§ [Order for Second Reading read.]
§ MR. BUTCHER (York)
in moving the Second Reading of this Bill said he was 359 quite aware that he was attempting a problem of unusual complexity, but he was encouraged by the thought that on the main principles underlying this Bill there was a large measure of agreement among many sections of public opinion. With regard to the details of the Bill, he founded himself on an authoritative basis by following the lines laid down by the Majority Report of Lord Peel's Commission. The question of providing compensation to holders of licences who, through no fault or misconduct of their own, were deprived of these licences was a question which was not new either in the House or in the country. Owing to circumstances which it was needless to advert to in detail, the question had now entered a critical stage, and it was essential in the interest of Temperance reform, and in the interest of fairness to the members of a legalised trade, that some solution should be forthcoming. He did not propose to go into the discussion, necessarily controversial, of all the causes which had led to this urgency. Such a discussion would be interesting, but he would content himself with pointing to two main facts, on which there would be no difference of opinion. The first fact was that there was at this moment in this country a considerable consensus of opinion in favour of a substantial reduction of licensed houses in the country. On this point Lord Peel's Commission was practically unanimous. As to the effect of the reduction there might be difference of opinion. There were those who maintained that such a reduction would necessarily lead to a large diminution in the consumption of liquor; there were others who maintained the contrary on this point. He was satisfied with the conclusion which, after careful examination of the evidence, was arrived at by the majority of Lord Peel's Commission. They reported that it was not certain that a large decrease of licensed houses would result in much diminution in the consumption of liquor, but that a reduction was necessary for the due control of the remainder by the publican would be thereby improved That was the first point The second point was this while public opinion favoured a sub- 360 stantial reduction of licences, there was a strong, deep and widespread feeling that, if it was done, it should be done without any unfairness or injustice. As one who ardently desired a diminution of drunkenness and its appalling evils, he said that unless this House could discover and sanction some scheme by which the reduction of licences could be effected without any unfairness, hardship, or injustice, the current of public opinion which ran at present in favour of such a reduction would not only be arrested but might be turned in its course in the opposite direction. This brought him to the cardinal principle of the Bill, which was that where it was desired in the public interest to suppress a licence and there was no fault or misconduct on the part of the licence holder, compensation must be provided. That was the main principle on which he based the Bill, and to which he asked the House to assent. On that point there was a wide-spread concurrence of opinion, but let him take, in the first instance, the Majority Report of the Commission. That Report affirmed in the most decisive manner the principle of compensation on the ground both of justice and expediency, and he need hardly remind the House that the Report bore, among other honoured signatures, the names of so capable and experienced a man of business as Sir Algernon West, and so ardent a temperance reformer as Dean Dickinson. He turned to the Minority Report, and lie found that, like the Majority Report, it affirmed the principle of compensation, although he admitted that the compensation it proposed was of a considerably different character. But on the question of principle they were agreed, and he might remind the House that the Minority Report was signed not only by Lord Peel himself but also by the late Archbishop of Canterbury, and by so highly respected a Member of this House and so convinced a temperance reformer as the late Mr. W. S. Caine. It also bore the name of valley On this point he claimed him as an ally and supporter, although to his considerable disappointment he had given notice of his intention to move the rejection of the Bill.
361 He would endeavour to show why that principle must be accepted. In the first place these existing licences which it was proposed to suppress had been called into existence by the action of the magistrates themselves—the very body who were now proposing to cancel them. Not only so, but the houses had been built on plans approved by the magistrates for the express purpose of obtaining the grant of licences, and in many cases large structural alterations had been made at the express request of the magistrates themselves and for the express purpose of continuing the grant to them of the licences. Was it to be said now that the expense which had been incurred with the concurrence and sanction of the magistrates was to be confiscated without any compensation whatever? Another point was that, although according to the strict letter of the law licences were granted for one year only, it was equally true that by custom of longstanding—and custom of longstanding in this country often gave a moral sanction almost as great as the sanction of positive law—the licenses of houses had from year to year been renewed by the justices, almost as a matter of course, where there was no misconduct or fault on the part of the licence holders. Vast sums of money had been invested in that faith and on that footing. There was another argument, and to his mind possibly the strongest argument of all, and that was that for a number of years past the State had collected Death Duties upon the full value of licensed houses based upon the supposition and the expectation that these licences would be renewed. How now could the State, with any regard for decency and justice, turn round and say that this property which they them selves had recognised, and on which they had levied millions of taxation in the past, was no longer property at all, but might be swept out of existence without a moment's warning? That action would be more worthy of a band of marauders than of a civilised State. It was put forward as a terrible fact to face that if compensation was admitted, they were creating a vested interest in the licence. He was not in the least afraid of any form of words provided that they understood what the meaning of them was. And 362 when it was understood that the meaning of his Bill was to provide compensation for persons who, owing to no fault of their own, lost their livelihood under circumstances such as he had suggested, he was not in the least afraid of commending that as a principle which should be sanctioned by this House. Might he remind hon. Members of what some of them might not be unaware, that in Ireland at the present moment the justices had no power to deprive licence holders of their licences, unless there was fault or misconduct; and he for his part had never been able to understand why licence holders in this country, so long as they conducted their trade in a lawful manner, should be placed in a worse or inferior position to the holders of licences in Ireland. He therefore claimed with regard to the principle of compensation that they had an unanswered and an unanswerable case.
As regards the amount of compensation, he held that it was idle to propose a nominal or illusory compensation. The compensation must be proportionate to the loss suffered. In this matter he was fortified by the unanimous finding of the Majority Report of the Commission, which held that when a licence was suppressed without misconduct they must pay by way of compensation a full and fair market value of the licence and goodwill incident to it.
That brought him to another question, namely, from what sources this compensation could be drawn. There were two sources, and, in fact, only two main sources, from which it was proposed to draw this compensation fund. The first was by means of a direct contribution of the trade itself, and the second was by means of contributions out of the direct taxation of liquor. He did not propose to enter into any lengthy argument on this matter. He founded himself, as he was bound to do as a private Member, on the Majority Report, which proposed that the fund should be entirely raised by means of contributions of the trade itself. He did not wish to exclude from the future consideration of Parliament, if it were so minded, the question of providing compensation, in part at any rate, out of the direct taxation of liquor, and therefore he had inserted a provision in the Bill to the effect 363 that, if Parliament hereafter should decide to devote sums for that purpose out of direct taxation of liquor, these sums should be applied in reduction of the contributions of the trade. He need hardly say that in that provision he did not desire or intend in any way to bind the future action of Parliament. The object of that provision was simply and merely to leave open for future consideration of this House the question whether or not Parliament should make any such grant out of the taxation of liquor. But as the Bill stood it provided simply for contributions by direct payment of the trade itself.
Now he came to a point which was a vital and essential point of the Bill, and that was that there must be some limitation of the number of licences to be suppressed by the magistrates in any single year. How did the matter stand? Whether compensation came from taxation or contributions of the trade, the amount collected in a given year must be a limited amount. He regarded that as axiomatic. Therefore he said it necessarily followed, admitting the principle of compensation and admitting that the fund available for compensation must be limited in amount, there must be a limit to the number of licences suppressed in any given year. It might be objected that this would prevent a wholesale reduction of licences in any given year. That was true. What the Bill would ensure was the raising of a fund of large amount—a fund which, according to the Estimates placed before the Royal Commission, would be £500,000 a year. It proposed to devote that sum to the suppression of licences, and in that way there would be a gradual and steady reduction which should satisfy the reasonable aspirations of any temperance reformer. In regard to this point he would, no doubt, be told by his hon. friend opposite that while he was in favour of the principle of compensation he would not tolerate any limitation of the power of the justices for the suppression of licences. If it were the intention of the hon. Member to leave an unlimted power of suppression in the hands of the justices, and the justices should exercise that power, then the hon. Gentleman was bound to provide an unlimited compensation fund; and he was en- 364 titled to ask the hon. Member where he was going to get it from.
§ MR. BUTCHER
said that the hon. Member would then tax the trade out of existence. There was no alternative. If his hon. friend would suggest a method by which, without hardship and injustice, an unlimited fund could be raised from a limited class he would be the greatest benefactor the world had ever seen; he would have solved a problem which had hitherto passed the wit of man to solve. If the principle of compensation were adopted, and if that compensation were to be drawn from a limited class, then it logically followed that they must carry out that object with the means at their disposal, and limit the number of licences which were to be suppressed in any one year to the amount of compensation then available.
These were the general principles which underlay his Bill. The rest of the Bill was devoted to providing the machinery for carrying out his object. In the first place, for the purposes of the Bill, the county was divided into areas, and these areas would be counties and county boroughs. In each area there would be a compensation authority, and a reduction authority. The duty of the compensation authority would be to collect the compensation fund which was payable in their area, and to decide from time to time how much compensation would be available for the reduction of the licences in that area. The compensation authority for each county would be the standing joint committee, and for each borough a similarly constituted authority. The reduction authority would in each county be the County Licensing Committee, and in each county borough the Licensing Committee. The duty of the reduction authority would be to allocate within their area the compensation fund at their disposal for the suppression of such licences which they thought should be suppressed. He might point out to the House that by dealing with an area of considerable extent, such as he proposed, that would enable the discretion which would be 365 placed in the hands of the reduction authority to be properly exercised. No doubt, in the first instance, they would try to suppress licensed houses the premises of which were insanitary and of an unsatisfactory character, and consequently of comparatively small value. Then, as to the contributions to be made from the trade, he proposed to follow, in the main, the lines laid down in the Majority Report of the Royal Commission. He proposed these contributions should be drawn from three main sources. The first source was an annual payment of 6s. 8d. per £100 of the capital value of the licensed house. This would be paid by the owner and the occupier according to their ascertained interest in the premises. Before he left this point he might state that the owner would pay his contribution proportionate to his share in the value of the licence, and the occupier would pay his proportionate share; and if the licence was suppressed both the owner and occupier would get compensation in proportion to what they had to pay. Then the second source from which he proposed to get those contributions was from an annual rental from new licences, It had been recognised for many years that there was a certain objection to granting a new licence which was in the nature of a valuable property, without payment; and he, proposed to get over that by providing that when a new licence was applied for, the applicant should send in a tender of the licensed rent he was prepared to pay. And no doubt in most cases the highest tenderer would get the licence, and the proceeds would go to the Compensation Fund. The third source from which he proposed to get funds was in accordance with the recommendation of the Majority Report of the Royal Commission, viz., a sixteenth of the annual value of hotels and restaurants. He wished to say one word as to the method of determining the value of a licence. The plan he had chosen to follow was this. The owner of licensed premises and the licence holder would be required at triennials period to declare the value of the licence to both respectively, and the value so declared would be the basis both for the purpose 366 of taxation or contribution, and for the purpose of compensation being received if the licence were suppressed. So that, on the one hand, there would be a tendency to put the declared value low for the purpose of taxation, and to put it high for the purpose of compensation. The probability was that in the majority of cases the declared value would be a fair one; but there was a provision in the Bill by which, if the authority was not satisfied with the value declared, the question would be submitted to arbitration.
In asking the House to sanction the Second Reading of the Bill he would ask the support on the one hand of those who desired to prevent injustice to the members of a legalised trade, as long as they carried on that trade without default or breach of the law; and on the other hand, of those moderate temperance reformers who preferred gradual, steady progress with success, to intemperate haste with failure, and who would be glad to see a steady, gradual, and substantial reduction of licences, provided that that reduction was not accompanied by harsh injustice. He claimed support for this Bill, which he recommended to the House on the broad principle of compensation, because it would prevent the perpetration of injustice, such as was possible under the present system, to persons carrying on a lawful trade which they were entitled to carry on as long as they did no wrong and committed no breach of the law or the law's requirements. He claimed support for the Bill in that it would prevent that perpetual and inevitable friction and strife, which would always arise if they attempted to suppress licences accompanied by injustice. Lastly, he claimed support for the Bill on the ground that it would, without doing injustice to anyone, enable the authorities to make that gradual and steady reduction of licensed houses which was necessary, and which, in the opinion of temperance reformers, and others who desired to see a sober population, would ultimately ensure to the advantage and benefit of the country as a whole. He begged to move "That this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed:—" That the Bill be now read a second ime."—(Mr. Butcher.)
§ MR. T. P. WHITTAKER
said he joined J with the hon. Member for York in ex pressing his desire—and he was sure the desire of all temperance reformers and I reasonable people—that no injustice should be done to the trade, and also that no injustice should be done to the public. They had heard in recent speeches a good deal about injustice to the trade, but very little in regard to justice or injustice to the public. It was quite possible to do more than justice to one in such a way as to do less than justice to another. They must really protect the interests of the public. It was the interest of temperance people to see that no injustice was done to the trade, for that would much facilitate the carrying out of what they wished to see accomplished. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill had admitted that it was desirable that there should be a considerable reduction in the number of public houses. He knew that some people contended that that would not promote temperance or check in temperance; but he was prepared to demonstrate that the number of public houses did very materially affect the amount of drunkenness in the community. He would make a few very brief quotations from the speeches of gentle-men whose opinion was worthy of weight. He would first read the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, given in his evidence before the Lords' Commission on Intemperance. That right hon. Gentleman said—The enormous number of public houses, which is clearly out of all proportion to any-thing like the legitimate wants of the people, must tend to increase the temptation.Speaking in 1888, when he introduced his Local Government Bill to a deputation which waited upon him at the Local Government Board, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said—I do not suppose there is any man in this kingdom who can shut his eyes to the fact that there are far more licences in existence than are required.And in 1890 Lord Randolph Churchill in introducing his Licensing Bill to this House said— 368Now, if, as I hold, the number of public houses is largely and grossly in excess of the legitimate wants of the people, what does that mean? I hold that it brings responsibility home to all of us in this House, and it means that Parliament and the State, by allowing such a condition of things to exist, force upon the people the consumption of alcoholic liquor, which, without such pressure, would not be consumed. The system of reckless profusion in the sale of alcoholic liquor, and the fatal facility to have recourse to the public houses makes it extremely difficult for multitudes of persons, in view of the hardship of their lives, to avoid or resist intemperance.He commended that expression of opinion to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Again, in the same year, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said—We think the number of public hou6es is too great, and that the excessive number promotes drunkenness.He would also quote the opinion of the House itself, which in 1891 passed the following Resolution—That, provided adequate compensation be given, this House is of opinion that a large reduction in the number of houses in England licenced for the sale of intoxicating liquor is desirable.The extraordinary anomalies and variations in the number of public houses which existed up and down the country indicated that in many places there were more licensed houses than were required. He would take as an illustration two towns of the same name in different parts of the country. In St. Ives in Huntingdonshire there was one licensed house to every fifteen houses, whereas, in St. Ives in Cornwall there was one licensed house to every 142 houses. If the latter number was sufficient for Cornwall why should one licensed house in every fifteen be required in Huntingdonshire? He could give a number of illustrations based on population, which showed a similar result.
Then there was the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission, to which additional weight should be given, because as hon. Members were aware it was somewhat peculiarly constituted, and when they found strong Temperance reformers and persons deeply financially interested in the liquor trade together with a number of other gentlemen of experience all agreeing, there was something to be said for their unanimous recommendation. The Majority Report, which was signed by the eight representatives of the liquor trade said, "We regard 369 a large suppression of licences as essential." He did not propose to discuss the legal position; he would only point out that the law was perfectly clear, and, not only was it clear now, but it always had been clear. The decision in Sharp v. Wakefield was not new; the law was known long before that, and indeed the power to take away licences was the bedrock foundation of our licensing system. The original Act passed in Parliament in 1495 gave to the justices power to suppress licences, and gave them no other power. That was the very beginning of the system. Up to that any person could sell liquor, and the very beginning of the licensing system was the power which was given to justices to put away alehouses wherever they thought proper. That power was never taken away from the justices of this land. It was not until 1552 that the first Licensing Act was passed. The first Act gave the power of suppressing alehouses, and the second prohibited any person from selling liquor who had not obtained a licence. The fundamental basis of the system was the power to put away licences whenever the justices considered it expedient. Then in the Act of 1828 it was clearly recognised that the justices had the absolute power of suppressing licences for any reason that might seem to them to be sufficient. He would quote in support of that statement the opinion of Lord Brougham given in the year the Act was passed. He attached all the more importance to Lord Brougham's opinion because he did not agree that justices should have that full power, and what he said showed that he knew justices had such a power. He said—Justices have everything at their absolute discretion, and no one has any control over them in these matters. In the first place they have the privilege of granting or withholding licences. As we all know, it lies in the beast of two justices of the peace to give or refuse this important privilege. It is in their absolute power to give a licence to one of the most unfit persons possible, and it is in their power to refuse a licence to one of the most fit persons possible. They may continue a licence to some person who has had it for twelve months, and who, during that period, has made house a, nuisance to the whole of the neighbourhood, or I hey may take away a licence from a house to which it has been attached for a century, and the enjoyment of which has not only been attended by no evil, but has been productive of great public benefit.370 He merely read that to show that in 1828 it was clearly known that justices had the full power which they had recently been exercising. Then it was well known that there had been numerous legal decisions. Twenty years before the Sharp v. Wakefield case there was the case of The Queen v. The Justices of Lancashire. Mr. Justice Lush, in the course of his judgment, said that—The words of the Act authorised and therefore by implication required the justices to govern their discretion, in granting or withholding the licence, by reference not only to the qualification of the person applying, and to the suitableness of the house, but to other considerations also. Those considerations must include the nature of the locality, the population, the number of houses already licensed, and all other circumstances bearing on the question whether it is fit and proper, in the interest of the public for whose benefit thee Acts are passed that an additional licence should be granted.Mr. Nash, barrister-at-law and counsel to the Licensed Victuallers' Association, in the letter he wrote to the Morning Advertiser in 1883, pointed out that it had long been held that the justices possessed full powers. During the hearing of the Dover case in the House of Lords in 1897 it was clearly laid down that the justices were entitled, and should act on their own judgment and not merely on the evidence brought before them. They did not sit as a Court to decide between two parties, they sat to administer the law, and any evidence submitted to them was for the purpose of informing their minds and assisting them in their decision. On that occasion Lord Herschell said—When a man applies for a licence and the court have absolute discretion, it is for them to determine if nobody appears and opposes.Lord Watson said—The justice is exercising a discretionary power in the interests of the public, and he is not only entitled, but according to my impression and opinion lie is bound to exercise his discretion according to the state of his mind and according to what he believes to be the truth, whether it has been communicated to him by the objector or no.Lord Watson gave the following illustration—A justice of peace sitting at the special Licensing Sessions may have walked down the street and found thirty public houses in it. I do not see why he should not come to the 371 conviction and act on the conviction that twenty public houses were enough, and that thirty were too many.The clearest proof of the full discretion of justices in this matter was to be found in the position of the 1869 beer-houses, the licences of which could only be taken away on four specific grounds, which were practically the grounds that would apply if the justices had no power to take away licences simply because they were not required. That clearly showed that the justices had wider powers with regard to other licences; if they had not there would be no necessity for protecting the 1869 beer-houses.
But if licences were refused on grounds which wore not within the four corners of the law, surely the law courts provided a remedy. It was suggested that there was a risk of injustice, and a risk that the justices would use their power arbitrarily and unjustly. They who looked forward to a reduction in the number of licences felt that the risk was all the other way. Then there was an appeal to Quarter Sessions. Surely that was a substantial protection. Between 1892 and 1896 there were in England and Wales 476 appeals to Quarter Sessions, of which 248 were successful. That meant that the Quarter Sessions reversed the decision of the local bench in more than half the cases, and that justices who did not know the locality concerned, or the people, or the particular house, reversed the decision of the justices who did know. The Quarter Sessions hung like millstone round the neck of the efficient administration of the licensing law. The prejudice was all in favour of the licence holder. Take an illustration. It was curious how few cases were brought against publicans for supplying intoxicated persons with drink, as compared with the enormous number of people who were arrested for drunkenness. That was peculiar; but what was more peculiar was that of the cases which were brought, in an enormous proportion of them there was a failure to secure a conviction. Were they to understand that the police, when they were prosecuting a publican were less reliable and less careful than when they were prosecuting any other person. He assumed, and believed, that they were quite as reliable, and quite as capable. What brought the Bill before the House? It was simply because 372 there was an awakening of the public conscience of the country, an arousing of public feeling which had at last made itself felt on the licensing benches. He was glad that the justices were responding to that feeling, and were doing something, in a small way it was true, to make up for their gross neglect in the past. He could only express his regret that when there was such an awakening of public feeling, the Prime Minister of this land should have thought it worthy of himself to lecture, and practically to try to bully and intimidate magistrates because they were fulfilling the duties imposed on them. He would compare the remarks of the Prime Minister with those made many years ago by Lord Coventry, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England in 1637, who in his address by command of the King to all the judges of assizes in England, on the 17th of June, 1635, made some reference to this licensing matter. He said—The next thing I shall mention unto you is alehouses. I account alehouses and tippling houses the greatest pests in the Kingdom. I give it you in charge to take a course that none be permitted unless they are licensed. As for the licensed alehouses, let them be few and in tit places. If they be in private corners and ill-places they become the den of thieves—they are the public stages of drunkenness and disorder. Let care be taken in the choice of alehouse keepers, that it be not appointed to be the livelihood of a large family.He then went on to explain that large families might be expected to push the trade, and continued—In many places they [alehouses] swarm by default of the justices of the peace, that set up too many. … If the justices will not obey your words therein, certify their default and their names, and I assure you they shall be discharged.He thought Lord Keeper Coventry set the Prime Minister an example he might well have taken, in urging the justices to do their duty.
These men had no legal claim to compensation. The holder of a licence; the owner of a house; the purchaser of a licensed property, knew the risk when he bought the house and when he took the licence. He knew the law and the risk, and further was reminded of the risk in the most formal manner, because every year he had to apply for sanction to ask for the renewal of the licence. He was like an annual tenant to some extent, but an annual tenant had not to ask for a renewal of his tenancy 373 every year. He ventured and speculated on the risk of a renewal. He took a special risk, and there was a special profit attached to the trade, the proof of which was the enormous value that attached to the houses in which the trade was carried on. Every buyer of a house purchased it with his eyes open to that fact, but he wanted to have the profits of a risky trade with the security of Consols. He could not have that security. He was alleged to have a claim because death duties were levied on the value of a licence, but the Death Duties were levied on the market value of all the property a man left. There was no investigation of the basis or the reasonableness of that value in any shape or form, and if people chose to put an exorbitant value on licences, old china, or anything else, the revenue authorities would collect the Death Duties on that value. It only showed that the public had put this value on these licences, it did not imply that the value was a real or a wise one. There was no case for compensation under the present law. There was a risk, but it was an insurable risk, as was shown by the prospectus of the Licence Insurance and Guarantee Society, a copy of which he held in his hand. They sometimes heard about the butler or the widow who had invested their savings in a public house, whose risk might be covered at a cost of £5 a year, but they did not hear of the other people, tenants of the brewers, who were turned out directly the money they had invested was gone. There was far more loss inflicted on those people in one year than had been inflicted in twenty years by the action of the licensing justices. If there was to be genuine compensation owing to the operation of the ordinary law as it now stood, why was this Bill brought in to put it on the trade? If there was a claim for compensation it should be a genuine liability of the nation, and not levied on a particular trade. The fact was that all the supporters of this Bill knew there was no genuine legal claim. Why? Because it put a levy on the trade to provide the money. They did not call upon a man who had a legitimate claim to compensate himself. It was not necessary to argue the point, because when a body of men proposed that they should give money to somebody else, the House might depend upon 374 it there was good reason for it. The representatives of the trade on the Royal Commission, six out of eight, signed a recommendation providing that the money required for compensation should come out of their own pockets. That was not compensation in the ordinary sense of the word, that was merely a system of mutual insurance, and under the present law there was no need for legislative action. Cases of hardship no doubt arose when the renewal of a licence was refused, but it was an insurable risk at a reasonable premium, and therefore there was no reason for the legislature to step in.
He might be reminded that he had signed Lord Peel's Report. For definite reform, for a considerable reduction in the number of licences, he thought it might be worth while as a matter of expediency and of grace to facilitate the trade in arriving at some scheme of mutual compensation or insurance under the sanction of the law, but not as a right, purely for the convenience and the benefit of the trade itself. Let the State aid them if that be the position, because, with a large reduction in the number of licensed houses, he quite admitted difficulties might arise. If they were to abolish a considerable number of these houses, simply on the ground that they were not required, he had always felt that licensing justices would be in a position of great difficulty, because if they took away the licences from a considerable number of houses they would inflict a considerable loss on the owners of their, whilst, on the other hand, they would give a substantial pecuniary benefit to the owners of the houses that were left. The justices had nothing to enable them to decide which houses should go, and the matter of selection became very difficult, and in order to facilitate the reduction of licences he was perfectly willing to get at some system whereby the State should facilitate the trade in making this scheme of mutual insurance for the reason that with a more speedy reduction of licences there is no doubt that the risk would become uninsurable It would be very much like asking an insurance company to insure the lives of patients in a consumption hospital; of course, they would not do it. He would be willing, 375 therefore, that Parliament should pass an enactment which would make payment of the mutual insurance premium compulsory on all houses. It was desirable that the policy of a mutual insurance scheme should be passed, in order to spread the risk over the whole trade. A difficulty they had to meet was that the largest houses, those which represented the most valuable property, would not pay the premium, if it were left a voluntary matter, because they knew that in their case the risk was slight. The rates of premium were lower for the larger houses than for the smaller ones. In the case of the former the premium was at the rate of 4s. per cent.; in the case of the latter it was from 15s. upwards, and if the big houses were called upon to pay a big premium they would undoubtedly decline to insure, and there could thus be no equitable levy of the insurance premium without the assistance of the law. But if they went in for this mutual insurance policy, it must be on the understanding that the object was to facilitate a reduction in the number of licences. The hon. and learned Member for York had stated that the object of his Bill was to facilitate such a reduction, and he had told them in the memorandum attached to the Measure that it would bring about such a result. Now, undoubtedly, a reduction was required, and it was an essential condition of any scheme of mutual insurance being taken up and sanctioned by the State that such a Reduction should be promoted.
He had the pleasure a short time ago of attending a Conference summoned by Sir Ralph Littler, and attended by a very large number of chairmen of Quarter Sessions and other gentlemen, almost all of whom held views very different from his own. At that Conference they passed a resolution to the following effect—That in order to facilitate a considerable reduction of licences where such reduction seems desirable, this conference is of opinion that, provision should be made for compensating all interests in licensed property dispossessed, otherwise than for misconduct, from a fund raised by the trade from excisable liquors.Therefore he asserted that the essential condition attaching to any Parliamentary sanction for a mutual 376 insurance scheme among the trade must be first that the trade must pay everything that was required, and second, that free scope must be given for a great reduction in the number of houses. The money must come from the trade, and full and absolute power must be given to the justices, or anybody else to whom Parliament might from time to time entrust the power of dealing with licences, to reduce the number of licences, or to abolish them altogether if they should think fit to do so. The levy to be made on the trade must be guided by the reduction and fixed by the reduction; the reduction must not be fixed, as in this Bill, by the levy. The Bill made a miserable paltry levy, and so tied the hands of the justices that they could not get rid of licences unless there was money enough in the levy to buy them out. It was an essential principle that the levy should be fixed by the reduction, and not the reduction by the levy. It was also essential that nothing should be done to block the way for future reduction; the way should be left perfectly open for Parliament to pass any other measure of temperance reform that might at any time be found to be desirable. Another point was that, sooner or later, the principle of compensation must come to an end. He was not particular about the time; all he insisted upon was that an end should be put to it at some time or other. He submitted that these conditions were reasonable.
The Royal Commission, to which reference had frequently been made in the course of the debate, reported that we had a gigantic evil in our midst, and that it was a national degradation that had to be dealt with. They would not reduce that national degradation unless there was a large reduction in the number of public houses, and unless there was to be that large reduction, State interference in the matter was altogether unnecessary. This Bill would not facilitate a reduction in the number of public houses. It was, if he might be allowed to use the expression, an imposture; it would not facilitate a reduction in the number of licensed houses, but it would check justices and limit their power 377 to get rid of these places. The real object of the Bill was to put a stop to the energy which the magistrates had been recently showing in reducing licences. In definite words, in Clause VI., the Bill deprived the justices of the power to refuse the renewal of licences on other ground than misconduct, unless compensation was paid. The levy mentioned in the Bill was a meagre one, and he doubted if hon. Members had any idea how meagre that levy was. Take the case of a small country town with ten licensed houses. It would take thirty years before there would be sufficient money to buy out one licence. Then, in the case of a larger area with 150 licences, assuming that the licences taken away would be only half the average annual value, it would only be possible to get rid of one a year. If they examined the provisions of the Bill, they would find that it did not compel the payment of the full levy of 6s. 8d. per £100. It was quite possible, if the local authorities thought it desirable, to make the levy as low as 3d. per £100. Another point which ought to be borne in mind was that the system of exchanges of licences was practically put an end to, and reduction by purchase was to take the place of reduction by exchange. In fact, the reductions now occurring, except for reasons of misconduct, would be put a stop to altogether; and, further than that, the misconduct would have to be very grave, indeed, before a licence was abolished when once the principle of compensation was accepted. As a matter of fact, the fund, if established according to the Bill, would not be sufficient to buy out as many licences as were got rid of under present circumstances without compensation. He noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley, in a letter published in the Press to-day, had declared that if Mr. Goschen's scheme had been accepted it would have settled the temperance question.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
No, I said it would have settled the point which the hon. Gentleman is now raising.
§ MR. WHITTAKER
said he would like to point out that the amount of money 378 provided by Lord Goschen's scheme was so meagre that, as a matter of actual fact, since that scheme had been rejected they had got rid of more licences up and down the country than it would have been possible to abolish under it.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
If the scheme had been adopted there would have been £6,000,000 in the fund at the present moment.
§ MR. WHITTAKER
said he would like to give some illustrations to prove his argument. The Royal Commission had before it figures showing the number of licences in London in 1886 and 1896, and during that period of ten years 866 of the old licences disappeared. Taking the estimate given in the Majority Report of the amount of money that would be raised by a levy on the value of the houses—an estimate made by Mr. E. North Buxton, than whom there was no higher authority in the trade—it might be taken that the average value of beer and public-houses of the kind that were likely to be closed would be £2,500 each. It was estimated that a fund on the basis provided by the Bill would, in a period of ten years, have sufficed to buy up only 540 houses, whereas, without the power of compensation, no fewer than 866 of these licensed premises had been closed. He might be reminded that the County Council had got rid of a number of the licences; as a matter of fact, during the ten years the County Council had closed forty licensed houses.
§ MR. WHITTAKER
said that interruption was not germane to his argument. What he desired to impress upon the House was that under the scheme set forth in the Bill they would get rid of fewer licences than they were getting rid of without it. It would only have been possible to close 580 houses, apart from cases of misconduct, as against the 866 which had actually been closed without any scheme of compensation. This was not a question for London only. He had a list of thirty-five licensing districts—thirty-two 379 of them being boroughs—which he ventured to suggest were of a representative character. He would read the names:—Carlisle, Exeter, Plymouth, South Shields, Sunderland, Blackburn, Preston, Salford, Norwich, Newcastle, Tynemouth, Pembroke, Haverfordwest, Shrewsbury, Wenlock, Reigate, Bradford, Bedford, Cardiff, Portsmouth, Margate, Oldham, Rochdale, Ashton-under-Lyne, Yarmouth, Nottingham, Bath, Kingston, Kidderminster, Worcester, Hull, and Middlesbrough. Between 1886 and 1896 in those thirty-five licensing districts twice as many licences were got rid of as would have been possible under the scheme of this Bill. If the Bill had been in force during the it decade, the reduction in the number of licences in those districts would have been less than one-half of that which it had been.
§ MR. WHITTAKER
Yes, they include all reductions. Anotherillustration of the inadequacy of the levy was the fact that Scotland had far fewer publichouses and licensed premises, in proportion to the population, than England, and, under this scheme, it would be more than sixty years before the number of licensed premises in England could be reduced to the number that existed in Scotland according to population, as the population here now stood—and Scotland wanted a further reduction. The Bill was a retrograde proposal, and instead of being a reduction-facilitating Bill, it was a reduction-prevention Bill. It was a ridiculous farce, an imposture, and it was really trifling with the House and the country to bring forward such a measure and describe it as one for facilitating the reduction of the number of public houses. Never before had a proposal to give compensation to the trade been made in Parliament without being accompanied by some substantial temperance reform. The proposal under Mr. Bruce's Bill was accompanied by a sweeping measure of temperance reform, and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he introduced his Bill of 1888, thought he was giving a wide scheme of tem- 380 perance reform. On that occasion, however, the right hon. Gentleman had been wrongly advised as to the law, as the justices already had the power he proposed to give. The misapprehension under which the right hon. Gentleman laboured was shown by his statement on 9th March, 1888, when he said—Although these licences are technically renewable year by year, it has again and again been held by the Courts of law that renewals of these licences cannot be refused except for fault shown. We think it is an undoubted defect in the existing condition of the law that the licensing authority has no power to reduce the number of licences, however much they may consider the licences are out of proportion to the needs of the population.The right hon. Gentleman therefore thought he was giving a substantial measure of temperance reform when he proposed to give the County Councils power to reduce the number of licences. Sir E. Clarke was responsible for that mistake, and it was while he was misleading the Government the Sharp v. Wakefield decision was given. Then in 1890 it was distinctly stated that the power to buy was to be additional to the justices' power to refuse. When it was suggested that the proposal would limit the power of the justices, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer repudiated the idea and said—Nothing can be more contrary to our intention; nothing can be more ludicrous.The Majority Report recommended the compensation on which the hon. Member had founded his Bill, but it also recommended substantial temperance reform. The levy was miserably inadequate. Even the insurance money was often 15s. per cent. so that, as the levy was only 6s. 8d., they would save on the insurance.
It was suggested that the trade could not afford to provide the necessary money. The fact had too long been lost sight of that eighty years ago the trade was taxed two and a half times as heavily as at present. When the miserable Beer Act of 1830 was passed, there was a duty of 10s. per barrel on beer, and a malt tax equivalent to 7s. or 8s., or 9s. per barrel, so that from 1800 to 1830 the taxation on beer, through the malt and beer taxes, amounted to from 14s. to 20s. per 381 barrel. The 10s. duty was taken off when the Beer Act of 1830 was passed and had never been re-imposed. That relief from taxation had gone into the value of the houses and created the difficulty which now existed. Five per cent. on the present taxation, or as much as had been levied on the trade for the war, would provide all that was required. Would that be crushing? The trade were in this dilemma. If, as was sometimes contended, a reduction in the number of public-houses did not diminish drinking, then the trade could bear it, because if there was the same amount of trade with fewer houses the profits would be larger, as working expenses would be smaller, and there would really be no levy on the trade at all. On the other hand, if a reduction did diminish the drinking, it meant the public-houses promoted drinking and intemperance, and were therefore a public evil. At the outside, the levy would produce £500,000 a year, or 30s. per hundred of population, so that in a village of 1,000 inhabitants £15 a year would be realised for buying up licences. Taking the value of a licence at £1,000, the levy for sixty-six villages with a population of 1,000 each would be required to buy up one licence. Fancy the authority in the West Biding of Yorkshire running about among sixty-six villages with the money to buy up one licence to decide in which village that licence should be got rid of. And, moreover, it would be another the Bill sixty-six years before the turn of that village to get rid of a second licence came round! The whole proposal was ludicrous, and the machinery for carrying it out was ridiculous. The joint committees were to levy the money, the reducing authorities were to reduce, and then there was to be an appeal to Quarter Sessions. The joint committees need not levy the 6s. 8d.; they might levy 3d., and so put a stop to the whole business. But suppose they did levy the money, the reducing authority might not use it; they were not bound to abolish licences If they did there was still an appeal to queerer session In many cases the Bill would make a talk about it as a measure for facilitating reduction was really to misrepresent the whole thing. At no time was the scheme to 382 cease; the value of the houses would go on accumulating as the number diminished, and even new licences were to acquire a claim. It was really a perpetual endowment scheme for public-houses. To sum up: the Bill would seriously diminish the power of the justices, it would limit their power to reduce the number of licences to an amount provided by another body; at best, that amount would be ridiculously small, and it would make the reduction over the greater part of the country smaller than it had been without any such Bill; it would entrench in a stronger legal position than it was now in a trade, the results of which the majority of the Royal Commission described as "a gigantic soil and a national degradation," and, what was worse, it would practically slam the door in the face of all hope of temperance reform in the future. It was, therefore, with great confidence that he moved that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words, 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Whitaker.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. CORBETT (Glasgow, Tradeston)
said he did not intend to go into the details dealt with by the hon. Member who had moved the rejection of this Bill. It seemed to him, however, that it was very desirable that the House should be fully alive as to the issue upon which their votes would be given. An attempt had been made to prove that their votes would be given upon the principle of compensation, but he ventured to say that the principle of compensation was far too vague a matter to dictate any hon. Member's vote, because the term "compensation" had been applied to such a great variety of proposals differing widely from one another. Lord Peel's proposals had constantly been declared to be no compensation at all. The principle was so varied in its meaning that any hon. Member who voted in favour of this measure on the ground of the compensation principle would make a very serious mistake. If to a Bill had been introduced embodying 383 Lord Peel's conception of compensation he did not think the mover and seconder of this Bill would have supported such a proposal on the ground that it merely embodied the principle of compensation. They would have voted against it because they would have regarded the compensation as wholly inadequate. What they had to do was to look this Bill in the face as a big practical fact. Each hon. Member must ask himself whether this Bill, as a whole, would do good or harm, and whether it would help or hinder temperance reform. This Bill would reduce the number of withdrawals of licences, and refusals of renewals would be much fewer than they were at present because if every local authority in every area were to extend the largest sum to be got from the licence holders and exercise its powers to the fullest extent, and if in every case they were supported by Quarter Sessions, it would take 100 years to diminish the licences by one-third. He thought under such conditions practically no reduction of licences would take place under the proposals of this measure. One of the most serious aspects was that this measure would do away with the power of the magistrates to do anything to raise the character of public houses. A great deal of success had attended the efforts of the Liverpool magistrates in this respect, for their policy was to diligently watch the character of the different public houses and let it be known to the publican that if his base fell below the standard, or if it gained the reputation of being the worst conducted house in the neighbourhood, that licence would be withdrawn, He believed the influence of this course had done more to diminish drunkenness in Liverpool than the reduction of the number of licences, and all this warning to the publican that if his business was badly conducted he would not have his licence renewed would be gone if this measure were carried.
It had been very clearly pointed out that by insurance publicans had been hitherto able to meet the case. The great insurance company doing this business showed that it had made a substantial profit on the year's working, notwithstanding all the licences which had been taken away. 384 Personally, he thought it was perfectly possible for the trade to make an insurance arrangement of its own. Allusion was made by the introducer of the Bill to the fact that sometimes individuals lost their livelihood through the action of the justices. A very striking thing throughout the whole of this controversy was how difficult it had been to establish cases of individual hardship. If there had been many of these cases, Sir Ralph Littler would not have been so unfortunate in his illustrations. In one of the two illustrations chosen by him it was alleged that a man had been paid £300 to enter upon his licence; it was proved that that man had paid his £300 for furniture and fittings and that he had paid nothing for goodwill. Sir Ralph Littler replied that as the furniture and fittings would have to be sold there would he a certain amount of loss. The other case was that of a widow who was said to have paid over £700 to meet the requirements of the authorities. When this case came to be sifted it was found that this amount had been paid, in part for the acquisition of adjoining property, and that it had not been paid by the widow at all but by a wealthy firm of brewers. Sir Ralph Littler replied that it did not matter who paid the money, and it would be no consolation, he said, to Lord Peel if a robbery had taken place in his house to say that it had been perpetrated by one of his own servants. It was as clearly shown that this loss which was alleged to have taken place, instead of falling upon the widow, had fallen upon those who were carrying on a lucrative business. If this were a question of legal right, the fact that the brewers were prosperous would be no reason why their right should be denied them. It seemed to him that the House had a very serious decision to come to, for this question would be watched throughout the country with a very great amount of interest. Young men and women were making towards the great cities and towns, where they encountered not only the warfare of commercial competition but the greater battle between the powers that worked for good and evil. They had hands stretched out on one hand to drag them down; they had temptations put in their way; there were also hands stretched out to help 385 them. Any one who had any acquaintance with the philanthropic efforts of great cities could realise how many men and women there were who were devoting their whole lives to trying to raise the fallen, and protect the poor. To all those carrying on this noble work in an unostentatious spirit the passing of this measure would be a stunning blow. I urge this House, with all earnestness, to refrain from doing this great wrong.
MR. LLOYD WHARTON* (Yorkshire, W.R., Ripon)
said that even the hon. Member opposite, who was in favour of doing away with the liquor trade, could not help feeling that it was only right and fair that something should be done in the way of compensation to remedy any injustice caused by the removal of licences. He did not think he needed to apologise to the House for rising on this occasion, because, whereas his hon. friend opposite represented the Minority Report of the Commission, he believed that on the Ministerial side of the House he was alone in representing the majority of that Commission; and as this Bill represented the recommendations of the Majority Report with regard to compensation he felt it his duty to trouble the House a few minutes upon this subject. The Majority Report, as the House probably knew, was the Report of seventeen out of twenty-four Members, and their recommendation for compensation was virtually the recommendation of the scheme of this Bill. The whole Commission, both majority and minority, were in favour of some scheme of compensation. So that, as far as the principal matter connected with this Bill was concerned, the rough idea of the measure was supported by the whole of the Royal Commission. That was no slight matter for them to consider upon the Second Reading of this Bill. They were told that there was no property in licences, but still the recognition of licences by the tax-gatherers was such that it was impossible to disregard this sort of property. As far as he could gather from the feeling of the country there was, amongst the majority, a determination that there should be some measure of compensation when dealing with public houses that had 386 been well conducted for many years. His hon. friend who had just sat down told them that the cases quoted by Sir Ralph Littler did not show any material hardship. The other day he happened to occupy the position of Chairman of Quarter Sessions, and he had a good many of these cases to deal with. On one day he had seven cases before him. He would only trouble the House with short details of three out of the seven cases, and if they did not convey to hon. Members proof of some hardship he should be very much mistaken. He would take the case of a small hotel situated on the bank of the river Wear; there was not a bad record of any kind against the house; it was kept by an old lady, assisted by her daughter, and was used mainly by men upon the ships in the river. The whole takings of the hotel were £6 a week, and according to the usual computation £2 of that sum would be regarded as profit. She was put in there without any rent to pay, having been a good old servant. It was proposed by the local bench of magistrates to take away the licence as being unnecessary. He should have thought that if ever there was a house which was necessary this one was necessary for the particular class of the public who went there to enjoy social intercourse. An appeal in that case was allowed, and he held that it would have been a gross injustice and hardship to the licence holder if the Appeal Court had supported the magistrates in that case in taking away the licence.
§ MR. CORBETT
Will the hon. Member say if compensation would be given in that case, where the tenant is a tenant at will?
§ Mr. WHARTON
said that would depend on circumstances. In another case the local authority insisted, most rightly, in the carrying out of certain sanitary repairs. The cost was £274. The total profit in a year from that place was £200. The local bench took the licence away, although the licence holder had acted up to their orders. In that case, there being no cause for complaint, such refusal was a gross hardship and injustice. The appeal was allowed. 387 The third case was one where the house was bought by the woman who kept it for £1,700, of which £300 was her own, the rest being borrowed. A fire occurred in the house the year she took possession, and the interior was burned. She was able to maintain the house, and to continue the business while the rebuilding of the injured part went on, the repairs being paid for out of the profits. When the repairs were completed, the magistrates refused to renew the licence, although there was no complaint against the house. These were cases of hardship and injustice, where the Appeal Court came in for the restitution of justice. With regard to the question whether or not the frequency of public-houses produced drunkenness, the fact came out in the evidence given before the Committee that drunkenness did not follow the public houses; it followed money, and where there were high wages there was the drink. It was not a question of public houses, although he agreed with his hon. friend in wishing to see a reduction in the number. He looked at the question from the police point of view. If there were five public houses in a district, and two were taken away, the police could deal more easily with the three that remained. His hon. friend opposite said that the compensation proposed was of insufficient amount, and he was opposed to the Bill because of that limitation. But this was a matter that might be cured in Committee, and was no reason for opposing the Bill. He should vote for the second reading, because he believed the Bill would carry out what he desired in the way of limiting the number of public houses, and would act in the direction of promoting temperance in the country.
§ MR. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W.R., Keighley)
said that in order to justify the few remarks he had to make in respect of the Bill under consideration, he asked the House to pardon him if he referred briefly to a number of circumstances bearing on this question with which he was himself most familiar. He had been a chairman of Petty Sessions for thirty years, and also deputy chairman of Quarter Sessions, and he had had considerable 388 experience in licensing matters, and things of that description. A Return had been made of the number of public houses according to population in the whole of the separate Petty Sessional Divisions of the West Riding of Yorkshire. In looking over that Return he found that the division in which he had been acting so long was, by far, at the head of the; list. There was in it only one licensed house to about every 600 of the population. Although meetings of the justices had been held to consider the question of the reduction of the licences it had not been found necessary to reduce any, as for thirty years no new licence had been granted seeing the population had increased twofold during these thirty years, and as no new licence had been granted, that meant practically that there had been a reduction of licences. That suited two opposed sections of people very well indeed. The publicans were satisfied, because their houses had become more valuable, and the temperance people were satisfied because no more licences had been issued. The Bill, he considered, was misnamed in being entitled a Bill for compensation. The strong point of the Bill was not compensation, but simply to give an assured statutory position to the licence-holders. If the Bill had been introduced simply with a compensation clause it might have secured his support, although some question might have arisen as to how the money should be obtained for the purposes of compensation, but beyond that he could not go at all. By the Bill the licence-holder was placed in a different position from that which he at present occupied, because now a licence could not be taken away without compensation if the holder was able to obtain a testimonial of good character, etc. Now, hon. Members knew that it was very easy to get such a testimonial. He did not believe that the Bill would carry out the reform which the public desired, viz., the reduction of licences, or the amount of drinking. He would remind the House that many years ago if two endorsements were made on the licence against the same house, that involved the forfeiture of the licence; but a modification of the Act took place by which the forfeiture of the licence was to take place with reference to the tenant only, and not to the house. Since then the power of the magistrates in regard to the 389 reduction of licensed houses had been practically taken away from them, because, in case of the endowment of a licence, the old tenant was displaced, a new tenant was put in, and the house began again on a fresh basis. Again, appeals had not been satisfactory in any way, and it was difficult, if opposed by an appeal, to obtain convictions against a house; so that for twenty years past, in his own district, no suppression of a licence hew taken place. The passing of the Bill would be simply to paralyse the action of the magistrates, and give no protection or safeguard to the public, and would extend, and not diminish, the opportunities for drinking to the injury of the people.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tonbridge)
said that the Bill raised a question of the very greatest and most pressing importance, because, he ventured to say, unless some equitable solution was found for the compensation of those whose property in a licence was taken away in consequence of the demand for the reduction of licences, and not as the result of any misconduct, there could be very little progress in that particular form of temperance reform which was supposed to follow from the reduction of licensed houses. If the magistrates were not given to understand clearly that their action must depend on some equitable method of compensation, public opinion would become so strong that the present movement in favour of the reduction of licences would be stopped. In dealing with the Bill, he and other hon. Members were in some difficulty. He entirely supported the principle on which the Bill was founded—the principle that reduction of licences for other reasons than misconduct must be accompanied by compensation. But he could not agree with the details of the Bill, because he did not see why the whole of the compensation should come out of the trade. In fact, when there was a question of a change of policy resulting from a desire to do a public good it seemed to him that the cost of that change should come, not out of the trade affected, but out of the public generally. He wished to make it perfectly clear at the outset that he did not pledge himself to the support of the details of the Bill. He confessed to being very much astonished at the opposition 390 of some of the hon. Members to the Bill. He was astonished at the attitude taken up by his hon. friend the Member for Spen Valley. Nobody would suggest that the hon. Member was not actuated by the highest and best motives; he had worked as a temperance reformer with the greatest energy for many years, and everything that he said deserved a candid hearing on the part of the House But why should the hon. Gentleman who signed the Minority Report of the Royal Commission, which distinctly laid down the principle of compensation, oppose this Bill? The hon. Gentleman had said over and over again, first of ail that there ought to be compensation; second, that it should come from the trade; and third, that a certain part of the trade would escape unless there was legislation. Why then should be object to the plan of his hon. friend the Member for York, which would make the whole trade contribute. In fact the greater part of the hon. Gentleman's speech had been devoted to proving what was laid down in black and white in the Bill, and yet he moved the rejection of a measure which supported the very views he expressed when he signed the Minority Report of the Royal Commission. The reason which the hon. Gentleman gave was that the Bill would curtail the power of the magistrates, and that the fund raised would be so small that there would be less reduction under the Bill than there had been in recent years without it. But the hon. Member entirely overlooked the fact that the reduction which had taken place in recent years had been almost entirely due to either misconduct on the part of the licence-holder or to public improvements.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
Yes, it was the case that until a few years ago there was hardly an instance of a licence being taken away, except for public improvements or misconduct; and the hon. Member forgot that under this Bill both these causes of reduction would continue to operate. Whenever a public improvement was made, either by the local authority or by private individuals, and a reduction of the licences took place—in every one of these cases the full market value of the licence would be paid. And so also the reduction of licences for misconduct would continue 391 under the Bill if it became an Act, as in the past. But a new method of reduction would be added by the Bill by enabling the magistrates to do it equitably by finding compensation for the suppression of the licences. He, therefore, failed entirely to understand the position taken up by his hon. friend. Passing from that, he wished to consider first, the question of the reduction of licences; second, whether there ought to be compensation; and, third, the form which that compensation ought to take. It seemed to be assumed by hon. Members opposite, and by a good many hon. Members on his own side of the House, that reduction of licences was a sort of panacea for drunkenness. He very much doubted that. As long as they permitted clubs to be built, and new clubs to grow up which were not subject to strict police control, and which were open at all hours, he did not see how a reduction in the number of public houses was going to lead to a large diminution of drinking, for the holder of the suppressed licence would immediately start a club, and all the worst evils of a club would take the place of the evils of the public house. The figures which had been quoted over and over again did not prove the contention of the hon. Member that drunkenness varied in the same ratio as the number of public houses. Sir Ralph Littler had shown by figures that in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Hertfordshire, Staffordshire, and other districts, where there was only one public house to 104 of the popution, the convictions for drunkenness were fewer than in Cheshire, Durham, Lancashire, Glamorganshire, and other districts where there was one public house to 374 of the population. This showed that where there were more public houses there were fewer convictions for drunkenness. He would quote one great authority in this matter. Mr. Gladstone said—Mere reduction of licences as a remedy for intemperance is little short of imposture.He maintained that the wholesale reduction of licences recently made by the justices, from the best of motives no doubt, was a mistake. The whole question ought to be tackled, because the mere reduction alone would not settle it. He might say parenthetically that he was generally in favour of a 392 reduction in the number of public houses.
Now, as to the question of compensation, a good deal had been said that day about legal rights. He did not doubt that the justices had an absolute legal right to take away licences if they believed that these licences were not wanted. He thought that there was no difference of opinion in the House in regard to that. But the question was not one of legal right; it was a question of moral and equitable right—whether the law was fair, equitable, and just. It was because he, and those who agreed with him, contended that the law as ascertained now was not just, fair, and equitable, that they said if there was to be a wholesale reduction of licences the principle of compensation must be settled once for all, and that until it was so settled the movement for the reduction should be checked. The hon. Gentleman opposite said that it was not poor people that would suffer. He did not care who suffered, whether it was the poor widow or the rich brewer who had his property taken away by a change of public policy. There ought to be no injustice on anyone. In Farnham sixteen licences were taken away. He would quote one or two cases. One was the case of a licence held since 1838 with stabling for twelve horses; profit £123; no complaint ever made. Why should that licence be taken away? Why should the brewer, if it were a brewer, have his property taken away after having held the licence for such a number of years, and why should the publican who earned his livelihood by managing the house lose that livelihood? Another licence was held by a widow for twenty-two years; the house was registered as a lodging-houses and the justices had allowed £791 to be spent on it. There was no complaint, and again he asked why should such a licence be taken away without full and adequate compensation being paid both to the owner and the occupier? He would take another case. A friend of his who was managing director of a brewery company, in which he had invested most of his money, wrote that two months ago the local justices selected an area in Birkenhead, and requested the voluntary surrender 393 of 25 per cent. of the licences. The brewery company had two houses in that area, and gave up the least important of the two, which they had purchased for £2,640, and which without the licence was not worth £500. Why should that company, which had invested its money on the reasonable expectation that the licence would be renewed, except for misconduct, lose its money as a result of a change of public policy? He contended that whatever their legal right might be, the moral right of the magistrates to take away licences without compensation did not exist. Two strong reasons were given to prove that. In estimating property for the purpose of the Death Duties the State took the full market value on the hypothesis that the licence would be renewed. The hon. Member for the Spen Valley made great fun of that. The hon. Member said that a man might die leaving a racehorse which would be valued at its full market value, and that perhaps the following week it would meet with an accident, and have to be killed. The hon. Member said that brewers took the same risk. But the racehorse would not be killed in consequence of a change of public policy. The State did not decree how many racehorses there were to be in the country. The point in regard to the reduction of licences was that it was the result of a change of policy which had been suddenly introduced, no doubt for excellent reasons; and according to every British tradition of honesty and justice the persons aggrieved by that change of policy should be fully and properly compensated.
Take again the question of structural alterations, which appeared to him to be the strongest point of all. When a man applied for a licence, or for the renewal of a licence, the justices very often insisted on certain structural alterations being made. Did the hon. Gentleman opposite suppose that structural alterations, which might involve the expenditure of thousands of pounds, were to be made for one year only? The very fact that those structural alterations were made a condition of the licence being granted showed that in the eyes of the justices the licence was to be for more than one year He had no 394 doubt that until the justice of compensation was admitted, there would be no temperance reform The only point was—what form should the compensation take? His hon. friend who introduced the Bill was in the difficulty that as an unofficial Member he could not propose a charge on the public revenue But to charge the whole of the compensation on the trade would be unfair and illogical, and for this reason If less beer and spirits were consumed as the result of the reduction of licences, the houses which remained would not profit by the reduction If the Bill were to do anything from the temperance point of view, then the public would profit, and for that the public ought to pay If the remaining houses were going to sell as much liquor as before, then reduction of licences would be useless, and would even be an evil because the people would be massed into fewer houses, and drunkenness would be made more easy There was another strong reason why the public should contribute a certain share In the year 1890, as the House knew, the State allocated £440,000 a year—amounting now to over £6,000,000—for the express purpose of buying out public houses; but the money had been diverted to other, though, no doubt, excellent purposes He thought the trade had an absolute claim to the whole of that money, at least, being devoted to the payment of compensation for the reduction of licences He ventured to say that that contribution at least should be made from the public exchequer; and if that were done, justice would be done, and a step in the direction of temperance reform would be taken He supported the principle of the measure, and he hoped the Second Reading would be passed He hoped also that when they came to consider the details, they would be able to arrive at a solution more equitable than that proposed by his hon. friend.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cornwall, Camborne)
said it appeared strange to him as a new Member to find, on returning tothe House, that it was still engaged in endeavouring to cure the drinkevil In a few words he would endeavour to deal with the principle of the Bill as was the custom 395 on a Second Reading debate, and would leave the details to Committee The hon. Member had brought forward the Bill on the broad ground of compensation, and therefore they would vote in favour of compensation or against it What was the correct position for the State to take up with regard to the liquor traffic? Lord Wolseley said some years ago that the only pressing enemy to England was strong drink When he left the House there was proceeding a war which had been settled in a sort of way, and he now came back to find peace The question was whether this Bill would diminish the evil caused by strong drink In his opinion it would not What ought legislation to do with regard to promoting temperance except to remove temptation? Every step must be taken in that direction to do any good During the last year or two the House had passed a Bill preventing children being served with drink, and last year there was the Bill brought forward by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and supported by the whole House, to do something to diminish the temptation to drink One very prominent part of that Bill dealt with clubs, which were a very great nuisance, but he would ask whether licensed public houses were much better than clubs The Times had said that it would be impossible to find anything which caused so much loss to soul, body and estate as the public house It was a huge nuisance and misery, and there was no vice, disease, disorder, or calamity of any kind which had not its frequent rise in the public house. For a long time the magistrates had not done much in the way of protecting the people from the public house In fact they had not shown the efficiency recommended by Lord Rosebery Had they preserved the people from legalised temptations there would probably have been no Permissive Bill or Local Veto Bill in this House, and they would have had this complex question of politics eliminated from their discussions The Farnham case showed the magistrates that they could take the initiative and they found that they had the best public opinion at their back, and that all Christian and patriotic people were with them But what happened? All of a sudden the Prime Minister came down to a meeting, and, in the words of the hon. Gentle- 396 man opposite, he gave a severe lecture to the magistrates They had heard of John Knox tuning the pulpits, but that was nothing to the Prime Minister bullying the benches He was glad to see that the bullying did not have much effect in the country In his own county it had no effect whatever, because the magistrates at Quarter Sessions refuse as many licences as they thought fit He even doubted whether the country approved of the Prime Minister's lecture At all events he went down to Camborne recently and spent a great part of his time in a business which was new to him—that of defending the integrity and independence of the magistrates—and the result was that the electors sent him to the House to tell the Prime Minister what they thought of his severe lecture He was rather surprised to hear the language used towards the Bill by the hon. Member for the Spen Valley, who called it fraudulent.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said that when he was in the House he should not have been allowed to use language like that He simply said it was a howling fraud, because it said in the memorandum that it was intended to facilitate the reduction of licences How was it possible to first take away the powers of the magistrates to reduce licences and then say it would facilitate their reduction? He did not believe that public opinion was with the hon. Gentleman The Church of England Temperance Society, which was a very influential association, with the King at its head and all the Bishops of the country as its Vice-Presidents, had declared that the Bill of the hon. Member instead of facilitating reduction of licences would seriously hamper the existing powers of the licensing justices In his opinion compensation was as objectionable as anything could well be Both the Majority and Minority Reports agreed that public money ought not to be given for that purpose If it was public money that was to be taken, it would be condemned by everybody, and if it was to be private money, it ought not to be set out in a public Bill, and the House ought to have nothing whatever 397 to do with any arrangement made between the liquor sellers themselves, as they would have nothing to do with an arrangement between an equal number of tailors or shoemakers. But it really was public money that would be taken to pay persons who could not get a licence. They only possessed pieces of paper, upon which it was proposed to initiate a scheme that would cost the country millions and millions of money. He respectfully asked the House to be chary in taking such a step. Let them remember what took place eight or ten years ago when virtually this scheme was brought before the House. It was then opposed bitterly throughout the country, not by wretched fanatics like himself, but by the respectable people—the moderate drinkers of the country. They were against the Government of the day, a stronger Government, perhaps, than this, and quite as good—if that were possible. There were tremendous demonstrations all over the country, and the common-sense portion of the English people said they would not pay these people because they would not be allowed to sell beer. He was not going to brag, boast, or prophesy, but it looked as if the fight was going on again He did not say they would be able to defeat the liquor men if they went into it heart and soul, but he did say they would make it one of the biggest fights ever seen in this country. Twelve years had elapsed since the last fight, and in that twelve years they had been teaching the people what the public houses really were, and what misery and horror were produced by the drink traffic. The Leader of the Opposition and his hon. friend the Member for West Monmouth were in the last fight, and they would be in it again if he knew them at all, as in fact would be every one except those who had a financial or political interest in the question. He saw an expression on the previous day which defined the situation very well It was that the liquor trade had presented a pistol at she head of the Government with a demand "Your life or the nation's money!" Of course he was not going to blame the Government. It was a case of skin for skin, and before a man would give his life he would be prepared to give other 398 people's money. Even the Government, strong and determined as they were, desired to save their own lives, but he would ask them to pause and consider what would be the effect on their character—for they had a character. The Colonial Secretary once said that a priest-ridden nation was to be pitied and a publican-ridden nation to be despised. He shuddered to think of the language that would have to be used by the right hon. Gentleman of a Government that was both. He implored the House to throw out the Bill and show the world that the time had come for the House to take into its own hands the power to quell and check an evil that was against the best interests of the nation.
§ MR. GROVES
said he had had the pleasure for the first time of listening to the hon. Baronet, though he had known of him for many years. The hon. Baronet went to Manchester for the purpose of his annual pic-nic as president of the United Kingdom Alliance, and he was a familiar figure who had proved a great stumbling block to much practical temperance legislation for the last quarter of a century. These remarks he offered in no personal sense, as until now he had not had the pleasure or honour of the hon. Gentleman's acquaintance. In his remarkably lucid and clear introduction of this Bill the hon. Member for York dealt with its various provisions, and he did not therefore purpose going into the details of the Bill. He was there to express his adherence to the broad principles embodied in the Bill, and he did this with a full sense of the responsibility attaching to him, not only as a Member of that House but in his capacity as Chairman of the Country Brewers' Society of England and Wales. He voiced the opinion of the wholesale trade of the country, and he desired to take that opportunity of saying that while they considered the time had come when the principle of compensation for the reduction of licences, if licences were to be reduced, should be accepted by the House, they did not lay down any hard and fast or cast-iron rules or methods as to how the fund from which compensation was to be derived, should be raised, but they were 399 willing to pledge themselves to support the broad principle of compensation which was embodied in the Bill. He looked upon the hon. Member for the Spen Valley, as no doubt he (Mr. Whittaker) looked upon him, as being among the rather dangerous men of the other side. He should like to say that he saw a great danger in the characteristics and attributes of the hon. Member, because he combined the suaviter in modo with the fortiter in reso necessary for carrying the propaganda of which he was the apostle to a successful issue. One of his most dangerous attributes was that, unlike the hon. Member for the Camborne Division, he was quite willing to accept an instalment of his programme, but he carried up his sleeve the remaining part of his propaganda; and as soon as he had got what they were willing to give him, like Oliver Twist he wanted more.
The position the licensed trade took up was that when legislation took effect there should be continuity and fixity in the policy, aim and intent of that legislation; and it was because they desired, equally with their friends on the other side of the House, continuity and fixity of policy that they supported this Bill, with many of the provisions of which they did not agree and some of which they objected to. The hon. Member for the Spen Valley flourished a document emphasising the argument that licences were at the present moment insurable at a very low rate of premium. Cases like this were not established by flourishing documents in small print from the other side of the House, but if he could have established a case, even upon the basis of that document, he would have strengthened the cause he was advocating. As a matter of fact, however, he had had an opportunity of perusing that document and he would venture to give an extract which his hon. friend, no doubt unintentionally, omitted. It was the prospectus of a prominent License Insurance Company. It was, to a large extent, governed on its Board of Directors by brewers, and so far perhaps was open to suspicion, but the extract which the hon. Member omitted to read contained a distinct enunciation by the Chairman of the Board to the effect that in a very large number of cases licences 400 at the present moment were uninsurable by the Company.
§ MR. GROVES
said he had understood from the hon. Member that document was dated last week. The speech, was at the last annual meeting of the Company about a month ago. The date of the prospectus was probably a year or two ago. Events moved rapidly, and they must take the policy of the Company as enunciated in the latest pronouncement of the Chairman at the last annual meeting. The Chairman of the Company said that under the altered circumstances these licences could not be insured by the Company on the old terms. He was speaking with regard to those scheduled are as which existed in many large centres and which were referred to by the magistrates in their statements from the Benches a month or two ago—certain areas that were considered to be congested and in which a large reduction of licences would be required in the current year. When they had the statement that this Company, which had done the majority of the license insurance, no longer intended to accept premiums on the old conditions and excluded this risk from their policies he thought the hon. Member had entirely failed to make out his case that for a small premium licence holders were able to insure their property. A stronger case even was presented by the Company which did the second largest business in this direction, and which absolutely refused to insure any licenses against this special risk. The hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced the Bill ventured to predict that if the hon. Member for the Spen Valley found a satisfactory solution of this difficult problem he would deserve to go down to posterity as one of the greatest benefactors of the human race. He did not know whether the hon. Member intended to go down to posterity as a benefactor of the human race, but he could well imagine that on the lonely hill-sides of the Spen Valley monuments might be erected to the heroic efforts of the hon. Member to bring about the real object 401 of his propaganda—the total suppression of the liquor trade. He did not think he would succeed, although, because of the attributes he had mentioned, he would make greater progress than the hon. Member for the Camborne Division. If the hon. Member desired to obtain any practical result of his labours he would have to adopt a different attitude to that he had adopted that day. He listened to his long and interesting speech, but he had great difficulty in knowing whether he was arguing in favour of compensation or against it. As an hon. Member had suggested to him, he talked all round his hat, and it was a particularly bad hat at that. He went all round the subject, and when he sat down they had the greatest difficulty in ascertaining whether he was really guided by the instincts which had prompted him during the last twenty years or whether his latter day common sense was urging him in the direction of taking the practical reform offered to him by the present Bill.
What had brought this position about? It was not that the magistrates had been gradually waking up to a sense of their duty, or that they had become suddenly alive to the fact that they possessed powers which they had not known before. It was largely due to the fact that a circular had been issued broadcast to every magistrate in the country by the chairman of the Birmingham licensing Magistrates. He trusted he should not give offence to any relative of that gentleman who might be in the House, but in his opinion the chairman of the Birmingham Bench of Magistrates was at the present moment suffering from a severe attack of swelled head, and if he desired to set himself up as an emperor in the reform of the licensing laws he would ask him to address himself to a practical solution of this question by methods which did not carry with them an attempt to compass what might be a great right by inflicting a great wrong. Their opinion was that the licensing justices had taken a different attitude, partly because of this circular and partly owing to the fact that they were becoming increasingly dominated by the fanatical element of the teetotal party.
The trade would not shirk the conflict. He was not there to champion the trade. 402 which was strong enough to look after itself. But he felt that thinking people in England were waking up to the fact that the action of the magisstrates in singling out a certain section of the community for different treatment from that accorded to any other section was unfair and wrong, and that it was time an end was put to the crusade of spoliation and robbery which these people had initiated. Could it be said that a bench of magistrates, composed of men of the views of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division, could possibly adjudicate judicially on applications for new licences or for renewals of old licences? If an illustration were needed of the real feeling of the country upon this important question, it might be fittingly expressed by the opinion of the Members of this House, and the Reports of the Royal Commission. Seven members of the Royal Commission supported the Minority Report, which was against compensation, but, on the other hand, seventeen members supported the Majority Report upon which this Bill was based. He was content that those figures should be taken as representing the true opinion of the country; he assumed there would be a similar proportion in favour of this Bill when the House went to a division, and he thought the same preponderance of opinion would be found outside. He ventured to say that he and those who worked with him had done more for true temperance than many of those on the opposite side. The holders of licences were the people to find a satisfactory solution of the problem; if they were met with fair terms, and given the rights they were entitled to demand, they would meet hon. Gentlemen opposite. If this was not settled to-day—he did not suppose for a moment that the division would go against them, but if it did, there was an appeal outside the House, and England, he was sure, would never pledge herself to a policy of robbery and spoliation for the supposed benefit of one section of the community to the detriment of the remainder.
DR. HUTCHINSON (Sussex, Rye)
said he had just come from the electorate 403 outside to which the hon. Member had said there was an appeal, and that being so, he wished to say a word or two to show how he stood upon this matter. He was not quite sure, on the present occasion, what he had to vote for: whether it was the fantastic arrangements for compensation proposed by the hon. Member or York, or the plain issue of compensation or no compensation which was suggested by the hon. Baronet the Member for Camborne. If the issue was whether fair compensation was to be given when licences were taken away, without saying where it was to come from, he was pledged most soundly to vote in favour of that compensation. He had no reason to vote for it except for the pledges he had given. Having addressed the House as "Gentlemen," whereat there were cries of "Order," the hon. Member said it was most difficult for a new Member to remember that there was one thing he must not call hon. Members, namely, Gentleman. He believed that whether he voted for or against the Bill, the licensed interest would support him. [Cries of "Why?"] Because by the action he took during the Rye election he was the cause of the Prime Minister making that celebrated reply to the anxious prayer of the poor publicans, and he claimed on that account, the eternal gratitude of the licensed victuallers of the United Kingdom for the rest of his natural life. His hon. friend the Member for the Spen Valley agreed with compensation on certain terms, and his hon. friend opposite, the Member for Tonbridge, said he would not vote for the details of the Bill, but only on the question of compensation. He himself was going to vote for compensation, or else not vote at all, but he should like to hear some authoritative view on the subject which would give a lead and tell the House what it was to vote for.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. WALTER LONG, Bristol, S.)
From the maiden speech we have recently listened to I am satisfied that whatever we may think of the arguments advanced or the views held by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Camborne Division, from all 404 quarters of the House we rejoice to see him once more amongst us. Although he has taken part in the debates of the House to-day for the first time since his return, and spoken as a new Member, it is on the old subject on which he has spoken in days gone by. The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us has done much to relieve this side of the House from the sorrows of the Rye election. He has delivered a speech which was singularly refreshing, but which, I also venture to say, has brought consternation and dismay into all quarters of the House, because he has asked a question it is difficult to answer to his own satisfaction, and has stated it in such a manner as to make the task of anyone making the reply to his question an exceedingly difficult one. He says he is pledged to vote for compensation, but the Bill brought in by the hon. Member for York, which proposes compensation, is so ridiculous that he will not vote for it at all.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
So I said, and therefore the first opportunity which the hon. Gentleman has of performing his pledge places him in this difficulty, and he therefore asks us to advise him what he had best do. I am afraid he will find himself in a position of considerable difficulty, and I do not know that the Rules of Parliament have made any other provision for such a condition of things than that the hon. Member should efface himself on this question, and, having stated what he thinks of it, should take no part in the division whatever. I wish very much that my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for Home Affairs was not absent from the House on this occasion. I regret his absence, not only because of the accident which occasions it, but because, had he been present to-day, it would have fallen to his lot to deal with this Question this afternoon. My hon. friend the Member for York in the very able, moderate, closely reasoned, and temperate speech, in which he introduced this Bill commenced by saying that many would possibly wonder at the fact that he 405 had started out to deal with this difficult problem. Difficult it undoubtedly is, and if there had been any reason for questioning that point we should have been satisfied by the speeches made this afternoon that it is a question which has probably caused this House more difficulty in the last twenty-five or thirty years than any other question that has come before it. This is the first time we have debated it on a Bill dealing with compensation which comes from this side of the House and I regret that my right hon. friend the Home Secretary is not here to deal with it instead of myself. What are the causes that have led to the introduction of this measure by my hon. and learned friend? The case for the rejection of the Bill has been argued with great ability and moderation by the hon. Member for the Spen Valley, and I could not help thinking while listening to him that if his speech, and the closely reasoned and temperate speech of the hon. Member for York, could be taken as accurately representing the two sides of the question, a conference outside the House of Commons might show that the problem is not incapable of solution. But the conclusion which the hon. Member for the Spen Valley arrived at brought with it the conviction that no such Utopia was within reach, at all events at present. It seems to me that the speech of the hon. Member for the Spen Valley was one which would have been more suitable had he proposed to support the Second Reading of the Bill with the intention of moving large and far reaching Amendments in Committee. He undoubtedly pointed out—as indeed anybody who criticises a Bill of this kind can point out—that the Bill falls short in many respects of the requirements of the case. My hon. and learned friend the Member for York would, I am convinced, be the first to allow that, in dealing with a question of this kind, it is obvious that any measure proposed in this House, and especially one by a private Member who has not had the advantage of official draftsmanship, experience and knowledge, would certainly require consideralbe alteration before it could be efficiently dealt with. But when we had from the hon. Member in clear and statesmanlike terms his admission that given certain reforms and advantages, he would be prepared to accept the principle of compensation, and when the hon. Member for York stated distinctly that his object was not 406 to tie the House to the details and machinery of the Bill, or the methods of compensation, but to lay down the particular principle that where for the public good men are deprived of their property, when their conduct has been above reproach, they should be given compensation, I did think there was opened before us a possible field for compromise. But the conclusion of the hon. Member's speech dashed these hopes to the ground. He told us that it is his intention to do all he can to secure the rejection of the measure.
What are the causes which have led to the introduction at this particular moment of this particular measure? The hon. Member told us in his speech that if the proposals of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and of Mr. Goschen, when they were both Members of the Government, had been adopted, the particular reform to which he attaches so much importance, the reduction in the number of licences, could not have been so effectually carried out or to so large an extent as it has been without any system of compensation. It is obvious that any statement of that kind, based as it must be on statistics, is one which should be most carefully investigated before being, accepted as absolutely reliable. The figures I will give to the House will show what is, at all events, the main cause of the present situation, and they point to my mind in an exactly contrary direction to the inferences drawn by the hon. Member. It is perfectly true that there is a strict legal right on the part of justices to refuse the renewal of licences. The fact to which he himself referred is proof, if no other were needed—the fact that every year the holder is obliged to apply for the renewal of his licence. But we have not been arguing upon the ground of the strict legal argument. My hon. and learned friend pointed out with much force that custom has given in this country rights of property which, it may be said without exaggeration, are as sacred and as fully recognised as rights established by law. Is it not the case that round this system of licensing there has grown up the unquestioned belief, not only on the part of licence-holders but of the great mass of the people, that if the conduct of the holder of a licence is satisfactory and 407 the requirements of the Bench are complied with, the licence will go on as if it were permanently, and not annually, held? If that is not so, why is it that you have taxed it as you have, and assessed it at a special rateable value, and called on the owner to pay during his life, and his representatives after his death on the extreme value? It is said that is not the result of custom or recognition of their property by law, but is owing simply to the fact that they are taken at their market value. But what has given that market value, and why is it that they have come to these large amounts? Take the case where licensed premises are the property of a limited liability company. Examine the figures in their financial statements, and see what is written off for depreciation and loss. Does anyone pretend, for a moment, that if this class of property was regarded as having only a transitory or annual value, that the writings-off in respect of possible loss would not be increased ten or twenty-fold before the returns could be financially sound or reasonably accurate? Why have these writings-off not been made and why has this market value been acquired by this property? Is it not because, owing I admit, to custom and not to law, the holding of a licence has been regarded as carrying with it rights of property, quite different from those with which it is now sought to endow them by those who advocate a policy of wholesale withdrawal? When we look at the figures for the last few years these facts are, I venture to say, emphasised in the strongest possible manner.
I hold in my hand a table showing the number of licences refused in the years 1890, 1891, 1895, 1900, and 1902. In 1890 186 licences were refused on all grounds, and of those 43 were refused on the ground that they were not required, 37 as not required and for other reasons, and 106 for other grounds. In the following year the total was 339—not required 103, not required and other reasons 53, and other grounds only—that is to say misconduct, etc.—183. For last year the figures are very striking. The total number rose to 640—not required 241, not required and other reasons 221, and other grounds only 178. These figures show quite clearly that the sudden increase in refusals has been mainly on the ground that they are not required, in other words, that the licences 408 have been refused in the interests of the community as a whole and not for any fault committed by the licencee or because of the unsuitability of the licensed premises. The figures also show that there is a counter case to be considered to that presented by the hon. Member for the Spen Valley. The figures do not take into account appeals to Quarter Sessions. I am not dealing now with the actual number of licences suppressed as the result of appeals: I am dealing solely with the point raised by the hon. Member for the Spen Valley in regard to the action of the Courts of First Instance. The point I am making is that the refusal of licences has been mainly if not entirely due to the fact that they are not required and not from any misconduct on the part of the licence-holder. That is the main reason for the introduction of this Bill. I have seen with great regret and some little resentment statements made to the effect that because many Members of this side of the House do not approve of this policy as it is now presented, they are opposed to the action of these good, devoted men, who during recent years have been seeking to bring about a reform in connection with licensed houses. I do not think it necessary or fair that any body of men, however enthusiastic or zealous they may be, should seek to claim a monopoly of this work. Though the methods by which we work may be different, at all events we claim credit for having the same objects in view, and we are justified in contending that by these summary and unjust methods, as some regard them, you are more likely to arrest the progress of this beneficent work than to further it. No one who has watched the work of these men, amongst whom are to be found the bishops of the country and clergy of all denominations, cannot fail to feel admiration and respect for them. Strongly though some, perhaps the majority, on this side feel in regard to these questions of the right of property, if we believed honestly that it would be impossible to assert this right and protect it without interrupting and destroying the good work which these men have done, if we had to choose between the rights of property and the advancement of a cause so important, we would run the risk rather than lose the advancement. We contend that if you go to work moderately and temperately on the lines of the speeches 409 which have been made here to-day, and with due regard for the rights and property of others, you are more likely to advance the cause you have at heart than if you adopt harsher, more abrupt, and less just and fair methods.
The hon. Member for the Spen Valley has found much fault with the details of the Bill. I am bound to say that if we were discussing the Bill pure and simple, and not the question of compensation or no compensation. ["No, no."] Well, the hon. Member for Camborne put it that the question was whether there should be compensation or no compensation, and to my knowledge the speeches on the other side have been devoted largely, if not wholly, to that question. The speech of the hon. Member for the Spen Valley, the most comprehensive delivered from that side of the House, was largely devoted not to a criticism of the details of the Bill, but to an exposition of his views and the views of those who act with him, why compensation in the form suggested in the Bill was not to be accepted. I admit with the hon. Member that so far as the Bill itself is concerned there is much to be said in criticism of it. I am not sure that it would not carry us farther than the promoters seek to go, I do not attach so much importance to the inadequacy of the scheme of contribution, surely a short Amendment in Committee would remove that difficulty. It would be easy to increase the percentage. I believe it is the duty of the Government to ask the House of Commons to consider the case before them as involving on the one hand a continuance of the policy with which we have recently become familiar, and on the other hand the substitution for it of one by which, when the licences are taken away without cause shown, compensation shall be payable to those who are deprived of them. Therefore I say I do not stop to criticise the details now. The Bill carries within it the recognition and affirmation of the principle of compensation in certain cases, and it would be impossible, in the light of the declarations that we have made from time to time, in face of the views which we hold, and which the majority of Members on this side hold, to recommend the House not to support the measure. I am not blind to the fact that there is a wider question than the one immediately dealt with by the Bill which is creating widespread interest. We have 410 been reminded of the fact that Quarter Sessions are now considering appeals. That is a very important fact, and has a very powerful bearing on this particular Bill. It follows that the case before us is not as yet complete. All that we know is that in some cases the action of the magistrates has appeared to carry with it some injustice to an important section of the community. Pending the decision of the appeals the problem is not fully before us, and therefore the complete solution cannot possibly be considered, much less immediately found. The proposal of my hon. and learned friend may therefore not unnaturally be described as inadequate and insufficient, and one which will not meet the whole difficulty or deal with the whole trouble. But the Bill affirms the first principle of compensation where property is taken in the public interest, and for that reason I cannot recommend the House to reject it. It is not the first time the Unionist Party has identified itself with this policy. In 1888, and subsequently, we made proposals which were criticised and condemned; but, at all events, whether they were sufficient or insufficient, they are the only practical proposals which have been made during recent times affording an opportunity to deal with this pressing and difficult question. If they failed to find support in Parliament, the blame does not rest with us, but with those who rejected them because, no doubt, they honestly and conscientiously believed that they would do more harm than good. I confidently submit to the House that our action is not only just and practicable, but that it is also consistent.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)
I confess I have listened with a good deal of bewilderment to the right hon. Gentleman's attempt to vindicate the action of the Government. During a large part of his speech he drew for us a somewhat lurid picture of what I gathered to be, in his judgment, the predatory action of the magistrates of this country in invading a form of property which, though not guaranteed by law, is, as the right hon. Gentleman tells us, sacred by custom. Of course one naturally drew from that the inference that the Government was confronted with such a serious state of things that there devolved upon their own shoulders 411 the responsibility of taking some steps to arrest the mischief. But, when we came to the close of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, a totally different note was sounded. The action of the predatory benches of justices is being reviewed by Quarter Sessions, the whole matter is still sub judice according to him; and, being still sub judice, he appeals to the House of Commons to pass a private Member's Bill in order to settle it. I am totally at a loss to understand what that means. I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman as to the point which he describes as being opened up for us to decide—namely, the principle of compensation or no compensation. I deny absolutely that that is the issue, and I am going to give reasons for that denial. This Bill has been so completely pulverised in the earlier stages of this debate by the most able and convincing speech of my hon. friend the Member for Spen Valley, that I have to apologise for keeping the House for more than a few minutes in further considering it. Whatever may have been the intention of the framer, in my judgment the effect of the Bill is this—on the one hand to fetter, and for all practical purposes to annihilate, the discretion which the law at present gives to the justices, and on the other hand to provide a method of so-called compensation which is unworkable and even illusory. As to the existing law, I shall show the right hon. Gentleman that there is really no doubt. It has been stated so often that one can hardly be excused for stating it again, but if I may endeavour to formulate it in a sentence; it is this: that, as regards the renewal of an expired licence—there is no such thing as an existing licence at the end of the year—the justices have an absolute discretion. When it is said, as it is said, and properly said, that it is a judicial discretion, what is meant is not a discretion to be exercised as in litigation according to settled rules of law and methods of procedure, but a discretion exercised in a judicial temper, not capriciously or whimsically, not in deference to any preconceived theory or formula [MINISTERIAL cheers]—certainly, that is most important, not in deference to any preconceived theory or formula, one way or the other—but upon a full 412 consideration of all the relevant facts which affect particular cases. There is no doubt that is the law. Nor is there any doubt that among these relevant facts, sometimes the only relevant fact is the question whether or not particular premises are required to meet the reasonable necessities of the district which they serve. That is the law laid down twelve years ago in the case of "Sharp v. Wakefield," whatever doubt there may have been before. I agree there was doubt, because the Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer were Members, when they made their proposals in 1888, did not know what the law was; they were wrongly advised. The scheme of compensation for which the right hon. Gentleman claims such credit was recommended to the House on the ground that they were conferring on the magistrates a power which the magistrates did not already possess to deprive the publican of a licence on grounds other than those of misconduct, and that the exercise of that new power might reasonably be accompanied by compensation.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. RITCHIE, Croydon)
Not on the magistrates. We created a new tribunal, the County Council.
§ MR. ASQUITH
Be it so. That has nothing whatever to do with the point, whether magistrates or County Council. The ground of compensation was that licences were to have a new element of precariousness introduced in their tenure, and therefore it was only fair that the licencees should receive compensation We know now that it was not so. The House of Lords so decided, and the proposition I submit with confidence to the House is this—that, at any rate for the last twelve years, no one has been able to apply for a new licence without full knowledge that it was within the discretion of the justices to refuse its renewal simply on the ground that there was an excessive supply of public-houses in the district. It is that fundamental principle of our licensing law that this Bill proposes to reverse, and that is the main—I will not say the only—ground of my opposition to it.
413 What does the Bill provide? In the sixth clause it provides that the total ascertained value of the licences of which the renewal is refused shall not exceed the sum determined to be available for compensation. What does that mean? It means that, whereas the justices now can act perfectly freely with a single-minded regard to the interests of the public, for all time to come the limits of that free action will be curtailed, and curtailed, as my hon. friend the Member for Spen Valley has shown, within the narrowest and most meagre limits possible. He estimates the total fund to be raised for the whole of England and Wales, under the Bill, for the purpose of compensation, even if the full powers are exercised, at £500,000. Inasmuch as every licence of which the renewal is refused, is to be paid at its full value, with the goodwill attaching to the premises, it is obvious that the Bill would not only paralyse, but to a large extent extinguish, the discretion of the justices. In my opinion, that is sufficient to induce the House to reject the Second Reading.
The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the vote is to be taken on the issue of compensation. I do not think it is. My hon. friend who is opposed to compensation is naturally opposed to this Bill. But the question whether or not that is the issue is determined by whether a person can logically vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, although he is in favour of compensation.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I was quoting from the speech of the hon. Member for Camborne who distinctly laid it down that the issue was compensation or no compensation.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
And I quoted the words of the hon. and learned Member who moved the Second Reading and who, towards the close of his speech, said he put the issue on the broad ground of compensation.
§ MR. ASQUITH
With all possible respect to my hon. friend and the hon. and learned Member, neither of them has the power to define the issue to be decided. I have never before heard such a proposition advanced—that 414 because an individual Member in the course of the debate says a certain point is the issue before us the whole House has to accept it. If we are going to have the opinions expressed in the course of the debate quoted, what is the position of the hon. Member for the Spen Valley who moved the rejection? He is in favour of compensation, and he explained the grounds on which, and the limits within which, he is in favour of it; so that when the rejection has been moved by an hon. Member in that position I am entitled to say that every Member who votes against the Bill must not be taken to vote against compensation.
I want, however, to make my own position clear. I have never seen anything opposed to the theory of our licensing law in a scheme under which the reduction of licences might be facilitated and accelerated by some form of compensation payable to the trade by the trade. If it were correct to say that a licence is a form of property, if this extraordinary theory that a custom can arise which is in violation of the statute law and a contradiction of the decisions of the highest tribunals in the country, and if this overriding custom can give a proprietary interest where the law expressly says no proprietary interest exists, then the person who ought to pay compensation is not the trade, but the State. The State, in the interest of the public, then takes away from a man that which is his private property, and wherever that is done, according to the practice and theory of the law, compensation is payable out of State funds. This Bill is, on that theory, most illogical. Why ought the unfortunate publicans, who have done no harm, who have been carrying on a legitimate business, to be taxed in the way proposed by the Bill? The person who is doing wrong is the State if the poor publican whose licence is not renewed is the owner of property compulsorily expropriated by the State. The right hon. Gentleman's doctrine carries him a great deal too far. The way in which the matter presents itself to me is this. I want if I can to facilitate the action of the justices in reducing the excessive supply of the facilities for drinking; and I am prepared to go a long way in 415 the direction of facilitating that action as long as I do not infringe public policy and impose on the community a burden which the community ought not fairly to bear. What is the existing state of things? Justices in a district find that there is an excessive supply of public-houses. They believe that the existence of that excessive supply affords temptations to drink, and provides facilities for excessive drinking which lead to the demoralisation of the community. The right hon. Gentleman told us, almost in tones of horror, that between 1891 and last year the number of licence renewals which had been refused as not being required had risen from 103 to 241. I was more surprised than the right hon. Gentleman at the total, because most hon. Members could easily point to 241 public-houses of which they themselves have some knowledge—I do not say how acquired—which are clearly unnecessary for any legitimate purpose. Even before the appeals have taken place that is the total extent to which these predatory justices have exercised their powers. I must say, therefore, that we appear to be dealing with a very small matter. I am not content with 241. In the public interest I should like to see the number largely increased, provided it can be done justly. What is the position of the justices? With cases of misconduct we are not concerned. The justices find an excessive number of public-houses in a district, and that the licencees are conducting their business in a perfectly legitimate manner. The justices are in a dilemma. Either they must hold their hands and not do what public interest clearly requires by reducing the number of licences, or they must select a victim, or a series of victims, among this innocent class of persons. That is a most invidious duty. I do not wonder that the consequence is that the justices do very often hold their hands when the public interest requires that they should act. No fair-minded man can overlook the hardship inflicted on the selected victim or victims; one is taken, and the other is left. He has done no more harm than his neighbour, but the lot happens to fall upon him. He has no legal right to compensation, because he accepted his 416 licence with his eyes open; but I think it is fair that those who remain as survivors should in some form or other, if a practicable form can be devised, be made to—I will not say compensate the victim—but provide a solatium to the victim. That is a more accurate term than compensation, because compensation applies only to the case in which you are taking from a man that which legally belongs to him—a solatium should at the same time remedy the hardship done, and set free the magistrates to perform their work. It is on that ground, and within those limits only, that I, for my part, can ever assent to compensation. But if a practicable scheme can be devised to throw the burden, if it is to be a pecuniary burden, on those who, to some extent, benefit by the enhanced value of the monopoly left in their hands, I see no objection to it in principle.
This Bill, however, does not raise any such point. In my judgment no scheme of compensation of any kind can be tolerated which does not also leave absolutely free the unfettered discretion of the justices. I entirely agree with the view that instead of, as in this Bill, the amount of reduction being limited by the amount of the levy on the trade, it ought to be exactly the the other way. Another condition, equally important, is this—that there should be a time limit for existing holders of licences. Whatever case, either of equity or compassion, can be made in favour of existing holders of licences, is entirely due to causes which are passing away, because everyone now knows what the law is; he acts with his eyes open, and has no excuse for being deceived. I thought it right to make this statement, because I entirely demur to the suggestion that the issue which the right hon. Gentleman has tried to foist upon us is a question of compensation or no compensation when we come to the absolute settlement of the matter. For my part, I shall give my Vote on the merits of this Bill, and upon no other issue of any sort or kind. Because I believe that this Bill is improvident, unnecessary, and unworkable, because it interferes with the discretion which the 417 licensing law reposes in the justices, which ought to be the foundation of any wise and just system of licensing, I shall vote, without any hesitation, against the Second Reading.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
I will not detain the House many minutes, but I really must say one word on the very singular speech to which we have just listened. The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in saying at the beginning of his remarks that it was always possible to find some logical reason for voting either for or against the Second Reading of a Bill brought forward on a Friday afternoon by a private Member, but I venture to say that it is more in conformity with the tradition and practice of this House, when dealing with the second reading of a Bill, to vote, not according to this or that clause or detail, but according to the general principles involved in the Bill. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman told us he was going to vote without hesitation against the Second Reading of this Bill, I thought he was going to tell us what was the fundamental point of principle on which he differed from the framers of the Bill and the great majority of gentlemen on this side. Whatever merits or demerits the right hon. Gentleman's oratory may have—and I am one of its greatest admirers—not even his sternest critics would say that as a rule he was wanting in lucidity. But if I was asked why the right hon. Gentleman is going without hesitation to vote against this Bill, I would say it was because he dislikes the word "compensation," and likes the word "solatium." "Solatium" may be better English or better Latin—Ido not know—it may be a more proper phrase to carry out the object which most people call compensation, but "solatium," as he uses it, is compensation; and why, therefore, he should vote against a Bill which does give under the name of compensation what he calls solatium I really am utterly at a loss to understand. To whom does the right hon. Gentleman think solatium—I will not use the dreadful word "compensation"—ought to be given? It ought to be given, in his view, to every holder of a licence from whom 418 that licence is taken away without fault of the licence-holder. And yet he objects to this Bill, or, I suppose, any Bill which fetters the discretion of the magistrates. It follows from these two propositions that the fund from which the solatium is to be derived must be practically unlimited, or a fund, at all events, so large that the most sweeping reduction of licences would not make any undue inroad upon it. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to find such a fund? He is not. ["The trade."] Then we now understand the right hon. Gentleman's position to be this: Every magistrate is to have unfettered discretion; every licence-holder who loses his licence through no fault of his own is to have a solatium; and the trade by some machinery which neither the right hon. Gentleman nor any other human being can devise ["Oh!"] is to provide the necessary money. Let us take a case which I hope is imaginary. Let us suppose the hon. baronet the Member for Camborne had his way and persuaded every bench of magistrates at Brewster Sessions to adopt the principles which he has advocated with admirable courage and marvellous persistency during so many years. I suppose the result would be that these gentlemen, without preconceived notions and in a judicial frame of mind, would take away every licence throughout the whole country. If they are not to be able to do that, then you are interfering with that sacred discretion which the right hon. Gentleman says he would perish on the floor of the House rather than touch I should like to know, then, how the solatium is to be obtained which would satisfy not the legal claims, but the equitable or charitable and eleemosynary claims which the right hon. Gentleman allows, of the various licence-holders who would be deprived by such a sweeping measure as that of their means of livelihood. That alone shows how absolutely inconsistent is the right hon. Gentleman's position. Unless you have an unlimited fund it is absolutely necessary to fetter the discretion of the magistrates. The right hon. Gentleman, with all his lucidity, appears to me to wish to carry out two inconsistent lines of policy at once. He does not know on which side of the fence he is. I do not know 419 whether the ardent spirit of the hon. Baronet the Member for Camborne is satisfied by the change of phrase from compensation to solatium.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is really rather depressing to those who anxiously look to by-elections to learn what the country thinks to find that of our two latest recruits one tells us that he is bound above all things to vote for compensation, and the other tells us he will not vote for compensation even when it is called solatium. I am sorry to think that even the successes, on which I congratulate hon. Gentlemen opposite, in the recent by-elections, have not conduced apparently to that harmony in their ranks which we would all have desired to see. In truth it is quite evident that the right hon. Gentleman has not helped either the House or himself by the speech which he has to-day delivered. He is going to vote against the Bill, although it carries out his own principles. ["No."] As far as the Bill does not carry out his own principles, no Bill in the world can carry them out, because the policy he has described is that of an unlimited power of taking away licences, an unlimited power of giving solatium, but a limited fund out of which the solatium should be paid. That policy cannot be carried out, because the laws of arithmetic happen to be against it. In these circumstances I would venture respectfully to suggest that the question we have before us is this—whether we ought or ought not, under the name of solatium or compensation, to do something for those persons who, wisely or unwisely, are deprived of what, if not property, is taxed as property, rated as property, 420 and bought and sold as property, and when that is taken away without any fault of their own. We on this side prefer to call it compensation and mean to vote for it under that name. The right hon. Gentleman prefers to call it solatium, and means to vote against it. I venture to submit that ours is the most consistent, the most logical, and the most moral course that the House can adopt.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I think the hon. Member for Rye must regret that he appealed to the House for instruction as to the course he should take on this Bill, because the advice he received from the two right hon. Gentlemen opposite must leave him in a state of worse confusion than ever. The Prime Minister, in the beginning of his speech, found fault with my right hon. friend beside me for having disputed the fact that this was a Bill the main and sole object of which was to get the assent of the House to the principle of compensation, and the right hon. Gentleman did this, although my right hon. friend explained, in the most emphatic way, that his objection was not on the ground of compensation, but on the ground that the Bill altered the law as it at present exists; that it did away with the discretion of magistrates, paralysed their action, and created that which does not exist at present—a vested interest in the holding of a licence. These were the objections my right hon. friend made to the Bill, and for these reasons we shall vote against it. But the right hon. Gentleman held up the flag of compensation, and tried through the greater part of his speech to convince the House that compensation would be impossible without restricting the discretion of magistrates. So, according to his theory, 421 the main and cardinal principle of the Bill, the ground on which he supports it, is that it restricts the discretion of magistrates and interferes with their authority; and all I need say now is that that is the very reason why we shall vote against it. The right hon. Gentleman seemed not to be aware when he talked of compensation and the question of reduction of licences that both sections of the Royal Commission recommended it in the most explicit and unmistakable way, and laid down methods by which it could be applied; so all he has said on that subject goes by the board. But if this matter is of such importance, and if so much harm is being done to innocent people, if it is a matter of such infinite complexity, and if such terrible consequences follow from mistaken steps being adopted, why do not the Government themselves deal with the question? Why does the right hon. Gentleman make a speech to a deputation, which implies a slur on the magistrates of this country, in his zest to prevent their action in the reduction of the number of public houses. Why does he not, with his responsibility, take the necessary steps for introducing a measure dealing with this great question? Instead of that the Government are going to support a Bill which, according to the President of the Local Government Board, is faulty in all its details and methods, and which he supports only as a sort of declaration of a pious opinion in favour of compensation, on which subject he would have probably nearly a unanimous House, and which will not be at all re presented by the Division; while, on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government puts forward the restriction of the power of magis- 422 trates to reduce licences as the great object to be kept in view, and on that ground, and apparently that ground only, he supports the Bill. Instead of offering fantastic and irreconcilable reasons for supporting a Bill of which they themselves say they do not approve, would it not be better and more in accordance with the importance of the question if they announced their intention of themselves dealing with it by a measure avoiding the evils they have pointed out and meeting the necessities of the case.
§ SIR ALFRED HICKMAN (Wolverhampton, W.)
said he rose for the purpose of making a suggestion which he thought if adopted would remove some of the objections of the moderate and reasonable opponents of the Bill. There was a general consensus of opinion that the number of licences should be reduced, if this could be done without injustice or cost to the community. For his part he did not consider it just to make the trade compensate itself. His suggestion was that if an application was made for a new licence it should be granted if the applicant offered to surrender at least two licences for the one granted, and of at least equal value, the value to be settled by arbitration in the usual way. He would give an illustration. In a new neighbourhood, where a great deal of building was going on, a decent inn was required. The applicant having licences which he could surrender, and being sure of his licence, was able to build a good house in every way suitable. He was told there were plenty of places near large towns where such a licence would be worth as much as £10,000. The licencee would then be willing to surrender, say, ten licences, worth on the 423 average £1,000 each. The result would be a reduction of nine licences, which would be surrendered where they were really not required, and for those houses of a bad class they would then get instead a good house of great value, in a locality where it was really wanted. The effect would be that the number of licensed houses would be reduced. It would pay the licencee, because he would only have the expense of keeping up one house instead of ten, even if he did not do as much business as he did in the ten houses. The owner would be better off, and nobody would be any worse off, and the public convenience would be studied, the cause of temperance would be promoted, the licencee benefited, and it would be good all round. He had discussed this proposal with men of great experience who were largely interested in the trade, and he was told that the effect in his own neighbourhood, and in the neighbourhood of large towns, would be very great indeed, and there would be a very large reduction in the number of licences if his suggestion were carried out.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
said he would say in a few sentences what he desired to put before the House. He had had the honour of serving upon the Royal Commission, and he represented Wales, which was included in this Bill, and he wished to say that the dominant sentiment of Wales was against this Bill. During the course of the debate he thought they had lost sight of the main point at issue. The question was whether this Bill would conduce to the sobriety of the nation or the reverse? Upon all the grounds which had been stated, and on account of the way in which it tied the hands of the magistrates, the result of passing this Bill would be 424 that it would hinder that cause which all sections of the House desired to advance. There was one further point he wished to mention. The hon. Member who represented Tonbridge made it perfectly clear that whatever might be in the Bill itself in regard to the source from which compensation was to come, he did not think it would be sufficient to rely only upon compensation from the trade, and he made it clear that in his opinion the taxpayer would have to be taxed for the purposes of the Bill. Therefore in considering the real issue they should take into account that important fact. They could not in any way raise the question of compensation without raising the question of the individual taxpayer. Believing as he did that this Bill was unworkable, and that it was prejudicial to the principle which most of them held to be essential to the success of temperance reform, he should greatly regret it if the result of the debate was to cause the House to adopt the line taken up by this Bill. Although the Prime Minister had made light of the debate, the issue was a serious and a very important one, and he hoped the House would make it evident to the country that they were not going to deal with this important question except in the spirit of doing something which would promote and not hinder the progress of the temperance cause.
MR. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)
said this was not simply a question of compensation or no compensation He had listened to almost every word that had been said in the debate, and he had studied the Bill very carefully, and it seemed to him that the concluding lines of the proviso in Clause 6 really dominated the whole Bill 425 took away the discretion of the magistrates in return for what? The sum of 6s. 8d. per cent. had been mentioned, but they had heard that the rate of insurance against loss of licences ranged from 5s. to 15s. per cent. He could not see that the Bill would facilitate the reduction of licences. His point was that 6s. 8d. per cent. was not likely to do more than cover the natural shrinkage in licences which was now going on. The Bill was, therefore, not a practical one. [MINISTERIAL interruptions and cries of "Divide, divide."]
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
said that undoubtedly it was somewhat difficult to know what they were to vote upon. He was not in favour of compensation, and he was not going to be pledged by anything or anybody. He considered it a most dangerous thing for the State to take in hand a matter of this kind, which he believed really belonged to the trade. If the trade came and asked for assistance in adjusting a scheme of mutual insurance they might consider the proposal. For his part, he did not intend to support compensation at all. He thought the State ought not to touch the matter but leave it to the trade.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN, Birmingham, W.)
I think the House is indebted to the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken, for he has really done something to bring back the House to a clear conception of the issue with which we have to deal. Sir, it is the common practice for those who desire to oppose a Bill and at the same time to leave themselves absolutely uncommitted, to 426 deal with the matter as if it were a question of details or of particular clauses. After all, that is entirely contrary to the practice which ought to prevail with regard to discussion and votes upon the Second Reading of a Bill. On the Second Reading of a Bill you are not dealing with the details of the Bill. They have to be considered in Committee afterwards. You are dealing only with the main principle which is conveyed in the Bill. I defy anybody who is fair and impartial to deny that the main principle before the House to-day is that, where a licence is taken away without any fault of the owner, some compensation, from some source or other, ought to be given. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken has said most fairly and straightforwardly that he is opposed to anything of that kind, and the hon. baronet the Member for Camborne and other hon. Members who have taken part in the debate have said the same thing. That is the logical point of view to take. Those who are opposed to all compensation are justified in voting against the Bill, and are bound to vote against it; but we, on the other hand, who are in favour of giving compensation in these cases, are bound, in my opinion, to vote for the Second Reading, even though, as in my own case, there are many points in the Bill of which I do not approve. We are logical. The hon. and learned Gentleman on the other side is logical, but those hon. Gentlemen who are in favour of a solatium and vote against the Bill are neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring.
§ MR. LOGAN (Leicestershire, Harborough)
said he desired in two or three words to say why it was his intention to vote against this Bill. He opposed this 427 measure because he thought it was a Bill brought in to obtain the sanction of the House and the Government for a form of endowment to the brewers of this country. He would say to those who supported this Bill in that if they desired to compensate those in the trade who lost their licences through no fault of their own it was quite within their power to do it without coming to the House either to get its sanction or to get suggestions as to how they should do it. The trade was almost the wealthiest and most powerful in the country and for the members of that trade to come to the House of Commons and say that they were unable, of their own initiative, to compensate those of their fellows who lost their licences through no fault of their own was something that he could not understand.
§ He had a great many objections to this Bill but briefly he would give two reasons. The first was that if it were carried into law it would take away the discretionary power now vested in the magistrates; and the second was that he held very strongly that if the people of this country in their discretion considered there were too many public-houses in a neighbourhood they were absolutely within their right in declaring that some of them should be closed, without being called upon to provide out of public funds compensation for those whose licences were taken away.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 266; Noes, 133. (Division List No No. 69.)431
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Digby, John K. D. Wingfield|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Carlile, William Walter||Doogan, P. C.|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Dorington, Rt. Hon. Sir J. E.|
|Aird, Sir John||Cautley, Henry Strother||Duke, Henry Edward|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Chamberlain, Rt Hon J (Birm||Faber, George Denison (York)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Chamberlain, Rt Hn. J. A. (Worc||Fardell, Sir T. George|
|Austin, Sir John||Chamberlayne, T. (South'mpt'n||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manc'r|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Chaplin, Right Hon. Henry||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Chapman, Edward||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Charrington, Spencer||Firbank, Sir Joseph Thomas|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Churchill, Winston Spencer||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose|
|Balfour, Rt. HOE. A. J. (Manch'r||Clare, Octavius Leigh||Flower, Ernest|
|Balfour, Rt Hn. Gerald W (Leeds||Clive, Captain Percy A.||Forster, Henry William|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.)||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Coddington, Sir William||Fyler, John Arthur|
|Barry, Sir Fras. T. (Windsor)||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Galloway, William Johnson|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Gardner, Ernest|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj.||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Garfit, William|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready||Gibbs, Hn A. G. H (City of Lond|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Colston, Chas. Edw H. Athole||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin and N'rn|
|Bignold, Arthur||Compton, Lord Alwyne||Gore, HnG. R. C. Ormsby-(Salop|
|Bigwood, James||Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas||Gore, Hn. S. F. Ormsby-(Linc|
|Bill, Charles||Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Eldon|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Cranborne, Lord||Graham, Henry Robert|
|Bond, Edward||Cross, Herb Shepherd (Bolton)||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Crossley, Sir Savile||Greene, Sir E. W. (Bury St. Ed.|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Cuibitt, Hon. Henry||Greene, Hy. D. (Shrewsbury)|
|Bousfield, William Robert||Oust, Henry John C.||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs|
|Bowles, Col. H. F. (Middlesex)||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Grenfell, William Henry|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Davenport, William Bromley||Gretton, John|
|Brown, Sir Alex H. (Shropshire||Delany, William||Groves, James Grimble|
|Brymer, William Ernest||Dewar, Sir T. R. (Tr. Haml'ts||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill|
|Bull, William James||Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Gunter, Sir Robert|
|Guthrie, Walter Murray||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Hall, Edward Marshall||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Robinson, Brooke|
|Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||M'Calmont, Colonel James||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G (Midd'x||M'Iver Sir Lewis (Edinb'rgh, W||Rothschild, Hn. Lionel Walter|
|Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashf'd||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Manners, Lord Cecil||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Harris, Frederick Leverton||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W.F.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Hatch, Ernest Frederick G.||Maxwell, Rt Hn. Sir H E (Wigt'n||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln|
|Hay, Hon, Claude George||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry|
|Heath, James (Staffords. N. W||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Heaton, John Henniker||Milvain, Thomas||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Helder, Augustus||Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Hickman, Sir Alfred||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Hoare, Sir Samuel||Mooney, John J.||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East|
|Hobhouse, Rt Hn H. (Som'rs't, E||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire||Spear, John Ward|
|Hogg, Lindsay||Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow)||Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich|
|Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Morrell, George Herbert||Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk|
|Horner, Frederick William||Morrison, James Archibald||Stroyan, John|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Howard, John (Kent Faver'h'm||Mount, William Arthur||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Howard, J. (Midd., Tott'ham||Mowbray, Sir Robt. Gray C.||Talbot, Rt Hn. J.G. (Oxford Univ|
|Hudson, George Bickcersteth||Muntz, Sir Philip A.||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)||Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Myers, William Henry||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Newdegate, Francis A. N.||Tomlinson, sir Win. Edw. M.|
|Jeffreys, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fred||Nicholson, William Graham||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Johnstone, Heywood||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Kemp, Lieut.-Colonel George||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H.||O'Brien, P. J. Tipperary, N.)||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Keswick, William||O'Brien, William (Cork)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Kimber, Henry||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Knowles, Lees||Parker, Sir Gilbert||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Pease, H. Pike (Darlington)||Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.|
|Laurie, Lieut.-General||Pemberton, John S. G.||Webb, Col. William George|
|Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow||Penn, John||Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E (Taunton|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool||Percy, Earl||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Lawson, J. Grant (Yorks. N. R.||Pierpoint, Robert||Williams, Rt Hn J Powell-(Birm|
|Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Pretyman, Ernest George||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.|
|Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S.||Pym, C. Guy||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Lockie, John||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Rankin, Sir James||Worsley-Taylor, Hry. Wilson|
|Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart|
|Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Bristol, S||Ratcliff, R. F.||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Lowe, Francis William||Redmond, Jn. E. (Waterford)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Reid, James (Greenock)||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Lowther, Rt. Hon. Jas. (Kent)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Lowther, Rt Hn J W (Cum. Penr.||Renwick, George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Butcher and Mr. Wharton.|
|Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge|
|Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Green|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Allan, Sir William (Gateshead)||Caldwell, James||Elibank, Master of|
|Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Emmott, Alfred|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Evans, Saml. T. (Glamorgan)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbt. Hy||Channing, Francis Allston||Farquharson, Dr. Robert|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow||Fenwick, Charles|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark||Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Cremer, William Randal||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Crombie, John William||Furness, Sir Christopher|
|Bell, Richard||Crooks, William||Grant, Corrie|
|Black, Alexander William||Dalziel, James Henry||Griffith, Ellis J.|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.|
|Brown, Geo. M. (Edinburgh)||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm.|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Denny, Colonel||Harmsworth, R. Leicester|
|Burns, John||Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-|
|Burt, Thomas||Duncan, J. Hastings||Hayter, Rt Hon Sir Arthur D.|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Edwards, Frank||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.|
|Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristl, E||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Morley, Charles (Breconshire)||Smith, H C(North'mb. Tyneside|
|Jacoby, James Alfred||Morley, Ht. Hn. John (Montrose||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Joicey, Sir James||Moss, Samuel||Sullivan, Donal|
|Jones, David, B. (Swansea)||Newnes, Sir George||Taylor, Theo. C. (Radcliffe)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Thomas, A. (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Joyce, Michael||Palmer, Sir Chas. M. (Durham||Thomas, Sir A. (Glam., E)|
|Kearley, Hudson E.||Palmer, G. Wm. (Reading)||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Kitson, Sir James||Perks, Robert William||Thomson, F. W. (York, W.R.|
|Langley, Batty||Pickard, Benjamin||Ure, Alexander|
|Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall||Priestley, Arthur||Wallace, Robert|
|Layland-Barratt, Francis||Rea, Russell||Walton, J. Lawson (Leeds, S.)|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Redmond, William (Clare)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Leng, Sir John||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan|
|Levy, Maurice||Rickett, J. Compton||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney|
|Lloyd-George, David||Rigg, Richard||Weir, James Galloway|
|Logan, John William||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Lough, Thomas||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||White, Luke (York, E. R.|
|Lundon, W.||Roe, Sir Thomas||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Rose, Charles Day||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|M'Govern, T.||Runciman, Walter||Williams, O. (Merioneth)|
|M'Kenna, Reginald||Russell, T. W.||Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)|
|M'Laren, Sir Charles Benj.||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland||Woodhouse, Sir J T (Huddersf'd|
|Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Schwann, Charles E.||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Shackleton, David James|
|Mather, Sir William||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Herbert Gladstone and Mr. William M'Arthur.|
|Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh.||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.|
|Mellor, Rt. Hn. John William||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Mitchell, Edw. (Fermanagh, N.||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday, 19th June.
§ When the tellers presented themselves to announce the result of the Division,
§ SIR JAMES HASLETT (Belfast, N.)
rose and stated that it had been his intention to vote against the Bill, but that he had unfortunately been locked in the other lobby.