§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [12th May],"That the Bill be now read a second time."
And which Amendment was,
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. Cain)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ *(2.45.) SIR W. H. HOULDSWORTH (Manchester, N.W.)
Reference has been made, during the course of this Debate, to the attitude and action taken by the Church of England Temperance Society, and although I have no mandate from them to speak on their behalf I think it 825 is only right that I should clearly state the position to the House. The hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) stated yesterday that the support which this Society is supposed to give to the Bill is really the action of a small sub-Committee, and he insinuated that they were acting without full authority from the Society, Now, it is perfectly true that this action has been taken by the legislative sub-Committee; but that is only a portion of the truth, for, as a matter of fact, the Central Committee, which is the Constitutional organ of the Society, met the day before and carefully considered the provisions of the Bill. They had no opportunity of receiving full information in regard to the provisions of the Bill, and I believe that, as a matter of fact, they had only one copy of it before them. But however that may be, they came to the conclusion that their best course was to relegate the Bill and the whole of the question to the Legislative Sub-Committee, and they distinctly gave that Committee full power to consider the provisions of the measure and to propose any amendments in it that were necessary. They were also authorised to make arrangements for an interview with the President of the Local Government Board, and generally to represent the Society in reference to the provisions of the Bill. Therefore, I think I may confidently state that the Committee fully represent the whole Society, and have Constitutionally expressed its opinions. It is quite true that the Executive Committee have very properly reaffirmed the principles laid down three years ago in regard to compensation, and these principles are, I believe, embodied or referred to in a resolution intimating that they have put down certain suggestions which they ask the Government to take into consideration. I should like to say further, in order that there may be no misconception, that the Legislative Committee are a very strong and representative body, and I should like to direct the attention of the House to the outcome of their action in order that there may be no mistake. Having heard the statement of the President of the Local Government Board, the Legislative Committee put down certain conditions upon which they were prepared to give their 826 support to the Government. The suggestions which they ask the Government to take into consideration are five—first, that words should be introduced providing that nothing in the Act should be taken to prejudice the question of compensation or to establish any claims thereto in any Licensing Act, or to determine the question of licensing authority. It is quite clear that the Legislative Committee have clearly grasped the distinction between the provisions of the Bill and compensation, which are two entirely different matters. Before they went to the President of the Local Government Board they had grasped it, and they wished words to be introduced clearly distinguishing between compensation and the provisions of the Bill. In the second place, the resolution declares that nothing in the Act shall be taken to interfere with the power possessed by the present Licensing Authorities to refuse the renewal of licences without compensation. Three other suggestions were made, and I understand that the Government have accepted every one of them, and, that being the case, the support which the Society is in a position to give is, I think, justified. Hence the whip sent out by the Chairman of the Society, which was referred to last night. Reference was made by the hon. Member for Barrow to the 10 years' limit, and he seemed to think that it was one of the conditions the Society made in giving its support to the Bill. I venture to say that it is nothing of the kind. It is perfectly inapplicable to the present Bill. The 10 years' limit Bill dealt entirely with compensation, and it would be monstrous to say that because you are going, by this Bill, to give the County Councils power to buy up licences, you should, by a side wind, without any consideration as to the form the compensation should take, enact in a Bill, which does not apply to the question at all, that after a certain period compensation shall cease altogether. That would be prejudging the question altogether, and I think that, as hon. Gentlemen opposite object to prejudge the general question, the best course is to leave it entirely open. As the 10 years' limit has been referred to, I should like to say what the position of the Society and my own position are in regard to it. The position we take up is this: We refuse to recognise any 827 legal claim whatever for compensation, assuming that the Magistrates have absolute discretion. But we hold that there is very strong moral and equitable claim to amoderate, reasonable, and terminable compensation. That claim arises because, assuming that the law on the matter to be perfectly clear, still no sufficient notice of a great change in the administration of the law has been given to the trade. We suggest that, when licences are taken away because the Magistrates think the houses unnecessary, compensation on a scale to be fixed by Parliament should be paid during the 10 years following such an Act, by which time we think sufficient notice would have been given. I do not think that any one judging the question fairly can come to any other conclusion than that it is hopeless to expect that Magistrates or any Local Authority invested with the absolute power of discretion would use the power of withdrawing licences unless accompanied by compensation. Athough the Temperance Party may be strong on some of the Local Bodies, still it must be remembered that among that Party there are many fair-minded men who would decline to change the present system of administration and to throw men and their families out of employment and destroy their property simply because England has decided upon taking a moral turn and intends hereafter to become sober. I heartily support the Bill, because I think it is a forward step in the Temperance Movement. I know it is said that it deals with compensation. If I thought it dealt with compensation I should have a good deal to say on the subject, because I think it would be necessary to introduce many other provisions into the Bill. But it is not compensation that it deals with; it is rather a system of purchase, which is wholly and entirely different from compensation; and I scarcely understand the confusion which appears to prevail in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite on the subject. Take the case of a Railway Company. It wants land for a railway, and there are two ways in which it can obtain it— either by purchase under agreement or by compulsory powers. I admit that there is payment in both cases, but there is a great difference in the mode. So 828 also in this case—compensation must depend upon a number of circumstances, especially when the question happens to be compensation for the withdrawal of a licence. I do not think that any hon. Member opposite will deny for a moment that public houses are marketable commodities. They are bought or sold every day, and they are bought and sold by Corporations under Statutory provisions. Personally, I must say I would rather that the public money was spent in extinguishing licences than in keeping them alive, which is the case now. Then we are told of vested interests—that we are proposing to recognise a continuous vested interest. I deny it altogether if by a vested interest is meant an indiscriminate and indefinite interest over a series of years. We are doing nothing of the sort. But will any hon. Member deny that there is a vested interest at present which is a purchaseable article and a marketable commodity? It is recognised that there are vested interests in beer houses licensed before 1869, and that the Magistrates have no power to withdraw these licences. So also there is certainly a vested interest in every public house for a year, and a distinct value can be put upon the chance of renewal of the licence. There will always be a value attached to the house so long as the licence is continued, and it will be a marketable commodity varying with the reputation of the house, the character of the neighbourhood, the disposition of the authorities, and many other circumstances. Marketable commodities have no relation to compensation, and I fail to see how there can be anything detrimental to the cause of temperance in giving to the County Councils the powers contained in the Bill in addition to the limited powers they at present possess of buying public houses for other public purposes. I confess I cannot understand the policy of a certain section of the Temperance Party. There are two classes of temperance reformers—one who would rather have no reform save according to their own method. These are the impracticable temperance reformers, and as Mr. Bright said some years ago they have failed, and they always will fail, because they do not take advantage of their opportunities, but prefer a cut-and-dried 829 system, and will accept nothing but that system. It is owing to the attitude of this class of temperance reformers that temperance legislation has been kept back and retarded during the past 30 or 40 years. But there is another class of reformers—and one which, I am glad to say. is becoming more numerous every day. They are to be found even amongst extreme temperance reformers. I refer to the class who though they have a preference for one system over another, and though they hold a strong opinion that their own system is the only one which ultimately will work out the object they have in view, still, as opportunity offers from year to year, rather than stand still and wait for a time when they can take a leap and a bound they are willing to take a single step, though it may be only a small one, in advance. If the policy of this last-named class had been adopted by the whole Temperance Party in this country, many steps by this time would have been taken, and a great deal of progress would have been made, in the direction in which we desire to go. I believe we should by this time have had a large number of Acts on the Statute Book which would have promoted the cause of temperance. If the House looks back over the past 20 years it will find there have been many proposals made for practical legislation which have been opposed by the extreme section of the Temperance Party. The Act of Mr. Bruce was opposed by them in 1871, and temperance reformers of the present day are bitterly regretting the opposition which was offered to that measure. By that opposition a great opportunity was lost. In that Bill there was the 10 years' limit; and if that measure had been passed we should now be years beyond the 10 years' limit, and the question would have been completely got out of the way. Yet the Temperance Party opposite—for what reason I do not know—preferred their cut-and-dried system, and opposed the very moderate compensation proposed in that Bill. Then there was a remarkable incident in connection with the partial Sunday Closing Bill, brought in by the hon. Member for Durham in 1885 or 1886. That was a very workable Bill, and one that I think would have done an immense deal of good. But what happened? The 830 Bill passed the Second Reading, and there seemed to be a disposition to carry it through; but the Member for South Shields, an ardent temperance reformer, proposed, in Committee, what was practically total closing on Sunday. The hon. Member carried his Amendment in a small House and by a snatch Division, and the result was to wreck the Bill. The Bill was withdrawn, and we have not moved a single step in the matter from that time to this. Then there was the Bill of 1888, and, without saying that that was a perfect measure, I believe it could have been amended and that the Compensation Clauses could have been made perfectly moderate and reasonable. The compensation period would have been terminable, and by this time two years of this terminating period would have elapsed. And in this way opportunities are being lost year by year. We now have the present measure, and I am bound to say that if the Temperance Party defeat it they will incur a very heavy responsibility. I do not know that I can say that it is a very large measure. I admit that it is not large; but I have come to the conclusion that we can only proceed in this matter by small steps, until we can get public opinion educated up to, and the Temperance Party united upon, a general policy. We could get a great deal from this Bill. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite realise what we should gain by it? There would, under it, be no more new licences save under special conditions; there would be a popular body dealing with the temperance question. It might only be the thin end of the wedge, but there it is. And then there would be perfect freedom from all questions in the future as to the absolute discretion of the Magistrates to deal with the question of renewals. This discretion has been termed a blot in the Bill, as it insinuates the idea that the Magistrates have not discretionary powers at present. Well, I am no lawyer, and cannot give a definite opinion on that matter myself; but, at any rate, if there is a doubt in some minds as to the power of the Magistrates, the Bill will set it at rest. Whatever discretion now exists will still exist. Every care has been taken that no increased value shall be occasioned by the Bill; every care has been taken to protect the temperance interest; and, so far as I can judge from 831 the tone and temper of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, he is most willing to entertain any fair suggestion for the amendment of the Bill. The question is —does the House mean to throw away this opportunity? It has had chances before, but has thrown them away. Are we going to repeat that fatal mistake? As I have said, the measure is a small one, and many people doubt how far the County Councils will use the powers which will be conferred upon them, but that is no argument against the Bill. Let us see what the County Councils will do; let us have some new light thrown on this temperance question. The action and attitude of the County Councils will be a guide for future legislation. Some of the County Councils may not use the powers of the Bill, others may use them to the full extent, and others may use them more or less, according to circumstances. I do not think we ought to be frightened by the cry raised as to the large sum of money that will have to be expended. The hon. Member for Barrow always seems to have too much in his mind the aristocratic public houses and to ignore an immense number of small houses. According to a statement I had prepared a year or two ago there are 961 licensed houses in Manchester, and of those the number whose gross rental does not exceed £20 was 116, while the number of those whose rental was from £20 to £30 was 341. It would not cost much to purchase the licences of these houses, which formed nearly one-half of the total number in the town. In both town and country districts there are large numbers of small houses with which the County Councils could deal. I regret that twice the amount mentioned in the Bill has not been devoted to the purpose of buying licences, believing that the Councils will not make such bad bargains as some hon. Members suppose. I support the Bill because I believe it will have the effect of greatly removing the temptations to drink. The measure is an honest attempt to deal with a very difficult question, and it will do good by strengthening public opinion in favour of a more complete measure of temperance reform. Looking at the Bill as an experiment, I am not sure that it will not be wise to make it terminable. For if 832 the Councils should take an extreme view and should decline to spend the money as provided in the Bill, the fund would accumulate and would have to be dealt with by Parliament, and I am not sure, as hon. Members have doubts as to the soundness of the scheme, that the Government would not be well advised if they made the Bill altogether experimental. They might make it terminable at the end of 10 years, and then, having had 10 years' experience, Parliament could revise the whole question. This would mitigate much of the opposition now offered. In conclusion, I would repeat that those who take it upon themselves to defeat the measure—the first practical measure for many years which has had a chance of passing into law will be accepting a very heavy responsibility—a responsibility for which they will have to give account.
§ *(3.17.) MR. P. ESSLEMONT) (Aberdeen, E.
It will be for those who belong to the Church of England Temperance Society to meet the hon. Member's arguments in that respect, but, on another point, I may say I am sorry to find that he has no faith in the present Bill. He says it is a small measure and that the County Councils will very likely refuse to act upon it. Well, what can operate in his mind to induce him to support the Bill? So far as I am concerned, I have only one or two considerations to put before the House—and I think they are considerations which will require an answer. It has been my duty for a long time past to deal with licences, and I quite sympathise with any Government that tries to bring about a different state of things in regard to them than that which at present obtains. I can say that anything more unsatisfactory than the present licensing system could not possibly be found. But we are required to deal with quite another consideration here. In Scotland I quite admit that things in this respect are quite different from England and Ireland. We have, as Licensing Magistrates in Scotland, recognised in no way whatever money transactions in regard to licences. We have no regard to the amount of money a person may pay as a matter of speculation for licensed premises, our only consideration being the necessities of the community. It is maintained by the Government that there is a value in 833 licences, and that they ought to be bought at compensation price. I want the President of the Local Government Board to recognise where this value is derived from. The Licensing Magistrates commissioned by the community have a delegated right to give a licence for a certain price. Is that licence worth more than the money paid for it? Let us assume, for the sake of illustration, that the licence on account of the rent of the property is £50 a year. That is a right we give for a money consideration, not for the individual, but the community, If this is not an individual right, to whom does it belong? Unquestionably, it belongs to the community; and what is the consideration thus given or taken? The consideration given is the value of the licence as a working licence. Supposing that the value of the working licence is £100 a year instead of the £50 [)aid for it, the additional £50 clearly belongs to the community. If any person doubles and trebles that price surely a case is made out for increasing the value of licences, so that instead of £50 licences should cost £100 or more; and, moreover, we should not grant this privilege to any individual and allow him to sell it at a profit, pocketing that profit which belongs to the public. If we are to give licences at their marketable value surely we ought to raise the price. If to raise the price of the licence we take away the whole selling value and the consequent profit surely there is nothing to prevent our doing so. There is in my county a very large estate, the proprietor of which claims the right to let no part of it for the sale of intoxicating drink. The law does not interfere with the proprietor in this action. If he extinguishes a licence on the estate, he has a right to do so in the knowledge that he reduces the value of the house and of his property; but the landlord considers that there is such moral benefit to the people by the extinction of such licence that he refuses to take the extra value for a trade that demoralises the community. The landlord can do that now. Are we to institute a new law which will enable the County Councils to make the community pay for what. under the existing system, a landlord so acting has to pay for himself? These are considerations which must be taken 834 into account in discussing this proposal of the Government. Further, I believe that there is no occasion for pressing this question of compensation. I believe that under the existing law it is quite possible, and quite within the power of the Magistrates, to reduce the number of existing licences very largely without any compensation whatever; and where Licensing Magistrates have had the wish to reduce the number of licences there has been no difficulty about it. I think it is a monstrous proposal that the people of the community should be called upon to pay out of public money for a thing which they have all along held - which the public sentiment of the country holds—is a right conferred not on any individual, but for the community of a particular neighbourhood. I noticed in this discussion that Members speaking from the Benches opposite have very much harped on this: that there are a large number of public houses which can be done away with almost without any compensation whatever. I claim for these small houses that they are not the houses which are doing mischief in the locality. Many of them are hostelries and small hotels conducted upon a plan and under a supervision which make them a convenience to the public and not as objectionable as the large public houses to which the compensation will go if this Bill passes. I think it is unfair that these houses should be singled out, not having influence and the brewers at their back, as places from which the licences may be taken without compensation, while the large houses in populous districts, doing a thriving business at the expense of the morals of the community, are those alone which are to receive compensation. Representing Scotland, I maintain that the highest moral sentiments of the country are distinctly opposed to this proposal as a pernicious measure, and for that reason I shall give a strenuous opposition to the Bill at every stage.
§ *(3.35.) MR. SOMERVELL(Ayr, &c.)
I propose to address a few remarks to the House in support of the vote which I intend to give in favour of this Bill, not as the Representative of Scot-land, but merely as the Representative of one of its Divisions. I listened to the remarks of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont) with some amaze- 835 ment, for I failed to discover in them a single argument to induce the House to reject the measure. We are here to discuss the Second Reading of a Bill which proposes to divert a portion of the resources of the country to purposes which are desired by the people of Scotland; and hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies must not lose sight of the fact that if they vote in favour of the Amendment they will deprive the people of Scotland of the means of applying this money to purposes to which they desire to see it applied—such as a proper scheme for police superannuation, freeing education in the compulsory standards, the carrying out of the Pleuro-Pneumonia Act, without trenching on the grant in aid of pauper lunatics. Then, again, the County Councils are about to appoint Medical Officers and Sanitary Inspectors, and I would ask if they are to have no assistance from this fund in paying these new officers? Why is this measure to be thrown out? Not because of any objection on behalf of the individuals who are to find the additional money, but because we are told there is a certain objection on the part of certain people to give compensation to publicans. The Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Barrow does not contain a word about compensation from beginning to end. He only asks the House to pledge itself not to devote the public money to the purchase of annual licences, in the manner provided by this Bill, a totally different thing from compensation. The hon. Member for North-West Manchester (Sir W. Houldsworth) has pointed out that the principle of compensation and the principle of purchase are totally different things. The hon. Member for Barrow, in moving his Amendment, referred to two elections which have recently occurred for the borough I have the honour to represent. He told us that in 1888 an Unionist was defeated because of the Compensation Clauses of the Bill then before the House; but I should like to inform him that in my candidature I distinctly stated that I was in favour of compensation from a fund to be raised out of the drink itself, and of transferring the power of granting or refusing licences to the County Councils; and in order that my statement might not be liable to misrepresentation, I stated that I would vote against any other 836 measure. The result was that I was returned. The constituency I represent are earnest in their advocacy of temperance reform, but they desire to see it carried out in a fair and equitable manner. We have been told by the hon. Member for the Govan Division (Mr. J. Wilson) that the heather is on fire. I am not aware that there is much heather in Govan. It is much more easily found in the district I represent, and I am certainly not aware that it is on fire. In contradiction to the statement of the hon. Member, I say, unhesitatingly, that the people of Scotland are not prepared to sacrifice the money which is proposed to be devoted to purposes of free education and police superannuation in order to throw out this Bill. There is one ground which might justify hon. Members in voting against the measure, namely, if it were proposed to take the money out of the Consolidated Fund; but I apprehend that the only persons entitled to object to this tax are the manufacturers, vendors, and consumers of intoxicating drinks. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that he intended to make the tipplers pay for tea; but now it appears that hon. Gentlemen opposite object to the tipplers paying for the teetotallers. I believe that the people affected are unanimous in supporting the measure in its entirety. The distillers have been met fairly and generously by the Government, who have intimated that they will introduce a measure dealing with German spirits which will more than compensate them for the additional 6d. they will have to pay. So far as the publicans—who are the middlemen—are concerned, they have unanimously passed resolutions in support of the proposals of the Government; and, in regard to the consumers, I am not aware that a single meeting has been held for the purpose of protesting against the additional 6d. The measure is not one of a heroic character, and I really cannot understand why it should not be accepted, seeing that it will confer the advantage of free education and other benefits upon the people of Scotland, as well as promote the cause of temperance. I represent a constituency in which a considerable amount of drink is manufactured, and in which there is a considerable amount consumed, but in which also there are strong Temperance Organisa- 837 tions. In supporting the Second Reading of the Bill, I feel that I am only doing my duty as the Representative of these varied interests, and that the measure itself is one which deals with the temperance question from a practical and sensible point of view.
§ *(3.45.) MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
I wish to discuss the question from the point of one who has for many years been a practical reformer in the temperance movement. The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont) has said that landlords, under present circumstances, have been willing to sacrifice money in order to do away with public houses, but that in future they would go to the County Councils and ask for compensation. I do not believe that that is the fact, and, speaking from my own experience, I may say that wherever the landlord has shut up public houses he has done, as a rule, no injury at all to his tenant, but a great deal to himself, because the entire loss fell upon him. I wish altogether to repudiate the argument used by the Solicitor General last night, and I deny the accuracy of his remarks as to the power of the Magistrates with regard to the refusal to renew licences. I maintain that what the Solicitor General said was bad both in law and in fact, and am prepared to prove both assertions. The case of "Sharp v. Wakefield" has proved that there is no vested interest in public houses, and that the Magistrates have perfect power over the renewal of licences. They have an absolute right to refuse if they choose. Now, I would not vote for this Bill, or for a single word or line in it, if I believed that it would set up a vested interest in any way whatsoever I believe that when the Amendments promised yesterday by the President of the Local Government Board have been put in the Bill, and perhaps some more adopted while the Bill is in Committee, the measure will be deprived of any ground of complaint that it sets up vested interests. The President of the Local Government Board stated that he would restrict the issue of off licences, and that he would insert a clause which would set forth most clearly the right of Magistrates to use their discretion in refusing to renew licences. That clause is one which I think should be watched very carefully 838 after the speech of the Solicitor Genera], who, I hope, will have nothing to do with the drafting of it. I should like to point out what, in my opinion, will be the result of the power given under the Bill together with the power which the Magistrates now use fairly. I believe that, after the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield," the Magistrates will get rid, as far as possible, of all unnecessary and all moderately, as well as badly-conducted, houses. There is another class of houses—generally small houses—conducted very fairly and with credit; but they do a very small business, indeed, and it will be a very good thing to get rid of them, I believe that the purchasing power intrusted to County Councils will be used for the purpose of getting rid of those houses. I desire to see them got rid of because they do an unprofitable business and prevent other houses from being managed in a respectable manner. Such houses deprive a neighbourhood of the peace which ought to prevail. My experience as a Magistrate is that in a village where there is only one public house, good order prevails, and the services of the policeman are not in much request; but in villages where there are two or more public houses it takes fully half the time of the policemen to watch the public houses. I can speak of this with some experience as a Magistrate; for when I was actively engaged in attending Petty Sessions more regularly than I am able to do now, I found that, in my division, nearly all the cases came from four parishes, in two of which there were two public houses, in one three, and in the other five. We had only to sit once a month, and I believe that if in each of these parishes there had only been one public house, it would not have been necessary to sit more than once in three months. No Government can accept such an Amendment as this now under consideration, and then go on with the Bill. It is an Amendment that will be absolutely fatal to the Bill. What has been the object of reform in temperance matters for years past but to decrease temptation and diminish public houses? Will not that be the result of this Bill? I do not, myself, see why temperance reformers should object to public houses providing funds to assist them. It seems to me rather a dog-in- 839 the-manger policy. Some temperance reformers will not give any money from rates, and now they will not allow publicans to assist them. I have always recognised that, if there is no legal or vested interest, a publican has, at any rate, the right to be treated as any other tradesman would be if disturbed. We are told that Parliament ought not to deal with this question, and I ask, Why not? I say, on the contrary, that we are almost pledged by our action in 1888 to deal with the question in the present Parliament. The constituencies did not wish the Licensing Clauses to be incorporated in the Bill of 1888 on good and sufficient ground, for they do not wish it to be a question at the first election of County Councillors. Well, I do not know what other temperance reformers may be pledged to in this matter. In 1888 I saw the crisis coming, and went down to Grimsby and asked both interests to meet me on the same day, and the resolution then come to expressly states that it ought to be dealt with by a separate and comprehensive Bill in the present Parliament. Now, I strongly support this Bill for what there is in it, but I shall probably move some amendments in Committee. I am strongly in favour of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington's (Lord R. Churchill) Bill, for I believe in the abolition of beer houses, the raising of the status of public houses, and direct responsibility of those having the control of them; and I agree that there should be some provision to make Magistrates more careful than they are in granting renewals. I would even go so far as this: I would compel every public house to have a coffee room in it, where refreshments could be got without having to go to the bar or the tap room. I would also like very much to see some limitation put with regard to the purchasing powers. I think that a term of 10 years would be quite enough for this Bill. In the meantime, there could be a large comprehensive scheme that would thoroughly deal with the question. I think that the publicans are as much entitled to compensation for disturbance from County Councils as they would be if disturbed for the purposes of public improvements or of a railroad, and I do not see why we should refuse to give them this compensation, in order 840 to smooth the way for temperance, or to ensure the health and prosperity of the people. I have not forgotten, and I cannot forget, the admission of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) when he said, in 1880, that he wanted a frank recognition of the principle that we are not to deny the publicans as a class the benefits of equal treatment. Here is laid down the principle of equitable compensation for disturbing the trade by the will of the people, or their representatives on Local Councils.
*(4.2.) MR. A. GATHORNE HARDY (Sussex, East Grinstead)
I wish to treat this question as far as possible free from Party bias. I am content to take it that the effect of the "Sharp v. Wakefield" decision was correctly put by the other side, and that there is no vested right in licences. But at the same time I take that with the qualification that has been given to it by many speakers, for it has been clearly pointed out by hon. Members opposite, that, though there is no vested right in licences, the holders of them have a claim to fair and equitable treatment, and that their rights have so far been recognised. It has so far been the established practice that their position should not be disturbed without adequate reason that it would be indeed a harsh thing if their trade were disturbed without adequate compensation being given to them. I am not now dealing with the amount of compensation, but merely with the principle. Lord Coleridge has said that there is nothing in England that would help the question more than bringing to bear upon it the great principles of fairness and justice, and nothing would defeat their ends more than if any one had the right to say he has been unjustly and inequitably treated. Whatever may be the legal rights of the licence-holders, they have an equity that they should not be ruined because the mind of England has changed on the subject. Their equitable interest ought not to be upset. That would not be to the advantage of the Temperance Party; and would recoil on the heads of those who supported it. Let me point out the difference between abstract and individual interests. We are all in the House of Commons the advocates of economy in the abstract, but all know very well that when the case 841 of a particular interest is brought before the House we are apt to throw our ideas of economy to the winds. I am satisfied that many of those who are at this moment shouting for no compensation to the publicans, if it came to the individual case of Mr. So-and-so, with whom they were acquainted, and if they found that he had invested the savings, perhaps of a lifetime, in a public house for which he had paid a considerable price, and was to be turned out into the streets without a penny of compensation, they would be outraged at such a thing taking place, and there would be a block in the way of the temperance movement in the future. The Mover of the Amendment raised also the question as to whether compensation should be given to other persons, and gave an instance of property at Liverpool where in one district there were eight public houses, and in the other only one, and argued that damage had resulted to property in the district where there were eight. I venture to think that that is an argument to which this House would not listen without requiring to know more about the neighbourhood. Then the Mover of the Amendment said, take any hundred working men. eliminate from them all the total abstainers, and the majority of those left would repudiate compensation proposals. That test, however, it is impossible to carry out. For my own part I can only say this, that I have in many constituencies and on many occasions spoken to large representative meetings of working men. and I have always advocated the principle of fair and legitimate compensation, and stated that it was impossible to meet the question on any other terms. On those occasions I have met with few dissentient voices. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir George Trevelyan) has given vent to one or two propositions which, to my mind, are absolutely astounding. In the first place he has committed himself to this, that the partial extinction of public houses would not diminish drink, but would only give a larger traffic to those remaining, and would really do no good. I can only say that that statement is in opposition to the statements of temperance reformers up to now. Everyone who has addressed the House upon this question has de- 842 plored the number of licences that exist. I cannot help thinking that the great wit of the right hon. Gentleman must have deserted him when, in the next place, he was dealing with the question of whether it was the houses of great or small value that caused intemperance to the greater extent. He (Sir George Trevelyan) showed that he had made an examination of the number of public houses in Bedfordshire, and the Returns of drunkenness, and also the Returns in London, and he found that the offences were much greater in London than in Bedfordshire, the houses being of greater value in London. He, therefore, seemed to think that he had proved his proposition. To deliberately put before the House the naked proposition of the comparison between Bedfordshire and London was almost an insult to the capabilities of this House. This measure consists of three parts. In the first place, it redeems the pledges of the President of the Local Government Board to give further assistance to the ratepayers with regard to local taxation. I know the grievance of that pledge not having been fulfilled was very seriously felt in the country. It was felt that something should be done to get that £800,000 out of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which we lost by the Van and Wheel Tax not being passed. I attended with the deputation which waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I urged that view; and I am most thankful to the right hon. Gentleman for the full, frank, and free manner in which he has fulfilled that pledge in the present Bill. I believe that the country attaches the greatest importance to it. The second question is the suspension of licences. Do hon. Members who oppose this really consider what they are doing? It will be found practically impossible to carry into effect a very great and heroic measure of stopping an enormous number of public houses at a time. I believe time will fight on our side. The Magistrates have every right, and they certainly have the duty, to see that they only renew licences when the houses are well conducted. I believe there is an increasing feeling among them that that duty presses upon them. The suspensory powers in this Bill will 843 prevent the creation of new licences, and in an appreciable time a great reform will have been carried out, and one that will be very beneficial to the community. Then there comes the proposal, to which the greater part of this Debate has been addressed—the purchase of licences. To that there have been two objections urged: one that the Bill is inadequate, and the other that it involves untold liabilities. I should quite agree that the proposal was wholly inadequate if it was a proposal for dealing with all licences, but the Government proposal is for the extinction not of all licences, but of some licences by purchase. The sum intended to be appropriated for the purpose shows that is only intended to be a small act for a temporary purpose. If the money is wisely and beneficially used I believe that it will be supplemented by a further sum. I think it is perfectly fair that, considering the taking away of one licence gives additional value to the licence which remains, some additional charge should be put upon those licences which remain, and the money so derived might very well be used in the future to supplement the present sum. In a letter to the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, addressed to him by a distinguished civil servant, the former Secretary of the Board of Trade, the writer has given evidence that though he knows a good deal about the trade of the country he is not very familiar with the licensing question. He says—Supposing I was President of a County Council Committee. Supposing the clergy of the district were to suggest to me that a particular house is injurious to morality, would it be for me to go hat in hand to the owner of the house and say I want to buy you out? Sell me your property as cheaply as you can.I venture to think the gentleman who wrote that letter wholly misapprehends the position of the Magistrates with regard to the question; because, if the public house is badly conducted the Magistrates have the power and the right to refuse to renew the licence. With regard to the question of compensation we have enormous figures put before us, but I believe them to be a bogey raised by the hon. Member the Mover of the Amendment. It is impossible, I quite agree, to treat these properties as freehold. They are a precarious property, and those who 844 buy know that they are liable to be turned out if they do not carry their business on properly. They know, too, that there is a discretion in the hands of the Magistrates, though it has not been used capriciously. But is it the fact that the law recognises no property in these licences? It has been accepted as common ground on both sides of the House that, for the purposes of probate and taxation, interests in public houses have been treated as property. When I was practising at the Bar, some considerable time ago, I was concerned to a certain extent, in what are called compensation cases; and I can assure the House that I have known arbitrators and juries give compensation for public houses taken for the purpose of public improvements just as they would have given compensation in ordinary cases. Supposing, in the future, the London County Council had absolute discretion to take away a licence without compensation. In the first place, they are promoting a Bill for the improvement of the Strand. They take a block of premises, including two public houses, in regard to which they would have to give notice under the Lands Clauses Act, providing compensation. That compensation would be assessed as it is assessed now, and these publicans would recover a considerable amount of compensation for what they have lost. But in an adjoining street, which they do not want for the purpose of public improvement, they might, in the exercise of their discretionary powers, extinguish licences of other two publicans, absosolutely without compensation, and turning them into the street without a penny. Some one may say, "You could extinguish the licence first, and take the property afterwards for your improvements." Is that argument going to be raised? Are we to have the case of Naboth's vineyard? "Hast thou killed and also taken possession?" Are you going to take away such licences which would not be taken away because you think it necessary in the interests of public morality? I will not insult hon. Members by thinking they will take such a course as that. I thank the House for having listened to what I have had to say. We are to have very large and imposing demonstrations; certain gentlemen have subscribed hun- 845 dreds of pounds; no doubt we shall see reproduced from the lumber rooms the banners with which we were familiar in 1888; and I congratulate the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth upon the fact that the existence of these banners will, to a certain extent, diminish the expense that he and his friends have incurred in organising the demonstration. With regard to Petitions, of course I have presented any sent up by my constituents; but I must say that of two I presented the other day, I found one was from a Lodge of Good Templars, and the other from a Temperance Society in the same district, and when I looked at the signatures, I found that some of the members of the two Associations were identical, and that the two Petitions were, in effect, almost one. The House will remember the device resorted to in the minor theatres to produce the effect of the passage of a great army. A small number of supernumeraries pass over and over again from one side of the wings to the other, constantly crossing and re-crossing the stage, so as to produce the appearance of a great and imposing demonstration. I think the Petitions to which I allude are largely produced by means of a similar device. For my part, I believe the expense of these proposals to be enormously exaggerated. If I did not believe it I think I should be entitled to ask whether, because a thing is very valuable indeed, you ought to take it for nothing? I have heard from many an hon. Gentleman opposite, speaking from many a platform, statements as to the enormous saving to the community the closing of public houses will effect. We are told that our prisons will be emptied, and that the great and growing curse of lunacy will be diminished. And are we to be told that we are to postpone such reforms as these because we have to put our hands into our pockets? Let us have the courage of our opinions. If we are to effect these reforms let us be prepared to pay for them. I believe myself that if this Bill be carried it will be a great step in the right direction, although I cannot suppose it will be a final step. I believe public opinion, when it is rightly given, will be on the side of the Government. I say to them: "Be just, and fear not," and in that spirit I support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ (4.34.) MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
I am most anxious to urge upon the Government and the House the mischief they will do, if they deal with a small part of this great and difficult question, before they are prepared to deal with it thoroughly and comprehensively. I shall be able to show from past experience that when you have increased, as you will increase by the present proposals, the enormous value of the public houses, without taking precautions against that increased power and wealth of corruption being used to promote drunkenness, while you paralyse the law to prevent such abuses, you will seriously increase the very evils you are trying to diminish. On introducing the Bill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer promised that precautions should be taken to meet this danger. I fail to find in the Bill the effectual precaution promised that the enormously enhanced value which will be given to licences by the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall not be brought in as a charge for compensation when the great question of licences comes up for settlement. The provision in the Bill, though not intended to be, is practically an insult to the intellect of the House. As the man in Scripture said "Be ye clothed and fed," the Bill says: "Be the evil pointed out prevented," but takes absolutely no precaution, takes no security that any precaution will be or can be taken against the evil admitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, indeed, patent to any one having the most elementary acquaintance with economic laws. And yet I shall be able to show before I sit down that the enormously increased value which the present action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give to the existing licences, is emphasising and increasing the very difficulty which has made the due enforcement of the law against encouraging drunkenness practically a dead letter. That neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, nor even one having much less knowledge than he has of the laws which govern prices, supply, and demand, will deny that when you stop the creation of new licences, and buy up existing licences, you increase by millions on millions the value of existing licences, and thereby make it more difficult, if 847 not impossible, to put any legal check upon the spread of drunkenness. I would appeal to the Home Secretary, and to everyone who has really tried to go to the bottom of the subject, to say whether they have not found that the mere diminution of the number of public houses, if accompanied, as I shall show it has been, with the development of those left into gigantic gin palaces, and with a diminution in the power of checking the offences of permitting drunkenness, or, to speak more correctly, of encouraging drunkenness has the effect of increasing and not diminishing that dreadful evil. Many years ago, in conversation on this subject, in 1877, with the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), I assumed that the increase or diminution of drunkenness went hand in hand with the increase of diminution of licensed houses, independent of any other considerations. He brought me up with the question, "Have you ascertained that that is really the state of the facts; and is it not desirable that the true state of the matter should be ascertained before we proceed to legislate on it?" I felt the justice and force of the rebuke, and moved for the Return of the necessary statistics, in August, 1873, and on receipt of that Return, in the following year, I employed an experienced accountant to calculate and tabulate for me the statistics, so as to show the proportion of convictions for drunkenness to population, and the proportion of public houses to population, and how far the two went hand in hand together. The result astonished me, and everyone to whom I showed it. It appeared as if the fewer public houses the more drunkenness, and the more public houses the less drunkenness. But the hon. Member for Barrow(Mr. Caine) justly pointed out that it was not fair to deal with the north and south of England, or with urban and rural districts, or even with large and small boroughs, as on the same footing, inasmuch as the circumstances differed so entirely, both as to the temptations to drinking and as to the means of the population. I had the statistics re-cast into north and south, urban and rural. The figures were somewhat less striking, but still I would defy any clear headed man to deny that there is any apparent connection between the number of public houses 848 and the convictions for drunkenness. On the contrary, they would seem to show that the arbitrary reduction of the number of public houses in a town, without any strengthening of the precautions against those that remain using their increased wealth and monopoly to encourage drunkenness, increases drunkenness. I will further show the House why this is, and how this increased power of monopoly defeats the very object for which the monopoly was conferred, and has made the law a positively dead letter, powerless to prevent or punish the tempter in his deadly work. In these tables you will find that among the boroughs north of Birmingham, with a population of 50,000 and upwards, Norwich stands best, only having one conviction for drunkenness for every 451 inhabitants, whereas Blackburn has fewer public houses in proportion to population of any other town, and yet it has apparently three times as much drunkenness as Norwich, and compares unfavourably with other towns in the same trade as itself. For instance, Stockport, also a cotton spinning town, showed only half the number of convictions in proportion to population, but has 50 per cent, more licensed houses in proportion to population of Blackburn. I showed the table to Mr. Bruce, the author, as Home Secretary, of licensing legislation of the 1868 Parliament. He pointed out at once that averages were very deceptive, and set to work to compare places in similar localities, and places in similar trades. He took Sheffield and Birmingham, both largely engaged in metal work and hardware of various descriptions. We certainly expected that Sheffield, with its dangerous, and, some of them, unhealthy trades, would have vastly surpassed Birmingham in its convictions for drunkenness. We found, on the contrary, that whereas Sheffield had about the same number of public houses in proportion to population, Sheffield had only one conviction for drunkenness for 200 of its population; Birmingham had one to every 126, or nearly double. Mr. Bruce then took Leeds and Sheffield, as being towns in the same county. Well, among the 19 large boroughs in the North of England, Leeds comes second in order of merit, having fewer licensed houses in proportion to population. It had only one licensed 849 house to every 316 inhabitants, whereas Sheffield had 50 per cent, more licensed houses, namely, one to 179. On the other hand, while Sheffield had only one conviction to every 200 inhabitants, Leeds had one to every 164. I was so much struck with this contrast, that, without stating why I had required the information, I asked one of the largest and most intelligent of the manufacturers of Leeds, which had the most drunkenness, Leeds or Sheffield? Ho answered, without any hesitation, that he was sorry to say Leeds. Of course, there will be special circumstances which may affect individual cases, but if you go through the figures carefully, as I have done, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that the facts show no relation whatever between the amount of drunkenness in a town, and the number of public houses, when the numbers are reduced, as they have been in this country, without any efficient precaution against the abuse of the increased power and wealth given to the remainder. A single specimen case will show the House how this part of our legislation has hitherto worked. The House will then see that the mere arbitrary restriction of licences has in it no tendency to discredit drunkenness, but that, on the contrary, taken alone it makes difficulties in the execution of the law and has just the opposite effect. Stringent laws are useless if you make their execution practically impossible. I have been brought to these conclusions not merely by these statistics, but by a study of the subject of the working of the laws in America and England during the last 21 years, or over. Just one instance to show how the law works. Two years after the passage of Sir Selwin Ibbetson's Beer Act I received a letter from one of my constituents, a. beer seller, living in one of the industrial quarters of Liverpool, complaining that the Magistrates did not execute the law justly between public houses and beer houses. He said, in effect—Sir Selwin Ibbetson's Act made my beer house licence worth £100, I committed an offence against the law, I was fined £5, the Magistrate endorsed it, on my licence, and thereby reduced the value of it from £100 to £60. Having committed an offence, I have no right to find fault with the Magistrates' sentence, if the law is equally enforced between rich and poor. But the manager of a public house in the 850 Same street committed the same offence—but the Magistrate went out of his way to say in a most aggravated form—he was fined the same amount of penalty as I was, £5, but the Magistrate did not endorse his licence. The public house belonged to a rich brewer owning many public houses. I ask you, is this fair?In my reply, I declined to give an opinion on an ex-parte statement. On my return to Liverpool, I placed the letter in the hands of a Magistrate, who took great interest in licensing and was an ardent supporter of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Cockermouth Division of Cumberland. He said at once that he had not a doubt of the truth of the man's statement, but that the value of the public house licence was, at least, £1,000, probably several thousand pounds. The endorsement on the licence would have reduced its value proportionately, at least as much, probably more than with respect to the beerhouse licence. So that the minimum penalty which the endorsement would have inflicted on the owner of the public house would have been £400 for an offence which the law only punishes with a penalty of £5. But I urged the monopoly was created which gave this enormous property to this man, not simply to make him enormously rich, but for the sake of the order, sobriety, and welfare of the community, and surely he has no right to complain if some part of that enormous wealth should be forfeited if he violates the law and defeats the very object to secure which he was allowed to become thus enormously rich.—Very true," said the Magistrate, "they ought to have endorsed it, but you will never get any Bench of Magistrates to inflict a fine on a man many times greater, nay! in some cases many thousand times greater than that directly inflicted by the law itself.I have shown you how the law works in an individual case. I will now show you the effect of the law in the mass. The convictions for drunkenness during the last three years, in Liverpool, were 13,601, 13,817, and 14,368, respectively, and the convictions for permitting drunkenness during those years were only six, seven, and six respectively, and, mark this, not one single offence of permitting drunkenness out of those 41,000 cases of permitted drunkenness, ay, and often encouraged drunkenness, was endorsed on either 851 public house or beer house licence. Will anyone in his senses say or believe that there were no such cases which ought to have been discovered and punished, and the more you look into it the more you will perceive that with the very wealth you have given the holder of licences, and which you are now proposing to pile on with the addition of millions, you have given him practical impunity in permitting and encouraging drunkenness. No one can wonder that this system demoralises alike the Licensed Victualler and his victim, or that, as I have been informed, the average time which the London Licensed Victualler, who manages his own house, remains in the business is not much over five years. In other words, the business is so profitable, or so demoralising, or both, that it only takes five years for those in the trade to make their fortunes, or to be too often ruined in both character and fortune. As it is very important that we should have accurate information, and as it is popularly believed that what is called the Liverpool experiment in open licensing caused Liverpool to have a more than ordinary number of licensed houses, and that it was owing to that that Liverpool had so many convictions for drunkenness, I beg to state that exactly the reverse of this is the case. Out of the 19 large towns, including Birmingham, there are only six which, by the Return I am quoting from, had so few public houses in proportion to population as Liverpool, while 12 of these large towns, which is double that number, were shown to have more public houses in proportion to population than Liverpool. As to drunkenness, there was some increase of drunkenness during the three years the experiment was continued, but during the last year of the experiment the convictions for drunkenness in proportion to population were rather less than during the year which preceded its initiation. I am sorry to say that the increase of drunkenness after the close system was renewed was most serious; but no doubt that was in part, at least, and indeed largely, owing to the prosperity and high wages of that period. I shall now, however, proceed to show another instance that, where the Magistrates did not allow the value of the licences to interfere with the strict administration 852 of the law, they were able largely to prevent the demoralising influence of that period of prosperity. I will refer those who wish to study this question to the evidence before the Lords' Committee on Intemperance, of my brother who was for many years Chairman of the Visiting Justices in Liverpool, who took an active part in upsetting what was called the open licensing experiment in Liverpool, but who, as he gained more experience, became convinced that we must look to diminishing the number of licences rather to strict provisions against permitting drunkenness, and their strict enforcement, than to their arbitrary reduction without such precautions. In a district adjoining Liverpool, called Garston, with a similar population to Liverpool dock labourers, quarrymen, whose work is rough and uncertain, and a population therefore difficult to deal with there the Magistrates have taken a course which I think the result has proved to be the right one, which has restricted the number of public houses by making it impossible for the publicans to carry on a drunken trade. I refer anyone who is interested in this question to the evidence of Mr. Robert Neilson, for many years the Chairman of the Licensing Committee of the Prestwich Division of Lancashire, given before the same Lords' Committee on Intemperance. They will find most conclusive evidence of the necessity and efficiency of the precautions for which I contend. The Committee in question were not likely to be reckless invaders of the licensing property. Their Chairman was a Conservative, one of their most active members was the Deputy Chairman of the Lancashire Quarter Sessions, a Conservative, and a shrewd and able lawyer. They continued for many years the system of restricting the number of licences simply by shutting out public houses which were promoting drunkenness and disorder. When a man came for a licence, if his character was unimpeachable, his house a proper one, and properly situated, they gave him a licence, but on the understanding that without any definite number of convictions they would refuse to renew his licence if he permitted drunkenness or allowed disorderly characters to assemble at his house; and they acted courageously, as I con- 853 tend every Magistrate ought to act, upon this principle. For, surely, if a man acts so as to defeat the very object for which this great property is given him, the very least you can do is to withhold continuance of the abused privilege. Well, the result was most satisfactory. At the very time when we were deploring the increase of drunkenness and disorder in Liverpool with its close system, the Chief Constable of the Prestwich Division, including Garston, with the same rough population of dock labourers that we have in Liverpool, and of quarrymen, and unskilled and casually employed labour, and this, remember, in prosperous times affecting both districts alike, reported from year to year a marked improvement in the management and conduct of the public houses in the district and a marked diminution in drunkenness and disorder. A confirmation of the evidence which you will find in the Report of the Lords' Committee on Intemperance was given me most unwittingly, but most straightforwardly, by a most unbiased witness, and one who did not see the force of the evidence he was giving. My hon. Friend the Member for Barrow told mo that he must send the Secretary of the United Kingdom Alliance to examine into the statements made by the Chief Constable. I was very glad that he should do so, as we all want only the truth, and he kindly directed the agent to see me on his return and report the result of his inquiries. The first words the agent spoke were. "You are quite wrong, Mr. Rathbone; there has been no increase at all in the number of public houses in Garston or its neighbourhood." I never said there had; but I asked, "Has there been no such change as has taken place in Liverpool? Has not the small public house blossomed out into the flaring gin palace, with its numerous entrances, its plate glass windows, and various attractions? Well, then," I said, "as to the improvement of drunkenness and disorder." He admitted there had been a great improvement in the order of the district and a great diminution in the cases taken up for drunkenness; indeed, so great had been the change that a solicitor who used to attend the Petty Sessions of the district had ceased to attend from lack of cases. But he attributed it to the establishment of a 854 police station in Garston, for he said that the ministers of religion stated that the improvement in disorderly habits had not been accompanied by any improvement in the drinking habits of the population. Well, as we had as powerful a police station as that at Garston, I cannot help thinking that the practised eyes of the police and the judgment of an experienced superintendent are more likely to have been right than the ministers of religion, whose feelings must be constantly excited and outraged by the large amount of drunkenness still remaining. And I told my Friend that he had completely proved my case by finding that the Prestwich Magistrates had been able to control the increase of licensed houses and greatly improve their management by simply strictly enforcing the law against permitting drunkenness. But the experience of this subject is not confined to this country. In other countries they have found that the worst system of all is one that gives the evils of monopoly without those precautions which monopoly is intended to secure. I found that in Sweden they had been persisting for over a century in trying to reform drunkenness by the simple reduction of the number of public houses without taking the precautions that I contend for. From 1,200 drink-shops in 1793, they reduced them to 700 in 1847 and to 500 in 1850; and in 1876, when I inquired, there were only 280 houses licensed to sell for consumption on the premises, and 30 for retail consumption off the premises. But to my question, "Have these measures attained, or brought you nearer attainment of, the desired object?" the reply was, "No, on the contrary; the number of cases punished has increased from I in 88 of the inhabitants in 1851 to I in 46 in 1874." And they were then proposing the adoption of the Gottenberg system by which the monopoly in the sale of drink would be practically in the hands of the public and for their benefit. And now, Sir, having pointed out the want of success of a mere arbitrary diminution of public houses without precautions, may I point out what can be done, according to our own experience, if the Magistrates are empowered and willing to enforce penalties on permitting drunkenness. During the time Mr. 855 Brace's Bill was at work, and before its provisions were weakened by Mr. Cross's Licensing Act, a very respectable man consulted me on behalf of a friend of his, evidently a respectable licensed victualler, with a public house in a most respectable neighbourhood. His friend told me that he was tired of the trade and wanted to get out of it, for he could no longer carry it on with the same advantage as before; that since the new Inspectors had been put on, the police had increased their vigilance, the Magistrates had become stricter, and the publicans were no longer allowed to sell drink to men who had had too much, without fear of an endorsement on their licences; and that this alone had reduced his takings by £700 a year. Consider what an amount of evil and demoralisation preventible under the present law, if strictly administered, that £700 a year represents. Consider the benefit of such strictness applied to those parts of the town where drunkenness prevails and a drunken trade is more unscrupulously carried on. The admirable Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr. Raffles, and the experienced Chief of the Police, Major Greig, of Liverpool, both stated in evidence that the system of Mr. Bruce's Bill of minimum penalties and endorsing licences was most salutary and ought not to be altered, nor ought the introduction of hours from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., nor had there been any invasion of the right of property; on the contrary, in 1869 127 public house licences were forfeited; in 1873 only 13 were forfeited. The reduction in the forfeitures in beerhouse licences were still more striking. It showed that the direction which I contend ought to be proceeded in was that in which Mr. Bruce's Act had proceeded, for the improvement caused by that Act arose from the increased care and attention to avoid infractions of the law from the more preventive effect of a severer law which was, therefore, required to be less often put in practice. And yet I regret to say that with this evidence before us those precautionary regulations were weakened by Mr. Gross's Act, with the results which we all deplore. I am afraid I have detained the House much longer than I could have wished in trying to connect cause and effect as far as they can be 856 deduced from practical experience. I will only ask permission to state in a very few minutes what I consider should be the course of the Government in the House. Pass, if you like, a suspensionary clause limited to two years till you can collect the necessary information, and then carefully consider how we can best deal with the whole question. Do not go on, as we too often do, with this haphazard, piecemeal legislation before we have collected and digested the matter necessary to enable us to legislate wisely and well. Let the Government in the meantime carefully collect, with the aid of the most acute minds whose services they can command, all the experience that can be procured on the subject. Take, for instance, the United States. They have tried almost every experiment in licensing, in local control, and in prohibition. Why should you not send to the United States a man with the acuteness of mind and freedom from prejudice of my friend Mr. R. S. Wright—I give him merely as the kind of man whom you ought to send—and let him collect from men of all sides and parties the results on their minds of American experience. You will not find, probably, any perfectly successful experiment; but you would be able to obtain for yourselves and lay before the country many useful hints of what could be done practically, and still more useful experience which would clear out of our way experiments which may have proved impracticable, or may require careful adaptation to varying circumstances. This course will, without inflicting discredit on anyone, avoid the frightful danger of making alike the reform and the administration of the law more difficult than it is already. And in the meantime the Magistrates, who will have had warning that their lax administration of the law will be no longer tolerated, will shut up 10 disreputable public houses for one which the means you are placing at the disposal of the County Councils and Local Authorities by your present proposals would enable you to close.
§ (5.20.) MR. ELLIOTT LEES (Oldham)
The hon. Member who has just spoken has given us some interesting statistics respecting public houses in 857 Liverpool, but I do not think his argument was very germane to the question which is now dividing Parties; and I imagine he stands almost alone in his belief, certainly almost alone in this House, that by increasing the number of public houses you will reduce the amount of drink consumed.
§ MR. RATHBONE
I must really correct that statement. I never said anything of the sort. I said that in itself the increase of public houses was not so great an evil; the evil was in permitting them to carry on a disorderly trade with impunity.
§ MR. ELLIOTT LEES
I am sorry I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. I thought he was advocating what is popularly called Free Trade in drink-I will leave the question affecting Liverpool to be dealt with later on. I must protest against some of the tactics pursued by some hon. Members belonging to the extreme Temperance Party. I, in common I dare say with many Members, have received many letters protesting against the attempt of the Government to rush this scheme through the House of Commons, and it was a letter by the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Lawson) that created the impression that such an attempt was being made, that a Bill printed on Friday was to be read a second time on Monday. Now this was hardly fair on the part of the hon. Baronet and his Friends. When our constituents are told that a Bill is set down for a certain day, they, not being conversant with our methods of business, not unnaturally imagine that the Bill is to be taken on the day named, but the hon. Baronet must have known that such a Bill, being placed low down on the list of measures, had no possible chance of coming on. Ample time was given, as we have all found, in ten days for the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) and his friends to set their disciplined and obedient organisations to work, and, as the result we have leaflets, resolutions, letters, and telegrams, all protesting 858 against the Government proposal. But there is no very clear idea among the many as to what that proposal really is. There arc many who think that it is a revival of the proposal originally embodied in the Local Government Bill, and I have seen letters from constituents demanding that no ratepayers' money shall be devoted to compensation of publicans. Of course, it is a completely different proposal in the present Bill. I am very sorry that hon. Members should have adopted the line they have followed on this occasion, because I do not think a better opportunity could be offered to friends of temperance, among whom I reckon myself, to carry out a temperance reform. Look at the state of Parties in the House. Hon. Members on the other side, almost to a man, received the support of the Temperance Party on their elections. I do not think the Temperance Party have been quite wise in their generation, in declining to take the offer of the highest bidder, and letting it be understood that no matter how friendly a Conservative might be known to be to the cause of Temperance yet he would not have the support of the Temperance Party. Yet so it is; the Teetotal Party gave their support to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but there is scarcely an instance of that support having been given to a Member on this side. If we had a Radical Government introducing a Bill like this, a Bill which goes further in the direction of temperance reform than was hoped for by friends of temperance a few years ago. A Bill which, recognising a certain amount of local control over the granting of licences, provides, and not by general taxation, for the gradual extinction of unnecessary licences was almost beyond the hope of practical politicians a few years ago; if such a scheme were introduced by a Radical Government it is only human nature to suppose that a great many Members on this side, who hold no very strong views on this question, would have offered it strenuous opposition. It is a difficult thing to carry a measure of this sort, but it would have been especially difficult for a Radical Government of the day, because of the strong opposition they would meet with here. But as it is, there are many who, occupying a neutral position in regard to temper- 859 ance questions, give their ready support to the proposal introduced by the Government in which they trust. If we only had the support of temperance advocates on the other side then we might carry the Bill through the House without difficulty and with rapidity; in another place it would meet with little opposition, and a great deal would be done for the cause of temperance. The hon. Member for Barrow said if the Church of England Temperance Society would introduce a Bill upon the lines of their scheme for settling the reduction of licences, the friends of temperance would not oppose it. The suggestion of the society is that the licence holders' interest should be the only interest recognised, and that only for a period of ten years. Their argument is that the licence holder is the only person whom the law should recognise; that he has no legal but only an equitable claim to compensation, and that if there are other claims behind him they must be settled by agreement between themselves. Now, Sir, that is a compensation on a limited basis, as put forward by the Church of England Temperance Society, and I should like to know what difference there is between that proposal and the proposition of Her Majesty's Government. Both in volve the principle of compensation, which can be affirmed by the Second Reading of this Bill. The detail is a question for Committee and not for the Second Reading. If, therefore, those were the opinions of the hon. Gentlemen opposite they might very well support the principle of compensation or "marketable value" on the Second Reading, and endeavour to alter the details in Committee. The hon. Member for Barrow and others have made a very remarkable admission. They protest against compensation at all, and yet denounce the smallness of the provision made by the Government under the Bill. Surely these arguments defeat each other. I should like to make a suggestion to the hon. Member and his friends. They remind me of a story of the plough boy, who, when seen crying over his bowl of porridge, was asked what was wrong, and replied, "It's thick and nasty, and full of lumps, and there aint half enough of it." Hon. Members have taken up a similar position with regard to the proposed donation of £350,000 by the Chan- 860 cellor of the Exchequer. They say the Government scheme is thick and nasty, and full of lumps, but their greatest grievance is that there is not enough money offered. If they wish to show their practical sympathy with the cause of temperance, and are willing to do so in the way in which an Englishman believes it may most genuinely be shown, there is a way in which, I think, they may do it. Hitherto there has been little use in buying up licences, because there has been no security that new ones will not be issued. Now, no new licences are to be issued, and it will be possible to reduce the number by buying up existing licences. Here is a chance for private benevolence. Lot hon. Gentlemen, who do not mind some sacrifice in the cause of temperance, show their sincerity in trying to reduce the evil by paying for it. Let them start a fund to augment the Government Fund for the purpose of buying up licences. Such a fund might be well supported all over the country, and if one is started I will promise to contribute as much as my means will allow. Some hon. Members say they cannot endure the principle at all. They object to any tampering with the accursed thing, and will not pay a penny to reduce the evil. That is a theory to which I can never consent. I believe it to be a theory of national dishonesty, and I would rather see a nation of drunkards than a dishonest nation. Everyone must admit that the publican has an equitable right in his licence, because it is marketable, and it is admitted to be legal to value it for probate. To speak in the language of logic, I believe the publican has no deductive right to assume his licence will be renewed, but, undoubtedly, he has an inductive right. The renewal is not a mathematical certainty, but it is a moral certainty, provided his house is a moral house. I believe the whole sense of the country would revolt against any general measure of confiscation. Here you have men carrying on a respectable business, sanctioned by the State, and if those men are to be turned out at a moment's notice they will be quite unable to get their living, and yet will have to support their wives and families. What worse fate could overtake the drunkard himself. No opinion on the 861 subject can have greater weight with the mass of electors than that of the late John Bright, who had a scheme very similar to that now proposed by the Government. Mr. Bright, in a speech on this question, said, referring to the case of Birmingham—In this town the taxes paid by the sellers of alcoholic liquors amount to something like £15,000 a year. I would transfer this sum from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Finance Minister of the Corporation of Birmingham, and have it expended in trying to reduce the number of licensed houses.Then, again, on the subject of compensation. Mr. Bright said—There is a class of houses breaking the law openly, and these the Magistrates may suppress at once. But there is another class of houses which do not openly break the law, but which are injurious from being too numerous and being conducted in a manner hurtful to the neighbourhood. The Corporation might select these and remove a number of them, taking the compensation out of the £15,000 a year. If this plan were adopted, what would be the result? Clearly this. The houses where intoxicating drink is sold would be fewer; they would be much more respectable in their character, and there would be no confiscation of property.That opinion will, I think, have more weight with the electors than the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who would take away that which has a marketable value, without paying a penny for it. Some people hold that we should not do much good by reducing the number of public houses, because people who want drink would only go a little further-to get it from the houses that are left. But they must see that that is an error when they consider the nature of drunkenness. It is a peculiarity about drunkenness that it is often the only vice of an otherwise respectable man. Every hon. Member of this House who has held a position of authority, either in the army or as an employer of labour, must know cases in which men, otherwise perfectly respectable men, calculated to lead honest and steady lives, and to bring up their families in a creditable manner, have had their characters destroyed and then-careers blighted through the one single vice that they have been unable to resist, the temptation of drink. The temptation which only meets a man every half mile is bound to be weaker than one which meets him every 20 yards on his way home from work. It is because the Bill 862 will reduce the number of houses, and because I believe that reduction will conduce to the sobriety of the country, that I am going to support the Second Reading. It is true that it will, to some extent, increase the monopoly which will be possessed by such licence holders as remain; but they will be the most respectable class of publicans, and it is as unfair to compare them with the disreputable publicans as it it to compare bankers with usurers. I shall vote for the Second Reading upon these grounds, and because I believe the Bill will conduce to the increase of temperance, and that it will prove a great measure for the advancement of the sobriety of the nation.
§ *(5.45.) Mr. BRYCE) (Aberdeen, S.
I think that the Government may be congratulated on the fact that the debate has been conducted with an absence of Party feeling, and that there has been no imputation of motive on either side. I hope no remarks of mine will disturb that amicable temper. I give the Government full credit for having introduced a Bill in what they conceive to be the interests of temperance. I cannot see why, otherwise, they should take up such a thorny question, and be prepared to spend so much time upon it, at a critical part of the Session. They ought to have taken warning from what occurred two years ago, and to have realised that the opposition of hon. Members to the principle embodied in this Bill has been since strengthened rather than weakened. Now, I want to discuss the question coolly. I do not assume that the publicans are necessarily sinners, and that they ought to be the victims of confiscation. By all means let us deal fairly with them. But do not let us forget that there are two sides to the question, and that it is possible to rob the public instead of the publicans, by placing upon them a burden of compensation where none is due. Those who advocate compensation ought, therefore, to make out a case for it, but though 863 I listened to the speeches from the Government Benches, I failed to hear a single argument which formed sufficient foundation for the claim to compensation. The Solicitor General, last night, attempted to show that in the case of "Sharp v. Wakefield" the Court had not decided what it thought it had, and that the decision was really one in favour of the holders of licences. To-day we have had four elaborate speeches from supporters of the Bill, and yet I have not heard anything, except one remark from the hon. Member for East Grinstead, tending to show that the claim for compensation is well founded. Now, is there any legal right to compensation? I say legal right, because I shall presently admit that there may be grounds for a. plea for compassionate treatment, for some sort of indulgence which would enable licences to be more quickly reduced and with less friction than if they were simply withdrawn. I ask, then, if (here is any right capable of being enforced in a Court of Law? It surely cannot be argued that a licence is property, considering that the tenant of a public house holds the licence only for one year. To assert this would be to say that a tenant from year to year is to be treated like a freeholder. It is suggested that property is proved by the fact that the licence is valued for probate. I should like to learn from the Government what is the largest number of years for which allowance has been made in calculating probate in such cases. Is it three, four, five, or six years? Surely the Government would scarcely venture to claim compensation for publicans on any greater scale than that allowed for the purpose of probate valuation. The hon. Member for East Grin-stead has argued that compensation ought to be granted because when houses are taken in the making of a public improvement some special value is allowed for a licensed house. But we all know the laxness of arbitrators and of juries in awarding compensation in such cases. Moreover, in such a case compensation is awarded on the basis of the profit made during the last few years. But it may happen that, immediately after the valuation, the property becomes greatly depreciated in value, 864 perhaps by the opening up of new thoroughfares or the removal of large works. These are unpredictable events. which may involve loss to the licence holder. So is the withdrawal of the licence. Compensation is no more due for the one event than for the other. The publican takes his licence with the possibility that it may be withdrawn, and I submit he is, therefore, not entitled to compensation on the withdrawal. If the claim cannot be rested on property, can it be rested on the ground of interruption of trade? The liquor trade is like no other trade, because no man can practise it without obtaining the special favour and indulgence of the State; and the value which the trade possesses is entirely due to this indulgence, because the trade is primâ facie unpermitted. Then, can the publican whose licence is taken away, be said to be in the position of the man whose goodwill is taken away? If we take away the goodwill of any particular business, in ordinary circumstances, we make compensation for it. The case of a publican would fall under the general rules. But what is the fact? Supposing the Magistrates grant me a licence for a house worth £1,500. The value of my premises immediately jumps up from £1.500 to £3,000. Who has given me the benefit? The State, without any act of my own. It is so much unearned increment, yet we are told that the State ought to compensate the person on whom it has conferred the increment, when it takes that increment away. That is asking the State to pay a man for taking back what it has just given. What reason is there why the State, having doubled the value of the premises, should be prevented from reducing those premises to the position in which they were before they received the licence? It is said that the holders of licences have formed a reasonable expectation that they will receive compensation, and upon that expectation they have based their claim to compensation. My answer to that is that they have had ample notice that this compensation would be disputed. Ever since the year 1871 it has been well known that it would be a controverted question. Let me put the case from another point of view. My hon. 865 Friend (Mr. Rathbone) who spoke just now referred to the free licensing system which was at one time practised in Liverpool. It is clear that the value of public house property would be enormously diminished by the free grant of licences. If there are 1,000 licensed houses in a town and the Magistrates treble the number, it is quite clear that the value of the existing houses is immediately and heavily depreciated. Has anybody ever suggested that the owners of licences in that instance should be compensated? In fact, it has been suggested that if we want to deal with this question with a perfectly clear conscience all we have to do is to increase the number of licences until the value of existing licences is reduced to a point at which the payment of compensation would become a comparatively easy matter. I only mention that for the purpose of showing how untenable is the contention that there is a legal vested interest in these public house properties. In America they have tried every possible experiment with the liquor traffic. There are in that Republic 38 commonwealths, each with full authority to try any experiment as regards the regulation of the liquor trade within its own limits which it pleases. There is no country where the extreme Temperance Party is so strong and has so often gained control of the Legislatures. Every State of the Union, besides, carefully protects the right of the citizen to compensation when his property is taken for public purposes. What in England rests on usage, embodied in Statutes, in the United States has all the irresistible and unvarying authority of a written Constitution. You would naturally suppose that questions of compensation must have arisen either in regard to prohibition or diminution of the number of licences, or the traffic in liquor between one State and another, but I think I am right in saying, having taken all the pains I can to ascertain, that there is no case in which compensation was ever awarded, either to the liquor seller or to the brewer or distiller, in respect of stopping or regulating his trade. When we consider how numerous must have been the cases, and how complete is the protection which the Constitutional system of that country 866 gives, I think it is a very strong argument in favour of the doctrine that there is no legal right in these matters. Whether we look at the matter as a question of purchase of goodwill or as a question of property, I fail to find any legal ground for giving pecuniary compensation. I do not deny that there may be other reasons, and of a different character, which may make it desirable to award something to holders of licensed premises whose licences are taken away. I put that on two grounds, which may have some weight separately, and which, conjoined, certainly possess weight. One ground is that it will very much facilitate the withdrawal of licences if some sort of compassionate provision can be allowed to be made. There would be less feeling that a harsh and severe thing was being done, and I cannot doubt that the wheels of restriction or prohibition would, to some extent, be greased, if some such arrangement were made. But I do not propose to discuss this question now, because this Bill proposes compensation as a legal right. It is that, or it is nothing. We are told it is a, small measure, but there is nothing so dangerous as to begin with these small measures, because you recognise a principle which may be made applicable to the whole value of this public house property, which, according to the calculations of the Licensed Victuallers, amounts to some £200,000,000 or even more. Therefore, this Bill is not an innocent Bill; it embodies a principle on which the sum of £1,000,000 a year or more would eventually have to be raised by taxation for the purchase of these licences, if they are to he largely withdrawn. The Government have been rather astute in interweaving with this proposal for compensation other proposals which the House generally approves. We are entirely in sympathy with those portions of the Bill which relate to superannuation of the police and the extinguishing of school fees in Scotland. There is a strong and general wish in Scotland to complete the operation begun last year of putting an end to school fees. Yet of the many communications made to Scotch Members on this subject there has not, I believe, been a single one inviting us to take the Bill for the sake of getting free 867 education. On the contrary, the Scottish people would rather put up with the non-completion of the educational work than consent to the buying out of licences. The portions of the Bill which we support might be dealt with separately, leaving the compensation for licences to a later stage. The hon. Member who spoke last said the temperance movement was growing. Certainly the temperance vote and the strength of temperance sentiment in this House has enormously increased, even within the last 10 years. The tide of public opinion is, no doubt, rising steadily in favour of temperance, although it has not yet reached the top of the flood. I think that we on this side of the House, and hon. Members on the other side, who arc; as sincere advocates of temperance as we, would be wrong in accepting a proposal like this merely because it is the best that has yet been made, before we have made sure we cannot get a better. This proposal is loss audacious, though not more workable, than that of 1888. The next proposal may be better still, and we should be throwing away the advantages we have gained by our action in 1888 if we accept a proposal which we conceive to be contrary to the opinion of the country, and calculated to do little or nothing for the cause of temperance.
§ *(6.17.) THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. LONG,) Wilts, Devizes
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has certainly carried out his promise that he would do nothing in any way to alter the tone which has characterised this Debate; and I think the House will agree with me that the speech which we have listened to was one that has given pleasure and profit to the House, and I am most thankful to realise that the hon. Gentleman has talked about the Government Bill being a good Bill and the best Bill yet introduced to the House. If we cannot have the support of the hon. Gentleman, it is something to have his praise. The hon. Gentleman has asked for some information on the Probate 868 Duty question; that will be given by another Member of the Government at a further stage of the Debate. With regard to the question of compensation, I submit to the House that the speech of the hon. Gentleman would have been a most valuable one, and would have required an answer in detail, had the question which we are now discussing been a proposal on the part of Her Majesty's Government to give an absolute compensation to the publicans for the removal of their licences. The hon. Gentleman, in the course of his remarks, has denied the existence of any legal right to this compensation being paid. Now, what this Bill proposes to confer upon the County Council is tin-right to purchase in the market what the Government contend is a marketable commodity, which is sold in the market frequently, daily, at the present time; to enter into the market as a purchaser of that commodity, and to buy that commodity with the money with which the Government provides them. We believe that that power will largely assist the cause which we have been told times without number hon. Members opposite have at heart, namely, that of temperance. Therefore, it is not desirable now to enter upon the hotly-contested question of the legal right of owners of licences to compensation. I desire, however, in passing, to supplement what has fallen from my right hon. Friend with regard to what we propose to do with the police. Anyone who is conversant with the conduct of their duties by the police in every part of the country will agree with me that their work has been admirably done, in circumstances often of peculiar difficulty; that their claims have been too long neglected, and that it is high time that this House should recognise their right to receive proper and adequate pensions. I now come to the second part of the 869 Bill, in which the Government propose to transfer money in aid of the local rates to the County Councils. I am glad that hon. Gentlemen, particularly on my own side of the House, have admitted that in giving this money in aid of the County Councils the Government have redeemed the promises which it has often been said we made some time ago. Turning to the licensing question, upon which we shall shortly be asked to vote, I desire to say a word or two with regard to what has fallen from the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine). I regret that the hon. Member is not in his place; but the hon. Gentleman has challenged a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board in a very decided way. I desire now to refer to that challenge. The hon. Member for Barrow has said that the right hon. Gentleman contended that his plan had secured the support of the Church of England Temperance Society, but that he, the hon. Gentleman, would point out that it had only secured, if at all, the assent of one of the Committees of that Organisation, and that he had no hesitation in saying that its main body would probably repudiate any such promise. Only a short time ago my right hon. Friend had received the following telegram:—Manchester Diocesan Executive of the Church of England Temperance Society request you to contradict Mr. Caine's statement that the deputation to you was that of the London Committee only; the deputation was arranged for by the Central Committee, which is composed of representatives of every diocese in the country, and this executive cordially supports the action of the deputation.—CANON KELLY, Chairman.I think that that is a full and sufficient answer to the challenge of the hon. Member for Barrow. Amongst the many speeches which we have heard on both sides of the House I think that that of the hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs seemed to put the case for the 870 Bill in the clearest possible terms. The hon. Member has referred to the fact that this Bill had received the support of all connected with the liquor trade, and his statement that manufacturers and sellers of liquor had adopted a resolution in support of the Bill had been received with some derisive cheers from hon. Members opposite. I do not know why that should have been so, because I do not think that anyone could believe that all those connected with either the manufacture or sale of liquor, or even its consumption, are men whose opinions are unworthy of consideration. No doubt they have a great interest in the matter, but then the State has not forgotten to lay a sufficiently heavy impost up6n them, and they bear a large share of the national expenditure. Now, by this proposal they are called upon to pay an additional expenditure, a certain portion of which is to be spent in buying their own licences. Surely that is a moderate proposal, and those who are so closely concerned have the right to be heard. Anyone who came into the House and listened to the speeches which have been made on this Bill, would have arrived at the conclusion that the Government were proposing some great compulsory system under which all the licences in the country were to be bought up, and which would make it impossible in the future for Parliament to make any change. The Government proposal is nothing of the kind, but is a small and humble one; and I would earnestly ask those who in this House are led by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker-mouth whether there is not time yet for them to re-consider the position they have taken up with reference to the Government proposal. Do they honestly believe that the passing into law of this Bill will really prevent the hon. Member for Cockermouth, or the right hon. Baronet the Member for Bridgeton, from dealing with the question in time to come? ["Yes."] Then their case cannot be anything like so good as they have led hon. Members on this side of the House to believe, and if all their plans are to be nipped in the bud by the passing of this Bill, all I can say is that they cannot be 871 the men that either they have led the country to believe they are, or that we on this side have given them credit for being. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton has been almost pathetic in speaking of this question, and has implored the House not to deal with it now, but to let him and his friends deal with it. If the Temperance Party will listen to a word from me, most respectfully uttered, I would say that they had better not wait for the time which the right hon. Gentleman has described, because if that time does arrive, then the right hon. Gentleman would possibly find other questions, in the completion of which he is supposed to have some interest, which would occupy his time to the exclusion of this question for a great many years to come. What I would respectfully implore the House and the Temperance Party to consider is, whether this is a step in the right direction, whether it is a step backwards or forwards? Is it a step which may be taken by men of different opinions, and which they can unite in taking on the common ground of holding temperance views generally; or is it a step which ought to be arrested at the outset? I think it can be shown that it is a step in the right direction, though it may not have the effect of exterminating the public house interest, or I should be the last to support it. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson) has never concealed his hostility to the publicans, and the publicans never expected any consideration from him except the consideration which the hangman bestows upon the criminal. But that has not been the view of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I could quote from their speeches on this question at a length which would keep up the Debate for many a day to come. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will not deny that the majority of them have not voted for the Motions of the hon. Member for Cockermouth without expressing, in the most distinct language, that the question of the disturbance of these men ought to be considered. The right hon. Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) is, no doubt, in a different position from his colleagues, because he was once a publican and a sinner, but he has now found salvation in the ranks of the hon. 872 Baronet. I could quote abundance of passages from the right hon. Gentleman's speeches showing that he supported the right of the publicans to compensation. A speech of the late Mr. Bright has been published in the form of a pamphlet, and the views expressed by him on the general question, as well as the coincidence of his views with those of Her Majesty's Government are very remarkable. When Mr. Bright shadowed forth his plan as to how the question should be dealt with by legislation, and brought under the control of popularly-elected bodies, he proposed to devote some of the extra revenue to the relief of the police rate, and he did this because he said the trade and the police were cause and effect. The same proposal is to be found in the Bill of Her Majesty's Government. Mr. Bright was a man to whom we on this side of the House were accustomed to find ourselves in opposition. There was no body of men whom Mr. Bright opposed more than the so-called county Member class, to which I myself belong; but however much we may have disliked his policy, we never for a moment denied that he was a man of the highest honour and the greatest possible ability, and that his views were deserving of the attention of his opponents as well as his supporters. The views of Mr. Bright on this question are well worth the attention of the House and of those who wish to deal with the matter in an equitable and reasonable manner. Hon. Gentlemen who support the Amendment declare that it would be better to postpone dealing with the Licensing Laws, even in the limited manner now proposed, than to take a step which might induce the publicans to think that they had a chance of getting something for their licences; and they give as a reason for that opinion the crime and misery which are caused by the existence of public houses. Now, I would ask the House to consider whether it is fair to attribute solely to this trade all the crime and misery of the country, of which there is, and has been, a great deal; but which we are all thankful to know is decreasing. Is there nothing to be said of the insanitary condition in which these poor people live, and of the crowded dwellings and the miserable surroundings of the places called their homes from which they are driven to the public 873 house? Is it fair to saddle on the trade all the misery which results from various causes? What hon. Gentlemen suggest is that they ought to cast upon the publicans the whole burden of responsibility and saddle them with all the punishment; that on no account has the public house interest any recognised value, but that it is to be exterminated root and branch. That is not the view which we on this side of the House can take, and it is not the view which used to be held by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) has said that the publicans have no right to ask for compensation, because the question has been debated so long that the publicans have had their fate plainly displayed before them. I deny that that is the case. I doubt whether the hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker-mouth ever expected to find some of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite acting with him on this question. The hon. Baronet will remember the time when some Gentlemen on the front Opposition Bench devoted a good deal of vituperation to his proposals, though they have suddenly discovered that they are his most ardent supporters. Though the publicans may have learned from those Debates and attempts at legislation that they would probably be placed under the control of the Local Authorities, and that their licences might be withheld, it is not likely that they also learned that they would be prevented from obtaining compensation for any loss they might suffer. They were thoroughly justified in that view, not by the opinions expressed on this side of the House, but by the opinions expressed by the leaders of a great political Party, who knew perfectly well that the persons interested in the trade would attach the greatest importance to what they said. I contend, therefore, that it is unreasonable to say that the public house interest ought to be prepared for their fate, and ought to submit to it with resignation. Sir, I end as I commenced, by saying that this proposal of the Government is not a large one. We do not suggest that we are dealing with the whole licensing question; but what we say is, this is a distinct advance in the path of temperance, while it does no injustice or wrong to a great trade. 874 There are hon. Gentlemen opposite who think it a disgrace to a Member of Parliament to say one word in favour of the Liquor Trade as a body. I am not afraid of saying a word on their behalf. I have had long experience of Members of the trade, and I have found them anxious to do their duty, to lead respectable lives, and to keep respectable houses. It is unfair that these men should be ticketed as if they were the reverse of respectable, and that the House of Commons should be asked to legislate against them as if there was nothing to be said in their favour and there was to be no defence of their rights. We object to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Barrow, because it would destroy our Bill. If it be the case that the law is as the hon. Member tells the House we are not changing the law. We are giving to the County Councils certain powers which they can exercise if they like, and which they need not exercise unless they like. At the same time, we contend that the proposal is a distinct advance in the direction in which all people now desire to go; and we recommend it to the House with absolute confidence, because we believe, if passed into law, it will prove beneficial, helpful, and useful to all classes in the community.
§ Debate further adjourned till Thursday.