§ * MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
I shall not detain the House at any great length today. When my remarks were interrupted by the twelve o'clock rule last night I was dealing with the aspects of the temperance question as it affects Irishmen in Ireland. I think a most important aspect which should concern Irish Members is also the restrictions on Irishmen in England and Scotland. There are many millions of our race scattered over these countries, and they have only one direct representative in this House. The constituencies have been so arranged that they have been deprived of the representation they are entitled to. I think restrictions dealing with the number of public-houses will press particularly upon the Irish in Great Britain. When the Irish were driven over here in the famine years to seek a miserable existence the few who rose above the ranks of the ordinary labourer in the North of England and parts of Scotland were generally to be, found in two or three avocations. A certain number of them succeeded as pawnbrokers, marine store dealers, and publicans. Cries of "Oh!" and laughter.] I mean Irishmen of the second generation whose parents were driven over here as labourers. [Laughter.] I am sorry that some of my friends do not agree with me, but that has been my experience. I have noticed in some districts that a great many Irishmen were unfortunately obliged to follow the avocation of a publican.
590 I will take Glasgow as an instance of how temperance restrictions are applied to Irishmen. Glasgow is municipally the most admirably managed city in the United Kingdom. I remember that some time ago the corporation brought an improvement scheme before Parliament. It was an extraordinary improvement scheme. One clause was so strong that if a man set a dog or a cat after a mouse in the street he was liable to be arrested and imprisoned. Under that scheme it was proposed to wipe out the houses in a certain area, and the area selected was the particular quarter where there was the greatest number of Irishmen holding public-houses. These Irishmen got no compensation. They simply got five or six years' notice and their property was taken from them by the Puritans of Glasgow, and the result of this confiscation was that a monopoly was created for the Scotch publicans in the neighbourhood. Glasgow is a particular example of what you will achieve by harassing temperance legislation. I have been often in Glasgow, and I know from experience that there is more drunkenness there than in any other city in the kingdom. They have many inventions in Glasgow for evading the licensing laws, and a sort of demoralisation is created by unnecessary restrictions on the ordinary habits of the people. I have seen more drunken men in Glasgow on Sunday than I have ever seen in any city in Ireland or in the whole of Ireland. If a man wants a refreshment on Sunday he has to descend to a subterfuge to get it, and thus they demoralise the man, and probably pave the way for his total downfall. In England and Scotland some of the best supporters of Liberals on these benches are Irish publicans, who cast their own trade interests aside, and support the Liberals as Home Rulers, but we were told by the hon. Member for the Spen Valley Division that when they come into power they will have revenge on the publicans. I have not paid very much attention to the temperance question myself, but I am in favour of giving a licence to every man who asks for it, but I should make it a condition that when there was one conviction against him he should never more have a licence. So long as the Liberal party have leaders like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, and a tad like the hon. Member for the Spen 591 Valley Division, who wishes to confiscate the property of publicans—
§ * MR. TULLY
Well, I was referring to an argument that fell from the hon. Member for the Spen Valley Division. The hon. baronet the Member for Kirkircudbrightshire last night indulged in a joke in regard to Irish whisky. He said it was like a torchlight procession going down a man's throat. That joke is twenty-five years old.
§ * MR. TULLY
But it appears to have taken twenty-five years to penetrate the Scotch perception of humour. Two or three years ago I heard of some friends who were at an hotel in Scotland, and on a Thursday, which was wet, they were unable to go out fishing. They remained in the hotel and began to play billiards. The proprietor came into the room in an advanced state of intoxication and would not allow them to proceed with the game. His wife afterwards explained that he was in the habit of getting drunk on the "Sawbath," and that he had mistaken Thursday for the "Sawbath."
§ * MR. TULLY
I was merely replying to the attack made by the hon. Baronet on one of Ireland's national products. I objected to this temperance legislation because some of the most prominent men in the movement are employers who are simply anxious in the temperance cause because they hope to get their workmen at less wages.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
again called the hon. Member to order, and asked him to confine himself to the question before the House.
§ * MR. TULLY
I shall pass from that subject. I was interrupted last night by the hon. Member for Mid Durham. I know that the Irish of Durham have a 592 very high esteem for the hon. Member, and I personally have very great esteem for him. He questioned certain facts which I gave with respect to a village I visited. When I was there I happened to have my camera with me and I took snapshots of the scenes of drunkenness which I witnessed. I have shown them to friends as pictures from real life in an English village. I think that the remedy for intemperance is not to be found in such legislation as that proposed by hon. Members on these benches. I think that a good deal of the evils of which they complain arise from the grinding commercialism and the grinding industrialism, which is wiping out so much rural life here and in Ireland, and killing all the joy of life in these countries. A poor man, whatever his ambition, if he makes any savings, cannot now become a small shopkeeper or tradesman, as formerly. He has to go on in the same groove. Zola, in one of his novels, has described the effect of big concerns—how they brutalise the people.
§ * MR. TULLY
I will not incur your censure any further. Drunkenness and intemperance are symptoms of a disease caused by industrialism and commercial- is, and until some statesman deals with the subject in a broad spirit and not in the petty way suggested in the Amendment, we shall not have the peace and prosperity we should like in this country.
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I confess that I have listened to the later stages of this debate with the greatest possible pain. Whatever view individual Members of this House may take of this question, it ought to be recognised and it ought to be treated as one of the most serious questions of the day, and I have no patience with Irish Members who furnish amusement for Englishmen in this House. We are sent for a very different purpose and we shall have to furnish them with something else than amusement and laughter if we are to do any good in this House. I have no kind of liking for an Irish Member posturing as a kind of Handy Andy for the amusement and the contempt of English Members in this House. I do not intend 593 to apply that in any but a general sense, but the tone of the hon. Member's remarks was worthy of Charles Lever's novels and not of the House of Commons. I do not think the Irish people will at all relish the idea of an Irishman providing amusement and laughter for Englishmen in this House.
But apart from this, I desire to say that whatever my own views may be as to what is right and what ought to be done I have no desire to ask the Government to do that which is impossible. You cannot go in advance of public opinion in this matter, and if you attempt it you will be driven back, and you will not get forward. I am not one of those who are inclined in the least to tilt at the moon and to ask the Government to do things which cannot be done, and ought not to be done in the present state of public opinion. When I say that, surely there is ample margin short of the impossible for the Government to take action upon. Surely there is ample margin for moderate and reasonable legislation on this question which will carry the assent of the House of Commons, and, what is still more, even carry the assent of the best portion of the trade itself. There is one matter as regards Ireland, and one only, to which I will refer in the absence of the Chief Secretary, but, after all, Ireland is under the Home Office in this matter. The House were told last night that nothing ought to be done as regards Ireland. Surely in the face of the way the licensing business of the country is carried on at the present moment no responsible man will say that. What takes place now? I do not say that it has just commenced in Ireland, because the old magistrates were quite as bad as the new ones. [Nationalist cries of "Worse."] So far as this drink trade is concerned, they have made Ireland a place in which there is a larger proportion of public-houses to population than in any other part of the United Kingdom. Her small towns are literally filled with public houses. Before any licensing session is held the magistrates of the whole county are actively canvassed; they travel twenty, thirty, or forty miles after being canvassed openly and above board in fairs and markets, take their seats upon the benches at these far-distant places, and overrule, by the votes they have promised before the evidence is given, the 594 local magistrates, who, knowing the circumstances of the district, desire to refuse the licence.
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL
No, they do not. I was never canvassed—never once. But what difference would it make? The evil would simply be intensified if magistrates with temperance sympathies allowed themselves to be canvassed. It merely shows the intensity of the evil, and the necessity for a remedy. I am not going to urge any change in the licensing authority. Certainly, I am not going to propose that the county court judges or resident magistrates should be the licensing authority. What change is made must be on the responsibility of the Government, but it is absolutely impossible from the standpoint of the administration of justice, altogether apart from the licensing system, that this canvassing should be allowed to proceed any further in Ireland. It is really ruining and destroying the country. I am not in favour of forcing legislation in opposition to the wishes of the people, but when you come to a great crying and admitted evil like this it is absolutely necessary that the Government should step in and prevent the evil going any further than it has already gone. That is not an extravagant demand to make upon the Government. The Chief Secretary for Ireland knows the facts, because they have been placed before the Government by the county court judges and by those who preside over courts of quarter session, and I say that if the Government are not-prepared to remedy this evil they ought at all events to do what the Government did in 1871—they should support a Suspensory Bill stopping the issue of new licences until they can make up their minds as to a proper licensing authority. I had no intention of intervening in this debate until I heard what pained me from the other side of the House. I have intervened from a strong sense of duty, and I am perfectly certain that both as regards Ireland and Great Britain if my right hon. friend will have the courage to face what can be faced with the consent of all parties he will find a support in this House and of the country of which he little dreams.
§ MR. CAINE (Cornwall, Camborne)
The hon. Member for South Leitrim said that he had given but very scant consideration to the temperance question, and he rather justified his statement by his speech. I have given some forty years consideration to the subject, and I should like, if possible, to bring the House back to the practical consideration of this most important Amendment—the most important, I have no hesitation in saying, that will be brought before the House in regard to the King's Speech.
The last speaker said that all he asked from the Government was that they should bring forward legislation which was not beyond or in advance of public opinion. I will ask the Government for less than that: I do not want them to do more than to meet public opinion half way. I think they will have no difficulty in bringing forward something that will receive general assent on both sides of the House, and be of the very greatest value to the community at large. There is a reference in His Majesty's Speech to the licensing question, but we do not know what it means. I sincerely trust, from something which fell in the debate last night, that the Government mean a very great deal more than appears from the brief statement in the King's Speech. If so, I will try to define how the Government may safely go a good deal further without any serious opposition from any party in this House, from either political party in the country, from the trade itself, or from the temperance party. I think if it is shown that a scheme is feasible that will go a long way in the direction of licensing reform, and receive all this support, it will be a very serious thing for the Government to refuse to introduce legislation. The Commission (of which I was a member) referred to in the Amendment were entirely agreed with regard to the first four portions of the Report. Lord Peel, the chairman, took the whole Commission along with him in the consideration of his Draft Report until he reached the fifth portion, which deals with the reduction of the number of public houses and compensation. We may therefore claim that as to the lines upon which the first four portions of the Report proceed, both sides are practically in agreement. I propose in what I have to say to exclude altogether the fifth portion of the Report, whether in the 596 Minority or in the Majority Report, from my consideration. If the Government are wise they will do the same. It is really the only portion of the Report which contains any very serious controversy, and a great deal may be done in the direction of temperance reform without touching either of the two vexed questions to which I have referred.
The Amendment divides itself into three portions: it first calls attention to the Report of the Royal Commission and to the fact that very little is said in His Majesty's Speech in regard to it; it then comments on and emphasises the widespread desire for legislation; and then it says "there is no indication in your Majesty's gracious Speech of any intention to deal at all adequately with this subject." There are many reasons for pressing the Report of this Commission upon the attention of the Government. It the first place, it is their own Commission; they appointed it. They appointed it in consequence of pledges given by every Member of Parliament sitting on the Government bench at the present moment. I do not believe there was one of them who did not in his election address in 1895 declare that if he was returned to Parliament something would be done with regard to temperance legislation. I do not hint for a moment that the Commission was appointed with a view to shelving the question. I believe it was done honestly, with the intention of having a Commission representing all sections of the community interested in licensing reform, who would collect such evidence and make such a report upon the evidence as would enable any reasonable Government to proceed with legislation. There was a singular unanimity with regard to a great number of important reforms, a unanimity which is the more singular from the numbers of the Commission itself. That body consisted of eight members of the liquor trade, eight known and recognised temperance reformers, representing every section of the temperance movement, and eight gentlemen called "Neutrals." How the Government could find anybody neutral on this question I could not understand, but I was a little reassured when I saw one of the neutral gentlemen come in with the blue ribbon in his buttonhole, although I regret to say he did not live up to his blue ribbon by any manner of means. But the singular composition of the Commission would 597 always forbid agreement, and yet there is agreement upon a number of important temperance reforms that are acceptable alike to all the heterogeneous mass of opinion that was represented on the Commission. My hon. friend the mover of the Amendment emphasised a good many of these points. I will venture to go over similar ground, emphasising some of the points of agreement upon which he did not expand, and, even at the risk of being a little teaious, I will try to show the practicability of a most valuable and far-reaching scheme of licensing reform that I believe would pass the House without a division on second reading, and in Committee would meet with serious difference of opinion only on details and methods. I want very respectfully to address myself to the very large section of the House who are personally interested in this question—those who are justices of the peace, who take part in licensing matters, and the very large number of members who for years past have interested themselves in local administration and matters of social reform. I shall refer very briefly to particular points of temperance reform recommended in the Majority Report which receive the unanimous support of those who signed Lord Peel's Report.
One very important matter which has not yet been referred to is the question of clubs. We all know quite well that there is an enormous amount of intemperance in this country, and social and moral unhappiness and degradation following that intemperance, in consequence of the large and increasing number of drinking clubs. In 1893 I, in conjunction with four other gentlemen, two of whom were engaged in the liquor trade, introduced a Bill on this subject. That Bill passed the House of Commons without a division and was sent upstairs to a Select Committee. Very important evidence was obtained, and the Bill was reported to the House. The Government, therefore, is not without information in regard to this matter. During the last three months I have devoted very close attention to this subject, and with the advice of a large body of clubs in the country, including 1,200 Conservative clubs that are gathered together in one association, have considered a Clubs Bill, and if the Government have not time to attend to the subject I shall be very glad to hand that Bill over to 598 my right hon. friend the Home Secretary. I am certain that a wise Clubs Bill would meet with no opposition either from the temperance party, or from magistrates, or from those engaged in the liquor trade. I sympathise very much with those engaged in the liquor trade, because they have to carry a very heavy burden of censure in consequence of the intemperance of the country, a considerable portion of which burden ought to be borne by these drinking clubs which are springing up all over the land. There is no doubt whatever that some legislation ought to be brought in dealing with this matter; otherwise it will become a most serious question. One of the most serious mischiefs connected with clubs is the frequency with which some public-house, which in consequence of breaking the law right and left loses its licence, is at once turned by the proprietor into a club. A late member of this House and of the Liberal Government, Mr. Shaw-Lefevre,. who appeared before the Committee in 1893, told us of a case in Kent in which the occupier of a public-house, tied to a small brewer, had been deprived of his licence because the house was the constant resort of poachers and fruit thieves. The man simply called his customers together and turned the place into a club—a fruit-stealers' and poachers "club, really. These men were then able, instead of being turned out at ten o'clock and having to wander about until the grey of the morning, when it was light enough to steal fruit, to stop comfortably in the "club," and for this the membership charge was only 1s. 6d. per year. The man did so well with his club that he owned thirteen beer-houses in thirteen villages, and I am now told that he despises the licences and is in the proud position of having thirteen tied beerhouses, all clubs. I know of many a club tied to a brewer. The brewer furnishes, the club and everything connected with it; the membership is bogus, and it is a tied house. These places defy the police; the people drink as much as they please; and there is no doubt that many of these clubs are simply dens of debauchery and all sorts of uncleanness. The London, police gave evidence before that Committee and before the Commission, and both Reports are in agreement with regard to clubs. The Majority Report recommends that all clubs in which intoxicants, are supplied should be registered; that, 599 the onus of proving bona fides should be placed on the clubs applying for registration; that no club should be registered unless the club property be vested in all the members of the club or in trustees, and unless no individual member is interested directly in the sale of exciseable liquor on the club premises; that the registering authority should examine the rules, and satisfy himself that the club is not formed solely for the purpose of sale and consumption of intoxicating liquors, and that some check is placed on the election of members, on the privileges of honorary membership, and on the introduction of friends by members; that the sale of intoxicating liquors for consumption off the premises should be strictly prohibited. In a town I once had the honour to represent this was a very serious mischief. The people not only sat drinking in these houses all night, but they took drink home with them. The Report also recommends that no person under eighteen years of age should be admitted as a member of a club in which intoxicants are sold; and that the authority to grant certificates to clubs should be the stipendiary magistrates, in cities and towns where they exist, and in other localities a court of petty sessions, consisting of not less than three justices. That is a very brief and carefully boiled down summary of the recommendations of the Majority and Minority Reports. If the Government brought in a Bill based upon those simple lines it would receive the support of the whole of the House of Commons and the country, with the exception of the bogus clubs themselves; and if the Bill did not meet with the approbation of the members of those clubs, it would certainly have the approval and gratitude of their wives and children.
Another recommendation that I would respectfully urge upon the Home Secretary is with regard to the consolidation of the law. If he would undertake a measure upon these various points of agreement, and then send the Bill to a Select Committee, or to the Committee on Law, with instructions not only that these points were to be included, but that the whole of the Acts relating to the sale of intoxicating liquor were to be consolidated, it would be an immense advantage to those of us who have constantly to do with the administration of the licensing laws. At present they constitute a bundle of absurdities and incon- 600 gruities which it is very difficult to interpret, and I am certain that this one act of consolidation would have an immense result in increasing the general sobriety of the country. I would also press upon the Home Secreatry the fact that the principle of the reduction of the number of public-houses is accepted by both sections of the Commission, but I do-not urge the Government to undertake this at the present moment. It would open up controversy on the question of compensation, and I believe it would be better to stick exclusively to those matters which really are recommended by every member of the Commission.
Then, the disqualification which applies to the members of the licensing authority should apply equally to the clerk to the licensing authority. The hon. Member for the Spen Valley Division dealt with that so exhaustively and conclusively yesterday that there is no need for me to refer to it. Another very important point which will come home to every member of a licensing body is that the reasons for the refusal of the renewal of a licence should be stated in open court; and, if desired by the applicant, be given in writing; that notice to the licensing authority itself of all applicants for new licences should be required. Then there is a recommendation that a proper interval—say a month—should be left between the grant and confirmation of a new licence, so that the second hearing may be a reality, and that all new licences, including off-licences, should require confirmation. If an interval of a month was left, a great many licences would be refused. It further proposes the abolition of temporary licences, and that the annual licensing sessions should be held in March instead of August and September. I need say nothing upon that, because the hon. Member for North-West Manchester put the case so plainly and clearly yesterday. Then there is another important matter, and this affects-Ireland very largely, that no licence should be renewed to a public-house of under £12 rateable value. That would sweep away a very considerable number of licences. [An HON. MEMBER: Without compensation?] There is no mention of compensation, except that sometimes notice should be required. These small houses, especially the small beer-houses, are frequently of the very worst kind.
601 Then comes a recommendation of the very first importance, and one winch, if we could get no other, would be one of the most valuable items in the whole programme of the temperance reformer— that all "off" wine and spirit licences should be subject to the full control of the licensing authority, as well as all wholesale licences for the sale of wine, spirits, beer, and sweets, excepting those required by brewers, distillers, wine and spirit merchants, and blenders. I want the House to bear in mind all along that these are the recommendations of the members of the Commission who were engaged in the liquor trade. Then it is recommended that the sale of liquor in passenger vessels plying between ports of the United Kingdom, and in theatres, should be brought under the control of the licensing authority. I hope before this debate closes some Scotch Member, familiar with the Clyde, will say a few words upon this point showing the drunkenness which prevails in many of the quiet places down the Clyde in consequence of excursion steamers on Sundays and at other times which are practically floating public-houses not under the control of the police at all. Both sections of the Commission are agreed on a reconstruction of the licensing authority, with the inclusion of some element of popular representation.
Then the abolition of the appeal to Quarter Sessions is recommended. That is a matter which is a constant sore to every temperance reformer, and not only a constant worry to every licensing court of first instance, but a grievance of the very first order with borough magistrates. They who know all about the neighbourhood and clearly understand its requirements, who know the character of the man, and, it may be, of the firm supplying the house, exercising their discretion under knowledge refuse the licence. An appeal is made to the Quarter Sessions, and country gentlemen who know nothing of the circumstances of the borough re-impose that licence. It has become so serious a nuisance to many borough magistrates that their whole line of conduct is hampered. The licensing bench on which I sit, one of the best in the country, constantly give decisions which they would very much rather not give, because they do not like being snubbed by the Court of Quarter Sessions and having their decisions completely upset. It is a most im- 602 portant fact, and I hope the House will note that the Majority as well as the Minority Report urges the abolition of that appeal. Then there is another recommendation on which temperance reformers feel very strongly, and which is but simple justice, and that is that in no ease should the licensing authority be liable for the cost of an appeal. We have a case which has established beyond doubt that there is no legal claim whatever to a publican for the loss of his licence; whatever claim there may be is merely sentimental, not legal. That case is Sharp v. Wakefield, and in that case Wakefield, the magistrate who initiated the action, had to pay the whole costs of the appeal. It is most unfair that a magistrate placed in a position of responsibility, getting no salary for his work, should be personally cast in costs for a matter which is certainly of public importance and interest. We have found it impossible to get borough benches to appeal from a decision of a Quarter Sessions because they will not face the enormous cost which has to be incurred. I speak feelingly because I have constantly to fork out £5 or £10 to some fund or other for defending one of these appeal cases. It is not fair that the cost should be thrown on the charitable subscriptions of temperance men or upon members of the benches themselves.
Then there is another point upon which there is not quite practical agreement, but almost, and that is that complete Sunday closing should be extended to Monmouthshire. The Government had an experience last year of the attitude of their followers on this question, but I have no hesitation in saying that the present Parliament is very much in advance of the last with regard to the sentiment on the Government side of the House, and I am sure that if they take up the matter of extending Sunday closing to Monmouthshire there will be no opposition whatever. The only protest made against it on the Commission was by Messrs. Hyslop and Walker, both of whom are engaged in the retail liquor trade, and therefore naturally biased in the objection that they took. Another point upon which these two gentlemen differed from the rest of the Commission was that the licensing authority should have power to impose the conditions of Sunday closing upon a new licence. Another recommendation was that except in 603 London and the principal cities the hours of opening on Sundays should be restricted to two hours at midday and two hours in the afternoon. That is the recommendation of the eight liquor men. Then, that a limited number of licensed houses, where travellers may be served at specified hours, should be selected by the licensing authority, and a special licence duty imposed upon them; and that the statutory distance should be extended to six miles. Then it recommends the amendment of the law as regards travellers drinking at railway stations. That may seem a trivial thing, but I was catching a train at Manchester at ten past eleven and went into the refreshment room, but was unable to get near the counter. The public-houses closed at eleven, and there was a crowd of 500 or 600 people clamouring around the bar for a "last drink." The same scene may be witnessed at any important railway station at a town where the public-houses close at ten or eleven o'clock. The Report then objects to occasional licences being granted except by two or more justices sitting in petty sessional courthouse. There is nothing more abused in the licensing law than the power with regard to occasional licences. They go to the nearest magistrate and get from him these licences, but in my opinion applications of this kind, which may be an intolerable nuisance in the neighbourhood, ought to be obtained in a public court, and ought not to be granted under any other circumstances. Then there is the question of selling drink to children. The Report says—Sale, either on or off, of any kind of intoxicant to children under the age of sixteen should be forbidden. The penalties now imposed for knowingly serving children under age should be raised, and similar penalties should be imposed on those who knowingly send them.Messrs. Hyslop and Walker consider this would be most harassing and inconvenient, but in dealing with a question like this they have got to put up with a little inconvenience. There is a Bill on the subject which has almost secured first place on a Wednesday, and that measure will certainly come on for discussion, and we shall watch with interest the attitude which the Government take up in regard to that measure. If they really wish to be consistent reformers they will not only support that measure but they will give 604 every facility for passing it into law. If they will only do that, it will at least be evidence of their earnestness in regard to this question.
I will not take up the time of the House in going over other questions which are dealt with, but there are also a great many recommendations with regard to habitual drunkards, and this subject is rather indicated in the King's Speech. Strong recommendations upon this question have been agreed to by all the Commissioners with the exception of these two gentlemen, Messrs. Hyslop and Walker. There are no less than thirty-throe recommendations of the first class made by the majority and approved by the minority, and there is no controversial matter to be found in any of them. I have no hesitation in promising the support of the whole temperance party in the House and in the country to these recommendations. There is nothing in them to which we object, and every one of them has been approved by Lord Peel's Report. I am not so unreasonable as to expect heroic legislation from the present Government, and I do not ask for it, but I might remind the Home Secretary of a few very significant words which fell from my hon. friend the Member for North-West Manchester yesterday, in which he said—He hoped the Home Secretary and the Government would take a more courageous attitude on this subject. Up to a certain point this was becoming less and less a party question, and they would find a great deal of support from those (the Ministerial) Benches.All I say is that I am satisfied that such a measure would get the solid support of the Liberal party in this House. Leave out of the Report altogether Part V., which deals with compensation and reduction, and with that left out you cannot go wrong on any other points of I agreement. I do not want to say a single word about the parrot cry that extreme men stop legislation. I do not think that you will find a more extreme man than myself, for I am an avowed prohibitionist, but I defy any hon. Member to find a case during the sixteen years that I have sat in this House where I have stopped temperance legislation. I do not know whether the Home Secretary would retort that I had stopped very important legislation during the 1886–92 Parliament or not—
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. RITCHIE,) Croydon
I feel very much inclined to do that.
§ MR. CAINE
Then I will deal with that. They carried the Second Reading of the Bill by a majority of seventy-two. They had a very large and substantial majority at their back, and how was that Bill lost? It was lost in Committee after hon. Members had realised what the Bill meant, for it meant endowing the liquor trade with four or five millions sterling. When this was realised the House began to pause, and there was a falling-off in the Government supporters to the extent of some seventy Members, and in an important division the majority of seventy-two was reduced to seven, and the measure was dropped. It was in consequence of the action of the right hon. Gentleman's own friends that the Bill was lost, and not the extreme men. The Bill was simply defeated by the common sense of his own supporters, of whom at the time I was one.
This resolution speaks of a "widespread desire" that some effort should be made by the Government. It is no exaggeration to say that there are not five men in the Liberal party who have not been returned pledged to support the recommendations of Lord Peel's Report. It has been adopted in two great speeches by their chosen Leaders in this House. As a result of the pressure of the electorate at the last election we had seventy Conservative Members returned who have formed themselves into a temperance committee. This would have been impossible in the last Parliament. Why is it possible not? Simply because they have been in touch with the constituencies, and the temperance movement has made all that difference. My right hon. friend the Home Secretary is a practical politician, and I have no doubt that it will have a great effect on his mind that what was impossible in the last session is possible this, and that seventy supporters on his own side will stand by him in any attempt he may make to bring about a practical settlement of this question. But for the war the test question of the election would have been temperance reform. Public opinion, as expressed and 606 formulated in this House, is in favour of drastic and immediate temperance reform, and the right hon. Gentleman and the Government need fear no opposition to any of the moderate reforms I have cited as receiving the unanimous report of the Royal Commission.
Let me say a word or two in conclusion. Let me press upon the serious attention of the Government and of the House the important conference held last week at Manchester under the presidency of the hon. Member for North West Manchester at which the following resolution was passed unanimously, and which was confirmed afterwards by two public meetings held simultaneously in the Free Trade Hall and in another of the largest halls in Manchester. The resolution adopted was:—That this Conference, believing that the time has fully come for securing a substantial instalment of temperance reform, and also-believing that the recommendations contained in the Report of Lord Feel, the Chairman. I of the Royal Commission, and eight of his colleagues, would produce an immediate and beneficial effect, hereby pledges itself, without prejudice to any other scheme which may be approved by the general body of workers in the temperance movement, to strive earnestly to secure legislation on the lines of that report at the earliest possible date.Of course, the larger covers the less. We have now the temperance party in the country practically unanimous with regard to Lord Peel's Report. All these recommendations found in the Majority Report secured the unanimous support of all those organisations which were represented at that important meeting. There were no less than seventy-five important societies embracing practically the whole temperance organisations of the United Kingdom which were represented by various delegates who had been appointed to support the resolution which I have just read to the House. It included all those extreme societies such as the United Kingdom. Alliance; the National Temperance League, the British League, the two Societies of British Women, the United Temperance Council, the Scottish Temperance League, and the Irish Temperance League were all represented, and their delegates had distinct instructions to support the resolution. I ask the Home Secretary's special attention to the fact that the National Conservative and Unionist Temperance Association had its delegates at that meeting, and they supported the 607 resolution which I have road in favour of Lord Peel's Report. And now what is the attitude of the religious bodies upon this question? It is impossible for us to ignore the influence of the Church upon this question. The Church of England Temperance Society voted in favour of this resolution, and not only this but all its diocesan branches had representatives present and they also supported the resolution. If the Home Secretary takes up this question he will have the whole power of the Church of England at his back. Amongst other religious bodies who supported this resolution I may mention the National Council of the Evangelical Free Churches, the Catholic Total Abstinence League of the Cross—which has accomplished perhaps more than any other society—and the temperance organisations of the Church of Scotland, the Church of Ireland, the Wesleyans, the Methodists, the Con-gregationalists, the Baptists, the Unitarians, all the Presbyterians of the United Kingdom, and the Society of Friends. Therefore religion is drawn up in one line in favour of Lord Peel's Report. No body of Christian people you can name were absent from that great conference. The Licensing Committees of Westminster and Manchester, whose Bills are familiar to this House, and, in fact, the whole temperance party of the country, moderate and extreme, have joined forces on Lord Peel's Report, and if the Government have been waiting for the agreement of the temperance party, as they so often say, they have got it now. Every recommendation I have quoted forms part and parcel of Lord Peel's Report. Therefore, let the Government take heart of courage, and face this difficult and all-important problem like men.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devonshire, Honiton)
I am not willing to enter into a controversy as to what is the great hindrance to temperance legislation, but I do not entirely agree with the views expressed by the hon. Member who has just spoken. Nevertheless, I desire to emphasise points of agreement and to see how far they can be worked out. A great deal of disappointment has been expressed as to the attitude of the Government, and I must confess that I was 608 greatly disappointed at the mention of the proposed Bill in the Speech from the Throne. I was also disappointed on account of the very unfortunate attitude taken up by the Prime Minister last year in another place, and because of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply which the Home Secretary gave to a deputation which waited upon him early this year. This question has been very prominently brought to the forefront, and I cannot but hope that when the right hon. Gentleman lays before the House his Bill we shall find a very pleasant surprise, and that many of the points emphasised today will be contained in it. I speak feelingly upon this question, for, looking back over a service of thirty years, it is a deep disappointment to think that practically nothing has been done in the way of temperance legislation. I will not say on whom the blame lies, but I would venture to say that the cause of it has been, to my mind, because legislation has been attempted very greatly in advance of public opinion. I think we now begin to see the mistake we made then, and we are beginning to realise what a great opportunity there is before us at the present moment.
It is encouraging to observe how large an amount of agreement there is in the two Reports of the Licensing Commission, for one might have thought that, constituted as the Commission was, it was a perfectly hopeless thing to obtain any agreement between them. But owing largely to the exertions of Mr. Edward Buxton, who represented the trade interests, a large amount of agreement was arrived at, and it is for us now to turn that agreement to good account and see if we cannot relieve ourselves from the reproach of allowing this evil to continue unchanged. The country expects this of us at this time, and I desire most entirely to endorse the speech made on this side by the hon. Baronet. There are several practical measures which, without, injustice to vested interests or to the spirit of fairness, can be dealt with, and which the country expects to be dealt with. There is the question of the licensing body itself, and I am strongly of opinion that that body should be a fixed body, and that there should be associated with the magistrates representatives of the rate payers. I also think that it is desirable that they should meet in the spring rather than the autumn, and also 609 that the Court of Appeal ought to be very much strengthened and put on a different basis. The question of new licences has been brought before us very prominently this year, and we ought to consider seriously the enormous gift which is made to the fortunate man who obtains a new licence practically at the expense of the ratepayers. I cannot see why new licences should not be put up to auction. There is another point in regard to the! penalty to be inflicted on publicans who deliberately transgress again and again the law and are brought before the magistrates. The magistrates are placed in this difficulty, that in some cases the endorsement of a licence leads to the taking i away of the licence altogether, and of course they hesitate very much before they take away such property altogether. It might be worth while considering whether there should not be power given to the licensing authorities, where there are repeated offences, not to take the licence away altogether but to suspend it for a time so that a lesser penalty would be inflicted which would not carry the extreme penalty of extinction. Upon this question I think we also ought to bring before the public how much might be done by the enforcement of the existing law. More ought to be done in this direction, and if my suggestion of a fixed licensing body were adopted they would make themselves more acquainted with their powers and there would be much less difficulty in the enforcement of the law. Of course we can do nothing unless we are backed up by public opinion.
I will repeat again that I believe we have a very great opportunity afforded us at the present time, and there is also a great responsibility upon us. We want as far as possible to keep this question free from all party considerations. We desire to put our statements before Parliament, and what we want to do is to strengthen the hands of the Home Secretary—who, I am sure, is with us heartily on this question—so that the right hon. Gentleman may go forward with a strong mandate from this House and from the country to carry out necessary and useful reforms. If, however, this House were to censure the Government for not doing more, in the hope that some impossible scheme which would never be passed into law would be forthcoming, and which if it were passed into law would never be carried into effect, I feel we should have 610 dealt a severer blow to temperance than it has received for a very long time.
§ MR. DOUGLAS (Lanarkshire, N.W.)
said it appeared to him that the point of the greatest interest to them was to see how far the words of his right hon. friend who had just sat down would be responded to by the Government, and what it was that the Government had in their minds. He observed that those who had spoken on the opposite side of the House had no more conception of what was meant by the Government proposals than hon. Members on the Opposition side. He could not help thinking that the course of the debate would have run more smoothly if the right hon. Gentleman had been able to explain in some degree what the proposal was which was indicated in His Majesty's Speech. If the measure meant that there was to be some more thorough and systematic treatment of habitual drunkenness, then his own attitude towards it would be very different. If it carried out the unanimous recommendation of the Commission that habitual drunkards were not to be supplied with drink in public-houses, then he did not think that any wiser measure, so far as it went, could be adopted. For his own part he had no desire to suggest any such revolutionary legislation as that which had been advocated in previous speeches, but he thought it had been fully recognised that there were many matters upon which they were agreed, and about which there was no serious difference of opinion, with which the Government might deal. There was agreement as to the magnitude of the problem and as to certain very substantial remedies for its solution.
With regard to the proposals contained in the Majority and the Minority Reports of the Commission, he hoped that they would not accept so low a view of the Royal Commission as to suggest that it was making a bargain with an interest. The Commissioners who put their signatures to those proposals firmly believed that they did so in the public interest, and they were prepared to stand by them in their full meaning and extent. Among the points as to which there was agreement they could not, he thought, include the question of the reduction of 611 licences. Undoubtedly there was a nominal agreement to the effect that licences ought to be reduced in number; but, on the other hand it was admitted in both Reports that that reduction could not take effect without some measure of compensation. Compensation was an essential element in the process of reduction, and there was the widest disagreement as to the policy of compensation to be adopted. Therefore, for the purposes of a practical policy, the agreement as to the reduction of licences was nominal and verbal rather than real and substantial, and it must accordingly be excluded from the questions on which the Commissioners were agreed. On other proposals, happily, there was a greater degree of agreement, and he thought it unfortunate that those proposals should be overshadowed by the difficulties attaching to the reduction of licences and to compensation. He thought it still more unfortunate if there were to be an attempt—as had in some quarters, at all events, been read into the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary—to evade those other questions by what was obviously a shallow and, indeed, a preposterous suggestion that all licensing reform was strictly equivalent to a wholesale reduction of licences. He did not propose to discuss the points on which there was agreement, but he should select one, namely, the proposals with regard to the licensing authority, especially as they affected Scotland. He concurred most heartily with what had been said by the hon. Baronet, the Member for North-West Manchester, that the problem before them was in a large measure one of administration, and it was very important that there was such a large measure of agreement between the two Reports on the purely administrative aspects of the case.
He desired to call attention to a few reforms in licensing administration. In the first place, there was the important proposal that the licensing authority should be served by special licensing police—a proposal which had been recognised readily by a great section of the retail liquor trade, as well as by other sections of the community. In the next place it was proposed that the licensing authority should have larger powers over licensed premises, and over the conditions on which the sale of liquor was to be carried on. Then it was suggested that 612 there should be considerable reform in procedure, which would remove some of its obsoleteness, and render it less likely to be abused by interested persons. Lastly, there was that which was very important, namely, an agreement that the licensing authority should be reconstituted. That was very significant indeed. It was proposed that every licensing, court, whether for licensing or for appeal, should consist of a definitely selected panel, and not of random people who might happen to be present. It was also proposed that in county courts there should be introduced a definite representative element, appointed, one way or the other, by the people of the district themselves. It would be impossible to over-estimate the importance of those two points in their bearing on the practical efficiency of licensing administration. He believed that if one were to sum up in a word the malady from which the licensing courts chiefly suffered, that word would be "irresponsibility." They had no definite sense of responsibility in their work, but the introduction of a selected panel, appointed by whomsoever it might be, would secure a far greater degree of responsibility and efficiency than at present. He thought it would be generally agreed, even by those who were least inclined to place power in the hands of the people, that nothing was more important, if the action of the licensing authority was to be in full harmony with the people of the neighbourhood, than that these people should have a real and effective 'voice in deciding who were to constitute the licensing court. There was indeed a slight difference in degree as to the number of persons to be elected and the number who would continue to be appointed by the Lord Lieutenants, but the important point was that it was agreed that a deliberately selected court was required and that the opinion of the district concerned should play an effective and official part in the work of licensing. It was a proposal which would involve no question of compensation, no injustice and no fresh machinery, which was perhaps one of its main recommendations. If the Government refused to consider that and other simple and plain proposals, many would be driven to the conclusion that their minds were fixed against serious reform. For his part he would be very slow to form such an opinion, but no other conclusion could 613 square with the facts if things were allowed to go on as they had been going on. It was certainly somewhat disappointing to those interested in the question to be told, in the first place that the problem of intemperance really belonged to the problem of housing, and then to find that even that problem was not to be dealt with. No duty lay nearer to the hands of the Government than that of temperance reform, in view of the good forces that were at work in society in that direction.
§ MR. RANDLES (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
I desire to associate myself with the appeal of my hon. friend the Member for North-West Manchester, who urged on the Government that they should have regard to the moderate and reasonable requests of their own supporters. I have come myself from a part of the country where the question of temperance reform has been discussed by the most extreme men, and, although I believe there is very little sympathy with these extreme men, I find there is a decided general undercurrent of desire for such temperance reform, both administrative and legislative, as will enable the people of this country to live more soberly and in a more temperate manner, and make it casier for them so to do. We are listening to more moderate proposals and counsels. The old days when we should have the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill, are gone past, and reasonable measures of reform in accord with public opinion will be acceptable to all parties. I have no hope of seeing any reform from the other side of the House, and therefore I trust the Government will be able to do something that will satisfy the reasonable expectations of the people. The mover of the Amendment referred to the time when his party would be in power. They may conceivably be in power in days to come, but oven if they are is it reasonable to suppose that they will ever be able to introduce and carry through a measure which will satisfy their own supporters, let alone Members on this side of the House? I would ask the Government to have regard to the requests of their own supporters and to public opinion in the country, and to introduce 614 from time to time such measures as are to be found both in the Majority and the Minority Reports of the Royal Commission. I believe that while Parliament is young it will be much easier to accomplish these reforms, because we all know how easily people are turned away from their good intentions.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I think the House would like to hear now what I have to say on behalf of the Government with regard to the proposals made in this debate. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment referred to some remarks which I made in connection with this matter to a deputation which waited on me not very long ago to urge on me the necessity for legislation in accordance with the Majority Report of the Royal Commission, and he referred to expressions which I used in connection with an evil which all of us recognise and all of us deplore. I have nothing whatever to retract from what I then said as to the evils of drunkenness and the unhappy consequences with which the country is confronted. I believe it is difficult to exaggerate the enormous evils which follow in the wake of drunkenness. I have always felt that these evils were so great that some effort ought to be made to deal with them in one way or another. I have always been profoundly impressed with the crimes which result from overindulgence in drink, and with its effect upon the health and strength and manhood of the country; and no one, even if he had not previously held those views in regard to the extent and danger of this evil, could have been at the Home Office, even for the short time during which I have filled the position of Secretary of State, without becoming firmly convinced that much of the crime which we have to deplore is caused by drunkenness. The great majority of the crimes which come before me at the Home Office in connection with violence to the person have been traced to drunkenness. I am afraid that many of the men who have to expiate their crimes upon the scaffold have been led, very largely at any rate, to their ruin by over-indulgence in drink. So that, even if I were not impressed before with the evils which follow from drink, I certainly could not 615 shut my eyes to the knowledge which I have obtained during my short connection with the Home Office, and I am sure that my experience of the terrible results of drunkenness has been shared in by every gentleman who has filled the office.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I have, therefore, nothing to withdraw from the observations which I addressed to the deputation in connection with this question. But there has been some misconception—I think, perhaps, it was a natural misconception—as to the attitude I took up upon the question of reform, in consequence of the answer I gave to the deputation. The deputation came to me to ask that the Government should undertake a very large measure of licensing reform based upon the Majority Report of the Royal Commission. That, of course, at once raised the question which originally led to the abandonment by the Government of which I was a member of their licensing proposals of 1888 and 1890. Having regard to the difficulties we encountered then, I was most unwilling to give the deputation any encouragement to believe that we would attempt to deal with this matter in the manner suggested by the deputation; and, although it is true that one or two other reforms which have been included in those alluded to in this debate were referred to by some speakers at the deputation, the main object of the deputation was to ask for legislation on the basis of the Majority Report—the extinction of licences together with compensation, as recommended by the Majority— and my reply was directed entirely to that particular proposal. But though I said nothing, I think, in reference to the other recommendations, I should be sorry were the House or the country to imagine that by my silence I meant it to be inferred that the Government were to shut their eyes to those recommendations and were not in any circumstances to make proposals to the House in regard to them.
The hon. Member who moved this Amendment accused the Government, in the first part of his speech, which I think was 616 much more aggressive than the latter part, of indifference and inaction. The Government, as at present constituted, has not had very much opportunity for action in the matter. The hon. Gentleman chose to assume that the words in the King's Speech, in reference to the matter, were words which implied that nothing was to be done of the smallest value or importance. I think that was the opinion also expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
The right hon. Gentleman with a wave of his hand said he presumed it was some small police measure.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
At any rate, the course pursued by the hon. Gentleman in moving this Amendment and accusing us of in action is a somewhat exceptional mode of dealing with a question referred to in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I can quite understand that if no reference was made in the Speech to action on our part it would have been right to find fault with it; but I think we have some right to ask the House, before judging us, to allow us to make our proposals; and I would point out that if the Amendment wore carried we should be deprived of the opportunity which we seek of putting our proposals before the House.
Upon what basis does the hon. Gentle man go when he speaks of our indifference in this matter? The party to which I belong, and myself in particular, have always shown in past years some anxiety to deal, and deal in a large way, with this question of intemperance. The hon. Gentleman referred to our proposals in 1888 and 1890, and I do not think I am doing him an injustice when I say that he treated them with contempt. I am very sorry to have to trouble the House with particulars of past proposals for legislation, but as I am sure that there are many hon. Gentlemen, and perhaps 617 some hon. Gentlemen who are interested in temperance reform, who are not acquainted with these proposals, I am not disposed to allow the matter to rest in the position to which the hon. Member role-gated it, and therefore I should like to indicate briefly some of the points of our proposals in 1888 with the view of showing what the position would have been had we succeeded in carrying them out. We first proposed to constitute an entirely new licensing authority. The proposals in both the Minority and Majority Reports of the Commission do not go nearly so far as our proposals in 1888. The Minority proposal is that a certain number of the licensing authority should consist of local representatives; the Majority proposal is that a smaller number should be local representatives. But in our Bill of 1888 we proposed that the whole licensing authority should be composed of local representatives; and we further proposed, in order to bring local opinion to bear upon the granting of licences, that there should be licensing areas marked out in the various counties, and that the members who were returned on the county councils for those areas should constitute at least one-half of the authority granting licences in that district, so that local opinion should be brought to judge as to the desirability or otherwise of the licences which were applied for. We also proposed to give the licensing authority full power with regard to Sunday closing. They could have closed for the whole of Sunday if they chose or have altered the hours of opening at their discretion. We gave to the new licensing authorities full power of diminishing licences on payment of compensation, which was to be raised out of the trade itself by extra licence duty upon licence holders. It has been said that this would have destroyed the power which it is alleged the justices now possess of refusing to renew licences. Every power the justices had was carefully preserved by the words of the Bill, and I expressed my willingness to make these words still stronger if it was thought by temperance reformers that they were not sufficiently strong. If our Bill had boon carried and any person had applied to the justices that a particular licence should not be renewed, and if they said it ought not to be renewed, they, would be practically an instruction to the licensing authority. 618 These were our proposals, and I venture to say that, looking back upon them now, many of those who at that time were most strenuous in opposition to our proposals—
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I beg pardon; that compensation was to have been paid out of a fund provided by the licensing duties.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
What I mean is that there was no desire to oppose those proposals; on the contrary, there was a great desire that the Government should go on with them, but they would not do so unless their compensation proposals were carried also. These things had nothing to do with compensation.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
What! Now, let us see. It is alleged that the justices have power to refuse licences without any reason given. As a matter of fact, that is well known by the case of Sharp v. Wakefield in the appeal to the House of Lords. It was then laid down that the justices must exercise their discretion with regard to the particular case which came before them. By altering the licensing authority, by taking from the justices and giving the power to the local representatives, we entirely altered the whole position; and in giving full and explicit powers to the new licensing authorities to refuse whatever licences they chose, it would have been monstrous unless we also provided that the holders of valuable licences should be compensated if they were taken away without good reason. I tell the right hon. Gentleman and licensing reformers generally that I do not believe myself that there is the smallest chance of getting the public of this country to commit such an act of gross injustice as would be entailed by carrying out these extinctions of the existing licences without taking into consideration the question of compensation. What has been done by the refusal to adopt our proposals of 1888? Millions of money have been left in the pockets of licence-holders which would have been available for the extinction of licences; 619 and so, in 1890, when we again attempted to deal with this question, we proposed to give to the liquor authorities £750,000 (I think) annually without raising any question of compensation at all, for the purpose of enabling them if they chose to do what is done by every local authority every year for public improvement and other matters of that kind—to buy up public-houses if they thought they were not required and ought to be extinguished. We proposed to give them that money out of the revenues derived from the liquors sold, and that proposal was also rejected by the House.
We have thus made two clear and distinct proposals, one of which, the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges, would have been a broad and liberal and well-thought-out plan, and that was rejected because of the refusal of temperance reformers to accept the principle of compensation, though they must now acknowledge that it Mould have effected a most salutary and important reform. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment has stated that the number of public-houses which would have been extinguished by the money which we proposed to raise in 1888 would not have been as many as have as a matter of fact been extinguished without it. Does the hon. Member mean that the number that have been extinguished in the ordinary course of things would not have been extinguished in addition to those which our money would have bought out?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
Why, what is the evidence before the Commission as to the reasons why this reduction has taken place? I will undertake to say that the great bulk of the licences have been reduced because of the refusal of the justices to give new licences without the abandonment of old ones. That is the main reason of the reduction. Of course, there have been reductions from other causes — such as faults on the part of licence-holders, which would have occurred in any case; then houses have not succeeded, and the licences have not been renewed, the fees not having been paid, and so on. But a great number of those that have fallen have fallen in consequence of the action of the 620 justices in not giving new licences unless others are surrendered. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] I think that was proved by the evidence before the Commission. Does the hon. Member think that the new authority which we proposed to constitute under the Bill of 1888 would have been more tender to the licence-holders than the justices? On the contrary, I believe the number of licences which would have been reduced from the same cause would have been greater and not less; but, in addition to that, you would have had those other licences extinguished and compensation paid out of the money which is now left in the pockets of the licence-holders. When the hon. Member stigmatises our proposals of 1888 as insufficient and inefficient he admits his ignorance of what the effect of: them was likely to be. My opinion is that the country will have to wait a very long time before they have put before them such a complete scheme of licensing reform calculated to do such an amount of good as that which we then proposed.
The hon. Member in his speech also referred to the effect of the reduction of licences. Well, now, it is quite true I told the deputation that I thought they were somewhat exaggerating the effect of the reduction of licences as regards the consumption of liquor. I never denied, however, that a reduction was desirable. There are in point of fact a preposterous number of licences in many districts, and I think that a large reduction in the number of licences is most desirable; but, at the same time, I do not myself believe that it necessarily means less drinking; and that is not my opinion only. In the Report of the Majority of the Commissioners this statement is made, which I repeat now. On page 6 I find the following under chapter IV.—