§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ *(4.20.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
The Bill which I am now about to ask the House to read a second time divides itself naturally into two parts, one part dealing with local finances, more especially so-called, and the other part dealing with the question of the purchase, the extinction, and the diminution of licences. The opposition which is threatened to the Bill is directed mainly, if not altogether, to the latter of those two portions; but the House will understand that the provisions in the first part of the Bill are of an extremely important character, which make it necessary that I should trouble the House with some details connected with them. But naturally my observations will be mainly directed to that part of the Bill against which the attack of the hon. Member for Barrow is intended to be made. The County Councils have, with practical unanimity, urged upon the Government that they should provide them in some way or other with the money of which, as they allege, they have been deprived by the dropping of the Horse and Van Tax. It is not necessary for me to say whether those expectations were altogether justified, or whether there is that obligation resting on the Government which they allege to exist. But I must say, on the part of the Government, that the amount which they originally expected to receive from the Local Government Bill in aid of local finance was considerably diminished by the failure to pass the Horse and Van Tax. We are, 702 and have been, extremely anxious to meet the wishes of the County Councils, and to make up for the deficiency which has been caused in their finances. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has, I know, been exercising all the resources of ingenuity for some time past with a view to finding some source from which these funds may be legitimately derived. The proposal which is now before the House is a proposal to distribute the money which will be provided, as we hope, by the extra duties upon beer and spirits. Whatever may be the opinion of hon. Members from Scotland and Ireland as to the portion which has been allotted to them from this additional taxation, I think there will be a general concurrence that the source from which the revenue is derived is in itself open to little or no objection from any quarter. [Cries of "No, no !"] I know there is an objection on the part of Irish and Scotch Members, not so much to the tax as to its distribution, but that is a matter which it is not necessary for me to deal with here. The question then arises, how is the money to be distributed? The total amount which it is expected will be raised by this new tax is £1,304,000. If we deduct the amount, which I shall refer to later, for the extinction of licences, namely, £440,000, the net available balance amounts to £864,000: and I think that all interested in local and county finance will admit that this is a discharge in full of any obligations which may rest upon the Government. We propose to allot this money under certain conditions. The first condition, as far as England and Scotland are concerned, is that a certain portion of the money shall be appropriated for police superannuation purposes. It is not necessary that money should be specially set apart for this purpose in Ireland, because the Irish Constabulary is provided for out of the Imperial Exchequer, and no other provision is necessary. With reference to the question of police superannuation in England and Scotland, the House will admit that the matter is one of the very highest importance. It is important not only that the matter should be dealt with, but that it should be dealt with speedily; and the Government are justified in making it one of the first conditions of granting this money in aid. I cannot speak too highly of 703 the Police Forces of this country. They have performed always difficult, often arduous, and sometimes dangerous duties, and they have performed those duties in a manner which meets with universal approbation. That being so, I am sure it is not necessary for me to appeal at any length to Parliament on their behalf, or assert my firm conviction that Parliament will readily listen to and deal with their just complaints. There can be no doubt that the position of the police at the present time, with reference to superannuation, is highly unsatisfactory. There is made from the whole; Police Force of England a deduction of 2½ per cent, from their wages which is supposed to be allocated for purposes of superannuation. But it is a matter of astonishment, this being so, that pensions are not universal throughout the country; and I am told that there are no less than 40 or 50 police forces in England in which deductions are made from pay, while no superannuation allowances are given. Although the deductions are compulsory, the pensions are in the discretion of the Governing Bodies. In London the conditions are different, and pensions are demanded by the police force as a matter of right. There is another feature in connection with this matter. Notwithstanding the payments that have been made to Superannuation Funds during many years, in a very large number of cases in the country the Superannuation Funds are in a state of almost hopeless bankruptcy. I am told that the annual deficiency in the County and Borough Police Funds amounts to £40,000 or £50,000. In London the annual charge for police superannuation is far in excess of receipts for that purpose. A Committee which sat in 1875, and reported in 1877, went very fully into the whole question of superannuation, and listened very carefully to the complaints made. The Committee came to the conclusion that the complaints were not unreasonable, and that they ought to be remedied. Several Bills on the subject were introduced into this House. There were Bills in 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, and 1887, though none was passed. The first two Bills were brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and the Bill of 1885 was introduced by the right hon. 704 Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton. The other two Bills came from this side of the House, but none passed into law, mainly because of financial difficulties. The finance is what we now propose to supply; and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will introduce a Bill in which provisions will be made, so that by aid of the money which we give—£300,000 to England and £40,000 to Scotland—all the just grievances of the police forces in London, and throughout the country will be removed. There is in England, after providing the £300,000 for superannuation, a sum. of £393,200 left. We propose that this shall be distributed in the same manner as the Probate Duty in the counties and county boroughs, and in case of dispute we propose to place the allocation in the hands of the Commissioners under the Local Government Act. It is highly satisfactory to know that, notwithstanding the great intricacies of many points which might require to be settled by the Commissioners, the whole of the arrangements between the counties and the county boroughs—at least as far as the temporary arrangements are concerned —have been made without the intervention of the Commissioners being necessary at all. With reference to Scotland, after providing the £40,000 for police superannuation, we have left £53,440. It is the desire of Scotch Members that a further sum should be allocated and added to the amount which, in deference to their wishes, was given for educational purposes last year. It is proposed by the Bill to allocate £40,000 for that purpose, which we believe will be amply sufficient.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
I cannot deal with that subject in a Second Reading speech. The remaining £13,440 is to be available for any demands made by pleuro-pneumonia, and the balance—if there be any—is to go to the salaries of Medical Officers of Health and Sanitary Inspectors. In Ireland the whole £77,360 has been dealt with, or is to be dealt with, first, by providing funds for the payment of national school teachers; and this proposal finds, I believe, complete favour with hon. Members from Ireland. But the House will remember that although the whole of this amount is made avail- 705 able for national school teachers, a considerable portion of it will go towards the relief of local taxation. Now, Sir, I pass from those portions of the Bill, which will certainly not raise much controversy, and I come to the part of the Bill at which a deadly blow is levelled by the hon. Member for Barrow. It is well to remind the House that if they are in favour of the proposals I have just sketched they would do well not to support the hon. Gentleman, because, unquestionably, if the hon. Member for Barrow is successful in his onslaught the whole Bill will have to go—a view which evidently meets with favour in some quarters—and none of these allocations for purposes which I think are universally approved will go into the hands of the Local Authorities. I am afraid that the latter portion of our proposals, the Licensing Clauses, will be met with a, very considerable amount of strenuous opposition. It will be our duty, of course, to meet that opposition as best we can; but I can assure hon. Gentlemen we consider our case so strong and so good a one that we shall resist all onslaughts on that portion of our Bill, and with the aid of the House we shall press forward our proposals with every hope and belief that we shall succeed in passing them into law. We believe that our proposals are equitable and that they are desirable, and, further, we believe that a very large portion of the opposition which has been directed against these proposals is owing to a misunderstanding of the objects and purposes of the Government. Although the question is one of great and burning importance and of considerable controversy, I hope we may approach the subject in a fair and candid manner, and that no prejudice on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite, however advanced they may be in the matter of temperance legislation, will prevent their giving to our proposals a fair and candid consideration. Whatever may be the belief of some hon Gentlemen opposite, I assure the House that the sole object which the Government had in view in making their proposals was to promote temperance and to help those who are endeavouring, and who have so long endeavoured, to battle against intemperance. I know there are people who pretend to see some secret purpose of 706 ours in this proposal to Parliament ["Hear, hear!"] I do not know from whom that "Hear, hear" came. Is it the hon. Member for Barrow who thinks that what I have said is not accurate.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
What I said was that our sole purpose was to promote temperance. We had no other aim or object, and if he or others think that under cover of attempting to help temperance reform we have endeavoured to set up, as in his opinion perhaps, a great scheme of compensation, I can assure him he is utterly wrong.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
What I have said is that the operation of our proposals is in the direction of temperance, even although their effect may be but small, in my opinion, matters of this kind are not to be dealt with satisfactorily by leaps and bounds. In my opinion, it is only by steps and stages that you will be able to deal with this question, and that large and heroic measures are not the best for promoting the cause he has at heart. The annual grant we place at the disposal of the Local Authorities for the purpose is not a large one, but I believe it will be sufficient to enable them to deal with a large number of the smaller fry of public houses. I will point out that there is a provision in the Bill by which the annual income can be capitalised for three years if it be desirable to deal more largely with them. I am prepared to say we are not disposed, if good arguments can be shown to the contrary, to adhere to the term of three years, and we shall be prepared to consider any extension of that period which may commend itself to us, so that although the beginnings may be small, we may ulti-do great things. But we do not claim for our proposals that they are of an extensive and sweeping character. Our view is, and always has been, that when this question comes to be dealt with as a whole, the control of licences must be transferred to Local Authorities, to County Councils, and to Town Councils. This is the idea we embodied in the Local Government Bill. This is the idea we have now; but meanwhile, and until this is done, we desire to take a 707 step, although it be but a small one, in the direction of temperance. One word with reference to the money which is to be raised for this purpose. It has been spoken of in many quarters as if it were some kind of a residue of a tax which the Government had resolved to put on for other purposes. I want the House clearly to understand, for whatever it may be worth, that that is not a correct statement of the course the Government have pursued. The Government, whether rightly or wrongly, deliberately placed an extra duty upon alcoholic liquors for this express purpose. It was not a question of money being left over, and that then it occurred to the Government that with the balance We might do something in this direction. It was fully and carefully considered, and it was deliberately arranged by the Government that this extra tax to yield between £400,000 and £500,000, should be put on for this express purpose. I cannot understand how any great objection can be raised to the proposal even by the extreme Temperance Party. The question of where the money for the purchase and extinction of these licences comes from, is, I think, not immaterial. It must be remembered, whether our purposes be good or bad, our details right or wrong, this money is raised from drink for the purpose of diminishing the sale of drink. [Laughter.] I do not see why hon. Gentlemen should see grounds for laughter in that statement. It is a matter which can hardly be denied. I think that all will acknowledge that, for the purposes of our Bill, money raised from that source is legitimately raised. Before dealing with our proposals as to the purchase and extinction of licences, may I point out that this is not the only step we have taken to meet the wishes and desires of the Temperance Party. I do not see much about it in the literature of the extreme section of the Temperance Party, but one very important feature in our proposals is the suspension of the issue of new licences. That is a matter which temperance reformers have been constantly urging upon all Governments, and at any rate, so far as that provision is concerned, I am sure it commends itself to the hon. Member for Barrow and to all temperance reformers, however extreme or advanced they may be, and 708 that they regard it as a matter of the very greatest importance. At any rate, it is a provision which gives satisfaction to the Temperance Party. There are certain exceptional circumstances under which we provide that new licences may be granted. Several criticisms have been addressed to us with reference to our proposals for exceptions. I say there, again, we shall be quite prepared in Committee to consider any objections which may be legitimately raised with reference to the exceptional provisions which we insert. There is one important feature in connection with this matter which, I think, will commend itself very strongly to a number of temperance reformers in the House—that is, the valuable recognition which we give to the opinion of the County Council as to whether, even in a new neighbourhood, or a developing neighbourhood, a licence should be granted, providing, as we do, that on any application for a new licence under circumstances such as I have described, it can only be granted by the Justices if approved by the County Council. There are also some safeguards which we insert in the Bill. For instance, we provide that no additional value shall be given to any existing licence in consequence of any of the provisions of this Bill. We. also take care that new licences stand on a very different footing from old licences. Certain suggestions have been made to us, notably by the Church of England Temperance Society, which, perhaps, has done as much good in the cause of temperance as any other society, and which has the cause of temperance at heart fully as much as any other Temperance Association. One of that society's suggestions was that no privilege of removal should be accorded to new licences, and that we are prepared to provide for. They are also anxious that, in the dealing with the granting of new licences, what are understood by grocers' licences—off licences—shall be dealt with, and that they should be brought under the clause which prevents new licences being issued. There, again, the Government are prepared to consider the suggestion that has been made. By Sub-section 4 of Clause 8 we provide that new licences shall be refusable by the Justices at their unqualified discretion. It has been pointed out that this might 709 seem to imply that we desired to say that they had not unqualified discretion now. We have not, and we never had, any desire to interfere with the existing rights of Justices, whatever they are; and we shall he perfectly prepared in Committee to move words to make that plain. So much for that part of our proposal, which I believe to be acceptable to all sections of temperance reformers—[Mr. CONYBEARE: "No!"]—except one. I now propose to lay before the House the provisions we desire to make with regard to existing licences. It is admitted on all hands that they are much too numerous, and social reformers will agree that they ought to be reduced in number. How is a reduction to be effected? The hon. Members for Barrow and Cockermouth would say by popular veto; but they have not yet succeeded in converting the country to their opinion. The popular veto embraces the possibility of sweeping away entirely all the public houses in any particular locality without the slightest regard to any interests which may be possessed by the holders of licences, and the effect of that would be to reduce a large number of persons to beggary and destitution. If we are to wait for a reduction of licences until that reform takes place we should possibly have to wait even now for a very long time. It is said that magistrates may refuse to renew. That process, I contend, is also a slow one. Even assuming that they have an absolutely uncontrolled power of refusing renewal, nevertheless magistrates, in exercising 'their discretion, do regard the position of a publican, and the claim he has after a long course of renewals to a belief that his renewal will again take place. But we desire to quicken the process. We do not desire to wait till the great reforms to which I have referred are carried out. and so we give to the representatives of the ratepayers the power to diminish the number of licences, and we give them the means out of which they can fulfil that object. I would point out, first of all, that hon. Gentlemen who imagine that by the action of the County Councils they would do something extremely detrimental to the principles which are advocated by the extreme section of the Temperance Party—those hon. Gentlemen seem to have very little faith in 710 popular representation. In giving this money to the County Councils we impose upon them no obligation to diminish licences if they do not think it desirable to do so or if they are unable to make terms which they consider favourable. Secondly, no one is to be taxed against his will for this particular purpose. I am not prepared to argue whether this money comes from the makers, the sellers, or the consumers of drink; I am content with this fact, which no one can gainsay, that it comes out of the drink somewhere or other, and I imagine that hon. Gentlemen will not be prepared to say that it is not a legitimate source from which taxation should come to this purpose. It is said that we are instituting a great scheme of compensation. I utterly and absolutely deny anything of the kind. As I said the other day, compensation is a word which might possibly be applied to any bargain which is made between two persons. A man buys a hat and he leaves with the hatter in compensation whatever may be the price of it. Well, that is exactly what we are proposing to do—nothing more and nothing less; and although in a sense it is compensation, because value is received, I deny that it is compensation in the ordinary sense of the term. I assert that the word "compensation" is ordinarily applied to transactions in which at least one of the persons concerned is not a free agent. In purchasing under this Bill it is undoubtedly recognised that licences have a market value. They are recognised for all commercial purposes as having a goodwill attached to them. The fact that they are marketable commodities is recognised by the business community, by the State, and by the Local Authorities. The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day showed completely that for Probate, Legacy, and Succession Duty the goodwill of a public house is taxed on its capital value. It is the practice of the Inland Revenue to estimate at so many years the value of the profits made in a public house, although the licence is annually renewable.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
Three years, I think. I am not, however, certain about that, and I would rather the right hon. Gentleman 711 did not take it from me. It is sufficient for me to know that the value of the licence is taken for more than one year. If the Inland Revenue are not satisfied with the value which is placed upon the interest in a public house they can, and frequently do, require an outside valuer, such as the publican himself would have engaged, to value the interest in the house and to supply them with proofs as to its value, and upon that value the tax is raised. Again, the Local Authorities have always recognised the value of a goodwill, both in public houses and all other houses which they take for public improvements. The London County Council have bought up and cancelled valuable licences out of the rates, and that is the very thing which we are blamed for giving to Local Authorities throughout the country the power of doing, only there is this advantage in our proposal, that, instead of having recourse to the rates, we provide funds for them, coming not out of the rates but out of the drink itself. It has been stated, as an objection to our proposals, that we are committing Parliament to certain bases of compensation. That I utterly deny. I maintain that we are not doing half as much by this Bill to set up bases of compensation as has been done for years past, both by the State and by the Local Authorities. I would make an appeal to the extreme Temperance Party, as represented by the hon. Member for Barrow. Do they think they will ever, in a reasonable time—in their lives—be able to deal with this question without recognising existing facts, such as those I have enumerated? I assert that it will not be possible to deal with this question properly, when it has to be dealt with comprehensively, without recognising existing facts, and that you cannot reduce to ruin and beggary persons who have been carrying-on a legitimate business with no fault. Whatever may be the legal position of licence holders, the business has been carried on under the sanction of the law, and with an assurance fully warranted by practice of the renewal of the licence. I do not believe that public opinion will tolerate any such action as that contemplated by the hon. Member and the extreme Temperance Party. On the contrary, I believe that public opinion would revolt against the iniquity of depriving 712 men, women, and children, of their livelihood by such a process as that which is favoured by the hon. Gentleman, and those who think with him; and, further, if you transfer this licensing to Local Authorities to-morrow, unless you were to provide some means, upon some basis or other, by which the interests in these premises should be recognised, I do not believe you would ever get any Local Authority to put the law into operation. I believe public opinion would be too strong against it. In the first place, there was the question of Army purchase, and that of the over-regulation prices, which were certainly not legal. But in that case Parliament recognised existing facts, and spent several millions of money. I assert that in regard to those over-regulation prices there had been an illegal traffic, which had grown up contrary to the will of Parliament and against the law; yet, when Parliament saw that it was necessary for the public good to deal with the matter, money was provided out of which the status of those who had paid for commissions was recognised, and payment in compensation was made. Another illustration is that which was afforded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) in 1883, when he proposed to diminish the work performed by local collectors of taxes. Those appointments were only held from year to year, and there was no claim to renewal; but there was a reasonable expectation of re-appointment, and my right hon. Friend proposed in his Bill to compensate the collectors, and, as far as I recollect, there was not a single voice raised against it at the time. So also with regard to our public men. From one time to another they have given strong expression to their views that this matter cannot be dealt with without recognising the proper claims to compensation put forward. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone)—and I should be surprised if he held any other sentiments—has expressed similar opinions. At Dalkeith, in 1879, ho said—But I must also add that, I think, if it be necessary, if Parliament should think it wise, to introduce any radical change in the working of the liquor law in such a way as to break down the fair expectations of persons who have grown up, whether rightly or wrongly, it is not their fault—it is our fault—under the 713 shadow of those laws, their fair claim to compensation ought, if they can make good their case, to be considered, as all such claims have been considered, by the wisdom and liberality of the British Parliament.Again, the right hon. Gentleman said, on the 5th of March, 1880, speaking on the Local Option Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson):—We ought not to allow our prejudices with regard to this particular trade, or our sense of the enormous mischiefs associated with its working, to cause us to deviate by one hair's breadth from the principle on which Parliament has always acted in analogous circumstances—namely, that where a vested interest has been allowed to grow up, the question of compensation should be considered when such vested interests were proposed to be interfered with by Act of Parliament. What I am prepared to say is neither more nor less than this—that the licensed victualler has the same right to fair consideration that is enjoyed by persons following every other trade or calling which is interfered with by Act of Parliament, and to whom compensation is awarded owing to such interference. We must not allow—I need not say that Gentlemen on this side of the House will not allow—any political feeling or prejudice to interfere with the rectitude of our judgment, or to prevent us from giving the same measure of justice or indulgence to licensed victuallers that we should give to any other class in the community. If that be so, I am inclined to think that this Resolution, which is to be regarded as a sort of charter, laying down the lines of our future conduct, ought to contain at least an allusion to the question of compensation. When Parliament enacted negro emancipation it was preceded by a preliminary Resolution, in which the principle of compensation was recognised. My hon. Friend says we must wait till a claim for compensation is made. Parliament does not act on that principle. Where the facts presented the possibility of such a claim, the recognition of the possibility has, I think, taken place in the original proceedings of Parliament.These are the statements made at different times by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and I should be very much surprised if he is now prepared to depart from the principle he has laid down. I do not wish to weary the House, but I should like to quote a few words spoken by the late Mr. Bright in the Debate on the Local Option Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth. On the 14th of June, 1881, Mr. Bright said:—The other difficulty is the question which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Daly), the question of compensation in case public houses were suppressed where there had been no breach of the law. I think the hon. Baronet would, on further consideration 714 — in fact, I gathered from what he said that this is so—not think it absolutely wrong for Parliament to provide some mode by which men who are now engaged in a lawful business should not be deprived of that business without some sort of compensation.Then, Sir, there is the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson) himself. I may bring him forward as a witness against his own proposals, although the House will not expect that he said anything very warm and sympathetic on the subject of compensation. The hon. Baronet said:—Hon. Members tell mo that there ought to be something about compensation in my Resolution. If I would only do that they would find it in their hearts to vote for me. Now, I do not want to condemn compensation; but it is not the question which is before the House. The question is whether it is right to force these houses upon an unwilling neighbourhood, and if it cannot be done without compensation, let us have compensation. I am quite sure that if ever my Resolution is crystallised into an Act of Parliament this House will never refuse a fair demand from any body of men.The right hon Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) has also given expression to the opinion that in dealing largely and broadly with this question, the just right to compensation on the part of people deprived of their licences by an alteration in the law should and ought to be considered. I may say that I have to-day read a pamphlet which has been sent to me containing a speech made by Mr. Bright before a temperance audience in 1883, in which he laid down the exact lines upon which we now proceed as being, in his opinion, the right lines upon which the question should be dealt with. I have already said that the opposition to our proposals is formidable, if we are to judge by the number of resolutions and telegrams that have been received. Hon. Members will recollect that one day last week the floor of the House was brown with the envelopes of telegrams sent to hon. Members conveying resolutions from all quarters of the country. I have something to say about these resolutions. A large proportion of them bear intrinsic evidence of proceeding from the same source. There has been a handle turned, and they have come out all ready made in incredible numbers. But there are some which appear to be spontaneous, and about those I should like to say a word. Occasionally they go wrong. One resolution is 715 very formidable, being couched in strong language and evidently intended to be directed against the proposals of the Government. It says—We totally and entirely and absolutely dissent from the licensing proposals of Lord Randolph Churchill.But my noble Friend's Bill is evidently not the Bill against which this resolution was directed, because there is no compensation clause in that Bill at all. So that here this resolution very clearly went wrong. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: They meant his speech.] They may have meant his speech, but they said his Bill. I will give another illustration. Here is a resolution —That the proposal in the Budget to give £350,000 to the County Councils as a fund from which to compensate publicans whose licence' for one year and no longer' may not again be granted is a dangerous innovation.That shows clearly that the individuals who were considering this resolution thought that by our proposals we were providing a fund for the compensation of those licences which were not renewed by the Magistrates. Nothing can be more contrary to our intention—nothing can be more ludicrous. I have one or two more cases. Here is one from Wales—That this meeting protests most emphatically against the renewed proposal of the Government to compensate publicans whose licences may not be renewed.There, again, the evident idea in the minds of these people is that we are endeavouring to compensate men who are deprived of their licences by the Magistrates. Another resolution is from the Portsmouth Band of Hope and Abstainers' Union, and it says—The Portsmouth Band of Hope and Abstainers' Union—consisting of 36 societies, with a membership of over 7,000—protests most strongly against the giving of compensation to publicans in case of non-renewal of licence.Here is a resolution the idea of which cannot be mistaken. The idea is that our proposal for dealing with the question is that we are compensating the publican in case of the non-renewal of his licence. I am glad, however, to think that there are some temperance reformers who take a different view of our proposals. Here is a letter from a member of the Southwark Band of Hope Union. It says— 716Though an ardent supporter of total abstinence, I deeply regret the position which the temperance party are taking up in connection with the Government Bill. Whilst I certainly object very much to any indiscriminate form of compensation, I think the advantages to be gained from the Bill to be introduced on Monday are far more than commensurate with its defects, and I shall be very grieved indeed if the Government give way by allowing the whole Bill to drop. Most moderate men would, I think, be better pleased if they could see their way clear to adopting the Church of England Temperance Society's plan—namely, ten year's limit.[Cries of"Name."] It is not a letter addressed to me, so I am afraid I cannot give the name. Here is a cutting which has been sent to me from a newspaper in Hull. It concludes by saying—I cannot but think, Sir, that the unseemly attitude of the would-be leaders of the temperance party give the be direct to all the sentiment that has emanated from the temperance platforms for the last halt-century. Opponents-of the scheme would cajole us into believing that it is to the compensation clauses only that they object; but how they can expect any man of common sense to swallow such utter rubbish passes my comprehension altogether, seeing that the compensation is purely permissive, and that the scheme if carried in its entirety would practically give to the people that very local option which temperance reformers have worked and striven and prayed for for years, and amongst those who have looked to this as an earnest of victory for our cause may be numbered many of those who to-day so madly denounce it, for the miserable dog-in-the-manger reason that it comes from the wrong side of the House.[Cries of"Name."] It is signed "A Good Templar." I have one more extract to give. It is taken from the speech of a gentleman once well known in this House, chairman of the Essex County Council, and who has been for many years intimately associated with all temperance movements in the country—I refer to Mr. Andrew Johnston. ["A Liberal Unionist."] That does not detract from the importance of the statement—They had the most temperance Budget that had ever been brought in. It suggested a system for reducing the number of public houses in London in a way that all could agree with, but the full-blown Radical could not agree with shutting up public houses unless at the same time he ruined the publicans. He wanted practical reforms, for he was quite as ardent a reformer as ever; but he did not wish to bring them about in the same harassing way as the Radicals.I have one more illustration to give of the support which we are likely to receive from the Temperance Party in 717 connection with this question. It is from the Church of England Temperance Society. Let us contrast what their conduct has been in this matter with the conduct of some other societies, which shall be nameless. This society waited upon mo as a deputation to discuss the proposals of the Bill. They recognised that, whatever might be said to the contrary by the opponents of the Government and of the Bill, it was an honest and well-intended attempt to deal with this great question of intemperance, and they put before me certain suggestions which they said required to be considered in connection with this matter by the Government. They desired to represent to the Government that the existing powers of Magistrates, while not in any way sot aside by the Bill, should be recognised as existing in express terms in the wording of the Bill. To that I saw not the smallest objection. We have not the least intention of interfering with any powers now possessed by Licensing Magistrates, and we shall be glad to introduce words in order to make this plain. Then the deputation dealt with grocers' licences, and urged that no privileges of removal should attach to conditional licences. I am also prepared to deal with those licences. They also set out that the bases of the arrangement under which agreement for the purchase and sale should be made under the Bill should not he considered as necessary to be adopted by Parliament when it came to deal with the whole question; and to that also I see no objection. [Sir W. HARCOURT: Why not?] Subject to these reservations, the Government have been able to obtain the support of this great Temperance Society. It has not been content simply with giving the Government a negative support in this matter. It recognises the attempt we are making, and it has gone the length of advising its friends to support the Government in the proposals they have made. I have felt it to be of supreme importance that we should have an opportunity of putting before the House and the country the details of our proposals, because I believe the more widely the proposals we are making are known the more we are likely to obtain support from all classes of the community. I confess that we are disappointed at the way in which we we 718 have been met by some Temperance Associations in this matter, and by some of those who advocate the cause of temperance in this House. But I earnestly hope that a fuller consideration of our proposals may enable them somewhat to alter their position towards us. However that may be, I ask the House and the country to believe that our sole object has been to help temperance reformers and to promote the cause of temperance; and we appeal to the House to give us their assistance in the carrying out of an object which I believe we all have at heart. I move the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Ritchie?)
§ *(5.22.). MR. CAINE
I am sorry to say that neither the appeal with which the right hon. Gentleman concluded, nor the able and clear speech he has delivered, nor the arguments he has adduced in the course of that speech, have any effect whatever in inducing me to withdraw the Amendment which I am about to move—That this House declines to assent to a Bill which provides by payment out of public moneys for the extinction of annual licences in the manner provided in the said Bill.The right hon. Gentleman said that the proposals which the Bill contains are equitable and desirable, and that the opposition brought forward is owing to a misunderstanding of their nature. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill itself is exceedingly easy to understand. The difficulties which I and my Friends experience have not been in understanding the clauses of the Bill, but in understanding the various explanations which Ministers have given with regard to them. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of the Bill as being brought forward from a desire to help those who are battling with intemperance. Well, Sir, those of us who oppose the Bill have been for years past battling with intemperance, and we can see nothing in this measure, taken as a whole, which is at all likely to promote the cause we have at heart. On the contrary, we believe that it will seriously injure it; and, therefore, we feel compelled from the initial steps of these proposals to oppose them to the utmost 719 of our power in every legitimate way. I beg to assure my right hon. Friend that I do not in the least doubt his good intentions, especially towards the liquor trade; but it is the method by which he proposes to carry out those good intentions that we object to. It would appear as though right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite cannot do anything for the Temperance Party without doing something at the same time for the liquor trade. Whilst offering 6d. to meet the demand of the Temperance Party they give a good round sovereign to those engaged in the trade. I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman into all the ridicule he has endeavoured to cast upon the expressions of public opinion which have been elicited by this Bill. It is perfectly natural, if hon. Members who are opposed to the principle of this measure, and have put down notices of opposition are supposed by its authors to misunderstand the principles of the Bill—it is perfectly natural that humble individuals up and down the country who are not here to follow the intricacies of legislation should also be under some misunderstanding. But I will endeavour to show that some of the "misunderstandings" on which he has poured ridicule are very natural and legitimate conclusions to draw, and that the country is justified in supposing that the proposals of the Bill are only a re-introduction of the proposals of 1888. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a very old friend of mine—Mr. Andrew Johnston—as being in favour of this Bill, but this gentleman is certainly strongly opposed to any money compensation being given out of the rates or taxes to publicans who may have lost their licences. Mr. Johnston took the chair for me, in 1888, at a meeting in Essex, called for the purpose of denouncing the proposals brought forward by the Government at that time. The right hon. Gentleman claims that he has secured the support of the Church of England Temperance Society. But I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he has only secured, if at all, the assent and support of one of the committees of that organisation. I have no hesitation in saying, from the intimate knowledge I have of that association, being myself a vice-president and on its Parliamentary Committee, that its 720 main body would probably repudiate any such compromise as has been arrived at by the committee. Let us know the exact truth of the case. Canon Ellison, chairman of the Church of England Temperance Society, has issued to the Members of this House a document in which he expresses the hope that support will be given on the conditions contained in an enclosed communication which appeared in the Times. What are those proposals? This is one them— that in any such Bill as the present the Church of England Temperance Society will maintain that the licence-holder is the only person whom the law recognizes that he has no legal but only an equitable claim to compensation; if there are other interests behind, as are claimed, it must be a matter of agreement between themselves; that compensation shall be on the limited basis put forward by the Church of England Temperance Society, and shall be restricted to the period of 10 years from the passing of the Act. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman a detailed account of the concessions which the Government are prepared to make to the Church of England Temperance Society. Will any purchase made under the Bill be on the lines thus laid down?
§ *MR. RITCHIE
If the hon. Gentleman will read further on he will see the suggestions which have been made by the Government for the alteration of the Bill.
§ *MR. CAINE
The suggestions are there, but I take my stand on the Bill itself. It is a suggestion contained in a letter to the Times which I am quoting, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is going to insert in this Bill a clause directing that when the County Council and the publican agree with regard to the price, that price shall not be higher than the equivalent of 10 years after the passing of the Act? If the right hon. Gentleman puts that in he will largely modify his proposal, for 10 years hence the whole objectionable features of the Bill will have passed away The fact of the matter is—that if. Members opposite who are members of the Church of England Temperance Society are going to take any notice of this whip, I claim their votes for my Amendment without hesitation, unless, of course, they get a concession of the 721 conditions contained in the communications I have already referred to. I cannot understand how the Church of England Temperance Society could have accepted such paltry concessions as those made by the Ministers in charge of this Bill. I may point out, however, that this is the action of one of the committees only of a society which has ramifications all over the country. The Liverpool Diocesan Church of England Temperance Society, for which I claim as much respect as any other Temperance Society, passed at its annual meeting, last Thursday, resolutions which, while approving the proposals further to tax spirits, to continue the increased duty on beer, to reduce the duty on tea, and to prohibit the issue of additional licences, strongly disapproves of the proposal to authorise County Councils to purchase liquor licences, on the ground that they are only held from year to year, and are not proper subjects for compensation. The resolutions go on to invite all Members of Parliament representing Divisions in the diocese to use every effort to secure the rejection of this part of the Bid. I have still further evidence on this point. On the 9th May a meeting of the Liverpool Temperance Federation, conspicuous in which is the Church of England Temperance Society, was held. A resolution was unanimously adopted by that federation in favour of the Government Bill so far as it restricts the issue of future licences, but strongly disapproving the proposal to pay compensation for liquor licences. The total abstinence branch of the Church of England Temperance Society, which contains two-thirds of the members, and all the energy of the Church of England Temperance organisation, also at its annual meeting on the 13th passed a resolution which strongly opposed the Bill and urged their members to vote against it. At the meeting last referred to the Chairman made a speech in which he called attention to the fact that on the preceding night I had asserted in the House of Commons that the Temperance Party would go solid against any proposal for giving compensation to publicans. At that statement there was long continued cheering, the audience rising like one man, and this completely discomfited the chairman, who had himself previously spoken in 722 favour of some sort of compensation, and had suggested that the British nation would not desire to ruin the publicans. I can assure the committee of the Church of England Temperance Society that they have not heard the last of the whip which they have sent out. Now I come to the Bill itself. The right hon. Gentleman said that if we were successful in carrying my Amendment the whole of the Bill must go. But why should the whole of the Bill go? It contains four distinct provisions, namely, (1) Police superannuation; (2) Conferring a vested interest on publicans: (3) Suspending the issue of new licences; and (4) Free education for Scotland. The Educational, Superannuation, and Suspensory Clauses, to which I believe no opposition will be raised, are the sugar that coats the compensation pill. The principle of the Bill is, undoubtedly, contained in the attempt to create for the first time a legal vested interest in a public house licence. The acceptance by the House of my Amendment will only withdraw from the Bill three clauses out of 14; three sub-sections out of the balance. If these disappear the suspending of licences and the superannuation of the police and the education proposal for Scotland will, I think, meet with little serious opposition. And why should we not carry them without consenting to this bribe to the publican's interest. I am greatly surprised that the Government should again raise this thorny question during the present Parliament. When the President of the Local Government Board was introducing the Local Government Bill, in 1888, he said, on the Compensation Clauses —We have determined, therefore, to make some proposal to the House which we believe fair and equitable, and it is for the House to say whether it is acceptable to it or not. We shall make a proposal which we hope the House will accept. If the House does not, our duty will have ceased.Well, Sir. the House and the country repudiated the proposal. It cost the Government two seats—Southampton, where their majority of 668 was turned into a minority of 885; and Ayr Boroughs, where a Unionist majority of 1,175 was turned into a minority of 63. And be it remembered that in the latter constituency the seat was recovered when this compensation question was out of the way. History will repeat 723 itself if the Government persevere. A warning has already come from Bristol, and the country will repudiate this latter proposal as vigorously as in 1888, and all the more because it is sought to bring it in by a back door. The President of the Local Government Board objects to the word "compensation" being used as regards this Bill. I am not surprised at it; it is a word of ill omen to him. I have not used it in the Resolution which I have to move, but it lurks behind, and neither he nor I can keep it out of Debate, if we would. This Bill is intended, under cover of some small concessions to temperance reformers, to establish a money value in licences granted for 12 months only; so that, whenever the question of a large extinction of licences may come up in the future, the principle of compensation shall be found to be fully established. We have a statue in St. Stephen's Hall to John Hampden, and he earned it by his resistance to ship money. The sum was but small on each county; but there was the principle, and it was to the principle that Hampden objected. In his speech last Wednesday to a deputation from the Church of England Temperance Society the President of the Local Government Board said—The word 'compensation' never appeals in the Bill, and I assert, that in doing what we have done, we do not lay the basis of compensation…I assert that we do not desire by our proposals to lay down any lines upon which compensation is to proceed when Parliament comes to deal with the whole question of licensing.I am sure my right hon. Friend is sincere in this declaration, and yet I differ with him in toto. The Bill has not been so understood by the Temperance Party in country, or by the leaders of the Liquor Trade; nor has it been so understood by the Conservative Press. What does the Standard say? The Standard speaks of the Bill as,A measure which assumes that County Councils might think it right to purchase instead of confiscating rights in licensed premises.It proposes to enableLocal bodies that are desirous of making a positive and immediate reduction to do so by offering fair terms to the publican.Surely, "to purchase instead of confiscating (so-called) rights in licensed premises" will "lay down lines upon 724 which compensation will proceed "in future legislation. But I commend to the President of the Local Government Board the following remarks of the Birmingham Daily Mail—an orgau most devoted to the interests of the Government. They are as follows:—We scarcely think Mr. Ritchie is smoothing the passage of the Government licensing measure by quibbling over the meaning of the word 'compensation.' There is no reason why he should not at once admit that the Bill which comes before the House of Commons for Second Reading on Monday next does establish the principle of compensation. All the hairsplitting in the world, and the strictest insistance on verbal accuracy, will not get over that fact. We take Mr. Ritchie's contention to be this—that the payments of money authorised by the Bill are for the purpose of extinguishing licences, and not for enriching the outgoing publicans. Well, what is that but compensation? Why cannot Mr. Ritchie frankly say that with certain reservations the principle of compensation must be conceded. Why beat about the bush and give the Temperance Party the impression that the Government shrink from the responsibility of urging that a licence-holder has in equity, if not in law, a claim to compensation.Now, there is a refreshing frankness about the Morning Advertiser and the St. James' Gazette that the President of the Local Government Board would do well to imitate. The trade understands it as we do. What does the Morning Advertiser say? The Morning Advertiser says—The trade in both its departments are prepared to give an unanimous support to legislation which, however defective in regard of their interests, proposes to give them a certain measure of protection. They have the assurance that the Government have, at all events, put their foot down against plunder, and asserted the principle that the suppression of a licence through no misconduct on the part of its holder shall be effected by payment for its extinction. Once this principle is established by Parliament it cannot be revoked off-hand when Sir Wilfrid Lawson and his friends chance to find themselves on the Treasury Bench or behind it. They will have to respect the action of their predecessors, they will have to assume an honesty if they have it not, and it is because the Licensing Bill of the Government will—among other things—provide a safeguard in the future that it invites the approval and support of the trade.What does the St. James Gazette say—The Government has successfully asserted the principle that the extinction of a licence (not forfeited by misbehaviour) shall be accompanied by compensation. And once established in an Act of Parliament, and once set at work, the principle cannot well be thrown over when the Radicals come into power. They may kick and complain, but they would scarcely venture to treat the remaining licences 725 with less honesty than those whom their predecessors had bought outLet me go to a Conservative paper of quite a different character. The Rock, a Church of England family newspaper, says, in a leading article (April 25th, 1890)—The blot in the plan, the fly in the apoinment, is the renewal by a side-wind, of that old idea of compensating publican for the nonrenewal of licences. Their licences are for the first time to be treated as vested interests. Next Sunday is the Church of England Temperance Society's Sunday in London. We trust that powerful and prudent Society will weigh the insidious drift of this suggestion about County Councils buying up licences, it is the thin end of the wedge for much more extensive demands, and it will be the first time the English law has admitted that inn-keepers had vested rights in their licences.But now I wish to call my right lion-Friend's attention to the words of one of his own colleagues. The President of the Board of Trade (Sir M. Hicks Beach), speaking at Bristol on Primrose Day, said—The brewer and the publican may surely not feel dissatisfied at the important recognition of the principle of compensation or licences taken away without any default of their holders.I might go on ad nauseam with such quotations. It is idle for the Government to pretend that the Bill does not set up the principle of compensation. If it becomes law, the first County Council that buys up a licence with a view to extinction confirms and legalises the principle that there is a money value in a public house licence granted for 12 months, and no longer. The principle contained in this Bill, therefore, is, that no public house licence shall be extinguished without money compensation, except for offences against the law, and it is that principle the Temperance Party intend to resist to the bitter end. In his speech to the Church of England Temperance Society, the President of the Local Government Board, said—I am very glad of the opportunity of saying that if they are driven to argue it, the Government will argue this question of compensation, and will maintain that in order to deal with this question effectually, the question of compensation must be recognised.Well, Sir, the Government have brought the argument on themselves, and it is now necessary that I should remind the House of what are the views of the Government on compensation.
726 We are not left in doubt on that point. The President of the Local Government Board during the Debate on the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Padding-ton (Lord R. Churchill) made it perfectly clear that the compensation to be laid down in any future measure the Government may introduce, with a view to a settlement of the licensing question, will be identical with that proposed in 1888 in the Licensing Clauses of the Local Government Bill for England. What were the proposals of the English Local Government Bill? In introducing that measure the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) said—The question of the measure of compensation shall be referred to an arbitrator who shall consider what is the difference in the value of the particular bouse with the licence and of the house without the licence at the time of the passing of the Bill.The Division on this Amendment will be a clear enough issue. Those who vote with me will declare that they cannot consent to a proposal which will confer a freehold interest in a licence granted for 12 months and no longer. That is all I ask the House to do. If we are defeated and these clauses become law, it will become impossible to extinguish a single licence without a money payment, "equal to the difference in the value of the particular house with the licence and of the house without the licence." This will become evident the moment a possible transaction is considered. A section of the public want to get rid of a public house. I will take a well known case in Liverpool as an illustration. Five or six years ago a large gin palace was built opposite the gates of the principal dock for American liners. The application for a licence was opposed by all the steamship owners using the dock, and by all the stevedores loading the vessels. It was, however, granted. The house cost £8,000, and in 1888 the owner refused £20,000 for it. If this Bill becomes law immediate pressure will at once be put on the County Council to extinguish this licence on account of the mischief it is doing to the workpeople in the docks. The County Council will try to come to terms with the owner, who has just refused £20,000. The house is of no use for any trade but that of a public house, or that of a coffee palace. The first thing the owner would do would 727 be to go to Peter Walker & Sons, or some other great monopolist. Any of the great monopolist brewers would jump at the chance of acquiring such a house. Having mule his bargain with them, the owner would use it for screwing up the Council. This licensed house, which is exactly of the kind that the public want to see closed, could not be bought up by the County Council under, at least, £20,000. Liverpool's share of the grant of £350,000 will be £7,000, so that they could only extinguish this house by exercising the borrowing powers of the Bill and taking three years' instalments. This transaction once through, the principle of compensation would be established for all time in Liverpool as well as the rest of the country. The transaction would be thundered forth from the opposite Benches as having established a principle from which Parliament could not depart. In considering this Bill we must use our own common sense and the knowledge of our own districts, as to what effect it will have if it became law. The right hon. Gentleman says—The money we desire to appropriate would enable Local Authorities to get rid of a considerable number of comparatively valueless public houses which are probably doing much more harm than more valuable public houses; especially in the rural parts of the country.He said he hoped to be able to do that without raising the burning question of compensation. He has found out his mistake by now. He has raised that question. The principle which, I contend, would be legally established by the purchase of the great Liverpool gin palace, would be quite as successfully established by the buying up of the little rural public house. Let me take a case of which I have some personal experience. I am a partner in a mining company at Millom. There was a small house on a freehold which we do not own, but over which we have royalties. It came into the market, and we sent an agent to buy it at any price. He bid up to £390, and the house was bought over our heads for £400. When asked why he had not bid higher, he said the value of the house was only £200. A licence was removed to the house, and a man began to make money by demoralising our miners. There came a time when we had to take the minerals from under the house, and we bad to pay £2,200 for it. If this Bill 728 had been passed we should have tried to get the County Council to buy it. Millom's share of the £350,000 will be £80. I contend that this Bill, whether viewed from the standpoint of the Government, or the Opposition, or the Liquor Trade, or the Temperance Party, must inevitably set up the principle that a 12 months' licence is a freehold. I turn now from the consideration of the principle to that of the methods by which the Bill proposes to carry it out. The measure contains no scheme for reducing the number of public houses throughout the country, no principle to guide Licensing Authorities in awarding compensation. It leaves the County Council to make its own bargain with the publican whose licence is to be extinguished. It is a Compensation Bill for publicans without a scrap of machinery to carry it out. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has submitted his scheme to the Chairmen of the County Councils and got their opinions upon them. I shall be greatly mistaken if, before the Bill gets through Committee, the County Councils do not make it abundantly clear that they will have no such powers conferred on them with their goodwill and consent. I have heard only to-day that the Cardiganshire County Council have passed a resolution condemning the proposal to pay compensation. I should like to read a letter I received this morning, which I am sure will have great weight with hon. Members, especially Lancashire Members. It is from Mr. John Fell, Chairman of the Quarter Sessions of Lancaster, and who, I think, has been Chairman of the Licensing Committee for some years. Mr. Pell who, I may add, is a supporter of the present Government, writes to me:—I think you are thoroughly in the right in opposing the recognition of any vested interest in public houses to be acquired in any sense by public funds. As you know, for many years I have, as a magistrate, held the view that renewals were absolutely discretionary, subject, of course, to the preliminary notices required by Statute and the right of appeal. In my 30 years' experience as a magistrate no new licence has been granted, except on the ground of apparently sufficient public requirement to justify it, proved on oath by witnesses, generally representing localities. If the reasons which induced the magistrates to grant to any individual the exercise of a privilege and limited monopoly in the sale of drink have passed away, the cause for the licence has also passed away. Why should anyone be compensated because in a pure trade 729 venture in which he has simply invested adequate funds to carry out his enterprise, the surrounding circumstances have changed? The applicant for the licence, if he misconstrued the hearing of the law, has been unfortunate— so is everyone else who commits the same mistake, hut it has always seemed to memonstrous that we, the general public, should have anything strained to recognise a vested interest in any licensing venture, as if the licensee had been a public benefactor and heroic. I could tell you of many a modified fraud which has been practised on Licensing Justices to secure a licence; but I am merely writing, as one of your constituents, to say I thoroughly approve resistance to the principle of compensation in any form. I hope Mr. Goschen will withdraw his plan. With the knowledge now well realised of the licence being only renewable from year to year on adequate grounds, I fear there will be an ugly rush at the money provided for the extinguishment of licences in the hands of County Councils, possibly a good deal of jobbery to secure a share for the indifferent houses, whose fate is pretty well sealed at no distant date by surrounding causes.I quote this because Mr. Fell's name is so well-known in the North of England, and because I am sure his opinions will have great weight with Members from the North of England. Now, I think the Government have no right to try to settle the compensation question apart from the whole subject of licensing reform. A Suspensary Act rather indicates an intention to deal comprehensively with the whole question; but if the Suspensary Clauses are only intended to buttress the principle of compensation, they will not be of any great value to the Temperance Party. But I want to call attention to the absurd situation which, in my judgment, this Bill will land us. The President of the Local Government Board has squared the Church of England Temperance Society, for the Second Reading, at any rate, by promising to insert words that shall make it clear—That nothing in this Act should be taken to interfere with the powers possessed by the present Licensing Authority to refuse the renewal of licences without payment.I want the House to see the position that this promise sets up. If this Bill becomes law the County Council may give £1,000 for the extinction of a licence, and next week the Justices may refuse to renew a licence in the same street of the same town without any payment whatever. This shows the utter absurdity of attempting to settle the principle of compensation apart from 730 a general and comprehensive settling of the whole licensing question. Again, I ask the House to consider for a moment the ridiculously inadequate amount of money allocated for the purpose of extinguishing licences. £350,000 is to be divided among 52 English and Welsh counties, £50,000 among 33 Scotch counties, and £40,000 among 32 Irish counties. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in one of his speeches on this subject, spoke of this money as a nest egg. If the right hon. Gentleman ever kept poultry he knows what a nest egg is; but, if he does not know, I will tell him what it is. It is a sham egg put into a sham nest to induce hens to lay real eggs. That is precisely the operation this Bill will have on the taxpayers of the country if they are foolish enough to allow it to pass into law. I have already suggested the inadequacy of the sum, but let me give London alone as an illustration. London's share of the grant cannot be more than £60,000 I have circulated to Members a pamphlet giving particulars of the valuations of public houses in the Metropolis in 1888, on the basis of the clauses of the Local Government Bill. They show that the lowest average valuation at which the 10.000"on"licences of London can be estimated is £5,000 each. This is not my valuation; but that of two eminent firms of valuers in the City of London. The money allocated to London, therefore, will be enough to extinguish 12 houses in the whole Metropolis. But it will be found, if this Bill passes, that every district of the Metropolis will have public houses to be extinguished. For County Council purposes London is divided into 58 districts. Each will want its share, £1,000. Does the President of the Local Government Board believe that there is a single fully-licensed house in London that can be bought up for £1,000?
§ *MR. CAINE
I advise the right hon. Gentleman to test it. I say, without any hesitation, that to close one house in each district the County Council must accumulate their share of the grant for five years. The right hon. Gentleman is under impression that lots of public houses can be extinguished for an old song. Let him build a public house, and go into the market to buy a licence up, 731 and he will soon find out how mistaken he is. The restrictive policy of recent years pursued by magistrates under increasing pressure of public opinion and the keen competition of monopolist brewers have given a largo speculative value to licences which never existed before. He now proposes to add a fresh competition to the market in the shape of all the Comity Councils in this country. What can be more ridiculous than a grant which gives £60,000 a year to extinguish licences among 4,000,000 of people? That gives to the mining counties of Cumberland and Cornwall £3,000 and £5,000 respectively. To Glasgow, £6,500; to Belfast, £1,500; to Huntingdonshire, £800; to Rutlandshire, £160, and to the vast County of Yorkshire, with its 2,500,000 of industrial population, £35,000 a year to extinguish annual licences which the Bill granting the money turns into perpetual Government leases. We have been told over and over again that the publicans will have to pay this compensation. We have an interest in the Revenue. We get the revenue from liquor, tea, Income Tax, property, and other sources. If this pernicious principle of taking taxes for the relief of rates continues, continual gaps will be made in our £85,000,000, which must be made up from other sources, and we draw upon our Reserve Fund, we draw upon the resources of the ratepayers just as much as if we raised taxes. I cannot admit for a moment that my interest in the tax raised from beer is any less than my interest in the tax raised from tea. We are taxed all round; the public house is a taxable article, and I am not going to be humbugged by the argument that the tax on drink is not a tax laid on the whole community. But I want to turn from the proposals of the Bill itself, which I think I have conclusively proved to contain the principle of compensation laid down by the Government in 1888, to the effect the acceptance of that principle will have upon the whole future of the Temperance Movement. That is the main reason why I have raised the opposition to the Bill. The declaration of the principle of compensation in the Local Government Bill of 1888, to which I have referred already, meets with the uncompromising hostility of every section of the Temperance Party, 732 who believe that if it were once established, their difficulties would be increased ten-fold, and a solid wall of 200 million of sovereigns would be built across their path, which is now clear and unobstructed. We cannot entertain any proposal which gives anything but a 12 months' interest in the licence. We contend that the liquor trade is a peculiar one and differs in toto from other trades. If a man wants to start a public house, he has to go before a magistrate, and furnish evidence of good character. Unless ho is a man of unsullied reputation, and unless a public house is required in the neighbourhood, the magistrates cannot give him a licence. When ho has got a licence, he is placed under constant police supervision, and the trade is carried on under severe restrictions. A man who has been convicted of felony cannot keep a public house. When the Claimant, who called himself Roger Tichborne, came out of prison, his friends raised a subscription, and thought the best thing they could do for him was to put him in a snug public house. They applied for a licence, and the magistrates were about to grant him one, when the clerk said: "You cannot do it." "Why not?" they asked. "Because he has been convicted." A man once convicted cannot be entrusted with the trade. He may become a grocer, or a draper, or a minister of religion, or a Member of Parliament, but he cannot be a publican. Nothing can be clearer than that a licence is a permission given to a carefully selected individual to sell a dangerous article for 12 months, and that the State, by closely limiting the period, has always reserved to itself the right to withdraw the permission. A publican's licence is not held by him with the object of him making money out of it: it is held as subordinate to the public good and in fulfilment of a supposed public requirement. The holder of a licence for one year only has no legal claim to a licence for the next year. In 1882 the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) carried an Act through the House giving Justices the same discretion with "off" beer licences that they possessed in regard to public houses and "on" beer licences. Within two months of the passing of the Act the Darwen Justices, then represented by the noble Lord the 733 Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), instructed the Chief Constable to prepare a map of the town to indicate positions of the holders of licences. The off-licenses had reached great proportions, and the Justices resolved to make an effective reduction by refusing licences to 34 out of 72 off beer licences, which, by act of Parliament, enjoyed the same privileges, and were held under the same discretionary power as on-licences. These 34 selected one of their number to appeal to the Quarter Sessions. Quarter Sessions at Preston confirmed the decision of the Local Magistrates, as those who knew best what was good for the community. The publicans appealed to the Queen's Bench, and they confirmed the decision of the Quarter Sessions. Those 34 licences were extinguished without a single penny compensation. Mr.Justice Field rightly said, in the Court of Queen's Bench, in November, 1882, in giving final decision in the Darwen case, "In every case in every year there is a new licence granted. The Legislature recognises no vested right at all in any holder of a licence." It is, too, equally clear that these licences are not considered to be "property" in the sense of property which would pass to the holder's Trustee in Bankruptcy—for in a, recent case in which such a Trustee took possession of a bankrupt publican's licence and opposed applications for its temporary transfer to the landlord of the house, the learned Chief Judge in Bankruptcy held that the Trustee had no right to the licence. The recent case of "Sharp v. Wakefield "shows that this view is held by Licensing Magistrates and sustained by County Quarter Sessions, Queen's Bench, and Court of Appeal—the latter finally deciding that the Justices had an unlimited judicial discretion in the matter, and might refuse to renew a publican's licence on other grounds than the want of qualification, bad character, or misconduct of the applicant. I contend this is proved and upheld by the authors of the Bill under discussion. It is therein stated expressly that new on-licenses shall only be granted, "at the free and unqualified discretion of the Licensing Authority," and President of the the Local Government Board stated, last Monday, that these words were inserted 734 to make it clear that no right whatever should attach in the case of new licences. But every licence now in existence has been granted on precisely similar terms, and no rights whatever should, on the same grounds, attach to them. Let me call attention to a statement made over and over again by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and confirmed again and again by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie). The Chancellor of the Exchequer argues that because he and his predecessors have charged Probate Duty on licences, that, therefore, a vested interest has been created. There may be reason for refunding these unjustifiable imposts if they really amount to anything worth refunding; but we are entirely in the dark as to the details. I trust the Chancellor of the Exchequer may see his way to furnish the House with some specific details on this point. I have made inquiries from professional valuers. Here is what a very large firm wrote—We should not in valuing for probate the effects of a deceased publican, include anything on account of the licence beyond the proportion of its cost to the next date of payment.I will ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer two questions on this point. Firstly, What is the largest amount ever paid, to his knowledge, in Probate Duties for the value to the estate of the deceased of an annual licence? and secondly, Can he give any case in which the amount paid has been larger than the proportion of its cost to the next date of payment? If this be all the Probate paid, I make him a present of his argument. No compensation ought in any case to be given for the extinction of a privileged monopoly at the end of the time for which the privilege has been granted, and for which nothing has been paid. Excise fees are required for taking up the licence, but neither certificate nor licence are in any sense paid for. Monopolies barall claim for compensation, since they already confer what is equivalent to compensation in the advantage given by the monopoly. The position of the holder of a publican's licence is clear enough —he has special profits from the licence which restricts competition, while he risks the monopoly being 'withdrawn. But the contention of Gentlemen opposite is that those licences have changed hands at high prices, and that, therefore 735 we have no right to refuse to renew them without substantial compensation equivalent to whatever loss the present holder may sustain. But to this I reply caveat emptor! ought the buyer to have injured the conditions. How have these enormous values been built up? I take the first case I come to, out of hundreds in my possession. A man built a house a short time ago, close to Burscough Junction, a country station near Orms-kirk, in Lancashire. It cost him £400. He applied for and got a beer licence, then he got a spirit licence, then he sold the House for £4,000. He walked into Court worth £400, he walked out with a certificate, for which he paid nothing, worth £4,000. What did the brewer, who bought his house for £4,000, get? Bricks and mortar worth £400, and the purely speculative chance—I admit a good chance—of getting a 12 months' licence renewed. The trade of the place improves; he makes money, and sells it to some other brewer, or to the public, for £6,000. The new purchaser steps into his place, and again buys the purely speculative chance of a renewal of licence. And this is what has taken place, and is taking place, all over the country. Fictitious values have been created, and have been forced higher and higher by the greed of brewers for retail as well as wholesale profits, and by the greed of a section of the public for high rates of interest. The electors of this country will never consent to endow monopolist Brewery Companies with £200,000,000; they must stand the risk of the advance of temperance sentiments themselves. The Government now ask the House to turn this speculative and artificial value attached to the chances of renewal on an annual licence, into a State endowment, making shares in Brewery Companies as good as Consols. We may frankly admit that the liquor trade is the very good friend of the Conservative Party, but Gentlemen opposite will hardly succeed in getting such a plum for the trade as this. The top of the market in licences has been reached. In the gradual or rapid extinction of drinking facilities, to which now all politicians stand committed, the loss 'must be borne by the silly purchasers of speculative licences, and not by the British public. Now let us consider the effect the acceptance of 736 the Government's proposal will have on future temperance legislation. Certain points both sides of the House are practically agreed upon. Firstly, the transfer of licensing powers to County Councils; and, secondly, that the tremendous facilities for drinking should be reduced speedily. This side of the House is prepared to accept the principle of the Direct Veto, and if the Liberal Party over form another Government, it will be embodied in an Act of Parliament, unless my hon. Friends opposite anticipate them, as they done before The acceptance of full compensation on the lines of the Government proposals will terribly increase the difficulty with temperance reform of all classes in all future legislation. Let us consider how it will affect these proposals, on which everybody is agreed, and suppose that County Councils and Municipalities have the power of granting and renewing public house licences. No one knows better than the President of the Local-Government Board that if the present powers possessed by Magistrates were transferred to County Councils there would be a mighty quick clearing out of objectionable public houses without compensation, and that in many districts Councils would bo elected who would reduce the number of licences by more than one half. It is to prevent this being done, without enormous burdens being laid on the ratepayers, that the Government now propose, to quote the Morning Advertiser —To provide a safeguard for the future and put their foot down against plunder, by assorting the principle that the suppression of a licence can only be effected by payment for its extinction.The St. James's Gazette says—A principle once established in an Act of Parliament, and once set to work cannot be thrown out when the Radicals come into power.I want to show the Temperance Party in the House how this will operate, by a supposed case, but one very likely to occur if Councils have a free hand given to them by legislation. In the Debate on the Bill introduced by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, I referred to a recent sale of public house property in Liverpool; I will take it once more as an illustration. I do so the more readily, because a director of Peter Walker & Simkin is a member of this House, and I 737 speak in the presence of other Members who know Liverpool as well as I do myself. This firm has, within the last few days, sold its business to the public for £3,000,000, the vendors showing their confidence in the price obtained by taking half the shares. This price was paid for three breweries, a bonded store and offices, stock, book debts, and 250 tyed public houses. There is no monopoly in a brewery, so if we estimate the three breweries to have cost £250,000 each and the bonded store to be worth £100,000, the book debts and stock being declared in the prospectus at £150,000, we get £1,000,000 from these three items, we have £2,000,000 left as the amount paid for 250 licensed public houses. No one who knows these public houses, as I do, and as many hon. Members do who hear me, would value them without the licences at more than £500,000, so that the difference in value under the terms of the Bill of 1888, which the Government still hold, and in principle seek to establish, would be just £1,500,000. These are fairly average public houses, neither very extensive nor very small, and I claim, therefore, without hesitation, that the average price of a licence in Liverpool is little short of £6,000. Now, supposing the Corporation of Liverpool were the Licensing Authority, it is no stretch of imagination to assume that they would receive instructions from their constituents to reduce the number of licences in Liverpool, now about 2,000, by one-eighth at least, probably more, and, under what the Government call equitable compensation, £1,500,000 would be required for the purpose. But this Bill only gives Liverpool £8,000 a year, and this cannot be capitalised beyond £24,000. Where must the rest of the money come from? Of course, it comes out of the pockets of the ratepayers, who would rightly refuse so large a sum for the dubious advantage of having only 1,750 public houses instead of the present number 2,000. In Bristol, where the public houses are not, on the average, more than a third of the rating of those in Liverpool, a large Brewery Company has one tyed house to each £4,870 of capital. In Newcastle, another has 215 tyed houses to each £3,260. In Plymouth, another has 146 tyed houses, representing one to £2,700 of capital. If the 738 principle of compensation is right, by all means let the House accept it, but with their eyes open. If it is right, then the publicans are entitled to the full compensation proposed in 1888, or they are entitled to nothing. If the former, nothing short of £250,000,000 will pay for their entire extinction, with a proportionate sum for their partial extinction. The money can only be raised by an increase of national or local indebtedness, for the pretence that the trade itself can pay is too flimsy to be worth a moment's argument, and is in itself destructive of the whole principle of equitable compensation. There is a disposition on the part of advocates of compensation to rest their case upon precedent, and this is insisted upon in a clever pamphlet entitled Compensation: The Publicans' Case, by Mr. Charles Cazney, Barrister, who rests this part of his case on precedents, some of which have been mentioned in the House, afforded by the Acts for the Abolition of Slavery, for the Abolition of Purchase in the Army, and for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. Now, I contend that none of these are analogous to this issue. The money paid to the West India Planters was paid by way of a bribe, and not as equitable compensation. The original proposal of the Government of the day was to advance to the West India body a loan to the amount of 10 years' purchase of the annual profit, amounting to £15,000,000. This was met by the Acting Committee of West India planters, by a demand for £20.000,000 compensation, and a loan of £10,000,000. Eventually, the £15,000,000 was extended to£20,000,000 to get rid finally of a question that threatened the allegiance of our West India Colonies, that had become strained beyond endurance. It was far more to save the colonies from absolute ruin than to compensate the slave owners that the loan was granted. It is quite true that this loan was never repaid, but in all the Debates on the subject—and I speak in the hearing of one right hon. Gentleman who took part in those Debates—it was referred to as a loan, the repayment of which, however, was never insisted upon. But the slaves were by law the property of their owners for life, bought and paid for, as the right hon. Gentleman 739 the Member for Midlothian said during the Debates, property honestly and legally acquired. But if the planters had held a licence from the Government to enslave the blacks from the first of September next ensuing and no longer, and had had to come up every year to have an annual licence renewed, what compensation would Parliament have given? When the Slave Trade was abolished in 1808, not one penny of compensation was asked for, not one penny of compensation was paid. Then the abolition of purchase in the Army, which has been referred to, and as to whether this established a precedent for compensating publicans for loss of an annual licence, I think an answer was given by one or two interruptions from this side, and I do not suppose it will be pressed by any hon. Member speaking to precedent. In the Army Purchase Act, the compensation was given for money already paid by the officers, and not for a fictitious value created by competition. The commissions had been bought and paid for. I do not think this will be pressed as a precedent, but if it is, there are Members in the House who were responsible for the measure and who will, no doubt, disclaim and disprove the views that it forms any precedent for the present discussion. At any rate, it did not pass the House without strenuous opposition from the Radical Party of the day, led by my old friend Mr. Peter Rylands. The nearest precedent that can be quoted of the present claims of the publicans are the treatment of the collectors of taxes and of the Curates under the Irish Church Disestablishment Act, who, undoubtedly, had no freehold or life interest in their curacies. But these were not compensated out of the taxes, but out of the Irish Church Fund; a different thing altogether. They were not licensed for 12 months only, to conduct a trade that the State has always considered a danger to society, but they were servants of a Department of State, whose avowed object was the religious instruction of the people. There is no existing precedent which can reasonably be brought forward to justify the endowment of publicans with a freehold in the annual licences, to be paid for at full value if they are taken away in the interest of the community. It is because there is no precedent that the 740 Government seek to set up a precedent. I am aware that the authors of this Bill deny any such intention. Speaking to the Church of England Temperance Society on May 7, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board said the Bill wouldForm no precedent for a general scheme when Parliament tackles the great question, as it must do.Now, with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I must deny his conclusion. The Government may not desire to establish a precedent, but they can no more escape the logical issue of their acts on lincensing than on free education, for instance. They declared last year that the grant of a sum of money for the payment of school fees in Scotland did not concede the principle of free education. But here in this very Bill is a further proposal to round the whole thing off. That they were mistaken then everybody admits to-day. They made the grant, and the principle is admitted all round. So it will be with compensation. Once lay down the law empowering Local Authorities to buy licences at the full market price, and put it in practice, and a similar result will follow. If we are to compensate publicans for refusal to renew licences, then, on the other hand, we ought to grant compensation to owners of property in every case when that property is injured by the granting of a public house licence. I have taken two districts of Liverpool, each consisting of a block of six streets. One is at Toxteth Park, on an estate owned by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint (Mr. S. Smith), and on this estate there is no public house whatever. In these six streets there are 443 houses. The poetical names of the streets are Elaine, Enid, Geraint, Gwendoline, Merlin, and Modred streets. The houses have each a five-yards frontage, and are built after a pattern which is popular in Liverpool, each having five rooms and a scullery. The income from these 443 houses last year was £8,744. Now, take the other block of streets at the other side of the city, at Everton, a pleasant district, a much healthier district than Toxteth Park, and a district very popular among the better working class. Here are 482 houses in six streets. I give the names, which are equally attractive, Bulwer, Coniston, Grasmere, Rydel, 741 Ulswater, and Windermere streets. They are the same kind of houses, with five yards frontage, five rooms and a scullery. There is this difference, however, that there are eight public houses on the estate, and hence it is that we find the income from these 482 houses was last year £6,820, or taking 44.'! houses, for the sake of comparison, the income was £6,268; that is to say, a public house reduces rentals on 443 houses by £2,500 a year, 30 per cent, on the whole rental. What compensation is there for this? Sir, I remember very well, when Mr. Bruce's Bill was before the House, attending a meeting of owners and occupiers of public houses. The speakers thundered about compensation until at least one gentleman present rose and desired to put a question. I have, he said, four houses from which I derived £160 a year until a public house being opened close by, since which my rents have fallen to £90. Who is going to compensate me? Well, Sir, the chairman ruled him out of order. Now, I want to warn the Government that if they persevere with these clauses of their measure we shall be bound to put down Amendments in this direction, that if publicans claim compensation from the rates owners must claim compensation for injury to property from public houses. I do not wish to press this any further at present. We are taunted with obstructing temperance legislation, and of depriving the police of benefits— this may be conferred by our opposition to the Bill. I do not agree with this at all. There is no difficulty about police superannuation. If the Government think it is a good thing, I call upon them, whatever may be the fate of the rest of the Bill, to go on with that, hut not to bracket it with proposals the Temperance Party cannot accept, and which would ruin their movement for long years to come. We may be charged with obstructing temperance legislation, but we take the responsibility of that without the slightest fear or hesitation, knowing what public opinion will be. Then we are asked to propose a compromise. There is a section of the Temperance Party which has made a proposal for compensation and agree to pay solid black mail to the trade in the shape of 10 years' lease of life. Now, will the Government accept that as a 742 final settlement of the controversy? I do not offer it, but I tell the Government if they choose to bring in a Bill on the lines of compensation proposed by the Church of England Temperance Society, neither I nor anyone else could prevent it coming on the Statute Book. I only say this as a word of friendly advice. I make one last appeal to the Government to find some way out of the mess they have got into. I have shown no enmity to the Government, except in 1888 and again to-day; but I tell them frankly that if, by this Resolution, I could turn them out, turn them out I would with the greatest pleasure; for I consider their proposals are fraught with such danger to the whole community that I would run any risk on any other subject and rather than allow them to pass into law. You may make jokes at expressions of public opinion, but I challenge Members on the Treasury Bench to take a test of public opinion. Let them go into the streets in any district where working men live, take 100 men, and, having separated from these every teetotaller, from the remainder take an opinion whether they would consent to a farthing of the people's money being paid as compensation to publicans. I do hope the Government may accept the Amendment I bring forward. I do not see why they should not. Let them take this question out of the Bill, and keep it back until they are prepared to deal with the whole question of licensing. I am puzzled and bewildered by the action of the Government. What do they hope to get by thus dragging a furious controversy on to the back of an already overloaded Session? Do they think they can carry this Bill, the Tithes Bill, and the Irish Land Purchase Bill? Are they going to give up remedial legislation for Ireland to compensate publicans in England? If they think they can gain popularity by such a proceeding, I give very little for their judgment. Are they going to please the Church of England Temperance Society by throwing over the Tithes Bill in favour of this measure? The best thing the Government can do is to frankly avow they have committed a blunder. Other Governments have committed blunders before. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby will have 743 something to say if they withdraw these clauses, but never mind him. His past career is not altogether free from such blunders, and he will be ready to admit that. Withdraw this Bill. Nobody wants it. I fail to find that the Government are under any trade pressure and certainly they are under none from the Temperance Party. No doubt it is an honest, bonâ fide attempt on the part of the Government to give effect to certain qualms of conscience awakened in them on account of the increased consumption of liquor, and I am glad their conscience is pricking them; but let them. "bring forth works meet for repentance," let them withdraw the Bill or accept my Amendment, taking these clauses out and to the rest of their proposals they will find no opposition that they cannot overcome. Take these clauses out and it is a good Bill. I did at one time put down an Amendment attacking the whole Bill. I have thought better of that, and now simply attack these clauses alone. Any Member of the House can vote for my Amendment without committing himself to more than the Compensation Clauses as here drawn. I do not condemn by my Amendment any form of compensation except that contained in this Bill. We are determined to get rid of it if we can; and if we cannot, we shall open an agitation for the repeal of the measure—an agitation which will be supported not only by the Temperance Party, but by the Church of England, the Nonconformists, and every person in the community who cares for the welfare of humanity.
To leave out all the words after the word "That" to the end of the question, in order to add the words "this House declines to assent to a Bill which provides by payment out of public moneys for the extinction of annual licences in the manner provided in the said Bill,"—(Mr. Caine,)
§ Question proposed, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ (6.45.) MR STOREY (Sunderland)
My hon. Friend has spoken as a teetotaller and as the acknowledged mouthpiece of the teetotallers; but I address myself to this subject from a different standpoint, for I am not a 744 teetotaller. Now, Mr. Speaker, apart from the owners of public houses, whom this Bill proposes to compensate, I think the people of this country may be divided into three classes—a main army and two wings. There is the first wing composed of those whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer classed as tipplers and drunkards, and I propose to leave the Government, whose coffers these gentlemen have filled, to speak for them; there is the second wing composed of the teetotallers, and for them my hon. Friend has spoken. Sir, I shall venture to speak, or, at any rate, I shall claim to speak—I do not know whether my claim will be allowed—for the great body of sober, respectable people in this country, who are not teetotallers, to whose stomachs wine is a comfort and the pleasures of Guinness's stout and Islay whisky not unknown, and yet who are so permeated with a sense of the enormous evils springing from drink traffic under our licensing system that they are prepared to march long and march far with their teetotal brethren in the path of licensing reform. Now, I said my hon. Friend is the mouthpiece of the teetotallers, and I must say, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been present during the speech, he would have complimented him upon being one of those whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer loves, for, like the right hon. Gentleman's correspondent whom he quoted in reference to the Budget, he is a patriot, although he is a Radical. My hon. Friend's views upon the Union proclaim his patriotism and his action to-day, the threats he has held out to the Government, have convinced us—some of us did not need convincing—that upon this as upon many other points my hon. Friend is a Radical still. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board spoke kindly and fairly of teetotallers in this matter, and though I am not one, and I will venture to say the majority of hon. Members are not teetotallers, I am sure the wish of the House is that the habits and practice of the right hon. Gentleman were imitated by supporters of the Government outside. For instance, I read in the Spectator for Saturday, that ancient and rather antiquated organ of philosophic Liberalism which now supports the Government— 745This effort like every other reasonable effort of the kind, is hotly opposed by temperance fanatics. Their hatred of publicans is far in excess of their love for sobriety or compassion for the drunkard, and they hope, by getting rid of the Bill, to have opportunities of gratifying their hatred in the future.Now, Sir, is it not time that these ridiculous libels against a noble body of men should be relegated to the limbo of forgetfulness? I am not a teetotaller, as I have said; but ought we not all to recognise that these are men who take this for their principle: "If meat maketh my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." If these men are right, they are nobly right; if they are wrong, surely they are magnificently wrong. But I claim to speak as I have said for the non-teetotallers, and I shall exhibit, and I feel, no hatred for publicans, and I shall not deny to the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues recognition of the claim they make that they are making an honest effort to do something to diminish the evils of drunkenness. In the short space in which I shall address the House I shall go from the ordinary ratepayer's point of view—the ordinary citizen's point of view—straight to the point, and to my contention that this Bill is vicious in principle, and woefully insufficient for the end proposed. For my part, I think we ought, as the Americans say, to get down to "bed rock" principles in this matter. I have no desire to see public houses perish from the land. I do not want to see the day when there will be no more public houses in the country. If we could imitate the simplicity of Eastern manners, when every man away from home could go to the first tent, enter, and claim by right the hospitality of the owner, why then we could, perhaps, do without public houses; but in the present state of civilisation there must be public houses, and all that the State can do is to see that these houses are suitable for their purpose. Now, what were the public houses conceived by Parliament, and as supported by Parliament? The public house conceived by Parliament was a place of public entertainment for man and beast, where a man could take not only his liquor, but such other food as he requires, and other than alco- 746 holic drinks; where, if he needed it, he could get a decent bed for himself and his family. Is that the public house as it exists to-day? I admit freely that there are hotels in London in large numbers answering to this description, and I admit also that in some of our large towns you can find a few such hotels; and scattered up and down among our smaller towns and villages you may find admirable public houses still fulfilling this ancient purpose of their being. But what in great majority are public houses in London and in such towns as that I represent? Instead of comfortable attendance, rest and refreshment for man and beast, you find a flaunting gin palace or a glaring long bar, where the servants who ought to be ministering to the wants of decent people stand and dispense liquors and nothing else; where the ostler and boots, whose duty in ancient times was to make travellers comfortable, are now employed as "chuckers out" when customers become unruly. I welcome any reform that may bring the public house back to its original position. I would not have public houses abolished. I would have them places of entertainment, and the sale of intoxicating liquor is not at all a necessary adjunct of the institution. You may have a multitude of public houses, in no sense of the word places for the sale of intoxicating liquors. Who is the publican now and who was he formerly? He used to be what, in a limited number of cases, he still is—a man living on the premises with his wife and family, interested to have as few unpleasantnesses as possible in his trade. His presence, with his family, was a bond for the business being properly conducted. But what is the publican now? He lives away from the mischief the public house creates, in his villa, or, it may be, in his castle, and the business is carried on by a servant—a bond-slave who does the dirty work by which his master lives, and who deserves compensation more than the man who does no work at all. The 6th clause of this Bill is extremely peculiar—The County Council may either, on the application of any Urban or Rural Authority, &c, enter into such agreement with persona having any interest in the premises.Who has the interest? There is the 747 nominal licensee. I asked the First Lord of the Treasury last week for the names of the real owners and the names of the nominal licencees. He told me he could not give them, and that it would be very expensive, costly, and inconvenient. But I can give the right hon. Gentleman some information about the town which I represent—Sunderland. It has a population of 150,000, and it is a very fair sample of the large boroughs of the country. I find that in Sunderland we have 254 fully licensed houses—I omit the houses "off" for the present. Ten firms, or 10 persons only, own no less than 154 of the 254 public houses —that is to say, three-fifths of the whole. These houses, as a rule, are big houses; for it is your fashionable brewer, who lives in his villa, who takes care to get the best houses with his accursed capital, because that capital is accursed which goes to the creation of these long bars and gin palaces. And if you proceed to compensate, four-fifths of the spoil will go to these gentlemen. As a matter of fact, in one township of Sunderland, there are 37 public houses, 28 of which are owned by two persons only. Whom do the Government propose to compensate? The clause says they will compensate the persons interested in the premises. Take these 150 public houses belonging to brewers, who live away from them. These men are the real licensees, but they put in persons who are tenants-at-will, and who can be turned out by the brewer at a moment's notice. It is very evident that the tenant-at-will cannot have any interest in the premises. It is the brewer or the owner of the house who has the interest. Therefore, this is not a Bill to compensate the poor man who does the work of the brewer for a small pittance; it is a scheme to compensate the owners of the public houses at the expense of the public at large. I am not disposed to agree to any such compensation as that. I can understand that there would be some hardships in the case of those who have invested their money in and really keep the public houses, who have been brought up to the trade, probably, all their lives, and know none other—persons who have some country village in—if we suddenly put an end to their means of living. I would come, with such holders of public houses, to some reason- 748 able arrangement by which time would be allowed them to convert their drinking shops into reasonable places of entertainment. There are many moderate Members on this side of the House who would not object to such a proposal as that. But there is no proposal to compensate such persons except they are owners. Inasmuch as the great majority of houses, especially in the North, are held by monopolists, who do not subject themselves to the unpleasantnesses of the trade, and who make money out of other men's labour, and the foolish arrangements of the law, I am not, for my part, disposed to agree to the compensation scheme of the Government. Who is to pay this money? It has been said that this is a compensation to be paid by drink to the sellers of drink. I dispute entirely that any portion of this money is to be paid by drink. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, on the 18th April, that if the gigantic drink bill of the nation is responsible for the police work and the pauperism, then it is certainly not out of place that the comsumer of spirits should contribute in some slight degree to the cost for local purposes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says because A B C D E and F drink that which makes them drunk and cause mischief, therefore G H J K down to Z should be asked to contribute towards the cost of the police to keep the others in order. He went a little further. He said the Customs and Excise expected some decrease in the consumption, not perhaps in the total amount of revenue by measure, but because further watering may take place in consequence of the increased duty. Am I not right in saying that it is not drink which is going to pay, but that you are going to charge people like me for extra water in order to provide a fund to compensate publicans that are bought out? My hon. Friend the Member for Barrow referred to the entire inadequacy of this Bill for the purpose in view. I find the 254 public houses in Sunderland are rated at some £21,000 a year. If you take half that rateable value as the difference between the value of the house when it is licensed and the value of the house when it is not, you get the rateable value of £10,000 a year; and if you apply the rule of the noble Lord the Mem- 749 ber for Paddington of giving a publican 24 years' purchase, you get a total sum for Sunderland of £240,000. Assume that we should agree to extinguish half of the public houses of Sunderland, we should have to find a sum of nearly £120,000. How much does the right hon. Gentleman give us to perform this magnificent operation with? If ever we get the money, I have ascertained that it will amount to £1,233 per annum, so that the people of Sunderland would have to wait 100 years before they could get rid of one half of the public houses of Sunderland. So inadequate is the Bill that I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman ever proposed it for the purpose of passing it into law. I believe it has been sent out as a sort of pilot vessel to ascertain the state of the weather. Finding a dark sky and a rough sea, the sooner the right hon. Gentleman gets his small vessel into harbour again the better it will be for him and his Government. The hon. Member for Barrow seemed to think there were valuable clauses in the Bill. I do not think there is a valuable clause in it. I think the principle of subventions to County Councils is so vicious in itself as to make the grant an evil, rather than a good, thing. But who says that the County Councils want grants? Why, the mining county of Durham to which I belong is so favourably circumstanced that we have not a county rate at all. Owing to the money we have borrowed, we have only a small police rate of 2d. Or take Hampshire, an agricultural county. The County Council there is so rich with subventions that they do not propose to have any rate this year—simply a small police rate of l½d. in the £1. I am opposed to subventions out of public money, which, in my opinion, are used for the purpose of unfairly relieving property in counties of charges. It is said that the clause relating to police superannuation is an important matter. It may be as regards the counties; but as regards the boroughs we do not want this money, and we are competent and ready to take care of ourselves. The Bill is said to contain a proposal for suspending the granting of further licences. Does it? Does it contain anything more than we have at present? The right hon. Gentleman says he is going to bring in a Bill providing that 750 no new licences are to be granted other than for removals, or transfers, except in the case of hotels, refreshment houses. and so on. But I ask the right hon. Gentleman will he tell me of a single place in the country where this is not practically the law at the present-moment? For several years in the borough of Sunderland no new licences have been granted. The voice of the people of Sunderland has been so dead against the multiplication of licences that the Magistrates have been glad to adopt this course. In fact, I do not know a town or country district in which for several years past it has been the habit to grant new licences unless in the exceptional cases that have been referred to. But if the right hon. Gentleman knew as much about the North of England as he does about London, he would understand how this proposal makes the Bill offensive in my eyes. He tells us that no new licences are to be granted except by way of removal or transfer: but I say that this is the worst of the operations that have been taking place. Let me put the case of a district in a. town from which the inhabitants have removed. The public houses in that district have little or no trade left. What has the brewer done? He has built new houses in the progressive parts of the town, and has persuaded the Magistrates to give up the useless licences and transfer them to other houses in the new and improving localities. This is one of the most mischievous things that could take place, and yet the right hon. Gentleman makes in his Bill the very exemption that will allow it to be done. He would permit, by the proposed transfer, the creation of big houses in lieu of the small ones, and thus make a large compensation necessary instead of a low one. Therefore I say that in so far as this Bill provides for the suspension of the granting of new licences, that is already practically secured, and that in so far as the right hon. Gentleman desires to exempt removals, he is perpetuating one of the great evils which the Bill ought to remedy. In my judgment, the restrictive clauses of the Bill are a sham. They are like most of the proposals I have heard from Her Majesty's Government since I have sat opposite them, They bring in, with a good 751 deal of flourish, Bills which they put before the country as the means of doing great things; but when we come to examine them they are really very little. Let me illustrate this remark. They brought in an Allotment Bill which was to do no end of good; but what has become of it? They have had to bring it back, and now propose to amend it, as it was of no use. Then they brought in a Tithes Bill, which was regarded as a great measure; but it was so unsatisfactory that it was not passed into law, and having been driven out of Parliament last year, they bring it forward again in a new form this year. Then they brought in a Bill for the creation of County Councils; and wherever one goes the Conservatives say, "Oh; you must, at least, admit that the Conservative Government brought in the County Councils Bill, and that that is a great matter." Well, Sir, I know it is not very popular to say so, but I think the County Councils Act is one of the hughest shams ever passed through Parliament and palmed off on a confiding public. The County Councils are great bodies, but they have very little to do. They meet four times a year as a rule, but whan they do meet they soon separate, because of the small amount of work that is put into their hands. The County Councils Act, when supplemented by a Liberal Government, may become a great measure; but, at the present moment, it is a fair illustration of what I call sham legislation. Well, then, let me ask, is it not the same with the Land Purchase Bill? They bring in a Bill for the purpose of settling the Irish land question. [An hon. MEMBER: Order!] I have simply used the Land Bill as an illustration to force my point home to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am glad it has succeeded. They bring in an Irish Land Bill, and they propose to settle that question with one quarter of the money that will be necessary to settle it. Their Licensing and Suspensory Bill is of the same character. It pretends to do what is being already done, and it refrains from doing whatever of a valuable nature it might do. The mere fact that a Suspensory clause is in the Bill is not sufficient to induce me, notwithstanding my objection to compensation, to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. I conclude 752 that this Bill is in its financial aspect unnecessary, and inadequate, and that it is, therefore, my bounden duty to give it my continuous opposition, because it takes money from the wrong people, and gives it to the wrong people, and because it introduces by a sidewind an unjust and novel principle, which, if effect be given to it, will at one stroke of the pen add £200,000,000 to the liabilities of the nation. I beg to second the Amendment.
§ (7.22.) SIR R. LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, N.)
Before I proceed to follow the general remarks contained in the two speeches to which I have just listened in support of the Amendment, I desire to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle. I am sorry to see that he has just left the House; but I have no doubt the appeal I venture to make will be conveyed to him. I have been requested by one of my constituents, a most respectable licensed victualler, who lives in the constituency I have the honour to represent, to bring to the remembrance of the right hon. Gentleman a most solemn and explicit pledge which that right hon. Gentleman gave to him at the time he was a candidate for Westminster in the year 1880. That pledge was contained in a letter written in answer to one addressed to the right hon. Gentleman by my constituents asking what would be his conduct in regard to a Permissive Bill, Local Option, and similar proposals. The right hon. Gentleman, whose letter I hold in my hand, after replying to some of the questions addressed to him, proceeded thus—and I ask the House to take particular notice of the words here used—
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Did the hon. Member give notice to my right hon. Friend that he was going to quote that letter?
§ SIR R. LETHBRIDGE
I am sorry to say I did not give him notice; but I have no doubt that the fact of my referring to this point will be brought to his attention, and he will have an opportunity, in the later period of the Debate, to reply. These are the words I desire to quote—I may add that I should strongly oppose any legislation which should overlook the fact that immense capital has been embarked in 753 your trade in the ordinary expectation that the trade would not be interfered with.That letter was written to Mr, D. Gupwell, of the Talbot Hotel, Clarendon Road, North Kensington, and was dated February 10, 1880. That gentleman entirely accepted the solemn pledge given by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know how he voted; but he spoke and acted at the time in a manner friendly to the right hon. Gentleman. I am aware that since the time when the right hon. Gentleman gave that pledge a good deal of somewhat intemperate language has been used all over the country by a portion, and I believe only a section, of the Temperance Party. I may say here that I regard myself, although a very humble Member of the Conservative Party, as a Member of the Temperance Party, and a supporter of the views of that portion of the Temperance Party which is temperate in its wishes, its language, and its expectations, namely, the Church of England Temperance Association, whose views I believe will ultimately be successful in this country. I have myself received very strong representations of various kinds from those who are opposed to the Bill, and who are at the same time supporters of a temperance movement. I may say that some of those gentlemen threaten me with all sorts of dreadful consequences for my action in this matter; but not one of them has ever yet voted for me, or is likely to vote for mo in the future, nor for that matter for any person belonging to the Party with which I have the honour to be connected. I have mentioned the fact of my belonging to one section of the Temperance Party, which is the section that I regard as temperate in its wishes and expectations. We have been told that when the Temperance Brigade were out on parade there was not a single sober man in Ballyhooly; and I venture to think that intemperance of speech on this subject is not altogether confined to the Sister Island. Since the proposals of the Government have seen the light an attempt has been made by a section of the Temperance Party to make the question of what may be called permissive compensation a sort of principle of the whole Temperance Party. It has been pressed upon the view of the public that a man cannot properly be said to be 754 an advocate of temperance unless he opposes everything in the form of payment for the extinction of licences. If this were so, it would seem that the object of the temperance movement was not the extinction of drunkenness, or the suppression of those crimes that spring from drunkenness, but hostility to the persons who are engaged in the Licensed Victuallers' trade. It seems to me that an attempt is being made to transfer to the licensed victuallers that hostility which I venture to think would far better be shown against the trade itself and the abuse of the trade. All I can say is that the trade of the licensed victualler has been always recognised by law. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer showed clearly that in regard to taxation a certain amount of interest in this trade has been recognised by law. In regard both to the Probate Duties and to other taxation, the taxes have been levied on the value of the licensed premises regarded not merely as houses but as houses possessing licences. I confess that I should be ashamed to be associated with any friends of temperance legislation who would insist on attacking the property of those engaged in the traffic rather than the abuses of the traffic. I agree that my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board would possibly be well advised in introducing some alterations in Committee to meet the objections of the hon. Member for Barrow with regard to the possibility of speculations in licences. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Barrow that anything like an encouragement to speculators in licences should, if possible, be prevented. But clearly such a matter as this is one for Committee, and ought not to enter into the discussion at this stage. Admitting that the abuse of the drink traffic is sinful, I agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) that the traffic itself is really very necessary for the comfort of many of us. Even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that the traffic itself is sinful, surely that is not any reason why the Legislature should act unjustly to those who are engaged in it. Many hon. Members will have in their minds the old maxim of John Wesley, to the effect that while you hate and attack the sin you should love the sinner. I 755 want to ask the House whether, if we assume that the object of the temperance movement is to restrain intemperance, and not to punish publicans, that object will not be greatly assisted by the proposals of the Government in this Bill. It is perfectly obvious that the effect of this Bill will be in a way to grease the wheels, if I may use a familiar term, of the temperance movement. For a long time past the strongest opposition to the temperance movement has undoubtedly been aroused by the fact that very great personal suffering and personal loss must accrue from any large extinction of existing licences. If we can obtain the great boon of extinction of a number of unnecessary, and, therefore, pernicious licences, is it not well we should do so, provided we can do it by fair, honourable, and honest means? This brings mo to the one question which I, as a temperance advocate, think this House should consider with regard to these proposals of the Government, and that is whether, allowing that they will put an end to a great deal of opportunity for drunkenness, they are in themselves such as wo can approve, as moral, expedient, and non-injurious to the taxpayers of this country? The method proposed by the Government for obtaining a fund with which to purchase the extinction of licences aimed at under this Bill seems to answer this question in the affirmative. Who are to provide the funds? The licensed victuallers themselves. The liquor traffic is to be taxed in order to obtain the means of extinguishing the most injurious portion of the trade. Therefore, no taxpayer will be one penny the worse for this proposal. No one can doubt that, under the operation of this Bill, a large number of licences will become extinct, and that at once marks the proposal as being desirable in the cause of temperance and morality. I am free to admit that the proposals of the Government are also expedient from the point of view of the publicans themselves. It is quite true that the extinction of some of these more injurious licences will possibly enhance the value of those which remain. Therefore, the trade itself will endure the imposition of the tax necessary for the purpose of extinguishing the licences. I say, then, that these proposals have this very great advantage, that, whilst they are 756 compatible with national honesty and morality and injure no class, they will benefit all. I have already given reasons for regarding the proposals of the Government as entirely compatible with morality. If the Government had not proposed to pay for the extinction of these licences, it is clear that they would have been taking away—I will not say a vested interest, because it is clear that the interest exists for a twelve-month; but, at any rate, an interest that has been recognised by the law of the country for many years, and which is practically recognised and understood by everyone, and especially by the trade itself in its purchases. Therefore, I say that the proposals of the Government, while they are expedient and will promote the cause of temperance, are also compatible with the interests of morality. I shall accordingly support the Bill most readily, and I do hope that there will be found amongst those on the opposite side who, like myself, are moderate advocates of temperance, many who will come over and help the Government with this most important measure.
§ *(7.41.) MR. WAYMAN (York, W.R, Elland)
If ever there are times when constituencies require to be represented by the voices of their Members as well as by their votes, I think this is unquestionably one of them. I have never, during the time I have sat in this House, received so many letters on any subject as I have received on the subject now under discussion, and all those letters are most strongly antagonistic to the proposals of the Government on the question before the House. Two years ago it was brought home to the Government that the compensation proposals in the licensing scheme of the Local Government Bill were proposals which the country was strongly averse to, and I think the Government showed great prudence in retreating before the storm they had provoked. However, there was no good reason why they should have retreated from the whole of their licensing scheme. No doubt there was much in the whole licensing scheme which might have been adopted with advantage and satisfaction to the country. The hon. Member for Barrow laid the country under obligation by his opposition to the licensing scheme of the Government two or three years ago; but he would have 757 laid it under a deeper obligation still if he had succeeded in inducing the Government to confer power on the County Councils to close public houses on Sundays, or in compelling them to give way to those who would have done so. The Government, however, do not seem to have learned much from their past experience, or they would not have made such proposals as those now under discussion. There was, two years ago, some excuse for them, because at that time a widespread feeling prevailed to the effect that there was a kind of freehold in licences, and the Solicitor General very firmly expressed an opinion to that effect. That opinion, I am quite aware, was roughly handled by the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries; but it was quite open to the Government to consider that the opinion of their Solicitor General was at least worth as much as that of the Member for Dumfries. Since then, however, the Queens' Bench Division and the Appeal Court have upheld the opinion expressed by the Member for Dumfries, and have knocked into a cocked hat the opinion of the Solicitor General. I do not doubt that the Government are perfectly sensible of the evils which result to this country from excessive drinking. I do not doubt either that they desire that the temptations to drink shall be sensibly reduced. I believe, as the President of the Local Government Board told us to-night, that the intentions of the Government are good; but we are told that a certain place, which I need not describe, is paved with good intentions. We want something more than good intentions. We want the Government to act with some degree of common sense, and with some perception of the feeling of the nation. There is nothing in the Bill which will compel a man to sell his licence, and a publican will refuse to do so except on terms which will yield him as great advantages as would the retention of his licence. I cannot see that the measure will be of much advantage in promoting the cause of temperance, which the Government profess to have so much at heart. I do not believe that the country will agree to leave things as they are, or to pay a most exorbitant price for the purchase of licences. The Government are impaled on one or other 758 of the two horns of a dilemma. Either they must give a licence-holder all he may demand for it, or they must leave it where it is. They have made up their mind that the drinking habits of the people shall be seriously considered, but no remedy can be successful unless it is applied in a most drastic manner, and certainly very different from what is the case in this Bill. I was very pleased to hear the hon. Member for Barrow say that if the Government were to accept the compromise proposed by the Church of England Temperance Society he would not oppose that compromise. It is practically carrying out a proposal made in this House, 20 years ago, by Lord Aberdare, and it has also been made recently in the Times by Sir Thomas Farrer, and I believe such a compromise would be perfectly reasonable. There has, no doubt, been a notion that licence holders should not be disturbed in the possession of these licences so long as they hold them without reproach. In these circumstances we feel that whenever the question is settled it must be settled by some kind of compromise; and that to which I refer is a kind of compromise to which the House might safely commit itself. We have been told by the Government that they intend that all the powers which are now possessed by Licensing Justices shall be reserved. These include the power both of granting and of refusing licences. By this arrangement we should have Licensing Justices doing one thing and the County Councils doing another. There would be a most ridiculous conflict of authority, and confusion and displeasure would reign as between one authority and the other. I have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment, and in expressing my obligations to the Member for Barrow for the able, comprehensive, and masterly manner in which he has laid it before the House.
§ *(7.52.) MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
It is said, "Why give the powers proposed in this Bill, as the Justices already have power to refuse licences?" Well, that may possibly be the law. It is disputed, but supposing that it is the law, I should like to know what Licensing Justices take advantage of it? Speaking for myself. and those Justices with whom 759 I serve, we feel the greatest difficulty in refusing the licence of a public house when it is well conducted and nothing is brought against it, although there is not the slightest doubt that in many villages there is a surplusage of public houses. I know a village in which there are three public houses, although two would be sufficient, and although we might possibly have power to suppress one, where all are equally well conducted it would be very unfair to single one out for destruction in preference to either of the others. Some years ago a public house in a small village was put up for sale, and it appeared to me that, as it was not wanted, it would be a good thing for the community if it were bought up and the licence extinguished. The value of the house was intrinsically £400, and when it was put up to auction, with the licence, it sold for £1,500. I could not afford to give so much, as it would have meant a loss of £1,100. The money was not subscribed by temperance friends; but under this Bill there would be a power of getting the money from the publicans themselves if it were desired to abolish such licences. I think the free-and-easy way in which transfers are often effected is a great evil, and I should like to see some change made in this direction. I disagree with the theory that large owners ought not to be compensated, because, in my opinion, simple justice requires that, if we are going to compensate one man, we should compensate all. I am not interested in any kind of brewers, but I recognise that theirs is a legitimate trade. There are a good many most honourable men who are brewers, and I think it a great shame to throw their trade in their teeth, and to say that because they are brewers they must be bad men. The brewing trade, to a certain extent, is a necessity, especially in England. Beer is a very good and harmless thing, if taken in moderation, and as we know it cannot be got without the brewer, I think it is hard to abuse the brewers. I feel very much indebted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having introduced the clauses with regard to the superannuation of the police. In the county I represent, the Superannuation Fundisgetting exhausted, that fund having been started when the 760 police first came into existence, about 50 years ago. At first all went well, owing to the subscriptions of the men, who were all young, but after 20 or 25 years, the police began to draw largely on the fund, and it was found too small to pay the pensions. The consequence is that every year it is necessary to sell out a certain amount of stock. If it were not that we have funded property, we should be unable to bear the strain, and I believe that many other counties are similarly situated. I should like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what we are to do with this money when we get it? In aid of police superannuation we are to get £150,000, roughly speaking, £3,000 for each county. That would be amply sufficient for our county; but are we to understand that we are to have £3,000, comparatively speaking, every year?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's Hanover Square
It will be an annual grant.
§ *MR. JEFFREYS
Then I think we ought to congratulate ourselves still more. With the aid of the grant we shall be able to put our Superannuation Fund in a thoroughly good state, and we shall get a better class of men, because they will know that their pensions are safe. I suppose the money will be alloted to the counties according to their number of police; indeed, I do not see any other fair way of allocating it. It certainly would be rather unfair that the counties which have managed their finance badly should receive as much as those counties which have managed their finance well. But the distribution of this grant, and also of the grants in respect of licensing and county finance is a mere matter of detail, which may be safely left to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Certainly, all county Members ought to unite in thanking the right hon. Gentleman for having given us the money, which will be a very great relief to our local burdens.
§ (8.30.) MR. J. WILSON (Lanark, Govan)
I rise to address the House as a Scotch Member on this question of compensation to publicans, on which Scotch people are much interested; and I should fail in my duty if I did not declare that all classes of the Temperance Party, and, in a large measure, non-temperance parties, are opposed to any 761 proposal of compensation on the lines laid clown in the Bill. I speak in no spirit of ill-feeling towards the trade, although, personally, I have been an abstainer for many long years. I do not now speak so much as an abstainer as on behalf of my countrymen generally, the great majority of whom I am persuaded are opposed to these clauses. I do not object to be twitted as a fanatic, because, on principle, I am and have long been an abstainer. I have been impelled to this course; as the result of long connection with the working classes, whom I have sought to influence by example. Often and often have I been told by workmen that it has been a temptation well nigh impossible to resist to pass the many public houses on their way home on pay day. My own experience as an employer of labour in Govan is that it is with the intention of tempting workmen that public housesare established. Three public houses were planted down at Govan; and reconviction has been increased that these licences tend to demoralise the community among whom they exist. With every word of the Amendment I cordially concur; and I hope the House which has listened to the exposition of the nature of this Bill, and the very damaging statistics my hon. Friend has brought to bear against the Government proposal, will show by its vote that it has no sympathy with the idea of public compensation to publicans. The licensing system in Scotland is somewhat different from that in England. In Scotland we do not license houses, but individuals, and hence it is that, though sometimes large sums are paid for a licence, they do not rise to the amount paid in England. In England I find you not only pay for the individual right to a licence, but you pay for the freehold right so far as the property is concerned. In Scotland, as a Justice of the Peace, it has often struck me with surprise to find how large a sum of money passes on the transfer of a licence, which might, in the ordinary course, be refused without even cause shown. But the transfer is taken for granted. I have known as much as £2,000 passing on the transfer. In England it is somewhat different, and I should say that any one who pays for a licence and buys the right to sell liquor does a very risky business. There is a 762 common idea abroad that the Licensing Authorities, in granting a licence, are supposed to confer a blessing on the community. At all events, I know that in Scotland the one thing for the Justices to consider is whether the licence will be for the public weal, and if it is not, then the licence should not be granted. But a system has got into practice by which the Justices are beset by the landlord, the individual who wants the licence, and their friends to induce the Justices to grant a privilege to the individual to which he has no right or title, and yet people have got it into their heads that in the event of the public weal demanding that a licence should be taken away, compensation must be given to the individual. I dispute the principle on which compensation for the non-renewal of licences is advocated, and contend that as Magistrates have the power to grant a licence for the public weal, without the slightest reference' to compensation for nonrenewal, so they have the power to withdraw or refuse the licence if the public interest requires it. I hold that the value and goodwill of a licence are entirely in the discretion or power of the Licensing Authority. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated that there is no desire by this measure to take away the power of the Magistrates to refuse licences without compensation, and yet he would give County Councils—quite another authority, and not the Licensing Authority—power to buy up licences. Why, there are no Magistrates anywhere who would put themselves in the invidious position of taking away a licence when the Government have actually provided the County Councils with money to buy it. I urge, further, that the sum of £50,000 to be given to the County Councils of Scotland under the Bill is an absurdly inadequate amount. It is scarcely sufficient to touch the fringe of the question. The amount is at the rate of £1,600 per county, while in Lanarkshire alone there are 5,000 public houses, and in Glasgow between 1,700 and 1,800. I am sure if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would look the thing in the face, he would see the futility of going to the country with such a proposal, putting an extra sixpence on the Spirit Duty, and coupling with it the sop of superannuation for the police, and 763 the assistance to education. Why, Scotland would rather forego both these advantages than be saddled with the monstrous iniquity of having to pay compensation for licences they want to do away with. Only last year in Govan the Justices had before them an application from a licensee who had lived for a considerable time in the borough. His lease had run out, and he had quarreled with his landlord, who claimed the licence should be transferred to him, while the licensee insisted upon his claim, but very wisely, as I think, the Justices refused the licence to either party. They were justified, as I contend, in the interest of the public weal. If public houses are a public benefit, how is it that the influence of the more wealthy classes prevents the existence of more than one small public house within the residential districts of Hillside and Kelvinside, near Glasgow? The whole system of licensing is one of gross corruption to the community. Wherever public houses are thickly planted in a community there crime, immorality, trouble, and misery increase. Whisky and morality cannot exist together. If we acted rightly we should take a very different course to that proposed in this Bill. Earlier this evening the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) said in his benevolence and wisdom, surely we would never consent to bring ruin upon the wives and families of publicans, but he had not a word to say for the wives and families ruined by this trade. These to the families of publicans are as 100 to I, and anyone who knows anything of the masses of the working classes will not let this tenderness stand in the way of sweeping away, to a large extent, the sources of this immorality, misery, and crime that afflict humanity. Publicans often get a licence apart from any consideration of the welfare of the district where the licence is to be used. Some two years ago I was on the Bench when an application for a licence was made, and one reason put forward for it was that the applicant had a wife and 15 children. The Justices could not hold this a reason for granting the licence, and the man was respectfully told that he must find some other occupation to provide the means of maintaining his family than that of keeping a public house. With some people there is a kind of fascina- 764 tion about the keeping of a public house, perhaps because the work is not hard and the profits are large. People acquire a licence simply for enriching themselves, and in no degree in the interest of the community. I was struck with one observation of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie). He told temperance advocates that the time was not ripe for a local veto, but if he were in his place now I could assure him that the people of Scotland are perfectly ready for a local veto. We have taken a pébiscite over large cities and towns, with the result that five to one of the people who are taxpayers are in favour of a local veto being put into the hands of the people themselves, and of this I am quite sure, that what would be invidious on the part of Justices and Magistrates in boroughs would not be invidious on the part of the people themselves, who would declare what licences should be granted and what withheld. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman again considers this question he will eliminate from his view any idea that Scotland, at any rate, is not ripe for such legislation. The majority of Scotch Members are pledged up to the hilt for a local veto, and I hope they will remember their pledges to their constituents. I feel satisfied they will do so, and will not vote in favour of a proposal which is opposed to the right of the people to protect themselves against the planting of public houses in their midst. I may tell the right hon. Gentleman that so far as Scotland is concerned the "heather is on fire" on this subject. I speak for the united Temperance Party, the Good Templars, the Scotch Temperance League, the Scotch Permissive Bill Association, and many other temperance organisations in the country, and on their behalf I protest against anything being done in the manner proposed in this Bill to entail a burden on the people for the compensation of publicans, a principle which, in the general interest, should be condemned by the House of Commons.
§ *(8.55.) MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
I am quite sure that everyone who has heard the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down will give him every credit for enthusiasm in the cause of temperance he so ably advocates. But there are others who, 765 actuated by the same motives, do not take the same views as the hon. Member. There are some on both sides of the House who think that something ought to be done, and done immediately, and who are not willing to wait until a large and comprehensive scheme is perfected and brought before the House for dealing with this very great question? Although I, for one, would rather see such a. measure for dealing with the whole of the United Kingdom, yet I am thankful that the Government have seen fit to take up this question, and have turned their attention to the extent to which the drink traffic has grown. It cannot be denied that it is this which has prompted the Government to this legislation. Knowing well the difficulty of carrying a large measure through the House of Commons, I presume they thought they might still do something in the direction of diminishing drinking by diminishing the number of public houses, and hence the introduction of this measure. The measure divides into two sections. By one, the public houses are to be reduced in number by no further licences being issued, and by the other, and upon what we may call the "betterment" principle, the extra toll levied on drink is to be devoted to buying up certain public houses. It would have been matter of grievance if the Government had proposed fresh taxation in order to buy up public houses, but when, to diminish the number, the tax falls heavier on the remainder, I think it is a method to which we should not object. No one can doubt for a moment that one of the greatest evils to Scotland is the enormous consumption of whisky. But you cannot stop drinking by Resolutions and Acts of Parliament. We know perfectly well what would happen if we attempted it, and those of us who have travelled in the United States know that where State Legislatures have imposed very stringent laws against the sale of intoxicating liquors, these laws have failed in effect, and that, in a certain time, a man could go to various shops, and, under various names be furnished with raw spirits. You cannot entirely forbid the drinking of alcoholic liquors, although many hon. Gentlemen opposite apparently wish to do so. Hon. Members ought to welcome any means by which the number of public houses may be diminished. The 766 Government have been animated by a good motive in this matter; they have told us that this question must be dealt with step by step, and I venture to submit that this measure will not be passed in vain if it does some good, however slight; therefore, temperance advocates should assist us in passing it. Hon. Members say it will be unworkable; then let them pass the Second Reading, and endeavour to amend it in Committee. The Bill will not interfere with the present jurisdiction of the Licensing Authority; it does not prejudice the principle of compensation, for that principle may be discussed at some future period. The Government have already promised certain Amendments in the Bill; they have told us it shall not prejudice the general question of compensation. I should like to draw attention to the position in which publicans now stand. It is an artificial position. Publicans are very properly surrounded by the watchfulness of a vigilant police, in return for having a share in the monopoly of drink. But because they have that share it does not follow that each individual publican is enriching himself by pursuing a trade legalised by the law. If he is well behaved, and if his business is conducted properly, he may hope to continue a servant of the public. Then will this House ever sanction his being turned out of his house neck and crop, simply because the Licensing Magistrates have allowed him to pursue a legitimate trade, and then suddenly withdraw his licence. I think hon. Members opposite would be among the last to beggar such a man. It is not the publicans they dislike; it is the system to which they are opposed. The great difficulty arises from the system of tyed houses. Until within the last few years there were no such houses in Scotland, and in that country, therefore, that difficulty can be easily dealt with. But in England most of the brewers own tyed houses, and there the great difficulty of solving this problem will come in. Suppose that this Bill became law would it be possible to adopt any other mode of compensation other than purchase? The suggestion which has been made of giving a man a vested interest in his house for 10 years involves the principle of compensation. We must not drive rough-shod, to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman 767 the Member for Mid Lothian, over a frank recognition of this principle. We ought to look this question fairly in the face. This Bill is a step in the right direction. By passing it we shall be endeavouring to diminish drinking and to lessen the number of public houses, and I maintain that everybody who is interested in the temperance cause ought to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. It has been termed an unrighteous Bill because it proposes to give public money for the extinction of licences. It will not give a shilling of public money compulsorily for that purpose. Then again, it is said it is unfair to affirm the principle in a Budget Bill, which affirms other principles. But the hon. Member for Barrow knows that it would have been impossible to carry a Bill for each separate proposal in the Bill. I thank the Government for attempting to carry a measure having as its sole object the promotion of temperance.
*(9.14.) MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
I think the hon. Gentleman who last spoke entirely misunderstood the object of this Bill. He seemed to think the person to be compensated under the Bill was the licensee. But the fact is, it is not proposed to give a shilling of compensation to the publican unless he happens to have an interest in the house; the compensation will go entirely to the owners.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
The hon. Gentleman has made a statement which I am bound to contradict. It is perfectly clear that if the licensee has an interest he will be entitled to compensation under the Bill.
*MR. J. B. ROBERTS
What compensation will a licensee who is only a tenant at will get? I contend that, under this Bill, he will not receive a farthing.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
If the man is only tenant at will he can be turned out without compensation, and almost without notice; but I imagine the great bulk of the licensees hold on very different terms from that. I believe they hold on a much more secure tenure.
*MR. J. B. ROBERTS
The right hon. Gentleman's explanation fully bears out my contention, which is that the licensee takes compensation in proportion to his interest in the tenancy. If, for instance, he holds a lease for 10 or 20 years he will 768 be compensated in the proportion which the value of his lease bears to the value of the freehold. The compensation here paid will be exactly the same as in the case of a railway company which takes land, the amount of compensation that goes to the tenant is in proportion to the length of his tenancy which has still to run, and has no reference whatever to any permanent loss of occupation. If a railway company cuts through land held on a yearly tenancy the tenant is only compensated to the extent of the value of a year's occupancy. Reference has been made to cases such as that of the Irish curates and tax collectors, who have been compensated, but these instances bear no similarity to the present compensation proposals. Those are cases in which persons who have spent years of their lives in a profession or calling, and have thus become unfitted for any other, were compensated on being deprived of their occupation. But this is a proposal to compensate for loss of alleged property, which compensation will mainly go, not to the man who has carried on the public house business, but to the owner of the public house. But let me revert to the case of the Irish curate. Suppose the cases of such curates living in poor and thinly populated districts, and there fore occupying houses above the quality of the houses suited to the poor inhabitants of the district. The curates' houses becoming vacant owing to the abolition of curacies, and being practically unlettable to anybody else. If the compensation had been based on the principle of this Bill, it would, in the case put, have gone to the landlord of the depreciated house. But there the compensation was given, not to the landlord, but to the tenant, who was deprived of his calling or profession. No Legislature in the world would dream of compensating a landlord under such circumstances. The President of the Local Government Board has argued in favour of this proposal from the fact that Probate Duty is paid in respect of the value of the licence. The hon. Member for Barrow has controverted that point, and he has thrown considerable doubt upon it. But whether Probate Duty is paid or not, I quite admit that it ought to be paid. No doubt, if a house is licensed, there is a probability that the licence will be con- 769 tinued, and just as a man pays for goodwill and probable benefit there from, he should pay for the probability of the licence being renewed. Probability had a market value. But that is no reason why a probability should be converted into a certainty. Precisely in the same manner Probate Duty is paid on the goodwill of a deceased solicitor's practice, and the executors sell it, but they only sell the chance or probability that the clients will continue the business in the same office. If the clients decline to do so the purchaser cannot say to them, "I brought your future business, and the executors paid Probate Duty on it. It is, therefore, property, and you must continue it, or give compensation." It is clear that there would be no legal or moral claim for compensation from the clients, the executors, or the Inland Revenue. The public, or the State as representing the public, is in exactly the same position with regard to continuing the licence as the clients with regard to continuing their business. It may continue the licence or not. It is perfectly unfettered, and the discontinuance gives no claim for compensation, because the probability of continuance had a money value as long as such probability existed. It ought to be borne in mind that this value attaching to a licence is only of recent growth. It has practically been called into existence by the success of the temperance movement. Twenty or 30 years ago there was no value whatsoever in a licence, for any respectable person could obtain a licence just as a game-seller's licence is now obtainable; and it is only when the Temperance Party turned public attention to the possibility of reducing intemperance by restricting the number of public houses, and when Parliament adopted that view and passed the legislation which commenced in 1870, that the value of licensed property became specially valuable. Since then the Licensing Authorities have shown great disinclination to grant new licences, and those already granted have thus gained an artificial value. Under these circumstances, it seems to me most monstrous that compensation should be given for what has thus been called into existence by the exertions of the Temperance 770 Party. At the time the value of the licences was increased there ought to have been a commensurate increase in the amount of duty imposed, so that the benefit of the monopoly should accrue not to the licence holders, but to the public at large. There is one other point. I see Clause 9 of the Bill enacts that in estimating the value of an interest in any licensed premises, no account is to be taken of increased value "due to the operation of this Act." How is it possible to work this Bill with that clause? The increased value will appertain to the licence in spite of any legislation. If you buy one public house, of necessity you increase the value of the neighbouring public house. Under the circumstances, this Bill will be totally inoperative to enable the County Council to buy the second licence, for the reason that it is permissive and not compulsory. Therefore, the owner of the second licence would never sell unless he got the increased value.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
This is a saving clause, which has been put into the Bill with reference to any legislation which Parliament might give assent to of a compulsory character. Suppose Parliament were to change the Licensing Authority, and were to give complete power to refuse a renewal and to propose compensation, then this clause would, in the event of purchase under any Act of that kind, prevent the increased value to which the hon. Member refers from being taken into account.
*MR. J. B. ROBERTS
How can you guage the respective values due to legislation and to previous purchase by the County Council. It appears to me to be utterly impossible. We know that where a public body is dealing with public money, not coming directly out of the pockets of the ratepayers, as a rule it is most generous in giving compensation. Under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act 10 per cent is paid for compulsory purchase.
*MR. J. B. ROBERTS
The Act does not say so, but we all know that the theory of valuers is that 10 per cent, should be paid, but that the practice is to 771 give more than 10 per cent. That will be the case here, and we may be sure that compensation will be paid utterly irrespective of Clause 9.
§ *(9.35.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone S.)
Mr. Speaker, I say frankly, in the few words I have to address to the House, that I wish the Government had left this question alone; but since we are face to face with the Bill I want to point this out first of all. The discussion has proceeded so far on the assumption that the law with regard to licences is the same in the three kingdoms. It is not. In Ireland every publican has a freehold in his licence. That was decided in 1877. The Recorder of Dublin considered that he had the same right to refuse to transfer a licence as to grant it, and in the Clitheroe case he did refuse to transfer the licence, ontheground that the house was not required. The case was brought before the Queen's Bench in Dublin, and that Court held that when a man had received a licence in Ireland it could only be taken away on two distinct grounds—either on the ground of the bad character of the holder of the licence, or on the ground that the house had been badly conducted. The discussion, therefore, ought not to proceed on the assumption that the law is necessarily the same in all parts of the United Kingdom. The Bill proposes that a certain sum shall be set aside to purchase public houses. That is held to involve the question of compensation. What is the law now, if any Corporation or public company desire to clear an area for public improvements? I will take one example. Twenty years ago the South City Markets Company in Dublin proposed to erect markets, and they had to purchase a great area in the centre of the city, one of those festering spots which are a disgrace to great cities. They had to purchase the property upon that area, including 15 public houses, and they had to pay for those houses out of the funds of the company. They have been embarrassed ever since. In several cases where they did not accept arbitration the cases went to a jury, and the jury, guided by Lord Justice Barry, decided that the payment of compensation was strictly according to law. The company found that if they were to take the public houses they must pay the value of 772 them. If a Corporation purchases the-funds will come out of the rates. What this Bill proposes to do is to supply the funds whereby the work of purchase can be done, that fund coming from the consumption of alcoholic liquor. My hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and myself have stood on the same platform in this matter for 30 years. But I am going to vote against my hon. Friend tonight. I will tell the right hon. Member for Derby why. Because I have not the slightest confidence in the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman presided at the annual meeting of the United Kingdom Alliance last October, but he presided at publicans' banquets-before, and he was quite as happy at the one as the other.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The right hon-Gentleman did at Oxford. I remember the right hon. Gentleman sneering at temperance legislation as grandmotherly legislation. If my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow is prepared to wait for the right hon. Gentleman I am not; for if the right hon. Gentleman were on the benches opposite next year he would eat every word he has said on this question, as he has done on political questions. I heard the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow to-night. My objection to it is that I heard speeches like it 20 years ago against Mr. Brace's proposals. I was in the Lobby then, and I heard such speeches when the Bill was before the House. I heard such speeches at excited public meetings against Mr. Brace's proposals, and there is not a man who made those speeches who would not to-night be delighted if he could get Mr. Brace's proposals. I have a letter from one of seven brothers, warm supporters of temperance legislation, in which the writer says that there is no public act of his life which he has ever regretted so much as his opposition to Mr. Brace's Bill; that its opponents did inestimable injury to the cause of temperance; that they were warned, but that they were deaf to everything but Sir Wilfrid Lawson's jokes. Mr. Bruce's proposals were scornfully rejected by the friends of temperance, and they have been in the wilderness ever since. The 773 persons to blame for the rejection of Mr. Brace's Kill were not the publicans—though they were insane against it—but the temperance leaders, who calmly folded their arms, and because the Bill did not contain all they wanted, would have none of it. I am not going to make any such mistake now. The Temperance Party have been fighting for 50 years, they have done much through moral suasion, they have won over many, and they have passed three Sunday Closing Acts. That is all that they have done. The evil is a gigantic one. It covers the whole land. It is time for this I louse to face it. After 35 years of hard fighting', I have made up my mind that the work can never be done without recognising the equitable claims of publicans—I do not say legal claims—and I will be no party to standing any longer in the way, fighting for what we shall never get. Let no one tell me of what right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench will do. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian is committed as deeply as anyone to the principle of compensation. I do not say that the right hon. Member for Derby is committed to anything. Having been fighting in this cause for many years, I cannot find it in my conscience to stand up against the proposals of the Bill.
§ *(9.45.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I was anxious to rise after the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, for, like the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Barrow, I am one of the oldest supporters of the temperance movement in this House; and I may add that among the official Members on the Front Benches on either side of the House I have been the longest and the most consistent supporter of what are generally called the extreme views of the Temperance Party. I think the hon. Member fur South Tyrone has been deceived by a false analogy. I will not enter into a discussion as to who were to blame for the rejection of the Bill of Lord Aberdare; but I am inclined to think that the hon. Member for South Tyrone has given an account of the defeat of that measure which was not dictated by prejudice. There is, doubtless, a good deal in what he has said; but I would rather put aside the 774 question whether Lord Aberdare's Bill was defeated by the unseen opposition of the publicans or the ill-judged opposition of the extreme Temperance Party. [A VOICE: "Apathy."] Well, apathy; still it was defeated, and we have a right to draw from it a lesson. But I utterly deny that the lesson which the hon. Member drew from the defeat of Lord Aberdare's Bill was the right one. Does the hon. Gentleman think that the Bill of the present Government can be named on the same day as the Bill of Lord Aberdare, either for what it does for good or for what it does for evil. For my part, I think, and I will undertake to show before I sit down, that the Bill of the Government does little or nothing in the right direction, whereas it does a very great deal to kill the hopes of the Temperance Party. The hon. Member for South Tyrone cannot bring upon himself to wait; he has forced the battle till he was on the eve of being triumphant; a few more years and one more General Election, such as we on this side hope we may have, returning a majority of men who wish to carry out the views of the great body of the citizens, and what the Temperance Party has been labouring for so long will be carried. The hon. Member has talked with great knowledge of the change that has come over the world on this subject; he has shown how the views of the Temperance Party had been brought to bear so strongly upon the Magistrates that licensing, which at one time was a mere method of choosing a respectable occupant of a public house, has changed to a method of choosing what shall be the number of public houses, and that it is only a step from that point to bring public opinion to bear on the legislation of this House, so that in a few years the battle in which the hon. Member for South Tyrone has been engaged would have been won. But I say that our efforts for victory will be neutralised by this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board quoted a good many passages from newspapers. I will quote one passage from a newspaper—a passage of great importance, because it is from a newspaper singularly qualified to deal with the two main questions before us—first, as to whether this Bill involved 775 the doctrine of compensation for public houses; and, secondly, as to whether the fund for this purpose is to come from the publicans themselves. I will read a few lines from the Economist, a financial paper supporting Her Majesty's Government—It is idle to contend that the Government proposals do not recognise the publicans' claim to compensation because they merely authorise County Councils to come to terms with any publicans they may wish to sell out. The fact that the taxpayers are called on to contribute to a fund which must be used to buy out the publicans, or not used at all, does unquestionably put the question of compensation on a different footing from that on which it stands at present, and if the question is dealt with at all, it should be dealt with thoroughly. That, however, is clearly impossible this Session, and the time that must be lost in forcing through an imperfect measure can be much better employed.On this question of compensation to the publicans as having to be found out of the ordinary taxes, I consider the dictum of the Economist to be absolutely authoritative. To pay the publicans compensation out of the Spirit Duties is precisely the same with regard to the taxpayer and the consumer as if they were paid out of the Tea Duty now or out of the Corn Duty in old days, and if the Economist were to hold any other view it would lose half its subscribers in a week. The money is not only not paid out of the publicans' means, but will go directly into their pockets. The other day a man of business in the North of England, one of the ablest valuators and agents in that part of the country, told me that he was agent for two public houses in a well-known North Country town. A new station was being built in that town, and several public houses had been bought up in order to make space for the works of the station. The rental of those two public houses had been £300 a year. As soon as the other public houses had been bought up, jobbing men connected with the liquor traffic came to him and at once offered double the rent for the two houses. As the leases were about to be renewed he went to the existing tenants, and told them he could get double the rent for the two houses, and the tenants at one took on the houses at £600 a year. The reason was that other public houses had been extinguished in the neighbourhood; and there is not the slightest doubt that if the partial extinction 776 of public houses proposed by the Government succeeds, they would not diminish drinking in the very least, but would simply increase the gains of the other public houses in the neighbourhood. No, it is out of the taxes that the publicans are compensated, and that is the principle which is consecrated in the Bill. By the 5th clause the sum to be applied for the extinction of licences in England is to be apportioned among the counties in proportion to the amount which the Commissioners of Inland Revenue certify to have been received by them in the last receiving financial year on account of licences granted by them in these counties. The gross amount of those licences is about £1,400,000 a year, and the amount of money to be apportioned in England and Wales yearly under this clause is £350,000, and therefore it is easy to find out, by simply taking one quarter of the licences in each county, how much of this compensation would go to each county. Taking it by that calculation, the County of Huntingdon would receive £1,200 a year, and the County of Huntingdon has 400 licensed houses—that is to say, the county would have power to compensate at the rate of £3 per licensed house. Hertfordshire would receive £2,300; there are 1,300 houses in that county, so that it would be £2 a house. Cambridgeshire would receive £2,700 a year; there are 1,200 houses in Cambridgeshire, so that the county would pay a little over £2 a house to carry out the compensation scheme. But the licensed victuallers calculate the average houses in the country at £2,000 apiece; therefore the whole annual quota of an ordinary rural English county would be swallowed up in compensating one single house. I know what is said on the other side, and what I suppose is working in the mind of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. Hon. Members opposite say, "Oh, yes, that is all very well; but we are not dealing with the great and rich public houses. There are large numbers of poor roadside public houses which can be bought up cheap—a good many of them very cheap." Yes; but are they the worst public houses? that is where we join issue. In the opinion of most of us, and of the great majority of the class who suffer from the liquor traffic, 777 they are bad in proportion, as they sell a larger amount of liquor. There is an increasing number of people in this country who hold that retail trade in liquor over the bar is an evil in itself which ought to be abolished in the interests of the community. The only class who really and truly drink liquor retail is the working class, and the real secret of this question is that the working man cannot afford to drink spirits and beer. The Government last year issued a. very interesting Report showing the expenditure of the working man householder; and it appeared from that that even the better sort of artisans, after defraying the ordinary household expenses, have hardly any margin left for expenditure on drink. A working man who is in the habit of drinking cannot have his glass of beer and have done with it. He can hardly spend less than 4s. or 5s. a week on drink, and where that is to come from out of his little budget it is difficult to imagine. It is a mistake to suppose that the worst drinking takes place in the little public houses. For example, in Bedfordshire, where there is a great number of small public houses, only one person is arrested for drunkenness out of 600, while in London, where the public houses are large and very valuable, the proportion is one in 300. If hon. Members go into the statistics they will find that at the outside 200 public houses will be extinguished every year under the provisions of this Bill. That means that it will take us 200 years to get rid of one-half of the public houses which exist at present. In point of fact, the result would be that we should extinguish even fewer public houses than we do now. My objection to the introduction of this principle of compensation is that it is perfectly new in this country, for at the present moment we do abolish public houses without any compensation. Under the Beerhouses Act 300 beer houses were abolished in Liverpool, and when its provisions were extended to Ireland no fewer than 500 beer houses were extinguished in Dublin without compensation.
§ An hon. MEMBER: Beerhouses?
§ *SIR G. TREVELYAN
Yes; but the keepers of beer houses are human 778 beings, just as much as the keepers of public houses. This process I am referring to is what has been always going on in the country at large to a certain extent. A Government Return, referring only to a period of five years, shows that in Cheshire six public houses were extinguished by the Magistrates because the licences were not required. This process is going on slowdy indeed, but not much more slowly than the process of extinction by compensation would go on under the Bill; and this is a process which would be infallibly checked if the County Councils were prohibited from extinguishing a public house unless they could buy up the consent of the owner. The hon. Member for North Kensington (Sir R. Lethbridge) quoted a passage from a speech of the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley), who was said to have expressed an opinion in 1880 as to the necessity for compensating publicans. The right hon. Member for Newcastle—said the hon. Member - said he was aware that a great deal of intemperate language had been used by the Temperance Party.
§ *SIR G. TREVELYAN
Well, some sections of the Temperance Party; but the hon. Member did not think that was a reason why the Member for Newcastle should have altered his view. A great deal, however, had happened since then, apart from the intemperate language referred to. The gravest Judges from the Bench in the most temperate language have stated that which is new to the general public, that the publican has no legal tenure at all. Mr. Justice Field, in the Court of Queen's Bench, stated that the Legislature recognised no vested interests at all in any holder of a licence. But whatever may be the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, the opinion of those more immediately concerned- the licensed victuallers and their advocates—is that the decisions which have been given have been of the most killing nature, because the counsel for the Licensed Victuallers' Association stated in the Morning Advertiser that a more unfortunate result of the Darwen case was that it promulgated and divulged what 779 had hitherto been more or less a professional secret, namely, that, subject to appeal, the Licensing Magistrates could refuse to renewa licence to any and every holder of an on licence. Until this, he said it was always popularly supposed that the holder of an on licence held a vested interest. But now it cannot be doubted that in the strictest sense no such thing as a vested interest exists, and that, subject to appeal, the Justices can refuse to renew licences of the largest, most useful, and best conducted businesses.
§ *SIR G. TREVELYAN
I am quoting Mr. Thomas Nash, Counsel to the Licensed Victuallers' Association. In Canada and the colonies, and in America, the principle of compensation is absolutely unknown. By one operation of the Ontario Government the licences were reduced from 4,400 to less than 3,000. Not one penny was given in compensation, and no one even dreamed of presenting a claim for compensation. In America some States have laws of total prohibition, while others have ordinances of local option, under which districts do away with public houses. Moreover, there is a wholesale way by which the number is diminished to an extraordinary extent, namely, by the system of high licences. There are States in which an ordinary licence costs £100 or £130, and by this process the number of public houses is sometimes diminished in a State by one-half. And under no circumstances is compensation granted. Thatwhich has been universally reprobated by all the world besides ourselves, and by ourselves as well up to this time, probably deserves reprobation. The principle is grossly unjust, for what is the claim? A district grows, say, in consequence of some commercial works. A man takes a corner house and spends £2,000 or £3,000, and he then seeks a licence which he gets by the favour—the merest favour—and immediately he can sell that house for £4,000 more than it is worth the day before. This is practically a gift to him of £4,000 by the nation, and does anybody say that the nation is bound to throw away another £4,000 to revoke such a gift as that? There is another process which is still more significant. There are three 780 houses built worth £50 a year apiece, and the man owning the middle one gets a licence. Instantly his rent rises to £300 a year, whilst the rental of the other two houses falls to £20 or £30 year; and yet, under the principle of compensation, the man who is in the middle, who has done no public service whatever, but who has got a gift from the nation, is to be compensated out of the pockets of the two men whoso rent go down in proportion as his own rent goes up. But there is another serious reason against compensation which I should like to know how the temperance reformer who is going to vote for this Bill will meet. The men of whom I have spoken are those who have the confidence of the Justices; but now we are going to compensate a lot of people who have not that confidence. There is no abuse in our present system so great as the shameful manner in which Quarter Sessions are allowed to over-ride the real opinion of the Justices. I will give one or two instances which occurred in London. A licence was taken away for complaint against the manager—renewed at Quarter Sessions, on appeal. Licence taken away by Local Justices for knowingly permitting women of bad character to remain on the premises longer than was necessary—granted on appeal to Quarter Sessions.
§ *SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
A Return issued by the Home Office 2nd May, 1889. The case in Norwich, conviction on complaint of permitting drunkenness, licence taken away, renewed on appeal before Quarter Sessions. Take a case in the County of Glamorgan—a county which unfortunately had got into a bad condition. Two ale-house licences were refused because they were not wanted; in another case the licences of seven alehouses were refused for convictions; reason; in another case four beer-house licences were refused, and four other licences. This was wholesale refusal, and was owing, I presume, to this being the first attempt of the Local Magistrates to purify the district. Well, appeals were made to the Quarter Sessions, and in each case the appeal was successful. At Newcastle-on-Tyne one licensed victualler, 781 on account of soiling liquor during prohibited hours, and two others for similar offences, were refused licences. The licences wore taken away from all three by Newcastle Justices, and were given back to them by the Quarter Sessions. It should be remembered that a great many more licences would be taken away if the Magistrates were not certain that the Quarter Sessions would restore them, looking at the interests of the individual rather than at the interests of the public. I venture to say that these would be the very first cases in which the Bill of the Government would be employed. These fellows, who had been adjudged by the Magistrates not to be fit men, would be bargained with and would get whatever compensation they could induce the County Council to give in order to get rid of them. We all hear a great deal about the poor publican, and no doubt we should all be sorry for the actual holder of a public house who was suddenly deprived of his business. He, however, would not necessarily reap benefit under this Bill, which authorises the County Councils to seek out those who may have any interest in the premises in order that they may be compensated. The County Councils are to inquire very minutely into all interests affected—those of the spirit merchant, of the brewer, and of the shareholders in such companies as those of Guinness and Allsopp. In connection with this point the Church of England Temperance Committee has been most properly shown up by the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine). The Committee ought to have represented the moderate men who are anxious to extinguish public houses without doing injustice to holders, but that is not the character which they assumed. The real essence of what passed between the Committee and the right hon. Gentleman is well described by a London daily paper that, at the very least, is neutral—the Daily Chronicle. The Daily Chronicle says—Nothing has come from the action of the Church of England Temperance Society but its utter failure to get the only demand of any real value that was made to Mr. Ritchie, namely, their demand that compensation must be definitely limited to the actual licence-holder, and not given directly or indirectly to any interests that are behind him; and also 782 that in any case it must not exceed 10 years profits of the business.I must say that the right hon. Gentleman bought the Church of England Temperance Society uncommonly cheap—a great deal cheaper than we shall buy the publicans. I should regret very much the acceptance of the principle contained in the clauses under consideration, because I believe that public opinion is moving very fast in the right direction, and the acceptance of the principle of compensation would check that movement. Landowners, in a considerable number of cases, have done what the people themselves ought to be allowed to do. They have extinguished the public houses on their properties, and not only have they not received, but they will not take compensation. It is difficult to conceive how men who were well off could ask for compensation. Having made an extra rent for many years out of his poorer neighbours, a man who, after that, asked for compensation was asking for the dirtiest money that could touch anyone's hands. By this Bill, however, you will kill the right feeling which largely prevails among owners. The principle will be established that a man is to be paid when he gives up a public house, and owners will learn from the teaching of legislation that they can exact the uttermost farthing By passing this Bill they will fasten on the shoulders of the country the burden of the liquor interest tighter than it had ever been fastened before. We shall incur a liability of £250,000,000 at least, if the hopes of the Temperance Party are ever to be gratified, and we are to get rid wholly or in great part of the retail system. The licensed victuallers themselves put the sum at £400,000,000. So far from the Bill introducing Local Option, as the right hon. Gentleman contends, it absolutely kills all hopes of Local Option. Any compensation ought to come out of the monopoly itself. This is a monopoly infinitely greater than any Monarch ever granted to favourite or Minister. I never will subscribe to the opinion that a nation that wants to get rid of this monopoly ought to buy it up. It has a right to take it away; and if we do not, in an evil moment, sacrifice that right, the nation will, sooner or later—and I think pretty soon—assume itself.
*(10.31.) SIR E.CLARKE
The right hon. Gentleman has dealt with many interesting subjects, and I should have been very glad to debate them with him if this had been a debating society discussing the licensing laws generally and the habits of the people. If, as the right hon. Baronet says, the working men have not money to spend in drink, it is difficult to understand how the large consumption of intoxicating liquors is maintained.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
I believe that argument is a great injustice to the working classes. This controversy has boon going on for half a century, yet Parliament is in the same position with regard to the licensing question that it was in the year 1871, and the House has heard to-night from the leader of the Temperance Party in this Debate that he is prepared to adopt now the suggestion that was made 20 years ago, and to accept the principle of compensation, and give to the occupiers of licensed houses 10 years' occupancy, in order to provide for their extinction at the end of 10 years. Therefore, we are really in the same position as we were 20 years ago. We are not in the same position so far as the people are concerned. Last year there was a great increase in the consumption of liquors; but still, during the last 20 years, there has been a vast improvement in the habits, sobriety, and thrift of the working classes. If more liquor is drunk it is because there are larger means for consuming it in moderation, and no one can see gatherings of large masses of the people, such as the magnificent parade on Saturday afternoon in Hyde Park, where I spent some hours and did not see a single person intoxicated, without being convinced of the improvement in temperance, as well as in other respects, among the people. The light hon. Gentleman has adverted to the difficulty of administering the licensing laws, and to the over-ruling of decisions at Potty Sessions by the Magistrates at Quarter Sessions. That is absolutely irrelevant to the question now before the House. The Bill leaves Petty Sessions and Quarter Sessions with precisely the same powers as they now possess. What the Bill proposes is to 784 add to the powers which Local Bodies at present possess for buying up licensed houses for the carrying out of public improvements, and doing that by direct negotiation with the parties concerned. That is the beginning and end of the proposal of the Government. It is remarkable to see how this proposal has been met. The hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) does not, in his Amendment, challenge the principle of compensation, or object to the payment of public money for the extinction of licences. He merely objects to extinguishing licences "in the manner proposed by the said Bill." It is, therefore, simply a Motion for postponing the Second Reading for six months. If, however, any Member would like to pay public money for the extinction of licences, and the details of this Bill are not satisfactory to him, the hon. Member hopes he will support the Amendment. The Amendment practically finds fault only with the details of the Bill. The hon. Member for Barrow in his speech objected only to the clauses; of the Bill which refer to the distribution of money for the extinction of public houses, and expressed anxiety to accept other parts of it, but he has framed an Amendment which, if carried, will be absolutely fatal to the Bill and to every proposal it contains. ["No."] If the Amendment were carried the result would be the absolute defeat of the Bill and all its proposals.
§ *MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
The Bill might be re-introduced next day without the objectionable-clauses.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
The Government do not propose to submit to a humiliation of that sort. The Government do not in the least regret that the Amendment has been proposed at this stage because we would not have assented to the excision of the clauses in Committee As to the position of the Church of England Temperance Society, I do not desire to insist too exclusively upon the attitude of any one society, but I know that in many parts of the country there are a very great many temperance advocates, having no connection with the Church of England Temperance Society, who, recognising the evils the Bill will deal with, are in favour of it. [Cries of "Name."] They are almost numberless. 785 If hon. Gentlemen will look at the local papers they will see letter after letter dealing with this matter in the way I am dealing with it. It has been suggested that my right hon. Friend has not dealt quits fairly with the attitude of the Church of England Temperance Society, and that the society advocated certain conditions as to compensation, which are not contained in this Bill. Whatever may be the opinion of the House as to the weight to he attached to the judgment of the society, it is well that the attitude of the society should he understood and fairly judged. In the letter sent to us by the chairman of the society suggestions are made providing against anything in that Bill affecting or in advance determining the principles upon which compensation should be based, and the suggestions thus made, and which, in their belief, will secure the country from any prejudgment of the question of compensation, are suggestions which my right hon. Friend has accepted and proposes to add to his Bill. Therefore, so far as this Bill is concerned, the whole suggestions of the Church of England Temperance Society have been accepted by my right hon. Friend. But I confess I am less concerned this evening to discuss the position of the Church of England Temperance Society than to consider the position which is taken up by the hon. Member for Barrow. The hon. Member for Barrow has taken up a position—not now for the first time, I am bound to say, for two years ago he took exactly the same line in discussion in this House—which seems to me absolutely inconsistent with his dismissal of compensation as being applicable to this caste. It is impossible to exclude the question of compensation from the discussion on this Bill. The Bill does not deal with compensation in any way whatever, and if upon the Bill, as it now stands, there are apprehensions that it deals with, and prejudges the question of compensation, upon the Bill as it must stand, with the Amendments which my right hon. Friend has accepted, there is no room whatever for any fear that it refers to the question of compensation. But my right hon. Friend who introduced the Bill said, quite frankly and fairly, that, as 786 far as the Government are concerned, the question of compensation will have to be faced in any measure which provides for the compulsory extinction of licences; and as to the principle upon which that compensation must be based, of course different opinions must exist in this House. Compensation might be of different kinds. It might be given in a sum of money to the man who was engaged in the trade, and whose interest in the premises and the licence would be-put an end to; or by providing that the licence should have a certain and definite time to exist, at the end of which it might be altogether cancelled without any money payment being made. Those are two modes of dealing with the question, but to give to the licensed victualler of to-day an unchallengeable right to carry on his business for 10 years would be giving him compensation, though in another form. The hon. Member for Barrow is perfectly consistent in this matter. When he was discussing the question in 1888 he put in terms his proposal. He said to-night—Let me look at the effect of the compensation clauses in the Bill of 17 years ago. They proposed that every publican's licence, of whatever description, should he continued annually, subject, of course, to good behaviour, until the general Licensing Sessions, held after the expiration of 10 years from the commencement of the Act, and should absolutely determine at the end of such Session.That was the proposal of 17 years ago which, though then rejected, was spoken of with regretful affection by the hon. Member for Barrow in 1888, and as recalled by him now in very remarkable terms. The hon. Member said to-night—I do not ask the House to commit itself against any more modified form of compensation.And then he went on to ask whether the Government would give to the licensed victuallers this 10 years' certainty of enjoyment of their licences, and he said which for my own part I am bound to say struck me as being remarkable, considering the hon. Member's position—That he and his Friends here would not prevent such a Bill coming upon the Statute Book.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
I accept promptly the correction. If I should happen to be 787 right and he not, he will easily realise the fact, for his observations, if not in print, are certainly in manuscript. But I accept the correction. The hon. Member says he could not prevent it. I suppose that meant that he would not try, otherwise there was no meaning in the statement. If the hon. Member says that he would not try to prevent that Bill from coming upon the Statute Book I venture to submit to him—and I am sure he will accept the way in which I am putting it—that he and I are together on the principle of compensation. The hon. Member would compensate by giving a period, or allowing others to give a clear, unchallengeable tenure of a licence for 10 years, while, for my own part, if it came to the question of compensation—which is not raised by this Bill—I venture to say that I could satisfy the hon. Member that the plan of giving a sum of money to the publican whose licence was taken away without fault of his own would be a better plan, and would produce less difficulty in its administration, and be more certain in its effect, than the plan of allowing the licence to go for 10 years.
§ MR. CAINE
I find that I have in manuscript the words to which reference has been made, and they are as follows:Will the Government accept that"—namely, the proposals of the Church of England Temperance Society—as a final settlement of the controversy? I do not offer it, but I can tell the Government that if they choose to bring in a Bill on the lines of the compensation proposals of the Church of England Temperance Society, neither I nor anyone else could prevent it coming on the Statute Book.I only stated this as a word of friendly advice.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
I was disposed to accept it as a word of friendly advice. The hon. Member referred to the proposal as one which he would not resist and which he felt that he could not prevent. But the question of compensation is not here. If it were to be dealt with I think I could satisfy even my hon. Friend that to allow all the existing public houses to go on for 10 years, except where there is fault on the part of the publican, and then all at once to close them unless some further action took place, would be to invite such 788 an agitation towards the end of the 10 years as would disturb all political and social relations, and my belief is—I am speaking now as an on-looker, one who is not interested at all in the financial matters of the publicans and brewers—my belief is that if the publicans or the owners of licensed houses were able to get, I would say, a 12 years' unchallengeable continuance of licences, except when forfeited by their own fault, it would be a thing they would wisely accept, and I think they would wisely accept it, for I believe at the end of the 12 years there would be no chance whatever of any large number of public houses being allowed to go out of occupation.
§ MR. CAINE
The hon. and learned Gentleman misapprehends the real proposal of the Church of England Temperance Society. They do not propose to continue the license to a house for 10 years. They propose to continue it to a man for 10 years, of course, subject to conditions such as his dying or giving it up. They propose not to recognise any interest in the house, but to give the interest only to the individual.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
I do not want to enter into a controversy, but I am quite sure that that proposition could not be worked. I read the words of my hon. Friend in 1888. They were to the effect that every publican's licence of whatever description should be continued annually; and I think it is perfectly obvious to him that now, if a publican holds a licence, and by law, upon his death, his executors can have the licence transferred to someone else—[Cries of "No"]—I beg pardon, that is the law now—it would be the grossest injustice to say that the accident of his death should put an end to and destroy altogether that which would otherwise be a valuable possession to leave to his family. But what I want to emphasise is this, that, accepting the hon. Member for Barrow as the? spokesman of the assailants of this Bill, I and the hon. Member are together on the principle of compensation. [Ironical Opposition laughter.] Well, I think I have established my point. It is a great deal easier to laugh than to disprove it. But let me quote a few sentences from other persons in regard to it. I am not going to quote from the Economist or the Daily 789 Chronicle, or from an article in any daily paper. While I have the greatest respect for the daily Press of this country, I am speaking in the House of Commons, and the House of Commons is a greater place for the discussion of questions than the columns of daily newspapers. I will quote upon the question of compensation a few words of one who has not been in strong sympathy with the publicans. I do not require to go back to the discussion on vested interests. I certainly regretted to hear the right hon. Baronet opposite read an extract from what he has called the judgment of Mr. Justice Field in the Darwen case, in November, 1882. I regretted it for this reason, that the quotation has been scattered all over the country in hundreds and thousands of leaflets. It was read in this House in 1888, and in that year I said in this House what I may, perhaps, be allowed to read again. I said—
"The hon. Baronet"—I was speaking of the hon. Member for Cockermouth—Founded his proposition chiefly on a sentence which he quoted, and which I myself have seen quoted in a number of temperance publications, and he said that Mr. Justice Field in the Court of Queen's Bench in the month of November. 1882, stated that the Legislature recognised no vested interest at all in any holder of a licence.…I have gone through live different Reports of the decision and the judgment in this case, and in no one of the Reports will the sentence the hon. Baronet quoted last night be found, and in the next place the decision was not a decision on this point at all, but on a different Act of Parliament.I was surprised, after the statement I made two years ago, to find this decision flourished in the House again to-night. I may, perhaps, now be forgiven for another word with regard to the case of "Sharp v. Wakefield." It has been said over and over again in the country by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, not very familiar with legal matters, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, that the case of "Sharp v. Wakefield" has disproved the advice the Attorney General and I gave to the House. The fact is that before that case ever went to the Court of Queen's Bench my right hon. Friend the Member for Bury, and Mr. R. S. Wright, had advised the persons who proposed to 790 appeal in that case not to do so, on the ground that it did not raise the question they desired to bring before the Court. But there was some society which insisted on carrying the case to appeal, although they were told by the best known lawyers of the day that it did not raise the question at all. That was not a case in which the only objection to the house was that it was a house not wanted. The house had been shut up for four months, and the man who applied for the licence had never been in occupation of the house. He was, therefore, obliged to go to the Justices and ask for a licence. The matter was then dealt with in the manner I have mentioned, and the point raised. I almost despair of making the right hon. Gentleman understand. The point is this. Under the Acts of 1872 and 1874, so well is the renewal of the licence recognised that no holder of a full licence in this country has to go before the Justices at all, unless ho is sent for. if he is not sent for, the Justices must renew his licence as a matter of course. They have no power to withhold it as a matter of law. One night I remember the right hon. Gentleman tried to learn some licensing law at the feet of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, who brought a little handbook on the subject into the House, and the right hon. Gentleman will find that I am right in saying that if the holder of a licence is not sent for by the Justices, the Justices cannot take his licence away. Moreover, the Justices cannot send for him except for some cause personal to the licence holder. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at those two Acts of Parliament, and give an adequate time to their comprehension, he will probably see that I am right. The decision in the case of "Sharp v. Wakefield" has never disturbed that, and I say now, as I said two years ago, that it is not competent for the Justices to take away a man's licence simply because they think there are too many houses, and without having anything personal against him. Lord Coleridge, who will be recognised as a fair authority on this matter, speaking at a meeting of the Church of England Temperance Society, on April 28th, 1888, when this controversy was in its acutest stage, said that 791Though these men (the puhlicans)might be looked upon as engaged in a mischievous trade, their trade had the sanction of the law, and had had for a long period of years, and had been dealt with as a legal trade. Although it was perfectly true that the Magistrates might refuse to renew a licence, everyone knew, as a matter of fact, that they never did so except fur misconduct. In the case of a respectably connected house the Justices, as a matter of course, re-granted the licence, although it was perfectly true that in a Court of law there would be no redress for the best conducted publican in the world if they refused to do so. Everybody who dealt fairly with the matter would feel that a large interest had been allowed to grow up, and in his judgment it would be a very strong thing if such a man was to be dealt with on the strict, legal, technical view that ho had no technical vested interest in the trade he had pursued.Those are very important words of Lord Coleridge's, but there is one other person whose views have been quoted tonight, and, having regard to the confidant expectation which the hon. Baronet opposite entartains of an early accession to power of those who will be inclined to deal with this matter in a stringent way, are of still greater importance. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian made a speech at Dalkeith on March 19, 1880, in which he said that to the principle of Local Option he took no preliminary objection, but that he must consider many matters with regard to its application, and, among them, strict justice to an interest which, possibly the exercise of Local Option might affect. The right hon. Gentleman further expressed his disapproval of a scheme which contained no recognition of a fair and equitable title, and allowed to those interested in the caste no opportunity for stating their case for equitable compensation if a fundamentally new proposition were introduced into legislation which might bear injuriously on their interests. In the triumph, therefore, of which the right hon. Baronet spoke as coming speedily, he will have over him and before him the authority of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. I think that the hon. Member for South Tyrone was well advised in saying that after this long and unsuccessful toil those who have fixed their minds on one particular solution of this controversy would be wise, in presence of this concurrent statement from all those who have responsibility in this matter or are likely to have if, in seeing 792 some measure of conciliation and compromise adopted. My right hon. Friend who opened the Debate pointed out that a great deal of misapprehension exists in the country with regard to the proposals of the Government. A great many persons, as shown by the resolutions sent to the House, are of opinion that the Government have during this Session revived the whole scheme of 1888 for dealing with this question. I think that the hon. Member for Barrow is one of those most directly responsible for that misapprehension. I hold in my hand a copy of a pamphlet which bears on the front page the words—No compensation to publicans; two letters addressed to the Public Press of the country by W. S. Caine, M.P.; the first showing compensation payable under the Government proposals in the country districts, and the second showing the compensation payable under the Government proposals within the Metropolitan area: second edition, 1890.There is nothing whatever on the face of this pamphlet to show to the persons who read it the fact that the letters boar date May 10, 1888, so that the statements with regard to the value of those licences are those which the hon. Member prepared for the Government proposals in 1888.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
There is a preface, but I cannot read aloud the whole preface. My point is that many persons in reading the pamphlet would be mislead into believing that it was correct to say that the Government proposals of 1888 are repeated in the Bill of to-day. The hon. Member also said that the sum applied to the extinction of licences is so small as to have no real effect on the number of licences. He suggested that the average value of licences in, London was £5,000; but, in order to get that average, the hon. Member must have included a large number of hotels and other places, which no one would think of shutting up. The hon. Member is mistaken in his calculation. A return has been issued by the County Council in regard to the steps taken in London to extinguish licences, and also with regard to artisans' dwellings. Under the powers conferred on the Metropolitan Board of Works and the London County Council, enabling them to carry out the 793 widening of streets and to undertake public improvements, or to erect artisans' dwellings, a great many public houses have been taken. I think that the hon. Member for Barrow will admit that this is a comparison which is strongly in his favour. When the County Council have to take houses in this way it cannot pick and choose, it must take all the houses. There is a difference which is most important in this case: the difference between compulsory purchase and purchase by voluntary bargain is a very considerable one. In compulsory purchase the amount, especially in public houses, of the mortgage on the property is quoted. It may not represent in all cases the real value, but it is very difficult to disturb it. There were about 128 public houses taken and extinguished in this way, and they cost altogether £144,000. In the Return of cases there were instances of property taken in Charing Cross Road, at Bethnal Green, in the West of London, and Ratcliff Highway, and there were a number of places in which the average value of the houses taken, compulsorily and not selected, whatever the situation, was under £800 per house. I confess that my belief is that the money, which can be assigned to the extinction of licensed houses under this Bill, will do a great deal of good. L was interested and amused to hear from the hon. Member for Barrow that there had been an increase in the value of public houses recently, owing to the clearing up of the law with regard to licences. Why, I had thought that that declaration of the law was supposed to have destroyed their value altogether. The hon. Member read a letter from a, Mr. Fell, who, he said, was a magistrate of experience, in which that gentleman said that licences were only renewable from year to year on adequate grounds being shown for such renewal. The writer is entirely mistaken, because unless adequate grounds are shown for withholding the licence the renewal of a publican's licence is an automatic matter [Cries of "No!"]; that is the law, and it does not even require the presence of the publican at the Licensing Sessions to support his claim for its renewal. The suggestion with regard to a 10 years' licence would be, in a way, a sort 794 of compensation. But I wish to point out to the hon. Member for Barrow that he himself is not in entire harmony with his Party. The light hon. Gentleman for Derby has been consistent for a limited period, at all events, upon one point, namely, in advocating that the whole matter of licensing should be handed over to the Local Bodies. In October, 1888, the right hon. Gentleman addressed a meeting of the United Kingdom Alliance, whose object is to secure the total and immediate suppression of the liquor traffic, in what the hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker mouth called an important, a magnificent, and an inspired speech, in that speech the right hon. Gentleman said that he desired that the Local Authorities should have complete control over the drink traffic. But that policy so enunciated by the right hon. Gentleman was immediately and absolutely repudiated by those who were gathered around him on the platform of the United Kingdom Alliance. The Secretary, I think it was, stated that they had given up the idea of local option, on the ground that they could not trust the Local Bodies, but preferred to in trust the matter to the direct vote of the community; by which all public houses might be shut up one year, probably to be reopened the next year by another general vote. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby does not seem to have been very kindly treated by his friends on that occasion, and the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Lawson), although he praised the inspired speech, suggested that the right hon. Gentleman's own habits were capable of improvement, and declared that no man could understand the Alliance policy unless ho was a teetotaller, and believed that drink was a poison, socially and politically, and prevented a man from seeing that it was a good thing to prevent another being such a big fool as to go on poisoning himself. I must apologise for referring to these observations, which sound discourteous, but I suppose after the "inspiration" they were soon forgotten. I put it to the hon. Member for Barrow that we have to deal with a practical question. The present Bill does not attempt to deal with the question in a large and heroic manner, but it proposes a sensible way of diminishing the number of licensed houses. To attempt to shut 795 up all the licensed houses on a particular day would be to endanger the peace of the country, and would lead to confusion and chaos. The present measure, however, seeks to help the people in their growing desire for the improvement of their own habits. The measure will not interfere one iota with the discretion of the magistrates, and will enable Local Bodies to extinguish licences by means of funds derived from the drink traffic itself. This proposal the Government has put before the House, with the sincere desire that something may be done in the direction of reducing the number of licensed houses. I regret that the Government proposals of two years ago were not accepted, because I believe that if they had been a great step in the direction of temperance would have been made by this time. The Temperance Party have now another opportunity offered them, and I trust they will not reject it. I hope that the discussion, which has now resolved itself not into bitter antagonism to the Bill, but of a discussion of various forms of compensation, may result in the House emphatically endorsing the policy the Government have submitted to it.
§ *(11.30.) MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
I am glad to note that there is a sensible alteration in the tone of the speeches from the Government Benches on this subject, as compared with the Debate two years ago, when there was much talk about the absolute rights of the owners of licensed houses. To-day we have heard much more about compromise; there is a great deal in the nature of conciliation, and there are growing signs that the Government have begun to find itself face to face with the real situation. We had a remarkable speech the other day from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, and now we have had a remarkable speech from the Solicitor General—a speech in which he put his case far more moderately than he did two years ago. Still, we have the question of compensation raised. The word "compensation," although one for which there was some excuse two years ago, is not applicable now, since the Court of Appeal, in 796 "Sharp v. Wakefield," has decided what the law is. I listened to the exposition of the Solicitor General with reference to that case with a good deal of amazement. What the Solicitor General put forward was not the statement of the Judges, but that of the unsuccessful counsel for the unsuccessful appellant. In the proceeding before the Court it was contended that there was some right to consider the renewal of licences as an automatic process. But Lord Justice Fry, in the most distinct manner, negatived the argument which the Solicitor General put forward as the statement of the law. The position of the publican is this. He may go before the Court, and the Court is entitled to say Aye or No to the question whether the licence is to be renewed or refused. Now I come to the grain of truth in the case put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman. There is an absolute discretion in the Justices as to whether they will refuse the licence or not, but the discretion is of a judicial and not of an administrative nature. It is a discretion which is to be exercised on judicial principles, by a Judicial Body, acting, not upon any rules of law which bind them or render them subject to review, but according to certain rules of practice which are well understood. We have an illustration of that in the award of costs in law suits. This is a matter entirely in the discretion of Court. But those familiar with the Court procedure know that if a litigant succeeds he usually gets his costs, and if ho fails he is ordered to pay his opponent's costs. So in the case of renewals, the Court is not bound to give a renewal, but in the natural course of things the publican anticipates there will be a renewal. The advocates of the extreme Temperance Party propose to take the duties, which are now performed by the Justices in a judicial capacity, and shift their performance to the County Councils, who will perform them in an administrative capacity. It seems to me that that would give the owner of the licensed house some title to complain. I do not mean the man who has been guilty of misconduct, but the man whose house is respectably conducted, and who has probably paid for the goodwill, and whose goodwill is taxed and subject to 797 Probate Duty. That man deserves consideration, not because he has any legal title, as has been suggested from the Government benches, but because he has no legal title at all. He is deserving of consideration because he is a man who has acquired his business under the existing practice, and if it is altered he should not be placed in a worse position. It is an abuse of language to call that compensation, because condensation must be for some right of which a person is deprived. The ground of my opposition to this Bill is the assumption which it has underlying it. It is one thing to say that men are worthy of consideration on account of their trade being dealt with in future in an administrative and not a judicial capacity; but that is not sufficient ground for an expenditure of public money. Payment of money raised from taxation can only be justified when the payment is made to people in respect of that to which they are legally entitled. I object to the proposition of the Government because it affirms the very reverse and negative of that. Underlying the Bill is the vicious assumption that there is a right of property which gives a title to legal compensation. And I have another objection. If we are going to assume the principle of legal compensation, and that the publican has something for which he is legally entitled to be paid, then the proposals of the Government are ludicrously inadequate. I am far from wishing to identify myself with the extreme section of the Temperance Party, but I cannot assent to the proposals of the Government. At the same time, I am prepared to approach this question with a due regard—not for vested interests, for there are none—but for the position of people who will suffer a moral hardship from the law regulating their trade being carried out in an administrative instead of a judicial capacity. That is quite a different tiring to what is put before us to-night. I object altogether to the principle which underlies the proposal of the Government, and I, for one, shall vote against it.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow, at Two of the clock.