HC Deb 12 May 1915 vol 71 cc1673-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—[Mr. Lloyd George.]


I cannot let this Bill leave the House without once more expressing my regret that the Government have not put into it any general temperance regulations for the whole country. We heard during Question Time the cheers which greeted the question of the Noble Lord with regard to race meetings, and I think that should show the Government what the nation at any rate thinks about its ordinary business during the War. I believe the people would have welcomed the restriction of the hours of the liquor traffic all over the country, and I am sorry that the Government cannot see their way to some such general provision, all the more so because I believe that in a very little time they will find themselves obliged again to deal with the question and to introduce another Bill. There is a good deal of anxiety in certain quarters of the House as to what the Bill does intend. In the course of the Debate the right hon. Gentleman gave to us certain undertakings on the part of the Government to which I wish to call his attention. He stated in the most emphatic terms that there is not to be nationalisation. He is taking power to purchase, but he did give a pledge to the House that that power should be used as little as possible. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Chamberlain) put his statement into phrases which he accepted, indicating that he intends to purchase only where he finds it necessary so to do. That is a point to which a great deal of importance is attached. In the Debate yesterday the Amendment was not pressed, but the right hon. Gentleman gave the undertaking which I venture to remind him of now. There was another point, and that was the question of various social experiments to be made by the Government during the War. On this question we were assured, after a long Debate on an Amendment which raised the point, that it was not the intention of the Government to make those experiments, but, on the contrary, all that they were asking for was power to supply drink as part of a general scheme for supplying refreshments in the munition areas. That declaration went far to satisfy the anxieties some of us felt in regard to this Bill.

I do not wish to detain the House further; I merely draw attention to those two statements made by the Government. I point out to the Government that they would not allow us to proceed in the ordinary way to endeavour to get our views incorporated in the Bill by means of Amendment. I think they will admit we met them fairly in withdrawing our Amendments. I know that when it comes to the interpretation of an Act of Parliament statements made by Ministers are not binding, but I submit that we are not legislating in the ordinary way, and that the Government ought to receive these new powers at the hands of the House as conditioned and bounded by the undertakings which they gave during the Committee and Report stages. It is in that sense that I accept the undertakings and allow the provisions to proceed. I have no desire to prevent the Government having the powers defined in that way, but I ask them to remember that we refrained from pressing Amendments which met our views and that therefore those undertakings should be very strictly interpreted in the administration of the Act.


The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not in the House yesterday when I made a suggestion which I desire to repeat. He knows the difficulties that will crop up in dealing with these areas, and in order to save himself and other people from large demands for compensation I suggest that in the control of those houses the existing position should be maintained as far as possible. I hope he will give that instruction to the local committees because I really think it is essential that that should be done, and that it is the only way in which this matter can be managed satisfactorily.


I quite see that there is good ground at this stage for the Government not being in the position to disclose the names. I would, however, ask can we get some indication of the class of party? I do not know whether the chairman has been fixed upon; if so, that would give us some idea of the kind of authority. I would also ask whether he is to be a Minister or not, and whether it is to be an independent authority or an authority subject to pressure from Members?

Sir J. D. REES

Seeing that so far there is no provision in the Bill for compensation, may I ask exactly where the guarantee of compensation comes in?

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)

I repeatedly explained that the same Committee as under the other Defence of the Realm Acts will deal with the question of compensation. There is no special mention of compensation in any of them. We set up this particular Committee to adjudicate on all claims with a general instruction as to fair play to everybody in any way damnified by the operation of these Acts. I do not think there has been a complaint up to the present with regard to the Committee. With regard to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), we have not yet appointed a chairman; we are considering various names, but this I can tell him—that he will not be a Minister. We propose to set up a perfectly independant body. We think it is very much better that that should be done. I have already indicated that there will be representation of labour. Labour has got a very direct interest in this question. We shall consider also the claims of Scotland in the matter. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ireland!"] If we propose to extend the Act to Ireland we shall, of course, put somebody on to represent Ireland. For the moment there is no intention of extending it to Ireland, but should it be found necessary we shall certainly put an Irishman on. My hon. Friend the Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones) has given an inventory of all the pledges which I gave. I shall keep that inventory safe, and I have no doubt at all that we shall try to discharge them, and that he will find that the document will be duly honoured. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) it is, of course, very desirable that there should be as little disturbance as possible consistent with the carrying out of our object. I cannot imagine the Committee not taking that view. I hope we will have a business body, and undoubtedly that is the intention of the Government. I am very anxious that the House of Lords should have every opportunity of considering this Bill, and I am very much afraid that they might have risen unless the Bill goes up very soon.


They do not sit until half-past four o'clock.


It takes some time to get across the Lobby, and I should be very much obliged to the House for the Third Reading now.


I do not wish to detain the House more than a few minutes, but I do wish to say that I think it is really unfortunate that we should give the appearance outside as if we were merely dealing with the question of drink, which is only a very small part of the question with which we have to deal. I should welcome an assurance by the Government that they are really taking steps to mobilise the whole forces of the country. It is really now quite evident that there is no step we must leave un-taken, and we must be ready for every possible sacrifice, both of personal feelings and personal opinions as well as friends, and money and everything else, in order to secure victory at the earliest possible moment over the greatest danger that has ever threatened European civilisation.


I entirely support every word uttered by the Noble Lord.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.