HL Deb 23 June 1845 vol 81 cc1020-2
The Duke of Richmond

moved the third reading of this Bill.

Bill read 3a.

Lord Polwarth

approved of the principle of the Bill, which went to abolish public houses at toll-gates; but he thought that in thinly populated districts some provision should be made for the wants of travellers. Though he gave his assent to this measure on principle, he still thought some consideration should be had for those who had invested large sums in those toll-houses. He should therefore propose a clause, for the purpose of exempting from this Act all such districts as were thinly inhabited, and two miles from any town, village, or public house.

The Duke of Roxburgh

should vote for the passing of the Bill as it now stood. It was true that considerable sums of money were laid out on these houses; but the law only recognised a revenue drawn from the tolls, and from no other source. When it was seen how these houses were erected in the most populous districts, and in the suburbs of towns and villages—when it was mentioned what evils were brought upon travellers from this system—and above all, when it was borne in mind how the present houses tended to demoralize the people, he trusted their Lordships would not assent to any qualification whatever of the principle of this measure.

The Duke of Montrose

said, he had presented a number of petitions against this Bill. He supported the clause of his noble Friend (Lord Polwarth), as he knew that the carrier was frequently obliged to cross moors of an extent of nine or ten miles without meeting with a single public house or place of refreshment.

Lord Campbell

must oppose this clause, which, if inserted, would render the Bill not worth a farthing. Enormous mischief had been done by allowing these toll houses to be converted into public houses. All the petitions which had been presented proceeded on the principle that large sums had been advanced for making and repair- ing the turnpike gates, and that those who had made this outlay could not expect an adequate return, unless the tolls were increased by the profits of the toll keeper as the owner of a public house. But was this a fair source of revenue? It might as well be said that if these houses yielded a profit as brothels, they ought not to be interfered with; and he was informed that many of them merited that description. Was it to be endured that the morals of the people should be undermined for the sake of enabling parties to obtain their interest more regularly? Where there was a demand for public houses it would be supplied in the ordinary way. At all events, he was sure there ought to be an express prohibition, instead of a legislative sanction, of a practice which had done so much injury.

The Duke of Buccleuch

entirely approved of the principle of this measure; but thought, at the same time, something was to be said for the petitioners against it. He hoped the day was not far distant when all licenses to toll houses would be withdrawn; but, at the same time, he thought some consideration should be shown to those who had invested large sums of money on the faith of the law. He could not concur in the sweeping condemnation pronounced on these houses by the noble Lord (Lord Campbell). He admitted there was much immorality in them as to drunkenness; but as to the other vice, the announcement was new to him, and its commission was certainly not the rule. He thought the proposal as to two miles much too near, and to say what were "thinly - inhabited districts" would be found very difficult. There were, however, many remote parts of the country, the traffic of which was not sufficient to maintain an inn, and where it was most desirable (particularly when snow storms came on) there should be some place of refreshment. He thought more evil was done by the indiscriminate manner of granting licenses than by those toll gate public houses.

The Earl of Haddington

saggested "four or five miles distant from any public house," as an Amendment to the clause of the noble Baron (Lord Polwarth).

Lord Kinnaird

should vote against the clause. The trustees let these houses to the highest bidder, and had, therefore, no control over the holders.

Lord Ellenborough

Would it not be better to allow the licensing of the present houses, and no more, except in cases where public houses were more than five miles distant?

Lord Beaumont

That would extend the operation of the proviso of the noble Baron (Lord Polwarth).

The Duke of Richmond

The case stood thus—certain gentlemen (amongst others himself) chose to expend money on these toll gates, and, to get a return as quickly as possible, the public house system was attempted to be justified. 'Twas nonsense to say a Scotchman could not walk more than two miles without whisky. These houses were open every Sunday, and horrible scenes of riot and drunkenness took place in them. He found he must postpone this Bill to Friday, as he was informed by his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, that the Commons might object to it, as containing a money clause. The Bill was one of great importance, and he, for one, must say he could not understand why there should be one law for England, and another for Scotland.

Further debate adjourned to Friday.