§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1.
In page 1, line 17, to leave out Sub-section (ii.), in order to insert the words: "(ii.) The sum of three hundred and fifty thousand pounds shall he applied in England for the purpose of agricultural, commercial, and technical instruction, as defined in Section eight of 'The Technical Instruction Act, 1889,' and in Was either for the said purpose or for the purposes defined in Section seventeen of 'The Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889.'"—(Mr. Arthur Acland.)
Question again proposed,
That the words '(ii.) The Bum of three hundred and fifty thousand pounds shall be applied for such extinction of licences in England' stand part of the Clause.
§ (5.54.) SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
The principle involved in this sub-section is the most important principle in the Bill, and the one which hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House mean to fight most determinedly. We maintain that it is not the business of the Government to give special facilities for promoting the consumption of strong drink. I think I am quite in order in quoting on this matter a few words written by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to the Rev. Peter Thompson, on the 14th of. May, 1890, when he said—May I ask you also to believe that whether our proposals are good or bad they have been made solely with the view of showing our sympathy with the temperance movement and of taking some steps towards remedying the evils of which you speak.The Government have said over and over again during the last few weeks that this Bill has been brought in on temperance principles, therefore we must discuss it on temperance grounds. Often and often, in addressing public meetings on the question of the drink traffic, have I quoted the language used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian, when he said in this. House that drinking brought upon this country the accumulated evils of war, pestilence, and famine; and I think that if anything can justify such strong language it must be that which the right hon. Gentleman so strikingly described. Now, Sir, if I believed that the Bill brought in by the Government would diminish the amount of drink in this country no one would support it more strongly than myself. No one would more arduously support such a measure, whether brought in by a Tory Government or a Government composed of Members sitting on this side of the House, and I may add that I would gladly stump the country in favour of such a measure. After all, Sir, we do not discuss this question as a matter of pains and penalties; we discuss it because we regard the drinking system, promoted by the existing licensing law as a serious national evil. We say it is not 741 the business of the Government to give special facilities of consumption of strong drink. The late Sir Wm. Gull said that strong drink was the most destructive agent in this country, and we who object to the traffic in strong drink know that wherever that traffic is done away with you have all the benefits that could be wished by those who advocate sobriety and good order. In Liverpool, and in some other parts of the country, there are districts in which this drink traffic is not allowed, and I am informed that those districts are most popular as affording residences for the working classes. Wherever you do away with the drink shops you have peace and order and sobriety. I remember, however, that the gallant General who commanded the Red River Expedition, related an anecdote of a soldier who was asked whether he was not more healthy and happy without the drink. The man replied that he was a good deal more healthy, but he did not know that he was more happy. There can, however, be no doubt that if we would only get rid of this traffic in drink the general health and happiness of the people would be greatly promoted. Parliament has already admitted that we have a right to let the people decide whether they should allow this system to continue. I was reading the other day that there were certain districts in Africa in which no drink traffic was allowed, and they were called "uncontaminated zones." I think that that is a very good expression; and what we want in this country is that those who desire it should have uncontaminated zones. It will be remembered that, on the 27th April, 1883, the House, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Barrow, passed a Resolution declaring that the best interests of the nation urgently required some efficient legislation, by which, in accordance with a Resolution already passed and reaffirmed by the House, the legal power of restraining the issue and renewal of licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors shall be vested in those who are most deeply interested in that question. But although that Resolution was agreed to by this House nothing has been done in reference to it. We know that a certain place is said to be paved with good resolutions, but although, during the seven years that have elapsed since that 742 resolution was passed, we have had both Liberal and Tory Governments in power, neither of them has done anything to give effect to that Resolution. When the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board brought in his Local Government Bill he told us the Government had resolved to deal with the licensing question. I well remember the speech he made on that occasion. He stated that there was a prevalent opinion in the country that some reform was necessary in reference to this question, and I am willing to admit that the right hon. Gentleman then had in view the desirability of carrying out the principle of the Resolution I have just referred to. He did not do it in the way I thought best, but in the most imperfect and unsatisfactory manner. Still, it was an admission that the people ought to be represented and to have the power over those licences. I would point out that if you pass this Bill as it stands, and give this money over to the County Councils, almost every election will turn on the question whether it is to be expended on the brewers or not, and you will have all the evils of that mixing up of Local Government with the drink question, which you wisely said was the great difficulty to contend with when you first approached the question. We had a Division on the question whether the Councils should have this power, and the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman who had brought in the Bill voted themselves against it. The reason was, that they could not get compensation. That was the point. And here I may say that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side are more consistent in this matter than they have been in some others. Lord Salisbury, in his celebrated Newport speech, went at length into his views as to how this drink business should be dealt with. First of all, he laid down a general principle. He explained that unlimited facility for drinking beer was a doctrine which lay at the root of all liberty; and that if it were sacrificed, we should find very soon that other matters would be sacrificed also, and that those doctrines of civil and religious liberty for which our fathers fought so hard and did so much to establish, would be frittered away. No doubt the noble Lord meant that we should lose the opportunity of getting 743 beer. As for civil and religious liberty, it was once said, "Oh, Liberty, what crimes have been committed in your name!" I think we might say in more colloquial fashion, "Oh, Liberty, what bosh has been talked in your name!" The noble Lord went on to say that the Local Authorities would be good authorities to manage the licensing question, because he believed the terror of having to provide fair compensation would furnish no inconsiderable motive to induce them to observe a wise and cautious moderation in the exercise of their important duties. What the noble Lord meant was that the Local Authorities should have nominal power to protect themselves; that they should be weighed down with impossible conditions, and prevented from exercising their powers by the fear that their constituents would be offended if they did what was right. On this principle, no doubt, the Bill of 1888 was framed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Ritchie). The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do how this Bill was condemned in the country. He remembers the meetings, and he remembers the resolutions and letters which Members, and I believe he himself, got, telling them the licensing clauses ought not be proceeded with. The consequence was those clauses were withdrawn. Well do I remember the afternoon when the right hon. Gentleman came down to withdraw them. I listened very attentively to him. I noticed that not a word of repentance fell from his lips. He did not say he disapproved of the principle he was abondoning. Since then I have often been blamed for what I have said about the Government, and my reply has always been—"The Government are still lying in wait like a band of robbers to tax the people and give the proceeds of the tax to the brewers." I do not say the publican, because he is pretty much a slave and a bondsman to the big brewer. It is the big brewer who is at the bottom of all this business, and whose interests the Government are looking after. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when making his Budget Speech, announced to the astonished world the scheme now embodied in this Bill. "I will mention a process which will give much compensation and conciliation to the brewer." There was a question 744 placed on the Paper to-day by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Somers.) From that question it appears that there are in the town of Burnley 177 public houses, and that of these 165 are tied houses, leaving only 12 free houses in the whole of the town. This shows where the money is going. Do not let us hear any more about the poor publican with a wife and 13 children. It is the big brewer rolling in wealth whom the right Gentleman seeks to benefit by this Bill. A pamphlet was written four or five years called Temperance Legislation and Licensing Reform. The author was Mr. James, a member of the Executive Council of the Licensed Victuallers' Defence League, and he said that one of the most grinding, tyrannical, and demoralising systems that ever existed in this country was the bound house system. It is for the brewers, some with scores, and some of them with almost hundreds of houses, that the right hon. Gentleman comes down and asks the House of Commons to vote money. When the people of this country understand this Bill, I think they will be most extraordinary people if they submit to what is going on. The worst houses are to be bought out first—the unnecessary houses, as they are called. You are asking the public to give money for what is unnecessary. Could there be anything more shocking than that? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was quite right when he called this a Publicans' Endowment Bill; but I think he would have been more correct if he had called it a Brewers' Endowment Bill. No wonder the brewers are alarmed. Small blame to them that they are. I went to a meeting last night, and there I found a brewer's agent, who had been sent down to fight against our resolution against the Bill. I will tell the Committee how the thing is being worked. I have here a circular which I obtained this very afternoon. It is marked "strictly private," and "not for publication." It is sent out by the Licensed Victuallers' Defence League of England and Wales, and in smaller letters it is stated that this League is "acting in concert with the Central Brewers' Protection Society." I will read a few choice bits. The circular stated 745 that all public meetings might be attended by members of the public, and went on to say—As soon as it is ascertained that a public meeting is to be called it is desirable that arrangements should be made, if necessary by a paid man, who can easily be obtained for a few pounds, and every licensed victualler in the district should be strongly urged to attend the meeting with his family and his friends, and any persons who can be spared from his establishment.The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) is well aware that that means the "chuckers out." The publican and his wife and 13 children and barmaids and chuckers out are to go to these meetings and support resolutions which are to be sent to the right hon. Gentleman. How pleased the right hon. Gentleman will be when he gets them, and how he will rejoice in having the voice of the people on his side. We all know how the other night he got a telegram from Glasgow, and how he waived it aloft and said, "The people are with me." Twelve publicans in a bar parlour! It is very strange to see how misunderstood the Government is. Being great temperance reformers, they bring in a Bill solely in the interests of temperance. They stump the country with the object of promoting sobriety; they come down to the House every night and declare that their sole object is the promotion of temperance; and yet the only people they can get to support them are the brewers and their families and chuckers out. It is very curious, but I have no doubt they feel proud of their supporters. I remember that when Lord Folkestone stood for one of the divisions of Middlesex a large placard was issued in his favour. The words it contained were, "Vote for Folkestone and Religion." It happened that the placard was put up in front of a great public-house, and on a board upon which the ales sold in the house were advertised. The placard did not come down quite to the bottom of the board, and one line of the advertisement on the board was visible. The result was that the placard appeared to read, "Vote for Folkestone and Religion. Warranted pure by the Brewers." No doubt the brewers are very good men, but I do not see why they should be endowed with public money. Surely the taxes we raise from the poor people of this country—the taxes which are 746 produced by the labour of this country—are intended for something else than to secure and consolidate what Mr. Justice Grantham called "the unholy profits of this trade." It is really a little too strong for the Government to tell us that they are doing this in the interests of temperance. They have no sense of humour. Do they believe that all these drink traffickers, these brewers, these chuckers out are realty working in the interests of temperance? Do they think, also, that their fellow-countrymen, who for a generation past have been giving their lives to the promotion of temperance among the people, are all either knaves or fools, and that those who started as temperance reformers six weeks ago are the only persons who know how to promote temperance? Are the religious communities of the country to be ignored? Perhaps the Government holds with the Times on this question. The Times said about 10 days ago—This question is eminently one to be determined by the judgment of Parliament, and not by the passionate declamation of religious bodies and temperance associations.That is rather an extraordinary statement to be made towards the end of this nineteenth Christian century, in a country which spends millions of money in the endowment of religion, and to a House of Commons which very properly opens with prayer every day. Are people's opinions to be ignored because they are religious? That is the view of the Times, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will state whether it is his view also. I will go further, and ask, "Are the electors of this country to be altogether ignored?" The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (Marquess of Hartington) made a speech yesterday at a meeting of the Women's Liberal Unionist Association, and he said—Those who have succeeded in raising this agitation appear to me to have elicited a far stronger and more pronounced opinion on the part of a very large body of electors in the country than it has ever been in the power of the Home Rule party to do.The Home Rule Party may not be strong; but if we are stronger than the Unionists on this question it shows what a hold the question has taken upon the people of the country, and how dangerous it would be to ignore the feeling against this Bill. The secret of the whole thing is that the Government dare not throw the brewer 747 over. They have thrown in their lot with the brewer. So be it. I shall say when the end comes, "Your blood be on your own heads." I will conclude my speech by reading a passage from a much better speech than I ever made—a capital speech, to which I would respectfully call the attention of the Committee, and to which I hope the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale will listen with great attention. It was a speech delivered in May, 1888, at a great meeting, over which I myself presided, so that I know the quotation to be accurate. The meeting was held to denounce the propositions of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) as regards compensation in the Local Government Bill of that year, and the speech was made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). I would ask the Committee to remember that the proposition we have before us now is virtually and substantially the same as that made in 1888. My hon. Friend said—I think that this is the most wicked proposal ever made by any Government.Now, I want the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale to listen to this—I want Lord Hartington to face this position, because he is the most potent factor we can have in all questions, and that is the reason I am making my appeal in all candour and honesty. I want him to understand that this means the placing on the ratepayers of England a burden equal to one-fourth of the National Debt. That is a terrific responsibility for the Party leaders to take upon their shoulders, and I shall be no party to it. I wash my hands—I have heard of somebody else washing his hands—I wash my hands here to-night of the whole transactions, and when the measure comes on again after Whitsuntide there is one thing which must be understood plainly. This is not a question for the Closure—I am now speaking of another Party leader—this is not a question on which Mr. Smith is to sit 'on the fence.' This is one of the greatest issues of the century, and it will have to be deliberately, carefully, and thoughtfully fought, and any attempt in Parliament to stifle the fullest discussion on this momentous question cannot be tolerated. I have spoken as my heart has prompted me.To-night, perhaps, he will speak as his head prompts him.I shall do my best to convince individual members of the Unionist Party, and what I warn them of is this, that if these infamous clauses are allowed to pass they are simply, instead of settling this question, giving it a chance of being settled, starting an agitation 748 which will convulse everything else, and will make it impossible for the people of England to attend to ordinary politics.Mr. Courtney, I have kept the Committee too long. [Cries of "Go on."] No, I am not going on, because I cannot improve upon that speech. I trust that speech will be published and spread broadcast throughout the country. I trust it will be read by thousands, and that it will encourage many who are true opponents of the liquor traffic to fight with renewed vigour for the ultimate* overthrow of the evil system which this Government are now endeavouring to introduce among us, and which, I believe, when the people of this country understand they will visit with a reprobation which has scarcely been equalled.
§ (6.26.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
I am sure that whatever others may do I shall not blame the hon. Baronet for his intervention at this stage of the proceedings, or for the length of his speech. I acknowledge that this Amendment is directed at the very root of the proposal to which the hon. Member objects. I am perfectly prepared to accept the hon. Baronet's estimate of himself, and to recognise that he is an extremely good man.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I think the hon. Baronet said that as people called him an extreme man he was not ashamed of accepting the term; that he thought it a very good thing to be extreme, and, for instance, he thought it a good thing to be an extremely good man. I am quite prepared to accept that, and to admit that the hon. Baronet has done much in the course of his life for the promotion of temperance. I am also prepared to admit that nothing which we are doing can at all compare with the efforts the hon. Baronet and his friends have made in the cause of temperance. But I rather take exception to the hon. Baronet's description of our proposal as the great plan of the Government for promoting temperance. We have never contended that this proposal could be considered in any proper sense as a proposal for the complete settlement of the question. What we have contended is that it is a 749 step in the direction of temperance. Notwithstanding all the hon. Baronet has said as to the pressure from brewers and publicans, who, he asserts, are behind us, I maintain that the only object that the Government have in making these proposals is to take a step in the direction of temperance, and to endeavour, to some extent, to meet the demands which have been made by the Temperance Party for a reduction of the opportunities which are afforded to people of becoming intemperate. If it is any satisfaction to the hon. Baronet I can assure him that the great pressure he referred to as having come from the publicans and brewers has been utterly and completely non-existent. The Government never received from either the publican quarter or the brewing quarter the slightest hint that any proposal such as this brought forward by the Government was desired by their trade; and if the Government have gone wrong on this question, as no doubt the hon. Baronet thinks they have, they must take upon themselves the sole and complete responsibility for having done so, without pressure either from the publicans and brewers on the one hand, or the Temperance Party on the other. The attention of the Government had been forcibly drawn to the large increase in the consumption of drink, and we felt that it was legitimate to obtain some contribution from that source which would assist the constituted authorities in dealing, even in a small degree, with the great question which the hon. Baronet has so much at heart. The hon. Baronet charged the Government with promoting the sale and consumption of strong liquor. Surely that is an unjustifiable assertion.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
My impression is that my remarks referred to all Governments, and not only to the present Government.
§ MR. RITCHIE
The hon. Baronet, speaking of the introduction of these licensing clauses, said "It is not the duty of the Government to promote the sale and consumption of strong drink."
§ MR. RITCHIE
In connection with this proposal he evidently believes that to increase the duty on strong drink tends to promote its sale and consump- 750 tion? We will go through one or two of the proposals in the Bill, and I ask, first of all, Does the hon. Baronet believe that an increased duty on strong drink tends to promote the sale and consumption of such commodity? One of the proposals of the Government is to increase the duty, and I understand that it is an axiom that an increase of duty does not promote but restricts the consumption, and that, in point of fact, when a Chancellor of the Exchequer has to consider the question of the increase of a duty, one of the most important considerations present to his mind is whether or not that increase will, by diminishing the consumption, defeat the end he has in view. So that I think the hon. Baronet will hardly be prepared to maintain his assertion that, so far as this proposal of the Bill of the Government is concerned, we are doing something to promote the sale and consumption of strong drink. I think he will, on the contrary, acknowledge that, so far as it goes, it is a restriction on the consumption.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Exactly, but I have reminded the Committee of what he did say. I say that one of our proposals is to increase the duty on drink, and that so far from promoting the sale of drink by that means we restrict it. Does the hon. Baronet contend that to prevent the increase in the number of houses for the sale of drink promotes the consumption of drink? If so, he differs very largely from the great body of temperance workers, who have always contended that drunkenness and the consumption of drink are increased by the number of opportunities given for it. When the Government say that there shall be no new licences except under rigorous restrictions, surely the hon. Baronet will acknowledge that the Government are taking a step in the direction of temperance, and not in that of promoting the consumption of drink. Then, again, whatever the merits or demerits of the Government proposal may be, licences are to be purchased for the purpose of extinguishing them, and the money used in the way in which the Government intend to appropriate it, will also diminish the number of opportunities for the sale and consumption of 751 drink. So that there is not one of our proposals which is open to the accusations of the hon. Baronet; on the contrary, I maintain that they have the merit of being distinctly in the direction of decreasing the sale and consumption of drink. The hon. Baronet has said something about public opinion, and he ask me whether we are prepared to set at naught public opinion, temperance opinion, and religious opinion? For my own part, I am the last person to attempt to disregard an expression of public opinion. I consider that any one who has to take a part in the Government of a country is blind unless he endeavours to recognise what is the public opinion, and to take account of it. But it does not follow that a Government is always bound to act according to hastily expressed public opinion. Unquestionably no Government can shut their eyes to the current of public opinion; if they do so, they are guilty of folly. I hope that the hon. Baronet does not imagine because there has been a very considerable demonstration in Hyde Park—why, I myself demonstrated there—and because the whole of the very powerful organisation of the Temperance Association with which the hon. Baronet is connected has been put in motion, and many resolutions have been passed, that therefore the Government are bound to recognise that as the expression of the opinion of the majority of the public, especially having regard to the fact that there is abundant evidence to show that resolutions passed at many of these meetings entirely and absolutely misconceive not only the object but the actual proposals of the Government. I should like to know how many men, women, or children who have attended these meetings know anything about these proposals, or have ever seen them. I am certain of this, at least, that in a very large number of instances the proposals have been entirely misunderstood. There is one thing which the hon. Baronet and his friends have recognised in connection with this, and which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has also recognised and acted upon, and that is this, that it is not advisable to enter into full details of all the proposals of the Government; that half the battle is won if you only give the proposals a bad name. And so 752 at various meetings our Bill has been called a Public House Endowment Bill. Any name more inappropriate could not be given to the proposals of the Government, but it is quite sufficient for those who attended the Hyde Park meeting, and spoke from platforms, to call this Bill a Public House Endowment Bill; they do not want to know anything more about it. The Government proposal cannot in justice be designated by that name. What is it the Government propose? Why, that out of money which would not be raised at all if not raised for this purpose—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because we could not have made the proposal. I imagine right hon. Gentlemen will not assert that it is the duty of the Government to raise money which they do not require. [Sir W. HARCOURT: The Wheel and Van Tax.] What has the Wheel and Van Tax to do with it? The right hon. Gentleman must not throw a red herring across my path. Money is wanted for a specific purpose, and that money must be raised. I assert that this £400,000 or £500,000, or whatever the amount may be, would not have been raised except for this purpose. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman may think about it, we assert that our proposals are that out of money raised from drink by increased taxation, we empower bodies elected by the free votes of the people, whether as Town Councillors or County Councillors, to do that which they have been in the habit of doing out of the public rates for public improvements, that is to say, to buy up public houses. What public improvement could be, from the hon. Baronet's point of view, a greater improvement? This is called a Publicans' Endowment Bill. Surely, if it can be so called, the fund must be one out of which those who are to be endowed have a right to have payments made to them. ["Oh!"] Well, I do not know what endowment means if that is not so. There is not a single publican or brewer or distiller in this land who can compel the County Councils to spend one penny of this money upon any one of the houses in which he is interested. This money is placed in the hands of a popularly elected body, who may use it or not, exactly as they please. It has been again and again asserted that by this Bill we enable a publican to be paid for 753 his house any sum he may demand. Anything more absurd than that could not be conceived. The publican has no claim at all. If he is paid any sum of money it will be only that sum which a popularly elected body chooses to give him. How can that be called endowment? I heard someone one say sotto voce "increase of value." [Mr. MUNDELLA: Hear, hear.] The Member for Sheffield says that. Let us examine that for a moment. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to have nothing to do with any proposal for closing public houses because it would increase the value of those which are retained? [Mr. MUNDELLA: No.] No? So far as regards the public houses that remain, it does not matter one jot by what process the increase of value is caused. It does not matter whether the increase of value is caused by the sweeping away of licences or by any other cause. Is the question of increase of value to be a bar to taking any step in the direction of diminishing the number of public houses? Now, I wish to say something upon the question of public opinion. The Government recognise the importance of gauging public opinion on a matter of this kind. The hon. Baronet spoke of religious communities and their opinion. Well, with the exception of some isolated branches, the position which the executive of the Church of England Temperance Society took up has been supported by an immense majority of the Society. Then, with regard to Dissenting communities, I am constantly receiving communications from distinguished members of those bodies showing that there is a very large body of opinion amongst them adverse to the position taken up by the hon. Baronet and his friends.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I did not intend to do so; but I will trouble the Committee by giving names. Last night I received a letter from a gentleman, with whom I am not personally acquainted, but who has been very prominent in the promotion of a great many very good and philanthropic movements—Sir George Hayter Chubb. [Opposition laughter.] Well, I understand that Sir George Hayter Chubb is a very prominent member of the Dissenting community. He writes to me— 754Dear Sir,—You may possibly have seen in the Times of the 2nd instant a short letter from me stating that a paragraph which appeared on May 30th was incorrect, and that the Wesleyan Methodist Committee of Privileges was not unanimous in its vote to oppose the Government Licensing Bill. It is right that you should know I have since found that other members of the Committee who were not present when the vote was taken are in favour of the Government proposal. I have also received letters from Wesleyan Methodists holding the same view as myself, and in particular one from Mr. B. W. Fayle, of Syngefeild, Parsonstown, Ireland, from which the following is an extract, which, with Mr. Fayle's consent, may he made public, should you so desire: 'I am a Methodist of the third generation, and a local preacher of 50 years standing. I am also a County Magistrate, and a Licensing Justice, and I have to deal with that question very extensively; at least 100 cases come under my review in the year. I have to adjudicate very often in matters of the violation of the Licensing Laws, and I fearlessly assert that a more equitable or far-reaching piece of legislation was never proposed; and if the Government are inclined to withdraw the measure, it will be the greatest blow the temperance cause ever got, and it will heap the greatest condemnation on those people who oppose the measure; and if it is withdrawn, I feel assured that men will have hoary heads before such another measure will be introduced. It is an entire mis-apprehension to suppose a Justice has the power of withholding the renewal of a licence except on statutory grounds. The present Pill gives the. Local Authority power to close a public house by giving the publican compensation, not 1d. of which comes out of the pocket of the taxpayer outside the trade, the 6d. per gallon on whisky, and 3d. per barrel on beer furnishes the fund, and thus the trade itself bears the burden. The abolishing of the issue of new licences will at once act. If this measure becomes law I shall set myself to the task of withdrawing licences in objectionable places in this neighbourhood. Assuring you that I shall be happy to be of any further service in the matter,I am,Yours very faithfully,GEORGE HAYTER CHUBB.[Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Sir George Hayter Chubb is a very distinguished member of the Wesleyan Methodist Body, and although he may be wrong, as hon. Gentlemen think the Government are wrong, on this question, his opinion is at least worth quoting. [Mr. CONYBEAR: Only one man.] But what I am pointing out is that the meeting at which this resolution against the Government proposals was passed was by no moans unanimous.
§ MR. RITCHIE
He says—It is right that you should know I have since found that other members of that Committee who were not present when the vote was taken are in favour of the Government proposal.What I said was that he not only expressed his own opinion, but asserted he expressed the opinion of other members of the Governing Body. I have several others here. [Cries of "Read."] I do not feel myself justified in taking up the time of the Committee. I hope they will take my word that I have several other letters. Well, so far as public opinion is concerned, public opinion is not always expressed in one way on this matter. Often meetings called for the purpose of condemning the Government have ended in blessing them. ["Name."] A meeting of the members of the Cardiff Town Council was called for the purpose of expressing their opinion upon the licensing proposals of the Government, and by a majority of 18 to nine they expressed their approval of the proposals. There was an open air meeting in Barnsley, in which the proposals of the Government were enthusiastically supported, and I have had sent me the Derby Telegraph. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby recognise the name? [Sir W. HAROOURT: Yes.] He will admit, I suppose, that that paper supports the Party to which he belongs. On the 16th of May the Derby Telegraph published' an article on this subject in which they said—And with regard to Mr. Ritchie's proposals we feel ourselves constrained to admit that they meet a difficult subject in a broad and common-sense method. We believe we are far more sincere in our desire to see the Government turned out than Mr. Caine is, but we do not expect to hear them ordered to quit over their compensation scheme, To be perfectly candid, we have no desire to see their expulsion in connection with a legislative scheme, which, all things considered, we believe to be equitable. May we go further and humbly express the opinion that Mr. Caine will find a very great section of the Liberal Party holding the same opinion.There, I am glad I have at last arrived at an authority the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby will recognise. I have also the report of a meeting at Gateshead, called and presided over by the Mayor for the purpose of denouncing the Government proposals, and the 756 Mayor, on a show of hands, was con strained to admit that opinion was equally divided. There was a temperance meeting at Birkenhead for the same purpose, at which an amendment was carried by a majority. At Liverpool the Government licensing scheme was endorsed at a large temperance meeting. At many other places temperance meetings called to denounce the Government measure have carried resolutions by large majorities supporting the proposals of the Bill. This shows at least that public opinion is not all one way. [An hon. MEMBER: How many cases?] I have given several instances as illustrations. I think I need not go back upon the list.
§ MR. CAINE (Barrow-in-Furness)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he knows of a dozen cases?
§ MR. RITCHIE
These things are not all brought before me, though certainly I have a very much larger number of them than I have brought with me. I have only taken the most striking illustrations. The hon. Baronet (Sir W. Lawson) said a good deal about our proposals in the Local Government Bill of 1888, and he referred to a speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) upon that Bill, contrasting that with the views no w expressed by the hon. Member. I should have imagined this is an argument in favour of the present proposals. It is only fair to argue that if the hon. Member saw in our proposals now the principle he denounced in 1888, he would have acted in the same way now as then. But, far from that, the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who has been a great worker in the cause of temperance, has expressed his approval of those proposals, believing that they are a distinct and memorable step in the direction in which he desires to go forward. I can, of course, understand opposition to the Bill coming from quarters which will only be satisfied by the complete sweeping away of all public houses as a remedy for the evils we all recognise. The more I see of the arguments of the hon. Baronet and his supporters the more do I see that the real issue between us and those quarters is whether public houses are to be reduced in number until they merely supply the 757 wants of the localities, or whether the present condition of things shall remain until proposals are made by which public houses shall be swept away altogether. If the hon. Baronet imagines that the time is likely to arrive within a period which any of us are likely to see when public houses shall be altogether swept away, in my opinion he is entirely and absolutely mistaken. I do not believe that, however much we may give the control of these matters to the Local Authorities, the time will ever arrive when those bodies will be able to face the storm that would arise in case they attempted to deal with this subject in the drastic manner advocated by the hon. Baronet. The question that the Government put to themselves was whether they should sit still and do nothing to mitigate the evils which they, equally with hon. Members opposite, recognise until the time arrives when the matter can be dealt with in the way the hon. Baronet desires. The Government have come to the conclusion that it is their duty, instead of taking that course, to endeavour by some moderate proposal such as we have made to deal with this great question of the licensing of public houses, though even slightly. We do not profess that our proposal is a large one, but we deny that it will in any way interfere with that which the hon. Baronet desires to promote. We are prepared to safeguard our proposal in every possible way, and to accept the Amendment which stands upon the Paper in the name of the right hon. Member for Great Grimsby, which, if inserted in the Bill, ought to dispel all fears entertained by the hon. Baronet and his friends—I say it ought to, I do not say it will—all fears as to the way in which this Bill may hamper Parliament in dealing with this question when it comes to be dealt with in a larger and fuller manner. We insert in the Bill provisions which will prevent public houses now existing from being considered to be of increased value, for the purposes of any future legislation, owing to the operation of this measure; and, speaking honestly and sincerely, I cannot conceive on what grounds and with what object the so-called Temperance Party are opposing the Government in so bitter and hostile a manner. I deeply regret that the Government should be at issue with the 758 very people whom we desired to conciliate. I do not expect hon. Members on the Front Bench below the Gangway to accept my statement; but I hope that those who know me will believe me when I say that it is a matter of bitter regret to the Government to find themselves in opposition to those whom they sought to conciliate by this proposal. The hon. Baronet has asked why in this case the Government do not abandon their proposal. We do not intend to abandon it. We believe that the operation of this Bill will be entirely in the direction of that which the friends of temperance have at heart, and that, when the time comes for doing that which I have always been in favour of, namely, transferring, under proper conditions, the licensing power to popularly-elected bodies—it will be found that the present proposal of the Government will have operated in the direction of temperance.
§ (7.10.) MR. CAMERON CORBETT (Glasgow, Tradeston)
The right hon. Gentleman has expressed regret at finding himself in opposition to those whom he sought to conciliate, and I can assure him that a great number of those who are opposed to the Government proposals oppose a Unionist Government with the greatest reluctance. Many of us have felt so strongly in favour of the Unionist cause that we have been willing to see a large number of Temperance measures we have had strongly at heart postponed, and we have been the more ready to acquiesce in this believing in the steady growth of temperance sentiments outside the House, and that delay only strengthened the temperance position. There is not one of those who belong to that section of the party who would not gladly have accepted this measure if they had felt that it was the smallest advance in the right direction. We, however, could not disguise from ourselves that its provisions will build up a wall in front of temperance progress. This Bill has met with the unanimous support of the liquor interest. That it has the all but unanimous condemnation of the Temperance Party throughout the country has been only emphasised and made more clear by the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has sought to bring before the House solitary individual 759 instances in connection with the Temperance Party whore support has been given to the Bill. The one individual who, on the executive of the Wesleyan Church, supported the Bill has been specially mentioned in a letter in the Times, and has been brought before the House to-night. As to the amount that is set aside to buy up licences, analysis will show that with that sum it will take half a century to buy up 1–10th of the public houses. This ground of complaint is not lessened by the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman to the deputation from the Church of England Temperance Society. The President of the Local Government Board remarked that there were licences that would be of little or no value if the houses were properly conducted. It follows that public money is to be used to buy up houses because they have been badly conducted. We are told the Bill will not strengthen the case for compensation: but could a County Council buy out the worst licences because they were nuisances, and afterwards as the Licensing Authority and acting on public grounds refuse the renewal of a licence to a well-conducted house because it was not required in the public interests? Would it not appear a flagrant injustice that a badly-conducted house should be treated on more liberal terms than a well-conducted house? In fact, the putting of a premium on bad houses would tempt publicans to compete in the misconduct of their houses for the sake of being bought out on their own terms. I have heard it denied that the publican will be bought out on his own terms, but I think there is a great deal of truth in the statement that if a County Council finds that a public house is a nuisance and should be done away with, in all probability the publican is not anxious to leave, and the inducement to him to do so must be on the most liberal terms. We are apt to be misled when we are told that public houses have been acquired by Local Authorities, and that that forms in any degree such a precedent for compensation as we would have furnished in this Bill. Up to this time no publican has received payment, simply because it was held that there were too many public houses in the neighbourhood. 760 Licences have been granted on the theory that public houses were required to meet the wants of the community, and now, for the first time, it is said that public money is to be spent in buying them up simply because the number of public houses is in excess of the public demand. I do hope the Government will even yet take warning. I hope the bye-elections which have taken place in the country when the question of compensation has been before constituencies will not be without effect. Remember Ayr and Southampton. The Ayr election turned entirely upon the compensation question, and the estrangement of the Temperance Party lost the representation of Ayr for the Unionist cause. I do trust the Government will take warning from recent elections and not follow a course which will seriously endanger the Unionist cause we have at heart by pressing these clauses, but will still enable those temperance Unionists who are prepared to postpone the temperance cause to the claims of unionism to co-operate with them in the main object for which the Government was elected.
§ (7.22.) MR. ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
I regret very much the attitude temperance advocates have taken up. I have called a meeting of my constituents in Stepney, and I took a sort, of plébiscite, the result of which is that I do not hesitate to say this Bill is there regarded as being, in every sense, a temperance measure. To-day I have received a letter from a lady, the honorary secretary of a temperance society, who, after complimenting me for sending her a subscription, protests against the ignoring of the fair claims of publicans to a reasonable amount for goodwill, but thinks that the utmost that should be conceded is a fixed tenure for five years, and that it is wrong that they should have a permanent interest in a national disgrace. She has no pity for rich brewers and distillers, but does not wish to hurt the publican as a trader. By shutting the door against this Bill, the Temperance Party will throw back their cause for 20 years. I was present at a meeting in the East of London which was largely attended by publicans, and I did not find that they had any desire to claim compensation on the scale repre- 761 sented by the opponents of this Bill. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth takes the part of the publicans against the brewers, and there is possibly good reason for it. No doubt the publican has been for many years a butt in every sense of the word. I know a recent case in which a man invested his savings of £500 in a house, the goodwill of which was valued at £2,000; the brewer, who was to supply the beer, advanced £1,200, and a distiller £300; and under this scheme the brewer and distiller will take the compensation and the publican will never recover his £500. This is the weak part of the Bill. The clauses will have to be amended so as to protect the publican as against the brewer and the distiller. The Government need not care about brewers who have turned their business into a limited liability company; their concern ought to be for the common domestic shareholder. It is the publican who ought to be considered, and under the Bill he is not considered. Well, now, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barrow, in the speech which he made on the introduction of the Bill, mentioned the prices of public houses in his own neighbourhood. He put the value at a sum of £5,000 or £6,000 apiece. Now, I have taken a great deal of trouble to ascertain at what cost a number of these public houses could be bought up, and I will venture to assert that I could clear away 100 public houses in the East End of London at a cost of £250 each. In that part of London where the population is greater than in any part of the Metropolis the public houses are very close together. I should be glad to subscribe a sum of money sufficient to clear away one house, in order to show my sincerity in the cause of temperance. If this Bill enables us to clear away these houses at so small a price, surely it is a Temperance Bill. I attended a meeting in the East End of London the other day, and there I was told by men who looked at this matter from a business point of view that the public houses were much too close together, and that many publicans would be only too glad not merely to be bought out, but to get back the money they had invested in the public houses, so that they might go into some other business. I attended, too, the 762 meeting in Hyde Park, and listened to all the speeches that I possibly could. I found that exactly the same argument was used at each platform. The publicans were denounced for doing the mischief, but now we are told that it is the brewers and the distillers. I think that the vigorous and spirited speech of my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board will clear many hazy ideas from the minds of hon. Gentlemen who object to the Bill solely from a party point of view. I only wish that hon. Gentlemen would ascertain the feeling of their constituents on this point. If the Bill gave the publicans a vested interest and undue advantages I should oppose it without the slightest hesitation. But I believe that it will do a vast amount of good in the country, and that it will give great assistance to the temperance cause, and, therefore, I trust that hon. Members will be found voting in the right Lobby when we go to a Division.
§ (7.35.) MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)
The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of voting according to the views he has just expressed. There are Amendments on the Paper which limit the compensation to the actual holder of the licence, and I suppose that the hon. Member who has just spoken will vote for those Amendments. I should like to hear more speeches of the same sort from those Benches. It would have been better for the Government to have done nothing than to have brought in proposals which will throw back the temperance cause for half a century. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board stated that in view of the enormous increase in the drink bill of the nation the Government felt that they could not sit still with folded hands and wait for the introduction of a larger measure, but they had better have done that than bring in this Bill, and we cannot forget that similar proposals were made before the Drink Bill was known. The right hon. Gentleman said that no pressure had been brought to bear upon the Government by the drink trade.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM
I quite accept the statement of the right hon. 763 Gentleman that the initiation of this measure was due to honest enough motives. But I do suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he cannot disguise from himself any longer the fact that the people in whose interests this measure was brought forward, as he says—the Temperance Party—have universally reprobated it. In fact, they detest it—and although one Wesleyan Methodist has been found who approves of it—Wesleyan Methodists are occasionally crotchety—it will be found that temperance reformers generally are opposed to it. The right hon. Gentleman cannot blind himself to the fact that the great body of temperance reformers throughout the country are against it, and that, on the other hand, the proposals of the Government meet with the warmest support and appreciation of those people who have always been opposed to temperance reform. In whose interests is this legislation proposed? It seems to me there are six distinct interests, all separate and, more or less, conflicting. The first is that of the licencee; the second, that of the consuming public; the third, that of the general public who are not customers: the fourth, that of the taxpayers; the fifth, that of the owners of the property behind the licencee; and the sixth, that of the manufacturers of alcoholic beverages. Now, I believe firmly that as regards five out of six of these classes their interests will not be served, but will be prejudiced by this Bill; and I hope that I shall be able to show that in the course of the few remarks I am about to make. Let us take first the case of the licence holder. How do the proposals affect him and what is his case? I speak now for the country only, and not for the towns. Possibly in the big cities of the Empire different conditions may prevail, but I have been a licensing magistrate for nearly twenty-five years, and I think I can speak with some authority as to the public houses in the country. So far as the bonâ fide hotelkeeper or grocer are concerned, I believe it is absurd to apply the same law to such as to a shop where merely drink is sold. I think the law should be quite distinct for such different cases. Twenty-five years ago the publican was a free man doing a free trade, and I appeal to hon. Members who are Licensing Magistrates 764 whether I am not right in saying that the very reverse is now the case. In those days there was a fair and honest competition. It was a free publican's interest to supply the best class of articles at the cheapest possible rate, but now a change has come over the trade, and during the last 25 years—and certainly in a marked degree within the last 12 to 15 years—the great majority of the houses in the country districts with which I am acquainted have been bought over the heads of the free publicans and converted into tied houses. In the County of Gloucester there are four companies which possess no fewer than 664 tied houses. In one village there are seven houses, all belonging to one company. In another village there are five tied houses belonging to different companies; as a rule, the publican is a mere servant of the owner of the house. In some cases he is even paid wages; more frequently he is paid according to the profits made and the amount he sells. And hon. Members must know how frequently it happens that when a publican is brought before a Bench for some breach of the Licensing Laws, the solicitor who appears to defend him throws him over immediately a suggestion is made that the licence may be endorsed, and promises at once "that a new and respectable tenant shall be obtained." As a matter of fact, these publicans are in some cases as described in Mr. James' pamphlet, in a state of servitude. Now, I have always contended that the publican is entitled to fair consideration. I have always said that I would give every man who is the holder of a licence, subject to good behaviour, a 10 years' life interest. If that were done, there would be no question of turning a man, his wife, and 13 children suddenly into the streets to starve, because he would be allowed 10 years in which to find out another trade, by means of which he could earn a livelihood. I repeat, I would give every publican, subject to good behaviour, and subject to his life, a 10 years' licence, and by the operation of such a scheme we should year by year reduce the number of licensed houses in the country without a single sixpence expense to the National Exchequer. There was a case which came before the Liverpool Chancery Court the I other day. It was the case of "Caine 765 v. Hands," and it transpired that the defendant had refused certain beer from the plaintiff on the ground that it was not good. Chancellor Bristowe, however, held that Caine, the brewer, was entitled to enforce his covenant on all points, notwithstanding the complaint as to the quality of the beer. And let it be remembered that these tied houses do not merely confine the tenant to purchasing the beer of one firm alone. The system provides that he shall purchase his wines, spirits, and sometimes even his aerated waters, and, in fact, he is given no liberty at all. Now, the second man whose interest is to be considered is the customer. I have already instanced the case of a village in which there are seven licensed houses. These seven shops are doing what three shops could do equally well, and it is the customer who has to pay the expense involved by the greater number of establishments. Let us take a case of the village in which there are five houses—they are rated at £49 2s. 6d. in the aggregate. They were worth two or three hundred pounds a piece—at the outside £1,500—but, owing to the competition of the brewers, they have been sold for £4,000. Who has to pay the interests? It is, I venture to say, the unhapy customer. You create a monopoly, you have only one tap, and the interests of the customer are in no way consulted. Thirdly, I come to the case of the general public outside. What, I would ask, is the proportion of the population which uses public houses. I am speaking, of course, for the country, and, providing that one in every seven is the head of a family, by the time you have deducted nine-tenths of the women and children, all the temperance fold, all the upper class, all the professional class, 75 per cent, of the tradesmen, a proportion of the more highly-cultured of the working classes, one is driven to the conclusion that not more than one-fifth of the population, say 400 in a village of 2,000 inhabitants, enter the public house at all. Then how about the interests of the other four-fifths? I am no fanatic teetotaller. I would give people reasonable facilities to do what they think right, so long as they do not infringe the liberties of others; but I do suggest that we ought to allow these four-fifths to 766 have some voice, and we ought not to force on them these public houses when they do not want them. If they believe honestly that this trade is the cause of crime, poverty, and misery, which exists in their midst, we ought not to prevent them putting a stop to the cause which produces such effects. Why should not they be able to do as they wish in this matter? Next we come to the position of the taxpayer. This is not a question of £300,000 or £400,000; it involves more likely a sum of £250,000,000. We have had some fallacious arguments put before us in this connection. The Under Secretary for the Treasury, in a speech at Marlborough the other day, said that the money was to be provided by the trade themselves, whereas he knows every penny will come out of the pocket of the consumer; while the Attorney General, in a speech at Ventnor on the 22nd May, said—He had received numerous letters from Conservatives and others, begging and imploring him to use his influence towards the withdrawal of the proposals. He had read them carefully and replied to each one carefully. … If the Government proposals involved payments from current rates, the action of temperance people would be justified. Thus taking his stand entirely on the ground that the money to be used for compensation was not public property!What I would point out is that the extinction of a few licences would necessarily enhance the value of the remainder. And now I come to the case of the property owners. We will say there are 20 houses, each of the value of £200, but suddenly one is given a licence, and the value of that one house goes up 300 per cent. to £600, while the value of the remaining 19 is reduced 15 per cent, to £170. The £600 house holds a monopoly, and makes a lot of money, but you do not attempt to compensate the owners of the 19 houses. If the monopoly is removed the £600 house will again become of the value of only £200, but the other 19 houses will recover their position and become each of the value of £200, so that the aggregate value is unchanged, and I should like to know why the tax-payer should compensate the owner of the one house. The unfortunate tax-payer has to play the game of "Heads I win; tails you lose"—he is to compensate losses and not to participate in profits. I maintain 767 that the property owner is the only man who will benefit under this Bill. I maintain that this House has a perfect right, under the existing law, to deal as it thinks best with the liquor traffic. Though we have given a monopoly, we have, I maintain, been always extremely careful to guard that monopoly by making the licence yearly. I maintain that these proposals are an insidious way of counteracting recent decisions of the Law Courts by raising such a barrier as will effectually prevent public houses being decreased by magisterial action. It is perfectly impossible to conceive that any Bench of Magistrates would be so unjust, or unfair, as to take away a man's licence merely upon the ground that there were too many, while the County Council were giving money payments out of a public fund with the identical object. The Home Secretary said it would be an argument for the Bench to shut up a public house without compensation if the owner had refused fair terms offered by the County Council. I never heard of anything more unfair than that. English Magistrates are too honourable to act in such a way. I denounce these proposals as being in the interests of a gigantic monopoly. I appeal to good men on both sides of the House not to allow this to be a Party question. I appeal to my own leaders to make a bridge for the Government to retire easily from proposals which are against the religion, morality, and good feeling of the whole country. I appeal to my leaders to make it easy for them to withdraw. This is too serious a matter to be risked by mere Party considerations. I believe the proposals are fraught with the greatest danger to the highest and best interests of the country, and I believe it will be found that as they are realised and become known they will be opposed by all sober men.
§ (8.5.) MR. LLEWELLYN (Somerset, N.)
There is a great deal of what has been said by the hon. Member in which I cordially concur, especially as regards "tied houses." For my own part, I far prefer the innkeeper who owns his house to the tenants of large companies. The houses of the former are generally far better conducted than those of the latter. In cases where a man has been obliged to increase the 768 value of his premises, in order to retain his licence—I mean where outhouses and buildings have fallen into disrepair, and the man is obliged to put his hand in his pocket—surely such a man is entitled to some consideration. I hope the Committee will not be misled by what has been said with regard to the excessive value paid for some houses by large companies. I know of one case where a property realised double the reserve price put upon it. Such prices are ridiculous, and it would be absurd to think that the County Council would take them into consideration, or be misled by them. I think that where a man has been called upon to improve his property at his own expense the House will agree with me that he is entitled to compensation.
(8.10.) MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
The disclaimer of the Government of any association with the licensed victuallers shows that they are ashamed of their clients in this matter.
§ MR. RITCHIE
What I stated was in answer to the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, who said that the reason we had brought this measure forward was because of the pressure which the licensed victuallers had brought to bear. I explained that there had been no pressure whatever from either publicans or brewers in connection with the proposals.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS
The right hon. Gentleman unfortunately stated the reason why they brought forward this proposal. It was because of the increased consumption of drink. What surprises me is, if there was no pressure from the trade, how it was that proposals analogous to them were made two years ago when there was no increase but an actual diminution in the consumption of drink.
§ MR. RITCHIE
The reason we made the proposals two years ago was that we were then instituting a great scheme of Local Government. We were transferring the municipal duties of the Justices to an Elective Body, and I considered that we should not be presenting a complete scheme to the House if we did not transfer the granting of 769 licences from the Justices to the Elective Bodies.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS
If the right hon. Gentleman had simply proposed the transfer of the administration from the Magistrates to the County Council no opposition would have been raised on this side of the House; but he superadded the restriction that the County Council could not exercise the power of stopping a licence without compensating the publican, thus imposing an obligation which the Magistrates do not lie under. What was the impelling motive of the Government in imposing that restriction?
MR. BRYN ROBERTS
Oh, justice! The House will appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's position, and I will not press the point further. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to deny that there was a strong expression of public opinion against the Bill. He has been pressed to specify the instances in which public meetings have declared in favour of the proposals of the Government, and he mentioned four, together with the Cardiff Town Council. The right hon. Gentleman, however, refrained from stating the number of resolutions which have been received from public meetings opposed to the Government proposals. The right hon. Gentleman complains that these meetings did not understand what they were discussing, because they constantly referred to the Bill as one for the endowment of public houses. He says that there is no endowment of the licence under this Bill; because the licencee cannot compel the County Council to purchase. But the licencee can decline to allow the County Council to stop a single licence except on the terms he himself chooses. If he chooses to put a ridiculous price on his licence, then the County Council either must pay that ridiculous price or things must remain as they are.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS
Is it to be supposed that a man will not put a ridiculous price on his licence. As every man always does, he will put the most liberal estimate upon his own property. There is another point. Take, as an illustration, the case of the village referred to by my hon. Friend (Mr. Winterbotham), where there are six public houses. It does not 770 matter, for the purpose of my argument, whether they all belong to one owner or not. The County Council buys one of the licences at £500, and the value of the remaining five licences is immediately increased, and the County Council would have to pay that increased value, or the licencee would refuse to sell.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. LONG,) Wilts, Devizes
The hon. Member has not noticed that in Clause 9 it is proposed that no licence which it is desired to purchase should acquire any additional value by virtue of the Bill.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS
I think the hon. Gentleman must have misread his own Bill, because on the Second Reading of the Bill the President of the Local Government Board himself stated that the clause in question has reference only to subsequent legislation, and not to the tying down of the purchase money under this Bill. But even supposing the clause is extended by Amendment in Committee, so as to prohibit the County Council from paying for a house any increased value which accrues to it from the purchase of rival houses, the owner in that case would refuse to sell unless he got his price. He would prefer to keep his licence and reap the additional value himself. Therefore the Bill will be entirely unworkable. Surely, if one of the six licences is purchased for £500, the remaining five will be worth £600 each. I do not say that the increase in value would be the exact arithmetical proportion in the case of houses wide apart; in such a case it is to be hoped there would be some diminution in the total amount of drinking; but where the houses are close together, the increased value consequent upon the extinction of a rival house would very nearly be in arithmetical proportion. The surviving licences would, therefore, be made more expensive and more difficult to purchase than before, and the County Councils would refuse to continue the operation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer derided the Mover of the Amendment on the ground that he has not provided any machinery for the working of his proposal. What sort of machinery has the Government provided for the working of their proposal? Why, it will become 771 clogged as soon as it is started. The only way in which the scheme of the Government can be worked is by charging some additional duty on the remaining houses corresponding to the increase of value accruing to them through the purchase of rival houses. I believe, indeed, that some such step ought to have been taken long ago at the time when the Magistrates commenced to restrict the issue of licences. When there was free trade in licences, and as long as there was no restriction of the issue, there was no monopoly, but directly restriction was applied the monopoly began. The full value of that monopoly thus granted ought to have been charged on the publican by the State, so that the landlord would get only the fair rent of the house. An illustration was given in the Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill. Three houses were built at a cost of £1,000 each, and they let at £60 per annum each. The owner of one was fortunate enough to get a licence, and the letting value of his property was immediately raised by the sum of £140 per annum, tor it was let at £200 per annum. The State, which gave this monopoly, ought to have charged the £140 to the owner of the licence, who would thus have had his £60 a year as before. Because licences have had an enormous monopoly given to them at under value, they say they are entitled to compensation or to a permanent continuance of their licences. A large number of generous landlords have let their lands at very much below their market value; but what would be thought of the tenants if, when a new owner raised the rents to the market value, they said "Oh, no; we have been in the enjoyment of these low rents for many years and it is unfair they should be raised, and we have a vested interest." The Legislature would not recognise that the rent could not be raised. The Legisature are very careful of quasi-vested interests of publicans and brewers, but they do not care a button about the quasi-vested interests of tenant farmers. The Legislature ought now to put up the value of these licences, whether there is compensation, purchase, or extinction or not, to the full market value of the monopoly granted, so that the landlord would get for his house what 772 is the fair actual value of his house and1 no more. (8.25.)
§ (9.0.) MR. LENG (Dundee)
The Committee has no doubt observed a considerable change in the tone of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. When he introduced the Bill he was, buoyant, hopeful, and jubilant; but to-night his tone was doubtful, hesitating, perplexed, and apologetic. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have been very much disappointed with the reception given to the Bill. He expected it would be hailed as an important auxiliary contribution to the cause of temperance, instead of which it has been repudiated by all the advocates of temperance.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. LENG
In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the genesis of the Bill; in the second place, he disputed the accuracy of the designation of the Bill—a Publicans' Endowment Bill; and, in the third place, he called in question the assertion that public opinion is adverse to the measure. Now, as to the origin of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman denies that the Bill was brought in on account of any pressure put upon the Government by the brewers and publicans. I at once accept his statement. I give the right hon. Gentleman and the Government credit for not having acted under any influence of that kind; but the right hon. Gentleman and the Government must have been very much disappointed in finding that it is from the publicans and brewers that almost the sole support for this measure is received. The right hon. Gentleman claims that it is a temperance Bill, but how is it that the Temperance Societies—that those who have taken a leading part in the advocacy of temperance for many years, one and all repudiate and oppose the measure? It is very remarkable that the plan adopted by the Government has never been suggested by the advocates of temperance. It seems to have been evolved entirely from the inner consciousness of the Members of the Government. When measures of this kind are introduced of a statesmanlike character we generally expect that reference will be made to experience, that 773 precedents will be quoted, and that the plan will be shows to have worked well in other countries or in other places. It is remarkable that the Government have in their possession and have given to the country very valuable information with regard to the liquor traffic legislation in the United States. In answer to a Despatch from the Head of the Government, they have received from our Representative at Washington, who in turn received them from British Consuls in all the leading cities of the United States, very valuable Reports with regard to liquor traffic legislation. I have read these Reports with much care; but I looked in vain for anything to justify the plan that has been proposed. Application has also been made to the Colonial Governments for information on this subject. Some answers have been received; others can easily be obtained. In the Colony of Victoria a very valuable experiment has been made. That colony resolved to reduce the number of licences to a fixed number, according to population. They adopted a system of compensation, but, compared with what is introduced in this Bill, that was a wise system. It went on the plan that, as the number of licences were to be very largely reduced, and the value of the remaining licences would be increased, these licences should contribute to the Compensation Fund. If some plan like that had been proposed, it would have been entitled to consideration. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the term "endowment," but the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Bryn Roberts) has distinctly shown that we cannot reduce licences without adding a great deal to the value of the licences that remain. We have already had experience of another plan in the House. A former Government, sitting on those Benches, introduced a plan of time compensation—giving notice that after a certain number of years a licence should entirely lapse without claim to compensation. Although that measure was not accepted, there has been a very large growth of opinion in the interval in its favour, and, had the Government brought in a proposal to give compensation in time rather than in money, it would have been more favourably received than their present plan. In the Foreign Office Reports there is very satisfactory evidence that if we 774 are to give money compensation at all, it would have been far better to have gone on the system of higher licences. What I contend is, that the benefit from any system of reduction should not go to the publicans or the brewers, but to the public. If the Forms of the House had allowed, I should have proposed an Instruction to the Committee or an Amendment to the Bill, that the public, and not the private, individual should get the benefit of the increased value of public houses by the diminution of the number. The whole question of pecuniary compensation is beset with difficulty, but, of all the plans that could have been adopted, it seems to me that the present proposal is the least defensible and the most objectionable. The third point to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was as to the expression of public opinion. It is very remarkable that, in the latest published enumeration of the Petitions presented to the House, there is a list of Petitions extending over 29 pages. This list was only from the 16th of May to the 2nd June; if it were brought up to this date I have little doubt the list would be twice as large. These Petitions come from Corporations and boroughs in England; and burghs in Scotland; Police Commissioners, Parochial Boards, and other Local Boards. The whole of these Petitions from these bodies are against the Compensation Clause, and not one in favour of it. They come from the inhabitants of cities and towns in public meeting assembled or otherwise. The whole of that class of Petitions is against the Compensation Clause and not one in favour of it. They come from office-bearers or members of religious congregations, societies, Presbyteries, Sunday Schools and Bible classes. The whole of these are against the Compensation Clause, and not one in favour of it. They come from Temperance Societies, Temperance Lodges, Bands of Hope, and other Temperance Associations. If the Bill is such a temperance measure as the right hon. Gentleman would lead the House to suppose, is it not singular that there is not a single Temperance Society in the country petitioning for it, and that every Petition of that class also is against it? Then they come from Political Associations. I take very little account of these; but there are a considerable number of Petitions from employés on public works. 775 Every one of these is also against the clause. They come from Womens' Associations meetings. In ordinary politics I am one of those who are not anxious that women should interfere; but if there is any question on which they are entitled to express their opinion, it is with regard to public houses; and every Womens' Association that has petitioned the House on this subject has petitioned against the Bill. The total number of Petitions is upwards of 1,000, every one of which is against the Bill, and not one in favour of it. I think this fact ought to have considerable influence with the House. I am rather surprised that throughout the discussion it has been regarded rather as a matter of congratulation than otherwise that the County Councils should be entrusted with the disbursement of this money. From my observation and experience of Licensing Magistrates connected with Town Councils in Scotland, I think it is most objectionable that Boards which should be elected for the many important and useful objects connected with the administration of county affairs, and connected with the administration of city affairs, should be degraded by having anything to do with the administration of licences. It brings a most disastrous element into municipal elections. It will do the same with the county elections. The moment the publicans have an interest to put in certain men and keep certain other men out of representative bodies, it brings a malign influence to bear upon these bodies. If the question of licensing is to be given to elective bodies it would be infinitely better, both in towns and counties, that special Boards should be constituted for this special work. I will only trespass further on the patience of the House by reading a brief extract from the letter of a gentleman who has filled the office of Licensing Magistrate in my own constituency. That gentleman writes—The authorities before they can extinguish a licence will have to 'enter into an agreement' with the licence holder, and presumably pay him a satisfactory price before such extinction can be effected. This seems to me to be an excessively weak part of the proposal. Publicans will not give up their licences, or 'enter into an agreement' to do so, except on very high terms, and you will readily perceive this when I tell you that £1,000 is no uncommon price to be paid for the good will of a public house business. The fact is licences can only be re- 776 duced in one of two ways—either by compulsion or a high licence duty, as in America; if the former plan be adopted, and if the principle of compensation be recognised, then a fixed principle of compensation must be laid down for the guidance of the authorities, otherwise endless difficulties would obviously rise; but the fact is public opinion will not tolerate the granting of compensation for licences which were got for nothing from the public representatives.This is another of my objections to the proposal, that it is altogether unprincipled in respect that there is nothing set forth to guide the County Council or the Town Council as to the mode of procedure, as to the extent to which licences are to be reduced, or as to the manner and the amount of compensation to be paid. I thank the Committee for so attentively listening to my remarks.
§ (9.22.) SIR E. REED (Cardiff)
I had not intended to take any active part in this Debate, and I only rise now for the purpose of making an explanation concerning a matter which, in my temporary absence from the House, the President of the Local Government Board referred to. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman said that the Cardiff Corporation decided by a large majority in favour of this Bill. I have no doubt that is the reading which the right hon. Gentleman has given to what took place in the Cardiff Corporation, but that is not at all my rendering of what happened. A Member of the Council proposed that the Corporation should petition against the Bill, but an amendment was moved to the effect that the Cardiff Corporation had enough to do with its own business, and that dealing with this Bill was no part of its business. The amendment was virtually in effect the previous question. It is quite true that some of those gentlemen who supported the Amendment made some observations in favour of the Bill, but the decision which the Corporation came to in adopting the amendment is not, I submit, a decision in favour of the Bill but a decision against the Corporation dealing with the Bill at all. It seems to me that there is a very substantial difference. I am strongly of opinion, judging from my knowledge of almost every member of the Cardiff Corporation, that had the main question been divided upon, there would have been I a majority in favour of it. That is only 777 my opinion; but certainly I do not think that the fact that an amendment discountenancing any action on the part of the Council in regard to the Bill was moved can be accepted as a decision of the Council in favour of the measure. That is the explanation I wish to give, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will either disprove the interpretation I have put upon the proceedings of the Corporation or relieve the Corporation from what, I venture to say, they will, and the public will, regard as an imputation upon them.
§ MR. RITCHIE
It is necessary, after what the hon. Gentleman has stated, that I should say a word or two. A resolution was moved condemning the Bill, whereupon an amendment was proposed approving of the Bill. Every Member who spoke in support of the amendment, spoke in favour of the proposal of the Government. No one reading the speeches can for a single moment entertain any doubt as to what was the issue upon which the Cardiff Corporation voted. I could quote, if necessary, the words of the speakers, to show that they were in favour of the principle of the proposal of the Government. The division showed that 18 were in favour of the amendment, and nine against it, and all I can say is, that the fact that only nine Councillors out of 27 could be found to support the motion is a pretty good indication of the feeling of the Council.
§ SIR E. REED
I hope I may respectfully differ from the right hon. Gentleman and say that the division had nothing whatever to do with the principle of the Bill. I can understand that the impression conveyed to the right hon. Gentleman's mind by a perusal of the reports of the debate in the papers, is such as he has stated, but I have no hesitation in stating that a careful study of the matter will establish the truth of what I have said, namely, that the Cardiff Corporation have expressed no opinion on the measure, but have only expressed their disinclination to deal with it.
§ (9.29.) MR. CALEB WRIGHT (Lancashire, S.W., Leigh)
I desire to state what has taken place in the Leigh Division of Lancashire with respect to licensing. In that division there are 85 licensed houses; 59 or 69 per cent. of 778 these belong to brewers and spirit merchants. Of beer-houses there are 149; 94 of these belong to brewers or spirit merchants. In the Return I moved for two years ago, and which was mentioned in the House the other night, the number of licences refused in that division is stated to be 48, but that is an error. I was on the Bench at the time, and the licences refused numbered 60. And this has been a great boon to the neighbourhood. The policy of refusal has led to a reduction in the amount of drunkenness. The Superintendent of Police in his Report to the Licensing Magistrates last year showed that there was a decrease of 140 on the previous year in the number of persons summoned for drunkenness, the number being the lowest recorded during the last eight years. Why, when the Magistrates are reducing the number of licences year by year without any compensation, should this Bill be introduced to pay compensation? The Superintendent goes on to say that this result is creditable to the Division, considering the rapid increase of population, and he says it may account for the large number of transfers of licences through inability of holders of licences to get a respectable livelihood. Well, but these people who cannot get a respectable livelihood are to be compensated! The changes in tenants of licensed houses owned by brewers are of frequent occurrence. When a tenant has committed a breach of the law, he is turned out, and the licence is transferred to another tenant. I could mention a number of such changes in Leigh Division. There is an instance of a public house having changed tenants eight times in eight years, and the house is owned by a brewer; one tenant was fined £5 for encouraging drunkenness, and others were fined for selling spirits diluted. But all these were men of high character, of course. I never knew an applicant for a licence being other than a man of high character. We were always told by the Clerk to the Justices that we could not refuse a licence to a man of known good character, when the house was suitable, and the men who applied were men of excellent character, but in the public Returns for the Division, we find that in the last eight years, 97 prosecutions have been brought 779 against publicans—all of good character. Believing that if the licensing clauses are retained in the Bill they will greatly strengthen the hands of the publicans and the brewers, while they weaken those of the Temperance Party, I shall record my vote against this ill-advised proposal.
§ (9.35.) MR. J. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthen, W.)
This is a question upon which my constituents feel as much, interested as upon any question which has engaged public attention during the time I have had the honour of a seat in this House. I must say that on most questions my constituents have not troubled me very much, but upon this subject I, day by day, receive representations and resolutions condemning, in the strongest possible manner, these clauses in the Bill now before us. I am bound to say I listened with some surprise to speeches delivered by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who said; Surely you will give us credit for sincerity when we say these clauses were introduced in the interest of the cause of temperance. If they are under that impression then they have never made a greater blunder. These clauses are condemned throughout the whole country, and by every branch of the Temperance Party, except the Church of England Temperance Society, and not only so, but by all classes of people who are anxious to promote and encourage the cause of temperance. The discussion this evening has taken a different turn to what it did on Tuesday night when the Amendment was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham. I am not complaining at all of that, for I believe this is a good opportunity to offer as much and as strong an opposition as we can to the clause. This Amendment proposes to strike out the clause, and substitute another clause which shall empower County Councils to use the money in a different manner. Now, in reference to this proposal I wish to speak particularly from a Welsh point of view. The latter part of the Amendment deals specifically with Wales and the questions of technical and intermediate education. An Act for the promotion of intermediate education was passed last Session, and it has just come into operation, and very naturally the Welsh people are taking a 780 deep interest in the subject. But they unfortunately find that there is one great difficulty in the way. Committees have been constituted under that Act; they have met in most counties—certainly they have in mine—but when we find them coming together to put the Act into operation, and to consider the amount of the endowments at their disposal, they discover that they have not the funds necessary to carry the Act into efficient operation. Applications are made to them for the establishment of schools in different centres—applications reasonable enough—which they would willingly accede to, but they have one serious obstacle in their way—want of money. The rate is not sufficient to enable them to put the Act into thorough operation, and the endowments over which they have control do not enable them to establish more than two or three schools where perhaps half-a-dozen are required. I have pointed out that the Welsh people, at any rate, are strongly opposed to the clause we are now considering. I can speak of my own constituency, and, in doing that, I believe I represent the feeling of the Welsh people generally. I am very glad to find that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, has been able to explain, what to me was at first inexplicable, namely, the action of the Cardiff Town Council. I say that in Wales we have the strongest feeling against the application of money in this way, and even if this Bill does become law, I am sure that, so far as Wales is concerned, it will become absolutely a dead letter, for if the County Councils have the money they will not apply it to any such purpose as is contemplated in this clause; they dare not do so if they have any respect for, or expectation of support from, their constituents, who, I know, would at the proper time visit such a Council with the severest censure expressed in a very practical way. So, then, the position we find the Government in with regard to Wales is this:—The Welsh people want this money for one purpose, for the cause of education; they do not want it for the purpose for which the Government propose to give it them. It appears to me, therefore, that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rotherham is, so 781 far as it refers to Wales, a wise and important one. The position the Government take up is this. We will give you this money for a purpose for which you will not use it; but you shall not have it for the purpose for which you do require it. Now that appears to me to be an utterly indefensible position, and I hope the strongest opposition will be offered to the clauses, and I shall give my hearty support to the Amendment.
§ (9.47.) MR. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)
The forcible speech we have just heard ought to do something towards convincing the Government that in Wales, at least, the feeling is very strong in opposition to these clauses. Can there be anything more absurd than the position the Government take up in giving this money for purposes for which it is not required, and denying it where it is really needed? One great defect in the proposal is that it absolutely ties the hands of County Councils to one specific object for the money. An ordinary and reasonable proposal would be to give the County Councils free hand for the purpose; give them a certain discretion, and if among the purposes for which you think the money ought to be devoted the extinction of licences is one, then say so, and let the Councils apply it to that, or to an alternative purpose. Why insist that Welsh people should use it towards the extinction of licences? Why not let them have freedom to use it for educational institutions? The result would be instructive, I think, if Wales had such an alternative purpose. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Rotherham is confined to educational purposes, but I should have preferred a wider Amendment, which would leave the Councils at liberty to do as they thought fit. It is a peculiarity of the Local Government Board that they never can view with equanimity the devolution of any powers to Local Bodies; they always view such bodies with jealousy. We are told that we object from a Party point of view, but this cannot be said with regard to those Liberal Unionists who oppose these clauses. We have had a very powerful speech from the hon. Member for the Tradeston Division of Glasgow, who is a supporter of the Government, who regrets to have to break his 782 allegiance, and he has warned the Government that they are likely to lose a large amount of Liberal Unionist support. The hon. Member for Barrow has told us distinctly, on another occasion, that this will cause a great split in the Liberal Unionist ranks, and I am inclined to think that, when we consider the general uprising created by the introduction of this Bill, we may recall the words of a well known Irishman, not a Member of this House, that "Somebody has thrown down an apple of discord which has burst into flame and flooded the country." These proposals have flooded the country with a storm of indignation. I do not know why, except from an impression that there would be a loss of dignity in receding from their position, the Government do not withdraw these clauses. The President of the Local Government Board claims that this is an honest effort in the cause of temperance, and he mentioned an Amendment for safeguarding these licences from having any vested interest given them they do not now possess; but our objection is not that this proposal may give a licence a greater legal value, but that it gives it a moral value beyond that it now possesses. The increase in value cannot be prevented by any words the Government may put into the Bill. It seems to me the Temperance Party ought to know what the effect of the Bill will be; their leaders here and outside have devoted years to the study of the question, and should know it, if anybody does. The Government profess to believe the Bill is brought in in the interest of temperance, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot understand why the measure should be met with such bitter opposition. But I should like to know is he, or the Temperance Party, likely to be the best judge of the operation of the Bill? No doubt the right hon. Gentleman is a good friend of temperance. I know nothing to the contrary; but he has not given it his special attention; he has not made it his life's work, as many Members here have done. If he, with the best intentions, finds himself on one side and the Temperance Party on the other side, which is likely to be the right side for the temperance cause? I do not know where the Government find 783 support, except among those interested in the liquor traffic. We have had a mistake corrected, into which the right hon. Gentleman fell. The Cardiff Corporation did not pass a resolution in favour of the Bill. It simply amounted to this: that, by 18 to 9, the Cardiff Corporation declined to pass a resolution condemning the Bill; but if this proves anything at all, it proves that there were some members of the Corporation who would have liked to have passed a resolution in favour of the Bill, but that they did not dare to put such a resolution upon their Minutes in view of the feeling they knew to exist among their fellow-townsmen. One serious objection to the measure has been made more serious by words used by the right hon. Gentleman tonight. He said he was in favour of transferring the Licensing Authority to popularly-elected bodies, meaning, obviously, County Councils. Now, I do not think there are any popularly-elected bodies more unfit for such powers than County Councils; and if this Bill is passed, it is the first step towards such a transfer. Their area is far to large; they cannot understand in a large county the details of the licensing question in various localities. The elected body, to deal with such a question, is a body elected over a small area and for the license question specially. I do not want to repeat the argument that owners, and not occupiers, of public houses will be compensated. I take it that is admitted. But when we speak of brewers and distillers, we are apt to think of individuals and small firms; but, unhappily, the brewing interest is now far greater, and divided among thousands of shareholders. I should like to know how many Members of this House are shareholders in breweries and distilleries. I should like to see a Return. It would be an interesting one. I am inclined to think, if strict views were taken, it would be difficult for those hon. Members to vote in favour of this clause, because they possess a pecuniary interest in it. I think the Government would be wise to adopt this Amendment; it would have the assent of all sections; and if our votes here could be taken by ballot, I believe it would be carried by a large majority. It would be to the 784 interest of all to have this money devoted to technical education under the Act passed in the closing days of last Session, and which I supported. This measure has not been largely adopted, simply from the lack of funds and the indisposition of County Councils to levy a rate for the purpose. Place, however, a large sum like this at the discretion of Councils, and you will find the Act will be largely adopted and carried out successfully. It is easier to get the Act into operation in boroughs than in counties; in boroughs the people are familiar with Mechanics' Institutes and other means of instruction, and are more alive to the advantages of technical education. In counties the teaching of agriculture is urgently required. The Cheshire Chamber of Agriculture has made great efforts to get the Act into force in that county; but it was found that the Council would not agree to levy a rate, and were not likely to take it up, and so the Chamber fell back upon voluntary subscriptions and a subsidy from an endowed grammar school. But if the Cheshire Council had the money at their disposal, they would start a series of agricultural schools and dairy schools throughout Cheshire. I think Cheshire was the first county that took up the question of agricultural instruction, and what has been done in this direction has greatly improved the manufacture of cheese and butter. But the farmers generally will not take up the Technical Instruction Act. I earnestly hope the Government may re-consider their proposals and devote this money to the purposes of the Act. Other counties are far more generous, and spend scores of thousands on agricultural education. We have here a magnificent opportunity of putting our schools throughout the country on a satisfactory footing, and of making them equal to the schools of France, Belgium, and Denmark; and I think if the Government accepted this Amendment, they would establish for themselves a claim to greater gratitude than can possibly result from their present proposal.
§ (10.1.) MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
I do not think that I recollect any question upon which there has been such a unanimous opinion as is instanced in the opposition 785 to this Bill. Ever since it has been printed I have done little less than present Petitions and acknowledge resolutions against it. Indeed, I have only received one resolution in its favour, and that was passed by a meeting of licensed victuallers, who, of course, advocate the Bill not for the direct benefits they will derive from it, but on account of the indirect benefits which are involved in the recognition of their right to compensation. You call this a temperance measure; but how is it that every single body connected with the temperance movement in the country—with one exception—has taken up the cudgels against the Bill? That exception is a portion of the Church of England Temperance Association, which, I fear, has shown itself to be "Church first and temperance afterwards." I am afraid the nature of this Amendment has been somewhat lost sight of in this discussion. I heartily re-echo the observation of my hon. Friend who said that if this Bill were passed tomorrow it would remain a dead letter in Wales. I go further. I believe that the popular feeling in Wales is so intensely against this Bill that no County Council would dare to touch the money provided under it with a pair of tongs, or with the tips of their little fingers. But there is a purpose for which we really do want this money. Wales is eager for education, but it is badly provided with the material means for obtaining it; and the Government now have an opportunity of providing those means. If we could take a, plébiscite of the inhabitants, I think it would be found that 99–100ths of the population would vote in favour of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham; and the adoption of that Amendment would enable you to legislate in accordance with the wishes of the people of the Principality. I am sorry to say it is a common saying in Wales that the present Government do their best to find out what the Welsh people do not want, and then, having found out that, they do their very best to give it to them. Why should the Government endeavour to force legislation down the throats of the people which they dislike? The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day said that there was no machinery in existence by which 786 the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rotherham could be put in force even if it were carried. But he was speaking without book, because the machinery is there. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have perused the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, for which I give the present Government full credit. It provides most ample and perfect machinery for giving effect to this Amendment. It provides that a halfpenny rate shall be paid to a certain body to be constituted for educational purposes, and that rate shall be met by an equal sum from the public Exchequer. I am confident that if the Amendment were carried we should not find the slightest difficulty in the matter of machinery for working it. It is the money that we require, and I appeal to the Government on the ground that Wales is unanimously in favour of this Amendment, to agree to it. I say it is monstrous that you should force upon the people that which they do not want, and at the same time refuse them that which, without distinction of class or party, they all demand.
§ (10.9.) MR. B. COLERIDGE (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. He seemed to deal with two points, and two points only. Firstly, he argued that the people were with the Government; and, secondly, he denied that this was an "endowment of publican" proposal. In support of his first proposition the right hon. Gentleman showed that amongst all the Temperance Bodies of this Kingdom only one had voted in favour of the Bill, and that in the case of the Town Council of Cardiff there had been a divided vote. If that is the idea of hon. Gentlemen opposite of people being with them, why, then, I wish them joy. Secondly, he urged that the large meetings which had been held in opposition to the Bill were entirely in error in running away with cries which had no meaning, and one cry which he asserted to be meaningless was that this Bill constituted an endowment of the publican. I always understood endowment to mean a free gift of money, and I venture to say that if this is anything it is a free gift of money to the publican. First, we are asked to give the money on the 787 footing of annual licences being a vested form of property. But all persons, whether legal or lay, with one eminent exception, are of opinion that a publican's licence is renewable annually, and is revocable without his having any legal right to compensation. What class of houses is it proposed that the Local Authorities shall have the power of buying up? Why, just those badly-conducted or superfluous houses which the Justices have the right to close at their discretion. If there is anything settled it is this: that in the case of ill-regulated houses, and in the case of houses for which there is no need in a locality, there is an absolute discretion in law for the Justices to take these licences away, and you are now going to give them money for that which has no legal existence at all. Now, whom are you going to compensate? In most cases the persons who will be compensated under the Bill will be not the publicans, who are in general mere care-takers, but the brewers. We all know that the allurement held out to investors in Brewery Companies is that all the beer is supplied to tied houses, and in the course of the Debate to-night we have been told that 80 per cent. of all the licensed houses in the United Kingdom are tied, and that in the greater number of cases the publican is a mere care-taker, and that the real owner is the brewer. Now, I can quite understand a free and voluntary gift of an eleemosynary character. I can quite understand persons giving free gifts out of their own pockets to poor and deserving persons. But in this case the money to be given is the taxpayers' money; and, in the second place, I never met anybody who had met anybody else who had seen or heard of a brewer who was poor. About a year ago, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to place an additional burden upon the brewers, a deputation from that body waited upon him to protest against its imposition. The right hon. Gentleman saw through the position at a glance, and he asked the members of the deputation whether they could honestly say that they were too poor to bear the increased taxation, upon which all of them went away sorrowful, for they had great possessions. These, then, are not the men to whom public money should be 788 given. You are making a free gift out of other persons money to what is, perhaps, the richest class of Her Majesty's subjects. Now, I can understand your doing this by way of gratitude for past services, but gratitude has also been described as "expectation of favours to come." I think hon. Gentlemen opposite are rather too timorous and faint-hearted with regard to the ties which bind them to the brewers. I can assure them that if they were to accept this Amendment they would, nevertheless, have the support of the brewers at the next election. But they seem to look upon this as a bargain between themselves and the brewer. They say to them, "We will give you so much money in return for the support which you give us." I think there is no consideration for the bargain between the Government and the brewers; and, therefore, the Government might, out of mercy to the intelligence of the House, spare us these continued references to their duty to the House and the country which are so often made by the Leader of the House. I own I am astonished that a country with such a wide franchise as we possess, a country which is supposed to be at the head of the industrial countries of the world, should refuse to accept this Amendment, and to approve the devotion of this money to that purpose which, I believe, almost every other European country, as well as America, has devoted money to. Speaking on behalf of an industrial constituency, I must say that we feel that we are sadly behind other nations in the industrial race; and, therefore, I do hope that if this money is to be taken out of the taxpayers' pockets the Government will see that it is applied in a manner which will aid us in the industrial race which all the great civilised nations of the world are now engaged in running.
§ (10.20.) MR. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)
The hon. and learned Member who last spoke has referred to this Bill as in the nature of a bargain between the Government and the brewer, but he has not attempted to show what is the nature of that bargain, and I challenge him to point out anything of the kind. This is neither a public house endowment Bill nor is it a bargain. I grant that licences are renewable annually, 789 and that Magistrates have power to refuse the renewal. But it must be borne in mind that while the Magistrates have absolute power, the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield" only goes so far as to say that the power must be exercised in a judicial manner. They must not exercise their powers in an arbitrary manner. Indeed, I believe the Magistrates of this country have too much esprit de corps to act in such a manner; they have always acted on the principle of renewing a licence unless there be a distinct case made out either that the house is ill managed, or that it is cot required in the neighbourhood. You may say that the publicans have no vested interest, but that is not true. They have an absolute interest in the licences for the term, at all events, of one year; and, coupled with that, is the expectation that in the ordinary course of things the licence will be renewed. This interest, although a little uncertainty attaches to it, is recognised, and it is a marketable commodity. I heard the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, in his speech on the Second Reading of this Bill, state that the decision of the Magistrates absolutely increased the market value of the interest of the publicans in their licences. How, then, can it be said that this is an endowment proposal? I have dealt with the right of the Magistrates to refuse to renew the licence. You may have a Bench of Magistrates saying that, in their judgment, the licence ought to be renewed, and you may have the Local Authority—the County Council or the Local Board it may be—come to the conclusion that the licence ought not to be renewed. What is to be done under these circumstances? You cannot compel the Magistrates, exercising judicial authority, to refuse to renew the licence if, in their judgment, it seems to them just to grant it. On the other hand, if the Local Authority thinks the licence is unnecessary for the neighbourhood, all that this Bill does in such a case is to empower the Local Authority to buy up the licence, and so close the public house. Under these circumstances, surely hon. Gentlemen cannot say that this is an endowment of public houses. We are anxious, in promoting this Bill, to promote the cause of temperance, and I hold that 790 this cause can be best promoted by reducing the number of public houses in this manner. You propose to extend the powers of the Local Authorities, and especially County Councils, while you leave the Magistrates' discretion absolute. Does the hon. Member mean td say that if, in the case of a difference of opinion between the County Councils and the Magistrates as to the necessity for a licensed house, the Council buy up the house, their action amounts to the endowment of a publican? If the publican is anxious to sell it will not matter to him whether he sells to the County Council or to anyone else; he knows that he can easily find 20 purchasers, and the mere refusal of the Local Authority to buy would mean the continuance of the business, even if, it be a nuisance to the neighbourhood. We are bound to bear in mind that this Bill has been brought forward in the interests of the temperance cause. It gives powers to the localities to suppress public houses, and I must confess that I am at a loss to understand the honourable intentions of hon. Members on the other side, of the House in the opposition they are offering to this measure. I cannot understand the grounds on which they object to a measure which proposes to enable the Local Authorities to buy up the public houses, the evil results of which Members opposite so strongly object to. Up to the present time there has been little or no restriction in the granting of new licences, but under this measure there are ample powers for enforcing these restrictions. I must add that I honestly regard this Bill as a measure for the promotion of temperance, and I believe that it will have the effect of bringing about a considerable reduction in the number of our public houses.
§ (10.35.) MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I object so strongly to the whole principle on which this Bill is founded, mixing up, as it does, local and Imperial finance, and devoting special sums for special purposes from the Imperial resources, that I shall be very sorry if any proposal in this Bill is carried at all. The great want at the present moment is that a vastly larger amount of public money should be devoted to such national objects as improved technical education and the increased efficiency of intermediate education. While the pro- 791 posals under discussion have been described by the President of the Local Government Board as very small, they will, in my opinion, ultimately involve a national outlay of something like £200,000,000, an expenditure which I trust this House will not agree to sanction.
§ (10.40.) MR. LONG
The remarks of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down opens up a wide field. He was good enough to apologise to the Committee for intervening, but I do not think any apology was necessary from the hon. Gentleman, who has spoken on a subject with which he is so well acquainted. The hon. Gentleman hardly does the Government justice, I think, with regard to the Welsh Education Act of last year, and I have no doubt Welsh Members will admit what the hon. Member for Poplar kindly seems inclined to admit, that the Government, in the midst of great pressure of business, voluntarily gave their assistance to the measure. I have the very best reason for knowing that had it not been for the action of the Government the Bill would not have passed into law. I think, therefore, that the remarks of the hon. Member were rather unfair.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
The reason I mentioned it was this. We were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Government took the whole credit of the Bill, and I only wished to show that there was a combination of credit. I quite agree with what the hon. Member now says.
§ MR. LONG
I am very glad to find that we are in agreement now. I think his most temperate and practical remarks will commend themselves to my right hon. Friend at the head of the Education Department. But I would like to remind the Committee that this is not the Second Reading of the Bill. We are now in Committee, and we have decided the principle of the Bill on the Second Reading, namely, that certain funds should be provided for the extinction of licences. Amendments in the direction of education go beyond the scope of ordinary Amendments, and would, if accepted, deprive the Bill of its principal feature. An hon. Member has said that he regarded the Bill with apprehension because, if County Councils were empowered to buy out the owners of 792 licences now, it would be impossible in equity to extinguish licences in future without purchase. But surely, if hon. Members opposite at some future time are in a position to legislate for the extinction of licences in a different way, the present measure would be no obstacle to their action. The hon. Member for Stepney has quoted an actual case in support of his contention that there is nothing in the Bill which will enable the publican to obtain his share of the compensation together with the brewer and the distiller. If the words in the Bill are not already broad enough to include the publican, the Government will be prepared to make the necessary Amendment, so as to leave the matter perfectly clear. The intention of the Government is, that any money paid for the extinction of licences should be paid amongst all who have a share in the property, without detriment to the smaller owner. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire said that if, under the Bill, the County Councils bought up licences they would only enhance the value of those that remain. The Bill does not propose to limit the value of the property to be purchased, because it is desired that the County Councils shall go into the matter as perfectly free agents, able to make the best terms that they can. But this is a point which has been well raised, and the Government will consider it before they come to the part of the Bill which refers to the matter. The hon. Member for the Cirencester Division has made one of the most interesting speeches, delivered on this subject. But the hon. Member asked the Committee to believe that the Bill is hostile to the views of those who advocate temperance, and is indeed distinctly a publican Bill, because it is condemned by the Temperance Party and advocated by the publican interest. Why is this so? From the very first the Temperance Party has attacked the proposals of the Government with all the virulence they can command, and the publican interest has been driven, not altogether willingly, to take up the cudgels in defence of a measure which, if not very friendly, is, at all events, equitable. But I am not concerned to justify our action in the eyes of hon. Gentlemen opposite, for between them and the Government there is admitted to 793 be a wide gulf on the liquor traffic question. We both wish to advance the temperance movement; but hon. Gentlemen opposite will not even admit that the Bill represents in any sense an advance of the temperance cause—though licences are extinguished, and it is made impossible for fresh licences to be issued—because money is to be paid to the publican. The hon. Member for Cirencester made a great point of the fact that there are so many tied houses, and that the occupiers are liable to dismissal at six months' notice. But as a matter of practice, in the vast majority of cases, the occupiers retain the same premises for a very long time. They continue in their premises from year to year, and notice is never unfairly served upon them. Then it is said that very many breweries have been turned into public companies; hat they own all the houses in particular districts; and that they will greatly benefit by some of the houses being bought up—the cost of distribution being decreased, while the monopoly is maintained. I should like to point out that at the conclusion of his remarks the hon. Gentleman gave the answer to his own contention, for he told the Committee that in many cases the brewers had paid very large sums of money for the houses they had acquired—that they had paid big prices to keep out competition. Well, if they are prepared to pay these large prices we may question whether they will be willing to sell at the price the County Councils will be willing to pay. We have heard a great deal about the millions of expenditure which the Government proposals will involve. The hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. Winterbotham) says that this is the thin end of the wedge—that hon. Gentlemen do not so much object to this £350,000 as to the hundreds of millions which will be the final result of this initial expenditure. The enormous total of numerous millions is not arrived at by taking the average, or even a moderate proportion of the public houses. It is arrived at, as far as I can ascertain, on the basis of the most valuable public houses, and by supposing that every public house will be closed. That I maintain is preposterous. Do hon. Members opposite really believe that all 794 those millions will be spent before a sufficient number of public houses is closed in this country? not the most determined opponents of the liquor trade, such as the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth and the hon. Member for Barrow and their supporters, think that some substantial good will be done by reducing the number of public houses; and are they unwilling that that good shall be done because a certain sum of money must be paid by the County Councils before those public houses are closed? With regard to the point that this is not public money, I would observe that when that expression was used there was no idea of contending that all taxes were not public money. What we merely meant to lay down was that this is a new additional tax specially proposed by the Government for a special purpose, and imposed upon a section of the community in order to be devoted to that particular purpose; and also that that tax is not to be imposed upon the whole country. Some hon. Members opposite shake their heads, but I defy them to prove that the party who object to the consumption of alcoholic liquor will suffer under the devotion of the money to this particular purpose. If they object to it, all they have to do is to refrain from indulging in those luxuries out of which the money will be obtained. One other remark I want to refer to. The Member for Denbighshire asserted that in Wales the powers conferred by this Bill will not be exercised, and he added that if the members of any County Council make use of those powers they will be turned out. I trust that that is an inaccurate description of what will be the action of the County Councils; but even if it is a true one no substantial difficulty will arise. After all, what would be the worst outcome of such action on the part of the County Councils? If they refuse to put the Act into operation the worst result will be that the money will accumulate, and then what an opportunity will be afforded to hon. Gentlemen opposite when they come into office o make provision for all those objects which are so near to their hearts. They will not only be able to bring into action such energy as they may possess, but they will have the satisfaction of knowing that they have 795 an accumulation of funds wherewith they can carry out their own views.
§ (11.5.) MR. H. H FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, in the speech he made in the earlier part of the evening, recognised that the question before the Committee was one of the main questions in the Bill; that the question whether the words "extinction of licences" should stand part of the clause was one of vital importance, deserving the fullest consideration of the Committee. He took the opportunity of delivering what I may regard as the official defence of the Government scheme. Well, I must say—and I have the greatest possible respect for my right hon. Friend—that I was very much disappointed with his speech. I know that if he has anything like a good case no man is better able to make the best of it than my right hon. Friend; and I must confess I did believe after the attitude the Government have taken, seeing that they have nailed this clause to the mast, and are determined to go on with the Bill through evil report and good report, and seeing that they have recognised that there is a considerable amount of public feeling on this question, that the right hon. Gentleman would have made a broader and a more complete defence of the present proposal. The right hon. Gentleman's answer was exceedingly narrow, as he confined himself to the motive of the Government, and to one particular object which he thinks this clause will secure. His defence of the motive of the Government was that the Bill was brought in to promote the cause of temperance. Now, I am not going to cast the slightest discredit on the motive of the right hon. Gentleman; but I will put to him, as a man of strong common sense, and of considerable experience in public and official affairs, what are the probabilities of the case. Is it reasonable to suppose that those who have always been advocates of temperance are opposing a measure intended to promote the cause of temperance, while those who have not previously been distinguished by sympathy with the temperance cause are advocating this measure because it will 796 promote that cause? The right hon. Gentleman talked about the ignorance and want of thought of the temperance advocates on this question. Will he apply that criticism to the acute mind of Cardinal Manning? Does Cardinal Manning understand the temperance question? Is he not above all political partisanship on this question? ["No, no."] Will any hon. Member opposite who dissents rise and state his opinion, so that Cardinal Manning may be able to answer it? It is a matter of notoriety that on the temperance question Cardinal Manning has maintained an absolutely impartial position. There are also Church of England men, like Archdeacon Farrar, Canon Wilberforce, and the Archbishop of York, who view the Government proposal with disfavour. And you have practically the whole of the Nonconformist bodies of the country taking up a strong position in opposition to the Bill. The argument of the Government is that all these men are deluded. It is not a question as to> whether they are right or wrong, but that they are deluded into the belief that this measure will not promote the cause of temperance. What would have been thought by our forefathers 50 years ago, if that argument had been used to the leading opponents of the Slave Trade in the West Indies, supposing a proposal had been made which its promoters intended would put an end to the slavery, but which they believed would have no such effect? I do not cast the slightest doubt on the motive of the right hon. Gentleman. I accept literally the statement that it is the desire of the Government to promote the cause of temperance; but I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not clear that the overwhelming public opinion of the country differs from him on this question, and that the men most competent to form an opinion have come to the contrary conclusion? The right hon. Gentleman referred to one section of the Nonconformists, about which I know something, with reference to their action in this matter. I endorse every word which the right hon. Gentleman said as to Sir George Chubb. No doubt Sir George Chubb was an opponent of the view which prevailed at the meeting at which I myself was present, and I admit 797 that there are a considerable number of those who share Sir George Chubb's views on religious questions who also share his views on this question; but, speaking with some knowledge on this matter, and from the number of resolutions which have been placed in my hands during the last six weeks, I assert that the overwhelming majority—I am within the mark when I say that nine-tenths—of the Wesleyan ministers and laymen in this country who take a deep interest in the temperance question are opposed to the present measure. But I do not rest this on the ground of Wesleyan Nonconformists only. I ask the right hon. Gentleman—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has asked the same thing—to give me the name of some responsible leader of English Nonconformists, Baptist or Independent, some man whose name carries weight, who has put that name to a declaration in favour of the principle of this Bill. I pass on to another point. The right hon. Gentleman found fault with the phrase "public house endowment." That phrase was coined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian, and as it is the intention of my right hon. Friend to take part in the Debate on this Amendment I will not presume to anticipate what he will say, because he is well able to defend his own child. Bat it is said that the specific tax with which the Committee is now dealing does not form part of the general Revenue of the country, but is some specific imposition raised for a specific purpose. I object to that doctrine absolutely, not only because it is incorrect in fact, but because it is unsound in principle. The Revenue of the country is one and indivisible. From whatever sources it is raised it passes into one common treasury; and when the House of Commons is spending money, whether on the Army, the Navy, the Civil Services, or in expenditure of the kind we are now considering, it is equally the money of all the taxpayers of the country, no matter from what source it may be drawn. Two years ago, or last year the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer added very largely to the taxes upon the succession of property, and he added at the same time very largely to the expenditure on 798 the Navy. Well, would the right hon. Gentleman contend that he has earmarked that duty, and that in future it is only to be applied to that purpose? Nothing of the kind. It has gone into the common purse. But the present case is much stronger. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget speech, told us that it is the duty of the Finance Minister to raise as wide a revenue as he could on spirits; and all Members will agree that if he is raising a less duty from spirits than spirits will bear, and keeping the duty on tea and everything else, he is practically raising the duty on tea and reducing that on spirits. It is clear that spirits will bear this additional 6d. per gallon; and, that being the case, the increased tax ought to go into the general Revenue, and we ought to be relieved from some other tax that is pressing' heavily on the masses. What was the one motive and reason which the right hon. Gentleman gave in justification of this Bill? He said it would diminish the number of public houses. Am I putting it unfairly to the right hon. Gentleman when I say that this is not really the basis on which his case rests? There are several answers to that plea, but I will meet the right hon. Gentleman on his own ground. The right hon. Gentleman asks, "Is it desirable to decrease the number of public houses?" It is desirable to diminish the number, if we can do so, at such a rate and to such an extent as will effect an appreciable diminution. If we only diminish the number by a few here and there, we do not do anything for temperance; we only enrich the owners that are left; and certainly £350,000 a year spread over the public houses of the country cannot effect any appreciable diminution in the number of public houses. What the Bill does, and what we object to, is that while it will not promote the cause of temperance in diminishing the number of public houses it will add to the value of those that remain; and if we added to the value of the whole of the public house property, we shall be giving it that endowment to which reference has been made, and we shall render it more difficult to deal with this question in the future. The argument on the other side is that the decision of "Sharp v. Wakefield" must 799 be reversed; that a licence is everything except strictly legal, that it has a market value, and therefore if the public want the article they must pay for it. The only concession the right hon. Gentleman has said he is prepared to make is to the Church of England Temperance Societies, when he said that he was prepared to accept some Amendment to insert words providing that the Justices should have precisely the same power in future as they have at present. But I do not know that there is anything in the. Bill to take this power away. I contend that no Bench of Magistrates in the Kingdom will, after this Bill is passed, shut up one public house or refuse to renew a licence. But who is going to receive this money? The right hon. Gentleman says that for the first time on this side of the House there is some interest shown in what he calls "the poor publican." Well, Sir, I do not agree with him. I have heard throughout the Debates we have had on the temperance question a strong opinion expressed on the Liberal side that the man who is deprived of the means of carrying on his living has an equitable claim for compensation. But our contention is that as the Bill stands no compensation will be given to the "poor publican," but that it will go to the brewers only.
§ MR. RITCHIE
The Government are perfectly prepared, if the necessity is shown, to insert words which will enable the County Councils to consider the claims of the licensed occupier.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
Has the occupier suchan interest in the premises as is capable of being dealt with under the Bill? We have been told again and again that nine-tenths of the licences in the country are in the hands, not of the occupier, but of the brewer. The brewers have speculated in this class of property, and they have been deriving such an enormous profit from it that they are recouping themselves year by year. I see in the prospectus of the Walker Brewery Company the statement that, in addition to immense profits being shared, ample provision is set aside for the depreciation of property and for the extinction of leases or goodwill. In these circum- 800 stances, it is unjust and unfair to call upon the public to provide this money. The Investment Register on "Brewery Companies and Legislation" says—A cloud of uncertainty has now been removed from the prospects of the 'licensed trade,' as the legislative proposals for the present Session are before the world. There had been a slight apprehension amongst all concerned in the welfare of the 'trade,' such as brewers, distillers, and even brewery shareholders. The worst is now known, and on examination of the several proposals which have been made by Mr. Ritchie and Lord Randolph Churchill it becomes quite certain that nobody is going to be hurt.Then, after having criticised at considerable length the proposals of my noble Friend—who I regret is not here to defend his views—they proceed to deal with the Government proposal. They say—For our present purpose, however, in the interests of brewery shareholders, the most important thing is that in both legislative projects compensation holds a leading and conspicuous place.The article proceeds—Although this principle was dropped in 1888, so as to save the remainder of a very important Bill, the Government returns to it as a sound and rational thing, and the country has become educated up to it. There is every probability of its being carried this time, as the Government has taken a firm and decided position, from which it is not in the least likely to retreat with such a majority as Lord Salisbury commands. The double proposals make it certain that the whole weight of the majority will go in its favour. Brewery shareholders may, therefore, be congratulated on the sense of security which this equitable concession will bring to them, and while there is time to act we confidently recommend investors to buy all well-selected shares that can be had at moderate prices, and not to part with any good brewery securities which they may already have in possession.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
The Investment Register. Again they have an article on Brewery Investment, in which they say—There is generally a solid foundation of freehold property, to begin with, in the brewery itself, and in a proportion, at all events, of the tied houses. With this there is a fixity of tenure, and no chance of disagreeable surprises from leases falling in, and landlords coming forward to claim the unearned increment of a confiscatory rent. This is the first solid security for the capital invested. The next is in 801 the permanency of the trade. From time to time there is apt to be a misgiving on this point. The aggressive character of total abstinence and temperance advocates causes an occasional apprehension as to the future. There is, however, no reason to fear that any harm will happen to brewers as a whole … The large breweries now hold the held, and so much do these contribute to the welfare of the country and the stability of the national finances, that no Government can afford to be hostile to the brewing interest, or to sanction any measures likely to be detrimental to its productivity.I will only tremble the House with one other quotation. The Financial Times said on May 3rd:—Mr. Ritchie's Licensing Bill, which was issued yesterday, is sure to receive attentive perusal and a very wide circulation, for, if carried in anything like its present form, it will add immensely to the value of licensed property of the better kind.Now, these people know their own business quite well. They thoroughly understand what this measure will do. We understand what it will do, and it is because we appreciate the force of their negotiation, and because we believe that this Bill, if carried, will strike a fatal blow at all temperance legislation for the future, that we give to it our strenuous opposition. Practically, the Bill amounts to the abolition of the Justices' power, root and branch, and to the assertion that no public house shall be deprived of its licence unless compensation is paid, not to the man who is carrying on the business, not to the man who is deprived of his living by legislative action—and, speaking for myself, I say that under such circumstances a man has a strong claim on the Legislature for compensation—but to the brewer or owner, to the shareholders in these large companies. You will compensate them for the termination of property from which they have already derived enormous revenues, those revenues being based on the contingent nature of their property. The fact that every brewery share in England has risen in value since the Bill was brought in is a most eloquent condemnation of the measure.
§ (11.36.) MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
It has been said upon the opposite Benches that this is a measure in favour of temperance, but, with the 802 exception of a small section of the Church of England Temperance Society, it is condemned by all the friends of temperance. It is argued that the measure will result in the lessening of the consumption of intoxicating drink, and yet every person connected with the trade is in favour of the Bill. The sum set aside is utterly inadequate to allow of anything substantial being done in the direction of temperance. Several estimates have been made of the cost of buying up all the houses in the country. The hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) has estimated the cost at £300,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), when he proposed the adoption of the Gottenburg system, estimated that he could buy all the public houses in Birmingham for £1,200,000. As these licences represent somewhere about 1 per cent, of all the licences in the country, the cost, according to that estimate, of buying up all licences will be £120,000,000. But another estimate was made with regard to Birmingham by another Birmingham man, who was fitted, from his position, to form a very accurate idea of the value of public houses. This was a Mr. Edwards, who was then the secretary of the Licensed Victuallers Defence League. Reviewing the figures of the right hon. Gentleman, Mr. Edward said the calculations were clever, but altogether wrong. The right hon. Gentleman, he said, estimated that in a town with a population of 400,000, the licences could be bought up for £1,200,000; but, he added, £3,000,000 would not be sufficient to do so. He adds:—Such an achievement, applying, as it should, to all persons directly interested, and to the £130,000 of capital invested would make all previous achievements of a compensatory nature insignificant.He says it would involve a complete re casting of our whole fiscal system, and adds, "£400,000,000 would not cover it." That is the estimate of a man well qualified to give an opinion on the subject. We have also the estimate of Mr. James, President of the Plymouth Licensed Victuallers' Protection Society. He estimated that the worst, and, conse- 803 quently, the cheaper, half of the licences in this country could be bought for £70,000,000, which would make the value of the whole about £200,000,000. I find that the average of these four valuations is £250,000,000. Of course, it is not contended that all licences will be bought up. The Government speak of buying up a certain number, and it is certain that all the money they allocate for the purpose would be entirely insufficient to make any impression whatever on the licences. Consequently £350,000 would merely be a beginning. They would be compelled to resort to fresh taxation, and we should, therefore, have fastened round our necks an amount like a new National Debt. The temperance question would then be left in a great deal worse position than it is in at present. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board spoke of some temperance meetings which had passed resolutions in favour of this Bill; but he did not allude to the meetings that had passed resolutions against the Bill, although he must have had sheaves of resolutions sent to him in opposition to it. Have those whom this Bill will benefit, the brewers and publicans, called a single public meeting? No such thing. I believe no public meeting of any kind has been called in any part of the country in favour of the Bill. Although the Government appear as if they would like to defy public opinion, they cannot defy it permanently. It is of little use to say to the Committee that this Bill is an unjust or impolitic Bill, but I have no doubt it will stay in the recollection of the public whether it is passed or not. The electors are much alive to this question, and when they have the opportunity of placing their views on record, the Government will discover that public opinion is as much opposed to them on this question as it possibly can be.
§ (11.46.) MR. CONYBEARE
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have expatiated on the poverty and the woes of the unfortunate publican whose case they are popularly supposed to be championing. But they have not tackled the point which has been put to 804 them from both sides of the House. It has been clearly demonstrated that the lion's share of the amount voted will go not into the pockets of the publicans, but into those of the great brewers and distillers and the shareholders in great brewery companies. I should like to see any hon. Member on the other side of the House, who is not himself either a brewer or distiller or a shareholder in a brewery company, get up and urge that those classes are entitled to derive any benefit from this system of compensation out of the public purse. They know perfectly well that any such attempt would be received with indignation by the people of this country, and they, therefore, take good care to avoid the subject, and confine themselves to flaunting in our faces the piteous tale of the desperate condition of the unfortunate publican, knowing all the time that it is a sham and a humbug. Assuming the position of the publican to be pitiable, how do Members opposite answer the argument that the publicans in 99 cases out of 100 are weekly servants of the brewers and are constantly being compelled to relinquish their means of livelihood at the dictation of the owners of the tied houses without a farthing of compensation? The publicans are not entitled to any compensation. They are the holders of a monopoly under which, without the exercise of brains, and without any considerable capital, it is possible for them to amass vast fortunes not out of the wants and necessities, but out of the degradation and misery, of their fellow-countrymen. Wherever monopolies have been attacked and extinguished—whether you take the salt monopolies in Queen Elizabeth's time, or the tobacco monopolies in other times—you will find that compensation has never even been asked for. This monopoly differs in no whit from those to which I have referred because it extends not for a period of 14 years, but for 12 months. It has been taken by the 805 publican with the full knowledge that the licence is to be held for a year and no longer. Therefore, to come down to this House and pretend you are interfering with vested interests and are inflicting hardship on these men for which they need compensation, is the merest fraud and sham. Let us deal out the same measure of justice or liberality or generosity to these men as is dealt out to others of a similar class. These men hold their licences for one year certain, and may, therefore, be considered as tenants for one year. If yon will look through the annals of landlordism in this country you will find the landlords deal out very hard measure indeed to their yearly tenants and think nothing of turning them out at very short notice. I should like to know what compensation is given to the publican who has been, perhaps, boycotted out of his livelihood by the Primrose Dames. It is well-known that in such cases no idea of compensation is ever thought of by the landlords, and yet I venture to say such men are a thousand times more entitled to compensation than the publicans would be under any conceivable circumstances. Let us clear away all this cant and humbug, and deal with these yearly tenants on the same principle as that on which all you landlords deal with your yearly tenants. If you once intro duce the thin end of the wedge of compensation to publicans, I should like to know where it is to end. There are plenty of other classes who will be able to establish on this basis a much stronger demand for compensation. Legislation has again and again been passed which has had the effect of ruining a large number of private individuals. Take the case of the private schoolmasters. An instance came under my notice a few days ago in my own constituency. An unfortunate man came to me and asked me for employment. He had been in a respectable position as a schoolmaster, but, by the op3ration of the Education Act, he had been deprived of his employment, and for years past had been compelled to take other employment, and, this failing him, had eventually been obliged to beg his way from house to house. There is a piteous case for you! What sort of compensation do the Government propose for relieving the 806 miseries of the hundreds and thousands of unfortunate men of that description? None at all. This is a measure of jobbery and robbery—of robbery because it proposes to rob the whole of the public for the benefit of the publicans; of jobbery because the Government know perfectly well it is the price they have to pay for the support of the publicans.
§ Mr. LLEWELLYN
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but the CHAIESMAN withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.