A. GATHORNE-HARDY
said, he approached the subject with a just sense of its importance; and he felt so deeply on the subject of temperance that if he felt that this measure were just and 260 would be effectual, he should have great hesitation in not supporting it. Method and manners, however, had to be considered as well as the abstract question, and as he felt that the measure was neither just nor expedient, he should give it his opposition. The Preamble of the Bill stated that the "common sale of intoxicating liquors" was a fruitful source of crime, pauperism, insanity, and premature death. That he could not concede; but if the promoters of the Bill would substitute the word "intemperance" for the phrase "the common sale of intoxicating liquors," he should have nothing to quarrel with in the description in the Preamble. No one could doubt that crime was largely increased by intemperance, and on his first circuit in the Northern district he found that two-thirds of the crime tried by the Judge on that occasion was caused by intemperance. Therefore, any well-considered measure for the purpose of putting an end to that great blot on the national character was eminently worthy the attention of the Legislative Assembly. But it was not fit to ascribe, as the promoters of the measure did, what were the results of intemperance to the common sale of intoxicating liquors; it was not fit to charge the reasonable use with the consequences of the abuse. He would, moreover, contend that if the Preamble of the Bill were correct, the power to check the evil ought not to be intrusted to a body of the ratepayers; but Parliament of its own motion ought to stop the sale. If this drink was a poison, then the option ought not to be left to a meeting of ratepayers to determine whether the poison should be sold or not on its own responsibility. Such a measure, in order to commend itself to the support of the House, ought to have two requisites—it ought to be just, and it ought also to be effectual; and it ought to be just not only to the consumer, but also to the seller of the liquor. He could see no justice in destroying a trade which had received the sanction of the Legislature, and on the faith of which enormous sums of money had been spent. Within his own professional knowledge as much as £13,000 had been given for the good-will of one public-house, and all over the country enormous sums of money had been invested in the good-will of these licences. 261 It would not, therefore, be just for that or any other Legislative Assembly to destroy that trade, without fully compensating those whose trade it destroyed, and no mention of compensation was made in this Bill. It might be said that that was a matter for Committee; but, as it had been computed that £50,000,000 would represent the amount, it was not proper to leave such a vital point to be dealt with by the Committee. Having proved that the Bill was unjust to the seller, he now asked was it just to the consumer? He denied that it was so, for he could not concede that because certain persons abused the good gifts of nature, therefore power should be given to deprive those who made a reasonable use of them. The Bill proposed that a majority of two-thirds of the inhabitants of a parish should have the power to stop the sale of liquor. If they succeeded in obtaining such a majority at a public meeting, they could stop the sale for three years; and, if they failed, they might re-open the question every year. He feared that such a provision, if passed, would raise strife between class and class; while the constant agitations and annual elections to which it would give rise would not be beneficial to the parishes in which they would be held. He also believed that if the Bill were carried, it would cause a great amount of unlicensed drinking, with all its evil consequences. The Legislature had two duties to discharge specially with reference to temperance. They ought first to see that the sale of intoxicating liquors was properly regulated, and that no abuse crept in which the action of the Legislature could prevent. But the second duty was still more important—to encourage habits of providence in the working classes, to increase education, and to promote the comfort of artizans' dwellings. It was in this way that a feeling would be promoted that temperance was respectable and drunkenness disgraceful. There was a time when the phrase "as drunk as a Lord" deservedly passed into a proverb; he hoped the change of social habits which had since ensued gave hope for the future, and that when education had done its work, temperance would be found to do its work without coercive legislation. It had been said by a great orator, who had the welfare of the 262 people at heart, that he would rather see England free than sober. He (Mr. A. Gathorne-Hardy), on the other hand, felt so strongly the evils of intemperance that he was almost tempted to limit the freedom of the people if he thought that by doing so their sobriety would be secured. He did not, however, believe in the efficacy of coercive legislation, preferring, rather, to seek amelioration in the direction he had indicated; and, therefore, he had much pleasure in seconding the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Wheelhouse.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
, in supporting the Bill, said, he must express his disappointment that, in the interval which had elapsed since the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) made a similar Motion in relation to the Bill, he had not discovered some new arguments which might be urged against it. The hon. and learned Member had merely repeated the platitudes he had indulged in two years ago. He talked a great deal about tyranny and coercion; but he contented himself with assertions, and adduced no arguments showing the injustice or impolicy of the measure. Indeed, there was a repetition of old arguments, for he spoke of a simple majority, or a very small majority, of the rate payers bringing the Bill into operation, thus coercing the other half of the population; but such was not the fact. On the contrary, there must be a majority of two-thirds before the Act could be brought into operation, and on a former occasion the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had expressed his willingness at his (Sir Alexander Gordon's) suggestion, he believed, that the majority should be one of seven-ninths instead of two-thirds. That circumstance proved the hon. and learned Member could hardly have read the Bill before he proposed his Amendment. He (Sir Alexander Gordon) maintained that if so large a majority of the ratepayers of any town were in favour of living without the nuisance of a public-house 263 amongst them, they were perfectly entitled to have their wishes carried into effect. The hon. and learned Member had talked a great deal about tyranny and coercion, and had also said that the supporters of the Bill did not appear to realize its provisions. But that was mere assertion and not argument. There already were a great many parishes in this country in which there were no public-houses, arising in some instances from the wish of the people themselves, and in others from the proprietors of the parish refusing to allow a public-house to exist on their property. Wherever that state of things prevailed the most beneficial consequences had resulted; and that, he thought, afforded a strong argument in favour of the Bill. Another argument in its favour was the fact that the Canadian Government, which was not confronted, as was the case here, by a powerful brewing interest, had since this measure was last discussed, brought in and carried through the Legislature a some what similar measure for the regulation, not the suppression, of the liquor traffic. The measure passed through the Canadian Parliament with but very little opposition and without a division, and the whole character and details of that measure were highly creditable both to the people and the Government of the Dominion, and they had thus set us an example it would be well for us to follow. He was afraid, however, that the brewing interest was too strongly represented in that House, and that there was now too little chance of overcoming it; whereas there did not exist in the Colonial Parliament sufficient, if any, interest of that kind to stop the progress of legislation. It was a mistake to speak of the Permissive Bill as a measure for the total suppression of the liquor traffic. If the principle of the measure did not obtain the support of a large majority of the inhabitants of any district there the Act would be a dead letter, and public-houses would continue to exist. There was no foundation in the allegation of the hon. and learned Member, that this measure was one of tyrannical interference with the freedom of the people. On the contrary, the argument had force the other way, for it was freedom from the tyranny of the present law that the promoters of the Permissive Bill desired. As to the charge of class 264 legislation, he asserted that the strongest supporters of the Bill were the poor, who experienced most injury from the public-houses. He set his face entirely against coercive legislation; but he advocated the measure, because it would enable people to remove public-houses from their midst when they were convinced that they were injurious. They did not advocate any legislation to make total abstinence compulsory; but, believing that the Bill would do much to promote temperance among the people, he trusted that all who were in favour of that cause would give it their support on the present occasion, in order that the second reading might be carried, and that in Committee the subject would be so thoroughly considered and thrashed out that some commencement of legislation in the direction of the Bill might at length be arrived at.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES
Sir, as I have on several previous occasions given the Bill my support, I am anxious not to record a silent vote. If I were to remark that there was a greater horror of drunkenness on this rather than the other side of this House I should be guilty of great impertinence, and there is no doubt, not only in Parliament, but through England, a strong feeling springing up, perhaps better expressed in the words of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) a few months ago, than in anything else, when he said that of all the evils which intercepted the prosperity and happiness of our country none were so great as that of drunkenness. It appears to me, however, that in the speech delivered by the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse), in the objections which he has raised, not even the merit of novelty can be found; and I am only surprised that he has been unable to employ some new arguments from what, after the task he has now for so many years discharged, I can only term his inexhaustible repertoire. It is sometimes said we have had this Bill before us too often, and that it would be well for the House to proceed to a division upon it without debate. If its provisions have been discussed often, they will still have to be discussed more often, and so far is this controversy from now drawing to a close, that it can only be said to have just commenced. During the present Parliament an immense change of feeling has taken place. When 265 the Home Secretary introduced, his Licensing Bill four years since, all recollect the exciting and heated debates which then took place. Now, even in this Parliament, except for the paltry opposition of some dozen Members, the Irish Sunday Bill has all but passed; and before the close of the Session we can hardly suppose that its provisions will not have their legal and binding effect. It is a matter for regret that the Government have adopted with reference to it such a neutral course, and that the Opposition also have not afforded the aid they might have given by the matter being pressed. There is ground for serious complaint, and it originated with the reluctance on the part of Leaders on both sides to giving the publicans offence. It is rather remarkable that though both the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. A. Gathorne-Hardy) and the hon. and learned Member for Leeds are horror-stricken with regard to the evils of excessive drinking, neither of them has made any suggestion as to how they would propose to mitigate or modify them. The hon. Member for Canterbury considers that strict regulations should be imposed with regard to the character of the drink sold in the public-houses.
§ MR. A. GATHORNE-HARDY
I did not say so. I said that if regulations were imposed, it should be the duty of Parliament to make regulations which should provide for the character of drinks sold in public-houses.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES
Well, I look upon that as much the same thing. Under Lord Aberdare's legislation, this duty was awarded to a special class of Inspectors; but the Home Secretary repealed its provisions at once until it is now left to the ordinary duties of the police. A considerable part of the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Leeds was addressed to the effect that we ought to practice what we preach. I would respectfully ask him—Has he ever carried that out himself? Has he ever resided in the slums of Leeds, next door to a public-house? Could he only feel how he was suffering in his own pocket, in seeing himself and his family surrendered to these temptations, which have been so fruitful in disease and death, I do not think he would say there is much coercion in the Bill my hon. Friend 266 has introduced. And in the presence of these enormous evils, the hon. and learned Member for Leeds does nothing. It is of no use to go into statistics with regard to the evils of drink. It is of no use quoting long figures of the apprehensions for drunkenness, and the countless horrors which almost lie between oneself and one's rest. That for these purposes, £147,000,000 annually is spent is quite enough. And when a Committee for the purpose of investigating the effects upon intemperance is appointed on the Motion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the House of Lords, it appears to me that it is only the reductio ad absurdum at which we have arrived. So far from good, the Committee will do harm. Without putting any experiments to the practical test, it will do little more than create confusion and uncertainty in facts which are already patent enough. In all matters relating to this class of legislation, I should like to see greater liberty of local action. But the Government will do nothing. There is no reason why, if a county town or district wishes to exist without public-houses, they should not be permitted to carry their wishes out. One neighbourhood may desire the Gothenburg system, another to try Sunday closing. For my own part, should any parish or place be willing to render themselves a corpus vile to attempt free licensing, I should have no objection that some trial might be given on which Parliament could form a reliable opinion. Why this Bill has found so much support in the North, and that so many Members from the counties of Durham and Northumberland give it their support is simply this—In many parishes in these northern counties landowners have had the good sense to shut the public-houses up, and uniformly with, good effect. Why is a similar power to be refused to residents within a particular area in a town, where the evils of their presence are infinitely more felt? I know that there will always be difficulty in legislation which interferes with social habits; but the evils which this Bill attempts to remove are artificial adjuncts of a society which has passed through vast changes since they first came into existence, and can now be merely termed a "social mechanism for manufacturing drunkenness." The hon. and learned Member for Leeds has said 267 much about the liberty of the subject. Freedom is all right, but people should recollect that liberty to do not as we like, but as we ought, is what we should endeavour to seek. True liberty consists in the selection of the various paths which lead to good. The shallow philosophy invoked by the hon. and learned Member for Leeds and his Friends is the liberty of doing wrong. If a man mutilates the body of his child, society interferes, and, as men have souls as well as bodies, why should society not step in to prevent and protect them from the evils the drink traffic places athwart their path? In former days this doctrine was thought commendable to great statesmen. There are many to quote from. To-night I will select but one example—not one who might be supposed an advocate of restraint or of coercion, but who is often held forth to reproach as an advocate of a most unrestrained and unrestricted freedom both in morals and legislation. Speaking last century on the Gin Act in the House of Lords, he said—Vice, my Lords, is not properly to be taxed, but to be suppressed, and heavy taxes are sometimes the only means by which that suppression can be attained. Luxury, my Lords, may very properly be taxed. But the use of those things which are simply hurtful—hurtful in their own nature, and in every degree—is to be prohibited. If their liquors are so delicious that the people are tempted to their own destruction, let us at length, my Lords, secure them from these fatal draughts by bursting the vials that contain them … Let us crush these artists in human slaughter, which have reconciled their countrymen to sickness and to ruin, and spread over the pitfalls of debauchery such baits as cannot be resisted … When I consider, my Lords, the tendency of this Bill, I find it calculated only for the propagation of disease, the suppression of industry, and the destruction of mankind. For this purpose, my Lords, what could have been invented more efficacious than shops at which poison may be vended, poison so prepared as to please the palate, while it wastes the strength and kills only by intoxication?It is for those who turn aside from the evils of which Lord Chesterfield makes complaint to judge on what side the charge of coercion can be most effectually made out. Within the last few days Parliament has been engaged in discussing a measure for stamping out the cattle plague. How infinitely better to stamp out a plague by which thousands and thousands annually meet their death, rather than devoting all our time and 268 energy to the extermination of an epidemic amongst a few beasts and sheep! It is sometimes said that we pay much attention to questions abroad, and that we neglect others at home. We have heard of the Bulgarian atrocities—atrocities perpetrated by Russians upon Mussulmans, and atrocities perpetrated in the South-Eastern part of Europe, which, while they have lasted, have drenched the larger portion of one of the fairest Provinces of the East with blood. I speak in no way the language of exaggeration; but we should arrive at something far more dreadful, were it possible to compute the sum total of lives lost in the last 25 years by drinking in this country, combined with an amount of human suffering which, compared with the atrocities of which I have spoken, would enter into a degree of comparison by no means unfavourable—a thought not too agreeable for Englishmen. And Parliament shall now do nothing! Some object to have agitation. Whatever can be the inconvenience of agitation? I do not doubt that if it did cause temporary inconvenience eventually it would produce a good result; and how small the annoyance of a triennial vote to the murders, assaults, batteries, and suicides, which are now happening all round us every night. While I give his Bill my support, I should like to make one observation on the tactics some of its supporters adopt, which prove occasionally a great mistake. There are organizations in this country who take up the war cry of "Votes for votes, or nothing for nothing," with regard to those who seek the honour of a seat in this House. These tactics are, I believe, a mistake, and have more than once proved fatal to the cause many supporters of temperance legislation have warmly at heart. Why should a Member be so driven by external pressure that, for the sake of his own independence, a choice of action is scarcely left? It is unwise that those who decline to cross this Rubicon, and find themselves unable to give the Bill their support, should in future electoral proceedings have a black chalk against their names, unless absolutely pledged even before they have entered this House. This Bill will never pass by such methods. It must rely more on the creation of a sound public opinion, which alone, preceding legislation, is all-power- 269 ful. We all know quite well what will be the result of the expected division. It is already almost a foregone conclusion. There was an old Scotch Member once asked if he had ever changed his views by anything he had heard in this House? He said, in reply, he had often changed his views, but never his vote; and we know very well that there will be no great change in the recorded division of to-night either upon this side or that. What remains is, that the advocates of this Bill should still continue working, and not continue to abate our efforts till we have placed under the control of the public what hitherto has been and is exercised by the caprice of the publican. Can anyone justify the system by which you place in the hands of the magistrates—a body by no means always beyond suspicion—the power of granting a licence worth £1,800 or £2,000 to any individual, who, at the same time, will create paupers all round him. Soon—there are already signs not wanting—there will be an improvement in the tone of public opinion on this question. There has been in the South Northumberland Election. My friend, Mr. Grey, who, from unusual circumstances, is not now in this House, and whose absence, so far as he is personally concerned, all must regret, knows perfectly well that had he not promised to give this Bill his support, he would never have had a ghost of a chance. Again, we can look with satisfaction at what has occurred at Southampton, where we see symptoms that the ill-assorted match between Beer and the Bible will be soon separated by an everlasting divorce, and the ministers of the Christian Church will repudiate all identification with the votaries of the prize-ring and aristocratic touts. It is only by perpetual repetition that a sound public opinion will be formed on this question; and if to some its standard seems unattainable, and that within calculable time there seems small chance of the Bill passing, it is merely by this standard that any of the incidents of temperance legislation will become practicable, and contribute towards increased freedom, morality, and greater prosperity amongst all classes of the people.
§ MR. BARRAN
also supported the Bill, and all the more readily, because he felt that, in advocating a measure of the kind, he was not advocating a mea- 270 sure which was merely based on Party politics or for Party purposes. The question with which they had to deal was very much higher than the ordinary questions of Party politics. It was one which was admitted by all sections of the community, by all sections of the Christian Church, by our Judges, and by many of our magistrates, to be one of paramount and pressing importance; and believing, as he did, that their opinion was a correct one, he ventured to make a few remarks in connection with this great question. His hon. and learned Colleague (Mr. Wheelhouse) had dwelt upon one important aspect of it; and whilst he (Mr. Barran) was strongly in favour of some such Bill as that under consideration, he could not lose sight of the fact that in the event of its becoming law, it would very largely interfere with the private rights of both property and individuals. The hon. and learned Member had referred to some of the large establishments founded for the purpose of producing intoxicating liquors to supply the demands of the public; and he very naturally asked what would become of these establishments, if power were placed in the hands of a small knot of ratepayers of closing them either for a time, or for ever? If this Bill contemplated anything of that kind, he should have no doubt as to whether he should support the second reading of it; but he did not take it that it was going to be confined to the narrow limits of a parish, or to a knot of men living in a parish, to decide whether Truman, Hanbury, Buxton, and Co., or other large brewing firms, were to be exterminated at one fell swoop. If ever this Bill were passed, he took it that that question would have to be decided by a much broader area. It would have to be considered on its merits, and whenever the time should come when the inhabitants of any district should have to decide the question, he was quite sure that considerations of rights of property and individuals would not be entirely ignored. ["No, no!"] The hon. and learned Member for Leeds rather demurred to that opinion. All he could say was, that as an Englishman, he had full confidence in the love of fair play which prevailed among his countrymen, and believed that they would give fair compensation to all persons who would be prejudiced, pecun- 271 airily or socially, by the operation of the Bill. Whilst he admitted that that was an important feature, he did not lose sight of the fact that there was a much more important consideration than the value of property or the convenience of a portion of the public, and that was the good of the general community. He knew from his own personal observation and from practical experience, that the evils resulting from the drink traffic were of such a nature that measures of a stringent character were required, and would be justified in dealing with them. At the present time, from some cause or other—and he believed it was mainly from excessive indulgence in drink—we had to provide a very large increase of accommodation in our lunatic asylums, and our criminal statistics were not as satisfactory as they ought to be considering the progress of education. The administration of our Poor Laws, too, was beset with great difficulty, because so many of the recipients of poor relief were those who were brought into a state of poverty through their improvident and drinking habits. Towards the maintenance of our lunatic asylums, our police, and our Poor Laws, the ratepayers were called upon to contribute, and when a demand was made for a poor rate, a county rate, or a gaol rate, the person on whom it was made was not permitted to exercise his right as a citizen in defiance of the law; but was compelled to contribute to the funds which were necessary for the maintenance of the institutions which were largely provided to meet the growing wants of those who come to poverty, crime, and lunacy, through free indulgence in intoxicating drinks. Any man who had ever acted as a magistrate knew that a large proportion of the crime which he had to deal with was the result of drinking habits. It was no uncommon thing to find that a person had been convicted of drunkenness 20, 30, or 40 times, and such person had to be maintained at the public expense. He believed that as they diminished temptation they would, in the same proportion, diminish misery and crime. He thought his hon. and learned Colleague—who opposed the Bill—had not put himself to the trouble of becoming personally acquainted with the facts which rendered the Bill necessary. He (Mr. Barran) had made it his business to visit 272 some of the gin palaces in this Metropolis, and he had gone farther. He had followed some of the frequenters to their homes; he had seen the kind of homes they lived in, and the wretchedness which surrounded their every-day life. He believed we were largely the creatures of circumstances; and if, by untoward circumstances, we found ourselves surrounded by temptations such as many of those to whom he referred found themselves, he was quite sure it was the duty of those who sympathized with the people thus tempted to seek, as far as possible, to introduce such measures as would relieve them from temptation which they could not resist, and thereby place them in a better and safer position. It was objected that if the Bill passed, the question to be settled under it would be decided by a small majority. Well, he could not call a majority of two-thirds small; but if it were so considered, let it be enlarged and made three-fourths. They were not anxious about a figure; what they were anxious about was a principle. They were desirous to give all classes of the community the right to say whether they were or were not in favour of having public-houses in their neighbourhood. He, therefore, felt justified in giving his vote for this measure, because it was not to be left in the hands of the people. His hon. and learned Colleague wanted to know what would be thought if men were to go and invade the private residence of a gentleman which was situated in his park? He (Mr. Barran) did not know that anyone wanted to invade the premises of any private gentleman; certainly, he and those who acted with him on this question did not. This was a question which would have to be dealt with by the public for the public, and not by private individuals against the interests of private individuals. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr Wheel-house) had referred to this question being annually discussed; but he (Mr. Barran) thought it was a great advantage that it should be discussed annually. The more it was ventilated, and the better it was understood, the more it would be supported; and, therefore, although the hon. and learned Gentleman might make light of this subject, and talk of the numbers who voted periodically for the Bill, it was quite clear that numbers in that House did 273 not always indicate the strength of the cause which was advocated. They had been engaged yesterday in the discussion of an important Bill affecting the food supply of the nation. That was a most interesting subject; but before the people could obtain a supply of meat, it would be necessary that they should have the means of doing so, and those means were much diminished by the action of the liquor trade. Unfortunately, the crime of the drunkard was visited upon others. The wife, the sons, and daughters, were too frequently compelled to live in want and misery in consequence; and he hoped that hon. Members, by supporting the Bill, would protect those who, from their youth and position, were utterly unable to protect themselves. He should give his hearty support to the Bill.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he could by no means agree with the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Barran), that either the House, or the public, derived any advantage from the annual discussion of this measure, and he did not think its supporters were well advised in bringing it on year after year, seeing that its discussion was practically exhausted. Today it was supported by the old illustrations, met by the same old arguments, and probably, before the debate had closed, it would be enlivened by the same old jokes. In fact, the discussion of the Bill was practically useless, and he regretted it should be brought forward to the disadvantage of the one which stood next on the Paper, and which was of a much more practical character. He was as much in favour of the spread of temperance as anyone could be, and should be glad to see any practical measure that could be framed that would tend to mitigate drunkenness; but they had done a great deal in that respect by the legislation of the last few years, and it should be remembered in that time that 5,000 or 6,000 beerhouses had been extinguished. The question was, whether they were to go to the extent proposed by the Bill? One hon. Member had said that it was not a Bill of a parochial character. It was, at all events, to be put in Motion by the ratepayers, and in the district in which it was adopted, no alcoholic liquors were to be sold for any purpose whatever, even if prescribed by a medical man, and for the most innocent purpose. 274 Then, again, the Bill was an attack on the rights of property. The licences of these houses were matters of property. The trade had been legalized and regulated for years past, and, having done that, this Bill proposed to abrogate that right without giving a shadow of compensation. Beyond that, in his opinion, great evils would result from agitation in all districts of the country, which would be increased by the perpetual struggles arising, as he did not believe there would be much probability of getting the majority prescribed by the Bill in many localities. Having regard to the steps which had been already taken for the promotion of temperance, to the fact that licences were not now so readily granted by magistrates as was formerly the case, and that greater supervision was exercised over the sale of spirituous liquors, he thought it both impolitic and unnecessary to pass it, inasmuch as no advantage would be gained by the adoption of such stringent measures as were proposed by the Bill, nor would they command public sympathy or support, and for that reason he felt bound to give his vote against the second reading.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, there should be no surprise at the persistency of the advocates of this measure in bringing it forward, when the continual degradation going on amongst the people was remembered. It became necessary, on account of the crime which prevailed amongst all classes, owing to the influence of liquor. He was suprised that the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse), and others on the Government side of the House, should take it for granted that there was no cause and no circumstance which justified the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) in bringing forward his proposal. The hon. and learned Member had called the Preamble of the Bill a "fustian" Preamble. Did it not, however, recite a state of things which was true, and which was as sad and melancholy as any in the history of the country. It was upon facts, which could not be controverted by any hon. Member, that the hon. Baronet based his measure; and he (Mr. E. Jenkins) did not think that in addressing the House, he was addressing hon. Members who were not aware of the facts; because, unhappily, the evil was now so great, that it was almost impossible for a man to go out without 275 his skirts being soiled by it. The question was, whether the proposition which was brought forward was one designed to cope with the evil which existed, and to cope with it in a legitimate manner. He had listened with great care to the arguments of the hon. and learned Member, and he must say that when he had picked them to pieces, he found them to consist of what, to use a term known amongst the hon. and learned Member's constituents, and which might be more intelligible to him, might be called "shoddy." The hon. and learned Member asked what reason was there to interfere with the domestic rules of the people? Well, the fact was, that there were many human beings whose domestic habits might, in the interest of their neighbours, be interfered with under the existing law. It was the custom of the Legislature to pass laws imposing certain restrictions on the ordinary liberty of the subject, when proof was given that the evils attendant on the exercise of that liberty were so great as to call for restriction. Supposing one had a lady as a neighbour, and she kept 60 or 70 cats, would it not be necessary to interfere with domestic rules so as to abate a nuisance? If a man kept fowls which crowed at an early hour in the morning, was it not necessary for the public convenience to interfere with his domestic rules? And if a man went home drunk and beat his wife with a poker, surely that was a matter in which the law was allowed to interfere with the domestic rules of the family? These were only humorous illustrations of the principle of the law that, although they had a basis of personal freedom, yet that was limited by the consideration as to how far it was right and just that it should be exercised, and it ought not to interfere with the general convenience and happiness of the public. The question between the hon. and learned Member for Leeds and those who supported the Bill was, whether or not there was proposed such an interference with the private liberty of the subject as was illegitimate, or was there a tendency on their part to evade sufficient proof that the evil which existed was so great that it was necessary there should be certain restrictions placed on the ordinary liberty of the people? He supported the Bill on the principle that every locality ought to be allowed to pro- 276 tect itself against what was admitted to be a danger and an evil, and he thought that, at the same time, care should be taken not needlessly to interfere with the liberty of the subject—the proposal was not to prevent the sale of intoxicating liquors, but simply to allow the existing licences to drop, and to prevent other licences being granted without the sanction of the ratepayers. It had been said that this measure was an undue infraction of the liberty of the subject; but then came in the question of expediency, whether, in view of the monstrous nature of the evil, it was not necessary and right that this step should be taken? The hon and learned Member for Leeds seemed to think that he was conducting a prosecution; but he (Mr. E. Jenkins) would point out that the hon. and learned Member was really on his defence. If the hon. and learned Member came forward as the chartered advocate of the publican interest, he would tell him that he came forward in defence of the party which was sowing the seeds of crime, of immorality, and of physical deterioration, and which led to an increased responsibility on the part of the inhabitants. It was not the advocates of the Bill, but the advocates of the publicans, that ought to be put on their defence. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds, cheered by the melancholy fervour of the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir William Edmonstone) had laid down this view—that he was vindicating freedom of action and liberty of conscience. [Sir WILLIAM EDMONSTONE: Hear, hear.] Surely it was no infringement of the liberty of the subject, if they asked that some sort of restriction should be placed upon the evil done by the public-houses in the districts in which they were situated, so as to prevent its increase. What the hon. and learned Member, however, seemed to desire, was unlimited freedom to do evil, and this was one of the things which the law did not permit. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded to draw the distinction between the working man who took his beer at a public-house and the member of a club, talking about the unfairness of closing public-houses, and thereby preventing the working classes from obtaining a supply of intoxicating liquor; but he (Mr. E. Jenkins) thought that, looking at the rate of wages of the working classes of this country during the last 10 years, 277 he believed that if a man wished to drink in moderation, and his money did not burn in his pocket, he might very well supply himself in the same manner as the classes above him, and have beer or spirits in his house, so as to prevent the necessity of resorting to what the Americans called "a bar for perpendicular drinking." In order to do that, he need only have exercised the same amount of restraint as some professional men had done whose income was about the same as the wages of skilled artizans. It was only those degraded persons who spent immediately every penny they could lay their hands on, who would have the misused liberty interfered with. The arguments of his hon. and learned Friend would, therefore, he contended, be found to have no substantial basis. The hon. and learned Member seemed also to object to the organization of the supporters of the measure; but he would ask whether there was no organization in opposition to it? At the recent Election in Southampton, it was a fact, and it was stated by the organ of the Licensed Victuallers' Association, that the licensed victuallers gave a trade vote and recorded their suffrages for the Conservative candidate—now an hon. Member—although some of them were professed Liberals and Radicals. It was possible that there wore some objections to the details of this Bill; but he ventured to point out that it would be desirable to pass the Bill a second time and amend it in Committee. The liquor traffic stood on a different footing to all other trades, and the measure laid down a principle which was perfectly sound—that the localities should have a local control over the manufacture and increase of public-houses. It was not going too far to say that they had a right to ask, on behalf of localities, that they should have the right to oppose the increase of the liquor trade, so long as the rights of minorities were respected.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he had never yet given a vote on the Bill. He had said that he doubted about it, because he was against putting restrictions on the club-houses of the poor, when the club-houses of the rich were left free. He asked the permission of the House to state why he now intended to record his vote for the Bill. He felt that the evil arising from drink was so frightful, that some measure ought to be 278 adopted to deal with it. He could not say that he was satisfied with the Bill as it stood; but there were some points which were capable of being amended in Committee. He regarded the present licensing system as intolerable, and what he best liked in the Bill was that it interfered with what he regarded as the "spurious" rights of vested property in the right of selling liquor. The present licensing laws were a scandal and an abuse, seeing that the granting of a licence frequently doubled and trebled the value of the property. He proposed to vote for the Bill—first, because he thought, if passed, it would put an end to the licensing system, and to that vested right in the sale of drink which should be put an end to; and, secondly and especially, because he thought it contained the right and proper principle—namely, local self-government and local regulation in the matter. He would not like the Bill to be actually passed in its present form; but he believed by amendment in Committee they could, out of its principle, devise means of regulating this traffic in the interest of the public and not for any particular section of the community.
§ MR. C. S. PARKER
said, the two hon. Members who spoke last had dealt with the question in a way that was familiar to the House. They did not approve the Bill in its present form, but meant to vote for it because they were in favour of the principle. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Edward Jenkins) said that the principle of the measure was to give some local control over the drink traffic. If that were all, he (Mr. Parker) was in favour of that principle. But the Bill contained another principle, that this local control must take no other form than that of total prohibition. This seemed to him so unpractical, that he could not support the second reading. On seven previous occasions the constituency which he represented had recorded its vote in favour of the Bill; and if his predecessor, now Lord Kinnaird, had still been there, no doubt the voice of the city of Perth would still have been given in support of it. He was, therefore, the more careful to say distinctly that his constituents had in no respect gone back from their loyalty to the cause of temperance, as against trade interests in excessive drinking. They still held that the 279 misery and mischief arising from intemperance, through crime, disease, pauperism, lunacy, and general physical and moral degradation, were so frightful, and on such a scale, as to justify legislation more stringent than had yet found its way into the Statute Book. But the more extensive and deep-rooted were the evils with which they had to deal, the more necessary was it to consider well before jumping to the conclusion that this particular measure was most likely to remove those evils. There might be some presumption in favour of the Bill from its having been now for many years adopted by the most active section of the Temperance Party. On the other hand, there was a presumption against it from the frequent and emphatic rejection of the measure by this and the previous House of Commons. Setting these opposite presumptions, then, one against the other, let them look more closely at the Bill itself, with a view to judging whether, in the not very probable event of its becoming law, it would work for good. And first, why was it that the Bill appeared year after year always exactly in the same form, notwithstanding that objections to it had been pointed out, and admitted to be valid, even by its friends? Many of its supporters admitted that if, by a popular vote, the whole liquor trade throughout a district were suddenly destroyed, some compensation would be due for vested interests—say, for a brewery that must be closed. Why was this not dealt with in the Bill? Surely it was a matter of principle, either to give or to refuse compensation. Again, few denied that there should be some distinction in favour of alcoholic stimulants prescribed by medical advice. Why did not the Bill provide for this? In the Canadian Act, referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeen-shire (Sir Alexander Gordon), there was an exemption for the wholesale trade. Did the promoters of this Bill intend, or not, to give a similar exemption? That was an important question, because it would make a great difference in the claims for compensation. In answer to such criticisms, he would be told—"Only vote for the second reading of the Bill, and amend it as you please in Committee." But what he wanted to know was, why hon. Members having charge of the Bill, and hearing these objections taken 280 from year to year, had not themselves made the necessary Amendments, so as to present a more practicable measure to the House? But passing from that point, as they were now upon the second reading, let him ask what was the principle of the Bill? He supposed the hon. Baronet would allow him to take it from a paper circulated yesterday, which said—The present licensing system recognizes the right of the inhabitants to oppose the establishment of places for the sale of liquor in their midst, but it gives them no really operative veto. This Bill proposes to give an effective veto.Well, but, as he read the Bill, he did not think it would give an effective veto; on the contrary, if it gave a veto at all, it could hardly give a more ineffective veto, and he would tell the House why. Because it was not a particular, but a general veto. The Bill gave no power to say—"This, that, or the other liquor-shop is a nuisance; we will not have it in our midst." It gave no power to say—"We have too many liquor-shops; half the number, or a third of the number, would be enough; we will have no more." It gave no power to say—"These liquor-shops are open too long, day and night; we will have shorter hours." It only professed to give power to say—"We will have no liquor-shops at all, no brewers, no wine merchants, none but temperance hotels." But would the Bill give real power even to say this? He could not think so. The exercise of such a power would be so extreme, the resistance to a system of stringent total prohibition would appear so reasonable, and would be so strong, that in most districts, and especially in the largest, and in those where the traffic was doing most harm, to obtain a majority of two-thirds would be impossible, and the permissive veto would be a mere illusion. Still more would this be the case if a majority of three-fourths, as proposed by one hon. Member, or of seven-ninths, as suggested by another, were required. Thus, in most places the Bill would have no effect at all to restrain excessive drinking. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle would, no doubt, reply, as often before—If the effect would be so small, if the power would be so seldom used, all the more reason is there why you should let me have my little Bill, if only—he thought he had heard him 281 use this argument—to please or to amuse me. No one was more willing than he was to please his hon. Friend, whom they were all glad to see again among them, or to amuse him, though the hon. Baronet was much more able to amuse them, on that or any more fitting occasion. But the question was a serious one—how to deal with the most crying evil of our times. He (Mr. Parker) could not think it was dealing with it wisely, when proposing to give for the first time to local majorities control over the sale of an article of daily consumption, to give that control in a form which combined the maximum of threatened interference with a minimum of actual result. Was it well to grant extraordinary powers that were not likely to be used, in such a form as to keep up a yearly conflict between those who wished to use them and a minority, or majority, as the case might be, who were determined to resist? Why force the ratepayers to choose between total prohibition and leaving things as they were? Why not rather give them a large and practical control, guarded against abuse, but enabling them to diminish as might be found desirable the number of licences, to distinguish between those which were and those which were not a nuisance to neighbours, and to regulate also the hours of traffic in accordance with local public opinion? Such powers, it was true, could not be exercised by a plebiscite; but they might be intrusted to persons elected by and responsible to the ratepayers, and either associated with, or in time, if t were found to work well, taking the place of the present licensing boards. He would appeal, not to his hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), for he knew that was useless, but to the friends of temperance legislation, whether they had not been long enough hammering at this particular Bill without one Amendment being made upon it as the result of all the discussion it had undergone? Would it not be better to re-cast their measure in the light of past debates, so as to present it in a form more acceptable to public opinion? For his own part, as there was this year no alternative before the House, and as he was most unwilling to discourage temperance reformers, he would not vote against the Bill, but would abstain from voting at all.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
My hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. C. S. Parker) has asked why this Bill reappears year after year in the same form? The reason is, that those who support it believe it to be a just, and at the same time a practical, measure; and when the hon. Member talks about the desirability of introducing a more practical measure, why does he not himself bring one forward, and submit it to the House? It is all very well for hon. Members to make speeches against the Permissive Bill—in fact, if I were opposed to it, I could make a much more effective speech against it than has the hon. Member; but it is not quite so easy to carry out its object. Those who long so much for something that they call more practical, should bring in a Bill of their own, should submit to have it thrown out, and should agitate the country to see whether it would be acceptable or not. That would be a more rational proceeding than simply finding fault with the only measure on the subject, whatever may be its form, which is now obtaining a large amount of support out-of-doors. Last year I had not an opportunity of bringing the Bill forward, as I postponed it in favour of the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, in the hope of obtaining the support of my Friends from Ireland. But this Session, observing that that Bill had been brought forward at 13 Sittings, had occupied 40 odd hours in discussion, and had caused 35 divisions, I thought the question was getting into calm water, and that it would soon be floating over the Bar of the House of Lords; and, therefore, I could not understand that there was any reason for my postponing this Bill. Probably, some hon. Members may wish that I had postponed the Permissive Bill until another Parliament assembles, which I hope will receive it more favouraby than the present one has done; but I have not felt myself justified in doing that, because every year that I bring the measure forward I obtain more support, and my case becomes stronger. Hon. Members who have spoken have not thoroughly dealt with the evils which this Bill is intended to deal with. It is sometimes said that the time of the House ought not to be taken up with the discussion of a measure like this; but I do think that when the House has spent the greater 283 part of the Session in endeavouring to right the wrongs of Roumelians, Roumanians, and Bulgarians, there can be no harm in endeavouring during a few short hours of one afternoon to right the wrongs of some 35,000,000 of the people of this country. The hon. and learned Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) this day week brought forward his Bill to remove the disabilities attaching to women with regard to the franchise. That was thrown out, and the argument which to some extent induced that result was, that women were already truly and faithfully represented in the House. I now speak for the women and children of this country, by far the larger portion of the community, and the hon. and learned Member for Leeds, with all his enthusiasm for public-houses, will hardly say that the ginshops are beneficial to the women and children of the Kingdom. It is, therefore, all the more incumbent on the House, after rejecting the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard, to help in righting the wrongs of those large sections of the people. I will not weary the House with statistics of the drunkenness of the country. I will only say I do not think that evil has diminished in a manner which can be satisfactory to anyone. After a generation of improved education, improved sanitary laws, and extended popular rights, nobody will get up and say that intemperance has much decreased, or that the country is not still in a most debased condition. Let hon. Members look at what took place at the end of last year in Dundee, when the Town Council ordered, seemingly, as a matter of course—at all events, it was taken as such—that six new barrows should be provided for use on the occasion of the New Year's festivities. In a Christian land, it was expected that a certain number of Christian people would be knocked senseless by drink, and would require to be conveyed like pigs to the lock-up. There is no use in hon. Members sitting in this House, and lamenting this state of things, if they will pass no measure that will remedy it. A friend of mine last Tuesday searched a few London and provincial newspapers to see what a single day's work of the drink-traffic was, and he found 59 cases of wife-beating, attempts at murder, poisoning, brutal assaults, and other 284 crimes. Are not these horrors enough to induce us to turn our attention to this very useful work? What does this House think of £140,000,000 sterling being spent annually in drink, when trade is in its present depressed condition—when one person in every 30 was a pauper at the beginning of the year? Since 1870 I calculate that £1,000,000,000 has been spent in the consumption of intoxicating liquors; and the licensed victuallers, whose only business it is to keep the people sober, succeeded last year in making drunk 350,000 persons, who were taken up by the police; and it is estimated that for every drunken person who was so taken up, there were about 10 other drunkards who did not get into the hands of the police. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse), during one of the Irish Sunday Closing debates, said he did not care a straw for the opinions of Bishops; but he could not say that the opinion of such a Bishop as the Bishop of Manchester did not carry weight. Only a fortnight ago, that Prelate said—The times, although very bad, apparently were not bad for the public-house. He really did not know what was to become of this country if these drinking habits of the people were to continue, and he was afraid the curse was spreading, like a leprosy, everywhere. Therefore, when we said that we hoped God would give back to England its days of prosperity, he was not quite sure that days of prosperity ever would come back to England, or ever ought to come back to England, until England had become a sober and industrial land.What I complain of is, that we suffer from too much legislation on this matter. The trade in liquor is made a monopoly by law. No one in the House, except those who are engaged in the trade, can sell one drop of liquor without a licence, and the justices of the peace have power to set up whom they like as publicans, or prevent whom they like from selling drink. That seems to me to be a large amount of power to place in the hands of a few men, and it certainly does not give satisfaction. What happened only recently? A certain Baronet, named Sir Coutts Lindsay, wanted to set up in the drink trade. He has a gallery, where people go to see what is called fine art; and, as he explained to the magistrates, when people had gone through the gallery they found them- 285 selves so used up, that they required something to re-animate them. I am not at all surprised at that, and he said that especially clergymen and ladies required refreshment. He had his case stated with all the eloquence of counsel; but he could not prevail on the magistrates, and the licence was refused. There was a most tremendous row, and I never saw such an amount of fine writing in the public Press upon any other subject, except the Eastern Question, as there was about this case. The result was, that the magistrates were attacked from all sides, and in the end the licence was granted; and if we were to go into that refreshment-room now, no doubt we should find the clergymen and ladies enjoying themselves to their hearts' content. It is a remarkable thing, however, that when the Press were attacking the magistrates for refusing this licence in this case, they did not come to the conclusion that it is just as unfair to force a ginshop upon people who do not want it, as it was to refuse a refreshment-room to people who did want it. It seems to me that the proper authority to deal with the question as to whether there should or should not be public-houses in any particular district are the people who live in this district. To arrive at such a state of things is the sole end and aim of this Bill. As to details, I care not for them, and I will not be led away by invidious speeches into the discussion of them. I say to the last hon. Member who spoke, that on the second reading of a Bill, according to Parliamentary practice, we discuss principles only; and when we get into Committee, as I hope the House will allow me to do upon this Bill, I will discuss details then. I say that the opinion of two-thirds of the population in any place should decide the question of public-houses or no public-houses. I have described the principle of my Bill, and I hope hon. Members understand it. The right hon. Member for Greenwich once said that the question could not be dealt with by heroic measures; but this Bill is not a heroic remedy—it is simplicity and common sense itself. Why, I ask, is public opinion to be overridden by justices of the peace more in this matter than in any other? We have heard very lately a debate about Church Establishments, which was very dear to many thoughtful 286 and earnest people, and what was the doctrine then laid down by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition and by the right hon. Member for Greenwich? Why, that a Church Establishment was to stand for fall according to the opinion of the people of Scotland. Why, then, are not the people of England and Scotland to be allowed to decide whether they should have public-houses among them or not? Are public-houses more sacred institutions than the Church? Again, we hear a great deal of County Boards, although that Bill has gone by the Board; and the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), who is the father of that Bill, proposed to take away many powers from the magistrates. I listened to him attentively; but when he came to the licensing question, he declined to touch it. He was wise in his generation, for the representative of the taxpayer may touch everything but the licensing system. It does not follow that if you grant this power I ask for, that it will be taken up all at once. It will work gradually, and if the Bill proves to be good in one place, it will be then tried elsewhere; but if it is bad, then it will not be followed out. As to permissive legislation, look at the Agricultural Holdings Bill. I remember, when the Prime Minister brought in that Bill, he said it was one of the greatest feats of his public life. That, of course, was before he had gone to the Congress at Berlin. What was that Bill? It was a permissive measure, which anybody might contract themselves out of—as many landowners did as soon as it was passed. Well, the Permissive Liquor Bill does not enforce anything, but only gives the people the power of enforcing it in their own districts. If hon. Members will look at the Bill, they will find on the back of it the name of Mr. M'Carthy Downing, who was one of the most determined opponents of the Irish Sunday Closing Bill; but he sees that it is only just and fair that this matter should be left to the people themselves. This House has already sanctioned the principle of the Permissive Bill. The Opposition has voted for total Sunday closing in Ireland, because they said the people of Ireland were in favour of it. ["No, no!"] Well, but that was what they said. If the Irish people are to have the right of closing public-houses on 287 Sunday, the English people ought to have the right, if they chose, of being able to close public-houses on Monday and Tuesday, or on any other day of the week. I do ask the House to trust the people of England as much as they are willing to trust the people of Ireland. We know, as a fact, that wherever drink shops have been removed, the people have been better, and happier, and mere orderly, than before. In some cases, the great landlords have done this, and instead of their being abused by people saying that they rob the poor man of his beer, they are praised as great benefactors to their fellow-countrymen, and their names are in all the churches. All I ask, too, is that the poor man should have the same choice as the rich man as to whether there should be public-houses in their neighbourhood or not. At the late Election for Worcester, the present Member for that borough was interviewed by agitators for the Permissive Bill. The hon. Member told the deputation that he owned property in a large village, where there was a public-house belonging to him to which the people objected; that he took the public-house away; and that when he went down the other day, to see what the effect of that step was, he found that everybody was delighted with the result, and thanked him for it. The hon. Gentleman added that he had another public-house there, which he would also remove, if the people desired him to do so; and yet he concluded by telling his interviewers that he had not made up his mind whether he would vote for the Permissive Bill or not. After that, however, the hon. Gentleman can hardly help doing so, for why should he not extend to the whole country what he found to be so beneficial on his own estate? I have not heard to-day anything about the failure of the Maine Liquor Laws; but I was prepared for it, and have many documents to prove that it is a great success. I will not trouble the House with that; but I must allude to some of the objections to the Bill. It is said it will only be put into operation where it is not wanted—in places where the people are steady, industrious, and where there are no public-houses. But those are the very places that the publicans like to go to and establish a tap. I want to prevent that, and thus prevent drunkenness. 288 We have heard something of the rights of minorities, but what do you think of one or two magistrates overriding the wishes of a whole district? I think the rule of the majorities is a rough-and-ready way of doing justice, and the only satisfactory way I know of. In his able maiden speech, the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. A. Gathorne-Hardy) has referred to the compensation argument. Now, the publicans have been enjoying a lucrative monopoly for many years, and it must be remembered that a monopoly pays itself. The holders of this monopoly have made money, and to compensate them would be to pay them twice over. In the case of Scotland, when the public-houses were closed on Sundays, and the publicans lost one-seventh of their profits, no one talked of compensation. It must have been a serious loss, for a Scotchman likes whiskey on Sunday better than on any other day. The hon. and learned Member for Limerick said that the closing of public-houses in Ireland on Sunday would ruin 18,000 Irish publicans, but no one spoke of compensation in that case. But if, when the Bill gets into Committee, a good case can be made out for compensation, I shall not oppose compensation clauses being added. Then, my Bill has been described as a Bill of confiscation; but the confiscation is on the other side, considering that £140,000,000 has been taken away from useful purposes, and poured into the pockets of the liquor trade. I do not wish this Bill of mine to be run as a rival against anybody else's Bill, dealing with parts of the same subject. It runs on all fours with any other Bill that is brought forward to limit the sale of drink. I voted two years ago, and will do so again, for the hon. Member for Newcastle's (Mr. J. Cowen's) Bill for taking away the power of magistrates to grant licences, and giving it to Boards. But that measure would not render it less desirable that the ratepayers should have a veto on the liquor traffic of their districts. Again, among other Bills, one was brought in last year by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Isaac)—and I was glad to see it come from him, as he is interested in the liquor trade—to allow the publicans to dilute their gin with as much water as they liked, and sell it for the same money as before. That is a very good Bill; for if they made their gin all 289 water, it would please me. I would support all such measures. It probably will be said that I should try to gain my end by moral suasion. For instance, the hon. Member for Scarborough (Sir Harcourt Johnstone) promotes the establishment of cocoa shops, and, no doubt, is a great cocoa drinker himself; but surely it will be better to have no public-houses near his cocoa shops? I say that if licences are to be granted for the good of the public, let the people have something to say about the matter. If that is not to be, let us understand that we are legislating for a class, and for a trade. But when we look at the enormity of the evil which confronts us, and read of the horrors that are going on from day to day as the result of drinking, I appeal to the House whether it is not worth while to try something like my Bill? I ask you to try my Bill, because the principle of it has never failed where it has been tried. I say that there is a great political power growing up in this country in connection with this traffic which ought to be stopped. I say that a great band of monopolists have grown up in this country, fostered by the legislation, which is out of place in a Constitutional country. What happens when there is a vacancy in any constituency? Why, a candidate announces that he has secured the support of the licensed victuallers; but we never hear it said that he has secured the support of the tailors or the grocers. The hon. Member for North Stafford-shire (Mr. Hanbury), who has ably and suitably represented Tamworth, made some time ago a noteworthy statement—I allude to Tamworth—and the hon. Member said that at Tamworth even a donkey would be preferred to anyone else who could be returned, if it bore the honoured name of Bass or Allsopp. I have noticed that at the licensed victuallers' dinners, orators get up boldly and say that their trade has put the present Government into power, and will keep it there as long as it does what it is told to do. No doubt, four years ago, the Government came into Office upon a spirited foreign policy and a spirituous domestic policy. That was a good cry, and was crowned by a great and triumphal success. Four years have passed, however, since then, and I warn the Government not to trust too much to the spirituous domestic policy 290 cry, for during that period more has been said and written about temperance than during any corresponding period, although, perhaps, the spirited foreign policy will be again the winning horse. I hope no one will say this measure of mine is a measure brought in and supported only by teetotallers. That has been said; but now the hon. and learned Member for Leeds complains that the supporters of the Bill are not teetotallers, and so no one is to bring in the Bill. Teetotallers are objected to because they are teetotalers, and other people, supporters of the Bill, are objected to because they are not teetotallers. I am not going to lecture on teetotalism, because I know I should be casting the seed upon very stony ground if I did, I can appreciate teetotallers, and I rejoice to see them becoming more political everyday; but I call for aid from all good citizens desiring to do the best they can for the country. Nothing has more astonished me than the way the Press speaks of me. I am called the Apostle of Temperance; but I do not claim any such title. Every hon. Member of this House is as much in favour of temperance as I am, and the hon. and learned Member for Leeds is as much an Apostle of Temperance as I am. The man who is not in favour of temperance must be little better than a fiend, and I hope, therefore, I shall not be called "the Apostle of Temperance" any more, seeing that I look upon it as a personal insult. I am a promoter of prohibition. Our position upon this question of temperance is like the Eastern Question, for all we differ about is the best way of arriving at the same conclusion. Both Parties in this House are for peace, but do not agree upon the means of attaining it. One Party says the way to preserve peace is by having large fleets and armies massed against the enemy; while the other Party think that people likely to fight should not be prepared for it, and should keep away from each other as much as possible. But we are all for peace, and so with regard to temperance. The Home Secretary the other day told a deputation that no one was more aware of the evils of the liquor traffic than he was, and when he goes into Lancashire no one speaks more beautifully than he does as a temperance supporter; but the way he promotes temperance when he is in power is by 291 opening the houses half-an-hour longer. Why do the gallant Irish Eleven oppose the Sunday Closing Bill? I have heard them over and over again say they oppose it because they believe it will increase drunkenness. The hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) said that most of these Eleven have an interest in the sale of liquor; and that being the case, their conduct in opposing a Bill because it will lead to a greater sale of liquor is, I must say, the most disinterested, self-denying, and patriotic I have ever known. Why, the licensed victuallers are themselves Apostles of Temperance. I read reports of their meetings at their annual dinners, and I frequently see it stated by them—and the statement is received with thunders of applause—that there is nothing that the trade detests so much as a drunken man. I believe them. If there were no drunken men, there would be little to say against the trade, and they could make their profits quietly and without any trouble. What they want is not a drunken man, but a man who will drink the largest quantity and pay for it without getting drunk—in their eyes, the highest type of a perfect Christian. The hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Hanbury) is another Apostle of Temperance, and he has brought in a Bill to get rid of grocers' licences. A very good Bill, too, and I shall support it. But let me say this. People say that a great deal of drunkenness arises from the grocers' licences, and that the problem of the origin of all evil which has so long puzzled philosophers has at length been solved. The author of evil is the licensed grocer. I do not, however, believe that there is a jot or a tittle of evidence that has been produced to show that the licensed grocer is more mischievous than a licensed victualler. However, I shall help the licensed victuallers to abuse the grocers, until we get rid of them, and then I shall turn round on the licensed victuallers. In the case of the grocers, it appears to the licensed victuallers that it is not the drink that does the harm, but the men who sell it. It is, at any rate, a very extraordinary thing that 4,000 or 5,000 grocers should have done in so short a time all the mischief ascribed to them. I do not know what the House will do with regard to this measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, I suppose, will not 292 meddle with the question; but I would point out that the Conservatives are, as a rule, supported by the clergy of the Church of England, and, consequently, ought to do something satisfactory to please them. A Memorial has been presented to the Archbishops, signed by 15,000 clergymen, calling attention to the evils of intemperance, and asking for something to be done to check the evil. I think, therefore, that my Tory Friends ought to do something in this matter. I now turn to the Liberal Party. My Liberal Friends are almost all united in thinking that the agricultural labourers should be intrusted with political power, and it is very queer for them to say that they cannot trust these people with the decision of such a small matter as the liquor traffic, and as to whether they will have a public-house or not in their neighbourhood. It appears to me to be a gross inconsistency. This liquor traffic is a question which is exciting a great deal more interest out-of-doors than it does in this House. The publicans call me a stump orator, but I do not care for the name. The Prime Minister once said that it was impossible to get 12 men to come together to discuss politics; but, wherever I go, I find crowded and enthusiastic meetings on the liquor question. I can tell hon. Members that there are many electors in the country who will put this question as one of the first importance in their political creed. It is difficult for the people to get at what the Leaders of our two great Parties are after, or to make out the exact points of difference between them; and, therefore, there is a good reason why the electors should strike out some programme for themselves at their Elections. If they wish to go back to the old lines, would it not then be better at once to get that question of the Permissive Bill out of the way? We might then go to the country on the cohesion of Turkey, the Protectorate of Asia Minor, the Asian mystery, or whatever else we pleased, and fight out our differences. The noble Lord the Member for the County of Down has been returned, to the astonishment of the Liberal Party, because he was more liberal in a good sense than they were—that is to say, he was ready to vote for the Permissive Bill, which many Liberal voters thought more important than tenant-right or Disestablishment. Although the noble 293 Lord gave many promises—indeed, he was about the most promising man in the House—no doubt, his promise as to this Bill contributed greatly to secure his election. At Southampton, again, the other day there were electors who voted for the man who, as they believed, would do the most to promote sobriety among the people; the Liberals had a great meeting, and there were to be seen several eminent clergymen who threw aside their politics for the temperance question. In the North of England this question is the question of the day; and in Scotland no candidate, whether Liberal or Conservative, would have much chance if he did not support that mode of enfranchising the people. It is said that we are fanatics, and I want to vindicate myself and my Friends from the charge. An old writer in 1657 wrote—We seemed to be steeped in liquors, or to be the dizzy island. We drink as if we were nothing but sponges.And 100 years later, another writer, Mr. Lecky, speaks as follows:—About 1724 the passion for gin-drinking appears to have infected the masses of the population, and it spread with the rapidity and the violence of an epidemic. Small as is the place which this fact occupies in English history, it was, probably, if we consider all the consequences which have flowed from it, the most momentous in that of the 18th century—incomparably more so than any event in the purely political or military annals of the country."—[Page 479, vol. 1.]This temperance question is the greatest question of the day, and involves the happiness of the nation. We are told that it is hopeless to fight against the great power of the trade; but I will remind the House that a measure virtually the same as mine has been already passed in the Dominion of Canada, and it is not to be supposed that the people of the United Kingdom will regard the fight against the liquor trade as hopeless. We have still to grapple with a monstrous evil, and I ask this House to trust the people of England, in the same manner as the Canadian Parliament has trusted the people of that country, with the means of protecting themselves from its ravages, and I ask this as a matter of justice. I know that if this Bill passes it will do injury to a great vested interest; but I am sure it will tend to advance that which the Prime Minister 294 once said was the sole object of political power—the social welfare and happiness of the people of this country.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
wished, before the debate closed, to say a few words on the part of Her Majesty's Government. He admitted that this was one of the most important subjects which could be submitted to the consideration of the House of Commons, and certainly thought the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), whose earnestness in the matter they were all bound to admire, whatever they might think of his wisdom, could not complain of the earnest spirit of the debate. The hon. Baronet had referred to the number of Memorials sent into the House from public meetings, and had called attention to the zealous manner in which the ministers of religion, and clergymen of every denomination, were exerting themselves in the cause of sobriety and temperance, as showing the necessity for the application of some remedy to the evil which they all regretted, and to which they would all gladly put an end. He entirely admitted all that, for no one could deny that the subject was one upon which every Member of the House was responsible, and that any Government would deserve well of the country which, in however small and gradual a manner, did something to put down the intemperance which cursed this country. But when they came to consider how that remedy could be practically applied, they encountered more difficulties than the jovial and light-hearted Baronet seemed to suppose. It was not enough to say here is an evil, and then vote for any measure which might be proposed for its cure. On the contrary, they were bound to consider if the scheme proposed as a remedy were practical; and, above all, if it were one likely to be acquiesced in by a free people. The proposal contained in the present Bill was not one of that character. On the contrary, despite the sarcasm of the hon. Baronet, it was one that did violence to the common sense of the English people; and that was, he thought, a sufficient answer, if there were not many others, to the advocates of this Bill. At the same time, he could not entirely agree with what had been said by the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse), as to class legislation, and that under no circumstances 295 should Parliament pass a measure affecting in this respect one class more than another; for, in his opinion, there were classes in the community for whom exceptional legislation was necessary. There were, however, misconceptions on the part of the advocates of the measure with respect to the position of the publicans in the matter. In the first place, it was supposed that they had an interest in encouraging drunkenness, whereas it was their interest to have all drunken and disorderly persons excluded from the public-houses. The hon. Baronet had referred to the beneficent effects which had resulted from the exercise of their rights by proprietors who had excluded public-houses from territory over which they had jurisdiction. Now, he (Sir Matthew W. Ridley) himself had had some personal experience of a district in Northumberland which the hon. Baronet said was so happily situated; but he would point out that that implied an intelligent despotism, which was hardly the kind of government which the hon. Baronet would altogether advocate; and he could scarcely conceive how they were by that Bill to establish or extend such a system. The hon. Baronet knew how a proprietor could regulate the labour of such a district, and gradually meet the wants of the people, and how he would be able to influence for good the persons who were dependent on him in a manner which no licensing board, or meeting convened under that Bill, could possibly do. In short, the argument was altogether fallacious, and had no force whatever. He would not follow the hon. Baronet, or the Liberal Member for Leeds (Mr. Barran), into the question of how far crime was to be attributed to intemperance; but he could not but think that a measure of this kind would be inoperative in the districts and localities in which it would be most required. In several districts in which there was an orderly, industrious, and well-conducted population, the measure would not be at all required; whereas, in densely-populated districts, such as the parts of Westminster in the immediate neighbourhood of the House, its adoption would be impossible, for certainly they would have no chance of being able to enforce it there. As to the measure adopted in Canada, if it were a well-considered and carefully- 296 drawn measure, that was more than could be said of the Bill of the hon. Baronet. Considerable misapprehension seemed to prevail with regard to the action of the magistrates, and it was said by the hon. Baronet that the licensing laws were administered by them in the interest of the publicans. He would not dwell upon the subject at any great length, as he altogether denied, on the part of the magistracy, the truth of that unfair charge. The magistrates, in every case, were willing, and were indeed bound, to take into consideration the views of the inhabitants of the district, and one great remedy for the existing evil would be to increase the power of the magistrates. The hon. Baronet knew well enough that, in some cases, they had no power to refuse licences, and there was another class of licences which were working incalculable evils over which they had no power whatever. It would, perhaps, be desirable that all these licences should be placed under the control of the magistrates. One effect of this measure would be to cause continual agitation in the different districts, and he could not see well how it could be otherwise. In a district where the two-thirds majority was obtained, the party defeated would endeavour to make up for lost ground, and even would go the length of importing population into the district to give support to their views. If the temperance party failed, they would lose no opportunity of increasing their strength, and would move heaven and earth to secure a different result next year, and there would thus be a bitter division of parties in the district. Unless they resolved to put down the traffic altogether, was it not in the interests of public order and morality that they should have properly-licensed and well-conducted houses? It was said that the publicans were not sufficiently interested, or did not sufficiently interest themselves, in excluding improper characters from their houses. He could not conceive any means which more directly would tend to such a result than placing a certain district upon a temporary tenure—perhaps for a year or two years—in which case they would not get men of character to embark their capital in the trade, and it would fall into the hands of men who would live from hand to mouth, and who would be compelled to hold out most extravagant temptations 297 to the working classes. The hon. Baronet said he would be willing to consider the question of compensation; but he (Sir Matthew W. Ridley) suspected that when the localities came to see what compensation meant, they would realize what a large matter it was. Even if they got rid of the difficulty in the first instance, he could not see how it would be possible for them to sweep away a publican's business, subsequently established, without granting him compensation for the contracts into which he might have entered, and therefore without extending the principle still further. They all admitted the importance of the question, and Parliament would be ready to do everything in its power to discourage intemperance; but they ought, in the first place, to wait until they had before them the Reports of the Select Committee at present sitting in the House of Lords, and of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the question of grocers' licences, a question which was exciting a great deal of interest in Scotland. When they had those Reports before them, they might be able to frame a measure that would carry out these recommendations; for, in the present state of public feeling, it was quite impossible they could leave the matter untouched. He deprecated the conduct of hon. Members in giving a vote in favour of the Bill as a protest against the evils of drunkenness. However much they might differ as to means, they were all apostles of temperance; but he thought it was not consistent with the responsibility which attached to a Member of that House, to vote for a measure the principle of which he disapproved, and which he knew could never be carried out, merely as a protest against intemperance. He need hardly say that Government could not support the present Bill.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided; Ayes 115; Noes 278: Majority 194.—(Div. List, No. 187.)
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for three months.