HC Deb 31 March 1925 vol 182 cc1121-9

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to abolish State management of the liquor traffic. This, in effect, is to bring in a Bill to put an end to State control in the Carlisle area, and to transfer the properties now held by the Board of Control there to the public Trustee for disposal. State control of liquor in Carlisle was brought in, under the Defence of the Realm Act in May, 1915. It was done because of the opinion in that very large administrative area that the munition workers in the district had no proper provision made in regard to their refreshments. One would have thought that canteens would have supplied the need in a satisfactory manner, but apparently it was thought otherwise at the time. At the same time I would point out that when this scheme of control was brought in it was made clear by the then Prime Minister that it was purely a temporary Measure, a war-time expedient, and not a social experiment. Since then allegations have been made that this expedient has not been a success, and I think I shall be able to prove that the original idea that control was needed was wrong, and that as a social experiment—which it was subsequently claimed to be—this thing has failed, because control has been a dead failure.

In 1921 there was brought in a Licensing Amendment Bill. Under that, control was abolished, but a Clause was inserted providing for State management by the Government of the day—by the Home Secretary and the Secretary for Scotland. It was decided that control should only be continued until Parliament otherwise determined. I contend that the time has arrived when Parliament shall determine that this control should cease. I myself, when I first brought this matter forward in 1922, made a long visit to the Carlisle area, and I would suggest to those who have criticised my action in the matter that they should do as I did—go down and make inquiry on the spot. They should hide their personal identity, and not go down to be taken round by any of the committee, or those in charge, to ace the best side of the system of control. In the London "Daily Mail" there is an aritcle by Sir Percival Phillips, who asks the question, "Has State control resulted in greater sobriety and prosperity in Carlisle? Has it been of greater benefit than private enterprise?" He then goes on to say this—and this is from a visit he made during the last few weeks—that drunkenness exists to a very marked extent, and that the convictions under this head do not represent the real state of affairs. I encountered a number of drunken men, some of them nearly incapable of walking up the road. In London these would have been collected by the first constable they encountered." The police in Carlisle do not exercise the same control as in other towns, because the Government are running the liquor trade. They do not go into any houses unless specially ordered to do so.

I want to show that sobriety has not increased under the Carlisle Liquor Control Board. In 1923, Carlisle, with a population of 52,000, had 89 convictions for drunkenness. In Plymouth, where, of course, under the auspices of the hon. Member who represents that place (Viscountess Astor), there is greater control exercised—with a large population of 210,000 persons there were only 76 convictions for drunkenness. In Stoke-on-Trent, with a population of 267,000—five times as many as in Carlisle—there were only 73 convictions for drunkenness. In Preston, with a population of 117,000, the convictions for drunkenness numbered 71. In Gloucester, with about the same population, the convictions for drunkenness number 33, as compared with 89 in Carlisle.

Take 1924, these figures have been issued lately. Carlisle had 71 convictions, a little less than before. Cardiff had 61. Reading, with double the population, had only 30 convictions. I contend that these figures prove beyond doubt that Governmental control of the liquor traffic in Carlisle has not been helpful towards the sobriety of its inhabitants. I am not going to suggest—no one would—that the people of Carlisle are worse than the people in any other part of England. They are to a large extent working-class people, and I have in my hand letters sent by working men in Carlisle complaining of the system of management in the district. If they then fail in sobriety, what is the financial aspect of the case? In the financial figures that have been published no provision is made for Income Tax, Super-tax, Excess Profits Duty, and interest on Exchequer advances, all of which would be paid by a private owner. So I contend that the Government are really making a loss on this organisation. The Report published by the Geddes Committee in 1922 suggests that the object for which this particular operation is undertaken no longer exists, and a little further on it says that there is no reason for its continuance in view of the results so far obtained, and in view of the risk of loss in future years the State undertaking would not appear likely to afford any special financial advantages to the taxpayers. That Report was made with the ordinary Geddes Report on finance, but no action was taken, and, although the Geddes Committee suggested that no further houses should be acquired, within a year the Carlisle Control Committee were negotiating for the purchase of 29 additional public-houses. I asked a question in this House, and we were told that the idea had been dropped. Last week, I was told on very good authority, that they were purchasing a site opposite a school to build a public-house. I asked a question of the Home Secretary, and I was told that the answer was in the negative. There is no doubt that my question stopped the purchase of that land. A Member of this House had to relinquish his seat because his firm had a small contract with the Post Office. A member of the Advisory Committee carrying on this work for the Government has been drawing fees during the whole of the time for professional duties in connection with the, Carlisle control. It is against public policy that any professional man should draw fees for work and at the same time be a member of the committee which is employing him.

I said just now that Members should visit Carlisle without disclosing their identity. I have had a letter sent to me written by the Rev. William Stuart, M.A., B.Sc., a Wesleyan minister, of Manchester, who paid a visit to Carlisle. He went to Wigton and gave a lecture. He said that he had been in all the controlled houses of Carlisle—though not in the guise of a minister—making inquiries and seeing the things that happened, and he had seen the awful drunkenness among women in these nationalised public-houses. The Control Board had no right to make him a, part-owner of these houses without asking his permission. A correspondent, writing of Mr. Stuart's visit, wonders how many drunken people escape arrest. The Chief Constable's report says that 27 women were convicted of drunkenness in Carlisle last year. In Whitehaven, a much larger district, only one was convicted, and there were only 13 convictions in all the rest of Cumberland. I think I have shown, therefore, that, so far as the result of this control is concerned, it has all been against the progress of social reform. I hold here a petition—


The hon. Member has had his full time.


This is a subject on which I might he allowed a "long pull."


Does the hon. Member move?


I beg to move.


I beg to oppose the Motion. I hope that the House will not agree to the hon. and gallant Member's request. Although I am quite aware that the mere passing of the First Reading does not mean anything more than that the Bill should be printed, I am afraid that it would be taken outside as an indication that this House has some sympathy with the remarks and the position occupied by the hon. and gallant Member. He has suggested that this social experiment, being merely a war expedient, should come to an end, and he has given us some figures which he seemed to think showed that drunkenness in Carlisle was greater on account of this State management. I submit that these figures are fallacious, and that the true comparison is between the figures since the experiment was adopted and the figures before it was adopted. Surely, that is the sound comparison. We know that standards of discipline and of control vary in different parts of the country. Therefore, the true comparison is between the convictions in the same place before and the convictions after the system had been altered, rather than to compare the figures in Carlisle with the figures for other parts of the country where there may be a very different standard. I could quote figures showing a considerably greater number of convictions for drunkenness than the hon. and gallant Member has shown in Carlisle, but I submit that they would be beyond the point. Before State control—take 1913 or 1914—you had in the Carlisle area 4.53 per 1,000 convictions, and they had fallen in 1924 to 1.34, a very considerable reduction


Does not that apply to the whole country?


No. If the hon. and gallant Member takes the figures for the whole of the country in 1913 and to-day, he will find nothing like a similar comparison. In fact, Home Office figures were quoted in this House only the other day, showing a very considerable increase in the number of convictions during the last three years.


Not as compared with 1913.


Yes, as compared with 1913. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] We must each exercise our own judgment as to the value of these figures and use our experience in our own districts. This experiment in State management is one of the few benefits which have accrued to us as the result of the War. It is true that it was a war experiment. What the evidence of the people on the spot? The hon. and gallant Member quoted a letter from a Wesleyan minister who visited the place. I submit that the responsible authorities, such as the chief constable, the mayor of the town, and the local labour organisations carry more weight that even a passing visitor such as the hon. and gallant Member quoted. May I just quote from the chief constable's last report He remarks that the convictions in Carlisle were the lowest on record, and he says: From personal observation, I attribute great importance to the arrangement under which the licensed premises in Carlisle are conducted by the State management scheme. My inspectors, men with 30 years' police -experience, confirm this, and from a sobriety point of view they have never known the city so well conducted. The Mayor, who is chairman of the Licencing Justices, remarks the same. His own observations led him to share the view that the policy pursued by the State management scheme was mainly responsible for this satisfactory state of affairs. If you read the remarks of previous mayors from 1918 to 1924, they all agree that as regards the number of convictions and the sobriety of the town there has been a general improvement. If it be allowed to quote the clergy, the clergy in conference assembled passed the following resolution: We, being clergy and ministers of religion in the City of Carlisle and neighbourhood, desire to place on record our general approval of the work of the Central Control Board in the Carlisle area, and we earnestly trust that there will be no return to the old licensing system. We hope that future legislation will follow the lines which have proved so beneficial to the Carlisle area. The clergy of all denominations gathered together and speaking collectively with one voice have more weight than the one Minister to whom the hon. and gallant Member referred. Then the Labour organisations, gathered together in conference, approved by 22 votes to 1 of the change which had taken place and favoured its extension. This is a valuable social experiment which should go on. If you can eliminate self-interest in the sale of liquor or any commodity, you will get reduced returns. That is why we approve of private enterprise. It makes for bigger returns and bigger yields. We want in the drink traffic to have smaller returns and a smaller business. Therefore, we favour State management, because self-interest is eliminated. The managers of these houses have no profits on the sale of intoxicating liquors. They have a profit on the sale of food and on the sale of non-intoxicants. I submit, therefore, that a time, like the present, when the country is spending £300,000,000 a year on drink, is not the time to stop any effort which is of a restrictive character. Let me give one more quotation, because it shows from whence this opposition comes. The Chairman of the Carlisle Licensed Victuallers' Association, in a letter to the "Morning Advertiser," of 9th November, 1920, un wittingly paid a high tribute to the Carlisle scheme. He said: So long as the Carlisle experiment is in existence, it will stand as a menace to the trade. I submit that it is because of the menace to the trade we have this Motion moved by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who so ably represents those interests, and

who has put his case so well; and it is because it is a menace to the trade that the House should reject the Motion.

Question put, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to abolish State management of the Liquor Trade.

The House divided: Ayes, 142; Noes,140.

Division No. 67.] AYES. [4.12 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Glyn, Major R. G. C. Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Goff, Sir Park Penny, Frederick George
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Grace, John Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Atkinson, C. Grant, J. A. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Balniel, Lord Greene, W. P. Crawford Power, Sir John Cecil
Barr, J. Gretton, Colonel John Preston, William
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Price, Major C. W. M.
Blades, Sir George Rowland Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Raine, W.
Blundell, F. N. Hanbury, C. Ramsden, E.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Remnant, Sir James
Brass, Captain W. Harland, A. Rentoul, G. S.
Briscoe, Richard George Hartington, Marquess of Rice, Sir Frederick
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Haslam, Henry C. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hertford)
Buckingham, Sir H. Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P. Ropner, Major L.
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Bullock, Captain M. Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A. Salmon, Major I.
Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan Holland, Sir Arthur Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Homan, C. W. J. Sanderson, Sir Frank
Campbell, E. T. Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Savery, S. S.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Hopkins, J. W. W. Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Howard, Captain Hon. Donald Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mc[...]. (Renfrew, W)
Christie, J. A. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Clayton, G. C. Iliffe, Sir Edward M. Shepperson, E. W.
Cohen, Major J. Brunel Jacob, A. E. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Jephcott, A. R. Smithers, Waldron
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Kidd, J. (Linlithgow) Sprot, Sir Alexander
Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro) Knox, Sir Alfred Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Curzon, Captain Viscount Lamb, J. Q. Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Dalkeith, Earl of Leigh, Sir John (Clapham) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Dixey, A. C. Lougher, L. Tinne, J. A.
Doyle, Sir N. Grattan Lowe. Sir Francis William Titchfield, Major the Marquees of
Edmondson, Major A. J. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Waddington, R.
England, Colonel A. Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M) Lumley, L. R. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Everard, W. Lindsay Macquisten, F. A. Warrender, Sir Victor
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Malone, Major P. B Wells, S. R.
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Meller, R. J. White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Fanshawe, Commander G. D. Meyer, Sir Frank Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Fermoy, Lord Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)
Forestier-Walker, L. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Wise, Sir Fredric
Foster, Sir Harry S. Murchison, C. K. Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Fraser, Captain Ian Nelson, Sir Frank
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Neville, R. J. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Ganzoni, Sir John Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Sir A. Holbrook and Lieut.-Colonel James.
Gee, Captain R. Nuttall, Ellis
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Oakley, T.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Compton, Joseph Gibbins, Joseph
Atholl, Duchess of Connolly, M. Gillett, George M.
Attlee, Clement Richard Conway, Sir W. Martin Gosling, Harry
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Cove, W. G. Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)
Barnes, A. Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Greenall, T.
Batey, Joseph Crawfurd, H. E. Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton) Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Groves, T.
Broad, F. A. Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Grundy, T. W.
Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Day, Colonel Harry Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Dennison, R. Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Duncan, C. Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Dunnico, H. Hammersley, S. S.
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Fenby, T. D. Hardie, George D.
Cluse, W. S. Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L. Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon
Hastings, Sir Patrick Murnin, H. Sutton, J. E.
Hayday, Arthur Naylor, T. E. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Hayes, John Henry Oliver, George Harold Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Owen, Major G. Thurtle, E.
Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Palin, John Henry Tinker, John Joseph
Hirst, G. H. Paling, W. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Viant, S. P.
Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Wallhead, Richard C.
Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Ponsonby, Arthur Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Potts, John S. Warne, G. H.
John, William (Rhondda, West) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Ritson, J. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich) Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Robinson, W.C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland) Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Kennedy, T. Rose, Frank H. Westwood, J.
Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Kenyon, Barnet Salter, Dr. Alfred Whiteley, W.
Kindersley, Major Guy M. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston) Wignall, James
Lansbury, George Shiels, Dr. Drummond Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Lawson, John James Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down) Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
Lee, F. Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Livingstone, A. M. Slesser, Sir Henry H. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley) Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Mackinder, W. Smith, Rennie (Penistone) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Snell, Harry Windsor, Walter
McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W.R., Ripon)
MacRobert, Alexander M. Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe) Wright, W.
Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel- Stamford, T. W.
March, S. Stephen, Campbell TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley) Stewart, J. (St. Rollox) Mr. Trevelyan Thomson and Mr. Bromley.
Montague, Frederick Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Colonel Sir Arthur Holbrook, Mr. Remer, Lieut. - Colonel James, Lieut. - Colonel Sir Frederick Hall, Brigadier-General Charteris, Captain Howard and Colonel Perkins.