HL Deb 03 June 1839 vol 47 cc1236-53
Lord Brougham

said, that in rising to move the second reading of the Sale of Beer Act Repeal Bill, of which he had given notice, the only thing that operated on his mind as a discouragement to that in which he hoped to be successful, was the consideration, that it might be thought an effort on his part, which would be most contrary to his feelings and fixed principles, to deprive the humbler classes of society of some of the means of recreation adapted to their situation, and which was of no consequence to those who were placed in a different and higher sphere of life. He had, all his life, looked with the greatest suspicion upon every plan which had for its object, under whatever pretence, a limitation of the enjoyments of the common people, where equal limits were not, at the same time, proposed to be imposed upon the enjoyments of those in a higher condition. He had carried this feeling to the utmost extent; for instance, as to the Temperance Societies, no one could approve of them more than he did himself, and the noble Duke opposite had expressed the same sentiment. But he had joined with the noble Duke in refusing to become a member of those societies, for the obvious reason, that it would be no self-restraint upon individuals in his situation, to enter into a bond not to consume ardent spirits, when they had at their command the opportunity of consuming equally deleterious liquor. Why should the noble Duke, or his noble and learned Friend opposite, enter into a society binding themselves not to drink spirits, when they had the perfect power of drinking their claret, Burgundy, and Champagne? He knew plenty of persons who would have no objections to enter into those societies, but they said they would not be guilty of such hypocrisy as to declare that ardent spirits should not be drank, when they felt certain that they could continue to enjoy their wine. He himself felt strongly the objection to drinking ardent spirits. They were the parent of crimes of the worst description, as the police reports showed, namely, crimes accompanied by violence. But, if ardent spirits could be used with great moderation, they had the authority of Burke—no mean authority—for saying that, in moderation, they might be a needful stimulus to the poor man, particularly in the various branches of town industry, in damp positions, and in unwholesome occupations, where stimulus of that description was required. But, passing by that, they were all agreed that, to promote habits of temperance and avoid intemperance and those other offences which he should advert to by and by, as fostered prodigiously by those who kept beer-houses—that to get rid of those evils would be a very great improvement to the morals, the comfort, and the happiness of the labouring classes. He felt that he should not be discharging his duty to the country, to their Lordships, or to himself, if he delayed any longer in bringing the question before the House. He must observe, that some of his noble Friends near him had charged him with having changed his opinions upon that subject. These statements were not more true than many others that were made with respect to him: but the fact was quite the reverse. "How can you," said the letters he was receiving daily, "how can you be against the Beer Bill, who originally brought it in?" If he had brought it in, and found that he had been wrong, that would be a good reason why he should change his opinion. But it did so happen, that he had not only not brought it in, but had opposed it in every way he could. He had brought in a Beer Bill, out of which originated the Committee which proposed and carried the late measure. But what was his proposition—that beer might be allowed to be sold, but not consumed on the premises. That was, he had no objection to its being sold, like bread, or any other commodity, at the chandler's shop, but not drunk on the premises. Now, his bills of 1822, 1823, and 1824, for he had brought forward three, contained a clause prohibiting, under severe penalties, the consumption of beer on the premises. That was, it prohibited the beer-houses, or beer-shops, or public-houses whose sale was confined to beer, and selling without magistrates' license, having only the excise li- cense, from allowing beer to be consumed on the premises. Now, he would explain to their Lordships why he had urged upon them, and upon the lower House of Parliament, (for he was then a Member of that House) why he objected to the Beer Bill, and why he admitted the sale of beer in these shops, but not to be consumed on the premises. In the first place, it interfered with monopoly brewers. That was one, but only a small portion of his reasons. But the principal reason was, that it enabled a person to send his daughter to beer-shops, to get a quart or a pint of beer, for drinking in his own house, without the chance of her being contaminated by being sent to the ale-house. There was another, but a weightier reason, that a man was enticed from the ale-house, if he could only buy beer at these houses to consume with his family at home. He could not, according to the present excise laws, have a sufficient quantity at home, and if he went for it to the ale-house, he was, perhaps, induced to remain there His whole argument had been an argument against the beer-houses, but his principal argument had been, to enable a man to buy his beer at one of these shops, and bring it home to his family. It was then said, why support the bill of 1830, and suffer it to pass without opposition? He hail yielded to the Report of the Committee, but he stated that his opinion remained unaltered—that, as they had fully considered and examined the question, they might take the weight and responsibility of the measure on themselves; it was their measure, not his—their bill, not his—and they would see how it would work in practice. He had been urged, a year afterwards, to repeal it; but be had said, no: after a bill was once passed, it would not do to change it the next year because it had failed—it was better to give it a longer trial. He was then a Member of their Lordships' House, and in office, and he had said to his colleagues, give it a longer trial, and then it will be time enough to repeal it if it fails. That was the whole history of his ever having said anything in favour of the measure. He held that nothing was more calculated to bring legislation into disrepute than to try an experiment every year, and the next, without giving it a fair trial, to retrace their steps. Now, he found, after all the petitions, the many hundreds that had been presented at different times, and to the nature of which he would presently draw their Lordships' attention—he found his noble Friend, at the head of the Government, had that night presented a very bulky petition, signed, by he believed, eight thousand, headed by a beer seller, and he dared to say that many of those who signed it were beer sellers. He did not object to that, and he dared to say that there had been many from licensed victuallers whose interests were of an opposite nature. He had no objection to that, but the argument here was raised in favour of the measure, and he thought he could not do better than just state to their Lordships the arguments used against his bill. It stated, first, "that the opening of the trade in beer, whereby the monopoly in that essential article had been broken down, had been productive of great public good, that it had occasioned a considerable reduction in the price of the commodity, and a material improvement in the quality. That many of the petitioners in following their occupations (meaning labourers) were from an early hour till late at night from borne, and required dinners and other accommodation suitable to their circumstances, which were formerly furnished by the licensed victuallers, but were now obtained much more easily and cheaply at the beer houses. That many of them in pursuit of business resorted to some neighbouring house, and then in conversations with their friends and neighbours they enjoyed over a pint of ale a temporary relaxation from the cares of business." He wished to God that nothing worse took place at these houses. Then came the last point—"That the general conduct observed in these beer houses, so far as their experience extended, was as moral and as respectable as that observed at public houses, and from the absence of ardent intoxicating spirits there was less temptation to drunkenness." He denied the absence of ardent spirits—and but in a few instances he denied the rest of the argument of the petitioners. Now having read their own allegations of their own case, he would meet them by showing their Lordships facts from the most authentic and undoubted sources of information. If he were to rest his case upon the evidence of licensed victuallers, there might be some objections made, although he would show their Lordships presently that there were many licensed victuallers who had not the slighest objection to these beer-houses. But it was not their testimony that would establish his case—very far from it. It was the testimony of farmers, and landlords, and magistrates, and grand jurors, and reverend clergymen of the Established Church, and of all Dissenting persuasions. It was the evidence of Commissioners, appointed by the Government, to inquire into the state of the habits of the people, with a particular practical view—who had taken evidence on which to found recommendations for a police measure. All those testimonies of various classes of the community were unanimous, and they called for a repeal of the Beer Bill. Now, taking all these classes in another light, not as petitioners but as witnesses, he should state to their Lordships that it was upon their testimony he relied in establishing his case before them. Now, one of these classes, namely, the Magistrates, were said to have some interest in the subject, because it was contended that the Beer Bill took away a valuable branch of patronage, which it was said had been often converted to particular purposes. But what interest had the clergy of the Established Church or the Dissenting clergy in the matter? What interest had such men as the Government Commissioners and the farmers, whose evidence he was about to refer to? He was unwilling to believe that the magistrates of the country would view the matter in the light of a question affecting their interests or their patronage—or that they would be so lost to all sense of truth and honour as to pray their Lordships to pass a measure, on the ground that it would tend to improve the morals and promote the interest of the working classes, while all the time they merely advocated their own private interests. He would be still more averse to say that under the hypocritical and false pretence of improving the morals of the people, they were merely promoting their own patronage. He could not believe that such was the character of the magistracy of this country. Having stated the grounds on which he should rest his case, he would now call their attention to the particulars of the evidence, and which would substantiate the general remarks he had previously made. He would now quote from the evidence of the Commissioners on the subject of the habits of the people, and the state of crime, and he had already told their Lordships to what a degree the beer houses had contributed. In the examination of a solicitor from Welchpool, he found it stated, "The beer shops of this town, the sergeant at mace says, are kept open all night, so long as their customers seek to be served with drink." That was the common complaint every where. But then it might be said, why not enforce the law? The constable was an unpaid yearly officer, who did not serve voluntarily, but endeavoured, like the churchwarden or overseer, to go through his office as quietly as possible, and give as little offence as he might to the poor people among whom he lived. There was also another inducement, they frequented the beer-houses themselves. What if they were well treated there? What if others paid, and they did not, which their Lordships would presently see was the fact? The beer-house keeper, in order to keep him quiet, gave him beer for nothing, and the constable did not like to tell him to shut his shop because it would be shutting himself out, and he would thereby be deprived of the benefit of the company he might meet, and the drink, for he paid no bill. That was the case all over the country. He would now give them the evidence of a respectable farmer of Essex. In speaking of depredations, and his evidence was the more worthy of attention, because that was not the main object of inquiry, Mr. Gregory said, In all cases of depredation on farmers, the plunder must be considerable to be worth while, as the produce was sold at so much less than its value. The great source of evil is the beer-shops. I had hardly lost anything until a beer-shop was set up in my neighbourhood and now I am obliged to watch them every way. They take my fowls, and bring them to the beer-shop to sell or to cook; they cut off the heads of my cabbages, and on one occasion I took a fowl of mine half-cooked out of the pot. It was added, that one of the parties concerned in these robberies was afterwards transported. Mr. William Kershaw, a canal carrier, also described the nature and extent of these depredations. He said the plunder consisted of every small article that could be carried off, and also flour and malt; and they had places where they disposed of it with great facility. These places were the cheap beer-shops; and the greater portion of the plundered property was sold to the proprietor, or to parties who congregated there. He also had before him the confession of a thief, who was of respectable parents in Manchester, and who stated, that he knew of beer-shops being started by thieves for the accommodation and reception of their fellows. There were two such at Nottingham and another a Chester, four in Manchester in one street, and others at Halifax and other towns. The expense of setting up was only 8l. for a license and 8l. for stock; the first week paid the expenses. The Messrs. Kenworthy, carriers, stated similar facts, and he had also the evidence of the deputy constable of Manchester, which he referred to merely to show that the evil was not confined to country districts, and that it would not be wise to adopt a proposition to put down beer-shops in the country, and allow them to exist still in towns. In the country, there was less felony, Jess prostitution, and more of trifling offences; but greater mischief was done to a better class of people, namely, the farm servants. In towns, however, they were very mischievous indeed, and he would only refer to the evidence with respect to Birmingham, Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds, and Liverpool, as affording a very fair sample of the effects of that measure. In Liverpool it was stated, that they were the source of a great deal of crime—that illicit spirits were frequently clandestinely sold in them. It was added, that it was not always safe for the constable to watch them; and if it was not safe merely to watch them, how could these men be expected to lay informations against them, when they ran the risk of having their heads broke. The magistrates of Leith-ward, in Cumberland, complained that the keepers of beer-shops were appointed as constables at the Courtleet. That he could bear testimony to himself. What hope was there that these constables would do their duty? At a place in Berkshire, it was stated, that three of the constables were reputed drunkards, and one of them the brother of a beer-shopkeeper. The evidence of the high constable of Chester was to the same effect; and it would be merely repeating what he had already stated, to quote it. Mr. Pool, of Howe-on-the-Wold, stated, that the keepers of the beer-shops were all opposed to the farmers, because they spoiled their trade of harbouring thieves. In the report of the Liverpool Watch Committee to the Town-council, it was stated, that there were several hundred of these beer-houses supported by the very worst characters. In Salop the constables stated, that they were in the habit of keeping their beer-houses open till a late hour of the night. Now these facts were not confined to the rural or agricultural districts, but extended to villages, towns manufacturing and commercial, canals and railways. The evidence of the grand jury of the county of Essex was to the effect, that the demoralizing effect of beer-houses licensed for the sale of beer to be drunk on the premises, still continued, and formed a serious subject of complaint from time to time. The same statements were made by the grand juries of Stafford, Oxford, Somerset, and other counties; and, although they were not in the habit of making presentments on the subject of beer-houses, they had on more than one occasion, as he was informed by a learned Friend of his, expressed to the court their opinion that many minor offences originated in beer-houses, and that was the result of their inquiries when finding bills of indictment. The grand jury of Falmouth reported that females were going about the streets almost in a state of nudity, and intoxicated, the consequence of beer-shops. These were tiresome details, but he thought it better that he should go into such particulars than make a speech on the subject; Mr. Justice Vaughan, in 1839, on the occasion of a child being left to perish, said, that the beer shops, from their causing abuses and immoralities, were to be regarded as public nuisances. It was contended by the petition from London, presented this day, that the regulations of the beer shops were as good as those of the licensed victuallers, and that argument was to be drawn from the state of the returns of public convictions made to the House of Commons. He would willingly put his case upon that issue, because never was there a grosser misrepresentation. The mistake arose in this way; in London in three years the convictions of licensed victuallers amounted to 2,316; of beer shops during the same time of 1,437; upon which, said the political calculators, there were twice as many convictions of licensed victuallers as of beer shop keepers. But then those calculators forgot to take into their account that there were 5,000 licensed victuallers and only 1,400 beer-shop keepers in London; so that, in proportion to the relative number of the two, there were twice as many convictions of beer-shop keepers as there were of licensed victuallers. Liverpool showed the same result. In Birmingham, the returns for seven years, from 1831 to 1838, showed, according to their proportions, very nearly three times the number of convictions of beer-shop keepers to those of licensed victuallers. So much for the regulations of the beer-shops which had been so much bragged of; and their convictions would be many more if the con- stables only did their duty, but the beer-shop keepers treated the constables with beer and seduced them from doing their duty; whereas the licensed victuallers would not treat them, and therefore were informed of by them. With respect to the effects of beer-shops upon the morals of the people, he was in possession of some of the most grievous and distressing facts. Hardly a petition came to him that was not accompanied by a letter, either from a magistrate, a grand-juror, an overseer, a high constable, or a reverend clergyman, all stating facts similar to what he was about to detail, and they were only to be taken as a sample. The chief police-officer and billet master of Halifax, where there was a population of 22,000, stated, that in the beer-houses there, gambling was very common—gambling by boys, and that in one case out of every two, they were frequented by boys and girls. He said that in these houses it was truly shocking to see girls for the purpose of prostitution, and boys for the purpose of availing themselves of the profligacy of the females. The noble and learned Lord would observe, that all the representations he had made, agreed in melancholy uniformity, as to these places being the resort for the gambling of boys, and the prostitution of girls. He was informed that the general management of those beer-houses was disgraceful; that many of them were kept by persons of the lowest character—persons who lived on the fruits of the prostitution of their own daughters, and who harboured reputed thieves. He supposed those were the persons to whom the petitioners of London referred in their petition, which had just been presented by his noble Friend, when they stated that beer-houses were places for persons in humble life to resort to to have a pint of ale and to enjoy themselves, as a temporary relaxation from the cares of business. The statements from Huddersfield were, that the wives and children of the poor men were exposed to the most painful examples of blasphemy and disorder; that the keepers of beer-houses admitted characters of the vilest description, and that men sent out their own children to follow a course of prostitution, that they might have money to spend in those houses, and that in doing so, they left others of more tender years in a state of sheer starvation. Examples were given, too shocking for him to read to the House, of the most abhorrent cases of female prostitution, and of such profligacy and crapulous vice, as he had never read or heard of before. In Leeds the convictions for drunkenness had increased four-fold since the passing of the Beer Bill. The high constable of Leeds attributed that entirely to the beer-houses. Now he would say, without meaning any offence to the common people, and without any desire to spare the feelings of those in the rank of their Lordships, that as to those which were vices in any rank of life—either gambling or drunkenness—the one being the parent of every mischief, and the other being the parent of every degree of dissoluteness in every rank, that they were ten thousand times worse for the common and industrious artizan and hard working man, than they were for the more elevated ranks of society. The time persons spent at such an occupation in their Lordships' rank was the mere fragment of their time, the money they spent in that way was the mere parings of their fortunes which they cast away; but to the poor man, such habits were destructive to his comforts, his industry, his honesty, and his mind itself. It was hardly possible that he could be an honest man—hardly possible that he could be an industrious man—utterly impossible that he could be a thriving man—if he indulged either in gaming or in drunkenness. Why were the state lotteries abolished? simply because the lower classes should not be induced or encouraged to gamble. While beer-shops had the effect of accustoming the common people to gamble, they generated dissipation of other sorts, in a lower class of people than would naturally be guilty of those excesses but for the beer-shops. Persons who went to licensed victuallers' houses either in town or in the country, were persons of a somewhat superior class in life to those who frequented beer-shops. They were better behaved persons, and they went to better-regulated places. To what good, or with what consistency should the clergy occupy themselves in inculcating piety and morals on a Sunday, and visiting their parishioners in order to tend their flocks and keep them in the right path,—to what good was it, that the Legislature should pass laws to punish crime, or that their Lordships should occupy themselves in finding out modes of improving the morals of the people by giving them education,—what, in the name of Heaven, could be the use of all the education they could bestow,—what the use of sowing a little seed here and plucking up a weed there, if those beer-shops were to be continued, that they might go on to sow the seeds—not of ignorance, but of that which was ten times worse—immorality, broad cast over the land, germinating the most frightful produce that ever had been allowed to grow up in a civilised country, and he was ashamed to add, under the fostering care of Parliament, and throwing the most baneful influence over the whole community? When he addressed their Lordships on these high grounds he really felt ashamed to descend to the mere petty question of finance. But if he did sink down to that, he would say, that he was perfectly confident that instead of a repeal of this bill being an injury to the revenue it would cause an increase of it. Why the utmost revenue which the beer-shops afforded was 100,000l., and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not receive that from beer-house keepers he would receive it from a very superior class of persons. He might prove the superiority of licensed victuallers to beer-shop keepers by looking at their average rating. In Rochdale, for instance, the average rating of licensed victuallers was 52l. a year, whereas the rating of the beer-house keepers was only 12l. a year. It was said, that in England from 1828 to 1839, there was an increase of 3,306,000 bushels in the consumption of malt, and that was attributed to the beer-shops. He would prove that it arose from no such cause, but that it resulted from an increase in the population of the country. The Beer-shop Bill did not extend to Scotland, but there an increase had taken place to a much greater extent in the consumption of malt. In England, its consumption had increased as one in eleven, while in Scotland it had increased as one in eight. It was nonsense, therefore, to attribute it to the Beer Bill. The object of his bill was not to extinguish beer-shops altogether, but to allow beer only to be sold but not consumed on the premises; thereby enabling the poor man to send to the public-house for his beer, but not to drink it on the premises. A great number of the licensed victuallers brewed their own beer. In the country there were 56,000 licensed victuallers, 5,000 of whom carried on their business in London, and of that 56,000, no less than 26,000 brewed their own beer. Of the beer-shops there were 45,000, of which only 16,000 brewed their own beer; and the whole of these 16,000 were in favour of his bill for regulating the beer-shops in the same way as the licensed. victuallers; namely, by not allowing them to sell beer to be consumed on the premises without a license from the magistrates. The great ground of objection to this measure was, that after having allured people by the existing bill to lay out their capital in beer-houses, it was now proposed to adopt a measure that would cause their ruin. It was absurd to talk of the capital they had employed; he would venture to say in many instances it did not exceed 12s. or 15s., and that it hardly ever exceeded 5l. But for his own part he would sooner give some compensation to these parties than allow the present intolerable nuisance to continue. Those who brewed their own beer, had perhaps laid out a capital of 50l. or 60l., but that would not be lost because they would be allowed to sell beer still, though not to be drunk on the premises. He felt that he had done no more than his duty in bringing forward the measure in order, if possible, to put an end to the dissoluteness and vice that existed among the lower classes, and such being his object, he trusted he should have the support of their Lordships. The noble Lord concluded by moving the second reading of the bill.

The Duke of Wellington,

in supporting the second reading of the bill, was anxious to say a few words. Very shortly after the Beer Bill passed, the country became aware that there were great objections to the measure, and from that time to the present he had invariably supported every measure that had been brought forward by any noble Lord, in order, if possible, to remedy the defects of the Act of 1829, but by some influence or other every attempt had proved unsuccessful. Believing the bill of the noble and learned Lord would be attended with great good, he should give it his support, and he earnestly recommended it to the attention of their Lordships. He should in committee do all in his power to render the measure perfect.

The Marquess of Westminster

had not been induced either by the eloquence or the arguments of the noble and learned Lord to alter the opinions he had always entertained upon the present subject, and he felt no doubt that before he sat down he should be enabled to convince their Lordships that the bill ought to be read a second time that day six months. If the bill passed he would venture to say, that instead of its being the ruin of 45,000 individuals, it would ruin 300,000. He thought, if the noble and learned Lord had devoted his eloquence and wrath to deprecate the gin-palaces, he would have selected a far more proper ob- ject on which to cast his indignation. But he supposed the noble Lord had refrained from such an attack, because the noble and learned Lord knew the powerful opposition he would have to encounter. He considered, that the gin-palaces and the licensed victuallers did far more to demoralize the people and injure their morals than the beer-shops. He, therefore, felt bound to shield them if possible from the cruel, unjust, and unfair attack which had been made upon them. If this bill passed, it would either drive the beer-shop-keepers to ruin, or to keeping public-houses. A beer-shop-keeper was called on every year to produce a certificate signed by six ratepayers, of his good conduct; he had to close his premises at ten at night, and he subjected himself to fines and penalties for the most trivial offence. If he served a neighbour with a pint of beer two minutes after the time of closing, he was liable to pay a fine of 40s., with perhaps 5l. costs, besides the risk of altogether failing in obtaining a renewal of his license. The noble and learned Lord had dwelt with peculiar emphasis and ability on the subject of thieves and prostitutes being harboured in beer-houses, but he believed they were harboured to a much greater extent in the houses of licensed victuallers. The noble and learned Lord had also talked of the increase of drunkenness, but there was as much drunkenness in the one species of house as in the other. He could not account for the extraordinary hostility the noble and learned Lord had manifested against the present Beer Bill, but he had been assured, with great gravity and earnestness, by some individuals with whom he had communicated, that it was to be attributed to the noble and learned Lord having purchased an estate in the South of France, and that he intended to become an importer of wine. One great objection, however, to the second reading of this bill was, that it ought to have been introduced first into the House of Commons, and he understood the House of Commons would not pass a bill for the repeal of a tax which had originated in their Lordships' House. Convinced that it would never become a law, he begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

The Duke of Richmond

felt he was taking the part of the poor when he called upon their Lordships seriously to reflect on what had been the consequences of sanctioning the establishment of these beer- shops, He knew many instances in which boys and girls of ten years of age had gone into secluded cottages in which beer was sold—their morals were contaminated, and they were shortly afterwards brought to the Sessions charged with serious crimes. In allusion to what the noble Marquess who had just sat down, had said, he would observe it was not very likely a bill to repeal a tax would be permitted to pass the House of Commons if it originated in the Lords; but that was no reason why the bill should not be referred to a Committee, so that they might be ready with any amendments for the bill that might come up from the Commons. The beer-shops made the public-houses worse than they would otherwise be. The noble Marquess wished gin-palaces were destroyed. So did he, for he believed they were worse than beer-shops—he hated and detested them, and if he were in office, the first thing he would direct his attention to would be to correct that detestable evil. A poor man ought to be allowed to buy beer to drink in his own cottage, so that his family would partake of it; and if some regulation of that kind could be devised, it would be very desirable. He believed, that all the disgraceful riots and tumults that took place in Sussex in 1830 were caused by the beer-shops—it was the first year the beer-shops came into operation. It would be an act of favour to most of the beer-shop-keepers to deprive them of their licences—for theirs was a losing concern; they were quite as much under the command of the brewers as any of the licensed victuallers, and they did not sell so good an article.

The Marquess of Salisbury

said, if the beer-shops were placed under the same restraint as the public-houses, their Lordships would have no complaint whatever against them. He was rather disposed to vote against the second reading, and wait for a bill which was in progress through the other House, but after what he had heard from the noble and learned Lord, he was inclined to allow the second reading to go, with the understanding, that ample time should be given before the bill was advanced another stage.

The Earl of Hardwicke

complained of the manner in which convictions against beer-houses were treated; in many cases the magistrates were brought into the Court of Queen's Bench, and actions brought against them for heavy damages. All that was so well understood, that con- victions were at an end, and there was no control over the beer-houses as the law at present stood. He hoped this matter would be taken up by her Majesty's Government, and that some clauses would be introduced to protect the magistrates and enable them to do justice.

Lord Wynford

explained relative to the practice of the Court of Queen's Bench, in cases of actions of trespass. He hoped in the bill now before their Lordships, a proper form of conviction would be provided to prevent the recurrence of these actions. [Lord Brougham: There is a form in the bill.] He was glad to hear it. He thought the evils of beer-shops were as great as they had been described by his noble and learned Friend, in his eloquent speech; but the evils of beer-shops sank into insignificance when compared with those of the gin-palaces. He hoped the Government would direct their attention to that very important subject. If he were a Member of the committee to which the present bill would be referred, he would move the insertion of a clause to prevent any person carrying on a beer-house who did not brew the beer on his own premises; and thus prevent his being, as was too frequently the case, the agent of some great brewer.

The Earl of Warwick

supported the bill. The evidence of the demoralizing effects of beer-shops in the county with which he was connected was most extensive and authentic.

The Earl of Harewood

said, that although he was connected with a very extensive district of this country, he was not commissioned to state anything on the subject, further than what he collected from the petitions which he had presented; but he could bear testimony to this, that he had never heard anything from any human being but a complaint of these beer-shops, and more particularly in the neighbourhood of the large manufacturing towns, where scenes were going on daily and nightly, which it was quite out of the power of the police and of the magistrates to control. This was almost the only subject he ever knew, on which there was one universal feeling expressed throughout the country. He should support the present motion, and vote for the bill going into a Select Committee, and should not consider the subject connected with revenue at all. He would say, for the benefit of the people, at all risk, do away with this system, which was one of the greatest evils that ever had been inflicted upon them. It was absolutely essential for the morals of the people that it should be done away with.

Lord Portman

said, that when this bill was introduced, which had been now so much complained of, he moved that it should be read a second time that day six months, and the noble and learned Lord on that occasion made a very eloquent speech in support of it, as he had now made in condemnation of it. However, as it was, he was happy the noble and learned Lord had now applied his great mind to it. He should have been disposed to have supported a bill for the absolute repeal of this Act. He believed, there could be no amendment of the bill in advance, it must be in retreat; and their Lordships would never effectually accomplish the object until the bill was entirely repealed. The object of their Lordships was, to supply the poor with good beer to be drank in their own houses; and the only way to do that, would be to facilitate the sale of beer by the brewer, to be drank off the premises. He should consent to the second reading of this bill, in the hope that in a Select Committee it might be made useful to the public. Nobody could take any part in the way of getting rid of the Beer Bill who did not do the greatest benefit to the poor.

Viscount Melbourne

said, that as this was a subject of very great importance, and as there seemed to be a general desire on the part of the House that it should be referred to a Select Committee, he should not offer any opposition to that; at the same time, he could not pledge himself or the Government in the other House to the adoption of this bill or any other bill on this subject.

Lord Brougham

said, that of course the Government and the other House would exercise their own judgment on the question, but he trusted to the good sense of the Members of the other House, that they would pay attention to the voices of all the grand jurors, the magistracy, and the respectability of the country. The noble Marquess (Westminster) entirely mistook him, if he thought he had changed his opinion as to the use of ardent spirits. If the use of ardent spirits could be put an end to that would be a great benefit to the public, but he had never been able to see a prospect of that yet. If the duty on spirits were increased, then in proportion would illicit distillation take place. He had thought, when he first brought a bill on the subject of making the trade in beer free, into the House of Commons, that if they gave better beer to the poor, that would discourage the poor from going to gin-shops, and upon that impression he acted. The popularity which the Government in the other House thought they could gain in the country by resisting a measure of the sort now proposed, was nothing short of a popularity to be gained by going against justice. There was a great disposition in the other House to go against the magistrates, and in that way to gain a popularity with such persons as kept these beer-shops; but he did not think that would tell in the long run. If there was to be an appeal to the country, it would then be for the Government to consider whether they would consent to lose the favour of the beer-shop keepers, or the favour of the licensed victuallers, to the amount of 56,000, scattered all over the country. He knew the influence of licensed victuallers, and they were not silent people. It was to be remembered, too, that in running up the score at the Treasury for votes, it was always considered that the publicans, the brewers, and the bankers, were three of the most important classes of persons to look to. That was according to his experience. [The Marquess of Westminster: And the clergy.] But the clergy went, on this occasion, with the three he had enumerated. There were the ladies, too, who were not an uninfluential body, and they were with him in this instance; so that if his noble Friend would only look at that score, he thought, that, on reflection, he must support this Bill. Things that be had known done twenty years ago, he was morally certain could not be done now. He had known magistrates at sessions refuse to give a new licence to a man, because he had not voted rightly. He was sure that would not be done now. The magistrates now had their conduct so narrowly scrutinized, that no persons led more the life of a toad under a harrow than they did. He thought, that in committee they could so shape the bill as to ensure justice being done to all parties. With respect to what the noble Marquess had stated, relative to the purchase he had made, such was its magnitude, that one of the noble Marquess's halls or picture-galleries could contain it. As to the wines there, they were bad, but they had good oil. He trusted that the noble Marquess would honour him with a visit, and if he did, he would show him a beautiful and healthy climate. He had no objection to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, provided it was understood that so referring the Bill did not delay it. If the House of Commons should refuse to receive the Bill, which he did not anticipate, he could not help it. Notwithstanding what his noble Friend had stated, he must say, that the effect of this bill would be to repeal the present existing measure. In conclusion, he felt no doubt that their Lordships would at once accede to the second reading of the bill.

The Marquess of Westminster

withdrew his amendment.

Bill read a second time.