§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon)
I beg to move the second reading of this Bill. It is a measure which is supported on both sides of the House, and its object is to amend the Beerhouse Acts so as to simply place beerhouse licences on exactly the same footing as ordinary licences for the sale of beer and spirits.
Motion made and Question proposed—
That the Bill be now read a second time.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
I confess that I am placed in a rather peculiar position in having again to trespass upon the time of the House in dealing with a subject which is very much like the one discussed in a Bill which has already been under our consideration to-day. Unlike the promoter of the other Bill to which I have alluded, the hon. Gentleman has furnished us with a memorandum, which is extremely useful to people like myself, for it informs me what the particular 568 objects are which the Bill has in view. The memorandum says that the object of this Bill is to interfere in a hostile sense with what has been long recognised by Parliament as a vested interest. I do not think that is denied. The object of this Bill is to give to the licensing justices the same discretion in dealing with beer and cider houses that they now possess in regard to fully licensed houses and other places of refreshment, and this Bill is to place them in a different position, so far as the law is concerned, to that which they occupy now. I deprecated earlier in the day the attempt to deal with this subject until the Royal Commission which is now considering the question has issued its report, and it is not necessary for me to repeat what I have said before. But there is in this Bill a very great distinction between the two measures with regard to vested interest. Parliament designedly gave to these beer-houses a vested interest, and placed them in such a position that the renewal of their licences was wholly outside the discretion of the licensing justices. I have heard a good deal of argument in years past upon this question, and it is not necessary to go into detail. I believe it was the object of the Legislature in dealing with these beerhouses to discourage 569 the consumption of stronger drink by encouraging the consumption of milder beverages. There is no doubt that the national taste, whether for good or evil, has very largely changed; and the taste for beer has, relatively, hardly kept pace with the taste for stronger drinks. As the law at present stands, the owners of these beer licences possess a vested interest, which, under this Bill, it is sought to remove. I think it is unwise to attempt to remove a vested interest without that degree of consideration which it is impossible for this measure to receive this afternoon. I put this question upon the higher ground that this is a specific vested interest created by Parliament which we are now asked to disturb. I refer to the opinion of Sir Harry Poland, who is acquainted with the Licensing Acts in all their aspects. He was a practising barrister and was engaged as Prosecutor by the Treasury. His practical experience in his profession has been supplemented by the position he occupies as chairman of one of the largest licensing benches in London. With reference to this very question, he says that the Beer Acts of 1830, 1834, and 1840 covered the "off"' and "on" licences up to 1869. In 1828 it was thought to encourage the drinking of beer as against spirits, and it was provided that any man could have a licence from the Excise for beer without going to the magistrates for approval. In 1830 that law was enacted. These licences Were obtained as a right up to 1834; then it was found that the persons put into the beerhouses were not real tenants but merely nominees; and in order to prevent that, the Act of 1840 was passed, and it was provided that no licence to sell beer or cider should be given to any person not a resident occupier or owner.
Mc. JAMES LOWTHER
I am quoting from the First Report of the Royal Commission on the Liquor Licensing Laws, presented to Parliament by command of Her Majesty. The hon. Gentleman was quite right in asking the question, but I am not a retailer of the illicit gossip which has been going round recently as to the alleged intentions of the Royal Commission. I take no cognisance 570 of any gossip of that kind; and I confine myself entirely to the documents presented to Parliament by command of the Queen. Sir Harry Poland proceeds with regard to the licences obtained as of right from the Excise under the Acts of 1834 and 1840, and states that such licences could only be refused by the magistrates on one of the four grounds mentioned in Section E; and that the Legislature recognised that they were entitled to carry on a lawful trade in which they had embarked their capital. Coming from such a great and unique authority, I think Sir Harry Poland's opinion ought to have great weight with the House. We are now asked to take this matter out of the hands of the Royal Commission at the suggestion of private Members, without any official guidance, and I think such a recognised authority as my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin will admit that that is a step which the House should be very chary in adopting. We are asked to interfere with a vested interest, and knowing the high character and sense of justice of my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin, who has made himself responsible for this Bill, I turn it over to find the compensation clause, but there is no such clause in it. Perhaps my right hon. friend was prevented by his position as a private Member from making any motion which would involve taxation. That may be the reason why there is no compensation clause in the Bill, but at any rate we are asked to interfere with a vested interest at the instance of private Members, without any provision whatever for compensation. There are only four grounds under which these licences can be taken away under the existing law—viz., character, disorderly conduct, previous bad character, and want of accommodation. The Bill is an invasion of the general principle which has, as a rule, always guided legislation. That principle, which even those who have contravened it have made a show of complying with, is that the possessor of every right or interest shall have equitable compensation in the event of that right or interest being invaded. The Bill provides that the justices shall have full and complete control over these houses, which they never had before. I am glad to see my right hon. friend the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department in his place, with his usual devotion to duty, and I 571 hope he will be in a position to state what course the Government think it advisable that the House should adopt in the very peculiar circumstances in which we are placed. No doubt the fact that the Royal Commission has not yet reported may be used against the Bill, but I hope my right hon. friend will go further, and that he will he prepared to express his regret at this assault on vested interests unaccompanied by some kind of compensation. It is an act of legislative injustice, and I think we ought to have some sort of explanation from the Government. I am unwilling to conclude by proposing to postpone further action on the part of the House, although it may appear to be a natural Amendment following the remarks I have been allowed to make. I should, however, like to hear some explanation, and after the course which the House has adopted with regard to the previous Bill, it is by no means improbable that reasons may suggest themselves for deferring the consideration of this Bill for some period, during which we may hear the Report of the Royal Commission and an announcement of the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the whole question.
§ MB. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
My right hon. friend the Member for Thanet appeared to pick up information as he went along. He seems to know a great deal more about the subject now than he did before, although he was not very accurate in the beginning. It is quite true that in 1830 an Act was passed which allowed beerhouses to be set up irrespective of the control of the magistrates. The operation of that Act showed that it was much abused, and in 1840 an amending Act was passed. Even, however, with the restrictions in the latter Act, these beerhouses became largely a public nuisance, and in 1869 an Act was passed in order to control as much as possible the evil effects that arose from them. My right hon. friend has developed a most extraordinary theory of vested interest in this matter. In 1840 Parliament curtailed the vested interest in these houses; in 1869 it did not create a vested interest, but it put conditions on the exercise of that interest. In that year Parliament brought these houses for the first time under the control of the magistrates, to the extent of the four causes which have been mentioned. 572 It did not create a vested interest. It was a limitation of interest, and the mere fact that Parliament did that showed that it claimed to have that right. The present Bill does not propose that the magistrates should have the unlimited right of putting down these houses. If that were suggested, there might have been something in the argument of my right hon. friend. All that the Bill proposes is that the magistrates shall have the same discretion with respect to the licences granted before 1869 as it has with reference to the licences granted since that year. It puts these licences under the same discretion as ordinary public-houses. Reference has been made to the Royal Commission. I am not going to say anything about the Commission, or what it may or may not recommend, but every authority, before the Licensing Commission was established, sought to bring these comparatively few houses, which were in existence before 1869, under the same magisterial control that applies to hotel licences and ordinary licences whether before or since 1869. To refuse to give this magisterial discretion is to say that Parliament is powerless. It is said that the Bill of 1869 created a vested interest. Parliament in what it did that year affirmed that the opinion of the magistrates should be invoked in the control of these houses. The Bill before the House is very simple, and has been supported by county bench after county bench throughout the country, who ask that power may be given them to deal with the miserable pest-houses in their neighbourhoods, which they cannot now control. On behalf of the magistrates and of their liberty of action, I appeal to the House to consider this Bill.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
Hon. Members who have been in the House this afternoon will agree that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet has discharged with great ability the duty which fell upon him so unexpectedly of opposing two Bills of a very intricate character. I do not complain so much of the absence of the representatives of the Treasury Department as I do of the absence of the law officers of the Crown. This Bill confessedly involves a very intricate point of law, and it would be to the advantage of the discussion if we could have heard from the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General what the law really is, and what the bearing of this 573 Bill will be. I have listened carefully to what has been said by my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin on the question of vested interest. I have also listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet, and I must confess that I have come to the conclusion that he has established a case of interference with what is in effect a vested interest, which, in accordance with the ordinary practice of Parliament, could not be taken away without compensation; and I am not convinced by the speech of my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin that that is not the case. Section 19 of the Act of 1869 says, with respect to the licences now under consideration, that it shall not be lawful for the justices to refuse an application for a certificate for the sale of beer except on one or more of the grounds specified. My right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin talked lightly of the interference which this Bill proposes; but the Bill proposes to repeal Section 19 of the 1869 Act, and it goes further and states that—Notwithstanding anything in the Acts mentioned or in Acts now in force, the licensing justices shall be at liberty to refuse a certificate for any licence for the sale of beer or cider on any ground appearing to them sufficient.That appears to me to be absolutely putting it within the discretion of the justices to control licences which at the present moment they are not empowered to interfere with except on certain specified grounds. In that way the Bill does touch a vested right, and the extension of the powers of the magistrates may result in the vested right being taken away; and if it be a valuable right, the only principle on which Parliament can deal with it is by compensation. But is it a valuable right? That is a point on which I should have desired some information from the law officers of the Crown. I presume it is a valuable right, because, like all other licences, it is in the nature of a monopoly, and I would appeal to my hon. friends who advocate temperance reform to take care lest they may be taking a most dangerous step by confusing between licences which are a vested and a valuable right and licences which, although a valuable, are not a vested right. It is in my opinion dangerous for them to confuse, as my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin did, beerhouse with ordinary public-house licences, which are not a vested right at all. What is the real 574 difficulty in all these matters? Why are the licences of beer-houses a valuable right? Simply because of the infatuated policy Parliament has pursued for generations, in insisting in making the duty on licences so small as to be only an infinitesimal part of their value. If the duties were made higher, then, although licences might be a vested, they would nt,t he a valuable right in the sense that is taken objection to. What chance is there of getting reforms like that? I have been appealing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this, as in former sessions, to give us on the authority of his Department information as to what is the difference between the duty on licences and the annual value of the licences. If we had that information it would then be seen how many millions a year of public money are squandered because of the ridiculously low duties on licences. That is the view which I venture to put before the House on this question. I must adhere to my statement, until I am enlightened by either the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench or by the law officers of the Crown, that there are good grounds for the rejection of the Bill. The only way to deal with the question is to level up the duties on all licences to their annual value.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY TO THE HOME OFFICE (Mr. JESSE COLLINGS, Birmingham, Bordesley)
Of course hon. Members are quite right in taking advantage of the opportunity which has been given them of discussing this somewhat intricate subject. But hon. Members have asked what is the position of the Government as regards this Bill. I should have thought that any Member of Parliament, and especially my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin, must know what is the inevitable position of the Government with regard to this measure, and others of a similar character. The Government, three years ago, with general approval, appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the licensing laws, and that Commission has spared no effort in order to obtain information, not only on the particular point of the licensing question now before the House, but on that question as a whole. It is on the eve of presenting its Report, arid giving us the result of its inquiries and deliberations; and is it to he supposed that the Govern- 575 ment would now be prepared to prejudge that Report on any particular point by expressing a decided opinion or any opinion on this Bill, or any other Bill of a similar character, affecting the inquiry which they themselves had instituted? If I were to ask my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin, as a member of the former Administration, would any Government, after having appointed a Royal Commission of such importance, give an opinion a few days before the Report of that Commission was received on a point which had been referred to it, I think he would only give one answer; and I venture to challenge him as to whether it would be even courteous to that important Commission if the Government were to pronounce an opinion, or even to discuss the question, before they had the valuable results of its deliberations. My right hon. friend the Member for Thanet asked what were the opinions of the Government with regard to compensation and other matters. I have not seen the Report of the Royal Commission, but I take it that the question of compensation is very likely to figure largely in it, and is it to be expected that the Government would now offer opinions which would forestall the mature conclusions of the Commission? Not a single point has been raised this afternoon which has not been the subject of a vast amount of labour on the part of the Commission. With reference to the intricate point discussed so ably by my right hon. friends, I have no doubt, judging from the evidence which has been given before the Commission, that light will also be thrown on it.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
I must leave that to the superior judgment—for it is a superior judgment—of my hon. friend. He knows better than anybody else what course to take; but with regard to this Bill, or any Bill of a similar character, the Government cannot, under the circumstances, express any opinion.
*MR. J. H. ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
I personally doubt the propriety of referring to the details of the evidence given before a Commission which has not yet reported, but as the right hon. Gentleman opposite has read the evidence 576 of Sir Harry Poland, I should like to remind the House that Sir Harry Poland stood almost alone in the opinion he expressed, and that the overwhelming evidence given on this particular point was strongly in favour of the Bill now being discussed. The second point to which I desire to allude is the unanimity of opinion in favour of this Bill which was expressed, long before the Commission was appointed, by those really responsible for the administration of the licensing laws. We cannot have a better opinion in regard to a question of this character than the opinion of the justices responsible for the administration of the law, and I would like to state one or two facts in regard to the unanimity which prevails on this point. Resolutions have been passed in favour of this Bill by no less than 21 quarter sessions in England and Whales, 18 being unanimous; by 11 city benches, 10 being unanimous; and by 48 benches of borough justices, 34 being unanimous. In addition, very strong approval of the Bill has been expressed by a large number of county councils and standing joint committees throughout the country. I very much doubt whether there is a single Bill which has ever been before the Committee which has had behind it such an overwhelming support from those authorities primarily connected with the administration of the law to be affected by the Bill. There is one more point to which I desire to allude, and that is the question of compensation which has been raised more than once this afternoon. Speaking for myself, I am inclined to think that the statement of my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin was absolutely convincing upon tins point. From 1830 onwards he traced the history of this question, step by step, and laid it before the House in such a lucid manner that it should be impossible for anyone to have a doubt in future with regard to it. Dealing with the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee, I am not quite sure whether the vigorous expression of opinion be gave in regard to it represents the opinion of his colleagues; I believe it is only his personal opinion. But, apart from this important question of compensation, whatever may be the Report of the Royal Commission—and I am not going to suggest what it is going to be—it seems to me that in addition to the Acts which have been laid before the 577 House by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, there is the all-important fact which ought to be remembered, namely, that legislation subsequent to 1859 is quite as much in favour of the views he holds upon the question as the legislation at the time spoken of. I do not know whether hon. Members recollect what took place in this House in 1884, when the right hon. Gentleman the present President of the Board of Trade himself passed a Bill through this House dealing with "off" beer licences, and effecting that which it is the object of the present Bill to effect in regard to beerhouses; but I do say that if it was right in 1882 to pass an Act of that character without making compensation, it is equally equitable to do the same thing in the present Bill. I hope this Bill will not be treated front a political standpoint. I desire to echo in the strongest possible way what has been already said more than once to-day, namely, that we must endeavour, whatever our political views may be, to combine before any substantial progress is made in temperance reform, and believing as I do that this is absolutely a non-party question, and that the Bill represents the views of almost all the justices of this country who are primarily responsible for the administration of the law, I hope that we shall take the second reading without any party consideration.
§ MR. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
The hon. Member for Dundee began his speech by lamenting the absence of the law officers of the Crown. I was rather inclined to agree with him that we had lost something by their absence, but he gave us such an able exposition of the Bill that I think we have lost nothing. His point seemed to be so unanswerable that I was rather inclined not to get up, but allow the House to go to a division upon the subject; but, as the hon. Member who has just sat down has made one or two observations about this not being a political subject, I think I should like to say a few words upon it. Those of us who have listened to the hon. Member for Dundee must have been convinced that people holding these licences have invested their money in them on the faith of an Act of Parliament. In that respect they differ from the ordinary bolder of ordinary licences of public-houses, because he knows very well when he purchases the licence that there is a possibility of his being 578 deprived of it. That is a condition of most investments, but it is not a condition which attaches in this case, as has been clearly shown. An hon. Member says this is not a political question. It is not a political question. It is a question of right or wrong; it is a question of taking away something a licensed holder has because certain people think the cause of temperance may he advanced. The cause of temperance is a very good cause. I should be very 10th to do anything which would in any way tend to prevent sobriety prevailing in the land. Intemperance is a very great danger to any State. But, on the other hand, I hope you will not tamper with the rights of property in order to further temperance reform. The hon. Member for Dundee has said that it was always understood that if a vested right was a valuable right it should not be taken away without compensation. If it is a monopoly it is a valuable right. No monopoly would be a right unless it was valuable, and I think we may be quite certain that these people would not retain their licences unless they made something out of them. Now I do not wish to allude to the Royal Commission. My right hon. friend has said that it is not right to prejudge the evidence which they may bring forward or the conclusions at which they may arrive. But it is very evident that, should the Royal Commission arrive at a conclusion which is detrimental to public-house proprietary, their recommendations may make those licences very valuable assets, of which people should not be deprived without proper compensation. I am afraid that I have but weakly shown what seem to me to be strong grounds for rejecting this Bill; but I hope that every Member of this House will pause long before he commits himself to the second reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
There are other reasons than the fear of interfering with vested rights—which the House has a perfect right to deal with in the interests of the community—which incline me to look with disfavour on the Bill. For my part, I object to giving the magistrates any more power over the licensing question than they have at the present moment, and I think that the whole liquor question, including that branch of it, would be better dealt with as a whole. But I do protest against the 579 way in which we have been treated by the representatives of Her Majesty's Government. They have sat silent for three parts of this debate, and then the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Home Department gets up and shelters himself behind the Royal Commission. Of course, we know that Her Majesty's Government has faith in Royal Commissions; but, unfortunately, we have not that faith on this side of the House. In common courtesy to this House, ought he not to have got up at once when this Debate began and moved the adjournment, instead of simply allowing it to go on, and saying that for the present the Government could not express an opinion, as there was a Commission sitting upon the question?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
I think that this question is too important to be disposed of by flippant allusions to the Government or the magistrates. In the last forty or fifty years the magistrates have done much to reduce the excessive number of licences. I cannot help remembering what has taken place in this House over a pretty long period of years in respect to this question. I recollect the important discussion which took place in 1857 upon the very question which we are now discussing, when Lord Cranbrook made his first great reputation in this House by a speech on the Beer Bill. He introduced a Bill which was intended to place licences of beerhouses on the same footing as fully licensed houses. The Bill was of a somewhat drastic character. It was in advance of public opinion, and this House declined to accept it. At the same time, although that Bill was defeated by a small majority, it was understood that the Government of the day would deal with the question itself. I do not think any special legislation took place until 1869, and it is worth the while of hon. Members to refer to the speech made by Mr. Hardy. It was a very exhaustive and comprehensive speech, in which he demonstrated the great evils that accrued from beer licences in the country, the low character of many of the houses, and the urgent need, in the interests of morality and the welfare of the working classes, of reducing the number of those houses and of raising the character of those that remained. But, as I have said, nothing 580 has been done, and up to this day licences to sell beer can be obtained by simple application to the Inland Revenue authorities. That cannot be a satisfactory state of things. I myself was, many years ago, chairman of a Royal Commission to inquire into a certain branch of the licensing question, namely, the grocers' licences in Scotland. We took evidence and made recommendations of a much wider character than were incidental to the subject, and we found that there was a great evil to be remedied. I agree quite with the hon. Member for Dundee that the only effectual cure for the existence of low-class houses entrusted with licences would be to raise the value of the licences; and I have no doubt an expedient could he found by which compensation could be made to those houses which were extinguished out of the increased receipts of the licence duty. I do not think it can be denied that public-houses and the majority of beer and spirit licences should be subjected to much stricter regulation than is imposed upon them. I think the very slightest consideration of the subject must show that it is not one which can be dealt with in a hasty and partial manner. I do not know why a reference to the Royal Commission need excite the ridicule of the House. The question has been referred to a Commission composed of small numbers, and I think a Commission of small numbers is more likely to come to a satisfactory conclusion than a large body. Meanwhile, I do not know whether it will he possible to make any alteration of the law without having regard to the evidence given before that Commission, and the recommendations made.
§ ME. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
We have had an interesting Debate this afternoon. There are two points which have been raised. This first is that the Bill interferes with vested interests, and the second is that we ought to await the report of the Royal Commission. I venture to say, with all respect to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, that the first objection has not been proved. There are no particular vested interests in beerhouse licences granted since 1869, and I see no reason why licences before that year should be placed on a different footing. Then, Sir, there is another reason given by the right hon. Gentleman 581 the Under Secretary. There is one advantage which we have when the Under Secretary speaks, and that is that he is always clear, though he is not always convincing. I have listened to his speech with some interest because I have a recollection that some years ago he treated the subject in a different way. According to his speech to-day we must wait for the Royal Commission.
§ MR. DALZIEL
Then, Sir, that makes my point all the more important. Whether as Leader of the House or as private Member, the right hon. Gentleman's opinions are far too well founded to change, irrespective of the side on which he may sit. I always read the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman with great interest; and therefore when he made a statement to-day about the folly of going to a division on this question before the Royal Commission had reported I thought of another policy he had recommended some years ago. There was an interesting little Bill in 1894 before the House on old age pensions, and the right hon. Gentleman gave to the House the advantage of his opinions upon that Bill. The second reading took place just on the eve of the report of the Royal Commission, and what did he say in reply to the suggestion of the Government that we should wait for the Royal Commission's report? He said:He hoped the second reading of the Bill would not be deferred until the Royal Commission's Report, as that would mean the hanging up of the question for another' year; it was an urgent question, at any rate so far as the initial steps were concerned, and he hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member would carry the Bill to a division. He (Mr. Collings) should vote with a better heart, and with more pleasure than he thought he had felt with regard to any vote he had ever recorded in his life.I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be obliged to me for reminding him of that declaration, because it is an important justification for the vote I am going to give to-day. I do riot know whether the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied upon that point, but I have many more. I am not going to trouble him with the quotation of many opinions, I think I have given my best; but I will give him one more, if he is still unconvinced, which I am sure will have some weight—the opinion of the 582 right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, whose absence we deplore, because had he been here I am sure he would have given him his advice. The Secretary for the Colonies spoke at that time as member of the Royal Commission that was just about to report. Speaking on the Bill he said:We were dealing with a subject which was quite right for legislation, and with regard to which he thought it would be a great advantage not only to the public at large but also to members of the Royal Commission that some indication of the feeling of that House should be given.That is our case to-day. We want to give the Royal Commission, even at this late hour, some indication as to what the opinion of the House really is.
§ MR. RICHARDS (Finsbury, E.)
While the House has greatly enjoyed the collection of ancient speeches which the hon. Member has just presented, I hope he will not forget not only that circumstances alter cases, but also that there is a great difference between old age pensions and the abolition of privileges which have existed for 40 or 50 years. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, in the speech which has been quoted, described, and I think rightly described, the question of old age pensions as an urgent one. I venture to describe it as an urgent one still, and to say that only a small number of very estimable but somewhat fanatical persons would describe a question affecting the alteration of the licensing law as an urgent or even an important question. But I protest most strongly against this attempt to interfere with the small licence-holders. We hear a great deal from the other side of the House about big brewers and tied houses. This Bill affects the little man. You are asked to take from the little men privileges which they enjoy, because the majority of small beerhouses are not tied houses. ("Oh!") I adhere to what I said. I know an attempt is being made to make them tied houses, but I say unhesitatingly that the majority of these houses in the country—and I have had great experience on the subject in one of the counties of England—are not tied houses. I know that in London there has been an attempt, and is an attempt, to secure to a larger extent than has hitherto prevailed the principle of tied houses by buying up small beerhouses. With the 583 greatest respect to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin, I venture to say that the opinion of Sir Harry Poland on licensing law is at least of equal value to that of the right hon. Gentleman; and he clearly points out that these beerhouses are a vested interest. What does this Bill do? I am constantly hearing, outside the House and inside, that it is the publican who is to be evicted and compensated, and not the brewer, the shareholder, or the capitalist; but this Bill attacks the smallest man of the whole of this great trade or machinery, and practically turns him out into the street. I venture to say that the law as it exists at present is very unjust. While the magistrate who holds shares in a railway company is unable to adjudicate in his own division in matters in which that company is concerned because he is "an interested person," every teetotal advocate, every gentleman who has been put upon the bench for no other reason than that he is an opponent of the licensing interest, or for political services rendered to his party, sits on the licensing committees. These are the people who have carried, practically unanimously, the resolutions in favour of extending their own power. They are, therefore, the resolutions of interested parties—not interested pecuniarily, but in other ways. What I would venture to suggest to the House is that the Debate should now he adjourned. I think we have had enough surprises this afternoon, and I therefore beg to move the adjournment of the Debate.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I cannot accept it at this hour of the afternoon. If the motion had been made at an early stage, and before the Bill had been fully discussed, it might have been different; but I cannot accept it at this stage, when there is a prospect of an early division.
§ MR. EVERSHED (Staffordshire, Burton)
I cannot help thinking that it would be unfair and unwise OH the part of this House to come to a decision on the Bill which has come before us in such an unexpected manner. I admit at once that there is something anomalous in the state of the law affecting beerhouses and other licensed properties. I can only say that whenever this House, if I am a Member of it, comes to deal with a question which gives greater facility to the securing of 584 justice to publicans, and which in any way advances the cause of temperance, I shall vote for it. But I am bound to confess that, as far as temperance is concerned, I shall draw the line at the point where the liberty of the subject is in any way affected. So far as this Bill is concerned, I venture to think that it cannot be very satisfactory even to the promoters, even if they pass it this afternoon, because it comes before us in such an unexpected manner. I venture to say that neither the right hon. Gentleman opposite who represents the Government nor hon. Members on this side of the House had any idea that this question would come up. If we pass this Bill without compensation to those from whom we take property, all I can say is that the country will not have much respect for the decision arrived at. I venture to say that there is no pressing hurry in this matter. A Royal Commission is about to report. These small houses are as well conducted as any other licensed property. They serve the poorer class of this country, and great harm would be done to that class if this subject were disposed of hurriedly. I quite understand that there can be no reason why a hurried vote should be taken now, and I certainly think that this matter can he left until the Commission which is now sitting has made its Report.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
The time has come when it seems desirable that the issue should be put before this House in a definite and concrete form, and I propose to conclude my remarks by moving an Amendment that this Bill shall be read a second time this day three months. It is quite clear, although some hon. Members do not seem to know what the provisions of the Act of 1869 are, that it is a question of justice. It appears to me that no one could come to the conclusion that this Bill was just who understood the provisions of the Act of 1869. The hon. Member for the Lichfield Division evidently does not appreciate the scheme of that Act. It is common knowledge now that the intention of that Act was that in future there should be no fresh grant of Excise beerhouse licences, and that all licences, whether of beerhouses. or houses where other intoxicating liquors were sold, should in future come under the control of the magistrates. That was 585 entirely a new departure. Previous to that time anybody who could get a licence from the Excise could retail beer, and it was felt that if all existing licences of that kind were put under the control of the magistrates the men who had obtained them, and had by carrying on their business acquired a valuable privilege, would be put into an inferior position. In 1869 Parliament had regard to vested interests and vested rights, and it was not thought right that Parliament should take away without compensation that which they had granted. Consequently licences then existing wow preserved under the conditions on which they had been granted. Section 4 of the Act provided for the extinction in future of fresh licences by enacting that no licences or renewals of licences should be granted except on the production of a certificate. Section 6 provided a form of the certificate, which should remain in force for one year. The object of granting the certificate was to preserve the right which the holders of the Excise licences had acquired under the Act of 1869. This Bill seeks to put these licences on the same footing as licences granted by the magistrates, which would place them in an inferior position in point of stability to that which they at present hold. The result of the Act of 1869 was to give that value to beerhouses which has enabled the brewers to have that hold upon them that they have now, and it is under that Act that the tied house system has grown When the licensing laws come to be discussed the tied house question will be one of the great Questions which will have to be dealt with. That is one of the drawbacks to the Act of 1869, but the wisdom of that policy is not now in contention. What we have to deal with on the Bill is a question of justice. Are we now- to take away without compensation rights which were given by Parliament in 1869? Only one hon. Member in the debate has justified that. He said Parliament had impaired some of the rights reserved by the Act of 1869 by the Act of 1884: but I cannot help thinking that there must have been some exceptional ground for the treatment then accorded to certain licences. But, if not, I decline, because Parliament committed an error in 1884, to commit an error now. That 586 being so, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time this day three months.
To leave out the word 'now', and at the end of the question to and the words 'upon this day three months.'"—(Mr. Tomlinson.)
That the word 'now' stand part of the Question.0
§ *MR. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
This Bill has been on the Order Book for to-day for the last two months and I do not think that it lies in the mouth, of any hon. Member to complain that this question has come on unexpectedly. The Bill is not a party measure, and has been introduced by hon. Members on both sides of the House. All over the country resolutions have been passed in favour of the Bill. The courts of quarter sessions in the most important counties and the licensing benches in the largest towns have passed resolutions in favour of it. They have done so because they have no power to interfere with these beerhouses on several grounds which apply to fully licensed houses. Supposing a beerhouse is insanitary, or devoid of proper sanitary accommodation, the licence cannot be interfered with or taken away; nor can the magistrates interfere if it is conducted in an objectionable manner, or if it is not required to meet the wants of the neighbourhood in which it is situated. Therefore it is not surprising that benches of magistrates, without distinction of political colour, have supported this Bill. The question of compensation which some hon. Members have sought to raise upon this Bill has been settled definitely by a Conservative Government, and I commend the Bill to the support of a large number of hon. Gentlemen on either side of this House who wish to take some step in the direction of licensing reform.
§ SIR W. HOULDSWORTH (Manchester, N.W.)
I have come to the conclusion that there is almost an unanimous opinion that these houses, under proper conditions, should be placed under the jurisdiction of the magistrates, and I think the argument brought forward by the hon. Gentleman opposite has brought that out. All this debate comes to is a question of compensation, and I do not think that that comes in at all. This Bill has been spoken of as if it was an 587 abolition bill, which it is not. If this Bill passes there would be no alteration whatever, so far as the beerhouses were concerned, so long as the magistrates in their discretion issued the licences. If at any time the justices exercised their discretion and put down some of these beerhouses, then they would have compensation in the ordinate Way. If compensation is given under a new Act after the Report of the Royal Commission, or by the will of the House, these beerhouses
§ will participate in that compensation in precisely the same way as any other licensed houses. The only thing we have to consider is whether it is desirable to put these houses on the same footing as other licensed houses, and 1 have no hesitation in saying, in my opinion, it will be most desirable to do so.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 138; noes, 183 (Division List, No. 177).
|Brookfield,A. Montagu||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Myers, William Henry|
|Brymer, William Ernest||Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury)||Newdigate, Francis Alexander|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Greene, W. R. (Cambs.)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Gretton, John||Penn, John|
|Butcher, John George||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Percy, Earl|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn.J.A.(Glasg.||Gunter, Colonel||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Carew, James Laurence||Hall, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)||Hanson, Sir Reginald||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Chaloner, Captain R.G.W.||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Purvis, Robert|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Hatch, Ernest Fredk. Geo.||Quitter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Charrington, Spencer||Heath, James||Rankin, Sir James|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H.A.E.||Heaton, John Henniker||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Coddington, Sir William||Helder, Augustus||Redmond,J.E.(Waterford)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Richardson,SirThos.(Hartlep'l|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Hill, Sir Edw. Stock (Bristol)||Robinson, Brooke|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Hoare, E.Brodie (Hampstead)||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel W.|
|Cook, Fred, Lucas (Lambeth)||Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)||Rutherford, John|
|Cooke, C.W.Radcliffe(Heref'd)||Kemp, George||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Cornwallis,FiennesStanleyW.||Kenyon, James||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Kimber, Henry||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Cross, Herb. Shep. (Bolton)||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Knowles, Lees||Sharpe, William Edward|
|Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Shaw, Charles Edw.(Stafford)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Sidebottom, T.H.(Stalybr.)|
|Davies, Sir H. D.(Chatham)||Llewellyn,EvanH.(Somerset)||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Stanley, E. J. (Somerset)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Stanley, H. M. (Lambeth)|
|Douglas-Pennant, Hon. E. S.||Lorne, Marquess of||Stanley, Lord (Lancashire)|
|Doxford, William Theodore||Lowther, Rt. Hon. Jas. (Kent)||Stock, James Henry|
|Drage, Geoffrey||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Drucker, A.||Lubbock,Rt.Hon.Sir John||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart||MacAleese, Daniel||Thorburn, Walter|
|Egerton. Hon. A. de Tatton||Macdona, John Cumming||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Evershed, Sydney||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Tully, Jasper|
|Fergusson,Rt.Hn.SirJ(Manc'r||Maclean, James Mackenzie||Usborne, Thomas|
|Finch, George H.||Maclure, Sir John William||Verney, Hon. Richard G.|
|Firbank. Joseph Thomas||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Vincent,Col, Sir C.E. Howard|
|Fisher, William Hayes||M'Calmont, H. L. B. (Cambs.)||Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.|
|FitzGerald,SirRohert Penrose||M'Cartan, Michael||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|FitzWygram, General Sir E.||M'Iver, SirLewis(Ed'nb'gh,W.||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Flower, Ernest||Malcolm, Ian||Wentworth, Bruce C. V.-|
|Folkestone, Viscount||Manners, Lord Edw. Wm. J.||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-und.- L.)|
|Foster,Colonel(Lancaster)||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Foster, Harry S.(Suffolk)||Marks,Henry Hananel||Williams, Joseph P.-(Birm.)|
|Galloway,William Johnson||Milbank, Sir Powlett Chas. J.||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Garfit, William||Milward,Colonel Victor||Wodehouse, RtHn ER (Bath)|
|Gibbs, Hn. A.G. H(CityofLond.||More,Robt.Jasper(Shropshire)||Wyndham, George|
|Gibbs, Hn. vicary(St. Albans)||Morgan,Hn.Fred.(Monm'thsh||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Gilliat, John Saunders||Morrell, George Herbert||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Morris, Samuel||Young, Com. (Berks, E.)|
|Gold, Charles||Morton,ArthurH.A.(Deptford||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Mount, William George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Gordon, Hon,John Edward||Muntz, Philip A.||Mr. Tomlinson and Mr.|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Murray,Rt.HnAGraham(Bute||Duncombe.|
§ Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for three months.