HC Deb 17 May 1895 vol 33 cc1498-528

On Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair,"

MR. WILLIAM ALLEN (Newcastle-under-Lyme) rose to move an Amendment— That, whereas the present system of granting licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor to tenants who are under agreement to purchase only from any particular person, firm, or company is most injurious both to the tenants and the public, this House is of opinion that immediate legislation is desirable to make such agreements illegal. He should not have troubled the House with this subject, he said, had he not been convinced that there were great evils arising out of the existing system which demanded its urgent attention. Last Session his hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy endeavoured to bring the subject before the House, but was not fortunate in securing a day. During the present Session, however, two Bills were brought in dealing with the matter, one by the hon. Member for Leicester and one by himself. They differed somewhat in drafting, but had the same object; and the conviction of the promoters was that all contracts entered into between the tenants of tied houses and the brewers by which the tenant was bound to sell one particular kind of liquor that was brewed by one particular brewer or company, were detrimental to the interests of both the tenant and the general public. As there was no opportunity of advancing these Bills, it was decided to withdraw them, and ask the House to express an opinion on the matter by mans of this Resolution, which he hoped would be accepted by a large majority. It was in no sense a Party Resolution; and he might mention that the Bills to which he had alluded had been backed by Members of the Liberal Party and the Liberal Unionist Party, while several hon. Members sitting on the Opposition Benches had promised to give the Resolution their support. Tied houses were comparatively new institutions; 20 or 30 years ago there were very few of them in the country. There might have been one or two here and there, but they were not numerous. Things had changed now, however, and he was assured by people who had gone fully into the subject that nearly 70 per cent. of the fully-licensed houses in the country were tied to some brewer or another. No doubt one of the reasons for such a marked change was the competition which existed between the brewery companies who had bought up the houses in order to push the sale of their own liquors. The Parliamentary return of licenses for 1890 showed that in Liverpool alone some five or six brewers held no fewer than 504 public houses, while in St. Helens there were 126 houses of the same description. In Portsmouth two companies owned 212 houses; in Birmingham one firm owned 155; while one firm in Bristol beat the record in the possession of 287. This state of things was found in the large towns, and it was no better in the country districts. In East Suffolk, for instance, there were 11 licensing districts, and one Colchester firm of brewers alone had 82 houses in their rural district. These figures went a long way to show the extent to which the system prevailed, and he would endeavour to show the House that the evils resulting from it were as great as its extent. The houses were tied in different degrees. Some were tied for beer only, others for beer and spirits, while not a few were tied for beer, spirits, groceries, and mineral waters. There was one brewery company which did not manufacture its own mineral waters, but sub-lets the right of supplying them, with the result that the public could not buy them at the usual price, by reason of the fact that they had to bear three profits. He had been informed that in some places houses were often tied in respect of matches, and he had been told on excellent authority that in Derby a publican was tied in regard to the sawdust he used in the spittoons. That certainly seemed to be carrying the tying system to a remarkable stage. In one of the Derbyshire villages a brewer, and a Member of that House, lets his houses to a certain grocer, who in turn relets them to tenants, whom he ties down to buy all their beer from the brewer, and all their groceries and spirits from himself, and he had been assured by the hon. Member for Preston, who had been into some of those houses, that they were in a most filthy and insanitary condition, which, no doubt, might be attributed to their being tied. The agreements which were entered into were grossly oppressive, and he would give the House one or two instances in support of that assertion. In one agreement affecting a public-house in Halifax the publican was only a monthly tenant. He had to pay his rent beforehand every month, and was liable to be expelled at the end of any month. If that was not breaking the Licensing Law it was, at any rate, an evasion of the law. Licences were granted for the term of one year, and if the power of the brewer to change the tenant month by month was not absolutely breaking the law, it was certainly sailing very near the wind. There was another clause in another agreement which was to the effect that it was mutually agreed that the landlord or his agents should have at all times during the tenancy free access to cellars or other places where the liquors sold by the tenant were stored. That simply meant giving a power of search over the premises of the wretched publican, at any hour of the day or night to see whether he had any other liquor than that which he was under contract to sell. It was not strange in the face of those facts, therefore, that the publicans had a very strong feeling against being tied down in this way. He could give the House another instance of the oppression of the system. One of the London streets was being improved some time ago, and a tied house had to be done away with. The publican had entered the house about a year before and paid between £800 and £900 for it. As soon as the notice was given that the house would have to be pulled down for the improvement, the brewer turned the publican out and pocketed the whole of the £1,600 compensation, of which the publican did not get a penny. Tenants of a tied house suffered in another way, because they were compelled to take the liquors of the brewer whether that liquor was good or bad. In some cases also the tenant had to pay from 15 to 20 per cent, more for his liquor than the owner of a free house, with the result that he was compelled to push his trade, by illegitimate means very often, in order to get a bare livelihood out of the house. The opinion which generally prevailed amongst magistrates in regard to those tied houses was shown by a resolution passed by the Cheshire Magistrates, declaring that they considered the system most pernicious, and that all agreements between brewers and tenants of tied houses ought to be produced before the Justices at Licensing Sessions. But other agreements were often substituted for the real agreements, and although the Magistrates knew this, perfectly well, it was an exceedingly difficult matter for them to prove it as the law stood. At Crewe the Magistrates, four years ago, refused to grant renewals of licences to a large number of houses simply on the ground that they were tied houses. But at Quarter Sessions this decision was quashed, and, unfortunately, the Justices did not see their way to appeal, so that there was no judgment of the High Court in the matter. The public suffered under the system. Take, for instance, the town of——, in which there were 24,000 inhabitants. There were 24 licensed houses in the town, and of those 23 were tied. That meant that from only one licensed house in the town were the public able to purchase any kind of liquor they desired. In all the other houses the public had to be content with the liquor which one firm of brewers chose to sell. He maintained that licences were granted for the general well-being of the community. The theory was that a licence was granted to a publican as a privilege; and it had never been contemplated that the publican should tie himself down to some outside authority, and agree to sell only whatever liquid that outside authority gave him leave to sell. The theory had been that the publican should be free to sell any kind of intoxicating liquor he pleased, and it certainly was contrary to the interests of the community, and to the interest of those who desired a glass of good beer that they should be compelled in a large number of licensed houses to buy the beer that some single firm of brewers chose to supply. The brewers were enabled by this system to get rid of their bad beer. The tenant of a free house would soon return the beer to the brewer if he found it were bad; but in the tied houses the brewer was enabled to foist any kind of beer on the tenant, and the tenant could not refuse it, for he was liable to be expelled from his house at a month's notice. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had strongly upheld a few evenings previously the cause of pure beer, and of the English barley-grower. Now this bad beer supplied to tied houses was really brewed from some other articles than barley, and he therefore thought that in the interest of barley-growers hon. Gentlemen opposite should support his Resolution, which would set the publicans free to buy pure beer for their customers. The system also injured the public in another way. The brewer often lets his tied house at considerably less than what its value would be if it were a free house, and as, in many cases, the rates were assessed according to the rent, the community were defrauded out of a certain amount of money for local purposes. In the same way the Revenue received less than it was really entitled to on the licence; therefore, in the interest of the publican, in the interest of the consumer, in the interest of the ratepayers, and in the interest of the Revenue, he asked the House to assent, if not unanimously, at least by a very large majority, to his Resolution.


in seconding the Resolution, said that the hon. Member who put down an Amendment to the Resolution admitted, by its terms, that some inquiry should be made by a Committee into this subject of tied houses. He thought it was a very important admission for the representatives of the trade to make, that it was a matter worthy of investigation. He would not traverse the ground so ably covered by his hon. Friend, the Mover of the Resolution, as to the extent of the tied house system, further than to mention that in the city of Liverpool alone there were, it was stated, upwards of 800 tied houses which were compelled to sell whatever liquor the brewers thought well to force upon them; that in Runcorn there were 67 tied houses out of 82; and that in the small town of Northwich there were 24 out of 26 licensed houses tied to particular brewers. The Resolution which was being submitted to the House was in favour of Free Trade. It was in favour of the publicans being able to buy in the cheapest, and sell in the dearest, market; it declared that they should have full and complete liberty to purchase Torn any manufacturer they thought proper, and buy the articles which, in their opinion, were best suited to the tastes of their customers. Under the system of tied houses, the publicans had no liberty whatever. They were compelled to take whatever beer the brewer thought well to impose on them, whatever fire-water was sent to them, and even to use whatever sawdust the particular brewer recommended. He thought, therefore, that it was high time for the House of Commons to put a stop to this system of oppression which had been forced upon the publicans by great and wealthy corporations. He thought, also, that the Resolution ought to receive a large measure of support from the other side of the House. Hon. Members opposite were given to boasting that they were the only friends of the trade, and they had made some political capital out of the boast. He hoped, therefore, that they would support the Resolution, which was really in the interest of the trade, and which would not hurt a single firm that desired to conduct its business honestly and honourably. Since he had introduced his Tied House Bill he had received an enormous number of letters from tenants of tied houses in all parts of England, and, in some cases, from Wales, in support of the measure; but it was significant of the abject fear which prevailed amongst those tenants that most of them asked him not to publish anything which might lead to their identification. One letter, written with great intelligence and great ability, by an ordinary licensed victualler in a provincial town in a midland county, said:— I am compelled to get petitions signed by customers against your Tied House Bill, which makes my soul revolt. Later on, in his letter, he showed how he was marshalled off on particular grand field days to attend great demonstrations of brewers and licensed victuallers, to cheer and to vote in favour of motions which he detested. That might not be new to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but to some of the Members on the Ministerial Benches who suspected some little irregularities it was a revelation. The writer also showed that the agreements were submitted to them under circumstances which almost precluded them from thoroughly weighing and understanding the purport of many of the clauses of the agreements. It was only after they had appended their signatures that they became aware of the act of folly they had committed owing to the pressure of circumstances. His correspondent pointed out that according to the agreement all spirits, wines, beer, and stout were to be of good quality and of current market price. That sounded fair enough, but the clause was a delusion and a snare for the publican had to pay from 6s. to 8s. per barrel, and from 25 to 30 per cent. for their spirits and wines more than they would pay were they free. In conclusion, the writer of the letter said that pressure was exercised at elections, and he was ordered at all the meetings to enter his protest against measures to which in reality he was not opposed. The introduction of his simple Bill had really been the means of an extraordinarily large amount of information being brought to light. The correspondent to whom he had already referred pointed out also that one of the evil effects of the tied house system was that a man who wished to carry on his trade on respectable lines could not do so at a profit, but had to leave his house in order that it might be occupied by a less scrupulous man, who, in order to increase the trade of the previous tenant, had to resort to means and methods which led to disaster and to ruin in a large number of cases. A South Metropolitan publican had also written to him and imposed no restriction whatever as to the disclosure of his name. He said:— I quite agree with your remarks relating to tied houses. So many of them are traps, snares and swindles for those who take them, and robbery to the public who drank the bad beer some of the brewers send in. With regard to the iniquity of the system, he found a most unexpected ally in the Morning Advertiser, who on October 2, 1893, said they would greatly prefer all who bore the name of licensed victuallers were licensed to their own houses, for they were persuaded that the more independence given to the publicans the better for the publicans, the public and the brewers. There was further evidence from other people engaged in the trade. A tied publican in the neighbourhood of Plymouth stated in an interview that restrictions were imposed as to the quantity of a particular liquor they purchased. He said:— For instance, I must buy three times the quantity of my brewer's own stuff— not a very elegant expression— that I get of another brewer. Allsopp's is most in demand. If I want throe hogsheads of Allsopp's I must purchase nine hogsheads of my brewer's production. He now called it production, and not stuff. Further on in the interview the publican said— I get this house for £25 a year, but I would gladly pay over £60 a year if it were free. All the information he had received went to prove that under the tied house system local taxation was robbed of a large portion of its legitimate contribution. If there were thousands of tied houses let at £30 a year instead of £60 or £70 a year, hon. Members must easily see what an enormous loss there was to local taxation, the gain all going to swell the wealth of the brewers and to prepare them for that higher sphere on the other side of the Lobby. Again, Her Majesty's Revenue was really defrauded of its due share of increased income, which would result from the increased value of licences. The system was condemned in every part of the country. At Hanley applications were made for transfers, and they led the Mayor to make the following remarks— The Mayor pointed out that nearly all those houses were under the control of brewers, and it was quite palpable to the Bench that people who saved a little money first, and placed it in the hands of the brewers' agents, made a great mistake by going into the trade. He had a number of other documents in his possession equally interesting, showing that this question was moving public opinion, and that there was a great wave of indignation arising, which must ultimately ensure legislation upon the subject. There was evidence that even the publicans were rising in revolt; and then there would be anxious times for the Conservative party. If the licensed victuallers once got the bit between their teeth, the party must look out for a spill. The Birmingham Daily Mail recorded that 15 Coventry publicans sent in a petition in favour of the Tied Houses' Tenants Bill, which was presented by Mr. Newdigate. He had no doubt the hon. Member found his way in the shady part of the evening along the opposite gangway, and dropped the petition into the bag at the back of the Speaker's Chair, and the House consequently heard nothing about it. They had to thank the intelligence department of that excellent Conservative journal, the Birmingham Mail, for their enlightenment about the petition from the Coventry publicans. He had received a circular, dated 5, Victoria Street, S.W., from the Country Brewers' Society, in which it was sought to be shown that these tied houses had been in the hands of one family, and had passed from father to son and grandson for generations. But that was not so. He had a letter from a magistrate in one of the home counties (Bedfordshire) who had taken a great interest in licensing reform, and he obtained at his Quarter Sessions, in 1891, a return which went to show that tied houses were transferred three times as often as free houses. What became, then, of the generation to generation argument? Again, the charges against publicans of offences against the Licensing Acts were as 2 to 1 in tied houses as compared with free houses. That did not argue very much in favour of tied houses. The interesting argument in the circular referred to went on further to say that— The tied house tenant has many compensating advantages. He pays less rent, and nothing for goodwill. And again— They are never at a loss for applicants for tied houses. Well, we knew very well that, unhappily, such was the overcrowded state of this country, that no matter how onerous the terms, amounting almost to slavery, you will find men so pressed by circumstances that they will fly to them rather than go into the workhouse or die by the roadside; but that did not justify an unequal contract. The hon. Member for Epsom had an Amendment on the Paper, desiring that there should be a Committee to inquire into the subject. Did the hon. Member not know there had already been a Committee? Was he acquainted with the history of the subject? One of the witnesses examined was a brewer named Barclay; and another witness examined was asked— 'Do you think it would be desirable to prevent by legislative enactment brewers and distillers from becoming the purchasers of public-houses?' His reply was 'Taking it for granted that it could be done without difficulty, our house would be very glad if the thing were done, that brewers had no control whatever over public-houses in any way. This was the declaration of a gentleman named Martineau, a member of the firm of Whitbread and Co. Here again was the evidence of Mr. Sampson Hanbury, who said that, at a general meeting of brewers, he got up and proposed— That all classes should be done away with, stating that we were ready to surrender ours. Q. Was that at a recent meeting? A.—Five or six months ago. Q.—Have you abandoned in your business the granting of these leases? A.—Entirely. Q.—Should you consider any tenant holding a public-house under you to be at liberty to employ whatever brewer he chooses besides you? A.—We think it should be done; we wish it to be done.' He found after some research that there was a committee who dealt with tied houses so far back as 1817; and the names of the brewers of that day were practically the same as those of to-day. The above was an example of the opinions expressed by those men at that time. They believed that the tied house system was on the decline, that the system could not last, and yet to-day nearly 75 per cent. of the whole licensed premises of the country were tied to some brewer or some brewery company. This was not a party question. Radical members had no especial interest in it, and hon. Gentlemen opposite were quite at liberty to make the question one of the planks of their political platform. He and his hon. friends would be glad to help them forward in any movement of the kind which they cared to initiate. He was certainly of opinion than the operative brewing trade as well as the public interest demanded this reform. It was no interference with legitimate business. The butcher the baker, or the candlestick maker, did not ask for permission to set up business, or for rules as to its guidance. On the other hand, the public-house business was clearly a State business like the Church, or any other business. He meant that it was under State control; and in this sense he invited the co-oporation of honorary members opposite towards the adoption of this resolution.

*MR. T. T. BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)

said, that the hon. Member for Leicester, in the course of his speech, had thought fit to twit him with regard to his ignorance on this subject. He did not think that those remarks of the hon. Member would quite meet with the acceptance of a generous House.


I never said one word that would bear that construction.


accepted the statement, but his ears must have greatly deceived him. He did not pretend to know as much on this subject as those who had spent their life in the trade or were more experienced than he was; but he happened to take a great interest in the matter, and he did not blush to state that he was President of the Epsom Licensed Victuallers' Association, as well as Member for that Division. He was speaking to-night because he did not believe that this Amendment was acceptable to licensed victuallers as a class. The hon. Member, while disclaiming any political bias, had made allusions which could only be animated by political motives. He did not suggest that there were no abuses in existence, nor that the brewers' trade, any more than other trades—aye, and professions, too—was perfect. There were brewers in this country who were, perhaps, no better than they should be; yet this was the case in every profession and trade in the country. It was easy enough to find fault wherever one chose to take the trouble to do so; but it was a great deal more difficult to meet accusations like those brought for ward by the hon. Member for Leicester, without having had the opportunity of looking into them. Referring to the nature of the Amendment the House was, he said, asked to declare that the tied-house system was injurious to the tenants and to the public. He invited the House to see whether that accusation could fairly and properly be substantiated to such an extent as that (following out the words of the Amendment) immediate legislation was desirable to make all such agreements illegal—that was to say, to make illegal all contracts which had been freely entered into; between the brewer and his tenant. This was, to use a common expression, a very strong order indeed. It was coercion, with a vengeance, because it went so far as to render every agreement—they were not going to take an agreement here and there which might, possibly, have been brought about by improper pressure—to render every agreement between a brewer and the keeper of a tied house absolutely illegal. Before the House undertook the responsibility of passing such a measure, it ought to have the strongest and most conclusive evidence before it. It was no argument to say that 70 per cent. of the public houses in the country were tied houses, unless it was shown that these houses were so absolutely injurious and vicious in themselves as to make it right that the Legislature should step in and declare the agreements in regard to everyone of them to be illegal, as being wrong and bad in principle. Had any voice from the people of this country been heard to that effect? Here and there, no doubt, statements had been received from different parts of the country, and people were very quick to find fault. He observed that one letter read by the hon. Member for Leicester was from a man who was no longer in a public house, and who, conceivably, might entertain a grudge against the brewer, who, perhaps, had turned him out. As he had said, the mere fact that 70 per cent. of the houses were "tied" proved nothing unless it were shown that those houses, being tied, in principle and in fact the majority of them did harm to the tenants and also did harm to the public who were served by them. An Amendment, which, if he had the opportunity, he would move went only to this, that there should be an inquiry before a Select Committee to inquire into the facts. They were told by the Mover of the Amendment that licensed houses were said to be only 20 years old. What good, then, was the evidence of a Committee of 1817, referred to by the hon. Member for Leicester, which sat before these houses existed? As to other articles which had been referred to, it was absurd to suppose that either the tenant or the public could be injured by the tenant being tied as to the purchase of his matches or his salt, or such like articles. The Amendment was not a proposition for legislation which was to be in aid of temperance. That was not suggested.

MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

was understood to say that it was suggested.


said, he had not heard anything said to that effect. It was said that the object of the suggested legislation was to relieve the tenant from a burdensome bargain, and the public from buying bad beer. In point of fact, the country was not ripe for such legislation as this. He asked the House not to be in a hurry in regard to this matter, which affected 70 per cent, of the licensed houses of the country. He urged that a Committee was necessary to take into consideration all the necessary facts and to inform the House on the subject. Immediate legislation on the subject was not possible; there were many matters waiting for immediate legislation of far greater importance than this, and those measures did not look as if they were ever to become law. But if, perchance, this Amendment had the sympathy of the Government, he would invite them to propose the insertion of a clause in the Bill relating to Local Option, by which the localities should have the option of dealing with this matter. Let the Government do that if they believed there really was a grievance. He did not think hon. Members had dealt with that aspect of the matter.


said, that he had done so.


said, he fancied he knew what the answer of the Government would be to such a proposition. He would draw attention to the report of some licensing magistrates in the county of Surrey.


asked how many Conservatives, Liberals, and brewers were upon the bench the hon. Member was referring to?


said, he had not the remotest idea. He did not think that was quite a fair observation, because on the Surrey County Council, where he had sat as an Alderman, politics were never once mentioned in connection with business matters. The Report was dated 1892, and stated that the magistrates were of opinion that there was no ground for the common notion that tied houses were worse conducted than others, and that, on the contrary, the brewers had a greater interest in seeing that they were well conducted. The Report stated also that the very fact that the number of transfers of licences was greater with regard to tied houses than to others, proved how jealously they were watched by their owners, who, for their own sakes, would not incur the risk involved in the toleration of doubtful or careless managers. When they found that this was the case with a great county like Surrey, it was impossible to denounce the system in the wholesale way in which it had been denounced. He did not think that the case as to the selling of bad beer had been made out. It was not likely that a publican would continue to sell bad beer simply because he was told to do so, and it was still more unlikely that a brewer would continue to sell bad beer when, if there was anything like competition, it would spell his own bankruptcy. Surely, too, hon. Members must know that the tenant of a tied house had not the same charges and expenses which the tenant of a free house had. It was said that the brewer turned out the tenants of these tied houses too often, but, of course, if he found that the tenant did not do his work properly, and brought his house into disrepute, he was justified in making a change; and he would remind the House that some of the tenants of these houses, being men without capital, borrowed their money from the brewer, at better terms than they could get from a money-lender, and were sometimes not faithful to their trust. Again, there was a great difference between tied houses in the provinces and the tied houses in London. He had not got particulars of the custom in other large cities, but he had some interesting data with regard to London, and his point was that whereas the custom and usage which governed the tied trade in London was altogether different from that which governed principally the tied houses in the country, there was a great necessity proved for inquiry before they passed too hasty legislation. Roughly speaking, the tied houses in London consisted of three sorts. In the first instance there might be a freehold house owned by the man who held the licence, or a man who had a long lease from a person who was not the brewer. But the man who was in, and who often paid a large sum of money to go in, had sometimes occasion to go to a brewer for a loan to help him. The custom as regarded that particular form of house was for the man to buy beer of that brewer, as a sort of consideration for the loan to him, as long as the mortgage ran. But there was nothing in the mortgage. It was an ordinary mortgage containing the ordinary covenants, and the man was entitled to pay it off when he liked, and the brewer had nothing to say to it. The publican was a free man—when he had paid off the mortgage—to buy his beer wherever he liked. There was a second class, where a brewer granted a lease to a tenant for a long term, sometimes of 50 years. In such circumstances the lease contained a clause that the lessee should deal with the lessor for beer only; but the lease was not determinable, and must run until it expired. So long as the lease existed the publican had to buy beer of the brewer, and there was nothing in that detrimental to the interest of the tenant. Thirdly, there was the yearly tenancy under brewers, where, so long as the tenancy lasted, the tenant had to buy the beer from the brewer. Such a tenant was not the slave suggested by the mover and seconder of this Amendment, and he was nothing more than a man who, for good consideration, agreed to buy beer from certain brewers during the continuance of his tenancy. He hoped he had shown that the supporters of this Amendment had not made out a sufficiently strong case, and that there was not that evidence before them which should induce the House to call for immediate legislation in the matter. But there were surely other tied houses as well as brewers'. Were there riot tied houses where tea was sold? Were there not bakers' houses where the flour had always to be bought from a particular miller; jewellery shops where the goods had to be bought from one wholesale merchant; and boot shops where the boots had to be bought from a particular manufacturer? He quite agreed there was a certain difference between the two, but the principle was the same. If this House was going to interfere between the capitalist on the one side, and the man who was not a capitalist on the other, but who was a sane person making a voluntary contract, surely they ought to be very careful how they entered into an inquiry such as that with the view to saying that one man should not contract freely and voluntarily with another. There seemed, in such a course as that suggested by the Amendment, to be coercion and destruction of liberty between man and man. And unless one could put his case as high as this, that it was clear beyond reasonable doubt that the tenant was not acting as a free man, but was being unfairly dealt with by the brewer, and that in consequence the tenant himself suffered, and the publican in turn suffered also—unless the case could be put as high as this then he submitted the Amendment should not be accepted. He asked that the whole question should go before a Select Committee, who should take the facts as they were now found to exist, and report to this House, and having so reported, he, for one, should be perfectly willing to accept and act upon that report.

*MR. SYDNEY EVERSHED (Staffordshire, Burton)

did not think any fault could be found with the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down, who had, he considered, gone a pretty tolerable distance in the direction taken by the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment. This was a question as to which, as the hon. Member had very fairly said, there were two sides and differences of opinion, but he thought they should all agree on the point that the tied-house system had assumed a degree of prominence and was of a character which so intimately affected a very large class of the community, as to make it a subject well worthy the attention and consideration of this House. A year ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer first called attention to this subject in a speech on the 10th May in connection with the raising of the Beer Duty—a very unfortunate act, as he believed, on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then said— ''What destroyed the small brewers was not the additional taxation on beer, but it was those gigantic monopolies which have bought up all the free-houses and turned them into tied-houses, converting the publican from an independent tradesman into a mere agent for the brewers. Since the Chancellor of the Exchequer used those words he thought all who had watched the course of events would agree that the buying up of free-houses and converting them into tied-houses was a process that had gone on with great rapidity. There had been a complete change in the supply of beer from the breweries to the population of this country during the last 25 years. There were now two classes of brewers—those who devoted themselves mainly to the supply of tied houses, and those who devoted themselves—and always had done, and, as he hoped, always would be able to do—to the supply of free houses. Belonging, as he and his constituents in Burton-on-Trent, to a large extent did, to the latter class, he knew that day by day and week by week the free houses were becoming less and less, and the tied houses were becoming one vast monopoly in this country. He was not giving an opinion as to whether this was right or wrong, but he would say that it was a question of sufficient importance to occupy the House, and that it was occupying the minds of the people to a much larger extent than many were aware of. It had been said that England did not like monopolies; and if they could be avoided, it was better not to have them. But was it desirable that this trade should fall into the hands of one great monopoly, and that there should be no free trade in beer at all? That was what things were drifting to. If it were not right, then perhaps some steps might be taken on the initiative of this Amendment which would arrest, before it was too late, that great absorption of trade which was going on—a trade on which the working classes mainly depended for their drink and luxury. He did not hesitate to say that if the beer supplied by the tied-house brewers and that supplied by the free-house brewers, whose business was competitive, was compared, it would be found that the free-house beer was by far the more wholesome and the better beverage. He might be supposed to speak with some personal bias, but he hoped that the Select Committee, when it sat, would, as Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen who had palates for beer, make it their business to take samples of the beer of both classes of brewers. An hon. Member the other night described some of the ingredients of beer. Some of those he had never heard of, and none of them he had ever seen. Those ingredients, he would undertake to say, were not used by the free-house brewers; but whether they were used by the tied-house brewers he could not say. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said on the previous evening that the great brewers were satisfied to pay the increased Beer Duty. He was surprised to hear him say so; but hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House regarded the right hon. Gentleman as an oracle who seldom spoke except with perfect accuracy; and he began to think that there was a great deal of truth in what the right hon. Gentleman said. Where were the great brewers on the previous evening, when this increased duty on beer was being fixed for another year? And where were they that evening? It surely could not be that they thought the question not one which affected them; and, at I any rate, it was a question which affected I the country generally, and therefore required their attention. It was suggested that the brewers were comparatively indifferent, because they had an opportunity of doing that with the tied-houses which other brewers could not do with the free-houses—that was to say, they could regulate the price which was charged to the tied house for the beer and therefore were comparatively indifferent to the additional sixpence per barrel on beer. He could only account in this way for their absence from a discussion, which must so intimately affect their pockets, unless they could regulate the price to the consumer. There were, no doubt, two sides to this question, and it would be for the Committee to derive from the information which was put before them a solution of this question. This question affected not only the brewers, or one class of them, but the community generally; and there could be nothing more unwise on the part of the brewers than to look with indifference or hostility to the awakening of public opinion upon a question of this kind. Brewers ought to be able to forget their own interests, because on this question there was a very strong public opinion formed and being formed, which would not settle the question in the interests of the brewers, but in the interests of the general community. He should like to see the brewers of this country set aside their private interests and contribute as far as they could to the solution of the question. There was the proposal before the House that there should be immediate legislation on this question, and an Amendment to the effect that there should be a Select Committee to inquire into it. He felt some hesitation in voting for a motion which recommended immediate legislation, because he did not know how it was possible to expect immediate legislation. If the Government would say that they had plenty of time for another odd Bill or two, that they would take up this question, and had the information upon which to act, then he would vote for the motion. But in default of that assurance he thought it would be a prudent step to appoint a Select Committee to investigate this question, and that indeed, seemed to be the only practicable thing to be done.

MR. T. USBORNE (Essex, Chelmsford)

said, that as he had been connected with the brewing trade for many years, and had also sat on the licensing bench of magistrates in his division of Essex, he might claim to know something about the system of tied public-houses. He should like to be allowed to contradict the statement of the last speaker that the beer supplied in free houses was far superior to the beer supplied in tied houses. It was to the interest of the tied-house brewer to supply good beer, because if his beer was bad he injured his trade and the value of the property which he supplied with the beverage. The number of tied houses in the country was sometimes underestimated, the fact being that about 95 per cent, of the existing public-houses were tied practically to different breweries. Many houses that were popularly supposed to be free were really tied, their goods being supplied to them by some particular brewery. As to houses being tied in respect of soda water, sawdust, matches, and other commodities, he believed that the practice was very exceptional. Houses tied in respect of the sale of beer and spirits were, it was true, tied in different ways, but in all cases it came to the same thing in the end; the brewer or wholesale tradesman supplied the publican or retail tradesman with the capital necessary for carrying on his business. In London, no doubt, the leases often belonged to the occupiers, but the brewers had supplied them with capital for the purchase of the leaseholds and of the fixtures, and in return the houses were tied. The practice in the country was not essentially different It might be said that the London tenant who borrowed what money he wanted on mortgage could go out of his house when he liked, his loan being paid off by another brewer; but the same thing was also quite possible in the country. The public-houses were undoubtedly too numerous, but the consequence was that competition was so keen that any publican who considered that the beer supplied to him by one brewer was bad, could have no difficulty in removing into another house where better beer was provided. It was easy for publicans to go into those houses where the best beer was supplied. Judging from his own experience, it was not the case that country brewers compelled their tenants to keep no beer besides their own in stock. Certainly, the tenants of the firm with which he was connected could always have Allsopp's ales or Guinness's stout in stock if they wished. Tenants, instead of paying full fixed rents, paid rents regulated as to their amounts by the quantity of beer sold. The hon. Member for Leicester said that the effect of this system was that the ratepayers were robbed. If less was paid in the shape of rates than ought justly to be paid, it was the fault of those whose duty it was to protect the interests of the ratepayers, because a house ought to be rated according to the sum for which it would let from year to year as a free house. This supposition that the ratepayers were robbed was really mythical in his opinion; but if such a state of things existed anywhere, it was not the fault of the brewers or of their tenants, but of the Assessment Committees. He did not know much about the system prevailing in the North of England, but he believed that houses there were tied by putting managers into them. That was a system which brewers could not like, for it was, perhaps, the worst possible for their interests. There was another way of tying houses, and he should like to know whether the hon. Member for Leicester objected to it. Three or four licensed victuallers, holding more than one licence apiece, combined and set up a brewery, and supplied their houses with their own beer. Inasmuch as they had set up a brewery and supplied themselves with liquor, their houses were as much tied as the houses bound to a great brewery. The Mover of the Resolution said the tied-house principle was a perfectly new one. The brewery at Portsmouth with which he was connected did not hold a single house to-day additional to or in excess of the number they held 100 years ago.


said, he stated that the great majority of the houses had been tied within the last 20 years.


said, that at Portsmouth the number of licensed houses was rapidly decreasing owing to the action of the magistrates. He thought there were too many licensed houses, but the great difficulty with the trade was how to fairly and equitably reduce them. At Portsmouth the magistrates had for several years past refused to grant new licences. If that course were generally adopted in England, and accompanied by a fair system of reducing the licences, either by purchase or otherwise, in a few years' time there would not be that excessive number of public houses of which complaint was made. It was well reference should be made to the Radical clubs in the East End. He had made inquiries concerning those clubs. [Mr. DALZIEL: "Is there no Conservative club?"] There was no Conservative club in London which indulged in Sunday performances of music-hall songs and so forth. He did not think the Gentlemen who were in favour of the free-house principle need be proud of the way the clubs in the East End were conducted. They were not under the control of the police, they did not pay licence, they were open all hours of the day and night, and on Sunday afternoons there were given in them performances of music-hall songs and dances which were advertised in the newspapers and which frequently led to disgraceful gatherings. That was the free-house principle. In conclusion, he had only to say he hoped a Committee would be appointed to inquire into the question. He was satisfied and the trade were satisfied that if a Committee were appointed the already often contradicted statements with reference to tied houses would be absolutely and completely exploded. Brewers and owners of public houses wished to do to the tenants and the public only that which was right. If a fair and impartial inquiry were held they were persuaded a stop would be put to this agitation, and they would be left in peace for, at all events, several years to come.


said, his hon. Friends the Members for Newcastle-under-Lyme and Leicester were to be congratulated upon having elicited from a most competent judge, the hon. Member for Burton, emphatic testimony in favour of the virtue of beer sold in free houses as against that of beer sold in tied houses. That testimony, however, was contradicted by no less an authority, the hon. Member for Mid Essex. Who should decide when brewers disagreed? They must leave hon. Members who had technical knowledge to settle the issue between themselves. But his hon. Friend the Member for Burton made a pointed appeal to him or whoever should in this Debate represent the Government. The hon. Gentleman asked if the Government were in a position to guarantee that they had sufficient leisure this Session, and sufficient gaps in their Programme this Session, to enable them to bring in a Bill dealing with the question introduced by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. He was afraid the Programme for the present year was pretty near as full as it would hold, but, after all, they had to consider the Programme of next year and of the year after that; and if his hon. Friend and those who sympathised with him would extend and continue their confidence in Her Majesty's Ministers during that prolonged period, he had no doubt some opportunity might be found to give legislative effect to the desire of hon. Members. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme had made an interesting and able speech, characterised by the dignity and severity which belonged to his years and experience, and one which had made a deep impression on his own mind. He regretted the absence from the Debate of many of his colleagues, and of one in particular, whose interests were peculiarly concerned. Incidents had been graphically narrated which clearly deserved, and would, no doubt, receive, the best attention of the right hon. Member for Derby. Another interesting point in the speech was the refreshing novelty with which the hon. Member laid it down as an axiom that licences were granted to public houses for the well-being of the community. He had heard a different doctrine from the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth; but for his own part he agreed with the hon. Member that the theory was that they were granted for the well-being of the community, and it behoved us to take means to secure that they were issued on such conditions as were consistent with the attainment of that object. His hon. Friend would say that this were a movement in promotion of Temperance, because it was a movement in favour of pure beer. He would not discuss the merits of beer drinking, or of the use of alcoholic stimulants, but, assuming that it was desirable and permissible that we should drink beer, it must be conceded it were better we should drink pure beer than that we should drink that made from the extraordinary chemical compounds which had been referred to, and it were better we should drink the original and unsophisticated article than we should drink the dregs, leavings, and rinsings which were said to be supplied in tied houses. Another serious and practical point named was the rating question. The hon. Member had rendered a public service by calling public attention to the curious device of letting a house at less than its market value, and recouping the rent by a trade arrangement, with the object of lowering the assessment, to the detriment of the rates. It was a melancholy condition of things described by the hon. Member for Leicester, that the occupancy of a tied house should involve a publican in the obligation of attending a meeting with the object of which he did not sympathise, and of holding up his hand for a resolution of which he did not approve. But Britons, even though publicans, never will be slaves, and this publican, when he went to the ballot-box, was a free agent, and, if he were a Leicester elector, he would vote for the hon. Member at the next election. While sharing the desire of the hon. Member for Epsom for more light on the subject, he must say that the Amendment on the paper covered too wide a field, for the hon. Member wanted to inquire about boots and shoes, drapery, bread, jewellery, and indeed, everything sold by shopkeepers who were said to be tied to certain manufacturers. This was a very far-reaching Amendment. They did not want an inquiry into every trade and industry, because, for one reason, it would be interminable. They were discussing a Resolution, not a Bill, and before they legislated on the subject two or three years hence there would be abundant time to accumulate the evidence which the hon. and learned Member for Surrey desired, that they should not legislate in the dark. So the hon. and learned Member should not hesitate to vote for the original Motion. He understood the hon. and learned Member to suggest there should be local option, and that the community should say whether there should be tied houses or free houses.


said his observations had been misunderstood. He asked, if the Government had such sympathy for the Motion as it was said they had, why did they not suggest the inclusion of a clause in their Bill for local option?


said he did not think it mattered in what Bill it was included. But he suggested its inclusion in the Bill his hon. Friend had in his mind's eye. His hon. Friend threw some douht on the testimony of the hon. Member for Leicester on the ground that the letter read was avowedly that of a man who no longer was the occupant of a public house, and the hon. Member assumed it might fairly be taken for granted that because that man did not hold a licence he had lost it for some good reason. There might be a thousand reasons why he had given up his licence which were not to his discredit or would lessen his value as a witness. He might have made his fortune, have wished to qualify as a magistrate, or have been converted to the view that all traffic in alcohol was wicked. Because he had ceased to be a licensed victualler it did not follow that he was a man of bad character. He was not in a position to speak for any one but himself in this matter. He should vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, as embodying the principle of Free Trade, tending to secure the reasonable independence of the publican, and likely to conduce to the supply of a better commodity to the consumer.


said he thought that this matter would have to be dealt with before the expiration of two or three years. As to clubs, he knew several in Essex and the East End—Radical and Conservative—and they were not at all good institutions. But the worst of them all was a tied club. If this subject were referred to a Committee, what evidence would be obtainable? Those who had been tied tenants would come forward, but their evidence would not do. Men who were in tied houses at the present time would not risk the displeasure of their employers by giving evidence against them. This was the grave difficulty of inquiry by way of Committee. One evil of tied houses was deterioration in the quality of the beer. It had been said that there was no fear of the sale of bad beer in tied houses, because competition would prevent it. It had been urged that there was no fear of tied-houses selling bad beer, because they would be prevented from doing so by competition. But in many instances in country districts there were no other public houses within a mile or two of these tied houses, and therefore there could be no competition. In most instances all the bad beer that the brewery owners had was mixed up with other beer, and the mixture was sent to the tied-house having no competition, the tenant having to pay handsomely for it. That was where the bad beer came in. Then he came to the subject of the complete subjection of the tenant of the tied-house. The tenant of such a house was placed in a position that no trader ought to occupy. In the first place, the tenant could not send back bad stuff, and, secondly, he was bound to accept all sorts of stuff that the brewer might choose to supply him with. In his opinion that was an abuse by the owner of his position. He would touch upon the temperance side of the argument. Of late years an enormous amount of capital had been put into brewing concerns, and a large portion of that capital had been spent in buying houses, and the result was that public-houses were fetching enormous prices. He knew of one case in which a little more than two years ago a small public house was rated at £100 per annum. It had only a short lease—about nine years—to run, but the other day it was sold for £2,500. The interest upon that sum had to come out of the pockets of the customers. The result was that the tenant would have to make people buy beer and to encourage them to drink small beer at a high price. That was not good either for the neighbourhood or for the community at large. In order to eke out a living the tenant had to go out into the highways and bye ways and compel people to come into his house and drink beer. Well, perhaps he had gone a little too far in saying that he had to compel them, he should rather have said that he had to entice them in. He did not mean to suggest that either the tenant or the brewer did anything illegal in the matter. In his opinion that was the cause of too much beer being drunk. He meant, of course, in the country, not in the House of Commons, nor by the upper class who had no such temptation put before them, but by the working men in the rural districts. The tenant must either induce them to drink or be turned out of his position, and perhaps be ruined for life. He did not think that this question was a Party one in any sense, and he denied that either Party derived benefit from the system. He hoped that both sides of the House would take this subject into their serious consideration, and that they would pass the Motion before them by a large majority.

Mr. J. T. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)

said, that he had sat upon a Committee some time ago, which had been appointed to inquire into the law of licensing, and into the condition of the licensed houses of Cheshire, and he ventured to think that the Report of that Committee was of equal authority with that which had been presented from Surrey. The method by which brewers avoided the transgression of the law in Cheshire was by putting very stringent conditions into the leases. One great firm which had licensed houses in eight out of the fourteen licensing divisions of the county, and which owned over 1,000 tied houses in Lancashire and Cheshire, insisted that every tenant should bind himself to go out of the house at three days' notice, not if he had committed an offence, but if he had done something which might bring him within the reach of the law. It was the brewers and not the magistrates that decided whether an offence had been committed. It might be thought that in this way brewers secured due obedience of the law, but that was not his experience, or that of many of his colleagues in Cheshire. They found that a man was put out before he was accused by the police, and a new tenant was, of course, accepted by the Magistrates, with the result that on matter how badly the house was conducted, it had always a clean license. Therefore it was evident that there was less security for good order, and for the character of the tenant in the case of a tied house than in the case of a free house. With regard to the question of rating, the licensing justices of Crewe the year before last, and again last year, refused to renew licences to a number of managers in the service of the great brewing firm of Walkers'. Thereupon Messrs. Walker turned these men into tenants, and raised their rents to the market value of the house, with the result that the assessment of these houses had gone up £2,640.


claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."


withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

*MR. BUCKNILL moved the following Amendment to the proposed Amendment:— To leave out all the words after; whereas, and add 'the House has no sufficient information on the subject, it in expedient, in the first instance, that a Select Committee of this House be appointed to inquire into the customs prevalent throughout the country by which the wholesale manufacturer lands his retail customers who hold licences, to deal in the articles ho manufactures or sells, and to Report.


seconded the Amendment.


said, that what was dealt out to one trade should be dealt out to the other. He thought the tied-house system had been of great benefit to the country, and on broad principles he for one was quite prepared to argue in favour of that point; but, with all due respect, he could not help remarking on the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the occasion of such a Debate as they had that evening. Why were they discussing this question, and why was it necessary that they should have a Committee to inquire into the question of tied houses? Why was it necessary to bring two Bills before the House the previous day, both of which were withdrawn, if the tied house system did not go to the root of the licensing system? The Session was already overburdened with Select Committees, but why was it necessary to ask for a Select Committee on this question? If they wanted information on this subject why was the Government bringing in the Local Veto Bill? That Bill was going to deal with the whole of the licensing system of this country. [Cries of "No."] It was going to make a very great change in the whole of the licensing system if the Government would ever dare to bring it in. Why, then, was this question to be dealt with piecemeal by a Resolution that night? Why did not the Government take it up, if they were in favour of restricting or abolishing the tied-house system? He respectfully submitted that what was dealt out to the publican ought to be dealt out to the ironmonger, haberdasher, and a hundred other trades. There were just as many tied houses in other trades as in the liquor trade, and the Amendment of his hon. Friend was just as worthy of support as an Amendment dealing only with one particular trade. He hoped the hon. Member would press his Amendment to a Division.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."

Whereupon MR. BRUNNER rose in his place arid claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but


withheld his assent, and declined then to put the Question.

Question afterwards put.

The House divided:— Ayes 98; Noes 59.—(Division List, No. 84.)

Question proposed— That the words 'whereas the present system of granting licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor to tenants who are under agreement to purchase only from any particular person, firm, or company is most injurious both to the tenants and the public, this House is of opinion that immediate legislation is desirable to make such agreements illegal' be added after the word 'That' in the Main Question,

*And, it being Midnight, and objection being taken to further proceeding, MR. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the Business,

Whereupon MR. WILLIAM ALLEN rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the question be now put."

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

The House divided:—Ayes, 91; Noes, 51.—(Division List, No. 85.)



declared that the question was not decided in the affirmative, because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order 25, and that the Debate stood adjourned.