§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (2.8.) SIR MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbrightshire)
In bringing forward this measure I can assure the House that I feel the great responsibility that attaches to my doing so. I represent on this occasion very many people in Scotland who cannot be here to-day, but who have expressed their opinions in different ways. I do not lay great stress on the number of petitions that have been presented, because the time has been too limited to allow many sections of the community—municipalities and so on—to petition in favour of this Bill as they otherwise would have done. Had petitions been required, thousands of signatures could have been obtained at a few days notice, but, even as it is, I have had the honour of presenting some very important petitions in favour of this Bill. I think the question we propose to deal with is of the most pressing nature, and ought to be dealt with immediately, and I would urge the Government to bring forward their measure as soon as possible.
Let me briefly explain the principles which have guided the promoters of this measure. The Bill is based mainly on the Minority Report of the recent Royal Commission. That Commission sat for a long time, took a great deal of evidence, and compiled its Report with much care. That Report, therefore, is a good basis on which to found a Bill, as it represents generally the view, not only of the temperance party in Scotland, but of all moderate-thinking men who wish to see some alteration in the licensing law, and a greater disposition to temperance among the Scotch people. I do not mean to class the Scotch nation as intemperate; it is not in any degree more intemperate than its neighbour, although it does imbibe spirits and 1116 loves strong drink rather than the cheap beer favoured by the Anglo-Saxon. The committals of crime in our Scotch prisons are largely composed of the Irish element. [Nationalist cries of "Oh!"] One-third of the committals are Irish, but that still leaves a considerable number to be accounted for. The points embodied in the Bill which the promoters consider most worthy of attention are given, viz., the reduction of licenses, the licensing commutation fund, the composition of the licensing authority, the enlargement of powers given to that authority, and the offences under the Act.
First of all with regard to the reduction of licenses. We must all agree that there are too many public-houses in the country. We are not making an attack on any particular public-house, or specifying any particular district. Taking the county as a whole, there are undoubtedly more public-houses than are absolutely necessary, and while we do not wish to curtail the convenience of any class, travellers or others, or even of the inhabitants of the district, still we do think that, where there is an excess of public-houses in proportion to the population, the number ought to be reduced. We suggest a gradual reduction, too, in counties, to one public-houseto every 400 persons. The present proportion is one to 333, so that it will not make a very great difference in the counties. In the burghs we propose the proportion of one public-house to every 750 inhabitants. The proportion at present is, of course, much larger. In my opinion the greatest good to the community resulting from the reduction of licenses would be in regard to the young. Last year this House passed a Bill called the "Children's Bill." That measure, I understand, is operating very beneficially, and has been well taken up by the publicans, who, meeting in a fair way the spirit evinced by the House, have, in many cases, instructed their employés not to give any drink at all to children under 14 years of age. To keep the young men out of the public-house is an even greater advantage. When there are many public-houses in one place they are certain to draw different sections of the community to them, especially the young and comparatively thoughtless.
1117 Another point in connection with the reduction of licenses is that considerable power is given to the licensing authority. For example, they are to have regard to the requirements of the district; they can take evidence as to the character of holders of licenses; and they can also thoroughly inspect premises and insist on them being put into proper condition. We know perfectly well that in some districts the structural conditions of the buildings leave much to be desired; the premises being unsuited and unsuitable for the purposes for which they are used. To obtain evidence on these matters, the licensing authority are to examine the chief constable. Some of my friends think too much is made of the chief constable in this Bill. My experience of the chief constable—and it is a somewhat long one—leads me to think otherwise. If you have a good chief constable—and no doubt the Standing Committees of the counties in Scotland are very particular whom they appoint—I do not think you could have a better man on whom to rely.The best and most trustworthy means of obtaining this information is through the chief constable. But, of course, the licensing authority would have the power of going outside the chief constable and asking for themselves questions about the applicants for licenses.
Then I would say a word about the commutation fund. Licensees, the renewal of whose certificates is refused, are to receive compensation out of this fund. The House will probably ask: What is this fund? Some of my friends think that a somewhat earlier date for the commencement of the Act might have been fixed; they think too long a period will elapse before it takes effect, and instead of seven years in which to reduce the public-houses to a proper number, there will very likely be nearly nine years. But that is a mere matter of detail, not of principle. Some people are inclined to give seven years, and others five, but I think the House will agree with me that, whatever the period may be, the feeling of the country generally is that if you take away a man's license, and reduce the number of public-houses in a district, you must pay for it, although there is really no vested interest in the license. It is therefore proposed that if a man's certificate is refused at the beginning of the 1118 seven years he should receive seven years compensation; if after the first year, six years compensation; and so on to the end. To form a licensing commutation fund there would be levied a duty, called a license rental, upon the remainder of the houses within the licensing area. I know there are questions arising on this point which may require discussion and consideration in Committee. We propose to take the annual ratable value as the basis upon which to reckon the amount of compensation. Some gentlemen might ask whether we mean the gross or the net; others might say that that is not a fair way of fixing it at all, and that the fairer way would be to ask the Inland Revenue Authorities to assess the value of the premises on what they considered to be the best basis. But however it is done, it does not affect the principle of the Bill, and is therefore only a detail. After seven years no compensation is to be paid. Clause 5 will very likely promote a good deal of opposition. The clause provides that nothing in the Act should alter or abridge the existing power of the licensing authority to refuse the renewal of any certificate at their discretion—In any case where there has been in their opinion fault or misconduct, etc.That seems to qualify the discretion of the licensing authority. If the clause stopped at the word "discretion" I think the difficulty might be got rid of. But probably the real meaning of the clause is that there must be a sort of give and take with regard to certain powers at present possessed.
Another point has reference to the licensing commutation fund. This license rental will continue during the seven years, and there are provisions in the Bill to secure that it shall be levied equitably on the annual ratable value. At the end of the seven years it will still continue to be levied. The public, therefore, will not lose anything by this Bill, as the proceeds will be handed over to the Secretary for Scotland to be expended on objects of public utility. But that again is a matter of detail. It might be considered better that the proceeds should go to certain definite objects, such as the police, or education. That is a matter in regard to which the promoters of the Bill would have no difficulty in arriving at an arrangement agreeable to thewill of the Com- 1119 mittee. The accounts of the fund are to be audited, and an auditor is to be appointed by the Secretary for Scotland.
Now I will pass to the composition of the Licensing Committee. In counties it is proposed to make the number of members 20, of whom ten are to be elected by the County Council, and the other ten by the magistrates of the country. In counties of cities, the Committee is to consist of the magistrates of the city for the time being. In burghs of 7,000 inhabitants, the magistrates of the burgh will form the Committee, while burghs of under 7,000 inhabitants will be treated as part of the counties in which they are situated.
With regard to appeals, I must say I think there ought to be an appeal. Many persons will feel themselves aggrieved if they have no other court to which they can go, although this body may be supposed to know more about the matter than any other could. Therefore, in counties, ten members are to be applied as an appellate tribunal, five of whom will be county councillors, and five magistrates. That, no doubt, is taking the same class of men for a different purpose, but I can see no harm in that, inasmuch as the persons living in the locality would know far more about the matters concerned than any person from outside, while the area is large enough to prevent any injustice to individuals. We know there is sometimes a great deal of feeling expressed against a public-house, and magistrates coming from the other end of the county to serve in this appellate body would perhaps have a more unbiassed mind than those immediately on the spot. In counties of cities, the Appeal Committee is to consist of six members—three justices and three town councillors. Also in burghs of 7,000 or more inhabitants, the Appeal Committee will consist of three justices and three town councillors. The Committees will be elected each year in December, so as to begin their work in January.
Clause 14 prohibits from taking part in the duties of the Licensing Committees any brewers and so on. That is a good clause, but I do not think it should extend to other counties. The only objection I see to the clause is that it might prevent a magistrate who was, say, a brewer, 1120 coming in from the adjoining county to take part in the deliberations of the Licensing Committee.
I would also like to say a word or two about the enlargement of the powers of the licensing authority. The control of the licensing authority will now extend to public entertainments and passenger vessels, and no drink can be supplied to passenger vessels whilst in the harbour. There are, however, two exceptions made in the case of distillers and brewers licenses. The licensing authority will also have additional powers with regard to earlier closing, which, I think, are very important powers. The House will recollect that in the Act of 1877 certain burghs enjoyed exceptional treatment in this matter of the hour of closing, but they will now be put under the same restraint as other Scottish burghs.
And now I come to the question of offences and penalties. The penalties for a first offence will be a fine not exceeding £10, or imprisonment for one month; for the second offence a fine not exceeding £20, or imprisonment for two months, and the certificate might be forfeited. To permit drunkenness or any violent, riotous, or immoral conduct in a public-house would also be a very serious offence. Some of my hon. friends think that this provision will never be enforced, but I do not agree with them. There is now a very much stronger view taken upon this question than there was a few years ago. I think that when a license-holder knows that he is liable to a penalty of £20, or two months imprisonment, with the risk of losing his license, he will take precious good care that there are no drunken people served with drink from his bar. With regard to trafficking in intoxicating liquors without a license, I can assure the House that one great cause of illicit drinking is the distribution in the country of intoxicating liquors by bakers' vans, grocers' carts, and even butchers'carts. For this illicit trafficking, for the first offence the Bill provides for a penalty of £20, or two months imprisonment; for a second offence, £50, or three months; and for a third offence a fine of £100, or three months. With such penalties as these, I think you would get very few of these offences in Scotland.
1121 In conclusion there is just one other point. I wish to ask the Government to let us know what their intentions are in reference to bringing any licensing measure before this House. We have had indicated by my right hon. friend the Home Secretary what I consider to be a very excellent Bill. But what we want to know is, what is going to be done for Scotland. In Scotland public opinion upon this question is stronger than in England, and the people of Scotland are fully prepared for any sound Bill which the Government may bring forward. In Scotland there are very few tied houses, and public-houses are not tied to the brewers in anything like the same proportion as in England, and consequently it is much easier to legislate for Scotland upon this question. Therefore we feel that we have a right to come to the House of Commons year after year and insist that something should be done for Scotland without any further delay. I have great pleasure in moving the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Mark Stewart.)
§ * (2.35.) MR. WHITTAKER (Yorkshire, W.R., Spen Valley)
I have some hesitation in rising to speak upon this Bill, because it may be deemed somewhat out of place that an English Member should interfere in a matter which is largely a domestic affair concerning Scotland. There are, however, two reasons why I feel justified in intervening in this debate. The first is that this Bill is supposed to be based on the Minority Report of the recent Licensing Commission, and as the member of that Commission who sat as the representative of Scotland, and who signed that report—Sir Charles Cameron—is no longer a Member of this House, I, as a member of that Commission who did sign the Report upon which this Bill is based, feel at liberty to say a word or two. My second reason is that one cannot get away from the fact that there is sufficient similarity in the general principles of the licensing laws of Scotland and England to make it clear that any precedent set in Scotland would make a 1122 strong case for a similar arrangement being extended to England. Therefore, we have a great interest in the settlement of the compensation question in Scotland.
I have said that this Bill is supposed to be based on the Minority Report of Lord Peel. What are the main principles of that Report? First, that there must be a substantial reduction in the number of licensed houses. In bringing that reduction about it is desirable, not as a matter of legal right, but as a matter of expediency, that a time notice should be given to the license holders that the reduction shall be made, and then that reduction should commence at once. A further proposal is that the license holders who would lose their licenses under the reduction scheme should be compensated for so much of the time notice as they would lose, and that the funds to provide that compensation should be raised by a levy upon the trade. But beyond all this there is the very important consideration that when the reduction had been made the licensing authority should have an absolutely free hand and an absolutely clear field to deal with all licenses in the future as it might desire. That is an important point to secure. Lord Peel's proposals have been widely accepted by all sections of temperance reformers. The amount of compensation is a matter of detail. The time, however, when the reduction is to be brought about and when the clear field to be secured will come into force, is important. I do not think myself that the trade is very anxious about the length of time in connection with any notice excepting in so far as the amount of the compensation is made to depend upon the time notice. What they desire is not so much a long term of notice as substantial compensation. What we desire is a short time, and we are not particular about the money, and I do not think there is such a great difference of opinion in this respect as is generally supposed. No doubt the trade desire the time to be somewhat short, because it is obvious that if a great reduction scheme is decided upon, and a long notice is given over a great many years, the trade must, during all that time, be in a condition of great unrest, uncertainty and anxiety as to the future, 1123 and I do not think that that is advisable in their own interests or ours.
There is one other point which I desire to mention, and it is that we are not disposed to reject and refuse any measure of temperance reform, simply because it does not go as far as we should like. We have never taken that position, and it is not our position today. Of course we should like to get as much as we can, but we will take whatever we can get so long as it is genuine temperance reform, and not accompanied by conditions which would establish the trade in a stronger legal position than it occupies to-day, and which would make it more difficult to get rid of licenses in the future. We stipulate that there shall not be any retrograde steps. Last year we accepted gladly the Children's Bill, although it was very much mutilated, and in a very modified form. This year the Home Secretary has announced the introduction of a Licensing Bill, which, while it does not go anything like so far as we should like it to go, we gladly accept, and we shall give it our support in this House because, so far as we are able to judge from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, we have formed the opinion that there is nothing in it that is objectionable and retrograde, and we gladly accept the reforms which it promises. But we must be careful throughout to keep an open door. We must do nothing that will restrict the power of the licensing authority to deal with licenses in the future.
Now I come to the Bill before the House. In the first place, I would say that although this measure professes to be based generally on the scheme of the Minority Report, it does not adopt the provisions laid down in that Report. While Lord Peel's Minority Report recommended a notice of five years, this Bill provides for a notice practically of nine years. I think the House has a little reason to complain of the wording of the memorandum, which is not quite so full and frank as it should be. The Bill provides for a time notice of seven years to the holders of licenses, but it states that in two years time the seven years period is to come into force, and that is practically nine years notice. Another very important difference between this 1124 Bill and the scheme of Lord Peel, is that in Lord Peel's scheme the provision is that the reduction in the number of licenses shall commence at the beginning of the notice period. When you give five years notice in Scotland it commences in the first year, but in this Bill the provision is that the reduction shall be made during seven years which commence at the end of the two years. It is obvious that it is possible under these conditions that no reductions may be made in some districts until the end of the seventh year of the notice, which practically means at the end of nine years. The House will see that there is a great difference between commencing the reduction at the beginning of the notice period and at the end of nine years. When it is seen that this Bill deviates from Lord Peel's Report in the matter of time, which it extends to nine years, and that it also places the licensing authority in such a position that they need not make any reduction at all for nine years, that, I think, is a very important difference indeed. If the object of the promoters of this Bill has been to give the license-holders a larger compensation, they might have left the time notice at five years, and have doubled the amount of the compensation for each year. Personally I should have raised no objection to that course. They would then have given more compensation, but the reduction would have worked out in a shorter time. But the great objection to this Bill is that it does not at the end of the period of nine years provide us with that free hand for dealing with the licenses, or that clean slate which is so essential in any scheme of this kind. It is not the Peel Report, and it is not on the general lines of that Report. I think nine years is far too long, and nobody wants nine years of uncertainty, unrest, and anxiety. It would be quite possible to arrange the monetary consideration without extending the time. If you fix a period of this kind the reduction should commence at once. A time notice only is not sufficient. One of the great difficulties which all licensing justices experience when they wish to make a reduction in the number of licenses is how to make a selection. If there are a number of licenses in a particular 1125 district, and the licensing authorities feel that there are too many, and there are no allegations or faults against any of them, it is difficult to select one house and say that the license shall be refused in that particular case. That course may mean inflicting a very considerable loss upon the owner of the house whilst conferring a benefit upon the others. The difficulty of making such a selection is almost insuperable. Nevertheless, if you give compensation over a period this provides the Bench with a method of equalising any inequality among the license-holders. If they take the license away at the beginning of the reduction period then the owner would get some compensation for the loss of that license, and it would be paid by the owners of the other houses; and this would equalise the inequality, and make it easier for the licensing justices to make a selection. That advantage is completely lost by this scheme, because it is not made necessary that the reduction should commence at the beginning of the period. But, even then, as I have said, the Bill does not provide us with a clean slate.
I was glad to hear that the hon. Baronet was prepared to leave Clause 5 to the judgment of the House, but he did not say the promoters of the Bill would vote for its omission. It is perfectly clear from the wording of Clause 5 that, on the passing of this Bill and at the end of the reduction period, the power of the licensing justices in Scotland to refuse the renewal of licenses there would be limited to the two points named in that clause. The first point is misconduction the part of the licensee and the second is deterioration of the licensed premises. At the present time the licensing authority in Scotland has the fullest discretion as to the renewal of public houselicenses. This clause lays it down that in future they shall have discretion to refuse renewal of licenses on the ground of misconduct on the part of the licensee or a deterioration of the licensed premises. I say that the interpretation that will be placed upon that by the Courts would be that their power to refuse would be limited to those grounds, and this clause would be interpreted as a limiting clause. 1126 This means that after the expiration of the period of notice all "on" licenses would be placed in the position of the 1869 beerhouse licenses in this country. Every licensing authority feels that the 1869 beerhouses are the greatest difficulty which they have to contend with. A large number of the licensing authorities have been asking the Government to give them power to use their discretion with regard to the 1869 beerhouses as well as other licenses. The effect of this Bill would be to place all "on" licenses in Scotland on the same priviliged basis as the 1869 beerhouses in England, and that isa thing which under any consideration cannot be sanctioned. It is even a worse condition of things than the 1869 beerhouses, because the wording of the clause gives only power to refuse for misconduct on the part of the licensee and a deterioration of the licensed premises. Obviously from that it would not be sufficient that the premises were unsuitable for it says only if they have deteriorated. Therefore a license could not be refused to premises unless it could be proved that they had once been in a better condition. It has been suggested that this clause should be left to the House. I submit, however, that that is not quite sufficient. We want to know what is the opinion of the promoters themselves on this clause. Are they going to stand by it, defend it, and support it, or will they when they leave it to the House, ask to withdraw it, or vote against its inclusion in the Bill? Everybody knows that there is not the slightest chance of this Bill being got through the House by a private Member. A private Member has his choice. He may introduce a Bill dealing with some small and single point, and then he may have some chance of passing it. If he wishes to legislate, it must be a simple Bill, dealing with a single point, as, for instance, the Bill dealing with the serving of intoxicating liquors to children. If he does not do that he may introduce a Bill like this and get a discussion upon it on somewhat broad general principles. I take it that this Bill is a measure which cannot be looked at from any point of view as having any possible chance of passing into law. We shall see no more of this 1127 Bill after today, and therefore one cannot give the much attention to what would be done in Committee. There will never be any chance of doing anything in Committee, and we must deal with the case as it stands, and accept or reject the Bill as it stands today.
I say that a Bill which proposes to limit the power of the licensing authority with regard to existing licenses is one which does not deserve the support of this House. Everybody who has given the slightest attention to this question knows that the compensation question is the most difficult problem connected with the licensing question. I say that it is impossible for any private Member to settle this compensation question. It is a question which must be settled by the Government, and the proposals for its settlement must come before this House on the authority of the Government of the day. We never shall get any genuine businesslike discussion of compensation proposals upon a private Member's suggestion, because we all feel that it is not real business. Those who desire ample compensation for the Trade will not discuss these proposals, because they feel that they are not real. Even those who dislike compensation, and will only agree to it on certain conditions, cannot discuss proposals made by a private Member, because they are not business, and can not place a "firm offer" before us. The Government can bring forward proposals which they will have a good chance of putting through. I say that no proposals containing the compensation and the reduction scheme provided for in this Bill can ever be discussed in a businesslike way. If we were to give our approval to nine years notice in Scotland, as the Bill proposes, we should be committing ourselves to that as a starting point for the future. The Bill also commits us to give the license holder something very like a freehold in his license for the future. I cannot consent to a proposal like that, and I cannot support the Second Reading of the Bill in which the proposal is brought forward. It is absolutely essential that any proposal that is to be accepted in this country must provide that at the end of any specified period there shall be an absolutely free hand and a perfectly clean slate. I 1128 would remind the House that in Scotland at the present time there are a large number of districts where the number of licensed houses is below the maximum fixed in this Bill. If the Bill were passed in the form in which it is now, those licenses would practically become freehold, and you could never get rid of them in the future. In those districts where the number was reduced to the maximum allowed by the Bill you would not be able to reduce that number further. We contend that the power of reducing the number of licenses, ought not to be limited or restricted in any way.
Sir, this is an extraordinary Bill. The drafting is the most muddled that I have ever had any experience of. I have never seen a worse put together Bill. But there is another point where it is a retrograde measure. In Scotland Justices who are interested in the liquor trade are disqualified from sitting on the bench in any part of the country. In England the disqualification only applies to persons interested in the particular area or the adjoining area. At the bottom of page 6 of the Bill there is a proposal to limit in Scotland that disqualification to those interested in the trade in an area. It means this, that a man may be a shareholder in a brewery just across the border of that area, that the brewery may supply every licensed house in the area, and yet he would not be disqualified because of being a shareholder in that brewery. That is a retrograde proposal which is enough to condemn the Bill. In other clauses it provides that work is to be done by certain officials, but I cannot find any provision whatever for their salaries. In fact, the Bill is really an impossible one, and we are bound to look at it as it stands. It will never have an opportunity of being considered in Committee. Because it is a retrograde Bill, which would take away from the licensing authority the power they have already got, I feel that I ought to move that it be read this day six months. I shall do so with the understanding that I shall be willing to withdraw, with the leave of the House, if we have a definite promise from the promoters of the Bill that they will withdraw and oppose Clause 5.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.' "—(Mr. Whittaker.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ (3.5.) MR. CAINE (Cornwall, Camborne)
said he felt that in ordinary cases, And looking to the short time they had at their disposal today, the discussion of a Scottish Bill ought to be left to Scottish Members, but this was a Bill which had so wide-reaching an effect on English legislation that he was obliged, however reluctantly, to second the Amendment. His hon. friend the mover of the Amendment had called attention to some very obvious facts. The Bill was good in parts, but the drafting was simply the very worst he had ever seen in any Bill. He thought the hon. Members who brought in the Bill, having got a good place in the ballot, might have clubbed together for £5 to get a Parliamentary draftsman to look over it and tell them where they had failed. The Bill was not only obscurely drafted, but it was unwisely conceived. There was no doubt whatever that a modest scheme of reform would have had a reasonable prospect of getting through. If the promoters had been content to make the Bill consist of Clauses 3 and 4, he believed it would have met with the approval of the Treasury Bench, the Scottish Members, and temperance reformers in the House generally. Instead of that, they had brought in a Bill containing the most controversial element that could be found in all the discussions of temperance reform. If they had omitted the provision for giving nine years notice, or kept the term short and allowed a tolerable amount of compensation, he would have voted for the Second Reading of the Bill. What was wanted was finality, and that every license should be brought under a licensing authority, so that the question might be dealt with drastically when temperance reform was set on foot. Publicans had no legal or moral claim to compensation; he had always said that; but still, if the expenditure of £200,000,000 of public money would rid us of the liquor traffic, it wouldbe the 1130 very best investment this country could make.
There were two points on which he based his own reluctance to support the measure. The first was the extension of the term of notice to nine years instead of seven years. He had seldom read a more disingenuous memorandum than the one placed in the forefront of the Bill. It said—The object of this Bill is to reconstitute the licensing authorities in Scotland, and to extend their powers. It provides also for reduction in the number of licenses, a reform which was recommended by the recent Royal Commission on Licensing, and it gives effect generally to the scheme of compensation which was proposed in the Minority Report of the Commission.If the promoters were basing the Bill on Lord Peel's Report, they might have paid to those Members of the House who sat on the Commission the compliment of asking their opinion upon it. The term of notice recommended in the Report of the Commission was seven years. It was thought that Scotland was somewhat in advance of England in the matter of temperance legislation, so that if nine years was the period fixed for Scotland, he would expect the term for England to be eleven years, when the time came to legislate for this part of the kingdom. During the past three years he had spent a great deal of his time in Scotland endeavouring to persuade temperance reformers to fall into line with Lord Peel's Report. He had succeeded in getting them into line, and in doing so he had put up with a great deal of abuse. He should stultify himself now if, having got the temperance reformers of Scotland into line with Lord Peel's blockhouse, he were to ask them to hang out their legs to be shot at by the enemy. Unless he could get an assurance that the number of years would be reduced to five, leaving the promoters absolutely free as to money compensation, he certainly could not vote in favour of the Bill. It would be found that the view which he suggested would be the view which would find favour among publicans themselves. Therewere a great many license-holders who would seize the opportunity of getting out of the business. Money was what they wanted; time was what the temperance reformers wanted. If it was 1131 right to close public-houses at the end of nine years, it was rightto close them today. It was because they were a danger to the community that they were to be closed. There was no other object in closing them. He would rather spend money in getting them closed today than give them a nine years lease for more mischief. The object of the Minority Report of Lord Peel's Commission was to get licensed premises closed as soon as possible on equitable compensation. While he did not approve of compensation, he was willing to support it if he could get a quid pro quo. This Bill was unsound in principle if it professed to be based on Lord Peel's Report. The clause in the Bill to which he had referred would be interpreted by the court as defining certain reasons upon which alone a license could be refused, so that after paying all this compensation they would find at the end of the nine years they could only close a public house with the leave of the licensee. What was wanted was that the licensing authority should be in a position to deal with a license precisely and exactly as they in their discretion thought fit. Unless he received a definite promise that the number of years would be reduced and that Clause 5 would be withdrawn, he would certainly oppose the Bill.
(3.15.) MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)
I must say it seems to me rather curious tactics on the part of hon. Members opposite who formed part of Lord Peel's Commission to move an Amendment rejecting the Bill, seeing that they will be followed into the lobby by all the opponents of Temperance reform. They have made various criticisms of the Bill, with many of which I fully concur. For example, if it is clear that under the terms of the clauses of the Bill the discretion of the licensing authority in Scotland would be limited to seven years, and would at the end of that period become obsolete, then most certainly that was a fault in the Bill which ought to be remedied. Whatever be the condition during the intermediate period when the licenses are gradually being reduced, I should, if we ever get to a discussion in Committee, endeavour to see that it was made clear, though I 1132 am in no way responsible for the drafting of the Bill, that there was absolute and unfettered discretion on the part of the licensing authority. That is the whole idea of the Bill. The drafting may be bad and may very likely need amending, but I do not think that is a ground upon which to move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months. In regard to time, I think there is a great deal in what the hon. Member for Camborne has said. We do not want a long period, and what all interested in the Trade want is pecuniary compensation. It is our interest to keep the compensation down, but so long as we get it out of the Trade I do not see why any one should prevent them getting as much as they reasonably can.
I do not think there is any use going into the details of the Bill. The hon. Member for the Spen Valley Division pointed out the conditions under which private Members can bring in Bills. The Bills either deal with a small point, or else they are intended to raise large discussions. The question of compensation is obviously one that cannot possibly be carried through except on the responsibility of the Government in a deliberately considered measure. What the hon. Member said was perfectly true. The object of bringing forward a Bill of this kind is practically gained when the subject is discussed. It is to call the attention of the House to the subject, and to get a declaration from the Government upon it. I am extremely glad that we have had this opportunity, so early in the session, of bringing forward what I regard as far the most urgent question in Scotland, and getting an authoritative, and, what I hope may be, a satisfactory declaration from the Government of their intentions upon this great subject. I am afraid I cannot agree with my hon. friend in his very optimistic estimate of the habits of Scotland. Whatever it may be in the rural districts with which he is familiar I am afraid that no one who is acquainted with the industrial parts of Scotland can say anything except that in our drinking habits we are at least a generation behind this country. I cannot even take to myself the flattering unction that it is only in the lowest ranks of society that we are behind. I am afraid that we are behind not only in the lower but the higher ranks. We stand far below this country in the matter of 1133 sobriety. But no one who knows Scotland can doubt that the feeling in favour of temperance is much stronger there than here, and that much more inthe way of reform can be undertaken safely and carried through in Scotland than here. I think the obstacles in Scotland are much less. I am not speaking of out and out temperance zealots, but of the opinion of the moderate men from top to bottom of the country. I am quite sure that their opinion as to the urgency of temperance reform and as to what can be done by legislation is very far in advance of anything that can be even heard in England. We had an English Bill laid on the Table the other day. That is a useful and laudable measure dealing with a great variety of small points.It may be that it goes as far as public opinion is prepared to go in England, but it will be a great and deep disappointment to Scotland if we find that the Scotch Bill which is promised is not more than a translation into Scotland of this English Bill. The opinion of the country will carry the Government a great deal farther in Scotland than this omnium gatherum of little matters we see in the Home Secretary's Bill. We have had issued lately a Return of the criminal statistics of Scotland for 1900. It is dreadful to look at that Return. Between 1897 and 1900 the number of offences, and of offences caused by drunkenness, has increased terribly. During these years the population has only increased 2¼ per cent., but the number of charges has increased by 16½per. cent. In Scotland there are three charges brought for every two brought in England for the same number of population. In Scotland there are seven committals against only three in England. That means a very serious difference in the state of things in Scotland, and ought to give all Scotchmen a good deal of ground for consideration. Partly, no doubt, that difference is caused by the excessive severity of Scotch law in regard to drunkenness; partly because of the reckless and perfectly useless way in which the magistrates commit for trifling offences, and send to prison for short terms, men whom it would be much better to discharge, the more severe penalties being reserved for a few of the more serious 1134 cases. But beyond this, there is this terrible drunkenness. The disease is recognised even by those who suffer from it. Many of those who suffer from it would be willing to assent to the legislative proposal to reduce their temptation. I am not prepared to defend the draftsmanship of this Bill, but I do say it is brought forward as a genuine attempt to put into the four corners of a Bill the ideas which were in Lord Peel's Report. In Scotland, next to the war and the maintenance of the union, there is no question of more pressing importance than that of temperance legislation. I support the Bill because, on the whole, I regard it as embodying the views contained in the Report of Lord Peel's Commission. These are views which I held long before the Commission sat. I put them forward twelve years ago at the election contest, not to satisfy temperance extremists, but moderate men who honestly hold that temperance reform should be taken in hand speedily by the Government.
§ * (3.35.) MR. DOUGLAS (Lanarkshire, N. W.)
I agree in the hope which has been expressed to a certain extend by hon. Members on both sides that the introduction of this Bill, and the discussion of it, may have the effect of drawing from the Government some statement of what they themselves propose, for it is perfectly true that the chances of passing such a measure as this without its being a accepted by the Government are exceedingly small. Yet in the past it has generally been regarded as a perfectly legitimate proceeding to bring forward a larger proposal than was likely to be carried in the House in order to have a discussion of greater detail and completeness than is possible on the basis of a mere Resolution. On the other hand, I do not propose to follow my hon. friends into the discussion of details. In order to discuss their objections fully, the wording of the clauses would have to be examined and considered in great detail. I wish simply to call attention to the greater issues of policy that are proposed in the measure.
The two main proposals of the Bill are the proposal for the reduction of licenses, and the proposal for the re-constitution of 1135 the licensing authority. As to the question of the reduction of licenses I think there is as a matter of fact, very general agreement. It is a point on which both Reports of the Commission were agreed. While only the Minority Report indicated the degree of reduction, both reports agreed that a reduction was desirable. That reduction is desirable partly, as the hon. Baronet opposite has said, in order to diminish the excessive opportunities which exist specially in the towns of Scotland. To my mind it is desirable still more on another ground. It seems to me, quite irrespective of the effect it may have on the actual volume of the liquor traffic, that it is of very great administrative advantage to concentrate it in fewer hands than it is in at present. Even granting that the volume remains equal, which I do not believe will be the case, by reducing the numbers of houses you facilitate inspection, and make supervision possible as it is not possible when the sale of liquor is carried on in such a number of places as it is now. Besides that I believe it is the general experience that larger businesses are carried on, and can be carried on, with greater respect for the spirit and the letter of the law, than smaller businesses. The license holder in a larger way is less dependent on the good-will of some customer who may be sometimes unduly insistent on having more liquor when he has had already enough. On the other hand he has a larger interest at stake, and he is more dependent on public opinion which he can only conciliate by preserving general good order in the House. As has been said, the reduction of licenses proposed is one that will work in seven years towards a maximum limit of one to 750 of the population in cities and burghs, and one for every 400 of the population in the counties. I may point out that the reduction proposed in the counties is extremely slight; for more than half of the counties it would mean no reduction at all. I mention that in order to indicate that the limit that has been set is not fixed with the object of creating an artificial difficulty in procuring liquor where that is desirable, or in order to make it less convenient or possible than hitherto to obtain liquor. It is not 1136 designed in fact to be prohibitive in its tendency; for, to my mind, nothing would be more improper than to introduce the substance of prohibition by a sidewind under the name of reduction. On the other hand, in cities and burghs, the reduction aimed at is very considerably larger, because there is far more real occasion for it. Perhaps I may be allowed to cite only four figures, selected pretty much at random, in regard to four Scotch towns. In Glasgow, under the Bill, the licenses would be reduced by 500, or 30 per cent. In Leith, the reduction would be 25 per cent.; in Perth, 30 per cent.; and in Coatbridge, upwards of 50 per cent. When we consider the question of the rapidity of reduction I think the general tendency of these figures ought to be kept in view. They show a great, a substantial, one might almost say a revolutionary, reduction.
Now, I would base upon those figures two propositions. First, that when so large reductions are necessary, the necessity for making them constitutes a very urgent problem, not only for Scotchmen, but for this House. And, in the second place, that the rapidity with which so considerable a change can be made, must be allowed to depend partly on local circumstances, and must be left very largly to the discretion of those who are in charge of the good order of the town, or the local Licensing Board. I think it is impossible for this House to prescribe to any local authority at what period, or at what pace, it should begin and continue to diminish these licenses. The local authorities ought to have the power to carry out reduction as rapidly as they see fit. On the other hand, it is the business of this House to fix the limit of time within which the local authorities shall complete the reduction. In fixing the time we have to consider not only the case of the least reduction, but the case of the greatest reduction. We have also to give consideration to a matter which, to my mind, admits of a good deal of discussion in detail, viz., both as to time and money compensation. We must give reasonable notice to the license-holders of a change which will affect their interests so much. It has been urged in criticism of those who 1137 introduced this Bill that they have improperly raised this undoubtedly thorny question of compensation. But this question is difficult and thorny, largely because it is the very centre of the problem of reduction. We cannot have satisfactory treatment of reduction of licenses until we have arrived, as I believe we can arrive, at a real finding and decision about compensation, Now of course there is no legal right to compensation. No one claims that there is such a legal right; but this House has to consider other things besides legal rights. It ought to provide against hardships which its enactments may make; and every one admits that there would be some degree of hardship if you were, without notice, suddenly to prohibit an arrangement which has been going on for many years, and if you were to prevent, by an Act of Parliament, a renewal of a license which, but for the Act, would have been renewed. Of course, if in the exercise of the powers they have, the licensing authorities were to refuse a license, that would be very unfortunate for the license-holder; but that is one of the risks of his business which he must have taken into account when he embarked in that business. When you enter, however, as we urge this House to enter, upon a deliberate policy of rapid reduction of licenses, you do so on public grounds, and in the public interests. If you prevent by Act of Parliament a renewal of a license which in all probability would have been granted, the license, holder has a right to have an opportunity given him of making some, arrangement in regard to his business. It must be remembered that however rapid the reduction of licenses may be, the reduction must essentially and inevitably be a gradual process. Prohibition is a measure which you can carry out suddenly, for it has this great advantage, along with some disadvantages, that it leaves behind it no licenses; there is no trade to be out of order. But if you reduce licenses, especially if you do it on a great scale, say to the extent of 50 per cent. in a great industrial community, you leave behind chaos and disorder, and, in all probability, violent breaches of the law. I say, therefore, that in these circum- 1138 stances, the reduction must be a gradual process. But it is also a process the beginning of which cannot, in my judgment be too soon. It is thiswhich creates the necessity for money compensation which has been the object of so much criticism. Before I leave the question of time compensation, I may say that, to my mind, seven years is not an unreasonable period, although that is a subject on which a very fruitful and practical discussion might take place. The proposal which has been made for a money compensation is, I think, substantially that of the Peel Report. The only statement made on that subject in the Memorandum attached to the Bill, is that the scale of compensation is, generally speaking, that advocated by the Minority Report of the Licensing Commission; and that will be found to be absolutely the case. That proposal has been so largely discussed that it is not necessary for me to go into details; but I think its principle has received a far more general sanction than any other which has been put forward in recent times. That principle is that while the trade alone must be the source of the money compensation, its apportionment is a matter which must be sanctioned by this House.
I may be allowed to say a word or two about the objection taken to Clause 5. It is objected that this Bill restricts the power of the licensing authority at the end of seven years to refuse renewals of licenses. Now I am bound to say that every supporter of this Bill will admit that that would be an impossible proposal. Undoubtedly, a certain restriction of the power of the licensing authority is essential to this Bill. It restricts the power of the licensing authority in two respects. It prohibits the authority from renewing more than a certain number of licenses during seven years, and it compels the licensing authority to give compensation for every license which it refuses to renew during that period. So far as the power of the licensing authority is interfered with, that degree of interference is essential to these proposals and indeed absolutely inseparable from the reduction of licenses coupled with compensation. But I believe it will be found that the 1139 Bill, as a whole, will not restrict but greatly stimulate and accelerate the process of reduction. The money given in commutation is not, according to this Bill, to be drawn from the public funds but from the trade itself, by way of a special tax. It has been plausibly suggested that as the trade found the money and the trade received it, the trade might very well be left to settle the matter of compensation for themselves. If we were dealing with the ordinary risks of the refusing of a license that might be conceded; but we are asking for far more, we are asking for considerable reductions, and therefore the provision for whatever compensation seems reasonable must be legislative. Reduction itself must be a legislative policy. You cannot leave it to the initiative of the local authority. You cannot, I think, expect the local authorities to carry out the reduction unless you make a law to compel them to do so. The licensing authorities will not accept the responsibility and odium of making the reductions, unless they are compelled to do so by law. Even authorities which would welcome compulsion will not act without it. It is admitted that the present licensing authority is wholly satisfactory. It is not appointed specially to grant licenses; it is not a selected panel; it has no contact whatever, beyond a purely accidental one, with local opinion; it is a totally irresponsible tribunal, because what responsibility it has is too indirect and is frittered away. The results are notorious. In order to get rid of these evils we must have a licensing authority with greater responsibility, and in contact with public opinion—not so small as to lead to that jobbery that borders on corruption even when it is not actually corrupt, arrived at by a small number, and not so large that its decisions would be haphazard and variable in their character. That is the authority provided in the Bill. The present Appeal Court is, probably, in its small way, as absurd an arrangement asever conceived. The appeal to the Quarter Sessions is an appeal to a tribunal which, for this purpose, completely and absolutely out of date. You have a scratch meeting of 50 or 60 Justices, the number being either a pure accident, or whipped together de- 1140 liberately to over-rule the decision of the magistrates. I think it is outrageous that such an Appeal Court should be able to upset the decisions of the magistrates in cities and burghs who know the local circumstances. The result is a perpetual conflict between the representatives of the public opinion of the district and a certain number of outsiders; and this state of matters which paralyses the action of the magistrates in the cities and burghs, who consequently act under the perpetual threat that their policy and decision will be reversed. I confess that, for my part, I think there should be no appeal in the strict sense of the term against the decision of a licensing authority properly constituted, although there should be an opportunity for there-consideration of their first decision. And such an opportunity is given by one of the Clauses of this Bill.
I have said little or nothing of the importance of the aims of this Bill. It is not a matter about which words need be multiplied. It would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of this temperance question, and I concur in what was said by the hon. Members for Partick that there is in Scotland a very real and rapidly growing feeling of dissatisfaction with the present state of things. It is not confined to any sect or class or political Party. I do not speak of the opinion of what are sometimes known as temperance reformers, or of those who have taken a special interest in certain specific proposals; but of that of ordinary business men who, perhaps, have never been able to support any of these proposals, but who find themselves in contact with an evil which they cannot ignore, and which they wish to be dealt with. They are beginning to see more clearly every month the greatness and the urgencyof this question. Many men see that a moral and material waste is going on from day to day, and that is felt to be a great national scandal and discredit. With all respect to what had been said by an hon. Member, it is certainly the case that in Scotland there is a greater amount of visible and gross intemperance than in most other countries in Europe. The growth of opinion is the best ground for the hope 1141 that this question of intemperance will be grappled with, and that hope is making itself felt in this House. Throughout our history we, in Scotland, have had to look to ourselves for the evolution of such difficulties; and what is desired now is that we should be freed from the restraints which prevent us from setting our house in order. We live under methods of administration which served their purpose perhaps under simpler conditions; but they have broken down, and we want to be done with them. Not only do these antiquated methods of administration hamper us, but we want to get rid of the vast abuses that have grown up under their influence. While I think it is essential that we should be set free by a more competent and more democratic licensing authority, it is no less important that we should be put in a position to deal with the great abuses which have grown up under the influence of the existing authorities. We cannot hope without legislation to secure any substantial reduction in the number of public-houses.
§ * (3.55.) SIR LEWIS McIVER (Edinburgh, W.)
I wonder if the House has realised the curious grotesqueness of this debate, which has been emphasised by my hon. friend the Member for Camborne, who blessed those he is not accustomed to bless; by the fact that we should have a measure of temperance reform introduced from these benches; and by the fact that we should have had in the middle of this debate a series of well-considered suggestions on the temperance question, presented in a most moderate and sweetly reasonable speech from the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down. Apparently, the House is agreed that the Scotch people are more drunken than the English. [Cries of "Oh, oh," "No, no."] It is not my view, but at all events, there was no dissent when the hon. Member for Partick adumbrated that proposition. I think we Members from Scotland are unanimous in the desire for a reduction in the number of licenses, and that this is the central point in the proposals in this Bill. We are also agreed that there is no idea that this 1142 Bill will be read a second time, although the discussion of the small as well as great points raised by it will serve a useful purpose. We are further agreed that it is a dangerous thing in a Bill of this sort to raise the question of compensation in dealing with temperance reform. But, in any case, surely the wisest course would be to begin with those points on which the whole Commission were agreed—on which the dissentient voices dissented least.
Sir, the wrangling over temperance reform in this House and in the country for the last 30 years has been bitter, weary, and unfructuous. Practically nothing has come of it, except "hatred, envy, malice, and all uncharitableness." And this has chiefly been due to the fact that the controversy has been dominated by the extremists on both sides—with the inevitable result that practically nothing has been done. Lately it has seemed to me that there was beginning to be some hope of improvement in this respect—that there were, on both sides, signs of a better temper and better sense in dealing with the question; and I, in common with many others, welcomed the reception given to the Home Secretary's Bill last month, by the hon. Member for Camborne. The hon. Member will forgive me if I say that, on this, as on some other questions, he holds very strong opinions indeed, and has held them consistently for many years. I confess I regarded him as an extremist, whose motto was "the whole loaf or nothing." And I have no doubt that, in this matter, he will continue to battle for the "whole loaf." But, on the 30th of January, we were able to recognise that he was a tactician as well as an out-and-out advocate, when he genially blessed the relatively small measure that then was introduced. I say relatively small because I think it might well have been bigger than it is. Well, Sir, that reception was, I thought, a happy augury. It seemed to indicate that he, and some of those who co-operate with him, were beginning to recognise the wisdom of proceeding along the line of least resistance—to take first the points which are not controversial—then the remaining points in the inverse order of their controversial degree, until they reach, should they ever reach, the Armageddon of 1143 "total suppression" and "no compensation." In that spirit—the spirit of "the half loaf to-day, and the rest to-morrow"—we can work together in amity, at all events for the "half loaf." But, if you once again tear open the old sores, rouse up the old feuds, and fling about the winged words of ten and fifteen years ago, then good-bye to the amicable settlement of the points upon which we are all agreed. And that is the effect which, I believe, a Committee to a Bill like this would produce; because, Mr. Speaker, this Bill professedly and honestly is directed towards the reduction of the number of licensed houses in Scotland; and I believe that the desirability of that reform is a point upon which the Scottish Members are unanimous. But, in dealing with the machinery by which this desirable reform is to be achieved, the Bill opens up the old thorny question of compensation and essays to dispose of it in very summary fashion. In other words, it gives the signal for the renewal of the old faction fights and lets loose the dogs of war upon what was a peaceful arena. Why, Sir, this question of compensation—the damnosa hereditas of the temperance cause—has blocked all progress for 30 years. In 1872 it wrecked a Governmental measure that would have settled the question 20 years ago. In 1888 it practically wrecked another measure, produced by a strong Government, backed by a strong majority. Does any hon. Member in this House imagine first that the general national principle on which this question is to be finally solved is going to be adopted primarily for a portion of the United Kingdom, by the agency of a private Member? Does any hon. Member believe that it can be settled in a debate like this? And, lastly, does any hon. Member believe that the Minority Report of a Commission that deliberated for over three years, whichmet 134 times, which examined 259 witnesses, is going to be adopted in preference to the Majority Report after three hours discussion on a Wednesday afternoon, on the proposal of a private Member and for only a section of the Kingdom? No, Sir, everyone present knows that this will not happen. When, if ever, the question of compensation is dis- 1144 posed of, it will have to be on the proposition of a responsible Government, and for the whole country; and not by a snatch division on a sort of side wind and for application exclusively to a part of the country.
It is not the contents of the Bill, but the impolicy of pushing or pressing it at this juncture that I deprecate. And that, Sir, is the essential reason why I have, reluctantly, taken this attitude towards this Bill. I refuse to give even a silent assent on the ground which, among others, has been urged upon us, namely, that to allow the Second Reading of this Bill might serve as a lever to force the hands of Government in the direction of temperance legislation. Frankly, I do not consider that is a very moral way of dealing with this question. I think it is not very courageous—and, in the interests of progress, not even expedient. My action, and that of others who oppose this Bill, may or may not be misunderstood. Well, we must accept that. But I repeat that it is not hostility to temperance reform that is our motive; but at a time when there seems hope of getting some measures of temperance legislation in peace—without friction or heartburning—I resent the re-awakening of all the old and bitter controversies, which will inevitably occur if this Bill goes into Committee.
We know, on authority, that the Government has prepared—and hopes to pass—a Bill for Scotland, dealing inter alia with the reduction of licensed houses. But we may be very sure that Bill will not tackle the compensation principle, and may, therefore, avoid factious controversy. But, be that as it may, not only are we more likely to get progress by the agency of a Government measure, but there survive several minor points which are either uncontroversial, or only slightly controversial, and which it were well to clear off the Board before we fall to fighting again. And, as one who has watched and deplored the hopeless struggle between the extremists on both sides for many years, I urge on the House not lightly to embark again on that futile warfare—as it inevitably will do, if it sends this Bill to Committee.
§ (4.15.) SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
I agree with the hon. Member for West Edinburgh that there is a considerable amount of unreality in this debate. Some very excellent speeches have been delivered in the course of the debate, but we all know that this Bill can never be passed into law, and, therefore, the discussion is practically an academic debate. I wish to approach the discussion from the point of view of a man who was and is in favour of local veto. I believe unless we have effective popular control, the evil is so great and deep-rooted, and so many interests are attached to it, that we will not be able to make thoroughly effective progress in the cause of temperance, but that does not arise here, as it is hopeless in the present Parliament, as the House well knows. But I think all wise men ought to be prepared to make as much advance as they can, provided that advance does not offer any real obstacle to a final and fair solution of the matter, and it would be a very heavy responsibility, indeed, to take to attempt to diminish the progress of such a settlement. We are, however, at the present time waiting to see whether and in what direction the Government will act, and we have to occupy ourselves in criticising any crude, impracticable, and clumsy proposals that may be brought forward, which, from a deeper study of the question, really lead nowhere, and we should be careful lest in our desire for reform we should accept proposals which might lead us a great deal further than we imagined they committed us, and which might make reform impossible. This Bill contains some very excellent proposals, and I have no doubt that the hon.Member who introduced it and the hon. Members who support it, are actuated by the best motives in the interests of temperance. It does contain some very excellent proposals, of, I may call, a minor character; but I think I should have to offer some criticisms myself were I to enter into detail. I will not, however, anticipate the Committee stage, which will never take place. I wish to confine myself to the main point of the Bill, namely, the proposal for the diminution of licenses.
I have no right to speak for anyone 1146 except myself, but I believe it is almost universally admitted that the evil is intense throughout Scotland. That view is entertained by Scottish Members on both sides of the House, and no one can sit for a Scottish constituency without realising the evil. I think we are agreed that a diminution in the number of licenses is universally regarded as being necessary; although in many country districts in Scotland the number of licenses falls below the maximum provided in this Bill. The scheme of the Bill is that the number of licenses is to be fixed during a period which really amounts to nine years. Whatever was intended, the period really amounts to that; and it is provided that during that period license holders, whose licenses are reduced, should be compensated according to the date on which the number of licenses was diminished, more at the commencement of the period and less at the end. As I understand it, during the currency of that period no licenses are to be refused except for misconduct or without compensation. It is said that this Bill is based on Lord Peel's Report. If it were wholly based on that Report it would require less justification. Objection has been made to the introduction of the period of nine years, namely the seven years in the Bill and the period which would elapse before the Bill came into operation. If we are driven to accept a nine years period, although the period proposed in Lord Peel's Report was five years, that would become the terminus a quo of all future proposals, and hon. Members would immediately proceed to advocate a period of 12, 15, or 20 years. That is not a good way of beginning to deal with a vested interest. The period proposed in the Bill is very nearly double that recommended by the Report on which it professes to be based. Then there is another difference which would be ruinous and futile in the Bill. Security is to be given to all license holders for a period of nine years. That may be perfectly necessary. I can understand the suspension of the right to refuse to renew licenses as being a necessary part of the bargain, but no language should be used which could be twisted into an admission that any doubt at all existed as to the power and right of the magistrates to take away licenses under the law of 1147 Scotland. It should also be clear that at the end of the period of suspension, the most completely unfettered power should remain to the licensing authority to deal with all licenses as they thought fit, and to refuse them or to divert them to other persons. There should be an unequivocal acknowledgment of that right, stated in such language that no lawyer would be able to pervert it to the detriment of the public interest. The language of the clause is not sufficiently explicit on this matter. I speak not merely of Clause 5, because I understand that that clause is intended to cover the intervening period of suspension; but apart from that, the Bill contains an implied assumption that some claim of a license holder does not exist.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
I do not agree with the hon. Baronet; but I am perfectly satisfied after what has been said by the hon. Member for North Lanark that such was not the intention, and that enables me if a division arises, to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, which otherwise I would not think of doing. The language speaks of the power of the licensing authority to refuse the renewal of any certificate, and is so worded that the matter is left in some ambiguity. It is, perhaps, unnecessary to labour that point now, inasmuch as I understand that the main supporters of the Bill disclaim any such intention, and, therefore, relieve us of the necessity of further arguing the matter. I wish to say a few words with reference to the question of compensation. The hon. Member for West Edinburgh rather deprecated the discussion of compensation at all; but if we are not going to consider schemes of compensation put forward as a matter of morals, at all events, if not as a legal right, it is not the slightest use considering any great scheme of reform at all. The question of compensation must be faced. If we can prevail upon the public to leave it inthe hands of the Local Authorities, well and good. The proposal in the Bill, however, is that compensation is to be given by the trade to the trade, that the State is not to be intermediary, and 1148 that no money must come out of the pocket of the State at all. If any scheme of that kind can be worked it will be by far the best method of settling the question of compensation. So far as possible, the money should come from the trade, and we should keep the fingers of the State out of the transaction, except to see, as it may be necessary to see, that fair play is observed within the trade itself. I think that would be very desirable. If such a plan could be carried out without risk and with fair play as between the different members of the trade who would be obliged to pay the levy, that would be all that would be expected. I would point out, however, that the proposal in this Bill is that in the last year of the seven years the amount of compensation should be the rateable value of the premises. There never could be a more unsatisfactory basis. The rateable value in one case may be a £120 a year, whereas the profit may be £800 or £900 a year, whereas in another case, in a great establishment like St. Pancras Hotel, the value of the license would be almost insignificant as compared with the rateable value. Inthe first case, the compensation to be awarded would be ludicrously inadequate, and in the other case monstrously excessive. I agree that is merely a detail, but I am satisfied that if we are going to have compensation, by far the best course would be to provide some method of seeing fair play between tho distributing body in the trade and the receiving body, but to leave them to arrange themselves the method in which compensation should be provided.
That is all I wish to say with regard to the Bill. The importance of this Bill is not the Second Reading, if it be given Second Reading. Its importance is that it gives us an opportunity of earnestly pressing on the Government the necessity of dealing with this very grave and serious question. It is perfectly true this question can never be dealt with by a private Member. Apart from the limited opportunities which a private Member has, the question deals with such enormous interests and with such controversial matters that it is only possible for a Government to deal with 1149 it. We, in Scotland, are almost unanimous in thinking that this is a most important question—the most important question. Incalculable mischief has been done in Scotland which, I believe, might be removed by a strong Licensing Bill. I cannot exaggerate the importance which is attached to it by many persons who know nothing, and care less, about politics, but who merely care about the lives of the people, and who see that the race itself is running some risk of being permanently deteriorated by the present condition of things. The Government are surely bound to take action. I am certain they will not find any real difficulty among Scottish Members on either side ofthe House; at all events we would try to agree with them although I do not say we would necessarily agree, because their proposals might touch on matters on which we could not give way; but I am certain that the Scottish Members would desire to the utmost degree to agree with the Government so far as they honestly could. The whole country is crying for a remedy; and if the Government would put forward a proposal of a really effective character, I am perfectly sure that not only would the Scotch Members do their very best to meet them if they could, but that, if they succeeded, they would confer one of the greatest benefits on Scotland that the legislature has ever conferred upon it since the time of the Union.
§ * (4.30.) MR. RENSHAW (Renfrewshire, W.)
said that the Bill itself had been comparatively little referred to by those who had criticised it. Though he agreed in the main with the general principles of the Bill, and was as anxious as its promoters to see the licensing laws of Scotland reformed, he was unable to vote for the Second Reading. The hon. Member for the Spen Valley had appealed to the supporters of the Bill with regard to Clause 5, which, it was admitted, would require some modification, but he would like to point out that Magistrates had powerat present to deal absolutely with certificates. This would be taken away by the latter part of Clause 5. Clause 4 of the Bill conveyed the impression that the right to deal with certificates would 1150 no longer rest with the licensing authorities in this way. Clause 4 spoke of certificates being granted, but the language in Clauses 2 and 3 was different, and in those clauses "renewal"of existing certificates had been referred to. He was aware that in recent licensing reform in Scotland the terms "renewal" and "granting" of licenses had both been used, but, so far as he could gather, Clause 4 of the Bill meant that no new certificate or renewal after the expiration of the seven years should carry any right to renewal. If this was so it was not clearly expressed. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dumfries Burghs had spoken of the finger of the State having been left out of the Bill in regard to the scheme of compensation. What the suggested with regard to the general principle which ought to underly any question of compensation was that a principle should be laid down by which all classes of those disestablished in the trade ought to be compensated by those who were left in the trade. That ought not to be a difficult principle on which to secure general agreement, but the hon. Gentleman had apparently overlooked the somewhat extraordinary provision of Clause 10 which provided that the average compensation which was to be levied for seven years was thereafter not to be regarded as money passing from some members of the Trade to others, but was to be a new fund created in a new way, and the application of it was to be under the absolute and sole direction of the Secretary for Scotland, who might expend it as he chose. That was a most extraordinary provision, and one that was open to the most grave objections.
Reference had been made to the form of the Bill; he believed that had the framers of the measure taken a little more trouble to ascertain the local feeling in Scotland some mistakes in the framing of the Bill would had been avoided. He had some doubt himself as to what was to be the position after the seven years elapsed. If hon. Members looked at Clause 1, they would find that the licences were to be reduced "during the seven years next succeeding the 1151 28th May, first happening one year after the passing of the Act." What was the position of the licensing authorities after that date? Were they to have an absolutely free hand, because the clause was so worded as to give them a free hand subsequent to the period of seven years. The words "at the expiration" should read "at and after the expiration." Then, with regard to the financial provisions of the Bill, he found that whilst provision had been made for the payment of the clerk to the Court of Appeal, no provision had been made for the payment of the clerk to the Justices, or the clerk to the new licensing authorities. The clause which the commutation fund created, provided that a special official was to be appointed by the licensing authority as collector of license rentals, and also to act as treasurer of the fund; he was to be paid out of the fund, and the expenses of collection and disbursement were also to be borne by the fund: but in Clause 17 a provision had been made giving every licensing authoritypower to appoint inspectors of licensed premises, and he would like to ask who was to pay the inspectors so appointed. There was nothing in the Bill which provided for the payment of these officials. The language of the Minority Report upon which this Bill had been framed seemed to suggest that the special officers for this purpose were to be police officers, and he could not believe that it would be desirable, in connection with the administration of the liquor laws of Scotland, to appoint a separate staff of officials to look after public-houses, and those who went in and out of them. He could not imagine anything more unfortunate than that the duty should be taken out of the control of the police. It was one of the most important matters which came under their cognisance, and to take this duty out of their hands would create enormous difficulty, because unless there was a large staff of these inspectors there would be no effective overlooking of the public-houses, whilst the police would be deprived of a most important duty.
With regard to the licensing authority, he did not wish to say anything of a 1152 critical character. He thought it would be a good thing for the new authority to be composed of representatives from the County Councils and the Justices of the Peace, but when he came to the Court of Appeal he could not agree with the hon. Members who promoted the Bill. The existing Court of Appeal had been very strongly criticised, and had been stated to be very unsatisfactory, but what would the House think of an Appeal Court to be composed of a smaller number of representatives elected by and from the same bodies as those which elected the Court from which the appeal lay? An Appeal Court of ten members would hear appeals from a court of twenty members representing the same interests? In the course of the discussion reference had been made for a measure introduced by the Government in reference to England. In his speech at Edinburgh a short time ago, the noble Lord the Secretary to Scotland had intimated that a measure was contemplated for the reform of the licensing laws of Scotland, but none of them knew at present how far those proposals would go. This debate would be useful if it impressed on the minds of those responsible for the introduction of that measure, a knowledge that there was an earnest desire on the part of the House that the question of temperance reform should be dealt with effectively. He did not believe that all the reforms desired by temperance reformers could be dealt with in one measure, such a measure if anything of that sort was attempted it would be next to impossible to pass through the House in one session. The effect of the debate this afternoon would be to bring home to the Government the fact that the representatives of the people of Scotland on both sides of the House were very much in earnest on this question of temperance reform.
§ (4.45.) MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
If a division is forced upon the House I shall certainly have no hesitation in voting for this Bill. In my opinion we have had a most interesting and instructive debate, which has been remarkable for two things; in 1153 the first place it has shown that there is a great deal of sympathy with the general principles of this measure, and secondly, that sympathy has come from all parts. For the last generation the opposition to every measure of temperance reform has come from two opposite extremes. On the one side you have the earnest temperance reformer, and on the other you have the friends of the Trade, and the general public has stood aloof and considered the whole question of temperance as an impracticable question. But a vast change has come over the country, and there has been a wide popular awakening in favour of reasonable and practicable Temperance Reform. This has been manifested in the House during the present Parliament. Last session we introduced the Bill generally known as the Children's Bill, to which, I believe, the Government was not particularly favourable, but they did a most unusual thing—they gave the promoters of the Bill facilities to pass it, because outside Parliament the feeling of moderate temperance reform in this country was so vastly in its favour that the Government were bound to consider it. There has been a remarkable movement in the last twelve months; Lord Peel, who drafted the Minority Report, has united the people of Scotland in this matter. I do not, when I say that Lord Peelhas united the temperance reformers of Scotland, mean to say that we are agreed as to what should bethe reform, but everybody is agreed on this, that none of them can get anything so long as there stands in the way the barrier of the vested rights of the publicans, and the main purpose of this Bill is to remove that evil, to deal with the question in the interests of the people, and to deal with it on a principle of proper compensation to the publicans. To that principle one or two are opposed; the hon. Baronet the Member for West Edinburgh and the hon. Member for Renfrewshire have both expressed themselves as opposed to the principle to which everybody else has agreed. The opposition coming from this side of the House, and led by the hon. Member for the Spen Valley, is entirely the opposition of a temperance reformer; there is not one objection which the hon. Member 1154 for Spen Valley has made that could not be disposed of by a very slight verbal Amendment. The hon. Member said he would not vote for the Bill because it was a private Bill and would not go to Committee, but I have always understood that more latitude was given to a private Bill in this way than to a public Bill. I very well recollect the Bill that was brought in in 1892 for pensions for old age. Hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House voted for that Bill, although they disapproved of every part of the scheme presented by the Bill, because they believed in the principle of it. Therefore Ihope hon. Gentlemen will not vote against the Second Reading of this Bill because they disagree as to its details. If the Bill does not go to Second Reading it will be regarded by the country as a defeat of temperance reform.
I agree entirely with what has been said on the question of compensation, but I disagree entirely with what has been suggested by the hon. Member for Dumfries, that because we say seven years in this Bill, if we vote for it we shall be bound to that seven years. Suppose we wait until a Liberal Government comes into office, which may be in five years, that would mean that we should not deal with public-houses until 1911. I shall vote for the Second Reading, because I believe that in the first place we could change this seven years in Committee, and in the second place I would rather see a Bill with a term of nine years passed at the present time than wait five years and then see a Bill passed with the term of five years. Delay on this question is exceedingly dangerous. We wish to deal with this question at once; a vast number of hon. Members of this House are agreed with the principle, and what we wish to see now is what the Government are going to do. I hope the right hon. Gentleman in his reply will fulfil our hopes, and let this Bill go to a Second Reading.
§ *(4.53.) Mr. SHAW STEWART (Renfrewshire, E.)
thought the most remarkable thing in this debate had been the fact that the two Gentlemen who chiefly opposed the Bill were Gentlemen repre- 1155 senting English constituencies, and were not interested in Scottish affairs in any way. Everybody was agreed that a change in the licensing authority was desirable, not even the temperance advocates were content with the present authority, and the publicans in the cities were equally opposed to it, and as there had been no adverse criticism of the new licensing authority as proposed by the Bill, the promoters of the Bill might take it that the House was satisfied with it. They might take it that the Scottish members were satisfied that a selection from the Justices of the Peace, combined with a selection from the members of the County Councils, would provide a licensing authority possessed of local knowledge and public confidence. The reduction of licenses was a most important matter. The noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland had, at a meeting in Edinburgh, conveyed the impression that it was not desirable to legislate for the reduction of licenses; he was evidently of opinion that the diminution of drunkenness did not depend upon a limitation of licenses. The reduction of licenses under the Bill would entail little or no reduction of licenses in the counties, but as had been pointed out in a pamphlet issued by the Trade opponents to the Bill, in the towns it would be considerable. That pamphlet gave the number of public-houses in certain towns, and the number which would remain if this Bill came into operation. In the town of Ardrie the number of licensed houses was 88. Under the provisions of the Bill they would be reduced to 25,that was in the proportion of one public-house to every 750 people, If those figures were correct, at the present time there was one public-house to every 45 men. Was it notobvious that where there were an excessive number of public-houses, for a number of them it was a constant struggle to obtain customers and keep them; and was it not equally probable that in those houses which were engaged in the struggle there might notbe a daily, nay hourly, temptation to supply with drink men who had already had enough? He asked any one who had had experience of police work whether the police would not rather deal with 50 public-houses, with regard to 1156 which this competition did not go on, than with 100 where it did? The other principal point was the question of compensation, and the only Scotch Member who had adversely criticised the Bill in that respect was the hon. Member for Edinburgh, who had said it was a great mistake to deal with compensation, because it was the real crux of the question. That was not a very bold position to take, because if "compensation" was the most important point of temperance legislation, the legislature should seek to make a settlement of that question. He claimed that in this Bill an attempt had been made to deal with compensation on the lines of justice to the publican for what was taken away: and of justice to the public by diminishing that excess of houses which were a danger to the peace and to the health of the community. He did not know whether the Bill would go to a division, but if it did, he appealed to the English Members not to vote lightly against it, until they had ascertained what was the feeling of Scotland with regard to this matter.
§ (5.0.) MAJOR JAMESON (Clare, W.)
thought that the reasons given for moving the rejection of this measure were somewhat at variance. At the same time, he quite agreed with the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Spen Valley. He was of opinion that no measures relating to the sale of intoxicating liquors should be taken out of the hands of the legitimate authorities. There was one argument, he thought, against this Bill, which he was surprised had not been brought forward, and that was that the Bill was founded on the Minority Report of the Royal Commission on Licensing, but he would like to ask hon. Members if they had ever analysed the evidence and authority on which that Report was based. He would like to give the House some samples of that evidence. In regard to child drinking the principal witness was a man who bore a foreign name; whether he was German, Spanish, or Italian, he could not say, but clearly he was not an Englishman. His testimony as to having 1157 seen children drinking intoxicating liquors was far from convincing, and he did not think it was such as the House should be asked to legislate upon. Then there was the question of the licensing authority of the future. It was a remarkable circumstance that those who had drawn the Bill were in this matter going away from the recommendations of the Minority Report. That Report (at page 181) called attention to a most important point in which the Scotch system differed from that obtaining in England. In Scotland the licensing authority is chosen by popular election, yet the friends of local option and of temperance reform were now coming forward with a proposal to alter the Scotch system contrary to the recommendations of the Minority Report. There could not be a more cruel parody of local option ideas than was embodied in the Bill before the House. There could be nothing more foolish than the attempt to construct a court of appeal out of the authorities already formed, and he did not believe for one moment that the House would assent to such a proposal, which would be simply stultifying what the House had done in the past. He was sorry to hear an hon. Member opposite assert that Scotland stood on a worse footing than other parts of the United Kingdom in regard to intemperance. He did not believe it, but the statement reminded him of a story with regard to three gentlemen, possibly justices of the peace and members of the licensing body, who intended to go on a two days holiday. One of the gentlemen had charge of the victualling arrangements, and on being asked what he had provided, replied "One loaf of bread and six bottles of whisky." His companion rejoined "Aye, mon, but you are terribly extravagant with the matter of bread."The story might be illustrative perhaps of the thrift of the Scotch people. It was the fact however that they were apt to go from one extreme to the other. The House 1158 should pause before it passed this Bill. The Government had in hand, he believed, a measure dealing with this subject, and they should be afforded an opportunity of laying their views before the House on both the licensing authority and the compensation questions.
He objected to the licensing authority that the Bill proposed to set up, but he would not oppose any tribunal that was elected by those ratepayers whose names were on the Parliamentary Register. It was not wise to disfranchise not merely every one in the trade, but also everybody in any way connected with it. They had already done that. but the promoters of this Bill wanted to go farther, and they were suggesting a plan which would practically disfranchise nine-tenths of the inhabitants of the district from which the Committee was to be elected. If hon. Members were convinced that the present authority was absolutely hopeless—and he confessed he was not—then their better plan would be to let the people on the Parliamentary Register themselves elect the licensing Committee. He asked the House to absolutely and unconditionally refuse to sanction such an enormity as this Bill, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman who was to speak on behalf of the Government would not only deal with the constitution of the proposed licensing authority, but would also state the views of the Ministry on such subjects as adulteration and the supply of food on licensed premises.
§ * (5.15.) THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
Whatever I may have to say with regard to this Bill, I think it is quite certain I am absolved from the duty of criticising its provisions, for it has been denounced in very strong terms by the Member who has just spoken, and who is not identified with the temperance party, while I have also heard a Motion that this Bill be read a second time this day six months brought forward by two hon. Members who are identified with tem- 1159 perance principles in this House. It is quite true that the hon. Member for the Spen Valley, who moved the rejection of the Bill, began by assuring the House that he and his Party had now come to see the common sense of being ready to accept anything they couldget, but nevertheless when he got his fingers into the Bill he so marred its visage with epithets that anything I could say would not be half so picturesque as those he supplied. He declared it to be impossible and retrograde, while the hon. Member for Camborne described it as unwisely conceived and unskilfully framed. No doubt a heroic attempt was made by the Member for Kincardineshire to persuade the House that Lord Peel's Report had once for all united the Members of the Temperance Party, but I am afraid we have not had that spectacle of unanimity today. Hon. Members have spoken of the Bill as not having the least chance of passing, and had utterly refused to discuss anything that might possibly happen in Committee. It was stated that the only reason theBill was brought forward was to elicit from the Government their views upon the thorny and knotty questions of compensation, and so on. The net was spread in the sight of the bird in this case most thoroughly, and I do not think hon. Members have given memuch hope for the future, because the mover of the rejection of the Bill reiterated one thing after another without which no temperance reforms would be possible, and indicated that he could not possibly accept the Bill. If he did that to me standing here, and knew that some day or other I should have to explain the principles of Scotch Bills, it was something like taking an early Christian to see the feeding of the lions.
1160 Why do we object so much to this Bill? Because it does not supply us with what is a sine quâ non in any temperance reform, namely a clean slate. That seems a popular phrase at the present time. A clean slate means that at the end of a short period there shall be a recognised right or duty on the part of the licensing authority to still further reduce licences without any compensation at all. I wonder whether hon. Members have ever considered why there should be any difference as to compensation after the period has expired and during the short period itself. I am quite aware that the hon. Gentleman who adverted to that point was not unmindful of the difficulty that surrounds it, because he characterised what was done in the Bill as a semblance of compensation. But a certain confusion of mind has crept into the discussion of the subject. Compensation may be given as a legal right, or it may be given as a matter of policy. But once you have settled that compensation is to be given, I cannot see that compensation is any different thing to a man whose license is taken away within a limited period, or after the expiration of a limited period. I cannot help thinking that hon. Members for the moment forgot the derivation of the word compensation. Compensation is something which weighing in the balance, will be equal to that which was taken away from the person who is to be compensated. The hon. Baronet the Member for Kirkcudbrightshire, who introduced the Bill, took the view that the compensation provided in the Bill was a real compensation and not a semblance of compensation, and yet that class of compen- 1161 sation is something which the hon. Member for the Spen Valley would not admit has ever been payable at all. I am content with the definition of compensation given in the Majority Report of the Licensing Commission, where they said that, without attempting to weigh to a nicety the whole of the arguments, they desire to express in the case of the suppression of a licensed house their general adhesion to the principle of compensation, equivalent to the fair intrinsic selling value ofthe licence and goodwill apart from the extreme inflation of prices, caused, as in some cases, by excessive competition. I think that is a principle which commends itself to justice and common sense; and it is a principle which is not carried out by the particular provisions of the Bill, and not in accordance with the principles laid down by the Member for Spen Valley, which he said would alone satisfy him. In this matter of compensation there is another confusion of thought that has entered into the discussion. Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Partick, said that what they wanted was a short time during which licenses were to be taken away, and they did not care, although the compensation might be large, because the publican had to pay. On what ground alone can you ask publicans to pay compensation? It can only be on the ground of the enhanced value of the licenses that remain. If that is so, the question of period enters into the question of fixing the available amount of money obtainable for compensation. The truth is that the elements of time and money necessarily run into each other.
There is another point as to taking compensation on the rateable value, 1162 which, I think, was most effectively dealt with by the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries. It is perfectly clear that licenses do not depend upon the rateable value of the premises. I have, however, no time to deal with that. There is another point of the Bill which seems to be equally objectionable, and as to which I am rather surprised that no notice has been taken in the debate. All are agreed that there should be some reduction of the licenses, but I should hope that few are agreed that the reduction is to be on a cast-iron standard bearing a numerical ratio to the population. You would, under those circumstances, entirely disregard the different conditions of congestion of different neighbourhoods, and entirely disregard some places which are comparatively unpopulous in the winter, and yet are thronged in the summer. You would even disregard different days in the week when there would be different requirements. The hon. Member for Partick has made a charge against his countrymen with which I am unwilling to associate myself. It will be found by everybody who will take the trouble to look into the judicial statistics that there has been no increase in the drinking habits of the people. I assure my hon. friends behind me that the Government are fully awake to the very great interest taken in this subject, and to the determination of their supporters that a real effort shall be made to grapple with the question of licensing reform. As has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, it may not all be done in one Bill, but what we shall do and when we shall do it depends a great deal on the time available and the general progress of business. I can not give any particular pledge as to when we shall introduce 1163 this legislation, or what it will actually be, but when we do consider this subject it will be from a Scottish point of view. The circumstances of England are not the same as those of Scotland. We really and earnestly desire to deal with the subject at the first available moment, and to do that is the settled determination of the Government.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
said he was very pleased to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that an honest effort was to be made to deal with this subject—
§ It being half past five of the clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Wednesday, 26th February.