§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 4.
§ (5.18.) MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
Inasmuch as I shall have another oppor- 1394 tunity of discussing Clause 4, and shall then be able to raise the question whether this shall be a temporary or permanent charge, I do not propose to go on with the Amendment I mentioned yesterday afternoon when the House resumed. I now ask leave to move an Amendment at the end of line 39, after the word "England." The clause, as it at present stands, reads:—The remaining half of the said annual sum shall be distributed by the Police Authorities for the Police Forces in England.I propose to add "other than the City of London." The effect of that will be to distribute the £150,000 a year over the Police Forces in the Kingdom, except that of the City of London. The object I have in view must be apparent to the Government, and I cannot but think that it has been by pure inadvertence that they themselves have not proposed the Amendment.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I am willing to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. STOREY
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider a clause to exempt other large municipalities in the country who have sufficient borough power, who do not want to be brought under the operation of the Bill, and who are willing to forego their share of this money?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOB THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS,) Birmingham, E.
We accept the Amendment, on the ground that last year an Act was passed enabling the City to make satisfactory arrangements for the superannuation of its police. I do not know that other Municipalities are in the same position.
§ (5.21.) MR. STOREY
The right hon. Gentleman is aware that there are other boroughs and districts in the country who have for years proportionately spent quite as much on police superannuation as the City of London. The City of London spends at the present time only £11,818 per annum, but the County of Lancaster spends £14,901; the North Riding of Yorkshire, £10,210; the City of Liverpool, £10,764; and Manchester, £6,405. These districts desire to be free from Government control in this matter. They want to be treated as men, and not as children in leading 1395 strings, and I ask, supposing they are willing to forego their share of this filthy lucre, ought they not to be excluded.
§ (5.23.) MR. MATTHEWS
I am aware of the facts to which the hon. Member refers, but I would be no party to depriving any of these localities of their share of this money.
§ (5.23.) MR. STOREY
The right hon. Gentleman knows that English people get on very much better when left alone.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 39, at the end of the line, to insert the words, "other than the City of London."(Mr. Storey.)
§ (5.24.) Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause 4.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 4, to leave out from the word "so," to end of Clause, and insert the words "distributed and applied shall remain to the credit of the local taxation accounts."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ (5.24.) MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
Supposing the Scotch Police Act fails to pass this year the proportion allocated to Scotland would, I suppose, be sufficient to meet all requirements.
§ (5.25.) MR. STOREY
The clause as it stand enables these municipalities to receive money which has to be distributed and applied to superannuation in accordance with a Bill hereafter to be passed. That Bill may not be passed this Session at all, and I hold that it is improper and unconstitutional to appropriate money in one Act which can only be applied by another that possibly may not be passed until a future Session. It is a pity that a Conservative and Constitutional Party should need to be reminded of the desirability of adhering to constitutional methods by an extreme Radical.
§ (5.26.) Question put, and negatived.1396
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That Clause 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ (5.27.) MR. STOREY
I must oppose this clause, but it is unnecessary for me to repeat the arguments I advanced when attempting to introduce Amendments. I must, however, reassert my position, that if the Government propose a Superannuation Fund, and the division of the money rests with the House, it ought to be allocated according to the size of the Police Forces, and on no other basis whatever. The Home Secretary, the other night, said he based the sub-division of the money of the expenditure at present incurred by the different Police Forces on superannuation. I think I am entitled to press on the Government that this is an extremely illusory and absurd basis, for it amounts to this, that the municipalities who have spent most are to get most. Those who have spent least are to get least. That may be very fair, by way of punishment, but the fact remains that those municipalities who have spent most will have less need to spend in the future, and that those who have spent least, and have the least effectual superannuation, will have more need to spend in the future. It should be distributed over the whole Police Forces of the country, according to the size of each Force. In order to give effect to that view, I shall take the liberty of dividing the Committee against the clause.
§ (5.31.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I think it is the case that too much money is given to the Metropolitan Force. The Home Secretary justifies his position by the argument that the distribution should be according to the expenditure of each Force. I consider that the Metropolitan Police Authorities have been extremely extravagant, and the system of superannuation which they have initiated is extremely extravagant. I have the Report of the Home Secretary, which shows that the present system of superannuation will amount to considerably above £500,000, probably £600,000. Because an extravagant system has been initiated, I do not see that a disproportionate amount should be given to the Metropolitan Police in 1397 order to cover this extravagant super-it annuation system.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Member for Sunderland has confined his observations into a very short space, and I put it to him whether he will not content himself with a protest, and avoid consuming the time which would be occupied in a Division.
§ MR. STOREY
I hare incurred the censure of the right hon. Gentleman in reference to the Savings Bank Bill, and I would not like to fall under his double censure. I have no objection to be content with the protest I have made.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause 5, agreed to.
§ Clauses 6 and 7 omitted.
§ Clause 8.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 5, lines 22 and 23, to leave out the words "if an on-licence."—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. GOSCHEN
As the Government have chosen to omit this clause, it will not be necessary to discuss any Amendment in detail before we move the omission.
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
Notwithstanding that the clause is to be omitted, we wish to go through with our Amendments. I shall move this one, and we shall do what we can to carry it.
§ MR. STOREY
This is a Government clause, but the Government have never had any affection for their own offspring, and they do not wish to press it. But we are too fond of the offspring of the Government to permit them, without considerable debate, to slay their own child. There is no earthly reason why the clause should not be accepted by the great body of the House. If there is any objection at all, it must come from hon. Gentlemen opposite. I venture to assure the right hon. Gentleman that any proposal to withdraw this clause will not save time, but will have the effect of causing prolonged discussion.
§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
It is obviously impossible for the Government 1398 to discuss this Amendment, for the very reason that we are asking the House to omit this clause. What we propose is to accept the Amendment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ SIR W. LAWSON
I beg to move in page 5, line 23, after "granted," to leave out all the words to the end of clause. The House will see that the effect of the Amendment is that all these exceptions shall be left out. I want to leave them out, because I believe that if they are retained things would be left very much as they are now. It would be a valuable clause if these exceptions were left out, and it stood "That there shall be no new licences granted." If the Government accept this, they could put in a proviso that the clause should only be enforced for one year or two years, just as Mr. Bruce did when he brought in his clause. If they accept the Amendment, they would then be able to carry out the clause.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 23, after the word "granted," to leave out all the words to end of clause.—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ *(5.45.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE.) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
The Committee must not be in the slightest doubt as to what the course of the Government is going to be when I say that we shall accept this Amendment, and that upon the clause as amended being put, we shall vote against it. The clause as it originally stood in the Bill, along with other clauses, was fair and proper as part of a series of clauses for dealing with licences. The other clauses have been omitted, and if this clause were now left in, it would not form part of a scheme, and would be isolated, and without anything in the Bill germane to it. The leader of the House some weeks ago stated what was the policy of the Government in respect to this clause. If there had been a disposition on the part of the Committee to accept the clause practically as it stood, even though it was not germane to the Bill, the Government, in face of a strong expression on the part of the House, 1399 would have raised no objection. But instead of the suggestion of my right hon. Gentleman being regarded with favour, and hon. Members doing their best to pass the clause, a considerable number of Amendments have been put upon the Paper.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I do not care; I am not regarding the question as from one side of the House or the other. I want to avoid any discussion of that kind, tempting as it is. I will mention a few of the questions which are dealt with by these Amendments. One class of Amendments has for its object the omission of the whole clause, because it would create a very great monopoly. Another point raised is that an increased duty should be put upon licences. There is another enormously important question—and that is, the repeal of the law with regard to removals. Some desire to do away altogether with the possibility of removing licences from one house to another. That is a very arguable question. Then there is the policy of exceptions to the non-issue of new licences, and again whether the interest in the licence shall be restricted to the owner of the licence. That is a point which has been very fruitful of discussion. Another point raised in these Amendments is that the licence ought to expire with the lease of the house to which the licence is granted. Another point is that licences, if granted at all, ought to be paid for by some money payment to the Local Authority. Yet a further question is the vesting of absolute discretion in the Local Authority to refuse the renewal. Of course, we know there is a contention that the Licensing Authority has that discretion now. I am not going to argue that question at present. Then there is also the whole question of compensation involved in these Amendments on the Paper. There fore, I think the Committee will see that, however desirous the Government might be of proceeding with this clause, with these Amendments on the Paper, there is no hope that the Committee would be unanimous on the subject, and we should inevitably be called upon to discuss all these Amendments, some of them involving very great matters of principle. Under all 1400 these circumstances, the Government have been driven to the conclusion that it would be impossible to ask the Committee to proceed with this clause.
The right hon. Gentleman explained that, in accepting the proposed Amendment, he was not to be understood as accepting the clause. The discussion on the proposed Amendment ought to be confined to the proposed Amendment. The discussion on the general question of the clause will take place when the Motion is put from the Chair, "That this clause stand part of the Bill."
§ SIR W. LAWSON
Certainly, Mr. Courtney; but I was only going to observe that, having accepted my Amendment, all the other Amendments are gone, and there can be no talk about them. I am very pleased with that result, and the clause as it stands is a very good clause, and we shall do our best to carry it.
§ (5.55.) Question put, and negatived.
§ Question proposed, "That Clause 8, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I am greatly obliged to you, Mr. Courtney, for having permitted me to say what I did with regard to the Amendments. I was extremely anxious that the Committee should not be misled. I have stated the reason why we cannot accede to the passage of the clause. The hon. Baronet has said that all the Amendments are disposed of, but I am sure he will understand that the only reason why the clause has been allowed to assume the position in which it is, is that the Government have expressed their intention of opposing the clause, and every one of those gentlemen who have Amendments on the Paper would be entitled to complain that there had been no opportunity to discuss his Amendment if we accepted the clause in its amended form. We now propose to oppose the amended clause.
§ MR. STOREY
We are now in a position to test the bonâ fides of the Government in the matter of temperance. Here is the clause as amended:—"After the passing of this Act a new licence shall not be granted." The Government told us that they were against the present state of things, and that they were extremely anxious to do something for the cause of temperance. I listened 1401 with amazement to the right hon. Gentleman, who said that this clause was an isolated clause. It fulfils a very important function. The Government have told us that they are extremely anxious that the granting of new licences should be curtailed and curbed. Here is a clause which will prevent the granting of any new licences throughout the whole country. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that if he opposes this simple suspensory clause to-night, it will then make it all the more incumbent in the very next year to deal with this whole matter. The clause is an excellent one as it stands. It will need amendment next year. That is the inevitable issue of all clauses and Bills passed in this House. Inasmuch as it is a good clause in itself, I submit that we ought to take the opportunity of voting for it, and thus get the matter out of the way. It will be our duty to show that, at any rate, the Government have not been in earnest in the matter.
§ (6.0.) MR. E. ROBERTSON
My hon. Friend must not be supposed to be speaking the universal sentiment of hon. Members on this side of the House. I am bound to confess that if the Bill had remained in its original state, I should have opposed this clause, and placed an Amendment on the Paper with that object. This clause is now irrelevant to the Bill—so irrelevant that if it had been moved as a new clause, I imagine it would have been altogether out of order. As it stands, the clause is a flat and bare prohibition of the issue of new licences—I will not say naked and brutal—a phrase which has been current in the House during the last two or three days. What is the first and necessary result? It is the creation of a new monopoly. It means an increase of the monopoly value of the licences now in existence. What has been the great difficulty of the House in dealing with this temperance question all along? Has it not been the value vested in existing licences through the restrictions at present in operation? The hon. Baronet the the Member for Cockermouth in his desire to curtail licences has forgotten a great number of very useful things—among them the public interest in this licensing question. It is not in the interests of the country that this enormous endowment should be con- 1402 ferred upon those who own licences. We have had denunciations of the owners of licences, and of those who control the owners of licences. We are told of immense fortunes made by brewers and others who own tied public houses. It is the Temperance Party who, through their ill - considered restrictions, are responsible for these monstrous fortunes. The great question of temperance reform is whether the monopoly value caused by these restrictions is to go into the pockets of the publicans, the brewers, and the distillers; or whether, being public money, because it is a monopoly caused by restrictions, it shall be applied to the public. That is a solution of the question which has been adopted in many of the States of America.
§ MR. STOREY
I refer my hon. Friend to the Reports now before the House.
An hon. MEMBER: What State?
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
The States are so numerous that I did not stay to name them. The high licensing system is one which prevails very largely in the United States. I may inform my hon. Friend that I wrote to the Foreign Office to get the best available information with respect to the system prevailing in the United States; and the right hon. Baronet who represents the Foreign Office in this House most courteously acceded to my request; and the result is, the two Reports which may be seen in the Library. I am not going to discuss the high licensing, but I am certain that the broad result of official opinion in those two Reports is, that high licensing is the best road to temperance, and that it is taking the place of the prohibitory movement. There is a concensus of opinion that it not only promotes temperance in the best way by suppressing the worst class of public houses, but that it preserves to the public that public endowment which is created by restriction. Much as I respect the principle of my hon. Friend the Member for Cockermouth, I will not aid him to bring it about by the wholesale endowment of the very class he denounces. Something has been said about moving the Amendment to facilitate the passage 1403 of the clause. To my mind, the removal of all restrictions from the clause makes it not less, but more objectionable, because it makes the prohibition unlimited, and more peremptory than it was before. Let me say that we, who dare to call ourselves friends of temperance, wish to leave the regulation of the liquor traffic to the people who are affected by it. We want to leave to the community the power of dealing with the liquor traffic in that community. In other words, we are Local Optionists. Where is the Local Option in this clause? It is Imperial prohibition of all licences.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
Well, it is a very good thing; but it is not Local Option. We who have supported the temperance movement are really Local Optionists, and we want to leave the community to deal with this question. Sir, I am constrained much against my will to follow the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board on this occasion in opposition to his own clause.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the existence of the clause. But I shall not quarrel with him for that, and shall assist him in opposing it.
§ *(6.10.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S,)
I think the Division that will take place to-night will clear the air for temperance reformers in this House. We have been considerably mixed of late. I, for one, certainly welcome this Division which will draw a distinction between mere sentiment and active temperance work. Now, I stood by the Licensing Clauses of the Government when it was unpopular to do it. I am not going to run away from them now. I think this is the best clause in the Bill, and I think it is immensely better as amended than it was before. The right hon. Gentleman has got rid of all the difficulties, a list of which he read, by accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cockermouth. The simple issue now before the House is whether new licences are to be granted or not. The hon. Member for Dundee objects to this proposal because it creates a monopoly. The monopoly is created already. There is a ring drawn round the traffic now, and the hon. Baronet says that no more 1404 shall enter that ring. Another mistake the hon. Member fell into was this: He taunted the hon. Baronet with Local Option. But the hon. Baronet has never professed to be a mere Local Optionist. He has merely used Local Option as a means to the end, the prohibition of the traffic. He objects as a prohibitionist to the creation of any further licences. The Government have made up their minds, and I am with them, that you will not be able seriously to diminish this traffic in future without compensation. Now that having been resolved upon by the Party opposite, I put to them this question: If you are going to compensate these traders in future—and I admit it is very hard you should be compelled to do it—why are you creating any more of them? We are told that there are new neighbourhoods, and why should they not have licences? What are the facts relating to new neighbourhoods now? They are places where the people fight against licences being thrust upon them. As a matter of fact, the landowner has power to prevent new licences being granted, and that power has been exercised all over the country. The real fact is, the country is deluged with drink; the liquor shops are everywhere. I shall vote for this clause all the more that it has been amended, and the Division will, at all events, tend to separate the sheep from the goats, and allow the Temperance Party to know who is who, and who are the real temperance reformers.
§ *(6.15.) MR. KELLY (Camberwell,N.)
As I voted against the other licensing clauses of the Bill, I wish to explain why it is that I vote against this one as it now stands. In my judgment, the hon. Member for South Tyrone fell into two strange errors. He said that this clause does not create a monopoly because a monopoly already exists. But what is the value of that monopoly? If you had no further new licences granted, would the hon. Member for a moment suggest that the value of existing licences would not be enormously increased? Where you have a growing population, the demand for drink will become year by year greater; and if the number of houses is restricted, inevitably it must follow that a larger quantity of drink must be consumed in the houses which remain, and that the value of those 1405 houses must thus of necessity be increased year by year. He says that compensation must be given, and he must know that the more licences you grant the more compensation you will have to pay. I decline to accept that view.
§ * MR. KELLY
I say no compensation need be given. Without confiscating the property of the publican, you may avoid, and easily avoid, paying one farthing in money. But then the hon. Member has entirely forgotten what the proposal in Clause 9 was. Clause 9 must be taken with Clause 8, and the object of both was to considerably limit the number of public houses. There can be nothing simpler and bolder than Clause 8 as it now stands. It simply says that new licences shall not be granted. I regret that what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has to-day said was not stated before, namely, that the Government might have persisted in Clause 8, had it not been for the string of Amendments put down to it. Had he said this before, the great bulk of those Amendments would have been withdrawn, and this clause might very well then not have been lost. Not that I believe it would have made much difference with the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth. He has destroyed what I believe would have been a most useful clause, and one which would have done more for the cause of temperance than anything else I am able to suggest. He has emasculated it; and he is prepared, as all temperance leaders are, to accept any amount of responsibility in that direction. I lament to think that he has struck one of the saddest blows at temperance that has been delivered by any man in this House or outside of this House. The prohibition of further public houses, which prevents the extinction of hundreds of houses by way of removals, will do nothing but aggravate —seriously aggravate—the present system, and I do not think any honest, or rather real—for I do not wish to question the sincerity of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth—friend of temperance can vote for the clause, which is not now the clause of the Go- 1406 vernment, but the clause of the hon-Member for Cockermouth.
§ (6.20.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I do not know whether I am an honest and real friend of temperance, only I do not know what my hon. Friend (Mr. Robertson) means by temperance. I heard him with astonishment, because he generally advances logical reasons for the course which he adopts. The monopoly that now exists will not be increased in value by the adoption of this clause. The value of the monopoly will be lessened, because by every new licence you create you increase the amount of compensation. The brother of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian fought out this question in Liverpool many years ago, and my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee perhaps takes the same position as was taken then—that, is free trade in liquor.
§ DR. CLARK
One result of increasing the monopoly would be that you would have an increase of crime, pauperism, and premature death. As a matter of fact, the supply of your houses causes the demand, and hence you have an increase in the traffic, and hence you will have more to pay in compensation for those licences than you would have to pay now. Some of us do not call ourselves temperance men because of the meaning attached to the name. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth is not a temperance man; he is a prohibitionist, and he wishes to obtain prohibition by Local Option, as that is the easiest way to obtain it. I myself think that the only solution of this question is absolute prohibition of the importation, manufacture, or sale of intoxicating drinks. We are told that the public interests are not considered. But that all depends upon what the public interests are. If by a traffic the pauperism, crime, and premature death of the country are increased, then that seriously affects the public interests. Under the high licence system, what would my hon. Friend do with the money that went to the State? Would he use it for the purpose of buying them out?
§ DR. CLARK
If, as in Norway and Sweden, you find that the money so obtained has to be expended in remedying the results of the traffic, then it is a very bad method and a very bad way of raising revenue. I am very sorry that the Government are not going to support the clause, because it will have the effect of creating more licences to be bought out. The clause ought to be tried for one or two years, and I think the probable result would be a diminution of the evils resulting from drink to a degree so convincing as to induce a continuance of the work not only in the direction of issuing no new licences, but in reducing the present number of licences.
§ (6.28.) SIR W. HOULDSWORTH (Manchester, N.W.)
I confess I regret that the Government cannot support the clause as it stands. I quite understand the reasons which induce them to withdraw the clause as it stood, with the many Amendments standing against it on the Paper. I believe some of the Amendments were very good ones, and might have been very well accepted by the Government. Still, there is no doubt they would have drawn the House into a very considerable discussion which at this time of the Session it is almost impossible for the Government to contemplate. But as the clause has been simplified, I really do not see why the Government cannot accept it. It is admitted on all hands that there are too many licences in the country, and surely the simplest way of beginning to reduce them, if we cannot hit on a plan for reducing those in existence, is, at any rate, not to create any more for a time. Now, the principal part of the clause, in addition to that which we are now discussing, was that relating to special cases and new districts. I think that is a very proper subject for consideration, but I do not press the Government on that. All the great majority of the House wishes is to do something to decide the question. We have not decided yet what we are agreed to do. That is precisely what was the position of affairs in 1871, when the House, without a Division, I believe, decided to suspend the creation of new licences for one year, in order that the country and the House might have time to consider the whole question. That is 1408 the position in which we now are. If the Government cannot accept the Amendment as it now stands, I hope that they will accept it with a limitation to one year. I am not surprised at the Government not caring to enter on this burning question; but, still, it must be settled one way or the other. I do hope the Government will consider whether they can accept the Amendment with the limitation I have suggested; if they do not, I shall certainly have to go into the Lobby against them.
§ (6.33.) MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I think that no new licences should be granted. The only argument advanced against the retention of this clause seems to be that the refusal to grant new licences will create a greater monopoly in the liquor trade than at present exists. But I hold that the larger the number of houses licensed for the sale of drinks the greater is the amount of intoxicating liquor consumed. We are not, however, discussing that point this afternoon. Never, I think, have any Government made such propositions with reference to compensation as were made by this Government at the beginning of the Session. I contend that if we agreed to the retention of this clause less compensation would have been paid than if the clause were rejected. Whatever may be the monopoly, there is no doubt that there would be a larger demand for compensation for four houses than if there were only three. We on this side of the House desire to retain this clause. We believe it will be a step towards a diminution in the consumption of intoxicating liquors. We do not believe that this increased monopoly will really entail a larger amount of compensation, because, when the question of compensation comes to be argued, the question will turn upon the amount of profits made.
§ (6.36.) MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
I have taken a somewhat prominent part in advocating the retention of these licensing clauses, and I hope that the Government will leave this an open question, for there are many of their supporters who would like to see this clause retained, and who would very much regret having to vote against them.
§ (6.37.) MR. COGHILL (Newcastle-under-Lyne)
There are many hon. 1409 Members on this side of the House who are in favour of the retention of the clause, and who will be obliged to vote against the Government if they persist in seeking to omit it.
§ (6.38.) CAPTAIN BOWLES (Middlesex, Enfield)
No doubt those who are in favour of prohibition would like to see this clause retained in the Bill. Many hon. Members are in favour of dealing with this licensing question by means of Local Option; but if the Government retain this clause in the Bill, they will be practically shutting the door to trusting localities in this matter hereafter. I think each locality might be left very well to decide for itself what public houses shall be retained in its midst. There is one important point which seems to be overlooked, and that is that there are many brewing firms who have nearly a monopoly of public houses in given districts; and I cannot help thinking that if this clause were passed, the result would be to secure their monopoly, and they would thereupon treat the public to inferior drinks. Some hon. Members laugh at that suggestion, but bad as good beer may be, bad beer is a great deal worse. With these few remarks I will conclude by expressing the hope that the Government will persist in their proposal to withdraw the clause.
§ *(6.40.) MR. J.C. STEVENSON (South Shields)
No one, I think, will venture to say that our present licensing system is satisfactory; and any proposal to arrest the system of a single year in order to clear the way for a new departure should, I think, be heartily welcomed. I fail to see why the Government should not for a single year suspend the system, and next year endeavour to deal with this most difficult question in the way in which it should be dealt with. The clause as it originally stood in the Bill, while permitting new licences in certain circumstances did not provide that the additional value given to the premises by such licences should be the property of the public, but created new interests in private hands.
§ *(6.42.) MR. LENG (Dundee)
I had not the advantage of hearing the reasons adduced in support of the Motion by my hon. Colleague the senior Member for Dundee on this 1410 clause; but, regarding it as a practical question, it appears to me it is most desirable that we should avail ourselves of the opportunity this proposal of the Government gives us to put a check on the means for the sale of drink. I have no doubt that before this clause was proposed by the Government it was very carefully considered, and it appears to me that the reasons which then existed for its introduction in the Bill must remain as valid now as then. If anything could have induced me— and at one time I wavered in my mind as to the course I ought to take—to have supported the Compensation Clauses in Bill, it was this suspension clause. It seemed to me that to impose a limitation upon the continual growth of public houses was a most desirable object; that it was the one bright spot in the Bill which counterbalanced its faults. I still think it is most desirable the Bill should contain some such enactment Let us try and adopt the view of the hon. Baronet opposite, and, at all events, let us endeavour for one year—and after the excitement of the last few weeks we need a little time for reflection—to see what would be the effect of suspending the issue of new licences. If we only make that experiment for one year, it will give us time to formulate our views with regard to the legislation of the future. I shall, under these circumstances, vote for the retention of this clause in the Bill.
§ (6.45.) MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I wish to join in the appeal to the Government to retain this clause. I have consistently supported them throughout the Session in all the important Divisions. I trust that the Amendment proposed by the hon. Baronet on this side will be accepted, and that the Government will see their way to retain the clause in the Bill, and thus avoid the painful necessity which would be thrown upon some of us of voting against our Party.
§ *(6.46.) MR. RITCHIE
Some weighty reasons have been given by my hon. Friends in favour of the clause, but the reasons which prevent the Government from accepting their advice are of considerably greater weight. I do not think I was bound to put a notice on the Paper, because some days ago I gave full and adequate notice that I should move the omission of the clause. The Govern- 1411 ment have accepted certain Amendments, and the consequence is that the proposal now before the House has assumed an extremely simple form, but it might be argued that it is an extremely objectionable form. If the clause were retained, it would prevent the issue of any new licence for an hotel or any other place, though absolutely wanted; it would prevent the granting of a licence on removal, and no renewal of an old licence could be given. Therefore, the Government cannot possibly assent to the clause. To accept it would be a gross breach of faith. In consequence of the position which the Government have taken up, many hon. Gentlemen have been prevented from moving Amendments, and, therefore, if the Government accept this amended clause, it would be a breach of faith. It has been suggested that we should accept the Bill for one year, but it is impossible for the Government to hold out any expectation, as has been suggested, that they will legislate on the subject next Session. They will have much to do next Session, but among their measures they do not include the re-arrangement of the licensing system. It will, therefore, be impossible for them to accept the proposal to confine the operation of the Bill to one year. I very much regret that in this matter we cannot have the support of some of my hon. Friends behind me, but we must adhere to our proposals.
§ (6.49. MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I have heard with great regret the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think it lay with the Government, after having consented to Amendments, to say that they could not accept the clause without being guilty of a breach of faith. The better course would be for the Government to say what modifications they think will be absolutely essential for the proper working of the clause, and allow the House to consider it in that form. I hope that even now the Government will agree to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester. It is quite within the power of the Government to introduce modifications, and I think that the House is so anxious to deal with the question in an effective way that it will be willing to accept less for the sake of getting an improved plan. It has been suggested that the value of existing licensed houses will be increased if 1412 no new licenses are granted; but I think that that argument is outweighed by the consideration that if new licences are granted, you create new vested interests. I think the Government will be acting in accord with the feelings of many of their own supporters if they retain the clause and introduce necessary Amendments on the Report stage.
§ (6.53.) MR. CORNWALLIS (Maidstone)
I deeply regret the proposal of the Government to withdraw the clause. I fully appreciate their efforts in the cause of temperance, but cannot support the amended clause in its present crude form. I hope that even now it is not too late for the Government to show the Committee the way out of the difficulty, so as not to leave this pressing question open any longer. The Government have shown, by bringing in the Bill, that they know the evils arising from the liquor traffic, and the time is now near when there must be some restriction on the issue of new licences. It is on that account that I wish to see the Government do something to accomplish the object which so many have in view.
§ (6.54.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 128; Noes 157.—(Div. List, No. 216.)
§ Clause 9 omitted.
§ Clause 10 omitted.
§ Clause 11 agreed to.
§ Clause 12 omitted.
§ Clause 13.
Amendment proposed, in page 8, line 3, to leave out from beginning of line, to end of line 11, page 9, and insert—
The expressions 'burgh,' 'police burgh,' and 'police commissioners,' have respectively the same meaning as in 'The Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1889.'"—(Mr. Ritchie.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 14 agreed to.
§ Preamble agreed to.
§ Bill reported as amended.
§ Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be considered to-morrow."— (Mr. Ritchie.)
§ (7.10.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
It is necessary that we should have the Bill reprinted in its amended form in order 1413 that we may give notice of Amendments, if necessary, on the report stage. I would ask that the consideration of the Bill be set down for Monday, for we do not now know what we are dealing with; nobody knows exactly what the Bill is in its present shape.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
The hon. Gentleman must be aware that this was the subject of a question and answer earlier in the evening, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was appealed to last evening to fix Report stage for to-morrow in the event of Committee being finished early this evening. We have undertaken that the Bill shall be reprinted and in the hands of Members to-morrow, and I should be breaking faith with hon. Members if I did not set it down for to-morrow.
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
I think hon. Members are well aware of the position of the Bill as it stands, and it is perfectly in the power of hon. Members to put Amendments on the Paper this evening without having the reprinted Bill. I am under engagement to take the Report stage to-morrow.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill to be considered to-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 404.]