§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER,
who was received with cheers, said: In asking the leave of the House to introduce a Bill to establish local control over the traffic in intoxicating liquor I shall not have to occupy the attention of the House very long with preliminary observations. The subject is familiar to the House, and has been so for a great many years, and I had the opportunity when on a former occasion I introduced a Bill which, in respect of its general principles, was similar to, I might almost say identical with, this Bill, to explain at length the reasons upon which that Bill was founded. This Bill which we now propose to introduce is, with certain alterations, substantially the same Bill. I need not argue, I think, in this House to-day as to the necessity of a Bill of some description relating to the liquor question. I need not evoke any of the resources of rhetoric to show the magnitude of the evils which exist or the necessity of endeavouring to cope with those evils. There is no man, I believe, on either side of the House, who will dispute the infinite mischiefs of excessive drink or deny that such mischiefs do exist in our midst. There are, I know, great differences of opinion as regards the remedy which ought to be applied to those evils, but not as to the evils themselves. I will venture to affirm, and I think I shall not be contradicted, that there is on social question, comparable in importance with that of the evils due to excessive drinking in this country. It is often said, and said with much truth, that we ought to apply ourselves to the remedy of social evils. Is there any man here who will say that 1162 one of the greatest causes of poverty in this country is not the excessive indulgence in drink? The question occupies the mind of the wage-paying and wage-earning classes. Is there anything which operates so prejudicially upon both classes as the evils arising from drink? If you ask any man who knows anything about crime, if you ask the Judges, successive Home Secretaries, or the magistrates, they will tell you with unanimous voice that one of the principal causes, if not the principal cause, of crime in this country is excessive drink. Is there anything that can be so destructive of the happiness of the home, which I think we ought all of us to regard, as this widespread and desolating evil? What is the actual condition of the drink traffic? It is to a great degree the outcome of our present system. It is the creation of our law, and if it is to be reformed it must be reformed by legislation, and the first question I will ask the House to consider is—What are to be the fundamental principles upon which that legislation ought to be based? What is to be the motive power which we are to invoke in order to deal with such a gigantic mischief as this? Our success or failure in such an attempt must depend upon our rightly or upon our wrongly choosing the principles upon which we shall proceed. Our present system depends upon the licensing discretion of the magistrates. Formerly, no doubt, it also depended a good deal with the Excise, upon whom a large part of the responsibility for the existing system must rest; but for the last twenty-five years almost the whole of the power of licensing has been exercised by the magistrates. I am not prepared, and I have never been disposed, to pass a censure upon the magistrates, for I know the difficulties with which they have to deal. There is one feature, however, in our licensing system which, I think, cannot be too severely condemned, and that is the practice of allowing appeals to quarter sessions from the decisions of the local authority. There are cases—so astonishing that I can only call them outrageous—in which men of the greatest local knowledge and unquestioned judgment have withdrawn licences from houses which they thought either unnecessary or ill conducted, and in which their decisions have been reversed 1163 on an appeal to magistrates knowing nothing about the locality. No doubt, however, the magistrates have often to a great degree been powerless to act otherwise, and would have gladly been relieved of their responsibilities. I remember an occasion when the magistrates of Kent came in a body to me and asked me to do something to put down the excess of public-houses in their county. I said:—It is atonishing that you should come to me, because you are the persons who have licensed these houses and who could discontinue doing so.They replied that such action on their part would be very unpopular, and I said:—Then what you desire is that I should accept the unpopularity?I have lately been put in possession of an example, no doubt an extreme example, which shows what may happen and what does happen under the present licensing system. I will not name the locality in order not to raise any invidious discussion respecting it, but I have every reason to believe that the case is authentic. In one of your great towns there is a street containing 27 houses and having a length of 191 yards, and this is the way in which the houses are used:—No. 1 is a public house, No. 6 a public house, No. 7 a beerhouse, No. 8 a public house, No. 9 a public house, No. 10 a public house, No. 11 a post office, No. 12 a public house, No. 13 a public house, No. 14 a wine and spirit store, No. 16 a public house, No. 18 a public house, No. 20 a public house, No. 21 a public house, No. 23 a public house, and No. 24 a public house. Thus, out of 27 structures 15 are public houses. That is the number of houses that the magistrates have licensed, and which, year by year, in spite of the remonstrance of some of the inhabitants of this street, they think themselves bound to continue to license. I do not think anybody can consider that a satisfactory state of things. We are deeply convinced that no really efficient and adequate reforming of the licensing system can be applied by mere improvement in the present licensing system. The magistrates are not strong enough, have not shown themselves strong enough, to deal with 1164 the powerful interests and the deeprooted prejudices by which this system is impregnably surrounded. We must, I believe, invoke a much more powerful and effectual agency, and, if I might be permitted without egotism to say what I have got to say in the same words which I employed in 1893, I would describe the agency upon which we rely thus:—If you are to strike an effective 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 treat interests so vast as these—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.That is the principle upon which this Bill is founded, and that is the principle upon which we founded the Bill of 1893. It is the principle of local option. The official adhesion to that principle of the Party which sits on this side of the House was declared in 1883. It was my duty, as it was my pleasure, upon that occasion, in the name of the Government of that day, to declare that we believe that the reform of these evils was to be found in the principle of local option, and I think I am right in saying—although I know there are differences of opinion upon the subject—that it is upon that principle of local option that the convictions of the great majority of the temperance party in this country are concentrated. In the early stages of this discussion there was no doubt a disposition to think that it might be wise, instead of taking the direct vote of the people, to confide the settlement of the question to representative bodies like the present County Councils and Town Councils. I admit that I was formerly of that opinion myself; but since the discussions that have taken place upon the subject of local government, since the great extension of local government by the measures establishing County Councils and Parish Councils, I think the general feeling is that it might have an injurious influence upon the action of those Councils if they were mixed up with the liquor question. 1165 Therefore, I do not believe that those who are in favour of Local Option would now pronounce in favour of giving that option to be determined by those local authorities. I venture to say, though sometimes one would hardly think it, that this is not a Party question. Certainly, the advocacy of some reform in the liquor traffic in this country has not been confined to Members who sit on this side of the House. There have been many Bills promoted by Gentlemen on the other side of the House. There was one very remarkable Bill promoted by a Member whose absence from this House we all regret, the late Lord Randolph Churchill. He took immense pains with the Bill he introduced upon that subject. It was in part a Licensing Bill and in part a Local Option Bill, and I will ask leave to refer to what Lord Randolph Churchill said on the subject of Local Option. He said—The main principle of the Bill is popular control of the issue of licences. 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.That is the fundamental principle of Local Option. He went on—There should be brought into operation that which is called the Direct Veto—that is to say that, if in a certain parish two-thirds of the ratepayers voted for the prohibition of the granting of licences, the votes should operate against the granting of all retail licences. 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. 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.That Bill and that statement were received with no small amount of favour by a former Government, and, therefore, I think I am entitled to say that this principle of Local Option is not one which belongs to one side of the House, but has been received with great favour by both parties in the State. The last point to which Lord Randolph Churchill referred is, I think, a very important 1166 point. He says that it is very hard on the community that they should not enjoy the same power which any particular landlord who may possess the soil on which that community lives, possesses and exercises according to his own discretion. Which of us in this House would like to have a public-house next door to us? Which of us would like to live in such a street as that I have described? I want to know if the people who live in Grosvenor Square or Belgrave Square are protected against nuisances of this description by their landlords, who receive in consequence a higher rent, why are people who live in humbler quarters and under meaner conditions, not to have the same means of protecting themselves? I saw the other day in the law reports in a newspaper an account of an action for an injunction brought by the Duke of Devonshire against one of his tenants at Eastbourne upon a covenant not to use the premises as a public-house or beershop, or for carrying on of any offensive trade or business whatever. There a public-house or beershop is included in offensive businesses with trades in the covenant. [No, no.] Well, I am reading the words. This covenant is in force against a person who sets up an hotel. Why is it there? It is in order to give protection to the people who are the lessees from that which they would resent—that is to say, a multiplication of drink shops in their midst and for the regulation of the trade. Then, I ask, and I have never heard a moderate answer to the question, why the community, as a community, are not to have the same power of veto on the traffic as that which the proprietor of the soil on which the community lives exercises? I confess I should like to hear an answer to that question. I have said that the majority, I believe the great majority, of the temperance party in this country has been rallied to the principle of Local Option. I know there are advocates, and distinguished advocates, of a different system. I am not now going to enter upon the discussion of what is called the Scandinavian system that is in force in Sweden and Norway. I shall be prepared, if the discussion is raised in the course of this Bill, to deal with that question, and to give the reasons which seem to me sufficient for not adopting 1167 that as the principle on which we should proceed. But with reference to what is called the Scandinavian system, it seems to me that the great reforms made in those countries were not made under that system, which is called the Bolag in Sweden and the Samlag in Norway, but were made by the application of the simple principle of Local Option in a great part of the rural districts. It was only in the towns that the Gothenburg system was applied, and it was by Local Option in Sweden that the great reduction of the evil was in the first instance accomplished. It is a very remarkable thing that within the last six months in Norway, which is always taken as being the pattern of the system, what is called the Gothenburg plan has been subordinated to Local Option, and an Act has been passed late in last year (it will be found in Foreign Office papers relating to Norway), of which I will venture to read one clause—Before the recognition of a plan (scheme) of a Samlag takes place, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, it shall be decided by a general vote, in which men and women over 25 years of age have a right to take part, whether the establishment or the continued working of a Samlag, for the sale and retail of spirits, shall be permitted within the limits of a town.Therefore, after an experience of the system for many years, they have found the necessity of putting over it a direct veto of the people as to whether a Samlag shall be allowed to continue at all. That is very remarkable testimony as bearing upon the operation of the Gothenburg system. The clause goes on—A Samlag cannot be established or obtain a renewed recognition of its established plan (scheme) if the majority of those entitled to vote are against it.So that by a simple majority on a direct vote the establishment of a Samlag can be prevented.If a Samlag is by such a vote abolished, a majority of those qualified to vote in the matter is required in order that the Samlag shall be reopened. These arrangements are good for five years,and so forth. I think that is a very remarkable piece of experience with reference to the discussion of what is called the Gothenburg system. It is shown by it that Local Option, 1168 in the sentiments and experience of the Temperance Party, has been regarded as the supreme and governing principle on this question. Now, Sir, the Bill I introduced in 1893, on behalf of the Government, was described, and properly described, as a Local Veto Bill. This Bill is also a Local Veto Bill, and the provisions for a popular veto in favour of total prohibition remain the same in their material particulars; but this Bill is something more than a Local Veto Bill, and it may properly be described as a Local Option Bill, because it offers other options besides that of total prohibition. I have always been aware of the strong opinion which existed on this subject. I have always known and recognised the force of the desire, that people who do not wish for total prohibition, have, that there should be also a power for the reduction of the inordinate number of licences. The evil of the multiplication of licences is this, that the number of these houses is such that they cannot possibly live except by having recourse to practices which everybody will condemn. That is one great evil of the multiplication of these licences. I ask, referring again to the example of the street I quoted, do you believe that if there were a vote given by the people of that district, that street would remain in the condition it is in at the present time? I have never myself been averse to the principle of giving the veto over the multiplication and restriction of licences as well as over prohibition. I have been deterred more by the practical difficulties of that question. I desire that the subject should be made as simple as it is possible to make it, and although I have seen many of these Temperance Bills, of which there are so many before the House, and which have professed to deal with this question of the limitation of licences, I have never seen one of them which has grappled with the real practical difficulties of the case, though most of them say that there shall be a vote taken for a specified number of public-houses. What specified number? And how is it to be determined? They generally take for each recognition one-tenth of the inhabitants. It is perfectly obvious that if you take a tenth of the number you might have ten distinct and different 1169 specifications, and so you would inextricably confuse the issue, and you would make it impossible to take a poll. We will say there are 100 public-houses. Well, the people who want the least reduction would vote that there should be 99; the people who want the most reduction would propose that you should have one, and between those two you might have 10, 20, 40, or 50. If you go to the poll with 10 of these proposals you would so confuse the issue, and so distract the voting, that you would never arrive at any reasonable or practical result. That is the first difficulty, and none of these Bills attempted anything practical to solve it. I have myself spent many hours in trying to solve that question. There is another difficulty. Who is to determine, where you have resolved to diminish the number, upon the selection? There are two women grinding at one mill, the one is taken and the other left; but which is to be taken, and which is to be left, is a subject with which these Bills have never attempted to deal. When we have to come to a practical, working Bill we must attempt some solution of these difficulties, and we have done our best to meet them, being desirous to introduce the principle of limitation as well as the principle of prohibition. Without any further preliminary observations, I will now endeavour to explain the Bill that we ask leave to introduce. The Bill will commence in this way. The poll will be taken by the local authority, who will be the town council or parish council, or whatever may be the local authority in the particular district. It will have the responsibility of taking the poll, and will have nothing to do, of course, with the vote. The requisition will be one to be made by not less than one-tenth of the parochial electors. We have taken the parochial electors from the Act of 1893 because it is the largest constituency we can take. The House will remember that this is more extended than the municipal franchise that we had before, because it would include the service vote, and the lodgers, and so forth. At all events, we have taken the largest franchise which now exists, and the parochial electors will be the constituents. The areas will be in the boroughs, the wards, and, in the rural districts, the parish or the wards 1170 of the parish. In London it will be the sanitary district or ward within the meaning of the Public Health (London) Act, 1891. I have said before, and I should like again to insist upon it, that for a purpose of this kind small areas are much better than large, because they give you more completely the real opinion of the people dealt with. If you took a large area, such as a county, you might be applying to one part of the county a system which another part did not desire to have. The smaller your area is, the more likely you are to really have the support of the population for the policy which is adopted. That is shown in a book by Mr. Fanshawe which everybody interested in this subject either has read or ought to read—a book which we owe to the public spirit and liberality of the hon. Member for Carmarthenshire, who at great trouble has collected certainly the most reliable and useful information which has ever been, published, I think, upon the Temperance question, and for which I desire to render him my personal thanks. We are of opinion that a small area for these purposes is much more likely to be effectual than a large area, and much more certain, when taken, to represent the true opinion of the population. On this subject there is to be found important evidence in Mr. Fanshawe's book. He says—The Scott Act, which had so successful a career in Ontario, was local option by counties and cities; and its failure has by some been in part attributed to the too great extent of the area of adoption. The older Dunkin Act, which can be adopted by townships, has in the long run shown greater vitality than the Scott Act, and is now in force in a considerable portion of the province of Quebec. In Michigan and Missouri States, where local option, after attracting much attention a few years ago, does not exhibit an encouraging aspect at the present time, the area of adoption is the county. On the other hand, Massachusetts, in which the principle shows far more vigour than in any other State in the north, applies it to every city and township, and thus comprises three hundred and fifty independent divisions in a territory about as large as Yorkshire and Lancashire.There is a provision in the Bill by which, in the case of very small parishes and wards, they may be grouped. Now I come to the prohibitory resolution, for which the provisions are much the same as in the last Bill. The prohibitory resolution 1171 may be carried by a majority of two-thirds of the electors voting. The resolution will come into force at the date of the general annual licensing meeting which occurs next after the expiration of three years from the commencement of the Act—i.e. January 1—or the expiration of one year from the date of the poll, whichever is latest. That will give a period of four years—more than three years, and I think nearly four years. It was necessary to make that provision in case the poll were taken at the latest possible date, and there should be at the expiration of the three years no notice to the occupier at all. While the prohibitory resolution is in force no ordinary licence shall be granted. I would ask the attention of the House to the words "ordinary licence," because that is a governing point in the Bill. The ordinary licence means all licences within the meaning of the Licensing Act, 1872, with the exception of certain restricted licences, which I shall presently refer to. The ordinary licence in point of fact is the justices' licence covering all the cases which require a justices' licence. I use the words "ordinary licence" in that sense as distinguished from the retail trade which is carried on by wholesale dealers who do not require a Justice's licence, and as distinguished from the restricted licence to which I will presently come.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Certainly, you may be quite sure the Bill will include grocers' licences. While the prohibitory resolution is in force no ordinary licence shall be granted within the area, and I have given the definition of what an ordinary licence is. When such a poll has been taken no further poll shall be taken for three years, whether the resolution has been carried or rejected. The object of that is, that the community shall not be constantly disturbed by the raising of this question without an interval of experience. But after the three years a poll may be taken, if a prohibitory resolution is in force, for repealing it. The majority in the Bill for repealing it is to be a simple majority. That differs from the Act of 1893, by which a two-thirds majority was required to repeal 1172 the prohibitory resolution. But, upon reflection, it seemed to us that when you impose the prohibition only by a large majority, and that large majority has not only ceased to exist, but has been converted into a minority, you would not be justified in maintaining that prohibition. Therefore I think this is an equitable provision, and the only one consistent with the principle of a two-thirds majority. If the resolution is rejected at the first poll, of course, at the expiration of three years, a further resolution may be proposed. So much for the prohibitory resolution, which, with the exception of the point I have just referred to, is practically the same as in the Bill of 1893. Now I come to that which is really the only substantially new feature of this Bill; and that is, the limiting resolution. A requisition may be presented for the reduction of the number of licences, and this limitation and reduction we propose shall be carried by a simple majority, and not by a majority of two-thirds. When a limiting resolution is in force ordinary licences shall not be granted within the area to a number in excess of three-fourths of the number existing at the date of the poll. Owing to the impossibility of allowing an infinite number of requisitions for an infinite number of specified limitations, we thought that the only practical way of dealing with it was to say, "If you vote for limitation you vote for a diminution of the number by one-fourth." Now, if that process is successful and recommends itself to the judgment of the community, at the expiration of three years there may be a further limitation of another fourth, and in that way you will make provision for a gradual reduction, by steps of one-fourth, in the existing number of licences. Of course, there will be difficulties, which, no doubt, the ingenious minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite will fix upon, especially when they get below the number four. Our principle is, that a vote for limitation means a vote for a reduction substantially in round numbers by one-fourth of the licences that exist. This is a rough and ready method of dealing with the thing. But, after the most careful consideration we can give to it, it seems to us to be the only practical method of dealing with limitations. Now there will necessarily be a difficulty, when you have to reduce 1173 licences by one-fourth, to determine what is the fourth which is to be reduced. Where there has been a vote for a limiting Resolution we take it that there is an express desire on the part of the community to be relieved to a great extent of the number of licensed houses, and we propose that in such a case the magistrates shall not be face to face with a number of existing interests—as they now regard themselves as being, though in law they are not—but that they shall deal with all the licences in that district as new licences—as if they were dealing with a district in which there were no licences at all. Then, to the extent they think fit—not exceeding three-fourths of the previously existing number—they shall give licences within that district just as they would in a new district altogether, and the law applicable to this case would be the law, not of the renewal of licences, but the law of new licences altogether. That will give to the magistrates a clean sheet in the matter. But, of course, this only applies where a limiting resolution has been carried. If I had been dealing with a Licensing Bill and not a Local Option Bill, I do not know that I should not have been disposed to recommend that that should be the case in all districts. But, as I am dealing only with the question of local control, I propose that, where a limiting Resolution has been passed, the discretion of the magistrates shall be absolute in all cases, and they shall deal with that district as a tabula rasa, and give licences within it not exceeding the limit of three-fourths as they think the district requires them. This is the best solution we have been able to devise for this difficult question.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester)
May I ask whether the magistrates under that provision would be obliged to give three-fourths or any number less?
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The words of the Act are "not exceeding three-fourths." I will read the actual words:—While a limiting Resolution is in force in any area, ordinary licences shall not be granted in that area to a number in excess of three-fourths of the number existing at the date of the poll, without prejudice to the discretion of licensing justices to grant a less number of licences than the said three-fourths. And for the purpose of carrying this Resolution into effect, the granting of ordinary licences at the 1174 general annual licensing meeting, at which such Resolution comes into force, whether in respect of premises previously licensed or not, shall be subject to the law relating to the granting of new licences.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
It will be subject to the same regulations as prohibitory licences. I was going to add that the machinery for taking the poll will be the same in the case of a limiting as in that of a prohibitory Resolution. A poll may be taken on a prohibitory or limiting Resolution, or upon both. There may be a section of the community who wish for prohibition, or a section who wish for limitation. Each may present its requisition. The poll will be taken upon both these issues, and we propose that any elector may vote for or against both. You can quite conceive that a man who desires prohibition may desire, if he fails, to have limitation, which would probably be carried. There is no reason why a man who desires prohibition should not vote also for limitation, and therefore a requisition may be presented both for prohibition and limitation, or only for prohibition or only for limitation, if only one should be desired by the people who look for this reform. I wish to make it clear—because in many Bills before the House it is obligatory to put all these questions—that we leave it to the community upon the requisition to put one or both. If there is only a prohibitory Resolution there will be a simple ballot-paper vote for prohibition, and if both prohibition and limitation are desired there will be a ballot paper with "Are you in favour of total prohibition?" upon it, and then opposite "Yes" or "No." Upon the same ballot paper would also be, "If you are not in favour of prohibition, are you in favour of limitation?" So much for the taking of the vote. Where both are proposed, the votes on the prohibitory Resolution will be counted first, and if that Resolution is carried the votes on the limiting Resolution will not be 1175 counted. Now that describes the situation where no previous Resolution has been enforced. That is the way the thing stands when you begin. But where a prohibitory Resolution is in force, after a lapse of three years a Resolution may be proposed to repeal it. It will be impossible then to propose a limiting Resolution for this reason—that there is nothing to limit. The licences have all gone during the three years, and therefore the discretion must remain absolute with the magistrates after that repeal until a limiting Resolution may be proposed. But where a limiting Resolution is in force and not a prohibitory Resolution, there may be, at the expiration of the term of three years, three alternatives proposed. A limiting Resolution may be in force, but the community may desire to substitute for it prohibition, or they may desire, not prohibition, but further limitation beyond one-fourth, or they may be dissatisfied with the operation of the limiting Resolution and vote for its repeal altogether. That might be done after experience of the limiting Resolution. The votes would be counted in the order I have stated, and when one is found to be carried the subsequent votes will not be counted Now I think what I have said sufficiently accurately describes what we propose with reference to local option upon prohibitory and limiting Resolutions. There are other provisions in the Bill which prohibit retail sale while a prohibitory Resolution is in force by other dealers in liquors not under justices' licences—I mean wine dealers and others who have the power of selling by retail without a justice's licence at all. Of course in a prohibitory district such retail sale would be forbidden altogether, and where a limiting Resolution is in force such dealers will be called upon to take out a justice's licence for retail dealing, which will be under the same conditions as other ordinary licences. Occasional licences will be subject to the same conditions as restricted licences, and there are supplementary provisions in the Bill as to corrupt and illegal practices. Now I come to one point which is important, and that is what we called in a former Bill, I think, "exemptions" from the operations of these prohibitory and limiting votes, and which we have called restricted licences. I will ask 1176 leave on this point to do what I admit is a bad practice, viz. to quote myself, but I do it to show we are guided by the same principle that we acted on before. I should like to read the words I used in 1893:—This is a Bill which is not conceived in any spirit of narrow fanaticism. We do not desire 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 can be more injurious to the cause of temperance. This Bill is directed against the bar of the gin palace and the tap-room of the public house and the beershop. It is not intended to prevent the consumption of liquor by such people as desire or require it, whether travelling on the railway, or where 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. 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.'It is upon that principle we introduced the exemptions which were in the Bill of 1893, and upon which are founded what are called in this Bill the restricted licences. I here apply to a class of house the licensing of which is also under the justices, but which we do not propose to place under the operation of these Resolutions of prohibition or limitation; and, in order to prevent any misconception, I had better read the words of the Bill:—Where a prohibiting or limiting Resolution is in force, and it is shown to the satisfaction of the licensing justices that any premises whether previously licensed or not, are constructed, fitted and intended to be used in good faith exclusively for the purposes of an hotel, eating-house, or railway refreshment-room, as herein defined, or any of them, and not to be so constructed and fitted as to be suitable for the retail sale of intoxicating liquors otherwise than for such purposes"—that is, for the purpose of meals and entertaining people residing in an hotel—"the licensing justices may, in their discretion, grant in respect of such premises a license expressed to be restricted as a licence for an hotel, eating-house, or railway refreshment-room or any of them, and such licence is in this Act referred to as a restricted licence.Then there is a description of this class of houses to which these licences are to be reserved, subject, of course, to the discretion of the magistrates as to 1177 their number and the necessities of the district:—In this section the expression hotel includes an inn, and the purpose of an hotel or inn is the accommodation of travellers and of persons lodging therein; the purpose of an eating-house is the supply of meals to persons on the premises; and the purpose of a railway refreshment-room is the supplying of refreshments at railway stations to persons who arrive or depart by the railway, and who are not travelling for the purpose of obtaining intoxicating liquors.[Laughter.] It is really no laughing matter; there is a good deal of it; and it is a thing with which it is necessary to deal. These licences are to be restricted by any such conditions as the magistrates may see fit to impose on them, and the justices are required each year, when these licences are renewed, specially to examine whether these conditions have been complied with. These are practically, with some differences of detail, the exemptions which we dealt with in the Bill of 1893. There is another provision with reference to these restricted licences which I ought to explain to the House. I will suppose that, in a district where the limiting Resolution is in force, the limitation has left six ordinary licences to be granted. It may be a small country town, with one or more inns; that inn, under the provision, will have a restricted licence; but, if there are to be six of the ordinary licences, no house probably will be fitter to be in charge, if I may use that phrase, of such a licence than that inn. Therefore it would be enabled to have an ordinary licence in addition to the restricted licence. There is one other question which is very much disputed, and that is the question of Sunday closing. I know there is a very strong opinion on the part of a great number of the temperance party that Sunday closing ought to be made, not a matter of local option, but one of Imperial legislation, as it has been in Scotland, and as it has been in Wales. I will not go at length into that argument now; I did so in 1893. The Government believed it would be impossible in this country to enforce a universal Sunday Closing Bill, and in the state of opinion in England it would be most unwise, in the interests of temperance itself, to attempt to pass such a Bill. I believe that in many parts of the country such a measure would be strongly and earnestly resisted. Certainly nobody would think at present of attempting to 1178 carry out Sunday closing in London, and there are many other parts of the country where you could not do it with the accord and support of the public. The very principle on which we are proceeding is that restriction of this character must carry with it the opinions of the majority of the people, and unless you are satisfied, as you have reason to be satisfied in Scotland and Wales, that the large majority are in favour of compulsory Sunday closing, in my opinion you could not safely attempt it. But that is no reason why you should not have Sunday closing in Cornwall and other parts of the country where you would have the support of a majority of the people. In Cornwall you would have Sunday closing almost universally adopted by Local Option. Therefore we have inserted the provision which we introduced in 1893, that Sunday closing shall be applied by a vote to be taken by a simple majority, and we distinguish between Sunday closing and all other closing by enacting that a Sunday closing Resolution shall come into operation at the end of the current licences, and not be deferred for three years as in the case of the other Resolutions, and no further Resolution upon the subject can be put forward for three years.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
For the same area. I come now to the last and, perhaps, the most disputed point of all—the question of compensation. I gave reasons on a former occasion why compensation should not be applied to the case of terminable licences. It had been urged that long use and frequent renewal gave a sort of permanent title to compensation in these cases. There is one thing I think absolutely certain, and Gentlemen sitting upon the Benches opposite will not deny it. What if you are to deal with this Temperance Question upon the footing of money compensation you will not be able to deal with it at all. Gentlemen opposite tried that and they found such resistance, such condemnation of any such principle, that they were obliged to abandon the attempt to adopt it. Even their own supporters would not have it, and the country would not accept it; and yet whenever we have proposed to deal with the matter in a 1179 different way, not by money compensation, but by what we call time compensation for a number of years, we are met with the cry of robbery, plunder, and confiscation. We are so used to that, that we have ceased to suffer from the imputation. There is no great reform that has been passed in this country during the last 50 years against which the same cry has not been raised. When we are told that these proposals are of the nature of robbery, plunder, and confiscation, I should like to refer to the examples of some other nations and States who may, perhaps, be deemed to be more honest than ourselves. Let us see what has been the course pursued with regard to compensation in other countries. I refer again to Mr. Fanshawe's book on temperance experience in America. There is no country in which experiments in temperance reform have been attempted so universally; there is hardly any State in the United States in which temperance reform has not been tried in one shape or another. This is what Mr. Fanshawe says:—In America reductions in the number of licences have sometimes been carried out in a very sweeping way. Boston" (which has not been considered a robbing, plundering, and confiscating part of the Union) "made a reduction in one year from 1,780 to 780; Philadelphia, in one year, from 5,770 to 1,740; Minneapolis, in three or four years, from 535 to 230, notwithstanding a rapid growth of population, and all without a dollar of compensation.So there are robbers and confiscators elsewhere than in England. Mr. Fanshawe further says:—The Compensation Question received little attention—indeed, can hardly be said to have any political existence, so far as the saloon keepers are concerned. Such advocacy as is forthcoming in favour of any such claim is little more than academic, and renewals of licences have been refused in the most wholesale way without the question of compensation being seriously raised. The only real controversy which has arisen in connection with this question was upon the right of brewers and distillers to be compensated for loss of capital on the passing of a law prohibiting the manufacture of liquor, and the final decision was against the claim.That is the view taken in the United States on the subject of compensation. Well, then, I will come to Scandinavia, and this is what Mr. Wilson, in his book on "Local Option in Norway," says:—Finally, public opinion decided that there could exist no vested right in a trade, the right 1180 to exercise which was dependent on the possession of a licence granted only for a term without any obligation to renew longer than public interests permitted, and that there could be no question of compensation for disturbance in exercising a trade, the right to exercise which had expired by the effluxion of the term for which the licence was granted.He stated his case as if it were a legal case, and he finishes by saying:—Judgment was accordingly given for the defendant; the societies won the day, and the publicans were ousted from the licences without a farthing of compensation for the refusal to renew their licences.Those were the robbers and confiscators of the pattern country of Norway, and that is their view of this question. Then I come to the immaculate Gothenburg, and the same principle still applies. This is what Mr. Whyte says:—What Mr. Larsson and I told you as to the non-compensation to publicans for the loss of their licences is perfectly correct, since the company has never paid a penny of compensation to publicans or others, beyond two licences held for life or by burghership which the company acquired by private arrangements.There were certain non-renewable licences which were life licences—only a very small number—which were dealt with by agreement. As regards the great body of licences, there was no compensation given whatever. Mr. Whyte goes on:—The law of Norway did not require that any notice whatever should be given to licence-holders. At the end of the period for which the licences were granted, all right and title to them came to an end. The licences were not granted (as is the case in England) for one year and no longer, but for periods of from one year up to five years, which latter was the maximum number for which they could be granted.That is the manner in which the three countries in which temperance reform has been most largely and effectually dealt with have regarded the question of compensation for terminable licences; and, therefore, I commend it to those who use the kind of violent language which is sometimes employed on this subject. But now take our own country. What have we done? First of all there is Sunday closing. That, of course, was an infringement pro tanto of the right of property of the man who had got, and always had until Sunday closing was initiated, the right to trade for seven days. You said he was only to trade 1181 for six days. That may be considered as decidedly an invasion of the right of his property, but you gave no compensation in that case. But there is another very remarkable case. There are what are called beerhouses that existed before 1869. They were under a special protection. They had a right of renewal if they fulfilled four separate conditions; but what happened to those houses as regards those licences? A Bill was introduced into this House by Mr. Ritchie, in the Government of 1880 and 1882, when the whole of that protection was taken away from those beerhouses as regards sale off the premises. They were subjected to the absolute discretion of the magistrates, and their rights of conditional renewal, which before were under protection, were taken away, and not a farthing of compensation was given. ["No, No."] I will not go into an argument about that, but I will satisfy the hon. Gentlemen who dispute that that I am right. They will find that under the Act of 1880 and the Act of 1882 the off-licence of those beerhouses were subjected to the absolute discretion of the magistrates.
§ MR. H. C. O. BONSOR (Wimbledon)
Off-licences and beerhouses are two absolutely different things. The off-licences were the old Excise licences: the beerhouses were always under the magistrates.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
My hon. Friend is entirely mistaken. I am speaking of off-beerhouses, I am not speaking of off-licences. There are beerhouses that are licensed to sell off the premises, and there are those that are licensed to sell on the premises. And the Acts of 1880 and 1882 took away the protection which was given to the beerhouses licensed to sell off the premises under the Act of 1869, and took it away without compensation. I will refer my hon. Friend to the Act of 1869, Section 8, which was the Act that gave the protection, and then I will refer him to the Acts of 1880 and 1882, which took away the protection. The effect was that, whereas those houses could not be refused a licence except on those conditions, those two Acts took away the protection and gave the magistrates absolute discretion to refuse the licence, and that was done without any compensation whatever. There are, then, these two examples—there is that of 1182 Sunday closing and there is this example, that the beerhouse off-licences are under the absolute discretion of the magistrates. I come now to the principle which everyone who is familiar with this subject knows very well, and which is known by the name of the case of Sharp and Wakefield, which laid down that the magistrates had beyond question a legal power to refuse the renewal of all licences, and they have exercised that power, and had exercised it for years. Every year there was made to this House a Return—I think I moved for it first—of the refusal of licences by magistrates which showed the grounds upon which the licences have been refused. And every year a very large number of licences were refused upon no other ground except that in the case of Sharp and Wakefield, which was that the house is not wanted. I exclude all the cases where other grounds were alleged, such as unfitness of the premises or misconduct of the tenant. All those are excluded, and if anybody will take the trouble, as I have, of analysing those Returns, he will find that in the year 1890–91 there are 87 of such cases; in 1892, 44; and in 1893 I think there were 58 in which no reason was alleged except that they were superfluous and not wanted, and no compensation was given. The moral of all this is that the Justices have taken away these licences, or, rather, they have not taken them away, but they have refused to renew them, as they were lawfully entitled to do, and they have done it without compensation. The compensation, as I have said, which we offer, and the only compensation which I think can be offered, is that which I have called a time compensation. There will be notice, upon the passing of a Bill like this, to the publican that a Resolution either of prohibition or of limitation may be brought into operation, and it cannot happen that a man will be turned out without any notice at all. He will have notice, and there will be time in which he will be able to arrange his affairs. I am afraid I have taken up the time of the House too long already, but there is one other point to which I wish to refer, and that is with reference to the application of this Bill to Ireland. This Bill has not been applied to Ireland because we contemplate the time when Ireland will deal 1183 with this question herself. [Opposition laughter.] Oh, yes, I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite are as little disposed to allow Ireland to deal with this question of temperance herself as with anything else, but that, at all events, is our opinion, and if Ireland prefers that we should deal with it we must hear that from Ireland herself. That is the reason, and that is the only reason, why this Bill does not apply to Ireland. I will now relieve the House from any further detail. I have endeavoured in the statement I have made to import into this discussion as little of passion and of prejudice and of exaggeration as is possible. I am painfully conscious of the great difficulties surrounding this momentous question and the powerful interests which are arrayed against any attempt to deal with it. It offers, no doubt, a very tempting implement of Party warfare; but the support or the defeat of this measure, or of any measure like it, does not depend upon Party organisation; nor will it, in the last result, be determined by Party spirit. The convictions to which such a measure appeals lie deep in the consciences of tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of all sorts and conditions of men and of women, who take but little interest in Party strife, but who, from the bottom of their hearts, believe that of all social questions this is the greatest, who passionately hold that of all political duties—I mean duties to the body politic in the highest sense of the word—the first and the foremost is to grapple with this corroding mischief which is eating into the core and vitals of the people. It is to you they look—and they have the right to look—for some hope, some light, some cure for this the darkest stain which disfigures your national life. They will not ask whether you are Liberals or Tories, Nationalists or Unionists; they will ask who amongst you, as representatives of this people, are willing to cooperate in so great a cause. It is my fervent hope, as it is my confident belief, that this Parliament will not close without a sincere and strenuous effort to lay the foundations of this supreme reform—a reform which shall give to the nation the right and the power to redeem itself by its own voice from this bitter curse, by which it has been too long afflicted. We, at least, who are the responsible 1184 Government, and who are answerable to the nation for the conduct of its affairs, dare not, and will not, shrink from the responsibility which rightly attaches to us; and it is, Sir, in discharge of that binding obligation that I ask leave to introduce this Bill.
§ *SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
I confess that I listened with some amusement to the very solemn passage at the end of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in which he told us that the Government really meant seriously to carry forward this Bill in the present Session of Parliament. I am sorely tempted to criticise some of the details of the Bill, for I confess I do not think that the curious and complicated system which has just been expounded to us will evoke from any section of the House or from any part of the country such cordial acceptance and support as will induce the Government ever to give us a chance of discussing it on Second Reading. But before I call attention to some of the remarkable features of this proposal I will deal with the larger statements by which the right hon. Gentleman introduced his speech. He has appealed to us not to look on this as a Party question, and he has said truly that if great social mischiefs exist and Parliament is called upon to remedy them by legislation, they ought not to be regarded as Party questions. If there were here a real mischief to be dealt with, and a real scheme by which we could have any expectation of its being mitigated or removed, there would be no Party organisation or antagonism employed against the proposal. But the right hon. Gentleman has talked of the great interest which is opposed to this scheme. The greatest interest opposed to the scheme is the good sense of the people, which will not tolerate such proposals as this which is put before us to-day. But is there this terrible mischief, which it is necessary to deal with by legislation? I do not admit it. The right hon, Gentleman has talked about this "corroding canker" that is eating out the life of the people; about this curse by which we have been so long afflicted. No one denies that there is a great deal of intemperance, which has produced a great deal of mischief. But to talk about it as "a corroding canker" and as "a curse" in such a sense as the 1185 right hon. Gentleman uses those phrases, is to utter a slander on the character of our people. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted statements made by himself in 1893. If I go back to an earlier date, and quote what he said in 1872, it is not at all for the purpose of vexing him with old speeches inconsistent with the present proposal, but because I believe that in earlier times he expressed well, and with full knowledge, the facts of the case. It was not in the right hon. Gentleman's untutored youth, but when he was quite capable of judging the considerations with which he dealt. In 1872 the right hon. Gentleman had been four years in this House, and within a year he became one of the Law Officers of the Crown. He said then—I have heard it said that the greater part of the crime, poverty, and disease of this country is the result of increased and increasing drunkenness. If that were the fact, that is an unquestionable abuse for legislation. But when I come to examine these assertions I find that they cannot be supported.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
If hon. Gentlemen will wait they will see that that observation is not very relevant.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Immediately after I went to the Home Office I supported the Local Option proposal of 1883.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
That is not in the least relevant. The right hon. Gentleman continued in the speech from which I am quoting—As to crime, although the greater zeal of the police and vigour of the magistrates have somewhat increased the committals for minor offences, including that of drunkenness itself, there is a marked and satisfactory decrease in all the classes of greater offences which affect the safety of society throughout the kingdom. This will not be denied, for it is a fact of which the Home Office loudly and justly boasts. We at least know nothing of increase of crime here, for the white flag has been flying, and Oxford Gaol has been empty. As to pauperism, the returns of the Poor Law Board show a general decrease of from 10 to 15 per cent., as might have been expected from the increased wages and improved condition of the people; as to disease, I have examined the Registrar General's returns, and I find the most striking decrease in deaths from causes directly attributable to intemperance. The deaths due to these causes, which 20 years ago averaged 46 in the million of the population, have fallen in 1870 to 29, a decrease of more than 30 per cent. Facts like these are worth 1186 whole bushels of platform declamation. I see in them no exceptional condition of things which can form any justification for exceptional legislationI believe that these statements were perfectly true in 1872; but what has happened since? What is called "temperance legislation" has absolutely failed. Proposals have been made over and over again, but none of them have been accepted. On the other hand, temperance has steadily increased. Those phenomena to which the right hon. Gentleman pointed with great justice in 1872 as an indication of the improved habits of the people, and as showing how unnecessary it was to resort to exceptional legislation, have been increasing rapidly. Crime has so much decreased that the only public buildings with which we do not know what to do are our prisons; and the only class of public servants who are lamenting the impossibility of advancement or promotion are the unfortunate prison clerks. The returns as to disease show the same result; and the diminution in deaths due to intemperance and in pauperism shows that the process then remarked by the right hon. Gentleman has been going on since. But more than that, in the last 23 years we have had ups and downs of national prosperity, and increases and decreases in pauperism and crime. But there is no relation between the amount spent by people on drink, and the pauperism and crime of the country. Pauperism has been observed to increase when less money has been spent on drink; and indeed that is the usual course; for the expenditure on drink, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer must know, has relation, not to the evil habits of the people, but to the capacity of the poorer people to give themselves more of those enjoyments and indulgences which the great majority of us are constantly able to enjoy. While this excellent change has been taking place, temperance legislation has made no progress at all. During the last 25 years there has been a series of proposals in regard to this matter. The Permissive Prohibitory Bill was abandoned in order that recourse should be had to Resolutions, and Mr. John Bright, after that Bill had been abandoned, said there were not five persons in the House who believed that, 1187 if it had been passed, it would ever have been adopted in the country. The right hon. Gentleman remembers what those Resolutions have been. He has said this ought not to be made a Party question, and in the large sense to which I have referred I agree with him. But it has been made a Party question for the last 20 or 25 years. The organisation of the United Kingdom Alliance has been worked as if it were an auxiliary organisation of the Radical Party. Every Member of Parliament knows perfectly well how that organisation has been worked. Liberal Members of the House know that the organisation which has induced them to accept proposals of what is called Temperance Legislation is an organisation which does not represent by any means the whole of the Liberal voters in the constituencies; it represents very often a minority of those who support the hon. Members; but that minority is so well organised, so well drilled, so absolutely determined to subordinate to that particular question all other issues, that they have obtained a force in the House which I do not believe their numbers at all entitle them to, and which I believe would be found to have absolutely no effective authority amongst the people if ever it came to apply such a measure as this. My experience is, that I have never stood at an election without having a temperance meeting, said to be a non-Party temperance meeting, held in the place I have the honour to represent, and I think on every occasion the two candidates opposed to me have been on the platform taking part in these neutral operations. And what has happened is this. From time to time, as it was thought desirable for the purpose of affecting electoral action, this matter has been brought forward and a speech made by one of the Leaders of the Party opposite, which could be quoted as an encouragement to those long-enduring and long-suffering teetotallers who were beginning to lose confidence in the Party to which they belonged. Everybody knows it has not been seriously meant. In March, 1880, a Resolution in favour of Local Option was defeated by a some-what substantial majority. At the General Election, shortly afterwards, the Liberal Party were returned with their large majority, and in June, 1880, there was a majority of 88 in favour of Local 1188 Option. One would have thought that a Ministry that had a majority of 88 on this subject, and was destined to stay in Office from 1880 to 1885, might have found some opportunity for indulging the great desire of its life to pass a Local Option Bill. Oh, no! The "corroding canker" existed then, I suppose; the national curse was afflicting the people, but not a step was taken to legislate. In 1883 a Resolution was proposed calling upon the Government to take immediate action, and nothing could exceed the solemnity with which the right hon. Gentleman opposite then dealt with the matter. He said he was speaking, not only for himself, but for the whole Government—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian prompted him as he spoke, and authorised him to say he was speaking for the Government—when he said they recognised the absolute urgency of the matter. Twelve years have passed, and there has been no serious attempt to deal with the question on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. That urgency lasted 12 years. The "corroding canker" has continued for 12 years without any serious attempt to deal with the question on the part of the right hon. Gentleman or his friends, who have only used it as an instrument for advancing electoral operations. From time to time it is mentioned here in the hope that the speeches would be circulated, and might do something to persuade the Member for Cockermouth that at last something was going to be done. What has happened this year? I shall listen with great interest to the speeches I trust we may have from the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth and the hon. Member for Bradford, in the hope that they will tell us what they think of the change of front on the part of the Government. In 1893 the right hon. Gentleman introduced a Bill which had a provision for Local Veto properly so-called—that is to say, a vote was to be taken in an area, similar to that which is now prescribed, by a constituency almost the same—it is now parochial electors instead of municipal electors. The Resolution required a two-thirds majority in order to carry it, and that was to be a Resolution to shut up all houses altogether, subject, of course, to the exceptional licences of 1189 which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken. In dealing with that Bill the right hon. Gentleman explained why it was that the Bill was confined to the question of Local Veto. He said:—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 Question 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; and, therefore, no doubt Licensing Boards will hereafter have to be created, and will probably have to devise a Licensing Committee.He then went on to say:—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.Later on, in the course of the same speech, the light hon. Gentleman said the question of the reduction of licences could only be dealt with on a comprehensive plan. But before introducing this Bill the right hon. Gentleman, has received directions of a different character. In November last the Prime Minister went to Glasgow, and made a very interesting speech upon, amongst other subjects, the Licensing Question. He said:—We, as you already know, have introduced a Bill on this question; it was introduced in 1893, and it was on the model of what is called the Liquor Veto Bill. It was not introduced in 1894, because of circumstances of which you are familiar. But I do not build such high hopes on the Liquor Veto Bill as some of its supporters are prone to do. I think it is a step in the right direction, because, after all, it strikes at the root of the matter; but prohibition of drink is a matter for local control. It is a matter indeed of local police.That is a most important and valuable statement. The Prime Minister went on to say:—Will the Liquor Bill shut up as many house as we suppose? On this point I, for one, am no perfectly certain. I say it is a step in the right direction, but I am not sure if, between the choice of all or none, communities will be found to give unhesitatingly a large vote in favour of none.The noble Lord also said—and I presume 1190 it is in consequence of this opinion that the right hon. Gentleman has been directed to bring in the Bill in the form in which we have it to-day:—I myself believe that in any ways it will be a more practical measure to give some option in a Bill of that kind, an option of control and diminution as well as of total annihilation, and I am inclined to think that in that respect the Bill of Mr. Maclagan, which is now under the charge of Mr. John Wilson, offers a larger prospect of really controlling and reducing the drink traffic than this Liquor Veto Bill, which is a production of the United Kingdom Alliance. Now, the president of the United Kingdom Alliance said that nobody could make a speech upon liquor to please everybody, and therefore I shall not pursue this perilous subject further except to say this, that, in my opinion, you will never deal with this question in a, piecemeal fashion or a fragmentary fashion.The passage I have read is a passage in which the Prime Minister said what sort of a Bill he would like. He went on to say:—You may lay down a principle in an advance Bill so to speak and follow it up later and more fully, but if you are to grapple with this enormous question you will need all the force of the great Parliamentary majority and all the time a Parliamentary Session can give you.So that we have this pleasant situation to-night. We have a Bill introduced which throws over the United Kingdom Alliance. This is a Licensing Bill. A Bill for the reduction of licences involves an authority given by a public vote for the existence of a certain number of licences, and in that sense it is a recognition of licensing, and is, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out in 1893, a Licensing Bill. Why is that adopted? Because it is perfectly clear that a simple veto would probably have scarcely any effect in the country, and for several reasons. This question appears to be argued by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite as if we were all agreed that for a certain class of persons—not ourselves, but people not so well off as we are—total abstinence from intoxicating drinks is a good thing. By this time the general opinion and general experience of the world is, that for the majority of people a moderate, consumption of intoxicants is a good and not a bad thing. Some time ago we had the opinions of medical men bandied about on one side and the other, and it has occurred to me that one of the best, tests in this matter would be one, gathered from the experience of the 1191 Front Benches above the Gangway in this House. I think that if you were to try and select a number of men who thoroughly represent different classes, different kinds of education and training, different traditions, different national influences—you could not get a better all-round representation of men whose experience should guide you than you would find in the, say 25, Gentlemen who habitually sit on the Front Government Bench and the 25 Gentlemen who habitually sit opposite to them, and, of course, in a certain number of years —suppose you take 20 or 30 years —that would mean a very large number of persons bringing all their different experiences to bear. I believe there is one Member of the present Government a total abstainer. [Laughter and cries of "Name?"] I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt), a Member of the present Government, is one; but I do not believe a second total abstainer could be named amongst all the men who have sat on those Benches during the last 30 years. I cannot imagine a more complete test upon this question, than that such a body of men of different constitutions and tastes, subject to considerable mental and physical strain, should find an aid to health in a moderate consumption of intoxicating liquors. Sir, there is a most important omission in this Bill, as there was in that of 1893. The Bill, I notice, does not propose to deal with clubs. You will find it absolutely impossible to deal satisfactorily with this Licensing Question without dealing, at the same time, with clubs. If this Bill were to come into operation, and all the public houses in a particular district were shut up by the votes of a two-thirds majority of the people voting, you would find your difficulty in regard to clubs would be ten times as great as your difficulty in dealing with licensed premises; and that difficulty in regard to clubs the right hon. Gentleman does not in the least propose to deal within this Bill.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I ought to have said that I was perfectly conscious of the necessity of dealing with clubs; but, as the provisions of this Bill will not come into operation for three years, we think there is plenty of time to deal with the 1192 matter, and we think it would be more advantageous to deal with it in a separate Bill than in this Bill.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
I can quite understand that; but I hope the proposals of that separate Bill will be before us when we are dealing with this Bill. In speaking of clubs, I am not referring to clubs of which we are Members, such as the expensive West End clubs. But the whole place is covered with workmen's clubs, which supply drink in circumstances and under conditions which, I think, are often hurtful to the welfare of the clubs themselves; and which certainly remove for a great many people the limitations on licensed houses. And unless you provide for these clubs in the same measure, or at the same time, as you deal with the Licensing Question, you will find that a great number of other clubs will arise and will take the places of the public houses in the social economy, and thus create a very great difficulty indeed. The most satisfactory time, then, for dealing with the clubs is when you are dealing with the whole Licensing Question. The principal addition to this Bill, as compared with the Bill of 1893, is a provision by which it shall be competent for municipal or parochial voters, by a vote of two-thirds majority to shut up the public-houses, or, by a simple majority, to reduce the number of public-houses by one-fourth. How difficult it will be to apply that provision in different localities any one will see who gives a little thought to the matter. I have tried to get the proportion of parochial voters and municipal voters to the whole population. I find the proportion is about one-sixth or one-seventh of the population. Say there are 6,000 people in a district, one-half the population, roughly speaking, is over 20 years of age. There are only 1,000 voter amongst these 3,000 persons over 20 years old; but you will probably only get about 600 to vote; and of these 600 voters, 400, if they voted for extinction, could put an end not only to the existence of retail licences, but to the total sale of liquor—except under the restricted licences to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—in that district with a grown population of 3,000. That seems to me a most extraordinary proposal. If you are to indulge in what the right 1193 hon. Gentleman years ago called "democratic despotism"—if you are to enable a certain proportion of the people to shut others out from obtaining and enjoying those things which they enjoy as innocently and reasonably as we enjoy them ourselves, surely it can only be done by establishing a great and overwhelming public necessity? I say there is no such public necessity. I say our people have, during the past quarter of a century, advanced in sobriety, thrift, and industry, and have become a higher-toned people in every respect. Why, then, cannot we leave things alone? Win need we go on having these essays in licensing reform when the work which is going on steadily amongst the people apart from all legislation is producing such advantageous results? There is also in the Bill what I consider another most extraordinary and mischievous proposition. The right hon. Gentleman says that he would extinguish what is called the ordinary licence, including grocers' licences, but would permit what he calls restricted licences, being those for hotels and eating houses, and the railway station licences to be used by those whom he described in a phrase which very much amused the House—"as people who are not travelling for the sake of drink." It is said that the Bill will not interfere with licensed houses where people have drink with their meals. Why, then, not call it "A Bill to induce working-men to dine at the public houses instead of at home"? If working-men cannot get at home with their meals that which everyone recognises they naturally ought to have, they will be driven from dining at home to dining in the public houses, and if you can imagine a system of licensing in which that existed, I think you would imagine a system which would not last a couple of years after it had been established. The right hon. Gentleman said, in dealing with the question of Sunday Closing, that, if Home Secretary, he would not answer for the preservation of public order in London if universal Sunday Closing were suddenly enforced. Supposing, in a particular district, containing 3,000 grown people, 400 voters decided that all public houses should be closed, and that nobody should have any drink at all unless he could get it from his cellar or his club, or unless he had 1194 his meals at a public house, I should like to hear the Home Secretary say what would be the difficulty of enforcing authority and order in this case. This system, as I venture to call it, is an injurious and a complicated system. It is not to come into operation for three years, and I understand, if this Bill were passed, there might be a Vote, say next November, with regard to the shutting up of public houses in a particular district, and then that Resolution would stand, although it would not come into force for three years. But I do not attach importance to the Resolution, for shutting up the public houses of a district altogether. I do not think it likely that in any place with a considerable population such a resolution would be carried. It might be carried in the ward of a town. The majority of the people of a particular ward might be so happily circumstanced as to be able to do without public houses themselves; and might be careless of the convenience of their humbler neighbours; but if they were to carry such resolution the only result would be the sending of the trade to the next ward, and, as a consequence, the creation of local difficulties of a serious kind. I therefore do not attach importance to the resolution for the total closing of public houses. But, in regard to reduction, an extraordinary proposal is made. Take the case of a large area with 120 public houses. There would, naturally, be a difficulty in getting local opinion to fix on a particular reduction, and that difficulty the right hon. Gentleman had escaped by taking an established reduction. If the people of the district want a reduction at all they must vote for a reduction of 30. But having voted for a reduction of 30 in the public houses, who is to decide what particular public houses are to be shut up? Not the people, but the justices. The effect of passing a resolution that the number of licences is to be reduced is therefore to give the magistrates a clean sheet to say that they may or may not grant any licences at all. Now, it would be utterly contrary to their duty not to grant licences at all; because the duty of the magistrates is not to exercise their own capricious judgment as to whether licences are or are not to be granted. What they have got to do is to licence respectable and 1195 reputable people to keep houses for the accommodation of the necessities and wants of the people.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
I beg your pardon, it is the law. That principle runs through all the Licensing Acts; and over and over again, in cases where the magistrates have passed an arbitrary resolution that they would give no more licences, the Queen's Bench has laid it down that that was not the business of the magistrates; and that it was the duty of the magistrates to grant a licence when a proper case was made out for it. This would be under cover of a resolution proposing to reduce the number of licences, putting the magistrates in a position to refuse all licences altogether, and people who had voted for only three-fourths of the existing licences would find their decision interpreted into a decision that there should be no licences at all. But suppose the magistrates had to say which 30 licences would be taken away, what do you think would be the strength of the opposition in a district to that proposal? Nobody would know that it might not be the very house which was the most convenient in his own neighbourhood which would be struck down, and everybody interested in any way, or sympathetic in any way, with any house which then existed, would join together in opposing such a resolution, and I believe you would have upon the Statute Book an idle proposal which would have no effect at all. The right hon. Gentleman gave an instance which appalled the House of a street of 27 houses where 15 were licensed houses of one kind or another. I think I can guess where it was. I think it probably was Portsmouth, and probably a street where the houses are not used for the resort of the resident population, but are in the neighbourhood of the quays where there is a large floating population, which requires to have a number of licensed houses.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
That may be, but I do not see why the British sailor should not have his drink if he wants it just as much as the British legislator. I agree there probably is an enormous excess of licensed houses there, 1196 but I am not sure you would do any good by reducing by one half the number of licensed houses. Then we come across this extraordinary delusion under which hon. Gentlemen have been arguing for years past, and which I thought would have been dismissed to limbo by that letter of the right hon. Member for Midlothian—namely, the idea that by limiting the number of public houses you materially affect the consumption of drink. I remember in 1880 quoting a remarkable and interesting paper, written by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, which had appeared in one of the reviews a year or two before. The right hon. Gentleman took great pains, indeed, to examine by statistics whether there was any ascertainable relation between the number of licensed houses and the amount of drunkenness, and with his article he published an interesting chart, where 100 of the largest towns were arranged in a list, and lines were drawn indicating the proportion of convictions for drunkenness to the population and the proportion of licensed houses. There was no conceivable relation between one line and the other, and it was perfectly clear that, with regard to 100 of our largest towns you could to-morrow diminish the number of licensed houses, and at the same time do nothing whatever to deal with the question of drunkenness. I think it is sometimes the other way, and that there is very often much more drinking induced by the splendid show and lavish ornamentation of places which, because they are doing a large trade can afford to become so very attractive, than by the quieter, but respectable and humble tavern. I thought this idea had been dismissed. What the right hon. Member for Midlothian said was this:—The mere limitation of numbers, the idol of Parliament for the last 20 years, is, if pretending to the honour of a remedy, little better than an imposture.When all these strange proposals are being made to reduce the number of public houses I think that evidence of fact which was given some 16 years ago, and this testimony of opinion from the Member for Midlothian, ought to be sufficient to dispose of proposals of this kind. There is one other subject on 1197 which I wish to say a word, and that is Compensation, which I do think is a serious and important subject, not because it enables one to use hard language, for I am not going to put it in that way at all. But, in the case of a man who has properly conducted the trade which the State has recognised by taking licence duties from him, and allowing him to open the house, I do think that to arbitrarily take away his licence would be an injustice and an indefensible interference with property, and I do not think there is anything in the illustrations which the right hon. Gentleman gives. I remember some years ago refusing to give pledges at all upon the question of Sunday opening. I look upon that as a matter of police; where the State, recognising the existence of the trade, which it has encouraged and protected and privileged, and from which it has got a very large amount of money, has a perfect right to regulate the existence of that trade; and I do not think it can be put at all as a matter of confiscation when the State interfered with regard to Sunday Closing. As to the beershops, the right hon. Gentleman is quite mistaken about that matter. I will not go into the technicalities of it, but I think he will find that he is quite mistaken, and that after the passing of the Acts of 1880 and 1882 there still remained the beershops licensed under the Act of 1869, which continued to have the privilege—and have to this day—of retaining their licences, except on certain specified grounds. With regard to Compensation, I am not going to deal with those phrases about confiscation, robbery, spoliation, and so on, by which the right hon. Gentleman tried to discount any attack which would be made on his Bill. My view with regard to Compensation is this: I do not believe you will ever get a substantial reduction of the number of licensed houses unless you give some sort of compensation; for the public feeling is, that to take away a man's livelihood when you have given him a licence to carry on business in a particular place, and when he is carrying on that business honestly and honourably, is a thing the State has no right to do. If the State changes its mind and thinks it would be better if this trade were not carried on, then, surely the loss ought not to fall on the individual, but 1198 on the community; and there should be some sort of compensation given for the loss of advantage he has sustained. This has been recognised again and again. Mr. John Bright himself said that care ought to be taken, and there ought to be a reference to compensation. In 1880 the right hon. Member for Midlothian, when supporting a Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, said that he would have been better pleased with that Resolution if it had contained some reference to the principle of equitable compensation. I cannot say that I think the Government is in earnest in this matter at all. But if they are, I believe they would find that their progress in this sort of legislation would be made much more easy and effective if they were frankly to recognise the hardship which their plans would inflict upon honest and well-deserving citizens, and were to make some compensation for the injury which is done. For myself, I say exactly what I said in 1880. I did not believe then, and I do not believe now, and I have never seen any reason whatever for believing any one of these schemes is desirable to be put in practice. I am not speaking of the Gothenberg, or the Scandinavian, or the other schemes which have been mentioned this evening, the discussion of which stands a little apart from the Debate of to-night. Just see the position we are in with regard to this Question. I have made a collection of Licensing Bills now before the House of Commons, and I find no fewer than 60 Members of this House have put their names upon some one Bill or other containing some suggestion as to licensing authority or scheme. Why cannot we leave it alone? The good work of the improvement of the people in temperance is steadily going on without our interfering by Legislation, and I believe the work which temperance organisations have done, by precept and example, in teaching the people; I believe the work which the State at large has done in widening the area of popular education, and improving the condition of the homes of the people, is worth all the Licensing Bills and temperance Legislation which anybody has ever suggested to this House. As I say, I am afraid we are 1199 not likely at any time to have an opportunity of discussing the details of this Bill; but I hope I have said enough to show that, while it does not fulfil the desire of the United Kingdom Alliance, whilst it is a retreat, and a definite retreat, from the position which the Government, under the inspiration of the United Kingdom Alliance, took up in 1893, it still has in it—although they have tried to reduce to something like a practical form the claims of the United Kingdom Alliance—provisions which will aggravate and not mitigate the mischief it is intended to meet, provisions which, if put upon the Statute Book, would either be altogether ineffective, or would be, in their exercise, so directly contrary to the wishes and interests of the people at large, that they could not long have an effective existence.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
said, that the hon. and learned Member had referred to the United Kingdom Alliance, and, as he was President of that organisation, perhaps he might be allowed to say a few words on the subject. The hon. Member said this House was full of Bills regarding the sale of drink; that 60 Gentlemen had put their names to one Bill or another, and he asked why could they not leave it alone. The answer was that public opinion would not allow this question to be left alone, and such an instance as that quoted by the hon. and learned Gentleman showed the widespread demand out of doors for something to be done in this matter. This Bill was not the Bill of the United Kingdom Alliance, but the Bill of the Government, brought in by the Leader in that House of the Government on his responsibility, and on the responsibility of the Government itself. He must really say to the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite that this was not a teetotal Bill. The hon. Gentleman searched the Ministerial Benches through and through to see how many men sitting on them abstained, and he found them altogether barren. What did that matter? They were not attempting to make people teetotallers. They were dealing with the law which enabled certain places to be established that many people considered great 1200 nuisances, and they had to consider whether the people had a right to protect themselves from those nuisances or not. This was a question for the citizens of this country, whether teetotallers, moderate drinkers, or drunkards. It was more than 60 years since this question of the veto was first suggested by Mr. James Sil Duckingham, an eminent philanthropist of that day. Since then five Parliaments had been elected, and they had done very little in this matter. Not only had they had five Bills, but there had been six Resolutions which the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think very lightly of. The last Resolution said it wasUrgently necessary that the local power of restraining the issue and the renewal of licences may be placed in the hands of the inhabitants themselves.And that was the main principle of the Bill. Every Liberal Government for many years past had agreed as to the justice of this policy. He was struck by a remark of Mr. Schnadhorst's in 1886 when he said:—Only the moral force of the Temperance Party can bring back into power the Liberal Party.Yes, that was written in 1886, and they had done it in 1892. He wanted to prove that the Government had acted loyally and faithfully in what they were doing. The late Prime Minister, before that Election came off, said:—The Liberal Party were united as one man in resolving that the working man ought to have the same chance of protecting himself from the public house and the beer-shop as the great magistrate and the great landlord has now.In his humble opinion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had loyally redeemed the pledges which the Liberal Party made to the country before they went to the Election. The Government had brought in Bills dealing with the Welsh Church and Irish land. These Bills might be right or wrong, and they might be very important, but, after all, they only affected comparatively small sections of the community. This Bill affected some 35 millions of people. He knew nothing about the Bill which was to be brought in to-night. He only knew it was in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he had confidence his right hon Friend would do the right thing. He was sorry, however, 1201 there were exemptions in the Bill again, because that gave the Philistine occasion to revile. Then there were the restrictions and the new options. Of these he was not going to take account, because they were too mysterious and mystical for him. They showed a want of confidence in the justices. He was not going to vote want of confidence in Justices of the Peace, because he was one himself. He left that part of the subject, only saying that as during the last Session or two a good many of his friends had gone up and down saying what a great thing it would be if they had these options and restrictions in the Bill, he wished them joy of them. He would be happy to see what they made of them when the Bill got into Committee. There was one thing he was sorry about, and that was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not thought it necessary to include Ireland within its scope. If an Irishman was capable of exercising self-government in Imperial matters, surely he was as fit as an Englishman to say whether he would have a publichouse next door to him or not. It was not with his wish that Irishmen were excluded from this great benefit. Reverting to the option and restriction clauses, it must be understood that they had not been demanded by the prohibitionists; they had been demanded by a few Members, a few newspaper editors, and a few philosophers, who sat up in attics and did not know anything about it. Still, he recognised that the Bill gave the prohibitionists what they had asked for during so many years, and they should cordially support the Chancellor of the Exchequer in trying to get the Bill through the House. In last Parliament they passed a Resolution, which was unanimously supported by both Front Benches, saying it was a most dreadful thing to sell any liquor to native races. He had been trying ever since to prove to the House and the country that the English were a native race. Zulus, Kaffirs, Hottentots, they were protected. Why were Christians alone to have this liquor traffic forced upon them? What he liked about this Bill was its simplicity; only agitators liked simplicity, and he was an agitator. Years ago, the present Lord Selborne laid it down that there 1202 were three duties required of a magistrate in regard to licences—first, he had to consider the fitness of the man who applied for a licence; secondly, whether the house was a proper place; and thirdly, what were the wants of the neighbourhood. The whole object of the Bill was to provide a way by which magistrates might become informed of the wants of the neighbourhood. At present they sometimes made mistakes. Magistrates took care to protect themselves. They would not allow public houses to become a nuisance to themselves or their families; and the family of a working man was as precious in the sight of God and man as the family of any magistrate that ever lived. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had entered upon an arduous task. He would have to fight tremendously to get the Bill through. But they meant to fight. They had to fight a triple alliance. First there were the magistrates. They had the power, and naturally they sought to retain it. Then there was the trade; and lastly there was the great Tory Party, who for some reason thought it right to maintain a system by which public houses were to be forced upon a district against the will of the inhabitants. These three made what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham called a "swollen trinity." He congratulated the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his courage. He was the first Minister of the Crown who had ever brought in a Bill to deal a real crippling blow at the liquor trade. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would have his reward. What greater reward could there be than to destroy intemperance in this country and to introduce happiness into the homes of the people. He would make no prediction as to the immediate fate of the Bill. He was too old for that. The forces of ignorance, of appetite, and of interest would be leagued against it. Who would be on the other side? Every true Liberal who believed in the self-government of the people; every philanthropist who knew the horrors of the liquor traffic; all the best of the working classes; and almost all the religious communions in the country. They must win in the long run. Those who had worked for many long years in this cause believed in the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They 1203 believed that, having put his hand to the plough, he would not turn back. If he succeeded he would have done more than any statesman to abate the greatest curse which ever existed in this country. As for the House itself, they had heard the Speaker in his valedictory address express the heartfelt hope that it might have centuries of honour, and dignity, and usefulness before it. Whatever fate the House had before it, it would never do anything more honourable or more useful than to pass this measure.
§ MR. W. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)
desired to know why, if this Bill was to accomplish so many good results, it was to be restricted to England, Scotland, and Wales? If there was any measure which would be properly applicable to Ireland surely it was a measure which was in its nature a species of Home Rule. It would be difficult to know why the Government had not extended the Bill to Ireland, if they did not recollect that there were certain Irish constituencies where it would not give satisfaction. Yet Irish Members were not unwilling to pour down the throats of Englishmen and Scotchmen a measure which they would not have for themselves. The drink system was not, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, the outcome of our law; it was the outcome of national trading. It was true that the law had intervened for the purpose of restricting the trade, but it was quite a fallacy to say that drink could be put down by legislation. You could not make men moral by Act of Parliament. Then the right hon. Gentleman asked why the public should not have as great power of preventing the sale of drink as the owner of the land. That was a most unfair and utterly unsound proposition in the sense in which it was attempted to be enforced. The owner of the land exercised his power by virtue of his rights of ownership. Would the Chancellor of the Exchequer advance the proposition that the community had as good a right over a man's land as the man himself had? A man did not always prohibit public-houses on his property. It might be that he would be glad to have them erected on his land. He might not wish to have a publichouse, or an hotel, or even a church erected, say, in Grosvenor Square; but in the country, on the high 1204 road, a public house might be erected without injustice to anyone whatever. With regard to the Bill, the proposal was to give to the local authority power to assert a local veto and something more. That was to be Local Option. The Government were perfectly wise in saying that the area should be restricted—small and not large areas. Large areas would be intolerable, and involve, probably, a revolution if any attempt was made to carry it out all over the country. If they were to say that liquors should not be sold in any part of England, it would probably produce a revolution; that would produce a revolution in any country. It might be done in a small area, and for this reason. If they applied the local veto and Local Option to a particular parish, the people of that parish had only to cross over the border and get what liquor they wanted. They might restrict the sale in parish A, but that would cause a double quantity to be sold in parish B. Why should they turn a nuisance out of one parish into another parish? Another fault which would arise in this connection was the increased electioneering. They had now School Board elections disturbing the public mind for some time, parish and County Council elections, and, at this rate, they would become a nation of electioneers. They would have cliques all over the wards; they would have gatherings in public houses, and, on the other hand, meetings in schools and various other places. They would have the whole place up in arms in a species of civil war. That would not be a desirable state of things. But they were told that they would not have a fresh election until the end of three years. Of course, the moment an election was over the defeated party would set about preparing for the next fight, so that the parish would be kept in a state of turmoil. As soon as one party gained a victory the other side would begin at once to organise for the purpose of setting aside the verdict given by the electors. Then all kinds of influences would be set to work. It would not be a case of argument. All sorts of representations would be made to the electors, and all kinds of motives would be brought to bear. Even if they carried the Bill they would no more stop drunkenness than they could stem the 1205 Thames by tipping into it a few cartloads of stone. They would have people getting liquor in. They would have men forming themselves into clubs. There was this further point. With great propriety there is to be no interference in a man's own private house. If he could afford it, a man might order in his barrel of beer or half-dozen of whiskey and he could drink as he pleased—he might get drunk without incurring any penalty whatever. Was that fair? Was that dealing out the law equally between the rich and the poor? The Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt with compensation, and said that he heard the words robbery and plunder. After the Welsh Bill and some other Bills he did not wonder at those terms being employed. If it was not robbery and plunder, it was gross unfairness and gross injustice. That was the charge they made as regarded that particular Bill. It was provided that the magistrates had power to restrict one-fourth of the licences. Look at the jobbery that would result in picking out the one-fourth! In some cases £10,000, or £20,000, or even £50,000 might be sunk in one of these establishments. They would have to reduce 120 by 30. How were they to pick them out? That was not to be done by the voters, but by the magistrates. He did not want to say one word against the magistrates. He had seen at quarter sessions, when licensing questions had arisen, such crowds of magistrates that the bench could not hold them. They would have all manner of jobbery, and decisions arrived at which would be grossly unfair. He ventured to say that this was a power which ought not to be put into the hands of any magistrates. The discretion of the Magistrates had been misunderstood by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There were two classes of licences dealt with by the Magistrates. The first was the licences of public-houses, where spirits and wines were sold under the old Licensing Acts. In these cases there was a certain discretion vested in the Magistrates, but it was not an absolute discretion by any means. It had been the custom to continue these licences, and it would be an injustice to discontinue them except on very exceptional grounds. "Sharpe v. Wakefield" had decided that the discretion of the 1206 Magistrates was not an absolute but a judicial discretion—in other words, a discretion to be exercised in each individual case according to the wants of the neighbourhood. If the Magistrates were of opinion that there was no necessity for a particular public house, having regard to the necessities of the neighbourhood, they could, in the exercise of their judicial discretion, refuse to renew the licence, but they had no other power. Should they refuse to renew licences on the principle that the number of houses ought to be reduced generally, their decisions would be overruled by the Court of Queen's Bench. Then, Section 19 of the Act of 1869 protected all beer licences which were in existence in March, 1869, and gave distinctly to every beerhouse keeper a vested interest in his licence, which could not be taken away unless he failed to fulfil any one of the four conditions which the Act mentioned. All these circumstances were now to be disregarded in order to carry out the utopian ideas embodied in this Bill. It was very easy to talk as if, when dealing with public houses and beerhouses, they were only dealing with big brewers and hotel keepers, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to know that in many cases it was the property of widows that would be dealt with—widows who were dependent upon their public houses for their maintenance and that of their families. Was that House going to sanction a Bill that would take from a number of persons of that class their ordinary means of livelihood? Let the right hon. Gentleman do what he could to ameliorate the evils of the drink traffic, by all means. He would join the right hon. Gentleman in any attempt to put down any abuse that might attach to the trade or any of the evils of the trade; but if the right hon. Gentleman wished to accomplish any good it would not be by means of this Bill. The mtasure would interfere with vested interests to a very large extent, and would tend to promote that very intoxication and mischief which it was precisely the avowed object of the Government to prevent.
§ *MR. H. BROADHURST (Leicester)
said, that he had listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, who upon this subject was probably the ablest and 1207 most competent speaker in that House. He remembered the first speech delivered by the hon. and learned Member after his informal election. It was a most brilliant speech upon a subject resembling that now under consideration. But the hon. and learned Member, in spite of his ability and the advantages which he enjoyed, had, in his opinion, failed to make out a case against this Bill as a whole, or against a portion of it. A fair case might have been made out by the hon. and learned Member, whose speech was rather a brewer's speech than a publican's speech, for he argued rather from the standpoint of the interests of great brewers than from that of the interests of the operative publican. The part of the Bill which would empower Magistrates to limit or reduce the present number of licensed premises he regarded as by far the more practicable portion of the measure. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth had pictured the difficulties which the Licensing Magistrates would experience in coming to a decision as to which public houses should be placed among the suppressed fourth, and the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had declared, to his surprise and almost horror, that the proposed plan would promote a great amount of jobbery among the Justices of the Peace in this country. That was the first time he had heard anyone in that House declare that the Benches of Magistrates were likely to be guilty of jobbery in dealing with licences. He had himself been engaged in this work of licensing for some years, and from his experience he certainly did not believe that there was jobbery on the part of his colleagues on the Bench. He did not hesitate to say that there would be no difficulty in selecting the licences that should not be renewed in the area with which he was connected magisterially, and in other districts he believed that the question of selection could be disposed of with equal ease. In all crowded districts there were a great number of licensed houses which were not necessary for the convenience and requirements of the labouring community.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
explained that the difficulty of which he had spoken was not so much the difficulty of selecting 1208 which fourth of the houses ought to be shut up, but that, inasmuch as no one would know beforehand which houses would be closed, everyone interested in any of the houses would be fighting against the adoption of the Resolution.
§ *MR. BROADHURST
said, that a similar difficulty would arise under any scheme for the limitation or reduction of public houses. In the country there was a general agreement, among Conservatives and Liberals alike, that the number of licensed premises might well be reduced to the advantage and benefit of all sections of the community. In any endeavour to effect such reduction he believed that they would be joined by a very considerable number of the most powerful, the most sensible, and the most independent of the members of the publican class. This portion of the Bill, therefore, could be carried into operation in some districts of England with ease and in a short time. He regretted that there was no Law Officer of the Crown present, though it was a great pleasure to see an ex-Law Officer sitting opposite. He wished to call the attention of the Government to a matter which was omitted from the Bill, and to a very great evil which existed in connection with that matter, which was what was popularly known as the "tied-house system." His information and experience in regard to that system led him to say that it was an evil connected with the drink trade which was almost as great as some of their friends alleged the drink trade itself to be. He was one of the Members of the House included in the celebrated 60 to which his hon. and learned Friend drew attention in his excellent speech. The suggestion then made was not a suggestion of his own. He had often taken the advice of a great man not to introduce Bills. The suggestion was the outcome of a meeting of most respectable licensed victuallers in his own constituency, and the Bill to which his hon. and learned Friend had referred came out of that. He could not, therefore, be charged with inventing this himself for political or electioneering purposes. The object of the Bill which he introduced was to make the occupant of every public house the real occupying tenant, and to give him the right to buy his liquor from whomsoever and wheresoever he thought 1209 proper, in order that his customers might have a better opportunity of being supplied with the very best material that they wished to purchase. The bare mention of this Bill in the public press had brought upon him a labour which he never would have conceived to be possible. The amount of correspondence with publicans in all parts of the country was appalling. The tales of wrong, injustice, and almost amounting to robbery therein disclosed, would surprise even his hon. and learned Friend with his great experience of men and of the world. A more hideous form of despotism and slavery it would be scarcely possible to conceive in this country than that to which these poor people were subjected. Not only were they, in some cases, tied down in the matter of wine, beer, and cigars, but they were forced to buy even lucifer-matches, wherever the brewer thought proper to dictate. The least amount of resistance was followed by the destructive notice to quit, and a man might find himself and his family in the street, after only a few days' notice, at the hands of his oppressors, without mercy and without consideration left to go into the workhouse, or to commence life afresh. He had also received letters from brewers who had acknowledged the great evil from which the community was suffering in this special direction; who had declared to him that they would be perfectly willing to see the whole system abolished tomorrow, and who had declared that they only continued the system because others did it. Only the other day he saw the Report of a speech made by a brewer in the country, declaring that the tied-house system ought to be dealt with, and that he had not a word to say against the Bill which had been introduced to deal with it. The overwhelming mass of the tied-house tenants in this country would welcome as a great act of liberation and freedom the insertion in the present Bill of the Government of a clause dealing with the hideous and monstrous injustice to which he had now drawn attention. He sincerely hoped that the Financial Secretary to the War Office would convey this message to his colleagues, and would ask them to prepare such a clause before the Committee stage; and, further, that 1210 he would convey to them the intimation that, if they did not do so, he (the speaker), would himself prepare and propose a clause, and would take the earliest opportunity of dividing the Committee upon the question as to whether Englishmen should, in future, be free men, or whether they should continue the slaves of the great brewing interests of this country.
§ MR. S. EVERSHED (Staffordshire, Burton)
, referred to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester dealing with the question of the tied-house system. If the hon. Member carried out the intention which he had indicated, and incorporated some practical plan in the Bill, he thought it would effect far more good in the suppression of excessive drinking than any other clause of the Bill. He did not think that this was a question in which the brewers were especially interested. He did not think the Bill would in any sense affect the desire or curtail the means enjoyed by the people to drink whatever beer they chose. Working men were not likely by any prohibitive means to be prevented from getting such beer as they might desire. But the Bill sought to impose upon the people a degree of prohibition which he believed they would resent most strongly, and which they would view as a great insult to their intelligence. From the point of view of the working men, therefore, he viewed the Bill with much ill favour. In the course of his speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer quoted liberally from the speeches of Lord Randolph Churchill. The right hon. Gentleman, however, only quoted Lord R. Churchill where it suited his purpose, and omitted to quote the noble Lord on that portion of the Bill which was, after all, exceedingly vital. No doubt Lord R. Churchill was animated by a strong desire to do something in the direction, of limiting excessive drinking, and he was sure that the sympathies of most hon. Members supported him in that desire. By the Bill the power was given to localities to sweep away licences and destroy licensed property without any compensation. The late Lord Randolph Churchill had said over and over again that he would never be a party to such confiscation. There was an excessive amount of drinking in this country, but 1211 during the last few years, as the habits of the middle classes had materially improved, so the habits of our working classes, he believed, had been materially improving. They were now better educated, and he did not think it was right to impose upon them a coercive prohibition in regard to beer while they of the better classes could take their beer, wine, or spirits, whenever they liked. They were proposing to sweep away the property, goodwill, livelihood, and occupation of those engaged in the trade. The Bishop of Chester, who was a man of great intelligence, and who had given much thought to this question, had said that Local Veto without Compensation was against the conscience of England, and he believed that was a true sentiment, and that in a number of cases the Bill would be therefore inoperative. The Bill would not touch those who had their cellars at home, whereas it would be put in operation against those whose life of toil made them need such refreshment most. If the provision in regard to small areas were put in force in a town in which there were several wards, all the public houses on one side of a street might be closed, while all those on the other side were open, and this would lead to jealousy and constant strife, and while it might confiscate and destroy property on one side of a street, it would double the value of property on the other. Did any reasonable man think there would be less drinking if the prohibition was obtained in one ward? Those who wished to drink would go into the wards where it was not prohibited. Hotels, refreshment rooms at railway stations, and clubs would not be touched by the Bill, while the only place where the working mail could obtain refreshment, the village inn, the public house, or beer-house would be closed. That would be imposing a disability—he would say an insult—upon our working men, which they did not deserve. At present, the retail trade was regulated by law, but the prohibitory clause of the Bill would destroy that control; and the consequence would be, that, where the public-houses were closed, clubs or sheebeens would spring up, and they would have places where there would be unlimited drinking with no inspection, no control, and no hours of closing. The best regulation which in his memory 1212 had been made in regard to public houses was that which was made by Lord Aberdare, when he was Mr. Bruce, which made it compulsory for public houses to close at 10 o'clock in villages in the country, and 11 o'clock in more populous places. He thought they might even extend that principle a little further. The Bill which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had now introduced was somewhat better than that which he introduced in 1893, and perhaps if he had an opportunity of introducing another Bill in two years time he might go a stage farther and make a still greater improvement. He looked upon the present measure as a gross interference with the rights of the working man. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had advised them not to consider this as a Party question, and he would obey that advise, for although he was, and had been, a loyal supporter of the present Government, he could not support the present Bill, which he thought was more likely to create than to abolish evils.
*MR. A. MONEY-WIGRAM (Essex, Romford)
said, that as a member of the trade affected by the Bill he welcomed the opportunity of bringing the subject to a definite issue. He thought, after his speech, the only logical conclusion the Chancellor of the Exchequer could have come to would have been that no Government should shirk the responsibility of dealing with the manufacturer and importer as well as the retailer of intoxicating liquors when approaching this subject. He would ask those hon. Members who were habitual buyers of intoxicating drink, what right they had to hold up their hands at the wickedness of the other contracting party, the sellers, and why did they propose to ruin them without the slightest remorse? The Government had not proposed to deal with clubs. The Chancellor of the Exchequer now saw the difficulty, and was prepared to meet it by bringing in a Bill for the purpose. He had only to refer to the Excise or the Police to back up his own opinion that, given the inconvenience of the want of licensed houses, a great stimulus was given to unlicensed drinking shops in the shape of clubs. He recognised gladly that the Chancellor intended to deal with the matter. With regard to the reduction of licensed houses, 1213 the Chancellor of the Exchequer would allow that the trade had always been ready to help. Their proposals were embodied by the late Lord Aberdare in his Bill, which he (Mr. Money-Wigram) wished had been carried in 1874, and which would at least have brought finality; and when the right hon. Member for St. George's introduced his most ill-fated proposals in 1891, the trade did its share to reduce licences. The difficulties foreseen in 1892 had hardly been met. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then said—If the question is raised whether the Bill deals with the reduction of licences, I may say it does not. That can only be dealt with by a Licensing Bill, because you require a Licensing Board. Without that you cannot say whether the reduction should be one-third or two-thirds.That he had got over by naming the amount as one quarter. But he went on to say: "We must have a separate Board for the purpose," as he did not approve of the action of Magistrates, nor that their duties should be handed over to the County Council. And when the Magistrates came to decide which of these houses were to be exterminated, what position would the Government find themselves in? The Chairman of the Essex County Council and Licensing Board had done as much, if not more, for temperance reform than anyone else. In the Contemporary Review he showed how he had reduced the number of licensed houses to a fair ratio of the population: one to 1,000 in towns, and one to 500 in country districts. He had done it by telling licence holders that before he would grant new licences for a growing district—and in the part of Essex he represented he had been specially favoured—he must have two, three, or four licences in exchange. Were men who had invested their capital in buying up licences to obtain the licence granted to be told that the latter was of no value? In London the trade had not, and never had been, holders to any extent of licensed property. He spoke on behalf of retailers rather than of the brewing interest. The position of the trade was amply described by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he introduced his Bill of 1893. He told the House that this traffic was a monopoly which Parliament had created by law, 1214 and proposed to regulate. Were those who, on the strength of this, had invested their capital, to be told they would have no remedy if Parliament should think fit to take it away by confiscation? The trade rested its case on the broad grounds of existing law, established custom, and the statements of public men. He would remind the House that Parliament had always legislated so that the public should have reasonable facilities for obtaining the drink it required. The Act of 1828 consolidated all previous licensing Acts, and was the superstructure on which the present licensing system was built up. It was introduced as an Act to do away with any unnecessary difficulties in obtaining licences. Beer being held to be the second necessary of life in this country, it was contended that there ought to be no more difficulty in obtaining a licence to sell it than bread, which was the first necessary. This idea gained ground, and in 1830 beerhouse licences were granted by the Excise instead of by the Licensing Justices in the case of the more fully responsible licensed houses. This continued until 1869, when Lord Rookwood (then Sir H. Selwyn Ibbetson) brought in his Act to bring these beershops under the same authority as the more fully licensed public-houses. He would ask the House to notice that in dealing with these beer-shops or beerhouses for the sale of beer both on and off the premises, of which at that time there were 49,000, as compared with 69,000 fully-licensed houses—in dealing with 40 per cent, of the whole of the licensed property, that House gave to what were known as protective beer-shops an absolute vested right of renewal, except in certain cases of misconduct. Could it be seriously contended that that House, which was dealing with them on the ground of the mischief they were creating, could ever have intended to put them on a superior footing to the fully-licensed houses which existed at the time. Coming to 1872 and 1874—and Sec. 42 of the former was the most important—under these a license holder, except in the case of opposition, was not obliged to attend the Licensing Sessions. Would the Legislature render him liable to be fined £5,000, £10,000, or £15,000 unheard? Further notice must be given to the owner where a licence was refused, showing that the Legislature respected 1215 the rights of the owner of licensed property. Not only this, but the owner, and even the mortgagee, might appeal to Quarter Sessions against the refusal of a licence to his property. It required three endorsements (of which notice had to be given to the owner) before a licence could be forfeited for misconduct. As Parliament had legislated, so the Executive had acted. In the case of a licence holder dying, the Government exacted from his heirs full probate duty on the value of the licence, and even when—as was constantly the case in London—it had been proved after six years that the property was valued too low at the time of probate, then the Government stepped in and claimed extra duty on the estate. For the purposes of assessment local bodies also included the full value of the licence in the quinquennial assessment, and on this assessment the Government took its share under Schedule A. Then, where public bodies for public improvements scheduled a street, they were bound to pay full compensation, not only to the licence holder and owner, but even where it had been held in the Queen's Bench Division, and where the owner had a reversion, at over 20 years distance, on the value of the property. Further, the practice of the Magistrates in nearly all cases had been to insist that licence holders should buy two or three licences before a new one was granted in exchange. It was poor work quoting the statements of public men, who might, for one reason or other, have changed their minds. But he would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that irritating dictation, fair treatment, and common sense had the same meaning now as 20 years ago, and it was absolutely impossible for them, although for good reasons they might have changed their minds, to divest their words of the terrible significance they had for those who had invested their capital on the strength of them. In the last few months they had heard a good deal about the value of a Resolution of that House. He would remind the House that in the last Parliament, at the instance of Mr. Forrest Fulton, the House passed, by a majority of 71, a Resolution declaring that the principle of equitable compensation should be introduced when a reduction in the number of licences was carried out. Speaking on behalf of the trade, 1216 and wishing to state their case as moderately as possible, he desired to say that the Trade maintained that the House should in this matter, as it had always done in the past, compensate those whose property was taken for public improvements.
MR. JOHN WILSON (Glasgow, Govan)
, congratulated the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Introduction of a Bill which had been looked forward to with great interest by many people in Scotland. So far as the Temperance party was concerned the right hon. Gentleman might depend upon their loyal support. It had been said that there was only one abstainer on the two Front Benches. To the honour of the hon. Member for Morpeth, he set a good example to those who were expected to carry out principles that would promote the happiness of the people. If the gaols were being depleted, it was a lamentable fact that the asylums were overcrowded and lunacy was making alarming strides; and the increase of it was attributed in great measure to indulgence in strong drink, whilst as to the crime that remained the late Lord Chief Justice Coleridge had declared that crimes of violence filled the calendars, that they mostly originated in public houses or were due to drunkenness, and that if we could make Britain sober, we might shut up nine-tenths of the gaols. A vivid picture had been drawn of the consequences of taking away a licence from a house by means of which a widow was maintaining a family; but not a word had been said about the widows and families that had been left in destitution through money being spent in public houses. It was said that the attempt to carry out Sunday Closing in England would lead to a revolution. The same thing was said of Scotland 40 years ago. Yet Sunday Closing had been carried out in Scotland without provoking any manifestation of violence and with great benefit to the country; and so far as the Scotch people were concerned, they would on no account give up the privilege they possessed. The principle of the Bill that ratepayers should have a veto power over licensed houses, had long been advocated in Scotland, and patiently waited for. It was brought before the House for many years, by the hon. 1217 Gentleman who then represented Linlithgow (Mr. Maclagan); and in 1888 he was successful in carrying the Second Reading of a Bill without a Division. In 1864, when the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson), brought in his Permissive Bill, 10 Scotch Members voted for it and 24 against. In 1883, the Local Option Resolution was supported by 46 Scotch Members, and opposed by two. To-day 54 out of 72 Scotch Members were pledged to support a Local Veto Bill. The evils of the drink traffic were admitted on all hands by both sides of the House. At every step it impeded and frustrated those who were seeking to do good, and, apart from the opposition of vested interests, it was admitted that some effort must be made to grapple with this evil. In Scotland there were 184 parishes in which there was no licensed house. In these parishes there was prohibition, but not by the will of the people: in each case it was prohibition by a landlord who decreed that on his domain no licence should be held. Why should a power possessed by individual landlords as owners of property, and exercised by them in their own interests, be withheld from the great masses of the working people who desired to be delivered from the snares and temptations of the public house? There were landowners who let ground to be built upon on the condition that no public houses were to be opened on the estates. In the south and west of Glasgow there were districts without them, but the districts consisted largely of terraces occupied by merchant princes; while in the slums, public houses were prominent at all the corners. Thus the temptation was greatest where the power of resistance was least and immunity was enjoyed by those who had comfortable homes and the blessings of social life. He was most anxious to impress upon the House the necessity of doing something to protect the great masses of the people. Glasgow was governed by a model corporation, and what had they done? They had resolved to abolish all licences on Corporation property, finding that the sale of drink on Corporation property was not consistent with the highest interests and best welfare of the citizens of Glasgow. He had, within the last few weeks, received a copy of a Resolution passed by the Magistrates and 1218 Commissioners of Police of Govan by a majority of 13 to 2, asking him to use his best endeavours with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to speedily bring on his Bill for the purpose of giving the working classes the necessary protection of the Local Veto and to urge him to have it as speedily as possible passed into law. He hoped that he had fulfilled his duty in that respect, and that his constituents would not be disappointed, but that something would be done in the way pointed out that afternoon. He hoped that, in the interests of the great body of the people and in the interests of that religion which they all held dear, something would be done to stop the ravages of this iniquitous traffic.
§ MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Hereford)
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down might possibly require in his native land some restrictions on the traffic which they did not need in this country; for by some recent statistics he found that in Scotland there was a general increase of crime. The hon. Member was not quite happy in his statement in regard to lunacy. He stated that the consumption of alcoholic liquor led to lunacy, but a more recent opinion was that that terrible complaint was attributable to another liquor. In a report issued with regard to some part of Ireland the great increase of lunacy was attributed to the use of tea. The hon. Member had also quoted the statement of Chief Justice Coleridge that drunkenness was the great cause of crime. A later, he would not say a greater, authority, Mr. Justice Grantham, speaking at Hereford only a few days ago, stated that the absence of crime in that county might possibly be attributed to the fact that they consumed a very wholesome liquor called cider, and he even went so far as to say that he thought it also affected their moral character in a satisfactory way. His objection to this measure was based on two grounds—one was that it was grounded on an entirely erroneous assumption as to the moral and physical condition of the people of this country, and the second was that it was a gross insult upon the working classes. The assumption on which the necessity for any legislation of this kind was based was that drunkenness was a national vice, that it was the cause of all the 1219 crime, all the poverty, and all the misery in this country. If that was so, of course great numbers in all classes of society were addicted to this vice. Let them go through these classes and see how the matter stood. There were the peers of the realm. There was a saying "drunk as a lord," so he supposed that at some time or another these excellent people were addicted to taking too much. But the House might be quite sure that if that offence attached to them now someone would have mentioned the fact in the agitation which was going on in reference to that Assembly, but no one appeared yet to have made that accusation against them. Then let them take the professional classes, the middle classes, of this country. Would anyone venture to say that drunkenness was a prevailing vice among them? It was common knowledge and common experience that, for the last generation or two, these classes had entirely reformed themselves in the matter of drunkenness without any intervention of the State. One hundred years ago drunkenness in these classes was not considered any disgrace. Now drunkenness would shut any one of them out of decent society. It was thoroughly well-known that the higher and middle-class people of this country were sober people. What was left? Only the working classes and the residuum. How were they to deal with the residuum? They must deal with them by repressing them by laws intended to affect them and to prevent them from corrupting the rest of the community. But they must not restrict the rest of the community in order to improve the mere residuum, which they would always have in all communities. So there were only the working classes left, and were they going to say that this national vice was entirely indulged in by the working-classes? They were the class whom they had entrusted with every practical power in the State, with all political power, with all local power, and with the power of spending our money, and were they going in say they were not capable of spending money of their own? And yet, if the examined society from its summit to its base, they were the only class to whom they could attribute this prevailing vice. He opposed this legislation because he said that the assumption on which they acted, that the working- 1220 classes were drinking helots, was an entirely baseless assumption, and as every class of society had reformed themselves by the process of local option, individual option among themselves, so they also had that same opportunity, and were using it too. He opposed it too, because it was directed against the working classes. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced his Bill in 1893 he said—What is the use of our reducing the hours of labour if we take no care of what is to be the employment of that leisure which we add to the lives of the working-classes.There was the assumption in those words that if they gave the working-classes an extra hour of leisure they would go to the public-houses and spend it there. The right hon. Gentleman also said—What is the use of increasing wages if the margin is dissipated in drink?Who dissipated the margin in work? Why, the working-classes. He said, therefore, distinctly and emphatically, that this legislation was directed against one class of the community only, and that was the working-class, on whom they professed to rely for their support in the country. But did the working-classes think so, or not, themselves? He held in his hand a printed paper called "The Working Man's Protest in reference to this Liquor Traffic Local Control Bill." It was signed by representative people—by the chairman and presidents of different trade societies and by the representatives of the Oddfellows, the Foresters, and Shepherds. They condemned this Bill, which was practically the Bill of last year, because it was directed against the convenience of the poor man only, because it left untouched the cellar of the rich man, and specially provided him with refreshment rooms when he travelled by rail, and with hotels when he got to his journey's end; but it allowed no accommodation to the working-man who, in a vetoed district, desired to refresh himself with a humble glass of beer. This measure was a direct insult to the working classes. And even assuming that they were the drunken helots which the promoters of the Bill made them out to be, was the Bill wanted? Were there not means open to the working classes of reforming themselves—means which they 1221 had already employed? In 1893 the Chancellor of the Exchequer drew a picture of a country village with a church and chapel at one end, a savings bank at the other, and a number of public-houses between; and he represented the religious services as neglected, and the savings as being diverted from the bank, in consequence of the existence of the public houses. The right hon. Gentleman must know that the savings of the people had largely increased within the last few years; and as to the poverty and other evils which, as he alleged, followed from this "national vice," Mr. Charles Booth, who was surely an authority, had said that within the last ten years there was less poverty, crime, and drunkenness than in any previous decade. This Bill was not required. Like the razors which were not made to sell, this Bill was not introduced to pass; and probably the House would hear no more of it. It was a piece of grandmotherly legislation according to the definition of such legislation given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself; and if the country had much more of it no one would be able to perform the commonest functions of nature except under the note of a sanitary inspector. Who were the people who promoted this Bill? Many of them were wealthy persons—Baronets and the like—who had injured their digestions by over-eating, and who had to go to German baths in the autumn, where they drank something so detestable that it took away their appetites and cured them by starvation. Having spent at these baths in a month as much as would keep a working man for the rest of his life, they came back with weak heads and renovated stomachs to interfere with the life of the working man. It was a case of Dives advising Lazarus to leave off dining well, and to take a little water for his stomach's sake.
§ MR. W. S. CAINE (Bradford, E.)
said, that while there had been a great deal of criticism of the practical and useful measure which the right hon. Gentleman had introduced, not one alternative remedy had been proposed for the evil which was admitted on all hands to exist. Perhaps just one remedy had been suggested by the hon. Member for Hereford, who urged his fellow-countrymen to drink cider. But 1222 cider was almost as alcoholic as beer; and, while too much beer produced a headache, too much cider produced a headache and a stomach ache as well. The hon. Member had spoken of the Bill as a gross insult to the working classes, by depriving them of the right to get liquor. The hon. Member could not have listened to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or have read any of the previous measures on this subject. When this Bill was passed, it would not interfere with a single public house. Before it became operative it would have to be adopted by the localities. Who was going to adopt it? [An hon. MEMBER: "Nobody."] The prohibitory clauses could not be adopted by a bare majority. Two-thirds of the electors of a constituency must vote in its favour.
§ MR. CAINE
said, that he would deal with that point later. If electors did not vote, it was their own fault, and they must take the consequences. It was said that the Bill was to be crammed down the throats of an unwilling people by a body of fanatical teetotallers. The number of total abstainers in the country was known; they were well tabulated and organised, and they were not more than one in nine of the electors. Before the public-houses could be closed, therefore, it would be necessary to induce five-eighths of the customers of the liquor shops to vote for the Bill. The public houses were, therefore to be placed in the hands of their own customers, and not in those of "a body of fanatical teetotallers." The main body of the customers of the public houses were undoubtedly the working classes; so how could it be said that their right to have liquor if they wanted it, was being taken away? The Bill placed the liquor traffic in their hands, and left them to decide whether or not the public-houses could remain open. The ex-Solicitor General (Sir E. Clarke) said that two-thirds of those voting only would be able to close the public-houses; and he had made an elaborate calculation to show that 400 voters in a constituency might deprive all the rest of the right to get liquor. Would he use the same argument in respect to public libraries, or water, or drainage, or any of the other subjects 1223 which were now left to the option of the constituencies?
§ SIR E. CLARKE
The Act relating to water does not deprive anybody of the opportunity of getting water.
§ MR. CAINE
said, that it must be remembered that the public-houses were established as a public convenience; and some people regarded them as a public nuisance. The Bill put it into the hands of the people themselves to decide whether they wanted the convenience, or whether the nuisance was to continue. It was simply an extension of our present system of local self-government, and the principle of the measure was "writ large" over the whole system of local self-government. Parish Councils were permitted to put into operation 5 adoptive Acts.
§ MR. CAINE
said, that they were prohibitory. If in any locality a majority voted against free libraries, for example, they would prohibit free libraries being established. The principle was exactly the same. The present Bill was simply an adoptive Act; and in another aspect it was simply an amendment of the existing Licensing Law. In granting licences the bench of magistrates had three important considerations before them: First, the character of the house; second, the character of the licensee; and third, the wants of the locality. The last was as much a requirement of the present law as the other two. He was a member of a bench of magistrates who went round the district in a wagonette and visited all the public houses to see whether they were wanted or not. This Bill would instruct the magistrates how to deal with the licences. One thing was quite certain—that the public conscience was thoroughly awakened on the question of Temperance. It was agreed that the existing system was altogether wrong and must be altered. This Bill was a practical and statesmanlike attempt to deal with the difficulty. He would not say that the Bill was all that he himself should like; and it might be the subject of some criticism. But it was much better than nothing; he should have no hesitation in supporting it on Second Reading, and there were very few alterations which he should wish to see made in Committee. 1224 This was not their Bill at all, it was the Bill of the Government—the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Bill. But it took an enormous stride in the direction in which temperance advocates had been travelling, and they would be extremely foolish if they did not take the same stride. There was, however, no finality about the Bill; it did not close the controversy; temperance advocates could still endeavour to get more. But it was a Bill which would have a far-and wide-reaching effect upon the sobriety of the country. There was a strongly-rooted dissatisfaction at the way in which magistrates had in times past planted liquor shops here and there amongst the community. There had been little talk about compensation to-night, and he was not surprised at that, because the question of compensation was pretty well finished off when the last Government introduced it. But when they talked of compensation, it was well to remember what injury was done by the presence of liquor shops to the surrounding property. He recollected that when the Grocers' Bill was introduced a meeting of the owners and occupiers of public houses in Liverpool was held to consider the question of the danger which threatened their property. At that meeting a man got up and said he lived in Hope Street, at one end of which a public house had been opened. He derived his income from four houses. Previously to the opening of the public house the four houses brought him in £220 a year, but subsequently to the establishment of the liquor shop he only received £140 in rent. "I want to know," he said, "who is going to compensate me?" and the chairman of the meeting ruled him out of order. He (Mr. Caine) could, and so could any one, name a good deal of property which had been distinctly injured by the establishment of public houses in its neighbourhood; but what was property compared with the moral welfare of one's children. He knew something of the poor districts of London, for he had worked in them for the last 10 or 12 years. He had a mission hall in one poor district, and was practically the minister there. There was a public house at each end of the street. He believed they belonged to Liberal Members of Parliament; but that was neither here nor there. In that 1225 School Board District there were 38 public houses, and he believed that if this Bill were law, there would be little difficulty indeed in inducing the people not only to close public houses on Sunday, but to apply the Measure in its most drastic form. He did not look with dread upon the possibility of general Sunday closing in London: it would be a great blessing to London, and there need not be any fear of riots or violence of any kind. The devastating effect of a public house upon the district in which it was placed was known to everyone, and what he and his friends were striving for was the right of the people of the country to protect themselves from having liquor shops thrust upon them against their will. This Bill gave them that power, and they would be thankful for it. The Measure went upon the lines the Temperance Party throughout the country had always advocated. What they had always asked for was protection. He admitted that temperance principles had made great strides during the last ten years, but that was not owing to anything the Conservative Party had done, but to the total abstinence movement. There were now in the country something like seven million total abstainers; there was no wonder, therefore, that temperance was increasing. In asking that in the villages and towns of the country the owners and occupiers of property should have the power to protect themselves against what they believed to be an evil and danger to themselves and their children, they did not seek to exercise that power by a bare majority. They were willing to accept a two-thirds majority, because, as practical men, they knew they could not change the habits of the people and interfere with their social customs or diet unless they had a very strong backing of public opinion. But if two-thirds wished to get rid of what they considered an evil, it was surely nonsense not to give them the opportunity. This measure simply amounted to an extension of local self Government. Public convenience and public nuisances had long since been placed under the control of local authorities. Glasgow, for instance, could have their own trams, their own free libraries, their own baths and washhouses; they could supply themselves with water, with 1226 lodging houses and other public conveniences. Local authorities had Inspectors of Nuisances, who could compel a man keeping a pig in his back yard to either turn the pig into pork or remove it into the country within 24 hours. But the Borough Treasurer did not come in; he did not measure up the pigsty, and settle what it was worth with or without a pig. Nothing of the kind. The nuisance was suppressed without any difficulty. A man near him used to steam wood for use in furniture. Because the steam made his eyes smart he caused the business to be carried into the country. If other trades could be interfered with in that way why should not public houses be removed? He sincerely trusted his right hon. Friend would stick to his Bill and carry it through the House. The right hon. Gentleman might depend upon it that if he had the courage of his opinions the strength of public opinion behind him would be enough to enable him to carry the Bill. He supported the measure with all his heart. The right hon. Gentleman was on the side of national righteousness in striving to get rid of the most gigantic social evil, we had to cope with, and if he had to go to the country on the Bill the country was certain to rally to his support.
THE MARQUESS OF CARMARTHEN (Lambeth, Brixton)
said, that one of the concluding remarks of the hon. Member who had just sat down illustrated the mischief which would be caused by the Bill if carried. The hon. Member stated that there were two public houses in South London owned by Liberal Members of Parliament, which, should the Bill become law, he by his influence would get closed. He thought he knew the locality to which the hon. Member had referred It was adjoining his constituency. In that particular locality, as in all parts of the world, there were men who would have and must have drink, and one of the certain results of closing those public houses would be that the neighbouring constituency of Brixton would be flooded with people who could not get drink in their own district. The hon. Gentleman had also expressed the hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have the courage of his convictions and press the Bill to a Second Reading. If he could believe that the Bill would go to a 1227 Second Reading he would not have addressed the House. But he believed that, as in the case of the similar Bill introduced two years ago, no more would he heard of the Bill after it was introduced. He asked the right hon. Gentleman, did he or did he not mean business with the Bill this year?
THE MARQUESS OF CARMARTHEN
said, that when the right hon. Gentleman introduced a similar Bill two years ago, he described it as "of the very first magnitude and of the greatest urgency," and, turning to the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth (Sir W. Lawson), he congratulated him on the prospect of reaching the goal for which he had so long striven. But from that day to this—except when a question was asked about the Bill, probably with a view to raising a laugh—the House had not heard a word about the Bill. He had always thought the goal of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth was to see a Bill of this kind carried. But, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman knew the hon. Baronet better, and if, indeed, he had arrived at his goal when the Bill was introduced from the Treasury Bench, it seemed a very poor goal to have striven for so long. It might be asked why they who were opposed to the Bill pressed upon the Government to carry it to a Second Reading. They did so because they thought it was a great injustice to the trade attacked by the Bill—a perfectly legitimate trade that had been carried on for years under the sanction of the law—that this Bill should be kept hanging over them without being brought to an issue; that the Government should introduce merely for electoral purposes, a Bill which they did not mean to carry through. Why was Ireland excluded from the Bill. Whatever might be the pretence of the Government in regard to the exclusion of Ireland from the operation of the Bill, the real reason was known to everyone in the House. It was to enable 86 Members to vote for a Bill which, if applied to Ireland, would arouse the opposition of the constituencies represented by those Gentlemen. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when asked a question on the subject a few days ago, said, it would be competent for any Member to move in 1228 Committee that Ireland should be included in the Bill. But why should it be left to a private Member to assume a responsibility which the Government dare not take upon themselves? Of course, the argument of the Government was that as Home Rulers they were bound to leave a question of this kind to Ireland to deal with as she thought fit. But the Government had declared themselves to be for Home Rule all round, by supporting the Resolution of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Dalziel) the other night; and yet, despite that Resolution they proposed to leave Ireland out of a Bill of the first magnitude, which, if it were passed at all, ought to apply to the entire Kingdom, and also to allow 86 Irish representatives to force on England a Bill to which the vast majority of the English Members were opposed, and to which the Irish Members, as Ireland was not included, were absolutely indifferent. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that this was not a Party question. He had never made it a Party question. Indeed, he had always said that if he believed Local Option would have the effect of diminishing drunkenness he would most certainly vote for it provided fair compensation was to be given to those who were dispossessed of their livelihood. But, having considered the matter most carefully he had come to the conclusion that local option would not have that effect. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth had said, on the introduction of a similar Bill two years ago, that prohibition had succeeded everywhere it had been tried.
THE MARQUESS OF CARMARTHEN
said, the hon. Baronet's first statement was that where it had been tried it had succeeded, but on that statement being challenged he proceeded to say that where it had had a fair trial it had been a great success, and he went on to instance Canada and America. The right hon. Gentleman himself had instanced the case of America.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I quoted another matter from Mr. Fanshawe's book with reference to compensation. I do not think I made any statement as to its success. I simply read the passage.
THE MARQUESS OF CARMARTHEN
Yes, with regard to Ontario. The hon. Baronet said that prohibition had been a success both in Canada and America. He thought that both Canada and America had long gone by the board, and he did not know that anybody could be found to give these as examples of the success of prohibition. What were the facts in the case of Canada? In New Brunswick and Prince Edward's Island, both prohibition provinces, the convictions for drunkenness were more numerous than in any other part of the State. In Ontario in 1888, out of 42 counties and 11 cities there were only two counties which had not repealed the Acts on the first opportunity, and since then these two counties had also followed suit. So that in Ontario at the present time there was not a county or city which had tried prohibition in which it was now in operation. That was a fair proof that prohibition where it had been tried had not been a success. But he need not go so far as Canada to show where prohibition had been tried whether it had succeeded or not. What happened at Cardiff this year? Four years Ago a plebiscite was taken in Wales on Sunday closing, and he remembered the results being quoted in that House by the hon. Member for Cardiganshire in favour of that hon. Member's views. If figures of this kind were to be used in one sense, he did not see why they should not also be used in another. The municipal electors of Cardiff were asked to say whether they were in favour of the existing state of things—which was total Sunday closing—or of partial Sunday opening. For partial Sunday opening there voted 8,553, and for the existing state of things 2,574. The figures showed that 1,300 more voted for partial Sunday opening than were sufficient to return the hon. Member for Cardiff to that House. That, he thought, was conclusive proof that where prohibition was tried it had proved a failure. Those who had tried it and suffered under prohibition knew from bitter experience that it was not a success. As to this, one had 1230 only to read any part of the history of Sunday closing in Wales. Where people were inclined to be temperate this Bill would not do any good, because they would not be made more temperate by the shutting up of public-houses, and those who were disinclined to temperance would not be made temperate by this process. He thought the right hon. Gentleman must himself admit that it was perfectly impossible to force upon a people a law of this kind—which they did not want—prohibiting drunkenness. The right hon. Gentlemen might reply that there must be a two-thirds majority, and that, therefore, the minority would be insignificant, and that the overwhelming force of the opinion of the locality must have its effect. But the two-thirds majority of those who were to decide this question were not two-thirds majority of adult men in the constituency, but two-thirds of those who took the trouble to vote. He should like on this point to quote a sentence or two from the speech of the right hon. Member for Newcastle on the Welsh Local Veto Bill of the year 1891. The right hon. Gentleman, while voting for the principle of the Bill, left himself free as to the machinery and details. He found, for example, that the majority required for the admittedly strong step of prohibition was a two-thirds majority of those who voted, but (said the right hon. Gentleman) he thought with the noble Lord, the Member for South Paddington, that it would not be safe to enforce prohibition by less than two-thirds or three-fourths of the total number of people entitled to vote. That coming from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, who had himself taken a great interest in the temperance question, was well worthy of consideration. To force this proposal upon a constituency by a majority of only two-thirds of those who took the trouble to go and vote, would be to inflict enormous hardship on a large number of men who probably, through no fault of their own, had not been able to vote. They could not expect men who were not in active political work to take such trouble, for the sake of somebody else whom they did not know. On the other hand they would get an active Temperance or Radical organisation to make a strong whip-up, and so just squeeze through their two-thirds majority on an extremely small 1231 poll, and a large number of men would be shut out from getting any refreshment whatsoever close to their homes. That was a great injustice. The question of area presented one of the greatest difficulties, and he could assure them that knowing, as he did, something about London constituencies, this part of the Bill would be full of chaos and disaster if carried in its present form. If they shut up public houses in one ward or parish they drove the worst characters—and those were the people who went loafing about—into the next constituency where the Act would not have been adopted. And there was also this danger. In their own locality these people were known, and the fact exercised a sort of moral restraint on them. But if they were driven out of their own locality this moral restraint was gone, and they became a nuisance and a source of disturbance. Upon the magistrates was thrown the responsibility of deciding which public house was to be taken and which left. Could men have a greater onus placed upon them? If there had been one thing more than another which had been denounced in this controversy, it was the question of compensation. But he should describe this Bill as compensation gone mad. It was absolutely putting a premium upon compensation; because what would happen? If they abolished one public house under this Bill, it had the effect of compensating, right up to the hilt, every one which was left. This proposal was one which would not, for a moment, hold water. The right hon. Gentleman gave some instances of where the magistrates had taken away licences and given no compensation whatever, and he asked why should not the people be able to do what the magistrates had done? He did not know, but he had taken the trouble since the right hon. Gentleman put the question to make some inquiries, and he was informed that in the great majority of cases there was a reason for the licence being withdrawn which did not appear at first sight. These men were bound, under the covenants of their lease, to apply for a licence, but owing to changes in the locality the value of the public house had gone down, because the traffic had been diverted, and though the magistrates withdrew them, in the great majority of cases the men themselves were in favour of the 1232 licences being withdrawn. In conclusion he thanked the House for having listened to him so courteously on a subject in which he took a great interest, and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that no one more cordially wished for an opportunity of speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill than he did himself.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, that if anybody was to be congratulated on this occasion, it was his hon. friend the Member for Cockermouth. Thirty-one years ago he heard his hon. Friend move for leave to bring in a Permissive Prohibitory Liquor Bill. He was then literally laughed out of the House and off the premises. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who at that time was a blaspheming Saul, was now absolutely transformed into a believing Paul, moving for leave to introduce practically the same Bill. It was one of the most wonderful things in politics that he had ever witnessed, and he was heartily glad that he had lived to see it. He did not rise to criticise the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech, with much of which he entirely agreed and fully sympathised. The real question for the House of Commons was—Would the Bill, if it became law, deal effectively with the great evil of intemperance? He was very anxious that the part of the country from which he came should have an opportunity of trying the Bill, and he had risen for the sole purpose of protesting against the exclusion of Ireland from its operation. Why were the Irish benches so empty? During the 31 years this had been a public question, he affirmed that on every occasion on which issue had been joined in the House, the majority of the Irish Members voting had voted in favour of the principle of Bill. It was quite true that that majority had always been swollen by a heavy Ulster vote. Why, then, was Ireland to be excluded? Was it because Ireland did not require it? Anyone going to the south and west of Ireland would find every town, village, and hamlet, literally stuffed with public-houses, and steeped in drink. In the town of Castleisland, with a population of 1,200, there were 47 liquor shops. Irishmen did not drink more per head than Englishmen or Scotchmen, but they drank out of their poverty, while Englishmen and Scotchmen drank out of their abundance. If 1233 the Bill ought to be applied to any part of the kingdom, it ought to be applied to Ireland. The exclusion of Ireland, he said deliberately, was part of a bargain. The 80 Nationalist Members since they came into Parliament had consistently voted against every Local Option Resolution and Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knew that he could not carry the Bill by the votes of English Member's alone. In every Division on the subject a majority of English Members had voted against the principle of Local Option. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman proposed to enlist the support of his Friends opposite. But they were against Local Option—many of them were actually engaged in the trade. Then what was the compact? Leave Ireland out and then all difficulties vanished! Hon. Members from Ireland had no objection, if Ireland were left out, to force this principle upon Englishmen who did not want it. And this was Local Option for England. It might, with great propriety, be given an entirely different name. He did not believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer was playing with the question; on the contrary, he believed the right hon. Gentleman was in deadly earnest. He would vote for the Second Reading of the Bill because he had been committed to its principle by the whole of his life. When the Bill got into Committee he would move to include Ireland, and the little game of hon. Members opposite might not succeed. If the British Temperance party, who received the votes of Irishmen in the dark days when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was opposing them, voted against the inclusion of Ireland now, he would do his best to prevent the Bill passing on the Third Reading.
§ MR. G. J. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
There are many of us who enjoyed the lucid speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I think we thoroughly understand the meaning of the Bill. We are told that no Party considerations are to enter into this matter—there is to be no passion and no exaggeration. Well, if we get rid of exaggeration we shall have made very considerable progress. We all enjoyed the spontaneous peroration of the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure that peroration was absolutely sincere. The right hon. Gentleman has felt for years 1234 the pressure of this great question, and in his final sentences he referred to the responsibility of leaving this matter un-touched; and I confess a shiver of disappointment ran through me when, at the close of his speech, he did not announce to us the postponement of the Irish Land Bill and the Welsh Church Bill in order to deal with a question that was eating like a canker into our social life. I wonder also whether it is eating into the social life of Ireland. I believe, from what we have been told, that this is not a Party question, and, as that is so, I think we need not assume that hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, who generally support the Government, will, on this occasion, endeavour to force a Bill upon England by their votes which is not to be extended to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman did not say whether in this matter Wales was to be viewed as a separate nationality. At all events, the position is this—that Ireland by its votes—I hope it will not be so—may impose upon England a state of things which the majority of the English people do not desire, and which the majority in Ireland do not desire. I trust that, in the course of this Debate, or in the course of the Recess, we shall learn that the Irish Party, acknowleging the national spirit which sways them, will abstain upon this Bill from endeavouring by their vote to coerce the predominant partner. I trust we may have the moral support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in bringing about that most desirable consummation. I thought when the right hon. Gentleman said that upon this occasion there would be no Party passion and no exaggeration—I thought that for once we should be free from the rhetorical adornment of his speeches in which he so much delights. He has referred to the conflict between the rich and the poor, and he has appealed to us to discard considerations in order to legislate on behalf of the poor. But the right hon. Gentleman was true to himself. He could not exclude, even upon this occasion, a contrast between the rich and the humble. He invited us to consider the position of the humbler classes, and he contrasted it with the position of those living in Westminster, or St. George's, Hanover Square. Does he forget that these public houses supply the humbler classes with 1235 that which we can have in our own cellars? I think we should not force on the working classes legislation of this kind unless we have from them the greatest possible evidence in its favour. We ought to have that before we force on them a Bill which will not touch our convenience in the slightest degree. The right hon. Gentleman says which of us would not desire to have a public house removed from his neighbourhood, but we have clubs and private cellars which supply what we desire. The public house, too, supplies the working classes something besides a place where they can get drunk. Does he not know that the public house is a place, certainly in most of the villages—it may be desirable or it may not be—where the working men meet? It is the place where they not only tipple, but where they meet for social purposes. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted the saying that you cannot make people sober by Act of Parliament—they were to be made sober by their own act—by the enactments of the Parish Council or by some other assembly. It is still a majority which is to interfere with the ordinary habits of the people. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had abandoned his old views because he had become Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman has a power, which we all recognise, of putting in as strong language as can be found, the points which commend themselves to his mind. He has such a great power of expression that if we humbler men are unable to put our case in language stong enough for our desires, we are reduced to quoting his words, not as against himself, but in support of the arguments that we are using. The right hon. Gentleman said:—If there be any party more pledged than another to resist a policy of restrictive legislation having for its object social coercion, that party is the Liberal party. It is this practice of allowing one set of people to dictate to another set of people what they should do, what they should think, what they should drink when they should go to bed, what they should pay what wages they should get, and how they should spend them, against which the Liberal party has always protested Now that we are labouring to get rid of one vicious system of legislation we are asked to build up another fabric founded upon exactly the same false and vicious basis. It seems we are to establish protective and inhibiting duties upon the habits o of the people. The policy of the Liberal party has been for generations to effect emancipation 1236 from restriction, and if it is now to set to work to forge further fetters for the people I myself will have no part in such a process.Well, the right hon. Gentleman has been converted, and he has explained his conversion with the candour that always characterises him. He does not care to wear a white sheet, and truly no sheet could be sufficiently ample to cover the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's conversions. His defence is that he was converted from those principles by having been at the Home Office. But how soon was he converted by his experience at the Home Office? That is an interesting question because the answer may throw some light upon the conversion. Parliament was dissolved in April and the right hon. gentleman assumed the duties of Home Secretary, and six weeks after he had gone to the Home Office he voted in favour of local option to which he had always up to that moment been opposed. The conversion was, therefore, rapid and, no doubt, genuine. But what surprises me is that the right hon. Gentleman was able to speak on behalf of the whole Liberal party on this occasion. They had not been at the Home Office. I do hope, then, that the right hon. Gentleman will be indulgent towards us who have not had the advantage of being there if we still adhere to the old tradition which really belongs both to the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party—that we ought not to interfere to this extraordinary extent with the habits of the people. We hail, if not the Bill, at all events many of the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman. In 1893 he was in favour of absolute prohibition on a popular vote. It is fortunate that the Bill was not carried in 1893, because now he has receded, we do not know exactly under what pressure, from the position which he took up then. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER.—"Prohibition is in the Bill."] Yes; but the right hon. Gentleman has receded from this—that he thought it impossible to deal with limitation. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER.—"I said it was very difficult."] The right hon. Gentleman said:—I find it is impossible to do this unless we introduce licensing boards or alter the whole system of licensing.But I do not find that in this Bill he has 1237 done either the one or the other. I venture to say that, under pressure, he has tried to do the impossible, and I do not think he has succeeded. I compliment the right hon. Gentleman on his sagacity, and I condole with him that, under whatever pressure he is placed now, he has put clauses into his Bill which will be considered by the country to be almost ridiculous and absolutely unworkable. The Member for Cockermouth (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) said that it was entirely a mistake to suppose that this Bill was to have the effect of compelling people to be total abstainers. Let me deal shortly with the Bill, and with its double aspect of limitation of licences and absolute prohibition. The latter I call the right hon. Gentleman's part, and the former I call the Prime Minister's part. If you prohibit people in any locality from obtaining drink they will be compelled to be abstainers. They will not be teetotalers, but they will be abstainers by reason of the action of the majority in the locality being determined that they shall not have the opportunity of buying liquor. Now let me touch upon the remarks of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Caine). If the hon. Member had said that this was equivalent to a prohibition from using books, or from using water at all, there might have been some analogy in the cases which he put; but surely it is trifling with the common sense of the House to say that to prohibit the working classes from that which they have always been entitled to enjoy is the same as prohibiting them from having a public library or public baths. You are denying the working classes something which they do not wish to be denied. [Mr. CAINE: "They impose it on themselves."] Do they? I am not in favour of allowing those who have their own private cellars and access to every kind of refreshment that they wish—persons who will suffer no inconvenience whatever from the passing of this Bill—I am not in favour of allowing those persons to coerce those poorer than themselves, who have been in the habit of buying what they require daily from the public houses, and which many consider to be necessary for them. I recall the argument of my hon. and learned Friend, who showed that those who can vote will be able to cocerce a very large proportion of the population, 1238 and I do conceive that in country villages in particular any fanatical outburst would be resented most deeply by the working classes. The hon. Gentleman says that the working classes desire this change. What evidence has he to show that? What have the Trade Unions done on this question? They pass resolutions freely on many questions, but they have fought very shy of this one. What have the Friendly Societies said? There might be a kind of voluntary coercion before you come to State coercion. Has the right hon. Gentleman discovered any evidence that the Trade Unions have taken up this matter with enthusiasm? I have seen no evidence whatever of that kind; and I, for one, will not believe that this House will ever pass a measure of this kind until they know that at all events the majority, the great majority, of the working classes are in favour of it. Otherwise we shall be exercising what, to my mind, has no merit whatever. It would be an altruistic, a kind of vicarious virtue, that we should endeavour, by a measure which does not affect ourselves, to take from our poorer friends a legitimate enjoyment. The right hon. Gentleman says that he does not wish to put down the ordinary supply, but the ordinary supply must be cut off if this Bill is at all effective; and the right hon. Gentleman would hardly desire that it should be a dead letter. Before I leave the subject of total prohibition, let me say a word on general considerations. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of the enormous number of public houses in a separate street. All these matters are likely to be used on platforms, and we ought to know where that street is. Is it not the case of a neighbourhood in which there is a vast number of men employed, say, in the docks, or in some other large works, who are locked out at a particular time, and, having their dinner with them, wish at the same time to be able to get a glass of beer? We must not deal with this question simply upon general considerations, without carefully considering the demands and wishes and conveniences of the poor. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, whom I have often heard dilate on that particular point, will agree with me that the habits of the people must be considered in this 1239 matter; and it is because I believe that total prohibition will run counter to the habits of the people that I am against that portion of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman did not deal with one of the most powerful arguments against total prohibition, I mean illicit drinking. Total prohibition does lead to illicit drinking. There will be the whisky bottle at home, there will be the she been and the clubs, and the right hon. Gentleman will have to introduce a Bill dealing with clubs. Then, how is illicit drinking to be prevented? Are we to have a system of espionage in order to stop private drinking? If we wanted a body to carry out any such system I have no doubt that the London County Council would be prepared to hunt for hidden alcohol. Unless you have a system of espionage it is extremely doubtful whether the passage of total prohibition will not increase the evils we are seeking to destroy. It is on the moderate drinker that the whole of the inconvenience will fall. There is a new feature in this Bill, a very extraordinary feature, and that is the limitation of licences. Any more extraordinary provision has never beer submitted to this House, and I fee perfectly sure that the right hon. Gentleman cannot possibly in his heart think that it is workable. The proposal is that a resolution may be passed by which the licensing justices will be directed to reduce the number of public houses by one quarter—no less than one quarter. I pass by the extraordinary provision that, if by the voice of the people it is declared that they wish to have three—quarters, the justice may abolish the licences altogether. What on earth can be the meaning of such a proposal as that? There must be justices who would be prepared to take advantage of a resolution passed by a parish or any other area, asking that they would like fourth of the houses to be cut off or no to give them any public houses at all.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I appeal to the last 20 or 30 years. Justices are not insane. They have no direction from Parliament that they may have any such discretion whatever. If the right hon. Gentleman challenges me on the point I shall go at length into the judgment of "Sharp v. Wakefield"; and I should like to repeat in this House the observations which have been made by noble Lords and others who showed that the construction put by the right hon. Gentleman on the judgment in "Sharp v. Wakefield" is totally indefensible. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the justices would be carrying out the law of this country if, in Kent or elsewhere, they were to abolish all licences whatever? If the right hon. Gentleman passes a Bill and makes a statement that it is the intention of the Bill to place that power in the hands of the justices, it is a different thing. He invites the justices to exercise a discretion which hitherto all legislation has discouraged them from exercising, and no one more than the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman has discouraged the diminution of licences; but the right hon. Gentleman now says that not only may they abolish all those licences, but there is a mandatory request made to them that they have to abolish the number of licences by a fourth. Say that there are 20 public houses in a particular area. A resolution is passed stating that a fourth is to be abolished. On what principle are the licensing justices to proceed? There is to be a clean sheet; they are to make a choice and to eliminate five out of the 20 without Parliament having given so much direction as it did to the Irish Land Sub-Commissioners. Can hon. Members not imagine the canvassing, the jobbery, the petitions, the manŒuvring in by-ways to be employed, in order to determine for the justices which of the 5 out of the 20 are to be abolished? Supposing they abolish 5 public houses; will not the charge lie against the justices that they 1241 have abolished 3 Radical and only 2 Conservative houses; that they have sanctioned the "Royal Oak," but taken away the licence from the "Plantagenet Arms"? If in the circumstances of a parish there are 20 public houses distributed over an area, are they the cause of inconvenience in the east, in the west, the centre, or the north and the south? This was not simply a choice of suppressing licences, but the gradually taking away of a man's livelihood without compensation from a fourth of the public houses, and an increase of value to the remainder. Is that a reasonable proposition? No. The Chancellor of the Exchequer properly said that he had attempted an impossible task, and he has executed it in an impossible manner. I render every homage to the ingenuity of the plan, but when you come to work it out, you cannot, unless you lay down principles to show how that selection is to be made. Take an area where there are only four or five, public houses, all with their favourite customers. There are some patronised by the middle classes, and some by the working men; some are friendly to the general policy of the justices, and some are unfriendly. On what principle is selection to be made? Is it not clear that the whole authority of the justices would be destroyed? Whatever they did they would be accused of partiality, and whatever selection they might make would leave bad blood behind in every part of the parish; and the condition of things would be such as every hon. Member would deplore. Would it decrease drunkenness? That is not even proved. I am not arguing this question from any class point of view. I do not envy hon. Members; they will have plenty of petitions from the various publicans in the neighbourhood, who will say:—Bring your pressure to bear on the Licensing Justices, and relieve us from this penalising action on their part.I think it would not be a clean sheet, but a dirty one, in regard to which all 1242 the manŒuvres were employed which must ensue when the whole livelihood of these people depends on the action which the magistrates take. The right hon. Gentleman may say that the magistrates do it now. They do not do it upon that scale; and I would like to ask, are these parties going to be heard before their property is transferred to others? Supposing there is a widow who is in possession of one of these houses, and her husband has died the year before. The Probate Duty which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has put on the value of the house has been paid on the assumption that the licence will be renewed. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to abolish the Probate Duty with regard to public houses, looking to the fact that you are going to disestablish, if I may use the phrase, one quarter of the public houses? Observe the gambling of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is going to raise probate upon them all as if they were not to be disestablished, or how is he going to make a selection when a person dies? The fact is this proposal is too ridiculous to be further argued. It is an impossible proposition, and I really think no one knows it better than the right hon. Gentleman himself. In regard to the question of compensation, the right hon. Gentleman has used the words of the hon. Member for the Cockermouth Division of Cumberland and said that no Bill will ever pass this House which involves the principle of compensation. I believe no Bill will ever pass this House which does not recognise the principle of compensation. However, the hon. Member for the Cockermouth Division of Cumberland is perfectly honest and consistent, though rather fanatical. He says that he would rather that nothing should be done than that one shilling of compensation should ever be given to any publican. He is prepared to continue the present state of things, with all the present horrors from his point of view, rather than give one 1243 shilling of compensation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has quoted to us the American and Scandinavian precedents, and he expects us to be guided by the callousness, as he might call it, of the American or Scandinavian conscience; but he has not stated, and I do not think he can, that the same circumstances under which the vested interests have grown up in this country have been reproduced either in America or in Scandinavia. Before we are guided by those precedents he must show that the circumstances are the same, and that they have been taxed as our vested interests have been taxed, and that the legislation under which they have grown up has been the same. May I quote to the House one extract, which ought to reappear in every discussion on this question, from a speech of the right hon. Member for Midlothian? The Chancellor of the Exchequer quoted Australian finance against us in the Budget of last year, and now he quotes American and Scandinavian precedents. Let me put this quotation against those. I think, on the whole, it will command as much confidence and respect in the country. The right hon. Member for Midlothian said:—We ought not to allow our prejudices with regard to this particular trade, or our sense of the enormous mischiefs associated with its working, to cause us to deviate by one hair's breadth from the principle on which Parliament always acted in analogous circumstances—viz., where a vested interest has been allowed to grow up, the question of compensation should be considered when such vested interest is proposed to be interfered with by Act of Parliament.I am prepared to set that against all the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he was prepared to say neither more nor less than that the licensed victuallers had the same right to compensation that was enjoyed by persons following any other trade or calling which was interfered with by Act of Parliament, and to whom compensation was awarded. I want a frank recognition of the principle that we are not to deny to publicans as a class 1244 the benefits of equal treatment because we think their trade is in so many points of contact with, and is sometimes productive of, undoubted mischief. Now the right hon. Gentleman has acknowledged a vested interest, and one decision like that in "Sharp v. Wakefield" cannot destroy the value of vested interests and equity, because vested interests and the principles of equity have been supported by Parliamentary legislation for so many years. When the late Government introduced these provisions to reduce the number of licences hon. Members opposite said we created by that Bill a vested interest to the extent of from 250 to 400 millions. But hon. Members must remember that fanaticism, like drink, sees double. What does the Attorney-General say?
THE ATTORNEY - GENERAL
When it was stated that there was a vested interest existing in law we staked our reputation for legal knowledge that there was nothing of the kind, and every Court before whom the question came in "Sharp v. Wakefield" confirmed that view. It was conjectured that the value of the vested interests amounted to 200 or 250 millions.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
That interruption shows the Law Officers think that by one of these opinions they can override our sense of equity. If publicans have no vested interest in these licences, why does the Chancellor of the Exchequer tax it? I do not know how it happens in Scandinavia or America, but I know that the right hon. Gentleman and I have derived hundreds of thousands of pounds from the view that a licence was not only an annual licence, but entitled to renewal. Does he deny that? [Sir W. HARCOURT shook his head.] He does not ! He is not such a robber as he would make himself out to be. Nor am I, or I should share his criminality. But I have it from the Inland Revenue what their work is. I want the House and the country to realise it. The Law Officers say there is no vested interest 1245 in licences, and that the holders are entitled to no compensation whatever. I feel a criminal after what I have heard. The Chancellor of the Exchequer not long ago had an estate of nearly three millions, composed almost entirely of the value of public-houses. These public-houses would not have been worth one-quarter of the whole amount if there had been no vested interest. But it was the expectation of the vested interest that put the money into the right hon. Gentleman's pocket. Here is a paper from the Inland Revenue, signed by Sir Algernon West, An authority which the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge. I say that the publicans have always been taxed on the theory that their licences would be renewed, and they are rated on the same footing.On the death of a leaseholder." says this paper, "in the affidavit delivered by his executor of his assets, he brings in the value of the lease and goodwill combined. Lease, 40 years to run, and goodwill of 'The White Hart,' £2,000; lease, 47 years to run, of 'The Greyhound,' £.543; goodwill separately. In each of these cases it is assumed that the licence will continue to be renewed.Without the licence there would be no goodwill. We have always acted upon these principles, and now we are told on high legal authority that we have been plundering these gentlemen, because there is no expectation of vested interests.On the death of the freeholder of a public-house nothing comes under the tax for probate duty. But the annual value of the house, as treated in the succession duty account, is permanently enhanced by the licence, and in the other case the annual values are capitalised for the whole life of the successor according to the tables annexed to the succession duty on the presumption that the licence will be renewed.Has the Chancellor of the Exchequer no qualms of conscience? Does he not see that his probate duty may be exacted one year and the next the license may be taken away? The question of compensation has been rightly defined by the right hon. Member for Midlothian, and, informer times, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer 1246 himself; and I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is going to make a change in his Budget, or whether he is still going to tax men on the presumption that they have an expectation, while, on the other hand, he is telling them they are entitled to nothing. I shall be surprised if, with his principles of equity, he does not say he must deal with the question of the taxation of these assumed interests. This is a question which affects the finances of the country very seriously, and one branch of it especially affects Ireland. We have heard that Ireland was going to be endowed with a whisky tax as its main source of revenue. That may be one of the reasons why Ireland is to be left out of the Bill, while she is to be allowed a voice in determining whether England is to be subjected to this coercive policy and this coercive class legislation. It is coercive because the majority is to coerce the minority as regards their private habits. It would be coercion if a majority of this House were to say that no one who was not a total abstainer should be a Member of it; and that which is ridiculous when applied to 600 Members of this House is just as ridiculous when applied to 600 agricultural labourers. Let me ask the Government how far they are going with this Bill? We have been told that a social canker is eating the very vitals of the people; and yet this Bill comes after the Welsh Disestablishment Bill and the Irish Land Bill, in spite of the number of years the question has been before the country. I should not be surprised if we never hear of this Bill again. I believe the certificate of its birth will be the certificate of its death. A Bill so preposterous in parts, and so complicated that the hon. Member for Cockermouth cannot understand it, is not likely to commend itself to the judgment of the people, and it will be disposed of when we have four consecutive days for exposing its absurdities and showing how impossible it is that it should ever pass into law.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I presume, from the moment at which the right hon. Gentleman has sat down, he did not expect that I should attempt any answer to his speech; perhaps he thought it did not require any answer. The right hon. Gentleman said the House and the country wished to see the Bill, and I hope, therefore, I may be permitted to introduce it.
Leave being given, Bill brought up and read 1°.