Sir J. D. REES
I beg to move,That this House, while not desiring to return to the pre-War hours of opening licensed premises, is of opinion that all vexatious and unnecessary restraints and restrictions upon the liberty of the subject in respect of the strength, supply, and consumption of alcoholic liquors should be abolished.Some responsibility always attaches to anyone who speaks to what has just been described as the Whispering Gallery of the world, and it seems to me that a greater 1610 responsibility than usual attaches to anyone who speaks now when a pitched battle is being waged between the Press and Parliament as to which shall govern the country. I have not put down my Motion to-night with any idea of censuring the Central Control Board for its action during the War, the Government, or the Chairman of the Central Control Board, who has, I am told, just resigned. I believe that at the present time the teetotal and Prohibition element is very active and very powerful.
Sir J. D. REES
It would be, possibly, advantageous to the Government to have a manifestation of the opinion held on the other side, if such opinion is held, and as to which some evidence may be afforded to-night. I do not speak with the slightest hostility to the Government, and I believe that if this Motion takes the turn which I hope it may it will be even advantageous to them. In the King's Speech it was stated thatexperience during the War showed clearly the injurious effects upon national efficiency of the excessive consumption of strong drink—as to which we had some idea before the War—and the amelioration both in health and efficiency which followed appropriate measures of regulation and controlThat points directly to the Carlisle experiment. It is obviously based upon that experience. The immediate object of my Motion is to deprecate the continuance of the Defence of the Realm Act during peace, and to pray that the Bill which will be introduced may be drawn mild, as I understand good beer should be. What is the national call for a Bill in regard to this matter? Did the Prohibitionist element show up well in the General Election? Mr. Chancellor obtained 1,500 votes out of 45,000, Mr. Leif Jones obtained 3,600 out of 34,000, Mr. Outhwaite 2,700 out of 32,000, and Mr. Rowntree a little over 1,000 votes out of 34,000, and so on.
Sir J. D. REES
If my hon. Friend will only allow me to proceed he will have an opportunity of reducing me to mincemeat later, and I hope he will wait for that happy consummation. These results show 1611 very clearly that the powerful position of the Prohibition movement—and it obviously is a very powerful position—is certainly not represented in the votes recorded in their favour at the General Election. A Member for Nottingham, so near to the Rushcliffe Division, knows that well. Yet they are pressing the Government for a Bill. They first of all want to continue the drastic regulations which the Control Board exercised under D.O.R.A., and then they want a Bill. I will not lose time by going into the ethics of the question. Let me say broadly that the teetotaller is an agitator, every single one of them. The person who drinks does not go about asking everybody else to have a glass; but the man who does not drink spends his life in trying to persuade people not to drink. Those are fundamentally different positions. The moderate drinker welcomes the teetotaller, hut the teetotaller calls the moderate drinker a "son of Belial flown with insolence and wine." [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] He is so proud of his own milk diet, by which he robs the children of the country, that he can find no favour for the vintage of France, the whisky of Scotland, or the beer of his own country. And yet during the War the Government of France, that conspicuously temperate nation in which in the wine districts even the children drink wine, in 1916 supplied 792,000,000 quart-bottles of wine to the soldiers, who were refreshed by it and fought like men. What is the experience to which the King's Speech refers which justifies the introduction of the Bill? What did the State learn during the War? It learned to encourage whisky as a drink in preference to beer, and it learned to cultivate a taste for bad, as distinguished from good, whisky, by levying a flat rate upon the whole lot.
I do not blame the State—I believe that the Government did all it could. I do not think that any Government could have done better. It is not that the Government is bad. It is that the system of State administration is bad, and is only permissible during the special circumstances of the War. I do not attack the Board or the Government. If you want a good example of good liquor administration you must go to Russia, where it resulted in revolution. I do not see my hon. Friends the Members for 1612 West and Central Nottingham (Mr. Hayday and Mr. Atkey), but they will remember that they stood on a platform with me at Nottingham when we were asking the people to subscribe to a Government loan, and that we heard the cry, "Less loan, more beer!" That was the cry on all sides. "Give us good decent beer to drink and then we will talk about subscribing to your loan." The Government Bill obviously will be based on the Carlisle experiment. They will dwell upon Carlisle with great satisfaction. I submit that Carlisle was not a success, and my Motion, if carried, would involve the dissolution of the Control Board and deprecate its re-creation. But those who are in favour of it would say, "We are not in favour of the resuscitation of the Control Board," butA merchant to conceal his treasureConveys it by a borrowed name.Teetotallers camouflage their measure—It spells Control Board all the same.We are told that experience during the War shows that excessive indulgence in strong drink is injurious. But surely that was already known. Who denies it? Nobody connected with the trade. Then they say that there was an amelioration of health and efficiency from the experiments that were made. There was inefficiency perhaps, but the Prime Minister, who took matters in hand with his well-known zeal, corrected it, and I deny that there was national inefficiency. As compared with what standard was there inefficiency? Did any country show a better standard? What was that inefficiency that was to justify the total removal of the privilege of having a glass of beer or a pint of wine? There was greater sobriety during the war, no doubt—and there is greater sobriety still—when all the strong young men were away fighting for their country. There were some left behind—they were the teetotallers, the prohibitionists, the abolitionists. It was they who stayed at home to reap the advantage of the fighting which the moderate drinkers did. Then there were higher prices, which, of course, reduced consumption. Then there were no convivial parties during the War, which also reduced consumption. It was said that one of the reasons for introducing this Bill was to deal with labour which was absent after a bout of drinking. But it turned out on inquiry that the chief absentees were teetotallers. Also it has 1613 been proved that the unscheduled parts of the country showed up just as well in respect of the improvement as those parts which were scheduled. Carlisle, greatly favoured, took over all the shops and breweries, the whole trade, killed competition, called it profits, and then showed no better returns than any other part of the country. If any hon. Member doubts that, I have the figures here, though I do not propose to throw more figures than are absolutely necessary at those who are kind enough to listen to me.
But Carlisle was always a sober town. Now it is more than a sober town. It is a desperately dismal town. The convictions for drunkenness were five, a week and that sort of figure before the War. During the War the convictions dropped from a total of 239 in 1913 to 80 in 1918. Six other towns with somewhat the same population have experienced far greater reductions in the convictions for drunkenness than Carlisle which was the scene of this splendid experiment. There is no proof whatever from the figures as to convictions for drunkenness that Carlisle is any better than anywhere else. What was the cost to the taxpayer of this experiment of the control of the city and 300 miles of rural country, hamlets and villages in Dumfriesshire which were submitted to this iron rule? What items were included in the debits against this 15 per cent. profit shown in Carlisle? I should like to see the figures more carefully scrutinised. Amateur financiers leave out half the debits which a professional financier would put in before he strikes a balance. Why, nobody who has ever kept a chicken is ignorant of that. What does the public think of this successful experiment, the working man, the man who worked through this War? Carlisle is a kind of country Clapham Junction. You cannot keep away from Carlisle. Whether you take a fast train to the north or crawl down south by the highland railway, or meander all the day across Northumberland, you get to Carlisle. You see the rosy towers of the castle which turns out to be a prison. You get there always—after time. I know the feelings of the people not only from being a fellow sufferer, having been in Carlisle repeatedly before and since the War. Whenever you go to Carlisle and see the rosy walls you will remember 1614 those two famous lines of a prize poem at Oxford:Match me this marvel save in Eastern climeA rose-red city, half as old as time.and will probably re-write them thus:Match this injustice save in Britain's clime.A rose-red city, always after time.Whenever I got to Carlisle, without any desire to "glory and drink deep," I could never get the simplest refreshment. Though you could not get liquor in Carlisle, you could at least go to Government establishments and get a very good dinner—at the expense of the taxpayers. It took the bread out of the mouth of the hotel-keepers of Carlisle and of the public in Carlisle, who disliked it too; but it enabled the temperance folk to quote the great and glorious experiment.
In the time of our forefathers there was a Star Chamber. This is a Three-Star Chamber. They acquire properties illegally, and no doubt at a cheap price; you can do that if you take things without paying for them, and you might even show a good balance sheet. They referred the unhappy people who were deprived of their property to the War Losses Commission, which the judges said has nothing whatever to do with the subject. They issued warning that no compensation was due for their action, which the Court said was untrue. And so they went on until the Cannon case occurred. I hope the House will forgive me if I refer to this case, for I submit, on behalf of the vast majority of the people of this country, that this matter has never been really placed before them. The Central Control Board gave 10 days' notice and took over certain premises. The Cannon Brewery did not take it lying down. The case was taken into Court. The Judge said the claim of the Board was certainly startling, and he threw the case out, with costs. The Control Board do not pay costs; the taxpayers pay costs. The Board went to the Court of Appeal, whereon the Master of the Bolls questioned whether their regulations really held water, and suggested they were acting ultra vires. He rebuked the Central Control Board. The Court of Appeal unanimously decided that the Liquor Control Board was wrong, and threw their case out, with costs a second time. That did not daunt the Board. They do not pay the costs; the taxpayers 1615 pay the costs. They then went to the House of Lords, whereupon Lord Finlay said their appeal failed at every point and should be dismissed, with costs. I have been an official myself for 25 years, but this takes my breath away. Never in the whole course of my life did I see such artfully, artless misdescriptions of an unfortunate blunder, such clever covering of a retreat and masking of a defeat, as was practised by the Liquor Control Board, in their reference to this transaction in Command Paper 318.
I interrogated the Leader of the House as to what this Board, this Three-Star Board, were going on at present, as to what were the foundations on which then-authority was now based, and I asked whether instructions had been given that they were to go on as before until the Government introduced their Bill. I was told they were to go on as before until the Government introduced their Bill. I confess that that seemed to me a hard saying. I never venture to criticise anything said from the Front Bench—far be it from me; but it did appear to me that that was a hard saying, because the Prime Minister had said so plainly that this was a temporary War expedient for the successful prosecution of the War. I did think it rather a large order that after the Armistice the Board should have instructions to carry on until the Government introduced a Bill. That could be due only to pressure applied by those who, I admit, are the most proper to apply it—the abolitionist element, which I admit is very strong in this House and in this country. The Prime Minister said:—I simply propose that we shall have power during the. War which will enable us, for instance, to close any public houses in those areas whose presence it is considered for the moment is injurious and is having a prejudicial effect upon the output of munitions. We want to increase the output which means the life of the Empire. This is a proposal merely to obtain complete control in munitions and transport areas, and the Government could not, under the Bill, conduct any business for the sale of liquor for more than 12 months after the War.The sale of liquor goes on, yet Gretna is deserted. The Carlisle experiment, I was about to say, goes merrily on, though Heaven knows that is the wrong adjective. The Carlisle experiment proceeds. What are the powers that this Board pos- 1616 sesses? They have power to regulate in great detail the sale of liquor in scheduled areas; they have power to close licensed premises in those areas; to confer upon themselves a monopoly, as they did in Carlisle; to acquire private property at 10 days' notice, which they did and had to disgorge. They can invent a new category of crimes, and they have the power by a stroke of the pen to over-ride the Imperial Parliament. They spread this power over 38,000,000 of the population, carefully excluding the country of my hon. Friends opposite, Ireland. Did they make careful inquiries before they extended these inquisitorial powers over prostrate localities? Not at all. Their inquiries were of the most perfunctory description. Local representatives of an honest, honourable trade were generally excluded. Take the county of Hertfordshire. The County Council and the Chief Constable and the Mayor and Chairman of Petty Sessions said that there was no need, but the result was that the whole county was scheduled. In Burton-on-Trent, where the chairman of the Bench, the Licensing Justices and the Chief of Police and the Town Clerk said it was totally unnecessary, but it had no chance. Burton was too full of original sin. May I recall to the memory of hon. Members scenes which I have often witnessed here myself? Wales is a small nation and therefore at present far greater than any great nation. Full of determination and self-determination they always determined to impose Sunday closing cm Monmouthshire, which many of us resisted. The extension was always defeated in this House, but it was carried by a stroke of the pen of this inquisitorial Board.
The bona-fide traveller was a tough personality and survived many attacks, but this Board abolished him also with the stroke of the pen. Three Sundays ago I was in Nottinghamshire, and I walked for exercise twenty-four miles. I did not go out to look for drinks, but as I was on the road I had the curiosity to sec whether drinks could be got, and I never saw one place where a thirsty, footsore traveller could have got a drink in the whole of that long tramp. Think of the crimes the Board have created? A wife is not to be treated by her husband, and a publican who is convicted of an offence and fined may also have his licence cancelled. No liquor is to be 1617 sent out without a cheque first sent—how ridiculous! At 2.30 o'clock all service of liquor is closed. I ask any hon. Member who belongs to the City of London and who knows what it is to try and get lunch there to think of the case of a man who has been working all the morning, and probably had his breakfast at half-past seven or eight o'clock in some distant suburb, and gets out to lunch at half-past two and is to be treated like a criminal if he asks for a glass of beer, and worse than all cannot get it. It is a monstrous state of things. By their Regulations a man may not buy less than a whole bottle of whisky, and that is a direct incentive to drink. Again, liquor may not be delivered except by lorry or horse. It would be comic if it were not tragic for those who suffer. I see the comic side of it as well as hon. Members, but I see the other side too. Beer, which used to be at a strength of 1052, which is not particularly strong and which was reduced during the War below 1040, is now at an average of 1044, while Ireland has now beer of a strength of 1051 and had 1047 during the War. The figure 1044 is an average, and, although brewers have power to brew up to 1052, they cannot do it because they are bound to maintain the average. I maintain it is a monstrous injustice. On one unhappy occasion, travelling in Norfolk in a very remote district, I could get nothing to cat, and for that reason and for that reason only, I tried to get something to drink. I was served with a glass of Government ale. I think it was 1020 gravity, or struggling up to 1021. I would not wish my worst enemy a more disagreeable experience. It is comic to hon. Members who laugh, but it is tragic for the sufferer and for the man who works all day and every day and wants a drink.
What has this Board been doing whose business it was to forward the making of munitions. The Prime Minister told us on the 20th of November that unless legislation is passed to perpetuate the powers of the Control Board, they would lapse, and it was therefore proposed to introduce legislation in order to deal with the matter, and which was to have "far-reaching and beneficent effects." Everybody always says that. He added that "a great measure of agreement had been achieved by Mr. Fisher." With whom? 1618 Was it with the House of Commons? I really do not know. I submit that to be faced now, openly and avowedly, with a proposal to perpetuate the powers of this Control Board seems to me to be very far from what we were told when the House of Commons established it. The State control which is obviously foreshadowed by this Bill presumes the perfection of the Carlisle experiment and of the Gothenburg system. I do not know any details of the latter system, and far be it from me to endeavour to explain them if I did. I have been fishing in the district, and I will say this—that in no part of the world have I ever seen so many people so terribly drunk so early in the morning as in Falkenberg. I would ask hon. Members who have got these State systems on the brain to remember that the very best of the systems was the Russian system, which interfered with nobody's property and which only dealt with the rectification and sale of vodka which is to the Russian what whisky is to Scotland. All the time they improved the quality of what was drunk, unlike what we have done hero by reducing the quality by imposing a flat rate. What was the result even of the good Russian system but revolution. When at one time we are urged to nationalise the mines, then to build houses at the expense of the taxpayers, to draw unfathomed drafts from that unfathomable pocket every day, where is the money coming from for State purchase of the liquor trade? What is to become of the municipal rates, already approaching something like 20s. in the £? Mr. Gladstone, now an obsolete financier, once said, I think in regard to the acquisition of land, "If you pay for it, it is folly; if you do not pay for it, it is robbery." I say that of State purchase of the liquor trade. A project of State control must necessarily play into the hands of the Syndicalists and the Socialists, who now, since the Bolshevists have exposed the rottenness of those systems, masquerade under the well-sounding name of Nationalises.
This nationalisation which is being pressed now is a sign of the times, and another sign to which I wish to refer is an extremely sinister proof of where we stand, and that is the agitation being carried on by citizens of a great and friendly nation which is not in any way, of course, party to that agitation, an 1619 agitation which we now understand—at least, I understand—really proceeds from the great labour employers, who think that they, by making the country dry, can screw an extra ten per cent. of work out of labour. That, I understand, is their purpose. I asked the Leader of the House whether any steps were being taken to counter this agitation, and he said "None." If it would not weary the House—and this again has never been before the House of Commons—I would beg leave to read an extract from a very short speech by one of the most famous prophets of this new system, and it will show the rank, arrogant intolerance which informs this movement, such as I cannot describe in words myself, with my limited vocabulary. This is a "funeral oration" by Dr. C. E. Locke, of Los Angeles, California, on "the death of John Barleycorn," on the bringing in of the dry law in America. He said—
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I have not yet heard the quotation that was coming. It had appeared to me that the hon. Member was going a little wide of his own Resolution. However, I cannot judge the quotation until I have heard it.
Sir J. D. REES
In the course of fifteen years' service in this House, I have always understood that some latitude of interpretation of his own text was allowed to the author of a Statute or a Resolution, and I had thought that this was an occasion on which to avail myself of that licence. I did apologise to the House in case I had trespassed upon its time, and if there is any indication that I have done so, at any moment, regardless of my argument, I shall resume my seat If my right hon. Friend opposite suggested that what I am about to read is irrelevant, if he will forgive me saying so, he is quite astonishingly erroneous. I wanted—and nobody else has done this—and I do want, if I am in order, and if I have the attention of the House, to read this ridiculous oration on the death of John Barleycorn, because I think it affords an insight into a sinister and possibly successful movement that is now being carried on in this country, as to which 1620 this House should be informed. This is the oration:For interminable ages wicked old John Barleycorn has allured, tempted, inveigled, deceived, debauched, demented, bestialised.
Sir J. D. REES
I am greatly obliged to the hon. Member. It shows that my quotation is by no means superfluous. I will proceed:—John Barleycorn is a maliguer, conspirator, liar, thief, rubber, despoiler of homes, defiler of womanhood, dehumaniser of manhood, and a bloody-handed murderer. He has dragged holy motherhood through the mire and dashed sweet babyhood against the stones. And, John Barleycorn, you are dead in America, dead in the land of the free and the home of the brave. You have been a long time alive. John, but now you are dead, and you will be a longer time dead. Let the funeral procession move hell-ward. Roll the whisky barrel down the steep descent to the lowest depths, and let the red-handed, black-hearted covtège follow their dead chieftain down into a reeking oblivion where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.It is missionaries who preach from texts like this who are now directly and indirectly urging upon the Government the continuance of the Three-Star Chamber, and the introduction of an equally drastic Bill, and to show that what I have said is not far-fetched, I remember seven years ago opposing in this House a Scottish Liquor Bill, and now the curses have come home to roost. It is extremely likely that Scotland will be partially dry. You might very well have Rutherglen dry, and a neighbouring ward in Glasgow wet, a most extremely serious state of affairs. If 35 per cent. of a given area now, by a majority of five over half—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Baronet that this is a very long way beyond the Motion, and I must ask him to confine himself to his own Motion.
Sir J. D. REES
In deference to your ruling, Sir, I will leave that, and I should like to ask you whether I am in order in referring to the Bill which the trade itself proposes to bring in to deal with this difficulty.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The notice of Motion refers entirely to the restrictions under the Defence of the Realm Acts of the Liquor Control Board. Legislation does not come in at all.
§ 9.0 P.M.
Sir J. D. REES
Then I will leave that, although I confess I have heard far wider departures from texts. I do submit that this House cannot properly tolerate, in time of peace, a continuance of the extraordinary powers with which the Liquor Control Board is invested, and that it should not further develop regulations as contemplated in the Gracious Speech, but should relax restrictions on the strength, the sale, and the consumption of liquor. It should not tamper with State purchase. The subject with which I have dealt is a very serious one, and if I have not dealt with it right through in an extremely serious vein, I beg the House to remember what was said by, I think, the most human of all poets, "Ridentem dicere verum Quid vetat." I have dealt with a very controversial subject. I have no doubt that a rod is in pickle for me as soon as I sit down. All I can say is, not only will I submit to chastisement with resignation, but I shall be ready to kiss the rod.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
In the very few remarks I wish to make in seconding this Motion, I shall confine myself almost exclusively to the first part of the Motion, which reads:To call attention to the hardship involved in maintaining in time of peace restrictions upon liberty in respect of the consumption of liquor which were willingly tolerated in time of War.I think this Motion is a very fitting sequel to the discussion we had on the Bill this afternoon. We were discussing then certain Regulations in regard to restrictions on individual liberty which were enacted for the purpose of the War, both under Statute and also under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, and now we are discussing similar restrictions upon our liberty under the Liquor Control Board. I am sure that everybody in this House, at any rate, recognised the absolute necessity of giving the Government during the War any power that they asked to restrict individual liberty, to prevent a man drinking a glass of beer or a glass of wine, or to prevent him doing anything if the Government, who knew the position of affairs far better than any Member of this House or any individual in the country could possibly know, said it was necessary to win the War. The House gave with both hands any power for which they asked; and 1622 almost pressed upon them powers they did not ask. Therefore, while the War was on, whether it was liquor control or any power, we of all classes, creeds and races in the Empire, willingly submitted ourselves to the dictation of a bureaucracy, not directed by the Government, but directing the Government. Now the position is entirely changed. For all domestic purposes we have been at peace for at least sixteen months, and yet we are in a position at the present moment, so far as regards what is called the liquor traffic—a description to which I always object, because it is supposed to cast some sneer on a person who drinks a glass of beer or a glass of wine—so far, I say, as regards what temperance reformers call the liquor traffic, we are living in a time of profound peace under the unfettered rule and authority of a Board who are not responsible to any Minister, so far as I can make out, or to this House at all.
The question before us this evening is whether the Government are justified in continuing the Liquor Control Board in time of peace without the sanction of Parliament? That is really what it comes to. My point is that if the Government, in their wisdom or otherwise, consider that fresh liquor regulations are necessary, they should bring in a Bill which can be discussed in this House, which has been elected on a very wide election, and then this House can give them the power, or withhold it, as they please. I do protest most vehemently—and I feel very strongly upon this subject—that I should at the present moment have the hours, during which I can get alcoholic refreshment, curtailed and regulated, that I cannot order a dozen of port wine without sending a cheque before I receive it, that I am not allowed, in fact, to do anything I like, as compared with 1914, because a Board, the names of whose members I do not even know, made regulations in time of war which are to be prolonged in time of peace. I do press this point upon the House, that it is most essential that we should now go back to the English traditions of individual liberty, unless it is controlled by an Act of Parliament passed by the representatives of the people. I wonder how many Members of this House can tell me the names of the members of the Liquor Control Board. I have not the slightest idea who they are. I know they have a Chairman, because I 1623 see in the papers that he is about to resign his position? Who appoints them? Who answers for them in this House? There is no Minister who answers for them in this House. What control has this House over the Liquor Control Board? None at all. When I or any hon. Member puts a question, the Leader of the House answers, which means that there is no Minister responsible at all. Has the electorate had any chance of expressing its opinion?
I should like some of the hon. Members who support this Liquor Control Board to go down to some of the workmen's clubs and some of the ex-service men's clubs and listen to the remarks of the workmen and ex-soldiers about this liquor control. They are very sensible people. Their views amount to this: "We are quite content," they say, "to give into the keeping of our Member of Parliament the decision about the Liquor laws, because we can call him over the coals if he does not do what we like, but we are not going to submit, in time of peace, to government by a bureaucracy appointed by a Government that has passed away and is not responsible to the popularly elected House." Therefore, what I do ask the Minister who will reply to-night is this: On what ground, and by what right, does the Government of the day continue these despotic Regulations without consulting the House of Commons, without consulting the electorate, without having a Minister responsible to the House of Commons; and why we in this House have not been given the right to decide all about these rules and regulations, and why they should be handed over to such a body? I will not enter into the question whether it is good or bad, but if my hon. Friends opposite who are so keen on individual liberty, and on doing away with war regulations in time of peace, speak during this Debate, I hope that they will say what they think about the Liquor Control Board and the present Regulations.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
I shall not begin by craving the indulgence of the House. I am only too conscious of the indulgence and the courtesy of the House. I know that it was very difficult for some hon. Members to receive the first lady M.P. into the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not at all!"] It was almost as difficult for 1624 some of them as it was for the lady M.P. herself to come in. Hon. Members, however, should not be frightened of what Plymouth sends out into the world. After all, I suppose when Drake and Raleigh wanted to set out on their venturesome careers, some cautious person said, "Do not do it; it has never been tried before. You stay at home, my sons, cruising around in home waters." I have no doubt that the same thing occurred when the Pilgrim Fathers set out. I have no doubt that there were cautious Christian brethren who did not understand their going into the wide seas to worship God in their own way. But, on the whole, the world is all the better for those venturesome and courageous west country people, and I would like to say that I am quite certain that the women of the whole world will not forget that it was the fighting men of Devon who dared to send the first woman to represent women in the Mother of Parliaments. Now, as the west country people are a courageous lot, it is only right that one of their representatives should show some courage, and I am perfectly aware that it does take a bit of courage to address the House on that vexed question, Drink. However, I dare do it. The hon. Member (Sir J. D. Rees) is more than polite. In fact, I should say that he goes almost a bit too far. However. I will consider his proposal if I can convert him.
The issue raised by the hon. Member is really quite clear, although I admit that he did not make it as clear as I would have liked. Do we want the welfare of the community, or do we want the prosperity of the Trade? Do we want national efficiency, or do we want national inefficiency? That is what it comes to. So I hope to be able to persuade the House. Are we really trying for a better world, or are we going to slip back to the same old world before 1914? I think that the hon. Member is not moving with the times. He speaks of vexatious laws and restrictions. I quite agree with him that most laws are vexatious. When we want to go 50 or 60 miles an hour down the Bath Road it is very tiresome, when we come to a village, to have to go 10 miles an hour. Why do we have to do it? It is for the good of the community. We might kill children. He talks about the restrictions. I maintain that they brought a great deal of good to the community. 1625 There were two gains. First, there were the moral gains. I should like to tell you about them. The convictions of drunkenness among women during the War were reduced to one-fifth after these vexatious restrictions were brought in. I take women, because, as the hon. Member has said, most of the men were away fighting. Does the House realise what that means? The convictions of drunkenness among women were reduced to one-fifth at a time when many women, thousands of them, were earning more than they had ever dreamed of earning in their lives, which generally means, so they say in industrial communities, that there is more spent on drink. Also women were going through not only a physical strain but the most awful mental tortures. Then the deaths from delirium tremens were greatly reduced. I do not know whether hon. Members have seen the tortures of delirium tremens, but it is a national gain if you can reduce them. The deaths of children from over-laying were halved. That was after these vexatious restrictions were brought in.
These are some of the gains that you can set out on paper. I could talk for five hours on the moral gains. I will not do it, but I could talk for hours on the moral gains which you cannot put on paper, they are so enormous. I am perfectly certain, if hon. Members would really stop to think, that they would not cavil at these vexatious restrictions. Already, we have lost some of these gains. The convictions among women have doubled in the last year since the restrictions have been slightly modified, and they are four times as many among men. That is something that I should like the House to think of. Think what these increased convictions mean. Just think, twice as many convictions among women! Does the House realise what that means? How I wish that I was really an orator. I would like to tell you about drink. I have as good a sense of humour as any other hon. Member, but when I think of the ruin and the desolation and the misery which drink brings into the houses of the working men and women as well as of the well-to-do, I find it a little difficult to be humorous. It was only the other day—I had been down to my constituency—that I was coming back from what they call the poorer parts of the town, and I stopped outside a public 1626 house where I saw a child about five years old waiting for its mother. It did not have to wait long. Presently she reeled out. The child went forward to her, but it soon retreated. Oh the oaths and curses of that poor woman and the shrieks of that child as it fled from her. That is not an easy thing to forget. That is what goes on when you have increased drunkenness among women. I am thinking of the women and children. I am not so tremendously excited about what you call the freedom of the men. The men will get their freedom. I do not want to rob them of anything that is good. I only want to ask them to consider others. There is a story—no, I had better not give it. I do not really want to harrow the feelings of the House! But I do want hon. Members to think about these things. What really happens? It is a most terrible thing to talk about it. The freedom of the subject! We, the women, know, and the men know, thousands of us in the country who work amongst the slums, and in prisons and hospitals, we know where John Barleycorn, as you are pleased to call him, leads to. It is not to Paradise. It promises Heaven, and too often it leads to Hell. I will not go on, because it would not be quite fair; but I do beg hon. Members to think of these things, and when they are talking about freedom, to think of the children.
After all, the thought of every man for himself is a thoroughly materialistic doctrine. There is a doctrine of going out to look for the lost sheep; I feel somehow that that is a better spirit to go on with than to be always clamouring about the freedom of the subject. We talk about our war gains and efficiency. You talk about liquor control. What was it set up for? It was set up for national efficiency. It was not set up for temperance. It did pretty well. The War Office and the Admiralty both commended the Liquor Control Board for having greatly gained that for which it was set up. No one would call the War Office or the Admiralty Pussyfoots. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] There are several among them, but you can hardly look upon them as prejudiced Pussyfoots. In 1916 the Liquor Control Board unanimously reported that they had enormously increased efficiency by the Regulations which the hon. Gentleman opposite wants 1627 swept away. The Liquor Board said more, and I would like hon. Members who are always talking about national efficiency and economy to think of this. I want to see whether you are in earnest about this matter or whether it is camouflage. The Liquor Control Board said that the State could not get the maximum of efficiency so long as the drink trade was in private hands. That is what they said. Why did they say so? It is simple. You cannot reconcile the interests of the State with the interests of the trade. If you could there never would have been any licensing laws; there would never have been any drink question. Why cannot you reconcile the two? I will tell you. Because, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the interests of the trade is to sell as much of its goods as possible. No one can say that is to the interest of the State. I do not blame the trade, but one must say that its interest is absolutely opposed to the interest of the State. The real lesson for the country, so far as drink is concerned, is that State Purchase gets the largest amount of progress with the least amount of unrest. That is really what is meant by our War lessons.
The hon. Member spoke of Carlisle. What was the result at Carlisle? The areas all around Carlisle, nearly every one of them, who were originally against the Liquor Control Board's acquisition of the Carlisle area subsequently asked to be taken in. That is really the result of Carlisle. I am glad the hon. Member mentioned Carlisle. I hope someone who follows will deal with all the facts and figures of Carlisle, because they are something of which to be very proud. There are certain things at Carlisle which we are not able to get anywhere else in England. That is wonderful. I could go on for hours but, as I say, having got the indulgence of the House I will not try it too far.
The hon. Baronet talks about pacifists and temperance men not being fighting men. I notice that he is a little frightened of revolutions. What makes revolutions? Reactionaries make revolutions. Then the hon. Gentleman talks about the working man. I suppose when he refers to working men he takes the broad interpretation taken by my Labour friends which interpretation includes anything from a countess to a docker. I know a good deal about the working man. I 1628 would not insult him by telling him, so long as you can prove to him that the conditions of women and children have improved under these restrictions, that he was not willing to have them. I have never found him so. I have spent five years amongst working men in hospitals.
I admit that the country is not ripe for, and does not now want, Prohibition. The hon. Member is perfectly right there. I am not pressing for Prohibition. I am far too intelligent for that. Frankly, I say that I believe that men will get nearer the Paradise they seek if they try to get it through a greater inspiration than drink. I hope very much from the bottom of my heart that at some time the people of England will come to Prohibition. I myself believe it will come. I say so frankly. I am not frightened of saying it. I am not afraid at all of working men. I have told it to them for five years, and they know perfectly well what I think. I hope the time will come when the working man will go dry. But we are not yet ready. Do not let hon. Members deceive themselves for one minute. The working man is as good a father as any other man. Show him the figures. Show him what the Liquor Control Board has done for women and children. Tell him the truth. Do not always tell him that his liberty is being taken away, and that the rich man wants to get more work out of him. It is not true, and you know it. I am all for telling the truth, no matter how disagreeable it is. What I find is that if you care enough about people they will listen to the truth. I think the whole world is sick of lies. I believe that you have got to like men or you cannot say "Boo!" without insulting them. The hon. Member has said that he and his friends were willing during the War to put up with drink control for the purpose of winning the War. It is not true. Ever since the Liquor Control Board started the hon. Member and his friends have been kicking against it.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
Oh, yes! Oh, yes! It is you, Sir, who are deceiving, it is not I, and if is not the Liquor Control Board. All during the War when the Government and the Admiralty, and the War Office, said that the Liquor Control Board was helping efficiency and helping to win the War, what did you do in the Great War, you and your friends? No, Sir, the hon. Member and his friends 1629 were always kicking against the Liquor Control Board. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Oh, yes: look in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and you will see that you were always complaining, and at the time of the nation's dire peril you were always trying to hamper the Liquor Control Board. No, yon have not got a pretty record, you and your friends. I am not saying that there were not some perfectly patriotic brewers. There were, hut I do say that there were some brewers who really were all during the War kicking against restrictions of any kind. That is perfectly true, and the hon. Member knows it himself. It is really not a pretty story. I thought the hon. Member was going to complain about the hardships of the trade, but he did not do so. I have, however, heard others do it, and I can tell you that the drink trade, in spite of its hardships, managed to profiteer to the tune of many millions out of the working men. That is what they did in the Great War. Brewery companies which were nearly ruined before the War have now got millions. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, that is so, and any hon. Members can look into it and they will see it for themselves. I am not blaming them, but I think if the hon. Member and his friends are the real friends of the working men they will urge the brewers to disgorge some of their War profits.
What are they doing with their war profits? They are advertising. There are some very offensive posters put up by the brewers, but I will not deal with them, except to dwell on those which are most likely to mislead the country. There is the poster of a fine English working man pointing to a reformed public house with a beautiful cheerful fire, where it is said that he can get tea, coffee and buns. Do you think the brewing trade are going to press the sale of tea, coffee, and buns? The brewers are spending thousands of pounds to induce Parliament to let them make their public-houses more attractive and more profitable, and this in spite of the record of convictions amongst women being double and amongst men four times what they were. I do not believe that the Government or the House is going to play their game. I do not think the country is really ripe for prohibition, but I am certain it is ripe for drastic 1630 drink reforms. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I know what I am talking about, and you must remember that women have got a vote now and we mean to use it, and use it wisely, not for the benefit of any section of society, but for the benefit of the whole. I want to see what the Government is going to do. As the House knows, I am a great admirer of the Prime Minister, and one of the reasons I have always admired him was the way he faced this vexed question of drink during the War. I know that politicians are a little frightened of the trade, and of this sort of thing, but the Prime Minister was not. He came out and said during the War thatthe State could not afford to let go its hold on the trade, which had beaten them in the past.I want the Prime Minister to remember those words when he introduces his drink Bill. He also said:that drink was a greater enemy than the German submarine.I want to see that the drink submarine does not torpedo the Prime Minister. I want to see whether the Prime Minister is master in his own house. I do not believe that the Prime Minister is in the strangle hold of the trade and the profiteers. It is not the trade and the profiteers who put the Prime Minister where he is. There are thousands of people who really believe in him over this drink question and they trust him. I do not know whether there are many hon. Members who feel that way, but I do, and I can tell the House that my name is legion in the country. There is a real awakening throughout the country. [Laughter.] You can laugh, but there really are people in England, and thousands of them, who want to see the country better and they are willing to give up their appetites. [An HON. MEMBER: "We all do that!"] If you all do it then you have to face this question of drink. If you want national efficiency you will have to oppose excessive drink for that alone. You know that. When labourers are intoxicated do you really get the maximum out of them?
I do ask hon. Members not to misread the spirit of the times. Do not go round saying that you want England a country fit for heroes to live in, do not talk about it unless you mean to do it. I do not 1631 want to rob the hon. Member opposite of anything that has given him pleasure. I do not really want to take the joy out of the world, or happiness, or anything that really makes for the betterment of the world; but you know, and I know, that drink really promises everything and gives you nothing. You know it, and the House knows it, and the world is beginning to recognise it. We have no right to think of this question in terms of our appetite, and we have to think of it in something bigger than that. I want you to think of the effect of these restrictions in terms of women and babies. Think of the thousands of children whose fathers even had to put up with more than these vexatious restrictions, who laid down their lives. Think of their fatherless children. Supposing they were your children or my children, would you want them to grow up with the trade flourishing? I do not believe the House would. I do not want you to look on your lady Member as a fanatic or a lunatic. I am simply trying to speak for hundreds of women and children throughout the country who cannot speak for themselves. I want to tell you that I do know the working man, and I know that, if you do not try to fool him, if you tell him the truth about drink, he would be as willing as anybody else to put up with so-called vexatious restrictions.
§ Mr. CARR
Unlike the speaker who has just sat down, I must crave the indulgence of the House on this occasion. I have heard a good deal said about Carlisle and, having been born there and having spent the whole of my life there, having seen something of the experience of the Liquor Control Board in its operations there, I think that possibly it may not be inopportune if I give the House a short resume of the work of the Liquor Control Board in that area. Many hard things have been said about Carlisle, but I fancy those hard things have been said by people who have only visited the place after hours and who know very little themselves about the actual amenities or the city. It has been described as a very dreary place, but I have yet to learn that the restriction on drinking hours in public houses necessarily makes a place dreary. As a resident of Carlisle, and as one who has lived there through the War, I can say freely that Carlisle has been a much 1632 more cheerful place and a much pleasanter place for decent people to live in than it could have been if the terrible experience of the constructional period at Gretna had not been drastically checked by the operations of the Liquor Control Board in that area. What was the experience 01 Carlisle during the war? In 1914, the convictions for drunkenness were 275. In 1917, they were 320; in 1918, they were 80; and in the first ten months of 1919, they were only 56. I think that record of drunkenness reflects the very greatest credit, not only on the system adopted in Carlisle, but on the method whereby that system was applied; and I can assure the House—and I have had this assurance from those who have visited the city—that the distribution of such liquor as they had in the public houses under the administrative scheme of the Ministry of Food was fairer in the city of Carlisle than in many other places. In fact, I have been told by visitors to the town that it was practically the only city in the country where a man could buy a bottle of whisky and take it home with him.
This question, I think, has been treated to-night with possibly an undue amount of levity. This great question is one which concerns our industrial future very intimately. I would like Members of this House to go to Carlisle and see for themselves; to mix among the working-people in Carlisle, to ask the working-man what he thinks about it. He would tell you straight what he thinks about it. Ask his wife what she thinks about it; ask the young people of the house what they think about it, and the man's daughters, too. I was amazed by the answers I got to the questions that I put to them during the election of December, 1918, when, as hon. Members will quite realise, this question of liquor control in Carlisle was one which was uppermost in the mind of the people of the constituency. I never posed before my constituents as a temperance bigot at all. I told them I was not in favour of prohibition; but I did tell them that I was in favour of very strict State control, if not of State purchase. I am not at all sure that a solution of that sort may not be the only solution possible, and that that may not be the only way by which private interests in a trade, which can only do harm to the community if that interest is enhanced and encouraged, can be eliminated. What do you find now in 1633 Carlisle? You find no advertisements of drink there at all; you find no flaring lamps, and no gaudy paint on the outside of the public-houses. You find that those houses are minded by persons who are put in charge of them to sell food as well as drink, and the Liquor Control Board, under the advise of the Advisory Committee—which consists of representatives of every class of the community—have established in the city of Carlisle canteens, taverns, and drinking bars where every imaginable requirement of the population is met, and where men and their friends can drink and eat in decency and in comfort.
We ought to regard the Carlisle experiment, as it has been termed, not as final, but as giving us some constructive ideas in the management of the drink traffic in the future. In the first place, it has been abundantly proved that in Carlisle, under the old régime, there were just about twice as many public-houses as were really required by the community, and I cannot imagine what other process would have been equally successful with the operations of the Control Board by reducing by about 50 per cent. the number of public-houses licensed in the city. I was delighted to see that the Prime Minister expressed himself, not many weeks ago, as being very partial to the Carlisle experiment, and I do hope that the lesson learned by that experiment may not be lost to the country. We do not want efficiency and progress in the drink traffic, but we do want that what drink is sold shall be good, that it shall be reasonably cheap, that it shall show a good profit, and that it shall not be sold for the benefit of the private interests. I would like to suggest, if the cost of a scheme like this should be too high, that a Government institution like the telephones might be sold again to private interests, so that we might get some efficiency in the telephone service and that the money obtained might be utilised to purchase a big undertaking like the drink traffic. I thank the House for the attention they have given me in these few remarks, and I would like to conclude by saying that I hope that the lessons of the Carlisle experiment, much maligned though that experiment has been, will not be lost to the community, either to its men, its women or its children.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
The House has listened to two speeches from Members 1634 who have not hitherto addressed this Assembly, and I am sure we welcome those speeches. There is not a single Member of this House who does not envy me the opportunity I now seize with both hands of conveying my congratulations and, indeed, the congratulations of every hon. Member of the House, no matter what his political opinions may be, to the hon. Member who sits below the Gangway and who so worthily represents Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). It was a very brave speech. It was thoroughly informed. It was distinguished by diction which, I think, we might all at times very properly endeavour to emulate, and, above all, and this, I think, was its chief feature and its charm, it was imbued throughout with a woman's spirit in facing the gravest national danger. What I feel about it is this, that there is nothing left for me to say, because, so far as the general topic is concerned, the hon. Member most admirably covered the whole question. But I would like to emphasise one or two points which the hon. Member for Plymouth made.
It is essentially a question, as she said, of national efficiency, and whatever may be said about the liberty of the subject, all our legislation and administration is instinct with the principle that individual taste must give way to the good of the community. That is the whole basis of our Licensing Laws. Was there ever a time in the whole history, social and commercial, of this country when this House should more seriously devote itself to the consideration of a question which is doing more harm to national efficiency than any other question, and which is destroying the moral fibre of the people. While I do not for one moment depreciate the efforts of my hon. Friend the Mover of the Resolution, I am glad that the hon. Member for Plymouth brought back the question to its true proportions. There was less of the jest with which this question is far too often treated in this House, and more of the real seriousness of spirit with which it must be faced. What was the expenditure on liquor even under these restrictions? On the first day the House met I expressed a certain amount of anxiety as to whether the figure which had been given to me, of £400,000,000 up to the end of the present financial year, was correct. I have made further investigation, and there seems to be little or no doubt that at the end of the financial 1635 year that sum will represent the expenditure of this country on intoxicating liquors during the year. That is a matter of the deepest and most vital importance to us as a nation. Claims are made on our patriotism to be less extravagant, but all the while this vast sum is being poured out, and it is thoroughly non-productive so far as efficiency is concerned. It is true we get a large return by way of revenue—about 130 millions coming in from taxation, but there is no Minister of the Crown who would not gladly do away with that 130 millions if he could do away with the other expenditure as well—not one of them.
The question raised by this Resolution in a direct form is this, that all vexatious and unnecessary restraints in respect of the strength, supply and consumption of alcoholic liquors to be abolished. I welcome the first few words of the Resolution which read, "while not desiring to return to the pre-war hours of opening." But I should like to point out to the House what is happening in regard to convictions for drunkenness while these relaxations are taking place. I will take the scheduled areas in England and Wales for 1919. In the quarter January to March last year the convictions in the scheduled areas of England and Wales were 7,894; April to June, when the restrictions began to be relaxed, they amounted to 11,715; July to September, 15,880, and October to December, when there were further relaxations, the convictions for drunkenness rose to 20,214. As surely as you reduce your restrictions the index figure of convictions for drunkenness steadily marks the downward path. This is a point which I hope the House will consider, namely, whether it is wise at this juncture of the country's history to concede what my Friends the mover and seconder desire, and that is a wide and further sweeping reduction of restrictions. I do not believe, no matter what working men's clubs may say, that, it is the wish of the majority of the people of the country. It is not the wish of the women.
Sir J. D. REES
I think the right hon. Gentleman has left out of account the fact that the higher percentage of convictions came when the drinking population returned from the War.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
The largest proportion of returned and demobilised men will be found in the months April to June. I will take the case of women. It is a remarkable fact that the convictions of women during the same quarters of 1919 totalled 2,514 as compared with 734 in 1918. But I do not rely on figures alone. I would appeal to the common knowledge of Members of the House. They cannot ignore these facts in view of what they see as they go about London, in face of the records of the Police Courts, and in the light of the steady rise in crime shown by the Assize Calendars, wherever you go, relaxation of restrictions, increase of crime, and reduction of national efficiency. All the statistics show it. Does this House prefer on the whole that indulgence in a personal habit should be permitted to reduce national efficiency, increase drunkenness, and make the lives of the children wretched and miserable. I was one of the first honorary secretaries of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children outside London many years ago and I know something of the sad records of the ravages of drink amongst children. Talk about liberty of the subject? Which subject? The youngest child, no matter what its parentage, is as much a subject of the Crown as the oldest, richest and most powerful man in England. I beg the House to come back to the realities of the situation, not the jests of it, amusing as those are. It has been voiced by a woman for the first time in this House but not for the last time. Many of them could tell us men what women think of these social questions and if I mistake not that would bring about a long desired change in larger branches of our social legislation.
§ Major CHRISTOPHER LOWTHER
I am not an expert in this matter of drink, but an ordinary humble individual. I was a little surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that crime, on account, as I understood, of the lesser amount of drink that is sold is on the decrease when the other day we were told more murders had been committed in the last month or two than ever before in short a space of time, I was exceedingly interested to listen to the speech 1637 of my learned Friend (Mr. Carr) who spoke with authority upon the Liquor Control Board and its activities at Carlisle. I cannot myself speak of Carlisle, but I can speak with knowledge of the district surrounding it. The Carlisle Liquor Control Board experiment is not confined to Carlisle itself. It embraces a wide district, for which I am the Member. The great majority of my constituents with whom I have talked regard the experiment as exceedingly vexatious and very unnecessary and tyrannical. There are two views about this Carlisle experiment. There is the view put forward by the general manager and directors at Carlisle, whose views may be seen in print, in which they extol the profits made by the concern, point to the decrease in drunkenness—not mentioning the fact that liquor itself is much scarcer in these days—and hope that the experiment will be continued. There is another point of view—the point of view of the ordinary man, and it is this: it is not at all difficult to make a concern show a large profit when you have absolute powers of expropriation, and absolute authority to make such orders as you please, and when within a very short time you can create a monopoly in a large district. It may surprise hon. Members to know that the Board has seized or expropriated licenced premises, has turned the licensee out and—it would be comic if it were not sad—the licensee is not even allowed to take away his own photograph, or the photograph of his family which happens to be hanging on the wall unless he pays an enhanced price to the Board for it. [Viscountess ASTOR: "Oh!"] That is a fact. The Board has prided itself on making extensive alterations in certain licensed houses. True, these houses appeal more to the eye than they did formerly, but whatever may be their outward appearance they have become exquisitely uncomfortable and unsuitable for the customer.
I and my constituents look upon our selves to a certain extent as shareholders in this concern, and I trust that we are not advancing too great a claim, since it is out of our pockets partly that the sums which have been largely expended are drawn. We would like to know after all these directors' meetings, when there is to be a shareholders' meeting. There are two main reasons why a large number of 1638 people in the district to which I refer object very strongly to this Liquor Control Board. The first is that it is State trading. The State is trading and the private individual is absolutely crushed out. That is a thing to which these people, who are perfectly harmless agriculturists, object very strongly. The history of the thing can be related in a very few words. The great munition factory at Gretna, when it was opened, necessitated the importation of a very large number of men from all over the country; men who, in their habits were given more drink and were more riotous than the inhabitants of that part of the country. The necessity for the restriction was accepted at that time, but those men are gone, and the case for the imposition of this scheme has disappeared. We say, therefore, in that part of the country, that we object very strongly to be made the one spot in this country to be tyrannised, tortured and treated in this way for the delectation of the rest of the country. We make one very reasonable claim, and that is that whatever applies to the rest of the country should apply to Carlisle and North Cumberland. Whatever Exiles, Orders or Legislation may be adopted, they should be the same for Carlisle and North Cumberland as for the rest of the country. We shall be exceedingly glad to hear from the Prime Minister that we are not to be branded as drunkards and to be experimented upon in this way, but that we are to be treated like our fellow-beings in the other counties.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
We have just heard two speeches, one representing Carlisle and the adjoining district, and one hon. Member distinctly answered all the charges that were made by the Mover of the Resolution. The last speaker asked when were the shareholders to have a voice in what he called the Carlisle experiment. I am quite sure that it will not be wise for any one Member in this House to claim to speak more than another for one section of the community. Although I am a member of the Labour party, I have never pretended that other Members who were not Labour Members do not represent the working man just as I do. Every Member of this House who represents a working class constituency must in the very nature of things be returned by working class votes. I think that it is equally 1639 unfair to suggest, as the Seconder of the Motion did, that we who defend the Liquor Control Board are afraid to go among the working classes and express our views. I myself am a member of the Liquor Control Board. The sins of that Board were pointed out to the workman in my constituency and by a majority of 12,000 they gave expression to what they thought about it.
I wish to come to something more recent in Carlisle. The Mover of the Resolution said that the Carlisle experiment was conducted at the expense of the ratepayers, that money was taken out of the public purse, and he said that dinners were supplied cheaper than could be supplied by anyone else out of the public purse. I challenge the hon. Member or any other hon. Member in this House to say that the Carlisle experiment cost the British taxpayer a solitary copper. The right hon. Gentleman who replies for the Government can, if he chooses, give the figures. But I know that it never cost the State a copper, but showed a net profit on the total expenditure of 15 per cent. But we want to deal with this question from a higher standpoint than that of a mere balance, because it is urged by my hon. Friend that the people in Carlisle are themselves so disturbed and dissatisfied at this moment that they are all pleading for an alteration in this method.
§ Major C. LOWTHER
I expressly said that I was not connected with Carlisle in any way, but with North Cumberland.
§ Mr. THOMAS
But the hon. Member knows perfectly well that in his own constituency the Liquor Control Board has taken over as well, and, therefore. I will deal with both. Three weeks ago there was called in Carlisle a conference of the organised workers in Carlisle and the district, including my hon. Friend's constituency, as he knows, and the summons to that meeting asked the trade unions, who during all the War period had been the subject of such restrictions and have been suffering all the hardships that have been pointed out, to send delegates to the Conference so that they might express their own opinion after this long experience of public ownership in Carlisle. That conference was called only two months ago. I myself presided at it. The result was, 1640 that 220 delegates from Carlisle and district were present and 219 placed on record their appreciation of the change in the liquor trade since the Government experiment was undertaken, and asked for a continuance of that experiment.
That is a resolution passed less than three months ago—a resolution of which both my hon. Friends know, because there was a controversy over it, and in that controversy both of them took part. If we are going to talk about the working men, and if it suits hon. Members to get up and plead in the interests of working men, at least let them take some notice of the working men in those particular constituencies. And let us not forget this fact. There were during the War wicked attempts made to engineer a strike; so bitter did the controversy become, and so hostile did the trade become, that they actually sought to engineer a strike in Carlisle against the restrictions. As a member of the Board I was threatened by my own Union that unless these restrictions were removed the men were going to strike. Those are the facts as they came to the Board. The Board asked my advice. I said that if the railwaymen really wanted to strike because, in the national interest, these restrictions had been put on, then I was sorry for the railwaymen. But I did not think they would strike. We went into it, and the result was that there was not only no strike, but that it was proved that the whole thing was engineered as an attack upon the Liquor Control Board.
I submit that no Member of this House, and no party, would disagree with a Motion which says quite distinctly that the Liquor Control Board should now be abolished. I would vote for that Motion. But if that carries with it, and those who move it intend that it shall carry with it, the removal of all the restrictions and the throwing away of all the experience we gained during the War, then most certainly I at least would not vote for such a Motion. Let us for a moment examine what were the facts responsible for the calling into existence of the Liquor Control Board. The Government came to the conclusion that the maximum efficiency was not being given. The statistics of drunkenness for the month prior to the calling into existence of the Board showed a weekly average 1641 for males of 1,287 in the Metropolitan area alone. The week before the Armistice that was reduced to 173. I quite admit it would be a reasonable argument to say that there was a large number of men out of the country, but I want hon. Members to be fair, and equally to recognise that there was the same number of women in the country. For women the figure reached before the Liquor Control Board came in was 718 the weekly average of convictions. We had succeeded in reducing that to 78 prior to the Armistice. To-day the figure is 513 of women alone weekly. In other words, when we are talking about losing the advantages of experience gained during the War, unfortunately we have already lost most of it.
I submit that we ought not to consider this question as though we were discussing the selling of soap. Either there is a moral aspect of the question or there is not. If this House of Commons is satisfied with unlimited drink, an unlimited supply and drunkenness galore merely to provide revenue for the Treasury—if that is the policy, there can be no argument against pushing our wares just as we like. But I say we have got to consider in connection with this question, not only the conditions and the moral aspect of the question, but we have got to realise that, in the great struggle for the future, efficiency is more necessary than ever. I am sure the House will agree that at least one contribution in this Debate, and which we all welcomed, that from the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) showed at least the human side, and has enabled the House to realise that, after all, the women of this country do consider this question. I frankly admit that there are differences in every party in the House with regard to this question; I do not think any party is united about it; but I do believe that there are men in all parties who do realise and fully recognise the evil of the drink traffic. I am not opposed personally to Prohibition, but I am equally satisfied that Prohibition could not carry in this country, and I say that with some knowledge of the working classes. I am equally satisfied that it would be unwise, and indeed it would be dangerous, to go back to the old state of affairs. I do not think that anybody with any knowledge of the question would welcome that. I was always opposed to 1642 the State purchase of drink. I was an opponent of it prior to going on to the Liquor Control Board, but I am equally satisfied now that it is the only solution of the problem. No one who is intimate with the political, social and religious life of the community will dispute for a moment the remark made by an eminent statesman years ago when he said that unless we can control the drink traffic it will control us. I believe that the Prime Minister has a golden opportunity at this moment to deal with this question.
I believe that the only real way to deal with it is by State purchase, and that would give real local option, because, when hon. Members denounce Carlisle, are they aware that over 50 per cent. of the revenue at Carlisle, is taken in foodstuffs? As my hon. Friend said, you can get a good meal at Carlisle, and the result is that instead of men and women going into the public-houses and continuously drinking they are encouraged to have other refreshments, food and all kinds of things, and does any hon. Member assume for a moment that the mere booming of the reformed public-house for tea and a bun is what the brewers themselves desire? It is not only camouflage, it is sheer hypocrisy. It is for all those reasons that I do not think we are justified in condemning the Liquor Control Board for what it did during the War. On the contrary, I believe it rendered great service. I am equally satisfied that a body elected as that body was, responsible as that body was, is not suited for peace time. I am equally certain that the Government ought themselves immediately to introduce legislation dealing with this question. I hope they will deal with it immediately and drastically, and I hope that they will keep in mind that drink itself does clog the wheel of progress. Let the Government, if the Prime Minister is as bold as he formerly was, realise that this is a golden opportunity, not only to do something for ourselves, but to do something for those who will follow.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Fisher)
Whatever may be the merits of this Resolution, it has at any rate this merit. It has elicited from the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) a speech of brilliant and vivid eloquence, which 1643 has obtained general acceptance from every quarter of this House. There is no assembly which welcomes more readily the courageous expression of views which are earnestly felt, and I venture to think that it is appropriate that the first speech delivered in this historic assembly by a woman should have bean delivered upon a topic in which the interests of women are so closely involved. As to the Resolution itself, I confess that if I confine my attention to the terms in which it is drafted, I find very little with which I am disposed to quarrel. The Mover of the Resolution admits that he has no desire to return to the pre-War hours of opening licensed premises. Neither does the Government. Nor, again, does the Government desire the continuance of restraints and restrictions, which are purely vexatious and unnecessary, and for which adequate grounds cannot be found, based upon the broadest considerations of public welfare.
I know well that the hon. Baronet is not the man to go fox-hunting without desiring to come home with the brush, and when he puts a Resolution down on the paper, I am well aware that we are to expect a light shower of ironic darts directed against the flanks of the Government. But what is the sum and substance of the hon. Baronet's crticism? What is the head and front of the Government's offence? It is this, and this only: In the hon. Baronet's opinion, the Liquor Control Board has outstayed its welcome. The hon. Baronet and the other noted apostles of human liberty who support it, have been longing for a funeral that has not taken place. They have all my sympathy and my commiseration. Here are these hon. Gentlemen standing month after month with their mourning bands and their sable gloves, and their handkerchiefs glistening with tears, waiting for the hearse which is not making its appearance. The Liquor Control Board still survives. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] I am willing to admit at once that the Government did desire to bring the Liquor Control Board to an end last year. I will admit that nobody was more anxious to surrender his functions than the Chairman of the Board, whose distinguished services to this country deserve a meed of recognition in this House and in the nation at large. The Liquor Control 1644 Board was desirous of terminating its functions, and the Government was anxious to bring those functions to an end. It may perhaps be asked, why is it then that the Liquor Control Board still continues? I can give the answer in a few words. The Government came to the conclusion—and I think in this it has the support of public opinion—that it would be unwise to terminate the Liquor Control Board before a measure could be introduced embodying the experience which had been collected by reason of the ad ministration of the Board.
The hon. Baronet has assumed that the Government has been subjected to the pressure of Prohibitionists, and I think it was a reasonable inference from his very witty speech that this pressure had been recently applied with great effect-There is no substance in that allegation-from the very first moment of the establishment of the Board in 1915, the present Prime Minister, who then held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, was well aware that it might be necessary at the conclusion of the War for Parliament to take into consideration the experience which had been gathered through this experiment, and that Parliament ought to be given a chance of surveying the whole field of temperance legislation. Let me call to the attention of the House a little passage of arms which occurred in the Debate of the 11th of May, 1915, when the Defence of the Realm Act (Amendment No. 2) Bill was being considered in Committee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was maintaining that it would be desirable that the powers of the Liquor Control Board should be continued for a period of 12 months after the termination of the war, and the hon. Baronet the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) moved that for twelve months six months should be substituted. The Chancellor of the Exchequer argued that it would be hopeless for anyone to endeavour to get a Bill dealing with a matter of this kind through in less than twelve months:Sir GEORGE YOUNGER: What is the need for it? Why not return to the status quo?Mr. LLOYD GEORGE: I do not know that you would. Parliament ought to be free to consider that, and why should not Parliament be free to do so? You should not tie the hands of Parliament as to what ought to be done at the end of the term. Surely, Parliament ought to be allowed to consider what is to he done in these cases. 1645 There may be all sorts of things which may arise as a result of an experiment of this kind, and no one could guarantee that a Bill of the kind within less than 12 months, because there would be so many more urgent matters to deal with."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 11th May, 1915. Vol. 1xxi., Col. 1516.]That is a remarkable instance of the Prime Minister's prescience. What he foresaw in 1915 has exactly come to pass. When I am asked "Why did not the Government introduce a Bill in the last Session dealing with this matter?" I reply that there were more urgent matters to consider, and any Member of this House who casts his mind back upon the protracted and continuous labours of last Session, and who reflects upon the stocks of Statutes that were passed must be convinced that it would have been quite impossible for the Government to have introduced a Bill dealing with the liquor traffic. Indeed, it is not suggested even by the hon. Baronet that we should return exactly to the status quo.
§ Mr. FISHER
What does the hon. Baronet's Resolution say? The hon. Baronet says that he does not desire to return to the pre-war hours of the opening of licensed premises. It seems to be a very simple proposition to pass a Bill dealing with the hours of the opening of licensed premises, but as soon as you begin to look into it, it becomes far less simple. You cannot adequately deal with licensed premises without at once raising the thorny and controversial question of clubs. My experience of the licensing question is, that as soon as you begin to touch one part of it you are involved in the whole problem. The question must be considered as a whole if it is to be considered scientifically and dealt with adequately. I do not think that the House would really have found it satisfactory if the Government had come down here with a brief measure abolishing the Liquor Control Board and having a few Regulations with respect to the opening of licensed premises.
There is another reason why it has been impossible to return to the status quo. A great deal has been said in the course of this discussion as to the merits and demerits of what is known as the Carlisle experiment. We have had a most admirable speech, if he will allow me to say so, 1646 from the hon. Member for Carlisle, and a very interesting contribution from the hon. and gallant Member for Cumberland. What are the arguments of these two hon. Members? One speech extolled the result of the experiment at Carlisle, the other depreciated it. Is it not a natural inference to say that this is an experiment which deserves to be closely and carefully watched? An experiment of that which even if we take the lowest estimate, a good deal can and has been said. It is certainly an experiment of a very interesting character which should not be abandoned suddenly and without due consideration. If I may make one suggestion to the hon. and gallant Member for Cumberland—and it applies not only to what he said but what was said by other hon. Members—I think that the actions of the Liquor Control Board and its policy have been to some extent unfairly prejudiced by the necessity imposed on this country during the War of unduly contracting the supplies of beer, and unduly lessening its gravity. The policy of the Liquor Control Board was to some extent prejudiced by the Food Controller's orders which were absolutely essential, having regard to the food situation and the tonnage situation at the time they were imposed. I suggest that many of the criticisms that may be passed by the countrymen of the, hon. and gallant Gentleman upon the Liquor Control Board in the Carlisle area may be rooted in the very general and not unnatural dissatisfaction felt at the great shortage of supplies during the years 1917–18.
I think I have given to the House—I hope I have—two sufficient reasons why it is impossible to return to the status quo. What is the alternative? Surely there is only one alternative; that is a Bill. If there is to be a Bill, then let that Bill be carefully drawn and considered. Let us deal with it in a judicial temper. Let us attempt to deal with a great social malady in the spirit of the scientific doctor confronted with a terrible disease. Do not deal with it as a partisan but with something of the great patriotic spirit which animated us during the War when we are confronting these great social problems. I beseech hon. Members not to pass a partial judgment upon the work of the Liquor Control Board. The hon. Gentleman very truly observed that the Liquor Control Board is armed with formidable powers susceptible of great 1647 dispute, but I think it ought to be generally realised that these powers, large and certainly excessive for peace times, have been used with great wisdom and temper during the War, and there was very little antagonism against the action of the Liquor Control Board until it became necessary on account of the food supply to control the quantities and the gravity of beer. It is a most grotesque representation to imagine the Liquor Control Board as a body of bureaucrats anxiously clinging to the last shred of their powers, because they are a patriotic body working without remuneration, who undertook a most difficult task during the War and one which exposed them to the criticism of the strongest vested interest in this country. I contend with all gravity that they deserve the unstinted thanks of this House. The hon. Baronet said that he was anxious for the demise of the Liquor Control Board, but I can assure him that that will not be long delayed, because we have in preparation a Bill which will bring that Board to an end. I hope that that will satisfy the soul of the hon. Baronet and his friends, and that they will give to that measure when it appears their unstinted, enthusiastic and undivided support.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
It is an unfortunate thing in this country that a great many people speak about things of which they have had no opportunity of learning very much, and they do not realise the priceless advantage of a pint of beer to those who perspire at their work. What we have heard to-night is something like old maids advising nursing mothers as to when they ought to put the child to the breast. It is just like Lord Haldane, who is a bachelor, lecturing people as to how they should educate their children. Many of those who talk indirectly about Pussyfootism, and say that the country is not ripe for prohibition, are working up to it all the time. I should like some of them to try their hand at mucking a cattle boat in Glasgow harbour. I should like Lord D'Abernon, who never sweated in his life under these circumstances, not to be able to get a pint of beer and a pie, and I wonder how he would like it.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Yes, I have, and that is what taught me the value of a pint of beer. Have those ladies who talk in this way ever spent six months over the wash-tub? [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] If they had done this amid the heat and the moisture they would be glad of a half of whisky. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw, withdraw!"] There is nothing to withdraw. I am speaking for the labouring population, whom I understand.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I have worked hard and know what the struggle of labour is, and I know what it is to come home with a tired body and with nerves broken down, which you polite people know nothing about, but talk from the outside. These are the tired people who are absolutely worn down, the miners coming from the pit with their lungs full of dust.
§ Mr JOHN ROBERTSON
A libel on the working man! Give him wholesome food and good housing he does not want drink.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Half of them do not know what hard toil is. That is why they approve of the Liquor Control Board Regulations, which were entire camouflage of the failure of the Asquith Government to provide enough munitions. That was all that happened. They had to look for somebody to blame for that. 1649 They blamed the liquor trade. There was no foundation in it at all—no substance in it. One hon. Member, for instance, spoke about deaths from delirium tremens. What about the deaths from influenza in the last two years? How many poor people were killed because of the Liquor Control Regulations?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Alcohol was necessary to keep the hearts of these people beating. Thousands of them were killed. Nothing could be worse than that. You talk, the Government talk, the Prime Minister talks about the lure of drink, and the right hon. Gentleman told us that the women's vote is going to go to Prohibition. What about the lure of dress? There are millions and millions of pounds spent every year in this country on the bodily decoration of females, and many women spend their husbands' wages on their personal decoration instead of on food for their households and their children. Many young women are led into Jives of shame through the lure of dress.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The desire for dress amongst women is stronger than the desire for drink amongst men. What I deprecate is the mixing up of this question of liberty with the interests of the trade. I am not in the least concerned with the interests of the liquor trade. They play battledore and shuttlecock with the Temperance party, which has made millions for the Trade during the last few years. The Local Veto Bill in Scotland, for instance, provides only for the status quo, decrease or prohibition, but there is no provision for an increase in the facilities, although some ordinary citizens may desire it. They do not, however, get a chance, because the brewers and distillers do not themselves want an increase. They are aware that if there were an increase their monopoly might be injured, and they therefore join hands with the Temperance party. It is hypocrisy. The Temperance party is the handmaiden of the liquor trade. We have heard from the hon. Member for Plymouth some pitiable stories in regard to children standing outside public-houses, but if you went to the U.S.A. you would find far more pitiable stories about women waiting out- 1650 side places where they sell cocaine and wood alcohol.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
There were hundreds of citizens of America poisoned by drinking wood alcohol a little while ago. That was a shocking state of affairs, but it was said by the temperance advocates: "Look at the thousands of people in England who died from over-indulgence in ordinary alcohol." It might just as well be said by a person who deprived children of ordinary milk and gave them typhus-infected milk, and was blamed for so doing: "Look at the number of children who died from tuberculosis." The fact is there is no reasoning with that party. They are the fanatical successors of the Spanish Inquisition; they are torturers. They have no other ideals; they are the most dangerous section of the community. I know a case of a man who saved the lives of his two children who were suffering from influenza by giving them considerable doses of alcohol. He said to a man whose wife was suffering from it, an extreme temperance reformer, that he should give her similar treatment.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question. Debate resumed.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
This man belonged to the extreme type of temperance reformer, and he said that, rather than adopt such a measure, he held the view that life was not worth saving, and his better half died. That, no doubt, is an extreme case, but that is the sort of feeling which has poisoned the whole moral and metaphysical atmosphere of the people of this country, and there is nothing more dangerous than that. I noticed that a Noble Lord recently wrote to the papers in favour of prohibition. He wrote from Brooks' Club, St. James's. Here you have a leader of Temperance Reform writing from a co-operative public house in favour of prohibition, although apparently he has not the courage to take steps to ensure prohibition of liquor in his own club.
§ Mr. SEXTON
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be-now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his 1651 assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
If you interfere with the social habits of the people and with their personal liberties you are doing them far bigger injury than depriving them of their wealth—
Sir J. D. REES
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question. Debate resumed.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
And you will bring about an outbreak in this country similar to that you have had in Russia, where they cry, "Here's to the poor Czar: he abolished good vodha, and lost; his life" I speak against this resolution; because—
§ It being Eleven of the Clock the Debate stood adjourned.