§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT,), Derby
in asking for leave to bring in a Bill to establish Local Control over the Traffic in Liquor, said: Sir, it is said, and I think truly said, that the questions which most interest both sides of the 477 House are social questions, and it is my duty to-night to bring under the consideration of the House a social question which I think everyone will admit is of the very first magnitude and of the greatest urgency—I mean the question of temperance reform. It is not necessary that I should occupy the time of the House in enlarging upon the importance of such a question, or the greatness of the evils with which the measure has to deal, or of the primary claim which it consequently has upon the attention of the House. If there is any matter to which, by the voice of the nation, this Parliament is pledged above all others I think it is that of dealing with the question of temperance. In many questions which are brought before the House it is considered necessary to make a demonstration of the evils that you require to remedy. That demonstration in this case is altogether superfluous. We are, unfortunately, too well acquainted with the nature of that evil, of its extent, and of the necessity for the application of a remedy. This is no new question. It is one which has exercised the mind of the country, and which, I think I may say, has affected the conscience of the people for at least a generation. I speak in the presence of men who have given a lifetime to their labours on this question, and who, I trust, before long are about to witness the consummation of the hopes which they have so long entertained. I see behind me my hon. Friend the Member for Cumberland (Sir W. Lawson), who, through good report and through evil report, has sustained the heat and burden of the day upon this great question, and we who come as later labourers into the field —but not so late as you suppose, as I shall be able to show presently—we may congratulate him upon the prospect of reaching the goal which he has so long? desired. Now, it has been said truly that the House of Commons never presents itself to greater advantage than when it is dealing with questions which are not of the character of Party questions. The question of temperance, I hope and believe I may truly say, whatever it may have been in past times, is not to-day a Party question. I believe that there sit upon that side of the House men, whatever their particular views upon the subject may be, who are as convinced and as earnest temperance reformers as 478 those who sit upon this side of the House, and we may hope they will join with us in the common desire to arrive at some satisfactory solution of a question that has been too long delayed. We are anxious—we declare ourselves anxious every day—for the poverty of great masses of the people of this country, but who is there in this House or out of this House who does not know what is the mainspring and the source of that poverty? Who does not know that it is in drink that is to be found the causa causans of that misery? We desire to see the wages of the working classes increased and improved, but what is the object of increasing and improving those wages if the margin that you have is to be dissipated in drink? The reduction of the hours of labour is one of the questions of the day; but are we to take no care of what is to be the employment of that leisure which we add to the life of the working classes? Crime, though it is largely diminished, happily, in this country, is still a great blot upon our social system, and he who knows anything of the matter knows this: that of all the sources and causes of crime, the most fertile is to be found in drink? An hon. Member opposite challenged me, I thought, with an ironical cheer, as to the date of my conversion upon this subject. That question was once asked me in the House of Commons, and my answer—it was a true and a sincere answer—was that it was from the date when in the responsibilities of the Home Department I had cognisance of those causes of crime which led many a man, aye, and many a woman, to the loss of liberty and life, and brought them even to a shameful death. Those are thoughts and reflections which are not easily effaced from the mind or conscience. Now if these things are so—and I think there is no man on either side of the House who denies that—we who are the representatives of the people, who are responsible for the well-being of the people, have to ask ourselves whether we have done anything in the past, or whether we intend to do something in the future, to remedy those evils, to stay this plague which is amongst us. What do we see in our midst? Go to the flaring gin-shop with the flaunting misery you will find there, and consider the men and women who 479 make the congregations in these places, and ask yourselves whether Parliament has done what it ought to do to put a stop to such scenes as you behold. Go to the country villages, go among those pleasant spots of which there are so many in this fortunate land, and what will you see there? At one end of the village you will see the church and the chapel, at the other end you will see the savings bank, and between the two you will see three or four, or it may be half a dozen, public-houses, which upset the services of the church, and which absorb the savings of the people. Is that a state of things which we can contemplate; is that not a state of things that we ought to do something to put an end to? Aye, this is all the doing of the laws which you have made, because this is a traffic which exists by a creation of the law; it is a regular monopoly of the law, and we have to congratulate ourselves upon the monopoly that we have created, and that we profess to regulate. It is not the people who license those houses, it is not the people who maintain them where they are. They cannot do away with them if they choose. They are planted there by an authority which is outside and independent of the community whose welfare is so deeply affected by them. No, Sir, I venture to affirm that no man can say that Parliament has hitherto done what it ought to do in such a matter as this. I do firmly believe that, by the will and by the mandate of the people of to-day, this Parliament is called upon to achieve that beneficent work. The action of legislation in such matters is naturally, perhaps pardonably, slow. In order to deal with powerful interests and inveterate custom, you must have the gathered momentum of popular opinion which shall compel legislation which the country demands. We have all had, I think, for many a long year an uneasy feeling that something ought to be done, which has not been done, but there has been a great deal of hesitation and a great deal of uncertainty as to what ought to be done. I believe the time has come when there is a conviction that Parliament ought to make up its mind, and will make up its mind, what is to be done. The Government are not unaware that in navigating this sea they are navigating an ocean that is covered with many wrecks. The question is not 480 whether anything is to be done. I do not think that question will be asked. But the question which will emphatically be asked is, what is to be done? The existing state of things is the result of what is known as the licensing system, and it is natural enough that in the earliest attempts at dealing with this matter efforts were principally directed to dealing with the licensing system by Licensing Bills. That was the nature of the attempt 20 years ago made by Mr. Bruce when he was Home Secretary. I desire, in the first instance, in order to clear the ground, to inform the House that the Bill I ask leave to introduce is not a Licensing Bill at all. It does not profess to deal with the licensing question. The licensing is one which requires to be dealt with, and which will have to be dealt with. It never can be, in my opinion, a satisfactory system that licensing should depend on persons who have no popular mandate whatever in the matter, find therefore no doubt Licensing Boards will hereafter have to be created, and will probably have to devise a. Licensing Committee. I desire to say nothing in disparagement of the licensing magistrates. I believe that, especially in late years, according to their lights and according to their power, they have discharged their duty honestly in these matters, and I cast no reflections on them. But they are not a popular body; they have not the force of popular opinion; and the consequence of that has been that they wanted the courage and the firmness requisite in dealing with matters of this description. I wish, first of all, to state that the Bill I have to lay before the House is not a Licensing Bill. This is important, because if the question is raised whether the Bill is for the reduction of the number of licences, I say it is not. That can only be done by a Licensing Board. These are very important questions, and proper to be raised, but questions which do not belong to the Bill I have to lay before the House. In my opinion, no mere Licensing Bill will ever go to the root of this question. You have to go deeper than that; if you are to do any good you must cut to the quick in this matter. You have to deal with a great national evil. On what principle are you going to deal with this great national evil? If you are to strike an effective 481 blow at a great national evil you must appeal to the conscience and the voice of the people. You must appeal to that great democratic principle which evokes the vital energy of the popular voice and of the popular conscience. You cannot trust interests so vast as this; you cannot cope with evils so deeply rooted by leaving them to the discretion of any selected class or of any delegated body. If you hope to form habits of moral obligation you must make your appeal direct to the conscience of the people themselves. If the people are to be reformed they must be the authors of their own reformation. These were the principles upon which the Government desired to found their measures of reform. This measure is not a measure of any novelty or any complexity. To describe it in a single sentence, it is a Bill to establish the control of the liquor traffic by the popular vote operating through the direct veto of the people. After many phases of opinion, and many variations in the former legislation, this, I think, is the leading and fundamental principle which has commended itself to the great body of the temperance party. I know this is not the opinion which has been always very universally held. I am aware that there are many, or were many, and may be many now, who think that instead of referring this question directly to the people's veto you had better delegate it to some of your Representative Bodies. I speak of that opinion with all the more respect because it is one, in former years, I strongly held myself. The first speech that I made in this House is just 10 years ago, on the Motion of local option of my hon. Friend the Member for Cumberland (Sir W. Lawson), and I argued in that direction; but I may be permitted just to read a sentence of the conclusion of that speech. I was speaking not merely for myself, but for the Government, of which I was a Member. I said—I am speaking distinctly on behalf of the Government as a whole, as well as expressing my own personal opinions. We shall vote for giving this power, because of the persons who are interested in it; that is to say, to the inhabitants of the localities, reserving, of course, the right to determine how that opinion is to be ascertained.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
You will find that on April 27th, 1883, page 1315, in Hansard. I expressed upon that occasion a preference—there is no reason to conceal it—for the delegation of those powers at that time to the Municipal Councils and the County Councils, making this declaration on the part of the Government in respect of local option. I made that declaration in all its breadth, reserving an opinion as to the manner in which the voice of the nation should be taken. Well, Sir, I will say very frankly why I, and many others, have changed their opinions upon that subject. This course is one the Government cannot recommend, because from the elections and developments of the Councils we do not think it would be a convenient or possible thing to impose upon these Bodies the duties of dealing with the liquor question. We believe it would interfere very much with the character of their election and occupy their time very much in matters with which they would probably rather be without. You have not imposed upon them the duty of dealing with education, and you have not given them charge of the Poor Laws. I have the honour of speaking in the presence, I am sure, of many Members on both sides of the House who have had a great experience in this question of Local Bodies and Municipal Councils and of County Councils, and I should be extremely surprised to find that there was any member of those Councils who would get up and say that he desired that the dealing with the liquor question should be imposed on those Bodies. This is frankly the reason why we abandon that idea. Their jurisdiction is happily concerned with matters which, I believe, are of a more neutral character, and it would impart and introduce into those Councils matters of a contentious character with which they would be much rather without. I think I may set aside all proposals of that character, and I would, in reference to this subject, say that if you come to deal with the licensing question in the future, with which this Bill does not deal, in my opinion you must have a separate representative Licensing Board, distinct altogether from County Councils and Municipal Councils, for the reason I have stated. This is a view in which I rather gather is one in which both sides 483 of the House are inclined to concur. The general proposal I have to submit to the House is that the question whether any house for the retail sale of intoxicating liquor on or off the premises within a limited area should be determined by the direct vote of the ratepayers taken at stated intervals. That is a sufficiently accurate description of the main project and plan of the Bill.
§ SIR W. V. HARCOURT
That includes grocers' licences. Hon. Gentlemen will understand what I mean when I say that all Justices' licences are distinguished from Excise licences. As a rule, Justices' licences mean retail licences, and Excise licences mean wholesale licences of brewers, wine merchants, and so forth. Justices' licences are what I mean when I speak of licences in the Bill. I have said that this is no Party question, and I think I am entitled to say so. One of the most careful and elaborate attempts which of late years has been made to settle this question was that made by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) in 1890. He stated, in asking leave to introduce that Bill, that he was in communication with the liquor trade, Sir W. Lawson, the Temperance Associations, and particularly with the Church of England Temperance Association. He introduced that Bill—a more ambitious Bill than that of which I have charge—as a Licensing Bill, and also a Direct Veto Bill. What he said on the subject of the direct veto part of the Bill is so pertinent to what I have to lay before the House that I will ask leave to read an extract from his speech. The noble Lord said—The main principle of the Bill is popular control over the issue of licences.That is the principle accepted—I think I may say, which has been accepted by both sides of the House. I will go on to quote another observation of the noble Lord, a most pertinent remark, and well expressed, as everything that comes from the noble Lord is. He said—It is alleged that you cannot make people sober by Act of Parliament. You cannot, it is true; but I tell you what you can do, you can give the people by Act of Parliament the power to make themselves sober.Well, Sir, a more excellent answer to a more shallow fallacy was never given 484 even by the noble Lord. Now, what was the description he gave of his method? Having described the earlier part of the Bill, he said this—But I go even further in applying the principle of popular control. I have provided that, in certain circumstances and under certain conditions, there should be brought into operation that which is called the direct veto—that is to say, that, if in a certain parish—I ask the House to observe that the area taken was the parish—" two-thirds" —you will observe there also the proportion is taken at two-thirds—of the ratepayers on the municipal register voted for the prohibition of the granting of licences, the vote should operate against the granting of all retail licences. There is a good deal to be said in favour of the equity of such a proposal. On the face of it, it is not unfair that where you find a large and preponderating majority in a restricted area who desire to live under conditions which, in their belief, conduce to order and morality—it is hard on such a majority that a comparatively small minority should be able to prevent them having their way. And what makes it especially hard in this case is that the power which you refuse to entrust, or which you may possibly refuse to entrust, to so large and preponderating a majority is a power which, under the law of the land, is actually enjoyed by the owners of property. An owner of many thousands of acres, or of a large portion of a town, may, and frequently does, no matter how much the persons on that property may object, prohibit the establishment of a single house for the sale of intoxicating liquor. Therefore, you allow to the owner of property a power which may be exercised in the most tyrannical manner, which I believe in certain cases has been exercised tyrannically, and which may be exercised tyrannically, and which may be exercised against the wishes of the majority of the people. I think there is a great deal to be said for allowing a preponderating majority of the inhabitants to prohibit the establishment of houses for the retail sale of drink.I think it is impossible to put forth more clearly and more accurately the principles on which the direct veto is founded. Well, in the last Parliament the sower went forth to sow, and his seed fell on stony ground. It never put forth either a germ or brought forth a seed, but still I hope that that seed is not altogether lost, and that in the present Parliament we may have the advantage of the countenance and support of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington. I observe also that on the back of that Bill there was the name of a gentleman who is no longer a Member of this House, but who sat with the noble Lord, and who for many years rendered yeoman's service to the 485 temperance question—I mean Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson. And there was also, I am glad to say, the names of the hon. Member for South Kensington, and the hon. Member for South Belfast. I am adverting to this Bill in order to maintain my proposition that this is not a Party question, because in the Bill to which I have referred, and in the argument I have quoted, I find an exact analogue and counterpart of the Bill I am going to ask the House to accept. I am perfectly aware, and I ought fairly to state, that the noble Lord accompanied the Bill and his proposal with a strong declaration on the subject of compensation. I shall, of course, have a word to say on the subject presently. But the noble Lord did not in that Bill insist on that, because he introduced a Bill on the direct veto without any scheme or any clause dealing with compensation at all.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Yes; I know the Bill was the Bill of a private Member, but there are methods by which a private Member can express his ideas on such a subject. I have no doubt the noble Lord will at a future stage of this discussion be able to explain to us what his views on compensation are. Having said this much, I will just, briefly I hope, point out the particulars of the Bill to the House. It is a short Bill, and a simple Bill, and I think I shall do best by reading the first clause of the Bill, which practically contains the main substance of the measure. It says—One-tenth of the electors living in the areas hereinafter mentionedI will say a word on the area directly—may address a requisition in writing to the authorities hereinafter mentionedI will explain that directly—requiring the authority to cause a poll of the electors to he taken on the question whether total closing shall be adopted within the area— that is to say, whether a grant or renewal of licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor within the area shall be permitted—thereupon a poll shall be taken in accordance with the requisition in the manner directed by this Act.Then—If a majority of two-thirds of the persons voting on the above resolve the question in the affirmative, then while the resolution is in force no licence shall- except as by this Act provided —be granted or renewed for the sale of intoxicating liquor within the area.Then— 486When a poll has been taken in any area on the above question a further poll on the same question shall not be taken before the expiration of three years from the date when the resolution came into force, or if the question is resolved in the negative from the date of the poll.That really contains the main substance of the Bill.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The electors will be the municipal electors, the people who elect the Municipal Councils in the boroughs and the County Councils in the counties. That includes, of course, the women, who are deeply interested in this matter. There are one or two points in this part of the Bill on which I ought to say a word. First of all, as to the two-thirds. The Government adopted that, because from the temperance party itself it has a great authority for that proportion. I have drawn it, I may say, from the original Permissive Bill of the hon. Member for Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), for that included a two-thirds majority; to come down to later times, the Welsh Bill and the Direct Veto Bill of 1890 had also a two-thirds majority, the Irish Bill of 1890 had a two-thirds majority, the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington had a two-thirds majority, and the Manchester Bill also had a two-thirds majority, and another Bill, the Westminster Bill, had a two thirds majority. Therefore the Government have adopted as the majority for total prohibition a majority of two-thirds. As to the authority to take the poll, I do not think that that is very material, but it will be the Council in the Borough and the Urban Sanitary District Authority, and for the parish the Overseers of the parish. Their office however, will only be ministerial—they will have to take the poll. The voters, as I have already said in answer to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, will be the municipal voters. The area which we propose to take is the parish. From the first time I ever spoke upon this subject in this House I said that the question was very much a question of area. Now, the smaller the area in my opinion the better because the more accurately you get the real opinion of the community. If you have a very large area, you may have one part of the area entirely objecting to your proposals, and over- 487 powering by the voting power all the other portions of the area. No doubt the areas will be very irregular, because parishes are very irregular; some are very large and some very small, but we cannot help that. I do not think it would have been a wise thing to have proposed to construct a new area. First of all you would have had great delay, and in the second place we have areas enough, perhaps too many, in the country already. In the boroughs, if it is a small borough we take the whole borough; if it is a large borough we take the wards as the unit.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
In the County of London any district of a Sanitary Authority within the meaning of Section 99 of the Public Health (London) Act, 1891, or if any such district being outside the City of London, is divided into wards or consists of several parishes, then any such ward or parish.That is the technical way in which it has been described. It has been very carefully considered in the Local Government Board Office.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Well, there is another Bill before the House. We think that this is a 'matter which the Irish ought to determine for themselves. The definition of licences will be found at the end of the first clause. It is very short. In this section the expression "licence" has the same meaning as in the Licensing Act of 1872, which really means the Justices' licence as distinguished from the brewers' and wine licences. The vote will be by ballot, and there are strong provisions against corrupt practices and illegal expenditure. We are very anxious that there should not be expensive elections. We have prohibited absolutely as illegal any expenses except the actual expenses of taking the ballot, so that agents' committees and anything of that kind will be illegal expenditure. I come now to a point upon which I expect probably we shall be exposed to some criticism— namely, the point of the exemptions from the operation of the Bill. I wish 488 at once to say that this is a Bill which is not conceived in any spirit of narrow fanaticism. We do not desire, or intend, or pretend, to put down the use and consumption of liquor by persons in their own houses, or, if they have no houses of their own, in the places where they reside or where they take their meals. I believe if we were to attempt anything of that kind we should be met with a violent resistance, and probably a violent reaction in this country, and nothing could be more injurious to the. cause of temperance. This Bill is directed against the bar of the gin-palace and the taproom of the public-house and the beer-shop. It is not intended to prevent the consumption of liquor by such people as desire or require it, whether travelling on the railway or whether they are in hotels and inns for public accommodation, or at eating houses where people who have no homes of their own take their ordinary meals. The section referring to the exemptions is as follows:—Nothing in this Act shall prevent the grant or renewal of licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors on premises intended to be used in good faith exclusively for all or any of the following purposes:—(a) For refreshment rooms on a. railway for persons arriving at or departing by railway; (b) for an inn or hotel for the accommodation of travellers or persons lodging therein; (c) for an eating-house for persons taking meals on the premises.Then in the same section this statement is made—There shall be attached to every such licence such conditions as the licensing authority think necessary or proper for preventing the use of the premises for any other purpose than that specified in the licence, and if any person commits or permits any breach of these conditions he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50, and if he is the licensee, to the forfeiture of his licence.These restrictions are not directed to the ordinary habits of people in the places, where they reside or the places where they take their meals. They are directed against what I may describe as "tippling." Now I come to the question of compensation. I have mentioned that the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), for reasons which he then stated, did not attempt any scheme of compensation. I have no desire to revive the controversies of bygone days. My predecessor and I have broken many a lance over this question of compensation 489 in former days; but remembering what took place in the discussions of those times and on the Local Government Bill of 1888, the House will be prepared for the declaration it is my duty to make, that the Government do not admit the claim for pecuniary compensation for the extinction of licences, in their nature annually terminable, and we make no proposal for compensation of that character. So long ago as 1871, in the early days of this controversy, Mr. Bruce, when he introduced his Licensing Bill, made this statement, which I think cannot be controverted—This House has never recognised any vested interest in this species of property, or any right to compensation, yet it had frequently interfered with the trade.That is a proposition which cannot be denied. What interference has the House made with the trade? It has closed public-houses in Scotland, in Ireland, and in Wales on Sunday. It has taken away one-seventh of the trade, and in many cases the most profitable part of the trade, and yet the question of compensation has never been admitted nor dreamed of.
§ MR. BONSOR
Will the right hon. Gentleman quote the figures upon which he bases that statement that one-seventh of the trade has been taken away?
§ MR. BONSOR
What about the revenue? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us that the revenue has fallen off to the extent of one-seventh in Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, where the public-houses have been closed on Sundays?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I should be very glad to tell the hon. Gentleman that the more days we struck off the more the revenue increased. That would be a very satisfactory settlement of the question. But the Magistrates have got the power to extinguish licences. They have exercised that power always, and always without compensation, in former times much more rarely than in recent times. But of late years, since the law has been made clear—it always was the law—especially since the case of "Sharp Wakefield," the Justices have acted with much more decision and boldness upon 490 their powers than they did before. I have moved in successive years for a Return of licences that have been refused simply on the ground that there were too many houses, although there was no misconduct on the part of the holders. The last Return was for the years 1890–91. In these two years they refused to renew 61 fully-licensed victuallers' houses, 11 beer-houses, and 31 other licences, and in not one of these cases was any compensation given. Hon. Members may know better the value of those houses than I do, but be the value little or great, be the number many or few, the Magistrates, in the exercise of their jurisdiction, have terminated those licences without any compensation. I, therefore, maintain that upon no legal or Parliamentary ground can a claim be set up for pecuniary compensation. But, considering the limited application of the principle up to this time, we consider that the trade, and especially the publican himself, is entitled to fair notice of the alteration in the practice and the introduction of a new authority in this matter, and we are of opinion that a reasonable time should be given to them to accommodate their practice and their position to the changed condition of things. I have heard sometimes of what is called a "time compensation." I do not know whether that is the accurate phrase, but the House will understand what the meaning of it is. In this Bill we propose to give to all those engaged in the trade a notice, which is to be a three years' notice, that the condition of things is changed, and that they will be subject at the expiration of that three years to the operation proposed in this Bill. We find this view has commended itself to many of the important Temperance Associations, and it has been introduced to them as a modification of the direct veto. I should explain, in connection with this, that during that period we do not interfere with the authority of the Licensing Magistrates. Their authority will remain as it was before. They will renew the licences if they think fit, and refuse if they choose, just as they do at present. I should like to explain to the House exactly how this will operate as regards the direct popular veto. The vote may be taken at once, or it may be postponed. You may take it this year, or next year, or the year 491 after. If you take it at once on the passing of the Bill, it will not operate upon that area in respect of which it is taken until the expiration of the third year. If you take it a year after, then there will be two years' notice. If you take it in third year, there will be one year's notice. Therefore, there will always be one year, because we are of opinion that a man ought not to be turned out of house and home without moderate and adequate notice. That is the principle upon which we have proceeded, because we provide that after three years there will always be one year's grace. It will be objected that this Bill does not deal with the principle of reduction of the number of licences. I find it is impossible to do that unless we introduce Licensing Boards, and a whole system of licensing reform. That may, and I hope will, come hereafter, at no long distance of time, but it will be impossible to introduce it now. The same observation applies to the limitation of new licences. We cannot deal with that, because you may have a new part of a town—a new area where the population may desire to have new licences, and a desire to extinguish the old licences. But, then, you must have a body like a Licensing Board of Magistrates to exercise a discretion in that matter. The resolution can be rescinded precisely upon the same conditions and in the same manner as originally passed. It can only be altered at an interval of three years. We have done that in order that the communities may not be constantly vexed every year by elections upon this highly controversial subject. At the close of the three years it may be proposed to rescind, if the districts have agreed to prohibition, or, where they have rejected prohibition, then it may be proposed a second time.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Yes, by the same majority. There is only one other topic to which it is necessary that I should refer, but it is one which has created a good deal of difference in the minds of the temperance party itself. It is the question of Sunday closing. That is a matter upon which the heart of the temperance party is strongly set, some from temperance motives, some mainly from religious motives. The 492 Government are extremely anxious in every practicable manner to give effect to that demand—a demand with which they entirely sympathise. I am quite aware that many temperance reformers think that there is only one course to take in that matter, and that is to pass a universal compulsory Sunday Closing Bill for England, as is the case in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. I am bound to say I do not, and the Government do not, concur in that. After careful consideration, they are of opinion that this is not the best, or even the most practical method of dealing with the question. No greater mistake can be made in any legislation, and, above all, in legislation which touches the habits, sentiments, and customs of the people than to overrun the sentiments of the people themselves. If you do that you will produce a dangerous reaction, which will probably do more harm to the temperance cause than anything else. The advance of Sunday closing has been a piecemeal advance. You began with Scotland, where it was accepted almost without a murmur years ago. The next step was Ireland, and the last step was Wales. I have myself in this House assisted in carrying to the Second Reading Bills for Sunday Closing in Cornwall and other districts of the country. Therefore, the principle on which you have acted has been to apply Sunday closing to those who are prepared and willing to accept it. You have never attempted to press Sunday closing by a universal law upon populations who might not be ready to accept it, and who, on the contrary, might be disposed to reject it. The Government at least have come to the conclusion that in this part of the United Kingdom there is not at present a condition of things which would justify or warrant universal compulsory Sunday closing, without regard to the sentiments of the particular locality. There are parts of the Kingdom where it could safely be done—places like Cornwall and other districts in the country. I have expressed the opinion equally strongly, in Office and out of Office, that such legislation could not safely be applied to London, and that if you attempted it it would be utterly unwise, unsafe, impolitic, and unjust. There are other places of which the same thing can be said, and to enforce on the inhabitants of such places restric- 493 tions which are repugnant to the majority would, in my opinion, be a most foolish and unwise policy. It would inevitably excite a spirit of resentment, and the reaction would be most injurious to the cause of temperance. We have come, therefore, to the conclusion that Sunday closing, like the more general veto, should be subject in each locality to the direct vote of the community which it affects. But as this restriction is more limited than total prohibition, we are of opinion it ought not to be subject to the same limitation. We are of opinion that it should be determined by a simple majority, and that it should not be postponed in its operation, but take immediate effect. It will be applicable to the same areas, and the time of its operation will be the same as in the case of total prohibition. Under these provisions Sunday closing will be accomplished at once by the majority of any parish that desires to have it. I should suppose that Cornwall, and other parts of the country which are of the same mind, would have it at once. In our opinion, this part of the Bill is the one that will have the widest and most immediate operation, and it is therefore one to which we attach great value. There are large parts of the country where Sunday closing will become law by the well-ascertained will of the majority of the people, and will be accepted by the minority with acquiescence, and I think contentment, as it has been in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales; and when its beneficial effects are perceived it will extend its example to other quarters. If, as the most ardent advocates of Sunday closing believe, every part of the country is prepared to accept Sunday closing, this Bill will do all they desire. But, take the other hypothesis— supposing there are places where there is a majority against it—are you going by force to impose on that majority a state of things they do not desire? In my opinion, that would be a most unwise and unsafe thing to do. At least, that is not a proposal that the Government can recommend to this House. They wish that legislation on Sunday closing, like all other legislation, should rest on the ascertained will of the majority of the people who are affected by it. If that is true of all legislation, especially is it true of legislation of this kind. Now, Sir, I know the difference of opinion 494 that exists on this subject, but I would humbly venture to commend these considerations to the thoughtful reflection of the temperance party. I entreat them not, by grasping at a shadow, to lose the substance which is offered to them in this Bill. I sincerely believe that the provisions of this Bill will secure Sunday closing over a great part of the Kingdom; indeed, in every parish where it can be safely applied. The responsibility will be great of those who reject such a proposal as this. At least, the Government, who have the same object in view, cannot take on themselves that responsibility of declining to lay before the House of Commons a measure which the Government believe will accomplish that object. I have generally voted for all Bills which proposed Sunday closing. I do not think I have voted against a Sunday Closing Bill on the principle I have often heard my hon. Friend the Member for Cumberland advance, that he would vote for any Bill that tended in that direction; but I have always, as in the case of the Cornish Bills and the Local Government Bill, regarded this question on the ground of local opinion, and I have not departed from that. I will ask gentlemen of the temperance party who may be disposed to reject this scheme to reflect the Parliamentary history of this question. In the year 1885 Lord Salisbury made a celebrated declaration in the direction of local option, and especially with regard to Sunday closing, in his speech at Newport. In 1888 there was a clause in the Local Government Bill of the late Government which would have given local option in the case of Sunday closing, and, mind you, there no question of compensation came in. Well, I made an effort, which right hon. Gentlemen opposite will remember, to keep that clause in the Bill. The Government do not wish to revive ancient controversy, and I only wish to state the declaration which I then made to show that the proposals I am now making are identical. I said—In his view the proper principle was that each locality should judge for itself in this matter, for he believed the greatest mischief that they could do in a case of the kind was to attempt by Parliamentary enactment to impose reforms of this character upon communities which were not prepared for them, and did not wish them to be imposed. That mistake had been made a few years ago in connection with the Bill of Lord Grosvenor, and was not likely to be repeated. He had for many years con- 495 tended for the principle of local option in this matter as against universal compulsion, because it gave the power of applying this reform to places which required it, and saved them from the danger of imposing it on places where it was not desired. He wished to define exactly what he meant by the term local option. He meant the right of each section of the community to determine this Sunday closing question or any other question according to its own wishes or the wishes of the public. As he had stated on a former occasion, the matter was mainly a question of areas, and he believed the smaller the areas which enjoyed local option the better, because the feeling of the people with whom they were dealing would be more certainly represented. He would willingly have accepted a smaller area than the county, because he conceived that one part of the county might wish this rule to be enforced, while other parts of the same county might have a different opinion, and he should have been very glad if local option could have been given to parishes.The position we now take is identical with what we did in 1888. The Motion to keep Sunday closing in the Government Bill of 1888 failed to a great degree because it did not receive the support of gentlemen who were strongly in favour of universal compulsory Sunday closing. They said that was the only course to take. They beat local option by compulsory Sunday closing, and they said "let us wait until we get a Sunday-closing Bill." Later on a Sunday-closing Bill came on, and then the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) moved an Amendment to the Bill in favour of local option, as against Sunday closing, and he prevailed. The consequence was that the local option Sunday closing was beaten by universal Sunday closing, and then universal Sunday closing was beaten by local option, and that is exactly what may happen again. I voted for local option on the first occasion. I voted against the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, because it defeated the Bill, not because I disapproved of the principle. I said in the course of the Debate that I should vote for the Bill, but if the Amendment were carried I should vote for that too. I have mentioned that, because I think it a salutary warning to the temperance party in this House. I fear, Sir, I have detained the House too long, but I was unwilling to leave any part of this great subject without such explanation as I could offer. I have endeavoured—I hope I have succeeded—in avoiding an exaggerated tone, or any provocative argument. 496 I am not unaware of the great difficulties by which this question is surrounded and the opposition with which it is threatened. It will be encountered by a determined and well-organised resistance. That I am well aware of. That hon. Gentlemen opposite will take care of. I can only hope that the great body of the temperance reformers in this House, and outside of this House, without distinction of Party and without distinction of sections, will also make common cause, and that they will not allow extreme opinions or particularist views to distract their counsels so as to ensure defeat. I trust that they will sink, in this great matter, minor differences and combine with one heart and mind to carry into law a safe and a practical remedy for the direst evils with which the life-blood of the nation can be drained.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish Local Control over the Traffic in Liquor."—(The Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. H. COSMO BONSOR (Surrey, Wimbledon)
said, he rose on this occasion after the remarkable speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, after the extraordinary proposals which he had put forward, to speak on behalf of the trade to which he believed every hon. Gentleman in that House knew he had the honour to belong. He had been connected with the brewing trade for the last 25 years, and he wished at once to correct a misconception as to the position of the trade in that particular branch which he represented. It had never been the policy of the London trade to own public-house property. They were deeply interested in the pecuniary welfare of their customers, and on this occasion he spoke for the licence-holder rather than for the owner of licensed property. He might say at once that he rejoiced they were at last face to face with the proposals of Her Majesty's Government. It had been, for a considerable period, the habit of that House to deal with this question by means of private Members' Bills, abstract Resolutions, and other propositions on which hon. Gentlemen had voted, knowing perfectly well that their votes would have no effect in the country. As far as he could understand the proposals of the 497 right hon. Gentleman, they constituted, an absolutely new departure in the system of licensing in this country. The right hon. Gentleman admitted, in his speech, that he did not propose to amend the law, that he did not intend to set up a new Licensing Authority in place of the present, or in any way to alter the existing control by that House over licensed property, but that he wished to set up a new machinery alike over that House and over the present Licensing Authority for the purpose of controlling the liquor traffic. The right hon. Gentleman wished, as he understood it, to set up an absolute plébiscite over the Houses of Parliament, the Licensing Authority, and over all those bodies which had had control from time to time, of public-house property. If the right hon. Gentleman had intended to bring in a Bill to deal with the question of intemperance—if he believed that to drink was attributable all the evils which he dwelt upon—he would have brought in a Bill to stop the manufacture of alcohol in this country and the importation of foreign liquors, and thus struck at the root of the whole matter. But the right hon. Gentleman struck at only one branch of the trade in liquor. He only attacked the licensed house, the publicans, the grocers, and other places which were controlled and regulated by the State. The houses which got their licences from the Excise were not included in this measure. The right hon. Gentleman merely included what he called "Justices' licences," which, in common English, were the houses of the poor. And in dealing with this question the right hon. Gentleman had made no attempt whatever to deal with clubs. Whilst the Chancellor of the Exchequer was speaking on the subject of Sunday closing in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, he said that one-seventh of the trade of the publican had been cut off without any compensation, and he (Mr. Bonsor) interrupted him with a question; but he thought the right hon. Gentleman did not understand the reason why he interrupted him. He did it for the purpose of eliciting whether the Returns paid into the Exchequer on liquors had fallen off in the same proportion as the houses that had been closed, because it was a fact that so soon as licensed houses were closed illicit means of supplying drink sprung up. If they 498 were going to deal with the licensing question at all, it was absolutely necessary that they should deal with a certain class of clubs; and he ventured to think that the right hon. Gentleman had made a mistake in omitting them from his Bill. There were clubs at present in existence in the East of London—in fact, all over the Metropolis—which were absolutely uncontrolled by the State. They were called by various names. He would give an account of one in the East of London, which he believed was patronised by hon. Members of that House who sat for East London constituencies, and represented Radical opinions, probably everyone of whom would vote for the Second Reading of this Bill for the closing of licensed houses. The club to which he referred was conducted without any regulation at all as to hours, and his informant, a practical man, who visited it on a Sunday morning at 11 o'clock, when public-houses were closed, found there about 400 people, men, women, and children, and in three of the rooms gambling of various descriptions was going on, and in all the rooms drink was being consumed; and it was absolutely impossible to get even a biscuit, or any sort of solid refreshment. During the hour and a half his friend was in the club he was perfectly certain that two hogsheads of beer were drawn and consumed, besides an enormous quantity of spirits; and, besides this, a large quantity of spirits was carried out of the club to be consumed outside. If further legislation was going to be put on licensed houses—the houses regulated by the State—he was perfectly certain that this Bill would do more harm than good. He anticipated that if this Bill became law the gentlemen who were the members of these various clubs would be the first that would be called upon to vote for prohibition. They would not be under the law, they would not be closed themselves, but they would come out to prevent the competition of well-regulated and properly licensed traders. In listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman he felt that he had undertaken a difficult task. He wondered to himself whether the right hon. Gentleman really thought that this Bill was going to be an operative Bill, or whether he really thought it would ever pass into law, or whether it was only another 499 of those fulfilments of election pledges of which they had heard a great deal. He thought they had a right to demand of Her Majesty's Government two things. In the first place, they had a right to ask that after the Bill was introduced sufficient time would be given for the country and for the trade thoroughly to consider its provisions. In the second place, they had a right to ask—to demand—that if the Bill was introduced, affecting as it did enormous interests, it should be pressed, and that the decision of Parliament should be taken absolutely upon it. He thought the hon. Member for Bradford two or three years ago made a calculation as to what the capital was which was invested in licensed property. If his recollection served him right, the hon. Member named a sum of something like £200,000,000.
§ MR. CAINE (Bradford, E.)
said he did not do anything of the kind. He estimated the amount as the sum that would be required to purchase under the Bill introduced by the Government of which the hon. Gentleman was a Member.
§ MR. COSMO BONSOR
thought that was very much the same thing. The hon. Gentleman mentioned a value as to licensed houses of something like £5,000 apiece.
§ MR. COSMO BONSOR
said he would not argue the question. The hon. Member would agree with him that large sums of money had been invested in this trade. The hon. Member said he valued them at nothing. He presumed the hon. Member meant that they had made a bad investment.
§ MR. COSMO BONSOR
They had made a bad investment. Well, he would ask the House under what conditions they had made that investment? In the first place, they had made it under the existing law; in the second place, under established custom; and, in the third, place, on the statements of public men. As to what the right hon. Gentleman said about "Sharp v. Wakefield," they who were interested in licences were content to remain under the existing law. They 500 had never contended that there was not full discretion on the part of the Justices; but they had contended that the Justices were bound to state their judicial reasons for refusing the renewal or transfer of licences. "Sharp v. Wakefield" did not change the law; it only informed a great number of gentlemen who did not know the law what the law was. But within a year of the decision of "Sharp v. Wakefield," the Lord Chief Justice of England made some remarks upon the subject in a Judgment he delivered. He would remind the House that Sharp's house was situated on the moors of Westmoreland, that it had been absolutely closed for four months before the decision of the Justices was arrived at, and that every member of the trade who was consulted expressed a wish that the appeal should not be fought, because they considered the Justices' decision correct. Lord Chief Justice Coleridge said in May, 1890, after the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield"—But I take the liberty to add this—that, even on a question of fact, they (the Justices) must bring to the determination of it a clear judicial mind, and if that determination of fact is made under such circumstances that this Court can see that other matters than the pure matters before them have entered into their decision, then it is not a judicial decision, it is not an exercise of jurisdiction, and, toties quoties, this Court will interfere to compel justice to be done,or, in other words, that the licence should be renewed. Coming to the question of universal and established custom, he would remind the House that in every relation between the State and the trade the absolute right of renewal had been accepted and established. ["No."] An hon. Member said "No," but he would put it to him in this way. The Chancellor of the Exchequer when he made his annual Budget reckoned as an absolute certainty that the licences would be renewed, and estimated his income on that certainty. A licensed house was valued not by bricks and mortar, but as a going concern with its licence, and it was so valued for the purposes of Succession or Probate Duty. To give an example of this. A licensed victualler having given £18,000 for a public-house died within a year, and the Somerset House authorities immediately accepted the £18,000 as the value upon which the 501 State should tax it for Succession and Probate Duties. That particular house "without a licence was not worth £5,000. But this House had always recognised the existence and permanence of licences. In all the Acts it had passed it had always been considered that the permanence of a licence was established. He would mention another fact to show what the general opinion was out of doors. It was frequently the case that when new licences were applied for, the magistrates were consulted and shown the plans of the house. Was it to be conceived that any man in his senses would be so foolish as to submit the plan of a licensed house to the magistrate if he thought he was only to get one year's tenure of the licence? But these licences were recognised by every man of business, as was shown by the large amount of money lent on mortgage of licensed property outside the brewing and distilling industry. Even some of the great Insurance Companies had lent money on the premises, and on the faith of what they believed to be an established custom. Then there were the statements of public men. The Prime Minister had on several occasions spoken as to the permanence of licences and the vested interests of licence-holders. Speaking at Dalkeith, in November, 1879, the right hon. Gentleman said—But I must add, I think, if it be necessary, if Parliament should think it wise to introduce any radical change in the working of the liquor law in such a way as to break down the vain expectations of persons who have grown up— whether rightly or wrongly, it is not their fault —it is our fault—under the shadow of those laws, their fair claim to compensation ought, if they can make good their case, to be considered, as all such claims have been considered, by the wisdom and liberality of a British Parliament.Again, speaking in this House on 5th March, 1880, the right hon. Gentleman said—As to compensation, the licensed victuallers ought to be dealt with exactly on the same principle as every other class in regard to which a vested interest has been permitted to grow up. When Parliament enacted Negro Emancipation it was preceded by a preliminary Resolution, in which the principle of compensation was recognised. My hon. Friend says that we must wait till a claim for compensation is made. Parliament does not act on that principle. Where the facts presented the possibility of such a claim, the recognition of the possibility has, I think, taken place in the original proceedings of Parliament.Again, on the 18th June, 1880, the right hon. Gentleman said— 502I should have been better pleased with the matter of the Resolution if my hon. Friend had included in it some reference to the principle that we are not to deny to publicans, as a class, perfectly equal treatment, because we think that their trade is at so many points in contact with, and even sometimes productive of, great public mischief. Considering the legislative title they have acquired, and the recognition of their position in the proceedings of this House for a long series of years, they ought not to be placed at a disadvantage on account of the particular impression we may entertain—in many cases but too justly—in relation to the mischiefs connected with the present licensing system and the consumption of strong liquors.The Chancellor of the Exchequer, on December 30th, 1872, at Oxford, spoke as follows:—There seems to be day by day a growing disposition more and more to invoke the interference of Government in relations of social life. I believe this to be a most dangerous tendency, and one to which it is necessary to offer an early and determined resistance. …. I am against the whole system of petty molestation and irritating dictation, whether by a class or by a majority. I am against forbidding a man to have a glass of beer if he wants a glass of beer. I am against public-house restriction and park regulations.Again, at Oxford, on December 22nd, 1874, he said—To extend a covert toleration to rash speculation and questionable schemes, in order to procure a precarious support, is not the way to recover confidence, but further to destroy it. We have going amongst us a doctrine of development promulgated by multifarious infallibilities. There is our old friend, Sir Wilfrid Lawson, the Pontiff of total abstinence, who, however much we may differ from him, it is impossible not to respect for his sincerity, and to admire for his humour, for in spite of his scruples he is always brimful of spirits. Well, he excommunicates all of us who are heretics because we do not embrace his immaculate dogma. For my part, I endure his anathemas with resignation. He is particularly wrath with me; he calls me a Protestant'—and so I am, and it is for this reason that I stick to the principle of private judgment, even in the matter of beer. … I cannot help thinking it is very hard on the Liberal Party to be held responsible before the country for all this farrago of crotchets. You cannot jumble up this mass of crude cries and present it to a rational nation and call it a policy, without revolting its commonsense and creating a reaction.It was such matter as was contained in remarks of that sort that had induced men to buy public-house property in London and elsewhere, and the men who gave utterance to such observations were absolutely responsible for having induced men to enter into the business without giving them proper 503 warning of what was ultimately to take place. The Government were now going to throw these men over with a mere pittance of legislation. The Home Secretary and the Chief Secretary for Ireland had during the past few months been telling the country that the Government proposed to give exactly the same power to the people as the landowner at present held. That was a new article of faith for the Radical Party to hold up the landowner as a beneficent ruler. But the proposal was not at all analogous. He would ask hon. Members opposite whether they knew of a case where a landowner had turned out a publican without compensating him. There was not a single instance where a landowner had turned out a single publican unless he had been in possession of the house himself, or else the holder of the licence himself. There was no analogy between the principle the landowner exercised as a right over his property and the proposals which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed that evening. The Government had proposed something in the form of compensation. It had been proposed that three years' notice should be given to the publican. He wondered when he heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer making that proposal whether he really and truly was speaking what he considered to be just. He thought when he mentioned three years he was thinking of the three years' goodwill, which was, at any rate, the common amount paid for the various businesses in the country. But though three years' goodwill was attached to the absolute value of a going concern as an ordinary term in the sale of businesses, three years in this particular trade was absolutely a fraud, an impossibility, and an impracticability in the shape of compensation. If they were going to give the man three years' notice his business would at once be taken away from him, and at the end of two years' his creditors would come upon him, and the publican would have great difficulty in getting that credit which was absolutely necessary for conducting any business whatever, while there would be a general scramble for those interests in the property for which he held the licence. There were also the ground rents. Leases and sub-leases over and over again giving one man a slightly increased rent over 504 the other, and how were those various interests to be settled? The three years system was an illusory argument, and he would say it was absolutely of no importance whatever to the trade for whom he had the honour of speaking. He feared that he had detained the House at some length, but in conclusion he would venture to remind the House that the trade to which he belonged had never been obstructionists to any State reform. In his speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded to the Bill which Mr. Bruce introduced in 1871. That Bill quite startled the trade. But how was it met? Amendments were not put down to throw the Bill out. The trade met frequently and proposed Amendments to the Bill, which were submitted to the Government, and he had always insisted that if those Amendments had been favourably received by the Government of that day, and had been accepted as an alternative, there would have been made a final settlement of this question, and they would not that night have been discussing it. With regard to reforms, the trade had always adopted one line— namely, to do its utmost to promote reform so long as it was just and final. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer had admitted that there was no finality in the Bill. He spoke of further measures for electing Licensing Boards, and further measures of licensing reform. There was no finality about the measure, and he was bound to say, having heard it, that he thought it only right to say he believed that there was no alternative and no Amendments that were possible, and that the trade would have to meet it as it had never met licensing measures before—namely, by a direct negative. The trade never invited the contest, and never wished to bring the question before Parliament in its present form. The Government had, however, thrown down the challenge, and the trade accepted it, and looked forward with confidence to the result, because they believed that their interests and their property were safeguarded by justice, and that the proposals of the Government were harsh, impractical, and dishonest.
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cockermouth)
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down had thrown down the gage of battle challenge which he cheerfully took up. Though he did not agree with 505 the gist of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, yet there was one sentence with which he cordially agreed. The hon. Gentleman said he rejoiced that they were now at length face to face with a Government measure on the question. They had looked for it for a long time, and that time had now come; and he thought that in bringing in the Bill the Government were only doing what the Prime Minister had promised they would do—namely, to carry out in power the measures they had approved of in Opposition. He thanked the Government for bringing in the Bill, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the admirable speech that he had made in introducing it. They had not often heard such a speech from the Treasury Bench, and he thought many Members never thought they would live to hear such a speech. He rejoiced that they had lived to hear it. The hon. Member (Mr. Cosmo Bonsor) had talked of teetotalism, and he 'thought the hon. Member had alluded to the Bill as one in favour of total abstinence. But it was not a Teetotal Bill. How many teetotalers were there in the Government? He wished there were many more than there were. But the Government had not brought in the Bill as a Teetotal Bill to gratify teetotalers; they had brought it in in the interests of the citizens of the country. They had seen the House crowded when the Prime Minister brought in the Home Rule Bill, but there were quite as many people interested in this Bill as in the Home Rule Bill.
§ SIR W. LAWSON
said, an hon. Friend near him said "A great many more." But he was a moderate man. This question had been longer before the country than even that of Home Rule. The Prime Minister at Chester last June said that the question had been in hand long enough, but the right hon. Gentleman had not gone quite far enough, for he ought to have said that it had been in hand too long. What was it they demanded? Simply that the liquor shops should not be forced into districts and neighbourhoods where the people did not want them—that and nothing more. The Magistrates had the local veto now, and they exercised it for their own benefit. ["No, no! "] Hon. Gentlemen 506 opposite said, "No, no!" but he would ask them to get up and give an instance in which a Magistrate had ever voted for a licence to a house next door to where he lived himself. No more "No, no's" after that. All that they asked for was that the working man, whose home, whose comfort, and whose family were as dear to him as to the home and family of any Magistrate, should be allowed the same power as any Magistrate. That was the whole thing. Why had this demand arisen, and why was there so strong a case for it? Because everybody who looked at the question knew that all the good people who spent their lives, time, and money in endeavouring to lift the working classes, found that the one great obstacle to them was the licensed drink shop. Many hon. Members remembered Mr. Dowse, afterwards a Judge, who was no gloomy fanatic, but one of the most genial and cleverest men ever seen in that House, and who in Ireland said the measure of the degradation of any district was in exact proportion to the amount of alcohol which was consumed in it. General Booth—[Opposition laughter]—he knew some one would laugh; hon. Gentlemen always laughed at anybody who tried to do good. Although they might not agree with his methods, General Booth was a man who knew the habits and manners of the people of this country. Two years ago General Booth wrote a book, in which he said that nine-tenths of the misery, crime, and squalor which he spent his time in trying to remove was caused by drink. He could do nothing with these people until he carried them away to "colonies" where there were no drink shops. He therefore took the men away from the drink, but this Bill took the drink away from the men, or, rather, it proposed to let the men take it away themselves. The House must agree that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not premature in bringing in the Bill. Since 1880 three times a Resolution had been passed in that House declaring each time by an increased majority that the people of this country ought to have the right of protecting themselves from the incursions of the liquor trade wherever they wished to do so, and in 1883 Parliament declared that the demand was urgent. He was glad that at last they had a Govern- 507 ment which recognised the urgency, and he hoped they had a Parliament that would support the Government.
§ SIR W. LAWSON
said, he would try to abstain from a fault that was too common in that House, that of making a Second or Third Reading speech on a First Reading, but he would say as to the three years' limit that he was for doing the thing promptly. But he did not think they need trouble about that, as the hon. Member (Mr. Cosmo Bonsor) said, as he understood, that the trade did not care about the limit—he wanted to be put out of his misery at once. If that was the view that the trade took, he was quite sure that Parliament would not keep the hon. Member in his misery any longer. Then as to the exemptions. In Committee they could have a friendly discussion about those. But he rejoiced heartily that there was no compensation in the Bill. He thought the hon. Member opposite who talked so much about it was rather mistaken if he thought he could carry the people of this country with him on a proposal of that sort. One Government tried it twice, and it did not live long enough to try it thrice, and he did not think any Government would be so foolish as to get into such a hornet's nest again. He regretted, with the hon. Member for East Belfast, that Ireland was not included in the Bill; but that would give another grievance to the Irish Members to redress. In a First Reading Debate they had only to discuss the principle of a Bill. The principle of this Bill was that the people of every locality ought to have the power to protect themselves against the drink-shops if they thought it right to do so. Surely both Parties might agree on a measure of such a character. He could not understand how any Liberal could possibly object to it, for it was simply an extension of local self-government, and local self-government was the great question of the day. They had Education Boards, Bath-House Boards, and Burial Boards. The people might teach themselves, they might wash themselves, and they might bury themselves; 508 but when it came to making themselves drunk that was to be left in the hands of the Magistrates. And Conservatives might support the Bill, for surely there was nothing more worthy to conserve than the order and comfort and morality of the people. He regretted very much that total Sunday closing had not been secured by this Bill, and that England was not to be placed in the same position as Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. But it should be remembered that Ireland got it because a large number of Irish Members had been in favour of it; and that Scotland and Wales got it for the same reason; but he was afraid if the English Members of the House were polled, a majority would be found against this reform. He had always supported Sunday closing. But he would stop the sale of drink on every day, because he agreed with the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), who had declared that the sale of drink was "devilish and destructive," and to carry it on on a week-day was pretty nearly as bad as carrying it on on Sunday. The Chancellor of the Exchequer trusted the people and gave them power by a bare majority to carry Sunday closing. He could not believe that any advocate of total Sunday closing, because he could not get a whole loaf now, would do anything to injure the Bill. He had no doubt an attempt would be made to belittle the Bill by saying that the people would not use the power it gave them because they were too much sodden with drink. [Opposition cries of "No, no!"] He was glad to hear that, because the late Dr. Guthrie said that if Parliament would leave the matter of the sale of drink to the people themselves they would by an all but unanimous vote shut up every drink shop in their neighbourhood. More than a generation had passed since these words were uttered, but still, they found that the upper classes, for the sake of benefit, had been forcing these drink shops on the lower classes. [ Opposition cries of "No!"] Who licensed these places? Had the working men anything to do with it? He was glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had limited this measure to a veto Bill, and had not made it a Licensing Bill. If he had touched licensing he would have got into a most terrible mess, for the name of licensing reformers was 509 legion. He believed that he was the only man in the country who had not got a licensing scheme. Some said licensing should be entrusted to Magistrates; others said it should be in the hands of County Councils; others favoured Boards ad hoc; and a new school, which was known as the Scandinavian school, had recently sprung up, and he was looking forward with interest to the Debate in the other House upon this particular scheme. But to all these people he said—"However excellent, and ingenious, and elaborate your plan, don't try the experiment in those places where the people wish to be without drink-shops." He was glad, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had let all these things alone. As to prohibition, they knew it had succeeded everywhere where it had been tried. [Cries of "Oh!"] No one denied it; it had never been contradicted. [Renewed cries of "Oh! "] Ah, yes, he knew that hon. Members opposite would deny it; but he challenged hon. Members to mention a district in which prohibition had been properly carried out in which it had not been a great and brilliant success. [Cries of "Where! "] In Canada and America —everywhere it had been tried; but they need not go abroad for instances. Hon. Gentlemen opposite did not know their own case. Had they ever read the Report of the Convocation of the Diocese of Canterbury? Surely they ought to know that as good Churchmen. It was stated in that Report that there were hundreds of parishes in England in which there were no public-houses, and in which in consequence the order and sobriety of the people was all that could be desired. He had only got to say that, in his humble opinion, this was the greatest measure that had been introduced into Parliament since the attack upon slavery. He thanked the Government from his heart for their honest, straightforward attempt to deal with this evil; and he was sure that in a short time there would be out of doors such a volume of support for it as would succeed in carrying it, as a great, good, just, and beneficent measure, to a triumphant and successful issue.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said that, in his opinion, the most significant passage in the speech of the hon. Baronet was that in which he said that in England 510 Sunday closing should not be applied to the whole country, because the whole country was not in favour of it.
§ SIR W. LAWSON
I said that the number of Members returned for England in favour of it would not be in a majority.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said he thanked the hon. Baronet for the correction. The hon. Baronet had, no doubt, put the matter more correctly, and had told them that universal Sunday closing was not advisable at that moment, because in that House there was not a majority of English Members in favour of it.
§ SIR W. LAWSON
I did not intend to say that it was unadvisable. I merely brought forward one or two facts to show how difficult it would be for the Government to do so.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said, he would not quarrel with the hon. Baronet about the word, and would substitute inexpedient for unjustifiable, if that would suit him better. At any rate, what he did say was, that there was a majority of English Members against Sunday closing. He would ask, was there a majority of English Members in favour of the direct veto? Not only was there not such a majority, but he believed that the majority of English opinion was against any scheme of the kind, and that this opinion was distributed in favour of those other schemes which the hon. Baronet only referred to to flout and treat with contempt. They had, however, in the proposals which the Government had made the last, and if not the gravest, the most flagrant outcome of that legislative system which was so justly and vigorously condemned by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington as a system of legislative log-rolling by which the voice of England was not to be heard in the House, and by which the voice of English Members was to be ignored upon all questions affecting England brought before the House. English Members took as deep an interest in English affairs as Irish Members and Scotch Members did in their own affairs; but the English voice was to be swamped upon this matter by Scotch and Irish Members, although the Bill did not apply to either 511 of those countries. They were told that they must accept Home Rule, which profoundly affected the Constitution and that House, because a majority of Irish Members were in favour of it. Then they were told that they must accept Welsh Disestablishment because a majority of Welsh Members were in favour of it. Now they were asked to accept a scheme profoundly altering the social conditions of the country, and although English Members viewed the scheme with suspicion for one cause or another, doubted it as a remedy, and looked upon it as unjust to a certain class of the population, they were to be swamped by votes from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The political organ—he believed that that was the correct expression—disbelieved entirely in the nostrum as a cure for the evil from which the country undoubtedly suffered. He held it to be the duty of the Government not to bring forward measures which simply expressed the sum of organised votes in the country, but measures only which they believed rested upon the convictions of the majority of the inhabitants; and he was convinced that this measure, crude, unjust, tyrannical, and inexpedient, as it was, would not commend itself to the judgment of the majority of Englishmen. The measure was tyrannical to minorities. They had heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose eloquent language in reference to the drink question he cordially endorsed, that a local veto was to be applied in limited areas by a majority of two-thirds of those who voted. That was a tyrannical exercise of power by the majority in any district. It was a measure which did not always command the assent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the assent of his Colleagues on the Treasury Bench, because it differed entirely from the scheme brought forward by the noble Lord, the Member for Paddington. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a long quotation from a speech by the noble Lord, and left it to be inferred that his measure practically embodied the same principles.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
That is so. If the hon. Member will look at the Bill he will find the local veto clauses and the noble Lord's are almost identical.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said, they might be almost identical, but he thought the clauses in the present Bill would be found to differ from those of the Member for Paddington. The noble Lord provided that two-thirds of the electors on the municipal register were to vote. It made all the difference in the world whether the majority was to be two-thirds of the ratepayers or two-thirds of those who might happen to go to the poll at a season of the year when everybody might be away, or under a sudden and exceptional agitation. When he drew that distinction, he drew a distinction which had engaged the mind and received the assent of some of the present advisers of Her Majesty. Two years ago, when the Local Veto Bill for Wales was introduced, the present occupants of the Treasury Bench accepted what they called the "bare principle" of that meaure. But how did they deal with the question of the proportion of the population which was to be allowed to tyrannise over the minority? The present Chief Secretary for Ireland said that—It would not be at all fruitful or safe to force prohibition with less than the support of two-thirds or three-fourths of the total number of persons entitled to vote.Now, why were English Members in that House, against their judgment, to be asked to accept a measure which, by implication, one of the Cabinet Ministers denounced as barren and dangerous to the community? It certainly must have been the opinion of the Chief Secretary for Ireland that a vote of this character with a less popular assent than two-thirds or three-fourths of the whole of the inhabitants of the locality would be useless in the direction of temperance reform and dangerous to the liberty of the Queen's subjects. That was the proposal they were now asked to accept. He would pass from the tyranny this measure would involve on minorities to the injustice towards a section of the community who had carried on a difficult trade in a manner which had won some eulogy even from those who now brought forward this measure. If this Bill was unjust towards the licence-holders of this country, they might depend upon it they 513 should not now see the efforts of temperance reformers crowned with success; for if there was any cause which it was easy to plead on any platform, it was the cause of justice. It was sufficient that an orator, no matter how mean his abilities, should be able to point to one man, or woman, or child who was personally known to his audience, and to show that he or she had been hardly treated in order to secure the whole sympathy of those whom he addressed. It was a commonplace to those who reviewed history that strong Governments had fallen because one man had been killed or because another had been robbed of his livelihood. Those were incidents which appealed to the popular imagination, and yet they were bringing in a Bill which might involve, and which must involve in some cases, the greatest hardship and the greatest injustice upon men who had, according to their lights, been endeavouring to serve the community in what the majority of people in this country believed to be a perfectly lawful profession. He thought another very grave objection to the Bill was that it did not provide any system of compensation. It was idle to talk of this time limit as in the nature of compensation, and any reference to Mr. Bruce's Bill of 1871 seemed to him to obscure the issue altogether. A time limit applied to such a measure as Lord Aberdare's, or to any measure which authorised a Local Body to state that at some period the number of public-houses must be reduced within certain limits was compensation, because it allowed the trade to compensate itself. It practically said here are 10 houses, and so many houses must be closed within five years, and it left these 10 men to come together and come to some arrangement under which the five best qualified to carry on the business should continue to do so, and the five less qualified should be compensated by the survivors. But when they contemplated the sweeping extinction of the trade within areas, such a possibility of compensation did not come in at all. The Bill said that there might be five licence-holders, three of whom might be men of substance, who had always observed the law and endeavoured to do their duty, and that these three were to lose everything they had in the world and share the same fate as the 514 other men, who might be men of no substance, who had neglected their duties and endeavoured to evade the law. They maintained that that position was an inherent injustice, and no English Government would be able to support and defend it in the face of the English people. Then he came to his third objection to the Bill, and that was that it was inexpedient in the interests of temperance reform itself. When he spoke of justice, it might be that there were some so wedded to this particular fad that they were ready to forget justice; when he spoke of tyranny, it might be that they would even forget liberty to support their crochet; but when he came to speak of the interests of temperance reform, perhaps they might bear with him and listen to him for a moment. Now, it was undoubtedly true, as had been said by Sir Wilfrid Lawson, that there were a number of schemes before the public. That showed that the question of temperance reform engaged the minds and time of a great number of Englishmen, who were willing and anxious to benefit their countrymen in this matter. But what would be done if this Local Veto Bill were passed? Why, they would threaten the plank of every other movement for temperance reform—the true path of reform which the majority of English Members and Englishmen desired to see followed, by aiming at the reduction in the number of public-houses, and at the amelioration and elevation of the character and condition of those houses. He could understand the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Lawson) talking about liquor shops and drawing comparisons between England and Africa because he believed that all liquor was bad, but no one who did not hold that view was justified in supporting the Bill, for the true path of reform lay in the direction of abolishing the smaller and more disreputable public-houses, and of building up the other houses, and making them places of reputable resort, where the working classes might enjoy that social recreation which they who sat in that House could have without resorting to the public-house. If that be the true path of reform, then he said that no measure more ill-advised than the one now recommended to the House could possibly have commended itself to Her Majesty's Government, It 515 would paralyse every effort to that improvement on the part of the publican; it would discourage every effort of reform on the part of true reformers, and he asked the House why they were now to take this measure, not in deference to English opinion, not from any consideration of the merits of the case, but solely because it had been forced upon the Government by the exigencies of their political situation which constrained them to secure every organised vote in the country in order to add yet another contingent to the motley forces by which they hoped to pass a constitutional revolution, repugnant to every patriotic Englishman?
§ MR. CAINE (Bradford, E.)
said, it was not his intention to follow the previous speaker through a speech which would have been more appropriate on the Second Reading of the Bill than on this inaugural stage. As far as he was able to judge without having a copy of the Bill before him, it was a measure for which the Temperance Party throughout the country ought to be distinctly grateful to the Government. He admitted it was not all that many of them desired, but that it was a large, a valuable, and important instalment of those various temperance reforms for which many of them had been agitating so long could not be denied, and he thanked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the sympathetic speech with which he had introduced the Bill, and for the services which he had rendered both in and out of the House to a question which he hoped was approaching a somewhat final settlement. He would like to say what the attitude of the more advanced section of temperance reformers was likely to be on the Bill. With regard to the first portion, that of the direct veto, they accepted that most gladly, and for his part he was glad that the Government had resisted the temptation to introduce into it a somewhat crude concession of a large and elaborate scheme of licence reform. That some such scheme would inevitably follow the one now before the House was certain; but all that this Bill proposed to do was to give the people themselves the right to prevent any 516 Licensing Authority, however it might be constituted, having the power to thrust upon an unwilling community liquor-shops which they believe to be to their detriment; and so the Temperance. Party throughout the country would gladly welcome this honest proposal to deal with such an important aspect of temperance reform. The hon. Member for Dover had said that this Bill had been brought forward in response to the exigencies of Party. If the hon. Member had watched the process of returning the present House of Commons closely, he would have known there was no more burning question before the country— with the exception of the Irish Question —nor one which so agitated public, opinion or awakened the interests of all sections of electors. This measure had been brought forward in response to the demands of the country. So far as the first portion of the Bill was concerned the Government, he thought, need not expect opposition from the Temperance Party, and any Amendments which might be moved in Committee would be friendly Amendments, brought forward with the object of making the Bill a little stronger. The details of the Bill that would require close scrutiny were those respecting hotels, eating-houses, &c, because experience had shown that these exceptions were very apt to be abused, and the free lunch system existing in some States of America, where the laws had been severe with regard to public-houses, had shown how easy it was to evade the law where exceptions were made. That some such exceptions should be made they were quite prepared to admit. The question, perhaps more than anything else which would raise discussion would be the question of compensation. The deliberate proposal of the late Government to confer upon the liquor trade a freehold interest in a licence granted for 12 months, and compensation for disturbance—24 ½ years' purchase being given for the difference in the annual value, with or without the licence—had had such an effect on public opinion that that freehold proposal had entirely disappeared, and no Government would venture on anything more than three years' law. If hon. Gentlemen opposite raised the question of compensation, they would raise a 517 turmoil which would convince them that the country had no intention of paying money compensation for the loss of a 12 months' licence. He trusted the Government would not proceed, in the least degree, in the direction of a money or other compensation. There was no doubt whatever that the proposals of the Government with regard to Sunday closing were those which would create the most stir in the ranks of the temperance reformers throughout the country. The right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that the heart of the Temperance Party was very strongly set upon universal Sunday closing. Not only was the heart of the Temperance Party set on this, but other forces of the country were agitating for Sunday closing just as strongly. That great Body, the Wesleyan Methodists, had made this question almost part and parcel of their religion, and they were insisting upon this with a vigour and persistency that would certainly make itself heard in this House during the Committee stage of the Bill. This Sunday closing question had already become an important labour question. Strong evidence was given before the Labour Commission of the employment of persons on a Sunday in these licensed establishments, and an effort would be made—apart altogether from the temperance reformers or the Religious Bodies—to secure for the overworked servants of publicans a day of rest after the long hours they were employed during the week. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke words of sense and truth when he said there was no greater danger than that of over-running the sentiment of the people. He entirely agreed with that; there could be no greater folly than to legislate in advance of public opinion on this or any other subject. This question of Sunday closing came to the front very closely at the last General Election, and many pledges had been given by hon. Members on the subject. The House of Commons had been returned by household suffrage and was not yet 12 months old, so that surely the vote of that House on this question might be accepted as final and satisfactory evidence of the state of public opinion on the question. He trusted the Government would not put obstacles in the way of a friendly Division 518 being taken on this important question of Sunday closing; and if they would accept the decision of the House, whatever it might be, he, for his part, would frankly accept the decision if it was against him, and fall into line and accept what the Government might propose. He should vote gladly for the First Reading of the Bill; he should vote for the Second Reading; he should endeavour to amend the Bill in Committee; and if he failed to improve it then, he would take the best he could get.
§ MR. TRITTON (Lambeth, Norwood),
who claimed the indulgence which the House always extended to a Member who addressed it for the first time, said his position was a somewhat unique one. He believed he was the only Conservative Member for the Metropolis who was altogether repudiated by the Licensed Victuallers' Association; and, on the other side, he presumed he was the only teetotal Member of that House who was entirely repudiated by the extreme Gladstonian, Separatist teetotal faction. In neither case was the advice given by the leaders of these two Parties carried out by their followers. The licensed victuallers repudiated him; but when the publicans throughout the constituency he had the honour to represent came to look into the statement of his opponent and himself, they found themselves in the position of being between a certain unmentionable personage and the deep blue sea, and they preferred the moderation of the cerulean ocean to the plundering proclivities of the unmentionable personage. In the constituency he represented there were a great many sensible constituents; and, in spite of the repudiation of the two Bodies he had mentioned, they did him the honour to return him (Mr. Tritton) to that House by the substantial majority of 1,563. He had taken the greatest possible interest in temperance reform for many years; and he feared there were temperance reformers on the other side of the House who would celebrate the passage of that Bill, if carried, not in a way that they teetotalers liked. What had made the Government bring in this strong measure? It had been already stated by the Mem- 519 ber for Dover that this Bill had been brought in for similar reasons that other Bills were brought in, and he entirely believed him. He believed, as the Member for Paddington said the other night, it was the old story of "Votes! votes! votes!" There was a book he had recently come across which he was sure would be eagerly bought and read by every hon. Member of that House. It was called Wisdom, Grave and Gay; being Selected Speeches of Sir Wilfrid Lawson on Social Reform. He would ask the indulgence of the House while He read a passage from this wonderful work. The hon. Baronet, on the 11th October, 1887, made a speech on the attitude of political leaders—Then look." he said, at the rival political leaders. Is it not grand to hear Mr. Morley get up and say, 'We cannot have any temperance legislation because of you wicked Unionists'? And then Mr. Chamberlain saying. 'I am pining for temperance legislation, but I cannot get forward because of you abominable Home Rulers.' And Lord Salisbury, when we come to him and ask him to receive a deputation to discuss the matter, says he cannot attend to us, he has so many engagements. Well, perhaps his engagements will be less by-and-bye.[Laughter.] He (Mr. Tritton) should like to tell hon. Members that "laughter," "loud cheers," "hear, hear," and other expressions of approval were largely dotted throughout this marvellous book. The hon. Baronet then went on, in the speech in question, to say—And then we have the Leader of the Opposition himself. Well, he gives dark sayings, and intimates that if we will only back him up on the Irish Question, we shall see what we shall see when he comes back to power.This Bill was framed on the lines of the United Kingdom Alliance, the object of which, according to Sir W. Lawson, was "to sweep away the liquor traffic in the whole of the United Kingdom." Now, he should like to know what hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House connected with the trade thought of the allies of the Government. He should like to know how the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. S. Whitbread), or for the Luton Division of Bedford, or other gentlemen opposite engaged in the brewing trade, liked the alliance of the Government with the United Kingdom Alliance. For his own part, he had never been an admirer of the Alliance, 520 and he very much questioned if the: Alliance admired him. He believed the hon. Member for Cumberland (Sir W. Lawson) and the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Caine) had so got their ideas warped on this direct veto scheme that they would rather see a habitual' drunkard walk up the floor of that House, with besotted face and staggering gait, if he promised to vote for direct veto than see a man like himself, who had for years been working in the temperance cause, but would not vote for direct veto because he did not like it. Mr. John Bright, in a speech he delivered in 1864, said—It will be seen that my hon. Friend proposes a Bill which affects some scores of thousands of persons and some millions of property, the measure which he proposes being entirely different, I think, from anything which has ever been proposed or sanctioned by the House with regard to any other description of property or any other interest. What is meant by the representative system is not that you should have the vote of thousands of persons taken upon a particular question of legislation, but that you should have men selected from those thousands having the confidence of the majority of the thousands, and that they should meet and should discuss questions for legislation, and should decide what measures should be enacted; and, therefore, in this particular question I should object altogether to disposing of the interest of a great many men, and of a great many families, and of a great amount of property. I should object altogether to allow such a matter to be decided by the vote of two-thirds of the ratepayers of any parish or town. As a Member of this House, representing a very large constituency, and having my sympathies entirely with those who are endeavouring to promote temperance amongst the people, and, after much consideration on this subject, I have never yet seen my way at all to give a vote which would tend to pass a measure such as that now proposed to the House.As to Sunday closing by a bare majority, he said that he was in favour of Sunday closing, both in the interests of the publican and his hard worked servants, and also in the interests of the temperance question. He did not see why men and women should be made to work seven days in the week. But he believed that the Government was taking a retrograde step on the question of Sunday closing. It would be better to bring in a measure of Imperial Sunday closing. He should like to see some facilities afforded by granting two hours on Sunday, one in the middle of the day and one in the evening, in order that working 521 men, who had no cellars of their own, should obtain something to drink for their dinners or suppers. He thought public-houses should be opened for one hour in the middle of the day and one hour in the evening. It was highly desirable that some experiment should be made on a smaller scale than that proposed in the Bill, and he would suggest that direct veto should be tried by the Party opposite at their great rendezvous, the National Liberal Club; and when the next great gathering of the Party took place there to do homage to the Cabinet, let it be understood that no intoxicants were to be had, except a small bottle of brandy kept at hand lest any of the ladies should faint, as they did on a previous occasion. If they were going to shut up public-houses on Sundays they would be making one law for the rich and another for the poor, and that was a species of legislation which he, as an earnest teetotaler, would have nothing to do with. Then he came to the question of compensation. He had yet to learn that teetotalers were to lay aside common principles of justice when they came to deal with a question like this, or to abrogate that time-honoured maxim, "Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you." He was glad to find amongst the latest recruits on the compensation question the hon. Member for Northampton; for he presumed that when they read the weekly periodical which came out under the hon. Member's auspices, and saw the great "I" running all through it—so different from the "We" of other newspapers—they were justified in believing that the words expressed the splendid thoughts that had been worked out in the marvellous workshop of that gigantic intellect which was the happy possession of the hon. Member for Northampton. The hon. Member wrote—I confess that I have some sympathy with the publican in his trade, who in many cases is a very respectable man, pursuing a calling in the profits of which the State has long been his partner. I do not think, therefore, in his case it would be wrong to temper justice with mercy. He might be secured his lease five years; and if at any time during those five years he were prohibited by the votes of his neighbours from continuing his trade, he might receive compensation for the unexpired portion of the five years.522 He had strong objections to this Bill, and he was extremely sorry to have to separate himself in any way from some teetotalers in the House for whom he had strong respect and regard. He had never belonged to what was called the Temperance Party, and he did not know why they should arrogate to themselves such a title. There were many earnest abstainers throughout the country who viewed with apprehension this Direct Veto Scheme. This Bill seemed to him to be, after all, more or less a miserable Bill. He would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer two questions: First, whether he expected that his Revenue would be very seriously diminished by this Bill during the next few years if he remained in Office; and, secondly, whether, as a thorough-going man of the world, blessed with more than ordinary common-sense, he really in his inmost heart believed the Bill was going to do such a vast amount of good? He believed himself that it would be more or less of a dead letter, and that it would be very mischievous in its tendency. He was very sorry to hear the author of the Bill say the areas were going to be parishes; he had hoped the areas were going to be electoral districts. It was a sad thing to think the question was to be fought out in the parishes, for it would divide them into two hostile camps, and would be decidedly detrimental to the interests of true religion. He believed, also, that this was a misconceived Bill altogether. It was not conceived on the principles of justice, but on the principles of confiscation and tyranny, and he believed there was no greater tyrant on the earth than the modern Radical. He wanted to see a Licensing Bill brought in to reduce the number of public-houses in accordance with the number of the population. That, he believed, would do some good, which was more than the Government Bill would do, and because he believed it would be virtually a dead letter if it ever passed he had spoken so strongly against it. He might, perhaps, be drummed out of the Temperance Party for making this speech, but he should continue, by personal example as well as by precept, to try to check the stream of in- 523 temperance, and to lessen the sin and the sorrow, the pain and the poverty, the degradation and disease and death brought about so largely by overindulgence in strong drink.
§ MR. THOMAS SNAPE (Lancashire, S.E., Heywood)
said, the country would receive the proposal of the Government with satisfaction, but he believed that satisfaction would be greater still if the country was not confronted with the Sunday closing proposals of the Bill. There had been no request that that portion of the subject should be dealt with by local option. Petitions and Memorials to Parliament asked that it should be dealt with by Imperial enactment. A resolution was adopted by the Temperance Party which met in London last week which declared that there had been no demand for Sunday closing by local option, and that to put the week-day sale and Sunday closing on that basis would be to weaken both issues. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt), in 1888, accepted a Sunday Closing Bill as a measure worthy of his support. He did not then urge any reasons against Imperial legislation. Surely that which he claimed to be practicable in 1888 was not impracticable now. They had passed Sunday Closing Bills for Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. A few large towns in Ireland were exempted, but experience was showing that these towns were desirous of being included. If they passed an English Bill, leaving out London, it would not be long until London would desire to be included in the operation of the scheme. Needless expense would be entailed by the Sunday Closing Clauses on those desirous of applying the measure. There would also be interminable agitation and continuous appeals every three years to the communities. If he rightly apprehended the Bill, there would be a separate appeal as to the week-day sale, and another appeal with reference to the Sunday sale. There would be a continual series of appeals, and the communities would be in a perpetual state of unrest. Moreover, if those appeals were taken together, the probability was that the voters would be so con- 524 fused when recording their opinion on the matter that they would not know whether they were voting for the direct veto in its application to week days or in its application to Sunday. The difficulty would be extreme, and the publicans, believing their trade in danger, would exercise all the influence they possessed—which was by no means small, as the country had learned only recently—to thwart a correct expression of opinion on the part of the people. There was also the difficulty which had been encountered in Wales and which would be encountered in a greater degree in this country if this system of local option were established. In regard to the Welsh Act for Sunday closing the Royal Commission which had investigated it in their Report had pointed out that in one town there was a street with five public-houses on one side of it and three on the other; and because one side happened to be in Wales and the other in England, one set of public-houses were closed on Sunday and the other set opened. "Such anomalies as this are rare," said the Report, "but while they do exist it cannot be denied that the existing law is capable of improvement." But under the present Bill the anomalies would not be rare—they would exist in many parishes throughout the country. In the large city in which he resided the application of this measure would be involved in great difficulty. There were a large number of wards in the city, and the probability was that one ward would adopt local option whilst an adjoining one would not. The result would be that on one side of the street the public-houses would be shut, whilst on the other side they remained open. So long as they had found Imperial legislation to work well in Scotland and Ireland, he trusted that the Government would accede to the views of their supporters, the majority of whom were in favour of an Imperial enactment as regarded that part of the Bill which referred to Sunday closing.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, he intended to support the Second Reading, therefore he was not going to attempt to "talk out" the present stage. He wished to state to the House that 525 his difficulties as to the Bill were not connected with what it did, but what it left undone. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the object of the Bill was to establish popular control over the liquor traffic by the direct veto. In his (Mr. T. W. Russell's) opinion it did nothing of the kind. The Bill simply gave any locality the option of leaving things as they were now, or prohibiting the liquor traffic altogether. That was not giving localities the control of the liquor traffic, because if there was no liquor traffic to control how could there be local control? They had all been making confessions to-night. Well, he himself had been a temperance advocate for 30 years, and his deliberate opinion was that the Bill gave an option that would be availed of in hardly any part of England, while it withheld an option —namely, that of restriction—which would have been extensively used all over England. That, he maintained, was a serious blot in the Bill. The hon. Baronet the Member, for Cumberland (Sir W. Lawson) asked where prohibition had ever been known to fail. He had asked that question long enough himself, but he had just returned from Canada, where he had made very careful inquiries into the working of an Act exactly similar to this in the Province of Ontario. The Scott Act, passed in 1878 by the Dominion Legislature, gave the same power and no more—the right to prohibit or leave things alone. It was put into operation in 80 counties, and there was not at this moment, after a three years' trial, a square inch in the Province under the Act. Because he believed prohibition would not be extensively applied, and where applied it would be in places where it was least needed, he did not want a similar measure to the Scott Act in this country. He wanted something in addition to that. He wanted a local control of the liquor traffic. The right hon. Gentleman maintained that the Bill gave that, but he (Mr. T. W. Russell) maintained it did not. The next point he wished to deal with was as to Sunday closing. He wished to point this out seriously to the right hon. Gentleman, because he had had some experience of Sunday closing in 526 Ireland with exemptions. He thought it was an hon. Member opposite who said that in regard to Sunday closing the Bill was a retrograde measure. He agreed with that. He believed that there was not an hon. Member on the Ministerial side of the House who was pledged to Sunday closing who was at the same time pledged to Sunday closing by direct veto. It was a 100 to 1 that if any hon. Member had offered that it would have been scouted by the Temperance Party of England. The right hon. Gentleman proposed by a simple majority in every parish in England to stop the traffic in intoxicating liquor in this country during the whole of Sunday, and he took the area of the parish. He approved the area of the parish for prohibition or restriction on week-days, but not on Sundays. People were idle on Sundays; and if they found the public-houses closed in one parish on the Sundays would walk to another, and, having plenty of time on their hands, would stay to drink, and come back to their own parish drunk. Week-day prohibition was another thing. On week-days the men were not idle, and they could not afford the time to walk from their own parish into another parish. He agreed to the area in regard to prohibition on week-days, but held that, so far as Sunday was concerned, they would probably make things worse than they were now. That, therefore, was a serious objection to the Bill. He asked the attention of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cumberland to this. He (Mr. T. W. Russell) remembered his crusade—and it was 28 years ago since the hon. Baronet first rose in the House to move the Second Reading of the Permissive Bill. He was thankful for the conversion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he remembered when the right hon. Gentleman described this as "grandmotherly legislation." The right hon. Gentleman had had no term too strong to hurl at those who had been engaged in the work of temperance reform. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman's conversion, but there were things in the Bill which would require careful note. For example, take the question of the exemption of railway refreshment rooms. Did hon. Members know what took place at railway stations now during prohibited hours? Did they know that people took 1d. and 2d. tickets and crowded into 527 those stations in thousands who were not going to travel at all? This was his experience in Dublin. Take the question of eating-houses. Were they going to have a definition of eating-houses in the Bill? If not, how were they to guard against licensed victuallers taking houses that were nominally eating-houses, but really drinking-houses? A complaint had been made that Ireland had been left out of the Bill. He was sorry it had been left out because he agreed that this right to prohibit ought to be the complement of every other measure; but now they had got it in place of everything else, and that was his objection to it. He was with the right hon. Gentleman in pro posing to give the veto to the locality, but that ought to be the complement of every other Bill on the subject that was introduced into that House. There was no other Veto Bill before the House that did not give the option to prohibit, and the option to restrict, and the option to stop the granting of new licences. Why had the right hon. Gentleman given the one and refused both the others? He was sure that the trade need not be very much alarmed, because it was not going to perish just yet. Those who had been 30 or 40 years engaged in the advancement of temperance principles, and were looking for some fruit as the result of their work, were not satisfied with the mere assertion of a democratic principle of the right to prohibit, and they would be greatly disappointed with the measure. There was, he owned, good reason for not applying the Bill to Ireland. Why should it be applied to Ireland? He admired the consistency of the right hon. Gentleman who, after giving Irish patriotism a measure, in which he practically said that the revenue of Ireland should depend on the consumption of whisky by the inhabitants, did not propose to give those inhabitants the power to prohibit the sale of whisky. A pretty mess he would have made of the matter if he had given that power! He (Mr. T. W. Russell) would support the First and Second Reading of the Bill, not be cause he approved of all its details, but because it conceded a principle for which he had long contended, though that principle was not extended in the way he and other temperance reformers desired.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I simply rise to say that so far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no desire on the part of the hon. Members sitting on these Benches to extend the discussion on this Bill, so as to prevent its introduction to-night. There is a great desire on our part to see the clauses of a Bill, which, as we conceive, so deeply affect both the trade and the population. However, our attitude will greatly depend on the production of the Bill. Although the discussion has been extremely short, looking at the great importance of the Bill, it has been a very interesting one. I think I shall express the general feeling of the House when I congratulate the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Tritton) on his exceedingly able speech, for as an advocate of temperance he has given us a speech which is extremely witty and flowing with humour. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he hoped the Bill would not be debated in any Party spirit. I am sure he may rest satisfied that, although the measure will be sharply criticised, it will not be criticised from a Party point of view. If Parties are divided on the Bill, it is perfectly clear that the Temperance Party will not be entirely unanimous with regard to its provisions. I will now simply say that for our part we have now no desire to prolong discussion on the Bill.
§ MR. M'LAGAN (Linlithgow)
begged to thank Her Majesty's Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer for introducing the Bill, which he could assure them would be received with satisfaction throughout the whole of the country. He thought, however, that it required amendment, and he should be ready to state his objections, and propose Amendments in Committee.
COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, he did not pretend to speak for any Irish Members except himself. He could not say that he spoke for his constituents; for though they sometimes gave him instructions in the matter, he could not say that they had on the present occasion. He might be told that his position was weak as water, and so it was; but the 529 House might just as well listen to such a man as himself as to cock-sure men like the hon. Baronet the Member for Cumber land, the Member for South Tyrone, and the Member for Bradford—gentlemen who professed to know all about the matter, and who argued as if alcohol was an invention of the devil. The Bill, it was said, did not affect Ireland. Well, it was a three years' notice to quit to publicans in England, and, that being so, they might regard it as a four years' notice to quit to publicans in Ireland. This, or a similar Bill, applied to Ireland would ruin 300 or 400 respectable men in his constituency. His private opinion was that they would make very little difference in the consumption of alcohol unless they could change the latitude of these islands. They were told by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cumberland that crime and misery existed wherever alcohol was drunk, but he (Colonel Nolan) had seen it stated by an eminent statistician that murders were less frequent in those countries where the largest proportion of alcohol was consumed. And as hon. Members were aware, murder was far more rife in southern countries where little alcohol was drunk than it was in northern countries like Sweden and Russia, where alcohol was largely consumed. The trade generally was satisfied with the magistracy, and did not wish to be put under a new régime. He held that to place publicans now holding licences at the mercy of the whims of a majority of the community, who might deprive them of their living, would be as unjustifiable as to confiscate the Stock of the Bank of England. He had spoken to a great many people on the subject of this Bill, and he was sure a large number of his constituents would be very much annoyed with him if he did not vote against it. With regard to the closing of public-houses on Sunday, whatever might be its advantages, it meant offering a great inducement to people to sell liquor illicitly, and keeping a large number of the constabulary engaged in the endeavour to prevent the illegal traffic.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 233.]