§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ (5.20.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 228; Noes 224.—(Div. List, No. 148.)1378
§ (5.36.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I beg leave to move, Sir, that you report Progress. I think after this Division it is really an abuse of the forms of the House for the Government to persevere with this Bill. The House of Commons has now decisively pronounced against them. In order to give the Government an opportunity of re-considering their position, I beg to move that you report Progress.
§ (5.37.) Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman report Progress and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. T. P. O'Connor.)
§ (5.37.) MR. W. H. SMITH
The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to hear that I do not agree with him. The Government do not think that the House has decisively pronounced against them.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
No, not yet. On Tuesday evening when Progress was reported the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) was in the middle of his speech moving the rejection of the 1st clause, and it was expected that to-night he would continue his speech. Right lion, and hon. Gentlemen opposite have had the advantage of a surprise, and they deserve full credit for it in every respect; whatever it amounts to in the country and the House of Commons they have the credit of it. We propose to proceed with the ordinary business.
§ (5.39.) MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
Perhaps I may be permitted a word in reply to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman. It is perfectly true that I got the better portion of my speech delivered the night before last, but the right hon. Gentleman will not say that because I got through the more important part of my speech on that occasion I am, therefore, compelled to go on with it this afternoon. It seems to me he is never satisfied. If we speak at length, he says we are obstructive; if we do not speak at all, he says we take him by surprise. The Government have taken the people of this country by surprise, and I think it is probable that before long the people of the country will surprise them. So far as the present Motion is concerned, I have no desire to prevent 1379 business going on. I hate the Bill, and I am delighted that the Government have brought it in. I propose for one to continue my opposition to it, and I think the majority of the Members of the House will end either by opposing it or by expressing a significant opinion by their absence, so that in the end what we hoped to achieve this afternoon will for after all accomplished.
§ (5.42.) MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK (Whitehaven)
As an old Member of this House, I beg entirely to differ from the hon. Member who has made this Motion. I heard the speech, or part of a speech, which was delivered by the hon. Member for Sunderland when we were last in Committee. To-day, before the Question was put, I observed what was passing on the Opposition Benches. I saw hon. Members in close conversation, and I saw their gestures and what took place between hon. Members below the Gangway opposite and their Front Bench. Anyone who witnessed what occurred could not help but form his own conclusion that the Committee was purposely taken by surprise.
§ (5.43.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
The purpose of this Motion made by my hon. Friend, if I may venture to construe it, was to make a representation to the Government and to suggest to the Government the advisableness of withdrawing the Bill. It was in our power to have continued the Debate on the first clause by advancing arguments in support of its rejection, but we trusted to expedite business by foregoing our privilege of continuing the Debate. My hon. Friend having gained the object of this Motion—namely, to give the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House an opportunity of declaring the intention of the Government—I do not think the Motion ought to be pressed to a Division. Of course, I need not say how deeply I regret the course the Government are pursuing. Still, in the circumstances, the opportunity having been afforded, we ought not to consume time by taking another Division; and, therefore, I hope my hon. Friend will withdraw the Motion.
§ (5.45.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I made it, as the right hon. Gentleman correctly says, for the purpose of giving 1380 the Government a last opportunity of escaping. ["Not last."] Well, last but one; but as they have not taken it, of course I shall not persevere with my Motion.
(5.45.) MR. T. M. HEALT
I notice that the Irish Secretary is looking extremely pleased at what has occurred—["Order."]
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2.
(5.45.) MR. S. WILLIAMSON&c.) (Kilmarnock,
I beg to move, in Clause 2, page 2, line 2, to leave out "Out of." I move this Amendment with the object of introducing the proposal contained in a second Amendment on the Paper, which proposes that the Scotch share of the money shall be devoted to the purpose of entirely freeing parents in Scotland from the liability of paying school fees, and also for the creation, extension, and improvement of fishery harbours on the coast of Scotland, as against the Government proposal for buying out public houses. I can safely say that in Scotland the entire feeling of the people is against the Government in this matter. I have presented many Petitions against the Government proposals, and though I have presented throe in favour of them, those have been from Wine and Spirit and Beer Associations. I have not received for presentation a single Petition from a public meeting of citizens in favour of the Bill, but the strongest expressions of feeling against it have reached me from all parts of Scotland. It is proposed to hand over an annual grant of £130,000 to Scotland, but the framers of this measure wish to devote a large portion of that sum for the purpose of buying out licences. My proposal is that instead of being put to such a purpose, it should be used in supplementing the grant which has been already given to free the compulsory standards in Scotland, and for extending and improving our fishery harbours. The need of proper fishery harbours is much felt in Scotland. There are several small villages and towns without the resources or the means of providing harbour accommodation, and the want is all the more felt now that large boats are being used and that steam trawling is being carried on. In regard to the appor- 1381 tionment of the money, I would suggest that £50,000 should be given for harbours, and £70,000 should be given for the complete freeing of education—so far as the payment of fees is concerned. This sum, I believe, will be enough—in fact, there will be a certain small balance left to be dealt with. It is, of course, in the competency of the Committee to alter these figures, but the object of my Amendment is simply to bring up the question of the creation and improvement of harbours in Scotland and the question of education, as opposed to the policy of buying up the public houses. I sincerely hope that the object I have in view will be acceptable to the House.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 2, to leave out the words "Out of."—(Mr. S. Williamson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words Out of' stand part of the Clause."
(5.49.) MR. R. T. REID&c.) (Dumfries,
I desire to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Kilmarnoch Burghs, as I understand it is competent for us to discuss the propriety of applying the money allocated to Scotland under this Bill for the purpose for which the hon. Member would design it, or the purpose for which it is designed by the Government. I must say I think the Government have exhibited an unusual degree of perverse ingenuity in the number of vexed and difficult questions they have succeeded in raising by this Bill and this clause. They have raised the whole question of licensing and of the proprietors of licences being bought out by the County authorities. They have raised the whole question of temperance as it affects the whole of the United Kingdom—and no doubt it is known to the Government themselves that this is an extremely thorny question. But they have raised also another, a still more difficult and delicate question, and that is how far this House is going to impose its will upon the Scotch Members assembled here. There has been a growing irritation since this Government came into power as to the manner in which Scotch Members have been perpetually outvoted on Scotch questions. Hitherto Her Majesty's Government have shown their willingness to use their voting power in refusing such Amend- 1382 ments of the law as Scotch Members desire, but now they are taking a step forward in this direction, forcing down our throats alterations in the law against which the great majority of Scotch Members are resolutely opposed, backed, I will undertake to say, by the great majority of the Scotch constituencies. I will go so far as to say there is no question affecting our social life in which our constituencies take a deeper interest than this question of temperance legislation. It may be that our people suffer more from the vice of intemperance, or it may be that our people more appreciate the far-reaching consequences of these evils, but it is certain that the Scotch people are deeply anxious by all means in their power to put an end to this evil, and it is quite certain that we Scotch Members have received more representations, more petitions, on this one subject in the last two or three weeks than upon almost any subject which has come before the Scotch constituencies in recent years. I have myself presented many petitions, and I have received numerous letters, not only from members of my own Party, but from those opposed to me, condemning-the Government proposals, and I think every one of my colleagues has had similar experience. How are our representations treated? The Committee is almost without English Conservative Members; they do not care to hear our arguments and follow our discussions; we are ready to represent the distinction there is between our position in this matter and the position in England, but our arguments, so far as English Conservative Members are concerned, are addressed to empty Benches. No apology is needed for stating our case adequately: we shall make our protest, and English as well as Scotch constituencies will judge of the manner in which we are treated. First, lot me point out that the feeling in Scotland against this Bill comes from either Party, and I may illustrate this by reference to the chief burgh in the constituency I represent. The temperance feeling there is as strong among the Conservatives as among the Liberals. When the Earlier Closing Bill was before the House, a Bill with the object of enabling burghs in Scotland to close public houses an hour earlier than heretofore, a public meeting was convened in 1383 my constituency, and it was resolved by the Town Council to take a plébiscite of the population on the subject. The Provost of the town was Chairman of the Committee to carry out the arrrangements, and the Town Clerk was Secretary. Voting pipers were sent out to the 4,088 ratepayers in the burgh, and, as my hon. Friends know, Dumfries for a Scotch burgh contains a very considerable number of Conservatives. Out of those who returned voting papers, 2,472 were in favour of putting the Act in force, and only 313 were against it. It is, therefore, shown that the opinion is not confined to temperance fanatics, Radicals, and such-like objectionable classes, mistrusted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but the respectable Conservative classes joined with the Liberals in what they believed to be the interests of temperance. Now, the Government say this is a temperance Bill, and a Member of the Government must needs have command of his countenance when he says so, and Party zeal must have blinded the judgment of any hon. Member who seriously believes this. Out of the Bill I suppose Scotland will get £50,000 a year, for the purpose of extinguishing licences, and these licensed houses in Scotland are worth £20,000,000 at a low valuation. If my calculation is correct, then 400 years are required before existing licences can be abolished. Take the case of Dumfries—and I suppose every hon. Member will be apt to find an illustration in his own constituency—in Dumfries there are 82 licensed houses, each worth I suppose on an average £1,000, a total of £82,000. The portion of this grant falling to Dumfries would be £224 a year, so it is quite apparent no tangible progress can be made towards the end all hon. Members in their hearts desire by means of such proposals as these. But this by no means represents the uselessness and in utility of the measure. Hon. Gentlemen opposite forget that when you take away three or four or more licences you thereby progressively increase the value of the remaining licences you do not take away. Suppose in one particular part of a burgh you have five licences, if you destroy one you do not destroy all the trade carried on by that house, but 90 per cent, of it probably goes to the remaining four houses, 1384 and their value is thereby increased. Then, when you destroy another of the four 90 per cent, of the trade of the second house is transferred to the three remaining houses; therefore, when you propose to devote a certain sum to the buying up of licences, remember a great deal of the money you spend is re-invested at once by the nature of your operation in increasing the value of other remaining houses. It is the most thriftless system that can be devised. If we are to buy up licensed houses, a policy I repudiate, at least we should do so as the hon. Member for Birmingham suggested, purchasing them en bloc, not buying them on a system which obliges us to pay for them over again successively. This leads me to say a word or two upon the question, what is the real legal position? Are we bound to buy up public houses before we extinguish them? If we are bound in honour or by the legal rights and position of publicans to buy the licences, it will be one of the greatest calamities to the cause of temperance that can be imagined. But I entirely deny that there is such legal right, and I must express my satisfaction at seeing the Solicitor General present, inasmuch as I shall have to say something upon the attitude he and his learned colleague the Attorney General have thought proper to take up in regard to this matter. Two years ago Her Majesty's Government brought in a Bill, one clause of which frankly recognised, so far as England was concerned, that the publicans had a vested interest in their licences. The clause was contested in the House, and the Solicitor General took occasion to say that if an on-licence was refused renewal upon a public ground, as, for example, that it was not necessary to renew it in the public interest, the Court could interfere by what is called a mandamus to compel the Magistrate to renew it. Subsequently a case was decided which really settled the matter beyond all possible doubt or controversy. By the case "Sharp v. Wakefield" it was decided, and I am now quoting from the authorised version, that—The discretion of the Justices as to granting and refusing a licence by way of renewal, under the Licensing Act of 1828 and the Licensing Acts of 1872 and 1874, in respect of exciseable liquors to be drunk on the premises, is absolute provided it be exercised judicially.'1385 Let me state what the facts of the case were. On an application to the Justices, under the Licensing Act of 1828, for a renewal of a licence to soil exciseable liquor by retail to be drunk on the premises, the Justices refused to renew the licence, on the ground of the remoteness of tin; inn from police supervision and the character and the necessities of the neighbourhood. An appeal to the Quarter Sessions was dismissed, and on a case being stated for the opinion of the Court, Lord Esher, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Fry, and Lord Justice Lopes, confirming the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench, held that the discretion vested in the Justices under the Licensing Act of 1828 had not been affected by the Licensing Acts of 1872 and 1874, and that it was, therefore, competent for them to withhold the licence on the grounds stated. I do not understand what the Solicitor General and the Attorney General mean when they tell us that that case does not decide the question which is in issue before us now. In my judgment it decides the question as clearly as any decision possibly can decide any question. The Attorney General appears to have expressed the opinion that it could not be a judicial exercise of discretion if the discretion was so exercised as to refuse a licence to a respectable and proper and worthy man. By the decision in the case of Sharp v. Wakefield, the contrary is expressly laid down, and when we are considering as a matter of policy the wisdom or the unwisdom of entering upon a purchase of public houses with public money, the very root of our investigations must necessarily be what are the legal rights possessed by the publicans or the owners of the public houses. I say those legal rights admit of the licences being refused. As to the practice in Scotland regarding the renewal of licences, I have no doubt hon. Gentleman around me will be able to quote instance after instance in which renewals have been refused in different parts of Scotland without any compensation at all. In the Burgh of Dumfries there were, 20 years ago, 120 licences; now there are only 82 licences. In a few cases, no doubt, licences have been withdrawn by reason of conviction for offences. That, of course, does not enter into the consideration. But the 1386 remainder have been extinguished in this manner. It has been the rule of the Bench to refuse renewals wherever the property has changed hands, or wherever the tenant has died, or has removed. There have only been two classes of exceptions to this rule. The first class is that of hotels, not public houses in the proper sense of the word, but houses of, general entertainment; and the second is a case where a widow, for example, or some other near relative has been left, and where there has been some sympathy felt for her, and also where it has has been proved that the house has been exceptionally well conducted. Under these circumstances the licence has been renewed to the survivor. But such has been the operation of this rule or practice of the Bench that we have succeeded in reducing the licences in 20 years by something' over 30 per cent. Of course, I need not assure the Committee that in no single case has any compensation been asked or paid by any human being. What must necessarily be the effect of the clause under discussion in a place like Dumfries? It is very easy to say that you reserve, as you do reserve in the Bill, the power of the Licensing Justices to use all the discretionary authority they have at the present time, but is it not perfectly obvious that the fact of enabling County Councils to buy public houses for the purpose of extinguishing them will set up two methods of extinguishing licences, one the rival of the other? There will be the old method of refusing to renew without compensation, and there will be the other method of buying up the licences with full compensation. Can anybody doubt that when these are alongside of each other, these two different methods, one which appears to be compassionate and kindly, and the other which appears by contrast to be harsh and unfeeling, the sympathy of the public will go in the direction of buying or giving compensation, instead of in the direction of refusing to renew the licence, as has heretofore been the rule. It cannot be otherwise, and when right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench point with exultation to the fact that the legal position is intended to be reserved, they entirely forget the moral effect of a law of this kind. Suppose, for example, they carry their 1387 proposition, and give County Councils the power of granting and renewing licences, and at the same time give them the power of buying licences, is it not obvious that the County Councils will practically be disabled from using the most beneficial power of refusing renewal of licences, but will be driven by public opinion into the use of the power of purchase? That is the view of my constituents. A public meeting in Dumfries has condemned the proposals of the Government. Is it a statesmanlike course to force upon Scotland a clause of this character? Hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well that a majority of two to one, perhaps a great deal more than two to one, of the Scotch Members are resisting this Bill. Why is it that in a matter of this kind they insist on ruthlessly using their majority, without taking the trouble to come in and hear what our arguments are? We have been told by the President of the Local Government Board that the Government do not regard this Bill as a final settlement of the matter, that before the introduction of the Bill they received no hint, either from the brewers or the publicans, or any branch of the trade, that any of the provisions of the Bill were wanted, and that a general Bill, dealing with the entire question of compensation, will be introduced before long. Under these circumstances, it requires some ingenuity to understand what can be the motive of the Government in the dogged determination they seem to evince to impose the Bill upon the reluctant Members for Scotland. My belief is that the real reason is not to be found merely in what I may call a feeling of pride, but in the fact that the public house trade, like other trades, is keen enough to scent an advantage. It did not take the trade long to find out that the Bill contained within it a principle which would make it very difficult hereafter to interfere, in any manner, with their trade, and they have, no doubt, put on the Government pressure, pressure of that character which is understood when it comes from keen and strong political supporters. Although it may have been brought in in the cause of temperance, the Bill has now become nothing more than a flagrant job in the interest of the owners of 1388 public house prosperity, and I believe that, if the Government do persevere with it, it will prove to be as disastrous to them as it will be injurious to the best interests of the country.
§ (6.20.) MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
My hon. and learned Friend has pointed out when this Bill passes there will be two methods of putting down public houses, and he maintains that the Local Authority will, no doubt, still exercise their authority, but they will be very unwilling to do so. I contend that they will be more willing to do so than before, because they will not only have the law on their side, but they will have a certain amount of money with which to assist people to get out of their public houses. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman complained that English opinion is continually voting down Scotch opinion. [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen who cheer must know that Scotch opinion very often rules down English opinion. If it were not for the Irish and Scotch opinion, I should like to know what would be the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian?
§ MR. MARK STEWART
Just what it is means 150 votes upon a Division, and instead of the Government winning by 4 votes to-night, their majority would have been more like 154. The hon. and learned Gentleman also complained that the Conservative Members were not present to listen to his arguments, but if he looked around him he would have found that the Opposition Benches were comparatively empty.
§ MR. R. T. REID
I did not complain that Conservative Members did not listen to what I said, but that they never listened to what any Scotch Member said.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
With the exception of a few minutes, when I was called out of the House, I sat through the whole of the hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks. Reference has been made to the Petitions presented to the House, but we know very well how Petitions are manufactured. Again, we know how public meetings are called together. People do not care to differ with what is said at meetings, but when a poll takes place things are very 1389 different. Besides, all the Petitions are not on one side; only yesterday a Petition from Scotland, signed by between 40,000 and 50,000 people, was presented in favour of the proposals; and I never recollect receiving so many Petitions in favour of any Government measure. It is quite possible that a large number of licences may be done away with by this Bill. It may only be necessary to give some people who are turned out of their public houses, £50 or £100, but the granting of this compensation, or, properly speaking, purchase money, would take the edge off the feeling in the country, that it would be a hard thing to turn men out of their houses without giving them some recompense. It is said that a man gets a licence for nothing, but immediately obtains a large profit thereby. But the man pays for the licence he gets; although he does get his certificate for nothing. He has to pay a heavy duty in order to trade, and if you allow him to trade you sanction his business. Under all the circumstances, I shall oppose this Amendment.
§ (6.28.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
There are great differences between Scotland and England and Wales, which, I think, should be pointed out at the earliest opportunity. The first difference is the enormous strength and universality of the feeling on this question in Scotland as expressed not indistinctly by the Divisions in this House. I am not exaggerating when I say that on what was practically the Second Reading Division, a Division far less favourable than that Second Reading Division which we got early in the 1st clause, and still less favourable than that third Second Reading Division which we got this afternoon—I am not exaggerating when I say that even in the most unfavourable of these Divisions, there were, taking the pairs into account, 46 Scotch Members against the Bill to 23 for it. These 23 not only included the devoted adherents of the Government who, from Party motives we can all respect, stuck to the Government in their difficulty, but included several official Members. The hon. Member who who has just spoken says that resolutions have been passed at public meetings, and Petitions have been signed, under misapprehension of the nature of this Bill, but I will 1390 venture to say no Scotch Member thinks his countrymen do not understand this question most thoroughly, and also the nature of this monopoly, from which the holders derive large gains each year; from a monopoly not given, as in times past monopolies were supposed to be given, for public service, and for which this Bill will provide compensation by payment of a capital sum. The Scotch people understand this question, and the great mass of the people suffer from the drink traffic. I do not exaggerate when I say the feeling is universal in Scotland among the miss of the people against this Bill; there is a difference of degree in the opinion in Scotland and in England, and, strong as the feeling may be in England, it is stronger in Scotland. There is this distinction, too, which I hope Members will keep in view, that we are in a position of advantage in proposing a diversion of these funds from the purpose proposed in the Bill. When English Members make similar proposals, they are under the disadvantage of proposing the appropriation of money to purposes for which they have to invent the machinery. But we, thanks to the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Dr. Hunter), and the hon. Member for the College Division (Dr. Cameron), have at the moment the machinery for the distribution in excellent working order. We have the machinery for making payment of fees in Scotch schools, and we do not ask now to set up new machinary for public expenditure, but only for more money to be devoted to a purpose of great utility, and by machinery we have now at work. We would have fees abolished, and make education free in every school throughout Scotland, and in every standard, compulsory and non-compulsory alike. I take it, we may all safely vote for this Amendment, which goes against the clause as a whole, and, if we should carry this Amendment, and the Government should go on with the Bill, it would be easy to frame Amendments to enable the whole of the money to be devoted to the payment of fees in elementary schools. But it is quite another matter when this Amendment is passed, and we come to the second Amendment of my hon. Friend. I must own that that Amendment will place many of us in a great difficulty, because the great feeling among Scotch 1391 Members is in favour of applying this money to the extinguishing of fees in fee-paying schools, and, therefore, I hope my hon. Friend (Mr. Williamson) will alter his Amendment so as to enable us to take a vote upon that proposal. But the present Amendment is directed to defeating that part of the clause to which we all object—that is to say, to applying this money to buying up public houses. What a preposterous proposal is that now before us! In Scotland there are 15,400 licences to 3,750,000 of people, a proportion of one to every 212 people, very nearly the proportion in England where it is one to every 202 inhabitants. I only call attention to this because it enables us to get at the minimum cost of a public house in Scotland. We know that in England it is, roughly speaking, £2,000, and I assume that in Scotland it is about the same, or say, an average of £2,000, for Scotland is a country at least as rich as England. Now, Glasgow will receive, so far as I can see, an eighth of the sum allotted to Scotland, or £5,000; so, in order to reduce the licensed houses in Glasgow by 10 per cent, we must wait 80 years. But that is not all, because as licences are reduced, by the process admirably explained by my lion, and learned Friend (Mr. Reid) they become gradually, and indeed rapidly in some cases, more valuable. My hon. and learned Friend did not put the case so strongly as he might have done, for the gross earnings of an extinguished public house will become the net gains of the remaining houses; the staff and machinery of the remaining houses remain as they were, and the trade transferred from the bought-up house becomes a net gain added to the existing trade. The hon. Member for Kirkcudbright (Mr. M. Stewart) says the number of licences will be reduced because the men in smaller houses will be willing to take small sums to get out of the business; but, on the contrary, I believe if this Bill passes you will do away with the natural process of putting down public houses on public grounds, which now goes on much faster than some Members seem to think. I am glad to think that the increase of temperance feeling, the increase of public spirit among the wealthier classes, is leading to a public spirited suppression of drink shops by 1392 landlords, even when this means a loss to the landlord's income. But now, when you establish the principle that the giving up of a licence should be accompanied by compensation, men will be less willing on public grounds to give up the profit of the trade, and will hold out for compensation. The hon. Member laughs at the idea of public house occupiers profiting by the misconducting of their houses; but I have no doubt that if County Councils use the Bill at all they will use it to put down the worst houses, and in proportion to the evil effect of a house will be the pressure upon a County Council to buy it. I hope every Liberal Member and every Independent Member on the other side will vote with Scotch Members for this Amendment, and after that it will be for Scotch opinion to decide how the fund shall be appropriated.
§ (6.42.) MR. SOMERVELL (Ayr, &c.)
I will not occupy the time of the Committee at any length in referring to the extraordinary position the right hon. Gentleman has taken up. The Mover of this Amendment asks us to omit these innocent-looking words, with an object in view which he has stated, and the right hon. Gentleman, in supporting the Amendment, appeals to the hon. Member to withdraw the Amendment of which he has given notice, and goes back over well-trodden ground. There was an Amendment moved on the Second Reading stage of the Bill which distinctly brought to issue the questions discussed by the hon. Member for Dumfries and the right hon. Gentleman. We divided on the Second Reading of the Bill on the distinct question whether the money should be divided in the manner provided in this measure or not, and we affirmed the principle in the Bill, and I maintain that it is an abuse of the forms of the House to occupy time in discussing a principle which has already been affirmed by a majority. And what are the arguments used? The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries informs us that public houses in Scotland are worth £20,000,000, and the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Trevelyan), absolutely ignorant as to the value of these houses, but desirous of following-out the logical law of laying down hypothetical premises argues that because in England a public house is 1393 worth £2,000, in Scotland they must, because there are fewer of them, he worth a good deal more. This might be an interesting thesis to discuss before a debating society, but I question if it can have any influence upon a Vote in tin's House. We desire not to argue upon hypothetical premises, we desire to be instructed upon the facts of the case. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, after laying down the fact that public houses in Scotland are worth £20,000,000, occupied himself for some time, as an English lawyer, in discussing the action "Sharp v. Wakefield," and afterwards told us that public house licences are liable to be taken away without any reason, and, therefore, they could have no value at all.
§ MR. SOMERVELL
We have had an interesting illustration of putting an abstract proposition into concrete terms. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian set the example, and the hon. Member for Dumfries has followed it, both he and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton, having attempted first to lay down an abstract proposition, and, when they came to a concrete idea, contradicted themselves entirely. Much has been said with regard to the feeling of Scotland on this subject, and we have been told that that feeling is entirely in support of hon. Members opposite. I cannot agree with that proposition at all. A large majority of the signatures in Petitions from Scotland are in favour of this Bill as it passed the Second Reading, and in my own case the leading temperance journal in Scotland has recognised that I was elected after definitely stating that I was in favour of the proposals of the Bill, giving this power to County Councils. This is a definite statement by a leader of the Temperance Party. Undoubtedly a great number of Petitions have been presented against the Bill, but the names on these Petitions appear like Falstaff's ragged regiment again and again. I know one small village which has sent up five Petitions signed by the same persons sometimes as inhabitants, sometimes as Members of the Radical Association, as members of the Ladies Association, as members of the Good Templars Lodg'e, and so on. Like a 1394 theatrical army, they cross the stage and re-appear again under another banner. I have here a letter addressed to me by one of my constituents, a leading member of the Free Church, and prominent in the temperance cause, and who, until 1886, was a prominent member of the then United Liberal Party in the district. He writes—Being all my days a temperance man, the wire-pullers of this part have been most anxious that I should do something with the Temperance Party in opposition to the Government measure which they represent for the first time creates a vested interest in a licence. Not only would I not promise to do as they advised, but I stated my opinion that the Bill was an honest attempt on the part of the Government to reduce the number of licences, and as a temperance man that was what I wanted. They hold this is a dodge to pay publicans who are dispossessed the full value of their licences. I, on the other hand, take the word of Mr. Goschen and Mr. Ritchie that those who drink spirits and sell them are to be the compensators. I do not approve of putting a tax on the ratepayers to buy out the publicans, but I see no tendency to do this, and therefore those who wish the Temperrnce Party to prosper will accept the Government proposals as a boon.[Cries of "Name"] My correspondent is a prominent member of the Temperance Party, and I will hand the letter to any hon. Member who desires to satisfy his curiosity, but I think I had better follow the example of the hon. Member opposite and not make the name public. After these expressions of opinion I do not think hon. Members opposite are entitled to say that temperance feeling in Scotland is unanimous against the Government proposal. We have been informed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian that the opinion of England has changed since the last election. There is, undoubtedly, at the present time a I majority of Members representing Scotland on the other side of the House, and if the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman is correct, for my own part, I am equally entitled to say that those who sit on this side of the House now represent the opinion of the majority of the people of Scotland. Scotch Members opposite have been elected by those who favour local option, anti-vaccination, and all the extreme views of people who place those views before Party or the Empire. But on any broad question the people of Scotland are in accordance with the present policy of Her Majesty's Go- 1395 vernment. I deny, therefore, that hon. Members opposite are entitled to say that they represent the people of Scotland. But I do not care whether they represent the majority of the people of Scotland or not. The principle of government in this country is government by Party, and the Party to which I belong is at present in the majority in the United Kingdom, and it is the bounden duty, taking this Parliament as representing the people of the United Kingdom, of the Government of the day to introduce and pass legislation which is in accordance with the views of their supporters who sit behind them. When this fact is realised, whether we have been in the past, or whether we are at the moment, representatives of the majority, when the next appeal comes, our Party will be returned by a considerable majority of the sensible people of Scotland. I must apologise for having detained the Committee so long against my intention. I have taken the opportunity to express my views upon the Bill, views which I venture to say are held by a majority of the people of Scotland, and held almost unanimously by the Party to which I belong. I hope the Committee will support the principle which has been laid down on the Second Reading, and pass into law a Bill which is an honest attempt to deal with several vexed questions, and which, when it becomes law, will be realised to be one of the grate boons bestowed upon the country by Her Majesty's Government.
§ (6.57.) MR. ASQUITH (Fife, East)
I trust that Scotch Members will not be deterred by the minatory tones and gestures of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down from expressing their opinion fully and freely upon this most important clause. The hon. Member appears to be gifted with a buoyant faith in the future of his Party in Scotland, and it is to be hoped, for the credit of his reputation as apolitical prophet, that his faith is based on more substantial evidence than that which he has brought forward with regard to the opinion of the Temperance Party in that country. He produced a letter from some un-named correspondent, who is prepared to give a blank cheque to the right hon. Gentlemen the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Local Government Board, but we should like to know 1396 a little more about the antecedents of this remarkably credulous temperance man. As to the hon. Gentleman's confident statement as to the state of public opinion in Scotland, we challenge the hon. Member, and the Party to which he belongs, to give us an opportunity of testing the feeling of Scotland, and as long as they decline to do so we shall continue to assert our right to be considered as the authentic exponents of public opinion in that country. From the evidence which reaches us we know that the people of Scotland are well nigh unanimous, without distinction of Party, in their opposition to these clauses, and in this House we shall offer the most strenuous and unremitting opposition to them. The history of this Bill and of these, two clauses is a chapter of paradoxes. These clauses have been introduced avowredly to promote the cause of temperance. These clauses are bitterly opposed, by every temperance organisation in Scotland. These are clauses in support of which there are at this moment—so we are informed—Petitions lying for-signature in every gin palace and every public house in Scotland. Her Majesty's Government suppose, at least we must believe so, that they know better than anybody else in the world what will be the effect of their own measure. But I must say it is a curious state of circumstances which obliges them to assume that the Temperance Party on the one hand, and the publicans upon the other, two of the shrewdest, the most-energetic, and most hostile bodies of men to be found in the country, are, at one and the same time, victims of one and the same hallucination. It is possible that Her Majesty's Government may be right, and both the teetotalers and publicans, are wrong. But I venture to think that the probabilities point in the opposite direction. I assert broadly and explicitly, with reference to this clause, that if it passes into the Statute Book, it will constitute for all time the legislative charter of the liquor trade. The matter lies really in a nutshell. Either there is or there is not, according to the law of Scotland, which is the same as the law of England, a vested interest in the renewal of a licence. If there is not, and we believe there is not, then this clause, for the first time, creates it. If there is now no vested interest in the renewal of a 1397 licence, then this Bill creates a power which cannot co-exist with the discretionary power of non-renewal. It is too grotesque an assumption almost for the imagination to make, that in one and the same district, at one and the same time, we are to have two public bodies—I say two, though they will, as we all know, be merged into one in a few years—one of which is exercising the power of refusing the renewal of a licence by a stroke of the pen and without payment of a penny of compensation, while the other, side by side with it, is exercising the power of buying up licences with public money. That is a difficulty which cannot be got over. The President of the Local Government Board may propose any number of saving clauses and provisoes; they will not avail him. I have said and thought many hard things of the Liberal Unionist Party, but I confess my imagination did not grasp the fact that they could have reached such a stage of moral liquefaction as to accept the salve to their consciences which is to be found in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Grimsby. For my part, I do not believe that any Town or County Council in Scotland will use these powers. Still, we are bound, for the purpose of the argument, to assume that the clause will be put in force. If it is enforced, then I unhesitatingly assert that the creation of such a power is wholly inconsistent, and will be found to be irreconcilable with the continued exercise of the discretionary power of withdrawal of licences. Lot us look at the other alternative. Suppose there is now, by law, a vested interest in the renewal of licences in some shadowy form or other. Then I assert, avid I challenge contradiction, that this Bill for the first time gives to that interest legislative recognition. We have had some remarkable arguments addressed to us in the course of the Debate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, for instance, believes, as the Attorney General evidently believes, that there is a law in Scotland as in England, giving a vested interest in the renewal of a licence. If he does not believe that, then his arguments are absolutely unmeaning. The Chancellor of the Exchequer laboured this point greatly. I am a great, a respectful admirer of the debating-powers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have witnessed with 1398 compassion so fertile and ingenious a dialectician reduced, under stress of the duty of supporting this unhappy Bill to a condition of controversial beggary What are the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this point? He says there is a vested interest by law in the renewal of a licence. Is there any Act of Parliament, or any provision of any Act of Parliament, which creates or recognises such an interest? The Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot find one. Is there any decision of any Court of Law, any dictum of any individual Judge, which countenances the existence of such an interest? The Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot discover anything of the kind. What does he do? He sets to work to scavenge the by-ways of Hansard, and ultimately, after long and painful research, he succeeds in picking out two or three sentences, severed from their context and spoken in a different connection, from speeches made from time to time by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. The right hon. Gentleman has had many compliments paid to him in his time; but I do not know that he has ever had a greater compliment than the suggestion or assumption of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the brewers and distillers of this country, among the shrewdest, most prudent, and enterprising of our traders, have allowed themselves to invest tens and hundreds of millions of capital, not upon the faith of any legislative enactment or legal decision, but in reliance upon two or three sentences, not even upon sentences but upon two or three phrases, not even upon two or three phrases, but upon a particular interpretation of a particular phrase of one of his speeches. That is the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am bound to say that, as we might have expected from him, after two or three days' reflection he felt bound to array this unhappy measure in a rather less tattered garment. He came down here—and I observe he repeats the same argument in the newspapers to-day—and he told us that this Bill only extended to an analogous case a principle which was habitually acted upon by Local Authorities all over the country. That argument is worthy a moment's attention. Let us see what it comes to. The Local Authority, Municipal Corporation, or Railway Com- 1399 pany, when they take property for the purposes of a street improvement or public undertaking, have to buy out the various interests in the land which they take. If a public house is included in the property taken, they must buy the interest of the freeholder in the soil and in the bricks and in the mortar. They must then deal with the tenant or occupier. If the occupier has a lease, they must compensate him for it. But whether he has a lease or not, they dispossess him, and they are obliged to pay him compensation for the injury he actually sustains by being dispossessed. Suppose he could carry on his business in the next street, the promoters would then only have to pay the cost of his removal. But if the business is annexed to the premises, and not to the person or the reputation of the trader, and would be lost if removed, then, whether the business be that of a publican, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, the person dispossessed is undoubtedly entitled to compensation, based on a certain number of years' purchase of the goodwill of the business. I observe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer says in his letter—Why do not the promoters of the public undertaking wait until the Licensing Session comes round, and then go and oppose the renewal of the publicans' licence?And these are the gentlemen who talk about judicial discretion? A nice conception they must have of judicial discretion if they imagine that the Local Authority, which has just paid compensation to every other tradesman in the street, can go before the Magistrates and have the impudence to ask them to refuse to renew the licence of the publican for no other reason than that it would save the ratepayers a few hundreds of pounds. The suggestion is worthy to rank with that of the President of the Local Government Board—that if a publican refuses to sell to the County Council at a fair price under this Bill, the County Council might go before the Licensing Authority and ask that the licence should not be renewed.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
I never said that.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. Such is the solidarity of the Cabinet that I am sure 1400 he will not object to my attributing to him by inadvertence an argument used by the Home Secretary. My hon. and learned Friend has dealt with the argument of the Attorney General as to what is called the judicial discretion given to the Magistrates. The term judicial discretion is not a cabalistic formula; it is a simple phrase, easy to understand, and not difficult to define. A judicial discretion is a discretion which can only be exercised subject to two conditions: In the first place, it must not be exercised until an opportunity has been given to the party affected of being heard. In the second place—and this is the only other necessary ingredient that I know of—it must be a discretion exercised with reference to facts and considerations which are material and relevant to the duty which has to be discharged. Suppose Justices should resolve that houses with red signboards should get their licences, while those with blue signboards should be refused, that would be a nonjudicial exercise of their discretion. In 1870, long before the case of "Sharps.v Wakefield" was heard of, Justice Lush, one of the acutest Judges that ever sat on the English Bench, said—The Licensing Acts authorise, and, therefore, by implication, require Justices to govern their discretion in granting or withholding licences, by reference not only to the qualification of the person applying, and the suitableness of the house, but to other considerations also. These considerations must include the nature of the locality, the population, the number of houses already licensed and all other circumstances bearing on the question whether it is fit and proper in the interests of the public, for whose benefit these Acts are passed, that an additional licence should be granted.These words were spoken in the case of the grant of a new licence. But they were quoted verbatim by the Court of Appeal in "Sharp v. Wakefield," with the comment that the Justices have precisely the same discretion, neither more nor less, and that they ought to be governed by precisely the same considerations, in deciding as to the renewal of licences. I think that is enough to show that the notion that there is any vested interest whatsoever in the renewal of a licence is a pure invention of the imagination. It is not founded upon any provision of the Statute Law, and it is not supported by any judicial decision. It may be asked, and it is a question that ought 1401 carefully to be considered, how, in the absence of legal protection, this vast interest has grown up on such precarious foundations. It is due to two causes. It is due, in the first place, to the laxity of the Licensing Authorities in not enforcing the law. I will not deny that this will be an important consideration when we come to a settlement of the question. But I assert, and I shall have the assent even of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the lax administration of the law cannot possibly give to those who have profited by it a vested interest in the continued neglect in the future by a public authority of its public duty. The second, and, perhaps, equally important factor, in bringing about this state of things is that the Central Authority has exacted a totally inadequate consideration in return for this profitable monopoly. No one can dispute that if we had adopted the Gottenburg system, or if the Legislature had exercised its undoubted power of enormously raising the Licensing Duty, no publican, or brewer, or those who stand behind them would have had the faintest claim to pecuniary compensation. I have never been a member of the extreme Temperance Party; I do not regard alcohol as a poison; nor do I think that publicans ought to be exterminated. I am disposed to think that there is room both for alcohol and for the sellers of alcohol, and for the consumers of alcohol, within the pale of a civilised community. But that is not the question which we have now before us. When the question does arise—and sooner or later it will—I believe everyone who votes against this clause will feel that he has a perfectly free and unfettered hand in considering how far the publican is entitled to claim some measure of indulgence for the lax administration of the law in the past and the loose practices and usages which have prevailed. When that question arises, we shall be perfectly prepared to deal with it. But, meanwhile, we are not going to assent to this Bill, because the effect of it will be that the brewers, publicans, and distillers will hereafter come before us not as suppliants for indulgence, not as petitioners asking as a matter of bounty for an equitable consideration of the circumstances of the past, but as invested for the first time with a legal title and 1402 legal status, which it would be confiscation to disregarded.
§ (7.25.) MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Newington, W.)
Sir, in my humble judgment the reason why the publicans have been allowed to obtain this vested interest is that no business whatever could be conducted in this country if it were liable to be put an end to at the close of 12 months. The business of the publican is just as lawful as any other business. As to whether the Magistrates have discretion or not, it is clear, I think, that by law they have that discretion. It is quite clear also, that, having that discretion, they never exercised it, because they knew perfectly well that to exercise it would simply be to put an end to a lawful business. That being so, and this business having grown up as a vested interest, it is clear that the people of this country would be against any suggestion of putting an end to that business, whether by the discretion of the Magistrates or, Judges. This vested interest having been allowed to grow up; and money having been invested in it, the House of Commons at any rate could not assent to any proposition which would deprive decent and respectable people of their means of livelihood.
(9.30.) MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark, Mid)
The hon. Member opposite found fault with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton for not following the logical law of arguing from a premise. I do not quite understand it. But I may, perhaps, be allowed to point out something the hon. Member did. The hon. Member read a letter from one of his own constituents, or read part of a letter, and when we cried out "name," he offered to show the letter to any Member of the House who had the curiosity to see it. Well, Sir, I had the curiosity to ask to see that letter, but he only offered to let me see a portion of it, and tore off half the letter, which I declined to look at.
I do not see how you can say a letter was private that 1403 was offered to be shown to anyone in the House.
At any rate, the offer was made generally. Well, Sir, the hon. Member for Ayr has talked about the abuse of the forms of the House. Having only been here two years, I will not attempt to discuss questions of abuse of the forms of the House with hon. Members of the ripe experience of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ayr. He complained that in some village, the name of which was not given, the people opposed to this Bill had been so frequent in their Petitions, that they had signed them in various capacities; but, so far as I understand his complaint, it was that the men did not sign as women, nor the women as men, nor the children as men or women. But I understand that there was another Petition from North Britain which does not err in any of those respects. The hon. Member also talked about Scotch feeling. If there is one thing I am clear about, it is the feelings of my own constituency, especially the Liberal Unionists in that constituency. Since this Bill was brought in, I have had numerous letters from those Liberal Unionists, saying that, having seen this Bill, they will never again support the Unionist Government. I think the Scotch case ought to be treated separately from that of England, inasmuch as for many years Scotland has enjoyed a separate legislation of its own, namely, Sunday closing; so that there are strong reasons why Scotland should be exempted from the provisions of this Bill. The notion of compensation for licences taken away is entirely repugnant to Scotch feeling, and in Scotland we have a strong precedent in a case wherein licences were taken away without compensation. I allude to the case of the Sheriff's officers and messengers of the Courts of Scotland. These officers are the only persons who could serve writs and make arrests for debts, and there are at least as many of them as there are publicans in Scotland. These officers are licensed, and their licences are granted under very 1404 strict conditions; they have to satisfy the Judge as to their character and fitness, and I believe the Judges are not easily satisfied. The licences are only obtained with great difficulty, the licencees having to find two sureties, who give bond for them. This system dated from as far back as the year 1424, and the licences were not for one year only, but, in legal phraseology, ad vitam aut culpam. This is a much stronger case than that of the publicans' licences. But by the Citation Act of 1881, and also owing to imprisonment for debt being abolished at the same time, these people are practically ruined, two-thirds of their business, at least, having been taken away from them. This was done only nine years ago, and they have received no compensation. If the Government have money to spare they ought to give it to those Sheriffs' officers and messengers of the Court rather than to the publicans. We have heard about compensation to "the poor publicans," but it is the rich brewers whom the Government have in their eye. Suppose the Bill leads to the lessening of licences by 5 per cent., is there any compensation in the Bill for the barmaids, the pot-boys, and publicans' servants who will be thrown out of work? The pretence of the "poor publicans" is absolutely ridiculous, and will impose only upon those who do not know better. If there is anything which the Government care about, it is making property secure. There is certainly less reason for compensating the publicans of Scotland than anywhere else, because, in the Licensing Court of Scotland, the landlord of licensed premises has no locus standi; the Court will not listen to him. In conclusion, I can only express my agreement with the Mover of this Amendment, that, instead of money being given to compensate rich publicans and brewers, it may be applied in the relief of school rates for the benefit of the poorer people of Scotland. Compensation to the publicans is a matter which might well be left to the Scotch people to settle for themselves at some future day, through their own Representatives. We want to leave this Licensing Question over to be settled by the County Councils, and I can assure the House that, whatever the voice of England may be on this 1405 question, the voice of Scotland is practically unanimous against those proposals.
(7.38.) MR. SINCLAIR&c.) (Falkirk,
The discussion has hitherto not proceeded upon the line of discussing the Amendment before the Committee. If I understand it aright, the effect of passing the Amendment would be to destroy the clause, and the amount for police superannuation and the £40,000 for educational purposes would be gone ["No!"] I should be unable to vote for the Amendment if that would be the effect of it. On the other hand, the position of Scotland with respect to licences and their extinction is very different from that of England or Ireland. In Ireland, I believe, a legal right exists to have a 12 months' licence renewed. In England there may be an equitable fight to have such a licence renewed for 12 months' longer; but it has not yet been decided whether that legal right amounts to a vested interest. But in Scotland the equitable right is nonexistent, or, if it exists at all, is much weaker than in England. Therefore, there is a very strong feeling in Scotland against tills proposal. How that feeling had grown up is another question; but a very large part of it, I believe, has arisen from the fact that the state of the case, as put in the Bill, has not been fairly represented. From the letters I have received from various constituents I find that the impression has been sown broadcast over the land that it is proposed to create a vested interest where no vested interest exists. Therefore it is material to consider whether a vested interest is created by the Bill. The Government have made a distinct statement that no change is made in the law, and that they are willing to accept the Amendment put on the Paper by the right hon. Member for Grimsby. If that Amendment does not make the matter clear, I hope the Government will go further. For myself I cannot vote for this Amendment, because it would not merely affect the compensation proposals of the Government, but the superannuation of the police. ["No, no!"]
(7.45.) THE CHAIRMAN
As this appears to be a point in dispute, I must say that the effect of the Amendment before the Committee would be to destroy the apportionment altogether, both as regards the compensation to publicans and the police superannuation.
§ MR. R. T. REID
May I ask, as a point of order, whether, if this Amendment be passed, it would be competent to the Committee to agree to the succeeding Amendments?
§ MR. C. S. PARKER (Perth)
The object of the Amendment is to provide money not only for fishery harbours nock in, but also for the relief of school foes.
§ MR. R. T. REID
May I ask, as a point of order, whether, instead of adopting the language of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock in his Amendment, other language embodying his objects might be adopted?
MR. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N. E.)
Supposing the Amendment is lost, would the various Amendments on the Paper qualifying this sub-section still be in order?
If the Amendment is lost, all the Amendments to this subsection would still be retained.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
I am satisfied by your ruling that I am right in interpreting the effect of the Amendment as I have already done. Therefore the Scotch Members will doubtless re-consider their position and decline to vote for this Amendment, as destructive of the grants for superannuation and education. For my own part, I am unable to vote for the Amendment, although I cannot vote for the application of this £50,000 for the compensation of publicans.
In answer to the hon. Member for Dumfries, I may say that it would not be competent for the Committee to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Armagh in substance or in form.
§ (7.50.) MR. J. C. BOLTON (Stirling)
I desire, Sir, to draw attention to a few facts connected with this licensing 1407 question. I would remind the Committee that legislation for Scotland respecting the control and management of the liquor traffic has hitherto proceeded on different lines from those adopted in England; for instance, in Scotland we have had Sunday closing for upwards of 40 years, while in England there is no Sunday closing at all. Moreover, the year before last, a section of Scotch Members, headed by the Member for the College Division of Glasgow, obtained for the Licensing Authority of Scotland power to sanction a proposal for closing the public houses at an earlier hour. And that proposal has been adopted in Scotland. Moreover, Scotland has been dealt with in a different mariner from England in respect of grants in aid, only a year ago, we were allowed in Scotland to devote for educational purposes a large portion of the advance made from the Probate Duty, whereas in England that advance can only be applied to the reduction of the poor's rate. The assent of this House to such an application of the fund in Scotland was given as a concession to the demand of the Scotch Representatives on behalf of the population of Scotland generally. Why should not a similar course be taken on this occasion? The Scotch people are practically unanimous in their objection to any portion of this money being applied to public house compensation. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, who recently in no uncertain terms expressed his anxiety at all times to defer to public opinion, has now an opportunity of proving the sincerity of that statement. The fact that only 23 Scotch Members are in favour of the Government proposals, while 46 are opposed to them, shows very clearly that public opinion in Scotland, as represented in this House, is as two to one against the Government; and I think if we could appeal to the Scotch people on the subject, we should find that the proportion would be not two to one, but four to one against these proposals. What harm, I ask, could be done to anyone outside Scot- 1408 land if in this matter the Government adopted the same course as was taken on the Local Government Bill? We only ask that money which we ourselves have contributed should be devoted to such purposes as we ourselves prefer, we abhor—and I am sure the word is not too strong—we abhor and detest the idea of devoting money raised from the Scotch taxpayers to the compensation of publicans. I confess that something may be said in favour of the Government proposal with regard to England, because the fact that a majority of the English Representatives support the Government is some justification for their action in regard to England. A good deal has been said about Petitions from Scotland. I have only been able to find nine Scotch Petitions in favour of this measure, while there have been hundreds presented against it. In Glasgow, with a population of 500,000, to which, if you add the suburbs, which are as much a part of Glasgow as Westminster is a part of London, the number will be increased to 800,000, only 1,800 signatures could be obtained in favour of this Bill; and it has been pointed out by the Petitions Committee that a great many of the signatures appear to have been written in one hand. A great deal has been said in respect to the discretion exercised by the Magistrates in regard to the transfer and renewal of licences. I have been a Magistrate in Scotland for about 40 years, and have never known any difficulty arising from the action of the Magistrates in these matters. Whenever it has seemed desirable to reduce the number of public houses, we have done so without hesitation, and we have refused frequently the transfer of a licence from one owner to another, even when the transfer of the house has already taken place. And, notwithstanding all this, I have never heard any mention of a demand for compensation until recent times. If, however, this Bill should pass, I am confident that it will absolutely confer on all licensed holders in all cases the right to compensation. Even if not a legal right, you will confer a moral right that no Licensing Bench will set aside. Under these circumstances, I feel bound to oppose the clause.
§ (8.1.) MR. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)
Notwithstanding the observation of my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk (Mr. W. P. Sinclair), that as the admission of these words would destroy the clause altogether he would not engage to vote for them, I am of opinion that the desirableness of destroying the clause is so great that it will be proper to vote for the Amendment. Hon. Members opposite who, having spoken this evening, have now left their places, twitted us with the way in which, we are continuing the Debate. I think we on our side are quite justified in feeling amazement at the passionate way in which the Government are pressing forward this clause in the Bill. They are doing so not only against their political opponents, but against the wishes of their own supporters. We have indications that even Party ties are very severely strained under the present state of things. We have seen to-night, for example, that hon. Gentlemen opposite think nothing of leaving for Ascot unpaired, although the result has been a very narrow escape for their own Party. I believe there are many hon. Members on the other side of the House who are undesirous that their names should appear in the Division List in favour of the different clauses of this Bill, especially now that that which was a Compensation Bill has been turned into a Compensation by Closure Bill. The only Division which has not been effected by means of the Closure has been that of this evening. To-day the Papers circulated with the Votes were double the usual bulk, in consequence of their containing the list of Petitions received against the Bill. I find that the number of Petitions against compensation is 2,228, and that the signatures number 62,500, whilst the Petitions in favour of compensation number nine, and there are 2,700 signatures. The Unionist Press, hitherto the strongest supporters of the Government, are not with them with regard to the present Bill. The leading paper in my own constituency, namely, the Elgin Courant and Courier, 1410 which, during my election last October, strongly supported my Liberal Unionist opponent and opposed me, spoke a few days ago of the Compensation Clauses as "the sting in the Bill." How did the Government explain their persistency? We have been told that the publicans and the brewers have not been pressing them. The President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) said before this Committee—The Government has never received, either from the publicans or the brewers, the slightest hint that any proposals such as those brought forward by the Government, were desired by their trade.The Government must admit that the country is not generally pressing them, but I observe that the recognised leading organ of the liquor trade, the Morning Advertiser, does not tell the same tale as the Government. In a leading article on the 19th of last month that newspaper, speaking of the Amendment placed on the Paper by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), said the acceptance of his Amendment—Would be a distinct breach of faith with the trade who, on the understanding that the principles of the Licensing Bill would not be substantially altered, have refrained from offering opposition.Of course, I do not for a moment allege-that the President of the Local Government Board knowingly deceived the House, but he must remember there may have been communications passing of which he was not aware. There are very many Tory managers who know the Metropolis thoroughly, and they know full well that it was the publicans' influence that turned the scale in London in 1885 and gave five-sixths of the representation of the Metropolis to the Tory Party. The fact is, the present Government, for the first time perhaps in the history of this country, is endeavouring to turn this Parliamentary legislative machine into a huge electioneering-agency. They depend upon three classes—the parsons, the landlords, and the publicans. They want the parsons to be canvassers for their Party, and so they bring in a Tithes Bill. They want the landlords to canvass for them, and they bring in a Land Purchase Bill. They 1411 want the publicans to canvass for them, and they bring in this present measure. There is no doubt this clause represents a desire to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. The framers of the Bill thought, no doubt with truth, that the great increase in the Drink Bill, as shown by the last Budget, would alarm the temperance people. They therefore determined to give them a sop by raising the tax on drink. The publicans, however, said "No; to increase the tax on liquor is to damage our profits." The Government replied, "We will not damage your profits, because, out of every is we raise, we will put 4d. into your private pocket." "Done with you," says the publican; "we will agree to that, and we will offer no opposition to the raising of the tax on drink." I hope the Government will give the Committee some explanation as to whether there is any foundation for the statement that an understanding of this kind was arrived at. I want to know how it is the publicans have acquired such a power in the Councils of the Government. The cause, I think, is to be found in the enormous extension of the system of tied houses.
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
Perhaps I should have explained my reason for bringing on this subject. I am going to show the magnitude of the income of the publican and the component parts of which it is made up, in order to prove that that income is the very last thing in the world which the nation should compensate out of the public taxes. We may suppose that a house costs £6,000 in the public house market. A publican, especially in London——
Obviously the hon. Member is still more out of order. He is arguing the question with reference to London. This clause applies to Scotland.
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
Well, I was not laying any stress upon that, but I am bound to say my figures relate to London. Am I in order in pointing out how the 1412 publican gets his political power by means of his income? It comes about in this way. A brewer lends him £4,500 and the man himself provides £1,500. The result is that the publican becomes absolutely dependent upon the value of his licence for every penny of the £1,500 provided by him out of his small private fortune. It is obvious that the mortgagee—the brewer—will not even get his £4,500 in the event of the extinction of the licence, while the entire £1,500 of the publican will be lost. The publican will, therefore, vote, of course, for the authority, who will tell him that he will get compensation and that his £1,500 will be saved. That is the reason I had for bringing in the question of the income of the publican. I would venture to call the attention of the Government to the fact that while they assert that their whole motive in this matter is the promotion of the cause of temperance—or, in other words, that they will not hesitate to do a thing which may be more or less detrimental to the drink traffic—the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) is much more candid. At Walsall a short time ago he used these words—Up to now this great class—the publicans and brewers—have successfully intimidated Governments and successfully intimidated Members of Parliament. In fact they have directly overthrown two Governments, and I do not blame the Government for being a little timid of meddling with them.That, at all events, is a thoroughly honest statement of the case. As to the expenditure which must be eventually thrown on the country for the purchase of licences, my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow has computed the present marketable value of public houses at £250,000,000, and he has asserted that this sum will become much greater by the passage of this clause. I entirely agree with him, and am certain that the amount may be put at £300,000,000 by the time the Bill passes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer disputed these figures in toto, but the arguments he used against them were wonderfully 1413 weak. He read out a list of brewing firms whose shares he said had not risen in value since the month of April. But I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman as a political economist must know that that is an unsound argument. He must know that no one can hypothecate a single £5 note to the benefit of any particular industry or occupation without the reversionary value of that £5 note being felt, in raising the value of the property, if only by a single penny piece. All such adventitious aids in money matters are discounted as soon as money is placed at the disposal of the particular industry or occupation. There is better evidence than the figures which the right hon. Gentleman read out to show that brewery shares are not increasing in value. In Breweries and Distilleries, a paper which was quoted at the commencement of this Debate, it was stated on the 14th of this month—Breweries are booming again just now, and last Saturday no fewer than four new issues were made.Then they go on to say that a sum of some £900,000 which is being raised—Will, no doubt, be used in increasing the number of tied houses, the advantage and wisdom of which has been seen in the enormous increase of trade for the last 12 months.At the last meeting of the firm of Allsopps, the Committee of Investigation laid on the Table a Report, in which they said that—The policy of tying houses should be continued and increased, and they recommended that money should be raised for that purpose.The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, speaking on the English Clause, was at a loss to know how the setting aside of this money for the purpose of extinguishing licences could possibly have the effect of encouraging the consumption of drink. His words were very strong, indeed, on that subject. He said—I deeply regret that the Government should be at issue with any people whom they desire to conciliate. Speaking honestly and sincerely, I cannot conceive on what ground and with what object the so-called Temperance Party are opposing the Government in so hitter and hostile a manner.I think I can give the hon. Member some 1414 information in this matter. We think that the application of this money in the manner proposed will make the reduction of public houses so difficult as to be practically impossible, because it could only be done by fining the localities to be benefitted. In a town with 400 public houses, in all probability, if the people got the licensing into their own hands they would reduce the number to 300. That can and will very shortly be done without this Bill; but we say that the reduction which would be effected by the Bill would be only to 390 or 399. That is why we say the passing of the Bill will have no effect in decreasing the consumption of drink. I do not think the President of the Local Government Board can suppose that the publicans are not possessed of any desire for self preservation. Self immolation is at no time a pleasant thing, and the right hon. Gentleman will not expect it from any ordinary human being—not even from a publican If it were otherwise, there would be no truth in the Persian proverb, with which my residence in the East has made me familiar, namely, that in a Council of Lions we do not expect an ordinance to be passed forbidding the having of lamb for breakfast. I wish to show shy compensation is un-just and unnecessary, and for that purpose I want the Committee to inquire how the enormous value of £250,000,000 arises. There are three reasons, all of a strictly financial character, against compensation being considered a, thing which could be justly given for the termination of this monopoly. In the first place, the whole value is created not by the operation of trade or industry, but by a sort of triple monopoly. There are three sets of unearned increment. The first is due to the fact that liquor is an enormously highly taxed and consequently high-priced article. If the Committee will take any very expensive articles, such as diamonds, they will see that the face of an enormous money capital being required to deal in an article has in itself the effect of throwing the trade into the hands of capitalists, pure and simple, and the consequence is that the limited class who conduct the trade are able to charge the public higher prices than they could otherwise do. Of course, the high price of liquor 1415 is further increased by the fact of a licence being required for a public house. And it is, again, still further increased by the monopoly of the tied houses. I may, perhaps, be allowed to illustrate my point by referring to another article which is also enormously taxed, and which becomes in consequence enormously valuable. I allude to salt in India——
Order, order! I have endeavoured to follow the hon. Member's arguments and have failed to see their application. The illustration does not add to their clearness.
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
I will not pursue the argument, but perhaps I may be allowed to state the result. The result is that when we tax salt 2,000 per cent, we throw it into the hands of bankers and capitalists, and whilst they pay the revenue £7,000,000 a year in taxation it is proved by Official Returns that they mulct the people of India no less than £28,000,000 for the article they sell. I hold that the tax on spirits has exactly the same effect. The trade is thrown into the hands of capitalists, who by combining against the consumers are able to realise an immense percentage of profit annually. Between 30 and 40 years ago, when the tax on Scotch Whisky was only a third of what it is now, and the tax on Irish whisky only a fourth, there were none of these enormous values of public houses, and none of these enormous systems of tied houses, nor were such vast fortunes made by brewers and distillers. Things have now altered. The trade has been thrown into the hands of capitalists who are much more able to combine against the public than were their predecessors. The cost of good blended malt whisky at the distillery at this moment is only 3s. a gallon. Let me add, as an average over England, 1s. a gallon for carriage, and the tax of 10s. a gallon. This brings the cost up to 14s. a gallon. Unadulterated it could be sold at the 1416 present rate of 21s. a gallon, and produce a profit of 33 per cent, to the publican. This, therefore is the first unearned increment. It appears from a recent trial in Edinburgh that it is the custom of the trade to add water, so as to raise the 33 per cent, profit to 66 per cent. profit on every gallon of whisky sold. In other words, the actual practice of the liquor trade is that if a poor man pays 6d. for a certain adulterated mixture, 2¼d. of the 6d. goes to the Exchequer, and 3¼d. to the publican, in the form of profit, while the poor man only gets a halfpenny worth of whisky for his 6d. The same thing occurs with regard to beer. The public pays 2s. 8d. for a gallon of beer, which, with the tax included, costs only 10d. Perhaps gentlemen opposite may say the law could stop and prohibit all this adulteration. The law, however, is not enforceable, simply because the enormous gains realised by this fraud are such a temptation to the publican as to make him defy all the penalties which the law can place upon him. Under these circumstances, it is not in the least wonderful that the market price of public houses should have gone up to the enormous figure of £250,000,000 or £300,000,000. But it is monstrous that when this is the state of facts, we should be asked to allow the publican to capitalise his enormous and, in many respects, illicit gains, and then go to the Public Treasury and take away at one haul the whole of the capitalised value of the gigantic yearly income out of which he has been able thus to cheat the public I say that the large profits realised by public houses constitute of themselves the compensation for which the publican willingly runs the undoubtedly considerable risk of having his licence withdrawn. I can further illustrate this point by mentioning a monopoly within a monopoly existing in the drink trade. Messrs. Spiers and Pond have a very lucrative monopoly within a monopoly. They have the monopoly of selling drink at certain railway stations, and they take advantage of it to charge the public double the price, in many cases, for which they can get the same thing at the public house next door. If anyone here has ever gone into one of their bars on 1417 the Underground Railway, and asked for a glass of sherry he will have noticed that he has had to pay double the usual price, or else he gets a glass half the usual size. I want to ask the Government whether, if the Railway Company put a stop to this monopoly, Messrs. Spiers and Pond would be entitled to demand from the company the capitalised value of their business?
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
I will not pursue the subject further. In fact, my illustration was at an end. My general point is that the income derived from this monopoly, whether the monopoly be terminable in one year or five, is in itself the compensation which the monopolist expects, and that he is not entitled to ask for the capitalised value of that income if his monopoly be withdrawn. (8.49.)
§ (9.20.) MR. M'LAGAN (Linlithgow)
I am quite willing to allow the Government the credit of an honest attempt on behalf of temperance, by reducing the amount of drunkenness, but we want an actual reduction in the number of licensed houses, and the plan of the Government will simply check the reduction which is now going on. True, increase in the price of alcoholic liquors reduces consumption, and this reduction has followed increase in duty; but then, again, consumption follows the rise and fall of wages. We want, I say, a reduction in the number of public houses, and I maintain we are able to accomplish this more rapidly by the present system in Scotland than we shall be able to do under the method contemplated by the Government. In the first place, the amount placed at the disposal of County Councils is inadequate for the purchase of many houses, and many years must elapse before any sensible reduction can be effected by this means. Then, as you reduce the number of houses you will increase the reluctance of the remaining proprietors to give up their trade, and 1418 the compensation demanded will rise as houses are diminished in number, the funds of the County Councils becoming in proportion more inadequate. Call it compensation or purchase the thing is the same, public money passes into the hands of licence holders. An hon. Baronet opposite has assured the Committee that he would vote against compensation, but he supports the Bill; but he must admit that with the passing of the Bill publicans will have a higher vantage ground, and will appeal to Parliamentary recognition of the value of their licences as an addition to their claim for compensation. It is far from my wish to act unjustly toward licence holders; but I bear in mind the fact that licences are not permanently granted, and each year the holder of the privilege or monopoly makes a large profit over the expenses of his business within that period. I do not think there is much sympathy to be excited for those who, in the public welfare, are required to give up a licence' to which they have no special claim. With the growth of temperance opinions in this city and elsewhere we see a large increase in the number of coffee houses, a trade in which profits are large, and a licence holder, being deprived of his licence, can carry on the business of a refreshment house with profit to himself and advantage to his customers. I object to the proposals in the Bill for several reasons. They will perpetuate the system of licensed houses in the country which, by the voice of the people, is being gradually done away with. In the train of evils following the public house system are poverty, crime, and consequent increase in rates. I could mention places in Scotland where the withdrawal of licences has led directly to the fall of police and poor rates. I object to the Bill as an obstacle to the progress of the temperance movement. Public opinion in Scotland is far in advance of public opinion in England on this subject. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. Bolton) has shown this, and I need not go over the same ground. There is no doubt of the fact, and if you want to put down public houses, you have only to put power into the hands of the people and they will make short work of it. A plébiscite has been taken in a hundred 1419 towns and villages in Scotland, and the result has been an expression of opinion in the population of 12 to 1 in favour of putting down licensed public houses and giving the authority for this to the people themselves. The Bill is an obstacle and a difficulty in the path the people desire to pursue; it maintains a system disastrous to the country and ruinous in its tendencies. When we come to the next Amendment we shall prove that there are other objects to which we can more usefully apply the funds at our disposal. I intend to do everything in my power to oppose this Bill, and I believe that since the passing of the Reform Bill there has not been so much excitement in Scotland against any measure as exists against this Bill.
§ (9.30.) MR. J. WILSON (Govan)
I very much sympathise with what has beer, said by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgowshire. No one who listened to the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he brought in his Budget would have supposed that the right hon. Gentleman had anything else than a pious horror at the amount of the evil entailed on the country by the enormous amount of money placed at his disposal through the drink traffic, and that the difficulty was how to get rid of the evils of intemperance. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, in one of his speeches, said he was surprised at the opposition of the Temperance Party to these proposals of the Government to reduce the number of licences. Why, Sir, the Temperance Party have been resisting and protesting in almost every Licensing Court throughout the country, for half a century, against any increase in the number of licences. We cannot blame the Temperance Party for having no sympathy with the Government on this occasion, because this Bill is seeking to give the trade a vested interest by a process of compensation for licences which it was never held to be entitled to in the past. We do not object to anything in the Bill except the compensation clauses. We should welcome 1420 the Bill if the Government could see fib to alter, so far as Scotland is concerned, the destination of the money intended to be applied to the buying up of licences. A few evenings ago the President of the Local Government Board spoke of the floor of the House being inundated with Petitions and telegrams against the Bill. Ho said that the telegrams all came from the same source. They do, and the source is the Temperance Party in Scotland, and if the Government persist in pressing their proposals they will have to reckon with no mean power so far as the Scotch constituencies are concerned. A right hon. Gentleman spoke to-night of the strong feeling in Scotland on this matter. The feeling in Scotland is much stronger than in England, and my right hon. Friend desired to know how it was that the people of Scotland were so much against the Government proposals. Now, Sir, as a temperance reformer of many years' experience, I may say that the public feeling and sentiments in Scotland is largely due to the efforts of the United Temperance Party in the country. We hear hon. Members opposite speaking of the Petitions sent to them in favour of this Bill, and the President of the Board of Trade has, on more than one occasion, referred to the letters he has had, but I will undertake to say that, so far as Scotland is concerned, the Petitions received by Scotch Members have been overwhelmingly against the proposals of the Government, and as to mass meetings, I think that after what has-been said by my right hon. Friend with reference to the meeting at Bridgeton, little need be added. On a recent occasion the publicans made an attempt to hold an open-air meeting in Glasgow, and at that meeting an Amendment was proposed by the Temperance Party, and carried over the heads of those who had convened the gathering. I think it is a fact that in no Parliament have so many Petitions from so many interests throughout the country been presented against any Bill as there have been against this. In a speech which he delivered to-night, the hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs said he felt sure that if the opinion of the people of Scotland could be ascertained, and if an election took place, there would be returned to this House a large 1421 majority of Members in favour of the proposals of the Government. I do not think that Members on this side of the House would shrink from such a test; indeed, they would deem the battleground well chosen. Whatever might be the result in Ayr Burghs, I believe that throughout the length and breadth of Scotland there would be such a unanimous expression of opinion as would startle the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this Bill. The hon. Member, in speaking of a meeting of the Temperance Party that was held in Ayr, cited a statement by one of the members of the Scotch Temperance League, and stated that that body had stultified itself in reference to the question of petitioning against this measure by having returned a right hon. Member to Parliament as their Member. But at a large meeting held in Ayr, last week—called by the two Political Parties, so far as the temperance community is concerned, and held in the largest hall in the town—the rev. Mr. Duncan, an Established Church minister, proposed a resolution to the effect that the meeting protested against the proposals of the Government in the Local Taxation (Duties) Bill for extinguishing existing licences by purchase, as that proposal would practically create a vested interest in licences to which no claim could be established either in law or in equity. In the course of his speech, the mover of that resolution said he was a supporter of the Government at the last election in the Burghs; but if another election occurred upon these proposals he would unhesitatingly vote against them. The motion was seconded by one of the Town Councillors in Ayr, and was supported by Mr. Johnston, a Liberal Unionist, who said—He had been a supporter of the present Government, and felt it was unfair, after having helped the Government to their present position, that they should use their power and their majority for this purpose and saddle remorselessly this injustice on the country. Lord Hartington, whom he regarded as his leader, knew now, that if the measure were forced through the House, as the Government proposed to force it, it would cause a great strain on their allegiance, and as a temperance reformer and a minister of the Gospel he 1422 should feel it his duty to use all his power to turn out the Government.Now this occurred at a large public meeting in Ayr. The other day we had in the Lobby of the House the Lord Provost of Glasgow, and I presume that his appearance was indicative of his having come to warn the Government against persisting with this measure. The Lord Provost of Glasgow is a Liberal Unionist, and I understand that at the present moment there is a motion before the Town Council of Glasgow protesting against this measure. We have seen from the public prints that many of the Municipal Authorities throughout Scotland have been protesting against these proposals, and how the Government can, in the face of this opposition, persist in going on with them I really cannot understand. We are told that these proposals of the Government will not interfere with the Licensing Authorities—that they will not interfere with the powers at present possessed by the Justices of the Peace in counties and Magistrates in burghs. We know, that at the present time every new licence that is granted is understood to be granted in the public interest and the public good, and that Magistrates when they find a licence has been granted, and that it has not turned out for the public good, have had the power—and have exercised it, too—of refusing a renewal at the next Licensing Session. As a Justice of the Peace, I myself have had no hesitation in withdrawing licences when I have come to the conclusion that they are not required in the public interest. I would remind the House that Scotland in the past has been exceptionally treated in this matter of licences. The hours during which houses have been allowed to be open have been shortened; Sunday opening has been stopped; and I venture to think that if the Government, instead of bringing in this Bill, had proposed one to further shorten the hours of trading, they would have materially reduced the consumption of liquor, and have benefited immensely the moral tone of great masses of the people. Every one knows it is the last two or three hours of the night in which most drunkenness occurs.
Order, order! I think the hon. Member is wander- 1423 ing from the subject of the Amendment.
§ MR. J. WILSON
I was bringing to the recollection of the Committee the fact that in the year 1853, when a Conservative Government was in power—and I think this is particularly germane to the subject I have in hand—in the month of August in that year, Parliament resolved, by Act of Parliament, to prohibit Justices of the Peace in counties and Magistrates in burghs from granting licences to blacksmiths, taxmen, and tollkeepers all over the country of Scotland. We know that up to that time these people had been licensed, but in 1853 these licences were abolished, and without a farthing being paid as compensation. Hundreds of these licences were taken away. This precedent goes a long way in support of our contention that there is no vested interest in licences. I feel satisfied that if this matter is decided by the majority of the Members from Scotland, instead of money being given to the publicans it will be devoted to much better and much higher purposes—the purpose of educating the youth of the nation, both in elementary and in higher schools, and if it were so devoted, it would prove a blessing to the country; and it would be much better than giving it away to people who have already enriched themselves at the public expense, and at the expense of the demoralisation of the community.
§ (9.50.) MR. DUFF (Banffshire)
I think we have reasonably complained that, so far, we have had no indication from the Treasury Bench of what they intend to do in regard to this Amendment, although the Debate has been going on for three-and-a-half hours.
Order, order! The present Amendment, if carried, will preclude the possibility of dealing with all subsequent Amendments appropriating the money.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not wish to misrepresent the action of the Government in this matter. I understood that, in consequence of the ruling of the Chair, as to the effect which the carrying of the Amendment would have, an intimation had been received by the Solicitor General that an appeal would be made to the Mover to withdraw it, so that discussion might more properly take place upon the section to which the arguments of hon. Members most properly apply.
(9.52.) MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN&c.) (Stirling,
Perhaps I may be allowed to say that, although I have had no intimation of that sort, still a good many of us are of opinion that this Debate, although it has been a forcible expression of opinion, is going somewhat upon a side issue. The Amendment of my hon. Friend has been moved with a view to his recommending to the Committee, at a subsequent stage, certain modes of disposing of this money. I am not sure that in the prominence which he gave to these particular modes I should altogether agree with him, and I think that some of my hon. Friends are in the same position; but after the ruling which you have given from the Chair to the effect that this Amendment, if carried, will involve the abandonment of the whole of the scheme of the Government, including the proposal that a certain amount of money should be allotted to the superannuation of the police, I think that the question becomes complicated to such an extent that it perhaps would be better, as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, if this Amendment were withdrawn. I hope that my hon. Friend will agree to adopt that course in order that we may raise this point of the buying up of licences at a different part of the clause, where it can be more effectively discussed. I may say frankly that the object of the Scotch Members with whose views I am acquainted is to bring prominently before the House the objections to the buying up of licences, and to explain to 1425 the House the glaring contrast between the purpose to which it is now proposed to devote this money, and the purposes to which it might reasonably be applied. I have a considerable amount of sympathy with my hon. Friend, who is anxious to obtain some of the money for the especial purpose of creating harbours. I can quite understand his being anxious to do that; and I think we shall simplify the position if he allows this Amendment to be withdrawn, in order that we may by-and-by be able to place before the House the alternatives which we propose for the distribution of the money.
§ (9.55.) MR. S. WILLIAMSON
My object in moving this Amendment was to strengthen the opposition to the proposals of the Government by showing that there were great national purposes besides police superannuation, and besides the payment of school fees, to which this money might reasonably be applied, and, in bringing so prominently before the House the question of Fishery Harbours, I think I was able to show a good purpose to which this money might be applied, and I was able especially to point out the claims of the fishing industry. Now, Sir, after your ruling; which I did not hear, but the purport of which has been communicated to me, I, of course, will withdraw the Amendment. I still think, however, that if the Amendment had been carried, progress might have been reported, and we might have come to some arrangement for the distribution of this money, giving, say, £60,000 for education, £30,000 for fishing harbours, and £40,000 for police superannuation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (9.5.) MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
The first sub-section of the clause provides that the sum of £40,000 shall be applied to the purposes of police superannuation in Scotland, and I beg to move that these words be omitted. I do it for the purpose of endeavouring to ascertain from the Government what it is they really mean, because Scotland, in regard to police superannuation, differs 1426 altogether from England. In England there has been, by Act of Parliament, a system of police superannuation provided for all boroughs and counties, and it has been in operation for a great many years. But in Scotland we stand in this position, that there are no superannuation funds in Scotland, except in two or three small localities. While, therefore, in the case of England, the Government propose the application of this money to a known purpose they are, in the case of Scotland, asking the Committee to agree to the application of the large sum, of £40,000 a year to a purpose which, at the present moment, is entirely unknown. It has been stated that the Government are preparing a Bill dealing with the question of superannuation, but that Bill has not been brought before the House, and, therefore, in this matter we are in the extraordinary position that we are asked to vote out of this sum of £120,000, no less than £40,000 a year for a purpose the exact nature and details of which are entirely unknown to the House and to the Committee. Certainly the Committee ought not to agree to passing this clause until we have had some distinct information from the Government as to the nature of the purpose to which it is to be applied. I make those observations in no spirit of hostility to the object which the Government have in view, namely, the establishment of a Superanuation Fund for the police in Scotland. I, for one, should be disposed to give a satisfactory scheme favourable and kindly consideration. But the difficulty we are now in is that we are asked to vote this money without knowing in any way whatever the scheme which the Government propose. Therefore, although favourable to the purpose of the superannuation of the police, we do not know how that purpose will be carried out or whether it will meet with the approval of the people of Scotland, or of the police, or of the Members of this House. It seems to me absolutely necessary at this stage that we should be in possession of the views of the Government. I look upon the superannuation of the police only as part of a larger scheme of superannuation, under which, by means of insurance, aged working men would be 1427 superannuated, and not merely policemen. If it had been possible for a private Member to have brought this larger question before the House. I should have done so, but the time of private Members has now been taken away. I hope, if the Ballot is favourable next year, to bring before the House a scheme of insurance by which all men in Scotland, and not policemen alone, may be able to provide for old age. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Scotland ought to inform the House what is the scheme of police superannuation which the Government propose.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 5, to leave out Sub section (i).—(Mr. Hunter.)
§ Question proposed, "That Sub-section (i.) stand part of the Clause."
§ (10.5.) THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. M. T. STORMONTH DARLING,) Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities
The hon. and learned Member has stated his views temperately. He is quite right in saying that in Scotland there is no scheme of police superannuation. The boroughs and counties have power to provide for the infirmities of aged policemen by payment of a lump sum in proportion to the pay. But there is no scheme of superannuation except in the Borough of Greenock under a Local Act. In Scotland, I believe, there is as great need of police superannuation as in England. Apart from considerations of justice, the figures which are before me certainly show that many of the police in Scotland are beyond the age when they can efficiently discharge their duty. I have no doubt there is a natural disinclination on the part of the authorities to dismiss men who have done their duty. With regard to the very reasonable demand of the hon. Member that the Committee should know something of the Bill before they proceed to the details, I have simply this to say. If the hon. and learned Member withdraws his Amendment we shall simply affirm the principle of police superannuation, and the dedication of a certain sum to that purpose. With re- 1428 gard to the mode in which it is to be carried out, before we reach Clause 4, which deals with the matter somewhat in detail, I think I can safely promise that the Scotch Bill will be in the possession of hon. Members. It will be substantially on the lines of the English Bill. These are intimations which I hope will be satisfactory to the hon. Member, and that he will allow this clause to pass without further comment.
§ (10.8.) MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
With all due respect to the hon. and learned Gentleman, I cannot regard either the substance or form of his answer as satisfactory. Where is the Lord Advocate? I mean no disrespect to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General, who fulfils his duties in a manner which does him credit. But the Lord Advocate is responsible for Scotch business. The Secretary for Scotland is the chief officer connected with the business of Scotland, but he is in another House and we never see him. The Lord Advocate in this House represents Scotch business in this House with a fulness and power which the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot profess to possess. Here is the Scotch clause of the most contentious Bill of the whole Session, and the Lord Advocate is absent. I have reason to believe he is not ill. Had he been I should not have said anything. But I understand he is otherwise occupied. I do not think it is treating Scotch Memders with any very high degree of respect. [Laughter.] The ex-Lord Mayor (Sir R. N. Fowler) laughs at that statement. I can assure him it is earnestly felt by Scotch Members. The Lord Advocate ought to have been here. Besides the Lord Advocate, there ought to have been the Bill. This Bill was read a first time on the last day of April. It ought to have been at the other end of the month—on the 1st of April—as a day more appropriate to this measure. Yet here we are in June without the Bill which is to carry out this clause. As to what the hon. Member for Aberdeen said, I confess myself not altogether enamoured of universal superannuation, noram I enamoured of the 1429 extension of the superannuation of the police. We have a system of superannuation in the Police Service of this country, and I confess frankly I do not like it. I should rather like to see it stinted and restrained than developed. Like the rest of the Scotch Members, I think we are entitled to see the Bill before proceeding with this clause.
§ (10.13.) MR. RITCHIE
I am not surprised that it should have been expected that the Lord Advocate would be present, but I may explain that he had an engagement of the very highest and most urgent importance. He was prepared to throw it over, and remain in the House, but his Colleagues did not wish him to do so in view of the exceptional importance of his engagement. If there be any blame, it should attach, not to the Lord Advocate, but to his Colleagues who advised him. Looking to the fact that the main question of police superannuation would be discussed on a subsequent clause, when the Superannuation Bill would be in the hands of the Committee, his Colleagues thought they were hardly justified in asking him to forego that engagement. Therefore, if there is any blame, it is due not to the Lord Advocate, but rather to his Colleagues. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman asks why the Scotch Superannuation Bill has not been produced, and that Bill is the gravamen of the objection now made. He says the Bill was ordered to be printed on the 30th of April, and, after indulging in a little pleasantry as to the 1st of April, to which the right hon. Gentleman is quite welcome, he wanted to know why so long an interval had been allowed to elapse without the production of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman must understand that if only the Scotch Bill has had to be presented no difficulty would have arisen in that way, but it has had to be considered in connection with the English Bill, and a large number of intricate and difficult points have had to be decided in that connection. In the case of the English Bill the Committee have been content with the intimation of the Government that the Superannuation Bill would be in the hands of 1430 Members before the discussion on the particular clause of the main Bill dealing with the application of the money to police superannuation came on; and before the Committee embarked on the discussion of the particular clause dealing with this question in relation to Scotland, the Scotch Superannuation Bill will be in the hands of hon. Members. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, after having made his protest, will accept my reasons for the non-production of the Bill, and my assurance that before the particular clause comes on for discussion the Bill will be in the hands of hon. Members. Its proposals will be found to be closely analogous to those of the English Bill.
(10.20.) SIR G. CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
We now know how we stand in regard to the representation of Scotland, and why it is the Government are anxious to postpone this clause. They suggested that it should be postponed, and now we have it before us we find that the Scotch Department is not represented by the Minister who is chiefly responsible to this House for the administration of Scotch affairs. We have often complained of the way in which, under the present system, that Department is represented. There is a Secretary for Scotland, who is chiefly responsible for Scotch administration, whom we never see at all, and who, I believe, is at the present moment cruising about the North of Ireland, but even were he in London we should not be able to see him, as he is not a member of this Assembly. But we have in this House the Lord Advocate, who represents the Chief Secretary, but although he is an officer in receipt of a high salary we do not find him here. He is said not to be to blame because his Colleagues have supported him in his absence; still we have the fact that he will not forego his private functions for those he ought to perform in this House. Under such circumstances we ought not to be called upon to deal with this question, while the absence of the Scotch Superannuation Bill is a further reason for not dealing with this matter. For my part, 1431 I believe there ought to be some system of superannuation for Government servants, because they have peculiar duties to perform, and there are many reasons why they should have consideration, but it is not only the principle of superannuation with which we have to deal; we are called upon to vote a distinct sum. Now, I ask, can we judge whether that sum is right or wrong unless we know what the scheme of superannuation is? In England there is in most counties and boroughs a superanuuation system, but in Scotland no such system has been adopted. At present, we have not the least idea of what is to be the system on which we are asked to vote a grant of money, and under these circumstances I beg to move, Sir, that you report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir G. Campbell.)
§ (10.25.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I desire strongly to support the Motion of my hon. Friend. I admit that there is a strong case for police superannuation, and for 20 years I have supported that proposal, on account of the exceptional duties the police are called on to perform, through a large portion of their lives. But, although supporting this view, I admit there is great diversity of opinion in Scotland on this subject. No case has been made out for calling on us to give a blank cheque for police superannuation. We ought to have the Bill before us. I desire particularly to direct attention to the humiliating position in which Scotland is constantly being placed. It is not enough that we have no one here sufficiently representing Scotland. It is not enough that we should take at second hand from the Lord Advocate the opinions of the Chief Secretary, but we are told to-night for the first time that so little do the Government consider the interests of Scotland that they have assured the Lord Advocate he may leave the House at a time when important Scotch business is about to be considered.
The hon. Member is now going into matter which is 1432 very wide of the question before the Committee.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT
I do not desire to do that. I am only endeavouring to show that because the Lord Advocate is not here, and we have no Bill dealing with this question, we are not in a position to discuss it at the present moment. I desire to show that the position in which Scotland is placed is the reason why Progress should be reported, so that the Lord Advocate may be able to be in his place when the matter is discussed. The Lord Advocate is the only Minister entitled to speak for Scotland. ["No, no."] Let those who say "No, no," tell me who is entitled to speak for Scotland?
§ MR. ESSLEMONT
The Solicitor General for Scotland has already said he is not in a position to speak.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT
I should be very sorry to misinterpret the hon. Gentleman, who, if anything, is always most conciliatory and courteous, but he has told the Committee that the Bill is not ready, and that the lines on which it is to be drawn are not settled.
§ (10.28.) MR. M. T. STORMONTH DARLING
The hon. Member, most unintentionally no doubt, entirely misrepresents me. I did not say that the lines of the Bill were not settled, nor did I say that I did not fully represent the Scotch Department in the absence of the Lord Advocate. The lines of the Bill are settled, and it will be published very shortly, and in what I have said I have spoken with the authority of the Government.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT
I am exceedingly glad that the interruption has brought about so important a statement. Now we know where we are. We know that the Lord Advocate has delegated his duties, and that the Secretary for Scotland has also delegated his duties to the Solicitor General for Scotland, and that he knows exactly the lines on which the Scotch Bill for the superannuation of the 1433 police is being drawn, and yet he asks us to give a blank cheque on the faith of the Bill being entirely satisfactory to the Scotch Members—to grant this sum of £40,000 for police superannuation without knowing one of the provisions of the Bill, or the lines on which it is being drawn. The statement of the Solicitor General furnishes a sufficient reason why this clause should be postponed, and why we should not be called on to discuss it till we have the details of the Bill before us.
§ (10.30.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I cannot understand on what ground this Motion is resisted. This will be an admirable opportunity for the few Scotch Members who sit on the other side to show by their vote that they think Scotch business can be very well conducted in this House without the presence of the right hon. Gentleman who represents the interests of Scotland in the Government. We have heard a great deal about Home Rule for Scotland, and, if there ever was a reason for it, it is to be found in the contempt with which the interests of Scotland are tonight treated by the Government. They knew that Scotch business was coming on, and the absence of the Lord Advocate at such a time is a thing for which no excuse whatever can be made. I knew something in the old days about the management of Scotch business in this House. The executive officer in the person of the Secretary for Scotland, or the Lord Advocate, is the official to represent the interests of Scotland, and to inform Members for Scotland of the policy of the Government with regard to Scotland, and the notion of relegating a duty of that kind to the Solicitor General for Scotland is a thing I never heard of. I am delighted to see that the Tory Scotch Members are going to vote for that mode of conducting Scotch business, for, they may depend upon it, the incident will not be overlooked or forgotten in Scotland. The people of Scotland have already had some indications that their business is neglected and not treated with the attention it deserves and demands, and now we have a Scotch clause before us—a clause dealing directly with the interests of Scotland, under many heads, such as education, police, and licensing—and we have the 1434 Government bent on forcing the clause through in the absence of the Lord Advocate. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury will undertake to explain these Scotch subjects as affected by the Bill. We shall be very happy to hear what he has to say, as we are informed that the whole principle of police superannuation in Scotland has been settled. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will get up and state what those principles are. The Scotch Members will hear that announcement with great interest and satisfaction; but, in the meantime, we protest against this method of treating Scotch business and Scotch Members. I venture to say it is a thing which Scotland has a right to resent, and the Government may depend upon it that Scotland will resent it. The Scotch people have demanded, and they will continue to demand, a much fuller control of the affairs of their own country, especially when they have before them the conduct of the Government to-night.
§ (10.35.) MR. W. H. SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman has challenged me to explain the principles of Scotch Police Superannuation. I would reply that the principles on which the Scotch Superannuation Bill are framed are to be found in the Bills for which the right hon. Gentleman opposite was responsible in 1883–4–5, allowance being made for application to Scotland. The Scotch Superannuation Bill is in course of preparation, and is only slightly different from the English Bill. The principle of superannuation is the same in both countries. The right hon. Gentleman has referred in strong language to the absence of the Lord Advocate. My right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board has stated why the Lord Advocate is absent. ["No, no."] Yes, I think he has. I take the full and entire responsibility for the Lord Advocate's absence.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
There are occasions when hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite are not in their places; and although I admit it is the duty of Members of the Government to be present whenever the circumstances of the case require it, there are occasions which are 1435 of importance to their position as members of the Bar when their absence is excusable. There are Members of the House who are aware of the sacrifices which a Lord Advocate has to make in order to be present in the House; and I am sure I am speaking to hon. Gentlemen who are not without sympathy for the ability of the Lord Advocate in this House, and will not desire to comment harshly upon a temporary absence. The Government are represented by the Solicitor General for Scotland, and what we ask for now is merely an admission of the principle of superannuation in Scotland. It will be remembered that the principle of superannuation was recognised as regards England before the English Bill was in the hands of hon. Members. Surely the Committee do not desire to negative the principle of superannuation for the Scotch police? The Bill to give effect to that principle will have to be considered on SECOND READING, in Committee, and in the House; and hon. Members can then deal with its details. The question the Committee are now considering is whether we shall not accept the principle of superannuation for the police of Scotland as well as for England.
§ (10.40.) SIR G. TREVELYAN
The right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House appealed to me as being in some manner bound to extend a special indulgence to the Lord Advocate. Well, I will tell him how I look on it. There was a time—three or four years ago—when the Secretary for Scotland sat in this House. I was present during the discussion on the Crofters Bill, which was a measure (dealing as it did with several counties) quite as important as the question of the superannuation of the police, and at the side of the Secretary for Scotland were both the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland, who acted as his advisers. Now the Secretary for Scotland is in the other House, and the Lord Advocate is more than an adviser—he is virtually the Administrator of Scotland. The Lord Advocate gets a magnificent salary, and the idea that gentlemen of the Long Robe are justified in postponing public to private interests is one I do not share. Any gentleman of the Long Robe who has public duties to perform, 1436 and at the same time private interests to serve, should make those public duties and private interests coincide with some propriety. This is the first piece of important, practical Scotch business of the Session, and the First Lord not only asks the Committee to accept the absence of the Lord Advocate, but to pass in an hour without any discussion on the merits what is, in fact, the Second Reading of a most important Bill. What is the state of police superannuation in Scotland? I do not happen to have before me the Return issued the other day, but I know the essence of it very well, and I know there is only one burgh in Scotland where there is a regular system of police superannuation—namely, Greenock, and the 17 policemen superannuated there are practically the whole of the superannuated police in Scotland. Besides this a few allowances are given by the Town Council of Glasgow. Superannuation does, not exist, practically speaking, in Scotland at this moment. I do not say whether it is right or wrong; but I do say that to set up a system of superannuation in Scotland is equivalent to passing the SECOND READING of a most important Bill, and that Bill is not before the Committee. We are told by the First Lord of the Treasury that we are to gather what is proposed for Scotland from Bills which were introduced, but which did not pass, years ago—when half the hon. Gentlemen who are now in Parliament were not Members of this House. That is impossible. It is too great a task to put upon any Parliament which is of human birth. What would the First Lord of the Treasury say if the First Lord of the Admiralty were in the House of Lords, and the Secretary to the Admiralty were absent, and the most important Naval Estimates had to be moved by the Civil Lord?
§ (10.44.) MR. A. ELLIOT (Roxburgh)
I doubt very much whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, were quite serious in the reasons they gave in asking for a postponement. They seem to think it palatable to Scotchmen that they should rebuke the Lord Advocate and insult the Scotch Solicitor General who takes his place and endeavours to discharge the 1437 duty of representing Scotland in his absence. This pretence on the part of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen is most patent. If they simply wish to cause delay let them get up and say so. That pretence is really too absurd. It is incumbent on the right hon. Member for Bridgeton to show, what he has entirely failed in showing, that if the Lord Advocate had been present he could have given one single reason or advanced any argument which it is not in the power of the Solicitor General to do. We all know that the Lord Advocate is not only an able man, but that he attends strictly to his duties and works hard at his business. It is the merest nonsense to suggest that the Committee are not in a position to proceed with this clause. I resent the pretensions of Members who make occasional visits to Scotland for electioneering purposes that they know anything about the sentiments of the great masses of the Scottish people. Above all things the Scottish people like their business to be done well and effectually. If the Committee are going to reject the scheme let them do so; but do not let them make a pretence, which no one believes to be genuine, that the Committee is not competent to deal with the matter.
§ (10.50.) DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
The Scotch Members have the reputation of being a practical set of men, and I wonder it did not occur to some of them to take note of the statement of the Solicitor General for Scotland that we should look at the provisions of the English Bill as an indication of the intentions of the Government as to superannuation. I procured a copy of the Bill to see what enlightenment it would afford, and here I would say that the hon. Member who has just sat down, and who spoke with an eloquence which drew forth the cheers of the Ministerialists, did not seem to know what he was talking about. He accuses us of obstructing the business of Parliament on what he calls a mere "pretence." But what is the plea on which we are recommending that this particular business should be postponed? I venture to say that if hon. Members will listen to what it is, they will no longer be inclined to cheer such observations as those which fell from the hon. Member. The 1438 hon. Member for Aberdeen has pointed out that practically there is no superannuation in Scotland. We have come to a sub-section of Clause 2, by which £40,000 is to be applied for the purpose of police superannuation in Scotland. It is pointed out by the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) that there is no system of police superannuation in Scotland, while in England there is. The Scottish Members wish for an explanation as to the scheme which is proposed. Turning to Clause 4, I find there an argument against the proposals of the Government, for while it is proposed that £150,000 shall be granted for the superannuation of the police of London—
The hon. Gentleman must not enter into the question of the merits of the proposal. The Question before the Committee is that of reporting Progress.
§ DR. CAMERON
I am merely pointing out that while £150,000 is proposed to be granted for the superannuation of the police of London, only £40,000 is to be granted for the purpose in Scotland—the population being about equal. That is a point which I think justifies us in demanding an explanation. What explanation have we had?
The hon. Gentleman must not examine the merits of the proposal. The Question before the House is one of reporting progress.
§ DR. CAMERON
We know nothing about the merits of the scheme, and that is what we want to know. The President of the Local Government Board has referred us to the English Bill. I have got a copy, and I will read two clauses to show—[Cries of "Order!"]
The hon. Gentleman is again examining the merits. It is quite irregular I must again ask him to address himself to the Question of reporting Progress.
§ DR. CAMERON
I would submit that the unsatisfactory replies we have received are the best possible reason why we should report Progress. I am in favour of the principle of superannuation; but, as far as I understand, the proposals of the English Bill are absolutely impossible of application to Scotland. The Lord Advocate, if he had been present, might have told us something. The 1439 Solicitor General knows nothing about the matter.
§ (10.56.) MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
I shall certainly support the Motion to report progress, and I am sure it will be supported by a vast majority of the Scottish Members. They have not before them, as they have a right to have, the measure dealing with the superannuation to which this sub-section applies; and, again, they have not in his place the Officer of the Government who could have given them information—the Lord Advocate. The Government cannot pretend that they have not had fair notice. [Ministerial cries of "Divide."] I am perfectly determined to have my say out. The inarticulate groaning of the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Sir A. Orr-Ewing) will have no influence upon me. The Government had fair notice that Scotch Members desired to see the Bill before dealing with this clause, and, while various reasons have been given for the non-introduction of the Bill, the Solicitor General for Scotland is unable to tell us anything about it. Certainly, the delay in the production of the Bill is not due to overwork in the Scotch office. But it is worthy of comment among Scottish Members, that when it is important that a Bill of this sort should be produced at an early date it is continually promised but never produced. I think we should enter a protest against a mode of proceeding which has been adopted on several occasions—making one measure depend on the production of another. That occurred in the case of the Inland Revenue Bill and in the case of the Contagious Diseases (Pleuro-Pneumonia) Bill. Then we have the clauses of this Bill, which are dependent upon the clauses of another Bill which is not introduced. I think the House of Commons is bound—[Interruption]—I think the House of Commons is bound—[Interruption]—I think the House of Commons is bound—[Interruption]— 1440 to show its independence by refusing to proceed further at present with this Bill. This is the first occasion during the present Session that Government business dealing with Scotland has been before the House, and yet upon this occasion the Lord Advocate for Scotland, the Member of the Ministry who is responsible for Scotch Government business, is not present. I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. Elliot) was altogether happy in his defence of the Lord Advocate's absence. [Interruption.]
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh N.)
Mr. Courtney, I wish to draw your attention to a very serious matter, namely, the continual interruption indulged in by hon. Members opposite.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
I am perfectly indifferent to the interruption which my remarks meet with on that side. What I was saying was that my hon. Friend was not very successful in his defence of the Lord Advocate's absence My hon. Friend said the Lord Advocate as everyone will acknowledge, works hard at his own business. I would like to ask my hon. Friend and the House what part of his own business it is the Lord Advocate is working hard at at the present moment. We know that the Lord Advocate is appearing in a very important will suit before the Scotch Courts, but the question is—it affects all the Law Officers of the Crown—how far the Law Officers are justified in allowing private practice to interfere with their public duties. To-morrow the Police Vote is to be brought on for discussion. What would be thought if the Home Secretary, who is primarily responsible in the matter, were not in his place to defend his conduct? In this matter we are bound, not only as Scotch Members but as individual independent Members of the House of Commons, to enter our emphatic protest against being kept further in the dark as to the Government's views in regard to police superannuation. A gross insult has been cast upon Scotch Members, not so much by the Lord Advocate as by the Government, who, 1441 when they bring a small modicum of Scotch business before the House, have not the decency to see that the Minister who is responsible for its conduct should be present.
§ (11.6.) MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I rise not so much for the purpose of supporting the Motion, but to suggest a way out of the difficulty. I do not see much in the objection that the Lord Advocate is not here. The First Lord of the Treasury has told us that there are occasions when the Lord Advocate for Scotland is justified in being absent, and that this is one of those occasions. I think that explanation is more disrespectful to the Lord Advocate than it is to Scotland or the Scotch Members. But the man who ought to be here is not the Lord Advocate but the Secretary for Scotland. I for one would be prepared to go on with the discussion of the Bill with the Lord Advocate represented on this occasion by the Solicitor General for Scotland, who, as far as I know, is just as competent and as well entitled to the respect of the House as the Lord Advocate. But there is one condition to my assent, and that touches the second ground on which the Motion to report Progress is based. We do not know the meaning of the sub-section we are called upon to debate. In putting this subsection in its present form the Government are sinning' against the positive warning they received a week ago in respect to a similar sub-section to the English clause. We protested against discussing a sub-section which did not explain its own meaning, and which could only be explained by reference to a Bill which, as far as we know, is not in existence. The Solicitor General for Scotland has admitted he knows the contents of that Bill. I will not vote for this Motion if the Solicitor General for Scotland will, after the Motion is withdrawn, get up in his place and state what the contents of the Bill for the superannuation of the police in Scotland are. But if the Solicitor General stands upon his silence or sits upon his silence, and refuses to give the House the knowledge which is essential to the discussion of this sub-section, then I 1442 shall have no alternative but to go into the Lobby in support of the Motion to report Progress.
§ (11.10.) MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
(who was received with cries of "Divide!"): I will not detain the Committee more than one moment after this uproar has ceased. I merely rose to support the Motion for the purpose of asking the President of the Local Government Board for some reply to the pointed question I put to him during my speech at the dinner hour.
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
If I am not in order I will sit down at once. My impression was that on a Motion to report Progress a Member might elicit from a Minister of Her Majesty's Government some reply to an important question asked in a speech which had been made. If that is not so I must take another opportunity of obtaining a reply.
§ (11.12.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I must confess some astonishment at the extraordinary attitude of hon. Members opposite. I suppose that after the races they want a little fun, but Scotch Members are entitled to insist that business shall be conducted in a manner beneficial to the nation they represent. The Lord Advocate is absent, but there is another Member of the Government who might conveniently be present——
§ DR. TANNER
I am afraid the hon. Member's hearing' is as obtuse as his intellect. I should have thought that upon an occasion like the present, especially when the Lord Advocate is absent, the Chief Secretary for Ireland might have been in his place. I regret extremely that the Solicitor General for Scotland does not consider it part of his duty to remain in the House, and accordingly I shall with a great deal of pleasure support the Motion to report 1443 progress. It is obvious to the mind of the meanest, the most ordinary observer—(Cries of "Hear, hear!")—of course, if the cap fits I do not object. Seeing the jaded condition of the Treasury Bench I think it would be well to report Progress and proceed with other business of benefit to the country. There is the Barracks Bill upon the Paper. We are assured that is an important Bill. I suppose I should be out of order in discussing that Bill, and I always strive to keep in order, but——
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ (11.20.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 274; Noes 221.—(Div. List, No. 149.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ (11.30.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 230; Noes 273.—(Div. List, No. 150.)
§ Question again proposed, "That Subsection (i.) stand part of the Clause."
§ (11.49.) DR. CAMERON
This, Sir, is a very unfortunate matter. The question of police superannuation, whatever view we may entertain about its merits, is one on which there is very strong feeling one way or the other. It is a matter on which I think hon. Members will be called upon by their constituents to justify the vote they have given, and I would ask whether it is proper that at this hour of the night we should start discussing it. There has been practically no discussion whatever upon the merits of the proposal. The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) moved the rejection of the sub-section, and he was followed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). These were the only two gentlemen who discussed the merits of the proposal. They were followed by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell), who moved to report Progress. I would 1444 point out that if we postpone the consideration of the question now, we shall have the discussion on the Vote for the Police before it can come on again. On the smallest sign that the Government assent to this course I will sit down. As we cannot have the Motion for Progress twice in succession, I move that you now leave the Chair.
§ Motion made, and question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Dr. Cameron.)
§ (11.51.) DR. TANNER
I was Closured when I supported the Motion for reporting Progress, and, accordingly, I understand that the proper Motion now is that you, Sir, do leave the Chair. I regret extremely that Her Majesty's Government are in such a ridiculous position, and I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board.
§ DR. TANNER
I really regret if I have in any way transgressed; but having been Closured just now on the Motion to report Progress, I felt bound to vindicate my position, and to show that the right hon. Gentleman was in the wrong, whereas I was in the right.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That Subsection (1) stand part of the Clause."
§ (11.54.) MR. RITCHIE
Of course, it would be perfectly useless for the Government to press forward with the Bill during the time that is still at their disposal; but I wish to take notice of some remarks that fell from the hon. Member for the College Division (Dr. Cameron). He says that there has been no discussion on this clause. Why has there been no discussion? Because the time of the Committee has been deliberately wasted.
§ MR. A. SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
I rise to a point of order. I wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is justified in saying of any hon. Members of the House that they had deliberately wasted the time of the Committee.
§ MR. RITCHIE
The question was spoken to by the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the clause, and by other hon. Members. [Opposition cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ MR. RITCHIE
Then the Debate was interrupted by the Motion to report Progress, moved because of the absence of my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate. The Committee were aware that one of the Law Officers of Scotland was in his place perfectly prepared to defend the provisions of the Bill. It was alleged, also, that the Bill was not produced, though my hon. and learned Friend and I myself stated that the provisions of the Bill with reference to police superannuation in Scotland were precisely the same as the provisions of the Bill relating to Eng land. So far from there not being a Minister here in charge of Scotch business, and so far from the Committee not being in full possession of the proposals of the Government——[Opposition cries of "Question!"]
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON'
I beg to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is in order in discussing the merits of a Motion which has already been decided by the Committee?
The right hon. Gentleman is certainly not strictly in order, but he is replying to the observations which I think he is entitled to reply to.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I shall not trespass further on the time of the House. I maintain that the allegations I made at the commencement of my remarks are fully justified.
§ (11.59.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
This experience will be a lesson to us not to allow any other clause of the Bill to be taken, as we allowed the 1st clause practically without any discussion.
§ It being midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I wish to ask the President of the Local Government Board what business it is intended to take on Monday? The 1446 business, I hear, is the Procedure Order for carrying over Bills.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
If the right hon. Gentleman will repeat the question on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House I will attempt to give an answer.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.