§ Viscount Melbourne
, in moving the Order of the Day for the consideration of the report of the Committee, in this Bill, said, that he had been desirous of introducing a clause in the Bill which would have the effect of obliging the beer-houses in country places to shut at an earlier hour than those in towns. But he found it impossible to frame the measure so as to apply to all circumstances; and the effect of such a clause as he alluded to would be, to create innumerable difficulties and controversies as to what places were in the country, and what places were in towns. The inconveniences produced by this in places which were in themselves neither cities, towns, nor boroughs—such as Lambeth, Camberwell, and other places adjoining the metropolis—would be very great; and he was therefore induced to abandon his intended Amendment, and to leave the Bill in that respect as it stood,
752 The Marquis of Salisbury begged to call the noble Viscount's (Melbourne) attention to certain clauses of the Bill, one of which went to repeal 1st William 4th, cap. 64, Sec. 4, relating to bonds to be entered into by licensed victuallers. That enactment, in his opinion, ought not to be repealed altogether. A great jealousy, no doubt, existed, as to the Magistrates being allowed to decide respecting the adequacy of the security tendered, but this formed no sufficient cause for the repeal to which he had alluded.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, it would be too great an interference with the principle of the Bill, to allow Magistrates the power of deciding on the security tendered, because it would undoubtedly be said, that if the Magistrate had any objections to the person applying for the licence, all he would have to do to prevent his obtaining it, would be, to object to the sufficiency of his sureties. If the noble Marquis could state any other means by which the object he appeared to have in view could be accomplished, he should be very happy to pay every attention to his suggestions.
The Marquis of Salisbury
, in reply, stated, that he proposed, on the third reading of the Bill, to submit a clause, to the effect, that the security tendered should be approved by the bench of Magistrates, and he should take the same opportunity to propose another amendment, imposing a penalty of 40s. for keeping these houses open at improper hours.
The Lord Chancellor
wished to make a few observations—and they should be very few—upon the most important and most difficult parts of the measure. He was deeply impressed with the importance of this subject, and when the measure was originally brought forward by the noble Duke, as well as when a right rev. Prelate opposite (the Bishop of London) recently made some observations upon it, he felt the necessity of imposing some additional restrictions to those which it was the object of that measure to enforce, for the purpose of checking the licentiousness which, from the evidence which they had before them, appeared to have arisen from the multiplication of the beer-houses. But he agreed with his noble friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that although the testimony which the House had before it was of a very respectable character, yet it was liable to mis- 753 takes, from the coincidence in the time at which the Beer Act was passed, and the reduction of the price of beer, they having both occurred together, one from the change in the licence system, and the other from the abolition of the duty on beer. When the Legislature granted an unlimited licence for opening houses for the sale of beer, and at the same time reduced the price of beer, they exposed themselves to this error, that these measures being alike in their date and operation, it became extremely difficult, if not wholly impossible, to say how much of the increased licentiousness arose from the addition to the number of houses under the new licence, and how much from the reduction of the price of beer. He felt it due, therefore, to the noble Duke lately at the head of his Majesty's Government, and to those who co-operated with him, to say, that their measure was not justly chargeable with having solely increased the desire to drink, or the quantity of liquor drunk. He thought, for his own part, that principal encouragement was held out by lowering the price of the article consumed. He would mention one point of view in which it was obvious that intemperance was more likely to be promoted by lowering the price of beer than by the multiplication of the beer-shops—namely, that people preferred going to a house where they might have cither spirits or beer, as suited their inclinations, or both, and where they might, as he had reason to believe they not unfrequently did, prepare themselves for one glass of gin, by drinking a considerable number of glasses of beer. He spoke practically on this subject, having had opportunities of ascertaining what he stated. He believed it to be very much the practice amongst certain portions of the lower orders of the people, to begin their indulgence with the comparatively innocent and heavier liquor, beer, and to finish with the stronger, and more ardent and more mischievously-exciting spirit Therefore, he said, if the price of beer had remained the same as it was before the passing of the measure, it would not have tended to increase the number of consumers of beer, or the quantity consumed; for he could see no reason, if there were five houses in a town under the old regulations, and that there was sufficient accommodation in them, and five new houses were established under the late bill—he did not see why, if the price 754 remained the same, the ten houses should double the number of drinkers, or make them drink double the quantity. It was, however, to be remarked—that under the new law the Magistrates had not, as under the old law, a discretionary power to fix, not only the number of the houses, but also the places where they should be opened, and they made it a rule to confine them to the towns and villages, and not to suffer them to be opened under the hedge-rows and by the road-side. Great evils certainly might arise from these beer-houses being opened and kept in solitary places, because in those places designs against the property of others were more easily concocted and matured, than in places open to general inspection and observation. But if, as he had said before, the multiplication of beer-houses did not tend to double the consumption of liquor, still less could it have that effect if the new houses were places where men could not obtain stimulating spirits as well as beer, if they were generally disposed to unite these indulgences. As to the abuses which were spoken of as being practised under this system, he could hardly conceive a more important subject than that they should be regulated, if it were possible, so as to guard against any thing of the kind; but the more he looked at the subject, the more he was convinced of the difficulties surrounding it. He would now come to the consideration relative to shutting up these houses on certain days—as Sunday, Good Friday, and Christmas-day, and at certain hours every day—as at nine in summer and seven o'clock in winter. This, at first sight, seemed to be an easy as well as a prudent regulation; and he at first felt strongly disposed to adopt such a regulation. But, on further consideration, he found the difficulties attending it so great in number, and so important in weight, as to alter his determination. If they made the new houses so perfectly different from the old—they were already essentially different, inasmuch as the new houses sold beer alone, while the old ones were at liberty to sell beer and gin—but if, in addition to this difference, they drew the still more important distinction, as to hours, what would be the necessary and inevitable consequence? The old houses would be open for the sale of gin, and wine and beer, and they would be open not only until seven o'clock in winter and nine o'clock in summer, as the new beer-houses, 755 but until twelve and one o'clock at night. They would be open for the sale of all liquors at all hours of the day and night. All men might resort thither to drink—the beer drinker, and the gin drinker—the man who was minded to go quietly home to his family after a moderate proportion of wholesome and necessary refreshment, and no less the mere tippler, the profligate, the licentious person, who thought nothing of his fireside, whose habits were alienated from his home, and for whom his wife and children had no attraction. The old houses, where gin was to be had, would be open, and the only houses not open would be the comparatively innocent beer-house. Already the public-houses were gifted for distributing gin as well as comparatively innocent beer; but the Legislature was now saying to the labourer—"You shan't drink beer at the beer-shop after a certain hour; but if you like to drink ale plus gin at the gin-shop plus the ale-house—'Patet atra janua Ditis—noctes atque dies'—you may go there at one o'clock in the morning; you may go on any day—on Sunday—on Christmas-day—Good Friday—on Saint Monday, or on Saintless Saturday." This was the state of the new law. His great object was, to observe the distinction between the gin-shop and the beer-shop. His desire was, to encourage the one, and to discourage the other. He would put down the consumption of ardent spirits by any means, and by all means. So deep was his impression, from his experience, and from the information conveyed in the evidence taken before the Police Committee in the other House of Parliament, as to the causes of crime in the metropolis; so deep was his impression that the use of gin and other ardent spirits was the great source of the cruel evils—the boundless and never-ending mischiefs, which prevailed in the haunts of the common people in this town and elsewhere—although he hoped not to so great an extent—that he professed his entire disposition, if he could see his way towards a total prohibition of the consumption of spirits in those houses—even if the interests of free trade, and of the unfettered industry of mankind, were to be flung overboard in order to lighten the vessel and guide her safely into the port where he wished to see her harboured—he professed his entire disposition, at the sacrifice of those interests of free trade 756 and unfettered industry, to put down the consumption of spirits, if he could do so effectually, by legislative enactments. But he knew it to be impossible. He knew that, by endeavouring to put down one crime, they would only create another, and he had, therefore, in despair given up the speculation—for he could call it no more—of preventing the use of gin. Without making invidious, and, in a free country, impracticable distinctions, he did not see how it could be put down. Well, then, what were they to do next? To discourage it as much as possible. He lamented the lowering of the duty on spirits, seeing that almost as much revenue was collected, although the duty was lowered about one-half. Making all proper allowance for the conversion of the contraband trade to a duty-paying trade, the result of his inquiry, and of his personal observation, was, that the increased consumption of ardent spirits must have been frightful since the diminution of the duty. Their Lordships ought, therefore, to take every possible means to discourage the use of spirits. And this brought him to the distinction between the gin-shops and the beer-shops. According to this principle, instead of raising distinctions between the old houses, which sold spirits and beer, and the new ones, which sold beer only, they ought rather to level all distinctions; and, instead of holding out a temptation to go to the old houses, they ought to tempt men to cleave to the new ones and abandon the old. By shutting up the beer-houses a man must drink gin, because he could not get beer after seven o'clock in winter and nine in summer. But it would not be only at those hours that the distinction would operate mischievously, for it was notorious that when a man got into the habit of frequenting a particular house—the Red Lion, for instance—he became familiar with it, and adhered to it—he would not go from the public-house to the beer-shop. He had one other objection to mention, which related to gambling. With respect to this matter, he was quite ready to share with the right rev. Prelate opposite, the charge of cant, which he treated with proper contempt, because, since ever he had come into public life, he had observed, that men who had no principle themselves cried out against the canting folks, as they termed those who were actuated by a desire to promote the 757 good of their fellow-creatures. These persons had, at least, the merit of candour. They did not pretend to principle themselves—they did not render the homage of hypocrisy, which Vice was said to pay to Virtue. The liberation of the Africans, the various questions relating to civil and religious liberty, had brought the charge of cant against those who advocated them. He, therefore, agreed with the right rev. Prelate in despising such attacks. He had always held in great abhorrence the vice of gambling. The mischiefs which it produced could hardly be over-rated by any law-maker; and he thought it as great a vice in those who were eminent in their rank and station as in the humblest peasant who practised it either in a licensed or unlicensed ale-house. He thought the right reverend Prelate opposite, the least of all liable to the imputation of having spared the vices of the rich, and denounced with severity those of the poor; for it so happened, that the right reverend Prelate had exposed himself to the resentment of persons in the upper ranks, by his inflexible condemnation of immorality, by preaching in season and out of season against it, and by censuring without distinction the vices of the rich and of the poor. Nevertheless he felt upon this lesser part of the case almost as much difficulty as upon the larger and more important part, for although the beer-houses were under their control, and though their Lordships had before them a Bill in which they might introduce a clause to prevent the playing at skittles in those houses, the consequence would be, that the people would go to play in the gin-shops or, as some called them, inns or ale-houses. His principle was, to put the new houses upon the same footing as the old ones, except with regard to the mode of licensing. He would put them equally under the control of the Magistrates and the police. But he would put it to their Lordships, so long as they had three or four gambling-houses in St. James's-street, as the right reverend Prelate had already said more than once elsewhere, and as he (the Lord Chancellor) now repeated in a less sacred place; as the right reverend Prelate had said from the Pulpit and in hid valuable writings, so long as there were gambling-houses in St. James's-street constantly open, he would not say to their Lordships, for he hoped that none of them were capable of passing the threshold of such a place, but to persons in the same 758 class and walk of life; while these places were open day and night, where men might ruin their wives and families, and fit themselves for nothing else but going to Botany Bay, or parting with life by violent means, so long their Lordships should be very careful how they prevented a poor man from having a game at skittles in a beerhouse. But he wanted to put down gambling, and with that view he would place all houses under the same regulations. Gambling was against the law, and he had seen prosecutions carried on, and bills litigated, and payment of them refused, because they were contracted in places where gambling was practised. He should be favourable to any measure which would prevent that vice in the higher as well as in the lower classes of society. As to the regulation of shutting the beer-houses on Christmas-day and other days, he would observe, that Christmas-day was not kept as a day of religion after the usual service was performed. There was that difference between those of the Established Church and the Dissenters. It was an established course at Lambeth Palace, in the time of a late most reverend Prelate, to finish the evening with a game at whist. He had it from the late Dr. Parr, that the Archbishop of Canterbury before the last, knew the regulations of the Church well, and never suffered a Christmas-day to pass without playing a game at whist, although he was not much attached to it. Another difficulty to which he would point the attention of their Lordships was this. How were they to shut up the beer-shops without shutting up the old public-houses at the same hours? And let it be recollected, that considerable inconvenience must arise from shutting up all such houses at seven o'clock in winter, and nine in summer, because all the houses to which their Lordships themselves went to change horses or to sleep, would necessarily be shut against them, after those hours, on their journeys of pleasure or business, as much as against the peasant or day-labourer. There was not an inn from London to York which must not be closed as inexorably as the commonest beer-shop. Yet so much they must do by their Bill, or they must encourage gin and discourage beer. It was not until he had drawn clause after clause, and proviso after proviso, and come to close quarters with the various considerations attached to the subject, that the difficulties struck him. He found himself 759 unable to get over them, and thought it his duty to state them to their Lordships. If they could overcome them he should be very glad.
§ Lord Wynford
said, the noble and learned Lord had fallen into some mistakes, in which he was sure the noble and learned Lord would be obliged to him for setting him right. In the first place, he concurred with the noble Secretary, (Viscount Melbourne), as to the expediency of not attempting the clause which he had himself originally recommended, and which would have appointed different hours for the closing of beer-shops in towns and in the country. In reply to the noble and learned Lord, he had to lament, that to put the new beer-shops and the old houses upon the same level would require a great number of additional clauses to the Bill before their Lordships. In the old public-houses, all the evils of which the noble and and learned Lord complained, were guarded against—first, by the discretionary power of the Magistrates, who were sure to select proper persons, and next by various provisions of the Statute-law. When the noble and learned Lord stated, that any man might enter a public-house after nine o'clock, or after twelve o'clock, he was mistaken, because, by the 9th George 4th, cap. 60, it was provided, that the Magistrates of each district should have the power of determining the hour at which all public-houses in that district should be closed.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that by saying twelve o'clock, he meant any hour later than that at which it was ordered the beer-shops should be closed.
§ Lord Wynford
, in continuation. The Magistrates were to fix the time when the public-houses should close, and if persons were admitted after that time, such houses were considered as transgressing against the law under which they were licensed. So also gambling was guarded against, for the keeper of a public-house was liable to be proceeded against criminally if he permitted it, the penalty provided by a very old law having been re-enacted by a modern Statute; in that respect these beer-houses had the advantage, for there was no provision of the kind against them. He agreed with his noble friend as to the propriety of poor persons having opportunities of amusement. God forbid that he should wish to debar them of entertainment, knowing as he did, that such 760 restrictions would only drive them to employ their time in mischief. He saw no difference betwixt a man in a low condition of life playing at skittles, and a gentleman amusing himself with cricket. It would be tyranny and oppression to prevent it. But what he understood the right reverend Prelate to condemn was, playing for money, by which means men took the bread from their wives and families, in the indulgence of that disposition which was common to high and low, and which tempted persons to incur much loss for the sake of the chance of gain. He quite agreed with the right reverend Prelate in his wish to apply such penalties as would be the means of preventing gambling both in high and low life. As to the inconveniences in travelling which had been alluded to, his noble friend would find in every Statute an exception in favour of inns for travellers. There was nothing in the law to prevent inn-keepers of any description from receiving travellers. He thought it right to make these observations, considering, that if it went forth that innkeepers were not at liberty to receive travellers, or that there were no means for the prevention of gambling, it might have a prejudicial effect. His noble and learned friend could not have looked with his usual accuracy into the Acts of Parliament, and would not, he hoped, take it ill that he thus set him right. All the evils to which he alluded were guarded against in the regular public-houses. The most effectual security which the public could have, was, that the persons who kept the public-houses were persons of a superior condition, and those who could not obtain licenses for such houses resorted to keeping beer-shops. Would to God, as his noble friend said, that the people could be confined to drinking beer, and all the evils attendant upon the use of ardent spirits put an end to! But he feared that that was not possible. He was informed that there was a great deal of gin drank in beer-houses. Though they were not licensed to sell gin, still they contrived means to provide it.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that the whole tendency of his arguments was against any distinction being made between the old and the new beer-houses.
The Marquis of Salisbury
said, that if the new beer-houses were placed on the same footing as public-houses, there would be nothing to complain, of.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
suggested the expediency of postponing the reception of the Report till another day, in order that the subject might be further considered.
§ Viscount Melbourne
would not object to the postponement if any sufficient grounds could be shown for it. He must, however, observe, that the terms of the license in the case of the new beer-houses and of the public-houses, were similar in all essential particulars.
The Marquis of Salisbury
said, if there was a difference in the time of shutting up the beer-shop and the public-house, the natural consequence would be, that the inmates of the former would adjourn to the latter; therefore he maintained, both ought to be closed at the same hour.
§ The reception of the Report postponed.