§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed 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. Caine,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
*(4.55.) SIR W.LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
Mr. Speaker, during the time of questions the Lord Advocate, in reply to a question which some one put to him from this side of the House, said that he objected to the word "compensation" in regard to the clauses of the Bill which is now under discussion. There has been a good deal of that sort of talk up and down the country lately. "Compensation" is a word which has been used with two meanings; but, so far as I can understand the Bill, it is a Compensation Bill, and I will give my authority in one sentence from an article in the Times newspaper—which hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House accept as an authority—published a very few days ago. It said distinctly— 973On the Second Reading of the Licensing Bill, the decision of the House will be clear and unchaliengable, so far as the principle of compensation is involved.It is clear enough what we are about. But before I discuss this compensation, I must make my earnest protest against the subject being discussed at all in this House of Commons. We hear a great deal, in our political jargon—very properly, I dare say—about the "mandate of the country." Now, what mandate has this House to take up this question? The subject was not raised in a single electoral address in 1886. Further, the Government tried to deal with this question two years ago, and their proposal for compensation was met with almost universal condemnation out of doors. As to this Bill, it comes before us most unfairly, but as it is before us, we must do our best for our constituents, and deal with the measure in a manner which will be best for the country. Now, the remarkable point about this Bill is that it is a Temperance Bill. [Cheers.] I am very glad to hear that cheer from my hon. Friends opposite. There has been a wonderful change within the last fortnight; they have all become great temperance reformers. It is a very encouraging sign. It is the first time I have known in this House a Government bringing forward what is avowed to be a purely Temperance Bill. How does it come about? There is the great Temperance Reformer, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he, when he brought forward his Budget, was so shocked at the drinking which goes on in the drinking shops licensed by the Authorities, that he said "Something must be done' It was a very interesting Debate that Budget Debate. It went through the usual course. I have been present at so many Budget speeches that I know exactly what takes place. The Chancellor of the Exchequer when he comes to the drink revenue rolls it like a sweet morsel under his tongue, and then—knowing that he must say something on the moral question, with, as Mr. Disraeli used to say, "a face arranged for the occasion"—in the next breath he proceeds to deplore the immorality which the drink traffic occasions in the country. I have seen this dozens of times, but it came out more 974 strongly than usual this year. I want to show what the effect of all this drinking is on the real, genuine Tory mind, not on the mind of the Liberal Unionist Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Member for Woolwich made a speech lately at the Blackheath Licensed Victuallers' and Beersellers' Protection Society—it was a Greenwich dinner—in which he said—If people had the means of enjoying all that God sent"—that was rum—"let them; and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer said there had been an increase in the Revenue because people enjoyed themselves, he was very glad to hear it.Of course, an honest, fine old English gentleman was glad, and I honour him for his straightforward declaration, and I think the publican who went down to Greenwich was justified more than the Pharisee on the Treasury Bench. But I want to call attention to a remarkable fact. We are told that this Bill is brought in entirely in the interest of temperance. That is very extraordinary, because almost every Temperance Society in the Kingdom condemns it, as do also the men who have been working in the cause of temperance all their lives. Somebody says "Not the hon. Member for South Tyrone." Well, the exception proves the rule. I want the right hon. Gentleman opposite to explain how it is that the great bulk of the temperance world condemn his Bill, while it is warmly applauded by the drink sellers. Is it not likely that the men who devote most of their time to the consideration of the subject of temperance should know more about it than the men who devote their time to the sale of drink? So far as I know, the Chancellor of the Exchequer became an advocate of temperance on the 17th of April, and the noble Lord the Member for Paddington started on his career on the 29th. Are not those who have been advocates of temperance all their lives, and who have not a 1d. or a ¼d. interest in the trade, but only look to the public good, as likely to be right as the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord, supported by men whose income is endangered in the carrying out of measures of this sort? If we were discussing a private Bill upstairs, men interested in the trade would not be allowed to vote. They would have had nothing to say. If we were a jury trying a case, men, 975 interested would not be allowed to sit on it; but when it is a question of a great monopoly against the nation, then the jury box is packed and crammed with the friends of the plaintiff. But before I go further I want to vindicate those who are sometimes called the Temperance Party from some remarks which were made on Tuesday by the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester (Sir William Houldsworth). The hon. Baronet called us extreme temperance men, and I desire to clear that matter up. I do not profess to be a greater advocate of temperance than anyone else. We are all advocates of temperance, only we act in different ways. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) declare that he is one of the warmest advocates of temperance. It is only a question of how temperance is best promoted. The Party the hon. Baronet referred to was the Prohibition Party, and he accused us of having a cut-and-dried system, and of refusing everything but that, with the result that temperance is retarded. Well, I challenge the hon. Baronet to say what measure has ever been brought in, by what Member on either side of the House since I have been a Member, for diminishing the liquor traffic even by 10 minutes which I have not cordially supported and generally spoken in favour of. That is the right policy. I am for prohibition of the whole traffic. I would sweep it away to-morrow, and I make no secret of my opinion. But I am not a dog in the manger. I hold that half a loaf is better than no bread, and when I get one half I will go for the other half. I have supported the Sunday Closing measures, the shortening of the hours, and I even acquiesced in the proposition of the late Mr. O'Sullivan for keeping spirits in bond for 10 years, only I suggested an Amendment to keep them in bond for 100 years. I would ask the hon. Baronet, who spoke for the Church of England Temperance Society, whether he can say that he has supported all these measures in the way that the Prohibition Party has done? I am the President of the United Kingdom Alliance for the prohibition of the liquor traffic, and I believe that every hour or every 10 minutes taken from the 976 publican is a benefit to the public. We make no secret of our view; we object to the liquor traffic, believing it to be the curse of the country; therefore, we support every measure with a tendency to diminish its volume. And now, as I am in a sort of justifying humour, I want to justify myself and my friends against a charge very often made against us. It is said—If the wicked teetotalers had suffered Mr. Bruce's Bill to pass, what a reduction of public houses there would have been.The noble Lord the Member for Paddington said—If that Bill had passed into law, the public houses in London would, in the year 1882, have been reduced from upwards of 10,000 in 1872 to about 3,000; in England and Wales, from upwards of 100,000 in 1872 to about 32,000.Mr. Bruce's Bill, in the first place, was for England only, and with regard to the diminution of the trade it proposed that certain holders of licences, who were described as publicans and as holders of limited publicans' licences, should not be interfered with for 10 years; but at the end of 10 years they should have a renewal of their licences for 10 years more, if they did not exceed one per 10,000 in towns and one per 600 in the country. Their allocation having been determined by the Magistrates, they were to be sold to the highest bidder. When the applications for these licences exceeded the proportions named, all the number exceeding one per 1,000 in towns and one per 600 in the country were to receive the assent of a three-fifths majority in a poll of the ratepayers. But that only referred to on-licences and houses which were supposed to supply nothing but drink. Bat the schedules showed that there were 17 different sorts of licences, and to four only of those 17 did those provisions apply. Any diminution which would have taken place would have been probably through the operation of the popular veto. So the House will see there is no justification for saying that that Bill of itself would have swept away so many licences as the noble Lord the Member for Paddington alleges. I want to show clearly what the policy of the United Kingdom Alliance was. It is said we were the cause of the overthrow of the Bill; but it will be seen that the great opposition came from the publicans before whom 977 the Government quailed. The United Kingdom Alliance, at that time, passed a resolution that the Council—Having fully considered the Intoxicating Liquors Bill, resolves that the friends of the Alliance be requested not to oppose the Second Heading of the Bill, with the intention of obtaining in Committee the insertion of an absolute veto for the majority of the ratepayers on the issue of licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors, and the equally absolute rejection of all compensation clauses.That, I think, was the right attitude to take, and I hope we shall not be charged again with being the wicked people who prevented the Bill from passing. It was killed through the fear the Government had of the great publican power of this country. Well, what is the present Bill? It is a measure to apply public money for the supposed benefit of the public. But apart from the temperance point of view, when we begin to give Imperial taxation to be expended by Local Authorities we start on a very dangerous road. It is a sound Constitutional principle that those who raise the taxes should distribute them, and if you leave Imperial taxes to Local Bodies to distribute you will find that it leads to corruption, jobbery, and all sorts of evils. The object here, no doubt, is a good one, and I am glad the Government has recognised the necessity of diminishing the number of drink shops in this country; but the licensing system is for the protection of the public, and my case and the case of the Government is that that system has broken down. The President of the Local Government Board said that it is admitted on all hands that public houses are much too numerous, and I contend that the Magistrates have the power to reduce the number. I think I hear the President of the Local Government Board dissent from that statement.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
All I said Was that we do not interfere with that power.
§ *SIR W. LAWSON
Then what is this Bill for? But I will go on with my argument. I say the Magistrates have the power, and they have not exercised it sufficiently. And now I come to the Solicitor General, whom I look upon as the greatest licensing authority in the country. He makes the greatest mistakes, and on that ground I consider him the 978 greatest authority. He tries to make out that the publicans have some legal right to the renewal of their licences, and he says no statement to the contrary can be found in any decision. The hon. and learned Gentleman plays on that word "decision," just as the Government are playing on the word "compensation." But in the Queen's Bench Division, on the 24th of November, 1882, there was a special case of inquiry into this very point, and Mr. Justice Field said—But in every case in every year there is a new licence granted;while further on he said—The Legislature recognises no vested right at all in any holder of a licence.Now, I respect the opinion of my hon. and learned Friend very much, but I respect the opinion of a Judge of the land still more.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir E. CLARKE,) Plymouth
I daresay the hon. Baronet will allow me to say that I have Lord Field's authority, given to me yesterday, for saying in his name he never made the statement that there was no vested interest.
§ *SIR W. LAWSON
Well, I do not want to squabble about it. We will put it all in the papers to-morrow. The Solicitor General said in his speech the other night that it was not competent for the Justices to take away a man's licence simply because they thought there were too many houses. But an authority sitting on the same Bench said in the course of the evening it was perfectly true that the Magistrates might refuse to renew a licence. That authority was the Solicitor General himself. Out of his own mouth I convict him. I think that when we have two such contradictory statements from the Solicitor General I am entitled to refer him to Mr. Justice Field, who used the words I have quoted, whatever he may say. The remedy for the present state of things has been provided in many cases. In many districts where there are landlords who wish to benefit their fellow-men, drink shops have been prohibited, and the result is improved temperance and order and morality. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) said the other night that he 979 looked on this power of the landlords to clear their estates of drinkshops as tyrannical. But has he ever heard a single complaint from such estates? I challenge him to bring forward dwellers on these estates who will say it is a tyrannical act on the part of a landlord to release men from the proximity of these houses. When I first brought this question forward in the House of Commons I proposed the Permissive Bill, which was nothing else than giving the people the power to clear out drink-shops. On that occasion I was hard put to for a Seconder, but Mr. Thomas Bazley was induced by the action of some workpeople to put his name on the back of the Bill. They asked him whether he had not a village of his own from which he had kept out the public houses. He said he had, and he thought it a splendid thing'. They asked him, "Do you not think that we working men ought to have the same privilege as you have?" He said, "Yes, I do," and he put his name to the back of the Bill. How do we stand now? The Magistrates will not reduce the number of licences; the House, so far, will not allow the inhabitants to have the veto; and now the Government come forward with the proposal to protect the people by this new system of purchasing the licences. The Government, in fact, say, "We will call upon the taxpayer's pocket to rectify the shortcomings of the Magistrates. That is the whole end and object of the Bill. The public, having permitted the publicans to carry on a lucrative trade, was now called upon to bribe them to go out of the business. I want to know what these men have done for the benefit of the country that they are to be endowed with a large sum of money? We sometimes give pensions to men for killing a great number of the enemies of the country, but these men have killed their own fellow-countrymen. I am supposed to use strong language about the trade; but I have not said anything so strong as has been said by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), the new convert, whose language reminds me of what Sheridan said when he saw a Highland-man in a large pair of trousers—"Converts are always enthusiastic." They talk about my language. Did I ever say that the trade was "devilish and destructive?" No; I said it was an injurious 980 trade, and ought not to be carried on. But I am not a lord. Everyone who looks into this question uses strong language. Baron Dowse said from the Bench—The measure of the degradation of any district is in exact proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed in it.My friend, Sir William Grantham, one of our English Judges, talked at Liverpool about "the unholy profits of that horrid trade"—meaning the trade of the publicans. Strong language from me, but all right from a Judge. The Edinburgh Review said—The liquor traffic, and particularly the retail branch of it, is a public nuisance physically, economically, and morally.I am sure we are all justified in trying to get rid of a public nuisance. Charles Buxton said—The struggle of the library, and the church, and the school, against the public-house and the beer shop is one development of war between heaven and hell.That was almost as strong as the remark of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington. Now that public opinion is aroused on this subject, and there is a chance of something being done, the Government come down and demand compensation for these destroyers! Sir, I remember during the time the discussion was going on about slave-owning that two men were talking on the subject of compensation in a picture-gallery. The one who was against compensation took the other to the picture of the Egyptians passing through the Red Sea, and said "Look there; that is God's compensation to slave owners." It is only compensation, the system of purchasing up these licences, which we condemn; and we condemn it because, as it was very well put by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow the other night, it is a financial barrier to the advancement of temperance reform. There is nothing complaining of a Suspensory Act in all the petitions and telegrams that are reaching Members, and I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer should not send out, lithographed from the Treasury Chambers, such circulars as that in which the following passage occurs:—He wishes to express his regret that the efforts of the Government to promote the cause of temperance, by placing stringent regulations upon the issue of new licences, should be 981 met with such hostility by those whom they might legitimately expect to find supporting them in a measure directed to such an end.[Ministerial cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite are very short-sighted when they cheer a sentence like that. They do not seem to understand the matter. Let us have a Suspensory Act by all means. But when we come to the question of compensation I ask who has licensed the public houses all these years? Not the people. The licensing has been in the hands of the classes, and the classes have licensed public houses, which have been the means of demoralising the masses. ["No, no," from the Opposition.] I am astonished that anyone could say "no" to that statement. Can any hon. Gentleman tell me of a single public house with the licensing of which a working man has had anything to do? I contend that the gentlemen of England, those of wealth and position, who have spent their time in licensing these places are worse than those who get drunk at them, for the tempter is always worse than the tempted. I am not attacking Gentlemen opposite. We are all of us guilty. It is clear, beyond a doubt, that the upper classes have produced these houses, and that the lower classes suffer most by them. I say let the Magistrates pay the compensation, if it is to be paid. The plan of the Government is revolting, odious, and repulsive, for by it this money is proposed to be raised by getting the people to spend more on these evil things. We are told that the publicans have an equitable and a moral claim. What is equity? I ask the Solicitor General. Speaking as a layman, I suppose it means an attempt to do justice all round? [The SOLICITOR GENERAL signified assent.] I am glad that the hon. Gentleman and I are agreed upon one point. But if justice is to be done all round, why should not justice be done to the people who have been injured by the public houses as well as to the publicans? If anybody is entitled to compensation it is the man whose property, by being next door to a public house, has been depreciated. Magistrates take care never to licence a house next door to themselves. A friend of mine, with whom I sometimes go on the stump, often says at a meeting, "I have a sovereign in my pocket, and I 982 will give it to anybody who can find such a Magistrate." One day a man wrote to me to claim the sovereign, saying he had found a drink shop next door to a Magistrate's residence. I wrote back to ask "Did he vote for the licence?" and I have never heard a word from that man since. Then there are the ratepayers, and the widows and orphans who suffered in the ruined homes. Is there to be no compensation for them? It is only your one-sided compensation I object to. But I would say to the Government: "Let bygones be bygones. If you let us alone we will let you alone. If you will not ask for compensation for the publicans, we will not ask for compensation for all the misery done by them." What precedent is there for this proposal? Was a single penny paid to the slave traders when that trade was abolished? When the Corn Laws were repealed, 40 years ago, did the great corn-growers receive any compensation? When gambling houses were done away with, did the proprietors get a penny in compensation? When the Factory Acts were passed, did the factory owners get any compensation? Take Mr. Plimsoll's law. I got a letter only this morning from a man who says that when that law was passed many hundreds of small owners of ships were utterly ruined by having their vessels taken forcibly from them by the Board of Trade, and no compensation was given to them. "Many of them," he says, "had to go to the workhouse." Fancy Lord Burton going to the workhouse. He says further, "I myself lost to the extent of £2,500 in this way." No one said they were entitled to compensation; they were doing an evil to the public, and they had to be stopped. You have passed many laws taking away privileges drink-sellers enjoyed. We have had all kinds of Bills. I remember Mr. O'Sullivan saying that if the Irish Sunday Closing Bill were passed hundreds of publicans would be ruined. I suppose they drink more on Sunday in Ireland than on any other day, and someone proposed there ought to be compensation, but I do not think a score of Members voted for it. Mr. Meldon got a Bill through which did away with a certain number of beershops in Dublin which were under a certain rating. Some hundreds were swept away, and not a penny of 983 compensation was given to any of the holders of the licences. But now I come to the gem. On the 10th of August, 1882, an Act was passed to put certain persons, who hitherto had been able to get a certain class of licences automatically by going up to the Magistrates, on the same footing as licensed victuallers. That Bill was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie). I see he remembers something of it. A poor man wrote to me yesterday. I will give his name, because I do not deal in anonymous letters. He writes from 32, Deans-gate, Northampton, and his name is George Westall. He says—I was, myself, at the Brewster Sessions that year refused the renewal of two off-licences, on the ground that the Justices did not consider them necessary for the wants of the neighbourhood. I held each of the houses on lease at high rents. I had procured the licences by employing precisely the same machinery, and by as much an expenditure as any licensed certificate rendered necessary. My premises were fitted and adapted to the business at a considerable outlay of money, and I had surely as much right to expect a renewal from the Magistrates as any other licensee. It certainly never occurred to me to look in any quarter for compensation. If I had asked for it I should have been laughed at, and so I had to put up with the loss."—I hope the right hon. Gentleman will excuse me; these are not my words, but the words of Mr. Westall—Yet we have the same Mr. Ritchie, who cared nothing for the off-licence holder in 1883, because he was poor and lowly, and without the advantage of a strong union at his back, telling the deputation which waited on him as representatives of the Church of England Temperance Society he should strongly urge the necessity for compensation whenever the licensing question (might be dealt with. I have been connected with the trade all my life—he must be a respectable man—and while asking you to excuse the length of this letter, and hoping you and your friends' effort to defeat the scandalous proposals of the Government will meet with the success it deserves,I am, yours,GEORGE WESTALL.Now, what has the right hon. Gentleman got to say to that? He cannot speak again, but he may get the Home Secretary to explain what he is going to do for this poor man. At the very first Licensing Session that took place after the passing of the Act of 1882 the Magistrates of Darwen refused 34 off-licences. 984 The holders of these licences are wandering about the streets and workhouses at this moment, according to the President of the Local Government Board, and the right hon. Gentleman looks calmly on I am astonished at him. He says—I believe public opinion will revolt against the iniquity of depriving men, women, and children of their livelihood by such a process as that which is favoured by the hon. Member for Barrow.Unless he tells me he will subscribe to these poor people I shall think there is very little in this cheap outcry about people starving. This Bill is nothing less than an attempt to blackmail the people of this country in favour of the political supporters of the present Government. The Party opposite pretend to laugh at the demonstrations of the Temperance Party. But why do we organise demonstrations? Because we are boycotted by the Septennial Act, and cannot express our opinions at the poll. Let the Compensation Party try to get up a demonstration. You may not think much of our demonstrations, but I say of them that they are composed of bonâ fide, honest, earnest, working men. When you get up your demonstration in Hyde Park what will it be composed of? There will be a squadron of publicans and potboys, supported by the Church of England Temperance Society, and there will, perhaps, be a sprinkling of bishops. The procession will be brought up by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), and, probably, the Solicitor General will preside at one of the platforms. To demonstrate is all we can do. You may laugh. This is your day of power and triumph, and you are making the most of it. You will carry your Bill to-night. [Ministerial cheers.] I thought you would cheer that. But you will not carry the country. Why will you carry your Bill to-night? Why, because the flowing bowl is with you. But the flowing tide is with us. It is setting in very strong: it set in last week from the Bristol Channel, and if you persist with this atrocious Bill, I can tell you the flow of the tide will be fiercer, rapider, and stronger than anything you have any conception of. Yes, you will carry your Bill to-night. You will carry anything in this House with the support of those friends, whom the right 985 hon. Member for Mid Lothian described the other day as being "good enough to disperse themselves amongst us." But will that be the end of the matter? Does anybody out of a lunatic asylum believe 6hat the Government will persuade the democratic electorate of this country to spend their hard-earned wages in pensioning off a lot of decayed publicans? I do not think so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will not find the people of this country so easy to deal with. Ho can manage the fellaheen of Egypt, he can draw their life blood from them, but ho will find the working men of England not quite so easy to deal with. Although this criminal conspiracy against order, justice, and morality may have a momentary success, I feel confident that the day is not far distant when your policy will be reversed, and you yourselves will be condemned by an outraged and an indignant nation.
§ *(5.46.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS,) Birmingham, E.
I have listened with pleasure to the humorous parts of the hon. Baronet's speech, but to the peroration I cannot concede the like approbation. Much of the speech of the hon. Baronet was not relevant to the subject-matter of the discussion. It was irrelevant, for example, to discuss what Mr. Bruce's Bill has effected or not effected. It was equally irrelevant to enter into an argument as to the general principle upon which compensation ought to be levied in the event of the introduction of a measure dealing with licensed houses on a large scale, for the present Bill does not touch that principle. The hon. Baronet, while not niggard of praise to himself, distributed censure with a lavish hand on everybody else. The Local Bodies to whom the Government propose to give certain discretion he treated as bodies so given up to corruption and jobbery that no Imperial Tax ought to be entrusted to their care; the Magistrates he treated as persons who always neglect their duties and who have not enforced their discretionary right of refusal to renew licences; and on the unhappy publicans, of course, the hon. Baronet poured out all the vials of his wrath. The hon. Baronet described the publican as a man who kills numbers of his fellow-countrymen. I hope that was one of the hon. 986 Baronet's jokes. [Sir W. LAWSON: Not at all.] It was rather a lugubrious joke, and I trust that the hon. Baronet in his sober moments will not apply that description to the whole class of publicans. The hon. Baronet, coming nearer to the question under consideration, argued stoutly that there is no vested interest whatever in licences. Into the controversy on this point between the hon. Baronet and the Solicitor General I will not enter, for the Solicitor General is quite able to take care of himself, especially as he has the assistance of Lord Field. I shall confine myself to the only question raised by these clauses of the Bill. The measure does not touch the jurisdiction of Magistrates, or their right to grant or refuse either licences or renewals. If necessary, my right hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) will introduce words into the Bill to make this quite clear. What the Bill will do will be to sanction the use by a Public Body of money derived from drink for the purpose of extinguishing licences. The principle involved is by no means the principle of compensation. The principle that is involved is this: that a licence is a purchasable thing, capable of having assigned to it some appreciable value. Is that a true principle or not? I think the hon. Baronet will not deny that the practice of the trade has shown that licences are bargained for and sold in open market, and that large sums are paid for them, and these sales are permitted and sanctioned by the law. I invite the hon. Baronet's attention to the series of provisions in the Licensing Acts which facilitate, sanction, and protect such transactions. But it is said that a licence is altogether a precarious thing, so precarious that a Public Body ought not to be allowed to purchase it, especially with public money. In reply to that I have to say, in the first place, that this description of licences is not universally true. It is not true generally of Irish licences, and it is not true of the beerhouse licences protected by the Act of 1869. I do not say that they are numerous; but they are not to be left out of view when you are considering the question as a whole. I am not in a position to state the exact number or to give an answer as to the fact. They are not so few that we can disregard them in dealing with the question whether licensed houses are 987 held on so precarious a tenure that they cannot have any purchasable or assignable value. Then, take the case of an ordinary public house with an "on" licence. I will assume for the purpose of argument that the discretion of the Magistrates is, as is averred, an absolute discretion—not an arbitrary but a judicial discretion. I will assume that, but adding this: that although if that view is entirely correct, as I assume it to be, so that the strict legal right of the licensee is for a year only, I do not suppose any candid man on either side will deny that, at any rate at the end of the year, there is also the chance of a renewal. Now, is that chance of renewal a good, a valuable chance? On that question it seems to me the evidence is overwhelming in favour of the view the Government have taken. The law has been administered by the authorities selected by Parliament, the Licensing Authorities; and in practice now for a series of years those authorities have administered the law in this way: that they have practically not refused to renew licences, either in the first instance or on appeal, unless there has been some misconduct on the part of the licence holder. The right hon. Member for Derby indicates dissent to that, and he is an authority. I hope he will supply the House not with cases of "off" licences refused under a different set of Statutes like the Darwen case, but where the Magistrates have refused "on" licences on the ground that they were not required. Why, the result of the "Sharp v. Wakefield" case came on the public and the profession with surprise. Nobody conversant with the subject had ever come across a case of an ordinary publican's licence being refused on such grounds as that. Well, on the faith of this custom of the Licensing Authorities, money has been invested in the liquor trade. I ask the House whether that state of things does not constitute a ground for some reasonable expectation which has some money value. It is impossible to look through the Licensing Acts without seeing in the mind of the Legislature an intention that the licence should continue for more than a year. Take, for instance, the provisional licence granted on view of plans of a house not yet built. Does any hon. Gentleman really say, as a man of business, and not in mere technical language, that it is 988 intended that the house built in accordance with those plans, should be enjoyed only for a part of a year? If the landlord of a cottager were to do that with his tenant, and turn him out at the end of the first year, I can fancy how the hon. Baronet would pour out the vials of his wrath upon that unhappy landlord. Take again the careful provisions to be found throughout the Licensing Acts for preventing a business lapsing, even in the event of default and wrong on the part of the licensee. If the licensee commits-an offence against the Licensing Acts, and forfeits his licence in the middle of the year, there is a provision for another person being put in by the owner to continue the business till the next Licensing Sessions. Again, when one looks at the facilities which the Legislature has given for the renewal of licences, the same intention is evident. There was no appeal from a refusal to grant a licence originally, but there was an appeal from a refusal to grant a renewal. Why are the provisions, that the personal attendance of an applicant for a renewal is unnecessary, and that notice must be given to such an applicant if any objection to the renewal of his licence is to be made, inserted in the Acts? If the law is looked at, it will be seen that "chance" of renewal is a good, valuable, and appreciable chance. A paper has been put into the hands of Members this morning, showing how the interests of public house lease and free holders are calculated for the purposes of the Inland Revenue. From that paper it appears that public houses are assessed to the Property Tax at a much higher rate than houses used for other trades in the same street and side by side with the licensed houses. For the Succession Duty the annual values are capitalised on the whole life of the successor, on the presumption that the licence would so long last, and the tax is levied upon the successor upon that basis. For Probate Duty, the lease of a public house which has 43 years to run, has been valued at £543, and the goodwill at nearly the same amount, £500. The value of that house is, therefore, doubled within a few pounds by reason of its being a public house. It is, therefore, assumed that the licence will continue to be renewed, because without that licence the goodwill is worthless. It is impos- 989 sible to look at these facts without seeing that, for a series of years, the State has taxed public houses upon the assumption of an undefined continuance of the licence, and not a precarious tenure, and least of all a tenure for one year only. That the licence is intended to last only for a year, because it is renewable annually at the discretion of the Magistrates, is the most miserable technical argument that can possibly be presented to the House of Commons. The liquor trade has been put under restriction and control, and the system of licensing had been invented in part to get an annual duty for the Government, and in part to get the licence holder under proper police supervision. But, as Mr. Bruce said in 1871, the fact that the licence is an annual one is merely a "superficial fact," it is an accident that the term is so short, and it is not designed to limit the term, but to give frequent opportunity for correcting and reviewing the conduct of the licence holder, to see that the business is conducted in a proper and orderly manner. The licence is a restriction and not a boon. If it does give the holder a share in a species of monopoly, that is an accident and not a designed consequence. In 1830 there was free trade in beerhouses. That led to abuses, and then restrictions began to be put upon beerhouses, and finally, in 1869, beerhouses were put very much under the same restrictions as the ordinary public houses. All that series of restrictions was introduced for police motives, and by no means with the view of making the tenure precarious, Therefore, the conclusion I draw, both from the law and the practice, is that the "chance" of renewal has an appreciable money value, due to the manner in which the law has been administered, and to the way in which it has been understood by the public. For the House of Commons to ignore that chance would be to do injustice. What money value has that chance got? Here there has been extraordinary exaggeration during this Debate. I do the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Lawson) the justice of saying that I do not think his speech gives so much reason for complaint in this respect. For the greater part of the speech the hon. Baronet was floating far above the merely practical consideration of the Bill; but the hon. Member for Barrow has actually contended that the 990 Bill gives the publican a freehold in what ought to be regarded as an annual licence. No criticism was ever more groundless. The Bill actually fixes nothing as to the value which is to be given. County Councils are regarded with favour by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Do they think that body is so foolish that they will not be able to avail themselves of the ordinary means in the market to beat down the value of a licence they want to buy? Their agents will quote "Sharp v. Wakefield" to the publican, and will say, "Mind, you hold this licence by a precarious tenure. You will not get your licence renewed if you do not take care. "They will also quote the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth to him, and say," Why, here are Local Option and local veto looming in the distance. You had better agree with your enemy while he is in the way with you. You had better take what is offered." As in any case of voluntary purchase, these arguments will be made use of by the purchaser in order to beat down the value of the licence he wishes to acquire. If the publican refuses to sell to the County Council it will be because he thinks that he will get more in the market. But, if he refuses a fair and proper offer, then the hands of the Licensing Authority will be very much more free, and a refusal to renew his licence will come with very much less harshness than it otherwise would come, because it will be said he had the opportunity of sale, and an offer he might have accepted, and he did not choose to avail himself of it. The hon. Baronet has repeated the argument, urged with much more force and precision by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, that there is no precedent for the State giving compensation in such a case as this, where the State has given to the licensee an unearned increment; that the State might take away that which it has given without recouping the licensee at all-; and, therefore, that to compensate for doing so would be to make an unjustifiable use of public money. It appears to me that both the major and the minor premiss of his argument are false. In the first place, the State has, on many occasions, awarded solatium to those who have been deprived of that which was a free gift of the State. Officers, for instance, who held at the 991 pleasure of the Crown, when deprived of their offices have been repeatedly compensated, and there has been no objection raised by financial reformers. Again, it is not true that the added value is a gift by the State to the trade; it is the result of good management, of good liquor, and the chance of a favourable neighbourhood; without these circumstances the licence of a public house would be of very little good. But it must be remembered also that in most cases the person in possession of a public house is a purchaser who has paid hard cash, and who had earned the increment with his own cash. These arguments against the Bill, therefore, fail. In truth, it seems to me all these arguments fail as directed against this particular Bill, because they are the arguments of the extreme temperance advocates who take the most active part in this Debate. What the extreme party intend is that when that future comes to which the hon. Baronet's hopes are pointing, a scheme of such a drastic character shall be brought forward that the hon. Baronet does not like any measure to be passed by the House which bears even the appearance of a fair and equitable treatment of the publican. These arguments are fig leaves intended to cover the nakedness of the spoliation which the hon. Baronet intends. The opposition of the hon. Baronet does not rest upon any arguments going to the merits of the Bill; there was much that was amusing in his speech, but he has not addressed himself to the merits of the Bill.
§ *MR. MATTHEWS
The hon. Baronet knows that the Amendment, if carried, must have the consequence of defeating the Bill. This Bill aims at diminishing, and will succeed in diminishing, the number of public houses, not only by the action of a popular Representative Body, but also in a more direct and forcible way still, namely, in giving public notice to all who are interested in the liquor trade that the state of confirmed expectation, if I may use that phrase, which law and practice have caused to grow up in the minds of those who are interested in that traffic, is now going to be put an end to. There is now a distinct warning that they are not to 992 look to the renewal of their licences in the belief that a licence once granted will be granted as long as there is good conduct. Will any man go to the expense of building and equipping a public house with the chance of only carrying on the trade for a year? I repeat that this Bill gives explicit notice to the whole trade that hereafter their licences are to be for a year and for no more, and will thus prevent any man in his senses from starting a public house. It is a most efficient check. Indeed, I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that there may be a difficulty here from the tenure of a licence being so limited. But, to my mind, it is undoubtedly a provision that will prevent anything like an addition to the present number of public houses. The suppression of licences which will be caused by allowing a Public Authority, by judicious use of the means entrusted to them for the purpose, to buy them up on terms which they think reasonable has been underrated in my opinion. If we cannot carry with us the assent of men who are so warm and enthusiastic on this question as the hon. Baronet, I believe that all moderate men will agree that this plan is one which certainly makes an advance, and which is neither violent nor unjust.
§ (6.25.) MR. W.E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
The right hon. Gentleman has in the course of his speech paid considerable attention to the speech of my hon. Friend who resumed the Debate to-night. The speech contained a fervent appeal to the right hon. Gentlemen, who was expected to follow him, an appeal founded upon an interesting and striking letter read to the House by my hon. Friend, the letter of a man who showed in what way the renewal of his licence had been refused—an off-licence, no doubt, but one subject to precisely the same conditions of law as an on-licence. No compensation had been given, and no compensation had been expected, and the right hon. Gentleman was asked how he could justify the withholding of compensation in such a case and the proposal in the Bill now before the House. I observe that the right hon. Gentleman entirely passed by that question. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted from a paper relating to the levy of increased duty by the Inland 993 Revenue Department, which he said is now in the hands of the House. That paper is not in the hands of the House; I mention this because it is impossible for me to take notice of a Paper which I have not seen and with regard to which I think the right hon. Gentleman has made a mistake. The question before us, Sir, is attended with some consolatory considerations. In the first place, there is no necessity for treating it as a Party question, and I, for my own part, have as little doubt of the sincerity of the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to produce a diminution of the evils connected with the liquor trade as I have on the other side of the utter futility of the means ho proposes, and not only of their futility, but of the extremely dangerous character of those means, and the certainty that they will produce a directly opposite effect to that at which they aim. Another consideration which undoubtedly is to me one of the most satisfactory is that this question is gradually assuming larger and still larger dimensions in the public view, and that the tide of opinion with relation to the drink traffic is undoubtedly a rising tide. Even this Bill is an acknowledgement of that fact; and, indeed, but for that fact you would not have heard of this Bill. But I think that that fact ought to instil into the minds of the Government, and the minds of the vast proprietary interests which the Government in the main represent on this occasion, prudential considerations with reference to the policy of dealing with that public opinion in its present condition rather than waiting for a time when it will have become more powerful and more formidable, and possibly more exacting. In the very able speech of my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment there were indications that he did not urge the House to adopt the extremest course with regard to the settlement of this question. I cannot help thinking that it would be wise on the part of the Government were they to take more cognisance of the actual state of opinion, and the probability that from their point of view the difficulties which they have before them will be greatly augmented with every year they suffer to elapse before they arrive at some settlement of the question. The right hon. Gentleman says the 994 Motion is hostile to the Bill. No doubt it is hostile to that which is regarded by the Government as a vital provision of the Bill. The President of the Local Government Board has said, and I understood the Home Secretary to echo the statement, that the Government will not persevere with the measure should this Motion be carried; but those right hon. Gentlemen know perfectly well that, although this Motion is directed against the main provision of the Bill, it is not intended to offer the smallest objection or opposition to any proposal on the part of the Government to deal with the question of subvention to County Councils for any of the purposes indicated in the Bill, except the one described in the Motion itself. Therefore, although the Motion is directed in its terms against the Bill, it does not bind those who support it to a condemnation of the entire plan of the Government, but it does absolutely bind them to exclude from it the plan for the purchase of public houses. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board did me the honour to quote, from speeches made by me about 10 years ago, passages favouring within limits of terms, and favouring, in some degree, the principle of compensation in its application to the liquor trade. I should have been much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman if he had mentioned two circumstances which, in my opinion, are one of them material and the other vital to the case now before the House. The one that is material is, that the law has been cleared and settled since that date in a manner which, in my judgment and in the judgment of most men, saving the distinguished exception of the Solicitor General, is highly unfavourable, not only to the doctrine of vested interests, which the Home Secretary shrinks from maintaining in those terms, but likewise to the doctrine of permanent interest on the part of the publican in an annual licence. What is much more important is that those expressions of mine were used, not with respect to a plan of the character of that now before the House, but with respect to a general and sweeping measure for the extinction of all public houses whatever. The right hon. Gentleman complains of the use of the term "compensation" in regard to the money that would be paid under this Bill. I have some 995 degree of sympathy with him; but I am not sure that if we withdraw the word compensation there is any word we could substitute for it that would be more acceptable to him. I rather incline to think that in the light of dry criticism there may be something in the plea he made that compensation is usually spoken of in compulsory as distinct from voluntary arrangements. That may be so; at the same time, the right hon. Gentleman knows that the public mind has embraced the term compensation as meaning, in connection with the liquor traffic, money paid for the extinction of licences; and it looks no further and does not go more nicely into the matter. The right hon. Gentleman said it was not an adequate description of the Bill to speak of it as one for granting compensation to publicans. It is really, in my opinion, a Bill for buying out an extremely small number of publicans upon those terms which the publicans themselves may fix. He says the buyer of those licences—that is, the County Council—will chaffer and huckster with the publican, and will use all possible means for lowering the price. But what are those means? It is very easy to talk of chaffering and huckstering in the market where there are two people, one of whom wishes to buy and the other to sell; but here there is only one who wishes to enter into a transaction. The publican does not wish to sell; the law has invested him with a perfect right to refuse to sell; the right to refuse to sell is absolute under this Bill, and he will refuse to sell until it is made worth his while. I am not using language of the slightest exaggeration when I say that, in my judgment, this Bill may be fairly described as a Bill for the endowment of public houses, or as a Bill to buy out a certain very limited number of publicans upon the terms which are agreeable to themselves and which come up to the measure which they take of interests that are involved. In answer to this the right hon. Gentleman suggested that if the publican refuses the offer of the County Council, that may be made a ground for the non-renewal of his licence. Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to put into the Bill an Amendment to that effect? I think I may say he will not, and I hold that that fact demonstrates the shadowy and un- 996 substantial character of the right hon. Gentleman's position. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has said that we ought not to object to the payment of this money, this endowment, as I will call it, if the right hon. Gentleman prefers it to the term compensation, although if he does not object I will hark back to the term which is so rooted in the public mind—the right hon. Gentleman says we ought not to object to the payment of this money, which I call compensation, subject to the apology I have made, because it comes out of the drink traffic. I entirely object to that plea. I say this—that so long as I have known anything of the finance of this country, which has been nearly half a century, it has been a recognised and admitted principle that from alcoholic liquors, and especially from spirits, we ought to levy, not, as in other cases, the amount of duty most compatible with extended consumption, but the extremest amount of duty which will most limit the consumption; and therefore all that duty which can be levied up to the highest point is pre-engaged to the Public Service; and I would just as soon you undertook to pay this money straight out of the Exchequer, out of the Public Revenue, as that under a plea of this kind the revenue from the drink traffic should be used specially for the extinction of licences. Passing that by, I wish to point out that the two parties whom you bring into the market to deal together will not stand upon equal terms. The publican is contented with his position. What sort of houses will be chosen as the first subjects of the operations of this Bill? It will be the worst public houses, because they are the greatest nuisance to the neighbourhood; and likewise, in a large number of cases, they do the largest and most profitable business. So the Local Authorities will be urged by public opinion to get rid of these houses, and they will stand unarmed before the publican whose property they seek to acquire and whose chance of the renewal of his licence it is now for the first time proposed to convert into a solid, substantive property—a property in regard to which there are two alternatives presented, either to take it upon the estimate of the man who possesses it, or else to let it alone and allow the existing state of 997 things to continue. It appears to me that nothing can be more deplorable than the position of the County Council in such a case. They are perfectly helpless, unarmed, and have no means of beating down the extreme terms which will be proposed by the publican, as they naturally would be by any man who does not wish to sell to somebody else who wishes to buy. The publican may, therefore, get any price he may choose to insist upon, and he cannot possibly be moved by the apprehension that unless he sells he will be endangering the renewal of his licence. I do not believe there is a single Magistrate who would entertain the notion that such a refusal to sell at a price which the publican might conscientiously believe to be just should be used as a reason for withholding the renewal of the licence. What, then, will this Bill do? It will bring about an almost infinitesimal reduction in the number of public houses. I call it infinitesimal in the light of the figures of the hon. Member for Barrow, which have not been impeached, and which indicate that only a few scores of public houses can be dealt with in the course of a year if this Bill passes as it stands. If that be so, it would hardly do anything to operate upon the vast total of 70,000 licences, which, at the rate of 100 a year, it would take 700 years to get rid of. But the diminution in number, trifling as it is, will not entail a corresponding diminution in the drink traffic. The business of the remaining houses will be increased, and it will be enlarged to the full extent of the apparent numerical diminution of the houses. But there is a more important consideration. In my belief, from the moment that this Bill receives the sanction of the Legislature—and I am rather sorry that my hon. Friend who opened the Debate this evening was willing to concede so freely and fully that it would receive the sanction of the Legislature, for I still cherish some doubts and hopes upon that subject—
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having made his meaning clearer to my own stagnant intellect. I may be wrong, but it is my fixed, conscientious, and deliberate belief that from the moment when this Bill receives the sanction of 998 the Legislature it will add, and add largely, to the value of every public house in the country. Unquestionably I conceive, if that be true, it is an evil a hundredfold greater than any which the most sanguine advocate of the Bill could possibly anticipate from its rejection. What will be the state of things under this Bill, which, for the sake of argument, I will suppose to have become law? Here will be the County Council in the field with a certain limited amount in its purse, which it is legitimately and properly desirous of laying out in reducing the number of public houses, and here are the Magistrates also in the field; and with respect to them I presume it to be beyond doubt that they have the power to reduce the number of public houses by the non-renewal of licences on the conviction in their own mind, it may be, that their number is in excess of the requirements. But if they choose they need not assign any reasons; and there is no authority existing which can compel the Magistrates or the Licensing Committees to declare why it is that they refuse a renewal. The right hon. Gentleman says—"Oh, we have been most careful to keep alive in their full integrity the present powers of the Magistrates to withhold renewal." That may be all very well, and I have no doubt that it is perfectly true as far as the letter of the law is concerned. But will the right hon. Gentleman or the President of the Local Government Board tell me that the position will not be vitally changed in any particular town or licensing district? I take two public houses in exactly the same circumstances and of exactly the same value in the same district. The County Council has bought up one for a large sum of money. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me that under this Bill the position of the Magistrates with regard to the non-renewal of the licence of the other will be the same? My contention is that it will be fundamentally changed. You have a vital change before you from the concurrent or the conflicting action of these two authorities. Take either alternative you like. Take the supposition that the County Council will buy, and that the Magistrates, paying no regard to what the Council has done, exercise their power 999 exactly as before. What will be the state of things then? Would that be endured? The public conscience of the country and the public peace of the country would not allow of it. With such a direct bearing upon personal and private interests, which are always so highly appreciated in this country, such anomalies could not exist for a moment. Take the other alternative, which is the probable alternative. Wherever the County Council buys, the action of the Magistrates and the moral power of the Magistrates will be paralysed. These things are true, whatever you may say about the difficulties of the case; and I agree with you about them. I agree that there are most grave and serious difficulties. But if these things are true it is beyond all dispute that any benefits which you may hope will casually arise from the concurrence of favourable circumstances in some given instance by the operation of this Bill are as nothing in comparison with the consequences that mast follow upon its operation,' and the effect that it will have of paralysing the jurisdiction in the withdrawal and non-renewal of licences—a jurisdiction which is now living and vigorous. Undoubtedly I sympathise with my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow, who, in his able speech, declared his conviction that the passing of such a measure as this would be to interpose a new barrier, formidable beyond all description, to the progress of temperance legislation. Now, my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow used an expression which has struck me. I have no doubt that he intends to reserve to himself a free discretion to refuse all compensation of every kind and sort, all allowances and arrangements, under any circumstances. But, at the same time, my hon. Friend is a prudent Member of Parliament and tactician, and, I have no doubt with perfect sincerity of purpose, he pointed out that the question of universal compensation is not the question now before us. It is a compensation by a money payment that is proposed in the present instance, and it is to that compensation that I shall limit myself. I may say a few words with reference to the possibility of a wider measure; but to me it is beyond all doubt and question that considerations come into force, when we take into view great changes of the 1000 law, and in the basis of the law, which have no existence now whatever. At present, as I understand it, the case of the Government is that the number of public houses is enormous. Yes, Sir; but something else ought to be taken into consideration. Why is it that the position of the public houses in this country of ours is different from and lower than it is in any country in Europe? That is the result of the management which we have followed, and the number does not in the slightest degree tend to mitigate that statement. I am one of those who see the utmost, incurable, radical, and profound mischief from what is called the publican's monopoly, and not through any fault of the publican, or, indeed, of any one. My firm belief is that as long as the monopoly, connected with private interests, belongs to the trade you will never have true and efficient police supervision exercised over the public-houses, and without that they must continue to hold the disparaged and unsatisfactory position which they do hold now, and have held for many generations. I lay down with some confidence this proposition—it appears to me indisputable. The publican himself, or the interests connected with him—and there is a very important distinction to be drawn—can have no claim whatever in respect to any contingency to which they are subject under the law as it stands. It is impossible, if there be a contingency which may befall the publican under the law as it stands, by the regular and legitimate exercise of that law, that in respect to it he can have a claim for compensation. How does he stand? He takes his licence subject to a number of chances. In the first place, subject to the limitations of Sunday closing and short hours. In the second place, he takes it subject to competition of a most formidable kind. He may have the competition of what may be called free licences, the system which was established in Liverpool some 25 or 30 years ago, when the Magistrates adopted, and for several years went upon, the practice of issuing licences to all persons who could bring certificates of character and whose premises were properly constructed. He is debarred on that account from compensation. Then he is exposed to another form of competition, which I conceive to be more for- 1001 midable still. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, at a very early stage of his distinguished political career, introduced a Bill for the purpose of establishing openly in this country what is called the Gothenburg system. The essence of that system is that no spirits shall be sold as private property, but that they shall be sold by public agents, paid for their labour by salaries out of public money, and that the profits shall be devoted to public purposes. It is possible that such a system might be adopted, but opinion was not ripe for it at that time. My right hon. Friend thought it to be the more prudent course not to ask for an experiment in Birmingham alone, but to extend it to the whole of the kingdom; and the House declined to entertain the proposition by a large majority. But suppose that such a Bill should be passed. Would the existing publicans have a claim to compensation? Not the least. Their legal position would remain as before. Of course, they have no claim to compensation if the licence be taken away for misconduct; and I was surprised at the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, who says that because an Act of Parliament provides for keeping alive a licence after misconduct till the conclusion of the year, therefore the publican has a further interest in its renewal beyond the year. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that there was on this side of the House a disposition to argue that there was something so essentially ingrained and inherent in a licence to sell spirits that under no circumstances could there be a permanent interest in it. The right hon. Gentleman very easily knocked down the man of straw whom he himself had set up by pointing out that there were licences in existence under certain conditions of law to which a permanence of interest undoubtedly attaches. The contention here is that nothing that can happen to the publican under the present law can by any possibility form a just ground for endowing him with public money in the event of his losing his licence from the working of the present law. Is it or is it not the fact that the Magistrates have free power, as was decided in the case of "Sharp v. Wakefield"? The Solicitor General, who represents the extremest of extremes in this matter, 1002 has, I am afraid, the honour and advantage of occupying an absolutely solitary position. I do not understand that the Solicitor General goes the length of saying that the Magistrates have not? the power of judging absolutely whether they shall or shall not renew the licence. If that be so, how is it possible that while the Magistrates have that power you can consent to appropriate large sums of public money for the purpose of standing in the place of that very power which is given by the law, with notice to the publican—because the publican must be conceived to have had full notice of whatever the present law contemplates and avows—and in lieu of which power you are going to create a new power for buying out the publican on his own terms, with the certain effect, first, of attaching an endowment value to every public house in the country; and, secondly, with the almost certain effect of paralyzing, absolutely and entirely, the active powers of the Magistrates? With regard to the question of compensation, my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow appeared, at any rate, to contemplate a state of opinion in this House under which it was possible that if a general measure was introduced some arrangement of time might be made which would soften the transition in the event of a certain and sweeping extinction of public houses. I am bound to say that I reserve my own discretion upon that subject. I think it is one thing to say the publican has not, and cannot by any possibility have, any claim whatever under the provisions of the law as it now exists in regard to the non-renewal of licences that does not at once carry with it the consequence that if you fundamentally change the character of the law you bring in a state of things which the publican has no means of anticipating if, instead of referring the question to a tribunal which must consider the whole case, you refer it to the whole population, which would simply express its will, sic volo, sic jubeo, although I entirely agree that it is desirable that the public should be invested with the power, in some well-chosen form, of exercising that restraint which the landlord now exercises where he thinks fit. I do not feel called upon wholly to recede from what I have said on former occasions in regard to the position of the publican. 1003 But this I must say. I cannot conceive any state of things in which the State authority would have the smallest duty or the smallest warrant for looking at anybody in these transactions except the man with whom it deals—that is to say, the man to whom the licence is issued, and on whom it imposes its responsibility. Further than that I do not think it necessary to go at the present moment. I do not enter into the question whether arrangements of time might be made which would attain the purpose, apparently not altogether anathematised by the hon. Member for Barrow, whom I cannot refer to, as I have done repeatedly, without expressing the obligation under which I feel the House and myself are to him for the extremely able speech in which he submitted his Motion to the House. I simply repeat that for the present day and at the present moment I am dealing with the compensation which is before us. Bight hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench have said that they do not concede that by voting this Bill you would be committed to general compensation under a larger measure. Well, it is always right to give to men the credit of sincerity, even when in giving them the credit of sincerity you seem to be under the painful necessity of denying to them the attributes of common sense. But unquestionably to me it appears, on the contrary, to assume the nature of an argument a priori. I can understand a man saying, "Oh, if you bring upon a publican a set of new conditions which he could never have anticipated, then you are bound to consider some modification of the effects of a sharp and sudden rule which totally alters the practice of a district." That I can conceive, although I refuse this compensation; but to say that you will lay down a law which shall involve in itself the principle that no licence can be touched otherwise than for misconduct, or by the limited power of non-renewal which the Government seem to allow, without a large payment of public money—
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
What I understood the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to say is that to vote for the present Bill does not at all commit the person so voting to a grant of compensation in case of the adoption 1004 of some very large measure of compensation with regard to public houses.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that by this Bill we propose that no licence shall be touched unless bought out under the provisions of this Bill; whereas we have said repeatedly that so far as regards any powers the Magistrates possess they will still have those powers.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
But no licence can be touched, setting aside misconduct, and the power of non-renewal, which the Government admit, but which, in my opinion, they are about to paralyse. I would say of this compensation that it is totally without ground or principle. In principle it is most dangerous, totally unsupported by precedent; and, as allusion has been made to West India compensation, I should like to know what Parliament would have said to West India compensation if £20,000,000 had been placed in the hands of a public authority to go round among the West India proprietors and emancipate such of the slaves as they could satisfy the proprietors they did not need. That is the plan now proposed, without principle to support it, without precedent to recommend it, founded, I have no doubt, on the best intentions on the part of the Government, but so framed that it will work to defeat those intentions, to paralyse every valuable provision that is embodied in the existing law, and throw back the cause for, perhaps, even an indefinite period, the progress of which we have observed and registered from day to day, and in the great future triumph of which we have undoubting confidence.
§ *(7.10.) MR. BARTLEY) (Islington, N.
Sir, I shall endeavour to deal with this matter from a practical point of view, and the point from which I approach the subject is simply this. Will, or will not, this measure tend to reduce the amount of intemperance in this country? A good deal has been said, perhaps unnecessarily, in reference to the difference between compensation and buying out the publicans. I do not think that that is a matter which is deserving of much discussion. Whether we are going to compensate the publicans or to buy up their houses seems to me a matter of little importance. The real and the practical question before us is whether this measure 1005 will tend to reduce the number of superfluous public houses; if it will have that effect, I, for my part, shall strongly support it. If, on the other hand, it can be shown that it will not have that tendency, I shall have no desire to support it. For many years we have been endeavouring to legislate for the reduction of the number of public houses. We have been told that there is a time coming when those unnecessary houses will be done away with, and many of us have been hoping that year after year something would be done to bring about so desirable a consummation. We are now told that if we will only wait a little longer we may have before us some wonderfully good and comprehensive measure that will operate with enormous effect throughout this country. I must say that I am somewhat sceptical as to these promises and prospects, and that I have little faith in such heroic legislative proposals. I think it much better that we should do what has to be done in a gradual and systematic manner. For my part, I should much prefer to see the public houses reduced in numbers by which I conceive to be the most desirable system, namely, by the action of the people themselves in ceasing to use public houses to the extent that has hitherto prevailed. Probably when the force of education and other means on which we may fairly calculate have been sufficiently brought to bear the difficulties attending the solution of this problem will be very much reduced. I think, however, we are all agreed that this process is not at the present moment sufficiently rapid. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker-mouth (Sir W. Lawson) has, I think, been very hard upon the Magistrates, and I think it very unreasonable to throw the blame on that body. During the last 20 or 30 years the whole tone of public opinion has undergone a distinct change in regard to this question. In former days licences were granted without consideration, no such questions as are now raised being brought before the public. People talk as if we were going to get rid of the whole of the public houses. There is a class of persons, of whom the hon. Baronet is one, who would absolutely abolish the sale of alcohol. But the great bulk of the people believe that alcohol is a reasonable article of diet, and, in moderation, may be fairly used. No 1006 doubt, at the present time, there is too much drinking. When we see, by the Return issued in 1888, that 150,000 persons were annually convicted of intemperance, which shows there is a deal too much drinking. That represents one of every 173 of the whole population who have been convicted of the offence of drinking. If one out of every 173 of the population were found to suffer from some other disease, because intemperance is a form of disease, we certainly would have legislation to redress the evil. When we know, according to the last Return, that no fewer than 1,451 persons died from intemperance, 50 per cent. more than from smallpox, it is quite clear that there is a great evil in our midst. Where does this excessive drinking take place? There are practical and important considerations in connection with this subject. Though, as a people, we are more temperate, still the fact remains that there is excessive drinking amongst a small class of the community. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer rather exaggerated the amount the people drink. I suppose we may say that half the population do not use alcohol in any form, being too young. Taking the other half of the population as using alcohol, I find that the amount consumed, on an average, per head of wine is 0.72 gallons; spirits, 1.92 gallons; and beer, 53.60 gallons. It would be well if all, or a great part, of the money spent in this direction were put into the Savings Banks. But if you distribute the amount consumed over the whole adult population nobody can say that it is an intoxicating amount. The whole consumption per day per head represents two teaspoonfuls of wine, a little over a table-spoonful of spirits, and one pint of beer. As prosperity increases, the consumption of alcohol may increase, in spite of the measures taken to prevent it; and, on the above consideration, it would not necessarily imply an increase of intemperance. I regret that not only the working people, but many others, last year caused the addition of £2,000,000 to the Revenue; still, in its very worst form, that only represents a third of a teaspoonful extra per head of the adult population. I hope I will not be considered disrespectful to the House if I refer to what we do ourselves. I find by the Report of the 1007 Kitchen Committee that, in 1889, 11,827 dinners and 8,930 luncheons were supplied—or 10,000 luncheons and dinners. So that it would have meant the same thing had 30 men dined and lunched in this place for a whole year. On the ordinary average, we should only have consumed during the whole Session 10 dozen bottles of wine, less than 30 dozen spirits, and 44 barrels of beer. I am afraid I cannot give what we do consume. The Report contains this very remarkable sentence—There are no further details of which, in the opinion of the Committee, it is desirable that the House should he informed.We all will agree that hon. Members of this House are models of moderation in this matter, but I would venture to prophecy that the consumption by Members here is, at least, three times as great as the average of the whole community. If every member of the community consumed the average taken by Members of this House millions would be added to the Revenue of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I resent the idea that the working classes are becoming more intemperate; I am certain they are not. A certain section do exceed, but the great bulk of the people, during the last few years, have become much more temperate. They do not agree with the hon. Baronet in giving up all alcohol, and they enjoy it reasonably, as they have a right to do. But the question is, Where is this excess among a small section of the community to be stopped? All will agree that the only way is by limiting the number of public houses at the corner of the streets in London, where "toping" goes on night after night, and where there is an altogether illegitimate use of alcohol. That is really the principle of the present Bill, though I do not believe the measure will lead to a rapid reduction of the consumption of alcohol. It is impossible to suddenly alter the habits of the people; you must work upon the new generation by taking away a certain number of these temptations from the different parts of our streets. Some say this should be done in a drastic manner, without compensation. But we have this fact staring us in the face, that for 20 years we have been trying' to do it without success, and the fact remains that public houses are as numerous now as they were 20 years 1008 ago. [No.] The hon. Gentleman who says "No" I am afraid knows very little about it. By a Return published three or four years ago, it is shown that in five years the number of licences of all sorts was only reduced by 1,500—a comparatively small reduction; and the number of public houses in these is a very much smaller number. The hon. Member for Barrow has circulated a letter in which it is stated that it would take £250,000,000 to do away with public houses. I will go so far as to say that it might be desirable to do away with public houses to the amount of £100,000,000. Supposing we borrowed the money at 3 per cent. and 1 per cent. Sinking Fund; and supposing we reduced unnecessary drinking by 10 per cent., what does that mean? It means a reduction of about £14,000,000 a year, even according to the hon. Member's exaggerated estimate. Instead of £3,000 per house, I think £1,500 would be much nearer the mark; but with the amount given by the hon. Member we would be able to get rid of houses at the rate of 150 a year. Taking 20 families per house, we would reduce intemperance in the first year among 3,000 families; in the second year among 6,000, and in the third year among 9,000; and in 10 years we would benefit 150,000 families. Is it not a fact that that would be a greater result than we have achieved in the whole 20 years since the throwing out of Mr. Bruce's Bill. It is said we should only get about £60,000 or £70,000 a year in London of this money. According to the hon. Member for Barrow's own estimate, which I think very excessive, this would enable us to close 12 or 15 of the worst public houses in London every year. The hon. Member for Barrow says that this can be done without paying anything. We have heard that for 20 years, but the nation has not yet come to the point of determining upon compelling a man to give up his legitimate business, without compensation, simply because a new idea has grown up as to the conduct of the trade. A great deal has been said about the legal position of the publican. I am not a lawyer, and I do not care very much to inquire into the legal phase of the question. I say that a practical common sense opinion is of very much 1009 more importance than a legal opinion. Whether you have a legal power or not, you do not and cannot exercise it, and year after year goes by, in consequence, without any reduction being made in the evil against which this Bill is directed. I think I may fairly say that the country is not prepared to promote the virtue of temperance at the cost of the publican alone. I remember once hearing of a lady who was very strong on the subject of vaccination, and who, on refusing to have her child vaccinated, was asked whether she was prepared to go to prison. She replied, she was not, but she would allow her husband to go to prison. This is exactly the attitude Gentlemen opposite assume in regard to the publican. They are very virtuous, and they wish to do away with intemperance, but they are not prepared to pay for it. They wish that the unfortunate publican, who has been allowed to carry? on this business for so many years, should alone suffer. Take the case of a trade which is very similar to that of the publican. It is a trade which I myself believe it is not at all desirable that poor people should associate with; I refer to the trade of pawnbroker. I have been trying for many years, by writings and otherwise, to induce poor people to be their own pawnbrokers by putting by money in the Savings Banks and Penny Banks. Well, supposing Parliament could be induced to put an end to the pawn broking system entirely, or, as in Paris, to do it by the State, is it conceivable that we should allow the pawnbrokers to be ruined because their establishments were closed by Act of Parliament? Certainly not, and yet, in my opinion, the habit of using the pawnbroker is as great an evil of the poor man as anything can possibly be. An attempt is made in the present Bill to reduce the number of public houses. It is certainly a bold measure. I candidly say I should like to see a clause inserted giving the publicans a 10 or 15 years' holding on good conduct, on condition that after that period there shall be a clean board so that we can do what we like. But I do urge hon. Members who have the cause of temperance at heart to remember that this is a question which has been before us for a very long time. We know that in all parts of our great cities public houses are not only in excess 1010 of the wants of the people, but lead to enormous temptations. I do hope that we shall carry this measure in the present Session. It furnishes an opportunity of doing something practical, even if it does not meet with the entire approval of the advocates of temperance.
§ (7.37.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Putting aside all Party politics, I do hope the present Ministry will soon end their pernicious career by consulting the country, because if they remain in power much longer we unfortunate taxpayers will have nothing left to us. Right hon. Gentlemen seem to have adopted the idea that they must indemnify every species of interest that in any way aided them at the last General Election. I respect them for their gratitude, but I suggest that they ought to get the money they want for this purpose out of the Primrose League funds and the Carlton Club funds instead of out of our pockets. In the Land Bill it is proposed that we should buy out the Irish landlords; in this Bill a licence for one year is to be converted into a freehold which is to be purchased out of public funds. A similar proposal was made in 1888, but it then absolutely failed. The Government find that they owe such a deep debt of gratitude to the publicans that they must make the attempt again, and they calmly—if it were not for the great respect I entertain for the Members of the Government, I would say, impudently—adopt the principle which they attempted to force upon us in 1888, and introduce it into their Budget scheme as if it were some small matter of detail. A great deal has been said in respect to the love of temperance on the part of Gentlemen on the other side of the House. We are asked to believe that they brought in this Bill in the interests of temperance. The greatest men have their weak points, and I have always thought that the weak point of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian is, I might almost say, the credulity with which he believes in the excellencies of his political opponents. I do not share that credulity. For my part, I have no idea that the Government ever brought this in in the interests of anyone except their friends the publicans, and they do not care one great whether temper- 1011 ance benefits or does not benefit. But if Ministers have been so very blind to facts as to imagine it is in the interests of temperance, obviously now that every association connected with temperance has protested against the measure, they ought to perceive that they have made a mistake, and if it is alone a question of temperance, they ought to be ready to withdraw the Bill. They must see this themselves. It is absurd for them to talk about acting in the interests of temperance, when all the advocates of temperance, like the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, who for very many years have devoted themselves to the cause, protest against the Bill, and say it will be injurious. What do they do? They say, "We have a Temperance Society that is in favour of the Bill. We have the Church of England Temperance Society." Well, I have no great confidence in the Church of England. For my part, I think that most of the members of the Church of England are Tories first and Christians next. I know that at elections there has been what the late Mr. John Bright would have called an "incestuous union" between the parsons and the pothouse-keepers in almost every village in the country, and when the former have to judge between their duty to morality and their duty to the political party that looks after them, and takes care to protect what they are pleased to call their property against what they are also pleased to call the marauding attempts on the part of Radicals to deprive them of that property, they throw in their lot with the Tories and pothouse-keepers. Tory pothouse-keeper and parson are both in the same boat. But it seems that for once I have been wrong in regard to the Church of England, and that they are not so bad as I thought they were. Their Association is not prepared to stomach this Bill of the Government. So far as I can gather, the approval which the Government boasts of is merely that of certain clerical Tory wirepullers, who have tried to catch the Association and have utterly failed. I have observed that since the first day of this Debate we have not heard quite so much about the Church of England Temperance Association. The facts have come out, and now we know that it is not 1012 the Association, but only the wire-pullers who are in favour of the Bill of the Government. Putting aside the question of compensation altogether, I doubt whether this Bill will be of any advantage to temperance. In some streets, no more than half a mile long, there are as, many as 30 or 40 public houses, and at the most this Bill will only do away with two or three of those houses. That will not remove the temptation from the people in the neighbourhood, and I believe there will be precisely the same amount of drink consumed and precisely the same amount of drunkenness. I protest against this attempt on the part of the Government to hoodwink the public by telling them the scheme will cost nothing. No tax can be ear-marked, and when a tax is paid into the Treasury it becomes the property of the entire community. It is as ridiculous to say that the taxpayers do not pay anything because the tax is levied from the publican and the brewer as it would be to say that those who pay for tea have some exclusive and particular right-to the tax that is derived from tea. The Solicitor General is the only gentleman, in this House who boldly said that the publican has a legal right to the renewal of his licence; but I take the liberty of believing in the law of Lord Justice Fry, Mr. Justice Stephen, and Mr. Justice Field, rather than in that of the Solicitor General. Some remark has been dropped to the Solicitor General by Mr. Justice Field, since he became Lord Field, and from that it would seem that his remarks in the Darwen case were not exactly as reported. Well, I deal with Mr. Justice Field when he was Mr. Justice Field. I do not trouble myself much about Lord Field's memory at the present moment, since he has become a Peer; but it does seem to me a most un-Constitntional thing for the Solicitor General to come to this House and say that he has had a private conversation with the Judge, and that the latter now repudiates the Report of his Judgment, and that, therefore, we are to believe what that Judge confided to him and not the Report. I am a great stickler for Constitutional propriety, and I think the course taken by the Solicitor General is thoroughly un-Constitutional and improper. I think the zeal of the Solicitor General in this matter has out- 1013 run his discretion. The President of the Local Government Board does not endorse the legal views of the Solicitor General, nor does the Home Secretary, who is an eminent lawyer, endorse them. The fact is, right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not plead the legal right. They only plead the equitable right, and they base it on the Probate Duty which has been charged on the goodwill of public houses. With regard to the Probate Duty argument, I contend that the Probate Duty has always been charged upon the profits made by the publicans as retailers. I do not believe that the President of the Local Government Board can give a single case in which probate has been paid on more than three years.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I am like the angel coming to Abraham. Will the right hon. Gentleman say he knows cases where it has been paid on 10 years?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
The right hon. Gentleman may perhaps find two or three cases where payment has been made on more than five years, but I should like—with all respect to him—to see them. He may find two or three such cases, but I defy him to show that the average is more than five years. Therefore, if the probate argument is taken as showing a title to something beyond one year's licence, it only-goes to show that five years' compensation is the utmost which is given to a publican, not for the goodwill of his business, but for the goodwill based on his profits as a retailer. I have now a sad confession to make. Before I found temperance salvation I was myself a liquor trafficker. I had fallen so low as to occupy the degraded position of a Director of a large London brewery. An hon. Friend behind me shakes his head. He evidently thinks this impossible in me, but I got some advantage out of it, for I learned the tricks of the trade, and it is a curious fact, which has never been explained in the House, that the value of a public house is excessive not because of the monopoly granted in selling beer, but because the result of the monopoly 1014 is that the beer is always sold to the retailer at about twice its real value. In the past 20 years malt has fallen in price, hops have fallen, sugar has fallen, maize has fallen, and yet the price of beer at the present moment is the same as it was 20 years ago. The publican, of course, recoups himself by selling the beer at an excessive price to the consumer, and so besotted are these beer drinkers that although the idea of many of them is to get as much for their money as they possibly can in the form of beer, yet they allow themselves from year to year to pay twice the value of what would be a fair trade profit to the retailer. I think it will be admitted that the licensing system was not intended for this. The licensing system, as I say, gives not only a monopoly to the trade of certain persons, but by the operation of a species of ring amongst the brewers it gives the brewers the power of selling their beer at twice its value. When you talk about compensating at a valuation it is something like giving a monopoly, say, to a baker who sells to-day at the price he did 20 years ago, and then being-asked to indemnify him because he would lose by not being able to sell. I will, with the permission of the House and from my knowledge of the trade, follow the history of licensed premises from the first, and show to whom the money goes and show how it is that the excessive price charged for beer raises the value of the public house. A man has two or three fields in the neighbourhood of London, and determines, as the town increases, to sell them on a building lease. Naturally, he has some estimate-made as to what can be charged on each lot by the building contractors to whom he sells, and he bases on this estimate the amount he shall charge as ground rent. Say that the rent of a lot should be £5, he takes five lots and puts them down as, public house lots, and for these, instead of charging £5, he charges £25. A building contractor agrees to take these on a lease for 70, 80, or 90 years, and pays £100 extra because of the facility given him of letting these public house lots at a higher ground rent. Then the builder spends £800 on each of the public houses and sells them for £1,800. Some miserable ex-butler or prize fighter takes a house, investing his own money —£500—andgetting £1,000 on mortgage 1015 from the brewer and £300 from the distiller, -who charge 5 per cent. The brewer makes him contract to take all his beer from him, which means a present of £100 per annum to the brewer, in addition to the £50 interest. This gives the brewer 15 per cent. Why does the brewer get so high an interest? Because he knows the transaction is a risky one—that the publican has only a one year's licence. Of course he counts on the licence being renewed. Then what occurs? As a rule, the ex-butler or prize fighter, at the end of two or three years, makes up his accounts, finds himself owing more than he is worth, and is a ruined man. The brewer forecloses, the house is put up for sale, and another ex-butler or prize fighter buys it, and, as a rule, you may take it that the publican is nothing but a sponge soaking up money, not for his own benefit, but for that of the brewer, who squeezes him. The beer seller is ruined in the process. The other case is where the publican does not intend to make an income out of the public house, but hopes to raise the quantity of beer sold and then to sell the house for a greatly enhanced price. Therefore, I think I have clearly shown what is known to everybody in the trade, that the price of public houses is entirely fictitious; that in London brewers compete amongst themselves for houses, and send up the price because they are able to get trade by doing so, or, in other words, they are able to get 15 per cent. for their money. In the country the system is different; it is even a worse system. In a town there are, perhaps, two or three brewers. These brewers buy up as many houses as they can. The greater number of the houses are absolutely worthless; in reality they would not pay their rent. The purchasers put in men who are tenants at will, and they oblige the men to sign an undertaking to give up the licences to any nominee of the brewers at a day's or a week's notice. The tenant really does not pay any rent, because he cannot make it; he is simply there as a servant of the brewer selling the beer for the brewer. If this Bill passes will any of these publicans get any compensation? Evidently they will not; the brewers have taken good care of that. The brewers understand perfectly well that public opinion is somewhat telling against their excessive 1016 profits. They have been wise in their generation. Wherever they have got a chance they have handed their breweries over to the public. They do not tell the public they get their large returns because of the insecurity of the capital. The brewers do not care when they pocket the money and retire to the House of Lords to legislate for us. We have heard a good deal about the poor unfortunate publican; he has been trotted before us in order to excite our compassion. I admit there are many respectable publicans; but when the publican is paraded before the House he has always a wife and about a dozen children, and it is asked if these are to be cast out in the street without anything. If the compensation, or endowment, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian called it, were limited to the amount, say, of two or three years of the publican's profits, and if the whole matter could be thus settled, I should not myself be opposed to it very strongly. I do not say the publican has a legal or equitable right to compensation, but he has a compassionate right, and if the compensation were limited to that it would be a flea-bite, and I would not strongly object to it; but when the principle is laid down that the brewers and all interested in public houses are to be compensated you practically rivet the public houses upon the community for ever and ever. I hope the compensation clauses in the Bill will be thrown out, and that those restricting the granting of licences will be carried. If I spoke of opposing the Bill line by line and word by word I should be called an obstructive. I have never been afraid of being called an obstructive. I was sent here to obstruct bad Bills. I am ready to recognise any Bill which is passed with a popular mandate. There is no popular mandate in this case. Nothing was said about compensation at the last General Election, and it is preposterous to say that any Ministry can calmly come down to the House with a proposal to convert a property not legal into legal property to the amount of £400,000,000, and then complain of the Bill being opposed in every shape and form.
§ *(8.40.) MR. MILVAIN (Durham)
I cannot help thinking, after reading speeches and Resolutions in reference to this Bill, and listening to speeches de- 1017 livered here from hon. Gentlemen on the other side, that the principle contained in the Bill has been misconceived—I will not say misrepresented. I heard the speech delivered to-night by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, and I heard another, hardly equalling his best efforts, from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and we have just listened to the hon. Member for Northampton. To the latter I do not propose to reply, for I feel perfectly certain that those who know the hon. Member for Northampton best, and are accustomed to the display of his abilities, never treat his speeches seriously. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, I will say seldom treat them seriously. With the hon. Member's attacks on the parsons, publicans, and others I am not now concerned to deal; I leave those for the consideration of his constituents. The speech of the hon. Baronet has been replied to; and then we had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian going through, in his usual graceful and eloquent manner, the operation of making a sumptuous repast of his former expressions on this subject. I do not think it would be in my power fully to reply to the right hon. Gentleman, because it is difficult, after listening to his speech, to determine whether or not the right hon. Gentleman is in favour of the principle of compensation, or for what reason he is in favour of or opposed to it. But there was one expression he made use of in his opening remarks, an allusion to a remark that fell from the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, which, to my mind, is the kernel of the situation. The right hon. Gentleman said, referring to a letter to the hon. Baronet in which the writer said his licence had been refused and no compensation given, that the argument founded on that letter had not been answered. But this Bill has nothing whatever to do with any compensation given to a publican, or to anyone interested in a licence which has been refused by the ordinary operation of the law. This is not the principle of the Bill, though it may be assumed to be by some who oppose the Bill. It is against this monstrous principle, as laid down by the hon. Baronet, that thousands I could almost say, but, not to exaggerate, hundreds,' of Resolutions have been directed, copies of which have been showered upon us. The objec- 1018 tions of the hon. Baronet and of that section of the Temperance Party who oppose this Bill are founded upon the argument that it establishes the principle of compensation for non-renewal of licence, and gives by Act of Parliament a right to the continuance of the licence or compensation for non-continuance. I do not intend to enter into the law in detail, but, in order to determine whether that argument is fallacious or not, we must look at what is the existing law. I think it is universally agreed that there is vested in the Justices a discretion to refuse absolutely the continuance of licences, but they have no power arbitrarily to deprive the publican of his licence. If Justices were arbitrarily to deprive a publican of his licence, then, by the action of the Courts, those Justices might be compelled to assign reason for their action. So it is right to say that the absolute discretion of the Justices is qualified by a provision which compels them to exercise their discretion judicially, and the refusal must be for valid reasons. Some persons have said that so long as a man's character is good, and the character of his premises not open to objection, his licence ought not to be refused; but these are not the only considerations, though they are important ones, and I may say the leading principles which Parliament has laid down to guide Justices in the exercise of their powers. It is, of course, a very serious discretion vested in the Justices, and they exercise their responsibilities with great care and judgment. I have read an expression in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan) in which he said it was a lamentable thing that the refusal of Justices to grant a licence in Petty Sessions should be overruled on appeal to Quarter Sessions. Bat it is not my experience, and I have some acquaintance with these matters. When Licensing Justices in their discretion, and for valid reasons, refuse to renew a licence, the Justices in Quarter Sessions always give very serious consideration to the case upon which the Licensing Justices have exercised their discretion, and it must also be remembered that the case comes before Quarter Sessions de novo, and frequently to assist them to their decision the Justices in Quarter Sessions have evidence before them which was not adduced before the Court of first instance 1019 We heard from the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth an attack, though perhaps it was not intended as such, an attack upon the Justices, because, he said, the privileged classes granted these licences to the privileged few, as opposed to the masses. But the hon. Member appears to have forgotten that those who are interested in licences are not permitted to adjudicate upon them, while those who are radically opposed to them—the Temperance Party—are permitted to do so. In the recent case of "Sharp v. Wakefield" Lord Esher in his judgment said that this discretion of the Justices, if not exercised with the greatest care, might result in irreparable injury, and perhaps in injustice to many. I think that the reason why it might create injustice or irreparable injury is because the principle recognised in equity as well as in law might be departed from, the principle that the publican, so long as he is of good behaviour, and there are no valid reasons for his licence being refused, has a vested interest in his licence. How does the provisions of the Bill affect the existing law? Does the 6th clause of the Bill create a vested interest?
§ An hon. MEMBER: Yes.
§ *MR. MILVAIN
That "yes" comes from one who has not made himself acquainted with the Bill, else he would agree with me it does not. This 6th section of the Bill gives to the County Council power by agreement with the person having an interest in the licence to buy such interest. Where is the vested interest created there? The Justices may refuse, as they now on valid reason refuse, the continuance of a licence. The principle involved in this section is that a man who has something to sell may sell it to a person who is desirous of buying. I admit that for the purpose of the Bill the man who wishes to sell something is a publican, and that the person who wishes to buy is a public body, but this does not alter the principle that you should not deprive a man of his property unless you pay him for it.
§ *MR. MILVAIN
A present possession with every prospect of future possession. 1020 Property in my possession temporarily is yet mine, and I claim to be compensated if deprived of it. The existing law, therefore, is not altered, and as the Bill does not create vested interests the objections raised by a section of the Temperance Party are based upon fallacy. With the principle upon which compensation should be assessed the Bill does not deal. I do not intend to occupy time with this, but there has been much misrepresentation as to the magnitude of the compensation. I think the hon. Member for Northampton said it would take £400,000,000 to buy up all the public houses, and I will not contend with him as to the amount, merely observing that the figures emphasise the magnitude of the interests involved. I will put a question to those who oppose what I think are principles of equity and justice. I should like to know from the opponents of the Bill whether, if they had the power to deprive a licensed house of its licence without compensation, they would deprive, say, the Grand Hotel in Northumberland Avenue of its licence without granting to the pro-prietors some compensation? Such a proceeding would create such a demonstration as we, as a Constitutional Party, are not in the habit of resorting to. We do not resort to mob law for the purpose of influencing the Representatives of the people, but such wholesale robbery would excite the indignation of a law-loving public, and if you desired to do this you dare not deprive such licence holders of their interests without compensation. How, then, on principles of equity and justice, can you deprive a way-side publican of his licence and his interest in his premises? In accordance with equity in the application of law you could not do so, I unhesitatingly say you dare not, you must not, and I even say you shall not deprive a man without compensation of his interest in his licence. We are told there is a great agitation in opposition to this measure. I take the words from the hon. Baronet, that all men who have been working all their lives in the cause of temperance are opposed to this Bill.
§ *MR. MILVAIN
Yes; the hon. Baronet made a certain exception. I do not know whether his exception included only the Church of England Temperance Society. I happen to have within my 1021 own knowledge the fact that there is a large and influential section of the Temperance Party whose opinions are not so advanced that politics confuse their temperance advocacy, and who are in favour of this Bill. [Sir W. LAWSON: Who are they?] I will read an extract from a North Country paper, and I may give the name of the gentleman concerned, seeing that it has appeared in the press. On the 6th May there was a meeting of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Temperance Society, and in the course of the proceedings the resignation of the hon. Secretary, Mr. W. J. Frater, was considered. Mr. Hardman asked the Secretary to re-consider the matter. Mr. Frater then made a speech in which he said he could no longer continue to occupy his position as Secretary if the Society passed a resolution antagonistic to Mr. Goschen's proposal. He went on to declare his opinion that to deprive a publican of his means of living 'for no fault of his own would be to do an injury, to commit an injustice and a robbery. He expressed his conviction that the Government proposal was a serious attempt towards the end they had in view, diminishing the number of public houses, and it would be a serious mistake to refuse the measure. What the politics of Mr. Frater are I have no idea; but his language speaks volumes as to the manner in which the proposals of the Government are regarded by men who are not politicians before they are temperance advocates. In my view, the licensed victualler does not carry on a praiseworthy occupation; but it is an occupation which is, and always has been, recognised by law, and which is safeguarded by law; and, for my part, I will be no party to supporting any Amendment to the Bill, the effect of which would be to deprive him of his lawful occupation without any repayment for the outlay he has made upon it and such interest as he has in it. For these reasons I shall vote against the Amendment.
§ *(9.3.) MR. JACOB BRIGHT (Manchester, S.W.)
The hon. Member who last spoke seems to think that we on this side of the House are opposed to every kind of compensation, and against every kind of arrangement which might break the fall of the publican. But that is not so, and I believe it is in the power of Parliament and of statesmen to discover some mode of letting the publican down 1022 easier than the hon. Gentleman opposite seem to fear. But what we oppose is the proposition of the Government, which we believe to be inadmissible. We oppose the proposition with earnestness, believing it to be altogether indefensible. I have watched the progress of this Debate with great interest, for an extraordinary change has come over the position of the Government. Until now the Tory Government has always been looked upon as friendly to the publicans; there has been a close alliance with them, and the publicans have always cast their votes for the Tories, and against what is known as the Temperance Party. But now the Government profess themselves the friends of temperance. We have been told several times that the Government have brought in a more effective measure in the cause of temperance than has ever before been introduced; but the unfortunate thing is that the Temperance Party cannot discover the good they are doing. Temperance people throughout the country fear the friendship of the Government much more than they fear their hostility. The mode of introducing this question to the House by the Government has been eminently unsatisfactory and calculated to arouse suspicion. It is not straightforward to bring in a Bill dealing with a great number of subjects and to include in it one question which is passionately opposed both in this House and in the country. It is an irrational course, and scarcely respectful to the House of Commons. I am not afraid to express my opinion of the measure. To my mind the Bill is a gigantic imposture. It boasts of doing so much for the cause of temperance, and it does very little indeed, and that little in a direction which will do a vast amount of harm. The Government claim support for the Bill because it puts a check on the issue of licences. I am not particularly grateful for that, because it is the very least thing the Government could do. At the present time the country is so covered with public houses and saturated with drink that no respectable Bench of Magistrates would dream of adding to the number of licences in the present condition of things. Whether or not you suspend the issue of new licences by Act of Parliament I believe very few fresh licences will be granted. However, it is a pity the Bill introduces an excep- 1023 tion in the case of growing communities. The Government would, I think, have been supported by the opinion of the country if no such exception had been made. The chief achievement of the Bill will be to diminish the number of public houses; but I believe that in 20 years the results of the Bill in that direction would, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, be infinitesimal. The serious objection to the Bill is that it provides payment shall be made for diminishing the number of public houses. It has not yet been stated how much of the compensation is to go to the brewer and how much to the publican. I am told that 90 per cent. of the houses are in the hands of the brewers, and if that is the case the bulk of the compensation will go, not to the unfortunate publican, but to the wealthy capitalist. I suspect that a great amount of time will be occupied before this Bill is passed into law, and it will be interesting to notice if the First Lord will apply the closure. If he does he will make it almost impossible for the temperance-loving people of this country to diminish the public houses. But I do not believe the Government will venture on a contest of such great length. I trust that those clauses of the Bill which relate to this question will be dropped by the Government, as they dropped them two years ago, for then there would be much rejoicing throughout the country, instead of the wholesale condemnation which must follow on a refusal to accept the opinion of the people.
§ *(9.15.) MR. FORREST FULTON (West Ham, N.)
It has been generally assumed by the opponents of the Bill that there is no vested interest in any licensed house; but that is an entire misconception, because the Act of 1869 creates a vested interest in every beerhouse that was in existence on May 1, 1869. The Act is 32 and 33 Vict., c. 27, and section 19 provides, in regard to the "on" beerhouses in existence on May 1, 1869,that "it shall not be lawful" for the Justices to refuse to renew any such licence except upon one of four grounds, namely, that the licence holder is not able to show that he is a man of good character, that the house is the habitual resort of thieves and prostitutes, that the licence holder has been convicted at some previous time of some offence against the licensing law, or that the 1024 house is not structurally a fit one to be used as a licensed house. If the Justices or the Quarter Sessions on appeal refused a renewal, except upon one of these grounds, the Court of Queen's Bench would be bound to issue a mandamus ordering the Justices to renew the licence. It is, therefore, clear that the holders of these licences have an absolute, statutory, vested interest. It has been assumed that the number of the "on" beerhouses is insignificant; on the contrary, the number is enormous, and there can be no doubt that every one of these beerhouse licence holders is entitled to compensation, unless, indeed, Parliament is prepared to enter upon a policy of confiscation. A Parliamentary Return, No. 187, dated April 26, 1870, shows exactly how the matter stood on May 1st, 1869. The number of fully-licensed houses—that is the only class affected by the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield"—in the Metropolis was then 5,950, and the number of beerhouses—"on" not "off" houses, which have an absolute statutory vested interest given them by Parliament—was 3,927. The proportion was, therefore, as three to two. That is to say, of all the licensed houses in the Metropolis, two-fifths are, undoubtedly, entitled to compensation in any scheme which Parliament may adopt. The figures for England and Wales, outside the Metropolis, are still more remarkable. The fully-licensed houses at the same date were 63,419, and beer houses 45,203, making in all 108,622, so that beer licences constituted 44 per cent. of the whole of the licensed houses. Therefore, upon the most indisputable evidence, it is established that in England and Wales, apart from the Metropolis, the licensed holders of 44 per cent. of the licensed houses, and in the Metropolis two-fifths, are entitled to compensation. I hope some hon. Member opposite will deal with these figures. I now come to the Return obtained by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, which contains some most remarkable statistics. It gives the figures for counties and boroughs. It shows, for instance, that in Manchester there are only 494 fully-licensed houses, whereas there are 1,640"on" beerhouses, with an absolute statutory title secured by the Act of 1869.
§ *MR. FORREST FULTON
The Return does not distinguish between those that were in existence and those that were not.
§ *MR. FORREST FULTON
The Return was made up to 1870, so I think I am entitled to assume they were in existence on the 1st May, 1869. I do not think the noble Lord appreciated the enormous importance of this point.
§ *MR. FORREST FULTON
Yes, if the hon. Member turns to 32 and 33 Vict., c. 27, he will find the four grounds stated. I have already read them to the House. I may say again briefly that the Act provides it shall not be lawful for the Justices to refuse to renew any licence in existence on the 1st May, 1869, except upon one or other of these four grounds. First, that the licence holder is not able to show he is a man of good character, secondly, or unless the person opposing is able to prove that the house is habitually the resort of thieves and prostitutes; thirdly, unless the person opposing is able to show that the licence holder has been convicted at some previous time of some offence against the licensing law; and, fourthly, unless he is able to show that the licensed house is not fit for the purposes of a licensed house, that it has not, for instance, a sufficient number of rooms. Those are the only four grounds upon which a licence can be refused. I must say that I think, from what I have heard in the course of the Debate, that the Justices of the South of England have been grossly maligned as to their conduct in the administration of the Licensing Law. I can only say from my experience of the Justices in the South of England, which now extends over a period of 18 years, that there is nothing so difficult as to get a new licence. In the county of Essex no new licences have been granted since 1872, except upon the surrender either of a fully licensed house or of two beerhouses. Again, in the County of Middlesex not more than 10 per cent. of the new licences granted by the Licensing Justices have been confirmed by the confirming Committee. In the County of Lancashire there are 2,361 fully licensed houses and 2,069 on beerhouses; in 1026 Kent 1,617 fully licensed houses and 1,065 on beerhouses; in Huntingdon 208 fully licensed houses and 217 on beer houses, and in Somerset 821 fully licenced houses and 503 on beerhouses. In the borough of Wolverhampton there are 203 fully licenced houses and 204 on beerhouses. I have no reason to suppose that the Borough Justices of Wolverhampton have not discharged their duties in the same manner as the Justices with whom I have been brought in more immediate contact in the home counties, and acting upon that surmise it may be assumed that there have been very few fresh licences granted in Wolverhampton since 1869. Therefore, we may assume that, roughly speaking, almost every one of these 204 on beerhouses has an absolute statutory title, and the licensed holder is entitled to compensation. This is a matter which the temperance advocates never attempt to deal with, except in a general way. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby referred to the "on" beerhouses as if they were a mere handful, a dozen or two scattered about the country, which nobody need take into consideration. If the House will consider the figures I have drawn their attention to, it will be seen they deal with facts which ought to be dealt with, and especially dealt with by the opponents of compensation. I will not discuss the case of "Sharp v. Wakefield," except to this extent. I have no hesitation in saying that the case would never have reached the Queen's Bench at all but for this fact, namely, that in addition to the reason given by the Licensing Justices that the house was not required there was another reason, which was that the house was a long distance away from police supervision, and that, in order that it might be subject to proper supervision, there would have had to have been an increase in the number of the County constables, and a consequent increase in the county rate. But for this latter fact I believe the Court of Quarter Sessions would have renewed the licence. I now come to the case cited by the hon. Baronet, the Member for Cocker-mouth, namely, the refusal to renew two "off" beer licences at Northampton in 1882. In my opinion, if the Magistrates refused to renew an off licence merely on the ground that it was not required in the neighbourhood, they did not exercise a judicial discretion. An 1027 exactly similar case occurred in my experience in the County of Middlesex, where the Justices took the same view of the law as that which I have just stated. It was, I think, in 1882 or 1883 that certain Justices of the Brentford Division refused to renew 20 off-licences which had been in existence for some years, on the ground that they were not required in the neighbourhood; and the consequence was that there were 20 appeals to the Quarter Sessions. There were at that Quarter Sessions some 26 or 27 Magistrates, including several Members of this House. One of them, I think, was the late Mr. Ayrton, and they gave a unanimous decision to this effect—We have a discretion, if we care to exercise it, to refuse to renew, under this Act, any off-licences though they may have been in existence 20 years; hut we say, as a Court of Quarter Sessions unanimously, that to refuse to renew an off-licence merely upon the ground it is not required in the neighbourhood is not, in the opinion of this Court of Quarter Session, the exercise of a judicial discretion.The consequence was, that every one of those appeals was allowed, and there had never been a single instance since in the Southern Counties of a refusal to renew a licence under such circumstances. It was only an attempt to test the Act, and see what view Quarter Sessions would take of a new Act of Parliament (45 and 46 Vict. c. 34), which was never intended to apply to existing licences. So far as my judgment is concerned, long before the decision of "Sharp v. Wakefield," I was of opinion with regard to fully licensed houses that the Justices had an absolute discretion to refuse to renew a licence if they chose to do so. But, at the same time, I have always said this, and I say so now, without the slightest hesitation, that we must look at the whole Act of Parliament, and if the Justices have a discretion it must be exercised in a judicial way. When we come to look into the Act, we must remember this fact, that the Act provides even where the licensed victualler commits an offence against the law, so gross as to cause his licence to be endorsed, it gives him a right of appeal to Quarter Sessions. If there is a second endorsement the Act requires that the owner of the house shall receive notice of the fact that there have been two convictions recorded upon the licence in respect of his house so as to 1028 allow him to come in and defend his vested interest in the matter; and even when a third conviction has been recorded upon the licence the Act provides that the utmost that could happen to the premises is that they should be disqualified for two years. Side by side with all this is the fact that if a licence is removed from one part of a licensing division to another, the owner of the premises must consent to the removal. The suggestion before the House is that the owner of licensed premises is not recognised by the Act of Parliament as having a vested interest in the property. Yet it was held that in the case of a man holding an ordinary brewer's mortgage ("Garrett v. Middlesex,' J.J.," 12 Q.B.D., 620) he had a right to come in and appeal where his own tenant refused to do so. Can it be said, therefore, that the owner of licensed premises was not recognised by Parliament as having a vested interest in his property? Who can doubt that when, in 1874, Parliament introduced a provisional grant a vested interest was not contemplated? The effect of this grant is that before building new licensed premises a man must satisfy the Justices that the licence is required, must submit plans of the building for approval, and must have the approval confirmed and the order made final. Is it to be supposed that a man who has been to all this trouble and enormous expense could be liable to have his licence refused when he applied for its renewal the next year? The hon. Member for Northampton has given some illustrations from his experience as Chairman of a Brewery Company. But his illustrations are perfectly ridiculous to any one who knows the working of the licensing laws. The hon. Member has spoken of five public houses being built on one estate; but it would be a very extraordinary part of England in which any one could get five new licences upon a new estate in less than 20 years at least. Let the hon. Member tell us the estate on which those five licenees were granted, for as is such an stounding statement that I can hardly believe it has any existence, except in the imagination of the hon. Gentleman. I have had some experience of licensing matters, and I should like the hon. Member to tell us where these five plots of land were on which this enterprising 1029 butler built houses and got licences? I state again, in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, that by a Return made in 1870 the number of beerhouses on the 26th April, 1870, far from being insignificant, constitute two-fifths of the whole of the licensed houses in the Metropolis, and 44 per cent. of the whole of the licensed houses in the rest of England and Wales.
§ *MR. FORREST FULTON
The right hon. Gentleman has not shown that these licences have ceased to exist. By the Return obtained by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, I find that in Manchester of 1,600 houses only 440 were fully licensed houses. The beer houses in existence in 1869 still exist. ["No!"] Well, how have they ceased to exist? I can only say my experience of licensed houses entirely differs from that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. It is the smaller, not the larger, houses which are badly conducted. The large amount of money, sometimes £30,000, invested in the larger public houses is sufficient to induce care in their management. I believe the effect of this Bill will be to cause the automatic closure of houses which are not paying. ["Oh!"and laughter.] Well, I have observed with great astonishment, for many years past, the number of houses which, though not paying, have been kept on; and I was informed that if they were closed under the present system application might be made for new licences. That could not be done if this Bill were passed, and many of these houses would thus close automatically.
§ (9.50.) MR. FINLAY (Inverness &c.)
Mr. Speaker, whatever may be the opinion of hon. Members as to the matter before the House, they will recognise the valuable contribution made by the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman to whom we have just listened. If I differ from him in voting for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Barrow, it is for the reasons I desire to state to the House. I have arrived at this conclusion with considerable regret, for I think it will be generally recognised in the country that the Government have made a very honest attempt to deal with a very troublesome question in the interests of temperance 1030 and with due regard to the interests of all concerned. There are certain provisions in the Bill which I regard as eminently beneficial, particularly those relating to police superannuation and free education in Scotland, and I hope they will become law. But I cannot think it right that such clauses as those to which the Amendment refer should be tacked on to the Bill, although I cannot agree with a great deal that has been said in support of the Amendment. It appears to me that under certain circumstances the claim for compensation will be absolutely irresistible. If the Legislature are to make a sudden change in the policy which has hitherto been pursued with regard to licences, it will be difficult to see how on any principle of fairness a claim for money compensation can be resisted. It may be true that there is only a legal right to a licence for one year—that there is no legal right to renewal; but, surely, in dealing with a matter of this kind, one ought not to look at it only from the point of bare legality, but should have regard to those equitable considerations which ought to be taken into account when dealing with interests that have grown up in the faith that the existing policy will be continued. One of the reasons alleged in support of the Bill is that it is desirable the number of licences should be reduced, and I approve that object; but surely it is possible that this can be done gradually, and with such fair notice to each individual whose interests may be affected, that the claim for money compensation will not arise. It is only when effecting a change of this kind suddenly that a claim for money compensation can be made and can scarcely be resisted. It appears to me, therefore, that the true and wise way of dealing with the question, which I admit is one of great importance and even of urgency, is that we should not be in too great a hurry about it. A great part of the discussion on the Bill has referred to the question of compensation, but I do not think it arises on the Bill at all, for the only way in which the Bill affects existing licences is to increase their value by restricting licences in the future. Therefore, there is no particular reason why the Bill should introduce the question of payment to the holders of existing licences. In the vote that I intend to give in support of the Amendment of the hon. Member 1031 for Barrow, I feel that I shall reserve absolutely intact for consideration at any future time the question of compensation on its merits. I confess that I prefer that the matter should be dealt with in such a way—by giving fair notice, as I have said, to those whose interests will be affected—that the question of compensation will not arise. I have come to the conclusion that the results of the Bill, if it is passed, must be imperceptible, or, if we wish to secure results worth all the trouble of the measure, we will have to embark in an enterprise of gigantic magnitude. I will not detain the House longer. I only rose to state the reasons which have led me to feel that it is my duty to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Barrow.
§ *(10.0.) MR. WHARTON (York, W.R.)
I should not have risen to address the House if it had not been for some remarks made the other day by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan). The right hon. Baronet appeared to me to lay the blame for what he called the present condition of things, namely, the superfluity of public houses, not on the Licensing Justices at Petty Sessions, but upon the decisions of Justices in Quarter Sessions when cases came before them. The right hon. Baronet quoted several cases which I was not able to verify, but one case I have been able to inquire into. It was a case which came up on appeal from the Borough Justices of Newcastle-up-on-Tyne to the Court of Quarter Sessions at Newcastle. The right hon. Baronet told the House that the reason that the Justices of the borough of Newcastle convicted the publican, and I think endorsed the licence, was that the house was illegally conducted. On appeal the Justices ascertained that the landlord's daughter had lost her watch, and that that was the only charge against the house. The Justices of Quarter Sessions, as I think very rightly, reversed the decision of the Justices below. I have only to say, with regard to appeals to Quarter Sessions, that the cases are inquired into with the greatest possible care. They are there gone into with the assistance of the learned counsel on each side, and, as a rule, the cases there absorb four, five, and six times the period they do at the Petty Sessions. Certainly the blame for the superfluity of licences does not rest with the Quarter Sessions. As to the grounds upon which 1032 the Justices in Quarter Sessions come to their decisions, I may instance a case in which I myself was concerned. That was a case in which the Justices of the borough of South Shields—now many years ago—made what was called a raid upon public houses in the borough, and of their own motion struck off no fewer than 31 licences. The whole of the 31 licence holders appealed to the Quarter Sessions at Durham. The Justices went most carefully into the cases, with the result that they confirmed the decision of the Justices below in eight cases, and reversed the decisions in 23 cases. It has been said that there is no vested right or interest or property in public houses, but so good has the Legislature considered the right of the holder of a licence to his licence that it has enacted that the licence shall not be taken away until a Court of Appeal has decided that it shall. I am not going to argue that there is any legal title in a public house, but surely everyone, looking at the matter from a commonsense point of view, must agree that there is an equitable right based upon the custom of the country, and the custom of the country is almost the same as a legal right. Now, one of the clauses of the Bill provides that the County Council shall take over, or make a payment, for such licences as it may be decided to take over and pay for. I imagine that the first thing a County Council, through their Licensing Committee, will do will be to ascertain which houses it is best to purchase with a view to reducing the superfluity of public houses. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian that the most expensive, the most sought after, the most used, and the best used public houses will become the subject of purchase. I have had 20 years' experience of licensing, and my belief is that it is just the least used, the most out of the way, or in other words, the worst houses—the resorts of the worst characters—which will be done away with. The best thing for a public house is publicity. It is just the little houses which pay the worst, and become the resort and abode of thieves and other bad characters. I believe the owners of these houses, particularly when they are the owners of property elsewhere, will be only too willing to get rid of the houses. There is another clause in the 1033 Bill whick I believe will prove most valuable, and that is the clause which provides that no new licences shall be granted. The reason why certain public houses have not been got rid of in the past is that the owners have been afraid lest a licence would be granted to another house in the neighbourhood. This Bill takes away that clause, and my belief is that the County Councils will find that in many cases they will be able to acquire the licences of such houses as I have mentioned at a merely nominal price; that the owners will be only too glad to get rid of them, because the public house traffic will then be thrown into other and better houses, in which very probably they are also interested; and then there will be the advantage that in a village, for instance, the police will only have, perhaps, four public houses instead of six, or three instead of four to look after. I am sorry to have heard from the other side a slur thrown upon either the good faith or the wisdom of the County Councils. The County Councils, at any rate, have the virtue of being the popularly elected representatives of the ratepayers of the counties, and surely they may be trusted, if any persons can be, to make the best bargain they can for the county when they come to deal with matters of this sort. At any rate, I do not think they are likely to waste the ratepayers' money. We have heard a great deal about compensation. The object of the Bill is to empower County Councils to purchase the interest in public, houses—you may call it compensation or not, just as you please. Personally, I think the word "compensation" is wrongly applied, for purchase is not compensation. If an hon. Gentleman opposite buys a horse, doss he say he made compensation to the man he bought it from? In this case there is to be contract between the County Council and the owner of the licence. Compensation, as I have always held, is money paid to a man for something that is taken from him by force. No force is to be used in this case, and, therefore, this cannot in any way be called a question of compensation. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker-mouth (Sir W. Lawson) has characterised the scheme of purchasing public houses out of the money produced by drink as wicked; but let me remind the hon. Baronet that the plan of the Government 1034 is almost in the exact terms of a scheme suggested by Mr. John Bright, who held a high place in the affections of the people. I consider this a sensible and workable plan. I believe it will accomplish that which we all have in view, namely, a sensible reduction in what I call the superfluity of public houses, and holding this opinion I shall vote most heartily for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ (10.16.) SIR W. HARCOURT
Now that we are drawing towards the close of this Debate, we may, I think, ask ourselves what it is exactly that the measure of the Government proposes to accomplish, and how it proposes to accomplish its object. First of all, the Government say that there is a superfluity of public houses in this country, that it is a very serious evil, that it ought to be diminished, and that the only effectual method of diminishing it is to use the public funds of this country for the purpose. When we are going to deal with an evil of this kind, it is prudent to consider how this evil came about, in order that we may have regard to the remedy we are going to apply to it in the present and for the future. How has this evil, this superfluity of public houses, arisen? There are too many public houses; who has brought them into existence? I do not want to say anything' severe or harsh of the Magistrates of the country; but this Bill amounts to a vote of censure upon the Magistrates for their conduct in the past. The evil has been created by the authority who could alone have prevented it. That is not all. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite speak of public houses and this system which you justly declare to be a public evil as if it were like slavery, something that has been created and fostered by the State. But this evil has been created and maintained directly contrary to the law of the land and in opposition to the intention of the Legislature as declared in the different Licensing Acts. The whole system of licensing it is admitted rests, with slight variations to which I may presently refer, on the Act of 1828—that is to say, an Act passed 60 years ago. Under that Act it is not denied by anyone that the Magistrates were made Trustees for the public interest in regard to regulating the sale of liquor. They were given absolute 1035 authority as to what new licences they should give, and equally absolute authority as to what licences should each year he withheld. That being so—that being a proposition which no one can dispute—we have to ask ourselves how it can be that under such an Act there can have grown up a system under which a licence granted for one year becomes a permanent one, and that you should be obliged to bring in a Bill to get rid of a mischief that has been created by Trustees who ought to have protected the interests of the country? What was the meaning and object of the licence being made annual? Everybody knows, and even the Solicitor General will admit, that in declaring that the licence should be granted for a year, the object was that the Magistrates, who were Trustees for the public, should every year review the situation in their district, and deal with it accordingly. If it appeared that more licences were required, they were given power to grant such licences; whereas if they should be of opinion that less were required, they were given an equally absolute and uncontrollable discretion to refuse licences. If, therefore, the evil, such as it has been represented, exists, it can only be by the fault of those who were appointed Trustees for the public. The charge which Her Majesty's Government, by their speeches and their measure, make against the Licensing Authorities, who, for two generations, have had charge of this question, is a severe one. If they are right in their contention, these authorities, whose power was expressly limited to giving a licence carrying with it an annual interest, have created a permanent interest in all licences which cannot be got rid of except by a vast expenditure of public money. Now, that is a most remarkable view to take of the conduct of those Trustees. What would be said of any ordinary Trustees whose powers were limited to giving an annual interest, and who, after having been charged with the Trust for many years, turn round and say, "We have so conducted our affairs that this interest, which the Legislature told us to give for only a year, has become permanent?" A grosser breach of trust on the part of people charged with the protection of a national interest it would be impossible to conceive. What would any country gentleman opposite think of a tenant for life who, under the terms of a 1036 settlement, was strictly forbidden from making leases for more than seven years, who at the end of his period of management, turned round and said, "I have so managed affairs as to grant to every tenant on the estate a freehold interest?" I think hon. Gentlemen opposite would not like such a doctrine, and yet that is precisely analogous to that which the Magistrates have done according to the arguments of Her Majesty's Government. I confess I do not take so unfavourable a view of the conduct of the Magistrates. I do not believe that they have been guilty of this gross breach of trust which is alleged against them. I do not believe that in breach of their trust they have laid this gigantic burden on the nation—that they have imposed such an incubus on it as the Government would represent them to have done. I agree with an hon. Gentleman who said that if in past years the Magistrates were very free in granting licences, they were at the time doubtless acting in accordance with the then prevailing views of the community. The Magistrates now take a different view of the subject, and at the present time share the present feelings of the community in regard to this matter. I think it is just that that acknowledgment should be made. I utterly deny that they have created this property which is alleged by Her Majesty's Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I believe that they have? observed the law and not given any greater interest to publicans than they were empowered to do. I absolve them from the heavy charge which would lie at their door if the doctrine of the Government were true. I am sorry that Her Majesty's Government should have thought fit to put forward as one of their main defenders the Solicitor General, who has again brought forward the whole armoury of arguments with which he supported the compensation proposals of 1888. I listened with great attention to the ingenious and able argument of the Home Secretary, but from beginning to end it was nothing but an argument in favour of compensation. The Solicitor General still maintains that mistification of the subject on the law in which he has so habitually indulged, and I think we ought really to come to-some understanding on this subject. I will, therefore, refer to his statement of the law, and then I will refer to the statement of the law made by Her 1037 Majesty's Judges, and the House will have to choose between the law of the Solicitor General and that of Her Majesty's Judges. The Solicitor General made a statement, and said it was not his individual opinion, but the views upon which Her Majesty's Government then acted. He says it is his opinion still, and it is, therefore, to by presumed that they are the views on which they are now acting. Now, what are those views? The Solicitor General said—The advice on which the Government was acting, and is prepared to act, is that under the Licensing Statutes the Justices are not justified in refusing to renew a public house licence simply on the ground that there is no need for it or that there are too many licensed houses in the neighbourhood.And again—Taking these Statutes all together, it is not competent for the Magistrates to refuse the renewal of a licence previously granted, except upon some special ground personal to the "holder of the licence,and then—I believe that the Statutes, if properly read, do give a licensed victualler a vested interest in the continuous enjoyment of his licence.There is no doubt what are the principles which the Solicitor General laid down—which he says he still adheres to—and what are the grounds on which Her Majesty's Government are prepared to act in this matter. Now, Sir, I have always maintained—and I told the Solicitor General in 1883, five years before that time, that that is not the law of the country. I told it him on the authority of cases then decided; on the authority of the Law Officers of the Crown—every Law Officer of the Crown, except himself who ever advised on the "matter. Such is the law of the Solicitor General, which, apparently, has been adopted by Her Majesty's Government. Now let us see what is the law as laid down by Her Majesty's Judges. Some controversy has arisen as to whether Mr. Justice Field said anything as to "vested interests." I shall quote from the report of the case which appears in a book brought out by the clerk to the Justices of Over-Darwen. Mr. Justice Field says, in the course of the argument—In every case in every year there is a new licence. That is not a renewal, but a new licence. The Legislature recognises no vested right at all in the holder of the licence; it simply relieves him from giving certain notices and complying with certain formalities which are necessary when he applies for a licence for the first time.1038 The counsel then says he thinks it does give the holder a vested interest, but that if the learned Judge is against him on that point he will not argue it further; and thereupon Mr. Justice Stephen, who was the other Judge, says—I think you exercise a very wise discretion in not going into thatThere is no doubt the words were used, and no doubt Mr. Justice Field may have forgotten a statement made in the course of the argument. But I do not mean to rely on any particular statement made in the course of argument. I rely on the decision on this very point. The Solicitor General said that "Sharp v. Wakefield" did not raise the question. Why, it is a decision on the very point of the issue raised by the Solicitor General—the point of vested right. The Master of the Rolls says this—In regard to both cases, new licences and renewals, there is given to the Justices a discretion, and to my mind it is impossible to construe the words otherwise than to say that the discretion given to them in both cases is the same in both, cases, and that in both cases it is unlimited.That is in perfect contradiction to the Solicitor General. Another Judge, Lord Justice Fry, says—The exercise of the discretion of the Justices is one and the same, both with regard to persons who are occupying and persons who are about to occupy public houses. No distinction is drawn between the two classes. The jurisdiction and power of the Magistrates are alike in both cases, and the discretion of the Magistrates is alike in both casesIt is sometimes said that this is new law; but everyone acquainted with licensing knows that that is not so. The hon. and learned Member for North West Ham said he had always been of opinion that the Magistrates had absolute and uncontrolled discretion, and indeed it had been laid down years before by Chief Justice Cockburn that there was the same discretion given to Magistrates whether the licence was a new one or by way of renewal. The Solicitor General said that was true under the Act of 1828, but that it had been altered by the Acts of 1872 and 1874. When that argument was addressed to both the Court below and the Court of Appeal they brushed it aside. Therefore, on the law there is not, and never has been, a shadow of foundation for the unlearned doubts of the 1039 Solicitor General. That matter is not arguable. It has been settled, and long settled, by the highest legal authority. But then it is said that, in point of fact, the Magistrates do always renew, except for personal misconduct on the part of the licence holder. That statement is as unfounded as the law of the Solicitor General. I say that the Magistrates have got the power, and are constantly using the power, of refusing these licences, not on personal grounds, but upon public grounds, because the houses are not wanted, and that licences are so refused without compensation. But if that is so the whole case for this Bill is gone, and worse than gone, because this Bill would prevent Magistrates from refusing to renew licences without compensation. Extraordinary as is the law of the Solicitor General—the adviser of the Crown—it is still more extraordinary that so little of the facts should be known by the administrators of the Crown. I will refer the House to a Return of last year, which contains a list of refusals of licences by Magistrates for the year 1886 and the four preceding years. I call particular attention to this, because I undertake to show that not here and there, and not by scores but by hundreds, the Magistrates are refusing to renew those licences on the ground of public interest alone and because the houses are not required. This is not, then, a dry question of technical law, but of actual public administration. I was challenged on this point by the hon. and learned Member for North West Ham, who has a very extensive personal know-ledge of those matters; but he has not a knowledge of the practice throughout the country such as is shown in the paper I am about to quote. Let me give some examples. I will take the County of Chester. Here are two victuallers' houses and four beerhouses in the Leftwich Division, of which the licences are refused on the ground that they are not required. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney) is in the House, but here is a case from the Liskeard Division which would interest him. The hon. and learned Member for North West Ham (Mr. Forrest Fulton) said ho did not care about the Northampton case, as there had been no appeal to Quarter Sessions in that instance. Well, here is a case 1040 where there was an appeal to Quarter Sessions. There are five cases from the Liskeard Division where the licences are refused; and what is the reason given? "Licence not necessary for the requirements of the district," "Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto." "Refusal to renew confirmed on appeal to Quarter Sessions." Is my friend the Chairman of Committees going to vote? [Cries of "No, no" from hon. Members below the Gangway.] I am glad he has so many godfathers below the Gangway. This would be an interesting case for his-constituents to consider. There are in this Return three columns—there are the licensed victuallers' houses, the beerhouses, and a number of other licences. As regards the discretion of the Magistrates, and as regards the right to compensation for taking away the licences, they all stand upon the same footing, with the exception of the limited class, which does not come in here, of the beerhouses licensed before 1869, and which are specially protected. If you go through this paper, you will find hundreds of cases where licences have been taken away without compensation, and simply on the ground of public interest, and that the houses were not required. I do not wish to weary the House; but I really do regard this as the most material part of the case. Here is a case in the county in which I myself reside. In the Kingsclere Division of Hampshire two off beer licences, and one under the head of "other licences," were refused on the ground, "Licences not required for the accommodation of the public," and on nothing whatever of a personal nature. Then there is a case from the Rossendale Division. Twenty-four licences were refused because of "no necessity" simply. On page 12, I find 15 "off" licences refused on the ground, "Not required," notice having been previously given that they would be objected to on that ground only.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
If the Solicitor General is prepared to-set up some more bad law I will argue that point; but for the present I will undertake to say it was decided in the Darwen case and in "Sharp v. Wakefield," which was a case of an on licence, that the discretion of the Magistrates is absolute in all cases, 1041 except in the case of beerhouses, which come under the Act of 1869. In the Leigh Division of Lancashire 48 licences for the sale of beer off the premises were refused on the ground that they were not required. In the Wigan Division of the same county 11 licences were refused on the ground that they were not required in the neighbourhood. In fact, there is not a single page in this Return in which you will not find that in county after county and in borough after borough the Magistrates have been taking away these licences as disadvantageous to the public. The Magistrates have got the power and are using it. Their consciences have been awakened on this subject, and they are doing the work which you propose should be done under this Bill a great deal better than it would be done if your scheme of compensation were established. Whether you take off licences or on licences in this Return you will find that the Magistrates are now cancelling and refusing to renew licences simply on the ground that there are too many of them. On page 37 you will find the Over-Darwen case, and on page 38 there is a record of the refusal of 31 licences. In none of the cases mentioned here was any compensation given. Why? Because the Magistrates knew that they had a right to refuse these licences. The President of the Local Government Board, addressing the deputation from the Church of England Temperance Society, said—The Government were persuaded that there was an enormous amount of harm done by the small fry of public houses, houses of comparatively little value, and which probably would be of no market value if conducted in such a manner as they would wish to see.Well, if these houses are of small market value, or of no market value, why pay compensation in respect of them? The hon. and learned Member for North West Ham, who is conversant with the subject, has declared that there are a great many public houses in the country and in London which are conducted at a loss, and yet you propose to buy these houses up with public money. Was there ever so monstrous a proposition? I undertake the defence of the Magistrates of this country against the Government. I say they have not been neglectful of their duty, and the assumption that you must have a Bill of this 1042 kind because the Magistrates do not control these licences is as unfounded in fact as it is absolutely without foundation in law. If it were otherwise the proper remedy would not be a Bill of this kind, but to change the authority, to supersede the trustees, to put in the place of the Magistrates the County Council or some other Representative Body which would do that which the Magistrates ought to have done. The hon. Member for North Hants (Mr. Jeffreys) complained the other night that the police do not report the houses to the Magistrates. Is it not perfectly understood that the police are not expected to report houses in many cases? I think the Magistrates would do well if they gave instructions to the police to be much more careful about reporting public houses than they are at present. Now, what will be the effect of this legislation? The result will be to increase enormously in value the property of the great Joint Stock Brewery Companies. You are to buy out the small men, and the big men will be established behind the impregnable barrier of a guaranteed monopoly. A worse use to put the public funds of the country to I cannot conceive. In my neighbourhood the free public houses are all being bought up by one brewer. If a brewer owns, say, five public houses, and you buy up two, the only result will be to increase the value of the remaining three. Everyone knows that is the way the thing will work. In my opinion, you will not increase temperance in the least if you leave three public houses out of five in a village. There will still be as much drunkenness as when there were five. I remember the late Mr. Henley, who was one of the most sagacious men who ever sat in this House, saying that it was a vain thing to imagine that by buying up one or two public houses here and there temperance would be promoted. I believe, from what I have heard since, that that opinion is perfectly well founded. This purchase operation of yours, involving an outlay of £350,000 a year, will act like the Sinking Fund, which keeps up the price of Consols, for it will keep up the price of public houses all over the country in the interest of the great breweries. You do not tell the County Councils on what principles they are to buy. You do not all go as far as the Solicitor General, or that ultra-publican the Member for South Tyrone 1043 (Mr. T. W. Russell); but you say that something must be given to the publicans because they have an expectation worth something, and in consequence you propose to buy up some of the public houses and to increase the value of the remainder. A paper has been handed about this afternoon respecting the argument of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) on the Probate Duty. The noble Lord thinks he has made a great discovery— so he has. It is one of the most remarkable mare's nests ever brought to light. The Inland Revenue officers will always get money out of everything they can. Do you suppose that if a man at the time of his death was in possession of smuggled goods they would not take probate on them? Of course they would. To say that the practice of the Inland Revenue officers on a matter of this kind makes any difference is altogether an absurdity. Of course this scheme will operate exactly like a tontine. You will buy out some public houses and increase the value of the remainder. You propose to weed the garden of the public houses so as to allow the plants that are left to grow to gigantic size. You have no right to impose upon the County Councils the duty which you propose to put upon them without telling them the principles upon which they are to act. It is not fair to them or to the public. You say this Bill does not involve compensation. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) pointed out that such a statement was against common sense. What will the publicans say to this Bill? Will they think it does not involve compensation? I received the other day—I suppose as a mark of their confidence— the last number of a publication called Brewers and Distillers, in which it is said:—It may be wise or very much otherwise on the part of the Government, from a strictly Party point of view, to re-introduce the dropped compensation clauses under cover of a Local Taxation Bill. With that we have nothing to do. The sole question for us is whether, assuming the Government to be strong enough to carry these clauses in the teeth of opposition from hot foes and lukewarm friends, the liquor trade is likely to stand on a firmer footing.And the conclusion at which they arrive is this:—If Lord Salisbury and his Colleagues and supporters succeed in passing this Bill, the 1044 trade, as a guild and vested interest, will have no need of any further plea for compensation.There is only one condition they make, and that is: that the off-licences shall be included in the Bill, in order that the principle of compensation may apply to every kind of licence; and that is the concession which the Government have made to the Church of England Temperance Society.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
That was not at all what the Church of England Temperance Society asked. What they asked was that so far as the Suspensory Clauses were concerned, off-licences should be included.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Well, Sir, however that may be, in my opinion this Bill was introduced, not because the Magistrates cannot and do not terminate licences, but because they can and do; and because the publicans are now finding out that public houses are being put an end to without compensation, they demand a Bill which will ensure that they shall not be put an end to without compensation in the future. You say that the jurisdiction of the Magistrates will remain unimpaired. Well, I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian has pretty well exposed that, statement. You cannot have two Kings of Brentford smelling of the same public house. Take the Red Lion or the Blue Boar. The County Council say to the Magistrates, "It is a bad house, refuse the licence." The Magistrates will say to the County Council, "Is it a bad house? Then buy it up." That will be the position between those two bodies. The Home Secretary says that the County Council will be able to offer a particular sum for a house, and say, "If you do not take a particular sum we will go to our friends, the Magistrates, and get them to take away the licence." I should like to know what will to-morrow be the view of the trade on that theory of the Home Secretary. You are to offer them a particular sum, and, if they do not take that, you are to give them no compensation at all. A more unjust, or a more indefensible proceeding I never heard. How can the Magistrates continue, as they are now doing, to put an end to licences when you erect a special body for the purpose of buying them out? It is quite obvious, as my right hon. Friend the Member 1045 for Mid Lothian has said, that you will entirely paralyse their authority. I was much struck by what the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester said in his speech the other night, that he thought it was very likely that the County Councils would not exercise the power you give them. I am sure I hope they will not. I hope public opinion will be strong enough to prevent their paralysing the hands of the Magistrates and wasting public money. I hope the London County Council will take the view it seems disposed to lake, and repudiate altogether an office which, in my opinion, can only be exercised to the public disadvantage. I cannot conceive on what principle the County Councils will proceed. The haggling for these public houses was described by the Home Secretary in a most amusing form. He said the County Councils would hold up to them the figure of my hon. Friend the Member for Cockermouth, and tell the publicans that if they did not take a particular sum a worse thing would happen to them, that then they would point to "Sharp v. Wakefield," and that that would induce the publican to take a small sum. But, Sir, the publican will say, "I do not care for that case. That was only decided by the Judges of the land. I have got the Solicitor General on my side. What do I care about the Member for Cockermouth? I have got the Home Secretary on my side." And, therefore, I venture to say this manner of putting down the publicans will be totally unsuccessful. It is said that we are inconsistent on this side of the House in taking this course on the subject of compensation. I deny that. In the year 1883 I stated these views on the part of the Cabinet after mature deliberation—a Cabinet of which both the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham were Members. In that year the Cabinet expressed a deliberate determination to support the principle of local option, and the transfer of the power of the Magistrates to an Elective Body. That will be found stated in the Debate of 1883, and to those principles we adhere exactly in the form they were then stated. I stated then that we supported and recommended the transfer of power to the authority of a Representative Body, without any proposal of compensation. Now, Sir, it is 1046 said that the Temperance Party accept a great responsibility in declining this measure. I admit that entirely, and we accept the responsibility. I say that this Bill does nothing for the cause of temperance which is not equally well and better done without it. You say that you are going by this Bill to suspend the issue of further licences. I am obliged to say to that "Thank you for nothing." The fact is that no new licences are being issued by the Magistrates of this country except upon the conditions which you propose by this Bill. We have already got that security in an ample form by public opinion and the action of the Magistrates, and I deny that it is any advantage that you offer to the temperance cause. Then you say that you get rid of the small fry of the public houses by this Bill; I say that the Magistrates have the power and are getting rid of them already. You say that we must go by degrees in this matter. I do not believe that any great change of this kind can be made suddenly, but the Magistrates are going by degrees, and I hope that every day they will go faster in the exercise of their authority. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has shown conclusively that this Bill will practically paralyse the power of the Magistrates, and that it is an enormous evil. That is the good which you profess. I say that all the good you profess can be done, and is being done now, and we prefer to be left alone. But this Bill not only does no good which is not being accomplished, but it does a great deal of evil. The evil you are doing by this Bill, in my opinion, is that you are giving a practical recognition by Statute to a portentous monopoly. That is a very great evil, whatever you may intend —and I am not bringing a charge of any evil intention against the Government; on the contrary, I believe that they have the best intention in this matter—but we believe that the result of your action will be for the first time to give Parliamentary sanction to and a permanent property in licences; that you will have accomplished that which your predecessors in legislation desired specially to prevent —namely, that licences should have anything more than an annual existence. You are creating by implication in this Bill a freehold property of millions of money which will hang like a millstone 1047 round the neck of society in this country, and that is an enormous evil. As to the fallacy that this money will come from drink, I need say nothing; the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has said enough with regard to that. These we believe to be the evil consequences of your legislation; we cannot and will not consent to it. We believe that so far from advancing the cause of temperance it will greatly retard it. We believe that, whatever you may intend, it is an insidious and a fatal blow to the future prospects of the Temperance cause. You say that you have got the support of the Church of England Temperance Society. Yes, I know, but I think yon will find that the Church of England Temperance Society does not now represent, and never has represented, the great body of the Temperance Party in this country. They have had many questions which they have preferred to that of temperance at the critical moment, and though they may have one eye upon the Compensation Bill, they have the other eye upon the next 'Bill which is coming before the House, the Tithe Bill, and do not suppose that with the Temperance Party in this country the executive caucus of the Church of England Temperance Society is going to carry any considerable weight. Then you have got the aid of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. Well, you have used that instrument so often that you have used it up. The hon. Member for South Tyrone is a faithful and well-trained setter, who at the crack of the Government whip is always ready to go "down-charge." As to the influence he will give you with the Temperance Party, why, his influence with to-day is about on a level with his influence with the tenants of Ireland. He has been advocating both, and he has deserted both. The hon. Member has spoken very freely of me, and I may speak freely of him.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I am sure he has not, because he is a fighting man. Well, the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth said that you would carry the Second Reading of this Bill. Of course you will. Why, with your composite majority you will carry the Second Reading of the Bill, but when you carry the Second Reading you will not have advanced very far upon your road. You 1048 are only at the commencement of this struggle, and depend upon it we mean to fight it out to the end. The consequences are too tremendous, the stake is too immense, to be settled by a single Division. We shall offer to this Bill, at every stage of it, the most persistent and determined resistance. We are resolved that the country shall have time to understand the whole question, and the liabilities in which it involves it. We are determined that the taxpayers of the country shall know what it is that this Bill makes them responsible for now, and what it will make them responsible for in the future. We believe that it erects an insuperable barrier against the hopes of temperance reform. We shall resist this measure to the best of our abilities in this Parliament, and if you should succeed in carrying it into effect in this Parliament, we believe that there is no count in the indictment we shall bring against you in the next which will more entirely condemn you than this.
§ *(11.22.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
We are accustomed to hear from the right hon. Gentleman language such as that with which he has just concluded his speech. We are frequently told that the Second Reading of a Bill may be carried, that we are beginning a great struggle, and that the consequences which will follow are to be tremendous. We have encountered such things in the past, and we hope to encounter them successfully in the future, and even if this Bill does becomes law we shall face that indictment which he says he will make against us in the country without feeling that alarm which he presages for us. We are told that the country shall know what this Bill makes them responsible for. That is the one thing which we most heartily desire. No measure has been at any time submitted to Parliament with regard to which so much misapprehension, not to say misrepresentation has been prevalent. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman that this Bill will place an insuperable barrier against temperance reform. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to give the Government credit for good intentions, and I suppose he will give us credit for ordinary intelligence. I am, unable to see by what means a measure which proposes to prohibit the issue of fresh licences, which affords facilities for 1049 diminishing the number of public houses, places an insuperable barrier against temperance reform. At the beginning of his speech the right hon. Gentleman constructed what appeared to me to be a serious indictment against the Magistrates of the country, although he was good enough to say that he believed the Magistrates had, on the whole, done their duty and had acted in accordance with public opinion, and bad sought to diminish or control the issue of licences so that they should not be in excess of the wants of the community. There was one interesting portion also of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in which he referred to a Return presented to the House last year, and from which he argued that a great reduction in the number of public houses had been effected during the last five or six years by the Magistrates. The Return purported to be a Return of the number of licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors in which renewal has been refused in 1886 and the four preceding years. In the summary at the end of the Return it is shown that in England and Wales 432 publicans' licences were refused in the five years from all causes whatever.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
The numbers are 432 publicans' licences; 832 beer house licences; and upwards of 900 other licences. I think that the right hon. Gentleman said that the Magistrates are refusing licences by the hundreds, and I think he left it to be inferred that these were licences that the County Council would deal with under this Bill.
§ SIR. W. HARCOURT
No, I said scores. I said there were hundreds of licences of all descriptions. Of course, the publicans' licences are much the fewer.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
Now, I think we are getting to the facts of the case. I understand that the hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker mouth and the hon. Member for Barrow desire above all to see the number of public houses diminished, because it is the public house which is the danger to the community. Now, instead of these public houses being refused by the hundred on other grounds than misconduct—
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
Well, then, it is not to be understood that during the last five years Magistrates have refused the renewal of public house licences by hundreds; that is not to be understood, and, therefore, the power not having been exercised, we are in face of a difficulty which renders it necessary for the House to consider whether it is, on the whole, advisable in the public interests that things should remain as they are. I say that the number of cases shown in this Return of refusals to renew licences on the ground of their not being required is 46 only in the five years. The total number of public house licences refused in the five years was 432. Of these, 386 were refused on the ground of misconduct or because of the houses themselves being shut up; 46 were refused on other grounds than those; and as regards those 46, 26 were not appealed from. There were 20 appeals; of those 20 appeals 15 were successful, and the licences were granted on appeal; and in only five cases were the refusals confirmed. According to this Return we have, therefore, the net result that in five years 46 public houses in England and Wales, out of a total of 67,125, were closed because they were not required, in the judgment of the Magistrates, for the convenience of the neighbourhood. The right hon. Gentleman may be of opinion that that is a satisfactory result and that it is desirable to maintain that total number of 67,000; but we do not agree with him in that view. We think it is expedient, notwithstanding the dangers which he has shadowed forth, to supplement the machinery which is in existence for regulating the number of public houses in England by allowing a representative Local Authority to exercise the influence, power, and knowledge its members possess in order to diminish the number of houses which offer temptations to drink. I will not enter into the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman as to the law of the case; I am not dealing with the law; I am dealing with the facts; and I think I have adduced enough to show that Magistrates have not the power to reduce licences, or do not like to exercise it on their own responsibility. Coming to another point, I think it is right the House should know that there is no trade carried on in this country which is more constantly 1051 subjected to Probate Duty than is the trade of the publican. When the Office? of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was held by the right hon. Member for Derby and by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian Probate Duty was exacted as now upon the goodwill, and upon the leases of publicans to a larger extent, and in a larger proportion than it was exacted, or is exacted, upon any other trade. A paper has been handed me to-day by the Inland Revenue Department showing in several cases the amounts of valuation for probate, as compared with the amounts at which publicans had been assessed to Income Tax; and the figures in three cases are as follows: Income, £300; probate, £1,000; income, £200; probate, £1,000; income, £600; probate, £2,300. These amounts are larger in proportion than in almost any trade that is carried on in the City of London.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman will find that £2,000 is 10 years' purchase of a house assessed in Schedule D at £200; that £1,000 is five years' puchase of a house assessed at £200; that £800 value is three and a quarter years' of a house assessed at £250 a year, and so on. I hope I have convinced the right hon. Gentleman that the value of this property depends entirely upon the licence, and that the Inland Revenue, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Government have assessed Probate Duty at three, and, in some instances, 10 years' purchase. As regards the lease, the right hon. Gentleman is himself aware of the circum-stances under which the Property Tax is paid under Schedule A. An examination of Schedule A shows that of two houses, one being precisely the same in accommodation as the other and of the same value, except so far as the licence is concerned, the licensed house pays upon £140 a year, while the unlicensed house pays £100. Then, again, so far as Succession Duty is concerned, the owner of the licensed house pays upon the capitalised value of £140 a year as distinguished from the capitalised value of the unlicensed house at £100 a year. The assumption of the Inland Revenue, therefore, is that the licence will be renewed unless there is any fault on the 1052 part of the individual himself; and the evidence furnished by this Return shows that in only 31 cases altogether out of 67,000 in five years has the licence been refused on the ground of public necessity. I observe in the speech of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian there was a singular tendency to hark back to the extraordinary view of Free Trade which I believe he at some time entertained. He referred to a system which prevailed in Liverpool some years ago. We all remember when Free Trade in licences existed in Liverpool, but we also remember that universal public opinion put an end to that Free Trade, and it was denounced as being most injurious to the interests of the community. Do what we will, we have to face a problem, and if we can by any means reduce the number of public houses we shall, I believe, be doing great benefit to the community. I will not at this hour detain the House at any length, but I must say a word as to the extraordinary misconception which prevails with regard to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says that if this Bill passes it will paralyse the action of the Magistrates. I have already shown what that action 'is at the present time, and that only 31 public houses in five years have been closed owing to the extraordinary action of the Magistrates. There appears to be an impression abroad that this Bill is different from what it really is. I have here a Circular from the Congregational Union of England and Wales—a most respectable body, quite incapable of making intentional misrepresentations. In that Circular they protest against the principle of compensation for non-renewed licences for the sale of alcoholic liquors being created by Act of Parliament, or a right given for continuation of licence. That is an entire and absolute misrepresentation. The power to purchase licences depends upon a licence being in existence. If a licence had not been renewed it could not be purchased. It would be contrary to law, and it would be a breach of the law if any money were given to any person for any licence which had been refused. To represent this as compensation for non-renewed licences for the sale of alcoholic liquor is to state what is not the fact. It is only necessary to read the words of the clause by which the County Council are empowered— 1053To agree with any person having any interest in premises in the county in respect of which a licence has been granted, with the view of such premises ceasing to be used for the sale of intoxicating liquor,to see that if the licence has been refused there is no power in the County Council to give any compensation to the possessor of the licence. The clause is an absolute negative to the proposition in the Circular I have alluded to. Then I have received a letter from a gentleman belonging to the Congregational Church in Crediton (Mr. F. Allen), in which he says that if the basis of compensation could be shifted from the fictitious ground of legal right or vested interest and payment be made only on the basis of deprivation of annual income, he believed that the great bulk of the people would support the proposal. The suggestions made in that letter are in entire harmony with the provisions of the Bill. The gentleman knows nothing at all about it, but says that if the basis of the payment made was on account of an individual being deprived of his means of livelihood the public generally would support the Bill. That is precisely what we intend to do. We must come to this conclusion—that, whatever the law may be, the licences are renewed. I have shown that the reduction effected in the number of licences, on the ground that they are not required, is absolutely infinitesimal. There is no progress whatever made in that direction, because the Magistrates have before them the knowledge that these men have a property in their licences and the goodwill of their houses, and that it would be absolutely unjust to deprive them of it unless they have committed some offence. Even a Magistrate who is a teetotaler feels that he would be commiting a personal wrong in such circumstances. By this Bill we put no restraint whatever upon the power of the Magistrates to renew licences; we do not paralyse their action in the slightest degree. There is the evidence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby that the Magistrates are doing their duty with the consciousness that the eye of the public is upon them. I could give the House further instances in regard to the valuation of goodwill, but there is one fact to which I would wish to call attention. In all these numerous instances of probate being charged upon 1054 the goodwill, no single application for a return of the duty can be traced at Somerset House, although the person who paid the tax would be entitled to make such an application if the licence-were not renewed. Therefore, it can be fairly inferred that the licences have always been carried on to the successors. One right hon. Gentleman, who was also the Chairman of an important County Council, has stated that he did not anticipate the least difficulty in carrying out the provisions of the Bill; and I do not apprehend that the London County Council will hesitate to discharge a duty which the Legislature has imposed upon it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby gave us an alarming forecast of the terrible consequences of the passing of this Bill. He has told us we are only at the commencement of opposition that will take the most extreme shape, and that if the Act passes the consequences to us will be most disastrous—tremendous, I think, he said. But I believe that the consequences of the Bill, though not tremendous oven for good, will tend greatly to the advancement of temperance. There is no compulsion on the Councils to buy, and there is none on the publicans to sell. I myself rather welcome a proposal which does not involve that unpleasant word "compulsion"—a word that seems so grateful to hon. Gentlemen opposite. But there are many persons throughout the country who are most desirous to diminish the number of public houses, and there are many landowners who will gladly assist the County Councils in the work of reduction. Many who have strong interests in promoting order and peace and morality in their neighbourhoods will do their utmost, now that these facilities are provided, to help to make the machinery of the measure operate. At any rate, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite has admitted, this Bill is an honest attempt on the part of the Government to abate an evil. How was it that we were able to introduce this scheme? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his opening Budget statement, had to confess that there was an enormous increase in the consumption of drink. It was believed that the work of the Temperance Party had arrested that consumption. But it has been shown that, with increasing prosperity and ability to purchase, those who desire to 1055 possess themselves of alcohol have largely given way to the temptation. The temperance movement has failed to arrest the desire, and if, with higher wages, we have but to look for a larger Drink Bill, there is a sufficient reason why the Government should believe that the House and the country are prepared to assent to the restrictions which we propose on the facilities for drinking. The circumstances under which the Bill was prepared not only justified it, but made it imperative. Reference has been made to the working classes in this debate, and I can only say that it is not for us to place temptations in their way. It is for us to lessen those temptations if we have the power to do so, but we can hardly say to those men, "We can trust you with the franchise, but we cannot trust you with the control of your own appetites." I admit that it is desirable that we should do our best to reduce the number of public houses, but it is absolutely impossible to carry out any scheme amounting to a total prohibition of the traffic. There is another point to which I wish to refer, and that is to a Resolution moved by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, on March 13, 1877. It was as follows:—That it is desirable to empower the Town Councils of boroughs under the Municipal Corporations Acts to acquire compulsorily on payment of fair compensation the existing interests of the retail sale of intoxicating drinks within their respective districts; and thereafter if they see fit to carry on the trade for the convenience of the inhabitants, but so that no individual shall have any interest in, nor derive any profit from, the sale.That Resolution was supported by, among others, the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, and even by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker-mouth himself. It is clear, therefore, that the hon. Baronet was at one time, if he is not now, willing to give fair compensation to the publican. Hon. Members opposite, it is said, are now alarmed at the enormous figures that have been brought forward to show the vast cost that would be involved in acquiring the entire trade; but, Sir, I have always denied the expediency of such a course, and the Government have no intention of seeking to acquire the entire trade. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has spoken of it costing from £250,000,000 to £400,000,000 to give fair compensa- 1056 tion to all who are interested in the trade, but I repeat the Government are opposed to such an idea. We certanly think that the number of licences is too large. We desire to diminish them, but we do not desire, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division, to pay £250,000,000 of public money in compensation in order to acquire the interest of everybody engaged in the liquor trade. We do not ask that any considerable number of persons shall be compensated compulsorily because we do not propose to take any parson's trade by compulsion, and do not, therefore, propose to compensate anybody. What we do propose is that, at the discretion of the Representative Authority, power shall be given to that authority to purchase houses where they are admitted to be in excess of the needs of the population. I say that it is possible to diminish the temptation to which large numbers of our fellow men are subjected, and I think that this House is bound to second any honest efforts on the part of the Government to lessen the evils which are admitted to exist at present in the drink traffic, and, without in the slightest degree diminishing the responsibility of the Licensing Authority, or without interfering in the smallest measure with their action in any way in which they can legally act to lessen the evils we all deplore. I say that the House will do a good work if, with that object in view, you enable the County Councils to purchase some of those licences from year to year.
§ DR. HUNTER) (Aberdeen, N.
I rise, Sir, not to take part in this Debate, but to ask a question of the Government. I do not know whether they will answer it, but if they do not, it is one of those matters in which their silence will be as significant as their speech. With regard to the Scotch portion of the Bill, we are in this position—that the Scotch Members approve of it generally, but there is one part of it with regard to which a difference of opinion arises, that is, with regard to the buying up of the licences. The question I have to ask is this—If the Government find that a majority of the Scotch Members are opposed to that portion of the distribution of the money allocated to Scotland, and which does not belong to England, will they withdraw that clause as far as it applies to Scotland?
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I think the hon. Gentleman must feel that that is not a question which I can answer here. While we wish to pay the greatest respect to the opinions and wishes of the Scotch Members in Committee, we are certainly not in a position to enter into any engagement here.
§ (12.10.) The House divided:—Ayes 339; Noes 266.—(Div. List, No. 86.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ (12.32.) SIR W. HARCOURT
Will the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House give the House an assurance that the Committee stage of this Bill will not be taken before Whitsuntide?