HC Deb 04 March 1903 vol 118 cc1384-406

I think there is no need for me to bespeak the favourable consideration of the House for the measure which I now ask leave to introduce, and I feel sure that the House has always given me so much indulgence personally that I do not need to ask for that. Not only has popular opinion been for a long time at one in Scotland that the time has come for a measure dealing with the amendment of the licensing laws, but, as hon. Members are well aware, during the past few years there has been a most painstaking investigation by a Royal Commission, which has presented voluminous reports with which hon. Members are familiar owing to the discussions in this House last year. More than that, there has also been the English Act of last session. That I may speak of now, not merely as a legislative effort, but as an Act which has actually been proved by its working. Short though the time has been, and premature as it probably would be to express an opinion as to its eventual work, yet I believe I am saying what is in accordance with the experience of many, that the expectations founded upon that Act have been more than fulfilled, and that even at this very early period great substantial advantages have been reaped from the working of that statute. That being so, it will certainly not excite surprise in the House if I say that we have begun matters in the Bill I now ask leave to introduce by practically incorporating the English Act of last session, incorporating it, of course, so far as that Act is adaptable to Scotland.

Hon. Members will perhaps remember that the Act of last session is divided into three parts, which are entitled The Amendment of the Law as to Drunkenness, The Amendment of the Licensing Laws, and The Legislation of Clubs. So far as the first part is concerned, practically we have incorporated the whole of it, with the exception of one provision dealing with the protection of wives or husbands. We have not incorporated that, not because we are not in sympathy with the proposal, but because in the present state of the law in Scotland it would be practically impossible to incorporate it, and there would have to be further alterations in the summary jurisdiction law before we could possibly incorporate that section of the English Act as it stands. But we have not stopped there, because we have, besides the sections we have taken from 'the English Act, introduced several other provisions founded on what I may call our own Scottish experience. The Borough Police Act of 1892 was, as Scottish Members will remember, a very long and carefully-considered measure, and a measure of which we have had due experience as to its working. There are several provisions in that Act with reference to the law as to drunkenness, and we propose to make them part of the general law, and therefore, of course, applicable to all parts of Scotland, and not only to the boroughs to which the Act applied. We also propose to meet an abuse brought to light in the course of a decision as to which there is a very strong feeling in Scotland, and which is connected with that well-known person, the bonâ fide traveller. There was a decision in Scotland in which it was held that the bonâ fide traveller might give drink to all and sundry although they were not bonâ fide travellers at all. That we intend to strike at, and we propose to remedy it by confining the bund fide traveller's drinking to himself.

We also propose to introduce another provision, which, I think, will commend itself to the House. Undoubtedly there has been great abuse in connection with the freedom which grocers have of sending liquor into the country by means of travelling vans. I need scarcely say we do not propose to alter the law in the way some people would like to see it altered. We do not propose to touch the question of grocers' licences, but we propose to make some very stringent regulations as to the conditions under which grocers are to be allowed to send out liquor to the country in these travelling vans. Practically it amounts to this—that no van is to be allowed to carry liquor which is not entered in a pass-book, and for which, on inquiry being made, it can be shown that a regular order was given. Persons in the country who choose to order liquor from grocers in the ordinary way are entitled to have it delivered; but I think the provision will effectually check a thing which is too common of grocers' vans being really travelling public houses. That ends the part of the Bill which is equivalent to Part I of the English Act. The second part of the English Act is entitled the Amendment of the Licensing Laws, and we have practically adopted nearly the whole of that part of the Act except a few sections technical in their character and not applicable to the particular circumstances of Scotland—not applicable, not on their merits, but because they would involve a form of procedure which is not germane to Scottish law. The practical result of that, among other things, will be to give the licensing authority complete control over structural premises which it had not before; and, besides that, in this Amendment of the Licensing Law we are adding a provision which I think is not only good in itself, but which is very much needed in the present state of custom in Scotland.

We are adding a very liberal provision as to the power of the licensing authority to pass by-laws dealing with various things connected with the selling of liquor, and these by-laws will, of course, have to be confirmed by a central authority, namely, the Secretary for Scotland, before assuming the power of law. This is particularly necessary in Scotland, because in the last few years there has crept in a practice, although I am sure it was well meant, but which seems, in my humble judgment, to be illegal and, I think, to be deprecated, that is, that when magistrates in towns wish public houses to be closed, for instance, on New Year's Day—a very commendable wish—and not having power of law to say so, they issue through the Chief Constable what they euphemistically term a recommendation, and any publican who does not say that he will be glad to conform to such a regulation refuses with the halter round his neck, and in the belief that his licence will be refused. That is quite wrong and illegal, because magistrates are bound to give a judicial determination as to whether a licence is wanted or not, and they have no power to act on a recommendation not sanctioned by law. But under a system of by-laws it would be perfectly possible for magistrates to pass a by law that public-houses should be closed on New Year's Day; and assuming it received confirmation, which in that particular case I assume it would, then the whole thing would be done properly and above-board, and there would not be the present system of illegal recommendations. That exhausts what is equivalent to Part 2 of the English Act.

Part 3 of the English Act deals with clubs. In the matter of clubs I remember being struck at the time of the discussion on the English Bill, which I had an opportunity of hearing, to find that the Scottish and English Bills could not be altogether the same. The truth is that the existence of the bond-fide working men's club is much more widespread in England than in Scotland. I do not say that it does not exist in Scotland, but it is not very common. On the other hand, the difficulty connected with the bogus club is much more common in Scotland than in England, and accordingly we have not taken precisely the same remedy as has been taken in England. Our remedy, if anything, is rather more stringent than the remedy in the English Act. We proceed, of course, by way of registration; and we make the selling of liquor in any unregistered club an offence, as it is in England. But we proceed rather differently in the matter of registration. We make it a judicial matter, not a discretionary matter. That is to say, any club is to be entitled to be registered; it is not to be like granting a licence to a public house, where the magistrates can refuse or not. But in order to be entitled to registration, the club must be bound by certain conditions, and the sheriff is to be the judge as to whether these conditions have been complied with or not. The conditions impose no burden whatever on any bond fide club, whatever the social scale of that club may be, but they all come to the same end, namely to secure that the club is a genuine club, and not a mere drinking shop where liquor is sold under the pretext of a club. There is to be no election of members without a proper period—a certain number of days during which the names are posted on the walls of the club-house. In fact, it is to be in complete contradistinction of a case in which I was engaged for the Excise authorities—it was the last thing I did in Scotland before I came up to this House—in which, although no doubt the forms of election were duly gone through, we discovered in the course of cross-examination that the man who proposed far more people than anybody else was the waiter. That exhausts that portion of the subject.

I may now say in a word that we have embodied the English Bill, and we have made certain additions to it to meet our own requirements. But we have not stopped there. So far I have trodden completely on ground which was common to England. We have thought it better in the interests of what we believe to be public opinion in Scotland to go somewhat farther and to grapple with the question of the licensing authority itself. May I remind the House that, in Scotland, although no doubt the subject has always been attended with considerable difficulty, we may congratulate ourselves that we have not had so many difficulties as they have had in England. We have never had any case of Sharpe v. Wake field in Scotland, for the simple reason that we never doubted the power of the law. But may I say also that I do not think we could express in any better words, if as good, what we consider to be the law than the words in which the Lord Chancellor expressed the judgment in the cast; of Sharpe v. Wakefield as to the way in which the discretion of the licensing authority should be exercised. I do not repeat it to the House. The House will remember that it was repeated a few days ago in answer to a question which was put. But there has been a feeling in Scotland that there was something still to be said upon the constitution of the licensing courts, because in truth the constitution of the licensing authority of first instance has been inconsistent, and the constitution of the Appeal Court of the licensing authority has been unpractical and unworkable.

Just let me remind the House and perhaps I may be listened to by some who are not Scotch Members what the Scotch system is at present. In all Royal burghs the licensing authority of first instance are the magistrates of the burgh. The appeal from those magistrates is to the County Justices sitting in Quarter Sessions. In the counties the licensing authority is practically the same as in England, that is to say, it is the Justices sitting in Petty Sessions, and with an appeal to the Justices sitting in Quarter Sessions. I think that bears out what I said that the court of first instance in its constitution is inconsistent, because in the burghs you have a body that is purely elective, while in the counties you have a body that is purely non-elective. There is a good deal to be said for both, but there is no particular reason why it should be different in counties and in burghs. Then the Appeal Court, as I have said, is unpractical and unworkable, but not always. Those hon. Members who come from Lanarkshire, of whom there are many here, will remember, especially in recent years, the extraordinary scenes—they can he called nothing else—at the Appeal Court of the Justices in Quarter Sessions, where so many attended that they had practically almost to stand in the street, and the numbers were such as to make any judicial examination of the matter practically impossible, complicated as it was by the provision of the statute which declares that only the votes of those present shall be counted.

Besides that there is another curious anomaly which everyone felt ought to be done away with. I have mentioned that the Appeal Court in the Royal burghs are the magistrates. The Royal burghs are those which enjoy a charter from the King, but no Royal burghs have been created for many years, and practically, the fact of the matter is that all those Royal burghs are very old creations indeed. On the other hand, the Scotch Burgh system, under what is known as the Burgh Police Act, has grown and flourished, and the whole of Scotland, as everybody knows, is dotted over with burghs, many of which have grown to a very large size and taken a great part in the life of the country. They have no licensing authority, and accordingly you come to the extraordinary result that, for instance, the burgh of Culross, with a population of 348, has a licensing authority, whereas the police burgh of Govan, with a population of 82,000, has not. I think everyone will agree that that state of matters should not continue, and that really the distinction between Royal and other burghs, which is a purely historical one, ought to be done away with in a practical matter of this kind. Of course, it is quite obvious you must go by some population limit, and whenever you come to a population limit obviously your line must be an arbitrary one. I do not claim that the figure I am going to say has any divine institution, but we have taken what we believe to be, in the whole circumstances of the case, the best figure we could take. We have taken the figure of 7,000. It is not a new limit. It is the figure already under the provisions of the Local Government Act, for instance, by which no burgh under 7,000 population can have a separate police force. It is the limit for the exercise of the Contagious Diseases Act, and I think it is also mentioned in some other pro- visions. At any rate it is a familiar figure. We propose, therefore, that for the future, burghs which are under 7,000 population are simply to be treated as parts of the counties to which they belong. On the other hand, all burghs above the 7,000 limit are still to have the burgh legislation. [An HON. MEMBER: What about Royal burghs?] We take away the powers of some of them in this matter. I think that no doubt some of them may not like this, but, on the other hand, I cannot see that a burgh with a population of 328 has any right to have a separate licensing authority, and if you are going in the one direction, I think you must go in the other.

We propose to give to the County Councils a power to divide counties, if they choose, into districts. I may mention this. Of course under the present law they have practically divided the counties into districts. Though a Justice of the Peace is for the whole county, still, as a matter of fact, counties have been practically divided into districts for the purpose of holding courts. It is only a little matter of convenience, for I take it to be a legal right that any Justice of the Peace may, if he chooses, go to any court in the county. We only impose one limitation in connection with the division of a county into districts, namely, that they must take either one, or more than one, of the local government districts. The local government districts, as hon. Members who are familiar with Scotch legislation know, are districts under the 1889 Act, and are for the various purposes of the public health authority and the road authority. They may either take one of these districts, or, if they choose, they may make a licensing district of an aggregate of more than one district, but they are not to take other burghs. That is a consideration that will appeal to the House. There is nothing more troublesome than having different demarcation lines, and it is far better, if they are to divide, that they should take the existing divisions, which are pretty well known. Well, the county having been divided into districts, or left undivided as the County Council chooses, we propose that the licensing authority should consist of one-third of County Councillors and two-thirds of Justices.

We propose that the actual numbers shall vary in size. Here of course we have to take the population limit. We propose to divide the possibilities into four divisions—under 25.000; between 25,000 and 50,000; between 50,000 and 100,000; and above 100,000, and the numbers appropriated to these respectively will be nine, twelve, fifteen and eighteen, in each case, of course, one-third being County Councillors and two-thirds Justices. The Appeal Court we propose to constitute in the same way as the court of first instance. That no doubt may first of all seem a curious proposal, but really in this matter I do not know to whom else we could go. The difference we propose to make in the Appeal Court from the court of first instance is to slightly increase the size, that is to say, we propose to add two more County Councillors and four more Justices, making the Appeal Court six more than the maximum court of whatever districts they are. Of course there will be only one appeal of the county, from whatever districts they come, so that the maximum Appeal Court that can be constituted in that manner would be twenty-four.

Passing from the counties I come to the burghs, and the burghs, of course, as I have already explained, mean all the burghs with over 7,000 population. Here we have determined to leave the licensing authority of first instance as it was. On the whole it has worked well, and we do not think there is any desire to alter the magisterial jurisdiction, and accordingly we propose to allow that the licensing authority in burghs with a population over 7,000 should be the magistrates of the burghs. So far that is simple enough, but when you come to the Appeal Court you necessarily have a little more complication, which we have got over, I hope, with simplicity. I hope I shall be able to explain it clearly. In the constitution of the Appeal Court the desire will be that the burghs themselves should have some representation. Hitherto, as hon. Members know, in the Appeal Court they have had none; that is to say, the appeal from the magistrates was to the Justices of the Peace of the county. The burghs were not at all represented except in so far as certain persons in the burghs might be Justices of the Peace of the county. We propose to take some proportion, and the Appeal Court should be constituted one-third of magistrates and two-thirds of justices. But now comes this matter which is a little complicated. You see it would be quite impossible to have a separate Appeal Court for each burgh, because that would come to be a perfectly preposterous number, the number of burghs being so large. At the same time we think that you cannot keep in our idea of giving a burgh a certain amount of representation in that Appeal Court if you simply made one Appeal Court for all the burghs in particular counties, because there the numbers would be so large that if you were to put in somebody from each burgh you would have a perfectly unmanageable court.

The way we propose to get over that difficulty is this: to group the burghs into two classes. There is one class of burghs, very few in number, which create no difficulty. These burghs are county cities, and there are only four of them, viz., Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee. With them there is no difficulty, because you have the Justices of the Peace of the county and of the city acting as an appropriate tribunal representing the city. All other burghs we propose to divide into two groups—those between 7,000 and 20,000, and those above 20,000. Now for those between 7,000 and 20,000 we propose to have one Appeal Court for each county arranged by Schedule, and the necessity for arranging it by Schedule is this that when you come to look at the burghs and where they are, you would find that the counties in Scotland differ very much. That is to say, some of them have only one burgh, whereas some others have a good many. For instance, Argyll has only one burgh over 7,000 inhabitants, viz., Campbeltown. Forfar, on the other hand, has four burghs—Montrose, Brechin, Forfar and Arbroath. Renfrew has five—Port Glasgow, Pollockshaws, Johnston. Barrhead and Renfrew. Accordingly in the case of Renfrewshire, in order to secure the adequate representation of the burghs—and if I know anything of small town life there is no confidence in one small burgh in the representation that would he given to it by another small burgh. That is to say. you would not satisfy, for instance, Port Glasgow by saying that Renfrew is to send somebody to the Appeal Court. If you give representation in the case of Renfrewshire you must have a larger Court than you have in the case of Argyll, because you have got all these burghs to represent in Renfrewshire and only one in Argyll. Accordingly we do that by Schedule, hut the result is to confine the Appeal Court within perfectly manageable numbers. The minimum of the Court in the burghs of from 7,000 to 20,000 is nine, and the maximum eighteen. The maximum is given to Dumbarton, which has many burghs of large size. In burghs above 20,000 we propose to have a separate Court for each burgh, composed of the whole of the magistrates in that burgh with a number of Justices of the Peace added, making two-thirds Justices of the Peace, and one-third represented by the magistrates. But there again the numbers are kept within perfectly reasonable limits, because the maximum Appeal Court would only be the comparatively moderate figure of twenty-seven. Hon. Members will remember that since the Town Councils Act of 1900 the number of magistrates is fixed in burghs according to the scale of population. In each case we take the whole of the magistrates and add twice their number from the Justices of the Peace—making the Court

There remain only those very large cities which are themselves county cities, and where they do not have recourse to the county justices at all, but compose the Appeal Court with their own magistrates and two-thirds of their own Justices of the Peace. We hope that that result, although somewhat complicated in the Schedule, is perfectly simple. It is merely carrying out the idea of giving the burghs one-third representation by their magistrates and two-thirds from the justices of the county of the city, instead of, as at present, giving the appeal to the Justices of the Peace. And it will have this result, if the House sanctions this scheme that there would be a court of perfectly workable size which would be able to carry on the business according to the true spirit of the law as laid down by the Lord Chancellor in the case of Sharpe v. Wakefield. Of course, I am quite aware that no one approaches this subject and supposes that he is going to give satisfaction to all who have views upon it. That would be indeed foolish. On the other hand, I am very far from being apologetic about the, matter. I have not mentioned the Majority or Minority Report of the Royal Commission. As hon. Members will find, as a matter of fact we have confined ourselves to neither of these Reports; but we have taken what we consider to be the best out of the recommendations of both. There is no slavish adherence to the Report of the Majority or that of the Minority; and what I do say is that although no one can expect to please everybody, we certainly ask this Bill to be considered as a fair and honest contribution to the cause of temperance, and I ask the House to grant leave for its introduction, and that it be read a first time.

SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has not introduced this Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule, and that, therefore, it will be competent for hon. Members, especially those who represent Scottish constituencies, to express their opinions at this the earliest stage of this important measure. The House is well aware that in Scotland there is. and always has been, a very intense feeling on this particular subject. I suppose it will be readily acknowledged that we are, not only in point of law, but in point of the aspirations of almost the entire community in Scotland, very far ahead of the general feeling in England, and therefore Scotland should be treated in an exceptional manner. There is no desire to attempt to dwell for a moment on the immense evil that arises in Scotland, within our own knowledge, from this traffic, but on all sides there will be a great desire to take exceptional advantage of this opportunity of making a step in advance on this subject.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to the English precedent of last year. I have no doubt that that Act will do good, but, at the same time—and the Lord Advocate will not hear: t for the first time—we in Scotland do not consider that we ought to be fettered in any way by English precedents in regard to this class of legislation. We have our own system and our own needs, and there is no necessity that these needs should be limited by English precedents. If I were to speak only on one point in reference to the statement of the Lord Advocate, it would be in regard to his omissions. We have had a Minority Report and a Majority Report from the Royal Commission, differing very much in regard to liquor licences, and yet I am sorry to say that there are no provisions in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Bill which would assist us to get rid of unnecessary licences; nor is there anything at all—I did not expect it from this Government—to afford any assistance in the direction of granting popular control. So far as the subject is touched upon at all—as I understood the statement of the Lord Advocate—there is an indirect popular control, but it is circumscribed to some extent by certain proposals in the Bill. It is unnecessary to express disappointment, but it is right to say that, notwithstanding these proposals, with some of which I am content, it is not at all likely that they can he regarded as an adequate measure such as will be acceptable to the great majority of the people of Scotland. It is perfectly right that the bonâ fide traveller should be limited to the liquor he himself uses. With that we all agree. And I hope that strong rules will be made in regard to travelling vans, which un doubtedly have done a great deal of harm in the country districts of Scotland. A very fruitful suggestion was made by the Lord Advocate, to which I wish to do full justice, viz., that by-laws, subject to the approval of the Secretary for Scotland, should be made by the licensing authorities. There is a system of recommendations which to a certain extent is already in existence, but it is not clothed with the authority of law. I am perfectly satisfied that the system is operative, but it should be placed in the more normal position. I am very glad that there can be bylaws made containing conditions on which licences may be granted, and I express the hope that the limit within which these by-laws can be framed may be made very wide, so as to give a great discretion to the licensing authorities to make the by-laws suitable to different localities. I see no reason why they should not be framed in a generous spirit.

Then the right hon. Gentleman spoke of clubs. There, again, I wholly agree with him. I am acquainted with the fact that there are many, many bogus clubs in many parts of Scotland which do an immense deal of harm, and I have frequently had complaints made to me not only of the drunkenness but of the disorder and scandal created by these clubs. It is perfectly right to make strong proposals for the purpose of preventing them, and I do not believe that any Scottish Member will in any way do other than help the Lord Advocate forward in this good work. The next subject the right hon. Gentleman dealt with was the licensing authority, and I wish to preface the few remarks I would make; on that with one observation. He said, as if some very special significance attached to it, that the Lord Chancellor laid down, in Sharpe v. Wakefield, that judicial discretion must be exercised by magistrates in granting licences, and he said that in Scotland there was not the smallest doubt that the fullest and freest power existed to grant or refuse licences merely on the ground of popular convenience. Never has there been the smallest doubt in Scotland, and I might add never has there been the smallest doubt in any well-informed legal circles in England, that the law is exactly the same. I remember when Sir Richard Webster and Sir Edward Clarke, two very distinguished men, for whom I have the greatest respect, some fifteen years ago told the House of Commons that a mundamus would be granted by the English Courts to compel the renewal of a licence unless some case of misconduct was shown. I remember also endeavouring to contradict that, together with other hon. Members; and, fortunately, the case of Sharpe v. Wakefield came to be decided in ten days from that time in the court of first instance. The consequence was that the proposal which the Government then had in hand, which would confer practically a freehold on licence holders in England, was defeated by a decision of the courts which had been anticipated in many analogous cases. I think there is no real doubt about the law at all.

At all events there is no doubt about it in Scotland, and when the right hon. Gentleman uses the phrase, "judicial discretion," I beg to say, if I may, that he has somewhat misunderstood it. It merely means that discretion must be exercised by magistrates on material open to the court. It means that the court must not refuse or grant a licence because of some personal matter, or mere whim or caprice, but is entitled to consider all the circumstances, and among the most important of these circumstances is whether the licence is required in the public interest or not. When the Lord Chancellor spoke of judicial discretion, I am perfectly certain that that very learned and noble person would not dispute that judicial discretion merely meant that discretion was to be exercised honestly, and in face of all the facts, in order to try and arrive at a just decision.

In regard to the scheme, notwithstanding the lucidity with which it has been placed before us, it is too complicated to criticise on the spur of the moment; and therefore, before saying anything further, I will wait until I see the Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman may expect thunder and lightning with respect to the proposal to take away jurisdiction from the Royal burghs and confer it on a mixed tribunal of county justices and County Councillors, two-thirds of which shall consist of county justices. That is likely to provide comment and criticism, and I anticipate that the right hon. Gentleman will hear something about it before very long. I say nothing about it except that I have misgivings as to conferring so large a share of jurisdiction upon county justices; but I would prefer to leave the matter there, as it is impossible to discuss it as a whole until we see the clauses. I will only say that I hope that we shall have a fair interval between this and the second reading, in order that the opinion of our constituents may be fully taken. I think it is a matter of great importance, but I feel sure that there will be great regret that this Bill does not go farther. It is no doubt well meant, but it does not go far. It is a small instalment of what we might have in Scotland, but my view is, and always has been, that we ought to make the best of any step in the right direction. We. are in a hopeless minority, and I think our proper course is to make this Bill as effective as we can in the direction which, I have no doubt, is desired by the Lord Advocate himself. Let us have a fair time to have it fully discussed, and to bring what pressure we can on the Government in order to try and induce them, if possible, to go a little further.

* SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N. E.)

I make no apology for saying a few words on this Bill, because, although I do not now represent a Scottish constituency, I did so for many years, and I have taken a continuous interest in local affairs, especially in the matter dealt with by this measure. I think it is fortunate that this Bill has been introduced so early in the session in order that it may be fully considered before the Second Reading. Although great reforms have been made in Scotland, and great improvements in the social condition of that country have been introduced by the restrictions placed on the liquor traffic—restrictions greater by far than have been attempted in England or Ireland—still all concerned in the welfare of Scotland will admit that the excessive drinking habits of some people are a great blot on our country; and I am glad to hear from the Lord Advocate that increased power will be given to the local authorities to put restrictions on facilities for drunkenness, especially at times of the year when excessive drinking most prevails. I have myself been a witness of most painful scenes in Scotland, The 1st of January is a very festive day in Scotland, and in a large, populous place near where I was staying it was remarked with pain the number of persons including females who were in the streets in a state of intoxication. It is quite evident that it is consonant with the feelings of the country that increased power should be placed in the hands of magistrates to check the indulgence in liquor on such occasions.

My right hon. friend said that an Amendment would be provided in this Bill with respect to bona fide travellers. It happened that I was one of the Bench of magistrates in the Oliver case, and we were very greatly astonished when our decision was upset. I am very glad that the fault disclosed by that case is to be remedied. My right hon. friend also referred to the Amendment which he proposed to make in the law to meet the case of the great abuse which prevails in connection with the free sale of intoxicating liquor in grocers' travelling vans. In the mining districts especially it is monstrous that these vans should go about selling liquor just as if they were itinerant public-houses. Twenty-eight years ago I was Chairman of a Royal Commission which inquired into the question of grocers' licences in Scotland; and, apart from myself, the members of that Commission were all extremely able and experienced men. We made a report in which we pointed out defects which prevailed in the law, and we made recommendations to remedy these defects, but nothing has been done from that day to this; and for two reasons. The first great reason is that the recommendations did not satisfy extreme temperance reformers. They were not so anxious that the liquor laws should be improved, as that they wanted them to be made so strict that the taking of liquor might be made a criminal offence. Another reason was that the licensed grocer might count in politics. Will English Members readily believe that it was possible and common, until the Act of last session was passed, to send a child to a public house in Scotland with a cup to take home spirits? Women also went to grocers' shops and tossed off whiskey behind a conveniently-placed screen. I hope that in this Bill the defects in the law affecting off licences will be dealt with, and that the selling of liquor by grocers' travelling vans will be put down. In a Bill which I presented last year along with the Member for Partick we not only provided for all the points taken by the Commission, but we were able to meet the objections of the trade and make the measure protective and at the same time interfere as little as possible with legitimate trade. With regard to the Licensing Courts, hon. Members from Scotland will agree with me when I say that the Licensing Courts are unsatisfactory, and the Appeal Court is a public scandal. There is nothing so common, when licences have been re- fused by the local Bench, for the Justices of the Peace who constitute the Appeal Court to be canvassed right and left. They come to the court like people going to an election. I hope that sort of thing is going to be put an end to, and I am glad that, although the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite says the Bill does not go so far as he would like to have gone, he will offer his powerful assistance towards a reform that is much needed in Scotland, and one which will be welcomed by the respectable part of the community.


I can join in the congratulations of the hon. and learned Gentleman beside me to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate for having introduced this Bill so early, but there are one or two points to which I would draw attention. First, with regard to the areas of population. I think a population of 7,000 is too small. I think it is too small for the police authorities, and I think it is too small for the licensing authorities. I wish it could have been a bigger area. With regard to the county areas and districts, I believe, for the purposes of effective administration—which is all we have to attend to after all—it is unfortunate for the people that they are not larger. The licensing body, on the other hand, is, I think, a little too largo. My own view is in favour of popular control, but I recognise there are difficulties in the way, and our aim should be to have as strong a licensing body as possible. Owing to the way in which the liquor trade is conducted by private persons in their own interests, it is essential to have as strong a licensing body as possible, and, in my opinion, the smaller it is the stronger it would be. as a rule. Attempts have been made, I believe, in Glasgow to get at the justices, and the stronger you make your Court the less likely it is that outside influences would be brought to bear upon it. I agree in thinking that the Bill is not an adequate Bill, while, at the same time, it effects some very useful reforms. I should have liked to have seen one of the recommendations of the Peel Report brought into it, and that is the fixing of a date after which there should be no question of compensa- tion for any licences withdrawn, and I should have liked to have seen some provision made by which a locality could claim from the licensing authorities the right to have, its supply of liquor conducted under the Scandinavian system. Under the liquor law of the Transvaal, promulgated by Lord Milner last year, any community has the right to have its supply of liquor conducted under the Trust system, and the trusts are bound to give the supply of liquor necessary for the community. Once new licences—it may be of considerable value—are given, the difficulty in the way of a community conducting its liquor trade under the Trust system is greatly increased, and must be so until it is recognised that after the lapse of a certain number of years the holder of a licence shall not be entitled to compensation in the event of the licence being withdrawn. The reason I venture to lay so much stress upon this point is that it is only by doing away with compensation that you can insure pure local administration. So long as the liquor trade is conducted for private profit the local administration is exposed to very great risk, and I do not think you can have any great reform until the liquor trade is removed from private interests. But, however far we may look ahead in the direction of putting the liquor trade under popular control, we shall certainly welcome the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman.

MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)

I believe all Scottish Members are unanimous in considering the subject of this Bill a subject deserving of the greatest consideration in Scotland, and they will all be desirous to assist the Government in making this Bill a workable one. It is no use now to make a speech on the details, and the only point which occurs to me upon the speech of the Lord Advocate is that I think the County Council element is too small and the Justice of the Peace element is too large. And with regard to taking any power away from the County Councils, I do not think that is a thing that will be welcomed in Scotland. We complain that this Bill does not go far enough. There are many of us in Scotland who have supported measures going a good deal farther. We have knowledge of the circumstances of Scotland, and of the great evil of drink in Scotland, and we think it would be wiser to deal with that evil in a much more drastic way than is necessary in England. We hope it may be possible, without delay, to deal with this matter, and that this Bill of the Government may be strengthened in its passage through the House. I hope this Bill will be referred to a Committee mainly Scottish in its character, and I think upon its merits it will receive the support of public opinion in Scotland—not only by hon. Gentlemen opposite but, as I believe, the vast number of the supporters of the Government in Scotland itself as well as in this House. I hope the Government will be willing to test that opinion, and, with the force of Scottish opinion behind them, will be willing to go as far as possible consistently with the passage of this Bill through the House. We desire the Bill to be strengthened as much as possible.


Although I do not sit for a Scottish constituency, I have a large interest in this question, and therefore have no apology to make for intervening in this debate. I do not envy the Lord Advocate in the task he has set himself, and I do not agree with the hon. Member for North-East Manchester, who has told the House that our Licensing Courts are corrupt, and the Court of Appeal a public scandal. I do not believe any man in any other country would dare to get up and make such a statement.

MR. EUGENE WASON (Clackmannan and Kinross)

I think the hon. Member is in error in saying the hon. Member for North-East Manchester said the Courts were corrupt; he did not say any such thing.


He said they were canvassed as if they were going to the poll, and that the Court of Appeal was a public scandal, and if that is not corruption it looks very much like it. I do not see in what way the Bill of the Lord Advocate is going to help that. I was also astonished to hear the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, when speaking on the subject of licences, tell us of the honesty of taking away licences without giving compensation.


It is not only honest, it is the bounden duty of the authorities.


I do not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman, for the simple reason that in 1881, when the tax on spirits was increased, it was stated by the Government of the day that that money should be put on one side for compensation for licences which were taken away. Therefore, in the opinion of the Government, at any rate, it was only honest that these licences should be compensated. I must differ, therefore, with the hon. and learned Gentleman as to the honesty of any court of justice that would take away from any trade a licence granted by Act of Parliament without compensation, unless the licencee broke the law. I trust the Lord Advocate will not bring a hornet's nest about his ears by binding anyone to the extraordinary ideas of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries. The Lord Advocate has stated that the Bill is founded neither on the Majority Report nor on the Minority Report of the Royal Commission. I do not think that with any show of justice a Bill could be founded on a Minority Report. The right hon. and learned Member says he has rejected the Royal Commission. Having appointed that Commission, I think you are in honour and honesty bound to stand by the Majority Report, which, after long and careful research by the greatest authorities on the trade, was agreed to by a majority of seven. I do not envy the Lord Advocate his task; he will offend his friends, and in no way placate his enemies.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

II rise for the purpose of saying a few words in reference to the observations of the hon. Member who has just sat down. I should have been content, and I think the House generally would have been, to leave a Scottish Bill of this character to the Scottish Members. Even those on this side of the House who are not Home Rulers would be glad to let this strictly Scottish subject be treated from the Scottish point of view without any Irish or English interference. Our function in a matter of this kind is simply to strengthen the hands of the mass of Scottish Members in endeavouring to make the Bill as effective for its purpose as possible. The moment a Temperance Bill, no matter what its character, appears in this House, the hon. Gentleman opposite is certain to rise, as one of the representatives of Ireland, on behalf of "honour and honesty." He has just said that the Government is bound in honour and honesty to act on the Majority Report of the Royal Commission. I would like to know whether the hon. Member would support such a Hill. I venture to say he would be the first to oppose it, and. without doubt, would plead "honour and honesty" in his opposition. I have risen simply to protest against the hon. Member, as a representative of Ireland, putting any difficulty in the way of this modest and, as I think, harmless Bill; I hope he will think better of it, and even use bis influence in favour of the measure.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

I have only a few words to add to what has been said in this debate. Unquestionably, as we gather its provisions from the very clear statement of the Lord Advocate, it does introduce some considerable improvements into our Scottish law. I can assure English Members that the opinion of Scotland is a great deal more ripe in regard to temperance legislation than that of England. I am persuaded that if the Government had gone further they would have had just as generous and cordial support from Scottish opinion irrespective of Party, as they will have for the good provisions of the Bill now introduced. I should like to support the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-East Manchester with regard to the present condition of the Scottish Licensing Courts. Those courts cause the greatest dissatisfaction in Scotland. The proposals of the Bill, taking them all in all. will, I believe, effect some improvement, but at the same time I regret that the Government do not propose to give in the counties the decision upon licences entirely to the Councils. I see no occasion whatever for bringing in the justices. Justices in Scotland have very different functions from the justices in England: they are far less important: they have much less to do; and the position is not sought after to the same degree. We should have been perfectly satisfied if this matter had been left in the hands of the elected representatives of the people, and I think the general feeling in the country would be in favour of such a plan. With regard to the small burghs, the proposal of the Government will actually have the effect of making the constitution of the licensing court less popular than it is at present. In the burghs which have hitherto been Royal burghs, but which will lose their privileges under this Bill if they have a population of less than 7,000, the authority will become less popular, because the justices will be brought in where they have hitherto had no functions at all. I suppose the idea of the Lord Advocate is that in constituting these courts the whole of the justices will elect certain of their number to represent them, and I presume he makes provision in the Bill as to the method by which that election should he effected. These, however, are details upon which I do not wish to dwell at present. I hope the Government will pay attention to the wish expressed by the hon. Member for the Partick Division, as well as by Gentlemen on this side, that the Bill should be referred to a Scottish Committee. If the Government cannot make up their mind to let it be a purely Scottish Committee, I hope they will make it substantially Scottish. There is hardly a Member from Scotland who ought not to he allowed an opportunity at the Committee stage of expressing the view of his constitutents on a question such as this. I hope that in Committee the Bill will be substantially improved. I am sure the Lord Advocate will not desire to deal with the matter in a Party spirit, and I trust that the Government will not resist Amendments if they are satisfied, as it will be the duty of Scottish Members to satisfy them, that those Amendments represent the genera] wish and mind of the people of Scotland.

"Bill to amend the Licensing (Scotland) Acts, 1828 to 1897," ordered to be brought in by The Lord Advocate, Mr. Solicitor General for Scotland, and Mr. Anstruther.