HC Deb 28 April 1891 vol 352 cc1636-76
MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)

I desire, Sir, in reference to the notice of Motion standing first upon the Paper, to ask you a question on a point of Order. There are at the present time three Local Veto Bills on the Order Book of the House, referring respectively to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These Bills deal with the question of giving local control over the licences within the several districts, and matters in relation to licences with which this Motion deals, and the question I wish to ask is whether my hon. Friend would be in order in submitting such a Resolution applicable in its terms to the countries I have mentioned; and whether he should not confine his Motion to England, the Local Veto Bill for England having been withdrawn?


The Resolution as drawn is in very general terms, and as it stands it applies to the whole United Kingdom—England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. A few days ago there were four Local Veto Bills before the House, but the Bill for England has been withdrawn so as to enable the hon. Gentleman to proceed with his Motion. As the Resolution stands, however, if affirmed by the House, it would prejudice the consideration of other Bills, and especially of the Irish measure. It would, therefore, be convenient if the hon. Member were to confine the terms of his Resolution to England, and this may be done by the insertion of the words " in England." That would not only obviate every objection on the ground of anticipation, but the Motion would not then prejudice any other Bills on the Paper that the House may have ordered to be read on a future day.

MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rush-cliffe)

I had hoped, Sir, that any difficulty in the way of the Motion had been surmounted, bat I am obliged to my hon. Friend for indicating the difficulty, and to you, Sir, for the suggestion I gladly accept.

(9.2.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,

(9.5.) MR. J. E. ELLIS

I desire first to acknowledge the courtesy of my right hon. and hon. Friends which enables me to bring forward this Motion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) has kindly deferred to another day a notice of Motion in which he is interested in order that my Motion might be brought on, and for the same purpose my hon. Friend the Member for the Holmfirth Division has withdrawn the District Veto Bill, which had reference to England. I am at the outset very anxious to make it clear that as the matter now stands, and especially as far as this Resolution goes, the question of licensing reform lies outside the ordinary lines of Party strife, and certainly I shall avoid saying anything to bring it within the sphere of such controversy. For my own part, I heartily welcome the efforts of any man in the direction of temperance reform whatever his political opinions on other subjects may be. It appears to me it is needless to go into the past history of this matter. On the 29th of April last year we listened to one of the most remarkable speeches ever delivered in this House—the one from the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) when he unfolded his proposals for a Licensing Bill. The noble Lord then recited the history of this matter, so far as Parliament is concerned, and I venture to think that any hon. Member who desires to look at this aspect of the case will find a concise repertory of the facts in that speech of the noble Lord. Nor do I intend to dwell on the magnitude of the evils involved in this question, for I think that is admitted on all hands. I come at once to the Resolution I have the honour to lay before the House. Two points are really raised by this Resolution, and it is on these I ask the judgment of the House to-night. In the first place, I propose a large reduction in the number of licensed houses; and in the next place I declare that it is desirable there should be further powers of control over issue of licences, and in respect to the houses to which they are attached. Now, to my first declaration-—as to the necessity of reducing the number of public houses—I imagine there will be pretty general assent. The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Forrest Fulton) has placed on the Paper notice of an Amendment to my Resolution, indicating the nature of the obstacle—the barrier, if I may use the expression—he would desire to place in the way of a reduction in the number of licensed houses. Certainly I should have thought, after the Debates of 1888 and 1890 and the decision given at the other end of the corridor on March 20, of the present year, in the case " Sharp v. Wakefield," the particular aspect of the question presented by this Amendment would hardly have been brought forward to-night. But I am very glad indeed to have the opportunity for a fair and square Debate on this proposal for compensation; and I suppose we shall hear some reason why the judgment of the highest Court in the land should not apply to the matter. Although, as I have said, the declaration in favour of a reduction in the number of licensed houses is one that I anticipate will command general assent, still, its importance is so great in my eyes that I propose to dwell on it for a few minutes. Now, what is the state of the case? In the year 1889 a Return was granted, on the Motion of the hon. Member for West Manchester (Sir W. Holdsworth), which gave some interesting figures as to the number of public houses in the country in the previous year. There were in boroughs one licensed house to every 173 of the inhabitants, and in counties one to every 219, or a general average of one public houses to every 202 people. These are the figures for England and Wales. When we come to look at particular places, that is to say, particular boroughs and licensing divisions in counties, we find an enormous disparity. In one particular borough there is a no less number than one public house to every 66 persons, whereas in another borough the proportion is one to every 480 persons. Again, in counties, I find the proportion is in one instance one to 89, and in another one for every 490 of the population. Now, whatever may be the circumstances of particular localities, I am sure there can be no reason for such inequalities as these. No sufficient reason, I am sure, can be shown why in one locality the proportion of licensed houses to population should be six times as great as in another locality. In the Bill introduced by Mr. Bruce (now Lord Aberdare) when he was Home Secretary in the Government of 1868, we find a scale of proportion, and if this scale in Clause 7 of that Bill had been carried into effect, the licensed houses would have fallen in the boroughs from 48,229 to 8,356, and in the counties from 80,279-to 29,362—that is to say, the total number of licensed houses would have fallen from the total in 1888 of 128,508 to 37,718. I think it will be agreed such reduction would be an enormous boon. I remember perfectly well at the time, though I did not then take much interest in public affairs, that there was considerable regret among friends of temperance that the Bill introduced by Mr. Bruce did not pass into law. There were reasons, no doubt, why it did not, but if we had had that Bill in operation since that time, certainly there would have been an enormous improvement in the direction I am advocating now. It is almost impossible adequately to realize what these figures mean. It is a moot point what is the precise relation between the number of licensed houses and drunkenness, but there must be a certain connection within certain limits. Let anyone walk or drive through four or five miles of streets in the City of London any evening and watch what is going on, and when he sees those many yawning sepulchres, and the class of wretched creatures entering the doors, I think he will be willing enough to agree to a proposition to reduce the number of such places by one-third or by one-half, or better still, by three-fourths, and he will allow that such a reduction must produce an enormous effect upon the evils we all deplore. Since my Motion appeared on the Paper I have had letters from several quarters pointing out localities where within 40 or 50 or 100 yards there is quite a ridiculous number of those places luring people to their destruction. On the other hand, I am acquainted, and have for 30 years been intimately acquainted with a place where the population has grown from 2,000 to 13,000, and where, owing to the prevalence of strong temperance, opinions, and with the co-operation—except on one occasion—of the Bench of Magistrates, we have succeeded in keeping the number of public houses down, while the population has increased until, at this moment, there are hardly more houses than there were when the population stood at 2,000; and certain I am that this keeping down of the number of houses has had an enormous effect on the proportion of wages spent in drink, and on the general sobriety and well-being of the population. I leave this aspect of the matter with one quotation from the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, to which I have alluded. The noble Lord said on the occasion to which I have referred— Now if, as I hold, the number of public houses is largely and grossly in excess of the legitimate wants of the people, what does that mean? I hold that it brings responsibility home to all of us in this House, and it means that Parliament and the State by allowing such a condition of things to exist, force upon the people the consumption of alcoholic liquor which, without such pressure, would not be consumed. This is strong language, but not, I think, out of place. Now I turn to the second part of the Motion, which declares that further powers of control should be intrusted to Local Authorities, and here I am anxious at the outset to remove a misconception which has arisen—a misconception which I am afraid has given some trouble to hon. Members as regards communications they have received on this subject. I have received copies of resolutions passed by different bodies in the country condemning this proposition of mine as inimical to the true interests of temperance reform. I know that from the Grand Lodge of the Good Templars Association at Birmingham a circular has been issued inviting hon. Members not to support this proposal. Now, this Association is perfectly within its rights in expressing its view; but when it goes on to speak of the National Temperance Federation, and to quote the view of the Church of England Temperance Society, of which I see some adherents in the House, it certainly goes beyond its authority. As a matter of fact, the Church of England Temperance Society has issued a circular asking Members to support the Resolution; and the National Temperance Federation has certainly expressed no opinion in the matter at all. Therefore, this Good Templar circular, in so far as it goes beyond the expression of the view of the Grand Lodge, may be put aside. Now, the misconception to which I allude has arisen in this way: It has been assumed that anyone who votes for the Resolution will be committing himself to the assertion that it is desirable to give further powers of control to Local Representative Authorities. Well, I know I am not a master of phraseology, and I may have ill - expressed my meaning, but in putting in the words Local Authorities I was not desiring in any way to commit myself or anybody. Under this Resolution there are three courses open. Further powers may be given to the present Licensing Authority; or they may be given to an elected Representative Body, and the latter again may be of two kinds: they may be elected ad hoc, or they may be elected in accordance with Lord Melbourne's proposal in 1835 and the Local Government Act, 1888; To my mind, the machinery by which further powers of control should be carried out is a subsidiary point, I do not dwell on it; and I have come to no final conclusion as to which of the courses I have indicated is the best. That is one of the points that demands the fullest and freest discussion. I may be followed by Members, by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Morley), who seconds this Resolution, or others who may express a decided opinion; but so far as the Resolution goes, I do not consider that anyone voting for it is pledging himself to any of the three courses I have indicated. And now I pass to a much more important and a vital matter—the powers of control. And, here again, I desire to make my position perfectly clear. The Resolution is not in substitution of, and is not in competition with, any other proposal for lessening the evils arising from drink, such as the power of direct-veto. I want to make it perfectly clear that it encroaches on no ground that is covered by any proposal now before the House. The case stands in this way. If the Bill for establishing a local veto in England were to receive the Royal assent to-morrow, I am sure everyone will agree with me there would be large areas throughout the country that would not be affected by it, large areas in which the majority could not be obtained for carrying the provisions of the Bill into effect. If that is granted, then we must, therefore, continue the Licensing Authority in the districts that, by the hypothesis, a Local Veto Act would not affect, and I am anxious that in such a case, on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread, further powers of control should be obtained at once without waiting for the operation of I direct veto. Therefore I submit with the utmost confidence that this Resolution does not encroach, or traverse, impede, or hinder the principle of which I, myself, fully adopt of direct popular veto. It is only supplemental, it will only come in where there is not that happy state of things where there is a majority in favour of closing or largely reducing public houses. It proposes to confer further powers of control, and to this end a reform eminently desirable is a codification and simplification of the law. There are two principal Licensing Acts at this moment, the Acts of 1872 and 1874, and these have 108 sections. When cases arise under these Acts, the state of chaos, the "confusion worse confounded" is discovered. The first point of reform then would be—and it is an absolute necessity—a simplification of the law. Under the Act I have mentioned, and 22 subsidiary Acts, there are 12 different kinds of licences. I see the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board is in his place. I do not know whether he is inclined to again try his hand at licensing reform; but certainly there is an excellent field for his abilities in a codification and simplification of the licensing law. I am sure a Bill with that object, if referred to the Grand Committee on Law, would be received most sympathetically. Then I pass to the next point of reform which relates to the structure of the houses to which these licences are attached, and here I propose to meet an objection frequently raised. I agree that a mere reduction in the number of licences will not be sufficient; it ought to be laid down by law that the licence granted attaches to the particular structure as it was at the time the licence was granted. This point is illustrated and supported by Clause 16 in the Bill of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill.) He made it one of the laches for which a licence was to be forfeited, the surreptitious making of external communication in the building. There should be no alteration in the structure of the building or the tenure upon which the house is held after the licence has been granted. Then I come to a fruitful cause of evil—the system of "tied houses," that is, houses which are the property, or partly the property, of great brewing firms. I might say that they are entirely opposed to the old idea of what constituted a licensed victualler's house. In former days a licence was granted to a person who was known to be of good character, and who offered to the public the accommodation and the legitimate attraction of an old English inn. People went to houses kept by such persons for the purpose, not of sitting and soaking, but of obtaining legitimate refreshment. Tied houses, on the other hand, are managed by weekly or monthly servants, upon whom no responsibility rests, while every effort is made by the great firms or companies to which such houses belong to stimulate trade by inducing excessive drinking, and one of the consequences is, I am informed, that the quality of the liquors supplied has deteriorated. By the absurdly enhanced price given by the brewer for the premises the rental is unduly raised, and illegitimate methods of business are stimulated in order to make the requisite financial success. The result is that the character of such houses becomes lower and lower. There is a descending plane of conduct as control diminishes. It is a monstrous, a portentous, development, which ought to be checked by new legal provisions. The whole system connected with such houses is a vicious one, and requires that the licence should be attached to the person as well as to the premises. The latter portion of my Resolution adverts to the times during which houses should be open. In this and in other respects, on which there is not now time to dwell, a free hand should be given to Local Authorities, so that the public opinion of their localities may be accurately reflected by their action. In conclusion, I wish to advert to the present position of this matter. It is admitted on all hands that there must be some reform. The proposals made by the Government in 1888 and 1890 were on a par with this. Many of us on this side of the House opposed those proposals. I opposed them because I shall always oppose the putting into the Bill of any words which seem to me to increase in any degree whatever estate or interest there may be in a licence. Since this Resolution first appeared on the Paper—on the 20th of March last—a very important event has taken place. The decision has been given in the final appeal in the great case —as it will, I believe, hereafter be called —of "Sharp v. Wakefield." The Judges of the House of Lords, the highest Court in the land, have declared in unmis-subtakable terms what is the law on the ject. I am told that some people say there is no alteration in the law. I admit that entirely. It is very much what we said on this side of the House in 1888 and 1890. The Solicitor General (Sir E. Clarke) advised the Government differently and the Government based their policy on his advice. The Solicitor General has publicly admitted in a letter which I think does him very great credit indeed, that he was mistaken. However, the policy of the Government having turned out to be wrong, the ground is now clear on their side. They have made a mistake and are no longer bound by the position which arose out of that mistake. On the other hand, I, for one, admit that our destructive attitude in 1888 and 1890, successful as it was, places on us a burden of responsibility, and that we are bound to depart from it whenever we have the opportunity of doing so. That opportunity seems to me now to have come. What, then, is the method of procedure we should adopt? I think the only successful way towards licensing reform will be to lay down at the outset a few broad principles on which men who are in earnest in all quarters of the House are agreed. If we can do that I think the details might be fairly threshed out in some of the conferences that are going on up and down the country, and possibly, in another Session, we might find ourselves much nearer agreement. I am not sure that the time has come for actually crystallising into the shape of a Bill, the proposals that are regarded as necessary. To show the kind of conferences I mean, I may say that in the Leeds Mercury of to-day there is a most interesting account of an important conference which took place in that borough yesterday, and I am glad to say that the first letter I received this afternoon when I came down to the House was one containing a resolution from that representative conference thoroughly endorsing the Motion I am now moving. It is be- cause it is my strong conviction that this Resolution would, if it were adopted, be a solid step in the progress of this great question of licensing reform—a question which I have throughout my life been convinced lies at the root of the social wellbeing of the people of this country —that I have the honour most respectfully and earnestly to ask its adoption by the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House is of opinion that a large reduction in the number of houses in England licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors is desirable, and that Local Authorities should he intrusted with further powers of control over the issue of such licences and with respect to the days and hours during which the licensed houses should he open."—(Mr. J. E. Ellis.)

(9.42.) MR. FORREST FULTON (West Ham, N.)

I must congratulate the hon. Member who has just sat down upon the moderate character of his speech. I entirely agree with that portion of his speech in which he laid stress on the fact that all Parties in this House are agreed that there is an excessive number of licensed houses. For my own part, I also entirely concur with him in the opinion I understood him to express that the excessive number of public houses does produce excessive drinking. As to the hon Member's proposal that the granting of licences should be subject to local control, I must point out that he did not in any way indicate what was the nature of the local control he desired to establish. For my own part, I think that licensing questions have always been dealt with by the Licensing Justices with conspicuous wisdom, fairness, and moderation. At the same time, I am fully conscious of the fact that there has been growing up for a long time past among many who differ on other questions a belief that the licensing question should be handed over to some Local Authority. I certainly think it is incumbent upon those who seek to take the licensing power away from the Justices to show what is the nature of the Local Authority they propose to substitute for the Licensing Justices. If the hon. Member had expressed himself in favour of handing over the control of licences to the County Councils I should certainly have opposed such a suggestion, because I believe that to take that step would be to throw an apple of discord among them, and to render it difficult for Local Government to be carried on in the harmonious manner in which I am glad to think it has hitherto been carried on under the Act introduced by my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board. If we are to have a Local Authority at all which is to deal with licensing, I would prefer that it should be a Local Authority elected solely ad hoc. I think I may maintain that I am on this point in advance of my hon. Friend, who somewhat trembles on the brink of his own Resolution, and has not had the courage to declare what is the Local Authority he would wish to set up. I will now pass to the Amendment of which I have given notice, and I may claim that I have a very clean record on this question. I have always entertained the opinions to which I have just given expression, and have always adhered to the belief that whenever the licensing question comes to be settled it can only be settled if Parliament is prepared to adopt some system of equitable compensation. The hon. Member frankly admitted that it was a great misfortune that Mr. Bruce's Bill did not become law many years ago, and he drew attention to the beneficial results which would by this time have accrued if that measure had passed into law. I would remind him that the reason why it did not pass was that it was opposed by those who call themselves advocates of temperance in this House. My hon. Friend says he is very much astonished that anyone should come forward in the month of April, 1891, and suggest, after the experience of last year and previous years, that there is any ground for saying there should be any compensation given for the reduction of licensed houses. The Resolution proposes that there should be a large reduction in the number of houses, and my hon. Friend says we are now at a particularly favourable moment for dealing with the question, because the House of Lords has declared in " Sharp v. Wakefield" that Licensing Justices have power to take away any licence at the end of the ensuing year.


I did not quite say that. What I meant to convey was that we were in a favourable position because the attitude of the Government in 1888 and 1890 had by the admissions of their Solicitor General turned out to be mistaken.


I understood him to suggest that the decision in " Sharp v. Wakefield" was a great turning point in the question of licensing reform, and that it enabled us to approach the question from a satisfactory standpoint. Well, speaking of the licensing proposals of the Government last year I ventured to express an opinion that the previous decisions of the Courts on that point were perfectly accurate. To my mind there never was any doubt whatever that the licence was granted for a single year, and that if the Justices chose to take away that licence for any reason—or even without any reason— there was no further question of law which could be discussed. But, then, my friend forgets, and all temperance reformers forget, and all temperance speakers and agitators forget, one fact, which I venture to bring forward, and that is this: that while the decision in the' case of " Sharp v. Wakefield" establishes the fact that Licensing Justices may in certain cases take away licences if so advised, it leaves untouched the incontestable circumstance that there exists a large number of licensed houses (and it is highly important that the attention of the House should be directed to them) which have had conferred upon them an absolute vested statutory right of renewal every year. I refer to the beerhouses licensed on the 1st May, 1869, and I desire to express my great regret that when last year this question was raised in this House, and gave rise, as we all remember, to so much heat and acrimony, the Government, in proposing to allocate £350,000 to the extinction of licences, did not propose to limit this appropriation to those houses which undoubtedly possess a statutory vested interest. As to the number of these houses the Return of 1870 throws light on this point. In the year 1869 beerhouses were brought under the control of the Magistrates for the first time. Prior to that date their licences were derived simply from the Excise. In the year 1869 the Legislature conferred upon Justices of the Peace the control of such houses, but it was provided specially that all— 'On' licences of beerhouses existing on the 1st May, 1869, should have an absolute right of renewal, provided that the licence-holder showed himself to be a man of good character, and the house was of a certain rateable value. On the 26th of April, 1870, on the Motion of Mr. Locke, a Return was ordered, and it appears from this Return that at that time—1870—there were 63,419 fully-licensed public-houses in England and "Wales—apart, that is, from the Metropolis which was dealt with separately — and 45,203 " on " beerhouses, so that no less than 44 per cent. of the licensed houses of the country had in 1870 an absolute vested right to renewal. Coming to London, I find that the number of fully licensed houses was 5,950, and of "on" beerhouses 3,927 so that here again a very large proportion of the total number of licensed houses had an absolute vested right to renewal. Now it will be said—and it was said in the course of the Debate last year—that these figures do not show the numbers in regard to the licensed houses at the present time; to a certain extent this is true. But, fortunately, a Return was obtained by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, which showed that there was no material difference between the number licensed on the 1st of May, 1869, and of those licensed subsequently. What I desire to point out is this, that anybody acquainted in any way with the subject of licensing knows perfectly well that during the intervening period it has not been the general practice of Justices to grant any but full licences—except in the case of restaurants and other places where eating takes place—so that the number cannot really be very different from that of the Return of 1870. According to the Return of 1870, Birmingham, for instance, with the district immediately surrounding, had 867 fully - licensed houses, and 1,432 beer houses; Bolton, 1,724 fully-licensed, and 2,50.3 beerhouses; Gloucester, 771 fully-licensed, and 770 beerhouses; Halifax, 1,037 fully-licensed, and 1,558 beerhouses; Manchester, 1,384 fully-licensed, and 3,877 beerhouses; Warrington, 1,648 fully-licensed, and 1,850 beerhouses; Bristol, 631 fully-licensed, and 1,057 beerhouses; Liverpool, where for some years there was free trade in drink, 2,020 fully - licensed, and 881 beerhouses; York, 1,166 fully-licensed, and 367 beerhouses; and Bangor, 1,080 fully-licensed, and 105 beerhouses.. According to the Return of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, in 1890 the figures were—Bristol, 429 fully-licensed, and 542 beerhouses; Manchester, 494 fully - licensed, and 1,640 beerhouses; Derby, 253 fully-licensed, and 97 beerhouses; Gloucester, 119 fully-licensed, and 97 beerhouses; Birmingham, 655 fully-licensed, and 1,030 beerhouses; Bolton, 128 fully -licensed, and 265 beerhouses; West Ham 141 fully - licensed, and 113 beerhouses; Yorkshire (West Riding), 2,129 fully-licensed, and 991 beerhouses; Gloucestershire, 741 fully-licensed, and 638 beerhouses; Kent, 1,617 fully-licensed,.-and 1,065 beerhouses; Middlesex, 4,364 fully-licensed, and 2,056 beerhouses; and Essex, 1,140 fully-licensed, and 691 beerhouses. The House will see that the question of compensation will always face them whenever they come to deal with the licensing problem, unless they are prepared to adopt a policy of confiscation and to break a Parliamentary compact solemnly entered into in 1869. When the matter comes to be dealt with, it will be found that these beerhouses licensed on the 1st of May, 1869, have an undeniable claim to -compensation if their licences are refused'" renewal. That is the point to which I invite the attention of the House. Either you are going to compensate the owners of these houses whose licences are refused renewal, or you are not. If you are not, you will be practising sheer confiscation. If you are, you will be compensating the owners of the very class of houses which by universal testimony it is most desirable of all others to extirpate, and which form the enormous proportion of 44 per cent. of the licensed houses of the United Kingdom. Then, again, apart altogether from the question of what is due in particular to these beerhouses, though I have never had any doubt myself as to the power of the Justices to refuse the renewal of licences, yet, on the other hand, I have not the least doubt that a person possessing a licensed house has an equitable property in his licence which may not be injured and destroyed by non-renewal without compensation unless there is reasonable ground for such a proceeding. The Act of 1872 expressly provides that a licence shall not be taken away unless there have been three recorded convictions under the Act in the case of the house in question, and it gives to the owners of the licence the right of appeal in the case of each of these convictions—stipulating that, on the second conviction, the owner shall have due notice of the fact that his property is in peril, in order that he may take the needful steps to defend it. Now, it is inconceivable that such provisions as these could be inserted in the Act unless they are intended to imply that some form of property does appertain to a licensed house. Further, the Legislature was careful to enact that even if, after three recorded convictions, the licence is not renewed, the licence-holder shall not be disqualified for more than five years, or the premises for more than two years. In the year 1874 an Amendment to the Licensing Act was made by the introduction of what are called provisional grants. It had been felt to be a grievance that persons about to erect expensive houses, to be used for the sale of intoxicating liquors, could not be certain whether, after they had expended their money, they would be able to get a licence. Accordingly the Act of 1874 provided that persons might lay before the Licensing Authority plans of houses intended to be erected, and obtain a provisional grant of a licence for the premises when erected in accordance with those plans. They could ask the Justices to give a ' licence in advance for a house which they contemplated erecting; and, having obtained this provisional licence, could set to work and build their house, confident that, provided it was erected in compliance with the plans laid before the Justices, they would obtain for it a licence when completed. Can it be believed that the Legislature, in making this provision, intended that in the case of such premises there should be no rights of property? Certainly no man in his senses would think of investing money in such a building if he knew that it was in the power of some Local Authority to decline, without any reason, to renew the licence required. Therefore, I think it is clearly a consequence of the Act of 1872 that no licence ought to be taken away, except for some good reason, without equitable compensation being given to those pecuniarily interested in the licence; and it is because I hope and believe that Parliament will never sanction such a proposal as that contained in the Resolution, unless accompanied by equitable compensation to persons having a pecuniary interest in the licences dealt with, that I now beg to move the Amendment that stands in my name.

Amendment proposed, after the first word " That," to insert the words " provided equitable compensation be given." —(Mr. Forrest Fulton.)

Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."

CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)

I beg to second the Amendment.

(10.10.) MR. J.MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

The hon. and learned Gentleman who has moved the Amendment has statedthegrounds of it with great fairness and moderation. The hon. and learned Gentleman, I am glad to know, agrees with those of us who support this Motion in its first proposition—that there is an excessive number of public houses, and in the further proposition that that excess in public houses must give rise to excess in drinking. The man who does not believe that, is capable of believing anything. Ho went on to controvert the second proposition in the Motion, which is that control ought to be conferred upon the Local Authorities over the issue of licences. Although the hon. and learned Member agrees that there is an excessive number of public houses, yet the commends the conspicuous wisdom and success of the Magistrates who are responsible for that state of things.

ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

No, no!


May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the number of licensed houses is due to a condition of things which existed at least 20 years ago, for which certainly the present Licensing Justices are not responsible?


The hon. and learned Member cannot deny they are mainly responsible for that very excess which he condemned. Then the hon. and learned Member repeated the argument he brought before the House last year in connection with the beer licences existing on May 1, 1869. There was an answer made to that argument then which, I think, holds good now. He has given us the figures of 1870, but he has given us no proof whatever that the figures of 1870 are still the authentic figures on the subject. I have been supplied with figures for which I am not personally responsible.; but I see no reason to doubt that they are as good as those given by the hon. and learned Gentleman. According to my figures, there are now in existence only some 38,000 "on " beer licences. The hon. and learned Member went on in what is, after all, the most important part of his speech to make very extraordinary assertions with a view to minimising the effect of the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield." I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman has a knowledge of licensing matters such as few other Members of the House have; but, in spite of that, I must prefer to believe that the decision of the Courts below in the first place, and of the House of Lords in the second, is even of superior authority to the opinions of my hon. and learned Friend. He has, in fact, only repeated the arguments used before the House of Lords by the learned Counsel who has since been made a Judge. If, therefore, the House of Lords, having heard all the arguments that have now been adduced, yet decided against the proposition which the hon. and learned Gentleman asks the House to accept, the House will not be wrong if they assume that the House of Lords, in confirming the judgment of the Court of Appeal, knew what they were about. We may, therefore, assume that the propositions of the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot be sustained; and I will undertake to say they will never again be endorsed by a lawyer speaking from the Front Ministerial Bench with the official responsibility of a Law Adviser of the Crown. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, "Here is property, how can we destroy it? " But the House of Lords has decided that there is no property. I will not go through the various propositions he laid down, because I think the sense of the country has already appreciated the full force of that judgment, and confirms the position taken up by the Mover of the Resolution, that it marks a critical turning point in the whole question of licensing. We may hope that this great social and moral cause is being lifted oat of the region of mere Party strife; but I must say that this Amendment, being in exact conformity with the utterances of the Prime Minister and the Leaders of the Conservative Party, does make one doubt whether it will be possible in the future course of the question to keep it outside of Party. I do not in the least object to the Amendment being moved; on the contrary, I am rather glad of it, because it cannot be denied that this Amendment does raise a direct issue with the Motion. It is not a mere rider upon the Motion, but it raises a direct issue with it. In spite of its innocent and equitable pretensions, the Amendment is intended, or at all events it is bound, to bring to nought both the propositions of the Mover. If you insist upon the proposal to pay compensation in all the length and breadth which the hon. and learned Gentleman laid down, then it is of no use to say that a large reduction in the number of licences is desirable, and it is of no use saying that it is desirable to transfer the control over licences to Local Authorities. If you accept the hon. and learned Member's views as to compensation, you will have to go on with your excessive number of public houses, and you will not be able to transfer the control of them to Local Authorities. As far as compensation goes, I frankly confess I have never left out of sight those equitable considerations which ought to guide us, and to weigh with us, in dealing with great interests which have grown up during the prevalence of a natural belief that an existing legislative policy would endure. I believe even the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth has himself voted for a compensation Resolution.

SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)



That is quite true. But the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield " makes a great difference. What the Mover called, the monstrous and portentous growth of the tied house system — that, too, makes a great difference. Parliament never contemplated that brewers, or syndicates of brewers, should own vast numbers of tied houses, and I hope it never will. There is a huge distinction in morals—and it must be when the time comes that the Legislature will recognise it—between those owners of great numbers of tied houses, and the licensed victualler who carries on a trade in his own house. Now, in either class, a claim to money compensation can only arise in case of a change being suddenly made. Notice makes all the difference. Even with regard to an individual publican carrying on his own house, it will not be possible much longer to maintain that he has not had, and is not every day having, notice. The judgment in the Over Darwen case was notice; the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield " is notice; the great tide of public opinion which was so strong in 1888 and 1890 that it would even have destroyed the Government if they had not yielded to it, that again was notice. The vote on the Welsh Veto Bill was notice. And when we read in the Return presented last year the astonishing facts connected with tied houses, it is impossible to maintain that a great change will have been suddenly made. I do not believe, upon any principle of equity with which I am acquainted, it will be possible in the face of these circumstances to contend for compensation. Prophecy has been described as the most gratuitous of all forms of mistake, and, therefore, I will not exactly prophesy; but I will express my doubt whether any Minister will ever again stand at that box and propose compensation by way of money payment. My own impression is that if the doctrine of compensation be entertained at all, it will be carried out by some arrangement of time by which a man actually in a public house may, by a certain period of enjoyment, have all reasonable expectations satisfied. Anyone who watches closely the signs of the times, and the enormous rapidity with which this question has gained its hold upon public opinion, must be aware that the sands in the glass are running out, and that even this time limit will, as the discussion proceeds, become shorter and shorter. There is one point in the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield" which I should be sorry to overlook, because it has an immediate bearing on what is going to be done before the end of this year in Licensing Sessions. The Lord Chancellor said— It is not denied that, for the purposes of the original grant, it is within the power, and it is even the duty, of the Magistrates to consider the wants of the neighbourhood with reference both to population, the means of inspection by authorities, and so forth. Mark, it is not merely within their power, but it is their duty. According to this decision, of which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite makes so light, it is as much the duty of Licensing Magistrates, at their forthcoming Sessions and at all future times, to cancel unnecessary licences as it is within their power to grant necessary licences. They are not merely empowered; they are in duty bound to reduce licences. The hon. and learned Gentleman may dispute that reading of the judgment, but I do not believe any other reading is possible. The Amendment is fatal to the propositions of the Resolution. As to Local Authorities, no doubt the term, standing baldly by itself, needs explanation. We all agree that the number of public houses is excessive; the licensed victuallers agree in that; the President of their Defence League said not long ago— The trade as a body have for long believed that there is a very large number of houses which might be reasonably dispensed with, and that some thousands of existing licences might advantageously be cancelled. We are all agreed, too, I think, both in this House and outside it, that there ought to be popular control over the issue of licences. ["No!"] Someone opposite said "No." That is very extraordinary, because the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will not dispute, I think, that the policy of the Government was based upon that assumption. ["No!"] It must be so; everybody must feel that the control must be removed from a nominated and irresponsible body to a body answerable to public opinion. My hon. Friend the Mover of this Resolution said there were three courses open, and he included among them the maintenance of the licensing power in the present hands. For my own part, I banish that last course from my contemplation. I do not think that public opinion will' tolerate it. The whole opinion of the times is in favour of transferring the control of these matters to Representative Bodies. Therefore, you have two courses. You must either transfer the control of the issue of licences and other licensing matters to Municipal Bodies in the boroughs and to County Councils in the counties, or else you must transfer these powers to bodies created ad hoc, just as the School Boards were created for educational matters. Whichever of these two Local Authorities you choose, whichever seems best calculated to attain the ends we all have in view, the question of the nature of the Local Authority becomes a secondary question, if you admit the principle which my hon. Friend the Mover of this Motion contended for, and which I contended for in dealing with the Welsh Local Veto Bill. I say that the question of the nature of the Local Authority becomes secondary if you admit the principle of direct popular veto. Whether you intrust your licensing power to Municipal Councils, or to Licensing Bodies created ad hoc, does not matter—though I have a strong preference—provided you submit to the ratepayers for their decision the three questions which were put in the Welsh and the Scotch Bills. That is to say, you must ask them—if a sufficient number require the question to be put— whether they will prohibit licences altogether, or whether they will reduce the number of licences, or whether they will prevent the granting of new licences. I put it to those very advanced temperance reformers who find fault with the Motion before the House, whether the nature of the Local Authority matters from their point of view, provided that you have this means of obtaining directly the real wish of a preponderant majority of the ratepayers on these crucial questions. I know that some advanced temperance reformers object to any elective authority whatever interfering in this matter. They object to what they regard as a partnership and a complicity in an obnoxious and wicked traffic. I perceive the full point of that objection, but I do not share it or sympathise with it; and whatever view may be taken by the advanced temperance reformers, I only express my own conviction that, as far as I can read the signs of the times, it is absolutely certain that, sooner or later, these powers will be transferred to a Local Authority. And all that I can hope for and work for is that that Local Authority shall have the guidance of a direct popular vote on the three questions that I have mentioned. Then as to the choice between transferring these powers to Municipal Councils and to Licensing Authorities created ad hoc, the arguments in favour of entrusting the powers to Municipal Bodies were stated by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R Churchill) when he brought forward his Motion last year. It is said that these bodies are of great weight and authority; that, having much other business in hand, they are less affected by trade interests on the one hand, or by what is called temperance fanaticism on the other hand; that they are not likely to go too far ahead of public opinion; finally, that this proposal would meet with less resistance in this House. I think the last argument is rather a lazy and indolent argument. But, apart from that, it seems to me, after consulting with many gentlemen who have had great experience in Local Government, and who are almost unanimous on the point, that, as I ventured to say in discussing the Welsh Local Veto Bill, no greater disservice could be rendered to that cause of Local Government to which, mark you, we are giving such enormous powers, and which is destined more and more to affect our political and social system, than to mix up with it a business which, like the temperance question, cuts deep into so many interests and rouses so many strong and even violent passions. If you gave control of the liquor question to Municipal Councils, one of two things would happen. Either it would overshadow all other questions, which would he a great evil, or else it would recede entirely out of sight and be forgotten, which would also be a great evil. I do not know which would be the greater evil of the two; but either would, in my judgment, be most injurious to Local Government. Then as to Boards elected ad hoc. It may be in the recollection of some Members of the House that in 1876 Mr. Joseph Cowen, then a Member of this House representing the City that I have now the honour to represent, brought forward for the first time a proposal that licensing powers should be entrusted to a Board elected by the ratepayers, and, I rather think, that Mr. Cowen suggested also another kind of Board, not elected directly by the ratepayers for licensing purposes, but composed, for dealing with licensing questions, of two representatives from the Boards of Guardians, two from the School Boards, and two from the Municipal Councils. However, it is not worth while to go into details of that kind. They do not affect the principle that was then first brought before us. Nothing more clearly indicates the enormous growth of opinion and the extent to which popular control over licensing has now got hold of the mind of Parliament, than the reception which that proposal met with in 1876. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot), whom we all regret not to see amongst us, who moved the rejection of Mr. Cowen's Bill, said that it was the most extraordinary Bill brought before the House of Commons for years. At that time the proposal was ignominiously thrown out. Another Bill in 1885, promoted by the Church of England Temperance Society, proposed a Board to be composed of four Justices, and of twice as many elected members. This Board was to be trusted—it was before "Sharp v. Wakefield " — with absolute discretion in what they should think most expedient in the interests of the districts they represented. Of course, the Bill had a compensation clause in it. I saw the other day a new set of proposals for Licensing Boards. According to these proposals, the Board in counties was to contain the representatives of the areas, plus an equal number of members elected by the county Magistrates within the division. In the municipalities the Council was to be the Board, plus a number of Justices acting within the district. I have only one comment to make upon all proposals of that kind, and that is a comment with which most gentlemen in this House will, I think, agree. They will feel that all devices of this kind are expedients by persons— however well-intentioned they may be, and I am quite sure that they are well-intentioned—who do not know their own minds. While they want to appear to trust the people, they do not in their hearts trust the people; and, while professing to give to the community the power of protecting itself against the evils of excessive public houses, they will not screw their courage to the point of allowing the people to say plainly yes or no to the question whether they will have public houses, or whether they will have few or many of them. I entirely disbelieve in the efficacy, either for the temperance cause or for good government, of these half-and-half Boards, just as I disbelieve in the expediency of handing licensing powers over to Municipal Councils. I do not wish to weary the House by reciting the provisions which have been adopted in the colonies for licensing control; but for those who desire to watch the drift of public opinion in this country, it is important that they should not overlook the doings in those countries whose political system, though newer than ours, is, after all, very much the same as ours. There have been, I admit —and all temperance reformers in the House know it—enormous fluctuations of opinion as to the machinery of licensing, both in the United States and in our own colonies. But what do those fluctuations show? They only show the intrinsic difficulty of the subject with which we are dealing. They also show that in democratic countries temperance and social reformers will not be content, and rightly, until some means have been adopted—and the final means can only be arrived at after many experiments— for giving to localities a direct and effective voice in the matter. There is the last Colonial Act—the Ontario Act of 1870, amended in 1890. The proposal, which I am sure everybody would like to see incorporated in the English Licensing Code, is that no new licences should be granted and no old licences should be transferred, if the majority of the electors should petition against it. If the House will consider the enormous percentage of transfers every year, this clause alone would place immense power in the hands of the community to get rid of the worst houses. Then there is this clause in the Ontario Amending Act of 1890— The Council of every city may pass bye-laws for prohibiting sale by retail of liquors in any tavern, inn, or other house or place of public entertainment, and for prohibiting altogether the sale thereof in shops or places other than houses of public entertainment, provided that the bye-law has been approved of by the electors of the municipality in manner provided. This shows how backward we are in this country relatively to some of our own kinsfolk; but it cannot be denied that we are growing less and less backward exactly in proportion as public opinion finds means of expressing itself. The reduction of the franchise and the redistribution of political power have been followed by louder and louder voices in favour of the kind of control which we are advocating here to-night. The more clearly you hear the popular voice, the more loud and distinct is that voice in favour of legislation of this kind. I do not know why we should wonder at it. Would anybody in this House like to have near his own door a flaunting gin-palace with its noise, its reek of liquor, its scenes of disorder? Would he like to have even a well - conducted house? Why, then, should we be surprised that workmen, with wives, and sons, and daughters, object as vehemently as we should to the proximity of these centres of annoyance, disorder, and disturbance? I believe that feeling was at the root of the indignant and, I may say, the fierce cry against compensation in 1889-90. Workmen who have suffered all the annoyance springing from these houses, that are a standing nuisance to their daily lives, cannot understand why they should have in order to abate the nuisance to put their hands into their pockets and buy out the men who have been the means of tormenting them. Whether we like it or not, and whatever we think of it, this tide of opinion is certain to go on and swell. Lord Salisbury said in 1886, and said most unwisely, that the demand for this legislation was a temporary craze, and, like all other crazes, would pass away. I think that was a most unfortunate piece of misjudgment. It is not a temporary craze. It is a rational demand on the part of the community to protect themselves. It is not a temporary craze, because the more clearly you gather the popular voice, the more distinctly you perceive the determination of the people to get the power to protect themselves against what is admitted now on all sides to be the greatest curse that can afflict a community.

(10.52.) MR. MILVAIN (Durham)

It is admitted, I think, on both sides of the House that there is an excess of public houses, and that it is desirable that the number should be decreased, but there seems to be some uncertainty as to what means are to be adopted in order to bring about that decrease. It seems to me that the spirit of the age will hinder people of small capital from investing in licensed premises, and will induce people already in the trade to get out of it as soon as they possibly can, and on the best terms they can. But I came down to the House this evening to hear what means were to be proposed by the Mover of the Resolution for reducing the number of public houses. I came to hear what Local Authority the hon. Gentleman proposed to create in order to bring about this decrease. I was unfortunate in not hearing the speech of the hon. Member who moved the Resolution, but I did hear the speech of the hon. Member who supported it; and I regret to say that after the speech to which we have just listened I am left as uncertain as I was before I came to the House as to what was to be the Local Authority in which these powers are to be vested. We have had a great deal of speculation and theory as between County Councils, Municipal Authorities, and Authorities elected ad hoc; but, for my own part, I cannot help thinking that if the authority is to be elective, no authority would be satisfactory to deal with licences which has not the administration of the rates. I am one of those persons who professing a faith prefer to hold on to it until a better one is set up in its place; and I have not —at least this evening—heard of a better authority than that which now exists. That authority is the Magistrates, and 1 must say that, so far as my personal experience is concerned, it has discharged its duties exceedingly well. I do not think anyone can seriously find fault with the Magistrates for not having discharged their duties equitably and fairly. That being so, I prefer to leave the licences to the Magistrates until a better authority is set up in their place. I have heard to-night—and I quite expected it—that there is a turn in the principle which ought to guide the granting of licences caused by the recent judgment in the case of "Sharp v. Wakefield." I hope the right hon. Gentleman who supported the Amendment will not take objection if I say that the "Sharp v. Wakefield," judgment is a declaration of the existing law upon a certain set of facts. It is not a reversal of a generally acknowledged principle. Therefore, it becomes necessary to see what is the existing law. I cannot alter a single word I have ever said in this House or elsewhere on this point. There is vested in the Justices discretionary power to refuse absolutely the continuance of a licence, but they have no power absolutely to deprive a licensee of his licence. If they do so they may be compelled to state their reasons for it. This discretion is followed by a condition which has to be exercised judicially. A refusal must be for valid reasons. That there are too many licensed houses in a certain district may be a valid reason, but the guiding principle is the character of the licence holder, and of the premises licensed. I admit that these are not the only principles that ought to guide the Justices, but they are the most important and generally accepted principles. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted from the case of "Sharp v. Wakefield," and I, too, will quote it—I will quote the judgment of Lord Esher, which is not dissented from by the House of Lords. He said that if this discretion I have alluded to is not exercised with the greatest care irreparable injury, perhaps injustice, may be done. I say, therefore, that the Magistrates have not an absolute discretion. They have a discretion which must turn on certain guiding principles which are well laid down and recognised—which are that so long as a man's character is good, and there is no valid reason for the discontinuance of his licence, he has a vested interest in his licensed premises. Now, I admit that the occupation of the publican is not one that I would choose myself. It is a question of taste; but the individual who selects that occupation selects an occupation which is recognised by the law. It is safeguarded to some extent by the Legislature. To deprive the publican of his occupation through no fault of his own, without giving him some compensation for the outlay he has made in his premises, or of such interest as he may have in his licence, would certainly be an injustice to which I can be no party.

(11.0.) MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

Of all the Resolutions I have heard during the last 10 years, the present seems to me the most innocent and the least open to criticism. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Forrest Fulton) admitted that the number of public houses is excessive, and so accepts the main contention of this Resolution. Is there any hon. Member who will deny that the number of public houses, especially in the manufacturing districts, is excessive? In the large towns and industrial centres of the country they have been productive of infinite mischief to the body politic. The second contention of the Resolution of my hon. Friend is that the Local Authorities should be entrusted with further powers of control over the issue of such licences. The hon. Member in his speech did not deny the propriety of that contention. He admitted that further powers of control were necessary, though he adhered to the old plan that they should rest in the hands of the Magistrates. The Magistrates are very honourable men, occupying honourable positions, which I hope they have worthily adorned. We who sit on this side of the House would venture to say that, in this democratic age, the Magistrates could in no sense be called a Local Authority. From whom do the Magistrates derive their functions? In this House, I shall always assert, as a Democrat, that the only real base and ground work of authority must be the people, by their votes. Who says the Magistrates, as at present constituted, are in this sense a Local Authority? There may be a conflict of opinion on this side of the House as to what the Local Authority, intrusted with these powers of control shall be. I am not in favour of electing any special Licensing Board. I have had some experience during a not short life of local management in the town which I represent and the districts around it. I have seen the growth of municipal institutions in that neighbourhood. I can remember when the Town Councils of this country had functions of a moderate and limited description, and I can remember the processes by which this House has gradually laid upon these Town Councils additional and extensive powers for dealing with the large questions of public health. In that, as in other matters, the Town Councils have risen to the height of the responsibility that was attached to them, and so far from having depreciated, the Town Councils and other Public Authorities have been able to fulfil the functions bestowed upon them by this House, with great success. Therefore, I have come to the deliberate conclusion that it would be no disadvantage, but a distinct advantage, yet further to enlarge the powers of the Town Councils and County Councils. In what direction could they be more worthily extended? Where is there in the whole range of public thought any question that more nearly touches the interest of the people than the licensing question? My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle may desire that a special authority should be appointed for the purpose. Others of us may hold that the present elective authority would be a most efficient machine for carrying out the object we have in view. Let us talk about that; let us differ about it. Suppose we are divided on that point, does that affect the question before the House by my hon. Friend. He alleges that the Local Authorities should be entrusted with further powers of control over the issue of licences. I will not quarrel with him; as a matter of fact, I do not know what his precise opinion may be, but I will only assert against the contention of my hon. Friend opposite this view, that whatever the Local Authority to which this great power must be entrusted may be, it shall be an authority deriving its power directly from the people by election, subject to rejection if it goes wrong, and to be supported if it goes right. In that view I shall be prepared to vote for my hon. Friend. When my hon. Friend talks about further powers of control over the issue of licences I should like to take the opportunity to record my opinion of what that control should be. I believe there can be no effectual settlement of the licensing question except in one direction. I have come to the deliberate conclusion that there will be no effectual settlement until Local Authorities have the power conferred upon them by the Statute to exact an enhanced value for licences, and this I say, having examined the condition of things in America under direct veto, under the Maine Law, and under total prohibition. The licences should only be granted upon such terms as would be practically prohibitive.


I listened with pleasure and satisfaction to the conclusion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, in which ho spoke of the growing feeling in favour of temperance and temperance reform among the working classes. I think he was quite justified in what he said with regard to this. There is that strong feeling among the working classes and it is a matter upon which we may congratulate ourselves. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that, looking to this growing feeling among the working classes, it was unjust that they should continue to be burdened with an undue number of public houses against their will. I cannot, of course, but acknowledge, as I have acknowledged before, that there is a very considerable excess of public houses over the number required by the public demand. I have again and again stated that as being my conviction, and I have in my mind many cases of localities in which the number of public houses is not only excessive, but grossly excessive. I have always contended that when this question is dealt with, proper and adequate means of reducing this superfluity of public houses ought to be provided. But I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that it is very largely—I do not say it in any spirit of reproach — that it is very largely owing to the action of the temperance party that this great superfluity of public houses exists. We could not have a better proof of this fact than was afforded in the opening remarks of the hon. Member who brought forward this Motion in a speech, I think, of great moderation. The hon. Member says that there exist now 128,508 public houses, but that if Mr. Bruce's proposal had been accepted the number would have been reduced to 37,000, That, in itself, is a sufficient illustration of the danger to temperance that has been caused by the extreme views taken by the Temperance Party. But we also have had our experience in the matter, for we have attempted to do something in the interests of temperance. Our proposals did not commend themselves to hon. Members opposite or to many Temperance Reformers, but in 1888 we made proposals which, if accepted, would, in our opinion, have very considerably reduced the number of public houses. It is perfectly true that with our proposals we embodied the principle of compensation, but in my opinion the money which would have been derived from drink could not have been better expended than it would have been if' the House had assented to our plan. Unfortunately we were unable to enlist the sympathies of the Temperance Party, and our proposals fell to the ground. Undoubtedly, however, if our proposals had been accepted, a beginning would at once have been made in the work of reducing public houses, and all new licences would have been stopped. That, in itself, would have enormously diminished the number in proportion—


The Government voted against that.


What the hon. Baronet and his friends desired us to do, was to take an isolated proposal from our plan as a whole. We put our proposals forward in a comprehensive shape and were not disposed to adopt the suggestion. By our proposal in 1888 a Revenue derived exclusively from increased licences would have been raised, and by its application the number of public houses would have been largely diminished. It has been said that our proposals in 1888 were made under a misapprehension, and that the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield" has greatly altered the position which we assumed existed in 1888. I do not desire to hide from the House that when our proposals were made we were of opinion that there was a very much greater vested interest in licences than there appears to be; and I acknowledge that as far as that portion of our position was concerned we were not fully informed of what has now been established as the law on this subject. But I should like to recall to the House that whatever were the powers of Justices at that time, we expressly reserved them in the Bill of 1888. Whilst giving to a newly constituted body the power of refusing licences, we expressly reserved to the Justices their power of refusal without compensation. Whilst we acknowledge that the decision in " Sharp v. "Wakefield "does establish the fact that Justices have a very wide discretion with respect to the renewal of licences, I think that no one who reads that decision can fail to remark that it is limited by the condition that the question must be treated judicially by a Judicial Body. I think, therefore, that we ought to consider that the publicans who would have had to get their licences from the non-judicial Local Bodies which we proposed to constitute might have had claims to compensation which they may not have under a system that gives the control over licences to a Judicial Body like the Justices. Again, in 1890 we made proposals which were in the main accepted by a very large body of the Temperance Party in this country. They were accepted, subject to certain modifications which we were prepared to adopt, by that very large, influential, and important body called the Church of England Temperance Society. [Ironical Opposition cheers and laughter.] I do not know why the name of the Church of England Temperance Society should be received with laughter and derision by hon. Members opposite. I do not think that even the extreme local optionist party will deny that that society has done good, useful, and even noble work with regard to temperance. I say that our proposals were proposals which met in the main with the approval of the great body known as the Church of England Temperance Society. So much, then, for the question of "Sharp v. Wakefield" and the alteration in the position which is brought about by that decision. With regard to the proposal of the hon. Member opposite, of course he knows quite well that our previous action is of such a nature as will entitle him to receive from us our approval of his propositions—first, that there is a superfluity of licensed houses; and, secondly, that when this question comes up to be dealt with it ought to be dealt with by a transfer of the licensing power from the existing authority to a Local Authority. So far, then, we agree with the hon. Member; but when we come to consider the question of what that Local Authority ought to be, we find that there is a divergence of opinion in the minds of the Temperance Party themselves. There is a great disagreement among them. The hon. Gentleman who brought forward the Motion expressed himself as in the main indifferent as to how that Local Body should be constituted.


I said that it was less important in comparison with the granting further powers of control.


The hon. Member's argument seemed to be in favour of giving over this control to an existing Local Authority. There is no indication in the Motion of the hon. Gentleman that he contemplates for a moment setting up a Local Authority ad hoc. His proposition, read by an ordinary individual, would seem to imply that it is to be the usual authority in a borough and the County Council in the counties. The hon. Member has modified the words of his Motion by his speech. Undoubtedly a section of the Temperance Party has expressed its opinion in very forcible terms, and appealed to all the Temperance Party to alter the Motion.


I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again. As a matter of fact, I explained to Mr. Caine, who, I may say, quite approves of this Resolution, some time ago exactly what I should say as to the three courses being open, and that I did not bind myself to any form of Local Authority. My reading of the Resolution has not been in any way varied by any action taken by the Temperance Societies.


The hon. Gentleman says now that long ago he conveyed to Mr. Caine, who is one of the representative men in connection with the temperance question, that he did not bind himself to any particular form of Local Authority. But, notwithstanding that, I received two or three days ago a strongly worded circular from one of the Temperance Societies, asking me to come here and oppose this Motion.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say what society it was?


I think it was the Good Templars, but I am not sure; but I do not wish to press that point. I am quite content with what the hon. Gentleman says. The hon. Gentleman says he is not very particular what authority it is so long as it is a Local Authority. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley), deprecating this matter being referred to an ordinarily constituted Local Authority, goes in strongly for a Local Authority ad hoc, I think together with a plébiscite. I wonder what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby thinks on the matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby took at one time, and, indeed, has always taken, a great interest in this matter; and I should like to learn from the right hon. Gentleman whether he approves what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle said to-night as to an authority ad hoc or a plebiscite, because I remember in that Debate which took place on the Motion of the hon. Member for Cockermouth some years ago he expressed an opinion entirely adverse to both an authority ad hoc and a plebiscite. And so it was also with reference to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, who, in the strongest possible terms, declined to accept any authority ad hoc or a plébiscite. "What are we to do with regard to a matter of this kind when we find hon. Gentlemen all at sixes and sevens amongst themselves? A great deal has often been said with regard to the inconvenience, to say the least of it, of abstract Resolutions; but I think that if ever there was a question on which it was unwise to ask the House to commit itself by an abstract Resolution it is a matter of this kind on which there is such enormous divergence of opinion among those who support it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, in the very Debate to which I have just alluded, expressed an opinion strongly adverse to abstract Resolutions as a whole, and said that there was still stronger objection to an abstract Resolution on this particular question, about which there was such enormous divergence of opinion and such an amount of complication. I have endeavoured to show that, although undoubtedly it is desirable, in our opinion, that a Local Authority should have these powers, the opinion held by the Temperance Reformers is of such a character as not to tempt us to embark lightly upon such a difficult and delicate task as that of putting proposals with regard to this question before the House. One word on the question of compensation. I have alluded to the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield." I acknowledge the full force of it; but I have asked the House to consider whether, assuming it to be the law of the land, it is right and proper that such a great change as the hon. Gentleman asks us to make—that of changing the licensing power from a judicial to a locally-elected Body—should be made without some consideration for those who have built up a great business and embarked an enormous capital under what they thought to be the protection of the law. Whatever may be the legal position of this matter, I am certain of this: that that public sense of equity, which I believe exists throughout the length and breadth of the land, would revolt at any idea of a general suppression of these houses, upon which an enormous amount of capital has been embarked, without the, smallest consideration for those who have been carrying on a legitimate business in an orderly way, and supplying a great public want, believing they were doing so under the protection of the law. I may say to those gentlemen who' support the cause of temperance that they could not be doing a greater injustice to their own cause, they could not be inflicting a greater blow upon the cause they are advocating than by attempting the suppression of public houses without considering the equitable claims which those who have embarked upon this trade have upon the public if they are suppressed. For our part we take our stand upon the proposition that this reform cannot be carried out without considering the equitable and proper claims of those who are carrying on the trade; and that being our view, though acknowledging the main proposition in the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman opposite, we cannot assent to it without also adding to it the words which have been moved by my hon. Friend.

(11.41.) SIR W. LAWSON

It is rather a hard task for me to speak on this question, for everybody has been making my speech. But I should not like the Debate to close without saying with how much pleasure I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle. There was very little, if anything, in all he said with which the most earnest temperance reformer could not agree in all its details. I am very glad the hon. Gentleman opposite moved his Amendment, because it has brought forth the speech we have just listened to from the right hon. Gentleman. It has induced him to nail his colours to the mast. We now know that compensation is still the policy of the Party opposite. I am delighted at that. Let them go to the country on compensation, and we will beat them again upon that question as we have beaten them before. But what does compensation mean? The hon. Member opposite speaks of equitable compensation. Well, I will vote for the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman opposite if he will state satisfactorily what equitable means. Equity means doing justice to all parties. Let, then, the hon. Gentleman do justice to the people whom the publicans have injured. If the compensation is to be applied all round, if those who have suffered by the erection of public houses near their property, and if the ratepayers who have had to pay heavier taxes in consequence of the drink traffic, are to be compensated, then I say I will vote for the Amendment. But the hon. Gentleman makes no sign, and therefore I shall vote against his Amendment. As to the Motion of my hon. Friend, I think it has been somewhat misrepresented. It has been attacked by certain Temperance Bodies, with the best intention no doubt. Those bodies seem to think that the Motion excludes the direct veto; but those who heard the speech of my hon. Friend will see that what he wants to do is to quicken the Llicensing Authorities, and make them more effective. He is perfectly willing that the direct veto shall be incorporated. On the ground that there are too many drink shops, and that it is desirable to get rid of them, I shall certainly vote for the Motion of my hon. Friend.

(11.45.) MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT (Roxburgh)

I think the general principle of conferring upon the Local Authorities some of that jurisdiction which is now exercised under the general law of the land by the Magistrates has been affirmed over and over again, and that being so, I do not see why the Motion on the Paper should not be accepted by the House. Unfortunately, as I think, an Amendment has been put on the Paper which introduces very great difficulty into the discussion. It is difficult to know what will be the use made of the decision to which the House will come. We cannot disregard the state of things that has come into existence since the recent decision of the House of Lords. The House of Lords has declared, as regards full licences, that the publican has no legal right whatever to anything beyond his yearly interest under his licence, and now the House is asked to affirm as a general principle that the reduction of licences should be accomplished by some sort of system of compensation. I have always held it would be a great misfortune if the House of Commons or Parliament were to lay down a principle of general compensation. I fully admit that circumstances may arise, and do arise, in individual cases when it would be inequitable not to consider the claims of owner or publican. But that is very different to laying down a broad and general system of compensation. Yet if we carry this Amendment we shall be laying down that principle. I am one of those who cordially supported last year the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I thought them perfectly sound and fair. Those proposals were not for compensation. It was merely a scheme for buying up public houses with a view to their suppression. As we know, these houses are continually being sold in the market. But the pro- posal of this Amendment is totally different. It proposes to declare that the licence, which the highest Court of Law has declared to be only a yearly interest, should be taken to include something more. Its adoption would prove that the opinion of the House of Commons is contrary to the law as recently laid down. I know that this is a ticklish question, and that the constituencies are very much interested in the decision at which we may arrive, but I say we should be tying our hands by carrying such an Amendment as this. I think the House of Commons will be entering on a retrograde path if they accept the Amendment, and I shall therefore vote against it.

(11.51.) MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)

I am one of the supporters of the Government who was, unfortunately, last year unable to support their compensation proposals. To-day I cannot support either the Motion or the Amendment. I thank the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board for his able defence of the vote I gave last year. The proposals of the Government last year were made under a misapprehension of the law. I think the sense of the country is better expressed in these words—" That this House is of opinion that a large reduction in the number of those who drink intoxicating liquors to excess is desirable, and that drunkards should be intrusted with farther powers of self-control over their unruly appetites, both in respect of the days and hours when public houses are open and when they are closed." As I believe that the present proposal to transfer the control over the liquor traffic from the House of Commons to Local Authorities is a dangerous one, I cannot support the Motion. I should be very l0th to see the temperance question transferred either to the County Councils or to the District Councils which are to be established. The principle of local option is most dangerous, and there- fore I am unable to support either the original Motion or the Amendment. I may be allowed to point out that in the proposals made by the Government last year there was no guarantee to the public that they would get anything for their money. When the Slave Trade was abolished the return obtained for the compensation was the release of the slaves; but here we have no guarantee that the liquor traffic will be diminished; it is only a scheme to reduce the channels through which the liquor is distributed. I hope, therefore, that both proposals before the House will be negatived by a large majority.

(11.55.) The House divided:—Ayes 190; Noes 129.—(Div. List, No. 157.)

Main Question, as amended, proposed.

Debate arising.

It being after Midnight, Mr. Speaker proceeded to interrupt the Business.

Whereupon Mr. DE LISLE rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided:—Ayes 192; Noes 120.—(Div. List, No. 158.)

Main Question, as amended, put accordingly

The House divided: — Ayes 182; Noes 111.—(Div. List, No. 159.) Resolved, That this House is of opinion that, provided equitable compensation he given, a large reduction in the number of houses in England licensed for the sale of Intoxicating Liquors is desirable, and that local authorities should be entrusted with further powers of control over the issue of such Licences, and with respect to the days and hours during which the licensed houses should be open.

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