§ Colonel GRETTON
I beg to move, "That, in the opinion of this House, the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) 1364 should no longer be independent of the control of Parliament and that its proceedings and expenditure should be made subject to the control of a Minister responsible to Parliament."
My Motion deals with a matter of considerable and general constitutional importance. It is no sectional matter. I am not going to deal with it from any sectional point of view, but to get to the root of the matter, which is of more importance than any particular view of any particular section of the community. Perhaps I may for a moment or two inform the House of the history of this matter. In April, 1915, the Chancellor of the Exchequer came down to the House and proposed the Defence of the Realm (No. 3) Bill, which was for the purpose of dealing with what the House was told were certain abuses and hindrances to the greater production of munitions, then so urgenlty required, and it was on that ground alone—munitions, facilities for transport during the War—that the Defence of the Realm Bill became an Act of Parliament. The Act enables the Government by Order in Council to set up a Control Board to deal with the liquor traffic in any area, for the facilitation of munitions for transport, or where it may be otherwise required for the prosecution of the War. The Act was never to be universal throughout the United Kingdom; as the matter was put before the House, its operation was to be so far and no farther. In fact, I would like to quote what the Chancellor, who is now Secretary for War, said on the subject on 29th April:I simply propose that we shall have powers during the War to enable us, for instance, to close any public-houses in these areas whose presence is considered for the moment injurious, and having a prejudicial effect on the output of munitions, the transport of material, or the discipline of the troops. We must have power also to use either licensed premises, or any other premises in the areas, for the purpose of supplying reasonable refreshments to men engaged in those burdensome tasks, and for the purpose of preventing any section of men from abusing the facilities for the supply of intoxicants. Even the power must be included, should it be thought necessary, to suppress the sale of spirits or of very heavy beers, in those areas. This power need not to be exercised unless the exigencies of the War, which are paramount, make it, in the judgment of the Admiralty and the War Office, absolutely essential that this power should be given."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1915, col 894, Vol. LXXI].In a later Debate, on 11th May, the same right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a question by the hon. Member for Pontefract, said:This is a proposal merely to obtain complete control in munitions and transport areas during the period of the War where necessary. He asked me whether it 1365 was intended for that purpose alone. That is undoubtedly the purpose."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1915, cols. 1550–1551, Vol. LXXI.]So that the functions of this Board were, by the Defence of the Realm Act (No. 3), as described to the House, strictly limited. The board has very largely exceeded its functions. I have in my hand a map which shows the black areas where the Act has been put in force. I believe that the map does not show the whole case, because, since the map was published—it was then strictly accurate on 3rd October, 1916—the area has been somewhat extended, and it shows how far the operations of the Board extend.
I want to describe to the House how the Act works. The Act empowers the Government to set up the Board for certain purposes, to schedule certain areas, and to draw up Regulations within the limits of that Act. It is a very curious thing that the House was never told that the Government intended to set up a Board which was independent of the control of Parliament. There was nothing in the Act, or in the Regulations under the Act, which were issued by the Privy Council, which makes any Minister of the Crown responsible for the proceedings or the finances of the Board. The only official control which the Government holds over this Board, though there may be personal influence and advice, is in two directions. In the first place, any area to be scheduled must be submitted to a member of the Cabinet to be approved by him in order to pass the Privy Council and enable the area to be scheduled. The only other power is that vested in the Minister of Munitions of appointing members of the Board. I suppose the Minister of Munitions may dismiss the Board or any member of the Board. As a matter of fact, those things are never done, and there is no statutory power whatever making the Minister of Munitions or any other Minister responsible for the proceedings of the Board. Parliament has unknowingly surrendered to this independent Board complete powers, which are exercised so drastically over so wide an area.
I want to carry the point further. There is nothing either in the Act or in the Regulations dealing with finance except in the matter of the appointment of members of the Board. Subject to the approval of the Treasury, the members of the Board can receive salaries. Parliament does not know what those salaries are, or the number or status of the staff, 1366 and there is no provision either in the Act or in the Regulations for payment for the purchase of property; in fact, there is no provision whatsoever. The Board at the present moment is going far outside, as I think I can show, what was intended by Parliament when the Act was passed. Parliament never realised that the Board intended to purchase licensed property over a complete area. It never realised that the Board intended to acquire breweries as well as licensed properties, and to effect control at the national expense over an area so large as Carlisle. But we have reason to believe the Board is not satisfied with the Carlisle experiment, which is not yet completed and not yet in working order, because they undoubtedly have made, and are continuing to make, inquiries in other districts and other areas as to where another experiment on a vast scale might be made elsewhere than in Carlisle. My information is that there is a gentleman acting on their behalf who is either at the present time, or has been quite recently, making the most close and searching investigation in the town of Hull, with the view of purchase of licensed property. What does this mean? It means that this Board is prepared to spend—in the case of Carlisle it has already engaged itself to spend—large sums of money without coming to Parliament and without telling Parliament what it proposes to spend or whence it proposes to get the money.
There is no provision for a Vote or Estimate on this matter, and, as a matter of fact, from such information as I have been able to get, the procedure is something of this kind: The Board goes to the owner of a licensed house, whether in Carlisle or elsewhere, or to the owner of a brewery, to announce its intention to acquire the property. In some cases the Board has entered into possession. In one or two cases I believe objection has been taken, writs have been served, and negotiations have gone forward, and until those negotiations have been settled, and a solution has been arrived at, the Board have not proceeded to take possession. It is quite doubtful whether they are entitled to take possession, and evidently in those cases where they have been challenged they do not wish to go into the question before the Courts. However that may be, the proceeding is this: The valuer, on behalf of the Control Board, and the valuer on behalf of the owners of 1367 the property, negotiate, and when terms have been agreed the matter goes before the War Losses Commission. That Commission may or may not agree with the terms which have been arranged between the valuers and approved by the Control Board. In some cases they have agreed. In other cases, I believe, they have not agreed, and other terms and prices have been put forward. Whatever the War Losses Commission may decide, they issue an order on the Treasury and the Treasury pay the amount. Where do the Treasury get the money? There is no Vote in Parliament. They can only get money out of the Vote of Credit, which is voted by Parliament for the conduct of the War and not for the purchase of private property in this country. That is the financial position, and I do not think the House realises when it is voting money for a Vote of Credit that it is voting considerable sums for the acquisition of property by the Control Board. We do not know how they acquire the very large sums of money which they are spending in all directions in some of the property they have acquired.
I know a case in the Woolwich area, where contracts to the extent of£7,000 are to be finished within the next few days, and in another case in the same area where£10,000 is being expended, and will shortly be completed. Similar things are happening elsewhere. Where does this money come from? I dare say it is acquired quite properly, but it is not under the control of Parliament, and no information is given us. I suggest that Parliament ought not to part with these powers of control over finance. This is a power which Parliament ought not to surrender to any independent body to dip deeply, it may be, into the public purse without first of all knowing on what principles this money is to be expended. That is incontrovertible and is a basic principle of our Constitution. On the control of finance the whole of the privileges and power of this House is dependent. Never previously has Parliament handed over to an independent body the power to draw to an unlimited extent on the public purse. It is not my purpose to criticise the Control Board. It is not relevant to my argument at the present moment to do so. Be their excellencies as great as their best friends maintain, or be their faults and errors as great as the most candid critic may allege, it is all one to 1368 my argument. If their virtues are great, they should not be ashamed of the public investigation of this House. If their errors are great, this House ought to act and to correct those errors. The principle is exactly the same. The control of this House can do no harm if these operations are in accordance with the wishes and intentions of this House.
Let me refer for one moment to the expenditure on this Carlisle experiment. I will admit that if the Board of Control, or any other Department, through the Government with its authority, said to Parliament that it desired to make an experiment in this direction, no doubt Carlisle in its present condition is a favourable area for that purpose. Financially it is a favourable area, because of the vast increase of population brought about by the establishment of munitions works in the neighbourhood. That is well known publicly, so that I am not divulging any secret. The vast increase of population consists of men who, in the majority of cases, frequent public-houses during the week, and many of them desire refreshment at these places daily. So that under proper management a financial success is assured. That is not my reason for questioning the suitability of the Carlisle area. Under really good management they may produce really good financial results. But what is this expenditure which they are going to make? In the case of one property, I believe, the value in capital issue, which is certainly worth rather more than the par value as a going concern, is about£160,000. There are four breweries in the Carlisle area, all of which the Board propose to acquire. I do not know what terms are asked or what it is proposed to give, but the Control Board may easily land itself, before it has finished with this experiment, in an expenditure approximating a good half a million of money, and the area in Hull which is now being inquired into is an even more expensive area to acquire. Parliament ought to have control over all this expenditure.
I want to call the attention of Parliament to the composition of the Control Board. It is not a Board composed of experts and business men. They are men of eminence in their own walks of life, but not men experienced in this particular business, except in two cases. It is true that the Secretary of State for War, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, sug- 1369 gested that there should be various interests represented, among which was Labour. I see there are two gentlemen representing Labour, but I am surprised to find the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) included in a Board which is empowered to assist in the prosecution of the War. The Secretary of State for War said he hoped he had a business body. I am not impressed, at any rate, by some of the names I see. However, I do not want to go too closely or too critically into the composition of the Board. I believe they are very estimable gentlemen, many of them theoretically with most attractive views, but they have not gained experience in vast business undertakings, and they are going to obtain that experience at the public expense. I am going to criticise some of the actions of the Board and the way they proceed about their work. It was laid down by the Secretary for War that the Board should make a local inquiry, and the Secretary for the Colonies stated that they must carry local feeling with them or they would do more harm than good. How are these local inquiries held? They are inquiries within closed doors. No public report is taken, no minute of the evidence is to be publicly obtained, and in many cases the areas are scheduled against the ordinary evidence given on behalf of the local authorities.
I will give one or two instances. Take the town of Burton-on-Trent, which I know well. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite, of course, think it is a very disorderly town and ought to be scheduled, but, as a matter of fact, the Board have never been able to make any case against Burton-on-Trent. As a matter of fact, when an inquiry was held at Stafford, the mayor and ex-mayor of the town, the chairman of the bench, the licensing justices, the chief of the police, the town clerk, and other gentlemen, gave evidence, and they were unanimous that no Order was required. The first thing the Board did was to schedule Burton-on-Trent, and then they began to consider the case of Stafford, and it was said that it was necessary in this town because of the Staffordshire colliery district, which is in the same county. The Staffordshire colliery district is sixteen miles away, the communication with it is very bad, and there are several other towns intervening between Burton-on-Trent and the 1370 nearest colliery. As a matter of fact, the Board came to their decision before the inquiry was held. In the case of the county of Bedford the local authorities were unanimous against the scheduling of that area, but in spite of that Bedford was scheduled. In none of the cases I have mentioned have I been able to ascertain that there was the least desire on the part of those areas to be scheduled, nor was there any evidence that the scheduling of those areas would in any way affect the production of munitions. All those districts had a good record; and there was neither disorder nor drunkenness to justify the scheduling of those towns.
It seems to be the policy of the Board to schedule practically the whole of Great Britain—I was very nearly saying the United Kingdom—but the benefits of this Act are not extended to Ireland, and the Control Board is entirely shut off from any operations in Ireland. We have inquired several times why that should be so, but we have never had a satisfactory answer, although Ireland is largely a military area with several munition areas, and yet nothing has been done there in this respect. Some of the Orders which have been made are quite incapable of practical administration. Take, for example, the No-Treating Order. I believe hon. Gentlemen in this House and the Board itself attach considerable importance to the No-Treating Order, but as a matter of fact it cannot be carried. It has very largely broken down, and the proceedings which have been taken against the trade in which they have obtained conviction are tyrannous in their severity. You constantly see cases of a man being prosecuted because he goes into a public-house with his wife and pays for her drink. That is an absurd position. There have been cases in the Liverpool area of men being sent for hard labour for infringing the No-Treating Order. The police in other areas have even gone further, for they have sent constables in plain clothes to licensed premises, and they have taken women with them, and endeavoured to induce the barman or owner of the house to take their money and consent to treating on the premises. In spite of the failure to induce the barman or the owner to serve drinks to persons who have not paid for them, and so infringe the Treating Order, actions have been brought which have been dismissed by the magistrate. The 1371 Order cannot be enforced wholly and completely because it is an absurd one, and any hon. Member will see at once that it is absurd to lay down that when a man takes his wife into licensed premises, she must go to the counter and tender the money for her drink, although the money comes out of the same pocket.
I do not want to go into these minor matters, but I think the Board has undoubtedly exceeded the functions which were intended to be entrusted to it by Parliament when the Bill was passed, and it has now become tyrannous to the public, as well as oppressive to the licensed trade. I am not here to put forward any grievance of the licensed trade to-day; I have not done so, and I do not intend to do so, because I am connected with the trade; and if I stated any grievance it would be said that my Motion is on their behalf. I have brought this Motion forward entirely on constitutional grounds because of the gross infringement of the privilege of Parliament, which has been carried out under the guise of the Defence of the Realm (No. 3) Act. The licensed trade has been put to great difficulties by the transference of the control of the trade by this and other Acts during the War, and there has been very little complaint. The reason for that is that the trade has been willing to submit, and has in fact submitted, to the greatest privations, and in many cases injustices, because they have desired not to raise any clamour or do anything which may be construed as being unpatriotic or have a tendency to hinder the prosecution of the War. That is the attitude they have taken up, and will continue to take up, unless the Regulations become so intolerable that they will be obliged to come to Parliament for redress. I think I have made good my case that the Control Board have gone further than Parliament intended. I think I have made it clear that Parliament has no control over the proceedings of the Board, which is now proposing to carry out a vast policy of State purchase without the authority of Parliament, piecemeal, and bit by bit, with money voted under Votes of Credit to carry on the War. This money is being used for a great experiment in the State purchase of licences, and I contend that Parliament ought to resume control over such expenditure. Whether the proceedings of the Control Board are good or bad, 1372 they should be under the control of Parliament, and the Government have no right and are exceeding their duty when they hand over the uncontrolled expenditure of public money in this way to this body.
I put my name on the Paper next to the hon. and gallant Member for Rutland (Colonel Gretton) in connection with this Motion on purely constitutional grounds, and principally because I had no interest of any kind in breweries, distilleries or public-houses, and because I am in no way interested in what is called the licensed trade. I have no particular admiration or even liking for brewers or distillers as such, but I have a great admiration for the character, and I sympathise with the difficulties, of the licensed victualler. I think he is entitled to the sympathy of hon. Members of this House under the circumstances in which he has been placed, not merely by this but by previous legislation. It does not matter to me from the point of view I approach this Motion, whether the Board of Control has gone beyond the powers actually given to it or not, or beyond the scope of the Defence of the Realm (No. 3) Act, or beyond the powers intended to be given by that Act. Sufficient can be shown, and has already been shown, to prove that in any case the magnitude of their operations and what they have done entitles them no longer to be independent of the control of Parliament, and their proceedings and expenditure should be made subject to the control of a Minister. That is the purely constitutional ground upon which I act. I have no animus against the members of the Control Board. They have done a great deal of good, and I do not quite agree with my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down in regard to his strictures about the No-Treating Order. I think it is a great blessing. I think stopping credit drinking is a great blessing also. The stopping of the device by which one competitor tries to cut the throat of his other competitor with the long pull is a thing which has done good by being abolished.
The Board have done a great deal of good by the setting up of canteens, and providing food for the munition workers. I am not sure that even the Carlisle experiment, if it stops there, and is not extended too far in other parts of the country, may not give us some very use- 1373 ful lessons and information at the end of the War as to the way in which the licensed victuallers" trade should be conducted in the future. I admit it has done some harm. It certainly has encouraged home drinking, and the Regulation made by the Control Board that nobody can buy less than a bottle of spirits is not a thing that encourages temperance. What led me to put my name down to this Motion is that I became aware after reading the second Report of the Board, of the enormous scope of their operations and the enormous area over which they were operating, an area which was never contemplated by the authors of the Act, and certainly was not contemplated in the Act itself, nor even was dreamt of by the Board of Control until they started on their career. The Act empowers them to define an area and apply regulations to it, and it transfers to them the control of the liquor traffic in that area, and the provisions of Acts relating to licensing, or the sale of intoxicating liquor in their applicaton to that area may be modified by the Board. Surely it was never intended that the whole of the United Kingdom should be brought in under the control of this Board, otherwise it would have been stated in the Act. Certainly the explanation we have had from the late Minister of Munitions led us to believe that only in munition areas was it essential that these powers should be put in force.
My second point is the stringency of the Regulations that have been made, together with the power of making still more stringent Regulations, which the Board of Control have announced in their Report. I will not read them to the House. The Regulations are set out on page 7 of the Report. They are very wide, and they include acquiring permanently licensed and other premises and preventing any person from selling intoxicating liquor in the area. If you turn to pages 8 and 9 you will find there a summary of recommendations. They include more drastic restrictions as to distribution and canvassing for the sale of drink, the withdrawal of the recommendation that the wives of sailors and soldiers should not be charged for drunkenness except after a first or second offence, the extension of the plan of trusteeships for the payment of separation allowances and the appointment of sub-committees under the Naval and 1374 Military Pensions Act, with special officers appointed by a central authority to deal with women who are or should be put under trusteeship, the stricter enforcement of the law with regard to serving persons already the worse for drink—I do not know how you can have anything more strict than at present considering that there were only 404 convictions out of 84,000 odd licensed victuallers during 1915—the reduction of the number of licensed houses, the provision of shelters outside public-houses for children, and so on. The last thing they threaten is that they will prohibit any importation of any wine or spirit into any area that they choose so that people will not be able to keep a supply of drink in their private houses for consumption in their private houses.
They are conducting a variety of experiments. I have mentioned the Carlisle experiment. They have set up the business of brewers. They are not only actually carrying on the business of brewers in Carlisle and elsewhere for all we know, because we really do not know what they are doing, but they are brewing a particular kind of beer which is supposed to be under 2 per cent. alcoholic strength. I do not know what sort of beer it is, but I am told that it is a very little stronger than ginger beer I am informed that it is only done by means of arresting fermentation at a particular point so that at the moment of sale it only contains 2 per cent. of alcohol. If it is kept for any length of time the alcohol develops and becomes more strong. I am also told that fermentation goes on in the human body after it has been consumed. It has taken up the business of a publican and the business of supplying refreshments, and, lastly, and perhaps more important of all, they have incurred unknown and unauthorised very great expenditure. I was prompted to put down this Motion, and I am now prompted to ask the House to agree to it because we know nothing about the proceedings of this Board except what we learn through the Press. That is not right. Their own voluntary replies are the only authentic sources of information; the rest is hearsay and the gossip of the Press. I hope that we shall hear to-day a good deal from the Minister of Munitions about the various doings of this Board which at present are hidden in mystery. It is quite clear from the 1375 constitution of the Board that they are not obliged to tell even the Minister of Munitions what they are doing, and, therefore, it is not true to say that you have a kind of quasi representation of the Board in this House through the Minister of Munitions. Although they may apply to him and he may put pressure upon them he has no official right as far as I can see to insist on answers to questions being given. There ought to be some means of controlling the Board, and I cannot see why it should not be under Parliamentary control, and why some Minister should not be responsible for it to this House.
The Regulations to which I have already referred, and which operate very harshly and very unfairly in many respects in various parts of the country, are made by the Board of Control themselves. The Privy Council has nothing to say to them. I know the Report says that before an area is scheduled it must appear to His Majesty that it is expedient for the purpose of the successful prosecution of the War that the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor in any area should be controlled by the State, but it never does appear to His Majesty or to any Government Department at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Munitions in answer to a question stated that the Regulations were made by the Hoard of Control themselves. They are drawn up and agreed to by the Board of Control and placed before the Minister of Munitions. It may be that he can negative them, but I do not think that he can make them himself. Is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions right or wrong? He says that they are made by the Board of Control themselves, and I believe that is so. The Privy Council has nothing to do with it. We know that Orders in Council are simply made and sent into a Government Department, and that a clerk affixes a stamp. That is all that is done. The Report, which I think was issued in May, speaks of the work done by the Board of Control up to the end of March—I am not quite sure, but I think that is so—and at that time they controlled in Great Britain 30,000,000 out of a population of about 40,000,000. It cannot by any possible stretch of imagination be said that control was required in all these areas for any military or other pur- 1376 pose. The whole of Wales, for instance, is controlled without exception. I have been staying in Wales, near Snowdon, where there are no military at all and no munition works for miles round. There is no railway communication or public conveyance of any kind. The only way of getting about is to hire a motor car at eighteen-pence per mile. The nearest town which has a railway station is five miles away. Yet this Board of Control has scheduled the whole of that area. One of the things which drew my attention particularly to the doings of the Board was a note in the journal of the Temperance Legislation League, of which the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sherwell) is the honorary secretary for literature, of 8th August. It says:When Parliament, in the spring of 1915, authorised the establishment of the Central Control (Liquor Traffic) Board it decreed the destruction of a method and system of licensing which has persisted for something like four centuries. The provisions of the Defence of the Realm (No. 8) Amendment Act contained the germs of a social revolution … The character and scope of the revolution were dependent upon two things only: first, the constraining ideas of the Minister of Munitions, and, secondly, the courage and enterprise and practical wisdom of the appointed Board. The first of these conditioning factors was not doubtful. Mr. Lloyd George's penetrative instinct had fastened long before the War upon the fundamental weakness in the character and structure of the British licensing system. In his mind the Defence of the Realm (No. 3) Amendment Act had a reconstructive purpose.With regard to the Carlisle experiment it goes on to say:It is a pioneer experiment which will assuredly be repeated elsewhere. State control has come to stay. The Carlisle experiment is the forerunner of a revolutionised licensing system.5.0 P.M.
I want to know with regard to all these houses that they have closed, the fresh premises they have taken for the supply of intoxicating drinks, and the other premises they have taken for supplying refreshments and for canteens, if they have paid anybody, and, if so, from where they got the money. Surely the House is entitled to ask this question. I do not know that the Treasury have any authority to pay any sums for these purposes. We do not know whether anybody has been paid. It is not right that these things should be kept from the House. Have they any power to authorise any payment? I understand that the Committee, presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke), said that the Commission were not prepared, as at present advised, to determine in favour of payment out of public funds in respect of losses due to the general regulations or restrictions issued by the Central 1377 Control Board. The unfortunate brewers and licence-holders, therefore, are between the devil and the deep sea. Their property is taken and they are promised compensation and asked to agree to the amount, but there is no fund out of which to pay them. The only body to which they can look for payment says that it has no right to make such payment. It seems to me that it is entirely unconstitutional, and we ought to revert to the old constitutional practice. No money should be spent before an estimate has been placed before the House, and ways and means have been found for meeting it. With regard to the way in which the local inquiries have been held, it is not true to say, as the Report states, that the licensed trade have been consulted in every case. They certainly were not in Lancashire. The Order was made before they were told anything about it at all. The day afterwards they were told they might make any representations they pleased, but I am informed that when they tried to do so they were treated with very scant courtesy, and were not given any opportunity. The Parliamentary Secretary promised that the evidence taken at the various inquiries should be published, but that has not yet been done. I complain that this House has no knowledge of the proceedings of this Board, and we only get our information regarding them in a haphazard fashion, through the Press of the country, and by putting questions here to the Minister of Munitions who has no power to enforce an answer from the Board of Control, and has no real control over it. With regard to finance, the Board, in fact, is really independent of the House of Commons and of the country. If it can pay it does so under what is a vicious principle, and if it cannot pay, then British subjects may, in the end, find themselves without any means of being compensated for the loss of their property.
§ The MINISTER of MUNITIONS (Mr. Montagu)
I trust that, as a consequence of the Debate this afternoon, there will be no alterations in the powers of the Board of Control. The hon. Member who moved this Resolution has two objects which he desires to achieve in the one Motion. The first, is to suggest to the House that the Liquor Control Board is not satisfactorily controlled by this 1378 House, and, in the second place, he tried to convince the House that the Board is not a useful body.
§ Colonel GRETTON
No. I said no word about that. The right hon. Gentleman will remember I said I would not criticise the Board except with regard to its proceedings on two matters. I did not know whether or not it was a useful body. I said it was not relevant to my argument to say whether it was good or bad.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The hon. Gentleman's speech evidently had an effect on me which he did not intend. I do not think, however, I was alone in taking that view. The hon. Gentleman, in one part of his speech, gave instance after instance in which he thought that the activities of the Liquor Control Board had not been such as really made for the defence of the realm. He quoted the cases of Bedford and Hull. He also drew our attention to the composition of the body, and said it was not capable of dealing with the problems it attacked. I am glad to learn that the hon. Gentleman approves of the activities of the Control Board.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to be good enough not to misrepresent me. I neither approved nor disapproved; I merely said that the Board was not a body qualified for such vast commercial undertakings as it was facing.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I have tried twice to interpret the meaning of the hon. Gentleman, and I must leave the matter to the judgment of the House. The hon. Member, who seconded, was good enough to point out the particular achievement of the Liquor Control Board which he endorsed and welcomed, and I do hope, whatever may be the outcome of this Debate this afternoon, the House will not fail to pay a tribute to the members of the Control Board who have laboured so ungrudgingly, and, let me tell the hon. Member, without remuneration, on work which is not popular.
§ Colonel GRETTON
That is so. I have to point out that the Order gave the Treasury power to pay, and I want to know what the officials are paid, and who they are.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The members of the Liquor Control Board are not paid, and, so far as the Department with which I am associated is concerned, I should like to express the gratitude we feel to the Board for work which I shall describe to the House in a few minutes—work which has been of enormous importance.
§ Sir E. GOULDING
Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly answer my hon. Friend's question as to the officials and the payment made to them?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
Surely no Department of the size of the Liquor Control Board could work without paying salaries to somebody.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
If the hon. Gentleman will put down a question I will get the information, and will make a statement as to the salaries paid. But the members of the Board are not paid. Let me ask in what respect the hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution thinks that the Board is not sufficiently controlled? One of the hon. Member's statements was that this Board, which is so uncontrolled, has spread its activities over a much wider area than was expected or necessary. I can assure the hon. Member that no Order for scheduling an area is made except on representations made by the Ministry of Munitions, the military authorities, and other representative people concerned in essential output, and no Order is made unless the Ministry of Munitions, acting through the Minister responsible to this House is satisfied that the evidence warrants the preparation of an Order in Council for submission to His Majesty, to schedule an area. So it is not the Liquor Control Board who is to blame for having gone so far, it is the Ministry of Munitions. We are responsible to the House, and, therefore, I cannot see what grievance there is on that head.
The hon. Member who seconded the Motion said it was quite true they could ask questions of the Ministry of Munitions, but he inquired if the Minister of Munitions had any right to demand an answer to those questions from the Liquor Control Board. He said if he had no right, he ought to have it. I would submit to this House we have not the time nor is it worth our while to embark upon theoretical controversies of this kind. There is no single 1380 case in which the Ministry of Munitions has asked the Liquor Control Board for any information which it has not received. I never explore whether it is my right to ask or not. The Control Board know, as everybody working in this country knows, that it is dependent on the good will and support of the country for the conduct of its work, and the method of getting that good will and support is to give complete information to this House. That complete information is given through the Ministry of Munitions, and I say if the Ministry of Munitions did not get the information for which the House asked, then the Minister who represents it, and who is responsible to the House, would be deserving of censure.
What more is wanted? Is it in connection with finance? There is on the Board of Control a representative of the Treasury who sits there to report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the expenditure which is sanctioned by the Board. I will endeavour to make that clear step by step. When the purchase of licensed premises in Carlisle was contemplated by the Liquor Control Board, sanction was asked by the Treasury. I was Financial Secretary to the Treasury at the time, and I remember the discussions which preceded the giving of that sanction. The fact is, not only the Minister of Munitions had to be satisfied as to the scheduling of the area, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to be satisfied as to the steps taken, and suggestions for a modification of the scheme were made by the Treasury. The Treasury controls the expenditure. The Ministry of Munitions defrays the expenditure out of the Vote of Credit, and the Vote of Credit bears upon its face the statement that it is applied to given purposes. It is for Parliament, when the Vote of Credit is before the House, to ask whether the money is being spent on purposes which it does not regard as necessary. Through the Vote of Credit, through the Treasury, and through the Ministry of Munitions, there is ample control in regard to the Control Board—more than was contemplated by this House when the Bill was passed. On the Trird Reading, before the House proceeded to assent to the Bill, the Secretary of State for War said:We have not yet appointed a chairman. We are considering various names; but this I can tell' you: he will not be a Minister. We propose to set up a perfectly independent body. We think it very much better that this should be done.1381 So do I, if I may say so with all respect. The only really greater control the House could ask for is that the Chairman of the Board should sit in this House. But then he would be, and must be, subject to all sorts of Parliamentary and political pressure which it was the deliberate object of the House to protect him against in a matter of this kind. You cannot have it both ways in all these questions. We stated in the first Debate in this House that the Board which was to be set up should be a real Board, independent of the House, in order that it should be absolutely impartial.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The same thing happened in the case of the Road Board. When Parliament has achieved its object I do not think it is entitled to turn round and say we ought to control a body which we deliberately set up to be independent. I would submit you made this Board independent of Parliament, and, having done so, it has worked through the most critical period of its operations, and if we are to go back on our decision of a few months ago it is not a small matter. You cannot do it without making it a more permanent body; you will have to revise its constitution, and you will have to rope it into some public Department—it may be the Home Office—and then you will find you have not got an emergency body set up to deal with the defence of the Realm during the War, but it will most likely become part of the ordinary licensing authority of this country. I would suggest to the hon. Member who moved this Resolution that that really is not what he desires. Besides, there really was no time during the War, when output was being restricted, when time-keeping was bad, and when, owing to high rates of wages, drunkenness might be too prevalent—
§ Mr. O'GRADY
Where do you get that from? I declare, emphatically, timekeeping is, not bad and that high rates of wages are not leading to drunkenness.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I endorse that. But my point is that time-keeping is much better and drunkenness is much lower than it would have been had it not been for the work of the Liquor Control Board which is now under discussion.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
If the hon. Member will bear with me, my whole case was that we deliberately made this Board independent of Parliament, so that it might act quickly. It was set up because of the representations made about time-keeping; it was set up because of representations made about drunkenness; and it was set up because of the dangers that were apprehended from a large amount of money being available for expenditure. The hon. Member has only to read the Debates at the time—
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The Bill was passed with the assent of the House on those very grounds. If every Order is to be discussed and debated, if every Order has to come before Parliament—if that is what the hon. Member means by Parliamentary control—I venture to say that the Liquor Control Board would have achieved nothing like what it has achieved. Now I come to the work the Board has done. The hon. Member for Rutland (Colonel Gretton) mentioned the cases of Bedford, Staffordshire, and Burton-on-Trent. With regard to Bedford, he says that all the local authorities in Bedford were against it, and therefore Bedford has not been scheduled. Inquiries have been made on representations received. The Ministry of Munitions was not satisfied that the evidence supported the scheduling of Bedford at present, therefore Bedford has not been scheduled at present. I am referring to the county of Bedford. Inquiries were made. Bedford is coloured red in the map I hold in my hand as an area in which inquiries have been made, but in which no Order was made. In regard to Staffordshire and Burton-on-Trent, the reason why Staffordshire was scheduled was that representations were made to the Control Board by the Home Office, by the colliery owners, by the police, by the owners of munition factories that there was a shortage of coal, and that many of the colliers were only working two full days a week. That was the evidence upon which the Minister of Munitions of the time came to the conclusion that the area of Staffordshire ought to be scheduled.
§ Colonel GRETTON
My case was that it was decided to include Burton in the Order for Staffordshire afterwards, and that the case of Burton-on-Trent had been dismissed at the inquiry.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
In absolutely deciding the size of the area, regard must be had to travelling facilities, and you must have a zone of protection. If the restrictions are too narrow you do not achieve your object, because people go backwards and forwards. There have been a good many complaints made in this House on the matter. For instance, the hon. Member for Wiltshire complained about the inclusion of agricultural areas. That is done to protect a particular part. A zone of protection is put round a particular area which has been scheduled, for reasons connected with transport, military camps, munition areas, and so forth. You cannot merely take the public-houses in the streets in which the soldiers or workers live. You must have a zone around the district to prevent the people going out beyond it to get drink. Before the House comes to a judgment upon the achievements of this Liquor Control Board, I should like to give one or two figures which I understand have not yet been published—some of them may have been, but others have not—which are the most recent available statistics on these heads. The weekly average of convictions for drunkenness in England from January to September, 1915, were 1,497. The weekly average from January to September, 1916, were 830. In Scotland, the corresponding figures are 722 and 406. Two arguments that have been used in this Debate and elsewhere ought to be mentioned in regard to these figures. In the first place, it is sometimes said that these reductions in the convictions for drunkenness are due to the large number of men who have gone abroad. That is not the case, not only with regard to the statistics for drunkenness, but also the statistics for other offences. I do not think that is the case, because the drop in the number of convictions came immediately after the imposition of the restrictions, whereas the flow of men abroad who consumed beer and alcohol has been going on steadily throughout the War. I would point out further that the diminution in the convictions for drunkenness occur pretty nearly equally in men and in women. I would point out further that there is a marked diminution in the areas which have been especially restricted as against the areas which have not been so restricted. Therefore I think I can claim that there is strong evidence—these figures are very difficult.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
No, because, as the hon. Member knows well, at the time the Liquor Control Board was set up we agreed that it was not to apply to Ireland until a Member representing Ireland was added to the Board, and no such member has been added to the Board. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nor ever will be!"] Do I understand that the intention of this Motion is that the Liquor Control Board should apply to Ireland?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Why did you not apply Conscription to Ireland? [HON. MEMBERS: "You ought to have done!"]
§ Mr. MONTAGU
As regards beer, from April to September, 1915—the first half of the financial year—15,000,000 barrels were consumed; for 1916, 13,000,000 barrels. As to spirits, the 15,000,000 gallons in 1915 sank to 8,000,000 gallons in 1916. The hon. Member referred to the fact that because drinking had been stopped in licensed premises in all probability there had been an increase in home drinking. I do not think that is the case, because if that were the case there would not be the marked drop in cases of delirium tremens, of attempted suicide and of drunken brawls which the statistics show. I claim that for a war measure the work of the Liquor Control Board, judged by its results, has proved to be eminently satisfactory. I would submit that on the whole, considering the enormous difficulties of the problem which they tackle and are tackling, it has worked remarkably smoothly. It really is not the case that the trade in Lancashire, or Manchester, I think it was, were not consulted. My information is that they were consulted twice. The trade, the hon. Member would admit, is not to be the final arbiter in this matter. They are entitled to be heard and they are represented on the Board. Progressively as the work has extended, the Board has improved its machinery for hearing their representations.
I would submit further, and finally, that, so far as it has been proved necessary for Parliament to control the activities of the Liquor Control Board, the machinery devised by Parliament when the Act was passed and which is now at work, gives ample safeguards, ample provision, and is sufficient for the needs of the War and for the defence of the realm. It is equally 1385 true to say, as the hon. Member quite rightly remarked, that when this Board was set up it was never believed that its activities would extend to so large an area as is shown by the map to which I have referred. Could anybody then have foreseen that this was not going to be by any means a local work and that this would not be confined to particular parts of the United Kingdom, but that in every area every activity and all men's minds were to be fastened on serving and saving the country, and that almost every area would be a munitions area, a naval area or a military area. With the extension of the war work came the extension of the Liquor Control Board, and the increased response which has been made by all classes in every part of the United Kingdom to the necessities of the War has been materially helped by the working of the control of drink which the members of the Liquor Control Board have been able to achieve.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The House generally will have felt that neither the Mover nor the Seconder of this Motion seemed to realise that he was raising a question of the most vital importance to the conduct of the War. They have discussed the action of the Liquor Control Board from altogether too narrow a standpoint. The Mover seemed to think that the mere question of the particular form in which the House could exercise its control over the Board was an all-important one, instead of in reality being the smallest point and the least important in the matter. The Mover went back to the origin of the Liquor Control Board, and I, also, would like to direct the attention of the House for a moment to the circumstances in which the Control Board was brought into existence. There had been a pretty general sense in the country that there was need of some strong temperance reform at the beginning of last year. There had been deputations of employers from the North asking Parliament not to allow the liquor trade to go on in the old way, interfering—in spite of what the hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. O'Grady) said—with the output of munitions.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I hope the hon. Member will not mistake my point. My point is that the statements have been made over and over again in this House, and I now ask him to prove the statement he has just made.
§ Mr. JONES
I shall have a good deal to say about it before I sit down and will try to satisfy the hon. Member. I recall the fact that the present Secretary of State for War, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, went on a pilgrimage to Wales. He declared, and he has not withdrawn his words, that drink was a greater enemy of this country than Germany or Austria. As a result of those declarations and deputations and the general knowledge of the community of the work which drink was doing, it was expected that there would have been proposed by the Government at that time far-reaching temperance reforms. If it was true, as the right hon. Gentleman stated, that drink was a greater enemy than Germany or Austria, ought not we to have dealt with it as we deal with other enemies? It is an offence to trade with the enemy. Why did not the Government make it an offence to trade with this enemy? Instead of that they proposed to nationalise it. That is not what the House generally would desire them to do. They made various proposals for dealing with it. There was the proposal by the present War Secretary for nationalisation, which fell dead. There was a proposal for a high tax on spirits, which was introduced on one day and dropped the following day, or the day after. There was a measure passed for keeping spirits in bond which, as a war measure, seemed to be a mere window-dressing piece of legislation. Having talked about this question and delayed long, in the end this House and the Government did nothing except to hand over the problem unsolved to the Board of Control. Now we are asked by the hon. Member opposite, in the public interest, to resume the powers which the House has entrusted to the Board of Control fifteen months ago, but has the Government any more made up its mind how the trade should be dealt with than it had then? Is the House any more agreed as to the method which ought to be pursued? I have seen one or two pretty ominous signs lately that, 1387 although the War Savings Committee is at last realising the importance of this drink question, the Government itself is still in a very uncertain attitude towards drink. We heard yesterday of this book on the women's war work which has just been published by the War Office at a cost of over£720. It gives pictures of the war work which women are doing. On page 51 I find women working upon the railway. On page 55 I find women making shells. On pages 52 and 53 I find women working at beer bottling, and in a brewing factory cleaning brewer's vats. Are we to take it to-day that in the opinion of the War Office the cleaning out of brewers' vats is war work, in the same sense as working on railways and in shell factories?
I hold in my possession two letters from the Ministry of Munitions. The House knows that building operations may not now proceed without the consent of the Government. Leave was asked to extend a beer-bottling factory and leave was granted. At the same time, in the early part of this year, within a fortnight, leave was asked to extend a factory which was engaged in making clothing for soldiers, and leave was refused by the Minister of Munitions. I will read the two letters. They are to the same builder. The first was:I am in receipt of your letter of the 15th instant with regard to the extension of bottle-making works.for a firm of brewers whose name I will not give, though I have it here.Please note you may consider this war work.The letter is signed "L. W. Lewellyn, Director of Materials," and it is dated from the Ministry of Munitions. Three weeks later the other application is dealt with.I am in receipt of your letter of the 6th instant. Please note that permission cannot be given for a steel joist to be supplied by the Cooperative Society, and therefore the order must be refused.That was for the extension of the clothing factory. I want an explanation from the Minister of Munitions. I wish to know whether it is the policy to allow steel joists for the extension of beer-bottling factories, but to refuse them for clothing factories. The first letter is dated 18th March, 1916, and the second 10th April, 1916, and they are both signed "L. W. Lewellyn, Director of Materials," at the Ministry of Munitions. I want my hon. Friend to take care, however, that the builder who sup- 1388 plied me with this information is not in any way under condemnation at the Ministry of Munitions because he expresses amazement at one request being accepted and the other being refused.
Then I say, if this is still the attitude of the Government, if they are still doubtful how they should deal with the liquor trade, would there be any advantage at all in their taking over a much closer supervision of the operations of the Board of Control? Had the House not much better leave the control where it is? I think we must all recognise who look at it with anything like an impartial eye that good has resulted from the operation of the Orders in different parts of the country. I do not wonder that members of the liquor trade are not satisfied with the control of the Liquor Control Board. It cannot be very gratifying to the feelings of those gentlemen that in a time of war, when all trades and all individuals are called upon to render service to the State, they can render no service to the State, and that all that can be done with them is to place them under the control of a Board which is to safeguard the nation against the operations of the trade. I do not wonder that they feel uneasy at the operations of the Board of Control, but that is no reason why the House of Commons should withdraw its confidence from a Board which is doing its best in an almost impossible task. The House of Commons gave up the problem. They handed it over unsolved to the Board of Control. To this day we do not know what to do with the liquor trade. We have tried this and we have tried the other. We should like the trade to go on and do no harm, but we cannot ensure that. We now give it to the Liquor Control Board to let them do what they can and make the best of it. The Liquor Control Board has been doing its best, though it has not done all it might. It has issued two Reports, and in the second Report, which comes down to May last, there is an account of the work which the Board has undertaken. It has closed a number of houses. In my judgment, it has not closed nearly enough. It might have gone much further in that direction with great advantage to the community. It has shortened the hours of sale. I think the House might have done that, but I think also that everyone who knows the social conditions of our cities and of our country districts will recognise that the shortened hours during which the licensed premises are 1389 now open is a very great advantage to the order and conduct of the country. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Gretton) declared that the No-Treating Order had been of no advantage whatever to the country. That is not the testimony of social workers throughout the country. It is not the testimony of the police. On the contrary, the whole verdict of impartial observers is that the No-Treating Order has had a very beneficial effect on order in the country. In many ways the operations of the trade have been restricted by the Board, and the restrictions, according to this Report—and I hope hon. Members have read it—have been most beneficial. I will read a few extracts from it—the verdict of chief constables and others who are responsible for the order of our cities:Newcastle-on-Tyne.—The restrictions imposed by the Board have worked satisfactorily and appear to have had a marked effect on the drinking habits of the people.Gateshead.—The effect of the restrictions imposed by the Central Control Board on the sale of liquor has been to reduce drunkenness considerably in this area.Yorkshire, North Riding.—The restrictions on the sale of liquor imposed by the Board have been extremely successful in reducing drunkenness.So it goes on throughout the country—Yorkshire, Wakefield, Liverpool, Warwickshire, Hampshire—all over the country, England, Scotland, and Wales, there is the same story told, that as the result of the shortened hours of sale, the diminution of facilities for getting liquor, and the restrictive operations of the Board, very great advantage has resulted to public order.
The Board has gone further. It has endeavoured to set up what it calls counter-attractions, and there I cannot give their operations quite the same hearty support that I have given to their restrictive programme. They are seeking a counter-attraction to what? To drink; to what the Secretary of State for War called the lure of drink; and anyone who considers the problem knows how strong that is. It is to drink that a counter-attraction is required, and I cannot think the Board of Control is acting wisely when it opens refreshment houses, or cinema shows, or bowling greens, and allows the sale of liquor in connection with these counter-attractions. I should have thought the obvious thing was to open counter-attractions without liquor, and not to have the same temptations that are to be found in the old places.
§ Mr. JONES
Certainly. If they prevent the consumption of spirits throughout the country they will have achieved an enormous success. I did not for a moment confuse beer and spirit drinking. I think they would do well to make an end of both. They have opened in Carlisle, in the old post office, a sort of model public-house. They have got a most beautiful room, and furnished it admirably. It is well lighted, and they have music and various attractions, which the old licensees were not allowed to have on their premises, and they have made a very attractive restaurant, and I believe they are having large numbers of visitors there, and the place is much appreciated, but they have associated with it a bar, a very unattractive place along a narrow passage. They have made it as uncomfortable and unattractive as they can. I really do not feel that people who merely want a drink would ever go to that tavern. I think the Board would have done a great deal better to have that tavern without drink in order to show the people of Carlisle that society and good cheer and companionship are not inseparably connected with drink. They would have served a great public purpose if they had opened this as a social institute, where you can get good meals at reasonable prices without beer at all. I still hope it is not too late to get that bar removed. I appeal to the hon. Member for Blackburn to use his influence with the Board to see whether they cannot get the bar removed.
§ Mr. JONES
It is rather too soon to judge of the operations in Carlisle, but I believe the convictions have gone down there as elsewhere. I do not attribute the diminution of convictions in Carlisle to the fact that the Government have there purchased premises, because you see the same diminution in places where they have imposed their restrictions but have not purchased premises. That brings me to a point in the argument where I find myself very much in agreement with the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution, and that is that I do not think this Act was ever intended to allow the Board of Control to indulge in great purchase experiments in regard to liquor. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Montagu) raises his eyebrows and 1391 turns to his paper. I am going to refer him to a statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, now Secretary of State for War, when the Bill was passing through the House. I made an effort to exclude from the Bill any power to purchase on the part of the Board, and I received for that Amendment considerable support in quarters of the House which give me very little support when I am speaking on the drink question. So warm was the Debate that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to use all his eloquence to crush the obvious feeling that was rising in the House, that this was too great a power to bestow upon the Board that was to be created, and it required the interposition of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) to explain that this power was not to be widely used, but was merely a necessary part of a general power they were taking to save the nation from great financial loss, and was never to be used except in an emergency. It was only on that appeal from the right hon. Member for West Birmingham that the Amendment was withdrawn and the Clause was allowed to pass. I was so uneasy about this power being given that on the Third Reading I raised this question, and I will read what passed between me and my right hon. Friend. I said:The right hon. Gentleman 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 (Mr. Montagu) accepts that as his predecessor in his present office accepted it.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 experments, but, on the contrary, all that they were asking for was power to supply drink as part of the general scheme for supplying refreshments in munition areas.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1915, cols. 167374, Vol. LXXI.]The power to purchase was to be strictly limited to those cases where financial loss to the nation must be involved unless purchase was resorted to. It was not intended that purchase should be resorted to for the mere purpose of carrying out the operations of the Board of Control.
The right hon. Gentleman accepted what I said. He replied:My hon. Friend the Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones) has given an inventory of 1392 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 he will find that the document will be duly honoured."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1915, col. 1675, Vol. LXXI.]I want to ask the present Minister of Munitions whether the present Secretary of State for War left that document in the Ministry of Munitions, and whether it is the intention of the present Minister of Munitions to honour the pledge which his predecessor gave, and by reason of which he got the Act passed into law. Such was the feeling of the House in regard to this question of purchase—and that is the real substance that lies behind the Motion today—that the Act would not have been passed in its present form had not those pledges been given by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was not intended, and it is not right, that the Board of Control should use its powers for making experiments in nationalising the liquor traffic in this country. I must complain that the Board of Control, while it has made these large experiments in purchasing, has in no part of the country made any experiment in what is, after all, the most tried and successful method of putting down the evils of the liquor traffic, and that is prohibition. The case for prohibition of the sale of liquor at the present time is overwhelming." I do not know if it has really been put before the House since the War began. It was strong enough at the beginning of the War. Russia, with difficulties as great as our own, if not greater, resorted to this method of husbanding its resources and safeguarding the efficiency of its labouring population and its soldiers, and the result has been to strengthen Russia enormously in the common struggle. I think it is infinitely to be regretted that we in this country have done so little in this matter.
§ Mr. JONES
That made no difference. What difference does it make? If you wished to prohibit there was nothing to prevent you putting down the sale of liquor by means of an Act of Parliament in just the same way as they did it by fiat in Russia. You would have had to settle the question of compensation after prohibition had been proclaimed. There was no difficulty. The Government have been taking over all sorts of things, and they have been dealing with all kinds of vested interests. Had the Government intended to do it they could have done it.
§ Mr. JONES
The hon. Member now says you never would have got it through this House. That is quite a different argument. I must, however, meet him with a direct denial when he says that the mere fact that the liquor trade in this country was not nationalised was the operative cause why we have not got prohibition.
§ Colonel WALKER
On a point of Order. May other speakers follow on the lines that are now being taken by the hon. Member, dealing with a subject separate from the Resolution before the House? May other Members argue against or in favour of prohibition?
I understand that Mr. Speaker has indicated to the hon. Member that the Amendment he has on the Paper cannot be moved as it raises an issue remote from the Resolution; but I do not see how I can prevent any hon Member from arguing for or against a proposition which he thinks the Control Board ought to have adopted.
§ Mr. JONES
I hope the effect of this discussion will be that the Board of Control will give us a large experiment in prohibition in this country. I am going to give reasons why I think at the present time prohibition should be supported by men who have no sympathy with prohibition on ordinary occasions, and who do not like any interference with the habits of the people. The War Savings Committee have issued a proclamation in which they declare that the truest patriotism demands that everyone of us should do without whatever is not essential for health and 1394 efficiency. I claim that practically the whole of the alcohol consumed in this country is unnecessary for either health or efficiency. The waste in connection with drink is unceasing and enormous. There is waste of food in making it, there is waste of money in buying it, and there is waste of men and women in consuming it. I do not know whether hon. Members who are not very familiar with this question know what is the waste of food in connection with the making of drink at the present time. Does the House know that we are using 1,000,000 bushels of corn every week in the making of drink? One million bushels of corn per week would give us the whole of the bread consumed by the French and British Armies. Does the House know that the sugar used in the making of drink at the present time would supply the whole needs of our Army of 5,000,000 men? That is a serious matter with food prices at their present level.
§ Mr. JONES
I do not think that is the moral. At any rate that is not the moral I should draw. The moral I should draw is that you should not consume your sugar for a wasteful purpose in the making of drink, but that you should consume your sugar in a useful form. It is not only the question of the waste of food that is involved. A great deal of materials have to be brought to this country in ships from foreign countries. Is it right at a time when one of our greatest difficulties is the carriage of goods from foreign countries to this country by our mercantile marine that you should be allowing millions of tons of tonnage to be wasted in bringing materials to this country for brewing purposes? Then again, the railways are overworked. Is there any common sense in allowing 40,000 tons of drink stuffs to be carried weekly along the railways of this country, when they are understaffed and the utmost difficulty is experienced in the conveyance of goods. The Prime Minister was at a coal conference yesterday, urging upon the miners of this country that they should increase the output of "coal, and pointing out the great difficulty in which the country is involved through the need for coal. Is it common sense at a time like this—this is not teetotal prejudice—that 5,000 or 6,000 miners should be working day in and day out to supply coal to the brewers and distillers of this country? By saving foodstuffs, by saving tonnage, by saving railway carriage, by saving the work of coal miners, 1395 and the labour of the men who are making drink, of whom there are 150,000 or there abouts, and 350,000 distributing it, prohibition would be most beneficial. The case for prohibition, from the point of view of the waste in labour and foodstuffs, is overwhelming. I can go further than that.
I have only referred so far to the making of drink. The drink bill of this country last year was£182,000,000. We are spending practically£500,000 a day on drink in direct expenditure. Since the War, which has now reached its 814th day, we have spent on drink directly in this country over£400,000,000. I have used these figures in public and have been told they are wrong. I challenge investigation. You cannot make the bill any less. The cost to this country has been£400,000,000, and that is a sum which our Chancellor of the Exchequer, cheerful as he is about the financial prospects of the country, might take into account. It would have been better for this country if this money had been thrown into the sea, because the direct expenditure is but half the cost. The indirect expenditure, through the cost of dealing with the results of liquor in the crime, disease, and poverty caused by it, and through the loss of efficiency in labour caused by it, is not less than the direct expenditure. It is very difficult to get exact figures, but no investigator has ever put the indirect cost of drink at less than the direct cost. Therefore, I say with confidence that the cost of the liquor traffic to-day in this country is not less than£1,000,000 a day. We have the example of Russia and we have the example of America. What is it that is making the tremendous movement in the direction of prohibition in the United States of America? It is not the scientific demonstration of the truth about the effect of alcohol. It is proved that the consumption of drink is inconsistent with the efficiency of the nation, and it is that conclusion which is being driven home to the heads of great enterprises in the United States which is making prohibition sweep like a great prairie fire throughout the continent of America. It is that conviction which has made Canada, during the War, in their desire to reach their highest efficiency, declare in province after province, by a vote of the people, in favour of prohibition. Let me read an extract from a paper on this point:It is not the crank,1396 says this American paper,who is putting the liquor saloons out of business. It is the business man, the railroad man, the banker, the lawyer, the merchant, the worker, and the men who have to depend on someone else for efficiency in important work. Whenever there is a demand for efficiency there is a demand for putting down of the consumption of alcohol.6.0 P.M.
That is the lesson which Russia ought to have taught this country in the two years during which it has had prohibition. I do not know if hon. Members have read the speech of the Russian Minister of Finance, M. Barck, in February last, when introducing his Budget. He is not a teetotaler, but a hard-headed financial Minister who has handled a Budget nearly as big as our Minister has had to handle. He had to give up a revenue of£90,000,000 derived from liquor at the beginning of the War. In February, 1916, as a result of this sacrifice of revenue, he said that Russian finances are in a more stable condition than they have ever been in before. It must always be remembered that there is no net revenue of the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer can get the money, but more has to be spent by the country as the indirect result of drink than ever the Chancellor of the Exchequer can get from it. M. Barck claimed, as a result of prohibition, that Russian crime had been reduced and the productivity of labour had been increased by from 20 to 30 per cent., and that there had been a general improvement in the popular well-being.
§ Mr. JONES
In this large factory, employing 3,500 people, the number of days lost per month before prohibition was 3,376. The same number of workers, over the same number of days, lost per month 1,901 days after prohibition was enacted. That is to say, the lost time was reduced by almost one-half in this Russian factory. And the same thing is going on all over Russia by the mere fact of the prohibition of the sale of drink. I ask hon. Members to investi- 1397 gate this matter for themselves, and to realise to what an extent the drink trade has interfered with the efficiency and output of the country.
§ Mr. JONES
That is quite irrelevant. It would be quite easy in this country if it was decided to do so. But it is said that one reason why the Board of Control had made no experiment, and why the Government could never give the matter serious consideration was that they think the workers of this country would not consent to prohibition. I think that they under-estimate the patriotism of the workers in this country. The workers in this country have accepted Conscription at the hands of this House. Do you think that that was an easy thing for them to do? Do you think that they did not cherish their liberty? No one in this House will deny that it was a sacrifice for Labour in this country to accept the Military Service Act. They did it because the Government of the day told them that it was necessary in order to win the War. It was because they thought that it was necessary to win the War that they accepted that at the hands of the Government. Had the Government put forth the same effort to induce them to accept prohibition, they would have found no lack of response on the part of the workmen of this country. I have a right to speak as to the opinion of the country at the present time in regard to this matter. So impressed were we with the necessity for cutting down this waste during the War that we got together a Committee and appealed to the people of this country, and asked them whether, in order to safeguard the resources of the country and prevent waste, which we were invited to do by the War Savings Committee, it would not be desirable to prohibit the liquor traffic during the War. In six weeks we received 2,000,000 signatures to that memorial to the Government. I have handed it to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has not given me his answer yet. He has promised, however, careful consideration of this memorial. I hope that it is receiving it. But if he doubts whether that memorial represents the sense of the country, I challenge the Government to take the sense of the country upon this question. I ask them to refer to the localities, to the country as a whole. I do 1398 not care what test you take. My belief is that the people of this country do not desire the liquor traffic to go on in the midst of the War.
I read in the "Licensed World" that not even to win the War would the people have allowed the Government to enforce prohibition. So it has come to this, that the liquor trade can boast that the nation will give its time but not its drink; that it will give its money but not its drink; that it will give its sons but not its drink. That is a foul slander upon the people of this country. The country knows to-day what the War is costing. We know it in this House. We see faces of new Members who have taken the place of the Members who are gone. What is happening in the House is happening all over the country. The people of this country to-day are not asking for luxury or ease or self-indulgence. They are listening for the call of duty. They are waiting for leadership, for guidance from the Government. I appeal to the Government to give it. The people want their lives to be lived on the heights of service and sacrifice, so that they may be worthy of the men who have died, and of the living who are winning victory for us through danger and agony and death.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in the statements which he has made as to the question of the Control Board, and the experience acquired by the Board in Carlisle and other places. I rise to protest against the declaration made twice this afternoon, that we were behindhand in the manufacture of munitions as a result of drunkenness among the working men. When the late Minister of Munitions made the statement in the House it was controverted. One instance which was quoted recurs to my mind. It was said that in a certain shipyard the men did not turn up on Sunday morning or Monday morning to go on with their work, and that loss of time was attributed to drinking on the part of the men. I happen to know the circumstances of the case, because two of our men, trade union officials, lifelong teetotalers and ternperance advocates along the Tyne area, were told off specially to investigate the case, and they found that of the number of men concerned, who had remained away from work on Sunday and Monday morning, 60 per cent. were actually teetotalers. The remainder were men who took refresh- 1399 ment now and again. The real cause of the men remaining away was that they put on the shift a tired squad, men who had been working hard the whole week. They were put on the vessel on Saturday morning, they were there all day on Saturday and all Saturday night and up to two o'clock on Sunday, working the whole time, and the natural result was that the great majority of the men, although teetotalers, according to the report of our own teetotal officials, remained away from work.
I do not know how it is, but it is always the working-man who is to blame in this matter. I never heard any declarations made as to managers, directors or highly-paid officials getting drunk and being responsible for the non-production of sufficient munitions of war. I would recall to my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Wing) the experience of our two selves when inquiring into munitions work in Sheffield. In every factory and workshop into which we went we made inquiries of the employer, chairman or board of directors as to what effect, if any, drink had had upon loss of time and in interfering with the production of munitions, and I think that he will agree with me that, with one exception, every single employer said that there was none. Take the case of the famous Hatfield works, employing over 10,000 men. The directors were astonished that the men could go on doing their laborious work and increasing their output without losing time. My hon. Friend will remember that the leaders of these great firms, on the public platform in front of the men, thanked the men for what they had done in producing a tremendous increase of output.
I notice that Sheffield has been scheduled as a drunken area. I venture to say that, having regard to the circumstances of Sheffield working life, there is no more sober area in the whole country. I come to the question as to whether or not there has been an increase of drunkenness even before the restrictions of the Board came along. I protested in this House at the time that the statement did not apply to Leeds, and I was very careful to get the report of the Chief Constable of Leeds upon this matter. Taking his figures, I find that in 1911 there were 2,337 cases of drunkenness; in 1912 there were 2,741; in 1913, 2,233; in 1914, 2,095; and in 1915, 1,593. I might mention that the Control 1400 Board's restrictive Order did not come into operation in Leeds until 22nd November, 1915; and I think the House will agree that these figures show a progressive diminution in this drunkenness which it is alleged is rampant among our people. I have not got the figures for 1916, as this report was only published in February of this year. But the whole facts in reference to drinking among the working people, long before the War, show that—thank God!—year by year we are becoming a sober nation. I have heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer, time after time, since I have been here in 1906, crack the usual jokes with long-drawn face when lamenting the fact that there was a constantly reduced revenue derived because the people of the country, the nation as a whole, were becoming more and more sober year after year.
I think we are missing the main point of this Motion. I have put down a Motion which I have been told is controversial, but I do not want to raise a controversy about the Control Board; I do not want to denounce it; I frankly admit, from my own experience, that the Control Board has done good work. That is one side of the question. At the same time, I want to qualify that by saying that in certain aspects of the Board's work, particularly in certain places, and certainly one district, it is creating woeful drunkenness, which is more rampant than it ever was before. In regard to the Control Board's Regulations, I have just this observation to make, that I believe every member of the British public resents and objects to anything in the shape of compulsion; they are not going to have these things rammed down their throat. Let there be no mistake about that. The question before us involves a constitutional point, and that was the only reason why I put down my own Motion. Let me take the financial aspect of this subject. Recently we had from the hon. and gallant Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (Colonel Sir R. Williams) a very interesting and closely reasoned statement, and what was the burden of his observations to the House? It was that this House ought not, under any circumstances, to relinquish its power and control over finance in the interests of the people who pay the taxes. That was the trend of the whole Debate which we had the other evening. I cannot understand, when we know how every Department of the Government is under the 1401 control of this House, why this Control Board is allowed to act as it does. The Departments of the Government have first of all to prepare their Estimates; the House debates their Estimates, which are subsequently remitted to the Public Accounts Committee, who again review and criticise them. Spending Departments, like the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Board of Works, have to come to this House with their Estimates, and surely if that be good enough for them it should permit this money to be spent in Carlisle Board in regard to any expenditure they undertake.
I wonder whether we are going to permit this money to be spent in Carlisle upon something like four breweries, without discussion, without consideration, without examination?. My hon. Friend (Mr. Leif Jones), in his very powerful speech, talked about the nation having accepted military compulsion. They did, tout it was not done until after debates in this House, with full opportunity for Amendments, and a Division. The Control Board, however, do not come under that condition; they are not subject to discussion in this House, and that is my objection. It seems to me that the Control Board is becoming a sort of bureaucracy. Take the case of the munition workers. All those who are engaged in the production of munitions accepted the Munitions Act, which was a very drastic piece of legislation. I got up to defend it, though I did not represent the views of many of the workpeople at that moment; but the whole of the representatives of trade unions came to the conclusion that they must support the Bill in this House. The workers of the country followed the discussion of that Act from the start to the finish, and, though they did not approve of it, they agreed to its acceptance. With regard to military service, we accepted the principle of compulsion because we knew that the country was engaged in a life and death struggle, though it was repulsive to us. What I object to is that the Control Board stands outside the control of Parliament, doing just what it likes. That is a very dangerous precedent to introduce into the Constitution of this country. Supposing the people on some occasion became stubborn on a question of wages, and it was decided that they were not to have wages considered. Indeed, I regret to say we have had a statement from one of the Departments of the State, in a communication 1402 to the Committee of Production, that they were to be very careful about awarding any increase of wages to these people. The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I can give an instance where an instruction was given. I will give a case, that of aeroplane building, in which the wages of the men were so low that I was ashamed of the Government over the matter, and although we made out a case the Committee of Production took the instruction of the Department and gave an award against it. If that is done in regard to wages, it is conceivable that this principle of control may so develope as to interfere with the mode of living of the people, and it would mean not merely the fixing of wages, but the fixing of the amount of food they shall consume, their hours of labour, and ultimately to prescribe to trade unions what shall be done. I only wish to point out that if anything approaching that condition of things were to be attempted there would be something like a revolution in this country. Let there be no mistake on that matter. It is because the Control Board are doing their business by methods outside the Constitution that I want it to be brought within the purview, supervision, and control of this House. On the constitutional point, I agree that in time of war we cannot have full liberty; there must be a restriction in the national interest and for the national safety, but I submit, in this instance, that all these proposals with which the Control Board are connected should come before Parliament in order that we may have an opportunity of expressing our opinion upon them and of coming to a decision. Personally, I feel that most strongly. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge) are members of the Board, and I was sorry to hear the statement made by the hon. Mover of the Motion about my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn. It was invidious to select him alone and to make the statement about him which he did. For myself, I do not hold the views 1403 of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, and he does not hold mine, but we respect each other's views. Let there be no mistake about the position of the hon. Member for Blackburn and the hon. Member for Gorton, or the party with whom I am associated, on the constitutional point. We were consulted, and this is why I am sorry the question was raised by the hon. Member opposite.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I am simply putting the technical point; it does not mean that there is agreement with all that is done on the part of my hon. Friends. To come to the experiments which have been made, I do not know whether any of my hon. Friends have seen anything of what appeared in the "Dundee Advertiser," dated the 13th of this month, from a correspondent who investigated the results of the experiment at Invergordon. It is fair to observe that the man who wrote it appears to be a prohibitionist or a very strong temperance advocate. I will give a brief résumé of certain passages in his article. He says, in effect, that the matter has been in the experimental stage, and long enough in operation—I think six months—to declare one of two things: either that it has been a success and has therefore elevated the morale of the neighbourhood or that it is the other way about. He declares that he has seen women trundling go-carts along the street—that is, children's little carts—filled with bottles of whisky and bottles of beer. That occurred under the Control Board, and we thus have the handling of liquor by children—by boys and girls. The correspondent declares emphatically that the experiment has brought about a greater state of drunkenness in the locality than ever existed before.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I am talking about this particular locality, and I would point out that where you have people coming from different areas—from the North and the South—people with different methods of living, and all are dumped into one locality, there is bound to be an increase 1404 of drinking. Let me say something with regard to the Carlisle experiment. I may quote the "Manchester Guardian" of June 15th last, which says in respect of this experiment:The City Police are handicapped because half of the force of eighty, including the youngest and most vigorous constables, have joined the Army.The paragraph in which this passage is quoted goes on:Nevertheless the number of convictions for drunkenness has rapidly increased.Then follow figures showing, May, 1915, twelve convictions; May, 1916, 114 convictions; and the report goes on to state:The restriction of the hours of sale, one learns from the last report of the chief constable, has lead to drinking at top speed, and a corresponding quick transition from soberness to intoxication. No drink at all can be sold on Sunday in the Carlisle district, but the evil of secret drinking on that day has been intensified by the Regulation which forbids the off sale of a less quantity of a quart of spirits.That is the statement of the "Manchester Guardian," and those are the statements with regard to the experiments of the Control Board in Invergordon and Carlisle, and if they are anything like true, and they may be expressions of opinion, and if they accurately size up the situation, then all I can say is this: that the political plank on which I stood and the members of the party stand, namely, the municipalisation of the drink traffic, has been placed back for a generation. We cannot discuss these propositions upon the floor of the House, simply because the Board is not under the control of Parliament. If a Minister were here to answer for the Control Board, this question could be raised, and if this dangerous development had taken place in areas like Carlisle and Invergordon, then at least the House could take control and insist on the Minister taking action. I do plead to the House to give consideration to this Motion. I know we cannot discuss this question without passion on one side or the other. I interrupted the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division, but nobody has a more sincere regard for him than myself in the position he has taken up. I think he is wrong, but I am absolutely certain he is honest. He, or I, perhaps, cannot discuss this question without a certain amount of heat. I do think the Motion, in view of the fact that it involves only a question of finance and the constitutional point, ought to be, and I hope will be, accepted by the House.
§ Major ASTOR
The House has listened to various aspects of the temperance question and also to statements as to the effects of the action of the Control Board. It is quite right that the House should do this, because it has to decide whether or not the status and past relationship of the Board to this House is to be altered. In coming to a conclusion the House very naturally will want to know the probable effect upon the prosecution of the War of any change it decides to make. In the early days of the War, the House, the country, and everybody realised that there was a certain problem which ought to be dealt with, a problem which was to some extent interfering with the rapid prosecution of the War. It is a problem which is very easy to exaggerate, the drink problem; it is a problem which is frequently minimised and more frequently misunderstood. The problem connected with drink is not merely involved in the discussion of drunkenness, but it is a question of efficiency. I rather thought that the last speaker was slightly influenced by what we have heard outside, namely, that the working-classes have been insulted by the action of the Board. I know that is a charge very frequently made against the Board. In the Army and in the Navy there are very drastic restrictions upon drink. Soldiers and sailors are only allowed to obtain drink at certain limited times, yet nobody has ever suggested that the Army Council or the Admiralty are insulting the men of His Majesty's Forces by putting those restrictions upon the consumption of alcohol. The Army Council and the Admiralty, and, in fact, everybody realises that, for the sake of efficiency, for the sake of having an efficient Army and an efficient Navy, and at the present moment we are trying to get an efficient nation, you must put very drastic restrictions on the consumption of alcohol. It is with that object in mind the Control Board have acted during the last few months and since they were created. Let me say that it is with a genuine feeling of pride that I have seen the response made by the working-classes to those restrictions. Many of them thought that they were deriving a great part of their strength, and that they were getting the whole of their amusement by the unrestricted consumption of alcohol. As soon as it was put to them that for their own sake, and for the sake of those who perhaps were the frailer members of society, certain 1406 restrictions ought to be put, they at once responded, and put up with great inconvenience. I think that at the present moment they would be the first to bear testimony to the good work of the Central Control Board.
The State realised that there was a drink problem, and set about to deal with it. A Defence of the Realm Act was passed, giving certain powers to the military and naval authorities, but those powers did not prove adequate, and so the Central Control Board was created. The Central Control Board was given, certain powers and put in a certain position. Parliament deliberately decided that the Central Control Board should be independent of the daily cross-currents, the daily influences which exist here and in the constituencies, and Parliament deliberately decided that on certain matters of policy it would leave control to the Central Control Board, and that it should not be subject to daily interference. The Board have been actuated throughout with a desire to give reasonable facilities for refreshment consistent with getting the maximum amount of efficiency from the country. Hon. Members have referred to the Report which the Board have issued. We have talked a great deal recently about manpower. We are trying to get men for the Army and trying to keep a necessary number of men in munitions. We also want to get the greatest amount of productivity out of the men in this country. I could quote, if necessary, dozens of cases from employers, from people connected with war industries, as to the beneficial effect coming from the restrictions of the Board. I want to restrict myself to quotations from what I may call War Departments; that is, Departments more intimately connected with the prosecution of the War. I take first of all the Admiralty. Nobody has ever suggested that the Admiralty was teetotal or fanatical or anything like that. Here is the quotation:The most recent authoritative expressions of opinion on this matter which come from admirals and other officers in important commands are summarised by the Admiralty as confirming reports received earlier in the year, that the general effect of the restrictions has been decidedly beneficial. Transport officers are unanimously of the opinion that the restrictions have had a considerable effect upon the efficiency of the transport service.There is also the Report of the Board of Trade, which says that:Statements have also been received through the Board of Trade from the larger ports with regard to the effects of the Board's Orders, which are singularly uniform in their testimony to the 1407 advantages secured. The work of the ports and docks is reported to proceed with improved punctuality and efficiency, and in general it is affirmed that increased sobriety among sailors, firemen, and dock labourers enables ships to get away and to proceed to sea with greater dispatch than was the case before the Board's restrictions were introduced.When we realise the extent to which, now at this time of war, we depend on transport for the importation of food and of munitions of war and for the exportation from this country of our men overseas, for the sending to them of munitions and food, testimony such as this ought to carry the very greatest weight with everyone in this House who is interested in the rapid prosecution of the War. Here is a War Office quotation:The Army Council informed the Board on the 29th January that reports have now been received from various commands, the general effect of which is to show that the Orders of the Board have had a beneficial effect on the discipline, training and efficiency of the soldiers and have helped in the recovery of the sick and wounded.That is a short quotation, but I do not think I have ever seen a more eloquent one when one realises that it comes from the War Office. I do not see how anybody interested in the pushing of this War to a successful and rapid termination can lightly suggest that we should alter the status and powers of a Board which has been able to do such good work and which has received such unqualified testimony from the War Office, the Admiralty, and the Board of Trade. I turn to the question of Parliamentary control. The Minister of Munitions dealt with the relations of the Board to Parliament, and I do not think it is necessary to go over that, as he referred so clearly both to the general and constitutional and financial aspects. The House has had two previous occasions on which it has discussed the work and composition of the Board. If there had been any general expression of condemnation of the activities of the Board, and if the House of Commons had shown in those previous Debates by a large majority that it disapproved of the way in which the Board was acting, then, of course, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet would have altered the constitution and the regulations under which the Board works. The House of Commons has periodically an opportunity of reviewing the work of the Board and of expressing its opinion—I do not say daily—and the House of (Commons is constantly asking questions, and quite rightly, as to the nature of the work which the Board does. Over 200 1408 questions have been asked and answered concerning the work of the Board. But although Parliament has general control over the activities of the Board, it decided in its wisdom when it was creating a special body that it would make it independent of daily interference.
What exactly is meant when you ask for greater control? Do hon. Members suggest that every time the Board wishes to schedule an area it shall come to the House and ask for permission? Does it mean that every time the Board proposes to make a restriction it shall come to this House and have a Debate upon it? Why, at present it takes the Board weeks of examination before it can decide whether a particular area ought to be scheduled. They have to go into the question and look at it from every possible side, and, having spent weeks in examining a particular area, discussing boundaries and ascertaining exactly the effect the restrictions would have, is it reasonable at a time like this when we are at war, and when the Board is very often being pushed by the War Office or the Admiralty or the Ministry of Munitions to schedule an area, to ask that it should come here to the mother of Parliaments and ask it to spend hours and days to discuss the whole question over again. It is perfectly inconceivable that in time of war we should do this. If it is proposed that the House of Commons should consider the evidence and examine the motives which have actuated the Board, it could not possibly do it in a few hours. The mother of Parliaments at a time like this has not the time to discuss what are, after all, comparatively small details. The House of Commons cannot possibly in a matter of this kind have both efficiency, which has admittedly been produced by the policy of the Board, and also daily interference.
It is quite possible that some Members here and a certain section outside do not approve either of the way in which the Board exercises its powers or of the powers which the Board has. But I suggest that the large bulk of moderate people—not the extremists—both in this House and outside, do approve of the work which the Board has done. They realise that the Board has materially assisted in the more rapid and successful prosecution of the War by increasing efficiency, helping the Army, and accelerating transport. I spend a great deal of time trying to keep in touch with Parliamentary 1409 opinion, and I am certain that other members of the Board who are also Members of the House do the same. In connection with the work of the Board I travel over the whole United Kingdom, and wherever I go I try to ascertain, not what the prejudiced opinion is, but what the general opinion of the man in the street is. I was in my own Constituency the other day and I tried to get in touch with organised Labour—not officially, but with people who I knew were connected with organised Labour. I try to get in touch with all classes, and I found there, as I have found in other parts of the United Kingdom, the same general approval of the general lines on which the Board has been acting, and of the effect produced thereby. An hon. Member referred to two spheres of the Board's activities—Invergordon and Carlisle. I need hardly remind the House what an important place Invergordon is at the present time. As the hon. Member read newspaper extracts condemning in unmeasured terms the effect of the Board's work, it may interest the House to know that at a recent conference the local Admiral expressed his entire approval of what the Board had done. The local Admiral—who knows far more about it than this writer who came along, spent a few days there, and then went off to write these columns for the newspaper—said that it had been of the greatest assistance to him, to the Admiralty, and to the Fleet generally. I think I may dispose of the Invergordon question with that statement.
We have heard a great deal to-day about Carlisle. I should like the House to understand that the Board did not dash into Carlisle with the intention of trying a great social experiment. It may interest the House to know exactly how the present situation arose. One must not say too much about munition factories, but it is common knowledge that what was previously moorland waste at Gretna is now occupied by a huge factory connected with the War. The Board was invited to deal with the alcohol problem and with the public-houses in that area. Reference has been made to the increased convictions for drunkenness m Carlisle. The hon. Member did not tell us that with the erection of that factory there came thousands of men to that area. It is unfair, inaccurate, and misleading to quote the figures of drunkenness after these thousands of men had been brought into the area and compare them with the convictions in the period before these men came. I forget the exact number, but 1410 possibly something like 15,000 human beings were brought into the area. At any rate, it was a very big number. Therefore, it is perfectly ridiculous to compare the figures of drunkenness in the early days of the War with what existed after there had been this sudden influx of navvies and others connected with the erection of the new factory. If the hon. Member had pursued the subject, he might have told the House that recently the convictions have gone down and there is a general improvement in the district. Owing to the influx of these thousands of men into this area, and owing to special circumstances, the ordinary restrictions of the Board were found to be insufficient. The Board was continually being urged by the people responsible to take more drastic action. It was an urgent and vital matter. Anybody who has been to Gretna and knows the importance of the Gretna factory in the production of munitions of war will realise that the Minister of Munitions was anxious that a better state of affairs should be brought about. In spite of the ordinary restrictions of the Board there was a public scandal in that locality, and the Board was compelled to face the fact that it must do something more. There were two alternatives. The first was prohibition—
§ Major ASTOR
And the other was direct control. The hon. Member says "Hear, hear!" to prohibition. I agree that the people of this country are so patriotic that if you tell them that a particular thing is necessary in order to win the War, they will put up with any inconvenience; but I do not think that the people of one area would agree to be singled out for exceptional and drastic treatment, such as prohibition. If the Government were to say, "Prohibition throughout the United Kingdom," that would be one thing. It would be quite another thing for the Board of Control to go to one area and say, "We really are going to schedule you as a drunken area; we are going to have total prohibition here, but not elsewhere." From the point of view of practical politics and of common sense, the hon. Member will realise that it could not be done. There was another difficulty. Prohibition for the whole country, while it might be enforced, would not be easy; but just imagine the difficulties of having prohibition in an area like Carlisle. If it was to be enforced, practically everyone 1411 who came into the area, every motor and every cart would have to be searched. You have only to state the proposition to see that you cannot have it. Prohibition being out of the question, the Board had to adopt the other alternative—direct control. I have stated the different steps by which the present situation has arisen. The Board did not, when first created, say, "Let us go in for a great social experiment in the nationalisation of the drink traffic." Little by little, step by step circumstances compelled the Board to take action. It is because of that that the present position has grown up.
It may interest the House to know very generally what the present situation is in the Carlisle area. The Board has taken over something like 150 public-houses, closed a little over thirty, and is considering taking action in connection with others. The work of the Board must of necessity be very slow, because of the shortage of labour. It is trying to give greater facilities for recreation, for food and for refreshment, and to make general improvements. But owing to the shortage of labour—carpenters, plumbers, builders, and so forth—this takes a very long time. Therefore I hope the House will not come to any hasty decision as to the success or failure of what has been done at Carlisle. It would be quite unfair. Any opinion formed to-day would be entirely misleading and of no value. But two things have come out already. The first is that sobriety generally is increased by this factor—that as soon as you have disinterested management there is less inducement to the individual to sell alcohol. To put it another way, when a man does not depend for his livelihood on the takings at the bar, but has a fixed salary, you have a most important factor in obtaining sobriety. Already that is being felt. An hon. Member said that there was a great deal of intoxication on Sundays in Carlisle, and that the No-Treating Order was neglected. What the Board found was that, until they got direct control and direct management, the law of the land which happened to be the restrictions of the Board in that area, was to a great extent a dead letter. It is now being enforced to a far greater extent, and for the first time the ordinary standard restrictions of the Board are being carried out. Therefore you have two most satisfactory results already in the Carlisle area.
§ Major ASTOR
My hon Friend will know what is meant by the tied-house system. If you buy 90 per cent. of the houses connected with a brewery you have to pay practically as much as if you bought the whole brewery. After all, in spite of what has been said, we are the watchdogs of the Exchequer, and we do pay attention to that matter. A previous-speaker said that we have not consulted the trade sufficiently. What exactly is meant by "consulting the trade?" If you mean, have we given the trade an adequate opportunity of stating its case, either centrally or locally, my answer is most emphatically, yes. We have given the trade a full, adequate, and sufficient opportunity of stating its case. If you mean, have you acted before having convinced the trade that action is necessary and justified, that is an entirely different proposition. After all, there must be a final tribunal. A friend of mine suggested the other day that there should be a Court of Appeal of three judges. Just imagine what would happen, supposing the Board spent three or four weeks dealing with an area, and then there was an appeal, when three of His Majesty's judges had to spend another three or four weeks on the matter. You must have a final tribunal, and at the moment the Board happens to be that tribunal. Although the Board has given the trade a full and ample opportunity of stating its views, I say quite frankly that very often the trade has disagreed with us; we have not been able to convince its members. But that has not been our fault. They have had plenty of opportunity to put forward their views and to thresh the matter out.
Another criticism is that we have cast-iron restrictions; that we do not have local variations to suit local requirements. In theory I agree entirely. In theory it is most desirable that the requirements and the special needs of each area, of each section of the community, and of each individual, if you will have it so, should be met. It is only when you try to put it in practical working you find how amazingly difficult it is. As a matter of fact, generally speaking, there has been similarity, but it is also a fact that a great deal of the hostility of areas has been done away with. I remember when a watering place told 1413 us that it must have special restrictions, and the Board spent much time in seeing whether it could not alter the restrictions to meet the special requirements of watering places. It found it impossible to do so, and as soon as it was explained to the locality that it was not being singled out for special treatment, or special restrictions, but that competing watering places would have similar restrictions, a great deal of the opposition to the action of the Board was done away with.
I think the Mover of the Motion dealt with the absurdity of a man not being able to treat his wife. Prima facie that is a good criticism; a good point. But now what practical suggestion has my hon. and gallant Friend made for enabling a man to treat his wife, and yet for the No-Treating Order to remain in force? When a man goes out he cannot carry his marriage lines in his pocket. How can the seller of liquor possibly tell that the lady who accompanies a man is or is not his wife? We have heard a great deal of the irritating restrictions and inconveniences following upon our restrictions, and connected with them. I admit they are great inconveniences. It is one of the unfortunate tragedies of war that it is accompanied by restrictions which are necessarily inconvenient. To leave this House nightly and try to find my way home in the dark is amazingly inconvenient. The censorship is inconvenient. The whole of the restrictions connected with the War must of necessity be inconvenient, and it is therefore ridiculous to single these out and loose that sort of criticism upon the Board of Control. I said just now that the Board had tried to make local variations, but they have found that the Orders, generally speaking, are interlocked with each other, and that they must be taken as a whole. It is as a whole and not individually that I put them forward and support them to-day. The Orders must be taken as a whole. You may or may not like one or the other, or why it was put into force. Some of the Orders and restrictions which have been most particularly criticised have been put into force as a sort of complement to a previous Order which the Board made. It is because of that that our Orders must be taken as a whole.
One last thing. We have been told that the Board have gone a great deal further than Parliament expected. That is very 1414 probable. It is probable they have gone further than many people in this House expected, or intended the Board should go. But the Board have not gone beyond their powers. I do not know how many people, when this particular Act was passed, realised the development of this War. We talk of "a nation in arms." The whole nation is organised for the purposes of war. Your Armies have grown from thousands into millions. Almost every ship, every passenger ship and transport has been utilised for the prosecution of the War in the interests of the nation. Industrial establishments have been turned into arsenals in the interests of the War. Barren wastes are covered with munition factories and overrun with troops. That is the growth and development necessarily following upon this great War, and it is ridiculous to come down and condemn the Board of Control for having kept pace with the development of this war organisation. The Board of Control has done much. The Board has gone ahead and has done what it has because its members believed that the country desired the Board to keep pace with the growth and development of the War, and was determined that it should. They believed that the country desired that the Board, so far as they were able to do it, should try to produce the maximum of efficiency, should produce every ounce of energy and efficiency in this country. The Board have been able to help the War departments in doing this. I wish the House clearly to realise that the Board have been able to help the War Office, the Admiralty, the Board of Trade, and the Munitions Department because of their exceptional position and status, and because of the exceptional powers which have been given to them. If the Board had not had a certain degree of independence it would never have been able to do what it has done. It would never have been able to help the War Office and the Admiralty in the way it has. It is because of that that I suggest, in the interests of the War, that it would be most unwise to alter the status of the Board.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I am sure the House generally is indebted to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, not only for the speech to which we have just listened, but for the courage with which he has tackled this question. As a Labour leader, I do not think it is necessary to 1415 apologise for the statement I am about to make—that nothing is more unfair in the Debates of this kind than the presumption that the working classes are something different to anybody else. No one resents, and will continue to resent more than I, unfair attacks upon the workers of this country. But I would be false to my experience, and I would be playing the hypocrite as a Labour leader, if I did not frankly recognise that there was as much vice amongst my own class as there is in any other class. When something of public policy is done in the interests of the State we have got to realise that it ought to be done for the working classes as well as for anybody else. There is a tendency at all times to drag the workers into this question. When the Board of Control first commenced their operations in London people that had been little heard of in the trade union movement, and whose connection with that movement was very doubtful, were immediately called in as the defenders of trade unionism.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I will name some in [the course of these proceedings, and I will deal with my hon. Friend's union. He will have an opportunity to reply to me. In the early stages the trade union movement, I repeat, was organised and its name was unfairly used, and people took upon themselves to use the movement for ulterior purposes. My own society was connected with this movement. There was a circular issued broadcast to the effect that the railwaymen were opposed to the Board of Control, and they were up in arms against the restrictions. Other unions, including my hon. Friend's union, were also included. I did not concern myself with his business because I presumed he would be quite capable of dealing with it himself. But I immediately asked for proof for associating the National Union of Railwaymen and the railwaymen of London with this bogus agitation. I challenged Mr. Joe Terratt, who is the individual my hon. Friend talks about, to prove that the railwaymen had given him a mandate. He mentioned a branch which, he said, had given him power to speak on their behalf. That branch was composed of 160 members. Because that one branch had passed a resolution, he associated 27,000 railwaymen as being opposed to 1416 the Order of the Board of Control. That was not sufficient. This particular branch did not object to the work of the Board of Control. What they did object to was that, unfortunately, like many other trade union branches and friendly society lodges, they were compelled to meet in a public-house for their branch business. That is one question that I hope will be dealt with, because nothing is more cruel and fatal than that of bringing men into an organisation for their benefit and being compelled week after week to put temptation in their way.
At all events, the fact remains that there are a large number of unions that are compelled to meet in public-houses. The landlords of these public-houses do not go to the men and say: "You are going to be deprived of your beer. We want you to complain." They went to them and said, "Owing to the Order of the Board of Control we have now got to turn you out of your meeting-place." This was absolutely contrary to the instructions of the Board of Control. I took it up with the Board, and got their authority for saying that, whilst it was true that no intoxicants were to be sold after the specified hour in the branch room, there was nothing to compel the landlord to turn the members out of their meeting-place. What did the landlords do? They proceeded immediately to turn them out. This, to my mind, proved conclusively that their only interest in having the meeting-room in their house was because of what was sold and not because of the interests of the particular union. I want to follow that up by the statement that was then made that the whole of the trade unions were up in arms in London and in the country, and that there was going to be a revolt of miners and so on. The remarkable thing is that, although that is over twelve months ago, there is not a trade union in London of any substance protesting to-day. That, I submit, is the best evidence so far as the original agitation is concerned.
The second point with which I want to deal is this: Is there any Labour leader in this country, with experience of large masses of men, but would be compelled to admit how much better it would be for him, how much easier would be his task, and how much more successful negotiations between employers and workmen if it were possible to deal effectively with the drink traffic? Can anyone challenge the statement that in every appeal which 1417 has been made on behalf of improving the conditions of the men the leaders have always had to meet the argument of the lost time of the men? The employer immediately turns round when asked for improved conditions and says: "It is useless for you to talk about a struggle on the part of your men to live when we can show, side by side with your statement, the fact of a large amount of lost time week by week. How can you reconcile the two?" Whether we like it or not, the fact remains that there is better time-keeping where the Board of Control have effectively done their work. That is not all. If there is one class in the community more than another that ought to receive our support at this time, it is the wives of those who are away, and can anybody who is used to going into industrial centres, who is compelled to go into the poorer districts, do other than deplore the sights that we see there every day? It is not that we are saying the soldier's wife is not capable of taking care of herself, but as men of the world we know perfectly well that, with the husband away, and with this sorrow and suffering, these women are more likely to give way at that time than any other. Surely it is our duty to save them, not only in their own interests, but in the interests of the brave fellows who are fighting our battles.
What are the statistics on this particular point? I am now taking the Liverpool area, and dealing with women alone. The number of suicides was 120 in 1912–13, and the figure was brought down in 1916 to sixty-three. I know it will be said, you cannot attribute all suicides to drunkenness, but I think if you made a close examination, you could attribute a very large number to it. Here is a table taken from Liverpool again, showing the number of cases of delirium tremens. It was 196 in 1913, and seventy-five in 1916. In another district the number was brought down from twenty-seven to eight. But what is even more important—taking another district—of women prosecuted for drunkenness alone, the weekly average, in 1915, prior to the Order, was sixty-seven; the average after the Order was thirty-nine. In another district the average before was thirty-three, which was reduced to thirteen. These figures could be multiplied in many ways, but I do not think any municipal authority or chief constable will seriously challenge the fact that, wherever the Board of Control have 1418 put into operation these Orders, it has tended to the benefit of that particular community. On the other hand, strongly as I advocate a temperance policy, I frankly admit that this body ought not, under the guise of war, merely to propagate a temperance policy. I frankly admit that they were not set up for the mere purpose of being temperance advocates. We could deal with that in a normal time. But wherever it could be shown to them that the efficiency of the nation was being impaired, that war work was being retarded, that the best was not being done and it was due to proven drunkenness, in that case I submit they had the power not only to do what they did, but to have gone even considerably further. I realise that this evil of drink cannot be associated with any one cause. Environment, housing, and a hundred and one other things, are all mixed up with it, but I would ask the House to realise that at the present time we can see for ourselves in many quarters the awful and evil effect. If, I submit, this country is now determined to make every sacrifice for the purpose of winning this War, whether it be the working classes or any other classes, if drink is the barrier, then let drink be swept away and victory secured.
§ Mr. NIELD
A great deal of what we have listened to to-night might just as well have been, addressed to the House on a Motion to dissolve the Board. All we are asked to-night to do is to declare that this Board should be made amenable to the control of Parliament. I think it would be difficult to find other bodies exercising anything like the power this Board does that is not subject to the control of the House of Commons. I listened with great interest to the admirable speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Plymouth, and I listened also with interest in order to see what were his objections to Parliament having a better control, or control, over this Board. The reasons he advanced were that if Parliament had proper control over the Board it would be necessary to come to Parliament to sanction every scheduled area.
§ Mr. NIELD
I did not understand the hon. and gallant Member to ask whether that was meant by the Motion, but I do 1419 say that nobody would suggest for a moment that the Board should be subject to control of that sort. What one does want to see is that this House should have direct control over the policy of the Board and the general and wide principles on which the Board act. I do not propose to go into questions of its effect upon localities. I can only say this from the point of view of the diminution of crime at county Sessions. Of course, crime has enormously diminished since the War started. That began long before the Board of Control came into existence, and I cannot therefore say that the Board of Control is directly responsible for that. But I do criticise some of the methods, and I do think there are cases so extreme that Parliament would be justified in saying that if the Board can take those steps it ought to be made more directly amenable to its jurisdiction. One of the most interesting features of the precincts of this House is the little plate that informs Members as they come along the corridor from the District Railway that so many feet from that spot stood the Star Chamber. Now, the Star Chamber was objected to because it was an uncontrolled Court. There were no means of putting a limit to its jurisdiction or to the character of the penalties which it inflicted. It was absolutely unrestricted, and that is very much the same position in which this Control Board is at the present moment.
§ Mr. NIELD
I rather think a Star Chamber existed many centuries before it was destroyed. It was set up by custom and had quite as good a right and title as the old Manorial Courts. It was set up, administered and recognised right through the Tudor period as a lawful tribunal, and it was only when it began to abuse its powers that it was put an end to in the Parliamentary trouble of the seventeenth century. This Board has acted without any opportunity for redress to be given as did that ancient institution. I am going to give the House a little idea of how it disregards the public. Let me quote from a statement of a very well-known public man, at one time a member of this House, Mr. Edmund Broughton Barnard, who sat for some time for Kidderminster, and there is none 1420 better known in the county of Hertford or more entitled to speak for it:My experience of the Liquor Board is as under:That is an illustration of the way in which they start their proceedings. Let us see how they treat that disinterested management which has been spoken of with commendation from time to time in this House. A number of well-intentioned and public-spirited gentlemen have put their hands in their pockets from time to time to try to remedy this question of drunkenness in a reasonable spirit, and one which would be in accordance with the large volume of sober opinion in the kingdom. The Home Counties Public House Trust was one of such bodies. I need not call attention to the great number of names of those on the Council. They are most eminent men, including many noblemen belonging to the other House. I will only mention the names, amongst others, of Lord Kinnaird, Viscount Hardinge, Lord Rayleigh, and our much-esteemed Whip, the hon. Member for Chichester (Lord E. Talbot). Those are only quite a few of the members of the Council of this body who are acting through directors, of whom the Earl of Lytton is the chairman. Some of these are business men and some men of leisure, but all giving their time, and many of them a great deal of money, to this movement to acquire public houses in order to instal disinterested management, to get rid of the publican who lives, as my Friend said, on the profits, and to substitute a manager who has a greater commission on the sale of food and nonalcoholic drink than he gets on the alcoholic drink, there being every possible inducement on the part of the manage- 1421 ment to push the sale of other than alcoholic refreshments. Lord Lytton says in the "Trust Review" of April last:
- (1) They profess to act in conformity with local opinion.
- (2) Of course, if there is any direct munition or military they act on it.
- (3) Outside the Metropolitan Police district of the county there are no munition works of consequence and hardly any soldiers in the county.
- (4) They called in June a conference to contemplate the necessity for the Order in Bucks, Heros, and Essex. They invited to that conference chairmen of county councils, chief constables, mayors of boroughs, chairmen of petty sessions. As regards Hertfordshire the county council and the chief constable both said there was no sort of need for the Order. The mayors and chairmen of petty sessions agreed that there was no need. The secretary of a Chamber of Agriculture who had never called together the Chamber, said the farmers wanted it. All authorised representation of public opinion said it was unnecessary and quoted the statistics showing that drunkenness had decreased to a minimum without the Order. Yet the Liquor Board publish the Order for the whole of Herts, and say that they do it in deference to public opinion, when all authorised public opinion had asked them not to do so."As soon as the Liquor Control Board was appointed, the Home Counties Public House Trust Company expressed its willingness to place its services at the disposal of the Board. Our managing director spent much time in interviewing several of its members, and supplying information on matters concerning which his advice was sought. At the personal request of the chairman of the Board, we prepared and submitted a scheme for the management of the retail trade in any area which the Board might select, and subject to any restriction which they might impose. Our scheme provided for the payment of the market value of any property acquired, and for handing over to the Control Board the entire proceeds of the trade after providing for the expenses of management. In short, we offered to act as the agents of the Board, to relieve them of all administrative responsibility, and to provide out of the trade of the houses the funds required for their acquisition. Instead of accepting our offer the Board have decided to manage the trade themselves, and have actually selected an area, which already included one of our houses, for their first experiment. At the same time they frankly and fully admitted that our management of this house was unexceptionable.This place was carried on at the time of this Order under the most favourable conditions in the interests of temperance. The lease had fourteen years unexpired, and the landlords were a body of public trustees. These included the Board of Conservators for the River Lea, selected from various councils and urban areas, and were essentially a public board. The only exception to this membership was a representative who was elected by the barge owners for the Port of London. There was also a member representing the Water Board, the County Council, and I had the honour to represent the County of Middlesex. We were the landlords, and we let this house, which is close to Enfield, under a very restricted lease, and it was occupied by the Home Counties Public House Trust. What happened? I know the defence of the Board is that they could not treat one house different to another. But why not? In the interests of temperance I should have thought that they might have differentiated between houses under disinterested management and doing everything they could to provide meals for the workers in the small arms factories and ordinary licensed houses of which there were two, if not three, in the same locality. Let the House consider the position, and note the action the Board of Control has taken in relation to the question whether it ought to Toe subject to the direct control of this House. Here is an extract from a letter from the managing director of the Home Counties Public House Trust (Limited): 1422In March, 1915, in order to make sure whether the catering facilities were adequate, I inquired from the Government authorities in the Small Arms Factory whether there was any need of increased catering facilities, and I was informed that there was not. Two months later I was informed by our manager that further accommodation was desirable, and I at once took steps to effect this. Unfortunately, I met with much delay and difficulty, occasioned by the officials at the factory, which controls the gas supply and also the drainage, and three months passed before I could obtain an enlarged gas-meter from them. These delays prevented the completion of the alterations and additions, but rather more than a month ago these were completed at a cost of many hundreds of pounds, and they afford accommodation sufficient for the feeding of at least half as many men again. Thousands of men are being fed weekly, and to their satisfaction, and none had to be refused. On the 22nd of December, in common with other interests affected, we received a notice of the intention of the Control Board to acquire our premises within ten days.Just fancy what that meant. The whole of this house, which admittedly was doing a public service, feeding thousands of these men, received a summary notice. Having on their own initiative, after the authorities had said it was not necessary to extend their premises, built additional dining rooms, and having laid out money for that purpose, they are treated as if they were an ordinary licenced victualler making no provision for food but simply trying to get as many people to drink liquor as fast as they could and get out of the bar. I wonder if the House ever thought, when they were giving this power to the Ministry of Munitions under this Act, it would be possible to give a notice of this sort, and ten days after that, without any investigation of title, with no intermediate requirements like those which are recognised when there is a transfer of real property, take possession of the property. The letter proceeds:I will not dwell at length upon the subsequent extraordinary high-handed action of the Board and that of the officials which it employed. I will merely enumerate some of them and content myself with saying that they are all facts which can be proved up to the hilt by correspondence and other testimony. They gave us only ten days' notice to make arrangements, with Christmas holidays intervening. They commandeered our valuers after we had disclosed our case to them. They changed the date of acquisition without consulting our valuers, or acquainting us of the fact, and this at the eleventh hour. They endeavoured to induce our manager and staff to enter their service instead of remaining with us by a promise of greatly inflated wages, and this after the manager had made his election to remain with us. They agreed to the valuation of certain costly fixtures, including a dining-room and coffee stall, and at the last moment, when it was too late to remove them, seized them without payment to us.Can any conduct be more high-handed than that; and is it not time that the House of Commons had some control over this Board?
1423Finally, after giving notice of the change at 3 p.m. on 4th January, they took the building and its contents at twelve noon, before I could arrive or protest. They paid for the consumable stock and such selected fixtures as they thought fit, and they seized all the remainder, took advantage of all the new improvements and alterations and of the very valuable lease and goodwill without making any offer of or giving any undertaking as to compensation, although an individual member of the Board had previously assured me that we should receive the fullest compensation.'This is how they treated a public company trying to do a public work:Thus we have lost, through no fault of our own, while admittedly doing our full duty to the public, all we possess at the Swan and Pike Inn, amounting (including the value of the lease) to some£11,000 to£12,000. But there is a much wider question than this.He goes on to deal with the general subject of the injustice which has been done. Could the House possibly conceive a greater need for control than is revealed in this case? Can it possibly justify the taking and seizing of some hundreds of pounds of expenditure on improvements honestly done by public-spirited individuals merely on the ground that they can make no difference between that house and the other licensed houses? They have repeated the same operation in the case of the other licensed houses in the immediate vicinity. These places were, roughly speaking, worth£23,000, and they have proceeded to take those premises, and the owners have got to go to the Commission set up to settle war claims. I am told that the Government valuer actually admitted privately that this place was worth at least£10,000. The sum of money that was subsequently offered to include the£817 expended in improvements was the sum of£1,700. While inquiries were proceeding with regard to the needs of the county of Hereford and the adjoining part in Middlesex, every information was given by this public-spirited body of gentlemen, and afterwards that information was used against them. I know there are a large number of hon. Members wishing to speak, and there is a great deal more I could say in relation to this particular house and its treatment by the Board of Control, which was the subject of a letter written to the London newspapers on the 11th of January, which nobody has controverted or challenged in respect of any facts disclosed by that letter. I think that shows that the facts cannot be controverted. If that be so, is it not a very strong case for putting some limitation by the control of Parliament upon the operations of this Board?
1424 Let me mention one fact as to the way in which this particular house is managed since it has been taken over by the Board of Control. I am not going to say that there is any drunkenness, but I have it on the information of a. gentleman I have known for many years, whose official residence is immediately opposite, that on the night of the 2nd of September, when there was a Zeppelin raid, when we know one of the objectives was that particular locality, between twelve and one at night, when the workers come out for what they call their dinner hour, this very public-house, situated on the side of the River Lea, was ablaze with light which reflected on to the water in close proximity to an important Small Arms Factory. That was the way the house was controlled upon an important occasion when every light should have been low in order to conceal the light of the place. I can vouch for that circumstance, and I mention it because I know it cannot be challenged, because the gentleman who told me, and whose life was jeopardised, would have every right to complain, because if an explosion had taken place he and his family would have been the sufferers, because they lived just on the other side of this illuminated river upon which the public-house threw its light. I am not advocating the abolition of this Board, and I am not attempting to enter into questions relating to temperance. I think it is a pity that any of these wider questions should have come in when we have arranged a political truce, because this is a very large matter. I do feel, however, that although the exigencies of the situation may require this Board to be in existence and to have extensive powers, yet it ought not to be a Board absolutely beyond the control of this House spending public money, acquiring premises when they might have leased them, because they could have leased the whole of these houses. They could have placed them under stringent regulations, to which they could have made every one of them conform. No one would have objected to that, hut to confiscate property and to act in that drastic way under pressure of war and under the unlimited powers we have given to the Ministry of Munitions is a very grave scandal on the part of the Board of Control. Under the Licensing Act the trade hast very largely provided the fund for the purpose of the extinction of licences which has been going on quietly for years, 1425 and in many places great improvements have taken place. The funds derived from the trade have been appropriated to buy out houses upon a fair valuation to be agreed upon by a valuer appointed by the justices and a valuer appointed by the brewers. The compensation paid under the Licensing Act is based on the true value. I am in the presence of one of the Commissioners and I hesitate to make any prophecy, but from the proceedings which have hitherto taken place, I should imagine that the compensation paid by them bears no relation to that which is ordinarily paid to a publican for the extinction of his licence under the Licensing Act. It is a grievous thing that there should be this difference. Surely if it is right in one case to pay upon a proper basis of valuation, then in the other case the Board of Control ought not to be allowed to come in and buy them on another basis, giving nothing more than broken-metal prices. I think the House should put some limitation on the action of this Board, and that is why I have risen to-night.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Plymouth (Major Astor), a very eloquent and patriotic speech, really brought the House back to the realities of the situation. This is a War Emergency Board, and its sole object is to attain the greatest degree of efficiency in this country and to safeguard the nation against an admitted national danger. The only standard of criticism which applies to a Debate such as the present one is whether the Board in the exercise of its powers has or has not protected the public interest. It has been made very manifest that no other object has been in the minds of the members of the Board than that of how they can best serve their country at the present time, and I think the view of the country would be: Let the Board get on with its work; let it succeed in eliminating the danger in our midst, and let it have full powers to do so. I am one of those who regret very deeply that the Government did not at an earlier stage have the courage to deal with this question itself direct. It has, however, appointed a Board, all of whose members have shown themselves anxious to serve their country in the best possible way. They are all men of great public spirit, and there is no criticism which can be fairly attached to any individual on the Board for having failed to realise the importance of the very difficult task entrusted to him. 1426 It is very advantageous that such a Board should be removed from all direct political influences and party considerations. On the other hand, I believe, as the Minister of Munitions stated, that the Board ought to keep in touch with public opinion throughout the country and to feel satisfied that it is giving effect to the wishes of the people of the districts where it is putting its Orders into operation.
If I have any criticism to make upon the Board it is that in soma respects they might, with the full assent of the public opinion in Scotland, carry still further the restrictions which they are empowered to impose, and the prohibitions which they are empowered to make. I would also submit to the members of the Board present that there is very strong feeling in favour of the extension of the prohibition? of the sale of spirits throughout the whole of the areas which they have scheduled in Scotland.
I understand that the procedure of the Board is to consult the local interests or local opinion that they can summon to their conferences. That is a wise method, but I should like to suggest, when they are considering public opinion in each district, that they should take particularly into account the views of those who are in positions of authority, representing public bodies, local authorities, and licensing courts. I should like also to suggest that they should consider particularly in regard to the extension of the prohibition of the sale of spirits in Scotland, the results which have been obtained in the three areas which have been already delimited and in which that particular prohibition obtains at the present time. I am quite sure that I can appeal to the hon. members who are serving on this Board with great force when I say that the restrictions—I refer particularly to the prohibition of the sale of spirits—in the North-West area, in the North Coast area, and in the Northern area of Scotland, have been very successful. The people in those districts have indicated that in their opinion the restriction ought to be continued and made permanent at least during the period of the War. I would ask that effect should be given to the opinions which have been expressed in other areas that a similar prohibition should apply to them. Surely it is rather illogical for the Board to suggest that in only three areas in the North of Scotland, where there is something like a population of 142,000, prohibition of spirits should be enacted while 1427 leaving out of account large areas, munitions area, and other important areas, in the East and West of Scotland, where there is still great room for improvement.
The views of the licensing authorities are worthy of consideration. The Board, I understand, attach importance to these views. I happen to represent a district in which the Licensing Court has refused to renew any licence in the borough of Motherwell except upon the condition that no spirits shall be sold. The question whether that is a legal action on the part of the magistrates is at present being considered by the Court, and, therefore, being sub judice, I do not refer to the legal aspect of the question at all. I desire, however, to draw attention to the fact that you have a Licensing Court in a great industrial district—the Glasgow Licensing Court take the same view—supported by the Licensing Appeal Court, presided over by the largest employer of labour in the district, in favour of the extension of this prohibition of the sale of spirits throughout the whole of the licensing district. I appeal to the Liquor Control Board to give effect to that opinion in the district, and I hope note will be taken of the situation there and of the excellent results which have followed from the restriction on the sale of spirits in the district. Despite the fact that the area is limited, and that men can go outside to get their spirits, there has been a marked improvement throughout the community and almost a complete cessation of drinking among women. There has been only one woman brought before the police bar in that area in one month, whereas they were numerous before. It was necessary for the liquor trade to go to London to get an orator to address a protest meeting in the Town Hall against the restrictions imposed by the Licensing Court. If public opinion is to serve in these matters and to be consulted, I do not think that the Board could find a more suitable illustration of the desire of the community, employers and employed, that further action should be taken in this direction. Surely public opinion is at the foundation of all their inquiries. We can have confidence in the actions of the Board only if we believe that they are willing to consult the localities. There is great need for further action being taken. The Chairman of the Board has twice delivered speeches in the West of Scotland. I am glad to have the 1428 opportunity of testifying to the results which have followed from the action of the Board throughout Scotland. I can assure him that Scottish people are very grateful for what has been done, but I suggest that there is need for something further. I would like to refer particularly to the speech which he delivered on the last occasion he visited Glasgow. I think it is of some importance. He said:If the figures for Glasgow are compared with those for large areas similarly employed further south, it will be found that the amount of drunkenness per 10,000 of population is, roughly speaking, twice as great here as in those areas.… A consideration of these facts and figures appears to me to lead directly to two conclusions. It would be absurd to claim that in Scotland the problem of the drink traffic and of drink control has been completely solved. A comparison with the condition of affairs in other cities of the united Kingdom, engaged in similar industries, appears to show that there is still a great deal to do, but that further improvement is clearly within our grasp, provided that there is effective administration, sufficient determination, and sufficient courage to deal with the difficulties inherent in the problem.8.0 P.M.
I am well aware that there are many individuals who believe that further success will be obtained by continuing on the lines of the present restrictions and by more efficient administration of the law. May I remind the Liquor Control Board that in this matter of enforcement of the law the remedy is in their own hands. They have the power to shut down any licensed premises where they are satisfied that there has been an infringement of the law. They have exercised that power in Glasgow with very good results, but there is not a district in the country where, if the Liquor Control Board were to say they proposed to exercise their power to the full, if there were infringements of the Regulations, the licence holders would not be prepared to accept and 'carry out in every respect the provisions of the law. There is room for great improvement with regard to the position in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. No doubt the figures for drunkenness show a marked decrease. I do not want to criticise those figures. It would be ungenerous to suggest that they do not in themselves afford a fair indication of the diminution in drinking, but if I may say so, from considerable experience as a Crown Prosecutor in Scotland, and as having some knowledge of the conditions that prevail, you will not find the whole story written in these statistics. You will not find the whole story written in police statistics. There are many hon. Members who are familiar with that fact. It may be evidence up to a certain point, 1429 but there is an immense amount of drinking which never appears in the Police Court. There is a great deal of secret drinking among women still going on in Scotland, and there is a great deal of saturation by individuals who never get drunk in the popular sense, but who lose their efficiency, and who, when they go back to work, cost their fellows a good deal in disorganisation by not doing their bit. I listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), and I am very glad that the House had an opportunity of hearing it. "We have been led to believe by hon. Members below the Gangway that, in this matter, the workers are not with us in regard to further restrictions. I believe that is a libel on the working man. I represent a big industrial constituency, and I am quite willing to test their views and votes on the subject. The workers are as anxious as any class to see the War successfully prosecuted to the end and to accept any measures which will assist in that object. I have had tributes again and again paid by men in my own Constituency to the good effects of the restriction of the sale of spirits. They have come from men working under very high pressure, and from employers of labour who have seen the benefits which accrue from such restrictions. I do not want to enter into any controversy with my hon. Friends over this question. A challenge has been thrown down with regard to the loss of time, and I believe, if investigation were made into that subject, it would be found that the figures with regard to the time lost at some of our yards are much more conclusive than is supposed as showing the result of the excessive consumption of liquor in Scotland and elsewhere. It would show there is undoubtedly a great loss of time as well as in efficiency, and, as far as my experience goes, those workers who are the best workers and who take most out of themselves are among the first to acknowledge the fact and are willing to support everything calculated to remove temptation from their midst.
We have been told that this is not a matter for the trade, or for those who are popularly described as cranks, or believers in temperance reform, but that it is for moderate people to decide the question. I would ask hon. Members to consider what is moderate opinion. Take Scotland, for instance. We have there a very influential newspaper, the "Glasgow Herald".—a newspaper which has never been 1430 associated with this side of the House, which has taken an independent view, and which has generally supported the other party. This newspaper has indicated very clearly its view of the situation in the West of Scotland, and has called upon the Liquor Control Board to go still further. In quoting the remarks of Lord D'Abernon, the Chairman of the Board, that drunkenness in Glasgow, under the system of liquor control, is double the rate recorded in areas further south comparable in size and industrial occupation with Clydeside, it goes on to say:We are bound to confess that the system is capable of being enormously improved."…The measure to which we have repeatedly directed the attention of the Board is that mentioned by a deputation of employers yesterday—prohibition of the sale of spirits in the country during at least the continuance of the War.It goes on to say thatcontrol will always be more or less of a failure because its essentia! principle is recognition and toleration of an evil which can only be got rid of by the way of drastic suppression.That is sound opinion, and one which is backed up by the Association of Chief Constables in Scotland and supported by the Licensing Courts in Scotland, particularly in the City of Glasgow, and by many public bodies, corporations, school boards, and parish councils, as well as by the Scottish Co-operative Congress of 800 delegates, representing 480,000 families. The women of Scotland have already spoken through their great memorial to the Prime Minister. When we have the employers and large numbers of our workers in every district in favour of further steps being taken, then I say the time has come for the Board to go further. It is always said that when these restrictions have been allowed progress is made. I am willing to admit that progress has been made. But may I point out that when you go a step further a great deal more progress is made. How are you to know what the result will be of prohibiting the sale of spirits throughout the whole of these areas of Scotland until you try it? How are you to know that the progress made by that step will not be the biggest of all?
Looking to the experience we have had in Scotland, I should like to suggest to the Liquor Board that in prohibiting spirits they will receive support not only from the great masses of the population, but also from the naval and military authorities. I believe the naval authorities especially would welcome such further restrictions. Take the 1431 cases of Glasgow and the Forth. There has been strong opinion expressed by the leading naval authorities in favour of carrying the matter further. This is a matter of vital importance to the nation, and I do hope that the result of this Debate will be not to hinder, not to restrict the operations of the Board in its very difficult and very important task, but rather to hearten it to further effort. At a time when parties are united in trying to secure the successful conclusion of this great conflict, there should be no want of harmony so far as Parliament is concerned in helping on that work, and I trust, too, that no endeavour will be made by any private interest, for the sake of private gain, to hamper the Board in carrying out its operations for the public good.
§ Sir J. D. REES
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Plymouth (Major Astor) made a very able and eloquent speech, in which he skilfully combined the development of his strong points with the total suppression of his weak points, and I feel it requires some temerity to point out that he adopted the attitude of an anti-alcoholic autocrat. He said the Board had not gone beyond its powers, and then he asked, "What is the limit of the powers of the Board? Is there any limit?" I understand that under the Defence of the Realm Act there is practically no limit to what the Ministry of Munitions can do. I am glad of it. But, so far as I am aware, there is equally unlimited power exercised by the Liquor Control Board, and I am sorry for it. I wish to answer my hon. and gallant Friend, and I think I shall be employing my time far more profitably, and be more strictly in order in so doing, than if I enter into a general disquisition on prohibition—a subject which does not appear to me to be relevant to this Motion, the sole point being that there should be some Parliamentary control over the Board. My hon. and gallant Friend was good enough to say he was willing to put the public on the same footing as the Army and Navy. That is monstrously good of him, but it shows the lines on which the Board has acted. The Board is not supposed to allowance the whole country or to rob the poor man of his drink. He says he is willing to give them reasonable alcoholic provision. What is reasonable: alcoholic provision? Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to settle a point which has puzzled the wisest heads?
How will Parliamentary control, particularly in regard to finance, impair the 1432 functions of this Board? Higher bodies entrusted with similarly important functions are able to submit to Parliamentary control. My hon. Friend asks, "When we inquire into this matter, are we to go to the Mother of Parliaments and ask leave to do it?" I do not wish the Mother of Parliaments to become a grandmother of Parliaments and to interfere with details, or exercise meticulous control, and if my hon. Friend is out to abolish Parliament so far as may be, he will find me as ready to follow him as many other Members; but the only proposition now before the House is that there shall be proper Parliamentary control. I have tried myself on several occasions to elicit from the Minister of Munitions some information as to the cost of the extensive operations undertaken at Carlisle. I have failed completely. I think Parliament should know the facts, but they do not know even now what money is being spent there. The Minister of Munitions to-day told us that this body was entirely independent. But that is quite inconsistent with his statement that it only acts under the Ministry of Munitions on the advice of the military authorities. He told us that the money it expended comes before Parliament on the Votes. I should like to know on what Vote, and whether it is specifically stated on that Vote that a certain sum of money is to be spent by this Board. My right hon. Friend knows that it is not so stated. Where, then, is our control? Where is our opportunity, seeing that he will not answer questions regarding the expenditure of the Board, and seeing that the expenditure of the Board is wrapped up in one of those enormous books, weighing ounces upon ounces, in which the Estimates are contained? Where, I again ask, is our opportunity of controlling the expenditure of this body? I have never been able to find out, although I have been greatly interested in its operations, and have regarded them with an extremely critical eye, ever since the Board was constituted.
The Minister of Munitions seems to think that anybody who drinks ends his career in delirium tremens, or by suicide, and he apparently suggests that, because there has not been so much delirium tremens and so many suicides lately, the Board therefore has admirably performed its functions. That was not the remark of a practical man, and I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that in the future he" should associate with more moderate drinkers; then 1433 he would not present to the House arguments which seem so little suitable on such a serious occasion. I understand there is a prospect of a Vote being taken on this question to-night, and therefore, as the Debate is to be interrupted with another subject, I may as well spend the remainder of the time at my disposal in replying to the speech of the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. L. Jones), whose arguments seemed to consist chiefly of quotations from the Reports of the Board, and who repeated with satisfaction paragraphs from that Report in which they poured butter on their own heads.