§ *(9.0.) LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
, in rising,To call attention to the Licensing Laws, and to ask for leave to bring in a Bill consolidating and amending the Law of Licensing,said: I must confess my regret that the fortunes of the Ballot wore unfavourable, and that instead of submitting a Second Reading discussion to the House, as I might have done had I been more fortunate, I am obliged to take advantage of a Motion asking leave to introduce a Bill in order to bring on a discussion which must, to a great extent, be of a somewhat indefinite nature. I should have been glad, if possible, to have moved a Resolution; but I believe that it has been decided by you, Sir, that a Resolution on the Licensing Laws, while a Bill dealing with them is on the Order Book of the House of Commons, would not be in order. Therefore, I take this opportunity of calling the attention of the House to a subject which I think the House will admit, is of the greatest possible importance. The Licensing Laws of this country, whether they ought to be amended or not, are a matter which, in the opinion of many in this House and of multitudes outside it, take a first and foremost place in public problems, although undoubtedly they have not for a long time come before Parliament in a comprehensive form. This is a question which for years past has attracted public and Parliamentary attention, and it is a question which has been examined by more than one Parliamentary Committee. But the House is aware that the examination of a great question by a Committee by no means implies that the question will be dealt with by Parliament. Parliament has got into the bad habit—apparently the inveterate habit—of referring great social questions to Committees, and then of imagining that, having taken that action, it has dealt with them. It reminds me of a gentleman with whom I am acquainted, who was in the habit of dealing with his bills in a very methodical way. He docketed them, arranged them in alphabetical order, tied them together very neatly, 1699 and then put them away in a drawer, with the remark, "Thank goodness! I have done the civil thing by them." So Parliament, with its Committees, thinks it has done a civil thing to great questions, and has then banished them altogether from its mind. It is difficult to over-estimate the magnitude of the evils which arise from the excessive consumption of alcoholic liquors by the people. Crime, poverty, and misery of every kind have been authoritatively and directly traced to the excessive consumption of alcohol. I do not intend in these matters to rely, or ask the House to rely, on anything which I might adduce as my personal opinion. I must confess that I am a somewhat recent recruit to the forces which have been endeavouring to bring this question before the House, and I have no claim whatever to take up the position of an authority, or even of an apostle. But I would venture to quote to the House—though that is generally a wearisome proceeding—extracts, some of them lengthy, from various Reports of Committees and speeches made by high authorities. I hope the House will bear with me if I somewhat excessively trespass on their attention, because of the great importance and weight of the extracts which I shall read. So long ago as the year 1849 a Committee of the House of Lords, under the Presidency of the late Lord Harrowby, investigated the evils arising from an excessive indulgence in alcoholic liquor by the people in consequence of the inordinate multiplication of the establishments for the sale of liquor. That Committee used these remarkable words—It was already sufficiently notorious that drunkenness is the main cause of crime, disorder, and distress in England, and it appears that the multiplication of houses for the consumption of intoxicating liquors, which under the Beer Act has risen from 88,930 to 123,396, has been thus in itself an evil of the first magnitude, not only by increasing the temptations to excess which are thus presented at every step, but by driving houses, even those under the direct control of the magistrates, as well as others originally respectable, to practices or the purpose of attracting custom, which are degrading to their own character and most injurious to morality and order. Coincident with this increase in the facilities for intoxication is appears that crime has increased in a frightful ratio, the commitments for trial in England and Wales in the years 1848–49 being in the proportion to those of 1830–31, the two 1700 first years after the enactment of the Beer Act* of 156 to 100; and that is not a mere casual coincidence, the Committee have the strongest reasons to believe, from the general evidence submitted to them, but more especially from that of the chief constables of police and the chaplains of gaols, who have the best opportunities, the one of watching the character of the beershops and of those who frequent them, the other of tracing the causes of crime and the career of criminals.I must point out that that is no fanatical teetotal pronouncement, but the Report of a practical Committee of Peers, presided over by a noble Lord who, in his own day, was highly respected as a practical man. I come to a more important Committee—that of the House of Commons, which sat in 1854, and I would particularly draw attention to the composition of that Committee. It was presided over by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Charles Villiers), and it contained, amongst others, Mr. Lowe (afterwards Chancellor of the Exchequer), Sir George Grey (afterwards Home Secretary), Sir John Pakington, Mr. Sotheron Estcourt, and others of like ability. They were men of moderation, experience, and authority; and what language do they use on the subject? They say—Your Committee do not feel it necessary to follow further the evidence upon the connection between intoxicating drinks and crime. It has directly or indirectly been the subject of inquiry at different times, and has been reported upon by numerous Committees of your honourable House, who bear unvarying testimony to the general intemperance of criminals and the increase and the diminution of crime in direct ratio of the increased or diminished consumption of intoxicating drinks. It is universally admitted that the great majority of criminals are intemperate, and that, as might be looked for from the hours at which their unlawful pursuits are carried on, their idle and lurking habits, their necessity to meet their associates without being open to suspicion, and their rapid alternations of abundance and want, the lowest class of public houses and beershops are their most frequent haunts. The evidence already referred to (and which, coming from persons of such ample experience, is entitled to especial weight) goes further and tends to establish that whatever individual propensity there may be to crime is with few exceptions brought into activity by habits of intemperance, that children are driven forth to crime to feed an appetite for drink which bears no control and knows no natural affection, and that even criminals cease from crime if they cease to be drunken.This is no teetotal sermon. It is the grave pronuncement of a Committee of this House, and no Committee could be 1701 entitled to more respect. I had the greatest difficulty in procuring a copy of the Report of the Committee, and the one I obtained was an old copy which bore the name on the outside of Gathorne Hardy—that is the present Lord Cran-brook—and which was fully annotated by him on the margin. I do not know whether the Government may consider the propriety of re-printing that Report. Although it was made in 1854, an enormous portion of it bears directly on what we have to deal with now. I went over to the Mast End of London one night to observe, as far as I could, the practices that went on at the various drinking establishments in that part. I saw a sight which I did not know how to adequately describe to the House; but in reading this Report I came on a passage which practically describes what I saw that night. This is what the Committee of 1854 state—A witness who acted as temperance missionary in St. Giles's states that he lately visited the whole of the public houses in the New Cut.…In one house he counted 50 persons drinking; they were serving as fast as they could. Among the number were women with children in their arms. Upon one butt there was an infant fast asleep, and the father and mother were drunk by the side. Against the counter was a little child fast asleep. At one house the police were obliged to stand with their staves to prevent the people from pushing the doors in as the publican and his servants drove them out to prevent them getting more drink and to enable the public house to be closed at the time prescribed by Act of Parliament.Practically, I saw that sight with my -own eyes in 1889, which shows how little progress has been made in spite of all these weighty pronouncements. I saw practically the same state of things, and relatively—considering the advance of civilisation—a worse state of things than existed at the time when the Committee repotted. Then there was a Committee of the House of Lords which reported in the year 1879, and which went very fully into the question of drunkenness. But I think I have quoted enough authorities to render it beyond dispute that an excessive consumption of alcoholic drink by the people and excessive crime are merely cause and effect. Now, Sir, I pass on to consider what has been the course of recent legislation. Very little has been done. The present Lord Aberdare, when 1702 Home Secretary, as Mr. Bruce, introduced a Bill for the comprehensive reform of the Licensing Laws, which I greatly regret to say led to no result. It was produced by him in a speech of great power, and curiously enough it was received by the House with great approval. Speeches were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Essex (Sir H. Selwin-Ibbetson), who has done me the honour to put his name on the back of this Bill, and by others, all of whom approved with great cordiality of the Bill produced in 1871. I am not old enough to recollect, and I have not been able to ascertain, the precise causes which led to the precipitate abandonment of that Bill. It was abandoned, owing to the Party feeling of the time, and considerable unpopularity accrued to the Government, very unjustly I think, for having introduced the Bill. In 1872 Mr. Bruce produced a much smaller Bill, which practically had the effect of enacting stricter police regulations and earlier hours of closing. But the main question, namely, what was admitted to be at the time, as I think it will be admitted even now, the greatly excessive number of public houses in proportion to the number of people, was untouched by the Bill of 1872, and has remained untouched. Sir, the House will, perhaps, allow me to quote from the speech of Mr. Bruce, who was one of the most distinguished Home Secretaries this House has known—a man of perfectly cool, calm, and moderate character, with a very clear head, with great experience of business of every kind, and who, when he made his speech, bad been Home Secretary for nearly three years, and spoke with all the authority and knowledge and experience that the Home Office could give him. What did he say? Mr. Bruce said—That the measure he was asking leave to introduce was one which had been demanded by the general voice of the country, with an earnestness and unanimity to which he recollected hardly any parallel. The question was one which had deeply stirred the hearts and feelings of all classes of Society. Committees of both Houses of Parliament, the Church in Convention, Ministers of every Religious Denomination, Judges and Magistrates collectively and individually, Boards of Health and Boards of Guardians, had all united in proclaiming and 1703 impressing upon Parliament the mischiefs which had arisen from the existing facilities for the purchase of intoxicating liquors. Social and sanitary reformers, who spent their lives in doing good, had declared that their labours for the moral and social improvement of their fellow men were baffled at every turn by the recklessness and moral degradation which sprung from and were occasioned by the liquor traffic. They told us how our prisons, lunatic asylums, and workhouses were filled with inmates whose career had originated in their passion for intoxicating liquor. The back streets, courts, and alleys of most large towns were filled with a squalid and dangerous population, who owed their degradation to the same cause, and even the rural districts were not free from the curse. Above all, the working classes of this country, who were the most sensitive to its effects, and who were affected by and felt most the consequences of the system had, with united voice, called upon Parliament to deliver them from temptation.Mr. Bruce went on to say—That he would not pause to ask whether drunkenness was, or was not, on the increase, because he felt satisfied that the evil was so great, as to be a blot upon our social system and a disgrace to our civilisation.Now, that is not the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, but the Home Secretary of a Liberal Government, and perhaps, I may be allowed to say, with all sincerity, one of the best Liberal Governments this country has ever seen. Surely, such a pronouncement on the subject is of immense authority. There is nothing rhetorical in it. It is the deliberate statement of the opinions and views of the Secretary of State, Minister of the Interior, upon the excessive facilities for the consumption of alcoholic drinks by the people, in words that apply almost entirely to the state of things at the present day. Mr. Bruce made five propositions, to which he expected the general concurrence of the House, and for which he apparently obtained concurrence that night. His first proposition was that there were far more licences than were required—the proportion being one to every 182 of the population. His second proposition was that the method of issuing licences was un-satisfactory, that there was no guidance to the Magistrates as to the number required, and that they had no responsibility whatever. Again, that proposition is as true now as it was then, and can be proved to demonstration by the Return which the Government have been good enough to give me, showing the number of licensed 1704 establishments in various Petty Sessional Divisions, in proportion to population. What it shows is this, that the Magistrates act without the slightest system, method, or order, that licences are issued, as a general rule, with some bright exceptions, in a purely haphazard way, that there is not the slightest consideration by modern Licensing Authorities, or—I do not say it is so now—at any rate, there has not been in recent years the slightest consideration as to how many premises for the consumption of alcoholic liquor were really required. That has been a consideration totally absent from the minds of the Licensing Authorities. The third proposition made by Mr. Bruce was that there were no sufficient guarantees for the orderly management or effective supervision of public houses. That has been dealt with, to some extent, by the Bill of 1872. The fourth proposition, which still exists, in spite of legislation, is that the laws against adulteration are insufficient and imperfectly enforced. That is true at the present day, as it was true then. The quality of the liquor supplied, certainly as regards spirits in a greater degree, and as regards beer in a smaller degree, is often of a most inferior character, and often most villainously adulterated. The House will agree that the adulteration of English spirits by German spirits is most abominable; yet such spirits are served out, dram after dram, by hundreds of thousands and by millions annually to poor people, in a manner such as the House would hardly credit. I do believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Her Majesty's Government ought to take seriously into consideration the policy of not allowing spirits to be taken out of bond until they have been at least two years in bond, for I am assured by a high authority that if that could be carried out an enormous importation of German spirits, inferior spirits, poisonous spirits, into the country would be materially curtailed, and the spirits which would be afterwards supplied to the classes would be of a far less poisonous description. The fifth proposition was that the hours during which public houses were allowed to be kept open admitted of reduction. That was dealt with, to some extent, in the Bill of 1872. But I must point out to my great 1705 regret that Mr. Bruce's Bill of 1872 excited unpopularity at the time, from some cause or other, and that unpopularity was naturally taken advantage of by political opponents. And the Government of 1874, which came into office, passed an Act which seriously impaired the provisions of the Act of 1872. I would wish to draw the attention of the House to a very important matter in connection with this subject. Mr. Bruce, in his Bill of 1871, laid down the standard for the number of public houses, which, in the opinion of the Home Secretary and of the Government of that day, were the maximum which was requisite for the wants of the people. Mr. Bruce laid down that in towns of under 1,500 population, one public house was sufficient; in towns of under 3,000, two were sufficient; under 4,000, three; and over 4,000, he allowed one public house for every additional 1,000. In the country, he prescribed in his Bill that where the population was under 900 one public house was sufficient; under 1,200, two; under 1,800, three; and one more for each additional 600 of population. I attach importance to this standard, made by a responsible Minister, who had studied the question with more care and attention than had ever been brought to bear upon it, perhaps, by any Government. What would have been the effect of the Bill if it had been passed into law? The number of licensed houses in London, which, in 1872, was, roughly speaking, 10,000, would have been reduced in 10 years to 3,000. In England and Wales, the number, excepting the Metropolis, amounted to 109,000, and that would have been reduced in 10 years to 33,000. The House should bear in mind that this standard was not seriously attacked by the trade. I have a pamphlet attacking the principles of compensation which were provided by the 10 years' limit. But the standard of limitation was not considered by the trade in any degree unreasonable, and, so far as the Parliamentary debate shows, it was taken to be as fair and equitable. In the days of Mr. Bruce, premises for the consumption of intoxicating liquors numbered one to every 182 of the population. In 1854, the public houses and beer houses numbered altogether 131,413. In 1861, the number was 1706 108,155, or one to every 185; in 1871, the number was, as I have said, one to every 182; in 1888, the number was 105,302, or one to every 283 of the people. But, of course, it must be borne in mind that the population since 1861 has increased by 48 percent., and, therefore, the decrease of 2 per cent. in the number of public houses per 100 people is relatively larger than appears for the figures which I quote. There has been a decrease in the number of public houses, and the decrease, taking the population into account, is by no means to be ignored. But against that decrease, I must set off three very important factors. In the first place, the large increase since 1861 in the number of off-licences, which have increased from 11,614 in 1861 to 28,649 in 1888. In another year or two it will be trebled. Another point to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is the recent springing into existence of a very large number of clubs among the working classes—clubs which are brought into existence for no other purposes than the illicit and illegal consumption of intoxicating liquors. I must also set off against the decrease in the number of public houses another fact, which was commented on by the Committee of the House of Lords in 1879, namely, that a very large number of licensed premises in this country have made very great increases in their size and accommodation. The large number of what are called gin palaces, which now are to be found on a comparatively gigantic scale in many of our large towns were almost unknown in the days when Mr. Bruce brought in his Bill. Now, Sir, I want to put a practical question to the House. Does the amount of drunkenness in the country depend upon the number of public houses? That is a question which has been debated very much by authorities on the Licensing Laws. My own opinion is that we have at present hardly any facts before us that will enable us to answer it. Superficially it would appear that drunken-ness among the people must depend to a large extent upon the number of houses which exist for providing alcoholic liquor, or, in fact, upon the profusion or non-profusion of facilities that exist for obtaining liquor. That view, I must admit, has been contested 1707 by persons of high authority, but the decrease at any particular time has been, relatively to the population, so small that it is difficult to draw any conclusions from it. Very strong evidence was given before the Committee of 1854 to the effect that a reduction of public houses did produce a reduction in the consumption of alcoholic liquors, and it is clear that the Committee to a large extent agreed with the evidence. The Committee of the House of Lords took similar evidence, and among the witnesses was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), who, in his evidence on this subject before the Committee, said—The enormous number of public houses, which is clearly out of all proportion to anything like the legitimate wants of the people, must tend to increase the temptation. In the first place, it has its effect on the people; people cannot pass this number Of houses without being more tempted than they would with a fewer number. I do not attach much importance to that; but I attach great importance to the number of persons directly interested in increasing the trade. There are 1,900 people in Birmingham with their families, and all the members of their little circle who are under the necessity of making a livelihood out of this trade. If there were only half the number they would do less trade; perhaps not in proportion to the reduction in the number of persons, but still there would be a greater diminution. Then the number of houses excites competition. Those men living so close together cannot afford to offend their customers in any way, and any demand that is made upon them they must meet, not merely from fear of losing the immediate custom, which they are unwilling to lose, but from fear of losing the whole custom of the man; and there is no doubt that improper practices, such as gambling and such things, are allowed to go on because the publican, although he may not approve of it, does not like to set his face directly against it.Now, Sir, that is a remarkable, a telling, and an important statement bearing on this question, and the Committee state that the majority of the witnesses held the opinion that the number of licensed houses had a direct effect on intemperance. The question of the number of public houses in proportion to the people is one to which I attach enormous importance. I noticed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), who above all other Chancellors of the Exchequer would be most careful in the expressions he made use of in his Budget Speech, the 1708 other day in his Financial Statement talked of "the enormous multitude of licences, which have so largely contributed to the drink bill of the nation." I take it that the great authorities in this House, representing, probably, the great bulk of opinion in this House, concur in the view that the number of public houses in the country is largely in excess of the wants of the people. But I go further, and say that the leading representatives of the licensed victuallers are by no means disposed to dispute that opinion. I cannot help saying that my experience of the trade, whether wholesale or retail, is that the most representative, the most powerful, and the most experienced members of the trade are sincerely and genuinely desirous of considerable reforms on this question of the Licensing Law. They are most anxious to see the trade placed on a sound, sensible, and statesmanlike footing which may be reasonably expected to endure for another 25 or 30 years. Now, if, as I hold, the number of public houses is largely and grossly in excess of the legitimate wants of the people, what does that mean? I hold that it brings responsibility home to all of us in this House, and it means that Parliament and the State, by allowing such a condition of things to exist, force upon the people the consumption of alcoholic liquor, which, without such pressure, would not be consumed. The system of reckless profusion in the sale of alcoholic liquor, and the fatal facility of recourse to the public houses makes it extremely difficult for multitudes of persons, in view of the hardships of their lives, to avoid or resist intemperance. I should like to give a curious illustration of how "great effects from little causes spring," and how the State, by unreflective action, may contribute to the consumption of alcoholic liquor. I happened when I was at the Treasury to meditate the abolition of the half-sovereign. I was persuaded that the half-sovereign was an altogether wicked little coin, that it was expensive to maintain, that it was easily lost, and that if it were abolished we might make a very handsome profit on the coinage of silver. I found that the half-sovereign was not only a wicked little coin, but an extremely profligate 1709 coin, and that it was largely responsible for the consumption of alcoholic liquor. I ascertained that, as a rule, workmen's wages are paid in half-sovereigns, and they resort to the public house for change, and, naturally, in an enormous proportion of cases, a considerable portion of the half-sovereign is left behind in the public house. Therefore, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer should think fit to abolish this wicked, profligate little coin, and to replace it by silver, he will make a profit on the silver, and, I think, appreciably injure his Excise revenue. But to go back to the point I was on. We know that, whether for the purpose of obtaining change or drink in town or country, public houses meet us at every step, inviting and almost compelling the entrance of passers by, and I hold it to be certain that in nine cases out of ten, if the public house were not there, the people would not miss it, and would not wish to have recourse to such an establishment. You have now great forces at work in favour of temperance, forces which were not at work in 1854 when the Committee of that day reported. In the first place you have your education, on which you spend £4,000,000 a year, and from which you expect to obtain great results in the moral elevation of the people. In 1854 State education had but very slender operation. Then you have in the present day what you did not have in 1854 elaborate facilities for the promotion of thrift. You have also a force in favour of temperance which the Committee of 1854 desired to see established, namely, a large number of parks and gardens, museums and libraries, maintained at the public expense, to which the masses are invited to resort, and do resort, in preference to the public houses. You have all these great forces working in favour of temperance, carried on, no doubt, at considerable expense either to the State or to Local Authorities, and yet this is absolutely certain—having been curiously brought out by the Committee of 1879—that the consumption of alcohol is much about the same as it was 30 or 40 years ago. It has hardly decreased at all. All the reports are negative. They say that probably the consumption of alcohol has not increased, and that, on the whole, the state of things is probably not worse than 1710 it was 10 years ago. And yet it clearly ought to be much better, and would be had we earlier dealt with these Licensing Laws. And now I should like to draw the attention of the House to the numbers of arrests for drunkenness in England and Wales, although the arrests are in one sense very misleading, as they do not show the amount of drunkenness. In the three years ending 1887 there were 40,384 arrests on Sundays and 402,352 on week-days; and in the three years ending 1888 there were 41,316 arrests on Sundays and 444,944 on week-days. So that absolutely the arrests for drunkenness have increased. That proves as clearly as possible what I shall, I hope, drive home, that drunkenness is on the increase. The tendency of the police is to interfere as little as possible with a drunken person, unless he is violently disorderly and a nuisance and danger, and, there fore, the only arrests made are of persons in an extreme state of drunkenness. I have it on authority that, in order to arrive at the number of persons who get perfectly drunk, we might safely multiply the number of arrests by six, which would give for three years 240,000 persons arrested on Sundays and 2,700,000 on week-days. In addition, if we want to realise the consumption of alcohol by the people we must argue in this way. If there are these enormous numbers of drunken persons, how great are the numbers of those who have undoubtedly taken a great deal more than is good for them, and a great deal more than their scanty earnings would justify? If we speculate on figures of that kind we then begin to realise the gigantic drink bill of the country of £130,000,000 or £140,000,000, an expenditure on alcohol estimated at £22 per annum for each family of five persons; and if we only think of the enormous number of families earning between them less than £100 a year, we are led, if there is any foundation for these figures, be the conclusion that the consumption of alcohol is a matter which deserves the immediate consideration of Parliament. I deduce this as the consequence of these statistics, that the great temperance forces at work have had no effect in decreasing drunkenness. I have heard former Chancellors of the Exchequer, the right hon. 1711 Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) and the right hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), descant on the slackened yield upon the Estimate for beer and spirits, and I have heard them comfort themselves by expressing the opinion that the diminished consumption arose from the temperance movement, and from forces operating in that direction. But the recent Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has absolutely dissipated such an idea, and proved that it is a fallacy. It has opened the eyes of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the existence of an evil of the magnitude of which we none of us had any conception. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget speech, which I will describe as a great temperance speech, told us that—Nearly £2,500,000 out of a surplus of £3,250,000 were due to an absolutely extraordinary circumstance. The £2,500,000 excess of revenue of which I have spoken have been due to an extraordinary rush to alcohol. I now wish to call the particular attention of the Committee to the fact that the increase in the consumption of alcohol in the past year as compared with its predecessor has augmented the receipts from alcoholic beverages by a sum exceeding £1,800,000. Let me remind the Committee that for 11 years the revenue from spirits had been declining, and for two years it had remained stationary. And speaking of forecasting a revenue, if I had come before this House and said I believed there would be an increase in consumption of alcoholic beverages in the year which would bring in £1,800,000 more, I should have been considered either a lunatic or a libeller of the consuming classes of the country.That shows that the doctrine of former Chancellors of the Exchequer, that the spread of the temperance movement was checking the consumption of alcohol, was unfounded and mistaken. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said to the House of Commons that—The net receipts on all consumable articles except spirits, wine, and beer actually fell short of my Estimates by, in round numbers, £130,000. But when we come to alcoholic drinks I admit there is a very different tale to tell. The net receipts from all alcoholic drinks amounted to £29,265,000, as compared with the Estimate of £27,430,000, and as compared with the net produce of £27,157,000 in the year before. The Beer Duty exceeded my Estimate by £270,000, foreign spirits by £421,000, and home spirits by no less than £1,010,000; and the duty on wine exceeded the Estimate by £120 000. It is on drink, and on drink alone, that as regards consumable articles the revenue was under estimated for the last year. And the Committee will 1712 notice that this rush to alcohol has been universal Some have rushed to the beer barrel, others to the spirit bottle, others to the decanter, but ail classes seem to have combined in toasting the prosperity of the country, and have largely increased the revenue. I call the special attention of the House of Commons to this extraordinary circumstance—a circumstance which will be deplored by almost every one, for many reasons, and which places upon the Government and upon the House an increasing liability to deal with the question of the consumption of alcoholic drinks.The House can hardly pass by with neglect such strong language from so high a Minister of the Crown, and one so well entitled to speak on such a subject with unquestioned authority. The Chancellor of the Exchequer goes on to say—The consumption of rum has increased by 12 per cent.; British spirits by 7 per cent.; brandy by nearly 6 per cent.; and other sorts of spirits by nearly 5 per cent. I cannot exaggerate the impression which these figures make upon myself. The more you look into them the more extraordinary they seem to be. I have wanted to show what this additional consumption of 12 per cent. in rum means if reduced to intelligible proportions. I understand that rum is generally asked for in public-houses by the half-quartern or the half-gill, either of those terms meaning about one-eighth of a pint. The retailer is allowed by Act of Parliament to mix water as long as the spirit is not reduced below 25 degrees under proof. The price asked for a half gill of rum is 2½d. or 3d.; thus the whole of the rum consumed in the United Kingdom, if supposed to have been drunk in these drams, in the year 1888 was 245,000,000 of drams, and that enormous amount has been increased by 30,000,000 drams during the course of the past financial year. I hope the Committee will consider that this is a matter which we ought to look fully in the face. We ought to understand, not only what 12 per cent. means, but, when you go into detail, how it works out. It is an extraordinary historical fact that in the year 1875–76, which was the greatest drinking year on record, there was precisely the same rush in precisely the same proportions of these different classes of spirits, and at that time, too, the consumers of wine followed generally in the wake of the consumers of spirits and beer; and so it appears that, notwithstanding all our hopes, increased prosperity means, not an increased consumption of all the other great articles, but has unfortunately meant, and does mean, a great increase in the consumption of alcoholic liquors. I have now explained how we have a surplus of £3,200,000, of which £1,800,000 is accounted for by the increase in alcoholic beverages. Let me now descent from these stupendous and sensational figures to the more ordinary figures of the Budget.That extraordinary speech, coming on the top of every other authority which I have quoted in this year 1713 1890, when we thought that we were getting so temperate, and that the habits and morals of the people were improving, shows that if we were, as undoubtedly we were 30 years ago, a drunken people, that adjective can be applied to us now. I think the House will admit that nothing can be more serious than the facts and figures to which I have ventured to direct its attention. For that reason I welcome the intention of the Government with respect to a Bill which they propose to introduce dealing with the question of licensing. I understand that Bill is directed to prohibiting the granting of new licences, and I had such a measure as an indispensable preliminary to any reform of the Licensing Laws. But such a measure as that touches but a very small part of the evil it is sought to remedy. If it is the duty of the Government to deal with this question, that duty they will readily admit is not even approximately discharged—even if they are successful, as I hope they will be—by bringing forward such a Bill. I have, I fear, somewhat rashly attempted a more ambitious measure, which I will explain to the House. The Bill I ask leave to introduce is as wide in its scope as the Bill of Mr. Bruce in 1871. It attempts to amend, simplify, and consolidate the law on this subject. I may say in my defence, if I am regarded as presumptuous, that I have been for weeks past in communication with many authorities on this licensing question. I have had the advantage of the freest and frankest communication with the repersentatives of the trade, and have received from them every possible assistance. I have also had the great advantage of communication with my hon. Friend the Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson); and I gladly acknowledge that if any good should result from the action I invite the House to take the hon. Member will have mainly contributed to it. I have also been in communication with various Temperance Associations, notably that most excellent institution the Church of England Temperance Society. I have studied many Blue Books; I have waded through many speeches; I have read many pamphlets; I have endeavoured to the best of my ability, before venturing to subject a project to the House of Commons, 1714 to master the whole of the subject The main principle of the Bill is popular control over the issue of licences. That is a principle which has been accepted, I think I may say, by both sides of the House, although it is carried to a different extent by some persons than by others. Though the Returns which I have obtained do and must be taken by all persons, to condemn the results of magisterial discretion, I do not wish to be understood in any way to blame the magistrates, who, I believe, have done their duty as well as they could. Nothing like corruption, or a trace of it, has influenced them in the discharge of their duty; but from one cause or another it must be admitted that the magistrates have not been able or willing to decrease the number of licences. I do not imagine for a moment that the giving over of the issue of licences to popular control is going to make the people of England sober in a year or two. There is an expression much made use of in former days by those who opposed Licensing Law reform, that "You can't make people sober by Act of Parliament." You cannot—it is quite true—but I tell you what you can do. You can give the people by Act of Parliament powers to make themselves sober. My belief is that the whole instincts of the people are really on the side of sobriety if they have the [lower to get their own way; and the blame for the drunkenness that exists cannot be laid on the people, because they have not had even the shadow of power over the issue of licences. The popular Representative Bodies which I propose in my Bill to control the issue of licences are the Municipal Councils in the boroughs and the County Councils in the coun-ties. I know it has been urged that it would be better to give the power to bodies elected solely for this purpose; but after long consideration of the point I have come to the conclusion that, on the whole, the arguments are in favour of entrusting the power to the existing Councils. In the first place, they are bodies of great weight and authority; they are less liable to be swayed either in one way by trade interests or in the other by temperance fanaticism than a body which had solely to deal with licences; they will on the whole, I think, be moderate, and will not be inclined to 1715 go ahead of public opinion; they will be found to be composed of probably the best and the most experienced men in the locality, men accustomed to matters of local government; and lastly—recognising the extreme importance of dealing with this question rather by a consensus of Parties than by a conflict of Parties—I think it will be found that this proposal will encounter the least opposition either in this House or in the other. There is also this to be said in its favour, that the establishment of a separate body for licensing purposes would mean additional elections. The recurrence of elections of public Local Bodies is already quite frequent enough, and if we increase the number we shall run some risk of wearying and nauseating the public, who would cease to take an interest in them; and without public interest these bodies would become useless and impotent. I proceed in a simple, and what may be called a rough and ready fashion—in my Bill to direct the Councils to divide the areas under their authority into Licensing Districts, and to divide themselves into as many Committees as there are Licensing Districts, each Committee to be the Licensing Authority for the district. But I go even further in applying the principle of popular control. I have provided that, in certain circumstances, and under certain conditions, there should be brought into operation that which is called the direct veto—that is to say, that if in a certain parish two-thirds of the ratepayers on the municipal register voted for the prohibition of the granting of licences, the vote should operate against the granting of all retail licences. There is a good deal to be said in favour of the equity of such a proposal. On the face of it it is not unfair that where you find a large and preponderating majority in a restricted area who desire to live under conditions which in their belief conduce to order and morality—it is hard on such a majority that a comparatively small minority should be able to prevent them having their way. And what makes it especially hard in this case is that the power which you refuse to entrust, or which you may possibly refuse to entrust, to so large and preponderating a majority is a power which under the law of the land is actually enjoyed by the owners of pro- 1716 perty. An owner of many thousands of acres or of a large portion of a town may, and frequently does, no matter how much the persons on that property may object, prohibit the establishment of a single house for the sale of intoxicating liquor. Therefore, you allow to the owner of property a power which may be exercised in the most tyrannical manner, which I believe in certain cases has been exercised tyrannically, and which may be exercised against the wishes of the majority of the people. I think that there is a great deal to be said for allowing a preponderating majority of the inhabitants to prohibit the establishment of houses for the retail sale of drink. I will give the House a curious instance of what I have been saying. The town of Jarrow is alluded to in the Report of the Lords Committee of 1879. One-half of that town belongs to a firm which employ large numbers of working men and allow no licensed establishment in that half of the town. The other half of the town is not so owned, and licensed houses largely prevails. That is a large power to be exercised by one firm over hundreds of working men. Another instance is the town of Middlesbrough, which stands out rather well in the Return which I moved for, the percentage of public houses per 1,000 of the population being only l.3. But a gentleman wrote to me from Middlesbrough to explain how that is. A very large portion of the town belongs to-the Pease family, and they do not allow, or they prevent as far as they can, the establishment of any house for the sale of intoxicating liquor; while another portion of the town belongs to a gentleman who absolutely prohibits the opening of such houses. Therefore, the real proportion of licensed houses in Middlesbrough per 1,000 is, in reality, greater than the Return makes it, because they are all established in one restricted area. I must say that if you give that power to an individual—I do not say that I wish to see that power taken away—I think it is hard to say that under certain circumstances you will not intrust similar power to the popular vote. At all events, the House will admit that the matter is one which is deserving of argument and discussion. I do not regard the question of direct veto 1717 as absolutely material to my Bill or to any Licensing Law reform; but I know that the Temperance Body attach enormous importance to such a provision, and, considering their long labours in the cause of temperance, I frankly admit that they have a right to some concession in this matter, at least as a subject of experiment. I would also point to one beneficial effect of the establishment of the direct veto. It has been argued on more than one occasion that if you make the County Council the Licensing Authority you will introduce into its election violent party feeling between the Temperance Party and the anti-Temperance Party—in fact, introduce into the election what I may call the odium alcoholicum. But if you, under certain circumstances, give to the inhabitants of a parish power to prohibit the issue of licences, obviously the effect of that will be to relieve the County Council of an enormous amount of pressure which might be put upon them by one party or the other. The Temperance Party will then concentrate their efforts on parishes or localities where they think they will be able to work themselves most beneficially, while those interested in the trade will concentrate their efforts in the same parts, and we shall thus relieve the County Councils of an enormous amount of trouble. The next provision in my Bill is one for the simplification of the licences. Under the present law there are 12 different forms of licence, only three of which are at all generally applied for. Under this Bill the chief licences will be what are known as the full publican's licence and the refreshment house wine and beer licence. The only licence which the Licensing Authority will be able to grant for consumption on the premises for the wholesale and retail sale of wines, spirits, and beer is the full publican's licence. Another form of licence which is provided for is the refreshment house wine and beer licence, which I am led to believe may be a useful licence in the rural districts, where houses may be established at a lower rating than is provided for in my Bill for public houses in towns, and where facilities for meals to the customer may be afforded as well as facilities for drinking; but under the Bill if a person wishes to get a licence for the retail sale of spirits he will have to obtain a full publican's 1718 licence. Then there will be a restricted form of licence to be granted to hotels which are not public houses and railway refreshment rooms. The off-licence will be reduced to a combined wine and beer licence. One of the effects of the Bill will be that beerhouses will be abolished all over the country. For this proposition there is great authority. The Committee of 1854 said—The beershop system has proved a failure. It was established under the belief that it would give the public their beer cheap and pure, would dissociate beer drinking from drunkenness, and lead to the establishment throughout the country of a class of house of refreshment altogether free from the disorders supposed to attend exclusively on the sale of spirits. The Committee of the Lords which sat in 1849–50, however, report that of the beerhouses a very large proportion are, as in the case of public houses, the actual property of the brewers, or tied by advances to them, that they are notorious for the sale of an inferior article, that the consumption of ardent spirits has from whatever cause far from diminished, and that the comforts and morals of the poor have been seriously impaired. Much of the evidence before your Committee is to the same effect.The Committees of the House of Lords in 1849, and of the House of Commons in 1854, reported as to the evil effects of the establishment of beerhouses under the Act of 1830. I do not believe that the evil effects of beerhouses can be controverted, and therefore in my Bill I propose to abolish them. At the same time, the existing owner of a beerhouse will be able to apply to the Licensing Authority for a full licence, and the Authority may grant it if they think fit. I would point out that the whole object of this measure in regard to licences is to raise the character of the public house, and to insure, as far as possible, that the person conducting it shall be a person of capital and respectability, who has everything to lose either by misconduct or excess. I would direct the attention of the House to the operation of Clause 11 in the Bill, which prescribes the necessary rating of the houses for which these licences may be granted, and which will operate to reduce largely the number of licences in the country. I have said that off-licences will be restricted to wine and beer, and I am aware that that proposal will excite opposition. But I must point out that the object of the Bill is to put great difficulties in the way of the 1719 consumption of spirits. I do not believe that off-licences have up to now proved so mischievous as is sometimes alleged; I do not believe that the evidence given against them has been satisfactorily substantiated. But this must be realised—that if the House reforms the Licensing Laws in the sense I propose there will probably be at first a great desire and demand on the part of persons accustomed to drink spirits to obtain them, which will be satisfied by the on-licence houses, and in that case there may be a prejudicial effect in the development and increase of off-licences which may go a long way to neutralise any reform which may be made. I was obliged to consider whether we could allow off-licences for the sale of spirits to continue if we suddenly check the sale of spirits in other directions, and I believe it is absolutely necessary in the public interest generally, and I think in the interest of the licensed victualler also, that the sale of spirit sunderoff-licencesshould be stopped. The Licensing Authority under this Bill is given full power to regulate the hours at which publichouses shall be open both on week-days and on Sundays. The Bill remits that question entirely to the Local Authority, and, generally speaking, I may say that the Licensing Authority of every district will absolutely control all retail sale of alcoholic liquor in the district. There is, however, no standard provided in the Bill, such as in that of Mr. Bruce, as to the number of publichouses in proportion to the population. The operation of Clause 11 will be more effective in this respect than any scale laid down; but what I want to point out is that the policy of the measure is not to interfere with the liberty of the people by the measure itself. The object of the measure is rather to give to the people themselves, through their Representative Body, the power of interfering with their own liberty. I come now to a very important point, perhaps the most important point of all, which is not dealt with in the Bill—I mean the question of compensation for vested interests. My reason for not including in the Bill any provision in regard to compensation is that it would entail taxation in some form or other, and it is not in the power of a private Member of 1720 Parliament to propose to the House any taxation of any form or kind. Every such proposal must come from a Minister of the Crown. But I hold that compensation for vested interests is an indispensable accompaniment to any scheme of licensing reform. Any such reform not accompanied by compensation for vested interests would be sheer confiscation and robbery. On this subject perhaps the House will allow me again to recur to the speech of Mr. Bruce in 1871, because he stated the case in a most impartial manner. He said—He could not assent to the proposition of the Member for Carlisle that these houses had no sort of interest. They had an interest, although it was undoubtedly of a qualified description. His hon. Friend founded his proposition on the superficial fact that these licences were annually renewed, and that the Justices might any year refuse to renew them; but the fact was that the Justices nearly always renewed these licences unless the holders of them by bad conduct had rendered themselves unfit to hold a licence, and it must be borne in mind that they could not be refused without an appeal to Quarter Sessions, and had anyone ever heard of such an appeal being decided except with reference only to the conduct of the holder of the licence? On the other hand, the House had never recognised any vested interest in this species of property or any right to compensation, yet it had frequently interfered with the trade. It greatly interfered with it when it passed the Beer-house Act; again, when spirit dealers were allowed to have retail licences, and, again, when an Act for closing publichouses was passed, and in 1854 Mr. Villiers's Committee proposed to introduce free trade into the business without providing compensation. The knowledge of the holders of these licences that their right to compensation was of a very qualified character made them extremely anxious for anything like a fair and equitable arrangement of this question.It has been admitted on both sides of the House that the custom of renewing licences had become so prevalent, so strong, that the licences so issued had become property, and I think that in the discussion of this question the arguments in favour of compensation for vested interests have predominated. And how is it possible to deny the existence of property in these licences, when on every day of the year they are openly bought and sold, sometimes enormous sums of money being given for them? It is impossible to deny the existence of property which passes from hand to hand every day, which is sold, and in which Trustees may invest and do invest; and as such property exists it is impossible 1721 to say that Parliament is not bound to give compensation for it, if Parliament deems it necessary to abolish it I come to a much stronger argument even than that. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth and his friends refuse to recognise the existence of any property in a licence; but the State has been much more quicksighted than they, for the State has recognised the existence of a property, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted in answer to a question which I put to him some days ago, because it taxes the goodwill of a public house, both for annual taxation and under the Death Duties. If a man has bought a public house for a sum of money and dies, his outlay on the purchase of that public house will be taken by the Commissioners of Probate as a part of the estate, and Probate Duty will be levied upon it. How can you deny the existence of property which the State recognises for the purpose of taxation? If the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth gives a fair consideration to such arguments, I think he will admit that a property does exist, and that compensation ought to be given to persons who are, for State reasons, summarily deprived of property. I have no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he brings on his Licensing Bill will deal more fully and more authoritatively than I have done with this question of compensation. Although I am interested in a reform of the Licensing Laws, and am in favour of a reform of a drastic character, personally I will oppose any measure which, by non-provision for compensation for vested interests, would be an act of confiscation, spoliation, and robbery. I pass rapidly to the conclusion of my remarks. The second part of the Bill relates to the registration of clubs. The Under Secretary of State for the Home Department has written me a letter in which he refers to the opinion of the Chief Commissioner of Police as to the existence in this Metropolis and in many other large towns of bogus clubs, that exist merely for the unlicensed sale of intoxicating liquors; and he expresses his opinion that the formation of those clubs had received a great impetus from the restrictions on the sale of alcoholic liquor. In many cases, the 1722 Chief Commissioner observes, these clubs are merely unlicensed taverns, where drinking and gambling is indulged in with impunity. These remarks apply only to the lower order of clubs, though the Chief Commissioner does not recommend legislation which would not apply to all clubs alike. The licensed victuallers complain, and, in my judgment, rightly complain, of the increased drinking in these bogus clubs, which are able to sell liquors at all hours, and which escape altogether the rigid control which applies to public houses. I will not go deeply, at this hour of the evening, into this question of clubs; but I will merely point out that under the provisions of the Bill a bonâ fide club would be entitled to be registered by the County Council upon payment of a fee which is graduated according to the rating of the premises of the club. In an ordinary working men's club the fee might amount to 30s. a year, while the great West End clubs of London would have the satisfaction of paying to the County Council sums ranging between £1,000 and £2,000 a year. I have now explained to the House the nature of the measure, and I have given to the House the opinions, which cannot be neglected, of Committees, and also of statesmen—of some who have passed away, and of others who are still in our midst. I claim for the Bill certain merits. It consolidates, simplifies, and amends the law. It is so drawn, that everybody who is at all acquainted with the subject can easily understand it; and although it consolidates some 20 or 30 Statutes, it is all—with the exception of Part II., dealing with clubs—contained in 16 clauses. I think that, unless I have spoilt my case by over-length in stating it, the House must be of opinion that legislation on this subject is demanded, and legislation without delay. It is quite possible that we may be entering upon a new era of prosperity for trade and industry; but experience tells us that that period will certainly be followed by years of depression. During the period from 1868 to 1874 the people of this country made enormous sums of money and were apparently almost as affluent as one could desire. But if they made a great deal of money 1723 an enormous portion of their earnings at that time was expended on alcohol. If there is a good time before us, let us try to do something by legislation to prevent the recurrence of such a calamity, of such a want of thrift as has marked former years of prosperity, and as has increased the difficulties of the recent years of depression. The great poverty and distress in the recent bad times arose to a large extent from the profuse expenditure of money by the people, when times were good, on the consumption of alcohol. Let us give them the opportunity of interfering with themselves, and the liberty of cutting down, if they so desire, the sources of alcoholic supply. Let Parliament perform a duty which it has for, at least, half a century neglected—a duty vividly described in the extracts I have read. I quite recognise that it will not be possible in the present state of public business that a Bill of this kind should be passed into law this year. I do not know whether the details of the measure would be likely to meet with a favourable reception in the House; but, if by any good fortune, the general principles and policy of the measure were favourably considered by the House of Commons, then I would venture to suggest that it might be possible, either by some slight facilities being offered by the Government, or by the general concurrence of the House, to carry the Bill as far as the Second Reading and then to send it upstairs to a, Select Committee. The examination of the measure by a Select Committee would be of immense public utility and advantage, and would prepare the way most effectually for Parliament to deal finally with the subject next Session. Whether that be so or not, it is my duty now to express my sincere gratitude to the House for the great favour they have conferred upon me in permitting me to trespass so unduly on their time. And, in conclusion, I earnestly appeal both to the Government and the House to give to the large question I have brought forward their most careful and serious consideration.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to consolidate and amend the Law of Licensing,
and to provide for the Registration of Clubs in which Intoxicating Liquors are supplied."—(Lord Randolph Churchill.)
§ *(10.50.) SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
I think it was Mr. O'Connell who used to say that he went on repeating the same thing over and over again until at last it came to him as an echo from the mouths of his opponents. I was delighted at hearing my noble Friend describe this great evil in the words I have had the honour of describing it for many years past. I congratulate the noble Lord most heartily on having turned his attention to the mostimportant question of the day, and on having made the speech which he has just made. I think the noble Lord is—if he will allow me to say so—a most promising member of the Baud of Hope. The noble Lord has secured a good opportunity of bringing the question forward, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech on the Budget 10 days ago, excited attention by his account of the drinking that was going on in the country. Of course, we are told that although there is more money spent on drink there is no proof of increased drunkenness. But I am not concerned to argue that now. I am content to rest on the fact that more money is spent on the consumption of alcohol. The statement has excited such great interest in the country that hardly ever on a private Members' night has there been such a rush to get into the House. Would there have been half as many people to hear about Disestablishment, or Bimetallism, or Hares and Rabbits, or the Deceased Wife's Sister, or anything of that sort? People have come because they are more interested in this question than in any other question of the day. Someone has sent me a cutting from a paper in 1838, announcing that a firm of colliery proprietors had given notice that they would dismiss all of their men who became teetotallers, because those men were doing an injury to the country. At that time the idea was that it was a pious and patriotic duty to consume intoxicating drinks. It is pretty much the same thing now, in some respects, for no persons are held in 1725 such high estimation as those who make and those who sell these drinks. If a man sells a sufficient quantity of beer he is made a Peer. A Liberal brewer is made a Peer, and then a Tory brewer is made a Peer. Both sides do that, and all are made Peers in their turn. But gradually a sect has arisen which demands that if these drinks are found to be injurious the people should have the power to say, "We will have no licence here." The noble Lord has spoken of the magistrates as being a pure, noble body of men. I am a Magistrate myself, and I know that the noble Lord spoke the truth. The publicans are the picked men of the country; if there is a stain on their moral character they are not allowed to have licences. Every body, then, has done his best; but, after all, this licensing system is the most miserable, ghastly failure that the history of legislation has ever shown. The noble Lord has spoken of the evils caused by the facilities for obtaining drink, but why should not the public houses do a large business, like other trades? Yet the noble Lord is horrified at the large business done by the public houses. Does not this condemn the whole thing? I have three times carried a Resolution in the House of Commons, declaring that local communities should be entrusted with power to prevent licensed liquor shops being established amongst them, and in 1883 the subject was declared "urgent," but nothing has been done. Two years ago the Government did make an attempt to meet the demand for a reduction of the number of public houses, and the President of the Local Government Board proposed in his Bill to put licensing into the hands of the County Councils. He might have got that through the House, only—and here let the noble Lord take warning—he put compensation into the Bill, and that wrecked the whole tiling. Does the noble Lord think that when compensation has wrecked the scheme of a great Government, the same thing in his scheme will help to carry it? The Government proposed to turn a yearly licence into a permanent one, and to put hundreds of millions into the pockets of the publicans and brewers, but the country rose against it, and in a few 1726 weeks' time the strongest Government we have had for years—I do not say the best—were obliged to give up their Compensation Clause. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now going to recognise by law any value in a licence beyond the value for a year, he will have just as big a hornet's nest about him as there was two years ago. We who have been working in this cause for the best part of our lives have come to the conclusion that the principle of compensation in a licence granted for one year is utterly inadmissible. The people of the country will not stand it—the noble Lord may be sure of that. They will honour and applaud him for the words he has used against the Drink Traffic, but they will not swallow compensation.
§ *SIR W. LAWSON
It must come from public funds. The noble Lord says that "compensation entails taxation," and that taxation is public money. He proposes in his speech to give public money as compensation, and he talks about this compensation being justifiable because the publicans are taxed on their licences.
§ *SIR W. LAWSON
I am only talking about licences. A town clerk who wrote to me the other day has put the matter on a post-card—"Licences for a year, not permanent; value subject to yearly taxation." Let us put a tax on the yearly value, but when that yearly value is taken away we will not tax it. We will not have compensation—we intend to fight against it to the death. The only other thing we want is to carry out the Resolution which has been three times passed by this House, and to give the people power to protect themselves against any Licensing Authority what ever. Surely they have a right to protect themselves. What is this trade as described by the noble Lord? He calls it a "devilish and destructive trade," and surely the people have a, right to protect themselves against, the devil! I hope the noble Lord will go on in his 1727 way nobly as he has begun; but I advise him to get rid of compensation, and then his course will be clear for him. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his memorable speech that the state of things is such that the country is bound to interfere. And so it will interfere, and in the way I have described, that is the way on which the people have set their hearts. Do not suppose I am too sanguine. Let me before I conclude, read an extract from words used by the noble Lord himself, and I read these words because I think they afford great encouragement to all prohibitionists in the House and outside—The present House of Commons has only two more years of life before it, and it might come to an end any day. Its successor may be constituted in a widely different manner.
§ *SIR W. LAWSON
From a periodical called Short Cuts. The noble Lord went on to say that every Radical or Liberal supporter of Mr. Gladstone now pledges himself, as a matter of course, to popular control of the liquor traffic, and against compensation to brewers, distillers, and publicans. A few years ago, said the noble Lord, the Members of Parliament bound to such pledges were a mere handful, "in the next Parliament they will comprise the entire Gladstonian Party." The House of Lords will have its hands full of other matters, and will be in no condition to offer resistance to licensing reform. That is a most encouraging statement of the noble Lord, and should send us home to bed in good heart. I conclude by thanking the noble Lord, as I did in the beginning, for what he has done. Let him go on as he has begun, and he will be thanked, not only by me, but by thousands of the poor and distressed in the country, who will pray heartily for his success.
§ *(11.5.) ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I will not trespass on the time of the House at any length, but I desire to offer a word or two of friendly criticism on the speech of the noble Lord. I take exception to some of the noble Lord's remarks about the Magistrates acting in a haphazard way, and doing nothing to check the issue of licences for years past. I cannot think 1728 the noble Lord meant his words to apply as censure to Magistrates of the present day; and, if he did, I presume he must have made the remarks without having made very careful inquiry into the action of Magistrates. As one of that much abused body, one who has taken great interest in the question for many years, and one who has acted as a Licensing Authority, I beg to say the noble Lord is wrong as far as Hampshire is concerned. In that county we have started a policy which is accepted by the trade with beneficial results. We have distinctly laid down that the number of licences in our division is largely in excess of the wants of the population. We have resolved to issue no new licences, and we have given valuable hints to the trade for meeting the wants of outlying districts, by working the removal clause, and these hints have been acted upon. For years past we have required the trade to surrender two licences for every new one granted for the outlying districts. If the plan were adopted in other parts of the country, by a slow but sure process, the number of public houses would be reduced. In one parish six houses were closed in this way. In Hampshire a very important Committee has been appointed to inquire into the whole system of licensing, and they have agreed upon a Report which is approved by Quarter Sessions. Thus, there will be unity of action in dealing with licences and renewals. The Magistrates for a long time were under the impression that they had no power to refuse renewal, but they are now told by the highest authority—a Court of Appeal—that their powers have not been altered since the old Licensing Act of 1829. If the Magistrates had known their power after the passing of the Act of 1872, depend upon it the Returns to which the noble Lord has referred would have had a very different complexion. It is a misfortune that the Bill of 1872 did not specify in distinct terms that nothing in this Act was intended to detract from the power of the ancient Licensing Authority. Had there been such a clause, the noble Lord would not, in his able speech, have had so much reason to complain of the action of Magistrates. The noble Lord is in favour of popular control. That is the 1729 principle of his Bill. For my own part, I think it the most mischievous form of control which could be devised. That the County Council should have the control is greatly to be deprecated. In Hampshire, since the Isle of Wight was taken away, the County Council is composed of 80 or 85 persons. We have 14 divisions, and, according to the noble Lord's proposal, there will be power to divide the county into areas. I presume Hampshire would be divided into 14, so that there would be barely five County Councillors for each division to adjudicate upon licences as against 14 or 15 Magistrates, and I certainly have much more confidence in a Licensing Authority which is in the habit of dealing with such a question than I have in any body of five Councillors in any part of the country. Let me also point out this objection, that if the Licensing Authority is transferred to County Councils we shall see the trade using its vast power and machinery to the extent that every public house will be turned into a Committee room to promote the return of County Council candidates favourable to the brewing interest. That, I think, is much to be deprecated. The matter requires very careful thinking out before you make a transfer from the old Licensing Authority. We are a much-abused body, but those who abuse us most know least about our discharge of a very disagreeable public duty. The noble Lord says the number of licensed houses is largely in excess of the requirements of the populaticn, and that is true. But, as I have said, we did not know until the decision in the case "Sharp v. Wakefield" that we possessed these powers of refusal which now undoubtedly will be used. I would appeal to the Government that in any Bill they may introduce suspending the granting of new licences they will not suspend the power which now exists under the present law of working the removal clause. If the Government can introduce into their Bill a power of demanding two surrenders in all cases for every removal of a licence, I think that a very great improvement will be effected in the course of a few years in the condition of the country. Then we shall not frighten the people by any large schemes of compensation.
§ (11.15.) MR. OCTAVIUS V. MORGAN (Battersea)
During the few years I have sat in this House I have never listened to any speech which gave me more satisfaction than that of the noble Lord. Not that I agree with everything he said, but I recognise that the licensing question is no longer a Party question, confined to the interest of a few Members, and a drastic measure of reform may be said to be within measureable distance. The noble Lord has paid a tribute to the services of Lord Aberdare as Home Secretary, and he attributed the excellence of the proposals in his Bill of 1872 to three or four years experience at the Home Office, but I think this was due to the early training Mr. Bruce had, as a Magistrate, at Merthyr, and among the Welsh coal fields, where he gained knowledge that stood him in good stead, afterwards, at the Home Office. In the matter of off-licences I am glad to hear that the noble Lord proposes to deal with the sale of spirits. I should regret to see the off-licences done away with altogether, because they give women and girls the opportunity of going to a grocer's shop for the dinner beer rather than to a public house. Many of the public houses in London are totally unfit for any decent person to enter by reason of the dissolute persons who congregate therein. I believe, however, that were the proposed power given to the County Councils the elections would be fought very largely on the temperance question. We might, in this way, obtain the services of many men on the Councils who would be very desirable acquisitions for dealing with the temperance question, but, perhaps, not so desirable for dealing with other matters. I also think that, whatever laws we may pass, we should see, as has already been indicated, the public houses used more or less as Committee rooms. I understand that every public house in London is considered to be equal to seven votes. I do not know how far that is true, but if this is the case it shows, at any rate, the great influence of the liquor trade. I believe that the publicans could bring immense pressure to bear on local elections; and, therefore, if the licensing question is to 1731 be dealt with by the County Councils, the temperance party will have a very hard fight, and it is very likely will often be defeated in the elections. In my experience as a member of a Licensing Authority I know the influence the trade can bring to bear to produce Petitions in favour of new licences. I know that formerly every application was supported by the churchwardens of the parish. We rather made a joke of this practice, and of late years it has been given up. But I know that persons often sign Petitions in favour of a licence simply to get rid of the persistency of those who collect signatures. I once saw on a Petition the signature of a friend of mine whom I knew as a strong temperance advocate, and when I asked him about it he said, "Oh, I was so pestered about it that I, to get peace and quiet, signed the paper; but I relied upon you to use your influence to prevent the licence being granted." So it would be, I am afraid, with regard to Members of County Councils or Municipal Councils, if they were entrusted with the Licensing Authority. My own view is that the Local Representative Body dealing with licences should be elected for that special purpose, and this election might be held on the same day as the General Council Election, and the objection to multiplying days of election would be met. I have been under the impression that there has been less drunkenness in this country of late years. I see fewer drunken men, and certainly much fewer drunken women; but, unhappily, the quantity of liquor consumed is still very large. I believe that as inducements are offered to the people other than the public house there will be a a change for the better. In the poorer parts of London means of recreation are few, but I am glad to see something is being done by the spread of Free Libraries and Polytechnics. As regards London, the public houses are kept open much too late, the extension of the hour of closing to half-past 12 o'clock being, in my opinion, a criminal blunder which has been productive of an immense amount of mischief. In the Metropolis there ought, I think, to be a graduated system of licensing. Taking premises with a licence of £50 a year, I would reduce the charge to the occupier 1732 to £25 a year, on condition that he closed, say at 10; while if he wanted to keep open till 11 or 12, I would make the charge not £50 but £100, or, at all events, enough to make it worth while for the publican to close his house early. In the poorer parts of London there is no reason why the public houses should be open after 10 or half-past 10. I believe there is hardly a working man's club in London that could continue to exist if it were not for the sale of drink, and it will be necessary soon to introduce legislation dealing with that branch of the question.
§ *(11.26.) MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I congratulate the House that this great subject has been approached in a reasonable and sensible manner. There is a very strong feeling among the London constituencies that there should be some control over the number of public houses, and that in a great part of London especially facilities for drinking are a great deal too numerous. Whether or not it is the case that an increased number of public houses leads to an increase of drinking, those who have to do with the people must know conclusively that it is a slight matter which induces men to go in or not. I am informed that even one or two steps up to a public house will largely influence the trade of that public house. Institutions for thrift, libraries, and recreations of a reasonable character do much to reduce the evil of over-drinking, but still it is obvious something must be done to reduce the number of houses, and the hours also are too long. The noble Lord has described the condition of some public houses he saw in the East End of London, and I may state that I have seen very much the same sort of thing myself. I venture to say that if all the Members of this House went round and saw what was going on in the low-class public houses of this Metropolis, we should very soon pass a new Licensing Bill. As it is, however, no one seems to believe the statements as to what is really going on in these places. Grown up men and women may be considered old enough to look after themselves, but, when you find children of a tender age, say of 9, 10, 11, and 12 years, dragging their drunken parents 1733 away from public houses late at night, the horror of the situation becomes more apparent, and the necessity of doing something to curtail the hours during which drinking is carried on becomes more obvious. If Parliament had ordained that there should be Free Trade in alcohol our responsibility would have been less, but as we have ordained by our legislation upon the subject the hours at which these places may remain open, I think we are bound to consider whether it is right to allow them to continue open until half-past 12 at night, when the great bulk of the people are in bed, and cannot possibly require to make legitimate use of them. With regard to the question of compensation, I was extremely glad to hear the noble Lord say that there is a bonâ fide claim for compensation if these places are closed. This seems to me be the crux of the whole question, for I do not see how we can possibly compel the closing of these houses unless compensation is given; but hon. Gentlemen opposite take a different view, and they demand that the houses shall be closed without compensation. We have been considering this matter for the last 20 years, and I have no hesitation in saying that if some agreement had been come to upon the question of compensation a Bill in this direction might have been carried without difficulty. I trust the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir W. Lawson) will take the advice of the noble Lord, and adopt the principle that there should be compensation to a certain extent. I advocate compensation not because I am a friend of any particular class, but because I regard it as the only way in which we can reduce the great evils arising from the superabundance of public houses. The last point I desire to touch upon is the question of working men's clubs. Undoubtedly, a great deal of harm is brought about by these unlicensed public houses. I know of one of them which exists in a certain part of London—not in my own constituency—which receives monthly from one brewer no less than £400 worth of beer per month, or £4,800 worth per annum. That is a very large figure. The worst part of the evil attaching to those houses is that there is no supervision over them, and no limit as to the hours during which they may 1734 remain open, Sunday being just the same as week day. On the other hand, their existence is not only unfair to the publican who has to pay Licence Duty, and is under police supervision, but they also tend to encourage the great evil of intemperance, which this House is determined to put down. I must say that I do think we are to be congratulated in the course we now propose to take in this great question. As the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. O. V. Morgan) has stated, this question is now ceasing to be a Party question, and hon. Members on both sides of the House may set to work and do their best to decrease the evils of intemperance by decreasing the temptations which are offered, not only to the poor man, because this is not a poor man's question only, but to people in much higher positions. I sincerely trust we may be able greatly to reduce the evils I have referred to, so that the money which is now spent on drink may be devoted to purposes that will promote the well-being and happiness of the great masses of our people.
§ (11.38.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I have waited in hopes of hearing the sentiments of Her Majesty's Government on the interesting question the noble Lord has introduced to the House to-night. Prom this side of the House the noble Lord can expect nothing but support, for all who sit here are in accord with the principles upon which his Bill is founded. I may say that the great majority of those who belong to the Liberal Party are pledged to the principle of vesting the control of the liquor traffic in the inhabitants. I have heard to-night with no little surprise the panegyric which the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite (Admiral Field) pronounced upon himself and his brother Magistrates in Hampshire. I am in that county, and I have been able to see the effect of their action. The Licensing Returns show that that county presents one of the most unfavourable percentages of any county in England. According to my own observation, living in the midst of a sparsely-populated district, I can say that the proportion the public houses bear to other habitations is one of the most remarkable features of that part of 1735 the country. The hon. and gallant Admiral says that the Bench of his county are ignorant of the power they possess to exercise control over public houses. I am surprised to hear that statement. I thought everyone knew that except the Solicitor General. It is common knowledge up to his time certainly. While I was at the Home Office the Magistrates of Kent came to me and asked me to diminish the number of licences. I looked at them in surprise, and said, "I am astonished at this deputation coming to me, because I have the honour to receive gentlemen who have granted these licences, and who could put an end to them to-morrow if they wished." One of the Magistrates said, "Oh yes, that is perfectly true, but we do not like to take the unpopularity." I said, "Then you have come to ask me to undertake the unpopularity you will not undertake yourselves." To say, therefore, that it is not perfectly well known that the Magistrates have an absolute control over these licences is an assertion that cannot be maintained. Therefore, I felt it necessary rather to comment upon the action of their predecessors on the Bench, and I saw, with great satisfaction, that they passed a Resolution to which, I hope, effect will be given. If that is done there will be a considerable diminution in the number of public houses in England. In my opinion, the principle of popular control is the one that ought to be followed, and the popular areas ought to be very small, so that the authority exercising control will be able to ascertain the wants and wishes of the community. Thus a County Council sitting in a country town would be well able to judge of those wants and wishes. The rest is a matter of detail. The point that is most open to dispute is that which relates to compensation. The noble Lord opposite has been so fortunate, or so skilful, as to omit from his Bill any reference to this great subject of dispute, and has clothed himself in the immunities which are at once the pride and the safety of private Members, by leaving the responsibility of dealing with the question of compensation with the Government. I must say I do not envy the Government such a responsibility. The noble Lord says that this is a question of taxation. I am not going to 1736 enter upon this thorny and vexed question, but I wish the noble Lord had told us a little more of his mind with regard to it. He has not told us whether, in his opinion, the withdrawal of the annual licence is to be regarded as a taking away of a freehold, and compensation given accordingly. Another question I should have liked to have heard the noble Lord's views upon is whether the compensation is to be given to the publican, or to the brewer who has lent the publican money. If compensation is to be given at all, those are matters upon which we ought to make up our minds. With regard to the Bill itself, all I can say is that it is one which I should welcome from any quarter, and I welcome this one all the more because it will be supported with all the ability and authority of the noble Lord. Men of all parties concur in this, that we have to deal with an enormous evil, one which cannot be exaggerated, especially in view of the fact that was brought before us the other night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the consumption of intoxicating drinks, instead of having diminished, as we hoped that it would have done, has largely increased. I rose from these Benches to declare my concurrence, shared, I am sure, greatly by hon. Gentlemen on this side, in the policy which the noble Lord has happily embraced, and the principle of the Bill which he proposes to introduce.
§ *(11.48.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
I am sure, Sir, there is one portion of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman with which we shall all agree, that when this question comes to be dealt with we ought to avoid all Party recrimination, and that in dealing with a matter so vitally affecting the public welfare, all Parties ought to combine to put an end to the evil the existence of which we all so much deplore. When the proposals of the Government on this question are, as I hope they will be this week, laid before the House, I trust that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends will approach their consideration in the spirit which he has indicated, and that they will show a desire to assist the Government in 1737 carrying those proposals into effect. I do not think that I need notice any of the other observations of the right hon. Gentleman, which were rather in the form of inquiries directed to the noble Lord as to the form and scope of his Bill, and I suppose that the best opportunity which the noble Lord will have of clearing up any doubts upon those points will be given him when his Bill is before the House. Whatever may be the difference of opinion in this House upon any of the details of the scheme sketched out by the noble Lord, all Parties will agree with me when I say that we are greatly indebted, and the cause of temperance is greatly indebted, to the noble Lord for the position he has taken up with regard to this extremely difficult subject, and I also think they will agree with me in this, that a more lucid, more full, more complete, and more comprehensive speech has never been made in this House on this subject than that which has been delivered to-night by the noble Lord. He Las acquired a remarkable grasp of all the details of this question. My noble Friend has afforded me an opportunity of seeing a draft of the Bill which he proposes to introduce. I can tell the House that, whatever may be thought of some of its provisions, it is a masterpiece of construction, dealing with every possible detail of this complex question, and it is a credit, not only to my noble Friend, but to the gentleman who is responsible for the draft. My noble Friend drew a terrible picture of the evils of drunkenness, which I do not think many of us will consider greatly, if at all, exaggerated. Familiar as I am with a large community in the East End of London, I can say with the utmost confidence that the evils of excessive drinking are at the root of all our crime and pauperism. I can assure my noble Friend that we are as deeply impressed as he can possibly be with the enormity of the evils with which we have to grapple, and that we are as desirous as any one can be of dealing with this great and burning question in a way which will conduce to the general good of the people. The noble Lord compared the period of 30 years ago with the present, both as regards the relative number of public houses and the greatness of the evil with which we have to contend. I 1738 I think that in the comparison he made between 30 years ago and now he hardly did full justice to what has been done in that time. The effects of the temperance agitation have, I think, been greater than he appears prepared to admit. The results have not been very rapid, but they have certainly been sure. From inquiry and observation I am led to believe that, whether it be true that there is as much drink consumed now as then, there is a smaller amount of drunkenness than 30 years ago, and that we shall see in a progressive degree a still further reduction in the drunkenness of our people, similiar to that which has been witnessed by the force of public opinion in the higher circles of Society. There is a healthy public opinion growing up among the working classes, and the time, I believe, is not far distant when we shall see working men regard their fellows who exceed in this matter with the same abhorrence as that with which similar excesses are regarded in the higher circles. I am not one of those who believe in making people sober by Act of Parliament, but I think that those who desire to see drunkenness reduced may be greatly assisted by legislation. The noble Lord asserted that, though the number of licensed houses has been reduced in recent years, the proportion to the population is still too large. All my Colleagues and I are also of that opinion, and the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Lawson) will remember that when a deputation waited on me with regard to the Local Government Bill, I stated my view to a similar effect then. My noble Friend went on to say that a heavy responsibility rested on us. I do not deny that great responsibility rests on us, as it rested on previous Governments, including that of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite was the Home Secretary. We feel that responsibility, and we have made some attempt to discharge it. This licensing question was one of the important features of the Local Government Bill of 1887, and I am bound to say that the attempt we then made to deal with the subject, and which would have had great and important results, was not fairly dealt with by the Opposition, and not fairly dealt with by the Temperance Party in this House. As the hon. Baronet has referred to this 1739 attempted legislation of ours, I may be permitted to take this opportunity of saying a few words as to the nature of our proposal at that time. It was asserted that we were giving the publicans a right in their public houses that they did not possess, and that, in order to purchase out and diminish the number of licences, we were going to make a claim upon the ratepayers to the amount of £200 or £300 for each public house. No such proposal was made by the Government. If any power existed in the Magistrates to refuse to renew licences we expressly preserved that power to them in our Bill. We laid down distinctly that whatever power the justices possess of refusing to renew licences they should still continue to possess. If the Magistrates have the power to refuse to renew licences without compensation, they will be as fully able to refuse those licences without compensation after the passing of our Bill as before it. That was a proposition which was studiously and, in my opinion, deliberately concealed from the people it was desired to influence. All we did was this. We said—We are changing the law, we are creating a new authority, a representative authority to deal with this question, and when the representative authority we create chooses to deal wholesale with the licences in their districts without giving a reason they shall be at liberty to recognise the principle of compensation.But that was coupled with the express provision to which I have alluded. And, further than that, a very large annual sum, was, under our Bill, to be derived from the licence-holders themselves, to be used for the purposes of compensation. That was not proposed as a final proposal, from which we would not recede. It Was proposed in the hope and in the belief that the Temperance Party would give us their assistance in dealing with this difficult question, so that it might be discussed in this House in a fair and temperate spirit, with a view to seeing whether we might not together arrive at some plan which would have the result we all desire. But every step we took, every proposal we made, was opposed by the Temperance Party. Every means was taken to prevent even the discussion of the proposal we made, and I, therefore, say that while 1740 we recognise our responsibility in this matter, we have endeavoured to discharge that responsibility and shall always endeavour to do so. If responsibility rests with us, there is also a grave responsibility resting with the Temperance Party; and I can only say this, that if the Temperance Party make up their minds to thwart every Government or every Member who proposes to legislate upon this subject with a due regard to the rights of those affected, then a settlement of the question is yet a long way off. My noble Friend who proposes to deal with this question has, I think, rightly and properly placed in the forefront of his proposal the principle of compensation, and he sees and knows that it is impossible for any Government to deal with the question unless the principle is recognised. How compensation is to be paid, what are the principles upon which it is to be dealt with, are, of course, matters for discussion; but I venture to think that most reasonable-men in the House of Commons and in the country will recognise that the publican's licence is an interest which is recognised not only by the State, but also day by day in the commercial communities of this country, where licences are bought and sold for large sums of money. When the hon. Baronet says he declines absolutely on behalf of his wing of the Party to recognise any compensation whatever, he says in effect "ratherdrunkenness than compensation."
§ *MR. RITCHIE
Unquestionably. We say that the excessive number of public houses promotes drunkenness, and the hon. Baronet agrees with that; but-he says, "I will not allow you to disestablish one of these houses if you attempt to pay compensation," and that in effect means, "I will not allow you to do it at all." The hon. Baronet knows perfectly well that there-are large numbers of the Temperance Party who do recognise the principle of compensation. I believe the Church of England Temperance Society would not endorse the observations of the hon. 1741 Baronet when he says he declines to recognise any property whatever in licences. I am satisfied that there are large numbers of members of that Society who would altogether repudiate the position the hon. Baronet has taken up. I do not think we can be too particular in making this matter plain. We are all desirous of promoting temperance. We think the number of houses is too great, and that the excessive number promotes drunkenness. The hon. Baronet agrees with that; but he absolutely declines to recognise a principle without the recognition of which, I venture to say, in the minds of nine out of every ten men in this country, the legislation he desires cannot be carried out. At any rate, I think hon. Gentlemen will recognise this—that the time is yet far off—that temperance legislation must be postponed for many years—when the question can be settled on the lines proposed by the hon. Baronet. I think, therefore, I am justified in the observations I have made when I say that the result of the policy of the hon. Baronet is "rather drunkenness than compensation." The hon. Baronet will not even recognise the principle that compensation shall be provided out of the pockets of the people who hold the licences; because he says distinctly that he declines to recognise the principle of paying compensation out of money drawn from taxes on drink or from an increase of the Licence Duty.
§ *SIR W. LAWSON
I said I considered that the money you raise as taxes is public money, from whatever quarter you raise it, and I object to public money being paid in compensation.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
That is to say that if this matter can only be settled, as I contend it can only be settled, by recognising that these licences are marketable commodities, treated as such by the State, and by recognising the principle of compensation, the hon. Baronet says, "I would rather have the matter postponed to the Greek Kalends than permit compensation, even if paid out of drink or out of the licences themselves." Now, a few words as to my noble Friend's proposal. He proposes that this matter shall be dealt with by the County Councils 1742 and Municipal Councils, and in that I entirely agree with him. They were the bodies which we proposed should deal with this question in the Bill of 1887. The principle of my noble Friend is the principle which the Government are prepared to accept—that is, that the matter shall be dealt with by popular control; but he also proposes a form of control in which I do not gather that he has much confidence himself, namely, control by popular veto.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
The right hon. Gentleman asks, "Why not?" But speaking some years ago as Home Secretary, on the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Lawson) proposing Local Option, the right hon. Gentleman took good care to express his entire dissent from the principle of popular veto.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I beg pardon. I was speaking on that occasion upon the election of bodies ad hoc, not upon the question of popular veto.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
The right hon. Gentleman's speech was made to protect himself against being supposed to assent to the proposal in the speech of the hon. Baronet that this matter should be intrusted to the people of a district. The hon. Baronet made no proposal to elect a body ad hoc. I remember quoting the right hon. Gentleman's view as expressed in the speech to which I have referred to a deputation that waited upon me before the introduction of the Local Government Bill, and I am glad to find that I qualified the reference by saying that of course I could not undertake to say that the right hon. Gentleman had not changed his opinion.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
I leave that as it stands. At this hour of the night I do not propose to detain the House by arguing against the question of the popular veto. Does the right hon. Gentleman wish me to argue against it I do not think it can be necessary, as 1743 the right hon. Gentleman is not in favour of it.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
I do not know where to have the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman is really so rapid in his movements that it is impossible to follow him. So far as popular veto is concerned, I am afraid that if my noble Friend were to adhere to that as a fundamental part of his Bill it would not be possible for me to agree with him. It might be worked in a very arbitrary manner. Under the system of popular veto which he has dealt with to-night I understand that the whole of the public houses in a parish might be closed. What becomes of the compensation there? There would be nothing but the rates to fall back upon. But I have a stronger objection than that. I think it is very desirable that the number of public houses should be reduced; but I am not at all sure whether the sweeping away of public houses altogether would be a beneficial change. It might lead to a reaction, which would do harm rather than good to the temperance cause. Of course, my noble Friend will understand that it is not possible for us to discuss the proposals he has laid before the House in anything like detail. We must wait until we have the Bill before us. Nor do I think he would wish the Government to answer some of the suggestions he has made. He has suggested that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. It is difficult to say absolutely what would be desirable until we see the Bill itself; but I see many difficulties and objections to referring such a great and burning question as this to a Select Committee. It would probably be considered in Committee of the whole House just as fully as if it had never been before the Select Committee at all. I can only assure my noble Friend he may rely upon it that the Bill will receive the most careful consideration of the Government when it is produced; and whether or not we are able to agree with him 1744 upon the principle or upon the details of the Bill we warmly and cordially welcome his assistance in dealing with this great and burning question. We believe that, whether the result is the passing of the noble Lord's Bill or some other Bill, he has done to-night a great service to the temperance cause in the able, full, and lucid manner in which he has placed before the House the great evils which attend drunkenness. I cannot but believe that the question of temperance legislation has been greatly advanced by the position which my noble Friend has taken up to-night.
§ *(12.25.) MR. CAINE (Barrow-in-Furness)
I think it necessary that someone connected with the temperance movement should make some reply to what has just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. He charged us with having represented him two years ago as proposing in the Local Government Bill what would be equivalent to a tax on the ratepayers of £100,000,000 or £200,000,000. What we said was very different from that. We said he wished to confer on the publicans property worth £150,000,000 at least. I, myself, stated that again and again, and I am quite prepared to stand by it. I recollect very well either the Law Journal or the Law Times stating that the right hon. Gentleman gave a new legal estate to every publican in the United Kingdom. It seems to me a very great pity that a portion of the speech the right hon. Gentleman has delivered to-night was not delivered two years ago on the Second Reading of his Local Government Bill, for it would have saved a good deal of misunderstanding. I understand him to say that if no legal compensation had been due before the passing of the Bill, the Bill would not confer any.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
What I said was that in our proposal we expressly reserved all the powers possessed by Justices at the time of the passing of the Bill, and if they possessed the power of refusing to renew licences that power was preserved to them by the Bill.
§ *MR. CAINE
Take the well-known case of "Sharp v. Wakefield." The magistrates refused to review the sentence, as it is called, for any reasons whatever, except that, in their opinion, it would be better for the district that the licence should be taken away. What I want to know is whether supposing that Bill had become law it would have been competent for any Licensing Authority to take the same course and refuse to renew one or two or a dozen licences without compensation.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
I will endeavour to explain to the hon. Gentleman that the position of things after the passing of the Act would have been precisely the same as before. It would have been perfectly competent when the publican appeared before the County Council to anyone to object that the licence was unnecessary in the neighbourhood. The County Council would then have referred the matter to the Justices, who would have considered it. They would have had the same power of refusing the renewal as they have now. The applicant would have had the same right of appeal to the Quarter Sessions and the High Court; and if it was decided that the Justices were warranted in refusing the renewal, the publican would have had no more claim to compensation than he has now.
§ *MR. CAINE
Well, it would have been a very remote opportunity, it is quite certain, after it had gone through all those stages. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with the noble Lord in his views as to compensation, and it is clear that the compensation proposed is an equitable compensation for a real property. The compensation proposals of the Local Government Bill were quite simple. The difference between the value of the public house as a licensed and an unlicensed house was 1746 taken, and a certain number of years' purchase of that difference was given as compensation. It is now proposed that the compensation should be got out of the trade. We have all heard from the right hon. Gentleman that if every licence in any place were taken away by the direct veto there would positively be no one from whom any compensation could be obtained. Supposing there were 2,000 licensed houses in a town, and the Magistrates wished to reduce the number by 250, what would they have to find for compensation? The value of a public house is what it will fetch in the open market. There has been a sale of public houses by Messrs. Peter Walker & Co. in Liverpool lately, and the sum obtained for 250 public houses was about £2,500,000, or £10,000 each. I know the rateable value of these houses. As shops or private houses they would not fetch more than £2,000 each. Well, in a case of this kind it would be impossible for the local magistrates to reduce the number without paying the difference between the value as licensed houses and the ordinary value. The proposal to give compensation to publicans out of the other public houses is absurd. In the Liverpool cases, if the houses I have mentioned were closed by means of the local veto no less a sum than £1,700 apiece would have to be found by the remaining publicans for the purpose of compensation. I wish to tell the House that the Temperance Party as a solid whole are going to resist any proposal for giving compensation for public houses to the bitter end. We are going to have no compromise, and nothing would induce me to vote in this House for a Bill containing such a proposal, or to support it in the country. There is no such thing as renewal of licence; a new licence is granted each year for 12 months. We are to be asked to vote enormous sums of money to compensate a class of men who as a privileged class have been making money by that privilege all along the line.
§ *LORD R. CHURCHILL
Is the hon. Member aware that the London County Council has been purchasing public house promises in the course of their 1747 improvements at the market value, that they do not contemplate using them as public houses, and have put the expenditure or compensation on the rates?
§ *MR. CAINE
I do not approve of their doing anything of the kind, but that is altogether apart from the question. I do not desire to occupy the time of the House. I merely wish to make it clear to the Government that whatever proposal they bring forward for compensating publicans will be resisted by the Temperance Party on this side of the House. There are only two ways in which this question can be approached. Either the publicans are entitled to compensation or not. If anybody contends that they are, it means that they are entitled to the full compensation proposed by the Government two years ago. A compassionate allowance is nonsense. They are entitled either to full compensation or nothing. We say they are entitled to nothing, and we shall oppose compensation from the rates or from any other source.
§ *(12.36.) MR. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
I should like to recommend to the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) an idea which I think has not been put before his mind. It is that the veto ought to be brought down into the smallest possible space. I think it ought to be allowed to the very next neighbour of the publican. We have heard plenty about compensation, but not a word about compensation to those who live on either side of a public house, though their houses are very seriously injured by the public house. In the State of Georgia there is a law in existence by which no publican can obtain a licence without the consent of his 10 nearest neighbours. That law has been in operation for 10 years, and the result is that in only three large cities of the State can any licences be obtained whatever. As we are all great respecters of property, I would suggest 1748 that those whose property is on either side of a public house are just as much entitled to compensation as the publican himself. There is one other idea I should like to bring forward. I heard it from the late Mr. Thomas Knowles, formerly Member for Wigan. He was a man who had a very open mind, and who studied the interests and circumstances of the class from which he had risen. He told me that over again he has seen men come out of the pit after an exhausting period of eight or nine hours' labour and get drunk on a pint; and he was satisfied that if it had been provided that no publican should be allowed to sell liquor unless he also sold food the men would have had something to eat and would have gone home sober. I would recommend the noble Lord to adopt a provision that no person should be allowed to sell liquor unless he also sold food unless he was really a victualler—and that publicans should be compelled to provide larger and better rooms for their customers than they now do. When half a dozen or fewer men are in a room together they are all apt to get drunk; but when 50 are assembled in one room they are all banded together to rid themselves of anyone who becomes a nuisance. I thank the noble Lord for having introduced the subject.
§ (12.42.) MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I do not think I need apologise to the House for saying a few words on this Bill, because a few days ago both English and Scotch Members interfered by their voices and votes in a measure almost of a similar character in which I was interested. I had not the good fortune of being able to listen to the entire speech of the noble Lord, and, therefore, I cannot say whether, when the Bill comes before the House for consideration, I shall support it in all its details or not; but, as far as I have been able to gather from the speech of the noble Lord, there are some principles in it which command my approval and endorsement. First and foremost, I am glad to find that it is proposed to curtail the number of licences, for I have always thought that the unlimited 1749 number of licences has led to many evils, among which the sale of adulterated liquor and illegal trading are not the least. Another principle which I shall support in the Bill is that of local veto. I opposed a short time ago a Local Veto Bill, not because I objected to the principle, but because it was proposed to place a power in the hands of the Magistrates in Ireland, to which I object. But the noble Lord has stated that it is his intention to set up a Local Licensing Authority, and this removes the objection I held in the other case. As to compensation, I am quite in accord with the noble Lord, and the reason why the proposals of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Cockermouth Division of Cumberland have met with no favour in this House is that there has always been attached to them, and to the proposals of his Party, the abiding injustice of spoliation and confiscation. I rejoice that the noble Lord has taken the cause of temperance out of the hands of men who are themselves intemperate, in so far as their principles of legislation on the question are concerned. I am glad to find the noble Lord proposing temperance legislation upon the lines of common-sense and statesmanship, upon lines that will secure him the support of many who have hitherto opposed the efforts of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker-mouth and of the hon. Member for South Tyrone.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir Algernon Borthwick, and Mr. Johnston.
§ Bill presented, and read first time. [Bill 242.]