§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee."—(Mr. Webster.)
*CAPTAIN GRICE-HUTCHINSON, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said he trusted the House would affirm its principle by a large majority, which principle was to place a restriction upon, if not abolish what was a stumbling block in the way of temperance, and a curse to modern civilisation, namely, the bogus club. From all parts of the country they had a consensus of opinion that legislation was necessary for dealing with this growing evil. The public Press teemed with notices of bogus clubs; ministers of all religious denominations, magistrates, and all classes of the community were loud in denouncing these pests, and were asking that some steps should be taken towards their suppression. It was a matter of extreme regret to him, as he was sure that it was
to Members on both sides of the House that on this question of temperance they should be divided into political camps. But the very word "temperance" seemed to be a sort of slogan, a war cry to make them rise and, politically speaking, cut each other's throats; and so long as the United Kingdom Alliance continued to bear the word "prohibition" on their banner, so long would this unhappy condition of things continue. It must therefore be a matter of extreme congratulation to men on both sides of the House, when they really stood on a common platform, and were able, by a moderate measure of reform, to do something in the cause of temperance and to prevent the unlimited sale of intoxicating liquors. Though they might be as divided as the poles as to the method of dealing with this question, he was sure hon. Members opposite would at least give him and those who were acting with him the credit of being as anxious as they were to promote the temperance of the people, perhaps not by such drastic measures as advocated by honourable Members opposite, but by some such moderate measure as that he was now proposing He thought it was Dr. Johnson who first described an Englishman as a clubable person, and if that was true of his time—150 years ago—how infinitely more true was it in the present day. Wherever they found an Englishman they knew that one of the first steps he took was to establish himself, for social and convivial purposes, in a club. From the palaces which lined Pall Mall, Piccadilly, and St. James's Street down to the more humble but equally legitimate working men's clubs there was ample proof that the club system had struck deep root into the social life of England. He need hardly remind hon. Members that at present clubs enjoyed perfect liberty in all their surroundings. There was no necessity to take out a license; they were under no police supervision, and he should be sorry to see that liberty at all curtailed or infringed. But there was not the slightest doubt that that liberty had of late years been grossly abused. These shebeens growing and increasing in our midst were the curse of our modern system of civilisation, and should be at
once put down by such legislation as the House might think right to adopt. Drinking went on in these establishments long after the public-houses were closed by law; gambling was openly practised, and membership was a mere form. Anybody could get admitted on payment of even as small sum as 6d., and young men and girls frequented them, to their infinite moral and social detriment. Opening one of those bogus clubs was the simplest thing in the world. If anyone—if the Member for Cocker-mouth, for instance (Sir Wilfrid Law-son)—desired to start a club, all he would have to do would be to secure premises, pay a nominal rent, get the members together, and all would go on as merrily as possible. It was not necessary, in some cases, even to take premises. He had received a memorandum from the Wesleyan Conference at Huddersfield, calling attention to these bogus clubs, and informing him that such places were established in wooden sheds, disused cowhouses, and even abandoned pigstyes. The only way at present to deal with these places was for some plain-clothes policeman to enter and get served with drink, though not a member, and then to raid the club. He would give an account of a raid in which that course was adopted in a town in the North of England, the name of which he would not give, on a Christmas morning. The policeman entered and found on the premises 13 defendants, —proprietors of the club, two of whom were women. Eighty people were summoned before the local Bench, 16 of whom only were members, and 26 of those summoned were females. The late secretary gave evidence, saying that on the night of the 24th of December he went to the club, and, acting under the instructions of two of the proprietors, stood at the door, and to everyone who entered he gave a ticket of membership on receiving 1s. without any proposing or seconding. They could then go forward and order and pay for what they pleased. Another witness said he was a member of the club, and served everybody who asked him, giving the money to the proprietors. He first went to the club on a Saturday night, got drunk, and next morning found a member's ticket in his
pocket. That was only an example of what went on in many of our large towns, and it required immediate legislation. The Report he received from the Huddersfield Wesleyan Methodist Council, representing 10,000 attendants at their chapels, dealt with the evils of bogus clubs in their neighbourhood. They stated that some 50 of these bogus clubs, or "cots," existed in their district, one of their chief objects being to afford facilities for excessive drinking during the time public-houses were closed—
To afford facilities for Sunday drinking and Sabbath desecration, and to provide the lowest form of gaming-house.
The Report went on to say—
The premises in which these combinations pursue their calling are frequently of the most objectionable character. In some instances an old and dilapidated cottage is utilised, which is wanting in all sanitary requirements, and which, though unfit for the habitation of a family, becomes the daily and nightly resort of scores of people. In other cases the members are satisfied with a wooden shed erected for the purpose, and even a disused cow-house, and in another case an abandoned pigstye, have been utilised for the enjoyment of this so-called club life. The clubs are so conducted as to be free from all police supervision and public control.
Again, it was stated—
They claim an immunity from the legal restrictions which attach to publicans, whose businesses are strictly regulated by law, and afford facilities for the continuation of drinking through the nights, which the public-houses afford during the days.
He would not trouble the House with further evidence as to the existence of these abominable dens; he had given sufficient evidence of what was going on in hundreds of towns throughout the kingdom. As for the bogus clubs in London, their name was legion, and he hoped the hon. Members for London who were going to support the Bill would tell the House something about them. As to the objects of the Bill: in the first place he did not think the measure was drastic enough, but they had to include all clubs in its scope, and therefore it was not the object of the promoters, at present at least, to control the liberty of palaces like the Carlton or the Reform, or of the very humblest working man's club, so long as they conducted their business properly. Under the Bill it was proposed
that all clubs should be registered. Then came the question who was to be the Registrar. In a former Bill the Registrar of Friendly Societies was proposed, but the promoters of the present Bill thought it was infinitely more desirable that the Local Licensing Authorities should have to deal with these clubs; so it was provided that the Registrar should be the Licensing Authority. The objects of the club, the mode of election of members, and the terms on which honorary members were to be admitted were provided for in a very stringent clause. There would be 40s. payable on registration to the Registrar, who would then send a certificate of registration to the secretary. Any alteration of the rules must be duly notified to the Registrar, and a further fee of 20s. paid. Then there were certain penalties in the event of any club failing to comply with the regulations in any way, the secretary and any member of the committee in such an event being liable to a fine not exceeding £20. There was also a clause which made the club liable for selling drink off the premises, and a clause to prevent the attendance of young persons under 18 years of age. There was also a clause providing that the number of honorary members should not exceed one in 20 of the members of the club. This was not a drastic measure, and he hoped the Government would afford some facilities for passing it into law. He believed he was right in saying that they were willing to give some facilities for considering it in Committee. The Bill was, perhaps, only the groundwork for future legislation. His own private opinion was that every club should be made to take out a special club license, but they had to consider the fact that in a private Member's Bill they were not entitled to introduce Money Clauses. He asked the House to look upon the Bill with favourable eyes as a moderate measure in a direction in which Members on both sides of the House were striving to promote the sobriety and temperance of the people of this country.
§ MR. W. S. CAINE (Bradford, E.)
seconded the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill. It would be seen that it was not sought by the Bill to 788 necessitate the taking out of a licence by or ill respect of any person or premises otherwise required by law to be licensed, nor to exempt any person or premises required to be licensed from having to be so licensed. It was impossible to put in a private Member's Bill clauses for the purpose of imposing licences on clubs. They left that matter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who would, no doubt, avail himself of any reasonable opportunity that presented itself of increasing his revenue. He was a strong advocate of making clubs pay a licensing fee, and he was supported strongly in that view by Mr. Hindle, the magistrates' clerk of Darwen, who, in a letter which he had received that morning, said—I understand the Bill for the ' registration' of clubs will be under consideration to-morrow. My own impression is that if an Amendment were moved requiring clubs where intoxicating liquor is sold to be not only registered but licensed exactly like public-houses, at the discretion of the Licensing Magistrates, it would meet with little or no opposition from the ' trade,' and would gain the support of every section of temperance reformers. Unless some legislation of this kind is passed very shortly, we shall have in many of our Lancashire towns more 'clubs' where drink is sold than public-houses; in fact, it is now found they are already beginning to swarm in those districts where the magistrates have done their duty and reduced the number of public-houses within reasonable limits. What, then, is likely to be the result when public-houses in any district have been abolished, and any half-dozen persons can open a club where drink can be sold all night long and all Sunday over after formally registering certain particulars?That reminded him (Mr. Caine) of a very important feature of this Bill, namely, that if it were passed into law it would relieve any future Government that would have to deal with licensing generally from a very important portion of their work. He had just been told that the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Crosfield), as a magistrate for the borough of Liverpool, not very long ago fined persons £1,280 in a single week for running bogus clubs in Liverpool. He pointed out to the House the unanimity with which the Bill had been received, both inside and outside of Parliament. It was quite clear the Front Opposition Bench had no objection to raise, for there was not a single Member present on that Bench to raise it. It was always a pleasing spectacle when the 789 temperance lambs could lie down with the licensing victualling lions. On that occasion they were able to do it. Nobody wished to oppose the Bill, except those camp followers of the liquor traffic who made their living by starting bogus clubs in large towns. He wished Lord R. Churchill had been in his place, because he had contributed a good deal of valuable information to this club controversy. In his speech, in introducing the Licensing Law Amendment Bill in 1890, the noble Lord said—The second part of the Bill relates to the registration of clubs. The Under Secretary of State for the Home Department has written me a letter in which he refers to the opinion of the Chief Commissioner of Police as to the existence in the Metropolis, and in many other large towns, of bogus clubs, that exist merely for the unlicensed sale of intoxicating liquors; and he expresses his opinion that the formation of those clubs had received a great impetus from the restrictions on the sale of alcoholic liquor. In many rases, the Chief Commissioner observes, these clubs are merely unlicensed taverns, where drinking and gambling is indulged in with impunity. These remarks apply only to the lower order of clubs, though the Chief Commissioner does not recommend legislation which would not apply to all clubs alike. The licensed victuallers complain, and, in my judgment, rightly complain, of the increased drinking in these bogus clubs, which are able to sell liquors at all hours, and which escape altogether the rigid control which applies to public-houses. I will not go deeply, at this hour of the evening, into this question of clubs; but I will merely point out that under the provisions of the Bill a bonâ fide club would be entitled to be registered by the County Council upon payment of a fee which is graduated according to the rating of the premises of the club. In an ordinary working men's club the fee might amount to 30s. a year, while the great West-End clubs of London would have the satisfaction of paying to the County Council sums ranging between £1,000 and £2,000 a year.He (Mr. Caine) believed the licensing of clubs generally would be a most legitimate form of raising revenue, and, if his recollection served him right, the Prime Minister, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, some years ago, introduced a proposal in one of his Budgets to raise revenue by the taxation of clubs of all sorts. There were several other Bills before the House dealing with licensing generally. Licensing was largely in the air. The public conscience had been awakened upon the subject, and it had taken effect in various proposals coming from all sides. Lord R. Churchill was the foremost temperance reformer on the 790 Front Opposition Bench; at any rate, he was the only one who had brought forward a practical, sensible measure for dealing with the difficulty. In a Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney), and which was on the Order Paper that day, there was a series of clauses dealing with the registration of clubs, and two pages of that Bill would be taken out if the present measure passed. Another Bill had been drafted by licensing reformers in Manchester, in which there were no fewer than six long clauses dealing with the registration of clubs. Another scheme of great importance would be produced by the Bishop of London in the House of Lords, containing almost identical provisions to those of the Bill now before the House on the question of chilis. The present measure had received the unanimous support of every section of the advanced Temperance Party. They had a Conference in London not long ago of all the National Temperance Associations throughout the United Kingdom, where this question was raised, and resolutions—which had been adopted by the United Kingdom Alliance and the National Temperance Federation—were passed. The first of these stated—That the serious evils arising from clubs established for drinking purposes demand legislation for their speedy suppression, and this Conference respectfully calls upon Her Majesty's Government to introduce a measure calculated to effect this object, so that whatever powers may be given to localities to veto the licensed liquor traffic may not be rendered nugatory by clubs tending to the promotion of social intemperance.The second resolution was—That in view of the great importance of having the laws relating to the sale of intoxicating liquors free from evasion by clubs, this Conference is of opinion that all clubs where intoxicants are dispensed, or those portions of clubs which are devoted to the purpose, should be placed under such legal regulations as would ensure that they should be bonâ fide clubs, and this Conference calls upon the Government to introduce legislation necessary to effect the purpose desired.These resolutions had been passed by the most important meeting of Temperance Reformers that he had known during the 30 years he had been engaged in this agitation. He had very little doubt that if the Bill was referred to a Select Committee it would be strengthened and made thoroughly workable and 791 thoroughly satisfactory. It was a capital ground-work on which a great deal could be built; and if the Government would agree to their request to refer it to a Select Committee, he believed it would come back in a shape that would meet with general approval; and that it would, by settling a very important item of licensing reform, save a great deal of time when they came to consider other aspects of the licensing question.
MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
said that as a Temperance man he supported the principle of the Bill, and regretted that Ireland had not been included in the measure. There would be difficulties no doubt if Ireland was included, because the local authorities were different, but if the House passed the measure it would very greatly facilitate the passage of the Bill which they proposed to introduce dealing with Ireland. He was convinced that if bogus club legislation was properly carried out that they should relieve the country of a large amount of intemperance, which at present was attributed to the public house.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE, Bradford, Central)
In the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has been called away from the House, I wish to say a few words as representing the Government in this matter. The Chancellor desired me to state the course the Government intend to take with regard to this Bill. I must first of all thank the hon. and gallant Member opposite for introducing the measure, and for the interesting statement he made with regard to bogus clubs. The Government think that the Bill is one of considerable value, and will support the Second Reading, and will also endeavour, with the assistance of the House, to carry it into law. It is with this view, and not with the object of retarding the progress of the measure that the Government think it desirable that it should go to a Select Committee. They think that by dealing with the Bill in this way it will be greatly improved, and they hope to see it pass into law. For my part, I 792 have taken a very great interest in this subject in consequence of a matter which occurred in my own neighbourhood in Kent. Some two years ago the magistrates, after considerable discussion, agreed not to renew the licence of a public house in the district, and the licence was forfeited, partly on account of the misconduct of the occupier, and partly because there were too many public houses there already. The brewer, however, at once opened the house as a club, putting in the former occupier as manager. In that small country village there are 120 members paying a subscription of 1s. or 1s. 6d. each, and the magistrates are advised that—such was the care with which the rules were drawn under the advice of counsel—there would be very great difficulty indeed in sustaining a prosecution under the Licensing Laws. It is further stated that the brewer is delighted now that his licence was taken away, because he says he sells twice as much beer under the new system than under the old state of things. Besides, the house is entirely free from police supervision. It can be kept open at all hours of the night—it is open on Sundays, and it is free entirely from police restrictions of every kind or sort. It is obvious, then, that if a thing of this kind can be done, it is no use for the magistrates to do away with licences, for the closed public houses may be opened again as clubs in which the sale of drink can go on at all hours without restriction. I am informed that the club to which I have referred has been based upon a decision of the Queen's Bench Division in 1888, in the case of Newell v. Kenny-way. That case arose out of the establishment of a club called the Dumfries Club, at Cardiff. The Cardiff club was started by a company having a nominal capital of £100, divided into 400 shares of 5s. each, of which 1s. only was paid up by 121 members, the working capital of the company, therefore, being only £6 1s. It was admitted that the company depended entirely for its current expenses on the cash taken for liquor and food supplied to the shareholders. The premises in which the club was held consisted of five rooms, and the rent paid for them was £36 per annum. There was no evidence that any entrance fee or any subscription was paid by the shareholders, and a committee was sup- 793 posed to be constantly sitting in an inner room, in order to at once qualify a man as a shareholder on his paying 1s. at the door. The applicant, however, was not admitted to the privileges of the club until his name had been approved by the directors of the company, and there was evidence that some persons had applied for shares and had been refused. It was admitted at the time that there were 300 such clubs in existence in Cardiff. The manager of the club was convicted before the magistrates of keeping an unlicensed house for the sale of intoxicating liquors, but Lord Chief Justice Coleridge quashed the conviction, holding that the club was established for the purpose of supplying reasonable refreshment on the spot, and that, therefore, it was only reasonable that the directors should have power to permit articles of food, including liquor, to be delivered to members. In the case of Croft v. Evans, Mr. Justice Field also held that the handing over of liquors by the manager of a club to the general body of members was not a sale, and did not come within the scope of the Act. I have no doubt that the Judges are correct in their interpretation of the law, but it is obvious, in view of these legal decisions, that the licensing laws can be practically set aside, and that any number of clubs can be established for the sale of liquor to the members without restrictions of any kind or description, either by the police or any one else. It is, therefore, necessary, is the interest of the cause of temperance, that some restrictions should be placed on these bogus clubs, and this Bill has been brought in with this view. Whether it goes far enough is open to doubt, but it may be strengthened by way of giving further securities against the establishing of these clubs, and it is with that object that the Government supported the Second Reading and hope to see the measure pass into law.
§ MR. E. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
thought this a very much better and more workable measure than the Bill previously submitted to the House. He was by no means an advocate of State interference in this or any other matter, but when one found a grave condition of affairs, such as undoubtedly existed in reference to these clubs, he thought it was time that there should be some such interference. This, however, was a 794 subject, which had not been discussed in that House, although it had been debated on many occasions in the country. As he had intimated, he thought that this Bill had been very carefully drafted by the Member who had introduced it. He noticed that after the passing of the Bill all clubs would have to be properly registered. This he regarded as a very valuable provision. During the last Parliament he asked a question of the then Home Secretary, and also asked for a Return of the number of bogus clubs in London. The Home Secretary requested him to define what was a bogus club. When this Bill became law such a question would be very easily answered, and it would be easy to differentiate between bona fide and useful clubs and clubs which were mere drinking-shops and gambling-houses. There was in London and elsewhere a vast number of clubs which were carried out on the principle on which they were originally started, and which were very useful and social institutions; but, from evidence which he held in his hand, it was also very clear that there were a vast number of so-called clubs which had changed from the original intention of the founders, and which had become nothing else than drinking houses and gambling shops, where drinking could be carried on all night long and all Sunday, He believed that when this Bill became law many of these institutions would revert to their original use, and to that extent would become useful places. From a Return which had been sent to him, he believed that in many of these clubs considerable quantities of liquor was sold to go off the premises, and in this there was a clear invasion of the Licensing Laws. No doubt in very many of these clubs the provisions as to the formation of a club were entirely evaded, and in these cases, as in many other instances, it would be found that these clubs were used at precisely the times when public-houses were closed, In many cases, in fact, be noticed by a Return of a Special Commissioner who had inquired into the conduct and working of some 50 out of the 200 clubs in the metropolitan area, the moment the public-houses were closed the clubs were open. The facilities, too, for becoming members were easy in the extreme. A porter in many of them was placed 795 at the door, and he received the individual who proposed to become a member. A small fee was charged; the name was submitted to a committee supposed to be sitting in an inner room, and within a very few minutes the individual was elected, and was free to use the place for drinking purposes immediately, and free likewise to take as many of his friends as he liked. Gambling went on at a great number of these clubs. He would quote one instance without giving the name—This is essentially a sporting club, the members of which are composed of regular frequenters of race meetings. Boxing matches are regularly held in the hall adjoining. Sunday evening is the occasion when these are witnessed. Gentlemen have complained of being robbed here, and no wonder. The members take home any quantity of liquor they choose.There was a club in Dean Street, Soho, of which the distinguishing features were "gaming, irregularity, and the assembly of loose characters." Another club in the Tower Hamlets was described as a proprietary club, and it was reported by the police that on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights, when the people were turned out, the scenes of riot and disorder were scandalous. The Huddersfield Wesleyan Methodist Council had had the subject of "cots" or bogus clubs brought under their notice, and they had reported that while the public-houses were closed during the hours of Divine worship, the "cot" was most flourishing—and drinking and gambling were continuously pursued from Saturday noon until the working hours of Monday morning.These clubs the Methodist Council also reported—destroy all home and social life, they lead to extravagance and squandering of the hardly-earned wages of the working classes, they foster gambling and betting in their worst forms, they encourage habits of drinking without any kind of restriction; they claim an immunity from the legal restrictions attaching to publicans, whose businesses are strictly regulated by law, and afford facilities for the continuance of drinking through the nights.The Council proceeds—It is impossible to believe the practices of these 'cots' can be supported or tolerated by the law of the land.But, unfortunately, under the existing state of affairs these clubs were tolerated by the law of the land, and the Bill now before them would, if passed, go to 796 a great extent to prevent the present condition of affairs. He quite agreed with what had fallen from hon. Gentlemen who had spoken in this Debate, that this Bill might be amended in Committee. For instance, Clause 16 might be omitted in Committee, as some people thought it was not altogether advisable that every club secretary should be obliged to give to any individual, whether a member of the club or not, the whole particulars with regard to that somewhat private institution. He sincerely hoped the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Bradford, would consent to a hybrid Committee, feeling sure that if this question was carefully considered by such Committee the Bill when it came before the House would be received with the attention which it deserved.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
supported the Second Reading of this Bill, which had, to his mind, one great recommendation; it contained a provision which was absolutely essential to a Bill of this character, and that was that it proposed to apply precisely the same measure of justice to clubs at the West End of London that it would apply to the East End of London. A palatial club in Pall Mall would be treated precisely the same as a humble club in Bethnal Green or St. George's-in-the East. In that the Bill was democratic, and it was obvious that in any Amendments that had been suggested as likely to be introduced in the passage of the Bill through Committee, that principle of equal treatment must be rigidly maintained. But while the Bill proposed to extend that equal treatment to which he had referred, it properly recognised that registration already existed under the present law, because it was provided by one of the Clauses of the Bill that if a club was already registered under the Friendly Societies Act of 1875, then that club would be altogether exempt from the operation of the Bill. As it happened, with one or two exceptions, all the bonâ fide working men's clubs in the metropolis were already registered, and they would, therefore, be totally exempt from the operation of the Bill. The reason the two or three clubs to which he had referred were not registered was, he thought, creditable to them. The reason was this: the Registrar of Friendly Societies declined to register 797 any club which frankly in its rules included political objects amongst the objects which it sought to promote. With submission he considered that the Registrar of Friendly Societies took rather a strained view of the Act of ' 1875 in declining to register such clubs. He regretted that they had not been registered, because he thought that a club which frankly and honestly engaged in political action was quite as likely to be well conducted and well managed as clubs of a mere social character. There was another point he wished to call attention to in regard to registration. Some working men's clubs wore not registered under the Friendly Societies Act of 1875, but were registered under the Provident and Industrial Societies Act of 1876. Under this Act these clubs had certain advantages, the chief of which was being able to raise funds by the issue of shares, the liability of each member being limited to the uncalled part of the share for which he had applied, and he thought it would be only fair and consistent with the policy of the Bill to exempt clubs registered under this Act from the scope of the Bill, and in Committee he should propose that as an Amendment. Working men's clubs, or so-called working men's clubs, in London were of three classes. In the first place there were the bonâ fide working men's club, in respect of which the premises and funds of the club were the property of the members, who were duly elected, in which all proper precautions were taken, and the management of which was vested in a committee of the members. This was really a development of the co-operative movement, a development which had taken a considerable rise in London, and was, he contended, a great educational instrument, because it taught men to act together, and afforded working men an opportunity of understanding the elements of business and dealing with people. The most salutary effects had come from the co-operative movement in the North of England, and he himself knew working men's clubs in London which were admirably managed and in every way respectable, and he thought the friends of clubs should exert themselves to bring all clubs up to the same standard and level. That was the first class of clubs. Then there was a second class, the 798 proprietary club, where the clubs, and the profits from the liquor and other things sold in them, were the property of a single individual. He had very little sympathy for the proprietary club, whether it be in the West End or the East End of London; he did not think the law—he meant from the point of view of the Excise—ought to look with indulgence upon a proprietary club. Though the point had not been decided by a Court of Law, it seemed to him that the sale of liquor In a proprietary club to a member was a sale within the meaning of the Licensing Act, and therefore, that the proprietor of such a club ought to be required to take out both an Excise and a magistrate's license. But there was a third class of clubs, and he took it they now came to the class of clubs against which this Bill was principally directed, he meant clubs which were only colourable clubs, which were clubs only in name, in which a stranger presenting himself could be made a member on the spot, with or without the payment of a nominal entrance fee. As he understood it, it was against clubs of this description that the Bill was mainly directed. Then arose the question, was this Bill likely to be effective in its object in striking at these clubs. Having read the Bill with great care, he was not sanguine that it would effect its object. He presumed it was hoped it would effect its object in this way, that it would facilitate the proof when a particular club was prosecuted. It was provided by the Bill that each club should issue and publish, upon a slight payment, to any person who might demand it, a list of all its members, and he presumed, therefore, that in the case where a club was prosecuted and it was alleged that A, B, C and D had been served with liquor, the prosecution would produce the list of members, and show that A, B, C and D were not on that list, that they were strangers, consequently the sale to them was illegal under the Licensing Act. But he confessed he was not sanguine that the promoters of the Bill would succeed in the object they had in view. The hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill had scarcely appreciated the real difficulties of the question. He (Mr. Pickersgill) was informed that the late Government attempted legislation with regard to 799 clubs, that they made extensive inquiries, and that they abandoned the project in consequence of the enormous difficulties with which the whole question was surrounded. For his own part he believed the only effectual way of dealing with bogus clubs was energetic action on the part of the police, and he was afraid that in London they had not had on the part of the police such energetic action as they might reasonably have expected. He had been told by a gentleman who had devoted a lifetime to the interests of the co-operative movement, that some years ago he laid a list of bogus clubs before the Metropolitan police, and nothing was done. This, he thought, was an additional reason why the control of the police should be transferred from the Home Office to the representative authority of London. As these questions would receive adequate consideration in the House to which it was proposed to refer the Bill, he had much pleasure in supporting the Second Reading.
§ MR. BONSOR (Surrey, Wimbledon)
did not rise for the purpose of throwing a single note of discord into the unanimity with which the Bill was received, but to say a word or two of the great difficulties with which any attempt to register or control clubs was surrounded. He would point out that, though the Bill was drawn for the registration of clubs, it did not define what a club was, it dealt with the club as if it was a question of club premises. His interpretation of the word "club" was that it was a combination of individuals for a specific purpose, and at this moment there were a large number of clubs that were combinations for the purpose of obtaining drink, and other articles of necessity, and which might really be called co-operative societies rather than ordinary clubs. The last speaker, the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill), alluded to the effect of the co-operative movement; but if he (Mr. Bonsor), endeavoured to define what a bogus club was, he should say it was a sort of co-operative society to deal in opposition to the public house. They knew these co-operative societies were originated in the idea that a large number of people could not get the necessaries of life at reasonable prices, or of reasonable quality, 800 and they started these societies in opposition to the tradesmen. He expected these clubs had been started very much on a similar basis, and for similar reasons. The restrictions under which licensed victuallers had to carry on their business had not appealed to a certain class, and that class had combined to get drink in such hours and in such manner as the public-house was not allowed by the law to dispense it. The question of the registration of clubs was one that might be found to interfere with the liberty of the subject, and he was glad the subject was to be discussed before a Select Committee, because there the great difficulties in dealing with it would be shown, and he hoped the Select Committee would be able to do what other Members had failed to accomplish, viz., to prevent people from getting outside the licensing laws and being able to provide drink at all hours and without restriction.
§ MR. F. TAYLOR (Norfolk, S.)
thought that when the question of registration of places, like clubs, where excise-able liquors are consumed, was raised, the point ought also to be considered of the registration of all places where exciseable liquors are manufactured. When the present Chancellor of the Exchequer conferred upon cottagers the right to brew beer absolutely free from any excise tax, some provision ought, in his opinion, to have been made for registering such brewers, as, without some such system, a valve was created through which a considerable leakage of revenue might very easily take place. The question of the registration of places for the manufacture of exciseable liquors ought to be considered as well as that of places for the sale of those articles. He recognised thoroughly the good a Bill of this kind might do. He did not wish to throw cold water on it, and he hoped the Select Committee would consider all sides of the question, which was one that presented many difficulties.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
thought the Bill proposed to deal with one thing bypassing clauses dealing with another. The definition clause on which the whole Bill hung was extraordinarily lax in its language, and he confessed that, having read it two or three times, he was unable to understand what a club would be under the definition, or 801 what was intended by those who drew the Bill. Therefore that clause would require the careful consideration of the Select Committee. The immediate object of the Bill was to deal with bogus clubs, but it was really directed against the drunkard, and he believed that, no matter what provisions they made, wise or unwise, for preventing the sale of drink, the drunkard would always find methods of defeating them and of satisfying his deplorable appetite. The First Commissioner had given an illustration of what would occur if the Local Veto Bill were at this moment passed into law. He trusted the present Bill was intended to touch the rich man's clubs, and that there was no intention to deal with the poor man's clubs alone. [An HON. MEMBER: It means all clubs.] Exactly, but what would be the effect? He was informed there was an establishment not far from the House frequented by Radical millionaires and released prisoners, the National Liberal Club, where an enormous quantity of whisky was consumed. There were establishments, like the Carlton and the Reform Clubs, where moderate refreshment of a superior kind could be obtained. What would be the result of this Bill? They would wake one morning and hear that, in consequence of some lapse on the part of the secretaries of these two establishments —they had been raided by the police, and that the whole of the two Front Benches had been taken before a magistrate and fined £20 a head. And they would find those two Front Benches for once united and coming down to propose the abolition of the police, and to put the resulting compensation into a blank schedule. Such a Bill, therefore, required most careful revision, and he trusted that would be the result of its going to a Select Committee.
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, North)
was glad to hear it was intended to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, because it was obvious the Bill required very considerable amendment before it could be looked upon as a practical measure to deal with an admitted evil. The evil at the present time the Bill proposed to deal with was the existence of a number of bogus clubs, that was to say, of societies which were formed for the purpose of putting money into the pockets of the 802 proprietor, or for enabling people belonging to these societies to get drink at times when the public-houses were shut up. He did not think the Bill as at present framed would deal effectively with those clubs which were conducted practically like the public-houses, and where there were no rules made, except such as the proprietor chose to enforce. He saw no reason why such clubs should not register themselves and the list of their members, but he did not think that registration would have any effect upon them. If the Bill did anything it gave them a sort of sanction and recognition which at present they did not possess. The only way of dealing with these clubs was to put them under the Licensing Laws, and treat them as public-houses, the only difference between such a club and the public-house being that one had a limited number of customers and the other had an unlimited number. With regard to some proprietary clubs, which wore bonâ fide and established for the personal convenience of their members, there would, he thought, be no difficulty in transforming them into ordinary members' clubs, and so relieving them of the obligations of the Licensing Laws. With regard to bonâ fide members' clubs established for social and other purposes of a legitimate character, it would be a very great departure to put such clubs under the licensing laws, or to put them under registration such as was suggested in the Bill. The mere registration of these clubs was not the ultimate object intended. As soon as they were registered other legislation would inevitably follow. The Bill proposed to facilitate the discovery of bogus clubs. There was no difficulty about finding bogus clubs; they were well known to the police, and, therefore, they did not want to come to Parliament for powers to find them out. He was in favour of dealing with these bogus clubs, but he was in favour of dealing with them in a different way to that proposed in the Bill. He thought they ought to be subjected to the Licensing Laws and treated as public-houses. As to the genuine clubs, which were, in fact, private houses and associations which were created for a legitimate purpose and were a great convenience, he thought the people would very strongly resent their being placed under any Registration 803 Laws. He saw no necessity for putting clubs like the Reform, the Carlton, and the National Liberal Club, or other clubs, established for a legitimate purpose, under any restrictions by Licensing Laws. They were, in fact, large private houses, and they might just as well ask for powers to put boarding-houses under the Licensing Laws. There were some very strong provisions in the Bill which would deter members from going on the committees of any clubs. According to the Bill, the rules of every club were to be registered, and every member of the committee was to be responsible for seeing that those registered rules were carried out, and he was, moreover, to be responsible to the extent of being liable to a fine of £20, and something like £5 a day during the time the rules were broken. The position of a committee man of a club was not under ordinary circumstances a very enviable one, and by the Bill they would impose a responsibility upon committeemen which few of them would care to incur. The drastic provisions of this Bill were quite unnecessary in reference to the legitimate members' clubs. When a club was carried on for the benefit and profit of an individual it was in reality an unlicensed public-house and should be subjected to the Licensing Laws in all respects, and treated as a public-house. But wherever a club was carried on by the members, governed by a committee elected by them, managed for their mutual accommodation and benefit, and when all were responsible for what went on in the club, and all were responsible for its debts and engagements, it was virtually a private house, and ought not to be subjected to liabilities that ordinary private houses were not subjected to. The points he had raised might very properly be considered by the Committee, and no doubt they would be able to draw a distinction between a proprietary club and a members' club, and frame an Act which would enable those bogus clubs to be reached and dealt with, and at the same time leave perfect freedom to the ordinary members' clubs, which were a great convenience to a large number of people, and which neither gave annoyance to the Excise authorities nor to the people of London at large.
§ MR. DARLING (Deptford)
said the hon. Member who had last spoken had pointed out a great many of the real objections to the Bill, and he would desire in some way to second what that hon. Member had said. He would point out to those enthusiastic Members of the Temperance party who had been led to support this Bill how little it did—if indeed it did anything—for the cause which they were supposed to have at heart. He did not know that he could vote against the Bill if a division were taken, but at the same time he did not know that he could vote in its favour, because it appeared to him to be a Bill which, if passed, would do precisely nothing at all. So long as anyone carrying on a bogus club got it registered he' might carry it on without interference. In his opinion if every club, from the best to the worst, from the Carlton to the Reform, had to take out a licence there would be no harm whatever in it. He did not think that either of those institutions—he had but a slight acquaintance with them—would suffer the slightest degradation from being occasionally visited by someone occupying the responsible position of an inspector of police. But this Bill would do absolutely nothing. They simply registered the club, and they could do what they liked, with the exception that there should be not more than 5 per cent. of honorary Members. It was like buying an indulgence—a sort of leave to eat butter in Lent. What were the exemptions that commended the Bill to the Radical Party opposite? It would not apply at all to the governing body or other authorities of a college, religious, educational, or charitable. All, therefore, that a man had to do was to call himself a college. Dr. Johnson objected to a Scotchman because he set up a school and called it an academy. Well, all a man would have to do under this Bill would be to call himself an academy or college. It would not matter whether it was educational, religious, or charitable. So long as a plausible distinction was given they might drink in such places, and not be subject to this Bill. If there was ever a Bill brought in with suggestions how to evade it, this was the one. He always thought it was the theory of the Party opposite that if there was anything in the world that led to an inordi- 805 nate consumption of liquor and deleteriously rich dishes, it was the Corporation of the City of London. He always gathered that they set a bad example to the temperance cause. But the Corporation of London was exempted, a sub-clause expressly exempting the mayor, aldermen, and commoners of the City of London in common council assembled. He did not know what they did in common council assembled, but he had always understood that those assemblies were not specially devoted to the advocacy or the practice of teetotalism. Why on earth then should there be a particular exemption in their favour? If they did not indulge in the habits that distinguished bogus clubs there was no need to mention them. If, on the other-hand, the assumption was that the Corporation in council assembled did copy the example of bogus clubs the cause of temperance was not promoted by excluding the Corporation from the Bill. The Bill was not one for the promotion of temperance. It was simply a Bill to promote temperance amongst those who had nothing to drink, and to give exemptions to those who had something to drink. Was it worth while to discuss the Bill any longer? He did not wonder that the Treasury Bench accepted it. There were some whom they desired to be friends with who wanted the Bill, and if the Government did not accept it they would not get their votes for Home Rule. He ventured to ask his hon. Friend who had moved this Bill whether he did not think the cause of temperance and common sense would be just as well served if the Bill were withdrawn at once?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, South)
said so far as he had heard the Debate there had been a good deal of what he called "talking round" this subject. No one could question the importance of the subject dealt with, and it was all the more important because he thought past history showed them that just in proportion as they increased the stringency of the Licensing Laws these clubs sprang up and evaded the laws. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was responsible for a Veto Bill, and he invited him to look at this Bill and see whether it was fit for anything at all. Ireland was excluded from the Bill. It appeared to be excluded from everything of use, 806 and given everything it did not want. If the Bill got into Committee, Ireland would insist on being included in the Bill. The evil of bogus clubs existed in Ireland as well as in England, and there was no reason for its exclusion from the Bill. He concurred with a great deal that the hon. Member for Deptford had said. Why was it that the House did not take the evil by the throat and deal with it? They heard a great deal about one law for the rich and another for the poor. What was the House doing if it passed the Bill? It was refusing to attack this question seriously, because it feared to attack the Fall Mall clubs. Supposing the Bill came into operation, what use would be the mere registration of a bogus club? The police knew all about these clubs at the present moment, but they could not deal with them. There was the whole kernel of the question. They could not deal with them because of the clubs in Pall Mall and other places. They could not deal with bogus clubs so long as they allowed other clubs to have laws for themselves. He asked plainly why should not those clubs be licensed premises? Why should not the Reform Club, and why should not that place whore he was told more drink was consumed than in any other place in London—the National Liberal Club— why should not these common drinking houses be made into licensed houses and treated as such? It was because the House was afraid to touch these clubs— that was, hon. Members were afraid to curtail their own privileges, and they went on pottering and tinkering with a Bill like this which could not do any good. Everybody knew that these places were illicit drinking houses, and such rules as this Bill proposed would be slipped through with the greatest of ease. He would not oppose the Bill going into committee, but inasmuch as they were bringing in restrictive legislation with regard to the drink traffic, he thought the House should face the evil seriously, and make all these clubs which were drinking shops in one phase or another simply be licensed as public houses, subject to the Licensing Law and under the control of the police.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
In reference to the remarks made upon the subject of the treatment of all clubs alike, I for my part have always thought 807 that all clubs should be treated alike. The hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), who is always scolding somebody, assumed that hon. Members who have put their names on the back of this Bill—on that side of the House as well as on this side—have some sinister and evil motive. He seems to entertain that opinion about the whole human race, and it is his practice to denounce everybody, particularly if the Bill under discussion happens to be in the direction of temperance, of which he is the particular apostle. Although the hon. Member scolds with a very loud voice upon most subjects, he scolds in a louder voice when temperance questions are before the House. I only rise to say, in reference to what has been said on the other side of the House, that all clubs ought to be treated alike; I entirely concur. I think there ought to be no distinction whatever made between a club in Pall Mall and a club in Whitechapel. No doubt it is a very difficult question as to how to treat both. You must manage to have some system which shall not be too inquisitorial, but which shall accomplish the objects we have in view. I am prepared to support the Second Reading of the Bill, and then have it sent to a Select Committee ill order that these difficulties may be fully examined. I am perfectly confident that there are many difficulties, and I quite understand that this Bill does not import into it the licensing principle. Well, but no private Member introducing a Bill could not have imported into it a proposal for the payment of licences. For my part, both personally and officially, I should be very glad to see all these clubs licensed, and really I cannot see myself why they should not be. For these reasons I have no doubt the House will be perfectly willing to support the Second Reading of the Bill, and I hope the Committee which will then be appointed will examine into the whole question and see if we cannot elaborate some scheme which will really deal with an evil of which I believe everybody is conscious.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
said that whatever he might think about the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, he agreed with him on one point—that if this Bill got into Committee, they would certainly claim that it should be extended to 808 Ireland. There was a unanimous feeling amongst Irish Members on this point. The hon. Member for South Tyrone seemed to have thought that this Bill afforded a suitable opportunity for making an attack on the National Liberal Club. He ventured to say that this was not the tone in which the Bill should be discussed. The Bill dealt with a great social evil—an evil which existed both in Ireland and in England, and the only objection he had to it was that it gave hon. Members an opportunity of airing a great deal of cheap virtue. Bogus clubs had no friends, and gentlemen could attack bogus clubs without alienating the publican vote. That probably accounted for the unanimity with which the Bill had been received. He was perfectly sure that when the gentlemen who had the Bill in charge decided to exclude Ireland, they did not do so from any motive to which hon. Members in that part of the House could take exception, and he was sure that when they learned! that there was a general feeling amongst Irish Members that Ireland should be included, they would be willing to extend the Bill to Ireland He thought there was something to be said in favour of the view that this Bill; did not go far enough in the direction they desired. It simply dealt with the question of registration. It would be possible to register under the Bill as it stood at present any number of bogus dabs, and the only difference it would make in the law was that before a bogus club was established it would have to be registered. That was a condition of things which they would endeavour to remedy when the Bill got into Committee. They would endeavour to insert in the Bill provisions which would make it more useful and more stringent and effectual for the purpose of suppressing bogus clubs, and for that reason Members in that part of the House would heartily support the Second Reading. In Dublin, and throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, there existed a class of institutions which had sprung up solely in order to evade the provisions of the Licensing Laws. These clubs had no other object, and he could not for the life of him see what was to be gained, when a Bill of this kind was brought before the House, in talking about Fall Mall clubs in the 809 way the Member for South Tyrone had done.
§ MR. GODSON (Kidderminster)
would undertake on behalf of the promoters of the Rill to include Ireland if there should appear a general wish in that direction. As to the objection that the Bill did not touch the Licensing Law, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had clearly shown that they had no power to introduce that part of the question. There were just two other points to which he would refer. It had been urged that mere registration did nothing to make a, bogus club a good club. Surely hon. Members who said this had not read the Bill, because they would find that under this Bill certain things would have to be done before registration, such as the appointment of a secretary and a committee, and if complaint was made as to the bogus character of the institution it was to these persons named by whom application could be made, and who would have to furnish information. He admitted fully that the Bill did not go very far, but it was in the right way, and it would place the magistrates on a far better footing than they at present stood now for dealing with them. It had been said that many of these clubs could be put down if there was more energetic activity on the part of the police, but in the district in which he acted as a magistrate it was the police who complained that they had not the means of discovering these bogus clubs, and it was to help the police to do that which they were not at present able to do that the Bill was introduced. As to the remarks of the hon. Member for Deptford about the Corporation of the City of London, he would point out that there was a provision in the Bill providing that any body incorporated by charter, as that Corporation was, was taken out of the purview of the Bill. The promoters were perfectly well aware of the inconsistencies in the Bill, but they had been gratified at the reception which had been accorded to it, and with the general spirit of assent which it had received. There were one or two Amendments which the supporters of it would be ready to move in Committee, and he had no doubt that the measure would come back to that House in a good workable condition.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON (Govan)
said that Scotchmen did not like any good to pass their door, and he therefore trusted that the Bill would be extended to Scotland. He thought that if clubs were compelled to take out hotel licences the Revenue would greatly benefit, while refreshments would be obtainable at any hour of the day or night. The favourable reception of that Bill was a strong indication that the temperance sentiment was rising in that House, and he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have the sturdiness to persevere in the good efforts which he was making, and carry through his Local Veto Bill. He had heard rumours that the right hon. Gentleman was going to abandon the measure, but he trusted that there was no foundation for them. As to this Bill, it would do something towards coping with a manifest evil and a great social sore.
§ MR. DIAMOND (Monaghan, N.)
was pleased to hear the promoters of the Bill were willing to extend it to Ireland. This Bill was the commencement of legislation in regard to clubs; it broke now ground; he was glad it had been introduced, and he hoped the Committee would adopt the suggestion that had been made to include Ireland in the measure.
The Bill was then read a second time.
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY
said the only chance the Bill had of passing was to send it to the Grand Committee on Law.
§ MR. GODSON
said the reason it was proposed to send the Bill to a Select Committee was because it was considered the Grand Committee had quite enough to do.
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY
pointed out that by sending it to the Grand Committee there was a saving of time, as it saved the Bill passing through a stage in that House.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
expressed his willingness to leave it to the Government to say what Committee the Bill should go to.
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON
supported the proposal to send the Bill to a Select Committee, which would be able to take evidence as to any interests which were affected.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
thought the proposal of the hon. Member for North Louth was the best. He could hardly see what kind of interests were affected, and what sort of evidence could be taken. His desire was that a proper measure should be passed, and, as the Bill was not satisfactory in its present shape, he trusted it would be sent to the Grand Committee on Law.
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY
I beg to move to omit the words "Select Committee," in order to insert the words "Standing Committee on Law."
THE MARQUESS OF CARMARTHEN
wished to have a definite assurance from the Government as to the line they intended to follow, because they allowed it to be understood the first thing to-day that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. Had they not had that assurance, and had they not known that the Bill would be thoroughly sifted, the Debate might have taken a very different course.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said he understood that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had come to an agreement that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. It appeared to him (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) that there were questions in the Bill which would be better threshed out before a Select Committee.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said that the desire in proposing that the Bill should go before the Grand Committee on Law was that the measure should pass into law this Session. It was not that hon. Members objected to a Select Committee, but that they wished the Bill to pass.
§ MR. T. G. BOWLES
said they had voted for the Second Reading of the Bill on the distinct understanding that it would be sent to a Select Committee. Their object was not so much to pass the Bill as to pass it in the best form.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
wished to point out to the hon. Member for Northampton that the Grand Committee would have no means of acquiring information which was really very much wanted, with regard, for instance, to working 812 men's clubs. Persons interested in such clubs ought to have an opportunity of stating their opinions. A Grand Committee would deal with matters upon which the Members themselves were sufficiently informed. He could not conceive how a Grand Committee could deal with Bills of this kind, assuming that there was a quantity of external information wanted in order to enable them to make the Bill thoroughly efficient.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill referred to a Select Committee.