HC Deb 17 June 1890 vol 345 cc1154-7
MR. CAINE (Barrow-in-Furness)

In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for the St. Ives Division of Cornwall, I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, in view of the intention of the Government to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the licensing system, especially with regard to the question of compensation, he will consider the desirability of instructing County Councils not to part with any money allocated to them for the extinction of licences until the Committee has reported to the House?


I understood the hon. Member was not going to put this question, and, therefore, am not prepared with an answer. The Committee referred to in the question at one time appeared to be desirable, but now it appears it is objected to. It must not be assumed the Government had the attention ascribed to them.


Arising out of this question I desire to ask the First Lord of the Treasury a question of which I have given him private notice. The following letter appeared in the Times of this morning:— Lord Wolmer has addressed the following letter to Mr. J. Shelly, Chairman of the Executive of the Devon and Cornwall Literal Unionist Association:— 'Great George Street, Westminster, June 14. 'Dear Mr. Shelly,—Lord Hartington desires me to thank you for the information which you have given him of the strong opinions averse to certain clauses of the Local Government Bill, held by many of the staunchest and most valuable members of the Liberal Unionist Party in Devonshire and Cornwall. The opinion of these gentlemen is naturally a matter of much importance to the Liberal Unionist Party, and Lord Hartington desires me to assure you that he has given the very fullest consideration to the views and objections which they have put forward. The Government have consented to accept the Amendment proposed by Mr. Heneage, to insert a clause to the following effect:—"Provided always that nothing in this Act contained shall be construed as altering the existing law affecting the renewal of licences, or as giving to the holder of any licence any right or privilege other than that now enjoyed by him." Before it was known that the Government were willing to accept this Amendment, it is certain that many earnest temperance reformers honestly feared that the Bill would have the effect of altering the legal position of the publican: but now that this clause is to be added to it, Lord Hartington is unable to understand how it can be seriously contended, either that a vested interest not at present existing is created by this Bill, or that temperance legislation in the future can be prejudiced by it. The Government have also determined to propose next year that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and consider the questions on compensation which have been raised by the present and other proposals. The facts elicited by such an inquiry and the Report of such a Select Committee cannot fail greatly to facilitate the progress of temperance legislation in the future. The consideration of these facts will, Lord Hartington hopes, tend to allay the opposition of Liberal Unionists to the present attitude of the Government on this question. 'Believe me yours very truly, WOLMER.' Having read that letter I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the statement made by Lord Wolmer in the name of Lord Hartington is or is not well founded?

VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)

Perhaps the House will allow me to make a personal explanation in relation to this letter. I am authorised by Lord Hartington to say that he saw the draft of my letter to Mr. Shelly before it was sent, but that he did not particularly notice the expression "determined to propose," and that if he had he should have altered it into "are prepared to assent to," but that he did not, and does not now, attach the importance to the distinction which the right hon. Member for Derby appears to attach to it.


The noble Lord's remarks are hardly in the nature of a personal explanation.


After what the noble Lord calls a personal explanation, I have to repeat my question to the right hon. Gentleman—namely, whether the statement made by Lord Wolmer, on, behalf of Lord Hartington, to induce the Liberal Unionists to vote for this Bill, is or is not well founded?


I thought we discussed this subject sufficiently last night; and I then stated to what extent the statement of the intentions of the Government was accurate. Lord Hartington appears to have been under the impression that the Government, were willing that a Committee should be appointed. I have already explained, in answer to the hon. Member for Barrow, that the Government were under the impression that such a Committee was desired in many parts of the House, but certainly it was not the intention of the Government to move for such a Committee, and it is not the intention of the Government to ask the House to accept such a Committee, unless it is the strong desire of the House they should do so.

MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)

Does the right hon. Gentleman still adhere to the statement that the announcement of the Committee was not made to influence public opinion?


I am strongly of the belief that that was so; but the hon. Gentleman is quite able to form his own opinion, and is not bound by mine.

SIK W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)

Is it the present intention of the Government to propose the Committee next year?


I stated a few minutes ago that we had certainly no intention of moving for such a Committee.

MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)

I will ask why the intention to appoint that Committee, which, as was explained by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale, was entertained ever since the introduction of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington's Bill, was not divulged to the House during the discussion on the Local Taxation Bill, considering it would have had a most important bearing on the Bill.


I must really demur to the statement the hon. and learned Gentleman has made. He has attributed to the Government an intension which we do not entertain.