§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. URE (Linlithgowshire)
, in moving that no measure dealing with licensing 1134 reform in Scotland would be satisfactory which failed to include provisions securing direct popular control of the liquor traffic, said that in doing so he would not challenge the claim put forward by the Lord Advocate in introducing the Bill, viz., that it was an honest and fair attempt to tackle a ticklish question. The Bill had received approval from many quarters, in some cases under reservations more or less ample. The House would agree that any measure dealing with the liquor traffic proposed by any Government under any conceivable conditions would certainly fail to please everybody. Many of them thought that the Bill did not go far enough; some of them thought that it went too far; but they were all agreed that it was a step in the right direction. He was sure the Lord Advocate was sick of that phrase. He abominated it, because it was characteristic of countless statutory measures of social reform, which bad perished at their birth. They lacked something which their authors seemed unable or unwilling to give them—a living force. They were all steps in the right direction, but steps which somehow or other did not seem to lead anywhere. He asked why a step? Why not a stride, or a series of strides? If they saw the path straight before them, and the goal on ahead, why should they not tread that path? He supposed they would be told that they must proceed warily, by slow steps, or else they would lose the support of the moderate man. He did not believe it. It was the influence of the moderate man that paralysed reform—the armchair politician, the weak brother, the man who laid low, and who looked wise and said nothing. He (Mr. Ure) was satisfied that temperance reform in Scotland had been delayed for more than a generation of men because of the unreasoning dread of this particular moderate man. He did not say anything of the opposition which the trade and their friends and supporters would undoubtedly give to a measure of temperance reform. He discounted it, he took it for granted, and he made no complaint of it. If he were a publican, or the son of a publican, he should fight to the last gasp for his vested interests. He would do this justice to the trade at all events. 1135 Their position was quite frank and candid. A resolution passed at the conference of the Wine and Beer Trade Defence League at Sheffield on 28th March, 1900, made their position plain and unmistakable. When he found a highly respectable brewer in Edinburgh talking of a pistol being put to their heads, he was speaking simply of the inoffensive Bill they were discussing; and when they found a respectable licensed grocer from the constituency of the Leader of the Opposition suggesting that he should hustle his Member if he did not do what he was told—all he would say was that the House had no complaint to make of plain speaking. They knew exactly where the trade stood. But he made a request, and one only, and he supposed it would be readily granted. It was that the trade would not expect them to discuss again de novo the arguments for and against direct popular control. They must maintain the possibility of making a man sober by Act of Parliament. Why did he affirm that the Bill was unsatisfactory and inadequate and fell short of what they were entitled to expect? Brushing aside all Committee points, such as later openings and earlier closings, extinction of the licensed grocer or the separation of his grocery business from that of the sale of alcoholic liquor, he affirmed that the Bill was unsatisfactory and inadequate because it was in the main a police measure and nothing more, strengthening, no doubt, and enlarging, the powers of the police authorities to put down drunkenness, but not even touching, not even professing to touch, that vast social and national question connected with the drink problem. It did not even touch the fringe of it.
When they considered the appalling dimensions of the problem which confronted them, the provisions of this Bill seemed almost ludicrously inadequate. He would not cull selected passages from the writings or speeches of teetotal lecturers or preachers. He did not turn even to the Minority Report, but he referred to a document which no man in that House would say exaggerated in any degree the extent of the mischief. After making every allowance for the zeal of countless temperance reformers, for the spread of education, the taste for writing, the passion for games and 1136 athletics, the Majority Report of the Royal Commission went on to say—It is undeniable that a gigantic evil still remains to be remedied, and hardly any sacrifice would be too great which would result in a marked diminution of this national degradation.What did this Bill do to deal with that gigantic evil; how did it seek to alleviate the national degradation? The habitual drunkard would be blacklisted, but he would have by way of compensation for his compulsory abstention from alcohol the joy of knowing that his portrait would adorn the walls of the scenes of his former revels. The licensed grocer had got to sell his wares in sealed or closed vessels. The bonâ-fide traveller was a thoroughpaced humbug, for no one who wanted to walk wanted to tipple, and no one who wanted to tipple wanted to walk, and the man who wanted to do both was a pure figment of the licensing laws. Clubs, if they sold drink, were to be put upon a register. That, stripped of the necessary wording in an Act of Parliament, was a brief statement of the measure so far as it proposed to deal with the gigantic evil of national degradation.
Part I. of the Bill dealt with the reconstitution of the licensing authority. He did not brush lightly aside by any means the proposal to reconstitute these licensing authorities; especially when he saw the very ample powers with which they were in future to be armed. What did it come to in the end? It was more than likely that there would be an appeal, and a gnashing of teeth on the part of at least forty odd Royal Burghs, whose ancient privileges were to have ruthless hands laid upon them by the Lord Advocate. He, in company with his right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, shared a sympathetic ear with the Provost of South Queensferry and the Provost of Linlithgow when the Lord Advocate proposed to deprive them of their ancient right to supplant and uproot public houses within their own burghs at their own free will. After all, what did this amount to? It was mere mechanism mere machinery. What was its real value in the Bill? Was the Lord Advocate's proposal to limit the number, and make definite the constitution of these licensing boards, to secure continuity of policy, and a sense of responsibility which they looked for in vain 1137 in promiscuous and fluctuating gatherings of men? He had no doubt that the controversy would be prolonged and very bitter; but did they not all know, as practical men, that when the conflict had subsided, and when the smoke had cleared away, A, B, and C, who were nominated to do a certain thing before, would be elected to do that very same thing.
What the Bill lacked was driving power, vital energy, and living force to cope with this gigantic evil, and to alleviate the national degradation. He proposed to give flesh and life and living force to this measure—not mere machinery with nothing to drive it; and he proposed to look for his motive power at the very root of the gigantic evil, and at the very seat of the national degradation. He proposed to look among the people themselves, whose lives were so very closely bound up with this evil. He proposed to find the people on the widest possible existing franchise. He did not propose absolute prohibition; he did not propose management cither by the local authority or by a company from which the element of private profit was to be altogether eliminated; he did not propose a reduction of the number of public houses in any locality in the ratio of population. What he did propose was that the people, to whom this was not a mere matter of academic discussion, but in many instances a matter of life or death, should be left themselves to choose which of these remedies they thought best adapted to the localities in which they lived. He proposed that the limitations under which the people should apply the remedy should be clear and definite, and should be as few as possible, because flexibility and freedom were essential to his plan, and uniformity and rigidity fatal. The needs of one locality were totally different from the needs of another in variety and distribution of population, and in economical and industrial conditions. To ask the people in any locality to give an answer "Yes" or "No," if it were to be prohibition alone, management alone, or reduction of licences alone, would usually mean that they would have no answer at all to the question. Freedom and flexibility he regarded as absolutely essential. He 1138 did not believe that on the application of the remedy would instantly come the remedy, as no one knew what the people in any given locality might say. What he asked was that those who were most deeply interested, and, therefore, had the best right to consider and decide the question, should get a chance of saying what the remedy might be, and how they proposed to mitigate this national degradation. He proposed to give to the people themselves exactly the right which the law of Scotland gave to every landed proprietor in the country, exactly the right which the law gave to magistrates in however insignificant a Royal Burgh—if there was an insignificant Loyal Burgh—exactly the same right that the nominees of: the Lord-Lieutenant of the county at the present moment exercised.
The arguments were all contained in the Minority Report of the Royal Commission under eleven heads; and under eleven heads also would be found the objections to direct popular control. Two of the eleven objections were applicable exclusively to prohibition; the other nine to popular control. It would be asked were the people of Scotland in favour of direct popular control; and were they ready to undertake the duty and responsibility of deciding this question, in which they were so deeply and vitally interested. He believed they were; but he would not make an unqualified assertion on the subject, as the people of Scotland had not yet been polled on it. Small blame to them. It was no fault of the Opposition, because the last time they went to their constituents there was only one question submitted to them, and electors were told that every vote given to members of the Opposition was a vote given to their enemies in the field. When he came to the Majority Report he found silence on this subject; and there was not a word to indicate whether his countrymen were in favour of this measure or not. The Minority Report, on the other hand, was clear and unhesitating in saying that Scotland was now ready for a wide measure of direct popular control. He had read and re-read every word of the evidence on the subject. The Solicitor-General, who gave most valuable and distinct evidence before the Committee, would find, when he turned up the Index, only one reference under the head of 1139 "Objections to Direct Popular Control." That was in the evidence of the Chief Constable of Greenock; but even he had no objection to the plan of direct popular control he had just sketched. The Chief Constable's objection was to prohibition pure and simple, and what he desired with regard to prohibition was magisterial discretion tempered by local control. Out of the 10,000 answers given by Scottish witnesses before the Royal Commission, he challenged any man to produce any answer which was hostile to direct popular control such as he had sketched. The last time the question of prohibition came forward in this House, forty Scottish Members voted in favour of it and fifteen against. If he were asked what tests they had of the feeling of the people as distinct from their representatives, he would offer two. Dundee, sixteen years ago, had an opportunity of declaring its opinion, and there were nine to two in favour of direct popular control, three to two in favour of prohibition, seven to two in favour of the reduction of licences, and seven to four against any new licences being granted. The great city of Glasgow, which the Solicitor-General would not deny was the embodiment of the collective wisdom of Scotland, had this opportunity a few years later; and by a majority of 77,000 odd against 8,508 declared in favour of direct popular control; and by a majority of 87,000 against 19,000 declared in favour of prohibition.
He must own that his scheme was incomplete and impracticable if it led to the conclusion that a publican of unimpeachable character, who had managed his business without complaint, might suddenly, as the result of the exercise of one of these options, be deprived of business and turned loose on the world with probably a wife and family dependent upon him. Such a conclusion would probably be fatal to any scheme of direct popular control. Vested interests in licences were in Scotland not comprehended. Any limitation upon the absolute, unqualified, unchallengeable right on the part of magistrates and licensing justices to exercise discretion in gradually reducing licences equally he did not 1140 understand. Again, compensation in the strict and narrow sense of the word, the proposal to dip their hand into the ratepayers' pockets in order to hand over money to a dispossessed publican was to a Scotsman simply grotesque. But Scotsmen clearly recognised that the people had legalised this trade, and they saw every day that publicans whose conduct had been unimpeachable had, as a matter of course, their licences renewed. In reliance on this inveterate practice the publicans had embarked considerable sums—oftentimes the savings of a lifetime—in the purchase of licensed businesses. The law had recognised this practice, but it did not ask the publican to appear in Court every time his licence was renewed. They saw quite well that it would be unjust and inequitable to suddenly deprive that man of his livelihood for no fault of his own. Consequently they recognised the justice of giving him a long time notice to quit, and if they did not give him that notice they recognised the justice of giving him money compensation in lieu thereof. They said it was wholly unjust, impracticable and utterly impossible for even the strongest Government to propose to take compensation money out of the pockets of the ratepayers, and they looked, as logical men, for the source of such money payment to the gigantic monopoly which belonged to the people, which they had created and which they had handed over, almost gratuitously, to the publican. An hon. Member proposed seven years as the time notice to be given. He could assure him that the most zealous temperance reformers would not squabble with him about the number of years notice. At this stage there was no room for doubt or difference. He supposed the House would agree that licensed property would probably reach its high water mark in the great city of Glasgow. There twice over within his own knowledge, and within the experience of the Solicitor-General for Scotland the question of the market value of licensed property had been decided by trained lawyers, and the result was that in one case seven and a half years purchase, and in another case eight years purchase, of the net profits were awarded. There was therefore not very much room for difference of opinion, but never again 1141 would pure points of detail be allowed to divide the energies and paralyse the hands of temperance reformers, who had not read aright the history and lessons of the last twenty years if they did not see that in order to gain their main end, viz., control on the part of the people, they must set a great many minor issues in the background. The right hon. Member for East Fife once said in Edinburgh to a zealous band of temperance reformers that the history of this question was a history of lost opportunities. He entirely agreed with that statement, and he would regret to think that this, in one sense probably the most favourable opportunity which had ever been afforded to the House of Commons, of securing the right of popular control, should be lost. The Lord Advocate had in that Chambera steady, sure, and firm majority which would enable him to beat down all his foes. The Government which survived the publication of the Spion Kop despatches, which came up with its majority smiling and triumphant after that long persistent attack on its flank and rear which characterised the opening weeks of the Session, was far more than equal to the Lord Advocate's modest enterprise of giving his countrymen an opportunity of applying their practical sagacity to the solution of a problem, difficult he admitted, but not insoluble, which so closely touched the future of his countrymen. He begged to move.
To leave out all the words from the 'That,' to the end of the Question, and add the words 'no measure dealing with Licensing reform in Scotland will be satisfactory which fails to include provisions securing direct popular control of the liquor traffic'"—(Mr. Ure.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL FOR SCOTLAND (MR. SCOTT DICKSON,) Glasgow, Bridgeton
said he should treat the question as he thought the people 1142 of Scotland intended to deal with it, viz., as a practical matter. No doubt the Lord Advocate, as well as himself, had received almost innumerable petitions and requests from all classes of people in Scotland, temperance and otherwise, to support the Bill as it stood, subject no doubt to possible Amendment in Committee, but he had not received a single suggestion that be or any one should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Linlithgow. With one consent all Scotsmen desired this Bill to pass, and they quite recognised that the Amendment was distinctly a Second Reading Amendment. It went to the principle of the Bill, and he might paraphrase a now famous saying:—"Every Vote for this Amendment is a Vote against the Bill." Apart from pressing the Amendment to a division there was a legitimate reason for bringing it before the House. While they in proposing the Bill quite recognised they did not go so far as many desired, on the other hand they understood perfectly that those on both sides of the House who were more advanced than the Bill did not intend by accepting it to commit themselves against going further. Therefore he agreed that it was quite legitimate that such an Amendment should be proposed in older to make it perfectly plain that whatever might be the good wishes towards the Bill it was not to be regarded from that standpoint as a settlement of the question. The Government might congratulate themselves on the manner in which the Bill had been received. No doubt it was recognised that on many important points, questions for discussion and amendment would be raised in Committee, and no doubt the Lord Advocate would listen to all suggestions with care and consideration, and in some cases, with sympathetic and friendly consideration. But that was an entirely different matter from adopting the Motion now submitted to the House. It would serve little good purpose to discuss the merits of local option, because that had been discussed over and over again in that House, until the question had almost assumed the character of the "hardy annual." But so far as he remembered, it had never received the assent of that House in any shape or form, and while it was an interesting subject of discussion so long as private Members toyed with it, it had had most 1143 disastrous results when taken up by a responsible Minister of the Government. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman for West Monmouthshire will not think I desire to make a merely personal point against him. In 1895, when the then Leader of the House introduced a Bill in favour of local option, Sir Wilfred Lawson, who then represented Cockermouth, congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on his courage, and hoped he would have his reward. That reward was given by the electors of Derby at the General Election in July, 1895, who thereby showed that local option was not regarded with favour even in England.
§ MR. SCOTT DICKSON
said that according to the public prints it had a great deal to do with it. But he did not desire to press the point further than to say that it was much easier for a private Member to make such a proposal than for a Government to take it up. The people of Scotland might be in favour of some aspects of local option, but local option coupled with compensation would in many quarters meet with no favour at all. Such a proposal was an entirely novel one, and had never been submitted to the popular voice; therefore the statistics given by the hon. and learned Member were quite beside the question. Even the Minority Report of the Royal Commission did not go so far as the hon. and learned Member put it, because the farthest they went was to say that at the end of the given period—five years—a wide measure of direct popular control might be applied under proper safeguards to Scotland and Wales. That was a very different tiling from saying, as he understood the Amendment to say, that no measure would be satisfactory which did not at once provide for direct popular control. In this Bill the Government made a large provision for increasing—he would not say the direct popular control, but for increasing the popular voice with regard to licensing questions. While he agreed at once that they were fundamentally at variance with the Motion so far as it proposed direct popular control, the House should not forget that they were making a large advance on anything that had hitherto been done. In the ordinary courts of the 1144 counties one-third of the members were to be taken from the County Councils. That was not direct popular control, but it was the very same control as the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries desired to keep in the smaller burghs. In the Appeal Courts the popular element was to be introduced by one-third of the members being appointed from the Town Council, As to whether the proportions should be two-thirds of justices and one-third of county councillors, he was aware that the two reports differed, but, personally, without in any way pledging his right hon. friend, he thought that was a very small matter which could fittingly be considered and decided in Committee. The House should treat this question, not as a subject for theoretical discussion but as a matter of practical politics. To load the Bill with local option and compensation would wreck the measure. It would be impossible to carry for Scotland—and he doubted whether it could be done even for Wales—a licensing Bill embodying the principles of local option and compensation. Therefore, as practical politicians, hon. Members should ask themselves whether it would not be the wiser course to accept the Bill as it stood, subject to the consideration of proper amendments in Committee.
It was not at all a party question. Not a few Members on the Government side of the House heartily sympathised with the views advocated by the hon. and learned Member for Linlithgow. But the question was not what might be thought proper in some ulterior stage, but what at the present day, as a matter of ordinary common-sense legislation, was likely to pass with a view to the promotion of temperance and the prevention of drunkenness, and the evils attendant thereon. Reference had been made to compensation. He did not understand what compensation was unless it was full compensation. A man could not be given as compensation less than the value of that which was being taken from him. But the questions of what should be the proper compensation, how the amount should be arrived at, whence it was to come, or the form local option or local veto should take—all these questions were not pertinent at present: they were not before 1145 the House as practical questions, and he desired to reserve his opinion upon them. He hoped he had not unduly pressed his own or the Government standpoint. The Bill had been received with a large measure of approval, and he did not wish to say anything to change public feeling in that respect. The political opponents of the Government had been more than fair in the way they had spoken of the Bill; he welcomed the reception which had been given to it, but, recognising that the Amendment struck at the principle of the measure, and that if carried it would mean the loss of the Bill, the Government had no alternative but to oppose the Motion which had been made.
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)
agreed with the view that the carrying of the Amendment would mean the loss of the Bill, and that as practical men they ought to look at the fate of the Bill in considering the Amendment. The Solicitor-General had appealed to the House to deal with the matter as practical men. As a practical man, then, he desired to ask what would be the attitude of the Government in the ulterior stages to which the hon. and learned Member had referred. Supposing it were discovered in Committee that the views of Scot and were altogether favourable to increasing the popular control in a practical sense, would they, viewing the matter with the desire to accede to Scottish opinion, yield to those views, or would they stand to the Bill? In his opinion of temperance measures he was largely guided by the view taken by the publicans. For instance, if they regarded a Bill as a pistol presented to their heads, he thought the Bill on the whole must be a fairly good one, and he, for one, would not vote for the present Amendment in order to make that pistol miss fire. He entirely accepted the view of the Government that in voting against the Amendment hon. Members would not be committing themselves against further progress. He was in favour of popular control and allowing the community to work out their own destiny in all these matters. It was a frequent truism that Scotland was in advance of England in temperance legislation, 1146 but there was not much sign of that truism in the present Bill. In the first place they had not had this Bill in advance of England but following the legislation of last year, and there was not much sign of advance on the merits of the legislation, for in the provisions of this Bill they found that they were substantially left in Scotland where England was put by the measure of last year. In Scotland for fifty years they had had early closing and Sunday closing. In Scotland they made an improvement with regard to early closing in the year 1887. One of the advances they had made was upon the practical topic of early closing in large towns, and in order to keep Scotland really in advance that subject might have been handled in this Bill. That much-needed reform had been passed over without a word. He hoped an Amendment would be placed on the Paper to give the Government a chance of showing whether they were practically in accord with the opinion of Scotland upon this subject. He welcomed this Bill and thanked the Government for it, but he trusted that for once the Government would not be bound hand and foot by the provisions of this measure, but would give effect in the Bill to the opinion of the majority of Scotch representatives. If that course were taken they would at the end make a good Bill of it, and even in the direction of popular control they would make a very considerable advance, if, without fear and trepidation, the Government would listen to the constitutionally expressed opinion of the Scotch Members upon this eminently Scottish affair.
He wished to say one or two words with regard to what he thought were grave omissions from this measure. Viewed in the light of the standard of the measure of last year, he submitted to his two hon. and learned friends opposite that it was a grave omission that in the Scotch Bill no provisions had been introduced upon the question of separation between husband and wife. In the English measure of 1902, this separation order might be granted by a County Court judge upon an application which substantiated the fact that the wife or husband was guilty of habitual drunkenness, and the wife could get separation and aliment if the husband was guilty of 1147 desertion, cruelty or neglect. By the English Act that had been done, but why should it not be done also with regard to Scotland? He recognised that there were certain technical difficulties in the way—questions of jurisdiction if they liked, but he was perfectly sure that if his two hon. and learned friends opposite would address themselves to solving this little technical trouble they could do it in twenty minutes. He would put to them this proposition. Why should they not put a little clause in this Bill making it the law of the land that habitual drunkenness on the part of husband or wife should be held equivalent in Scotch law to cruelty, and giving the same remedy as now obtained in the case of cruelty, and granting separation and alimony accordingly. That was a perfectly simple matter, and all questions of jurisdiction might be reserved. He was quite sure that if the Government addressed themselves to this little reform, it might be in many instances in Scotland a reform of very grave importance in family life. There was no remedy for chronic drunkenness in the home at all, unless that chronic drunkenness was accompanied by extreme brutality. They recognised that one of the most serious social evils was the continued existence of habitual drunkenness producing poverty and misery, and he submitted that the Government might look at this matter with some degree of sympathy and introduce this little reform which would be good for the household, for the children, and also for the habitual drunkard himself. He thought that omission might surely be remedied.
The second omission was in regard to not including the larger burghs in the Early Closing Clause. He knew nothing sadder than the record of legislative delay in regard to the way Scotland had been treated in this matter. In the year 1887 Sir Charles Cameron passed his little Bill giving the power of early closing to all local communities, and in the other House a provision was inserted that towns over 50,000 population should not have the power of closing at ten o'clock but only at eleven. That was sixteen years ago. A Royal Commission had reported in favour of a deletion of that proviso, and here they were to-day with nothing done in this direction even in a practical Bill for 1148 Scotland. This was a deplorable exhibition of lassitude on the part of a strong Government, with a united country, practically, at their back upon this subject. Therefore, he hoped Amendments would be introduced, and that upon this subject substantial progress would be made. Passing from the omissions he came to almost a graver matter, namely, the very serious error in some of its provisions. The first was in regard to the composition of the Court, or licensing authority. He did not know why the Government had deserted the word "authority" in favour of "court." The situation with regard to the licensing authority in Scotland was that they were set up in 1828. Since that time they had had the Reform Bill, they had set up local authorities, and they had had a Conservative Government passing Bills for the institution of County Councils. Nevertheless in the year 1903 they seemed to be tied hand and foot to the old idea of local government. They still had a Court set up consisting of the nominees of the Lord Lieu tenant, because in 1828 there was no other public body known to the law to whom this work could be committed. Why should they hang on to an antiquated procedure of that kind? Why should they not rather acknowledge the institution of new representative bodies? Surely this Government ought to acknowledge them with all the more favour, because they themselves were responsible for the setting up of County Councils all over Scotland. The Solicitor-General for Scotland had spoken of the popular control set up by this Bill, but it was simply popular control according to Unionist ideas. Popular control, whether it be in connection with the Voluntary Schools in England, or in connection with licensing authorities or the Water Boards, was a popular control in which the popular element was controlled. It was popular control in which the popular element was steadily outvoted by two to one, and accordingly he could not see why His Majesty's Government should have any hesitation, except that the facts were against them, in using the term "popular control." His hon. and noble friend the Secretary for Scotland went to Scotland some time ago and defended the Voluntary Schools in England on the grounds that they were set up 1149 with downright popular control. He supposed in the same sense this was downright popular control which was being given to the licensing authorities; that was to say, it was not popular control at all, except that every popular representative had the fine prospect before him that, upon every question of importance, and notably upon the question of granting licences in the district he represented, he would always be steadily outvoted by two to one. He hoped an Amendment would be placed upon the Paper with regard to this point, so that the balance of power might be transferred to the popular element. He did not see why the justices should be included in this matter at all. If the question affected the well-being of the community, he did not see why those who represented the people should not fully control the granting of licences. This matter of the drink traffic was very closely connected with the question of police regulation, and the ratepayers were interested because they paid the police rate, and it was therefore a ratepayers' question. The local representatives were interested because they administered the police rate, and upon this point he wished to give an illustration by quoting the opinion of Mr. Arthur Sherwell upon the drink question in Scotland, who in his recently published book on "The Drink Peril in Scotland,'" said—The closeness of the relation between intemperance and crime has become a truism, but it is nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in the criminal statistics of Scotland. Take the single fact that out of a total of 179,821 persons charged with criminal offences in 1900, no fewer than 114,207, or 63½, percent., were for offences directly connected with drinking.Again, he said—If we turn to the prison statistics, the same truth of the close relation which exists between intemperance and crime is brought out with appalling emphasis. The statements made by a great number of men and women who have come into prison convicted of serious crimes have convinced the Commissioners 'that the majority (probably 66 per cent. at least) of such cases are closely connected with, and have their real explanation in, alcoholism.If that point was clear in regard to the relation of police regulations to the licensing question, he wanted to know why it was that the ratepayers who had to pay the police rate, and those representatives who had to administer the 1150 police rate, should not be fully and completely charged with this matter of social order which was so intimately connected with the police of the district. He had no doubt whatever that there were representatives of the smaller burghs in this House who would have something to say as to whether this was an increased measure of popular control. Forty-eight of these Royal Burghs had their licensing authority at once rudely swept away by this Bill, and he should be interested to know what the opinion of those fine old burghs, such as that represented by his hon. and learned friend the Member for the Dumfries district, was of this proposal, which was for the first time in their history to deprive them of this vital element of local Government, namely, the regulation of the drink traffic in their midst. Then, again, if it were outside of these little burghs he hoped they would have very little of the county idea as such. The wider they made the area of representation, ipso jure the less actually these representatives felt the real pinch and trouble of the question they had to deal with. In the case of a small and limited district, he for one would be willing to entrust the County Councillors of that district alone withfull and unlimited power for the regulation of licensing, but, in any view, what defence could be offered for taking the representatives of those districts and putting them in a permanent minority upon a matter of local government, so requiring local knowledge, so requiring intimate acquaintance with the subject, and even with the persons that came before them—what defence could be offered for putting these representatives in a perpetual statutory minority? He would go so far as to say this, that if this House denied direct popular control in the sense in which he had argued it, either by complete, or, at least, preponderating popular control, this House was only playing with the drink peril, and was simply making free with the representative principle, by loyalty to which they had the best protection for the community against the perils of the drink traffic.
The next terror in this Bill was with regard to the Courts of Appeal. He owned that he was totally against Courts of Appeal. He did not see 1151 why, if they had a true representative body, they had any right whatever to go to another body with a mixture of non-representative element, and to make an appeal from those who were responsible to those who did not know, and who were not responsible. That was what the Court of Appeal meant. Why was there a provision in the Bill that a majority of the Court of Appeal should be always nominated persons—Justices of the Peace? Why should there be what would be considered practically an insult—that the representatives of the communities on the Court of Appeal should always be placed in the proportion of one against two? Besides, in some cases, this was an entirely reactionary measure, because at present in the Courts of Appeal and the Confirmation Courts the burghs were represented in the proportion of half and half, but under this Bill it was proposed to change that, and to make a worse Court of Appeal than before. Under the name of a practical love for popular control they were to change that half and half proportion, under which the representatives of the people had an equal vote, and to make the proportion one against two.
There were two points to which he wished to direct the attention of the Lord Advocate with respect to the drafting of the Bill. He thought the provision with respect to the hawking of liquor was a most excellent one. There had been great scandals in Scotland, and notably at public works, such as water works, remote from the centres of supply, by the abuse of hawking. But with regard to hawking, might he point out that in the drafting of this Bill it would be possible for a grocer to enter a large number of names in his book, say of the navvies engaged on a particular work, with a certain allowance for each of them, because in this Bill there was no provision for a previous order from the individual customer. In fact, a grocer might enter the entire number of employees in a public work in his book, and in this way, instead of preventing hawking, they would be merely regularising it. He said, with some knowledge of these licensing questions, that great astuteness was sometimes shown by a licence holder in disentangling himself from statutory provisions and in finding a way, if possible, of depriving the Court of the power of giving effect to the intention of the 1152 statute. With regard to clubs he rejoiced very much, and he heartily thanked the Government for the provisions in the Bill. That was a great evil in Scotland, and he was glad that a remedy had been found for it. But there was, notwithstanding the precedent of the English Bill, one point that his right hon. friend the Lord Advocate might look into. There were excellent provisions for clubs being, so to speak, disentitled to carry on business, and for their being struck off the list of registered clubs if they did not carry on their business as real bonâ fide clubs, but there was no provision in the Bill of a similar good kind with regard to the institution of these clubs. They seemed to have a statutory right to come into being, and to have their existence continued as long as, and until they were found contravening the Act of Parliament. It appeared to him that it would be wiser that the Legislature should make some provision before a club came into existence, rather than that a club should run the gauntlet of administrative procedure to put it down. He hoped that point would be made clear in Committee. He was not altogether objecting to the Bill. He thought rather they should try to correct the errors and to fill up the omissions. The Bill was good in its provisions with relation to hawking and clubs. He thought it was bad with regard to the authority it set up. On the whole he would welcome it rather than do nothing. Legislation would not touch the real root of this mischief. It would go a little way. They could not altogether say with regard to any legislative measure on this subject that it would provide a panacea. He thought the root of the mischief lay deeper. He regretted to find that amidst all the recent years of our prosperity as a people this curse had dogged our footsteps. Mr. Sherwell put it thus—There is a rise in drunkenness of 550, equal to 72 per cent., and also in breaches of the peace and petry assaults of 990, equal to 78.4 I percent. The latt rare, we understand, caused almost entirely by intemperance. Good trade and high wages among the working classes are no doubt chiefly responsible for the increase in drunkenness and disorder.Dr. Clouston had said—Only a few of us preach teetotalism to all men, or total prohibition, or any other such strong measure. But from our experience in practice, our knowledge of human nature in 1153 its dual relationship of body and mind, and its hereditary weaknesses, doctors are able to speak with authority in regard to the diseases—potential and actual, present and future—which the excessive consumption of drink is causing in our population. A consumptive race might conceivably he absolutely cured in two generations, or even in one, by good conditions. I do not believe that a drink-sodden race could be fully cured in a hundred years.That was the defence of all this legislation. It was that they desired to take up the cause of this drink-sodden residuum of the population, to give the population itself the power of dealing legislatively, by such preventive measures as it could, with the temptations which were afforded under our present system to such a residuum, to destroy all those temptations, to lift and elevate society, to make better surroundings, and to give force to personal example. All these things must combine, but on the whole this Bill was to be welcomed firstly as a recognition of the gravity of the evil; and secondly, in some of its provisions as a helpful step forward.
§ MR. SHAW-STEWART (Renfrew, E.)
proposed to deal with one or two points raised by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. It was contended by him that his scheme possessed the virtues of flexibility and freedom, but he would like to ask what freedom or flexibility there was in prohibition? If the Amendment were adopted they must inevitably adopt as one of the alternatives the power of localities voting for prohibition in particular districts. That element of prohibition would largely tell against the advantage of the hon. Member's proposal. Prohibition would be a vital disadvantage. It would for instance, compel a certain number of people living in a district where local sale was prohibited to crowd into another district where licensing obtained. That would be a very great evil. Secondly, it would encourage the formation of bogus clubs, which was one of those evils they all desired to put an end to. Thirdly, localities, after adopting prohibition for a certain number of years, might, and probably would, reverse their policy. That had been done in America and Canada, where the pendulum had swung from one extreme to the other. That 1154 would tell against the interests of temperance. A steady and careful reduction of licences throughout the country in cities and in counties would be a far better scheme for promoting a steady improvement in the drinking habits of the people than any proposal which contained the element of prohibition. That was why he and other Members on that side of the House could not possibly vote for the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down thanked the Government for their Bill. He wished to join in those thanks. He thought they were all grateful to the Government for having thus early dealt with temperance reform in Scotland in this Session.
There was one point which they had omitted, and for this he expressed strong regret. They had not attempted to deal with the question of compensation, even after the experience the Government had had in regard to the English Bill, and what had occurred since the passing of that measure. They had seen in England a considerable reduction of licences for no breach of the law. It was said that it was impossible for the Government or anybody else to have foreseen such a state of things, but he maintained that those who had watched public opinion might and ought to have seen that there had been for some time past a steady determination in the country to have a more careful regulation of the liquor traffic, and amongst other methods which public opinion had lately emphasised was the reduction in the number of licences. If that reduction by a local authority occurred in England it was certain to occur in Scotland, especially after the passing of this Bill. By setting up a new authority for dealing with licences, the Government showed that a more careful regard ought to be had to the granting and the control of licences. In the present state of public opinion, what would inevitably result but a desire to reduce the number of public houses by withholding certificates from the worst kind of public houses? The local authorities in Scotland would find themselves in a difficulty. On the one hand they would be averse to withholding certificates from a poor individual, while it was probably the class of house held by people not of great substance which required to be withdrawn. But the local authorities would not like to turn out a 1155 poor man or woman and sacrifice his or her capital. They would have to choose between injustice to the individual and injustice to the general public. The only way in which that difficulty could be met was by a well-considered scheme of compensation. He did not see why a scheme of that sort would be so very difficult to pass this session of Parliament, because the difficulties were not insuperable. Once they established such a scheme, the licensing authorities would not be slow to withhold certificates from the worst kind of houses, which had committed no breach of the law but which did not carry on business in a very satisfactory manner. Therefore, from the point of view of temperance, he urged this matter of compensation. He also urged it from the point of view of justice to the publican—to the trade. After all the publican was not outside the pale of fair play. The trade was carried on under great difficulties. There were so many points of law to attend to and dangers to guard against, that it must be very difficult to conduct licensed premises in a proper and respectable manner at all. Why should they not treat the publican and licence holder as they treated any other trade, namely, on fair and equitable lines? It was true that the licence holder held his certificate from year to year, but when he died the Inland Revenue charged the licence, the property and the goodwill of the business at an enhanced value, which arose from the likelihood of the business being continued. He also urged compensation from the standpoint of public advantage. If they harassed the trade and permitted it to be carried on on a sort of chance principle, depriving a man of his licence without compensation, they would drive out of the trade the best men and would keep in it the very men who conducted their business in the worst way. He thought that after a term of years which could easily be decided upon, during which compensation should be given, the licences should only be from year to year, and if that were so there would not be so much paid in the first instance for goodwill. At any rate, he urged that a scheme of compensation for a settled period of years was the only way of determining the question. The compensation should be provided by the trade, and he believed the bulk of the trade would be satisfied that it should be 1156 so. He thanked the Government for introducing the Bill, and especially for that part which dealt with clubs and the hawking of liquor in vans. That would be a good provision, especially in mining districts, and would do a great deal of good in the country.
§ MR. WALLACE (Perth)
said his hon. friends who criticised the Bill had not the slightest intention of attempting to wreck it or hinder its passing. They wished, on the contrary, to give it their cordial support, but felt that it was not adequate to the necessities of the times, and that a great opportunity had been missed by the Government, seeing that Scottish opinion was ripe for a very much larger measure of reform than that now before them. They accepted with gratitude the Bill as an instalment, and they intended to show that gratitude by asking for more as soon as the Bill was passed. As for the Amendment of his hon. and learned friend, it was moved in order to give them an opportunity of saying—and they wanted to say it plainly—that whilst they supported the Bill and accepted it fully from the Government now, they did not in the slightest degree abandon the position which many of them had taken up in Scotland and in this House with regard to the question of local option. In accepting this Bill, it might be said it was an abandonment of that position. They recognised that the Bill went a certain way to meet their demands, and they took it as they would take anything that they believed was for the good of the people of Scotland; but in doing that, they still held to the view that it was for the people of Scotland to regulate this matter. He did not suppose that some of his hon. friends opposite, who in times past supported motions in favour of local option, were disposed to regard this Bill as an absolute settlement. They, therefore, were simply using this Amendment—and the right hon. Gentleman would thoroughly understand the position—as a method of expressing that view. He thought the Solicitor-General made one mistake. He said that the Motion of his hon. friend was a new Motion; that it was a proposal for local option in a new shape; and that his hon. and learned friend had become a convert 1157 to the principle of compensation. He did not know where the Solicitor-General got that view from. He was quite sure it was not the view of his hon. and learned friend. His hon. and learned friend assented to that. It had never been proposed by the temperance party in Scotland that by accepting local option they were going to couple with it compensation. His hon. and learned friend did refer to what had been so much discussed in Scotland, viz., the question of the time notice. His hon. friend the Member for East Renfrew, introduced the topic of compensation into the discussion of the Bill, although it was not, perhaps, strictly relevant, as there was no reference to compensation in the measure. He could quite easily understand why there was not. He had no doubt there were many who would wish to see such a provision in the Bill; but he believed the Lord Advocate would find that if he were to introduce a clause in the Bill giving compensation for licences taken away at the discretion of the magistrates he would arouse such hostility on both sides of the House as would absolutely wreck his Bill. We are not disposed to accept the principle of compensation. His hon. friend opposite said that they did recognise it, and that the law recognised it, because if a license holder died, his estate was valued, and on the value of the licence probate duty was paid. But the licence was simply valued on the chance of renewal, and that chance existed in the knowledge that it might be exercised the other way, and the licence taken away. He was quite sure they would never consent to any measure which, by introducing compensation, would completely fetter the discretion of the licensing authorities and prevent the taking away of many licences in Scotland.
He rejoiced in many of the provisions of the Bill, but there were one or two to which he strongly objected. He objected to the destruction of the licensing authority in the old and ancient Royal Burghs. That did not affect the burgh he represented; but he regretted that where they had forty or fifty little centres with a licensing authority in each, that that authority should be taken away He also objected to the largo preponderance of the non-responsible justices' power, in connection with licensing courts, which was about to be established. It might be said 1158 that that was an advance on that which they had at present, and that in introducing the elective element at all the Government had gone forward. He recognised that fact, but he often found that to go forward a little way, for they did not go far enough, was often the most dangerous thing in the world, because it prevented them ever getting to the proper goal. The introduction of this representative element would be an excuse for years to come for doing nothing in connection with this matter. They had an opportunity now of dealing with these new licensing authorities; let them introduce a much larger infusion of the elective element, and recognise in that sense the demand for more popular control. With regard to the bonâ-fide traveller, his hon. and learned friend said that that person was the greatest humbug in the world. So he was. The bonâ fide traveller, as they knew him in Scotland, was not a man who drank because he travelled, but who travelled that he might drink. The greatest curse in Scotland was the condition of many of the smaller towns on Sundays—where they had temperance and sobriety in the past. Ever since the introduction of the bicycle, which enabled the countryman to quickly cover his three miles, the streets in some of the country towns were a perfect disgrace to Scotland on Sundays owing to the bonâ-fide traveller. It was not as bad as that in Perth, where only one or two drunken persons were to be seen, and that not often; but in the towns surrounding it anyone must recognise what the bonâ-fide, traveller was doing to demoralise the community among whom he came, and must feel that they must have a large extension of the distance which would qualify for drinking, and that the Bill must deal with this matter in some way. He cordially thanked the right hon. Gentleman for having introduced the Bill, and could assure him that, although they would do their best to amend it, they would take care not to destroy or retard it.
§ SIR JOHN BATTY TUKE (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
said he took that opportunity of expressing his regret that that important provision in the English Act, already alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for the Border 1159 Burghs, was omitted from this Bill. It was a matter of great satisfaction to him that when the English Bill was passing through the House there was no opposition to it. England was ripe for such a measure, but Scotland was even more ripe and ready to accept a stronger measure. Knowing that fact, it surprised him extremely to find that there was no mention of the provision to which he referred. He wished he could say that there was no need for such a measure in Scotland. Alas! it was not so. Hon. Members, and especially members of the medical profession, knew of many miserable cases. He assured the House that never a week, certainly never a fortnight, passed without some unhappy man or woman coming to him and complaining of the wife or husband, and begging that he would give them some protection. He would take almost the last case that came before him. A man in a respectable position came to him and said—My wife is an habitual drunkard, she gets liquor wherever she can, she goes out and gets it or sends the servants for it, and she is ruining our children physically and morally by her drinking and neglect. She is ruining my prospects, and soon I shall be a poor man Are there no Acts which will give me protection?His answer, of course, was that there were none; that the permissive Acts were absolutely futile; and that he must face his miserable position because the State gave him no relief. Much better would that man's position have been if he were able to tell him that there was a certain amount of protection for him; and that on proof before a court that his wife was an habitual drunkard, he could have a separation from her. At present there was no protection at all. These cases were inexpressibly sad, and were worse than cases of lunacy, for which there was a remedy provided by the State. A two or three line clause in the Bill on the same lines as that indicated by the hon. Member for Hawick Burghs would be beneficial, and sufficient for his purpose. He should certainly move a clause to that effect and make every effort to get the House to consent to it.
§ MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
said that while agreeing with the general purport of the eloquent and able speech of the hon. Member for Linlithgow, he would not be able to support the Amendment 1160 if taken to a division, on account of the words that no measure could be satisfactory which did not embody a particular proposal. The satisfactoriness of a Parliamentary measure was an exceedingly elastic quality, and when considering whether a measure was satisfactory, he should consider many things, as for example, the Government which was in power. Whenever he heard of the present Government introducing a measure of temperance reform he always relegated himself to the category of people who were blessed if they expected little. They had seen in the last few years that it was almost impossible to get the temperance camel through the eye of the Parliamentary needle. He, for his part, was always pleased if he could get a limb or two through. There were two tests which he always applied to such a Bill as this to see if he could support it. One was whether it went a step in the right direction, and the other was whether it drove any wedge between them and further temperance reform. This measure answered both tests. It was a good measure so far as it went, and it would not prevent them going further. While welcoming the measure, the main impression it left upon him was that of disappointment. He thought the Government missed a golden opportunity. The late Archbishop of Canterbury had said that this was not a brave Government, but it would be a brave Government that undertook to finally settle this question in Scotland. He rather sympathised with the Solicitor-General of Scotland, and the shock to his nerves in even contemplating such a possibility. No doubt, he saw a vision of himself in the midst of different classes of temperance reformers, each intoxicated with his own solution of the question. Under such circumstances naturally the Solicitor-General was not loath to soothe his nerves by appealing to the Minority Report of the Royal Commission. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had told them that the Minority Report had suggested that before this terrible Armageddon of temperance was to take place five years must elapse. Why must live years elapse? Because five years before this question could be settled they must make an arrangement for a time compensation for licences, and lay down a limit after which they were to be 1161 dealt with by the public. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman embody that in his Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman rather plumed himself on the fact, that while he had not given local control he had given a sort of local control, inasmuch as the licensing authorities would now be more directly elected by the people than before. That was an excellent principle, and he welcomed it, but if that principle was right it must logically go a great deal further. Why should the right hon. Gentleman stop at one-third of the local representation? It would be argued by the Government that they were not anxious to introduce into the elections of County Councils too much of this temperance agitation, but if any fraction of the licensing authority was to be selected by the majority of the County Council, the element of agitation would enter all the same, whether the fraction was big or small. If they admitted that the licensing authority should be elected by the people, they at once cut out the whole foundations of the system of appeal, why should they have an appeal at all? Why in boroughs should they appeal from an authority that was entirely elected by the people to an authority very largely not so elected—an authority composed mainly of outsiders who had no connection with, and possibly no knowledge of, the place. Such an appeal was absolutely ludicrous. If they were going to have an appeal at all they must appeal more directly to the people. The only logical appeal against a licence would be to a referendum of the people. He frankly admitted that such a principle would be very difficult to adopt in practice, and he hoped that when this Bill came into Committee the Government would accept an Amendment to carry their convictions to their logical extent by abolishing the appeal entirely. He should like to have a declaration of what was the policy of the Government with regard to the question of licensed grocers. At present there was a clause which stipulated that licensed grocers should sell only in sealed vessels. That was very good, but the provision went further and said they should not keep drink on their premises except in sealed vessels. This provision seemed to let the hawk loose among the 1162 pigeons. The trade had taken it up most seriously, and they stated if they were not allowed to bottle whiskey or beer on the premises and to blend, there would be an end to their trade altogether. A deputation waited on Lord Balfour of Burleigh, and from the report of what he said he gathered that there was some idea of the Government accepting an Amendment which would allow the licensed grocer to continue this bottling and blending of drink. He was against having any connection between licensing and grocers, but he was willing to be reasonable. He did not want to administer to the grocers a slow poison, but he would rather deal with them in a straightforward and frank manner, and he would be willing to make a deal with the Government and say that the provision should be removed from the Bill providing they would add a clause which, while not at once doing away with all grocers' licences, would prevent the authorities from granting any new grocers' licences. So far as the Bill went it was a good measure, and he should support it and be thankful for small mercies.
§ SIR J. STIRLING-MAXWELL (Glasgow College)
said there had been a very pleasing harmony about this debate, but the attitude of mingled disappointment and gratitude with which the House had received the measure was not very inspiriting. He had been very much struck with what was said by the hon. Member for Linlithgow about the reconstruction of the licensing authorities, and the hon. Member spoke in this connection of a rabble. He was, however, very much surprised to find that the remedy the hon. Member proposed was to go to a rabble indeed, for he said these matters ought to be decided by a popular vote on the widest possible suffrage. He agreed with what the hon. Member said in condemnation of the justices, and he liked the provision dealing with the subject in the Bill because it remedied the defects which he thought the justices had shown up to now. He wished to draw the attention of the House to the astonishing omission from the Bill of any attempt to deal with earlier closing in the large cities. He did not think it was necessary for the Government to hold an opinion in favour of that extension of 1163 powers; but he should say there was an almost unanimous wish in Scotland that those powers should be extended. He contended that the Government were quite wrong in leaving this question undecided. One aspect of the case which was not without importance was a question at this moment undecided—that was to say, it was doubtful whether, under the Act of 1862, large cities had not already the power of earlier closing. It seemed to him that any Government in seriously tackling the licensing problem acted quite wrongly to shirk this question. Another matter he would liked to have seen dealt with was the difficulty of reducing the number of licences. He did not say that even a large reduction would produce the benefit which some people expected from it, but no strong licensing body could be created without the question of the proper number of public-houses in their district coming before them in an urgent form, and in some cases it would be decided that the number ought to be reduced. In view of what had happened in England, it was evident that in the absence of any system under which compensation could be awarded, the licensing authority had not really a free hand in the matter, and that, whatever their powers under the law might be, they would never make full use of them. In avoiding this matter the Government had been peculiarly timid, inasmuch as the principle had already been decided by the Prime Minister, and though he did not agree with all his right hon. friend had said on the matter, some of his statements going dangerously far, he thoroughly agreed that the present position of affairs was intolerable, and that something ought to be done to remedy it. The compensation scheme suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Linlithgow seemed to be one which might wisely be adopted, and one which he believed could easily be carried through the House. While he welcomed the Bill as being drawn on right lines where it touched the matter at all, it was a real disappointment that a Bill, produced under better auspices than any previous licensing measure had ever been, should have been marred by such grave omissions. He earnestly hoped the Government would make up their minds in Committee, not only to consider, but to accept, Amendments largely increasing the 1164 scope of the Bill, and carrying out the reforms to which he had referred.
§ MR. CHARLES DOUGLAS (Lanarkshire, N. W.)
said the scheme propounded by the mover of the Amendment suffered under the disadvantage that while it existed partly in the memory and partly in the hope of the hon. Member it had no existence in print, and consequently the House were at a loss in considering it. He agreed that there was a strict limit to the utility of the purely police regulations, of which the Bill was largely composed, because, excellent as they were, they easily and rapidly fell into disuse. In a few years the black list would be of little importance, and the grocers' licence pass-book of small value. The cause of this was the fact that the licensing authority had behind it so little serious motive power, so little sense of responsibility. On that ground he welcomed the introduction of the new principle of placing a popular element on all licensing authorities. There would then be on all what now did not exist on any—a body of opinion selected by popular representatives for the sole purpose of dealing with the function of licensing. It was true the magistrates represented popularly elected bodies, but they were appointed for a number of purposes other than that of licensing. But once that principle was introduced it would be difficult to resist the argument for widely extending it. If the County Councils were allowed to select representatives specially for licensing purposes, might it not be equally reasonable to allow town councils not to depend simply on the magistrates but to select a licensing committee solely for licensing purposes. In the same way, if the popular element was admitted at all, was it not reasonable to suggest that it should be admitted to a much larger extent. It was true that this "hybrid committee" had high authority, and the proposal of it was of great importance, but would it not be simpler and more reasonable to leave the matter altogether to representatives appointed by the County Council, and eliminate the justice of the peace element entirely. The reason the change was being made was that the justices of the peace had done badly, and it was hoped to improve the action of the licensing authority by displacing them in part. 1165 Were the Government not much more likely to effect their purpose by displacing them altogether on the ground of their failure properly to discharge their functions? This composite body was essentially a compromise, but it was difficult to see the ground on which the compromise was made. It could not be that the County Councils were considered less likely than the justices to provide suitable men, because they were to be allowed to select members of the authority, while if the view was that there might be a difference of opinion or policy between the justices and the representatives of the County Councils that was the strongest possible reason for leaving the justices off entirely.
In the Appeal Court there obtained the same vicious principle of allowing the non-elective element to dominate the popular representatives. The retention of this proportion of magistrates might avoid some of the distractions at County Council elections, but it would not prevent the discussion of these matters. Instead of having only one theatre of agitation, viz., amongst the justices, the Government were creating two, because, in addition to the canvassing and political activity at the County Council elections there would still be the canvassing which prevailed at present, but instead of taking place at the election of justices it would occur at the election of the licensing Courts. Instead of concentrating, the Government were actually widening the area in which the conflict between public opinion and the trade could arise. He did not shrink from that contest, but it was desirable that it should be narrowed as much as possible, so that there should be the smallest opportunity for the licensed trade to influence the administration of public affairs. As to the proposal with regard to the Appeal Courts, he did not think the small burghs, whether Royal or others, had furnished the most happy cases of licensing administration. It would be much better to raise the limit than to lower it, and to create only such licensing committees as would be sufficient in themselves, and would not need the complicated supervision of the Appeal Court. In fact, he would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should make 1166 the licensing area coincide with the police area, with a population of 20,000 as the minimum.
He agreed with those who had expressed their regret at the omission from the Bill of any provisions dealing with the question of the reduction of licences. The reduction of the number of licences, though it might be less necessary in Scotland than in some parts of England, was an essential element in any real measure of reform. It had become more than ever necessary that Parliament should take some action in this matter on account of the recent speech of the Prime Minister. He could not help thinking that a very grave and difficult situation was created by the language which had been used by the Prime Minister upon this subject, the only effect of which would be to harass the magistrates in the discharge of their duty. In the present state of the law a hardship might easily be imposed, but the effect of the language of the Prime Minister would be to deter magistrates from reducing licences without compensation. He thought the Government might have left the magistrates free to exercise their own discretion in the matter. There was one other matter. He thought there was considerable reason to suppose that in the future, and indeed in the near future, a good deal of drinking in the country was likely to be done outside the licensed houses. It had been recognised that a difficulty had been created by the extraordinary abuse of the club system, which he was glad had been dealt with in the present Bill. He hoped the provisions in regard to clubs would be made more effective. There was another theatre of action besides the licensed houses and the clubs—he alluded to the trust public houses which were springing up all over Scotland. By this system they might easily have a most serious danger created. They had not only to consider the large trusts, but there were springing up small trusts, confined to a single village, managed as a village company not under the control of their neighbours, but managing public houses which were returning fixed interest on capital and which devoted the rest of their profits to public purposes. That was all very well, but they had very little security against breaches of the Licensing Laws and bad 1167 management, and there was little security against public scandal in the small public houses. He thought this case presented a state of matters different to that of the ordinary licence holder. They had a licence held in the name of those who either did not own or did not manage the licence itself, and he ventured to suggest that it might be possible to include in the Bill at the Committee Stage some clause by which companies such as those he had described should be allowed to hold licences only which had been approved by the Secretary for Scotland or some other responsible authority. They might in a few years time develop into houses with a hold on the popular sympathy which would be so great that it would be difficult for any licensing authority to displace them. The matter could be easily dealt with, because these houses were few, but if they became numerous, a few years hence Parliament might find it difficult to deal with them. He hoped the Lord Advocate would not think they were dissembling too much their appreciation of this Bill. He joined with his hon. friends in saying that he had no wish to obstruct the Bill, he rather wished to strengthen the hands of the Government in dealing with the question.
§ MR. CORBETT (Glasgow, Tradeston)
said that any great recognition of public control would raise in an acute form the question of compensation. When he spoke of compensation he did not refer to differences of opinion as to issues involving merely questions of time limit. The speech of the hon. Member for Perth was an indication as to how there was a confusion of opinion upon this point because he alluded to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment as not being in favour of compensation because he only advocated the time limit, while he alluded to the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire as an advocate of compensation, although the hon. Member who introduced the Amendment described himself as being in favour of a time limit of exactly the same number of years as advocated by the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire. Some hon. Members had spoken as if this were a great opportunity of passing a far-reaching measure of temperance reform. His opinion was that this was a time when they should 1168 be very careful and watch what they were doing. They know that a very influential body of the supporters of the Government had told them that they had made the Government and they could unmake it. They had demanded that the licences, which had hitherto been recognised as merely constituting rights from year to year, should be recognised in the future as freehold, and that a vested interest would be set up amounting to probably hundreds of millions which would interfere with all temperance prospects for the future. There might be many opinions as to the facilities for the supply of drink, but there would be no differences of opinion in Scotland as to the compensation he had alluded to. Therefore, in the suggestions he had to offer he would avoid doing anything which might raise the larger issues.
He agreed with his hon. friend who had addressed the House as to the importance of large towns no longer being exposed to the disability of being excluded from the advantages of ten o'clock closing. He believed that exclusion was never wanted by public opinion in those large towns. When addressing a large meeting of Unionists in his own constituency he asked for a show of hands on this question, and practically all present held up their hands in favour of including all large towns within the scope of that measure, and not a single hand was held up in favour of the continued exclusion of large towns from the operation of ten o'clock closing. There was practically unanimity of opinion on that subject among the whole population of Glasgow, with hardly any opposition except a partial opposition from the trade, and the Government would greatly disappoint the people of the large towns in Scotland if they prevented them enjoying advantages which had done so much good throughout the smaller communities. He was glad that this Bill dealt with clubs. The municipalities of Scotland introduced a measure which would have dealt even more effectively with this question. He believed the Government proposals were the very best that could be found if they were to stop short of giving full discretionary power. This matter would never be 1169 effectively dealt with until they gave the licensing authority the same discretion with regard to clubs as they gave them with regard to licensed victuallers, premises. They would always be liable to evasion until they entrusted to some body the question whether a club was a nuisance to the neighbourhood or not.
He was glad that this Bill contained provisions to deal with grocers' vans, which had been described as travelling public-houses. He believed those provisions required to be strengthened, and every one of those vans should be able to produce a written signed order from the customer. If that were done a great amount of security would be gained. There was another point upon which he felt very strongly indeed. There was unquestionably a considerable number of people who felt the temptation to strong drink to such an extent that it made life to them a burden. During the fair holidays in Glasgow it was possible to visit homes where the men, days after their holidays, did not venture to cross their threshold for fear of the temptation that awaited them outside. If they could say to all such individuals "We will give you the power of signing a declaration before the justices of the peace that you desire your name to be added to the list of those to whom liquor should not be supplied," it would be a good thing. He believed that would free those individuals from a terrible burden and bondage, and great good would be done to all those depending upon such men. Although he offered those suggestions he could not agree with those who said that the advantages offered by this Bill were of a trivial character. He had had conferences upon this subject with the representatives of all the temperance organisations in Scotland, and they all agreed with him in thinking that this was a Bill which must not be lost. They saw in it very valuable provisions which would advance materially the interests of temperance, and with those interests were bound up the interests and the prosperity of the people.
§ MR. ASHER (Elgin Burghs)
said he was one of those who thought that nothing should be done at the present 1170 stage of this Bill to prevent the measure going to the Committee. He was supported in that view by the statement of the Solicitor-General for Scotland, who had distinctly indicated that in Committee the Government would keep an open mind with regard to these questions which were being discussed, and with regard to which it was quite evident there was a feeling, particularly on this side of the House, in favour of the Bill being materially strengthened.
Some differences of opinion had been expressed as to how far the present opportunity should be taken advantage of to extend local control of the liquor traffic. He should think that both sides of the House would be agreed that, at any rate in the present case, nothing should be done to take away any measure of local control which was now existing. He rose chiefly for the purpose of voicing the views of those who, he thought, had been very unfairly treated by this Bill. He meant the smaller burghs. The smaller burghs were those that comprised a population of under 7,000, and they were to be deprived by this Bill of the jurisdiction which they had exercised for a very long period of time. He protested against the view that in discharging their duty as licensing authority they had in any way fallen short of the standard which had been maintained by the magistrates in the larger burghs. It was quite true that the Licensing Court, consisting of the magistrates of a burgh, might not be an ideal licensing authority, but at least it had this merit: that the Licensing Court consisted of persons who were the representatives of the people, whose tenure of office was for a limited period, and who had periodically to answer to their constituents for the manner in which they had performed their duty as Licensing Court, as well as in regard to their other function as burgh magistrates. What did this Bill propose to do with regard to that? Every burgh of under 7,000 of a population was to be deprived altogether of their licensing bodies, and what was to be substituted for it? There was to be a court consisting to the extent of one-third of magistrates of the burgh, and to the extent of two-thirds of justices of the peace. He thought he was entitled to say that though they had heard a great deal about steps in the right direction, this 1171 proposal could only be characterised as a retrograde step—a step in the opposite direction to that which they all desired. It was displacing a body representative in the sense he had described, and substituting for it a body which to the extent of two-thirds consisted of gentlemen who were representative of nobody but themselves, whose tenure of office was perpetual, and who were the nominees of the Lord-Lieutenant of the county. He confessed, speaking with all respect for the justices of the peace, that he thought it would puzzle the wit of man to devise a, worse licensing authority than the justices of the peace. He had no doubt they discharged their duty conscientiously, but he believed the general impression throughout Scotland was that they were the worst licensing authority that could possibly be created. Were the small burghs not entitled to complain of a proposal which took licensing within the burghs, out of the hands of the elected magistrates of the burgh, and placed it in the hands of a body which to the extent of two-thirds was not elected and non-representative—a body in which, with all respect to the justices of the peace, the public had no confidence as a licensing authority. He hoped that among those questions which the right hon. and learned Gentleman in charge of the Bill intended to keep his mind open upon, this would be one. He thought in dealing with those small towns the right hon. Gentleman had gone altogether in the wrong direction. Burghs were communities for local administration. They had a distinct civic life, apart altogether from that of the adjacent county, and he could not imagine any matter in regard to which they were, more fully and freely able to regulate themselves than in the matter of licensing. He said he thought it would have been a proposition far more likely to commend itself to the people of Scotland if his right hon. and learned friend, instead of withdrawing this jurisdiction of the magistrates and conferring it upon a body such as he had described, had set to work to reform the Licensing Courts in those burghs. If, instead of leaving authority in the hands of magistrates, who, it was quite true, were not elected direct for licensing purposes, but were elected by the Council, 1172 he had conferred on the Council the power of electing a special Committee of their own number to deal specifically with the matter of licensing, and if he had, when he came to deal with the small burghs, adopted a course like that, he himself felt that it would have commended itself to the people of Scotland generally, and also to the inhabitants of those burghs. It was not unnatural that in dealing with a question like this there should be a feeling of hostility with regard to the Bill. There were between forty and fifty burghs in Scotland, many of them county towns of importance, with 5,000 or 6,000 inhabitants, which were to be so treated. He was in a position to say that there was a unanimous feeling throughout the whole of that section of the community that the proposal in this Bill was a grave injustice, and that if the Bill were to pass without this being rectified it would be received with feelings of hostility on the part of that section of the Scotch community.
He thought that it was most desirable that this Bill should be put into a shape which would make it an effective and useful measure of licensing reform, and he felt perfectly sure that if the Scotch Members were allowed to express their opinions freely and if the right hon. Gentleman would give effect to the feelings of hon. Members on this matter, the Bill might be made a most useful licensing reform with regard to Scotland. He thought the Scotch Members were in a position to assist the Government to make this a useful measure. Many of them were making considerable sacrifices of their opinions on this matter. He had no hesitation in saying for himself that his own opinion went a long way in advance of anything in the Bill in the way of popular control of the liquor traffic, but as practical men they were aware that it was impossible to pass a Bill up to the standard many of them desired. In dealing with the Bill they would give every assistance in their power to make it a useful measure, and they hoped that in return the Government would keep an open mind in regard to the matters to be brought forward in Committee.
MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)
said he was glad to hear from the opposite side that the Amendment proposed by his hon. friend would not be pressed to a division. It seemed to him that it would put hon. Members in a false position if they had to vote upon it. He would regard whole and direct popular control as absolutely necessary for any deep solution of this great question, but at the same time he was not in the least surprised that it had not been undertaken at the present moment; in fact he thought with his hon. friend behind him that it would be an inauspicious moment to attempt that. They were all aware of the great tempest that had recently been raised in England on this question. The whole question of popular' control, compensation, and interference with licences, had been brought forward in England with an acuteness which had never before been witnessed, and he thought therefore that this would be a very inappropriate moment for the modest and comparatively simple and easy Scotch question to come under consideration, while they did not know what was being done in regard to the greater English question which surrounded them.
Everyone who had spoken in the present debate had been to a very great extent agreed upon the fearful evil drunkenness caused in the country, and they were agreed also on the necessity of legislation to meet it. It was no use to go over the statements made by every responsible person as to the serious increase of drunkenness in the country. Drunkenness increased along with prosperity. It was not misfortune or want that drove people to drink. It was a fact that when prosperity came and wages went up drunkenness and its consequent crime increased in proportion, or in more than proportion. He thought it ought to be acknowledged that the necessity for legislation was recognised by the Members of the Trade, and that they were prepared, to a much greater extent than some of the allusions in the debate might lead people to suppose, in a reasonable and liberal I way to deal with the proposals which were now being made—proposals which were to a great extent equally as valuable to the Trade as they were to the people. These proposals would make their position more clear and certain, 1174 and would give remedies against the action of those black sheep who did the reputation of the whole Trade very much harm. They could not expect to have agreement from the Trade in all the restrictions they wished to put on them, but he thought it should be acknowledged that the Trade were perfectly willing to accept legislation which would greatly improve the position with regard to their affairs. He thought that everyone who accepted this Bill, and at the same time thought it should go much further, ought to make it clear that they in no way gave up those claims to press the matter further which they had maintained in the past. For his part he had at repeated elections always taken the same line, namely, that he approved to the full of direct popular control, provided there was sufficient consideration given for the individuals whose interests were concerned. He had again and again on the hustings supported that view. He believed that popular control was needed over the traffic, whether it came to the actual veto, which in some localities would be most suitable—or whether it meant the limitation of licences or a system of management either by the local authority or a company to whom it delegated its powers. They would not make general social changes at the expense of individuals, and if they were displacing certain individuals for the sake of a change, however important it might be regarded in the general interest, they must consider the interests of those people and compensate them either by time or money provided by the Trade. That was a very general opinion of Members on that side of the House, who would view with consternation any attempted compensation out of rates and taxes. He would not conceive that any man in his senses would propose such a thing in view of the past, which should be a treason to the Government.
If in England a new Act of Parliament had stimulated old bodies into activity, he believed that in many cases a newly constituted body would show greater vigour in dealing with licences than those which had existed hitherto. The general principle of local option should make one anxious that small authorities should have a voice in dealing with licences in their own districts. In regard to the licensing authorities he thought they had 1175 too much of the justice of the peace in their composition. This was not of so much importance in practice as in theory, for when they came to select half-a-dozen justices of the peace they would probably get the same class of individuals as half-a-dozen members of the County Council. But some acknowledgment of the rights of popular control should be made, and it would be most unfortunate and would produce a bad impression in Scotland if they did not give the elective body—the County Council—at least as many voices on the licensing authorities as they did to the nominated body of justices of the peace. He regretted that the Government had not inserted in the Bill a fuller option for great cities with regard to the hours of opening at morning and closing at night. He hoped they would accept Amendments in Committee on this point. The Government had drawn a very safe Bill, and had taken up almost entirely non-controversial points. He thought, considering the state of opinion in Scotland and the gravity with which the mass of the people regarded this question, the Government might with safety have gone a great deal farther. He hoped that when they got into Committee they would find as large a representation of Scotch Members as possible, and that the Government would show themselves willing to accept the opinion of Scotland through those Members.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
considered that time would have been saved if the discussion had not been directed to matters upon which the Government had already put down their foot. It was difficult to say where the objections to the Bill began and where they ended. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill said he was willing to give favourable consideration to any Amendments urged upon him with the object of improving it. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider the question of doing away with the rights and privileges of the small burghs of Scotland. No reason had been alleged why those small local authorities should be swept out of existence, and be swallowed up by inclusion in a large number of elected magistrates and County Council representatives. Those burghs had a civic life within themselves, and bitterly resented what they considered 1176 to be a grave injustice. Numbers did not make intelligence, nor did size make strength, and it would be found that the small burghs in the North, comprising only a few thousand inhabitants, were as full of civic life and virtue as the more populous counties. He regarded the subject of grocers' licences as a thorny one, but the Government were not to be altogether commended for the way in which they had dealt with it. Would the right, hon. Gentleman look carefully through Clause 9 and see if it were workable, and whether it could not be amended in important details without injuring any principle in the Bill. What was objected to more than anything else in Clause 9 was that the whole of the law on this subject would be left entirely in the hands of the local authorities. What he thought should be done would be to prevent varying regulations to be made in different parts of the country, and that the operations of the clause should be scheduled and put down on hard and fast lines. It would be intolerable that in one burgh premises should be closed on New Year's Day and not in all the others. He respectfully submitted to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that that day should be scheduled, and that on a variety of other days—more especially election days, such as was the universal rule in the Colonial Empire—public-houses should be closed.
They had been told that things should be allowed to go on exactly as at present with regard to the grocers' clubs. He hoped that would not be so. In many cases throughout Scotland, the grocers were the greatest offenders. There were no doubt many who conducted their business honestly and honourably, but, on the other hand, there were many grocers' shops which were nothing short of drinking dens. He did not wish to attack the honest grocer who was acting according to law and did not encourage drunkenness. Under this section, a grocer would have to keep all his liquors in sealed bottles, vessels, or jars. How inconvenient it would be for any man to sell sixpenny-worth of rum or whisky from a sealed vessel every five minutes. The vessel would have to be unsealed and sealed again. That provision had caused a great deal of irritation in the Trade. He did not think that the Government meant that it should work in that way. As the clause stood, however, it meant that the 1177 grocer had to keep the liquor in sealed vessels, and be put to the inconvenience of unsealing and sealing them every few minutes. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not regard that as any frivolous objection; and the right hon. Gentleman would find that many of the criticisms of the Bill would disappear if he consented to some modification of the clause.
With reference to Clause 17, they knew perfectly well that a great deal of drunkenness was caused in Scotland by the selling of liquor from vans. In his opinion, not only should the suggestion of the hon. Member who had just spoken, that no liquor should be sold from a van except on a signed order be adopted, but he would propose that no liquor should be sold from a van except in a sealed vessel. At present vans went about the country, especially in the summer, selling beer and other strong drinks in open measures, without any possible control whatever.
Then as to drunkenness, and the increase of the penalties for drunkenness, it was an unfortunate thing for a man to get drunk; but he did not think that they were improving the position by increasing the fines and penalties. The man who got drunk was probably punished severely enough as it was; and the burden of the fine would fall on his family. It would be different if they could get at the man who made another drunk; but he did not think it was any good simply increasing the penalties for drunkenness.
There was another great blot in the Bill. Take the case of a man coming into a town and requiring a little refreshment. He was not able to obtain in a public house the refreshment he was entitled to get; and there was no provision in the Bill to compel a public house to supply a cup of tea, coffee, cocoa, or Bovril, or other reasonable refreshment. If there were such a provision, it would remove many of the evils of drunkenness. Most people did not want to get drunk, but because they were not able to get the particular kind of refreshment they required they took strong drink. With reference to the prohibition as to selling drink to people on the black list, he did not think that provision went quite far enough. It should be provided that a man might apply himself, or that his wife or other relative might apply, for an order prohibiting 1178 him from being supplied with drink. He knew in his own experience of a man applying to a magistrate for an order to prevent him being served with drink. Many people were unable to fight against the temptation. He knew a case where a respectable man got into a railway carriage and refused to pay his fare. He was promptly locked up; and being asked afterwards why he did not pay, he said that he had not tasted drink for six months, and as he was in town with money in his pocket he required the wholesome restraint of a gaol before he could trust himself. That showed what a poor man struggling with the demon of drink would do to prevent himself becoming a slave to drink. If the Government would consider the Amendments he had suggested, he had no doubt that the measure would achieve great and lasting good in Scotland, which he was sure was the wish of every Member of the House.
§ SIR CHARLES RENSHAW (Renfrew, W.)
said the discussion on the Bill was exceedingly interesting, especially to hon. Members who, like himself, had taken an active part in local administration in Scotland. For his part he desired to thank the Government for what he believed was an honest effort to settle, in a simple and effective way, some of the difficult problems connected with the question of licensing reform. He was glad that the Government had not introduced into the measure some of the provisions which they might have introduced, but which would greatly imperil the prospects of the measure becoming law during the present session. He wished especially to refer to the proposal in the Bill to constitute a new licensing authority in Scotland. With reference to the proposal to take away from the smaller burghs in Scotland power to deal with licensing questions in their own area he would point out that there were two sides to the question. Even the Minority Report of the Royal Commission was in favour of taking away from these extremely small burghs the power to deal with licensing questions. What was proposed by the Bill was to merge these small burghs into the counties; and he should like to remind the House that what the smaller burghs 1179 would lose in regard to powers within their own area they would gain by having a voice in determining the number of licences to be granted in the districts surrounding their own boundaries. Therefore, if licences were improperly accumulating on their borders, they would have a voice in limiting them. There was a great deal to be said in favour of what was, he believed, the unanimous Report of the Royal Commission, certainly the Minority Report, viz., doing away with the power's of the licensing authorities in these small burghs. Several hon. Members argued very strongly against the constitution of the new licensing authorities, and said that the proportion of one-third from the County Council and two-thirds from justices of the peace, was improper and undesirable, and ought to be reversed. He hoped, however, that the Government would adhere to that proposal. He believed it was a wise proposal, and that if the proportion of members from the County Council were increased, it would probably have the effect of injuring local administration in Scotland. They wanted as representatives of the County Councils of Scotland good, sound business men, who were elected because they were intelligent and willing to give their time to serve the best interests of the localities, viz., the administration of questions connected with roads and public health. At present an admirable class was elected to discharge those duties, but if they threw upon the County Councils the entire charge of administrating the licensing laws the effect would undoubtedly be that at every election there would be a fight as between the temperance party and the party which supported the publicans, and in place of having their local county representative appointed because he was a good administrator and likely to look well after questions of local economy, they would have him elected because he was either in favour with the local teetotalers or the local publicans. That would be a most unfortunate introduction into the public life of the counties of Scotland. It would be said that something of the kind existed in the burghs, but he would ask any person who compared local administration in burghs and in counties whether they would not find far greater economy in the county than in the burgh. He believed they would, and therefore it was a pity to make an alteration.
1180 He was not particularly called upon to defend any branch of the Trade in Scotland, but speaking from his own personal experience he believed that in the main those who carried on the grocery trade in Scotland did not deserve the words which the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland applied to them. He believed they were carrying on a difficult trade in a very useful way, and that the sub-section of the Bill which would compel grocers not only to carry on their trade by selling only in sealed vessels but also would not allow them to bottle on the premises, would inflict upon them an unnecessary and undeserved hardship. He thought they might perfectly well carry on their trade with such a restriction.
The question of the desirability of dealing with compensation in the Bill had been brought forward. It was a very difficult subject. He was in favour undoubtedly of a time limit, or of compensation to come from some Trade source being ultimately applied to a solution of this question. But what would be the position of this Bill if this proposal were to be dealt with in it? It would not only be fought as a Scottish question, but as an English question as well. It would be impossible to avoid that. No question had more excited public interest in the last few months than the action which had been taken at the Brewster Sessions by English magistrates. The decisions come to, in no way the consequence of the legislation of last year, had arisen, he believed, from the fact that the discussion of that legislation had impressed people with the knowledge that public opinion in regard to the question of licensing had undergone a great change, and that public feeling was much more in favour of general restriction than it ever was before. That would inevitably lead in its effects throughout England, whatever proposals were brought forward in connection with the Scotch Bill, to the whole principle being fought out on lines applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom, and not on Scottish lines. Therefore, whilst he was glad that the question had been brought forward, he hoped it would not be pressed in Committee, but that they would be allowed to deal with the Bill on the limited lines on which it had been brought in. He was quite sure if that were done there would be no substantial 1181 difficulty in passing the Bill this session and thus adding a valuable measure to the Statute Book.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
We have had a characteristic debate upon this Scotch Bill, a debate which I think is creditable to the Scotch Members of the House of Commons. It has been discussed without any shadow of party spirit, without any excitement, with nothing to arrest the attention of the gallery, and in a way that is not likely to contribute anything for the gentlemen of the Press—I mean for their observations and their news of the morning. It has been from beginning to end a business-like, practical, and common-sense discussion, with only one object on the part of those who have taken a share in it—viz., to make it the best Bill we can for the country which we represent. I think the hon. Member for Linlithgow did well to put down this Amendment—not with a view to opposing the Bill, but as a necessary protest, as it were, on the part of those—they are not confined to one side of the House—who wish to see temperance legislation carried much further, a protest in favour of a more advanced measure, and a warning of what the hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite might call a caveat, that we did not accept this as in any way bringing Scotch legislation on this subject up to the level to which we should like to see it brought. On that ground I am a little suspicious of the pretext put forward that this Bill is intended to embody the main provisions of the English Bill of last session. For Heaven's sake, do not let us got in the way of thinking that England is to have the good things, and that in due time, when opportunity offers, Scotland is to receive anything that is left Scotland has always been ahead on this subject, as it has been on most subjects, and I hope she will long continue to occupy that position.
The Solicitor - General spoke of the Bill being received with a large measure of favour, but that must not be misunderstood. If you met a hungry man in the street and offered him a crust of bread he would receive it with a large measure of favour, but he would much rather a substantial and ample dinner; audit is that substantial and ample dinner that we wish to receive, 1182 and we are sorry it is only this crust of bread that we get. I have only one main criticism to offer upon this Bill, and only one, which I consider of the first rank in importance, and that is that it is an infringement—or at any rate it fails to carry out completely the principle of popular government. I am in favour, as are many other Members, of direct popular control in this matter, but there is another condition quite as essential as directness and popularity, and that is that the control should be local control. You may have popular control in one sense by men who are imported from a distance. For instance, if there was a question of the number of licences in Great George Street, Westminster, and the people of the locality were a good deal exercised about having too many public houses among them, it would be very small consolation to know that it had been referred to a County Councillor who happened to be elected by the voters in Islington or Brixton, or some other part of the Metropolis. What you want in this case as in all others is personal knowledge of the facts, the wants, the nuisances, and the desires of the locality, and you cannot get that by the importation of any number either of justices of the peace, or of County Councillors from other parts of the county. It is in that respect that I think this Bill fails. There is, in fact, in the Government somehow—and it extends to the two learned Gentlemen opposite—an ingrained, and ineradicable tendency and desire to take this most circuitous and roundabout way to secure what they call popular control when there is a direct, straight and easy avenue to the same result ready to their hands.
Very much has been said, and more will be said when we get into Committee, of the proposal to take away the licensing power of the smaller burghs. My objection to the Bill is that it takes that power away from men who know all the circumstances, and who, though they may use their powers badly, do it with full knowledge of the circumstances, and who are directly answerable to their electors for the action they take. The Solicitor-General implied that the magistrates in a Scotch burgh are not directly elected. But they are members of the Town Council, who are elected by their colleagues to fill the place of magistrates. I do not know that you 1183 could have anything bringing more plainly into a position of direct responsibility to the community whose interests they serve. But the proposal is that these smaller burghs should lose their powers, and then there is the further proposal of placing on the Appeal Court a preponderance of nominated members of justices of the peace. I agree with what has been said about the absurdity of that Appeal Court, especially in the larger counties. But why should we have an Appeal Court at all? It is almost incumbent upon us, when dealing with this matter, to settle the elementary proposition — Is an Appeal Court necessary? In what other department of civic authority do you have an over-riding authority above those who are directly charged with the business? The magistrates and Town Council in a great city have to deal with questions of all kinds, and of enormous importance, but they are not subject to appeal to any other authority in respect of their dealings in those great matters. Why should this one question of licensing be selected for appeal? Then, assuming we are to have this Appeal Court, the Court is to consist of representatives of the burghs and districts, and of certain other justices of the peace in a proportion which will outnumber the direct representatives of the locality. My objection is not only to the fact of the justices of the peace being nominated, and not elected persons, but to the fact of their being distant persons, and the vice of distant residence and distant knowledge may just as well apply to County Councillors as to justices of the peace or any other persons.
Take the proposal of the Government, as I understand it, with regard to a county of which I have some acquaintance—the county of Stirling. In that county there are three burghs: Stirling, which comes just under the 20,000 line, and is to have two of its magistrates on the Court of Appeal; Grangemouth, which is to have one representative; and Kilsyth, which also is to have one representative. The county will thus have four representatives on the Appeal Court, and accordingly there will be eight justices of the peace added to neutralise the four. But it much more than neutralises them on the test of locality, because the men who represent Kilsyth and Grangemouth know nothing 1184 whatever of the desires of the people of Stirling, so that in that case it will not be four against eight but two against ten. The element of locality is the dominating element of the whole thing, because the question of whether licences are to be granted or withheld is one of the convenience, wishes, and interests of the people of the locality, and it is only men who have a close knowledge of the locality that are fit judges in the matter.
These are the principal objections I take to the provisions of the Bill. I have said that I hardly see what sufficient reason there is for the maintenance of the Court of Appeal at all. But I admit that we cannot expect much assistance from the Government in that matter, because the Prime Minister pins his faith to the Court of Appeal, and has already, in cases which are actually pending, invoked and invited the Court of Appeal to upset what he is pleased to consider the erroneous decisions of the court of first instance, a remarkable performance, which I think is almost unequalled in a public functionary of his importance and standing. But while I have now great hope that they will do away with the Court of Appeal altogether, I hope they will keep an open mind and give the fullest consideration to suggestions for altering its constitution. I was glad to hear he Solicitor-General use an expression tending in that direction—that he had no strong opinion on the subject himself, and that when we got into Committee he knew the Government would listen to representations on the matter. I trust that we shall find that to be so, and that the Government will leave it an open question in the sense of not exerting their authority for the purpose of thwarting what may appear to be the opinion and desire of Scottish Members.
I do not wish to touch on the great and thorny question of compensation. I think it would have been better not to have introduced it at all, because there are peculiar reasons at present, as we all know, for avoiding that Sirbonian bog. If we once plunged into it I do not know how much it would add to the duration of our debates, or to what extent it would endanger the passage of the Bill. I hope the measure will pass, and that the two learned 1185 Gentlemen opposite will not too rigidly adhere to their own proposals, but give their assistance to those Members who wish to amend the Bill. Proceeding in that spirit, I hope the Bill will be made one, which, to a greater degree than now, will be for the good of, and advantage to, the Scottish people.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
I do not think that at any time when I have been in charge of a measure before this House I have found myself with so little to do in the Second Reading debate as on this occasion. Everything that I ought to do has been done for me by speakers on either side of the House. I do not mean that there has been a chorus of approval of all that is in the Bill, but that when anybody has made a specific proposal as shown in the varied Amendments on the Paper somebody has immediately got up on the same side of the House and condemned the proposal. As long as Members dealt in generalities they were safe, but the moment they put down definite Amendments the difficulty appeared. The Amendment we are technically discussing invites us to go into, I will not say the Sirbonian bog but the quagmire of local option. Local option by itself is bad enough, but the hon. and learned Member explained that he was not content with local option as ordinarily understood; he wanted a sort of hydra-headed local option, including such other topics as the municipal management of public houses. I need scarcely say that if I had responded to that appeal there would have to be introduced into the Bill a set of the most complicated clauses that have ever faced a draftsman. I am quite content to rest on the solemn declaration of one of the speakers on the learned Member's own side of the House, that to accede to the Amendment would undoubtedly wreck the Bill. In the same way with the Amendment dealing with the subject of compensation, we have just had a warning from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who agrees that we were well advised to leave that subject alone. I am not going to discuss the subject of compensation further than to say that I must not be held necessarily to agree with any of the views which 1186 have been promulgated in the course of this debate, but I entirely associate myself with the remark of my hon. friend the Member for Renfrewshire that compensation can never be dealt with as a purely Scottish question. Whatever may be our views as to compensation, there is no place for them in this Bill. Having said that, I think we may congratulate ourselves that all are agreed that at any rate we are doing something for the cause of temperance and good government by the provisions of this Bill. No doubt, as the hon. Member for Kincardineshire said, in considering what is satisfactory you must always consider those to whom you are giving anything, and he added that in looking at this Bill he was constrained to exclaim, "Blessed are those who expect little." The right, hon. Gentleman opposite also said that a hungry man would be glad of a crust, but he would like a full meal better. I hope that both those Gentlemen have sufficiently good memories to go back to the time of the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a distinguished member, and to remember their temperance proposals I think the hon. Gentleman will then add to his proverbs, "How un blest are those who expect too much." and the right hon. Gentleman will believe that the hungry man would sooner have a crust than a Barmecide's feast.
Passing from these general topics, the hon. Member for the Universities was particularly anxious that we should deal with the matter of habitual drunkenness in relation to the question of husband and wife. I can only say that our minds are quite open on that matter, and if my hon. friend will give us his assistance, recognising, as I am sure he dies, that there are certain technical difficulties which prevent the adoption en bloc of the provisions of the English Bill, I am sure we shall give the matter our most careful attention. There has been a great deal of criticism of the licensing authority; in particular much has been said about taking away the licensing from the small burghs. The right hon. Gentleman said he was afraid that the Government in general, and my hon. and learned friend and myself in particular, had adopted a curiously circuitous method. I think the right 1187 hon. Gentleman has forgotten that the idea of confining the licensing authority to a population of 7,000 and not under is not the creation of the "circuitous mind" of my hon. and learned friend and myself, but the unanimous recommendation of both the Majority and the Minority Reports. Surely that is justification enough for the appearance in the Government Bill of the proposition as it stands. There again I am not, of course, saying what the decision of the Government will be. But obviously that is a question in which we shall invite a free and frank discussion. I should like to say this. The right hon. Gentleman went on to explain how he thought that it was not so much a question of the actual existence of justices of the peace, but that being a non-local man would affect the authority. Throughout the many criticisms made upon the local authority, I have noticed an extraordinary absence of any consideration for the judicial element which ought to exist in a licensing tribunal. Hon. Member after hon. Member—and I include the right hon. Gentleman in this category—have really approached the subject as if the proper conduct of a licensing authority was to have, so to speak, a local authority constituted according to the predominance of persons in a locality of one view or the other, and that in this way the wishes of the locality should be given effect to. [OPPOSITION cries of "No, no."] I am glad to hear murmurs of dissent, and if that is not the view of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I apologise for having misunderstood him, and I accept his assent to my proposition, which is that there must be a certain element of judicial consideration as to the granting of licences or not. I contend that you are not entitled to go so much according to your own view of what is the proper policy and what are the wishes of the community, but more according to the needs of your neighbours. If that is so, surely the right hon. Gentleman knows enough of the conduct of small communities to know that occasionally upon matters of judicial consideration they need setting right. The right hon. Gentleman did not shrink from what I should call the extreme position of saying that there ought not to be a Court of Appeal at all. I would remind the House alter all how very little the Court 1188 of Appeal has got to do. If a new licence is refused by the licensing body under the present law, and we do not alter it under this Bill, there is no possibility of making an appeal, and in that way imposing upon that body a licence which they do not want to grant. It is only when you come to the question of the renewal of an existing licence, when you are taking away, I will not use the term "vested interest"—but when you are taking away something from a man which he has already got that he feels aggrieved, and in that case I think he is entitled to come to an Appeal Court. It seems to me that that is just the sort of case where, although local knowledge is good, when you come to the Court of Appeal local knowledge is not everything; but you must have that judicial consideration which you are much more likely to get if you are not absolutely under local control. The right hon. Gentleman went so far as to say that their judgment might be right or wrong, and that at any rate they know the spot. The right hon. Gentleman's view is to let them do as they like.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Yes, if they have the whole of the people of the locality at their back.
§ MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
Yes, but it may be that they are backed up with injustice by the people of the locality. Passing to the question of grocers' licences, there again we shall certainly have an open mind in Committee about both the points on which criticism has been passed. As far as the vans provision is concerned, it seems to me that we all have the same object in view, and I would ask hon. Members who criticise the phraseology of the clause as it stands to consider its practical construction, and then they will see how very difficult the point is to meet. So far as that and the other clause which has created so much interest in regard to grocers' licences is concerned, I repeat what I said when I introduced the Bill, namely, that we had no intention of hampering the Trade or making it impossible for that Trade to be carried on in a proper way, as I am certain it is being carried on in a great majority of cases what we wish to do is to prevent abuses, and so long as the phraseology that we adopt prevents 1189 the very obvious abuses which take place, we certainly shall not hamper that trade with any further restrictions. There has been a great deal of comment as to the position of early closing in large cities. That, again, is a point which we shall be perfectly willing and ready to discuss upstairs. I am not, of course, to be taken as giving at this moment the decision of the Government upon any of these matters. We shall certainly wait until we can hear what is said upon both sides. I excuse myself from not even discussing those larger topics of local option and compensation, because in this Bill a discussion of these topics can only be purely academic, and I reserve for the Government the same freedom to accept or reject Amendments as hon. Members have to propose them. I welcome the Second Reading of this Bill, and I am very glad that it has been received with unanimity upon both sides of the House.
§ SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)
said he desired to thank the Government for introducing this Bill. He was, in his own person, an example of the inefficiency, not to say the impotency, of private Members attempting to deal with questions connected with the liquor traffic. Soon after he entered the House he introduced the Grocers' Licences Abolition (Scotland) Bill and for eight successive years he carefully balloted for that Bill. In the ninth year he thought he had secured the attention of Parliament, for he got the ninth place in the ballot, and he was hoping that they would have a discussion upon a measure in which many of his constituents had expressed great interest. As not uncommonly happened in these circumstances, the Government of the day found it desirable to annex that day, and they deprived him of the chance for which he had waited so long. He had always had the consciousness that it would be difficult for him to secure consideration of his measure. He was glad, however, that in the Bill before the House the question of Grocers' Licences was dealt with. He was only sorry that they were not dealt with in a stronger manner. He would remind the House that fifteen years ago a Royal Commission sat upon this question and examined a large number of 1190 witnesses, and they put forward a number of very valuable recommendations. He regretted that the framers of this Bill, while they had adopted two or three of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, had not adopted some dozen others, the whole of which seemed to him to be exceedingly practical, reasonable, and good for the purposes of this Bill and desirable in the interests both of the grocers and of the Trade. He hoped that under the powers and regulations which were proposed it would be possible to schedule if not the whole, the greater number of those recommendations as coming within the purview of the magistrate, authorising them to pass by-laws and resolutions to carry them out. This question of grocers' licences was regarded in Scotland as a most important question because, unfortunately, Scotland had been, for a number of years past, a country where drunkenness had been spreading amongst the female part of the population. Some little time ago he made special inquiries into this subject and obtained from Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as from his own city, figures which he thought would surprise the House, and which he felt sure the House would deplore. In his own constituency of Dundee the number brought up charged with drunkenness in the year 1900 was 1,014 males, as against 815 females; and the charges of breaches of the peace numbered 1,123 males, whilst the number of females charged with the same offence was within two of 700. In Edinburgh and Glasgow the figures were even more lamentable. In Edinburgh the number charged with drunkenness was 2,194 males, and 1,418 females; and the breaches of the peace numbered 1,397 males and 1,672 females. In Glasgow against 7,000 males charged with drunkenness there were 5,000 females, whilst the figures for breaches of the peace were 5,800 males and 2,800 females. All the evidence of the increase of drinking habits amongst the women in Scotland showed that the evil was largely due to the fact that not a few of the licensed grocers' shops did not sell in sealed bottles and were little better than dram shops. A great amount of evidence was brought before the Royal Commission to show that that was the case. Women went 1191 into shops and they could not only get drink there, but they could take drink to their houses, and in this insidious manner they acquired drinking habits which did much to destroy the family life and happiness of many homes in Scotland.
He hoped that among other improvements which would be made in the Bill the requirements of the English Act would be extended to Scotland, and that the sale in scaled bottles would be insisted upon. He had always contended that the trades in what were called wet groceries and dry groceries should be entirely separate. Were they to be divided? He would say that the Government, whatever they did, should not give less to Scotland than they had given to England. This remark applied to the separation clause in cases of drunkenness of husbands or wives. He was glad to hoar the Lord Advocate say that he had an open mind on that subject. As to the hours of closing, he hoped they would be able, not only to introduce the ten o'clock Clause for the cities which were at present excluded, but that there would be further powers with regard to the limiting of the hours in the beginning of the day as well as at the end of it. He poped also that not merely on New Year's pay, but on a certain number of holidays, hower for general closing would be given. He suggested that it should be in the power of the magistrates to do this, at least six days in the year. There was no reason whatever why extended hours should be given on Saturdays. As a rule, wages were not now paid on Saturday. It was only in a few exceptional cases that they were now paid on Saturday night as before. All the great employers paid their workers on Friday, and there was no reason why the mistress of a house should not do her shopping on Friday night or Saturday morning. With regard to the bonâ-fide traveller he thought his real name should be malâ-fide traveller. The bonâ-fide traveller had been described as nothing but an impostor. He know a case where there was a ferry, only two miles broad, which was used on Sunday to carry drinkers from a large town to a small village, where they almost indulged in riot. He thought there should be something in the law to prevent clubs being planted capriciously in neighbourhoods where they were not desired. A single club 1192 would destroy the peace and happiness of a whole tenement. The Government were to be congratulated upon having indicated that they had an open mind on those points, and he trusted that when the Bill had passed through Committee, that would not only be a good Bill but a considerably better Bill than it was at present.
MR. HUNTER CRAIG (Lanarkshire, Govan)
said he concurred in the opinion expressed by several hon. Members that this was not a Bill which deserved the name of temperance reform, or one which would lessen drunkenness to any extent. Speaking for those who were largely connected with temperance reforms in Scotland, he must express their disappointment, as well as his own, at the meagreness and inadequacy of this measure. It had always been said with reference to temperance reformers that they would either have a whole measure or none, but he thought the course of the debate this afternoon must contradict that view, and show that it was one which was fallacious, because those who desired to see the country improved in sobriety were thankful for any measure of reform, no matter how small, provided it was not retrograde. The present measure did not meet the case. They wanted temperance reform of a drastic nature to remedy the deplorable condition of the country caused by the liquor traffic which was described in the majority Report of the Royal Commission as a gigantic evil, and no sacrifice would be too great to free the country from this national degradation; the signatories to this Report included eight members of the liquor trade. When they considered that no loss than £500,000 was spent every day in the United Kingdom on intoxicating liquors, that of this sum £333,000 was spent by the working classes, and that the condition of the people was so grave, it would, he thought, be admitted that it was high time they had a measure consistent with the extent of the incalculable mischief which drink was causing in the country. During the recruiting of soldiers in Manchester for the late war no less than 8,000 out of 11,000 young men who volunteered to serve were rejected as physically unfit to carry a rifle and endure the hardship 1193 of discipline. When they thought of the normous cost to the nation for the maintenance of judicial courts, prisons, penitentiaries, workhouses, hospitals, lunatic asylums, and inebriate homes, it was high time that they should stop this waste of money. The Revenue received £41,000,000 a year from the liquor traffic, but they were simply putting the money into a bag with holes when the consequent cost to the nation caused by the liquor traffic was considered. It would be far better if the money were thrown into the Thames than that it should be spent in intoxicating liquors, producing such disastrous results. He was sorry the Lord Advocate had not introduced the principle of local option into the Bill. Twenty years ago a Resolution was passed in this House by a large majority approving of the principle of local option, and calling for an enactment to give it effect in Scotland. He was sorry to say they had not received that reform. He sincerely hoped that when the Bill went upstairs the Lord Advocate would consent to the ten o'clock restriction being applied to the exempted cities. The Secretary for Scotland received at Edinburgh last week a large deputation including the civil heads of the exempted burghs urging him to give these burghs power to close at 10 p.m. Statements were then made that the worst class of drinking took place between ten and eleven. The Provost of Govan, which burgh is part of my constituency, stated that the greatest amount of drunkenness existed between the hours of ten and eleven o'clock in the burgh. He told the Secretary for Scotland that some 4,500 apprehensions took place during the year, resulting in 3,000 to 4,000 convictions, and that out of this large number there were only 850 sober persons. That happened in a burgh containing 88,000 inhabitants. He was glad to say that they had the principle of local veto established in a district within the burgh of Govan. It contained 6,000 inhabitants and there was not a public-house in that district, with the result that there was practically no crime, one policeman being able to keep the peace, whereas for the same population in the liquor selling districts eight policemen would be the proportion necessary. The hardship of the present law makes it necessary for 1194 the community to oppose, at considerable trouble and expense, applications for licences every six months at the Justices' meetings.
§ It being half-past Seven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed this evening.