§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed—"That the Bill be now read a second time." (Mr. Ritchie.)
§ (3.45.) MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
I desire to call the attention of the House to the manner in which grocers licences are dealt with in this Bill, and I do so with the idea of asking the right hon. Gentleman not to press this part of his proposals. I do so not on behalf of any trade whatever, for I do not appear here as the advocate of either one side or the other, and I can trust the House and the Government to deal quite fairly with any vested interest wherever any trade is concerned, but I bring this matter forward as a question of public policy. Clause 8, which deals with this matter, is a reversal of the 1139 policy which was inaugurated, with great fulness of explanation and after great consideration, in the year 1860 by Mr. Gladstone, who based his case not upon any small ground, but upon the large grounds of public morality, public sobriety, and general public utility. I ask the House now to approach the consideration of this matter from the same point of view: not to look at it as affecting any particular class of traders, large or small, or the interests of any particular trade, but simply as it touches the interest of sobriety and the welfare of the public at large. Mr. Gladstone, in proposing this change, said he did so because it was a good and wise measure, not only with regard to the improvement of the people, but also for the promotion of temperance and sobriety, as opposed to drunkenness and demoralising habits. That is the ground I take this afternoon, and I say that the attempt in this Bill to go back upon that policy is a mistake. It is a retrograde step, one inimical to sobriety and opposed to the material interests of the people.
I suppose that most Members are familiar with the meaning of this clause, so that I need only say a few words in explanation of what its effect will be if it is passed into law. The present position is this, that any person can get a licence of this kind—a grocer's licence, as it is called, although the grant of them is not confined to grocers—but any person can get a licence of this sort if he fulfils four conditions. In the first place, he must be of good character; secondly, his house or shop must not be adjacent to disorderly promises; thirdly, he shall not have forfeited any previous licence by misconduct; and fourthly, he shall fulfil the conditions required by law. It being proved that these conditions are fulfilled, the licence cannot be refused, it goes as a matter of course. The change made by the clause is a most radical one. It places the granting of these licences in the free and unqualified discretion of the magistrates; it, in fact, places them on exactly the same terms as other licences. This is an important step. This is more or less a small omnibus Bill, and I object to the introduction into a small omnibus Bill of a great question of principle like this—a question involving the going back upon a policy which has now been in force forty years.
1140 What are the reasons advanced by the right hon. Gentleman for this proposal? The right hon. Gentleman is, I admit, in an awkward position. The change is recommended in both the Minority and Majority Reports of the Royal Commission, and as the recommendation in each Report is in exactly the same words there seems to be a little lack of individuality in the matter. I do not wish to speak disrespectfully of Royal Commissions, but I have often heard it asked why Governments do not legislate more frequently on the Reports of such Commissions. Considering the way in which such bodies are appointed, I can only say that there could be only one thing more foolish than the appointment, and that would be to legislate on their Report. How are Members of Royal Commissions appointed? It is as if you were to constitute a jury to try a man, and to put upon it six of his sworn enemies, five of his friends, and one person called a neutral. You have a Majority Report, a Minority Report, and a Neutral Report. All the gentlemen on this Royal Commission were pledged one way or another—either by their interests or by their opinions. I do not wish to speak disrespectfully of any particular opinions. I have the greatest possible respect for those who hold what are called teetotal principles, but I say that no man is fit to be placed on a Commission to deal with this particular matter who is pledged in either one direction or the other. The House and the country will never settle this most difficult drink question until we bundle both the trade and the teetotalers out of court, and leave the matter to be dealt with by honest, fair-minded people. I do not question the right of people concerned in the trade to stand up for their own interests, nor of others to stand up for principles dear to their hearts. But a Commission consisting of such people is not one likely to carry weight, and any one with imagination knowing, as I happen to do, most of the members constituting it, and seeing the questions they were called upon to decide, might easily have written their Report without calling the Commission together. Practically it was a foregone conclusion, and therefore, when we are told that both the majority and the minority agree upon a particular matter, I reply that 1141 that agreement is not worth anything at all. This was anticipated by Mr. Gladstone when he proposed this great change He stated quite distinctly that there were two parties opposed to it. One consisted of licensed victuallers, and the other of a body of gentlemen of whom he said he could not but speak with the most profound respect, for they were earnest in their effort to lay the axe at the root of a great social evil—he meant the members of temperance societies. Mr. Gladstone exactly anticipated what has happened. It is quite natural that the trade should have regarded this change with suspicion, and it is equally natural that they should be in favour of the present proposal of the Government, because the tendency of making the change will be to throw a great amount of this business back into the trade. There is no question about that. On the other hand, the teetotalers are naturally not averse to it, because they are in favour of any step which seems to stop people getting drink. That is a perfectly natural and logical position. But is it a position which this House ought to take up? I think that the change inaugurated by Mr. Gladstone is being made a scapegoat of by the light hon. Gentleman, who is not willing to meet both parties on broad grounds of public policy, but is prepared, in order to get rid of a great principle and a great interest, to do an injury to the people of the country which ought not to be done. We have not to consider the trade primarily or the teetotalers primarily, but the great mass of the people; and on that consideration I base my opposition to the measure. Why was this course favoured by the Commission? I have looked at the names of the witnesses upon this subject. I find that most of them are magistrates. I speak with the greatest respect of magistrates, but I must say that, like other functionaries, they are somewhat jealous of their powers. They are pleased to have them extended, no doubt. There has always been a feeling of dislike at having one branch of the licensing system outside their control, and as this proposal of the Government would bring it within their power, they are naturally disposed to support it. Both the Majority and the Minority 1142 Reports recommend this change in the licensing authority. But is this the time to propose an increase in the powers of the licensing authority? If that authority is not satisfactory at present—and I think it is the general opinion of the country that it is not—why increase its powers without attempting in any way to reform the authority You are here proposing such an increase as will create another great trade monopoly. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the representative of the trade concerned signed the Majority Report. I do not think we in this House need care whether he did or not, but I believe he signed it on the understanding that there would be a general change which would include dealing with the beer licences anterior to 1869. The right hon. Gentleman, however, has not attempted to deal with them, because he says they raise the matter of compensation—a most difficult question. He drops dealing with 40,000 licences and deals with only 10,000. May I point out to him that there is a matter of compensation involved here, and that by turning these licences into ordinary magistrates' licences you are opening the door to fresh claims for compensation? Therefore the principle which frightened the right hon. Gentleman from dealing with the larger question should apply equally to his smaller scheme.
Another reason has been advanced why the House should give effect to this recommendation. It has been said that the change initiated by Mr. Gladstone was a mistake, that instead of leading to greater sobriety, it has led to greater drunkenness, particularly among females. That is, I believe, the gravamen of the whole matter. If it were true, it is so serious a charge that it puts all other things in the shade, and I would not utter another word against this proposal. The Home Secretary has told us that one reason for the proposed change is that the apprehensions and committals for drunkenness amongst women has greatly increased. I will allow that for the moment to be true. But there are other facts which must be borne in mind, and one is that the apprehensions for drunkenness have mostly occurred in neighbourhoods 1143 where scarcely any of these licences exist. For instance, they have occurred in East London, where practically these licences do not exist. The licences are mostly found in neighbourhoods which do not show symptoms of increased drunkenness among females. That increase has not arisen among the class of people who use these shops. Female drunkards are not the class of women who avail themselves of this provision. I have noticed in some public houses in London the words "Ladies' Bar," "Ladies' Entrance," and so forth, and this has been an enormous encouragement for women to go, not to grocers, but to public houses. I say that the change proposed by the right hon. Gentleman will increase that, and that the tendency of this Bill will be to drive them to the public house, and bring them within its entourage and surroundings. It will do great harm in lessening that natural, proper, and moral squeamishness which should distinguish women.
What was the evidence given in favour of making this change? I will not weary the House by reading it—it is here for those who wish to have it; but really the only adjective I can apply to the right hon. Gentleman's proposal is "ludicrous." The majority did not even deign to offer any evidence at all, while the minority only quoted evidence of the most flimsy character. I should like the House to bear in mind what are the facts. The House of Lords inquired into this matter in 1879, and reported that there was no evidence that grocers' licences encouraged female drinking. In 1893 there was another Committee of the Lords, and Earl Kimberley—about whose condition we are all so sadly anxious just now—said he doubted whether it would be possible to prove that grocers' licences led to female drunkenness, adding that he remembered how completely the evidence on that point broke down at the previous inquiry. Not a single person was able to prove that spirits had been put down as tea. We have had these accusations bandied about, but I have never heard of any person being able to establish a single case of that sort. Even if it could be done, I would remind the House that a single swallow does not make a summer.
§ The question is—Does the system as a whole work in the direction of temperance or intemperance? What do we find? The Chief Constables of Liverpool, Manchester, and Chester were all asked about this question, and they all said they did not believe the system had increased drunkenness amongst women. I will appeal to the right hon. Gentleman on this fact—that if there is one social change which has been more striking in my life than another, it has been the enormous increase of sobriety among the middle classes. It has amounted to nothing less than a revolution. It is a striking thing that the most temperate and most sober classes are those who can set drink, and this leads us to the paradox that those who cannot get drink get drunk, and those who can get drink do not get drunk. That is our experience. And that change is most marked among the striving lower middle class. I am bound to say I do not think the striving middle class is sufficiently stuck up for in this House. The working men have their organisations; the landlords and the trades have representatives who speak up for them; but as far as my experience goes, there is no one to speak up for the most noble element in our English life, the lower middle class, who use these shops and take advantage of these licences. On their behalf, however, I have no hesitation in saying that they do not find that these shops lead to intemperance, and it would be a distinct infringement of their rights to deprive them of this social convenience. I have dealt with the reasons advanced for this change. What are those against it? I will first ask a plain question—Does the right hon. Gentleman mean by this change to do away with these licences or not?
Then the right hon. Gentleman is going to make them go through the Caudine Forks. The House ought to have some reason given for making the change. What reason is there for taking the control away from the Excise and giving it to the magistrates? Not a single case of abuse has been made out against these licences, and I know of no trade which 1145 has been carried on for forty years under continual police inspection which has led to so little abuse. It is almost remarkable that with all these thousands of licences you get no case of abuse from year's end to year's end. You never read of such cases in the papers, and we have yet to learn from the right hon. Gentleman that any have occurred. By this change these licences will be stamped with the elements, characteristics, and drawbacks of a monopoly, and it will be acknowledged that the monopoly character of licences has become absolutely a scandal. Mr. Gladstone, in proposing this change, said one advantage was that it would give the public the advantage of competition, and that it would tend to keep up the quality of the liquor sold in public houses and to prevent the undue raising of prices. I should like to point out that if this clause is carried, when a person gets one of these licences the value of the premises where the trade is permitted will enormously increase, the cost of drink supplied there will go up, and the people will be deprived of the natural advantage of competition, another buttress being added to the drink monopoly. It is sometimes said that the House of Commons is losing caste with the country. If that is true, it is due to its immoral position with regard to the drink traffic more than to anything else. We have not the courage to make up our minds and stand by our convictions on this question. I have the greatest possible regard for the teetotaler. He holds a logical position, and is honest in so doing. I will say this for myself. I believe in alcoholic liquor, and I believe that every person would be a little better for taking some. But I find in this House that the persons who are so anxious to shut off alcoholic drink from other people take care not to shut off their own. There has been too much humbug about this thing. Either teetotalers are right in their view and the traffic should be prohibited, or they are wrong, and the public should have the right to obtain what they require under proper conditions. Even teetotalers should pause before giving support to a proposal which, if carried into effect, would have a tendency to send people to the public houses for their supplies. It is in the small towns and country places that the effect of this change will be most marked in driving people to public houses. We 1146 ought to make up our minds clearly as to whether alcoholic liquor is a right thing, and a thing to which the people ought to have reasonable access. In my opinion it is, and every barrier against that access can be justified only by the most stringent necessity. If it cannot be so justified, then it stands condemned. The principle of separating the sale of food from the sale of drink is one of the most disastrous that has ever been adopted by this House. Most of the evils of the drink traffic arise from the secrecy with which it is carried on. I have the honour of sitting on a Commission about canteens, and soldier after soldier who has been called by us has agreed that it would be a good thing to provide the men with facilities forgetting a pint of beer with their dinners and their suppers. That is an indication of the false tack on which we have been proceeding all along. Many Members have heard of the Public House Trust movement, of which I have been an advocate for many years. If we want to make the people temperate and sober, we must make them perfectly honest and frank in regard to the drink traffic. We must do away with all sense of secrecy, and bring in the cafe and restaurant principle. I, therefore, object entirely to the right hon. Gentleman's principle of separating the sale of food from drink. That is a great mistake.
Last of all. I come to the ground of compensation. I have said already that this Bill will add to the difficulties of this question. Compensation may not be legal now, but everybody knows that if a trade is entitled to compensation, the withholding it would be resented by the people of England, and it would not therefore be well, by inserting technical words in an Act of Parliament, to try and prevent such compensation being paid. When a man has got a licence under these circumstances he will have to be compensated if it is taken away. I believe the future settlement of the question will be in bringing the trade under public control, regulating the sale so that people can get good liquor in good condition at fair prices. We are staggered now with the Compensation Bill, and this proposal will add to it. I do not propose to vote against this Bill. because there are many good things in 1147 it, but I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider carefully the advisability of withdrawing this particular clause as a retrograde step inimical to the true interests, welfare, and happiness of the people.
§ *(4.20.) SIR JOHN ROLLESTON (Leicester)
As I have not previously addressed the House, I should like to be allowed to make a few brief observations on this Bill, which deals with matters to which I have given some attention, and which, in the constituency I have the honour to represent, attracts a considerable amount of interest. I must admit that at first sight the Bill generally presents the appearance of a moderate Bill, dealing with one of the most pressing subjects in licensing reform, without inflicting any great hardship on any section of the people. But, on closer examination, various defects, or what are thought to be defects, are disclosed, to which I ask leave to direct attention. Clause 4 provides that when a licensed victualler is accused of permitting drunkenness the burden of proving his innocence rests upon him. In the ordinary criminal law, however, the accused has to be proved guilty before he is convicted, and this proposal, therefore, is contrary to the I spirit of the British law, which regards all men as innocent until they are proved to be guilty. It will enable a charge to be made and maintained against a licensed victualler without proof of guilt being forthcoming, and that seems to me to be a proposal of an oppressive character, straining the law against one class only of the community. Clause 8 provides that the licensing justices may deprive an off licence holder of his licence without cause or complaint, capriciously, and without compensation. These licences were established with the view of preventing people who wanted wine or beer from being obliged to go to the public house for it, and to enable them to escape that contamination which is so much enlarged upon. In the main, the intention of the establishers of these licences has been well fulfilled; these licences are held, not less than other branches of the trade, by a very respectable body of men and women, who have in many cases invested 1148 their savings in the alteration and improvement of premises, and who are making a livelihood by carrying on this off trade. To place their fortunes in the hands of the magistrates without any right of appeal, would be, in my opinion, wrong.
§ * MR. SIR JOHN ROLLESTON
But still, it places their fortunes in the hands of an irresponsible body, and that constitutes an injustice to which I am unable to assent. If the proposals were made prospective and not retrospective, leaving all existing off licences in the same position as at present, that might perhaps meet the justice of the case.
But the section of the Bill which is, in my opinion, of the greatest importance is that referring to the registration of clubs. My view has always been that no pressure for licensing reform could possibly possess the attribute of sincerity which did not put in the front of its programme a measure dealing with this growing evil. It has been to me a matter of wonder why temperance reformers have always apparently treated this subject as of only secondary importance. Unfortunately—but I admit much more so in the past than at the present time—the most extreme of them have given us reason to believe that they were indifferent to legislation which did not injure the licensed victualler, and can only suppose that because the better control of drinking clubs was a measure which the licensed victualler demanded in his own interest, they did not regard the proposal altogether with favour. I am glad, however, to be able to testify, certainly in my constituency, to the moderation of late years of the temperance party, who, I fully believe, are now anxious to secure such legislation as is practicable and possible, and which, apart from every other consideration, if it is likely to check drunkenness and crime, will receive at their hands the most hearty and cordial support. I have always wondered why it was that, while temperance reform included proposed legislation to curtail such privileges as the licensed victualler possessed; to shorten his hours; to close his premises on Sundays; to abolish him altogether by popular vote 1149 without compensation; and to hamper and restrict him in many ways—it was always a matter of surprise to me that, under these circumstances, it appears to have been forgotten or overlooked that the more the law restricted the licensed victualler the greater was the inducement to establish the drinking club, and there can be no doubt whatever—I have seen it in my own experience—that the more drinking is suppressed in places that are licensed the more it is likely to break out in places that are unlicensed, where it can be indulged in without restraint, without police supervision, at all hours of the day, and on all days of the week. Surely, if the suppression of drinking and drunkenness is the end to be attained, the unlicensed drinking-place should first of all receive attention. I am glad that this Bill deals firmly and, in the main, fairly with this question. I say fairly because I think that the clubs should be dealt with tenderly. Many of these are most useful institutions, which provide for working men what they cannot always get at home, the opportunities for quiet recreation; places where the literature of the day is open to them, and where they can exchange ideas on current subjects, without spending anything, if they are so incurred. In my own experience I know such clubs, which are really reading rooms and places of reasonable amusement rather than taverns, and which subscribe liberally to all the local charities. On the other hand, there are clubs which are established solely for the purpose of enabling members to obtain drink at such hours as the public houses are not open. These are largely frequented by women, and I am informed that in the North of England the child messenger is largely employed in conveying drink from them to the parent. These, therefore, compete unfairly with the public houses, in which trade is carried on at great risk and under severe penalties to the owners, who, for the privilege of selling drink at all, contribute a large annual sum to the revenue of the country. The establishment of clubs where the sale of drink is free and un restricted must render the restrictions on the sale of drink in public houses, to a certain extent, null and void, and I must congratulate the right Iron. Gentleman the Home Secretary on being the first Minister 1150 of State to bring in a measure dealing with this important question, but I hope that when the Bill is in Committee and the process has to be dealt with, he will allow some modifications in that respect. I have had conferences with committees of management of many of these clubs in my own constituency and in the surrounding districts, and I find that, while they most cordially approve of the principle of that portion of the Bill dealing with the suppression of sham clubs, they think that the process, as outlined in the Bill, is most harsh and arbitrary; and that under any circumstances, if the committee of management is complained of, they should be beard in their own defence; and that a right of appeal should be given, instead of being in the power of one vindictive person, on unsworn evidence, to effect the closing of the club, without even his identity being disclosed.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I assure the hon. Member that he is entirely mistaken. My hon. friend is acting on an assumption which is entirely mistaken. There must be sworn evidence, and a regular course of law must be gone through under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts.
§ * MR. SIR JOHN ROLLESTON
I am very pleased that both myself and my constituents are under a misapprehension. However, my constituents tell me that they do not trust the magistrates, who may be, and sometimes are, composed of extreme and prejudiced men, pledged to one particular line of policy, and whose decisions are frequently upset on appeal. On these grounds, the real clubs do not wish to be exposed to the risk of being summarily and arbitrarily closed without a proper hearing and the right of appeal. With a few alterations which I hope may be made in Committee, I should like to express the opinion that the Bill is a good Bill, and a far more important measure than was at first supposed. Without using the formula that this is an honest attempt to deal with a difficult question—and the question of licensing reform is certainly one of the most difficult and perplexing—we may agree that it is not a dishonest attempt to put further restrictions on the licensed, 1151 while allowing the unlicensed victualler to go scot free. I was surprised to hear, during the debate on the First Reading, hon. Gentlemen opposite make light of the Bill, and say that they did not expect much from the present Government in the way of licensing reform. I have been wondering ever since from what Government or from what sort of Government do they expect these larger and more heroic measures which are implied and indicated. Governments in the past have not been successful in carrying these heroic and more ambitious measures. I do not for one moment want to disparage the ambitions or the zeal of temperance reformers. On the contrary, the efforts they have made to check drunkenness and crime are worthy of the most grateful recognition, and it must be a satisfaction to them to know that their views are gaining ground every day. This may be due in some degree to the spread of education and the consequently increasing refinement of the people, but for whatever share the temperance I reformer has had in this improvement he deserves the fullest credit and the grateful thanks of the country. But I think, at the same time, that experience has shown us that in this matter of licensing reform sweeping changes are impracticable, and progress must be made cautiously, and with tolerance and justice to all classes. Temperance reform is a vague and indefinite term, which it is very easy to write on a slate. I venture to think that it will remain so written as a sort of preamble to which the clauses I will never be added. In any case, I am glad of the opportunity of expressing the opinion that with some alterations, the Bill is a good Bill, suited to the needs of the time, and, so far as it deals with the most pressing matter of licensing reform, the better control of clubs, is a strong Bill. Every Bill presented to this House is necessarily a draft, and doubtless alterations and erasions will have to be made; but when these have been made, I can only hope that the fair copy will constitute an Act of which this Bill is the substance and the essence, and which, without oppressing any section of the community, except the drunkard, will prove to be a real advantage, 1152 especially to the working people of this country.
§ (4.40.) MAJOR JAMESON) (Clare, W.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Leicester on the very excellent I speech which he has just addressed to the House. I wish I could equally congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on the way he has treated the House and the trade. I maintain it is unusual for a Minister in charge of a Bill not to give one single word of explanation of the Bill from the first line to the last, more especially when every possible explanation was demanded. I deeply regret that the right hon. Gentleman should have taken that line, which I look upon as a contempt for a great trade and for their wishes and desires, but also a contempt for the small temperance party. The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to persuade himself that this is a non-contentious matter, but I do not believe that a more contentious matter has ever been brought before the House; and, forsooth, the Homo Secretary, not having given a word of apology or explanation, pops up and down and tells hon. Members that they are under a misapprehension. I defy any one not to be under a misapprehension: the Bill from the first line to the last is full of misapprehensions. So far as the trade is concerned, they are under no misapprehension—they believe that the Bill is as silly as it is unnecessary. I object most strongly to this Bill—in the first place, because the framers of the Bill, in putting it together, seem not to have realised that three such diverse and distinct matters which were contained in the so-called "Licensing Bill" would, if passed into law, make the Bill in its present form one of the greatest anomalies in legislative enactment on the Statute-book. It would also make it one of the most ridiculous, for the reason that the title, which is, as you all know, "To amend the Law relating to the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors and to Drunkenness, and to provide for the Registration of Clubs," and the subtitle, which is cited as "The Licensing Act of 1902," absolutely contradict each other, and neither in the slightest degree represents the sense of the clauses 1153 in their main essentials. It is wanting, in my opinion, both in grammar as well as in sense.
The draft of this Bill now published embodies within its provisions three objects—first, the amendment of the law as to drunkards; second, the amendment of licensing law; third, the registration of Clubs. Why an omnibus Bill of this description should have for its short title the name of the "Licensing Act 1902" does not seem quite plain. The amendment of the law as to drunkenness as provided for by the clauses under Part I has nothing whatever to do with licensing, as the provisions of this part of the Bill have to do with the imposition of punishment for drunkards, in sundry amendments of the Habitual Drunkards Act, 1879; the Summary Jurisdiction (Married Women's) Act, 1895; and the Inebriates Act, 1898, any of these matters, of course, should not be incorporated in a licensing Act, and it seems ridiculous, therefore, to turn legislation of the description contemplated under Part 1, which is the amendment of the law as to drunkenness, into an Act described as a "Licensing Act." Now, Part II, which is described as an amendment of the licensing law, in the arrangement of clauses approaches more nearly in meaning to the short title of the Bill—"Licensing Act, 1902." There is a glaring discrepancy, however, between this short title "Licensing Act, 1902," and the long title of the Bill, which is described as a "Bill to amend the law relating to the sale of intoxicating liquors." If the clauses under Part II are read, it will be found that they have nothing whatever to do with the sale of intoxicating liquors. Not a single clause has the remotest reference to the sale of intoxicating liquors. The following are the subjects which the clauses deal with:—Record of conviction of licensed persons; powers of justices as to retail off licences; control of justices over structure of licensed premises; removal of disqualification of justices interested in railways; disqualifications of justices' clerks; date of annual licensing meeting; restriction on protection orders; provisions as to transfer; occasional licences; additional notice of application for new licence; 1154 confirmation of licences. Not one of these matters has anything whatever to do with the law relating to the sale of intoxicating liquors, however much they may have, jointly or individually, to do with the granting of licences, especially "off licences," and the power to justices to grant such or not. As regards Part III of the Bill, having to do with the registration of clubs, not a single clause of Part III has anything whatever to do with licensing. It consists of two clauses, under the first of which the secretary of a club is required to register his club yearly with the clerk of the justice in his division, and give details as to the name and object of the club, its address, name of secretary, and its rules in force as to the election of members, admission of guests, terms of subscription, and number of members; and it provides also for penalties for the non-supply of these particulars, or for false returns supplied by the secretary of any club. I certainly agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there is a pressing necessity for dealing with bogus clubs; but how can he hold that such matters, which are entirely outside the Licensing Acts, can be embodied in a bill such as we are contemplating at the present moment? If an amendment of the law relating to drunkenness is necessary, would it not have been better to have brought in a Bill amending the three Acts I have mentioned, and let it stand or fall on its own merits?
The clauses in Part 1 of the Bill are, in my opinion, in many instances, very unfair. And let the House consider Clause 4. Under this clause it is proposed to do what English law has always recognised as unjust. It is opposed to the principle that a man is assumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty. The clause says that where a licensed person is charged with permitting drunkenness on his premises, it shall lie on him to prove that he and the persons employed by him took all reasonable steps to prevent drunkenness. In other words, it is proposed to make the licensed person prove that he is not guilty, instead of throwing the onus of proof elsewhere. That is opposed to every principle of law, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider it. Then, again, the penalties to be 1155 imposed under Clause 6 appear to me to be absolutely extraordinary. While the habitual drunkard himself who is convicted of purchasing liquor is only liable to a fine of 20s. for the first offence and 40s. for the second, the holder of the licence who supplies him is to be liable for the first offence to a fine of £10, and for the second offence to a fine of £20. When we consider the great difficulty that must of necessity arise as regards identification, I am sure the House will agree that these penalties appear to be absolutely monstrous. The question of identification is a very important one; and it will further be noticed that the licensee is to be held responsible, not only for the liquor he supplies himself, but is also responsible for liquor which may be consumed off the premises, has not been bought for a habitual drunkard. Surely that is an extraordinary clause to put in a Bill of this kind. Another matter connected with this clause is that it does not seem to apply at all to clubs and off licences, which are to have the power of selling to a habitual drunkard with impunity. Therefore, I maintain that this clause ought to be amended. To make an omnibus Bill of three such glaringly distinct and diverse subjects as the amendment of the law as to drunkenness, the amendment of the licensing law, and the registration of clubs, is one of the most extraordinary attempts at legislative compression ever seen in this House.
As far as the trade is concerned, the particular part of the Bill which appears to most challenge criticism—strenuous and uncompromising criticism—is Part II. It teems with most extraordinary proposals. It is supposed to have been founded on the Majority Report of the Royal Commission, but I am rather astonished that the right hon. Gentleman did not state the reasons why the majority of the Royal Commission asked him to bring forward these proposals of Clause 7, which propose to abolish the present system of endorsement and to sub titute a plan under which every conviction, however small, against a licensed person shall be entered in a register, and if there are more than five convictions in five years, the justices, who are supposed to 1156 know the rights and wrongs of these cases, must then give their reasons in writing if the licence is renewed, and the police are to have the right of appeal. The light hon. Gentleman has brought forward the justices' clerk, who is to have control over the justices themselves, and instead of the record being confined to the limits of the offences endorsable under the present law, a wide range is opened up, and the most trivial offence, even when the smallest penalty is imposed, will have to be entered on the register. I am sure that the trade as a whole will resent this, and I feel certain that the right hon. Gentleman, in proposing this very invidious scheme, will not carry out the objects he has at heart, and that he will please neither of the parties who I know are opposed to this Bill.
Clause 8 is the most important clause in Part II, and it challenges criticism more than any other clause in the entire Bill. Why, at this hour of the day, are powers to be given to a new authority over a class of licences which have always been conducted properly, against which there have been no complaints, and for which the majority of the Royal Commission recommended no change except at the discretion of the licensing authority? Mow can the right hon. Gentleman for one moment support this clause, knowing, as he does, that the beer off licences are already under the magistrates, who have full and complete control, and who certainly use their powers? I think the more hon. Members will look at this clause, the less they will like it. As I pointed out to the Home Secretary the other day, the clause is an insinuation that, up to the present time, the magistrates have not done their duty. The right hon. Gentleman says that the magistrates have not entered convictions and endorsed the licences in the way they should have done. What is the remedy proposed by the right hon. Gentleman? He first of all puts the justices in the hands of their own clerk, and then he proposes to reward them for their incompetence by putting into their hands all those off licences. That, I think, will require a very great deal of explanation. I want it to go right home to the House 1157 that the right hon. Gentleman, having belittled these justices, proceeds to show confidence in them by handing over to them the whole of these off licences. That is a most outrageous proposal, and one which has never been previously made in any licensing Bill in this House. Members of the trade who are conversant with licensing justices will not be at all slow to know what the meaning of this revolutionary clause is. It means, in my opinion, the absolute confiscation of 90 per cent. of these off licences. I am perfectly sure the right hon. Gentleman does not intend that, but I am equally sure it will have that result.
Now, as to another point in connection with this proposed legislation. As regards stocks of excisable liquor, should this Bill pass and become operative (as it is bound to be, if it does pass) in the extinction of retail off licences, how will the unfortunate trader find himself placed on the day after the renewal of his licence has been refused? He will find himself probably with from £500 to £1,000 worth of stock in liquors, without the power of selling a single bottle; and he will find himself, while saddled with this unrealisable stock on the one hand, met on the other with the obligation of paying for probably three-fourths of it to the merchants from whom he has purchased it on credit. His means of livelihood are taken from him, he cannot realise his stock, and he has to meet his liabilities. Only one course is open to him, and that is, to go into bankruptcy, which spells ruin to him and loss to his creditors, and no gain to anybody. That this undoubtedly is the case cannot, I think, be gainsaid, and it is surely a cruel thing to a large and industrious body of traders, against whose respectability or honesty as a whole not the slightest aspersion can be cast, that such a callous attempt should be made to deprive them of their means of livelihood. Another point can be made against these very iniquitous provisions of the Bill in Clause 8, and that is, in practically precluding off licence holders from selling anything but wines and spirits and beer. Why such a provision should be made in a licensing enactment as that contemplated under Clause 8 it is hard to understand. If a man sells wines and spirits and beer alone by retail for consumption off the premises, the continuance 1158 of his licence does not come up yearly for consideration at the justices' discretion; but if he is guilty of the depravity, in addition, of seeking to increase his income by selling other articles, such as tea, coffee, sweets, or tobacco, he is then to be handed over to the tender mercies of the licensing justices. Anything more ridiculous than such a distinction being drawn between a man who exclusively sells wines and spirits and beer, and his neighbour who sells wines and spirits, teas and provisions, it is impossible to imagine.
Presumably the Bill is inspired with an idea of promoting temperance. If such be the case, it is pertinent to ask, will the trader who is to depend for his livelihood on the sale of intoxicating liquors only be less anxious to sell intoxicating liquors than another trader who makes his income not only out of sales of intoxicating liquors, but also from the business done in provisions and other goods. It has been said that off licences in connection with grocers have encouraged secret drinking amongst women and in families. How this conclusion has been arrived at, it is impossible to say; certainly, if any person desires to consume liquor secretly, such S desire will not be quenched by the fact that the trader from whom such supplies are obtained (as they will be obtained if the desire is there) does not sell provisions or teas. Then, again, a word might be said as to the inconsistency of this new proposed departure in licensing policy. It has always been the complaint of temperance advocates against publicans that they sold only intoxicating liquors, and did not make any provision for refreshments of either a liquid or solid description for their patrons, so that a man entering a public house for refreshments was obliged, of necessity, to take intoxicants, and could not be accommodated with other wholesome food, either in a solid or liquid form. To remedy this, philanthropic public houses are being started all over the country, in which every encouragement is given to the managers of such places to sell food and non-intoxicating drink, rather than intoxicating liquors; and in face of all these attempts to get licensed traders to sell goods other than intoxicating liquors, comes this new proposed enactment, especially directed 1159 against off licence holders, to compel them, on pain of losing their licence, to sell nothing else but intoxicating liquors. This seems to be a monstrous absurdity; but then, any proposal seems to be good enough, no matter how ridiculous, which is calculated in any way to hamper the licensed trade.
It has always been the aspiration of everybody having to do with licensed property or licences to have the Acts of Parliament relating thereto so codified that their application would be general, and that no glaring discrepancy in regulations, manners, or methods will exist between the form and character of licences, whether held in Scotland or England. Such also must, of necessity, be the desire of the framers of the Bill; else chaos would reign again. In face of this, it seems extraordinary that, having regard to the law as it now stands, and as it has been confirmed recently, as regards off licences, both in Scotland and Ireland, this new and revolutionary attempt to upset the whole policy underlying off licences in the three Kingdoms should be made in England, as the promised new enactment here is based on a policy of compelling off retail licence holders not to sell provisions, or tea, or such other goods. In Ireland, with similar licences, known there as spirit grocer licences, it is obligatory that the person holding such a licence shall sell coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, or pepper; and in Scotland, although the goods to be sold are not specified, the licence is known as a grocer's licence, and is obviously intended and actually is used in connection with the sale of such household requisites as all descriptions of provisions, and other goods needed for household consumption. This also, undoubtedly, has been the object of the creation of off licences in England, which have been instituted with a view of affording householders an opportunity of obtaining a supply of intoxicating liquors for consumption in their homes, either medicinally or as a beverage, or for the entertainment of their friends, without sending to public houses for supplies, and to enable them to consume their liquor at their meals.
That off licences used in conjunction with grocers' premises in England have 1160 realised these requirements, goes without saying; and that they have done so with the least possible minimum of abuses, either in operation or effect, must be conceded by everybody not fanatically opposed to the liquor trade as a whole. That they are now struck at in the unjustifiable manner contemplated under the Bill which threatens the very existence of off licences as at present in use, is not due to any defects or evils arising from their working. They are assailed because it is thought they can be destroyed with impunity, and because, doubtless, too, it is hoped that the strong force behind public house licences will not support off licence holders in the attack which is being made against them. But in this I think that the Government will find they are absolutely mistaken. The trade will, I believe, stand together as one man in resisting attacks made upon any branch of their trade. I had the pleasure of saying at a large meeting the other day that if the trade were united they need not fear their enemies. Under Clause 8 as it now stands the justices have power to refuse an off licence to a grocer unless he separates his trade, and this the majority of the last Royal Commission expressed an emphatic opinion on. So this clause, which is absolutely unfair to the trade in every detail, is also opposed to common sense, and also to the opinion of the majority of the Royal Commission.
Now let us look at Clause 9. Here the licensing justices, who have been placed under the supervision of their own clerk, are turned into amateur architects, and if alterations are proposed or desired by the owners, the justices can insist on such alterations as they think fit. The most important part of Clause 9 is Sub-section 3, with regard to the renewal of licences. It is very important that the point it raises should not be lost sight of, as it proposes to place an extraordinary power in the hands of the licensing authority. The Sub section is as follows—On any application for the renewal of a licence the licensing justices may require a plan of the premises to be produced before them, and on granting or renewing any licence the licensing justices may impose such con- 1161 ditions as they think fit as to structural alterations in that part of the premises where intoxicating liquor is sold or consumed.Some of the justices may want to have the alterations in the Gothic style, and Heaven only knows what others may want. You are absolutely turning this worthy board, who have been put under the supervision of their own clerk, into amateur architects, and I object to that.
I now proceed to Clause 10—A justice shall not be disqualified to act for any purpose under the Licensing Acts, 1828 to 1886, or this Act, by reason only of his being interested in a railway company which is a retailer of intoxicating liquor.I am excessively glad the right hon. Gentleman is going to take the fine or punishment off justices who have shares in a railway company. But if a railway company, why not a steamboat company, or the Zoological Gardens, to which a licence is granted? In my opinion, a Fellow of the Zoological Gardens, or a shareholder in a steamboat company, has every bit as much right to sit as a justice as a shareholder in a railway company. I do not know whether any members of the Government are Fellows of the Zoological Gardens, but I believe the reason an exception is made of shareholders in a railway company is that there are several railway directors in His Majesty's Government. I am perfectly willing that such shareholders should sit as justices if the Government will refrain from excluding other shareholders such as I have described. It is evident that the right hon. Gentleman has not gone sufficiently into the details of this Bill. That is what I object to, and serious difference of opinion is sure to arise.
Now, to take Clause 13. This also is a very bad clause—Notwithstanding any enactment to the contrary, it shall not be lawful for a petty sessional court to authorise the sale of intoxicating liquor on any licensed premises until the holding of the next special sessions for the licensing district in which the premises are situate, except where the holder of the licence—(a) dies; or (b) becomes incapable of carrying on business by reason either of illness or of other sufficient cause; or (c) has a receiving order in bankruptcy made against him, and unless the person making the application has, one week at least before the holding of the court, served on the superintendent of police for the district the like notice as is required in the case of an application for the transfer of a licence.1162 These three rigid exceptions, which are the only ones made, will necessitate the holding of special sessions once a month. Take the case of a man who bolts with his wife—or with some other man's wife—to America. You cannot bring the man back: he is the other side of the ocean. His licence will be lost by the people who hold it, because it cannot be renewed for six months, and at the end of that time it will be said, "Oh, the licence has not been carried on, and it is lost." I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman means the clause to be used in that way, and he should seriously reconsider the framing of it. The clause is so ambiguous as to be really worse than useless.
Then, to go to Clause 14—that is, if possible, even more ambiguous and more objectionable—(1.) The person applying for the transfer of a licence, and the person to whom it is proposed to transfer the licence, shall attend at the special sessions at which the application is heard, and the agreement, if any, under which the licence is to be transferred shall be produced to the licensing justices. Provided that the justices may for good cause shown dispense with the attendance of either of such persons, or both. (2.) The licensing justices may make regulations determining the time which must elapse after the hearing of one application for the transfer of a licence before a second application for the transfer of the same licence may be made. (3.) The provisions of Sub - section 2 of Section 40 of the Licensing Act, 1872, as to notices of intention to transfer, shall apply to all eases of transfer, whether the applicant be the proposed transferor or the proposed transferee, and shall also apply to applications for the grant of a licence under Section 14 of the Alehouse Act, 1828.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I must say the hon. and gallant Member is pursuing a most unusual course in a Second Reading debate. He is taking the Bill and reading section after section, and making objections which should be made in Committee.
§ MAJOR JAMESON
Am I not within my rights if I am opposing the Bill? I ask your ruling, Sir, and, of course, I should obey it. If I move the rejection of any part of the Bill, am I not in order in showing that these clauses are absolutely incompatible with Parts I and III of the Bill? It is impossible for me to make my way plain without so doing. I assure you I am not doing it to prolong the debate in the slightest degree.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member must adhere to the usual practice on a Second Reading, and that is, to deal with subjects which are matters of principle in the Bill, and to deal with them as principles—not to go into the details of each clause and each section of a clause.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
But the hon. and gallant Member is finding a principle in every line, and that is the objection.
§ MAJOR JAMESON
Then I will merely point out what the result of this Bill will be. The Bill is certainly one of the most fearful, if not most wonderful, Bills which have ever seen the light of day in this country. I could challenge—but in deference to your ruling I will not—every clause in the Bill. Having shown the absolute incongruity of Clause 8 and the other clauses of the Bill, I will content myself by saying that Parts I and III would have some justification, but that Parts I, II, and III together can have no justification whatsoever. It may be necessary—I believe it is—that a Bill to amend the law with regard to drunkards should be brought in, but why sandwich it with a licensing Bill and a Bill for the registration of clubs? Why make it a criminal Bill, and endeavour to label as a criminal institution the trade which for years has found the bulk of the taxation of this country? The Bill is brought in against the trade because any stick is good enough to boat a dog with. I maintain that the Bill is not justified by either the Minority or the Majority Report of the Royal Commission, and I cannot understand anybody who has read those Reports arguing that it is so justified. As the hon. Member for Bolton has told the House, most of the evidence is unworthy of credence, and unworthy of any Royal Commission. But are His Majesty's Government always so delighted to follow out the recommendations of a Royal Commission? How about the Financial Relations Commission? The Report of that Commission has never been touched But yet the trade, the members of which have supported His 1164 Majesty's Government.—[Opposition cheers and laughter.] Oh, it is at once necessary that the Report of any Royal Commission which affects your friends should be seen to. But when it does not affect your friends, you are not so thunderingly anxious to take notice of what a Royal Commission had done.
I am not going to move the rejection of this Bill. I am going to move an Amendment which will at all events help the right hon. Gentleman, and also the First Lord of the Treasury, who told the House that this was an uncontentious Bill—and I do not want to falsify that statement. Every Member of the House is desirous that the question of habitual drunkards should be dealt with, and would have allowed the part dealing with that question, if it had been treated as such, to go through without a division and with little discussion. But what we object to is the sandwiching of this bolus, and putting it down our throats wholesale. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman to endeavour to meet the views of the Amendment which I am about to propose. I beg to move to omit Part II from this Bill, and I hope the First Lord of the Treasury will give this matter his serious consideration. I trust we shall be met by the Government upon the principle I have laid down—that no Bill should deal with the Habitual Drunkards Act and with licensing at the same time. My Amendment will give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of bringing in another Licensing Act, and if Part II is struck out I do not think there will be any difficulty in passing Part I and Part III. I beg to move that Part II be omitted.
§ (5.30.) MR. TRITTON (Lambeth, Norwood)
There is one thing about the hon. Member who has just dilated at such length upon this Bill which we cannot help admiring, and that is his consistency. I do not think we have ever had a measure brought forward dealing with the drink question but what the hon. and gallant Member puts down a Motion to the effect "that it be read a second time this day six months." I only wish that his efforts were put to a better cause than to stopping every attempt made for the 1165 amelioration of the condition of the people of this land and every effort to remove the great temptations which greet them in all directions. In the few moments I shall address the House I wish to say that I hope my right hon. friend the Home Secretary and the Government will fully realise that they have got the support of the country at their back in this matter. I do not doubt that we shall hear a great deal about the support which has been given to this measure by temperance societies of all sorts throughout the country, and we shall be told that temperance organisations heartily approve of this Bill. Nevertheless, I want the House and the Government to realise that there is a vast number of people in this land who do not belong to temperance societies, and who will not subscribe to them, but who, at the same time, are most anxious that something should be done to bring about a better state of things. They are constant witnesses of all the misery and poverty which are brought about by the evil habits of intemperance, and they look, not to temperance societies, but to the Government of the day to step in and do something to alter this sad condition of affairs.
These people have been looking forward for a great many years to temperance reform with disappointment, and they have waited with a pitiful longing to see something done in the matter by the Government. It is a very long time since we had the privilege of a Second Reading debate in this House upon a measure of licensing reform brought forward by any Government holding office in this country. I can well remember the time when the Bill of 1893 was introduced by the Liberal Government then in power. To that Bill the House gave a First Beading, but no amount of persuasion and entreaty could induce them to name the day for the Second Reading. And so, unfortunately, that Bill disappeared, and it found a watery grave in "the flowing tide" of 1895. Now we have at last got a Government bringing forward a measure of temperance reform, and giving us an opportunity for a Second Reading debate upon a Bill dealing with the subject of licensing reform. I notice that the Motion for rejecting the measure has not been moved, and I hope that His Majesty's Government and the 1166 Home Secretary will realise that everybody is desirous of seeing this Bill put through all its stages, and carried into law this session.
I may be called an enthusiast upon this question, but I do not mind that; and I have no hesitation in saying that no more important measure than this has been brought before the House this session. Though I am in favour of the Water Purchase Bill, I think this measure is more required. I think it is even more necessary than the Education Bill, and a great deal more important than the alteration of our rules of procedure. Therefore I hope that the Government will carry this measure right through. I know that I have my own particular fads, but I do not go so far as to say that I shall not support any measure, and that it will not be satisfactory to me unless it contains my own particular licensing fads. On the contrary, I welcome any measure of temperance reform, and I take all I can get. I welcome any measure, more particularly from the Executive Government, dealing with this great and important subject.
This Bill deals with three special sides of this question. It deals with drunkenness, and contains most useful clauses in this respect. I am not going into details, and I will only say under this heading that when you have included in the proposed amendment of the law as to drunkenness such things as the apprehension of persons found drunk and incapable in public places; penalties for being drunk while in charge of a child; power to require a person convicted of drunkenness to give security for good behaviour; the burden of proof in case of drunkenness on licensed premises; protection for the wife or husband of the habitual drunkard; and the prohibition of the sale of liquor to persons declared to be habitual drunkards—these are all steps in the right direction of true temperance reform. We have often heard it said that you cannot make people sober by Act of Parliament. That may be; but you can do a great deal by Act of Parliament to prevent them getting drunk. It is because I believe that the various clauses in this Bill will have that effect that I give it my hearty support.
1167 Part II. contains eleven clauses dealing with amendments to the licensing laws. We have heard a great deal about the Royal Commission on licensing. That Commission sat for three years, and it did an immense amount of work. It was composed of men of all classes, and it issued a Blue-book unequalled in interest by any Blue-book yet issued on this subject by the House of Commons, and which has done more to open the eyes of the public to the evils of intemperance than any other book. We see that a better state of things is making itself felt upon the benches of magistrates. They are declaring that they want to lessen intemperance and that they are most desirous of putting down excessive drinking. I hope the Government will stand firm on Clause 8 and not be led away by such appeals as the House has just listened to. With regard to the regulation of clubs, we all know how many clubs there are which are regular down-right drinking hells, and if my right hon. friend the Home Secretary can see his way to suppress these places of evil repute, he will have done very good service to his country. If this Bill has an error, it errs on the side of modesty. If it has a fault, it is that it is too small. Nevertheless, it is a useful and a desirable Bill. Its provisions all tend to decrease drunkenness, and anything which does that should surely command the attention and approval of this House. It tends towards making a soberer nation, and I am an advocate for a sober nation. I know what a sober nation means. It means less sin and sorrow, less crime and cruelty, less pain and poverty, less ruin and less wreckage. It means happier hearths and homes, and it means a people more fitted to cope successfully with those ever increasing imperial responsibilities which, whether we like them or not, are slowly but surely falling upon this Empire. I commend this Bill most earnestly to the House, and if I may—as a humble back-bench supporter of the Government—I desire to thank the Government most heartily for introducing this measure. I believe the Government have introduced this measure as a sincere and honest attempt to lessen those sad evils of intemperance which constitute a national shame, and which, 1168 if they are allowed to continue unchecked and unrestrained, will tend still further in the direction of our national degradation.
§ *(5.44.) MR. CAINE (Cornwall, Camborne)
With regard to this measure I can speak on behalf of the whole of the temperance party in the country, and I can say that it will receive their approval and support, and we shall honestly endeavour at each stage of the measure to amend it. There is no doubt that the solution of the drink problem would settle half-a-dozen other problems of great importance, and which are owing to drunkenness. There are questions continually coming before the House, and under the consideration of social reformers and politicians, which would be solved with tenfold ease if only we could solve the great question under consideration this afternoon. It is little-creditable to this country that we have a million paupers, and many others who are always in a state of poverty, this House knowing perfectly well that the main cause of poverty and the consequent pauperism in this country is the existence of the 160,000 liquor shops which we have allowed in past times to come into existence. In the face of this I cannot help expressing a feeling of disappointment that the measure before the House is of so small and pettifogging a character. I do not blame the Home Secretary. I have to acknowledge that this House presents no indication of any real desire to face this tremendous problem. We have to proceed by steps, and although the present Government only propose by this Bill to make two or three low steps, they are upward and forward, and because they are forward the measure has my hearty support. Without expressing too much gratitude to a fainthearted Government, we do not want to quench the smoking flax: we hope to fan it into flame in subsequent sessions.
I am disappointed that the Bill shows no attempt to reduce the number of liquor shops in this country. That is a question on which we are all agreed. The members of the Royal Commission were agreed that the number of liquor shops ought to be decreased. I think the 1169 Home Secretary secured legislation in 1882 whereby magisterial control would have been given over beer houses with off licences without any talk of compensation. Now it appears he is afraid to deal with these 1869 beer houses, because he does not wish to raise the contentious question of compensation. The hon. and gallant Member for West Clare, after much cry and little wool, withdrew the Motion for the rejection of the Bill of which he had given notice, and substituted another, which, from his knowledge of the procedure of the House, he must know is hopelessly out of order. We had an instance at Liverpool of the value of reduction in the eleven years from 1889 to 1900. The number of liquor shops in that great city was reduced by 338, and what has been the consequence of these reductions? In 1889 the convictions for drunkenness were 14,368, and in 1900 3,938. It seems that crime has synchronised with the reduction, for in 1899 the Watch Committee reduced the number of police in the city by 100, the saving thereby effected amounting to £8,000. I am glad to believe that under even the small Bill now before us there is a reasonable possibility of some slight reduction in the number of public houses, and anything that will reduce the drinking facilities of this country is all for good, and will be accepted by the temperance party very thankfully indeed. I believe myself that scores of great centres of population would benefit in the same direction if the 1869 beer houses were placed under the control of the magistrates. I will not discuss Parts I and H of the Bill at any length. I am prepared to accept them as they stand, but they will probably be improved during the Committee stage of the Bill.
Regarding what has been said by previous speakers with reference to the attitude of the temperance party as to grocers' licences, I would say that I think that class of licence is probably the least hurtful of any on the Statute-book. I think the hon. Member in his speech did not do justice to the common sense and fair play which generally actuate the licensing magistrates of this country, if he thought they were going to make a wholesale reduction of those licences. Part III is conceived on altogether 1170 wrong lines, and in Committee I shall feel bound to move some rather radical Amendments. Certainly they will have to be dealt with seriously, and I sincerely trust that the Home Secretary will not take up a hostile position towards them. No Bill dealing with clubs can be accepted as satisfactory which does not definitely aim at extinction of the bogus drinking club. What is wanted is registration of bonâ fide clubs and the closing of bogus clubs. This Bill admits every class of drinking club, however objectionable, to the privilege of registration under Clause 19. Then, it throws on the public the onerous and difficult work of removing objectionable clubs from a register upon which they ought never to have been placed, by Clause 21. Unless the Bill contains clear definitions of the class of club that ought to be entitled to the privilege of registration, it will be worse than worthless. In Committee I shall move Amendments placing such definitions in the Bill, and I trust the Home Secretary will leave himself in the hands of the House, and accept whatever they may decide with regard to a Bill both sides of the House are willing to treat as practically non-controversial.
The Bill should be amended to define (1) what is the character and bona fides of the club to be registered; (2) the quality of premises upon which such a club ought to be carried on; (3) to refuse recognition of a proprietary club; (4) to secure that publicans deprived of their licence shall not evade the evident intention of the licensing laws by converting their premises into a drinking club. These are the foundation requirements of sound legislation against bogus clubs, and will not interfere in the smallest degree with any bonâ fide members' club desiring to sell liquor to its members. No Bill that does not deal with these points can be really satisfactory. These principles received important and valuable support before the Royal Commission of which I had the honour to be a Member. We need not trouble ourselves about the wealthy West End clubs. There were three witnesses examined before the Royal Commission whose evidence is of special interest. 1171 Mr. B. T. Hall, secretary of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union, said—The conditions which the Union recommended as necessary to registration were as follow:—The rules must provide—
- (1.) Method of election of members; at least seven days to elapse between election and nomination.
- (2.) Circumstances under which membership lapses.
- (3.) Hours of opening and closing.
- (4.) That a list of members' names and addresses be kept at the club.
- (5.) That the club be completely under the control of the members generally.
- ((5.) That the rules should only be altered at a general meeting of the club.
- (7.) That there should be regular meetings of the committee or governing body.
- (8) That no visitors should be allowed after the closing hours of licensed premises. He admitted, however, that this would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.Each application for registration to be on form supplied by the registrar, accompanied by sufficient copies of the rules for publication, and a sworn declaration by the applicants of the names of the responsible officers of the club, and that no one was directly or indirectly interested in the sale of excisables.The Union also recommends a good deal more of that character. Mr. J. May, hon. secretary of the Yorkshire Federation of Liberal Clubs, said—The clubs were in favour of a system of compulsory registration by a central authority (a local one was objected to on political grounds), practically on the same lines as those recommended by Mr. Hall, on behalf of the Club and Institute Union. All objected to police entry.Mr. H. Bryans, secretary of the Association of Conservative Clubs, said—Registration was unnecessary and of little use. It was possible to impose good rules on the clubs, but it seemed impossible to supervise their enforcement. They had, however, no particular objection to registration. They preferred a central to a local authority. The registering authority might work a good deal through existing federations of clubs. Thirty to fifty members might be the minimum allowed to constitute a club.A careful study of the evidence given by those three gentlemen and many others, not only before the Royal Commission, but before the Select Committee of this House in 1894, with regard to the Bill which I was a party to introducing, and which was similar to the one I introduced last session, shows that the members of bonâ fide clubs and the associations representing the members of bonâ fide clubs would not only not resent, but 1172 would gladly welcome, some means by which they could be placed on the register and bogus clubs would not. I am satisfied that no respectable and well-ordered club of working men or any other class would object to the reasonable precautions that ought to be taken before any club was registered and so recognised as a bonâ fide club.
I should like briefly to indicate the way in which the Bill should be amended. I think with regard to Clause 19 that Sub-section 2 should be omitted altogether and a fresh one drafted on the lines recommended by Mr. Hall and the other representatives of the clubs. There is a very important question not touched in this Bill which I think ought to be included. There ought to be some provision that the premises used as a club are of a suitable kind. Many of these clubs are carried on in objectionable and dangerous places, and are open at all hours of the night. The premises are of an inferior kind. I think that no club should be registered in regard to any premises unless these premises are suitable and fulfil the reasonable demands of the law relating to the licensing of ordinary public houses. I should say that the lowest standard for an ordinary beer house for consumption on the premises should be put in force in regard to clubs. I do not want to detain the House with instances of the clubs which I have described, but I would like to read a letter which an old Member of this House—Admiral Field—who is the chairman of a large licensing division comprising three petty sessional areas in South Hants, with over 300 licensed houses and some forty off licences, wrote to the Home Secretary, and of which he sent me a copy. The Admiral says—Our anxiety now is to see the present Bill improved by inserting a clause giving the justices full authority to refuse to register any club, if in their opinion the premises are not suitable or proper for numbers of men to assemble in for social enjoyment, precisely in the same way that justices are now called upon to decide as to the structural fitness of licensed premises. I have a glaring illustration in my mind of a workmen's club not far oft being opened in a loft over a stable approached by ordinary step-ladder from inside; the roof had no ceiling; rafters, crossbeams, and purlino were all exposed, with paraffin lamps suspended from them, the 1173 flooring not tight nor tongued. In fact, it was a bonfire ready laid for lighting. I inspected it several times, and told the leaders that it was dangerous to meet in such premises, and that it ought to he closed. I wrote to the Chief Constable of the county and requested his attention to it with a view to some action being taken either by the police or the Rural District Council. I also called the attention of the inland Revenue to the matter, but all felt powerless to compel the club to move into suitable premises. The men used to remain up till three and four in the morning, and the club was opened on Sunday mornings as early as 9 a.m. Would it not be advisable to require every club house to be of a certain ratable value, as with beer houses, varying with the population? Lastly, I would suggest that where a licensed house has been deprived of its licence for misconduct it should not be possible to keep the same house open as a workmen's club. Some few years back in this parish we closed a licensed house for misconduct, and our decision was upheld on appeal. Within ten days it was opened as a workmen's club, being labelled in conspicuous letters, high up, 'The Workmen's Club.' This exhibition of humorous audacity drew customers, and for a time it flourished pretty well. I had detectives employed by the Inland Revenue Department, as well as by the police. I called on the chairman of the Inland Revenue Department in London, but nothing could be done. The novelty of the thing got stale, and at last the club died for lack of customers and left debts unpaid. The brewer's manager was chairman of the committee of the club. I hope I have said enough to ensure your ready aid in putting a stop to scandals of this kind in future.I propose to move Amendments which will require clubs applying for registration to he carried on upon premises of a minimum annual value, based upon the sliding scale laid down for beer houses in the Licensing Act of 1872. Another clause is necessary in order to deal with an evil of growing magnitude. It should he provided that the Registrar of Clubs must he satisfied, before he places a club on the register, that it is I to be carried on in premises which have not been used as licensed premises during the previous five years. This is to prevent public houses or beer houses which, for various reasons, have been refused licences, being turned into clubs. There was the case of a small brewer who had thirteen different houses in thirteen different villages tied to him as liquor shops. One of these shops lost its licence because the magistrates found that it was the constant resort of poachers. The brewer turned it into a club, and his forty members 1174 were charged 1s. a year for subscription, and the place went on merrily as a club—the only difference being that there was no police supervision, and that the poachers enjoyed themselves there of a shiny night before they went out to their less nefarious occupation. So well did the club answer, that this excellent brewer abandoned all his licences, and is now the proprietor of thirteen tied clubs. I remember another instance in which a brewer, whom I met when travelling by railway, told me that he had built a public house in South Wales at a cost of £2,800. it was in the neighbourhood of a large colliery, and he had applied for a licence three years in succession, and had been refused the licence three years in succession owing to the opposition of the colliery owners and the railway company. This gentleman then turned his place into a club, and he boasted of its success. I went into this so-called club—I had never been in the place before, and no one introduced me—and walked up to the bar and called for a pint of ale, which was promptly served me, and I paid for it. So far as I know, that pint of ale is still on the counter. I was a thorough stranger, but had no difficulty whatever in walking into the club and treating it as a public house.
These are instances which might be multiplied, but I have, I think, given enough to show that if we are to have satisfactory legislation there are provisions which ought to be in the Bill dealing with so important and difficult a question. In Clause 21 there are certain conditions laid down which would disqualify a club. I admit that this clause is a very difficult one, but it practically throws on the public the onus of finding out whether a club is bogus or not, and of laying information. The difficulty will be very great, for how are you to find that out unless you are a member? I think there should be an increase of the grounds on which a club may be struck of the register. I think there should be a sub-section to Clause 21 prohibiting any obligation on the part of these clubs to buy their intoxicating liquors from a particular person or persons. There is another important detail left out of the Bill, but which ought to be put into it. The sale by these clubs of liquor for consumption off the 1175 premises ought certainly to be dealt with. People might be seen sallying forth from these clubs at 10 or 11 on a Saturday night, carrying liquor with them for consumption at home. That is a competition with the public houses which ought not to be permitted, seeing that the clubs pay nothing to the Revenue. There is another very important point which must have escaped the attention of the Home Secretary. I am advised by competent authorities that proprietary clubs are illegal, and words ought to be inserted in the Bill by which there can be no misunderstanding on that point. As I understand, this Bill is to be sent upstairs to a Grand Committee, and there will be plenty of time to thoroughly discuss and thresh out all these points. The agreement in regard to all these questions relating to bogus clubs is very great. The liquor trade want to get rid of them, and the temperance party feel very strongly that this is one of the most important branches of temperance reform. The Home Secretary would have all the support of the representatives of the liquor interest, who are as anxious as the temperance party to get Clause 21 put right. Personally I have no difficulty in co-operating with anybody to secure a diminution of the facilities for obtaining intoxicating liquor, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that managers of bona fide clubs are sincerely anxious to have this question settled once for all on practical lines, so as to get rid of all bogus clubs. I hope that the Home Secretary will give every possible encouragement to put this clause right, and for my part I will do my best to assist the right hon. Gentleman to pass this Bill into law.
§ *(6.14.) MR. PURVIS (Peterborough)
I approve generally of this Bill, but I wish to associate myself with what has been said in opposition to the eighth clause, which places grocers' licences under the absolute control of the justices. There is a great objection in every part of the country to this clause, the effect of which will be to keep down the number of grocers' licences, which are a very great convenience to a very large, meritorious, and increasing section of the community— 1176 that is, the moderate, self-restraining, temperate people. One object of grocers' licences is to encourage the consumption of light French wines instead of the more intoxicating wines of other foreign countries. Another object is to enable those people who object to go to public houses to be able to get what they require at grocers' shops. These people's feelings are as much to be respected as any other class of the community. In many cases, if this clause passes into law, this channel of supply will be cut off altogether if the justices are given absolute control. In that event it will be extremely hard should anyone be compelled, whether he likes it or not, to go to the public house for what he requires or else become a teetotaler against his will. The temperate many ought not to be hampered for the sake of the intemperate few. The objection brought against grocers licences is that they lead to excessive drinking. I think the House ought to bear in mind that for thirty-nine years, ever since grocers' licences were established, not a single complaint has been made in regard to them, and there has not been a single prosecution for infringement of the licensing law in regard to these licences. I trust that the Home Secretary will see his way to withdraw Clause 8 in Committee.
§ (6.17.) MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
I desire to congratulate the Home Secretary upon the reception which has been given to this Bill, which might be regarded as an honest attempt to deal with some of the evils of intemperance. It has been well received both in the House and the country, and it is the one Bill for which we may predict a smooth and safe passage through the rocks and shoals of Parliamentary navigation. I know there are many hon. Members on both sides of the House who would like to go a great deal further than this Bill, but at any rate the measure is a step forward, and as such we welcome it. I shall confine my observations to commenting upon a very few matters. I welcome the first part of the Bill, and I am particularly interested in the clause which makes it an offence for a drunken person to be in charge of a child under the age of seven 1177 years. It is one of the best features of the present age that we are trying to take more care of our children. I think it will be possible to increase this age limit a little later on.
With regard to the second part of the Bill, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will stick to Clause 8. We have had one or two letters of remonstrance, but I believe that the justices can be trusted to deal with this matter in a satisfactory way. Upon this point the hon. Member for Bolton, in his very able speech, gave the reins to his imagination to a large extent, and he treated this as a very large matter of principle. I venture to say that it is comparatively a small matter, and I do not think the justices will refuse licences unreasonably, and every one who has taken part in licensing sessions knows how readily wine and off licences are granted, compared with any other licences. The justices, I am sure, may be trusted in this matter, for they do not readily take away licences which have once been granted, and as it is said to be desirable in regard to education to have one authority for all classes of education, so I think it is equally desirable that we should have one authority for all kinds of licences.
I should like to say one or two words upon the question of clubs, and in this respect there is a new departure which I heartily welcome in this part of the measure. There are great dangers in regard to these clubs, and in a constituency like mine, containing sixty or seventy working men's clubs, there must be a danger in some of them indulging in practices which it is desirable to stop. Although I am a warm supporter of temperance reform, I have always thought that it is unfair to remain so strict with publicans while clubs are unregulated. At the same time I do not wish to harass these clubs, for there are good and bad clubs, but the good ones preponderate. Nevertheless the bad clubs are worse than public houses, because they are not regulated. A recent decision in the courts has added to this danger, because it has been declared that it is not illegal for a member to send an agent to purchase liquor for consumption off the premises. This opens a wide door for abuse, for 1178 here is the very chance for the drunken man to get his liquor which you are trying in other parts of this Bill to prevent.
With regard to proprietary clubs, I am told that they are increasing. I am informed that their legality is very doubtful, but under this Bill they would become legalised, and this point is very important. All licensing legislation is by the way of control of private monopoly in the sale of drink. It seems to me proprietary clubs might easily make a new private monopoly, subject to far less control, and so this matter wants great care. What does this Bill do? In clubs where drink is sold it enforces the registration of the name and address of the club and the secretary, and the filing of the rules, subscription, and number of members; and these clubs may be struck off if they have ceased to exist and are not conducted in good faith as clubs, and if frequent drunkenness takes place in them. A justice of the peace may grant a search warrant on reasonable ground. Now, under the Bill as presented the only hold of justices is: "That it is not conducted in good faith as a club." The rules are submitted—not the accounts. The justices have no power over the rules. A small coterie of proprietor's creatures may be established, and huge profits may accrue to the proprietors. Men and women may drink there all day and all night, and there is no remedy if the drunkenness is not frequent. It is not for me to suggest words now, but a clause ought to be introduced to make these proprietary clubs illegal henceforth.
With regard to selling for off consumption, this ought to be stopped entirely, because it is absolutely unnecessary in regard to these clubs. Further than this we cannot go yet, but registration will be a gain. Frequent drunkenness being a cause for closing, this will help the police enormously; and the power of search will also be of great service. I know that some fear has been expressed about Clause 21. Ignotum pro magnifico. But I hope it will be made clear in Committee that any complaint will be fully sifted and every chance given to accused to rebut. I am very glad the Home Secretary has made it clear here as well as outside that it will be quite impossible 1179 for justices to arbitrarily close a club without hearing both sides of the question and deciding the matter upon its legal and proper grounds. I take great interest in this matter, because probably there are sixty or seventy clubs in my constituency, and in the few bad ones I believe this Bill will be helpful.
There are two other points that I want to mention. This Bill is largely non-contentious, but it proposes some reforms in the procedure and remedies some crying evils; consequently we shall do nothing to endanger it. There are, however, one or two matters left out which could be easily put in. At the present time I think it is an intolerable hardship that justices may have to pay costs in cases where they deem it right to appear in appeals to quarter sessions against refusal to renew or grant licences. These justices serve for no reward. They give time and ability to their work, and they honestly hear and consider the cases. If in the exercise of their discretion they refuse grant or renewal, they may be dragged into court by a powerful and wealthy trade, and the decision may go against them. In not a few cases they have themselves to pay costs. This is a grossly unjust punishment to men trying to do their duty. I venture to put this point before the Home Secretary, but otherwise in regard to this Bill I have only to say in conclusion that I hope I have made it clear that I am not in any way hostile to the measure, for I welcome it, and hope it will soon become law.
(6.29.) MR. CEIPPS (Lancashire, Stretford)
I want to say a few words on Clause 8. As regards the general purposes of this Bill, I cordially support them, because I believe the measure will help to make England a more sober nation, and put an end to some of the worst evils of intemperance, which we all desire to put an end to. In Clause 4 the suggestion is made that the burden of proof should be changed in case of drunkenness on licensed premises. I do not think that that is any hardship at all. Before I say a word or two on Clause 8, I might say a few words on these bogus clubs. It is perfectly monstrous that these clubs should be left without police supervision. There 1180 is nothing more conducive to intemperance than these clubs, especially the so-called proprietary clubs, which are nothing less than licensed drinking shops. As regards what was said by the hon. Member for Oldham repecting club registration, and the restriction of the sale of liquor on these premises, I think those restrictions should be made more stringent. Now with regard to Clause 8. It is right, in my opinion, that there should be one licensing authority. It is almost impossible to deal with what is called the drink question without one controlling authority. I have in my hand the report of the licensing magistrates of Manchester, and they complain that the law requires them to grant licences which they in the exercise of their discretion would otherwise refuse. It is difficult to carry out discretionary powers of this kind, and I am not satisfied that Clause 8, as it stands—powers of the justices as to retail off licences—gives fair protection to the legitimate trade of the grocer. It is quite untrue, both as regards the evidence before the Royal Commission and experience outside, that these grocers' licences have led to what is called intemperance in this country. I believe that, on the contrary, they have had a good influence in themselves, because the conditions under which liquor is sold are such as to conduce to temperance and sobriety. Now, what power ought to be given to the licensing authority? I quite agree that the power ought to be increased, but I am not in favour of what is called free and unqualified discretion, which in my opinion in this case would mean free and unqualified indiscretion, because such discretion, though it may appear very fair generally, often works very harshly on a particular class. You get no continuity of conduct; you get different treatment in different districts.
Now, what is the condition of things in this Clause 8? You have a large number of businesses which have been legitimately built up under grocers' licences—let me take the case of a particular grocer carrying on a legitimate business for a large number of years, who has a considerable bulk of his capital invested in wines and spirits. Is his business to be placed at the free and 1181 unqualified discretion of a particular bench of magistrates? I do not distrust any particular bench of magistrates, but I distrust giving them this power. What is the position of the holder of a grocer's licence? He will not be supported by the advocates of temperance, nor will he be supported by the holders of ordinary public house licences with whom he is in competition, and what position will he be in before these licensing tribunals, when, at the present time even, in my opinion the Licensing Acts are most unsatisfactorily dealt with. It is the one case in which our magisterial system does not act beneficially. You want, if possible, a more judicial authority. These matters ought to be dealt with in a judicial way, and not in the particular view of a particular magistrate on the bench at a particular time. We have no ground for believing that the tribunal to which these grocers' licences will be brought will give a fair and impartial judgment in that particular case. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman whether some provision might not be properly introduced in a clause of this kind to ensure that the discretion is exercised fairly. You might have a discretion in regard to population. I have not the slightest objection myself to this. If the holder of a licence commits an offence against the law, he may lose his licence, and licence holders must take risks of that kind, but I do not want the bonâ fide trader who has built up his business in a legitimate way to be at the mercy of a body like many of these licensing tribunals are. I should not have troubled the House at this stage, but this Bill, I understand, is to go before a Grand Committee, and not before a Committee of this House, and in my opinion in temperance reform you should not unjustly attack the particular interest of a trade legitimately built up and carried on.
*(6.40) MR. WHITTAKEK (Yorkshire, W.R., Spen Valley)
I wish to join in the welcome given to this Bill, and to thank the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it. It contains many useful minor reforms. It is true it is not what might be called a great measure, and it would give us an opportunity to say it was not worthy of 1182 a strong Government, but I am not going to take that attitude. I am disposed to be thankful for small mercies in the way of licensing reform from such a Government as is now in office. Amendments will, of course, be necessary, but those Amendments, I think, should be on the lines of the Bill, and for my part I would deprecate any attempt in Committee to extend the measure in other directions. There are several provisions in this Bill, and it is rather difficult to discuss the principle of a Bill which is really of an omnibus character. For one thing, the Bill will make convictions for permitting drunkenness on licensed premises more certain. The number of failures in prosecutions of publicans is extraordinary. According to the last police report on the subject of prosecutions, 40 per cent. of the police prosecutions for breaches of the licensing laws in London failed, while the failures in all other kinds of prosecutions are only 5 per cent. Yet I venture to say that the evidence of the police is as reliable in the one set of cases as in the other. Indeed, very few charges are brought by the police against publicans; it is only in strong cases and well-founded cases that prosecutions are instituted, and therefore the 40 per cent. of failures is all the more striking. And that is a good reason for the suggestions that the right hon. Gentleman makes to reform the procedure in that matter. Then there is the provision for the protection of the wives and families of drunkards. The matter involved is by no means simple, and probably oven questions of theology may arise in connection with it. I am not a theologian, I am glad to say, but I recognise that some of the worst and most hateful crimes in this country have been committed in the name of theology. The "black list" would also be useful. It might be of no value in large towns, but it would be of much value in towns of 40,000 inhabitants and under, where these men were known, and where it was known that the money they were spending was coming from their wives and families. The record of convictions would also be useful, but I would suggest that the number of convictions required before action resulted is rather too large.
1183 Now I should like to say a word in justification of Clause 8, which has been somewhat strongly attacked. Off beer licences, I would remind the House, were, at the instigation of the Home Secretary himself, when he was a private Member, put under the control of the licensing justices, and no one has ever suggested that that control had worked badly. No one has ever brought in a Motion for the repeal of that Act, or to bring these off beer houses into the condition in which they were before the measure of the right hon. Gentleman was passed. That measure checked a growing evil, and it is desirable that the sale of spirits and wine should be brought into line with the sale of beer for consumption off the premises. The getting of a licence for the sale of wine and spirits off the premises is often made a reason before the justices for getting an off beer licence. When a man has such a licence, over which practically the justices have no control, he has a strong case for getting an off beer licence. The justices often feel that they had better give the man power to sell beer, as people had better buy beer than spirits. A man often gets a licence because the justices feel somewhat driven in that direction.
The hon. Member for Bolton has suggested that this means creating a monopoly in these licences, and will give a value to the licence which it does not now possess. But that is inevitable, unless we are to have free trade in licences. In all licensing matters we have to choose between free trade and no value to the licence, and licence with a monopoly value. That is not a point which applies to grocers' licences only; it is a broad general principle. If it be sound, we ought to abolish the monopoly in all licences and have free trade in licences. These licences are a mere fraction of the total number of licences in the country, and whether or not this clause gives a monopoly value to them matters extremely little. We have given this monopoly value to the great bulk of licences, and to add a few thousands more will make practically no difference whatever. At the present time free trade in licences, with our existing licence fees, is impossible; it would simply mean pandemonium. In 1830 this House passed an Act which gave 1184 practical free trade in beer houses. Within four years a Royal Commission had to be appointed to investigate the results of that great mistake. The results were simply disastrous. Liverpool also tried the experiment of free licences, but did not maintain it, and no other town has followed its example.
I admit there is something to be said for free trade in licences with a high licensing fee. If you fix the fee sufficiently high, the number of licences may be kept as small as, or even smaller than, it is today. It may come to that. I would suggest to our friends who are interested in the liquor trade that there are more ways of killing a cat than by hanging it. If this compensation question cannot be settled on a reasonable basis, it may come to having free trade in licences with a high licensing fee, and that would knock the bottom out of every claim for compensation that could be made by any licensed house. But that question is not before us now. Whatever the system may be, I contend that all licences should be on the same footing, and they should be under the control of the same authority. A check is necessary; restriction is necessary. The number of these grocers' licences, as they are called, is increasing, while the number of ordinary licences in proportion to the population is decreasing pretty considerably, and I venture to say that, if this clause be knocked out of the Bill, at the next licensing sesssions there will be an epidemic of applications for this class of licence.
§ MR. HARWOOD
May I point out that the hon. Member is mistaken? The number of licences is not increasing.
§ * MR. WHITTAKER
I venture to think I know something of the facts, and the number is increasing. If the hon. Member will refer to the statistics of these licences year by year, he will find that they have increased, and are increasing; and that they will increase this summer, if they get the chance, there cannot be a doubt.
Further, the licensing justices of the country have asked for this power with remarkable unanimity. ["No."] I do not know how many memorials the right hon. Gentleman has had, but I 1185 think he would be able to say that he has received memorials from a very large number of licensing benches asking that power should be given them to exercise their discretion with regard to this class of licence. These licensing justices have experience; they know what power they need, and they know what is desirable.
The general principle that the licensing authority should have full control is a sound one. Both Reports of the Royal Commission recommended it, and although the hon. Member for Bolton has sneered somewhat at Commissions, and at this one in particular, I venture to say that the unanimous recommendations of Commissions should carry some weight. There were on that Commission eight representatives of the liquor trade, every one of them personally financially interested in the trade. One of them also represented the largest firm in the country interested in these off licences. Every one of those representatives recommended that these licences should be put under control.
§ * MR. WHITTAKER
I will deal with the new licensing authority in a moment. They unanimously recommended that these licences should be under the control of the justices. That was not a teetotal recommendation. Every member of the Commission signed it, and there was no qualification.
§ * MR. WHITTAKER
I will come to that in a moment. I would remind the House that both Reports were drafted, and stand practically as drafted, by members of the Commission who were neither in the trade nor teetotalers. Objection seems to be taken to the 1186 opinions of men who hold strong views. We have had an indication today that the hon. Member for Bolton holds pretty strong views; he has committed himself somewhat deeply. But is there any man in this country, whose opinion is worth a button, who has not an opinion on this question? Every man has an opinion, and takes a pretty strong view on this question. To talk about not having men on a Commission because they hold strong views is absolute nonsense. The man who has not a strong view on this question is little better than an ass.
The hon. Member for West Clare indicated that if the justices had control of these grocers' licences they would abolish 90 per cent. of them. I do not believe that is true, but if it were, there could be no stronger reason for putting them under control. If the licences are of such a character that the justices, if they had the power, would abolish 90 per cent. of them, I submit that that is the strongest argument you could possibly have for putting them under that control. The hon. and learned Member for the Stretford Division of Lancashire distrusts full and free discretion. He would give it to nobody. Then he had better bring in a Bill for the reform of the whole of our licensing law. He objects to anybody having free and unqualified discretion with regard to grocers' licences when they affect premises on which other trades also are carried on, but he does not seem to raise that objection with regard to a man in a business in which he does nothing else, and where it is surely more serious and important. His argument practically means that he would give to the licence holder a freehold.
Then it has been suggested that the recommendation of the Royal Commission applied to a revised licensing authority. But that revised licensing authority would not be a less strict one than the present. What was the object of the suggestion? It was that it should be a more vigorous and more efficient authority. The whole tenure of the report is that licences have been too freely granted. Both reports recommended a reduction in the number of licences, and the reason a revised licensing authority was recommended was in order 1187 that you might introduce into it representatives of public opinion, the idea being that they would deal more stringently with licences than the present authority does. The idea that if the licences were put under the control of this revised authority they would be less stringently dealt with, is entirely fallacious. Mr. Grinling, who sat as the representative of the off licence holders, was a member of the firm of Messrs. Gilbey—the firm most keenly interested in this question. The fact that he signed this recommendation without any qualification whatever places him in a somewhat difficult position.
§ MR. DISRAELI
There was a qualification that there should be another licensing authority altogether.
§ * MR. WHITTAKER
A licensing authority of which two-thirds should be elected by the present justices and one-third by the local council. Can anybody suggest that that would be a less effective or less vigorous licensing authority? The member of the Commission who signed that recommendation, and now wishes to get out of the importance of it, is really in a cleft stick.
Now one word as to the evils of grocers' licences. They have enormously developed intemperance among women. It is said that there has been no evidence. There has been a great deal. When the Lords Committee said they had not had evidence, I say that negative evidence is of little value as against positive. It is twenty-three years since that Committee sat, and we have had a great deal of evidence since then. Before the Peel Commission we had the evidence of solicitors that again and again they had had to deal with cases brought before them by their clients in which wines and spirits had been supplied to the wives of their clients, and charged in the accounts as other articles. Then there was the evidence of assistants who sold the liquors. I do not know whether members of the House read the correspondence in The Times last week, in which evidence was given of two orders being sent to grocers for the supply of liquor, that liquor to be charged as groceries. The moment evidence of this kind is brought forward, we are told 1188 that it is tainted evidence. What else can it be? It is the only kind of evidence you can get. You have on the one hand the person who has asked for the deception, and on the other hand the grocer who has been a party to it, and these are the only persons who can give the evidence. Therefore it is most difficult evidence to get. If a person has been so indiscreet as to ask a grocer to mislead and deceive, she is not likely to proclaim that fact to the world. Therefore, when you get the evidence you may rely upon it that it has been got only by a very considerable effort. We have the Chichester case, where the officials of the workhouse got drink from three grocers in the town, and charged it to the guardians as grocery. This was admitted, and the evidence was clear. We have practically the universal opinion of clergymen, ministers, and doctors upon this point. They get this knowledge in the course of their professional work, and it is not information and evidence that they can give publicly, because their relations with the people from whom they obtain this evidence is confidential. You have, however, the word of honour of medical men, clergymen, and ministers, that they know of these cases, and they have declared that such things constantly occur.
There is no doubt that these grocers' licences are specially used by women, who go to grocers' shops for liquor more frequently than they would go to public houses. I do not know whether hon. Members have read a recently published work, by Mr. Rowntree, upon the social condition of the people of York, in which statistics are given of the number of persons who went into three public houses, and these are compared with the number of persons who purchased liquor at licensed grocers. In the case of the three public houses two-thirds of these who went there were men, and only one-third women and children. In the case of the grocers' licences, those who went to buy liquor had to go to a particular counter in the grocers' shops, and it was found that no less than 73 per cent. of them were women and children, and only 27 per cent. men. The hon. Member for Bolton denied that there was an increase of police arrests of women for drunkenness, except amongst the very 1189 lowest class. That may be, because grocers' licences tend to increase private drinking amongst the middle and upper classes, and the evil results of this practice do not come under police observation. Under these circumstances, why does the hon. Member for Bolton quote the opinion of chief constables, because they have no knowledge whatever on that point, and therefore their testimony is irrelevant? The bon. Member for Bolton admits that there has been a considerable increase of intemperance amongst women, and he explains it by the existence of ladies' bars. I am not a frequenter of public houses, but I have looked into this question, and I find that ladies' bars are comparatively few, and the explanation of the increased drunkenness of women is not to be found in ladies bars. I attach greater importance to the increase in the death-rate from intemperance. This point was brought before the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the other day, and he offered a suggestion which did not quite cover the ground. During the last twenty-five years the death-rate from intemperance, as recorded by the Registrar General, has increased 50 per cent. amongst men and 130 per cent. amongst women. The recorded death-rate from intemperance for the last twenty-five years has risen from sixty-five per 1,000,000 amongst men to ninety-seven per 1,000,000. whilst amongst women it has risen from twenty-four to fifty-eight per 1,000,000, an increase of 50 per cent. amongst men and 130 per cent. amongst women. The Home Secretary suggested that the increase in the number of deaths from intemperance was due to more accurate diagnosis.
§ * MR. WHITTAKER
That there has been more accurate diagnosis may be true, but if so it would apply to both men and women, and it would not explain the enormous increase of 130 per cent. in the death-rate amongst women, as compared with 50 per cent. amongst men. This increase has resulted from increased facilities which have been given for women getting 1190 liquor, and these grocers' licences have greatly increased the temptations for drinking. This increase is due to the fact that women can get liquor at the grocers' shops, where special facilities are afforded for the purchase of drink and where it is often offered and suggested to women. When the representative of the grocer calls at a private house he solicits orders for liquor as well as grocery, and this is a special temptation to buy liquor, and in my opinion it has caused the exceptional increase in intemperance amongst women.
I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will include the 1869 beer houses in the full discretion of the magistrates. What happened in 1869 was that some of the special protection was taken away, and it is essential that the justices should have full control in this matter. The fact that the magistrates cannot deal with the 1869 beer-houses seriously limits the efficiency of their control The right bon. Gentleman says that this raises the question of compensation. I wish the Home Secretary would screw up JUS courage to deal with the compensation question. The difficulties arise mainly from the manner of approaching it, and I can assure him that he would receive assistance from quarters of which he little thinks. The structural alteration clause gives no power which the magistrates do not already exercise in the discretion they possess, and I fear that by specifying material structural alteration the Bill will be considered as limiting that discretion. If alterations are to be specified, there ought to be a reference to partitions, "snugs," screens, and back entrances, which favour secret drinking. These are abominations. The back door in a yard and the side bar in a passage are quite bad enough, for they mean that the landlord is not ashamed to make arrangements for customers to slip in and out unseen because they are ashamed of what they are doing. [Cries of "No, no!"] Hon. Members cry "No, no!" but the shops of butchers and bakers do not need any of these side entrances and other abominations. The "snugs" and screens mean not only that the people are ashamed to go in, but that they are also ashamed to be seen by one another when they get inside. Screens are placed in front of 1191 the customer, and there is only sufficient room left underneath for the money and the drink to be passed over the counter. Those who are serving in the bar can scarcely see the customer, and how can they tell whether they are serving a drunken person or not?
With regard to Clause 11, I think the disqualification of the clerk to the justices should also be extended to the Watch Committee. The Watch Committee is a body elected by the Borough Council, which is a popularly elected body, and it is argued that it should be left to that body to place upon the Watch Committee anybody they like. It should be remembered, however, that the country pays half the cost of the police, and therefore we are entitled to have some voice in regard to the body that shall control them. The men who occupy the premises which supply the police with three fourths of their work are not the men who ought to be on the Watch Committee. The evidence given before the Commission was most conclusive on this point. The evidence from Wigan, Manchester, Nottingham, Derby, and other places showed most clearly that the police are paralysed in their action by the presence on the Watch Committee of leading brewers of the towns. The Watch Committee control the police. They are practically their employers, and how can you expect a policeman to do his duty with regard to a public house if the owner of that house be the chairman or a member of the Watch Committee? It is not in human nature to expect it. When we have practically the unanimous recommendation of the Commission that the members of the trade were not fit and proper persons to be on the Watch Committee, we might take the step of extending the disqualification to them.
With regard to clubs, I would like to support the suggestion of the hon. Member for Camborne that the conditions of registration should be made more stringent. I think if the right hon. Gentleman were to make it obligatory that the registration should be in open court, it would be a great additional advantage. Proprietary clubs ought not to be legalised. A proprietary club at present is an illegal institution, but this Bill, as it stands, would legalise such clubs, 1192 and I submit with all deference that that should be strictly guarded against. There would be nothing whatever to prevent the brewers, and especially small ones, from starting clubs all over the country. Such clubs being at present illegal, brewers are deterred from doing so by fear of the possibilities. If the Bill were passed as it stands, we should have an epidemic of these clubs throughout the country. I shall be glad to hear that the Bill does not do anything of the kind, for this is a vital point. Practically a very large number of these clubs are private public houses. Even the best of the working men's clubs are, to a large extent, private public houses. In Mr. Rowntree's work, to which I have alluded, the author published the balance sheet of one of the largest working men's clubs in York. It has 434 members, and the subscriptions amount to £84 a year—that is, 5s. per member, or less than 1¼d. a week. The total receipts of the club were £2,544, and of that sum £2,200 was for liquor. It was practically a public house. Other refreshments and tobacco amounted to about £200. The number of men who entered on Sunday was 601. Particulars were taken of the number of persons who entered three public houses on Sunday. At one public house 145 men went in, at the second 232, and at the third 256. These numbers represented men only, but there were also women and children. Practically the club had as many men customers as the three public houses. Of those who entered the club 248 brought liquor away. I think that indicates the necessity of stopping these off sales. It is unfair to licensed premises, and I hope the Home Secretary will allow an Amendment on this subject to be put in the Bill. I desire to say that I do not approach the consideration of the Bill in any hostile spirit whatever. I shall be delighted, so far as I possibly can, to assist in passing the Bill, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman once more for having introduced it.
§ *(7.25.) MR. DISRAELI
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has shown that the great clause of the Bill is Clause 8. The hon. Member has trotted out our old friend the wicked grocer, and yet during 1193 the hearing of witnesses by the Lords Commission not one word of reliable evidence was brought forward in support of the allegations which have been made against grocers and other holders of "off" licences. If cases do exist to prove the statements, they would have been brought before the Commission. It would not be fair to place the holders of off licences in the position in which the hon. Member for Spen Valley division desires to place them. Why is it that "off" licence-holders are unwilling to go into the hands of the magistrates? Through the whole of the licensed trade there is a feeling that the magistrates are not a fair and just, body in dealing with licences. I personally, as a magistrate who regularly attends licensing sessions, know that they are not a fair body in dealing with licences. The holders of "'off" licences would rather be under a new licensing authority than be placed under the magistrates at the present moment. The stories that have been told of the off licence holders and of the awful doings of grocers cannot be substantiated. These men have been spoken of highly by one eminent authority, namely, the late Archbishop of York, Dr. Thomson. In October, 1886, speaking at the York Diocesan Conference, he said—He was a member of the Committee of the House of Lords on Intemperance, and throughout that inquiry not a single specific fact came out to justify the remarks made against the grocer. Though they had heard that he was base and false enough to put down liquor as tea, and ardent spirits as sugar and pepper, not a single person was able to put his foot on anything of the kind. … That was what he heard—or, rather failed to hear—about the unhappy grocer. … Until it was proved that the grocer was as base as he was represented to be, he should not accept the statements made against him.I do not think that the House or the Government, after the Report of the Royal Commission, ought to accept the statements made against off licence holders as a body. I will state my objection to the placing of them under the control of the magistrates. The magistrates are not in favour of it. It has been stated over and over again, and principally by the teetotal members, that the magistrates are in favour of having that control, but they are not. They cannot give a case of one quarter sessions passing a resolution 1194 asking that the off licence holders should be placed under them. I dread the establishment of another great drink monopoly, and the accretion of the trade into the hands of a few, which, instead of doing away with drunkenness, would encourage it. In reference to clubs, I hope there will be some restriction upon the outdoor trade and of club hours. Some alteration should be made in the power to be exercised by a magistrate when a club is suspected of abuses. The action of the police in entering a club and seizing books and liquor should be authorised by a warrant from a court of summary jurisdiction, and not by one man, and there should be right of appeal to quarter sessions before the club is closed. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not wreck his Bill by Clause 8. Let him throw over this Jonah, and then, I hope, the Bill will pass and advance the cause of temperance in the country and the well-being of the people at large.
§ (7.30.) MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)
I understand that the Home Secretary is prepared to consider in Committee some Amendments on Clauses 21 and 22, raised by the Clubs Association. If I comprehend aright the right hon. Gentleman's letter, which has appeared in the papers, it removes much of what there is to say against the power of entry by an ordinary constable of the police force.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
My letter was an endeavour to remove some misconception as to what the effect of the proposal of the Bill would be if any one could, without bringing to bear any legal machinery, enter a club, and then practically take action. I pointed out that although the words did not actually occur in these clauses, yet the procedure would necessarily be under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts, by which all the objections which have been made would be met.
§ MR. BROADHURST
I quite understood that, but I had in my mind the part of the letter which went on to say—At the same time, if any words could he found which would remove your fears and 1195 could he inserted in the clause without damaging its effectiveness, Mr. Ritchie would be quite willing to consider it.I take it that that relieves private Members from drafting a clause, which will save time and avoid a multiplicity of Amendments on the Paper. If that is so, much of the objection to the clause will be removed. With regard to the right of appeal, the right hon. Gentleman has correctly stated that there will be a right of appeal, but it will be an appeal to quarter sessions. Now, the Clubs Association would much prefer an appeal to the High Court. The Homo Secretary says he cannot give that. I would be the last to speak disrespectfully of the quarter sessions, but at the same time I must say that an appeal to quarter sessions is not so satisfactory as it might be on licensing questions; on the contrary, there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with quarter sessions as a court of appeal in these matters. The fact is that all these appeals come from parishes or petty sessional divisions in which most of the members of quarter sessions live, so that you cannot remove the suspicion of personal disposition to favour the brewing trade at quarter sessions. I do not say it is so; I should be sorry to say it if it were so, but at the same time that is the suspicion which so often possesses the minds of magistrates in dealing with matters which may have to go before quarter sessions. While I am on this particular phase of the Bill, may I ask the Homo Secretary's attention to a particular point, which is to provide that where the magistrates refuse to do something in connection with licences—such as the refusal of renewals or the endorsement of licences—and the matter is carried to quarter sessions, the magistrates should not be liable for the cost. Some quarter sessions have the good sense, as I know from personal experience, to find some way out of making a personal charge against the magistrates, but that is a matter of chance and favour. I have in my mind at this moment a notorious public house which would certainly have been closed had it not been for the fear that quarter sessions would reverse the decision of the bench of magistrates, and that 1196 they would be let in for charges amounting to perhaps £20 or £50. That is a state of terror to exercise over a bench of magistrates which makes it almost impossible for them to conscientiously discharge their duty in these licensing questions.
As to the club clauses of the Bill, I should certainly vote for the abolition of the proprietary clubs. These demand urgent attention, and they ought to be prohibited altogether in the future. As to Clause 4, relating to drunkenness on the premises, it will lie with the publican to show that he did not knowingly serve drink to a drunken person. That is a change in the law, but I do not think it will change the practice, in the least. All the, publican will have to do is to say that he did not observe that the person was intoxicated when he came up in a perfectly straight line and asked for a glass of beer or three pennyworth of whisky; and there is no means whatever of distinguishing drunkenness in that case. Or he can say, "Read the regulations which hang up in the bar to guide my assistants in serving persons"; and all he has to do is to assure the bench that to the best of his knowledge and belief the person showed no signs of drunkenness when he was served with drink across the counter, unless there is some strengthening of this clause, so as to make it a severe, definite, and direct punishment of the publican, I do not think we will be much better off under this Bill than we are under the present law. Whilst we were discussing the Children's Bill last year a very experienced London licensed victualler wrote to me to say that that was not the way to get at the seat of drunkenness and the danger of temptation to the children of the people. Many men and women, he said, frequently visited public house bars with children in arms or of tender years, and fathers and mothers were constantly seen to give little sips of gin, beer, or porter to these very young children. If it could be made a legal offence to supply drink to persons having young children with them, it would be going a long way to prevent the children being brought up into the love and flavour of intoxicating drinks. If the Home Secretary could insert a clause to prevent this, he would be doing a great service to the nation, and no one 1197 would oppose him, whether a member of the trade or a teetotaler. Certainly party politics would have nothing to do with opposing it. If the Home Secretary would only make some inquiry through the magnificent machinery he has at his disposal—through, for instance, his district inspectors—he would find the magnitude of this evil and would at once make it an offence for any man or woman to bring in children in arms with them, to a public house bar.
With regard to Clause 5, which may be described as a sort of debauched clause, I am not at all clear that it is going to do much good, and it is capable of doing some harm. It involves the necessity of bringing in photography. The occasional licence is a very important matter. I wish occasional licences were made much more difficult to obtain than they are at present; and though under this clause there will be some stiffening in that regard, there is not so much as I should like to see. Then we come to the justices' clerks, Clause 11. I have drafted some Amendments to this to deal with what is a great evil, and what in many cases has been a great scandal. That clause wants a considerable amount of strengthening. We shall have to divorce the magistrates' clerks from any power whatever, even from that of serving notices. We must clear right out altogether, not only the magistrates' clerks, but their partners and their firms, not only in their own districts, but in the districts of the adjoining petty sessions, if we can do it. I hope, if I am on the Committee, to assist the Home Secretary in improving his Bill in that respect.
I am glad to note that this Bill is likely to have a fair chance of passing into law. I have not the exaggerated opinion of its value that some Members if the House seem to have, but, at the same time, I wish to give the right hon. Gentleman every credit for grappling with a thorny and disastrous subject. Many Governments have tried to deal with it, and have suffered severely for their pains, but the right hon. Gentleman has gone on lines so moderate that he may succeed. But it would be misleading to describe the Bill as a great and important measure. In conclusion, might I humbly suggest 1198 that the right hon. Gentleman has not touched the right end of the stick on this occasion? The right hon. Gentleman, in his explanation of the Bill, said that nine-tenths of the crime of this country was ascribable to the drinking in the country.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
No, no. I do not remember the exact proportions that I stated, but I spoke of crimes of violence.
§ MR. BROADHURST
Then I will limit myself to crimes of violence. The right hon. Gentleman said nine-tenths of the crimes of violence was due to drunkenness. I wash that was put on the face of this Bill and placarded up in the Committee room, in order to enable hon. Members to remember that it is worth while to pass this Bill. I did feel inclined to move an Instruction with regard to this, but I did not do so, as it might have been taken that I was against the measure in so doing, but what I wished to move was that no licensing reform could be calculated to meet the evil of the drink question of the present day, which did not declare every licensed house perfectly free to buy from whatever merchant or brewer the tenant of that house thought proper. Happily, the little Parliament of the Island of Man has passed a Bill to that effect only a week or two back, and in my opinion that Bill will do more to destroy the drink evil in that island than the Bill we are discussing to-day will do in England. I wish this Bill had been a larger one, but, such as it is, I willingly accept it, and I shall give the Home Secretary all the assistance in my power to strengthen it.
§ *(7.53.) MR. TALBOT (Oxford University)
, who was indistinctly heard in the gallery, was understood to say: I wish to add my voice to the chorus of congratulations which my right hon. friend has received. I think he is to be congratulated upon the conversion of those Gentlemen who sit opposite, who take what is called the extreme temperance view; because I used to observe that the temperance party, as they are called, if they did not get all they wanted, would not take anything at all. We have now seen a 1199 great modification of that view, and tonight we have seen some very remarkable exemplifications of a more reasonable view in regard to temperance—that, if you cannot get all you want, you should take what you can get. In this matter of temperance legislation, I am one of those who have advocated moderate temperance reform for some time, and I am thankful to take the moderate reform my right hon. friend proposes to give us. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite who has just spoken, I think this is a very important Bill; it is not a great Bill, but it is a most important one. If it were only for the registration of clubs, I should consider it an important Bill. I do not wish to go into the details of it, because I think we have had a little too much detail this evening, Matters have been gone into which are more appropriate to the Committee stage, especially as the Bill is going to a Grand Committee.
But I chiefly rose to say a word or two on behalf of a body who I think have been unduly criticised in this matter. I mean the magistrates. I have sat as chairman at quarter sessions for a number of years, and I certainly cannot understand the tone which prevails on both sides of this House. The decisions of the petty sessions, I should say, are always given with due regard to the fair treatment of the licence holders; a licence is never taken away unless it is absolutely necessary to do it. At the quarter sessions the magistrates, so far as my experience goes, take a judicial attitude, and consider whether there is any reason to modify the decision of the petty sessions. I am sorry that the Member for the Stretford Division is not here, because he seemed to think these matters were, in fact, decided by a single magistrate. He knows perfectly well that that is not so. A single magistrate might be a strong teetotaler, but if he is, his views are modified by those of his colleagues. If that is so under the present system, why should it not be so under the new system? Then with regard to the question of clubs and grocers' licences, which are going to be put for the first time under the magistrates, why should the bench of magistrates create themselves a great number of enemies? They will not unnecessarily irritate public 1200 opinion, because these persons are all their neighbours and friends, and they will not wish to irritate or disturb them more than they can help. The hon. Member who has just sat down spoke of the magistrates of the quarter sessions as being the same men who had decided the matter in the Court below.
§ MR. BROADHURST
No; I said they were men who were likely to come out of the same part of the country.
§ * MR. TALBOT
But I would point out that when an appeal comes from the petty sessional division the magistrates coming from the division do not sit on that appeal: that is the general practice; and if that be so, the fear of hon. Members that injustice will be done should be removed. I am only anxious to vindicate the magistrates. I do not think they desire to have these duties thrust on them, because there is no class of cases with which it is more difficult to deal, and hold the balance fairly between the licence holder and the people. I might add one word. I wish my right hon. friend could have gone a little further than he has and have seen his way to include the ante '69 beer houses in the Bill. It is from them that a great deal of the petty crime of the country emanates, and I hope he will not allow years to elapse before they are brought within the full control of the licensing justices. (8.8.)
§ (8.38.) MR. GEORGE WHITE (Norfolk, N.W.)
The opinion expressed by the House upon this Bill has been practically so unamimous that I should not have ventured to take up any time but for the fact that for many years I have taken a deep interest in temperance reform. Therefore, I desire to give the Home Secretary an assurance that we receive this Bill with considerable favour. I agree with hon. Members on this side of the House that this is not an heroic measure, but at the same time I believe that the provisions, as far as they go, are useful, and will do a considerable amount of good. The hon. Member who last addressed the House twitted the temperance party with having adopted a change of front, and with now being 1201 willing to accept a moderate measure of legislation which hitherto they had opposed. That, however, is not an exact description of the facts. The reason we are able to support a moderate measure like this is because its provisions are good, and there are no drawbacks from these provisions which, as temperance reformers, we should be violently opposed to. Many of the temperance Bills put before this House at different times have contained good provisions, but they have generally been accompanied by other proposals which have destroyed what good there was in the measure, and that is the real reason why we have opposed them, and not because we were extreme in our views, and would not support anything which did not go the whole length of our desire.
The hon. and gallant Member below the gangway has opposed this Bill, and for that reason it must be a good Bill as far as it goes, because anything calculated to reduce the amount of drinking would always be strenuously opposed by the hon. and gallant Member for West Clare. Therefore, I have more confidence in supporting this Bill because of the opposition of the hon. and gallant Member. He said it was an omnibus Bill, and it ought not to have anything to do with penal clauses against drunkenness. It seems to me that there is no inconsistency in a Bill dealing in a general way with drunkenness, and introducing at the same time clauses to reduce that drunkenness. On the contrary, I think there is consistency in such a proceeding. The argument of the hon. and gallant Member is practically that he would not allow this House to touch the trade in any shape or form whatever. This House in the past has made many attempts to deal with the trade, which has been made into a monopoly, and has been recognised for generations as a dangerous trade, and has been subjected to many restrictions, otherwise it could not be allowed to exist at all. I am surprised that the hon. and gallant Member, who, no doubt, knows the history of his own country, is not fully aware and willing to give credit to the fact that when, many years ago, there went a great wave of temperance over the country he loves, there was 1202 greater prosperity and happiness there than has ever been known before or since that time. Therefore I am surprised that a patriot like him should take the line he does in regard to the measure, which is honestly intended to restrict this great evil which we all so much deplore. The hon. and gallant Member found fault with Clause 9, which is intended to give greater powers to the magistrates in regard to their control over the structural alterations of licensed premises. I agree with him that there is already a power in the hands of the licensing magistrates, which they often exercise, of stipulating for certain structural alterations, and preventing extensions when they are not legitimate; but anything that will strengthen the hands of the licensing magistrates I think is valuable. There are the sanitary arrangements and other things which I feel magistrates ought to have control over, and I support that clause most thoroughly because I am satisfied that licensing magistrates will welcome greater powers in that direction.
One speech made against the Bill which merits special notice is that of the hon. Member for Bolton. He has made as good a case as could be made against the Bill, although in many respects his views, in my judgment, are erroneous. He dwelt upon the motives of Mr. Gladstone in regard to this legislation dealing with grocers' licences, but I am satisfied that Mr. Gladstone learned something from the experience of the results of that Act which were not altogether satisfactory to him, and I am sure that Mr. Gladstone would have been one of the first to admit that an alteration was needed when it could be shown what evil results had followed from that legislation. Mr. Gladstone would have been the first to admit that such legislation as the Home Secretary proposes was wise and proper. The hon. Member for Bolton, after casting a good deal of slight on the Royal Commission on Licensing, quoted in support of his case the evidence given before the Commission of the House of Lords to prove that there was no increase of drinking among families. I think he might have credited the Royal Commission with capacity, judgment, and impartiality equal to that which the House of Lords possesses. Whatever might be 1203 the position of that Commission, it took an enormous amount of evidence, and though, of course, it was composed of men of very different dispositions and views, as such Commissions generally are, I believe no one at least would bring any charge of partiality against the illustrious Chairman of that Commission, who for many years showed his great impartiality in this House, and was trusted, I am sure, by all those who wished to get an impartial judgment on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of the Commission went into the work with an entirely unbiassed mind, and the conclusions that led him to draw up the Minority Report were conclusions he believed, and many others believed, to be such as the evidence justified. There have been one or two fallacies stated in this debate, which, as one connected with temperance reform, I have a right to try to refute. One is that it is absolutely impossible for anyone who takes the views on temperance that I take, to be an impartial judge of matters affecting the licensing laws and the drink traffic that may come before them. I am a licensing magistrate, and I have strong views on the drink traffic, but when I take my position as a licensing magistrate I hope I am able to put aside personal predilections whenever I come to administer the law as I find it, and to administer it with the most impartial mind I can bring to bear upon it. I think we ought to repudiate, as I do, the idea that it is necessary to take a glass of strong drink before you can judge impartially on these matters. I therefore object to those who have taken a deep interest in temperance reform being put out of court in regard to these questions, because they are as able and as anxious to perform their duties with impartiality as those who take drink moderately.
A clause on which a great deal has been said, and which will probably be most strongly fought in the Grand Committee, is a clause which I sincerely hope the Home Secretary will keep in his Bill. It is said that this will do great injustice to off licence holders. The assumption is that the licensing magistrate will act in a different fashion in regard to grocers' licences from the way in which they act in regard to licences generally, but cannot imagine that they will do any-thing of the kind. The advantage of having one authority for licensing purposes 1204 is that this one authority can take into its consideration the amount of drinking facilities needed for a neighbourhood, and can best sit in judgment in accordance with the conclusions they arrive at. As it is, they grant the ordinary licences at the licensing session, and then, having granted these licences, they are quite unable to resist any great extension of off licences which may be applied for. Therefore they may un wittingly in crease to a large extent drinking facilities beyond what they feel to be good for the neighbourhood; whereas, if they had the whole system in their hands, they would treat the question as a whole, and I am quite sure they would act with fairness and justice. It has been said that there is no evidence whatever that grocers' licences have led to an increased amount of drinking among women. Of course this is one of those matters in regard to which it is so difficult to actually bring evidence upon. One can only act on the facts which come under one's own knowledge. I am bound to say, from a wide experience in connection with social reform, that it has many and many a time been brought homo to me in the most painful manner that there is a very large increase of drinking, particularly in that class which the bon. Member for Bolton indicated, the lower middle and the middle class. I attribute that in many cases, and I am able to trace it in many cases, to the facilities given for getting drink from grocers. They help to bring about these disasters, because they give facilities to women who never would think of entering a public house to get drink. Only within the last fortnight I have had a case brought before me of an extremely respectable man who was discharged from a grocery establishment because he would not enter liquor as groceries. I have had other cases of a similar kind brought to my knowledge, and I know as a matter of fact that it is done. I should be sorry to say that it is a practice carried on to a large extent, because that would be an imputation against a highly respectable body of tradesmen which I should not like to make. I feel that this clause is a very important one in the Bill, and I believe it will give general satisfaction throughout the country. I hope and believe it will reduce drinking in quarters where we have now to deplore it.
1205 The hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Leicester made a strong objection to Clause 4. No magistrate can have had any experience whatever without being painfully aware of the difficulties of proving sales to drunken persons; and yet, when we look at the enormous number of convictions for drunkenness, and the extremely few convictions of publicans for selling drink to intoxicated persons, we are quite sure that something needs to be done in this respect. The brewers say most distinctly that drunkards are the worst enemies of the trade, and if the right hon. Gentleman is helping them to put down this evil, I hope the brewers and others connected with the trade will strongly support Clause 4. I have been a little surprised at charges brought against the magistrates, especially by hon. Members on the other side of the House, as to their being an irresponsible body, because I am well aware that in cases where temperance measures have been brought before the House, and where it has been attempted to place the veto power or the licensing power in the hands of the body of the people, the magistrates then have been held up as absolutely the proper authority for licensing purposes. I do not understand quite the views expressed and the attitude shown by hon. Members in regard to the magistrates. For my part, I can say most truthfully that my experience as a licensing magistrate shows that on the whole the trade gets very fair treatment at the hands of our benches of magistrates throughout the country. We often find that the evidence of policemen, although very strongly supported by one or two officers, is disregarded, and the evidence of the publican is accepted, and I do not think that would have been the case had the charge been one of theft or any other crime. I do not think the trade have any cause to find fault with the verdicts of the magistrates. In a case where it is said that the publican has had a knowledge of drunkenness taking place, the magistrates will, I am certain, give the benefit of any possible doubt to the publican rather than convict him upon evidence which may not be perfectly clear as to the justice of the charge which is brought against him. The hon. Member for Bolton said that 1206 temperance people had never attempted to deal with clubs. My hon. friend the Member for Camborne has certainly attempted to do so, and he is connected with the temperance movement. I believe he has now a Bill which I would commend to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary as containing some provisions which, I think, would be more simple and effective than the provisions of this Bill. Happily, my part of the country is not at all affected by the clubs which this Bill aims at, and justly aims at. I do not propose to say anything about that part of the Bill, but leave it to those whose experience in their own constituencies teaches them that something should be done.
I have had many times to regret the inability of the magistrates, or anyone else, to protect a husband against a terribly drunken wife. I think there are no more painful cases that come before the magistrates than those where the husband comes and asks what he is to do in a case where the wife disposes of everything in the house. He can keep nothing from her hands. I had a case four or five weeks ago in which a very respectable working man asked my advice. He had to leave for his work on Monday and return on Saturday, and he could not leave anything in the house that could be turned into money. It would all be gone when he came back. He had suffered this terrible injury for twelve years without the slightest hope of redress so far as he could find. I could give him no advice as a magistrate. I think the clause dealing with this question is very important indeed. Of course it is a delicate question, and it will have to be treated very judiciously. There are, I venture to say, many thousands of cases, not only among working men but other classes, where unfortunately the wife has contracted the drink habit, and where she is the skeleton in the home instead of being a blessing and a comfort. I do not desire to detain the House, because there seems to be a consensus of opinion that this Bill is an honest attempt to lessen the terrible and excessive drinking in the country. It is because I think that it is a step in the right direction, and that it contains nothing 1207 which would put back any effort of temperance reformers, but rather give them a move forward, that I earnestly support the Bill, reserving my right to move any Amendments which I may deem necessary in Grand Committee.
§ (9.4.) MR. GROVES (Salford, S.)
I wish to join in complimenting the Home Secretary upon his effort to deal with a great social evil. I am speaking now not only as a representative of a large working class constituency, but as one who is proud to say that he has been connected with the trade for thirty years; and I repudiate the idea that the trade does not desire or welcome any reasonable measures which would remedy many social evils, one of which is that of the habitual drunkard, who has been a nuisance to the trade for many a long day. I am thankful that we have a Home Secretary who has the courage to deal with a question of this kind drastically; and I think the trade will do all they can to make the Bill a success. Another question which has prejudicially affected the trade for many years is that of the bogus club; and here I have the pleasure of finding myself in accord with the hon. Member for Camborne. In my opinion, this question must be dealt with immediately; but I will go a step further, and ask if the bogus club is not the effect of a cause. In my opinion, the bogus club has been called into existence because those who have had the administration of the licensing laws have administered them more drastically year by year. The people, having been driven out of the public houses, or having their liberty unnecessarily curtailed, have protected themselves by banding together in forming the so-called clubs, where much greater excess is indulged in than in well-controlled licensed houses.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider very deeply indeed the effect which may arise from the interpretation of Clause 4 being left in the hands of the bench of magistrates. I go so far as to say that it is exceedingly difficult to find a bench of magistrates anywhere on which there is a magistrate who has any pronounced opinions in favour of the trade—I speak from my own personal knowledge—but you can find a large majority of those 1208 who administer the licensing laws who are prejudiced in a pronounced manner against the trade. Their convictions are against licensing houses altogether, and some are too lazy to inquire into the facts. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he is not placing the publican under considerable difficulty when he puts on him the onus of proof referred to in Clause 4. I would also call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to the extreme difficulty there is, in places like London, in distinguishing persons who may be on what is called the "black list." I refer, for example, to the way in which the houses are constructed. These persons may not be noticed in a crowded bar, and they may get a friend to obtain drink for them. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, who desires to administer even-handed ustice, will see that this question of dentification is properly safeguarded.
I assume that these particular clauses will also apply to clubs. In a club, of course, identification can very readily be traced, while it cannot be so in a large licensed house. If persons are not to be served in licensed premises, they ought not to be in clubs. I speak on behalf of the wholesale trade, and I say that they will do their best to render the Act operative, just as they have done in regard to the Child Messenger Act, which, without their co-operation, would have been a dead letter. I would call attention to one or two difficulties in connection with Clause 7. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether a series of indictments, which often take place and are recorded in one day, and which are practically one offence, are to be recorded as one or as separate offences on the register. Take the case of a man summoned under the Betting Act, and five separate convictions are obtained. The five convictions required may be secured practically under one proceeding, which may deprive the holder of the property of the licensed house of his interest before he is probably aware of the proceeding. I want to know whether each of these should be regarded as a separate offence and recorded on the register. There is just another point. It is quite possible that a tenant 1209 might come to a house with a record in the past from another district which was not known to the owner of the property of the new tenancy. I want to know whether offences recorded should apply only within the licensing area, or whether they are to be added to offences recorded in other parts of the country. Endorsements are to be done away with, and in their place the offence is to be carried to the register and the clerk is to notify the justices of every offence that is recorded. If that is to be done, it will remove a great fear from my mind. I could enlarge considerably on my views with regard to some of these clauses, but I will content myself by asking for enlightenment on one point, and that is whether the clause referring to the structure of licensed premises is intended to apply only to new licences, or whether it is to apply to licences existing at the present time. If it is to apply to existing licences you must remember that if you say "the magistrates may" that "may" will in many cases be interpreted as "shall," and to ask for the plans of all licensed houses would place great hardships on many people. I think the interests of morality and of the community at large are perfectly safeguarded by the law as it now stands, because the police can oppose the licences of those places which they think are not fitted for the trade. If the right hon. Gentleman will give me the assurances I have asked for, and will explain the points I have raised, he may take it for granted, so far as the trade is concerned, whilst they object to harassing interference in their business, that they will do all they can to make this Bill a success.
§ * MR. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W.R. Keighley)
said that, while generally approving the Bill, there were one or two points to which he desired to draw attention. By Clause 11 the clerk to the licensing magistrates was prohibited from taking any action in his own district. If any man had any interested knowledge of what was taking place, it would naturally be knowledge referring to his own district, but the Bill extended a little farther; and, although it might not be desirable for a clerk to act in his own district, the prohibition extended to districts adjoining his own, so that his 1210 general knowledge could not be made use of. On behalf of the liquor sellers he would like to say there was a little omission in the Bill with reference to bringing home to the liquor sellers that certain parties had had convictions recorded against them. No attempt, so far as he could see, was to be made to make known the names or description of persons against whom convictions were registered, and unless special information had been given to the licence holder that a person had been convicted, he might unknowingly continue to sell to him. He thought that the police should see that every licence holder should have the name and address or description of those persons against whom a conviction had been registered, so that they might have definite knowledge of the person so convicted. He also thought that families living in a licensed house should have separate rooms and be kept quite separate from the trade done in that house.
§ *(9.25.) MR. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
I think there are certain points in this Bill which will require amendment in Committee, and the chief of those is Clause 8. As I understand it, the position of grocers is this, that provided they conduct their business without misconduct they may be certain their licences will be continued. There has never been any alteration for the last thirty-nine years in that practice, and I think it is hard on a man who has invested his capital in wines and spirits, and other commodities of that kind, on the understanding that while his business is conducted in a proper manner he will be allowed to continue it, that he should be confronted with this Bill, which gives to the justices the power to take away his business without any reason being assigned or his opinion asked. On the other side it is said there can be no danger of that, because one can rely on the common sense of the justices. I should be very sorry to say anything against the justices of this country. I think on the whole they work extremely well, but on this licensing question I sometimes think they do not approach their duty in the judicial manner 1211 in which they should. We had a ease only the other day in which the justices of Glasgow said they did not intend to renew any licences for houses where barmaids were employed. These licensing laws never contemplated such power as that. We might have the temperance party in a large majority in Glasgow, and they might think these grocers' licences promoted drunkenness, and they might abolish them all. On the other hand, in another town there might be people who thought the other way, who thought you could not make people sober by Act of Parliament, and who might allow the trade to go on; and you would have this anomalous position—that in one town this trade was allowed, whilst in another it was stopped. The hon. Member for Camborne said of all licences those which did the least harm were the grocers' licences: that is no reason for abolishing them. But another Gentleman took a different view. He said, he had a grocer's shop watched and a public house watched, and he said that 75 per cent. of those who went into the public house were men, but only 30 per cent. of those who went into the grocer's shop were men; but he does not advance any argument to show that the 70 per cent. of women and children who went to the grocer's were drunkards. There is no argument to show that because they bought a bottle of wine they became drunkards. Then it was said that the higher classes went to the grocer's shop. The hon. Member for Norwood and the hon. Gentlemen opposite might think it a crime to drink a glass of claret or a glass of whisky and water; but even if they did, that was no argument to show that grocers make drunkards, and there was no argument for such a drastic change in the law. I hope my right hon. friend will show himself in Committee a little open to reasoning, which will induce him to make some such alterations as were suggested by the hon. Member for the Stretford Division, and even go a little further and drop the clause altogether.
(9 30.) MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
No one can take exception to the spirit in which the debate has been conducted. The advocates of the trade have spoken in a temper that gives us ground for the hope 1212 that the Bill will be carried through the House without any display of that acrimonious temper which has marked former debates on the licensing question. I heartily join in pressing the right hon. Gentleman to stand firm on Clause 8. It is difficult to get any evidence of the evil of the grocers' licences, but I think I shall express the sense of the House when I say that that class of licence does a great deal of harm. Go where you will, in the large towns and in the villages of the country, you will find an almost unanimous opinion with regard to the harm done by this kind of licence. The hon. Member for Leicester was not quite right when he said this Bill was limited to England; its scope extends to Wales, and Welshman, and one closely associated with Welsh temperance legislation, a word or two from me may be of some interest. There is no doubt that in Wales the temperance feeling is as strong and well recognised as in any part of the United Kingdom, if we are to judge from the opinion of Wales as expressed by its representatives in this House Let me give a concrete instance The Bill under discussion does not deal with any of the larger aspects of temperance reform, such as popular control Let me take popular control. On two occasions a Welsh Local Veto Bill passed its Second Reading in this House. On the first occasion, 1891, twenty-four Welsh Members voted for that Bill and only one against it; in 1893 the Second Reading was again passed by a large majority, twenty-five voting for and two against the Motion. I mention this to show that the temperance sentiment in Wales is more advanced with regard to its larger interests than in any other part of the United Kingdom. In Wales we welcome any step that moves in our direction. We say that this Bill, although it contains many useful provisions, does not advance far enough, and cannot be regarded in any way as a final conclusion of this difficult problem, but we are prepared to accept this Bill as an instalment of licensing reform, and the Government will receive the hearty support of the Welsh Members right along the line. It has been said to us who hold advanced views on temperance that, if we accept this Bill, for a long period we must be content, for we 1213 cannot expect much further; but that is not my view. I think everything in this way must lead to further reform, and must clear the way for an advance in the direction in which we desire to go. Under the present circumstances, with the present Parliamentary machinery, it is impossible for us to expect more than is contained in this Bill, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will as far as possible listen to such Amendments as have been mentioned tonight, which, if accepted, would largely add to the strength of the Bill. With regard to the part of the Bill relating to drunkenness, let me, in the first place, reecho most heartily what has been said with regard to the provisions of this part of the Bill. They show that we are beginning to recognise that nothing is more important than that we should open our eyes to the evil effect of drink on the people of the country. With regard to Clause 4, the clause will do some good as drawn, but it is obvious that it does not go far enough. It is impossible that a change of this kind can adequately deal with this matter. We shall have to have a more drastic reform in our legislation, and give greater powers; but even as the clause stands, it will be of considerable value to those charged with these duties. Some of my hon. friends think that the black list will not be of much value. No doubt that will be so in large towns, but in rural districts it will be most useful, for a man there is a marked man, and it will be of great value in keeping certain well-known characters from coming within reach of the evil.
Now, just one word on the second part of the Bill, dealing with the Amendment of the licensing laws as they now stand. I must express my regret that the Government has not included in this part of the Bill the ante '69 beer houses. It seems to me that the scheme of this Bill for putting all the licences under one authority would have been more reasonable and more systematic if that were done, and I hoped this Bill would contain such a clause from the remarkable speech made by the Colonial Secretary at Birmingham. In that speech he clearly indicated that his own opinion was that it was most desirable 1214 that this class of licences should be included in the control of the licensing authorities. I trust it is not too late for the Government to reconsider their position on that point.
So much has been said about the machinery for dealing with clubs that I will not weary the House with any views of my own on this part of the case. Undoubtedly this is an evil which must be dealt with. The only question is whether the machinery provided is adequate for the purpose. On that, again, I trust it will not be impossible for the Government to consider the strengthening of certain clauses.
Speaking as one who has for a long time taken a very deep interest in every aspect of the temperance question, I cannot but feel glad at the reception the Bill has received tonight. There is a different spirit abroad, not only in the country, but in this House as well, with regard to any honest attempt to deal with the temperance question, whether upon moderate or more drastic lines. This fact is a good augury for the passage of the Bill and for future efforts to legislate upon lines of temperance reform. We hear a great deal in these days about "Empire." There is one thing we should all agree upon with regard to that idea and ideal—an idea and ideal to which I, for one, am most favourable—and that is that true empire can rest permanently only upon superiority of race. If we are to maintain our position, is it not perfectly clear that something will have to be done to arrest the blight of the evil of drunkenness in the country? I am speaking, not from a political or sectional standpoint, but from the broad standpoint of the national life and permanent influence, of the British Empire throughout the world. Recognising as I do that this Bill, although it does not go very far, is undoubtedly a step in the direction of bringing about the happy result, I for one, will give it my most cordial support, and I may say that my colleagues with whom I am associated from Wales will do the same.
(10.48.) SIR WILLIAM HOULDS WORTH (Manchester, N.W.)
Having listened to the speeches which have been delivered, I feel it is almost a work of I supererogation that anyone should rise 1215 to offer support to His Majesty's Government in relation to this measure. But I would like to say a few words, because I am associated with a number of members on this side of the House who have taken a great interest in the question of temperance reform, and who thank the right hon. Gentleman for the Bill he has introduced. Of course, many on this side, as well as hon. Members opposite, feel that the Bill does not do all we would like to see done. I will go even further, and say it does not do all that I think the right hon. Gentleman might have done, because, although he has followed very closely the recommendations of the Royal Commission, he has not given sufficient weight to some parts of those recommendations, which, I think, would have improved the Bill. It is a small Bill, and in some respects, perhaps, an unsatisfactory Bill, but I certainly should not like to throw stones at it in any way, because I am convinced that this question of temperance reform will have to be dealt with in piecemeal form. I have no faith whatever in heroic measures, which generally turn out to be heroic failures. Therefore, I am not disposed to quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman, but I would join in the appeals which have been made to him to keep an open mind on some questions following the lines of the Bill. I was glad to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are identified with the extreme temperance party, say they would not, in any Amendments they might put down, do anything to injure the prospects of the Bill, but that they would follow the lines of the Bill. That being the case, I trust the right hon. Gentleman will give full consideration to any recommendations which may be made.
I regret the right hon. Gentleman has not had the courage to deal with the ante '69 beer houses. I know his reasons perfectly, but I do not think they are altogether satisfactory. He is afraid the question of compensation will come in. He must be aware by this time that even in what he is proposing with regard, to off licences the question of compensation is being raised. Although he thinks he has some ground for differentiating between the two in the recommendation of the Royal 1216 Commission, he must not forget that at any rate the Minority Report made no distinction whatever between them.
If I understand it rightly, the principle on which the Bill is drawn is that gradually, sooner or later, all licences must be in the hands of the licensing authority, who must have full and free discretion in granting or refusing the licences. It is a most anomalous condition of things at present that, while that is the principle on which our licensing laws are based, there are certain exceptions which I am convinced, if we were starting de novo, would never be accepted as necessary exceptions. If we were framing a licensing Bill today, and we adopted the principle at all, we should adopt it with regard to all kinds of licences. I am rather sorry to see the proviso in Clause 8 which exempts those off licences where there is no mixed trading. It is a small point, perhaps scarcely worth raising. But what I want to see gradually introduced is an absolutely full and free discretion on the part of the licensing authority in regard to all licences. That is the only true principle. In this Bill the right hon. Gentleman is making a step in that direction. I wish he had made the step a little longer, but, as has already been said, this is not the end of temperance reform, it is only the beginning, and we on this side are glad that that beginning is being made by the present Government. It is sometimes said that the Conservative Party are not very favourable to temperance reform. I am glad to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having made a new departure, and I can assure him that he has a great deal of cordial support from those who sit behind him, and very great support indeed in the country.
With regard to Clause 8, I cannot accept the argument of my hon. friend the Member for Peckham. He seemed to think it was an argument that would weigh against this clause that there was an arbitrary decision of the justices, that there would be differences between one place and another, and that some justices would grant licences freely and others not. That is precisely the position you are in with regard to licensed houses as a whole. It is an argument against magisterial control altogether, and therefore I do not think there is much value 1217 in it. I do not myself feel very strongly as to the injury this class of off licences does as compared with licensed houses, but at any rate the principle on which I shall vote for Clause 8 is that think they, equally with all other licences, should he under full magisterial control.
Then I should like to say a word about clubs. I hope my right hon. friend will not be offended when I say that I think the clauses dealing with this matter form the weakest part of the Bill. I do not think the machinery will do what he is anxious to see done. There are a good many weak points in it, and in Committee great changes will have to be made, stillon the lines laid down in the Bill. There is one point I feel very strongly upon—a point recommended by both sections of the Royal Commission, viz., that there should he re-registration every year. I do not think you will he able, by leaving it to an informant to come forward, to deal with these clubs. Even if the provisions are sufficiently strong for preventing bogus clubs getting registered in the first place, there are many clubs started bona fide in the first instance which gradually adopt other methods and get into a loose way. The consequence is that it will be absolutely necessary that these clubs should be over-hauled and supervised annually in order to see that they have maintained their position. I do not trust at all to the informant. No doubt in very grave cases you will find an informant who will come forward, but it is quite possible for working men's clubs—many of which are most useful institutions and excellently managed—which it may have been right to register in the first instance, to deteriorate as time goes on, and very quickly to assume an altogether different character. This is the principle laid down even in the Majority Report. I cannot quite understand why my right hon. friend, who has followed very closely other recommendations of the Commission, should have omitted to notice the recommendations with regard to these clubs. Here is the recommendation of the Majority Report with regard to the registering authority—The registering authority shall examine the rules and satisfy itself that the club is not formed solely for the purpose of the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor, and some check must he placed on the election of 1218 members and the introduction of friends. The sale of intoxicating liquor off the premises should he strictly prohibited.In asking that some provision should be made for this purpose I hope my hon. friend will not think we are doing anything to oppose the Bill, for our intention is to make the measure as perfect as possible. In the case of clubs, the right hon. Gentleman has everybody with him, so that in this part of the Bill he might have made his proposals bolder. I am glad to recognise, and the trade have recognised, that upon this point there is no difference amongst us. I can assure my right hon. friend that it is a very great pleasure to me, and to those of us who have been endeavouring for so many years to get our political leaders to deal with the temperance question, that we have got such a good Bill as this brought forward, small though it is. On behalf of those people, I heartily thank the right hon. Gentleman and the Government for introducing this Bill, and I hope that in Committee it will be made as perfect as possible.
(10.17.) LORD EDMUND FITZ-MAURICE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)
I am anxious to say a few words in regard to the general position of those on this side of the House in regard to this Bill. It must be exceedingly satisfactory to all of us to feel that a Bill upon this thorny question has, perhaps for the first time in the history of this House, met with almost universal commendation. I can say without hesitation that there is every wish on this side of the House to do all we can to assist the passage into law of this measure. We quite recognise that this Bill is one full of detail, and one which deals with an enormous number of difficult and very complicated points. I am not saying this with any desire to belittle this measure. There is hardly any aspect of the licensing law which it does not touch in detail, and there is hardly any point at which it touches the licensing law where it does not effect some substantial improvement.
In the first part of the Bill the clauses proposed are all great improvements in the law. Allusion has been made to the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1879, which was a Bill in which hardly any two consecutive clauses touched upon the 1219 same matter. It was a mass of details, but, having had some experience of magisterial and quarter sessions work, I can say that few more useful statutes were ever placed upon the Statute-book in regard to the general administration of the law. All those details taken together amounted to a great deal, and just in the same way this Bill, although each clause by itself may seem to be but a small matter, will, if taken in toto and in mass, be a very useful amendment and improvement of our law. The hon. Member for West Clare in the early part of the evening addressed the Mouse at some length upon the details of the Bill, and complained very bitterly of the increase of the penalties. Looking carefully at the penalties which are proposed, I do not think they are excessive when they are regarded as maximum penalties. If any criticism could justly be made, I think it would probably be in an opposite direction. The hon. Member for Bolton commenced this debate by drawing attention to Clause 8 of the Bill, which deals with grocers' licences. I would point out that there is really no such thing as a grocers' licence, but my hon. friend seems to be under the impression that this clause either actually abolishes or is intended to abolish them altogether. If hon. Members will look at this clause they will sec that that is not the case. All that this clause does is to bring the grocers' licences within the purview of magisterial jurisdiction, and that is a useful provision by which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will stand. It is perfectly true that, to a certain extent, you may be increasing the value of licences generally and thus complicate the question of compensation. That, I am quite willing to grant, is true as far as it goes, but the increase in the value of this monopoly will not be so great when you consider how great it has become already.
I do not in the least desire to underrate the gravity of the question of this monopoly which stands in our way whenever we attempt to grapple with this difficult problem. Therefore, I hope that under the circumstances the hon. Member for Bolton will be satisfied with the explanation given of this clause, but if he is not satisfied with the clause as it stands I trust he will feel that, at all 1220 events, the proper place to deal with this matter is in Committee. There has been some considerable criticism, more particularly from the hon. Member for West Clare, in regard to the fourth clause which, it is said, alters a valuable principle of English law because it reverses, according to the hon. Member's view, the well-known principle of English law that a man is held to be innocent until he has been fully proved to be guilty. That is not, in my opinion, a fair criticism of this clause, which does not reverse any principle of English law. It, however, does that which is perfectly familiar to everybody who has been concerned with the study or administration of law; that is to say, at a certain moment in the proceedings it shifts the burden of proof. The burden of proof at the start is upon the prosecution; but there comes a moment when, after a primâ facie case has been made out that drunkenness has been permitted on the premises, the publican has then to prove that the blame was not with him in allowing that drunkenness. It is a familiar process in law to shift the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defendant, and it is a well-known process under certain limitations which are familiar to all practitioners of English law.
There is another clause which has been alluded to, and it is that which prohibits justices' clerks from practising in their own or in a neighbouring petty sessional division. I think this clause will meet with general approval on both sides of the House. Whatever defects there may be in this clause, I think the principle of it is certainly a sound one. While I am dealing with the second part of the Bill on behalf of the hon. Members sitting on this side of the House, I think I may say that there are two grave omissions in this measure. One has been alluded to by the hon. Member for North West Manchester. The first is the omission to deal with what are popularly known as the on licences before 1869. I certainly hope that in Committee the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will remember that a majority of the Commissioners suggested that certain alterations should be made in this direction. Some day or another we shall have to face this question. The second omission is one which has not 1221 been mentioned in the debate, and it is the absence in this Bill of prohibition of any magisterial business on premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors. There are still places left where the magistrates sit and where justice is administered on premises which hold licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor, and I cannot help feeling that this is a condition of affairs which certainly ought to be deprecated. In these days there are really no great difficulties in the way of the county authority providing a court house quite apart from the place where liquor is sold, and in that manner enabling justice to be administered away from those obnoxious and objectionable surroundings. I hope that if a new clause is moved in Committee on this question, the right hon. Gentleman will give it careful consideration.
I want to say one word on Part III of the Bill, and I wish especially to do so because it so happens that I represent in this House a constituency which includes the town of Swindon, where, I believe, the percentage of the total population connected with clubs is larger than in any town in England. It was given in the evidence of Mr. Hall, and I can almost say, from my own knowledge, that in Swindon the percentage of working men in the population who belong to clubs is larger than in any town in England. I can say on behalf of that large, energetic, and industrious population, which is connected with one of the greatest railway industries in this country, that they wish to see this question settled in a reasonable, manner, and that there is no desire whatever on the part of those who are interested in the clubs to protect or promote bogus clubs; and therefore, if it is found desirable to amend the clauses so as to define more strictly the distinction between real and bogus clubs; the right hon. Gentleman can reckon on the support of all members of the real clubs which are not brought together under a mask to disguise what is really a public house, and to promote the sale of liquor as distinct from club life. I think these clauses are rather loosely drawn. It was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman, in reply to the hon. 1222 Member for West Clare, that he entirely misunderstood the proposal with reference to the issue of the warrant, and the proceeedings which are to follow. The hon. Member, being the representative of an Irish constituency, may be pardoned if he is not familiar with the machinery of the English licensing law. Anybody who is familiar with English summary jurisdiction is aware, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, that the Summary Jurisdiction Act will operate. I therefore hope that these clauses will be closely scanned, and that the right hon. Gentleman will approach this question with an open mind, so that we may be able to draw up a set of clauses which will give satisfaction to the members of what may be called bonâ fide clubs.
In conclusion, I just wish to say that it is a great pleasure for all parties in the House to join together in the work of blessing a Government measure, but although that feeling was cordially entertained on this side of the House, and we accept the Bill as a useful measure, it must at the same time be understood that we cannot accept it as in any way a real settlement of the licensing question. The very fact that a Bill which deals with so many complicated points has been received with such unanimity is evidence that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, had he been a trifle bolder, could have carried the House with him a little further. Be that as it may, it has to be understood that no amendment of the licensing law will be satisfactory which does not deal with the licensing authority itself. Sooner or later the question will have to be faced. I do not conceal my own opinion that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House have advantages in dealing with this question which we have not got. They can carry with them on occasion those forces which generally resist licensing reform in a manner we can never hope to do and I earnestly hope that the Home Secretary and his friends will not consider, when they have passed this Bill into law, that they have said the last word on licensing reform, but will rather screw up their courage and at 1223 some early date come forward with a large and comprehensive measure in that direction.
§ *(10.23.) MR. RITCHIE
I am sure the Government have every reason to be satisfied with the manner in which their proposals regarding this very difficult question have been received by the House. They have been received, I think, with approbation from all quarters of the House, with perhaps the exception of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Clare, who was the only Member among those who have spoken who objected to the Bill root and branch.
§ MAJOR JAMESON
I did not object to it root and branch. I thought if Part II was omitted, Parts I and III could go to the Grand Committee without a division.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
At the same time, the hon. and gallant Member's speech was full of absolute condemnation of all the other clauses. He took them one by one, and had not a single word to say in favour of them.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
We will not quarrel over that. Certainly the hon. and gallant Member damned the whole Bill with extremely faint praise. On the other hand, I am bound to say that, although there has been naturally a good deal of criticism upon the Bill, on the whole the principle of it has been well received, and that is a very good augury of the prospect of its being passed into law during the present session. I quite admit that no one who desires to go further than the Bill is in any way committed to considering it as a settlement of the whole temperance question, but all are agreed that it deserves to pass into law. The noble Lord has expressly reserved for himself and those who agree with him the right of action on any future occasion, and I quite admit that he has a full right, having regard to the fact that this Bill only deals with a certain number of 1224 the matters advocated by temperance reforms, to reserve his views as to other matters. This Bill has not been introduced with a view of giving full satisfaction to what I will call the extreme' temperance reformer; but in drawing this Bill, while I gave full attention to the representations which have been made by the extreme temperance party, I felt sure that there was a strong feeling—which was by no means confined to that party—both in the House and the country, that the time had arrived when some step in advance ought to be taken on this important question, and it was in order to meet this opinion that we have taken, this step. Some hon. Gentlemen think it is a small one. I think it is a very considerable one. The hon. and gallant Member for West Clare, in the beginning of his speech, accused me of showing some contempt for the House in not making a speech on the opening of this Second Reading debate, but he must be aware that it is the common practice on such an occasion for the Minister in charge of the Bill to wait until he has heard the criticisms of hon. Members before addressing the House upon it. I regret the portion of the hon. and gallant Member's speech in which he practically used a threat to the Government and the House as to what would be the consequences of the passing of a Bill of this kind. He pictured in glowing terms the manner in which every section of the trade would join in bringing down their wrath on the heads of the Government and those who supported them in connection with this Bill. His speech was in very marked contrast with that of the hon. Member for Salford, who, being himself associated with the trade, welcomed the Bill. And, although he criticised many details of the Bill, he had, on the whole, nothing but good to say of the principles incorporated in it. My hon. friend the Member for Salford raised many points, and asked what would be the operation of particular clauses and sub-clanses. I hope he will not consider me disrespectful if I ask him and others to allow the points of detail to be considered and dealt with in Committee. It would be quite impossible to take up every one of these points on the Second Reading of the Bill. I can 1225 assure hon. Members who have drawn my attention to imperfections in the measure, to sins of omission as well as of commission, that I am prepared to consider with an open mind any proposals which may be made either from the one side or the other when the time arrives to discuss the details in Committee.
But there are some points of larger criticism which the House may properly expect me to deal with. There is Clause 4, for example, which has been described as an unjust clause. The evil with which the clause proposes to deal is one of the most flagrant, one of the most serious evils in connection with the whole question of the sale of intoxicating liquor. It is an evil which every publican can avoid if he chooses to take sufficient care. In a serious matter of this kind the House is justified, having regard to the awful evils which follow from drunkenness, to expect that those who have certain privileges in dealing with the sale of liquor shall take every possible care and precaution to abate the evils which cause so much misery, degradation, and ruin, as intemperance does in this country. And what, after all, does this clause propose to do? It is said that we are putting every publican on his trial, and instead of giving him the usual treatment of a person on his trial, we assume him guilty, and call upon him to prove his innocence. I think that is an exaggerated statement of the purport of the clause, because, before anything can be done under it, it must be proved that some person was drunk on the publican's premises, and, seriously, it is not too much to say to a publican, "If you have people drunk on your premises, the assumption is that they got drunk there, and it remains for you to show that you have taken every precaution that you can to prevent it." I am satisfied that what the hon. Member for West Clare says, and what the hon. Member for Salford says, is true—that it is not only the duty but the interest of every publican to see that drunkenness does not take place on his premises, because the greatest enemy of the licensed trade unquestionably is the drunkard. If every hon. Member knew as much as I do about the number of 1226 crimes of violence which take place immediately upon the criminal leaving a public house drunk, they would feel with me that if the House can, by passing this Act, do something to prevent people leaving public houses in a state of intoxication, they would be doing much to repress crime. Then with regard to what is called the "black list," it is said this particular clause will be inoperative. I agree with hon. Members that this clause will be largely inoperative in large towns, but it must not be forgotten that you are not only penalising by this Bill the licence holder who serves a person whom he knows to be on the black list, but you are also penalising the person himself. If we say to that person, "You have become an inveterate drunkard, and an enemy to society, and so you will not be able to purchase drink for a certain period," that is, if nothing else, I think, a step in the right direction; and the provision will be operative in small towns and country villages as far as the dispenser of the liquor also is concerned. And if we agree that in large towns it will not be operative, let us take it for what it is worth, and let us accept it in these small towns and areas and be thankful for it.
There has also been criticism about the omission from the Bill of any provision dealing with the beer houses licensed prior to the Act of 1869. The difficulties of such a provision are very serious. There is, for instance, the question of compensation. Some hon. Members treated that as being a light and a small matter. It must be remembered that when the majority of the Commission recommended that the beer houses should be dealt with, they coupled the recommendation with the question of compensation. Whatever may be said as to the claim for compensation which the ordinary licensed dealers may have, even more may be said for the case of these ante-'69 beer houses, because in that year Parliament deliberately gave these beer houses a Parliamentary title. It was said that they were not to be placed fully under the justices, but were to remain as they were, and that all future licences were to be placed fully under the justices. Surely, if 1227 any case can be made out for compensation, it is made out here, where an absolutely Parliamentary title has been created under the Act. I do not defend the wisdom of Parliament in putting these houses in that position, but I have to look at the law as it stands, and I could not defend the introduction of these beer houses into the Bill upon any agreement between the two Reports of the Royal Commission. It is quite true that the two sections of the Commission agreed that these beer houses ought to be placed under the licensing authority, but then the report of one of them raised the question of compensation, and I am perfectly satisfied—and I appeal to hon. Gentlemen who have had anything to do with this question of compensation—that if that question had been raised on this Bill, it would have wrecked the measure. It has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite that if we had raised the question of compensation, we should have found agreement in quarters where we little expected to find it. I hope that view will grow, because it is only by its growth and increase that the whole licensing question can be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. For my part, I absolutely decline to be a party to any Bill which proposes to confiscate the property of people who have invested their money in a perfectly legitimate business, with a title, if not created by Parliament, at least created by use and wont. As the hon. Gentleman opposite knows, I do not think I am to be accused of faintheartedness in this matter, because I have made not one but two attempts to deal with the whole question upon the basis of compensation to be raised from the trade itself. Those proposals were scouted and scorned and rejected, but I believe that in them is to be found the root of the whole matter. I am perfectly satisfied that if hon. Gentlemen who desire to see a large and comprehensive measure of licensing reform were to be reasonable and were to acknowledge the undoubted title which licence holders have to adequate and proper compensation—to be paid by the trade—we should be able to fix on a basis that would lead to a settlement of the whole question which has agitated 1228 Parliament and the public mind for half-a-century. But that time has not yet come, and therefore I believe that it would have been unwise for me to have taken up in the Bill this question, which undoubtedly would have raised the thorny and difficult question of compensation, without attempting to deal with it as a whole.
In regard to the question of the disqualification of members of the Watch Committee, I think that Committee stands in a very different position from the Licensing Committee. The Watch Committee does not exist solely for the purpose of dealing with licensing matters; nor, indeed, strictly, does it exist for that purpose at all. It has many other quite different duties. The Committee is composed of members elected by the Council itself; it consists of gentlemen who have many duties to perform, and I am bound to say that it would be invidious for us to say that a member of a Watch Committee who has an interest in licensed premises ought not to be on that Committee.
Now I come to what are more important criticisms on the Bill. There is the question of clubs. A great deal of criticism has been expressed on our proposals in connection with clubs. I have already, casually across the floor of the House, explained that the fears which were expressed by those who are associated with working men's clubs, when the provisions of the Bill were first made known, were grounded upon a misapprehension. It seems to be supposed that a postcard put into a letter box by any man in the street would be considered a sufficient intimation to enable action to be taken and entry to be made into any working men's club. I have already shown that these fears are groundless; but the hon. Gentleman opposite seems to desire that some words should be inserted in the Bill which would make it clear that in point of fact the provisions of the Summary Jurisdiction Acts apply and that they should be set out in order that he who runs may read. That would be a very difficult thing to do, because it would seem to imply, unless these clauses were also set out in the various other Acts which deal with this matter, that they did not apply to them. Therefore, I think it 1229 would be a dangerous thing to do; but I will consider whether it would be possible to put into a schedule to the Bill the provisions of the Summary Jurisdiction Acts, so as to make it perfectly clear what are the provisions which will apply in these cases. I am satisfied, however, that the fears which have been expressed of unnecessary interference with respectable clubs will prove to be groundless, and that those interested will be perfectly satisfied with the result.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
Certainly. That is a portion of the judicial machinery which will be set up by the Bill. It is said that there should be an appeal to the High Court, but I think that would be very improper. Surely, the proper appeal is to quarter sessions, which is less expensive, and there is no reason to doubt that full justice would be done. The hon. Member for the Camborne division gave us a sketch of his own Bill on this subject, which he naturally prefers to our Bill. But his proposals were of a totally different character to ours. His plan was different. It was of the nature of an, inquiry by the registering authority into the whole machinery of these various clubs, and the registration thereby provided constituted almost a licence. Now, Sir, that is not our plan. We do not propose to give anything of the nature of a licence to clubs at all. Our view is that we should endeavour to get every club registered, and every club not registered which ought to be registered can, of course, be proceeded against. We desire to get all the clubs registered for the purpose of dealing with bogus clubs. It may well be that the provisions of the Bill would be better for some strengthening. I will not shut my eyes or my ears to any proposal in that direction which may be made in Committee; but I would warn the House against being too drastic in dealing with these clubs. It must be remembered that the honest working men's club is a very great advantage Indeed in many different ways, and 1230 clubs of that kind ought not to be discouraged, but ought to be encouraged. I think if we proceed too far in the way of drastic legislation in connection with this matter, we may greatly offend the members of the clubs we desire to encourage, and we may greatly interfere with the creation of similar clubs. Therefore, while I am quite prepared to listen to any reasonable proposal for strengthening the club clauses in the direction of the Bill, I must warn the House not to proceed too drastically in this matter.
There is, however, one question of great importance which has been raised, and which I think is worthy of full consideration; and that is the question of the sale of liquor off the premises. I am bound to say that I think there is a very strong argument for strengthening the clause in that direction. I do not believe that any good club can desire to have the privilege of selling "off" at all, but at any rate, there is one kind of selling "off" which is most pernicious, and that is the giving out of liquor at a club to some individual, male or female, who comes with an order from a member. I certainly think we ought to go at least that far, if not still farther. I do not shut my eyes to the necessity of going still farther, but I think that is a kind of sale which the House ought to discourage and make illegal.
Now I come to the other great question which has been a matter of great discussion in the House—I mean the question of grocers' licences. The hon. Member for Bolton, who brought this matter before the attention of the House, is evidently a free trader in matters of this kind. If one may judge by the tone of his speech, and by the attitude he took up, he did not see any reason why anybody should not sell spirits. He did not see why there should be any control at all. There is a great deal to be said for the hon. Gentleman's point of view, but free trade must be surrounded with great precautions, and it has not proved very successful where it has been tried. It was tried in Liverpool, but led to so many evils that it had to be given 1231 up. But I cannot pretend to argue with the hon. Member who takes up the ground of free trade in this matter. I think a great deal of the criticism which has been advanced against this proposal has arisen from an entire misconception, either of what we wish or of what is likely to be done under the operation of the clause. It seems to be assumed that, if these licences are put under magisterial control, they will at once be swept off the face of the earth, nothing is farther from our thoughts or from probability than that any such action should be taken. So far from that being the case, I am perfectly willing to admit that grocers' licences, in many respects, serve a useful purpose but: no hon. Gentleman, except the hon. Member for Bolton, would contend that, because that is the case, every shop in every town or village ought to have a section of its business devoted to the sale of wines and spirits. It is a misnomer, as has been pointed out by one or two hon. Members, to talk about grocers' licences. These licences are not confined to grocers. Any trader or tradesman in any village or town may go to the excise or to the licensing authority, and demand a licence, and it cannot be refused except on conditions, with which there is not the least difficulty in complying.
§ MR. HARWOOD
My point is simply this—that these licences answer now; why, then, make them a monopoly?
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I do not say they answer now. What I said was that they served a useful purpose undoubtedly, notwithstanding that, I should strongly object to their multiplication absolutely unchecked. Some hon. Gentlemen have said there is no evidence to show that these licences have increased. That is quite contrary to the fact; and as regards the House of Lords Committee which has been referred to, it should be observed than the Report went on to state—Should the evils, however, apprehended by some witnesses from the multiplication or abuse of these licences eventually occur, it may become the duty of the Legislature to consider what further restrictions should be imposed on their issue.1232 Now as to multiplication. In 1879 there were 5,646 off spirit licences; in 1901 they had increased to 10,250. In 1879 there were 8,310 off wine licences, in 1901 they had increased to 11,607, and this is exclusive of 2,079 mixed beer and wine licences authorised in 1880, so it will be seen that since 1879 these licences have increased by some 100 per cent., or nearly doubled, which is far in excess of the increase of population. Now, let us see with regard to the question of drunkenness, especially as regards women. In England and Wales the average deaths from intemperance in the years 1877 to 1881 were 60 per million men, and 25 per million women; and for the years 1892 to 1896 the proportion became 86 for men, and increased to 51 for women per million. To put it another way—For the years 1877 to 1881, of every hundred deaths from intemperance 69 were males and 31 females; for the years 1892 to 1896 the figures are 61 males and 39 females. Therefore, while there has been a gradual decrease in the number of deaths from intemperance for men, there has been a gradual increase in the number of deaths for women. The proportion of men has decreased by 8 per cent. and the proportion of women has increased by 8 per cent.
I am not prepared to argue that our proposals with regard to these mixed licences are entirely based on any ground such as that I have just named. At the same time, many good people who thoroughly believe what they say, have told Committees and Commissions that they do connect the one with the other. But Sir, whether that is so, or whether it is not—and I do not myself argue our proposal upon that basis—what is the position? There were two parties on the Royal Commission, and two Reports were issued. The proposal in the Minority Report was not, as the hon. Gentleman for Oldham said, the same as the proposal in the Majority Report. The proposal which the Minority Report preferred was to abolish grocers' licences altogether at the end of five years. The proposal in the Majority Report was that they should be placed fully under the jurisdiction of the magistrates. In considering what steps we could take in the direction of temperance, how was 1233 it possible for us to ignore these Reports I of the Royal Commission on this particular point? We did not believe, I do not believe, that it would be a wise thing to a bolish these licences altogether, as recommended by the minority section of the Royal Commission; but we could not ignore the fact that the majority in their Report recommended that they should be put under magisterial control. This Report was signed by eight members of the trade, some of them brewers, some of them licensed victuallers, and one a member of this very Mixed Traders' Association, a partner in the largest firm connected with this trade—a firm which. I believe, has been largely instrumental in getting up all the various representations which have been made to Members of Parliament, for there can be no doubt that, though there have been many hands at work in this matter, it has all proceeded from the one direction. As I say, this Report was signed by the gentleman who was a member of that firm without qualification. Every one acquainted with the procedure of a Royal Commission knows that, although a member may sign a Report generally, he may also sign an additional report making qualifications. If this gentleman thought that such a catastrophe was going to fall on the trade as is now feared, why did he not say so? My hon. friend the Member for Altrincham offers the excuse that he signed the Report on the understanding that the licensing authority, to which these mixed traders' licences were to be committed, was to be a reformed authority, and my hon. friend implied that if this gentleman had thought that the licensing authority were to remain as it was, he would never have signed the Report at all. First, let me point out that the Majority Report made no change in the court of appeal at all. It is quite true that there was a suggestion that there should be a representative element on the court of first instance, but they altogether objected to any representative element on the court of appeal, which is the court which will ultimately have to deal with this question, if any person considers that he has been wrongfully deprived of his licence. But even putting that aside, I think my hon. friend is mistaken as to the recommendation which this gentleman signed. It was not at all a recommendation for a 1234 reformed authority. These are the words: "Of these the first two"—that is, the off wine and spirit licences—"are of course far the most important, and we recommend that full magisterial control and discretion should apply." Where is my hon. friend's change of authority? It has no existence. When that gentleman signed the report consenting to these licences coming under an authority, he was not referring to a reformed authority but to a magisterial authority.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
My hon. friend is quite mistaken. This Report is altogether independent of the "off" beer licences.
§ MAJOR JAMESON
The right hon. Gentleman has not read the passage which runs—The beer 'off licences were dealt with in 1882.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
Does not the hon. Gentleman see that that destroys his case? How were they dealt with in 1882? I ought to know, because I brought in the Bill and passed it, not only with the unanimous consent of the House of Commons, but with the consent of all sections of the trade. They were exactly in the position in which the grocers' licences now are, and they were put, by the Act of 1882, in exactly the position in which we now desire to place these grocers' licences. Therefore, how the hon. Gentleman can argue that the Act of 1882 supports Jus case I cannot for the life of me understand. I was going to quote it as evidence that Parliament had taken in 1882 the very line we now propose to take. There was then no question of compensation or of creating a monopoly; all the trade was favourable to the proposal of 1882, and, here again, I would draw from the experience of that Act this conclusion, that all the fears expressed by hon. Gentlemen as to what will happen when these new 1235 powers come into force, are unfounded. Did the magistrates in 1882, when the "off" beer licences were placed under their control, proceed to sweep them away?
§ MR. REMNANT (Finsbury, Holborn)
The result of that measure in Bradford was that 130 out of 360 licences were immediately abolished.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
And a most happy result. So far as Bradford was concerned there was an absolute scandal. The place was overcrowded with these licences and they were reduced, and very largely reduced; but taking the licences as a whole, they were not reduced, and remained about the same. I am bound to say that if such a state of things as existed in Bradford existed anywhere else, the magistrates would be justified in doing what they did in Bradford. Who were injured? Were the public injured? No, because they got all they wanted from the remaining licences. Were the licence holders injured? Why, what could have been the value of a licence in Bradford when they were so overcrowded?
§ MR. REMNANT
That is not the point. The right hon. Gentleman said that the provision would not make any difference.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I never disputed the point that there might be areas where the magistrates would very properly decide that these licences were too numerous, and would accordingly reduce them. There is one other point which I wish particularly to deal with. Some assertions were made that no representations had been made with regard to this question to the Home Office by any bench of magistrates. That is quite a mistake. At the general annual meeting of the licensing magistrates for the city of Manchester, it was declared that the justices viewed with alarm the fact that the spirit and wine dealers were increasing at a tremendous rate, and that the law compelled the magistrates to grant licences which in their discretion they would withhold. I may tell the House that the borough 1236 justices of Preston, Exeter, Portsmouth and the Derby Quarter Sessions have expressed approval of our proposals, and that the Liverpool justices and many others have also approved.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I will tell the hon. Gentleman. The only representation I had from Croydon on this question was a representation from a grocer objecting to this clause written on paper stamped with the name of Messrs. Gilbey. I was saying that licensing justices have written to us in considerable numbers, and more than forty towns desired to be represented on a deputation to the Secretary of State from licensing benches, asking for the power which is to be given to them under Clause 8. Therefore I am astonished to hear hon. Gentlemen say that the licensing justices do not desire to have this power conferred on them. I have seen no indication whatever of any feeling of that kind. On the contrary, every indication that has come before me has been that the justices feel that they are, comparatively speaking, handicapped in their attempts to reduce, by negotiation and otherwise, the number of licences, by the fact that the value of the reduction they bring about may be destroyed by any number of persons coming forward for these off licences, without there being the smallest power on their part to refuse them. I believe that the operation of this Bill, if carried into law, will not be so much the sweeping away of existing licences as the prevention of the growth of an unnumbered multitude more, and I think that if this power is recommended by both sections of the Commission, if it is asked for by public opinion generally, as I am sure it is, and if it is asked for by the licensing authorities, the House ought to hesitate long before it refuses to give it.
I have only one or two words further to say. An hon. Member opposite told us that we should be punished for this harassing of the trade. Well, if we are, we shall have to submit to it. But to say that the trade is being harassed by anything in this Bill is to say something 1237 which I do not think is justified by the facts. There is no question of harassing the man who carries on his trade in a legitimate manner. There is not a single provision in the Bill which would hit the man who tries to conduct his business carefully and endeavours to sec that the law is obeyed. The evils we have to deal with are palpable; they are recognised not only by the great bulk of public opinion, but by the licence holders themselves, who know that the excesses which go on in all parts of the country are greatly to their damage, and who desire to see them suppressed. It is upon the smaller premises that the law is set at defiance, and such premises are a, danger to the respectably conducted houses. I am satisfied, from what I know and from what I hear, that publicans throughout the length and breadth of the land are desirous of seeing some change in the law by which those who set the law at defiance should be punished, and the discredit removed from the rest.
But, however that may be, it must be remembered that we have, after all, to consider the public interests involved in this question—public interests which, in my opinion, are paramount I do not wish to do injustice to any one, and I do not believe a scrape of injustice will be done by the Bill. If the Bill errs at all it is on the side of moderation rather than of severity. Although it is not as large, perhaps, as some people desire, it will do much good. It will protect the wife and children from the drunken husband and father, and the husband and children from the drunken wife and mother; off licences will be placed under control, which will prevent that continual increase which I do not think the public demand requires; and I believe that the curse of bogus clubs, which are a fruitful source of drunkenness and crime, will be so dealt with as to secure their practical abolition. If our proposals do not, in the opinion of the House, effect that, I shall be glad to consider any Amendments with regard to them, or indeed with regard to any portion of the Bill, and, I hope, to consider them in a fair and straightforward manner. I thank the House for the manner in which they have dealt with this Bill, which, if passed—amended no 1238 doubt as it will be in Committee—will be a great step in the direction we all desire, and I believe that we shall see the result in less crime and increased sobriety.
§ *(11.22.) MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I should have hesitated to intervene in this debate were it not for the fact that I have been in conference upon the objects of this Bill with a large number of representatives of working men's clubs in the Metropolis. The clause to which I particularly desire to refer is Clause 21, but before doing so I should like to say a word with regard to the remarkable and able speech of the hon. Member for Bolton. To a large extent I agree with the conclusions at which he has arrived with regard to the question of off licences. If hon. Members desire to know exactly how it is that drunkenness has increased to such an alarming extent amongst women, I can take them through some of the slums of London and afford them an experience which would be extremely painful, but at the same time very useful to them in making up their minds on this subject. For several years past I have come through the district known as Clare Market. Scores of times I have stopped and looked into a particular low-class wine and spirit establishment in that district, and counted the number of women in the different bars. On every occasion I have found a large proportion of the customers to be women—fifteen out of twenty, and sometimes eighteen out of twenty, have been women. There are scores of establishments of a similar character in the Metropolis. They attract their customers by a particular class of liquor, generally gin. In Clare Market the women consider that they can get the best gin in the whole of the neighbourhood at this particular establishment. Within 100 yards of this place there is a grocer's shop at which you can get in bottle, wines, spirits, and beer, but I have never seen a man, woman, or child in that shop purchasing liquor in bottle, although I suppose they must occasionally do so. It is at the public house that the evil goes on; it is there that the women acquire these unfortunate habits of drunkenness which 1239 lead to such terrible results. My own I impression is that in the establishments with off licences you get a purer and cheaper article, in an atmosphere which morally is very much clearer, than in a public house; therefore. I do not think it is advisable to do anything to abolish or to hinder the progress of these establishments in the getting of off licences, as the evil there is very much less than in the public house.
In regard to Clause 21, there are 4,500 bona fide working-men's clubs in the United Kingdom, and we have to do our best to safeguard the existence of these institutions. How many bogus clubs there are it is impossible to say. As to the drunken ness which goes on, I am probably the only Member of the House directly connected by membership with a club of the typo we are discussing. I have been a member for nearly twenty years; the club is one of the largest in the Metropolis, there being nearly 2,000 members; and, although not a constant attendant, I have been a frequent attendant, but I have never seen more than half a dozen men there in a state of intoxication. I think that will compare very favourably wth the percentage of intoxicated men in West End clubs. If gentlemen of the extreme temperance wing would only-become as well acquainted with the inside as they apparently are with the outside of these clubs, they would arrive at very different conclusions than those, they now hold. These clubs are an enormous advantage to the community; they are a great gain to the cause of temperance, and should be fostered and encouraged by the friends of temperance. The hon. Member for the Spen Valley Division alluded to the counting of the number of men entering a particular club in York, and the number entering three public houses in that city, and said that more men entered the club than entered the three public houses put together. But there is this great difference, that all the men who went into the public houses went in to spend their money and to drink, whereas the chances are that one half of the men who entered the club spent nothing at all. I know men connected with our own club who are as good or even better advocates of temperance than those who pose here as the friends of temperance, but who, by 1240 pressing their extreme views, frequently do much more harm than good to the cause. In a public house you must spend—in a club you may; and there is all the difference between permission and compulsion. Therefore, on the whole, the clubs are a great improvement on the public houses, because a member of a club need not drink, and may remain there all day without spending a single farthing, his membership fee covering the cost of the upkeep of the establishment. A fortnight ago we held an important conference, at which some 200 clubs were represented. The conference discussed the Bill we are now considering, and the delegates came to the conclusion that the Bill on the whole was a good one, save and except Clause 21, to which they had serious objection, and I think their grounds of objection are bonâ fide. They fear that the common informer, a spiteful opponent, a disappointed publican, or the jealous wife who does not care about her husband being at the club, might put the law in motion. A prosecution would then ensue, and the result might be that a number of frivolous and vexatious prosecutions might sake place unless the members of bonâ fide clubs are safeguarded. The delegates at this conference were quite as averse to the existence of bogus clubs as the Home Secretary himself, and they expressed their thankfulness to him for having made an honest effort to put an end to these pest houses. It is such clubs that bring disgrace upon the bonâ fide organisations of working men, and in the name of the conference I tender the thanks of the delegates to the right hon. Gentleman for his attempt to put down such iniquitous institutions. [Cries of "Divide, divide."] No hon. Member has spoken as directly representing clubs, and I do not think I have wasted much time in saying what I have said, because I have instructions I from the conference in regard to the Bill now under discussion. A great deal more might be said in regard to Clause 21, but I hope that when the Bill comes before the Committee a serious attempt will be made to improve that clause. I am satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman will approach 1241 this question with au open mind, and that he will try to do something to assist the cause of temperance, which is what we all desire. It is in this spirit that I shall support the little, but, as I believe, honest, Bill now before the House.
§ (11.35.) SIR HARRY BULLARD (Norwich)
I have been connected with the trade all my life, and I wish to say a word or two upon this Bill. I believe that the trade view this measure with favour. A great many opinions have been expressed about public houses, but they have been mostly expressed by people who do not frequent public houses. Upon a former occasion I had the audacity to say that I did frequent public houses, and I have no hesitation in saying that they are judged more by their outside appearance than from what happens inside. I have a word or two to say about clubs. There are good and bad clubs, just as there are good and bad public houses, I could tell hon. Members of tenants connected with my firm where, if a man used a swear word upon their premises, he would not be allowed anything to drink and would not be allowed to enter the premises for a month. The average publican means to do his duty and do all he can to support the law. As to these clubs, I think they ought to be regulated. The last speaker has spoken of working men's clubs. I have had intimations from many working men's clubs in the constituency which I represent, where we have all sorts of clubs, and the general opinion is that they would be all the better under some kind of supervision. The good clubs do not mind it, and it is much better that the bad clubs should be supervised. If all these clubs are to be placed under some supervision, I would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a tax should be levied upon all clubs in which drink is sold. The leading clubs in Pall Mall might pay £1 a member, and I think that would he worthy of the acceptance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the rural districts the tax might be fixed as low as 1s per member. I give this as a hint to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who may want some additional funds, and I think in this way he might get a very large increase to his revenue.
1242 I am sorry that this measure is not going to be referred to a Committee of the Whole House, because I should like to have seen the matters of detail discussed across the floor of the House. I am conversant with the trade, but on this particular Committee to which the Bill will be referred I have no locus standi. Whether I shall get a chance during the Report stage I cannot say, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the advisability of allowing this Bill to be considered by a Committee of the Whole House. I suppose he has some good and sufficient reason for wishing to carry this Hill into law as rapidly as possible. With regard to grocers' licences, the same thing applies to them as to public house and club licences. I have noticed that in many country villages where there used to be respectable grocers' shops they have now practically ceased to be grocery establishments and their shelves have become filled with wines and spirits. In my opinion, not only clubs but everybody who has anything to do with the liquor trade should be placed under the supervision of the licensing authority. I can say that after a very long experience of the trade. The good clubs do not mind being placed under supervision, and it is far better that the bad ones should be supervised. I thank the House for listening to my few observations, and I hope there will not be a division upon the Second Beading of this Bill.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, &c."—(Mr. Ritchie.)
§ (11.43.) MAJOR JAMESON
Notwithstanding the universal concord with which this Bill has been met, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will allow the measure to go to a Committee of the Whole House. I feel very strongly upon this point, and as it is so very late I cannot see how this matter can be properly debated during the time at our disposal. The hon. Member for Norwich has told the House why this Bill should 1243 go to a Committee of the Whole House, and I cordially agree with him. If time permitted, I could give innumerable facts which would bring a majority of hon. Members to the same conclusion. It is impossible at this hour to debate this question fully. I regard the way in which the Bill is being hustled through as an absolute breach of faith to the trade. I entirely object to it, and in order to give them some chance of expressing their views in Committee of the Whole House. I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ *(11.46.) MR. SPEAKER
I cannot accept that Motion. There is still plenty of time to discuss the question before the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, etc.