§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
rose to call attention to the urgency of the demand for legislation giving effect to the Local Option Resolution already passed by this House, and to move a Resolution. The hon. Baronet said: Mr. Speaker, I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Motion which has just now been made, that you, Sir, do leave the Chair, the following words:—That the Lest interests of the Nation urgently require some efficient measure of legislation by which, in accordance with the Resolution already passed and re-affirmed by this House, a legal power of restraining the issue or renewal of Licences for the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors may be placed in the hands of the persons most deeply interested and affected, namely, the inhabitants themselves.In that wonderful speech of so much power and eloquence which the Prime Minister addressed to the House last night, he said, in reference to the difficulties of the past, that he did not mean to accuse anybody of anything, and I can say with truth that, in the observations which I am about to make upon my Amendment, I do not wish to accuse anybody of anything either. I wish merely to attack an evil system, which I believe is doing much harm to the people of this country. Perhaps exception may be taken to my attacking what I believe to be a great wrong and evil by means 1281 of an abstract Resolution; but I do not think the House is so much averse from abstract Resolutions now as it used to be at one time. We have had several abstract Resolutions this year; some of them have been accepted by the Government, and they were accepted in order that they might form a basis for practical legislation hereafter. I need do no more than allude to them; the House remembers what they were. I will only mention one that was moved by my hon. Friend who sits near me, the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), who moved a Resolution in favour of a considerable reduction in the Expenditure of the country, which he thought was too large for the real wants of the country. The Prime Minister, as we all remember, accepted that Resolution, and accepted it very properly as what he called a solemn pledge to a great effort to reduce Expenditure hereafter. In my humble opinion, the expenditure which I am attacking to-night is an expenditure which far more calls for attack than the Public Expenditure upon the Public Services. I think we spend something a little under £90,000,000 on the Public Service, and we get a good deal of return for our money; but look at the expenditure which I am now proposing some means of attacking by my Resolution. It is an expenditure of about £120,000,000 a-year, and that is an expenditure which not only does no good, but which inflicts most serious harm upon this nation. I think the House will not be altogether unsympathetic with me and with what I have stated as to the desirability of putting a check upon the vast expenditure which is laid out in this country upon intoxicating drinks; because when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his Budget Statement in this House a short time ago, I was much pleased to observe that there was no part of his Statement which elicited so much applause from the House as that which pointed out that the Revenue from drink shows a considerable falling off. That statement was received with loud cheers—a fact which shows that the House, very properly, was delighted to hear that less money had been expended in that way than used to be so spent; and I know that the Government themselves, although, of course, they like the Revenue to keep in a good con- 1282 dition, are glad of that diminution; because at the close of the Winter Session, when the Queen's Speech was ready, there was in that Document itself a statement made that Her Most Gracious Majesty rejoiced greatly over the falling off. Putting all these things together, I am sure that the Government would be satisfied if the House, by accepting my Resolution to-night, should place in the hands of the Prime Minister a solemn pledge that it will support him in future action to put a stop to evils which we all deplore. The House has already declared in favour of the policy which I am advocating to-night. The House, as hon. Gentlemen will remember, has already passed a Resolution in the year 1880, and I cannot do better than read that Resolution now, so as to make the matter quite clear. It was as follows:—That, inasmuch as the ancient and avowed object of Licensing the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors is to supply a supposed public want, without detriment to the public welfare, this House is of opinion that a legal power of restraining the issue or renewal of Licences should be placed in the hands of the persons most deeply interested and affected, namely, the inhabitants themselves, who are entitled to protection from the injurious consequences of the present system, by some efficient measure of local option.Well, I was fortunate enough to carry that in 1880 by a majority of 26; but as nothing was done in the matter by way of legislation, I ventured to move substantially the same Resolution again the next year—at any rate, I moved a re-affirmation of the Resolution, and on that occasion I carried it by a majority of 42. Perhaps the House may be interested to know how that majority was composed, for the figures are, I think, rather striking. If you take the Scottish Representatives, you will find that I had a majority of about 8 to 1 of them, and I had also a very decided majority of Irish votes. Of the Welsh votes I had a majority of 10 to 1—there were only two Welsh Members who opposed me. If you look at the division of Parties on that occasion you will find that I had an immense majority of the Liberal Party, as well as a certain amount of support from the Conservative Party also; and here I may say, those who have carried on this agitation have all along said that we consider the movement to be one entirely above 1283 all Party movements. Well, a Resolution declaring that the people ought to have the power of protecting themselves from the intrusion of drinkshops, as I have said, has been carried and reaffirmed by this House, and we naturally look for legislation on the subject. I know perfectly well that the Government, during the last two or three years, have been most busily occupied with other things, many of them most pressing, and many of them totally unforeseen, and I am not here to-night to find fault with them, although I confess I think this matter of far more importance than some of the work on which they have been engaged. But I am not standing up here to blame them now. I only want to draw their attention to the importance of the Resolution for the future. Indeed, my Resolution to-night simply aims at no more and no less than to invest the Government with ample power in the matter. Somebody once said—"It is of no use having a plan before you unless you have a force behind you;" and I want to point out that in this matter there really is a great force of public opinion at the back of those who advocate this policy. I think hon. Members will agree that this demand for protection from the liquor traffic is a demand which comes absolutely from the people themselves. It has sprung from them. The agitation has gone on now for many years; but we have had very few loading politicians in it. We have had no great orators, as the Anti-Corn Law League had; we have had no princely subscriptions such as flowed in to that Body. For a long time we had the Press against us and the politicians against us. "Society," as it is called, did not take the least interest in our movement; and, above all, we had a great vested interest against us. I do not complain of that—of course, everybody fights for his life; but I say, in spite of all this, in spite of the want of support in great and high places, in spite of prejudice, in spite of having the Licensed Victualling interest against us—the position in which our cause now stands is perfectly marvellous, considering all the obstacles that we have had to encounter. I think hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House know perfectly well, when they go down to their constituents for re-election, that there is nothing in which they find their con- 1284 stituents take so much interest as some measure dealing with the liquor traffic; and I think that oven my Conservative Friends on the other side must find that among a certain number of their Conservative supporters the question is gaining ground. I think my case is strong. In 1880 we had a General Election, and that General Election resulted in the return of a House of Commons which, on the first opportunity, voted in favour of the people against the vested rights of the publicans, and decided that the people ought to be allowed to protect themselves from the evils brought upon them. As I have said, the House of Commons has twice declared this; but I can show something still more in favour of it. What did the Prime Minister himself say, in 1880, in the course of the debate on the Resolution to which I have referred?I earnestly hope that at some not very distant period it may be found practicable to deal with the Licensing Laws, and, in dealing with them, to include the reasonable and just application of the principle for which my hon. Friend contends."—(3 Mansard,  364.)Well, I say, with all these things in our favour, there never was a stronger case afforded as a ground for legislation. I have said the demand comes mainly from the working people, rather than from the upper classes; but it comes also from the educated, and it comes also from the great leaders of the Church of England, for they had a meeting only three days ago in Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop presiding, and passed this Resolution—That the chief obstacle to the work of temperance reform continues to be, as it always has been, the nature and undue proportions of the temptations which are permitted to be placed in the way of the people—temptations which can only be removed or diminished by better legislation.And in another Resolution they expressed a wish for a considerable reform in the licensing system altogether, but adding—That such measure will be ineffectual if it stop short of a reform of the whole licensing system, and especially if it fail to give the people, who are the victims of the temptations, a right to control both the number and character of the licensed houses.I quote these Resolutions to show that it is not only the poor and the lower classes who support me in this matter. The hon. Member for Oxford University 1285 (Mr. J. G. Talbot) proposes his Amendment in a very encouraging form, for what does his Amendment say?That whilst this House declines to approve any system which gives to the majority in any locality the power of prohibiting the sale of any article of ordinary consumption, the House will give a favourable consideration to any measure, introduced on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, with the object of checking the evils of intemperance.Well, my hon. Friend is not generally ready to give his support to any measure brought in by Her Majesty's Government; and it shows the importance of this question when he, a worthy Representative of the Conservative Party, is able to give some support to "any measure with the object of checking the evils of intemperance." It is very encouraging also to find, from the terms of his Amendment, that he—Declines to approve any system which gives to the majority in any locality the power of prohibiting the sale of any article of ordinary consumption;and, if that be so, he must also "decline to approve," à fortiori, of the minority having such a power, and as they have the power now, the Amendment of my hon. Friend goes against the whole licensing system root and branch, and I am glad to find that I have got so able and excellent a supporter. Then I come to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Sir John Kennaway), which is in the following terms:—That, in the opinion of this House, it is rather desirable to give effect to the recommendations of the Lords' Committee on Intemperance, and to strengthen the hands of the magistrates, than to place the licensing power entirely in the hands of a body elected by popular vote.But I quite agree with him, I quite agree with the approval expressed of the Resolutions by the House of Lords' Committee. They passed 20 most excellent Resolutions; and I am as sorry as he is that very few of them—I am afraid none of them—have yet been carried out. We plead that every one of them is in favour of our case—that every one is intended not to increase, but to diminish, the facilities for the sale of drink. There is one most excellent remark in their Report—it is not in the form of a Resolution; but it is so very good that I am sure my hon. Friend will 1286 allow me to read it. This is what the Lords' Committee say about intemperance and the operation of the Liquor Laws; and I read it because I cannot recall anything better, more comprehensive, more true, or more touching than has been said or written on this question. This is what the Lords' Committee say:—We do not wish to undervalue the force of these objections; but if the risks be considerable, so are the expected advantages. And when great communities, deeply sensible of the miseries caused by intemperance, witnesses of crime and pauperism which spring from it, conscious of contamination to which their younger citizens are exposed, watching with grave anxiety the growth of female intemperance on a scale so vast, and at a rate of progression so rapid, as to constitute a new reproach and danger, believing that not only the morality of their citizens, but their commercial prosperity, is dependent on the diminution of these evils; seeing, also, that all that general legislation has been able to effect has been some improvement in public order, while it has been powerless to produce any perceptible decrease of intemperance, it would seem somewhat hard, when such communities are willing at their cost and hazard to grapple with the difficulty and undertake their own purification, that the Legislature should refuse to create for them the necessary machinery, or to entrust them with the necessary powers.Now, that is one of the recommendations of the Lords' Committee which my hon. Friend wants to impress upon the House, and he and I are both at one upon that matter. But he says, at the conclusion of his Amendment, that he objects to have "the licensing power placed in the hands of a body elected by popular vote." Well, I do not express any opinion upon that at all—I never proposed anything of the sort. I am afraid I have not made my proposals clear to my hon. Friend; but I am sure he never can find any speech of mine which advocates the creation of a Board for controlling the issue of licences. That does not in the least apply to anything I have advocated; but in order to make clear what I do want I may state what I do not want. I say I have never advocated the creation of Boards. They may be very good things; but I do not advocate them, and I will tell you why. People talk of Boards as a great panacea; but in Scotland they have had Boards for generations. I believe the Municipal Bodies are elected by a popular constituency, and they elect the Board which controls the licensing. You, therefore, have popular election in Scotland; but 1287 what is the result? Does it satisfy Scotland and make it a sober country, and do away with the evils of the liquor traffic? Not a bit of it! Scotch Members, in a majority of 8 to 1, voted for me to give the people a veto even in the licences given by a popular Board; and at this moment there is a Bill which has been brought in by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan), an excellent Bill, a Bill after my own heart, which says that nobody, whether elected body or anyone else, shall force these drinks upon people who do not want to have them, and there has never been a Bill so honest and so popular in Scotland as that. All parties are supporting it—people who are favourable to Boards of all sorts. They do not give up their principles, but they say—"At all events, let us not force these drinks upon people against their will." We know that a Company or a Corporation has even less conscience than an individual; and I do not advocate the giving of the licensing power to the Municipalities. That may be a very good thing—I do not say it is not—but, in my humble opinion, these Municipalities have quite enough to do already; and it would be rather too much to add to their work this crowning labour of regulating the drink traffic, especially if, as might turn out to be the case, the members of Municipalities might turn out to possess public-houses themselves. Still, I know that all these plans are supported by numbers of excellent men throughout the country, and I do not wish to throw cold water upon any of them. They are all schemes of licensing reform and those who believe in licensing reform, are quite right in advocating them. But what I do say is that those schemes are not what the working men of England have looked for. They do not understand them—they ask for simpler things. Why should they not? It does seem extraordinary to them that the upper classes—the richer classes—should insist on thrusting those places upon them, whether they like them or not. They see what is written about this drink sale—they read that Sir William Gull called alcohol "the most destructive agent we have," and that the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) had said that alcohol is "the devil in solution." Mind, I do not say these strong things—I only quote them.
1288 They have heard repeatedly on countless platforms that the Prime Minister has said that drinking is bringing on this country the "accumulated evils of war, pestilence, and famine," and they have heard every Judge and magistrate say that drink is bringing the people to crime and want. They have heard Judge Dowse, who used to sit in this House—they have heard him say, not long since, that the measure of the degradation of a locality is the measure of alcohol that is consumed in it. They do not merely read all this, but they know that it is true from their own sad experience. They know what misery it brings into the homes of working people; and all they demand is that we, the rich and the powerful, shall not go on with a system by which we are able to force these shops on them whether they like them or not. They simply say—"Give us equal justice; give us the same power that a gentleman has." You know what that means. If anybody is going to set up a public-house near one of our houses we write off instantly to our friends on the Bench of Magistrates and say—"Dear Smith," or "Jones," or "Brown, whatever you do, be at the Licensing Sessions to-morrow, as there is actually a proposal to set up a public-house at my park gate," and they come down and rally in force to protect their brother magistrate. Let the working men protect themselves in the same way that we protect ourselves. I will read a passage from a speech delivered by the right hon. Member for Mid Kent (Sir William Hart Dyke), when a proposal was made before the magistrates that Circulars should be sent out to see whether the people wanted the licensed houses or not. There was a most tremendous stir made over this proposal, including a great meeting of the Licensed Victuallers and a largo brewers' deputation to my right hon. Friend himself.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
Oh, well, they should have gone to my right hon. Friend; but, in his absence, they went to someone else instead. Then they had a debate at Quarter Sessions about it, and my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot) made a speech, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Kent also spoke, and he said— 1289It had been urged that this proposal was not akin to Local Option; but he believed that the ultimate result would he to ascertain the requirements of a district, and he took it that the magistrates would act on the views of the majority and those consulted.Then my right hon. Friend made a very enigmatical remark. He said—That would be Local Option clothed in a manner which the prevailing east wind would soon find out.Now, I do not profess to know what that means; but if he speaks here later on he will probably be able to explain what the east wind has to do with it. I should have liked to read it all to the House, for nothing could be more instructive. [Cries of "Read, read!"] No, no; first of all because it is too long; and, secondly, because it is in such small print that I cannot make it out. I will give it to my hon. Friend to read afterwards. What they said was—"Let us keep it all in our own hands, and don't let these poor ignorant people have any say in the matter, or they will carry out Local Option, and Sir Wilfrid Lawson will get a triumph." Now, we do not want to interfere with the magistrates. I do not wish to take away the power which they possess as Justices in any locality where the inhabitants are satisfied that the licensing system should be put in operation. All I say is—"Leave things as they are if you choose, or alter them if you choose, but give us this principle whatever you do—let the licences be refused when the people don't want them." The people know that good landlords, where they have the control over districts, have in many cases swept away all drinkshops from a locality, and have greatly improved the people. I would say that if your opposition were—I will not say genuine, for I am sure it is that—but if it were sensible and rational, you ought to prevent these landlords from so acting. You ought to say—"Here are whole districts deprived of public-houses by the arbitrary step of one individual. We must take away this power, and provide that every place shall be properly supplied with drinkshops." But you do not do that. You have heard of Shaftesbury Park—a large district of working men's houses—and that one of the rules of the estate is that no drinkshop shall be established there. I went there one day—some years ago—at the opening of some new houses, and on the platform 1290 I found myself, to my great astonishment, for the first and only time in my life, sitting next to the late Lord Beaconsfield. What did he do? He got up and made a speech, and he said substantially—"You, who have started this scheme for building workmen's houses without drinkshops, have solved the problem of how to make the workmen's homes happy and comfortable." That was very strong evidence from the late Prime Minister; and I am sure that hon. Gentlemen will give it the credit it do-serves. Everyone says that if you take away the drinkshops you add to the people's happiness. The Duke of Westminster has acted on the same principle. I heard not long since, in reference to the right hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther), that there was a village belonging to him in his county on which years ago Ids family had insisted that no drinkshop should exist; and I heard that it was one of the most comfortable, clean, happy, and pleasant places in the whole country. I asked him, was it true? He said it was. Did anybody complain? No; never. Then I heard a story of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), and it was mentioned at a meeting of Licensed Victuallers. They had heard that the hon. Member had done away with a public-house on his property, and they were alarmed. They said "a General Election is coming on," and they thought it a good time to write to him, saying—We understand you have done away with a public-house on your property. We hope this does not indicate any leaning to Sunday Closing or Local Option.The hon. Member promptly replied, with thanks, somewhat to this effect—"I assure you, gentlemen, that I did away with it entirely for my own convenience, and I shall have much pleasure in voting against Local Option." That is the way the thing works. Every man is for protecting himself; but he will not give these poor people the protection that they ask for. The House understands that what I want is a popular veto, instead of a personal one. A personal veto is very good when it comes into operation; but in many places the landlord is not inclined to benefit the tenants to that extent. That was the meaning of my Resolution, which I moved in 1880. The Report of the Con- 1291 vocation of Canterbury, in 1869, said that there were within the Province of Canterbury upwards of 1,000 places in which there was neither public-house nor beershop; and that in consequence of the absence of those inducements to crime and pauperism the intelligence, morality, and comfort of the people wore such as would have been anticipated by the friends of temperance; and then followed the recommendation which I embodied in my Resolution of 1880, recommending that the public should be allowed the same right of veto which private owners now have. I am afraid I have wearied the House; but I will explain what, in my humble opinion, should be done. It is of no use my bringing in a Bill—that will be admitted on all hands. I do not think it is of any use for any private Member to bring in a Bill dealing with such a subject so long as the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) is alive; and the only mode in which effect could be given to the principle which the House has already adopted is for the Government to bring in a Bill themselves, and, really, the matter is very simple; a Bill of almost a single clause would do. I am only an agitator; I do not profess to be a great legislator; but if my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister requires my assistance I will willingly give it to him for what it is worth. Now, there was a measure—I am not going to defend the measure—but there was a measure introduced, I believe, by the Liberal Government originally, and subsequently amended by the Conservative Government—a measure called the Borough Funds Act. That Act is not popular, I believe, in this country with many hon. Members. The object of it is to give the inhabitants, or the ratepayers, a power of veto over the proceedings of their representatives when they propose to spend money in a certain manner. Under that Act the inhabitants are allowed to take a vote, and to say whether a certain scheme should be carried out or not. I am not saying that it is a good policy; I am only mentioning the Borough Funds Act in order to show that there is no difficulty whatever in getting at the will of the people if you wish to do so, and the machinery is ready at your hands. There is a clause in that Act—Clause 4—which says— 1292No expense in promoting or opposing any Bill in Parliament shall be charged as aforesaid, unless such promotion or opposition shall have had the consent of the owners and ratepayers of that district, &c.Hon. Members will be familiar with the provisions of the Act. It is a simple way of taking a poll, and if the people say "no," then this expenditure stops; and if they do not say "no," then it goes on. Now, that is all we propose in regard to the licensing of public-houses. We propose that the people shall say—" No; licensing ought not to go on," if they do not approve of it, and really I do not see any difficulty about the matter. My right hon. and learned Friend the Homo Secretary put it quite right three or four weeks ago, when someone asked him a Question on this matter. The Homo Secretary said it was a question which the Government had always held to be essentially a matter upon which the localities ought to judge for themselves. He added that "it was a question of areas." Now, that is the whole thing, and we are only asking to-night that the Government should define the area, and then the thing is done. My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General would be able to draw a clause in ten minutes that would satisfy me and content the country. There is no difficulty about it. the Licensed Victuallers ought not to object to it; because here I have a suggestion from the Liverpool Licensed Victuallers themselves, in 1863, upon a Licensing Bill, when they stated that the magistrates ought not to grant new licences unless two-thirds of the owners or occupiers of premises within 100 yards approved. That is a good area, I daresay. But whether it is 100 yards or 500 yards, or an entire parish which the Home Secretary or Attorney General decides upon, it would have my cordial support. If it is to be a question of areas let the Government define the area, and, adopting that principle, bring in a Bill. The thing would then be done; and what a pleasant time hon. Members would have if the question were settled once for all, so far as debates in this House are concerned. There would be no more Petitions; they would be no longer bored with Memorials; there would be no more truculent teetotalers in the Lobby threatening those who come to perform their Constitutional duty; 1293 and there would be no more speeches from me to weary this House. The difficulties of hon. Members would be succeeded by a holy calm, and the House would be able to devote its whole time, possibly, to the discussion of Irish questions. Seriously, I would ask my right hon. Friend what the Government have in hand of more importance than some measure such as this I ask them to undertake? I am not going to disparage anything the Government are doing. They are bringing in measures which I believe will be for the benefit of the country; but can they compare them with a measure which would do so much to stop the crime and pauperism and the misery which now exist among us? The Bankruptcy Bill is a very good measure in its way; but would it not be better to have a Bill which would prevent people from becoming bankrupts? The amendment of the Criminal Law is very good; but it would be better to prevent people from becoming criminals. A Bill for the reform of the Municipality of London is, no doubt, a very good thing; but there are only 3,000,000 of people in London; whereas a measure likely to diminish the consumption of drink would benefit 35,000,000 of people. Local taxation is a great question, which we are all desirous of seeing settled; but would it not be infinitely better to do away with the causes which render so much local taxation necessary? We all know that drunkenness is the main cause of the crime and misery of the country; and no Bill can equal in importance a measure for applying a remedy to an evil which produces more disastrous results than war, pestilence, and famine. I say distinctly that, in my opinion, for one person who is interested throughout the country in the excellent measures which the Government are bringing in, there are 10 who take a more keen interest in the reform I am advocating. And, surely, there never was a better opportunity for dealing with this matter; there never was a better opportunity for satisfying a great public demand. It is the very moment for it. We have postponed that great scheme which is looming in the distance for reforming the representation of the people; and we are going to introduce, next Session or the Session after, a Bill for the purpose of giving great extension of political power to the people. [An 1294 hon. MEMBER: No.] An hon. Member says "No." We will see about it; but I think the hon. Member will agree with mo that we can trust the people at once to say whether there shall be public-houses or not, and I hope I shall have his valuable support. I will put another question to the hon. Member. I would ask him, is it well to teach the people of this country that they will never attain anything, however heartily they desire it, unless there is a flavour of violence and turbulence about their demands? Is it well, perpetually and persistently, to slight an earnest, and an honest, and a persistent demand, ever increasing, and always made in the most Constitutional manner? Is it wise to show that we, the upper classes, are quite indifferent to the wants and wishes of those below us, and that we care nothing for their misery and suffering so long as we can put a little money into the coffers of the Exchequer? I was sorry to see the other day that Lord Derby, in alluding to the question, said he thought it might stand over, because it was a matter which mainly affected the poor. That is the very reason, I think, why it ought to be brought on. I think that the poor in a matter of legislation should stand in the position of preference shareholders, and should have the first call on our attention. I rememberin one of the beautiful speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) a fine passage in which he said—In every country you find the nation in the cottage, and if the light of your legislation does not shine in there, your statesmanship is a failure, and your system is a mistake.To-night I plead earnestly not for the great, the rich, and the powerful, but for the poor, the weak, the desolate, and the oppressed; and I ask this House—and I ask Her Majesty's Government—to place in their hands the power which they can use for no injury, but only for the elevation and purification of themselves and of their country. I believe I shall not plead in vain. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. CAINE
I rise to second the Motion which has been proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle. Her Majesty's Speech, at the commencement of the Session, created a strong feeling of disappointment with the ad- 1295 vocates of the temperance cause in the House, as we heard clause after clause read, and no mention whatever made of Local Option, although Resolutions in favour of Local Option have been twice carried by the House of Commons. It is a matter in which the working classes and the temperance reformers throughout the country are deeply interested and in earnest. My hon. Friend referred in his speech to truculent teetotalers haunting the Lobbies and pressing hon. Members upon this question. Only yesterday afternoon I attended one of the most remarkable Conferences upon the subject which it was ever my privilege to attend. It consisted of from 600 to 700 delegates from different parts of the country, who came together to urge the Government to take the question up and legislate upon it without delay. There were delegates from Caithness and Cornwall, from Galway and Hull, and from almost every part of the country. This is entirely a working man's question; and perhaps the most significant testimony of the strength of public opinion in favour of the measure we are advocating to-night is the remarkable instance of the unanimity which prevails among all religious communities in regard to it. Anyone who will take the trouble to look at the Petitions will be struck by the fact that not one of the religious communities in the United Kingdom, however obscure, has failed to memorialize this House in favour of Local Option. The new Archbishop of Canterbury made his first public appearance as Chairman of that Conference to which my hon. Friend has just referred at Lambeth Palace; and on the same day there was a large meeting of the Baptist Metropolitan Total Abstinence Society at the Tabernacle, at which a resolution was unanimously passed calling on the Government, without delay, to legislate upon the matter. But I think there is no test of public feeling like that which takes place at a General Election. My hon. Friend, I think, reminded the House that a similar Resolution was brought forward three days before the end of the previous Parliament. On that occasion there were only 134 Members in favour of the Resolution, while there were 248 against, or a majority of 114. Then came the General Election. Local Option was not made a test question; but the Election turned on differ- 1296 ent issues altogether. In spite of that, when the Resolution was proposed on the 18th of June, 1880, the opinion of the country found expression in 229 voting for the Resolution, and only 203 against it, or a majority of 26 in its favour. I wish to point out for a moment what expression of opinion it is that we get from the votes of hon. Members representing those constituencies, which are chiefly composed of the working classes of this country. On the 14th of June, 1881, 42 Representatives of Lancashire and Yorkshire voted for Local Option, and only 13 against. The majority included the great manufacturing towns of Manchester, Salford, Oldham, Bolton, Rochdale, Ashton, Stalybridge, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow, Bury, Belfast, Dundee, and almost every great centre of industry recorded its vote in favour of Local Option; and to-night, for the first time, the great commercial constituency of Liverpool will record its vote in favour of the same measure. On every occasion on which this question has been brought before the House two hon. Members have gained for themselves the united respect of both sides of the House. The hon. Members for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Broadhurst) and for Morpeth (Mr. Burt), who represent the working classes of this country, have given their adhesion to the principle of Local Option. Last Session we fully recognized the difficulties and trials of the Government, and we were patient. The gracious reference in Her Majesty's Speech proroguing Parliament expressing satisfaction at the progress which temperance reforms had made in Parliament sent us to the country full of hope; but it was hope to be quenched at the commencement of the Session by the opening Speech, in which, to our bitter disappointment, not one word of reference to this burning question was to be found. We felt we had a right to expect, in a Session devoted to useful social measures, that we should have had a prominent, if not the first, place, and that the Queen's Speech would have contained some intimation from the Government of their intention to deal with a question which interests the public more deeply than any other. I do not for a moment under-estimate the value of the measures that found place in the Queen's Speech. The Bankruptcy Bill, the Patent Bill, the Court of Criminal Appeal Bill, the Compensation for 1297 Tenants' Improvements Bill, and the great measure for the Municipal Government of London, are, no doubt, valuable measures. But I venture to say that the United Kingdom Alliance, who advocate this measure of Local Option, would be quite sure to get a larger meeting in favour of that question in the boroughs of Eye, Bridport, or Woodstock than the Government could hope to see in Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, or Birmingham in favour of any of the measures proposed in the Queen's Speech. A careful study of the utterances of Ministers on this question would lead me to think that all the Government is waiting for on Local Option is an assurance that the country is thoroughly with them, and that they will not have to undo anything after doing it, and repeat their unfortunate experience with Mr. Bruce's Bill. The Prime Minister said last night—I should trust the people far more on questions where their own immediate interests are concerned, than on questions where the prepossessions of religion are concerned.Now, I think if ever there was a question in which the immediate interests of the people were concerned it is this, and their demand for protection from the evils of the public-house is no "momentary judgment"—no "momentary opinion;" but slow, certain conviction, from 50 years' education, by the temperance reformers of the country. No one is better able to test public opinion than the Prime Minister himself. He often astonishes this House with his great knowledge of what is going on in the country. I ask him to-night, is he satisfied that the country is with him on the question of Local Option? If he is not, let him tell us so, and at the same time tell us what evidence will satisfy him, and I promise it shall be forthcoming in full measure, pressed down, and running over, before he has to prepare another Queen's Speech. Early this Session, on the 19th of February, the views of the Government on the Licensing Question were elicited by two Questions, one from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir B. Assheton Cross), and the other by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), the one on Sunday Closing, and the other on the question of Local Option. The right hon. and learned Gentleman 1298 the Home Secretary said, in regard to Sunday Closing—He did not wish the right hon. Gentleman to suppose that the Government objected to the general principle of piecemeal legislation on this subject. On the contrary, it was a question, no doubt, of areas, for the Government had always held that it was essentially a matter upon which localities ought to judge for themselves."—(3 Hansard,  312.)With regard to Local Option, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said— "Theonly answer I can give upon that subject is that when the Government bring forward measures with reference to Local Government, they propose to deal with the question of licensing as a question of Local Government."—(Ibid.)He went on to explain, without going into details, that the Government intended to deal with the question of licensing both in the proposed Bill for London Municipality, and in any further extension of County Government. This, I think, is the most explicit declaration we have had from the Government on licensing reform; and if I understand it rightly, it means that the Government intend to refer the granting and renewing of public-house licences, in some way or other, to the new Municipality of London for the Metropolis, to County Boards presently for the area of their jurisdiction, and, as a natural sequence, to Town Councils for Municipal Boroughs. If this means nothing more than a change of licensing authorities to administer the bundle of antiquated incongruities which make up our present system of licensing, I warn the Home Secretary that he will find no finality there. I have a very wide-spread knowledge of the wishes of the working men of this country on this matter; and I can assure the Government that they, and the Temperance Party I generally, will be satisfied with no settlement of this question on the basis of a new licensing authority, unless that authority is elected by the ratepayers ad hoc, and is invested with the fullest powers enabling the ratepayers to protect themselves to the utmost from having public-houses licensed in their midst against their declared wishes. I fully admit that this would mean a repeal of almost every Act on the Statute Book relating to the liquor trade, and the enactment of a great and comprehensive measure of licensing reform, dealing with the question in every respect, a measure that would be the leading Bill of a Ses- 1299 sion. I hope the day is not far distant when such a measure will be brought before the House; and I grant that, under existing circumstances, the Government may well be excused from facing such a comprehensive measure, with all the other reforms to which they stand pledged. But we can do with much loss than that. Let the Government abandon their piecemeal legislation policy with regard to Sunday Closing. Let them give the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Stevenson) Government facilities for his Sunday Closing Bill; or, better still, take it out of his hands and press it through this Session. So long ago as June 25, 880, the House sanctioned this Bill by a substantial majority. For the settlement, in the meantime, of Local Option let them bring in a short Bill carrying out the suggestion of my hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and adapting the principle of the Borough Funds Act to the licensing authorities. As the Borough Funds Act provides for the ratepayers a complete and direct popular veto upon the action of Town Councils where they are about to incur responsibility with respect to Bills for public improvements, so the same ratepayers should have a direct popular veto on the action of magistrates when about to incur responsibility with respect to granting and renewing public-house licences. The operation of the Borough Funds Act is pretty well known to hon. Members representing boroughs in this House; but my hon. Friend did not quite explain its operation. He said that it was carried out in public meeting assembled; but anyone attending such a meeting can demand a poll, and polls have been demanded in two of the leading Municipalities of the country—namely, in Manchester in regard to the Thirlmere Scheme, and in Liverpool in regard to the Verney Scheme, both of which were connected with the supply of water. I believe that 38,000 owners and occupiers of property in Liverpool recorded their votes, and I happen to know what the cost was. Perhaps it is desirable that I should mention it to the House, because many people have objected to this test vote on account of the cost. In Liverpool, at an election in which 38,000 recorded their votes without difficulty, the cost was considerably under £1,000; so that the cost was very slight, and the disturbance was also 1300 slight. I think an election could easily be taken by voting papers left at the houses and afterwards collected. There was an election in the district of the Wandsworth Union the other day. I myself was returned as a member of the Board of Guardians, the population of the Union is 210,000, and the entire cost of taking the votes in this contested election only reached £283. It is said that we want to get rid of the strife of contested elections. But the strife is nothing; it was all conducted and concluded in the course of a single day, although the election extended over 60 square miles of property in London. At the present moment the ratepayers can protect themselves against being saddled with the cost of waterworks and gasworks, and they can protect themselves from every kind of nuisance except that of the public-house. I have confidence in the Prime Minister; the temperance reformers of this country, and the working classes of this country too, have confidence in the Prime Minister. Confidence! They have more than confidence—they have a passionate faith in him that nothing can shako. But they are now busy reminding themselves of his various promises on this question, which is of such vital importance to them—promises which have been dinned into their ears at thousands of public meetings since they were uttered. They think of his words delivered in this House in March, 1880—It was stated just now that greater is the calamity and curse inflicted upon mankind by intemperance than by the three great curses—war, pestilence, and famine. I believe that that proposition is true—but for' whom? Not for European civilized countries in general; certainly not for Italy, or Spain, or Portugal, or Greece. Of France and Germany it would be ludicrous to assert that the effects of intemperance are comparable with those of the three great historic curses. But it is true for us; and the fact that it is true for us is, I believe, the measure of our discredit and disgrace for the state of the law as it now exists."—(3 Hansard,  475.)Sir, this is no mere rhetoric. The Prime Minister weighs his words before he utters them, and stands by them; and if these words be true—and every Member of this House knows how true they are—the responsibility resting on the Prime Minister if he delays dealing with our national discredit and disgrace one hour longer than he can help is grave indeed. We who are 1301 in earnest in temperance reform cannot forget those grateful sentences in the Prime Minister's speech in the debate of June 18, 1880 —I earnestly hope that at some not very distant period it may be found practicable to deal with the Licensing Laws, and, in dealing with them, to include the reasonable and just application of the principle for which my hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) contends."—(3 Hansard,  364.)Later in the same important speech the right hon. Gentleman encouragingly said—With regard to the question which my hon. Friend has brought before us, I will say these two things in conclusion. First of all, that I believe that one of the great subjects which will call for the attention of the Executive at as early a period as the heavy competing pressure of some other subjects will permit will be the reform of the Licensing Laws; and, secondly, I believe that that reform is so eminently called for, and is so favoured by the circumstances in which we now stand, that I regard it as an essential part of the work and mission of the present Parliament."— (Ibid. 365.)I earnestly ask the Government to abolish the cruelty involved in the perpetuation of the untold miseries of the drink traffic in the many districts where the people are most desirous of setting aside the temptation. There are 169,284 licensed temptations throughout the Kingdom, in the granting of which licences the people of the Kingdom have had no voice, although, in many instances, they are against the express wishes of the very large majority in the districts in which they are granted. The widespread and untold misery, ignorance, vice, crime, insanity, pauperism, and premature death resulting from these temptations are, in the very words of the Prime Minister, indeed equal to the calamities which would be inflicted by "war, pestilence, and famine." I trust, Sir, that this will be the last time that the House will ever be called upon to divide upon the Resolution of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle; and that the first sentence of Her Majesty's gracious Speech next Session will contain a promise that the people of this country are at last to enjoy a legal power of restraining the issue and renewal of public-house licences. I have great pleasure in seconding the Motion.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words
"the best interests of the Nation urgently require some efficient measure of legislation by which, in accordance with the Resolution already passed and re-affirmed by this House, a legal power of restraining the issue or renewal of Licences for the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors may be placed in the hands of the persons most deeply interested and affected, namely, the inhabitants themselves," — (Sir Wilfrid Lawson,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT,
who had given Notice of the following Amendment:—That whilst this House declines to approve any system which gives to the majority in any locality the power of prohibiting the sale of any article of ordinary consumption, the House will give a favourable consideration to any measure, introduced on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, with the object of checking the evils of intemperance,said, the hon. Baronet who moved the Resolution was a very agreeable antagonist, always in good humour, and often amusing; but to-night he did not regard him as an antagonist at all, for they both had the same object at heart, the decrease of intemperance, though the way in which the hon. Baronet approached the question seemed to him one of those hopeless roads which led to no conclusion. It would be a mere waste of time to enlarge on the evils of the liquor traffic and of intemperance. In his capacity of Chairman of Quarter Sessions he had often seen the evils arising from those causes. But, in his opinion, the proposals of the hon. Baronet would only aggravate the evils he sought to mitigate, or, at least, they would not meet those evils in any practical form. He had been endeavouring to discover what the hon. Baronet wanted, and for that purpose he had referred to a speech delivered by him in 1880, the first year of the present Parliament, expecting that he would there find out the real meaning of his Local Option Resolution. What the hon. Baronet had said that evening amounted to very little. It appeared that he wanted special Boards elected ad hoc by the ratepayers, and he instanced the case of Shaftesbury Park to show that the working classes had power to close public-houses. By all means let them close public-houses on their own property. But what the hon. Baronet proposed 1303 was that the working classes should close public-houses on somebody else's property. He did not think that House would ever sanction a principle so sweeping as that. It was very difficult to understand what the hon. Baronet really did mean. He did not, he said, want to take away the discretion of the magistrates. What, then, was the meaning of Local Option? He could not understand the hon. Baronet. In his speech in 1880 he said—I do not propose a large and comprehensive measure effecting the reform of the licensing system. … All I propose is, that the people for whom these places are licensed—the inhabitants for whose benefit they are set up— shall he allowed to say whether they will have them or not.Again—I state, in the words of my Resolution, 'that it should he optional,' that those who want public-houses should he allowed to have them, or, if they did not want them that they should not have them; that they should be allowed to choose whether the magistrates, with whom I find no fault, should be allowed to use their discretion and exercise their power in those districts in which persons live who are interested in the matter, and do not desire to have them."—(3 Hansard,  346–7.)But that was inconsistent with what the hon. Baronet had said that night, for he now said he wished that discretion to be taken away from the magistrates. Then, in the speech to which he had already referred, the hon. Baronet went on to observe that he did not want, as some people said, to allow small communities to legislate for themselves. He did not know who the people were to whom the hon. Baronet referred; but, speaking for himself, he certainly thought that this was the object of the hon. Baronet. Then the hon. Baronet said further, in the same speech, that he proposed the magistrates should not exercise their power when the people expressed their wish that the power should not be exercised. Passing from those remarks of the hon. Baronet, which, no doubt, puzzled other Members of the House as well as himself, he would ask the hon. Baronet to consider how Local Option would work, say, in any urban population. Take the town of Birmingham, which had done a good deal in the way of municipal reform. He supposed that if Local Option were applied the town would be divided into wards, and each ward would decide for itself whether it would or would not have licensed 1304 houses. Supposing one ward decided against licensed houses. Were all the houses in that ward to be immediately closed? If so, what was to happen to the occupiers and the owners of these licensed houses? The Primo Minister, on the same occasion in 1880, said, most emphatically, that he would, if any measure of the kind were adopted, insist, as far he could, upon due compensation being given to all vested interests, he said the publicans, although they might, as a class, be in disfavour, ought not to be dealt with in an exceptional manner, but that they wore entitled to compensation for interference with vested interests just as much as any other class. Those words contained a sound principle, on which that House had always acted, and he hoped always would act. But the hon. Baronet did not say one word about compensation, and left them entirely in the dark on the subject. But suppose there was a ward in Birmingham where the people were not total abstainers and decided upon having licensed houses. What would be the condition of a ward so situated? Supposing there were a number of wards in which public-houses were established, and others in which they were not established, what would be the position of the town? In such a case the hon. Baronet would, by his Resolution, render its condition worse instead of better. He would ask the hon. Baronet and his friends whether they had considered how the measure would work in the event of a majority in a town or district being in favour of the absolute suppression of the liquor traffic? The hon. Baronet had said he was not a legislator; but he could not divest himself of his responsibility as a Member of that House, and he was bound to consider what would be the practical working of his proposal. Reference had been made to the Committee of the House of Lords, which, in 1879, considered the subject of intemperance. That Committee reported unfavourably on the Permissive Bill; and the hon. Baronet had frankly admitted in 1880 that his Resolution on Local Option did contain the principle of what he used to call the Permissive Bill. He said, on June 18, 1880"—I will not deceive the House; I believe that the Resolution does contain the principle of what I used to call the Permissive Bill, and that is, that the licensing of public- 1305 houses should only be permitted in places where the inhabitants of the districts desire the existence of licensed houses in their midst for the sale of intoxicating drinks."—(Ibid,  351.)The Committee had said, with regard to the Bill, that it seemed to be—Neither consistent nor reasonable that the Legislature should forbid the sale of any article of diet, of which the manufacture, importation, or possession was left perfectly free.There could be no doubt, said the Committee, that the great majority of those who purchased and consumed intoxicating liquors were not guilty of intoxication, nor were the places where intoxicating drinks were consumed by any means so numerous as to call for their suppression on that ground alone. They saw no reason why the purchase and the moderate use of liquor should be prevented because some persons indulged to excess; and they did not think it right that the ratepayers should be able to prohibit the trade of a publican being carried on in any district. They said, also, that while they considered the measure unsound in principle, they believed that the principle, if put in practice, would prove either inoperative or mischievous. It would be inoperative in all places immediately adjoining others where the Act had not been adopted, and it would prove mischievous where such escape was impossible by leading to the secret sale and disposal of liquor, and by stirring up agitation and strife when the time arrived for the ratepayers to decide on the adoption or rejection of the Act. Was it not certain that in places where the Act had been adopted there would be continual strife between the temperance advocates and the dispossessed publicans? The publicans who had been dispossessed of their property, and what they believed to be its rational and legitimate enjoyment, would be certain, in the intervals of each triennial period, to agitate the community for the reversal of its decision. Had the hon. Baronet faced these practical difficulties? The hon. Baronet had been carried to victory by the exciting breeze of popular applause and the support of many distinguished ministers of religion; but lie did not believe that either he or his friends had faced the practical difficulties, or the mode in which they proposed to deal with this great question. By the Amendment which he had drawn up, he 1306 asked the House to give favourable consideration to any measure introduced by the responsible Government to check the evils of intemperance. He did not yield to the hon. Baronet in his desire to check the evils of intemperance; but he held that a subject of this kind could only be properly dealt with by the Executive Government. The rumour that had reached him that the Government would support the Resolution of the hon. Baronet would, he hoped, be falsified. To accept that Resolution would be to deal in a most inadequate manner with such a subject as this. If the Government were convinced of the evils of intemperance, let them have the courage of their convictions, and not be content with giving a vote which cost them nothing, and which, perhaps, was useful to them; but let them give some hope that in the near future they would give this subject their most serious attention. He (Mr. Talbot) had been accused in his own county of inducing his brother magistrates to take a step in favour of Local Option, and he had been called a supporter of Local Option in disguise. The fact was that he only wanted his brother magistrates to have more information to aid them in doing their duty. He was again on the unpopular side; but he was not standing up to please a constituency. Few Members could say, as he could, that he had not a single publican in his constituency; and he fancied that the majority of his constituency would be in favour of a stringent measure of temperance reform. He asked the House to consider the matter on a simple, sound, and practical basis, to put aside any mere phrases which had so often deluded mankind, and to face the real difficulty. The Resolution of the hon. Baronet really obscured the difficulties to be met. He was aware that his own Amendment could not be moved; but if the Resolution of the hon. Baronet became the substantive Motion, which he did not desire, he should have the right to move his Amendment. There was, however, another Amendment in the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for East Devon (Sir John Kennaway), and he was quite ready to take that in lieu of his own. He entirely agreed with the words of that Amendment as to the desirability of strengthening the hands of 1307 the magistrates rather than placing the licensing power in the hands of a body elected by popular vote. He earnestly believed that leaving the matter to a popular vote would be the worst way of dealing with it. It would not only tend to promote popular commotion, but it might lead to results exactly the opposite to those desired. In places where the principle of Local Option was not put in force it would leave matters as they are, so that the cause of temperance would not be advanced unless the majority of the people were willing to put the Act in force. In some places, therefore, the drink traffic might be more firmly rooted than it was at present.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The House is so familiar, and has been for many years, with the arguments upon this question, that I have not thought it wrong to intervene at so early a moment in stating briefly to the House the view which Her Majesty's Government take of the matter. I think my hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) must be satisfied with the manner in which his Motion has boon met from the Benches opposite. Some years ago, one would hardly have dreamed that a Gentleman speaking from the Front Opposition Bench, and a Gentleman highly distinguished and respected in the Conservative ranks, would have thought that he was taking the unpopular side in opposing the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle. I think that that is a fair measure of the progress which the question of temperance reform has made in this country. That is a thing which no man, I think, who has observed political events can have failed to remark. It is not necessary for me to inform my hon. Friend that I think with him in reference to the evils of drink or the advantages of temperance; and, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite has said, there is no need of indulging in rhetoric on that subject. No man, certainly, can fill the Office which I have the honour to hold without being made painfully aware that the most fruitful source of poverty and crime is drink. Again, we are all agreed that this is a matter that ought to be dealt with, and ought to be dealt with without delay. That is a matter on which there will be found no difference of opinion on this side of the House, and certainly there is a very large concurrence of 1308 opinion, I believe, even on the other side of the House on this point. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle referred to a brief answer I gave to a Question which he asked me. I said then, what I adhere to now, that the Government has always regarded this as a question of local self-government; and when I say that the Government thought that this was a question that ought to be dealt with without delay, I have said the same thing that the Government have said on the subject of local self-government itself. It is one of the most important questions, and one which they are bound to deal with. My hon. Friend opposite (Mr. J. G. Talbot) has referred to certain passages in the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords. Now, with great respect for the authors of that Report, there are some passages in it with which I do not at all agree. The argument in that Report against the principle of Local Option is, in effect, that we could not be permitted to deal on that principle with a trade in ordinary articles of consumption. The argument seems to be, that every man has a right to sell, as he has a right to manufacture, and that every man has a right on his own property to have as many public-houses as he pleases—that, in point of fact, the dealing in this commodity is like the dealing with any other commodity, and that it ought not to be dealt with in any different way. I cannot tell whether this ever was so or not. I say it is not so now; and, therefore, the whole argument of the House of Lords falls to the ground. You do not at present treat it as a trade in articles of ordinary consumption; you do not allow any man to have as many public-houses as he pleases; you put him on altogether a different footing; and, therefore, it is fallacious to argue, as the hon. Gentleman did, that a landlord can permit public-houses on his own estate because he is dealing with his own property, but that he cannot on other people's estates because they are not his property. The whole Licensing Question is dealing with other people's property and not with your own. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle said very truly that it would be an astonishing thing to find an owner of property saying that no shops for the sale of articles of ordinary consumption should be opened on his estate; but a 1309 landowner does not like to have public-houses or beer-houses about him, because they harbour bad characters, and sometimes even poachers, and produce other consequences; and, if he can, he gets rid of them. And why are you to forbid the artizan, who has sons and daughters, the same right of protecting his house and family? Therefore, I say that the question is not to be argued from that point of view which is stated in the passage read by my hon. Friend opposite from the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords. The real truth is, that the whole Licensing Question proceeds upon the assumption that public-houses offer a dangerous and, to a certain extent, a mischievous temptation to the population, unless they are properly guarded and properly restrained. Otherwise, you would have no Licensing Laws at all. In the case of gambling-houses, you do not prevent men from playing cards in their own houses; you do not prevent men from playing dice or betting in their own houses; but you say that the public temptation to gambling or betting, by opening public places for carrying on those pursuits, is an evil to the community, and you shut these places up altogether. Well, when you have dealt with public-houses you have dealt upon the same principle, though not in the same degree, and you have not allowed that public-houses should be dealt with, in the words of the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite, as if it were an ordinary dealing in articles of ordinary consumption. You have said that there shall be some restraint somewhere. You have adopted the local principle, because licensing is local now. You have not endeavoured to lay down a rule in the Statute Book that there should be so many public-houses to so many thousands of the public; you know you could not do this, because no Statute could determine what each locality wanted. Therefore, so far as the first word of my hon. Friend's proposal goes, you have the "local." Of Local Option you have "local" already; but you have not "option." You have got the local principle established; you have conferred upon a certain local authority the right to say whether there shall be many public-houses or whether there shall be few—indeed, I venture to say that it may be construed as the law 1310 whether there shall be any—in the locality over which they have jurisdiction, because the law is that every licence is annual, and may be refused any year. You have, therefore, a local authority with absolute power to deal with this article of ordinary consumption, and the Licensing Magistrates have a control over the right of dealing with it, as great as that of the proprietors over their own estate, if they chose to exercise it. Well, then, you have got the local authority. The question is, is this a question of local interest? If it is a question of the highest importance to the community, have you deposited that power in the best possible machinery for exercising it? That is really the practical question. I have never said, in this House or out of it, a word in disparagement of the magistrates of this country. No man who occupies the position I do can fail to know every day of his life the invaluable services they render to society; and as regards the administration of this Licensing Law, I have not the smallest doubt that the magistrates do their best. But if I am asked whether, in determining a question of this kind, the magistrates are the best possible body to judge of what the community want or what is best for them, I must answer that I do not think so at all; and I entirely differ, in consequence, from the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Devon (Sir John Kennaway). I traverse that Amendment in every word. I can give rather a curious illustration of my meaning. I daresay when I tell my story more than one hon. Gentleman opposite will recognize the county; but I will not say which it is. The respected magistrates of a county, not 100 miles from London, came to see me as a deputation at the Home Office. They said— "Our county is suffering terribly from the evils of drink. We have got too many public-houses. The whole system is bad." And they described in the most graphic manner what was the condition of the unfortunate locality. I listened with great attention to what they said, and when they had finished their remarks I said—"Gentlemen, the only thing that surprises me is that it should be you who come to me in these circumstances. Why, who put these public-houses there? Who licensed them? If you have too many public-houses, why 1311 do you license so many? Why don't you refuse any more, and why not give instructions to your police, which you know, if carried out strictly, would diminish one-half of the evil?" I am speaking in the presence of some of those hon. Gentlemen, and I think by the smiles I see that they recognize the county. And when I had concluded, the magistrates of that county, who are not only a very enlightened but a very candid body, said to me—"All you say is perfectly true; but we don't like to incur the odium of putting down the public-houses." I could not help smiling, and I said—"And therefore you come to Her Majesty's Government and ask them to incur the odium which you are afraid to incur." This incident shows why, in my opinion, the magistrates are not the fittest body to exercise the licensing power. They do not think they have behind them that public opinion which would sustain them in carrying out the measures which they might desire. If they felt they were representative of the community, if they felt they were elected to express the opinion of the community on this subject, they would have the courage which, on the occasion I have just referred to, was wanting. They would have known that the community desired to restrict the number of public-houses, and they would have used the power they had in their hands. Therefore, Sir, I say that, it being established already that the licensed trade is to be a restricted trade —that is, a restriction which ought to be carried out in the locality—the only question is, who is to carry it out? I have no hesitation myself in saying that, in my opinion, it ought to be carried out by a body representative of the sentiments of the community. Then, if that is so, the whole question is solved. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, who spoke with great moderation on this subject, did not tell quite the same story as the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine), who seconded the Motion. The hon. Member for Scarborough told the Government a great many things they ought not to do. He said "we must have an authority elected by the ratepayers ad hoc." Perhaps he will allow us, until we introduce our plan, to reserve our judgment on that subject. But the principle I am endeavouring to state is this. This is a matter which concerns the interest of the 1312 community more than any other. If it wore a question of health, if it were a question of gas, a question of water, or a question of police, you give the authority power to deal with it. You give it to the community, in the boroughs at all events; and I hope before long you will give it in the counties, to the persons who represent the community. Why should you treat this question, which touches not only the health but the morals of the people in the highest degree, as an exception to that principle? My hon. Friend has said that it is a question of areas. Why, so it is. If you make your area too large the operation of the principle would be unjust, because then you might have a certain community imposing on a portion of the community that which it did not desire. And I cannot accept the vehement repudiation of piecemeal legislation by the hon. Member for Scarborough. I think he is a little ungrateful in regard to piecemeal legislation. [Mr. CAINE: In regard to Sunday Closing.] Ah; it is exactly in regard to Sunday Closing that I say he is ungrateful. What has he got by this piecemeal legislation? He has got Sunday Closing in Ireland, in Wales, and in Scotland long ago; and the Government have expressed their desire, in regard to places where opinion has shown itself to be overwhelmingly in favour of the principle, even in England, to support proposals for Sunday Closing. If my hon. Friend had said— "We will have no piecemeal legislation on the subject of Sunday Closing," he would have had to wait a long time for what has already been obtained. I should recommend him to be patient, and to be glad of the solid progress which has been made. This question has made progress, not only in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but even among our countrymen beyond the seas. In Australia—a country certainly free enough—where we all supposed in former days that the hardy miners and the labourers, who were in receipt of great wages, were addicted—I will not say to excess—but, at all events, to indulgence in drink, the people have been sensible of the evil. Both in New South Wales and in Victoria have been passed Licensing Acts which provide for absolute Sunday Closing, and both of which contain Local Option too. In Sydney they have passed Acts containing a Local Option 1313 Clause, and I am watching the progress of that experiment with the greatest interest. I am told that the Sunday Closing is giving great satisfaction; but the operation of the Local Option provisions is comparatively recent, and I have not lately had information on that subject. I think we must feel — and that even those who will not vote tonight for the Resolution of my hon. Friend must feel — that in principle, so far as I have stated it, the whole question is a foregone conclusion. Wherever you go in England you find that the question is making progress. You find people sensible of the enormous evils which have to be encountered, and sensible of the urgent necessity of dealing with them; and, in my opinion, no method of dealing with them can be so effectual and appropriate as that of putting the remedy into the hands of the people themselves. But, Sir, again I must be careful to explain what I mean. I do not accept the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough; and I do not think the opinion of the people is always necessarily expressed by a direct plébiscite ad hoc. It seems to me that if you are to respect the principle of local self-government you ought to have only people who are calmly chosen and trusted by the community with the protection of their interests. You ought not to have this question and that question raised, and a hasty decision taken upon it. The far wiser course to adopt would be to confide that which is of the highest importance to the community to persons who are trusted by and chosen by the community to protect and look after their interests. That is the view we have always taken of the general principle of local self-government; and, if that is the proper view, I do not see why this question should be an exception in dealing with all matters which deeply interest the community, it being a matter which interests the community more than any other. Well, then, Sir, I come to look at the Resolution and the Amendments. As regards the Amendment of the hon. Member (Mr. J. G. Talbot), that, of course, cannot in form be moved. I cannot agree with the hon. Member when he says that he—Declines to approve any system which gives to the majority in any locality the power of prohibiting the sale of any article of ordinary consumption.1314 By way of criticizing this Amendment, let me put the word "magistrates" in the place of "majority in any locality." This would be equally applicable, but it would condemn the existing system. Then, why should the magistrates have power to prohibit any sale of an article of ordinary consumption? ["No!"] I say that they have absolute power to do so. Then I come to the next Amendment. The hon. Member for East Devon (Sir John Kennaway) desires to give effect to the recommendations of the Lords' Committee on Intemperance. I have already said it seems to me that the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords, so far, at all events, as the portion referred to is concerned, is founded upon an entire fallacy, and that every argument that should apply to giving the majority the right of dealing with these questions would equally apply to magistrates. Then the hon. Member wishes to strengthen the hands of the magistrates; but I do not know how that can be done. I do not believe you can strengthen the hands of the licensing, authority, except by giving them the influence of the popular opinion behind them. That you can only give to the body to whom the hon. Member proposes to refuse it—to the body elected by the popular vote; and, therefore, my view—and I am expressing on this matter the views of the Government—is the exact converse of that expressed in the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Devon. I do not wish to detain the House any longer on this subject. I shall vote in favour of the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle. I am of opinion that—The best interests of the Nation urgently require some efficient measure of legislation by which, in accordance with the Resolution already passed and re-affirmed by this House, a legal power of restraining the issue or renewal of Licences for the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors may be placed in the hands of the persons most deeply interested and affected, namely, the inhabitants themselves.I wish to say distinctly, that in accepting this Resolution I do not accept it in the narrow sense of saying that it is to be taken on a plébiscite ad hoc, as the hon. Member for Scarborough said; but I accept it in its principle that this authority and this power ought to be placed in the hands of persons who are interested in it. I am reminded by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) that 1315 I ought to say I am speaking on behalf of the Government as a whole as well ns my own personal opinion. We shall vote for giving this power into the hands of the persons who are interested in it— that is to say, the inhabitants of the localities, reserving to ourselves, of course, the right to determine how the opinion shall be ascertained.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY,
who had the following Amendment on the Paper, namely—That, in the opinion of this House, it is rather desirable to give effect to the recommendations of the Lords Committee on Intemperance, and to strengthen the hands of the magistrates, than to place the licensing power entirely in the hands of a body elected by popular vote,said, the proposal of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle was that the existing licensing authority should be done away with altogether, and now they had an announcement that the Government themselves meant to vote for the Resolution, but that the Resolution in their minds meant a very different thing to what it meant in the mind of the hon. Baronet, for to the Government it meant simply the substitution of one licensing authority for another. His proposal was that they should try and amend the licensing authority as it existed at present, and which, it was his contention, had acted well and for the interests of the country. The time had come when they should not be content with these vague Resolutions, and it was to be observed that they were very little further advanced after hearing the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary than they wore before. His hon. Friend (Mr. J. G. Talbot) and himself, by the Amendments which they had put on the Paper, desired to show their sense of the great urgency of the question, and their desire to grapple with it in any practical way in which it was capable of being legislated upon. They were all agreed that there must be legislation of some character; and he was satisfied that the hon. Baronet was right in saying that the country was agreed upon this question, if not impatient, and that it did call upon Parliament in some way to deal with it. In the face of this strong feeling it was most important that they should be cautious in guiding it into the right channel, and they should not turn it 1316 into a channel in which full scope could be given to the proposal of the Resolution, which he was sure would lead to a revulsion of feeling and to more harm than good being done. He admitted that the Local Option Resolution had served the good purpose of putting on record in a way that had never been done before the desire for temperance in the country, and it had tended to unite the various classes of temperance reformers, and the result had been that the House had placed on record a strong feeling in favour of licensing reform. But he was at a loss to ascertain what the real practical solution of the question was to be from the Resolution of the hon. Baronet—in fact, the chief reason why the Resolution was so well supported was because of its indefiniteness. But if it was indefinite to them it was not indefinite to the great body of supporters of the hon. Baronet, for they regarded it, and put it frankly before Parliament, as a Motion for the suppression of the liquor traffic. The hon. Baronet had kept that out of view up to the present; but to-day he had let the cat out of the bag by his reference to the Scotch Bill which had been introduced by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan). That Bill provided that one-tenth of the population could demand a poll of the householders, and the result was that when the poll was taken the decision of the householders was to be final, and there was to be nothing sold for all time in that particular place. If the hon. Baronet had been straightforward he would have put that proposal into his Resolution; but what he did was to ask the House to assent to a proposition which would load to it. The magistrates were responsible to God, their consciences, and the public opinion of the district; they had acted in view of that responsibility, and had endeavoured to discharge their duty to the best of their power. It was said that they were not to force licences on an unwilling neighbourhood. But was a two-thirds majority to have the power of declaring a neighbourhood unwilling? The Home Secretary had spoken of the power of the magistrates to shut up all public-houses. The whole country, however, had been taken by surprise by the decision in the Over Darwen case. In his own county the magistrates, acting upon that decision, had been taking a 1317 survey of the public-houses in their districts to see what were necessary and what were not. But was it the licensing authority that was to blame for the evils complained of, or Parliament, which had not supported the licensing authority? Who was responsible for the grocers' licence? It was the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone); and many of the hon. Baronet's supporters said that greater harm had been done by that licence than by anything else. The Lords' Committee reported that as regarded fresh licences there did not seem any reason to suppose that an elected Board would do their duty more faithfully than the Justices, and that a Local Licensing Board would be more accessible to local influences, and would not be so impartial. There was no doubt that the question of Local Option suited the temper of the country; but, admitting that the country was prepared for a change, they must consider carefully what that change should be. They had to consider that the traffic was a lawful one; and, secondly, that the minority had some rights in this matter. These publicans had been entrusted with certain responsibilities, and they had a right to be respected. They had invested their capital in the trade on the faith of the State, and if they were to be done away with they ought to be given compensation. But he did not see how compensation could be obtained. What the House ought to do was to try and diminish the temptations to drink, and to prevent opportunities from being multiplied needlessly and gratuitously for the sale of drink. He did not think that a body elected by the ratepayers ought to be entrusted with an exclusive supervision over public-houses. He should prefer to see the representatives of the ratepayers associated with the magistrates, who would then be supported by the public with satisfactory results. With regard to total prohibition, they would do well to consider the opinions of the Bishop of Rochester, who was a strong advocate of temperance. The Bishop last year went to America, and he said that in the City of Kansas, which was one-half in one State and one-half in another, more liquor-shops, and more ostentatiously placed liquor-shops, were to be found in that part of the city where the liquor traffic was prohibited than in the other part of 1318 the city where the trade was not so interfered with. Where the trade was prohibited there was a total disregard of the law; and when the people were not with the law, what benefit could they expect from it? To give an appeal, perhaps, to the Recorder instead of to the Quarter Sessions would be an improvement; and an improvement might be effected in the regulations in regard to the structural arrangements of public-houses, the endorsement and transfer of licences, and the hours during which public-houses should be open. Such improved regulations would result in great benefit to the community; and he believed those publicans who wished to carry on a respectable trade would give the House their support in passing them —they needed not to trouble themselves about those who wished to do otherwise —and the result of the regulations would be that many of those who did not carry on their trade respectably would lose their licences. This was a result which none of them would regret. His great desire was that this question should be kept out of the sphere of Party politics, and that Liberals and Conservatives should unite in seeing what could be done, consistent with common sense and justice and equity, to deal with an evil which was of great magnitude, and to make the people not only free, but sober.
§ MR. THEODORE FRY
Sir, I warmly support the proposal for legislation on the subject before the House, and I cannot but think that the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and, in a somewhat less extent, that of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. J. G. Talbot), mark a great rise in the tide of temperance opinion in the country; and I trust that the introduction of a measure by the Government will show the fact that high water line has been reached. This spread of public opinion is made still more evident by the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the Revenue of the country has declined in the last 10 years to the extent of £5,000,000. The Government, in my opinion, hardly understand the intensity of the desire that prevails in the country for the adoption of the views of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. I am, however, informed—and it is a re- 1319 markable fact—that more public meetings have been held in the country to promote the various branches of the temperance movement than have been held in regard to all other social subjects put together. I am desirous to add my testimony to the feeling which exists in reference to this matter in the county of Durham, from which I have the honour to have a seat in this House. That county is represented in this House by 13 Members, and of them no less than 12 are pledged to support any good measure of temperance reform, including Local Option and the closing of public-houses on Sundays. Although Her Majesty's Government have given a general assent to the Motion before the House, I wish to press upon them the importance of making the question their own. No one knows, or can know, better than the Prime Minister, how almost impossible it is for a private Member to get a Bill through the House. Even if he is fortunate enough in securing a second reading, his Bill is certain to be blocked. I would venture to urge upon the Government the fact that a very largo number of their supporters are intensely anxious for a reform of the Licensing Laws; and that among them are a largo proportion of the working classes, who consider this question more important than many of the other questions which are now before the House. I am afraid that, if this Government does not grapple with the question, the fact of their not doing so will have a bad effect among their supporters; and it must not be forgotten that those in the constituencies who are in favour of the Motion which has been brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle embrace the most thoughtful and religious portion of the community. I am aware that people cannot be made sober by Act of Parliament; but legislation may do a great deal in the direction of removing temptation out of the way of those who might otherwise fall into habits of intemperance. In the eloquent speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister addressed to the House last night, he alluded to the dfficulties which must sometimes beset the Liberal Party in its onward march; and I am afraid that the continued refusal of the Government to make the temperance question one with which it proposes to deal may be amongst those. Many ar- 1320 guments could be adduced in favour of the Motion which has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle; but I only wish to impress upon Her Majesty's Government the fact that the country looks to it at a very early date, either in a Local Government Bill or in some other way, to do that which lies in its power to reduce the terrible evils of intemperance.
§ MR. DALY
said, that he attached very little importance to meetings held at Lambeth Palace on this question, because the upper classes, the educated classes, the Bishops, and the clergy were but little connected with the question before the House, for they would not suffer at all from the deprivation which the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle sought to inflict upon the lower classes by the system of Local Option. No one would ever expect to see members of the clergy—say, for instance, the Bishop of London, or any of the educated classes enjoying themselves in a public-house but that was a question which seriously affected the working classes. He objected to the hon. Baronet's (Sir Wilfrid Lawson's) definition of the working classes, and doubted that he was so largely supported by them as he had assumed. A large number of those termed the working classes were not occupiers of houses, and were not rated to the poor; neither were they voters, and, therefore, they would not have any part in the popular veto alluded to by the hon. Baronet; and he (Mr. Daly) held that the deprivation which the hon. Baronet wished to inflict upon that class of the community by his Resolution, whenever it was carried into effect, would press very heavily upon them. That class the hon. Baronet had not taken sufficient account of. The poorer classes had no place where they could procure refreshments or recreation except public-houses; and now the hon. Baronet and his Friends wished to close the public-houses against the poor man, who had nowhere else to go. The principle of Local Option would be nothing less than an intolerable tyranny to the minority; and it was so opposed to fairness and common sense that he felt sure its application would never be sanctioned by the House if it ever came definitely before them in the shape of a Bill. As to the alleged unnecessary number of public-houses, it was well known that 1321 the number of public-houses depended upon the custom they received, and if the custom was not sufficient they would soon close. It was, in fact, a simple question of supply and demand; and there was nothing exceptional in that respect in the liquor trade, for it was at present simply settled by that law, as all other trades were. Another reason why he strongly opposed the Resolution was that it would be even more unfair, tyrannical, and offensive to the people of Ireland than to the people of England, through the difference in the constitution of the cities and towns. He felt certain that the Temperance Party would have promoted the cause they had at heart much more effectually by establishing in the large cities and towns reading-rooms easy of access, enrolling supporters in the Blue Ribbonhood, providing interesting lectures and light refreshment, such as tea and coffee, and affording the means for innocent games and amusements, than by all the money they had spent, the exertions they had made, the vast mass of literature they had published, and the course they had taken generally in regard to this question. He yielded to no man in the desire to promote temperance; but he did object to men who were filled with one idea, and who could perceive nothing except through that idea, seeking, by-all the means in their power, to force it down the throats of other people. He firmly objected also to the means which the hon. Baronet would adopt, and for that reason he should vote against the Motion.
§ MR. S. SMITH
Sir, I have listened with extreme satisfaction to what has been said in reference to this question on both sides of the House, and particularly to what has been said on the part of the Government. I am sure that the statements of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department will send a thrill of joy through the classes interested in the temperance cause; for we have not previously had from the Government, in recent years, declarations of so decided and so satisfactory a kind; in fact, the right hon. Gentleman has shown to-night that he is rapidly becoming, if indeed he has not quite become, a convert to the principle of Local Option. The right hon. Gentleman admits that the inhabitants of the localities themselves 1322 should have the power of controlling the trade in drink, and it is exactly that for which the supporters of this Resolution have been contending for many years, While admitting this principle, he has not gone into details as to how the ratepayers are to exercise that control, and this, I admit, is likely to prove a crucial question. From some remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, however, we are inclined to think that it is the intention of the Government to place this power of issuing and controlling licences in the hands of such bodies as Town Councils, or of local County Boards, in which case he will meet with strong opposition from the Temperance Party. It is far from being our wish to mix up this important social question with local politics; and, therefore, we do not wish the control to be left in the hands of bodies elected mainly on political grouds. We foresee that corruption and many other evils would, in all probability, follow the administration of the law, if it was left in the hands of persons elected on such grounds; but, putting that question aside, we certainly receive with the greatest possible satisfaction the large concession to public feeling which was embodied in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman. In Liverpool, we have devoted especial attention to the Licensing Laws; and we have done this for the reason that, probably, no other town has suffered more from the evils of intemperance in past years. We have in Liverpool a large population of the class which is most easily tempted, and which suffers most from the enormous inducements offered on every side to the indulgence of the vice of drunkenness; and it has, therefore, been a matter of serious consideration among thoughtful men in the community how the licensing system could be placed on a better and sounder basis. I believe I am right in stating that, in our city, public feeling has steadily tended, for many years past, in the direction of what is called Local Option, or, in other words, the control of the liquor trade by the ratepayers. Our Town Council in Liverpool, which was at onetime rather open to the blandishments of the liquor trade, passed a resolution, some two years ago, virtually in favour of Local Option, and similar resolutions have been passed by other representative bodies in the town. But what I attach most importance to is a resolution which 1323 was passed by the ratepayers themselves, when they were tested by means of a special poll. I may, therefore, say I think that, in Liverpool, we have studied this question as carefully and thoroughly as it has been studied in any part of the country; and, as the result of that study and consideration, we have, practically, arrived at the conclusion which is embodied in the Resolution which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). The reason which has led the great constituency of Liverpool to this result, and which has induced other important constituencies to adopt the same course of action, is just the coming face to face more closely with the frightful evils of intemperance, and the enormous temptations to it which exist in our midst. The nation has become more fully alive than it ever was before to the dreadful state in which large sections of the British population live. We are coming to feel the great disgrace and misery which result from the fact that in this, the 19th century, and in this country, which has so long enjoyed the blessings of civil and religious liberty, we have large sections of our population more drunken and degraded than is to be found in any other civilized nation of the world. We feel it to be a national disgrace that we should have a pauper population in this country of more than 1,000,000; that we should have another and a larger class existing mainly on private charity; that, in these Islands, there are between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 of people unable to maintain themselves, and who are, therefore, a burden to their neighbours, and a constant source of disgrace and danger to our country; and that, in addition to all this, we have tens of thousands of children in our cities and towns, both large and small, who who are totally uncared for. It is but natural that we should ask ourselves what is the reason of this. We live in an age of progress, and we can find only one answer—that is to say, we can find only one cause which is adequate to this effect, and that is, the excessive intemperance in the consumption of intoxicating drinks which exists among large classes of our population. It cannot be denied that the laws of our country have encouraged this. They have done almost nothing to restrain either the inclination or the temptation to drunken- 1324 ness; and it is, in my view, high time that Parliament should devote not only time, but earnest, thought to so grave a question as this one, which lies at the root of so many evils. We feel that, unless some measure of a stringent character is adopted by Parliament, and is passed in order to cope with the evils which everyone admits to exist and thereby prevent them from spreading; a time will come when the residuum of human misery, which exists in our midst, will shake the whole fabric of society, and lead to an outbreak of Communism or Nihilism, or other movements similar to those which are undermining European society at this very moment. Those, therefore, who hold the views of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle feel it to be their bounden duty to do all that in them lies to cope with the evils whoso existence cannot be doubted; and I do not know how this can be done more effectually than by attacking the intemperance of the people, which is the great source of the evil which we wish to see put an end to. I do not think it necessary now to go into details; but there are a few points in connection with the subject at which I may glance in passing. We have been told, by many persons, that this is a question which, if dealt with as we propose to deal with it, would bear unjustly upon the rights of the poorer classes. In my view, that is so far from being the case, that the supporters of the Motion before the House wish to concede to the poor man rights which the rich man already enjoys. The richer and more prosperous classes will not tolerate the public-house pest in their midst. There are more than 600 Members sitting in this House, and I will venture to say that there are very few of them who have a public-house within sight of their residence. The richer classes hedge themselves from the sight of temptation as in a little sanctuary. By means of building leases, by reason of the existence of public parks, and by means of other influences, they manage to escape the odious pest of public-houses in their own immediate neighbourhood. They will not suffer their children to run the risk of contamination; but the poorer classes, in our large towns and cities, have no such protection. The children of the poorer classes are exposed to all the corruption and blasphemy which too often 1325 issue from the door of the public-house, and they have no legal protection against it. Therefore it is that we wish to give to these poor people the means of protecting their families, which the richer classes enjoy by virtue of private arrangements. I maintain that this principle of Local Option is the legitimate outcome of self-government; and, as this House suffers from a block of Business, it has responsibilities which it has not power to discharge; and, therefore, we feel the absolute necessity of conceding local self-government to our people. We have already relegated many questions to the people, and I hold that no question can be more properly so relegated than the one which we are now discussing. Localities can give to a question of the kind the time and attention which is necessary for its due consideration. They have, as matter of course, special knowledge of the particular circumstances of each case, and are, therefore, able to lay down a system which will suit each particular locality in a way which Parliament could not hope to do, no matter how strongly its wishes tended in that direction. This, I maintain, is especially one of those subjects which can only be dealt with properly under a system of local self-government. The means by which we wish to carry out the object contained in the Resolution of my hon. Friend would be, in each locality, an elected Board corresponding to the school boards; so that as we have boards dealing with education, we should also have similar boards to deal with the Licensing Laws. What we ask further is, that Parliament shall create the machinery by which such Boards shall work; that they will draft a scheme beforehand, and leave the Boards to administer the law. I do not say that the task which we propose to the Government is an easy one. The subject is one concerning which many difficulties occur to us, and they must be solved by careful and judicious legislation. For instance, there would be great difficulty in dealing with the question, of vested interests. Again, Parliament must not allow the new Boards, which will have to be constituted, the power to deal merely with new licences; but they must have under their control every existing licence, for no system will meet with the approval of the Temper- 1326 ance Party which does not give complete control over the drink trade. In what way they are to deal with those vested interests I will not express an opinion, neither will I say now as to whether Parliament should or should not admit the principle of compensation; but this I will say—that the new Boards must have entire control, and must, in fact, be Local Parliaments to carry out the wishes of the ratepayers, to put such limits as they may think best to the hours of business in public-houses, to decide the number of public-houses in their own particular localities, and to fix the conditions under which the trade shall be carried on. It has been suggested that if we considerably limit the number of public-houses, we shall largely increase the value of those remaining and make the existing monopoly much more profitable. I am sure, however, that the House will apply to this question the principle of Free Trade, as far as may be, and will not do anything to perpetuate an unjust monopoly. It is, of course, out of the question to suppose that we can permit the giving of licences to a few favoured persons, who have influence to obtain them. Ono plan of securing fair play, which has approved itself to my mind, would be to put up the licences for sale, with a power of revocation at the end of a certain period, which should be fixed at the time of sale, and then a fresh disposition should be made. In some cases, the licences might be sold to some Company, as at Gothenburg, which will pay over the profits into the National Exchequer; and there were many other matters of detail which would have to be considered; but it must be perfectly clear that it is necessary to construct a skeleton of machinery, on which to work out the principle of Local Option, as, otherwise, the principle must remain in nubibus as an abstract idea. We, who support the Motion of my hon. Friend, have been told that it would be best to have the work to which we have set our hands done by moral means; and, in that connection, I rejoice that we have so many temperance agencies doing a large amount of good work; but my contention is, that those agencies have only prepared the way, and laid the basis upon which we can build up a good legislative measure. But for these agencies all over the country, we should not be able, 1327 to ask for, or to work, if we got it, such a measure as we deem to be necessary at the present time. It is by the action of these societies that we are able to demand a measure of Local Option, with a good hope of being able to work it, when it has been granted by Parliament, for the benefit of society. There exists, at present, a strong public opinion in the larger towns which would prevent any dangerous use or application of the principle of Local Option; but I have been told that, in some places, the application of the principle would increase rather than diminish the consumption of intoxicating liquors. I do not of my own knowledge give any opinion on this point; and I will only say, therefore, that if there are such benighted places, we must subject them to checks which will keep them in the right and not in the wrong direction. This is a matter of first-rate economical importance. The drink traffic drains the resources of the country to the extent of £120,000,000 or £130,000,000 per annum; and I feel convinced that if we had the system of Local Option wisely applied in this country, on the principle in which it is applied in Canada, Australia, and many parts of America, in a few years we should reduce the consumption of intoxicating liquors by a sum equal to the interest of the National Debt. It is clear, therefore, that, from an economical point of view, the question is of the utmost importance. We have also to consider the bearing of this liquor question upon the sluggish state of trade in this country. Ours is no longer a growing trade, as it used to be in the days that followed the abolition of the Corn Laws. [Mr. WARTON: Free Trade!] The hon. and learned Member opposite says "Free Trade!" but we must remember that Free Trade, from 1845 up to 1870, gave us a period of great prosperity. We had a constant and rapid extension of our foreign exports; but during the last 10 years, whether from the imposition of more protective tariffs or some other cause, there has been a partial paralysis of most of our manufactures, and we have found it almost impossible to carry on any kind of trade at a profit. I have some knowledge of the trade of Lancashire; and I say unhesitatingly that the last 8 or 10 years have been a period of dull, heavy, and unprogressive trade. We ask our- 1328 selves, are there not some means by which we can provide a more hopeful future for the trade of the country? I do not see much prospect of a beneficial change in foreign markets; but I contend that we have a home market that may be largely extended and increased, if we can put a stop to the waste that takes place upon intoxicating drinks. Suppose we diverted£30,000,000 or £40,000,000 of money that at present goes into the public-houses, to the shops of other tradesmen, what stimulus should we not give to trade? The effect of it would be the creation of a market almost equal to that of India. If we could turn the tide of £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 into the channel of wholesome demand, you would simply turn many trades which are now languishing and are unprofitable into profitable and remunerative concerns. So that I say, on the grounds of economical considerations alone, this House should do everything in its power, so far as it can, to diminish the waste of national resources on intoxicating drink. But this question has to be considered from another point of view. The labour of this country has now to compete with highly-trained foreign labour. The time has long passed away when we had an advantage over other countries arising from our superior knowledge of machinery and superior mechanical power. All foreign countries have equally good machinery and equally skilled labour, and we have to run a close competition with them, more particularly with our kindred across the Atlantic; but whilst we are competing in this way we are heavily handicapped by the intemperance of our working classes. It is well known that, in many of our working communities, Monday is always the slackest day of the week, and that men rarely go back to work until Tuesday morning; or, even if they go back on Monday, they are not fit for useful work. Some years ago, I read the result of a Commission sent out to America to inquire into the question of the comparative value of the English and American working man; and it was found that the working man on the other side of the Atlantic was worth one day a-week more than the working man in this country—owing to intemperance in England. It is time that this state of things should be altered. I think I have said sufficient 1329 about the economical part of this question. There is a dreadful amount of human degradation and misery among certain classes of the community in consequence of this vice of intemperance; but there are classes who are more influenced by commercial considerations, and it is before these people we have endeavoured to set these considerations I have urged. From whatever point of view we look at this matter, it is plain that the wisest course open to this Parliament is to throw its whole heart and soul into the temperance movement—to join hands with the large body of the people, the very cream of this country, the very bulwark of England, in what is going to be the great movement of the age and of English society in the closing years of the 19th century. Any Government that allies itself with the cause of temperance will gain for itself great lustre, and will greatly strengthen its hold upon the country and on the hearts of the people. I therefore trust that the Government now in power, presided over by a man whom we all admire and revere, will crown its many other achievements by carrying out a measure of Local Option on a strong solid foundation—something which will work toward the end we all desire—namely, an immense reduction in the wasteful use of the resources of the country, and a great increase in the wealth and happiness of the British people.
§ MR. COCHRAN-PATRICK
said, he had always looked upon this as an eminently practical question; and he thought they had arrived at a time when it was highly necessary, from every point of view, that this measure should be dealt with by the Government. It was, he thought, impossible to deal with this question satisfactorily, unless it was to be taken up on the responsibility of the Government of the day. He thought it quite impossible for any private Member to carry through a measure of that sort. Therefore, although he had not, on a former occasion, supported the Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), in so far as, on the present occasion, it pointed directly to influencing the Government to deal with the subject in a practical way, he would have great pleasure, if he went to a division, to support him. He agreed with his hon. Friend in some! points; but he wished to make very 1330 clear others on which he did not agree with him. He agreed with him entirely in all that he had said in reference to the evils resulting from intemperance. As a county magistrate in Scotland, in a district—not worse, but better than many —he (Mr. Cochran-Patrick) had had frequent opportunities of seeing the evil results of intemperance; and he had no hesitation in saying that nine-tenths of the petty crime which came before the magistrates might be attributed, directly or indirectly, to intemperance. In addition to that, there was the wretchedness, misery, and poverty which they brought upon the community. He acknowledged all these to their fullest extent—to the same extent, at least, as could be done by anyone in the House—but he was bound to say that a portion of that might be caused by the evil effects of social habits of long standing. He spoke specially with reference to Scotland. A part of it might also result from the imperfect or impure quality of the ingredients imbibed; but, still, there was no inconsiderable part of it directly owing to the temptations placed in the way; and many of those who had no desire to take drink to excess were not able to resist either the sight of an open door or the solicitations of too good friends. He also agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle in thinking that it was highly unsatisfactory to leave this matter as it stood at present. They had had before them now, as on several occasions before, Bills of the most excellent intention, but which had a very partial local effect. He was not saying anything against them; but he would only point out that, in legislation of this sort, the mere fact that it was partial and local left a margin all round where, undoubtedly, practical evils existed. Therefore, for those reasons, and other reasons as well, he was extremely glad to think that this question would be dealt with on the responsibility of the Government at no very distant date, and in such a manner that those interested in the question, and who desired to see it solved with justice to all the interests involved, and with regard to the whole country, would be able to have a tangible measure before them. There was one point in the wording of the Motion, or rather the meaning attached to the words, from which he desired to differ. His hon. Friend referred to Local Option. There 1331 were various meanings attached to that phrase, and there was one technical meaning which he (Mr. Cochran-Patrick) had considerable objection to. There was also another meaning, which meant giving expression to the wishes of the locality. So far as that went, he was inclined to go as far as the hon. Baronet, and possibly further. Speaking more especially of Scotland, if they were to make any change in the present system of licensing and the administration of the Licensing Laws, he would far rather see, not a partial power, which the hon. Baronet meant by Local Option, but see him trust the people to the full extent of giving them power to regulate the liquor traffic. He believed a great number of practical objections would be met by putting the whole initiative of licensing the liquor traffic in the hands of elective Boards, with a vetoing power placed in the hands of magistrates. He did not know what was the experience of the hon. Baronet; but he believed in Scotland, where they dealt with the Parliamentary and education franchise, they would deal with this question in a manner which, in the long run, would be more likely to be satisfactory and permanent than any other solution of the question which he saw.
§ MR. C. S. PARKER
said, that, speaking as a constituent of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Cochran-Patrick) he was glad to welcome him as a supporter of Local Option, and trusted that his vote would also be given to the measure which the Government would bring in, he hoped not later than next year, to give effect to the Resolution now before the House. He also congratulated the hon. Member for Carlisle on the fact that, large as was the proportion he had recorded already for Scotland favourable to his proposal, it would be increased by the adhesion of his hon. Friend opposite. He was not quite so sure that he could give him the same full measure of congratulation as some hon. Members had done on obtaining the support of the Government; for, looking at the manner in which this union had been brought about, the hon. Baronet might think that the price paid for it was too large. It must have been impossible for the hon. Baronet to listen without somewhat mixed feelings to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for 1332 the Home Department; because, while he had freely given in his own adhesion and that of the Government to the principle of Local Option, it must have been plain to the hon. Baronet that the right hon. Gentleman could not have done so if that principle had not been understood by him in some other sense than as equivalent to the Permissive Bill. He (Mr. C. S. Parker) himself had listened to the Home Secretary with great satisfaction, having always voted for Local Option in the same sense as that in which it now seemed to be supported on the Treasury Bench. It was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman that they had already the principle of restriction upon the drink trade, and they had already the principle of local authority; and what Local Option appeared to mean in the view of the Government was that this authority should, in the first place, be strengthened, and enlarged. It extended already in the direction of controlling licences; but he thought, perhaps, this was the first time that they had heard it laid down by a legal authority in the House that it extended not only to refusing new licences, but to total prohibition. ["No, no!"] He took note that the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Edward Clarke) dissented from that view of the Home Secretary; but, whether the present law wore so or not, it would be for the Government to consider, in drawing their Local Government Bill, whether they should not arm the local authority with larger powers, possibly powers extending even, where the local authority was so inclined, to total prohibition; extending also in the direction of enforcing local hours of closing and other local regulations beyond the Imperial law, suited to the circumstances of each place, so that the traffic might be conducted there with the least possible mischief. But, besides enlarging the powers of the local authorities, he took Local Option to mean that the local authority should henceforth be more directly responsible in the ordinary sense to local public opinion, no admitted, what an hon. Member had pointed out, that the magistrates were, in a great degree, so responsible. It was said that they could not act in defiance of the public opinion of the neighbourhood; but still it did happen, in many cases, that their response was very sluggish to the feeling 1333 of the people, and there were cases where they had even acted in direct opposition to what was the prevailing sense of the community. He understood Local Option to mean that this local authority in future, owing their election, at least in part, to the vote of their neighbours, should, in consequence, be more easily impressed by the public opinion of the neighbourhood; and, in case they were not so impressed, should be liable at the next election to be removed. The part which was to be omitted, it appeared to him, of the hon. Baronet's plan, in the proposals of Her Majesty's Government was precisely that which, to his mind, had always been the most questionable feature—namely, direct popular veto; the principle, in the first place, of total prohibition; and, in the second place, of what was now beginning to be known, even in this country, as plébiscite. He had never been able to support the hon. Baronet's Permissive Bill, because he had never been of opinion that it was a safe and sensible way of dealing with the question, to collect the votes of the community, not for the election of some of their fellow-citizens and neighbours to look into the details of each case on its merits, but to collect their direct votes, on the single question whether they would continue the present traffic, or sweep it away at one blow. He could only say, as regarded the City of Perth, which he represented, that supposing they were to have the Permissive Bill as a permissive prohibitory Act tomorrow, he did not believe it would have the slightest effect, because he did not think a majority would be found to vote for total prohibition. On these grounds, regarding that Bill as unpractical, five years ago he had ventured to suggest to the hon. Baronet to drop his Bill, and propose local control in some amended form that might obtain more general approval. At the time he incurred his hon. Friend's displeasure. On reflection, however, the change was made; and he hoped that to-day at least, if not long since, he was forgiven. But no real progress would be made until they could join, not in an abstract Resolution only, but in legislation. He trusted that the hon. Baronet, and the large and influential Party who worked with him, and to whom the grateful thanks of the community were due for having brought the 1334 question so far, would see the wisdom of at present accepting what they could get, and would actively support the measure which the Government would bring in next year to place the control of this traffic in the hands of local elected Boards.
§ MR. GREGORY
Sir, I heartily sympathize with the progress that has recently been made in connection with this question through the untiring exertions in its favour that have been made by my hon. Friend opposite (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). Much praise is undoubtedly due to him for those exertions, and my hon. Friend has most undeniably done considerable benefit to the community; but what the House has to consider is, whether the progress that has been made requires to be facilitated by a measure of so strong a character as that advocated by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. There is no doubt that a great deal has been done towards the suppression of public-houses in the direction which is contemplated by the present Motion, for the question lies, to a very considerable extent, in the hands of the owners of property. This has been the case particularly in this Metropolis. It so happens that the leases on several estates of the larger character are falling in about the present time—the leases on the Westminster, on the Portland, and on the Bedford estates—and this gives an opportunity for the owners of these properties to deal with the public-houses on their estates, of which they are not slow to avail themselves. The Duke of Westminster, I believe, has abolished nearly all the public-houses on his property in London, and this is an example which is being followed on other large estates in the Metropolis. Not only is this being done in the Metropolis, but landlords in the boroughs and counties are adopting the same course, when they have the opportunity. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he talks of conferring upon the people of a district the same powers which a landlord exercises over his property, indulged, I take it, in a wholly false analogy with reference to this subject. The way a landlord deals with his property is this—he lets the lease run out; he acknowledges the right of both the lessee and the occupier of the property during the existence of the 1335 lease; and it is not until the lease has determined that he deals with it in any way. But what is proposed by the Motion of the hon. Baronet opposite? As far as I understand it, the people of a district are to have the right of practically determining a lease, because without the licence the lease is of no value. The majority of the inhabitants are not only to have the power to prevent a new licence being granted, but they are also to have the right of revoking an old licence. It may be said that now, when a licence goes up for renewal before the licensing body, they can refuse to renew it; but we all know that that is not the actual practice. You know that the right to a licence is bought and sold, and you recognize that right over and over again. You renew these licences almost as a matter of course, merely because a man has obeyed the law which you laid down for his regulation; and, practically, you tell a man that as long as he complies with your statutory regulations he will have a renewal of his licence. Now, I do not mean to say that there have not been a great deal too many licences granted. They have been granted indiscriminately and recklessly in former years; but that is not a reason for taking away vested rights, and the difficulty now arises how are we to deal with them? When it is proposed to take away those rights, we cannot deal with them in an indiscriminate manner; but we must provide some scheme with compensation for the owners of property interfered with. This difficulty arises if you allow the ratepayers to void a licence. You must impose upon these ratepayers some obligations as to providing compensation. Are the ratepayers, is my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, prepared to accept such an obligation? What struck me very much in the course of this debate was that, whenever any hon. Member has discussed the details of this Motion, the hon. Member has always differed in his ideas of its workings from the Gentleman that preceded him in the debate. It is, in regard to this Motion, quot homines tot sententiœ, I think that the hon. Baronet opposite must have had this fact in his eye when he drew his Motion, for he has most carefully avoided giving us any notion, or any idea, by what means he intends to carry on the principle of his Resolution, if it should become law. I think 1336 the hon. Baronet acted wisely in his generation; but when we come to vote on such a Motion as this I think that we do but right to inquire how it can be carried out. It appears to me that the proper course would have been for us to have some indication of the Bill by which the Government would propose to have this Motion carried out. If the Government would indicate anything that could be carried out, we might see our way; and I think the Amendment or suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Talbot) shows something that the Government ought not to overlook. His suggestion goes to the consideration of vested rights and interests; and I think the House is bound to declare that it will recognize those rights in dealing with so important an interest as the subject of the present Motion. I am quite willing to promote the cause of temperance, so long as we can do it justly and fairly with regard to these vested rights and interests. They must be regarded in the discussion of a question like this. Unless you are to confiscate property such as this, under the circumstances your only remedy is to destroy it; but having created it, you must compensate the holders of it. At present we have no actual scheme before us. We have nothing but the bare Motion of the hon. Baronet, that a majority, in every case, should have the power of shutting up the public-houses. Well, now, would that really effect the object of the hon. Baronet? I, for one, very much question it. At any rate, it would lead to a perpetual contest between the ratepayer and the publican. The latter would undoubtedly be supported by the brewer and the distiller, powerful backers as they no doubt would be; and I venture to think that, in many cases, even if the Motion is carried, the publican would not only maintain his position, but materially improve it. I therefore confess that, dealing with this Motion as an abstract Motion, I cannot bring myself to vote for it, however much I may concur with the gradual reduction and extinction of public-houses. That they can be reduced in number I am prepared to concede; but I must also concede that that should be done equitably and fairly. Protect the interests of the public if you will, but deal justly with those who are entitled to their property. Whilst you 1337 promote public morality as the hon. Baronet proposes, do not forget that you may advocate public injustice.
§ MR. WHITWORTH
Sir Arthur Otway, I have taken a great interest in this question for the last 55 years; and I have seen the results of the evils of drink in almost all parts of the world. As to the legislation in America with respect to the drink traffic being a failure, I believe there never was a greater misstatement made. In Ireland, restrictions upon the sale of intoxicating liquor have been highly successful; in fact, I maintain there has been no instance of restriction in the history of this question that has not been successful. The hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory), great lawyer as he is, evidently does not keep himself posted up as to the law on the question of compensation for loss of licence, or else he must have forgotten the decisions that have been recently given, particularly in the case of Darwen. In that town the magistrates annihilated 34 licences at one Licensing Sessions; an appeal was lodged against the magistrates in Quarter Sessions, and afterwards taken from the Quarter Session to the Court of Queen's Bench, where it was finally decided that the magistrates had perfect power to deal with licences as they thought fit.
§ MR. GREGORY
I never questioned the power of the magistrates to deal with licences. It was equity I spoke of.
§ MR. WHITWORTH
Well, if the equity of the proceeding were inquired into, it would be found to be on the side of the people, instead of on that of the publican. The case of Darwen very clearly shows that the law does not recognize the principle of compensation; and I think the hon. Gentleman would not apply the principles he has enunciated to-night if the question were that of land. A yearly tenant, clearly, is not in the same position as a leaseholder; the hon. Gentleman argued as if he were. I think you could not find a Judge in the country who would say that a publican is entitled to compensation if his licence is taken from him. The Bill which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) brought in a few years ago destroyed the licences in Dublin of, I think, something like 200 to 300 beer-sellers; but not one word was then said 1338 about compensation. Sunday Closing in Ireland has cut off, according to Mr. O'Connor's opinion, 50 per cent of the value of public-houses in that country— that is to say, a six days' licence is only worth half as much as a seven days' licence. Well, there has been no attempt to claim compensation for cutting off from the publicans' licence the Sunday, which is by far the most productive day of the week. A great deal has been said to the effect that this is an attempt to tyrannize over the working men. I think the working men are well able to take care of themselves in this matter; in fact, my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) proposes to place the whole matter, practically, in the hands of the working classes of the country; because the working men are decidedly in the majority, not only in the Parliamentary constituencies, but, as ratepayers, in every town and district. Now, as regards the effect of drink upon the industry of the country, I believe that, if we could only reduce the expenditure on drink by 50 per cent, and if we could invest the saving in other industries which would employ people, we should have an amount of prosperity that we have not seen in the country during the present century. In 1872 we had a great spurt of prosperity, and the effect of that was to advance the wages of the working classes, on an average, from 50 to 60 per cent; and I maintain that, if we could only divert £60,000,000 or £70,000,000 sterling from drink into various channels of industry, we should produce a permanent increase of the wages of the working people of the country to the extent of fully 20 per cent. That would be a great boon; for it would have at once reduced pauperism and crime as well. I have a few figures here, which were embodied in the annual report of a life insurance office to which I belong. The report was considered this very day. The general opinion of the public is, that a moderate use of intoxicating drink is not injurious to health or life. Now, what are the facts? In this office, we keep the two classes of men—abstainers and moderate drinkers —entirely separate. During the last 17 years, the expected deaths amongst the abstaining section of the insurers were 2,644, but the actual deaths were 1,861. Amongst the moderate drinkers—we 1339 take no immoderate drinkers—the expected deaths during the same period were 4,408, while the actual deaths were 4,339, scarcely any difference at all. These figures, therefore, show that, among the temperate or total abstainers, the actual deaths are only 70 per cent of the expected deaths; whereas, in the moderate drinking section, the actual deaths came within the merest fraction of the expected deaths. But there was a very remarkable state of things in the last two years, owing, I maintain, to the great spread of temperance during that time. In the last two years the general section of the moderate drinkers showed to very much greater advantage than they had ever done before; for the expected deaths were 647, while the actual deaths were only 585. That is a very great reduction, as compared with the state of things during the whole period of 17 years; and, in my opinion, it is only another evidence that the great wave of temperance that is now flowing-over the country is affecting very largely, and very beneficially, the health of the population generally. Now, as regards the working classes, let us turn to benefit societies composed exclusively of working men. There are two largo societies in Bradford; and it is found that among the Rechabites, who are total abstainers, the average sickness is not more than one-third the amount it is among the Odd Fellows. These facts show, beyond question, that it is altogether a mistake to believe that even a moderato use of intoxicating drink is at all useful to the human constitution. As to the policy of restriction, I need only quote certain words used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). After two years' experience of Sunday Closing in Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman made this very remarkable statement to a deputation which waited upon him on the subject—Unless the Sunday Closing Act is renewed, I would not be responsible for the government of Ireland.I firmly believe that, if the Government bring in and carry a Bill, a thoroughly Radical Bill upon this question—and I do not think they can bring in a Bill that will be too Radical even for the present House of Commons—they will find the government of this country, much easier. I have, therefore, very much pleasure indeed in supporting the 1340 Resolution of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle.
§ MR. LONG
said, that his constituents in North Wilts had urged their Members to support the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson); but he was sorry to say that he was unable to do so, and desired briefly to state why he should go contrary to the wishes of his constituents. The aspect of the question had been very much altered by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He (Mr. Long) regretted that, in a debate of this nature, after the singularly moderate speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, the right hon. Gentleman should have thought it necessary to make unpleasant remarks on these whose duty it was to administer justice in the rural districts. ["Oh, oh!"] He maintained that the right hon. Gentleman had made a kind of charge against the country magistrates, and especially resident magistrates, by his insinuation that their main objection to the licensing of new public-houses on their property was the fear that poachers would be harboured in them. [Laughter.] Hon. Members on the Liberal side naturally laughed at that, because they were glad to enrol themselves in opposition to the Game Laws. That accusation of the right hon. Gentleman against landlords who had the control of the erection of new public-houses was unjustifiable and unnecessary. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the magistrates had an absolute power of refusing licences to local publicans; but hitherto, unless he (Mr. Long) was much mistaken, the magistrates had believed that they possessed no such power, unless evidence was brought against the publican's character or conduct. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had distinctly laid it down that, according to law, the magistrates already had power to refuse to renew licences, even though there was no charge and no complaint against the applicant. That doctrine would be new to many magistrates of experience. If magistrates had that power, it was a most extraordinary thing that the magistrates of the county referred to by the right hon. Gentleman should have sent a deputation to him, with respect to a state of things over which they had already complete control. 1341 No doubt the right hon. Gentleman was correct; but he (Mr. Long) could not allow that the magistrates were afraid to do their duty, because of the odium attaching to it. A great deal had been said of the feelings of the working classes, which, however, it was not very easy to ascertain. The subject of temperance was nearly connected with religion, and the Prime Minister had last night spoken slightingly of Petitions on religious subjects. The clergy of all denominations had identified themselves with the question of temperance, and he was not a whit behind them in this matter; but he was not utterly regardless of the means by which that end was to be obtained. It seemed, however, to him (Mr. Long) that there was a danger lest a good object should be promoted by undesirable means; and he ventured to ask these who supported the opinions held by the hon. Baronet, were they to be carried away by a desire to attain a good end, and be utterly regardless of the means by which they were to attain it? He did not mean to suggest that the means of the hon. Baronet and his Friends were not wholly justifiable, or not wholly good; but were they not rather carried away by this extraordinary rush throughout the country in favour of temperance, and were they not becoming somewhat inclined to carry a measure which really would not act in favour of temperance? He could never support Local Option in its pure sense, because, practically, it involved the transference of the power of granting licences from the Justices of the Peace, who had, on the whole, done their work fairly well, to the ratepayers, who might, perhaps, do it very ill, and who, besides, in many cases, would not be fairly representative of the body of the people of the district. In the cause of temperance, however, he should be in no way behind the hon. Member for Carlisle. Indeed, both sides of the House were equally anxious to find a remedy for existing evils. He would like to hear from hon. Members opposite, in the event of such a transference taking place, whereby the number of public-houses would be reduced, what scheme of compensation they proposed, supposing they intended to confiscate the property of these who had invested their money on a certain understanding. ["Oh, oh!"] He supposed it would not be denied that 1342 they would confiscate that property if they transferred the power of licensing from the Justices to the ratepayers. That was a question, at least, which demanded an answer.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON
Sir, I believe the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, expressing as it did the mind of the Government on this important question, will send a thrill of satisfaction through the length and breadth of the land. No man will appreciate that fact more than the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who has laboured so long and has persevered so much, as I hope and believe, towards success in this question. For myself, I most heartily support the proposal of the hon. Baronet, because I believe that at last the artizan classes of this country are to see the means provided whereby their voices may be heard on the question as to whether they, who are the most interested in the matter, shall preserve themselves, their homes and their families, from the pitfalls and temptations by which they are surrounded and assailed on every side. Objections have been taken in some of the speeches which have been made on the other side of the House, because of the many ways in which this Local Option Resolution can be carried out. I think these objections are of a shallow character. There are many ways of moving forward, but only one way of standing still; and I hope there may be many suggestions made before this Resolution is crystallized into law. Many suggestions have been made, in the course of this discussion, which could certainly not be carried out; but I do hope that all the suggestions which have been put before the House will be considered, and that the Resolution which has been accepted by the Government will be adopted and embodied in the law of the country with the least possible delay. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wilts (Mr. Long) took exception to some remarks made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, as to the action of the magistrates and the exercise of their discretion. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for North Wilts is himself a magistrate, and that he knows that, as a body, they have endeavoured, to the best of their ability, to carry out the law as it stands. But I 1343 will give the hon. Gentleman an instance of the great failure of magisterial discretion. At Liverpool there is a splendid Sailors' Home, in which hundreds of thousands of our seamen are received every year. The Liverpool magistrates have sanctioned, within a radius of 150 yards of that Home, as many as 47 flaring gin palaces. If the hon. Member thinks that that is a wise exercise of the magisterial discretion I certainly do not hold the same view.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON
I have no doubt the magistrates have exercised their powers to the best of their ability; but they are pressed upon all sides by influences which they cannot withstand, and the curtailment and cutting off of licences is really out of their power. Put the matter in the hands of the ratepayers, and give them a potential voice, and the difficulty will soon be overcome. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory) gave us what might be called a somewhat dry lawyer's property view of the question. If the decision of the Over Darwen Justices is right, as I believe it to be, we shall soon have got over all difficulty on the subject. For what purposes have licences been so freely granted and scattered over the land, to the demoralization and injury of the people, in places where vast masses were congregated? They have not been granted, in the words of the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Talbot), to supply articles of ordinary consumption. They have not been granted to supply the necessaries of life to the people; on the contrary, they have been granted by magistrates to men who have not any particular calling or occupation; perhaps a large number of them are lazy men who think keeping a public-house an easy and gainful way of making some money; and they have been granted in this way to the vast detriment, and degradation, and impoverishment of the people. I rejoice exceedingly at the attitude taken by the Government on this question. I am sure the country will also rejoice, and I hope that before 12 months are over we 1344 shall have, on the Table of the House, a large and effective measure that will put down altogether, or at least greatly diminish, intemperance.
Sir, I wish to say a few words with reference to the constitution of Scotch Local Boards. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) stated that the system of Local Boards in Scotland did not work very well; but I think that he cannot but be aware of the fact that the Boards which there administer the Licensing Laws are not Boards such as are now advocated for the express purpose of administering these laws, but they are formed from the Town Council of the borough, consisting of the provost and baillies—or magistrates, as they are called in England. These gentlemen were not elected for that special purpose, or with reference to their views on this question alone, but upon all the questions that occupy the attention of the community at the time the annual elections of Town Councillors take place. The hon. Baronet (Sir John Kennaway), who has an Amendment on the Paper, stated that there would be no security that Local Licensing Boards would be better than the present Licensing Authorities. We, I think, have every security that they would. The present Licensing Authorities are not elected at all; they are merely nominees; but a Board elected directly by the ratepayers, and knowing that, at a stated time, they must return to give an account of their doings, would be a very different body to the existing Licensing Authorities in England. Reference was made by the hon. Baronet to the Scotch Bill on this subject, which is now before the House, and he objected to the stringent clauses of that Bill. I admit that they are very stringent. I have no power or authority to speak on behalf of the hon. Member for Linlithgowshire (Mr. M'Lagan), who brought in that Bill; but I may say, for myself—my name being on the back of the Bill—that while I think, the principle of Local Option being granted, the best and simplest way of giving effect to it is by a direct appeal to the ratepayers, I am not wedded to that definite opinion; and if a Board can be elected directly representing the ratepayers on that point, I should be perfectly willing to intrust them with that power. A suggestion was made by the hon. Member for 1345 Perth (Mr. C. S. Parker) that the present magistrates should be associated with the Boards proposed to be elected, and another hon. Member suggested that a certain number of local men should be associated with the magistrates in another form. I consider that either of these proposals would be utterly ineffectual. You must have, in order to satisfy these who ask for Local Option, either direct reference to the ratepayers, and an appeal to them under the ballot, or Boards chosen by them for the express purpose, not merely of administering the Licensing Laws, but of determining whether there should be licences or not. Unless you have one of these two things, you fail to satisfy the just demands of the public. The last speaker on the other side wished to know how the present laws are administered. That is not the question with us. We are opposed to the licensing system altogether. If it were decided in any locality that the present licensing system should continue, then the Board would administer the system; if it were decided that there would be no licences in that district, the Board would then have no function to perform except to put an end to all the licences, and then to wait for the next election. I rose simply for the purpose of correcting the misapprehension fallen into by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle as to the working of the Scotch Local Boards. They are not Boards elected for the purpose of licensing; and therefore they fail, as they have most singularly failed. I wish to re-echo the expression made use of by a previous speaker as to the great advance this question has made. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department was most satisfactory; but what is even more satisfactory is, that while last year the Resolution was supported by almost every Member of the Government with the exception of the Prime Minister, it is now to be supported by the Prime Minister and the whole body of the Ministry, and that we shall have the Prime Minister walking into the Lobby with the supporters of the Resolution, instead of going out of the House, as he did on the last occasion when it was brought forward.
§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND
said, that, in his opinion, the real question involved was not one of temperance, but of the 1346 liberty of the subject. He understood that if, in a place of 10,000 inhabitants, 5,001 voted for putting down public-houses, the remaining 4,999 would not be allowed to drink at all. ["No, no!"] That was how the country understood the question; but if the hon. Member who said "No!" was correct, all he (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) could say was that he could not understand what it really was. In many cases it was quite necessary that persons should have stimulants. He looked upon Local Option as a class question. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) said he pleaded the cause of the poor; but he (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) thought such a measure as this would affect only the poor, and leave the rich to enjoy their liberty to partake at their own will. As the Resolution stood, any hon. Member of that House would be allowed to have wine, spirits, and beer in his cellar, whilst poor people would be unable to obtain anything. He could not do otherwise than vote against a Resolution which was so one-sided as the one under discussion, though anything which would really promote the true cause of temperance he should only be too happy to support.
§ MR. WALTER
said, he desired to say a few words on this subject, because, on former occasions, he had either voted against this Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), or abstained from voting. He felt now somewhat in a difficulty, because he thought the Resolution might be voted for in one of two different senses. It might be voted for in the sense attached to it by the hon. Baronet who proposed it, and who was supported by the great mass of the temperance societies; or he might vote for it in the sense attached to it by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. It was very important that that should be clearly understood. If his (Mr. Walter's) vote were to imply that he voted for it in the sense attached to it by the hon. Baronet, he should certainly not support it. On the other hand, if he were at liberty to place on it the construction which he took to have been placed upon it by the right hon. Gentleman in very cautious and guarded language, and which he (Mr. Walter) himself was prepared to endorse, 1347 then he could vote for it with a clear conscience. The hon. Baronet and the right hon. Gentleman agreed on certain main points. They agreed that there should be Licensing Boards of a representative character, as opposed to Boards consisting purely and simply of magistrates. He had no objection to that, though he did not join in the language used by some hon. Members as to the total inefficiency of the magistrates in dealing with this question. In his own county, he could say that during the last year or two, since it had been fairly understood that the magistrates had a much greater power of withholding licences than they used to have licences; had been withheld, and no new licences had been granted, and a good many public-houses had been suppressed; but, speaking as a magistrate himself, he could not say this duty entailed any great pleasure or gratification on these who exercised it. He should not object either to be relieved of that duty, or to be supported and backed up by a Local Board. It was said that the Elective Body, which was to administer the now system, was to be of a local character. The hon. Baronet attached one meaning to the word "locality," and it was quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department attached a different meaning to the word. The right hon. Gentleman would not have anything to do with Boards elected ad hoc; and he (Mr. Walter) himself would never consent for one moment to any Local Board whatever having any right or power to shut up public-houses in any locality. On that he must observe that he thought the excellent cause, for the progress of which the world was so much indebted to his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, was greatly injured by the intemperate language used by many of its advocates. It seemed to him that a certain proportion of Englishmen could not help being intemperate on every subject they took up—in their business, in their pleasure, in hunting, shooting, and in amusements of every other description; and they were intemperate in language, and especially in language in which they condemned intemperance; and of all intemperate people he ever came across on this subject, commend him, as being the most conspicuous, to a clergyman when he became an advocate of temperance. But his hon. Friend had done him (Mr.
1348 Walter) the honour of referring to some expressions he had used as to alcohol being "the devil in solution." By that expression, he simply meant pure alcohol, not the dilution of alcohol in a glass of beer, which was as great an offence in the eyes of a Blue Ribbon man as a glass of raw whiskey. They should consider what sort of language these people used. He had had forwarded to him to-day, a paper describing the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of England of the Independent Order of Good Templars. What did they say on this subject? This was a resolution which they passed—That this Grand Lodge, recognizing the importance of every possible curtailment and restriction of the intoxicating liquor traffic, pending its ultimate suppression, would urge upon its members and upon all patriotic citizens to give every possible support to Parliamentary measures forthis, that, and the other objects. Such language as that showed the temper in which the matter was being considered. Here were people who would not be content with any terms whatever except the total suppression of what they believed to be deadly poison. He protested altogether against such language being applied to the use of stimulants in any form whatever, as that employed by Dr. Richardson and other well-known advocates of temperance. He did not believe in it. He believed that the notions expressed by such language were utterly gross and mischievous errors and delusions. In his opinion, the moderate use of wine and beer was just as good and wholesome for Englishmen as that of any other beverage. The whole question turned on the use or abuse of these things. After all, when they came to talk about the great injustice of exposing people to these temptations, surely the drinkers of the last generation in the upper classes were not driven from them by the prohibition of the sale of wines and spirits. They were taught by education and example to put restraint upon themselves, and not to feel that every public-house and every club and dinner table was a temptation too strong to be resisted, or that it was to be suppressed in order to preserve them from the consequences of their own weakness and intemperance. He hoped that in course of time, and before long, the lower classes would feel the influence and show the good effects of teaching and example all 1349 around, and he attached much more importance to that than to any legislative measures whatever. He would now say one word as to the language which was used habitually by the advocates of teetotalism. These persons spoke of the Licensing Laws of England as if they were intended to give facilities for the sale, or what they called "the traffic in intoxicating drinks." He maintained that was a totally erroneous view of the question. The Licensing Laws were restraining laws; they restrained all these who were not licensed from selling what they would otherwise be at liberty to sell. Then he objected to the term "trafficking in drink." he thought it was an offensive term, and meant to be so. There were plenty of persons of very good character who kept public-houses where men did not get drunk every day of their lives. He did not see why a term of reproach such as "trafficking" should be thrown at them any more than at grocers, or butchers, or bakers. There were other things in which men were very intemperate, and which to him (Mr. Walter) were just as distasteful and offensive as drink. He would mention one. He was a great enemy of smoking, and would not smoke the best cigar in the world if they gave him £5. He had known young men very seriously injured for life by smoking. But he would not, on that account, adopt the offensive language used by Dr. Richardson and others, and say that every tobacconist's shop should be shut up. He did hope, now that the Government had really taken the matter up, they would have effective legislation, and legislation framed on the principles of common sense and reason, and that the localities would not be handed over to people who were in reality as intemperate themselves in their ideas as regarded the requisite remedy as these they wished to restrain and rescue from the terrible vice of drinking.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, that he could not agree with the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) as to the injurious effect of smoking. As regarded the subject under notice, he would urge that if a Board had to be appointed for the purpose of regulating licenses, it ought not, at any rate, to be chosen by the electors or ratepayers of a particular district. He had taken a great interest in this question, and, looking at his own 1350 county, he was able to say that every one of the county and borough magistrates had always endeavoured to show the ratepayers that, while they would not encourage drunkenness in any form, they did not wish to put pressure upon the publican in order merely to interfere with the sale of beer, and that they required a good deal of evidence before they licensed fresh houses. The gentlemen who called themselves teetotallers could hardly be described as the best specimens of humanity that could be conceived. As a rule, the teetotaller would be a much better member of the community were he, every now and then, to show broader views, and to take a more comprehensive view of the real interests of the working classes. He did not believe that if the working classes throughout the country were to be polled, they would be found to be in favour of closing the public-houses in any particular locality, as proposed by the Resolution before the House; and if such a law were to be passed, the discontent and ill-feeling which would be caused would be enormous, and he believed that a good deal of rioting would ensue. He could fully endorse the remarks of the hon. Member for Berkshire with regard to the strong and intemperate language used by these so-called teetotallers; and, as an instance of it, he might mention that a short time since gentlemen calling themselves clergymen—he did not believe of the Established Church, but prefixing the title "Reverend" to their name—came down to the borough he had the honour of representing, and, in lecturing upon the subject, actually told the ratepayers that their salvation depended, and depended solely, upon their abstaining from the use of alcohol. ["Oh, oh!" and laughter."] He was not exaggerating one iota; he had seen in the local papers, speeches in which these gentlemen set forth that a man who did not take liquor was more likely to be saved hereafter, and working men had come to him, and said they were disgusted by it. He was sure the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) did not use language of that sort; but he had seen in a periodical, in which the hon. Baronet was interested, rather violent language, which he felt sure he would not use in the House of Commons. It was not because they wished to back up 1351 the publicans, or because they looked on the question as a publican's question, that they opposed the Resolution of the hon. Baronet, but because they looked on it as a working man's question, seriously affecting their rights, privileges, and freedom. It would be unfair to deprive the working classes of a liberty which the wealthier classes enjoyed. And as to the numerous coffee-houses which the Temperance Party had opened in opposition to the public-houses, he could only hope and trust that no hon. Member would ever be tempted into one of these places, and drink the vile stuff they sold, for anything more horrible, more unpalatable than some of the decoctions sold in these places he could not imagine. ["Oh, oh!" and laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen cried "Oh, oh!" but their exclamations would be much louder if they had to drink the vile stuff sold under the name of "coffee," &c., which was far more deleterious to the working classes than a good glass of English beer. He trusted that as an English and a Christian nation we should cling to our glass of beer.
said, he had had the honour of supporting the principle of this Resolution on two previous occasions, and he should then again vote in favour of it with pleasure. The Government had intimated that they would support the principle of Local Option, and that they wished to see it embodied in a Local Government Bill. But that was a very large subject, dealing with many other questions and interests than that of Local Option, and it would require great force behind it in order to get it through the House. He could only hope that the large majority which would vote that night in favour of the Resolution of the hon. Baronet would act as a lever upon the Government in promoting the passing of the Local Government Bill which they were going to introduce. As to the point of compensation, referred to by the hon. Member for North Wilts (Mr. Long) in a very able speech, that was a matter which would require careful attention; but it was not now before the House. The Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) did not deal with it, and there seemed to be so many interests involved, that the question would entail a very large amount of discussion in the House be- 1352 fore it was finally settled. He had felt much satisfaction in hearing what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and he should support the Resolution as both a smoker and a drinker, and he trusted that the Government would soon deal with it in a comprehensive measure.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, he thought that a few words with reference to the condition of things personally experienced by himself, in countries where prohibition existed, might guide the House not a little in corning to a conclusion as to what the effect of the Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would be if it became law in this country. He took it, that what the hon. Baronet was aiming at was the complete suppression in localities, where sufficient pressure could be brought to bear, of the consumption of drink. He would take the House, first of all, to a place where there was no intoxicating drink to be got of any sort. That was in North America; and having sailed up the St. Lawrence, after arriving at Quebec, having crossed the Charles River, they would arrive at the town or parish of Beauport, where the old "habitants" of French extraction were completely under the influence of the clergy. The priests had brought their influence to bear so strongly that not only was no intoxicant of any kind sold there, but by mutual agreement—strictly observed—none was kept by any person in the locality. All were agreed to banish it; and he would admit that throughout the length and breadth of either the Eastern or Western Hemisphere, not a better conducted, more happy, or more moral set of persons could be found than the inhabitants of that district. They had not the slightest desire to have any drink, nor had they ever had any. They were, it is true, persons of small ambition and content with moderate pleasures, and this abstinence had prevailed for a great many years, and they had now dismissed drink entirely from amongst them. So far he would concede to the hon. Baronet that persons might live not only happily, but most happily, without having any intoxicants in their houses. Next, he would take hon. Members a step, rather a long one, into the North West, and there, on the vast 1353 prairie, as soon as they left the last town behind them, they would be under the absolute prohibition of intoxicants. Not only could no intoxicants be obtained, but not a drop would they be allowed to carry with them. If a drop of whiskey was found concealed in a pocket-pistol, it would be taken away from them; and, moreover, if any intoxicant of any kind were found upon them, they would be liable to a fine of $300, or £60, and perhaps seclusion for some months in the penitentiary. He had been there during two autumns; he was there several weeks last autumn, and, therefore, could speak from experience. He took a flask of whiskey in case he should need it under special circumstances, but he was happy to say that he returned with the flask unscrewed. There, again, they had an illustration of how men could go through an enormous amount of work without having any need of intoxicants, under conditions in which one might have to face many hardships, and it might be the cruellest of all camp followers—starvation. And not only in the camp, but on the rail way works of the country, the same thing was to be seen. On the great works of the Canada and Pacific Railway, where, in one place, he spent several days in a camp of 4,000 or 5,000 persons, not one of the workmen had any drink except coffee, cocoa, &c.; not a drop of intoxicating liquor was consumed by them; and yet these men worked very hard—worked in a way, in fact, of which the working classes in England were ignorant, the labour being performed with a celerity that was unknown in Europe. These instances alone were proof that people could live and work well and happily without the use of intoxicating liquors. But now he must turn to the other side of the picture. What was the great desire of these men? They were kept from having any stimulant by a law enforced by the exertions of the finest Force that ever lived—the mounted Police Force of Canada, men who seemed to sniff across the prairie a drop of whiskey. These men could get no drink; but the dream of their life was of the day when they would get back into the city, and have their big drink of whiskey. They were made sober pro tem, but they could scarcely be said to have been educated into sobriety. They would have their drink, and he had heard of fellows 1354 stewing down tobacco in their tea, throwing in a couple of bottles of "Pain Killer," and then selling the mixture, although the men who drank it knew that it would render them senseless and almost paralyze them. Therefore, although he conceded that men could do without drink, by compelling these people to abstain from drink, they did not make them sober; and even, notwithstanding the vigilance of the police, liquor was procured and consumed to an extent which produced very sad consequences, not among the Indians—the liquor never reached them—but among the Whites and Half-breeds. He wished to put this matter plainly before the House, because, anxious as they were in the cause of temperance, anxious as they were to moderate the liquor traffic, depend upon it experience had shown that you might close the doors of the public-houses without making the people sober. The proper way to make them so was by the best example and precept; but it was impossible to do so by any such legislation as was now proposed. If this system were adopted, he would remind the Secretary of State for the Home Department that a far greater and more energetic Police Force—a force as vigilant as the mounted police he had spoken of—would be required than at present existed. In a sparsely populated country, such as he had described, it was most difficult; in a thickly populated country it would be impossible. To enforce such a law would entail domiciliary visits by the police, which the people of this country would never put up with. House to house visitation would be required, and then they would find that an amount of secret drinking would result which would make the population far worse than they were under a system of licensed houses under an efficient inspection by the police.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
Sir, I feel diffident in speaking on this subject, in this House, and for two reasons—first, because it is the first time I have opened my mouth on any but local Irish subjects; and, secondly, because the matter has been rendered threadbare throughout the United Kingdom, and I am not so vain as to think I can contribute anything novel or especially interesting. I am here, however, tonight, to say, so far as my experience of the locality in which I live goes, it is a 1355 subject which is gathering in force and importance every uionth—I might almost say every day. It is gathering force not only amongst the well-clad, the well-fed and aristocratic, but more particularly amongst the poor, lowly working classes. More than that, this House to-night seems to me to be a very faithful mirror of the feeling of the country on the subject. The good humoured quips and jokes which used to be cast at my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) from the other side of the House, and at which I used to laugh long before I ever dreamed that I should have the honour of a seat in this House, are now conspicuous by their absence. We have none of these jokes that we used to hear; but, on the contrary, as we are all glad to see, hon. Members on the other side of the House seem, if possible, to be more anxious to advance the cause of temperance than the hon. Baronet himself. I say that in no taunting spirit whatever. I say it with feelings of extreme satisfaction and extreme pleasure. One or two hon. Gentlemen, however, seem more hostile than others to the Resolution on the Paper, and it is satisfactory to observe that one of the two, who have spoken in the most hostile spirit, had the courage and candour to confess that he spoke in antagonism to the wishes of his own constituents. Now let me ask, is the Notice Paper of this House any reflection of the interest which is taken in this Resolution, and in kindred subjects? We have two Sunday Closing Bills for England; we have two Sunday Closing Bills for Ireland; we have one Sunday Closing Bill for Cornwall, one for Durham, one for Yorkshire, and one for the Isle of Wight, and all of them waiting for their turn to be discussed in this House, and only stopped because the champion blocker of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland stands in the way.
§ MR. WARTON
I must interpose to say, Sir, that I have not blocked anyone of these County Bills mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
Unless called upon by the Chair, I must refuse. 1356 If the Leader of my own Party desires it I will give the name. ["Oh, oh!"] I beg distinctly to say to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) that, in the remark I made, I meant no discourtesy to him or anyone else. I have had some experience of what might be termed Local Option, and I think I shall be justified in mentioning that experience to the House. I believe I am correct in stating that, in every village in Ireland of 500 inhabitants and upwards, there are a number of men quartered, who I believe are quite equal even to the mounted police of Canada—I allude to the Royal Irish Constabulary. In every village, a barrack for the accommodation of this semi-military police is erected. In every village of the size I have named and larger, except one—which you in England would call a village, but which we on account of our sparse population are apt to call a town—of 3,500 inhabitants, which is very near the place of my residence, they have these barracks. That town or village is no paradise, as I happen very well to know. I am not prepared to say that there are not bonâ fide travellers residing there, who, on Sundays, make Sabbathday journeys; but out of that 3,500 inhabitants, not five paupers annually go to the neighbouring workhouse, not five illegitimate births take place there per annum. Through the action of the proprietors, no public-house is allowed within that district. That is the point which I wish to bring before the House, and I leave the House to deduce any argument it chooses from it. Well, Sir, that may be termed by some hon. Gentlemen local despotism, and not Local Option, and the proprietor of the district was taunted with the fact. The result, however, was this. A canvass was made of the place, conducted by ballot, without any influence being brought to bear one way or the other. The vote was taken in the presence of two magistrates, one belonging to each political Party. Some 300 householders voted for the condition of things remaining as it was—that is to say, for no public-house to be erected within the locality—and 50 voted for public-houses being allowed. Sir, I believe that, on account of long custom, we are in the habit of taking as a matter of course that a large amount of pauperism, crime, and drunk- 1357 enness exists among the community. I cannot but believe, however, that if temptation were taken out of the way, we should very rapidly get accustomed to a better state of things throughout the country, and that brings me more especially to the Resolution on the Paper to-night, and I hope the House will forgive me if I have wandered from it. It is a difficult thing—at least we find it so—for benches of magistrates to take on themselves the responsibility of dealing with public-houses in such a way that temptation shall be lessened to the degree that may be necessary. I believe that many magistrates would be glad of some authority, either to guide them—I speak of my own neighbourhood—either to guide them, or to take the responsibility in the matter out of their hands altogether. I listened with great pleasure to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Ecroyd) the other night, in which he spoke of his great knowledge of the working classes. Although I quite agree my hon. Friend has the knowledge he claims, I will not yield to any hon. Member of this House in a knowledge of the working classes in the North of Ireland. The working classes in the North of Ireland are a strange and conglomerate gathering. Hordes of barbarians from England and Scotland invaded our shores some centuries ago, displacing or mixing with the Native population; but English, Scotch and Irish, as they are in the North of Ireland, they send, out of 29 Representatives in this House, 23 who are pledged not to vote against the Resolution of my hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), while most of them are pledged to vote in its favour. Now, Sir, a challenge has been thrown out to us by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wilts (Mr. Long) in regard to the question of compensation. That is a question which I think the hon. Member for Carlisle has very wisely avoided; and, I conceive, it is not part of my business this evening to meet the challenge of the hon. Member. I, however, feel very strongly, and feel, perhaps, in contradistinction from my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, that when a measure placing the granting of public-house licences in the hands of the ratepayers, or the people themselves, is brought in by the Government—and that it will be speedily introduced 1358 I sincerely trust—the question of compensation ought to be seriously considered. Personally, I shall be ready to give due consideration to every interest which has been created by past legislation, because I believe we should act in this matter temperately and justly.
§ MR. CROPPER
It seems to me, Sir, we have a little wandered from the subject before the House; and Although I confess to have been much edified by what has been said about cocoa and coffee-houses, and about the state of affairs in Canada, and other places, I think we may turn for a few minutes to the Resolution, and consider, amongst other things, the way in which it has been met from the Front Bench. Anyone in the House, who is accustomed to meet his constituents, knows full well that the subject which we are discussing to-night is perhaps the most interesting he can bring before a public meeting. It is so, because everyone thinks he knows something about the subject, and thinks he has something to recommend. Working men, especially, know that to them and their wives and their households, it is almost the one question which affects their comfort and their well-being. These who are at all acquainted with the matter know very well that the happiness, security, and prosperity of localities, I think I may go further and say the prosperity of the country, depends upon this question very much more than upon any other social question which can be raised. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. S. Smith) devoted his remarks to one very important branch of the subject—namely, that of finding a market for the manufactures of this country, and for increasing the home trade of our great communities. I believe no one can exaggerate the improvement and the advantage to England which will be gained when the money now spent, indeed wasted, by the working clases, is invested in the various manufactures which are produced by our fellow-countrymen. I will, however, leave that point and turn for a few moments to the real question before the House. It appears to me that the change of jurisdiction from the Justices to any Elective Board is a serious question. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfred Lawson) has almost treated 1359 this as if it is a perfectly straightforward measure; he appears to think there should be a number of representatives who should meet together to discharge the sole duty of choosing these who are to sell intoxicating drinks. I do not think he has over contemplated, and I doubt if he has thoroughly understood, what will be the effect of giving that power to bodies who are elected as Municipalities chose their representatives, or as County Boards, presuming the scheme for such Boards is adopted, will be elected.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
I never advocated a Licensing Board. My Resolution makes no mention of such a thing.
§ MR. CROPPER
I conclude my hon. Friend means that the public would exercise their functions through the Elective Boards, or something of the kind?
§ MR. CROPPER
In whatever way the hon. Baronet thinks the public may express their opinion, it is generally supposed it will be through Municipal Corporations or Boards of Guardians or Elective Boards in counties, and I hope the Government will very well consider such a measure before they bring it forward. I, for my part, am not all at one with the idea that a mere body elected for the government of a town or a locality, such as a Corporation in towns, or Elective Boards, if we ever get them, in counties, will be any better than the existing authority—namely, that composed of Justices. The House listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Dick-Peddie). The hon. Gentleman expressed his own opinion, and I doubt not, that of all thoughtful Scotchmen, upon the policy of giving licensing power to Elective Boards in Scotland. Although the hon. Gentleman was hopeful as to the effect of the proposed change here, I think we ought to consider, whether we, in England, should be in any better position, if licensing jurisdiction were exercised by men who are elected for hundreds of other purposes as well, than we are now. We all know, in our separate localities, that, whatever else the Justices do, they do bow a good deal to the growing opinion of the communities in which they live. In my own borough, and in all 1360 places where temperance opinions are growing, the feeling of the Justices to restrict licences grows more and more. In the borough I represent (Kendal), and I think the same may be said of many other places, the number of licensed houses has diminished enormously—in Kendal, I believe, there are now only about half the number of public-houses there were when I first knew the town. Such being the case, it is evident that public opinion has had its effect. The Licensing Justices are not an elected body. Public opinion, no doubt, would more quickly manifest itself in the case of an elected body, though it is possible that, at one time, it might take a moral turn, and, at another, just the opposite. I should be sorry to withdraw the power from the Justices and give it to a Municipal authority, unless the Municipal authority were simply a second authority, by whom the Justices' decisions might be considered and by whom even the number of licences granted by the Justices might be restricted. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department has considered any such proposal; but I trust the right hon. Gentleman will take good counsel, and consult the evident sense of the House, before the measure dealing with the matter is finally adopted. I am a little afraid that the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle may be, perhaps, as little in harmony with the measure to be brought in, as they are with the existing system of licensing by Justices. Though I say that, I feel very strongly that we are coming to a time when here, as in our Colonies and in America, public opinion must be the one deciding rule upon all these questions, and I think that opinion will be altogether in favour of the spread of temperance and the decrease of public-houses. Therefore, I look forward with great interest to the measure which has been foreshadowed to-day from the Treasury Bench, and though I do not suppose it will meet the views of a very large section in the House, I hope it may become law, and that we shall be thankful for the protection it will afford.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he was not at all disposed to question the wisdom of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Law- 1361 son) in bringing forward his Motion. But, for his own part, Although he thought it was open to some observation whether it was desirable, year after year, to pass abstract Resolutions, which were not likely to produce any immediate results, he must, in candour, acknowledge that there had been good service done by an occasional debate upon this question. Undoubtedly, in the course of such debate, it was of advantage to have expressions of opinion from hon. Gentlemen sitting in all parts of the House, and representing all the different shades of opinion, in favour of these serious and earnest stops being taken to promote the spread of temperance, and to check intemperance; and that night, as on former occasions, there had been a very general expression, throughout the House, of a desire to act together in that matter; or rather, he should say, to act in that matter, for when it came to the question of acting together, he was afraid they could not say there was the same entire unanimity with regard to the means of action as there certainly was as to the object itself. He could quite understand that if there were, on the part of the Government of the day, or any other Government, an indisposition to deal with this question, it might be the duty of its strenuous advocates to bring it forward, from time to time, in order to press the adoption of a principle not acknowledged. Or he could understand that, if, the principle having been acknowledged, there were delay in acting on that principle, Motions might be made, for the purpose of quickening the action of the Government; or, on the other hand, it would be very intelligible for the promoters of the movement to come forward with some practical suggestions. But they had heard nothing of that kind to-night. They had a Government which, for the last two years, had more and more decidedly accepted the proposal of the hon. Baronet. In the first year of this Parliament, the Prime Minister felt himself unable to vote in favour of the Resolution, or, in fact, to vote at all, Although some of his Colleagues voted in favour of it. The Prime Minister, in an interesting speech, stated his agreement with the general principles of the hon. Baronet, but pointed out the great difficulties which lay in the way of its application. On the last occasion that the question was 1362 before the House, the Prime Minister advanced a step; but then he voted against it. But there was then a disposition on the part of the Government to deal with the matter. Now the Government said they were prepared to accept the language of the hon. Baronet. That was a matter on which the hon. Member was to be congratulated; but whether he would get anything more out of it than the acceptance of the Resolution he (Sir Stafford Northcote) greatly doubted. The conduct of the Government in accepting a Resolution of that sort, when, at the same time, it was perfectly evident that they took a very different view of the action to be taken on it than that suggested by the Mover, was, he would not say un-Parliamentary or unjustifiable, but, at all events, not likely to produce any great amount of satisfaction in the minds of hon. Members. It looked very much as if they were disposed to ask the hon. Baronet and his supporters to accept the will for the deed, and be satisfied with general professions in place of practical proposals. Of course, the difficulties in the matter were extreme. That had been acknowledged by everybody who looked into the question, unless they were prepared, as the hon. Baronet seemed to be, to meet these difficulties by a summary and trenchant measure. The hon. Baronet told the House that he was in favour of the measure brought forward by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Dick-Peddie); but was that a measure which the House or the Government was likely to adopt, or the country would be prepared to adopt? They must consider what sort of provisions were in that Bill. A certain number of persons, being householders, might mark out any district they pleased, and if they got it acknowledged, they might then propose a vote by which the district would bind itself, for ever, to make it penal in that district to sell, barter, exchange, or dispose of intoxicating liquors. What the meaning of disposing of liquors was he would not say. But were they to understand that that was the sort of legislation to which the hon. Baronet inclined; and that, if they voted for the Resolution, they were pledging themselves to that mode of dealing with the subject? He listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. S. Smith); and he 1363 gathered from that speech that his view of Local Option was that there was to be a power given to certain bodies to make plans similar to these suggested by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock. The effect of such a measure would be that the Option would be exercisable in one direction only; and, therefore, he (Sir Stafford Northcote) was not prepared to accept a Resolution worded in that way. He was not at all disposed to offer any discouragement to any bonâ fide efforts for the extension of temperance. He rejoiced at everything be heard which proved that there was a real bonâ fide progress in that direction in many parts of the county; but, on the principle that one volunteer was worth 10 pressed men, he preferred voluntary efforts to these which were involuntary. One instance of voluntary adoption of temperance principles was worth a great many instances of enforced and involuntary temperance. He was, therefore, undoubtedly, not at all indisposed to assist in giving consideration to any legislation that might be proposed, in a reasonable and serious manner, for the purpose of giving effect to legislative restrictions on intemperance; and though he did not say it contained everything that might be required to be done in the matter, the proposals that were made in the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords were very valuable and practical as regarded suggestions for dealing with the question. These were matters that might be profitably examined into; but they were shelved, for the sake of passing a general Resolution of a very ambiguous nature, which could be translated by different people in different ways. He would say nothing against the debate itself. It had been both interesting and useful, and many valuable facts and considerations had been imported into it; but he did not feel that be was able, on that occasion, to vote for a Resolution which left untouched the difficulties of the question entirely, and which did not attempt to deal, either with the kind of body which was to have the power of enforcing these restrictions, or with the great question of compensation. The hon. Baronet offered no solution of these difficulties, but asked them to adopt a Resolution which, in reality, was a Resolution almost entirely in the air. Under these circumstances, be should be disposed to vote as, upon most 1364 occasions such as that, it had been the custom of the Government to vote. He meant this. Here was an Order of the Day for going into Committee of Supply; an Amendment was proposed to that Order, and on that Amendment an interesting discussion had taken place, during the course of which the Government had made certain overtures, and explained partially the views which they entertained, but to which they did not intend to give immediate effect. In such circumstances, it appeared to him that the natural conclusion from that was that the Order of the Lay should be proceeded with, and that either the Mover of the Motion should be asked by the Government to accept the assurances that had been given, or, if he would not, the Government should vote for what was really "the Previous Question"—namely, for going into Supply. What the Government were likely to do he would not say. They had very odd and new ways of dealing with Questions and Motions on going into Supply. For his own part, the vote he meant to give was that which he should have thought would have been the natural outcome of their own deliberations; and he desired it to be understood that it was not given against any attempt to deal with the question of temperance, but with a full acknowledgment that the question was one which ought to be, and might be, dealt with. It was given because there was nothing practical proposed to solve the difficulties of the question.
I will not detain the House for many minutes. I do not altogether disclaim a community of feeling with the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) in some of the remarks he has made. I agree with him that the Government are placed in some degree in a false position in voting against their own Order of the Day. But, at the same time, it must be borne in mind that this is a case which should and must have been foreseen by these who recommended and procured the establishment of the present very peculiar system, under which, not for the exigencies of the Government, but to meet the convenience of the House, the Order of Supply is moved upon every Friday to provide that every Member should have an opportunity of moving such Amendments as be pleases. It is quite evident that these who procured the 1365 adoption of such a plan, by no means free from inconvenience, but which still has had the sanction of the House for many years, never could have expected or intended that, however completely the Government might agree with the Motion made by way of Amendment, they were bound to vote against it. That is the nature of the dilemma which is presented in this matter, and it constitutes an anomaly in the order of our proceedings. Still, I must say that, as a general rule, while we do not at all dissent from the doctrine that the Order of Supply may be taken as a form of moving the Previous Question, yet I think if the Government are of opinion that the time has arrived when the Motion may be adopted in the sense thus put upon it, we are justified in giving our assent to the proposal. I am entitled to speak as to the position of the Government with respect to this Motion, because I never yet voted for it as I shall have to vote to-night. I have voted on other occasions for the Order for going into Committee of Supply on the ground, not that I was opposed to the substance of the Motion—because I have always claimed to be an advocate of the principle of Local Option—but I have voted for the Previous Question, or for going into Committee of Supply, because I said I was not prepared with a plan for applying the principle of Local Option; and I think it is a bad practice for the Government to vote for any abstract Resolution to which it is not prepared, as far as its own views and convictions are concerned, to give effect. It is by that test I intend at the present moment to be guided in giving my vote for Local Option. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has explained, in the clearest manner, that the views of the Government are settled in this matter. We are not in favour of deciding Local Option by means of a plébiscite, and we are not in favour of creating a separate local authority for the purpose of settling that question and no other. But we are strongly in favour of creating all over the country—as is already done to a considerable extent in municipal boroughs—trustworthy representative bodies commanding the confidence of local communities; and to these trustworthy bodies, so chosen for local purposes, we desire to commit the high and important function of determining 1366 this question. That being so, hon. Members will, perhaps, ask me why we do not bring in a Bill on the subject. We might bring in a Bill, and we might throw it on this Table. We have the power, I admit, under the present Rules of the House, to bring in a Bill on any subject, and we might obtain the consent of the House to our proposals, and we might obtain the first reading of such a Bill. But our doctrine is this—that no real advance would be made by such a course unless we had some reasonable prospect of carrying forward such a Bill in its several stages. We have no such prospect. I need not dwell upon the unsatisfactory condition of the House, which has now continued for many years, and which, unfortunately, still continues, with disadvantages increasing on the whole, Although mitigated, in many important respects, by the measures taken last year. But, still, the difficulties are of the most formidable character, and that man must be sanguine indeed who could expect that some considerable time would not elapse before the House can find itself thoroughly abreast of its duties, and not in the rear of them. It is absolutely on that account, and not because we are not prepared with proposals, that the Government do not ask the House to take into consideration measures for the establishment of Local Option. It is, in our view, an essential part of the principle of Local Option, both in regard to the Metropolis and to the country generally. We admit that a void exists, and that that void is to be filled np; and it is in order to fill up that void that we have proposed provisions which we think will meet the desire of the country with respect to the difficult question of Local Option. Whether we may fully meet all the desires of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine), I would not undertake to say. It is impossible every day to apply the principles which in common we want. We may not be fully agreed as to the application; but in this I feel assured—that we shall be able to make proposals which will command from all the Members of the House who are sensible of the existing evils, and desirous of applying a remedy, despite the varieties and shades of different opinions, an 1367 admission that they contain the elements of valuable and substantial reform. I think it is not an unfair thing to say that, Although I own I am by no means enamoured of the method of declaring in advance the things which we wish to do, but things which at the moment you know we cannot do. But the occasion has not been created by us; it has been presented to us; and we are no longer in a condition, Although we have hesitated before, to resist the adoption of the words of the hon. Baronet, because, agreeing with him as to the portentous evils which exist, and agreeing with him that a remedy may be found, we also agree with him that a remedy ought to be found within the terms in which he has thought fit prudently to embody the Resolution which he has submitted to the House.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
I have been somewhat surprised to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and to find the difference in the conclusion he has arrived at in 1883 from that which he came to in the year 1880. This Resolution was brought forward in 1880 almost in the same terms as at present; and I should like to remind the House of the speech which the Prime Minister made then. The Prime Minister said on that occasion—I shall not follow my hon. Friend into the Lobby; and I may toll him at once frankly the reason that will lead mo to pursue the course which he hinted at as probable on my part."—(3 Hansard,  362.)Then the right hon. Gentleman states, as one of the reasons why he was glad to avail himself of the Motion, that it was brought forward on a Friday night, just as it is to-night; and that by going against the Resolution—I will read his own words—My hon. Friend will also perceive that I have a greater facility in adopting the course I proposed to take, because the Forms of the House require my hon. Friend to bring on his Motion as an Amendment to Supply, which enables me to deal with him very much as if the Previous Question were raised."—(Ibid.)If the right hon. Gentleman was willing to vote for the Previous Question in 1880, he ought to explain why he is not ready to vote for it in 1883. I know the Prime Minister makes so many speeches that he must forget some of them; but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how it was that lie voted for the Previous Question in 1368 1880 and that he does not take that course in 1883, because that is a question of vital importance? One of the reasons brought forward for not voting for the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) in 1880 was this—I will again read the words of the right hon. Gentleman—I do not want my hon. Friend to commit himself upon that point; but I want a frank recognition of the principle that we are not to deny to publicans, as a class, the benefits of equal treatment, because we think their trade is at so many points in contact with, and even sometimes productive of, great public mischief. Considering the legislative title they have acquired, and the recognition of their position in the proceedings of this House for a long series of years, they ought not to be placed at a disadvantage on account of the particular impression we may entertain—in many cases but too justly—in relation to the mischiefs connected with the present licensing system and the consumption of strong liquors as it is now carried on. Having said this much, it is unnecessary for me to follow my hon. Friends into the argument which they are more competent to conduct than myself; but a few words I will say expressive of my general sympathy. My hon. Friend the Mover of the Amendment read at the close of his speech from the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords a very striking passage; and I am bound to say that, individually, I do not think there is a word in that passage which I am not prepared to adopt. My difficulty in this case is not the ordinary difficulty of a Government—namely, the want of time and the recent time since we assumed Office—it is the intricacy with which the question itself is surrounded. I do not as yet see my way to any particular measure by which just effect can be given to the principle of my hon. Friend."—(Ibid 363.)Now, what I want to know is whether the right hon. Gentleman sees his way any better than he did then to a solution of the difficulty? He has shadowed out some question of local government; but that is no solution at all of the equitable terms on which these persons are to be dealt with when their trade is interfered with by legislation. The Prime Minister has endeavoured to escape from the statement he made in 1880, and he has not offered the slightest explanation to the House as to why he differs now from the views which he took in 1880. If he is prepared to bring forward a measure which would conduce to temperance in this country, I, for one, would heartily support him; but he must remember what he stated in 1880, that it must be an equitable arrangement, and he has not said one word in the speech he has just made to show 1369 what in his view would be an equitable arrangement. As the Prime Minister voted in 1880 upon this question against the Resolution, so I am not to be considered, and these who vote with me are not to be considered, as giving a vote in the least degree against any legislative measure which may be produced in favour of temperance. I endorse every word the Prime Minister said in 1880. The opinions we hold with respect to temperance are the same as these expressed in the Report of the Lords Committee on intemperance. It is necessary that I should read an abstract from that Report to the House, and for this reason—because, for political purposes, hon. Members of this House are misrepresented elsewhere. [Cheers from the Liberal Benches.] I am glad to hear that cheer, because no one is more ready to promote the cause of temperance in this country than my right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) and myself. We are both ready to do all we can that may legitimately promote the cause of temperance; and as the House allowed the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) in 1880 to read this passage, I hope the House will allow me to read it again now—When great communities, deeply sensible of the miseries caused by intemperance, witnesses of the crime and pauperism which directly spring from it; conscious of the contamination to which their younger citizens are exposed; watching with grave anxiety the growth of female intemperance on a scale so vast and at a rate of progression so rapid as to constitute a new reproach and danger; believing that not only the morality of their citizens, but their commercial prosperity, is dependent on the diminution of these evils; seeing also that all that general legislation has been able to effect has been some improvement in public order, while it has been powerless to produce any perceptible decrease of intemperance; it would seem somewhat hard when such communities are willing, at their own cost and hazard, to grapple with the difficulty, and undertake their own purification, that the Legislature should refuse to create for them the necessary machinery, or to intrust them with the necessary powers.I entirely agree with every word in that passage; and I want to ask why the Prime Minister and the Government, relying upon that statement of the Committee of the House of Lords, do not follow the recommendations of the Committee, which, I think, are very much more sensible and practicable, and would carry out very much better all we can 1370 desire than the Motion of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson)? All I can say is, that if some practical measure were proposed by the Government in accordance with the recommendations of that Committee, I would be the first to support it; and it must not be supposed that, in voting against the Motion of the hon. Member, I am voting against the cause of temperance any more than the Prime Minister did in 1880, when he voted against the Resolution, and I voted with him.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, that, of course, he would not for a moment interpose in the debate, but that he had a personal right to be heard for a few moments before it closed. Some hours ago, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary was addressing the House, he challenged the correctness of the assumption upon which the right hon. and learned Gentleman based part of his argument; and, having given that challenge, he had taken every opportunity of rising in his place to justify the challenge. The Home Secretary had declared that there now existed a form of Local Option, inasmuch as the licensing power rested with the magistrates, who could license or not just as they pleased. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT dissented.] The right hon. and learned Gentleman certainly made a statement to that effect, and he (Mr. Clarke) took down the words at the time. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that—The magistrates could exercise the power, and say whether the number of public-houses should be many or few, or none at all.Now, the licensing system was established for the purpose of giving the magistrates control over these who carried on the liquor trade, and the magistrates had no option of refusing or granting licences. If the magistrates refused licences indiscriminately, they would be liable to an appeal to the High Court of Justice, which could interfere, and which had already interfered, to compel them to hear evidence as to whether the wants of the inhabitants in respect of the number of public-houses in existence was satisfied. The magistrates did not exercise the same authority which they would be able to exercise if Local Option existed; but they were using it under judicial discretion, and they were liable to be controlled by the High Court of Justice if they did not take into con- 1371 sideration the wants of the neighbourhood. If these wants were proved, the magistrates had no more right to refuse a licence than they had to refuse a summons.
§ MR. BULWER
said, he was not going to detain the House long, to quote from any speeches, or to endorse any opinions; but he simply wished to ask a practical question, which he dared say had exercised the minds of many Members of that House. During the past month he had been inundated by applications from his constituents imploring him to be in his place to support the Motion of the hon. Baronet in favour of Local Option. The answer he had given, and which probably many other Members had given to similar applications, was that when the hon. Baronet, or the Government, or any authority, placed before him in black and white what was meant by Local Option, then he should be happy to give his opinion, and say whether he would support it or not. So far as the present Resolution was concerned, voting for it might be taken to be voting for anything or nothing; and he was anxious to ascertain before he gave his vote what he was giving it for, and what significance would be attached to it. If by voting for the Resolution he was to be taken as agreeing with the views of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), that by the vote of some majority, the minority were to be deprived of the liberty of selling or obtaining what the hon. Baronet was pleased to call intoxicating drink, he certainly should vote against the Resolution. He was opposed to that proposal altogether, on the simple principle that he was not going to punish the sober man for the sake of these who were not sober. One would imagine, from the language made use of by the advocates of this Resolution, that the law compelled a man to get drunk, and left him no option in the matter. They had heard from the Government, from the Home Secretary, and from the Prime Minister, what the views of the Government were. The Prime Minister told them very candidly that the Government might have placed on the Table a Bill embodying their views, and that was just what he (Mr. Bulwer) wanted to see before he voted. When he saw the views of the Government embodied 1372 in a Bill in black and white, he would be able to form his opinion upon it. The Primo Minister excused himself from placing such a Bill upon the Table, because he said there would probably not be time that Session to give effect to it. He could understand that there were many plausible reasons why the Government should do nothing in the matter—one was that it would no doubt be very inconvenient to pledge themselves in black and white to a particular opinion, as in that case it would be impossible, even if they desired, to recall it. He wanted to know whether any Member of the House could tell him what pledge he would be giving to his constituents by voting for the Resolution? If he voted against it, his conduct was liable to misinterpretation by One Party; and if he voted for it, it was liable to misinterpretation by another.
MR. TATTON EGERTON
(who spoke amid loud calls for a division, which rendered his remarks almost inaudible) was understood to say that the Resolution purported to be brought forward for the sake of persons who were too weak to look after themselves. The Primo Minister had made a suggestion to the effect that the future control of the licensing of public-houses should be, like the municipal affairs of a county, in the hands of the persons who were to be appointed on the Local Board. He did not think that that was a proper mode of dealing with the question; and he certainly was of opinion that they had not a very favourable example of the good government afforded to them by the Municipal Councils, and he did not know that people elected in that manner would be the proper persons to exercise this power. The Prime Minister, and the hon. Baronet who brought forward the Resolution, meant by Local Option that every borough, every village, and every small township should have the power of deciding whether the inhabitants were to have the supply of liquor free or not; but, nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister suggested that that power should be delegated to a County Board, which would have upon it representatives from every part of the country. He (Mr. Tatton Egerton) thought that was an anomaly, and that it would not fulfil the desires of the inhabitants of small 1373 localities, nor would it fulfil the conditions of Local Option. Adverting to the operation of the Maine Liquor Law in America, he asserted that its provisions were evaded in every way, and there was no hotel in the State of Maine whore a man could not retire privately and have his liquor. He was afraid that if they meant by Local Option the power of restricting the sale of liquor and free and open drinking, the result would simply be secret drinking; and when the bottle was once open, it was quite certain that it would not be left until it was empty. He had no objection to prevent these who could not take care of themselves from falling into evil ways, and he was quite as anxious as anybody to promote temperance; but he protested against any proposal to force people into habits of secret drinking.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 141; Noes 228: Majority 87.—(Div. List, No. 73.)
That the words 'the best interests of the Nation urgently require some efficient measure of legislation by which, in accordance with the Resolution already passed and re-affirmed by this House, a legal power of restraining the issue or renewal of Licences for the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors may be placed in the hands of the persons most deeply interested and affected—namely, the inhabitants themselves' be there added.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY
said, that after having performed the unwonted office of Government Teller, he was afraid he must trouble the House by moving another Amendment, stating that in the view of the House there was nothing practical in the Resolution submitted to them; and it was his desire, and that of many who thought with him, to place on record their views of the proper course to be pursued.
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment,
To leave out from the word "Nation" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "require that effect be given to the recommendation of the Lords Committee on Intemperance, and that instead of placing the licensing power entirely in the hands of a body elected by the popular vote, provision be made for strengthening the hands of the local magistrates,"—(Sir John Kennaway,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be loft out stand part of the said proposed Amendment."1374
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I am glad that the hon. Baronet opposite has brought the matter to an issue, because his principles and ours are directly antagonistic. I think there can be no mistake as to the character of the vote which will be taken on this Amendment. We have stated that in a question so deeply affecting the interests of all classes of the community the popular voice should be able to decide. The hon. Baronet absolutely denies that that should be the case. He says that the licensing power ought not to be placed entirely in the hands of a body elected by the popular vote. What he affirms, and what he prefers, is that the power ought to be exercised by strengthening the hands of the magistrates. Now, that is a fair issue—namely, whether the question is to be decided by the people or by the magistrates; and that is exactly the issue we desire to come to. The hon. Baronet says he wishes to strengthen the hands of the magistrates. Some complaint has been made to-night about vague propositions; but can anything be more vague than an assertion of that kind, "that the hands of the magistrates ought to be strengthened?" How does the hon. Baronet propose to strengthen them? In my opinion there is only one way of strengthening the hands of the authorities in this country, and that is by giving them the support of the popular voice. [Ironical Cheers from the Opposition.] I know that this is not the principle of hon. Members opposite. It is not their principle to support authority by the popular voice. For certain purposes, in my opinion, the magistrates are the best and only authority. I refer to judicial questions. In my view nothing can be more evil to the community that to draw a distinction between the judicial and the administrative functions of the magistrates. This is not a question whether public-houses should be many or few, or none at all. It is not a judicial question, but a social question, and an administrative question, and a question which does not properly come within the functions of the magistrates. Who is most likely to be able to judge what a community requires? Is it a body elected by the community itself, or the magistrates? Hon. Gentlemen opposite are of opinion that the magistrates would be the best body; but Her Majesty's Government are of opinion 1375 that a body elected by a community would best fulfil the wishes and desires of the community. I will only add that we are very well satisfied with the issue that has been raised by the hon. Baronet, and we hope that the House will decide the question without delay.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said, he was sorry to hear the view which was taken of the Amendment by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary. They were both anxious to promote the cause of temperance, and he had been connected for years with a popular body, and his experience was probably greater in connection with Municipal Councils than that of most hon. Members. But it must be borne in mind that a Municipal Council did not exist for more than a certain number of years; and he should look with regret to any legislation upon this question which became subject, from time to time, to popular election. His conviction was they would find that one body elected one year would not be the same body elected hereafter; and he was afraid that the licensing question, placed in the hands of such a body, would necessarily cause bitterness of feeling. What the magistrates would desire, if the matter were intrusted to them, would be the opportunity of effecting useful reforms. No doubt, the licensing question was very much at the discretion of the Magisterial Benches, and sometimes it was supposed the people had no right to go before them, and that they would not listen to the representations made to them. He thought they could strengthen the hands of the magistrates by making it compulsory to listen judicially to the representations of the people. If that were clone, he thought it would materially strengthen the hands of the magistrates. Unfortunately, the hands of the magistrates had been tied down, and there had been a large increase of licensed houses. It was felt a matter of grievance by the magistrates of Liverpool that when they decided to refuse a licence, an appeal was invariably made, not to the Judges or to any judicial body, but to the county magistrates, who could not possess the same local knowledge as the magistrates of the City of Liverpool. He was quite sure that if the popular voice were brought to bear upon the magistrates, the magistrates would listen to that popular voice. He trusted that 1376 the House, before entering upon this scheme, which he believed would be detrimental to the interests of temperance, would carefully consider the proposal for strengthening the hands of the magistrates. He spoke as one who had for years worked in the temperance cause, and who was desirous of serving the best interests of the working classes. He could conceive nothing so detrimental to the interests of temperance as having an elective body appointed year after year; and he believed that the experience of a few years would render confusion worse confounded, and that they would find this vexed question one of the most difficult problems of the day. He hoped the House would not rashly accept the proposal of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). He believed if they were to strengthen the hands of the magistrates they would have some guarantee that the voice of the people would be heard and listened to, and that was what they wanted. If they had a popular body elected by the popular vote, there would be constant contests between the publican on the one hand and the Temperance Party on the other, and a difficulty would arise which it would not be easy to deal with. On this ground he had great pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he thought that before the House went to a division on the subject they ought to receive some explanation of the extraordinary statement that had just been made by the Home Secretary. He certainly thought that that statement required to be explained by higher authority than that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself. The statement made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman was that the only way to strengthen the hands of the authority was to make it dependent upon the popular voice. That statement, coming from the Treasury Bench, had carried dismay into the minds of Members who might have otherwise been disposed to vote against the proposition of the hon. Baronet the Member for East Devonshire (Sir John Kennaway); and it seemed to him (Mr. O'Donnell) that a statement by way of explanation was required, in order to bring the principles advanced by the Home Secretary back to something like consonance with certain acts of Her Majesty's Government. He wanted to 1377 know how or where they were to find anything in support of that statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman either at home or abroad; and he sincerely hoped that the task of explaining and justifying it would not be felt above even the explanatory powers of the Prime Minister himself. Unless his doubts were removed he should feel reluctantly compelled to vote for the Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 206; Noes 130: Majority 76.1379
|Acland, C. T. D.||Crum, A.|
|Alexander, Colonel C.||Cunliffe, Sir R. A.|
|Allen, H. G.||Currie, Sir D.|
|Allen, W. S.||Dalrymple, C.|
|Anderson, G.||Davies, D.|
|Archdale, W. H.||Davies, R.|
|Armitage, B.||De Ferrières, Baron|
|Armitstead, G.||Dickson, T. A.|
|Arnold, A.||Dilke, rt. hn. Sir C. W.|
|Asher, A.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Ashley, hon. E. M.||Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.|
|Baldwin, E.||Dundas, hon. J. C.|
|Balfour, Sir G.||Edwards, H.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. J. B.||Edwards, P.|
|Balfour, J. S.||Farquharson, Dr. R.|
|Barclay, J. W.||Ferguson, R.|
|Baring, Viscount||Ffolkes, Sir W. H. B.|
|Barran, J.||Firth, J. F. B.|
|Barry, J.||Fitzmaurice, Lord E.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W. W.|
|Borlase, W. C.|
|Brand, H. R.||Flower, C.|
|Brassey, H. A.||Foljambe, C. G. S.|
|Brett, R. B.||Forster, rt. hon. W. E.|
|Briggs, W. E.||Fort, R.|
|Bright, J. (Manchester)||Fowler, W.|
|Bright, rt. hon. J.||Fry, L.|
|Broadhurst, H.||Fry, T.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. Lord C.||Gabbett, D. F.|
|Bruce, hon. R. P.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Bryce, J.||Gladstone, H. J.|
|Buchanan, T. R.||Gladstone, W. H.|
|Burt, T.||Gordon, Lord D.|
|Buxton, F. W.||Gordon, Sir A.|
|Cameron, C.||Gourley, E. T.|
|Campbell, Sir G.||Gower, hon. E. F. L.|
|Campbell, R. F. F.||Grant, Sir G. M.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, H.||Grant, A.|
|Grey, A. H. G.|
|Carbutt, E. H.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Cavendish, Lord E.||Hamilton, J. G. C.|
|Chamberlain, rt. hn. J.||Harcourt, rt. hon. Sir W. G. V. V.|
|Cheetham, J. F.|
|Childers, rt. hn. H. C. E.||Hayter, Sir A. D.|
|Cohen, A.||Henderson, F.|
|Ceilings, J.||Heneage, E.|
|Colman, J. J.||Herschell, Sir F.|
|Corbet, W. J.||Hibbert, J. T.|
|Corry, J. P.||Holden, I.|
|Cotes, C. C.||Hollond, J. R.|
|Creyke, R.||Holms, J.|
|Cropper, J.||Howard, E. S.|
|Howard, G. J.||Power, J. O'C.|
|Illingworth, A.||Pugh, L. P.|
|Inderwick, F. A.||Ralli, P.|
|James, C.||Ramsay, J.|
|James, W. H.||Ramsden, Sir J.|
|Jardine, R.||Rathbone, W.|
|Jenkins, Sir J. J.||Reed, Sir E. J.|
|Jenkins, D. J.||Rendel, S.|
|Kennard, Col. E. H.||Richard, H.|
|Kensington, Lord||Richardson, J. N.|
|Kinnear, J.||Richardson, T.|
|Labouchere, H.||Roberts, J.|
|Lambton, hon. F. W.||Rogers, J. E. T.|
|Lea, T.||Russell, Lord A.|
|Leake, R.||Russell, G. W. E.|
|Leatham, E. A.||Rylands, P.|
|Leatham, W. H.||St. Aubyn, Sir J.|
|Leeman, J. J.||St. Aubyn, W. M.|
|Lefevre, rt. hn. G. J. S.||Samuelson, B.|
|Lloyd, M.||Samuelson, H.|
|Lusk, Sir A.||Sellar, A. C.|
|M'Arthur, Sir W.||Shaw, T.|
|M'Arthur, A.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|Mackie, R. B.||Shield, H.|
|Mackintosh, C. F.||Slagg, J.|
|M'Lagan, P.||Smith, E.|
|Macliver, P. S.||Smith, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Mappin, F. T.||Smith, S.|
|Marriott, W. T.||Spencer, hon. C. R.|
|Martin, R. B.||Stevenson, J. C.|
|Maskelyne, M. H. Story-||Stewart, J.|
|Maxwell-Heron, J.||Storey, S.|
|Mayne, T.||Summers, W.|
|Molloy, B. C.||Tavistock, Marquess of|
|Monk, C. J.||Tennant, C.|
|Moreton, Lord||Thomasson, J. P.|
|Morgan, rt. hn. G. O.||Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury-|
|Morley, J.||Trevelyan, rt. hn. G. O.|
|Morley, S.||Vivian, Sir H. H.|
|Noel, E.||Vivian, A. P.|
|O'Connor, A.||Waddy, S. D.|
|O'Shea, W. H.||Walter, J.|
|Palmer, C. M.||Waugh, E.|
|Palmer, G.||Webster, J.|
|Palmer, J. H.||Whitworth, B.|
|Parker, C. S.||Williams, S. C. E.|
|Pease, Sir J. W.||Williamson, S.|
|Pease, A.||Wilson, I.|
|Peddie, J. D.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Pender, J.||Woodall, W.|
|Philips, R. N.|
|Portman, hn. W. H. B.||TELLERS.|
|Potter, T. B.||Caine, W. S.|
|Powell, W. R. H.||Lawson, Sir W.|
|Allsopp, C.||Broadley, W. H. H.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.|
|Balfour, A. J.|
|Baring, T. C.||Brooke, Lord|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||Brooks, W. C.|
|Bass, Sir A.||Brymer, W. E.|
|Bass, H.||Bulwer, J. R.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Burnaby, General E. S.|
|Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H.||Buxton, Sir R. J.|
|Bective, Earl of||Callan, P.|
|Bellingham, A. H.||Campbell, J. A.|
|Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C.||Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.|
|Birkbeck, E.||Christie, W. L.|
|Blackburne, Col. J. I.||Clarke, E.|
|Boord, T. W.||Clive, Col. hon. G. W.|
|Compton, F.||Leigh, R.|
|Coope, O. E.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Cotton, W. J. R.||Lever, J. O.|
|Cross, rt. hon. Sir R. A.||Levett, T. J.|
|Cubitt, rt. hon. G.||Lewisham, Viscount|
|Davenport, H. T.||Long, W. H.|
|Davenport, W. B.||Lopes, Sir M.|
|Dawnay, Col. hn. L. P.||Lowther, hon. W.|
|Dawnay, hon. G. C.||Lyons, R. D.|
|Digby, Col. hon. E.||M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J.|
|Dixon-Hartland, F. D.||Master, T. W. C.|
|Douglas, A. Akers-||Mills, Sir C. H.|
|Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W. H.||Moss, R.|
|Eaton, H. W.||Murray, C. J.|
|Egerton, hon. A. de T.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Emlyn, Viscount||Nicholson, W.|
|Estcourt, G. S.||Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.|
|Ewing, A. O.|
|Feilden, Maj.-Gen. R. J.||Northcote, H. S.|
|Followes, W. H.||Onslow, D. R.|
|Firmer, Sir E.||Percy, Lord A.|
|Fletcher, Sir H.||Phipps, C. N. P.|
|Floyer, J.||Phipps, P.|
|Forester, C. T. W.||Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.|
|Foster, W. H.||Ritchie, C. T.|
|Fowler, R. N||Rolls, J. A.|
|Fremantle, hon. T. F.||Ross, A. H.|
|French-Brewster, R. A. B.||Salt, T.|
|Scott, M. D.|
|Galway, Viscount||Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.|
|Gardner, R. Richardson-|
|Smith, rt. hon. W. H.|
|Golduey, Sir G.||Smith, A.|
|Gore-Langton, W. S.||Stanhope, hon. E.|
|Grantham, W.||Stanley, rt. hn. Col. F.|
|Halsey, T. F.||Thernhill, T.|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G.||Tollemache, hn. W. F.|
|Tollemache, H. J.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Hamilton, I. T.||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|Harcourt, E. W.||Tottenham, A. L.|
|Harvey, Sir R. B.||Warburton, P. E.|
|Hay, rt. hon. Admiral Sir J. C. D.||Warton, C. N.|
|Welby-Gregory, Sir W. E.|
|Herbert, hon. S.|
|Hicks, E.||Whitley, E.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Williams, Gen. O.|
|Hill, A. S.||Wilmot, Sir H.|
|Hinchingbrook, Visc.||Wolff, Sir H. D.|
|Holland, Sir H. T.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Hope, rt. hn. A. J. B. B.||Wroughton, P.|
|Hubbard, rt. hon. J. G.||Yorke, J. R.|
|Knightley, Sir R.|
|Lawrence, Sir T.||TELLERS.|
|Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.||Kennaway, Sir J. H.|
|Legh, W. J.||Talbot, J. G.|
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ Resolved, That the best interests of the Nation urgently require some efficient measure of legislation by which, in accordance with the Resolution passed and re-affirmed by this House, a legal power of restraining the issue or renewal of Licences for the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors may be placed in the hands of the persons most deeply interested and affected, namely, the inhabitants themselves.