§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that he would have to claim their Lordships' indulgence-, because he believed that he did not exaggerate when he said that this Bill dealt with matters among the most complex subjects of legislation during recent years. From 1824 to 1872, a period of 48 years, no fewer than 31 Acts of Parliament had been passed bearing, directly or indirectly, on the subject of licensing and the liquor laws, mating an average of one Act of Parliament for every eighteen months. In the course of the discussions which occurred in 1872, their Lordships became familiar with the subject, and their experience as justices of the peace further qualified them to judge of the matter of this Bill. There were three courses which Parliament might have pursued—one would have been to have abstained from all legislation and all restrictions, and another would have been to prohibit the sale altogether of intoxicating liquors; but he believed their Lordships would be of opinion that neither of these courses would have been practicable. As to the first, they had some experience in Liverpool, where, from 1862 to 1866, the magistrates afforded the greatest facility for obtaining licences; and although it was too much to say that there was absolute free trade in Liverpool for four years, at all events such a state 676 of things resulted from this modified experiment as showed that no effort in that direction could be satisfactory. He thought that after the experience of the last few years no one would refuse to admit that the happiness or misery of the people might be very much increased by the way in which they dealt with this question. A policy of regulation had therefore been adopted by Parliament. It was the duty of those who administered the law to promote public order without unduly trenching upon liberty; but obviously the State had a right to regulate a monopoly. The Act of 1872 did much to evolve order from chaos, and in reviewing what had been done in regard to the question he would begin with that date. The Act of 1872 was divided into 13 heads. In the five latter divisions this Bill would only make trifling alterations, but the changes proposed in the earlier divisions were of greater importance. As to illegal sales, the Bill dealt only with the comparatively small points—one relating to internal communication, and the other to the police. The important point to be dealt with, however, was the question of the hours of closing public-houses. By the Bill of 1872 the power of fixing the closing of houses was placed at the discretion of the magistrates and of the justices of the peace, so far as the country was concerned, to the extent of four hours, at the discretion of the magistrates. The power of the magistrates in respect to licensing public-houses extended over 800 districts, and in 200 of these districts the magistrates had so exercised their discretion as to cause the greatest anomalies to occur; for in certain districts houses were allowed to be open for the full time allowed by the law, while others were closed at the earliest period fixed by the Act. The justices had thus so varied the hours of closing as to cause the greatest dissatisfaction to all concerned. Now, while he had the greatest esteem for the judgment of the magistrates in cases depending on local knowledge of facts, he held that, in this respect, Imperial functions, which they were incompetent toper-form, and which belonged to Parliament itself, had been unfairly cast upon them. They administered justice admirably, they discriminated with the utmost acute-ness as to matters of character or of fact, but the duty of legislation did not properly 677 belong to them. In this Bill a great deal of the discretion given to the magistrates had been taken from them. They were, under the Act of 1872, left to decide upon the hours of opening and closing and other matters according to their own judgment, and he was afraid that, in many cases, they decided rather according to their preconceived notions and prejudices than according to the intentions of the Legislature when the Act was passed. The consequence was that great anomalies had arisen, and in adjacent districts different hours had been decided upon; the magistrates in some cases having decided to shorten the hours, and in others to allow the licensed houses to be open to the full extent of time permitted by the Act. The Bill now before their Lordships proceeded upon the principle that the discretion of the justices ought to be restrained. Perhaps it would be better to say that their discretion was abolished altogether; but when they were dealing with a country, the occupations of the inhabitants of which were so various as in that of England, it was very difficult to find any one intelligible principle which would be an unerring and satisfactory guide as to matters of fact affecting ail the different localities. There was, however, one principle about which he thought there could be no doubt, and that was, that if they applied as a test the density of population, and classified various parts of the country in that manner, they would have provided something uniform and intelligible, and capable of universal application according to the circumstances of the case. But, of course, there was a difficulty oven in deciding according to the density of population. By the Act of 1872 the metropolis was considered as one district, and all places outside came under one other denomination; but now, it was intended to have two classes. By the Act of 1872 the hours of keeping open beer-houses in the metropolis were from 5 to 12; in places above 2,500 inhabitants from 5 to 11; and in places under 2,500 inhabitants from 5 to 10. A great deal of the difficulty connected with the licensing question had arisen from the difference made between beer-houses and public-houses. Those who had considered the question would be of opinion that a great improvement in the law would be brought about by assimilating 678 the hours of closing as regarded beerhouses and spirit-houses. If beer-houses were to close at 10, and public-houses at 11, they were virtually giving a premium to the public-houses, by affording them the opportunity of supplying intoxicating liquors which the former did not possess. The present Bill proposed that the hours of closing both descriptions of houses should be uniform, and that proposal, if adopted, would do a great deal to clear the way for legislation on this subject. But in deciding upon this point it was not intended to fix the same hours for closing in the country as in the metropolis. The habits of the people were so different in London from what they were in the country that there was little difficulty in determining that the hours of closing in London ought to be later than those of the country. Having decided that point, some distinction must necessarily be made between urban populations outside the metropolis, and what for convenience might be called the rural populations. But having had that down as a general proposition it would be found that there was a difficulty in reducing it to practice, and in determining precisely what was country and what town. They all of them knew what London was. It was very easy to give a definition to the various parts which together comprised the metropolis. There were the various Parliamentary boroughs and the City, which might be included together; and, besides that, there was the area known as the Metropolitan Police District, or that again controlled by the Metropolitan Board of Works. In this Bill it was proposed that the metropolis should include the whole of the district under the Board of Works, as well as that comprised within a radius of four miles from Charing Cross and the City of London. But when they came to ask themselves how they were to apply the Bill to urban and rural populations, they were met by a difficulty. Indeed, the question of deciding what was a town rivalled in difficulty the question which came before the House of Commons many years ago of deciding what was a pound. It was proposed to define a town, as described for the purposes of the Public Health Act, 1872—And any collection of houses adjoining a town as so defined should, for the purpose of the provisions of this Act with respect to the closing of licensed premises, he deemed to he part 679 of such town after it had been declared go to be by an order of the county Licensing Committee having jurisdiction in the place where such houses were situated, provided that no urban sanitary district, whether including such adjoining houses or not, should be deemed a town unless it contained 1,000 inhabitants.So that what was a town was precisely defined in that part of the Bill. The urban sanitary districts were well known to the law. It was not intended that those districts having less than 1,000 inhabitants should come under the definition of a town. When, however, the matter came to be fully considered, it was found that our neighbours across the borders had framed a definition, and had met the case by the words "a populous place." The term was used in the Scotch Police Act of 1850, and was taken to mean "any village, place, or locality not being a rural borough or town," within the meaning of the Act of 34th William IV., and containing a population of 1,200 inhabitants or upwards. In 1862 the Police Act in Scotland was still further extended, and the definition of "populous place" was given to districts containing 700 inhabitants or upwards, and that applied to two or more contiguous towns, villages, places, or localities, not included in the 34th William IV. That being the case in Scotland, the Bill now before their Lordships provided that the urban population outside the four-mile radius from Charing Cross, and outside the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Board of Works, which was called the Metropolitan Police District, together with all places organized into an urban sanitary district where the population was over 1,000, should be deemed to be a populous place. Then, with regard, to a "populous place," the Bill defined it as meaning—any area which by reason of the number and density of its population, not being less than 1,000, the county Licensing Committee might by order determine to be a populous place.In that definition he thought the whole difficulty arising out of the question of what was town and what was country had been satisfactorily solved. The county Licensing Committee, which was appointed under the Act of 1872 by the Court of Quarter Session, had to decide from their local knowledge all cases within their jurisdiction, and to specify the boundaries of such towns or populous places. Having agreed upon uniformity 680 of hours for both public-houses and beerhouses, and defined a town according to density of population, he thought the House would be of opinion that the provisions of this Bill dealt satisfactorily with the most difficult questions underlying this subject; and although he would not say that those provisions were as a whole altogether free from objection, still he could not help thinking that the Bill would furnish a prospect of supplying an intelligible system of law with regard to this complicated subject. It was, then, proposed to repeal the adulteration clauses of the Act of 1872. In the very year in which that Act was passed another Act on the adulteration of food and drink was passed, and both received the Royal Assent on the same day. He thought it was very invidious to put any class of tradesmen under an exceptional law peculiar to themselves, unless there was absolute necessity for such a procedure. As a law had been passed dealing generally with this subject and making provision in the matter, the licensed victuallers were quite eon-tent to be placed under that Act, if the adulteration clauses of the Act of 1872, which they considered, and not unjustly, made an odious and invidious distinction, were altogether repealed. There were other provisions in the Bill now before their Lordships to which he would call attention. Clause 3 was entirely occupied with the subject of the hours of closing to which he had referred. He did not think he need trouble them upon the subject of Sunday closing. With regard to Clause 4, he would observe that a very difficult subject had been removed from controversy—namely, the subject of exemptions as to theatres. The closing hour in the metropolis was fixed at 12 by the Act of 1872; but it was found necessary to give some latitude in the neighbourhood of theatres to enable those who attended those places of entertainment to obtain refreshment on their leaving; but it was found extremely difficult and invidious to exercise this power, which was delegated to the Chief Commissioner of Police. In the present Bill the time of closing in the metropolis had been extended to 12.30, and therefore the necessity for these exemptions would be obviated, and he thought their Lordships would be of opinion that in providing uniformity in the hour of closing they were removing 681 a cause of complaint from the licensed victuallers, and at the same time conferring an advantage upon the inhabitants. With regard to this question of closing in the metropolis, he wished to point out to their Lordships that, although the Bill proposed to extend the hour of closing from 12 to 12.30, which appeared to give an extra half-hour, it was really not so, because, by the Act of 1872, as interpreted by the magistrates, a quarter of an hour was practically allowed for clearing the premises. No time would now be allowed for this purpose, and therefore it was practically only an extension for a quarter of an hour. Clause 5 provided that an order of exemption might be granted for the accommodation of any persons engaged in fishing and harvesting operations, but the houses were not to be open before 5 in the morning; and with regard to the hours of closing on Sunday afternoon, that was a matter which was left, within certain limits, to the decision of the licensing justices in places beyond the metropolitan district, and which would have to be decided upon questions of fact, according to the practice prevailing in the respective districts as to the hours of Divine Service. The duty of the licensing justices in this respect would be somewhat analogous to that exercised by the county licensing magistrates with regard to what were and what were not populous places. Then, Clause 8 would enable a person to take out a six days' licence, to enable him to sell intoxicating liquors on every day except Sunday, and also to be entitled to a remission of one-seventh of the duty. The cost of a licence formed a small part of the capital which a publican embarked in his trade, but still he thought that the principle of early closing and six-day licences ought to be encouraged; and as a matter of fact it was one which had been extensively made use of, and therefore it had been thought right to still further extend the advantages afforded in this respect by the Act of 1872. Clause 11 dealt with a very vexed question, in a way which he thought would work satisfactorily. The Act of 1872 made it necessary for a person to prove that he was a bonâ fide traveller Before a landlord could serve him with liquor; and it was at the landlord's risk if he supplied a person who had represented himself to be a traveller when it 682 was proved that that was a misrepresentation. Under the present Bill the person so misrepresenting himself might be proceeded against, and if it was proved that the landlord in serving him with drink truly believed that he was a bonâ fide traveller the justices could dismiss the summons against the landlord. The last section of the clause attempted to regulate rather than to define who were to be considered bonâ fide travellers. No person should be deemed to be a bonâ fide traveller unless the place where he lodged during the preceding night was at least three miles distant from the place where he demanded to be supplied with liquor. It was not provided by that section that any person who travelled three miles should be considered a bonâ fide traveller, but that no person should be so considered unless he had at least travelled that distance. Clause 14 dealt with the discretion of the justices, and a declaration by the Court that a record of an offence was to be made on a licence should be deemed to be part of the conviction or order of the Court in reference to such event, and should be subject accordingly to the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal. The justices had free discretion to record, or not, all convictions falling under the clause of the Act of 1872. That Act provided that a register should be kept with regard to these convictions, and in case of appeal the judges were directed before making any conviction to cause the register, or an extract from it, to be produced in Court before passing sentence, and, after inspecting the entries therein in relation to the licence of the offender, the Court should declare, as part of its sentence, whether it would or would not cause the conviction for such offence to be recorded on the licence of the offender, and if it decided that such record was to be made, the same was to be done accordingly. With regard to the power of constables to enter licensed premises—Clause 16—it was proposed to alter that part of the Act of 1872. Now, that the adulteration clauses were to be repealed there was not the same object in giving the police this power, and under this Bill they would not be able to enter the private apartments of the publican, unless they had grounds for thinking the provisions of the Act were being violated, and then a search warrant would be first required. The power of issuing search warrants 683 was referred to in subsequent sections, to which, however, he did not propose further to call their Lordships' attention. He believed the provisions of the Bill would remove some of the hardships which had pressed upon the licensed victuallers, and that they would at the same time meet the requirements of the public. The only other clause to which he would direct attention was the 26th, which provided that an application for the renewal of a licence should not be opposed unless notice of such opposition and the grounds of it were given beforehand. The Bill did not come before their Lordships as a sensational piece of legislation. It was a very moderate measure, and all it was intended to do was to remove some of the anomalies of the Act of 1872. Having had two years' experience of that Act they had been enabled to find out where its shoo pinched. If they agreed to pass this Bill, he believed they would find they had carried still further the beneficial principles of the Act of 1872, in having provided uniform and intelligible regulations for the trade for which they were legislating, and for the maintenance of public order amongst all classes of the community. His Lordship concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now road 2a—(The Lord Steward.)
§ LORD ABERDARE
said, their Lordships would concur with the noble Earl (Earl Beauchamp), who had moved the second reading, that the subject of this Bill was one of considerable importance. The Government indeed considered it of such importance, that it was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. In the other House of Parliament the Home Secretary introduced this measure as one of considerable importance. Now, nothing could be more clear than the statement of the noble Earl in explaining the details of the measure: but there was one thing connected with it which he had not explained. He had not explained why it was thought necessary to bring in this measure at all. Who had called for it? He might be answered, "Look at the elections." But they now knew how utterly hollow, unreal and factitious was the agitation against the Bill of 1872. That Act was first introduced in their Lordships' House by his noble Friend beside 684 him the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, (the Earl of Kimberley); it was received with general acceptance, and passed through the House almost unaltered. It went down to the Commons and passed that House also without any important alteration, except one having reference to the hours of closing. It was now objected against the Act of 1872 that it gave considerable discretion to the magistrates, and his noble Friend who had just addressed the House told their Lordships that the justices had largely exercised that discretion—indeed, his noble Friend showed by figures that they had done so;—but what his noble Friend ought to have shown, but had not, was that there had been any want of confidence in the way they had exercised it. He thought that when his noble Friend was objecting to the elastic hours under the Act of 1872 he must have forgotten the quarter from which a suggestion of such elasticity first emanated. It came from his noble Friend the Secretary for India, who when the Bill was under discussion in their Lordships' House asked whether it might not be necessary to have different hours in different places. In many of the cases referred to by his noble Friend who moved the second reading of these Bills, there had boon a restriction of the hours named in the Bill, and in others there had been an extension; but had the Government received any Memorials expressive of dissatisfaction from the localities in which the hours had been shortened? Had the Government any reason to think that those localities were dissatisfied? Had they not, on the contrary, abundant reason for believing that they were satisfied? From Liverpool, Birmingham, Chester, and other large towns he had presented Petitions in favour of retaining the powers of the Act of 1872, and to-day he had received a telegram from Manchester speaking of the success of its working in that important town. As to the metropolis, the hour of closing fixed by the Bill of 1872 was received with general approbation. It was admitted that there was a general desire on the part of the publicans that it should be 12 o'clock; but it was suggested that there should be a power of exemption in favour of houses in the vicinity of the theatres, as performances in most of them did not conclude till 685 after 12. It had been said that the persons for whose special benefit the extension was intended did not make much use of it; and that one of its effects was to enable persons to go from one public-house to another after 12 at night. The Home Secretary was reported to have said that disreputable persons availed themselves of the exempted houses after the other public-houses were closed at 12 o'clock. If that were so, did it not appear an argument against the proposal in the Bill to extend the general closing hour from 12 to 12.30? An hon. and learned Gentleman who at the elections denounced the Act of 1872 as most oppressive, and who spoke in very energetic language of the ignorance and imbecility of its author, had moved that the hour of closing fixed in this Bill should be changed from 12.30 to 12. He received a strong support from the metropolitan Members, and the majority in favour of the additional half-hour was only a small one. He thought the Home Secretary was unnecessarily nervous when he said he would not answer for the peace of London if all the public-houses were closed at 12 o'clock, he himself once said that if two-thirds of the inhabitants were invested with the power of shutting up all public-houses against the will of the remaining third, he should be sorry to be responsible for the peace of the metropolis; but to say that the tranquillity of London would be endangered by the refusal of Parliament to extend the hour of closing by half-an-hour appeared to him to be an exaggeration. To the representation referred to by his noble Friend who moved the second reading, that practically the extension was only a quarter of an hour, he wished to give a most distinct denial. He knew the Lord Chief Justice had decided that a reasonable time was to be allowed to persons to finish the liquor with which they had been served; but inquiries he had made into the matter led him to think that in nine cases out of ton the houses were closed almost immediately the hour had struck. When the present Government brought in their Bill, such a strong feeling against it was exhibited on both sides of the House of Commons, that they were compelled to bring forward almost a new measure on going into Committee. Having fixed the hour of closing 686 for the metropolis at 12.30, they proceeded to fix that for what they termed "populous places" at 11, and that for "country places" at 10. That would have been all very well had they defined with precision what was the moaning of the indefinite term "populous places." But what definition had they given of that term? None at all. The Bill contained no guide to the justices on the subject—all that was done by the Bill was to give the Licensing Committee a roving Commission to go through the country and to declare of their own will what were populous and what were not populous places. Now, as the public-houses and the beer-houses in the country were pretty numerous, he thought they might expect some strong expressions of opinion from those who were to administer the new law. Turning to the question of penalties, he observed that in framing the Act of 1872, the then Government had kept in view the fact that those in the occupation of public-houses were in many cases not the owners of the establishments, but were the mere servants of the brewers and distillers, to whom one-half of the public-houses and beer-houses in the country belonged; and they did their best to secure the maintenance of good order in all such houses, and to prevent the real owners of them from evading the penalties incurred for misconduct by merely charging the nominal owners—their servants; but the penalties under this Bill would not affect the real owners, but only their servants. The results of the Act of 1872 had exceeded the most sanguine expectations that had been formed of it. Thus in 1869 the number of public-houses was 61,893, and in 1873 it had increased to 62,261; while the number of convictions for offences, which were 3,152 in 1869, had diminished to 2,297 in 1873—being a reduction of 27 per cent. The whole of that reduction was attributable to the beneficial operation of the Act of 1872. The forfeitures of licences, which were 127 in 1869, were only 13 in 1873. He would now come to beer-houses. He found that in 1869 the number of beerhouses was 46,298, which number was in 1873 reduced to 40,923, showing a decrease of 5,375, while the convictions also, which had been 6,371 in 1869, were 1,495 in 1873, showing a reduction of 4,876 in those years, and the forfeitures 687 were only 14 in 1873, as compared with. 1,950 in 1869. One great object of the Act of 1872 was to induce respectable men to enter the trade; and these figures showed, he thought, conclusively, that this result had been attained. Yet, with these figures and these facts before them, and with the knowledge also that since 1872 there had been a great increase in the consumption of liquors, what had the Home Secretary done but introduce a measure for lengthening the hours of drinking and striking away some of the most effectual securities of the Act of 1872 for the good conduct of the public-houses of every description? Why should their Lordships' House and the other House of Parliament have in 1872 taken away from justices any power of discretion in endorsing licences, but because it was clear from the reports made to the Government that that discretion was not always well exercised? Why, also, he would ask, should not the clause imposing a minimum penalty, when the circumstances did not justify the endorsement of the licence, be retained? The Chief Constable of a large county in the centre of England had stated to him that the penalties imposed in different divisions of the county for breaches of licence averaged in the highest £2 15s. 9d., while in the case of the lowest it was only 2s., and between these two amounts there was every variety. It was from a knowledge of these facts that the late Government had insisted on interfering to a certain ox-tent with the action of justices. He regretted exceedingly that while the Act was working well, while offences had diminished, and no popular feeling had been manifested in favour of the extension of hours, the Government should have thought it necessary to introduce a Bill of this kind. On the other hand he must admit that there were some parts of the Bill that would effect improvements in the law. For instance he thought that the assimilation of the hours of refreshment as regarded public-houses and beer-houses would be useful, and he was glad that it contemplated the removal of the ambiguities which existed at the licensing meetings of justices. The Act of 1862 had only consolidated the powers given to the police to enter the premises of publicans, and any person who thought an alteration had been made in this respect was deluded. That 688 power had been in existence since the first year of William IV., and had since been extended up to 1872, when power was given to the police to enter every part of the premises. Their Lordships would see the necessity for this; for what would otherwise prevent a landlord from inviting those who desired to continue in his house drinking, to come into his private room, or to prevent those immoral practices which were carried on in too many public-houses? The entertainment of his friends by a publican after the hours of closing was provided for in the Act of 1872, but the onus of proof lay on him. All throughout the country the magistrates and the Chief Constables were taking up a position against the extension of the hours during which public-houses could be kept open. He trusted that their Lordships would not remove from the Statute Book any of those safe-guards for public order, decency, and temperance which the Act of 1872 had established.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
said, he would make but a few observations at this stage of the Bill. No one could be surprised at seeing the noble Lord (Lord Aberdare) anxious when an attempt was made to deal with a measure which it had been his duty to prepare and to pass through the other House. We were all apt to look with favour upon our own children, and as a father he could appreciate the feeling with which the noble Lord regarded this Bill. As, however, parents frequently regarded with too much favour the imperfections of their offspring, he was afraid the noble Lord had not quite impartially approached the consideration of the defects of the Bill of 1872, and the manner in which this Bill proposed to remedy them. That Bill was, no doubt, a great step in advance, and for what he had done then, and on previous occasions with more or less success, the noble Lord deserved great praise; but the noble Lord not only did not appreciate the further improvements the Government proposed to make on the legislation of 1872, but he went further, and said that the Government were not entitled to deal with the Act of 1872 unless they were prepared with a scheme that would give universal satisfaction. Now, he (the Duke of Richmond) feared that if they were to wait until they could prepare measures that would give universal 689 satisfaction, the Statute Book would not be filled with many efforts at legislation.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
said, that the experience of two years having satisfied the Government that the Act of 1872 contained certain defects which were capable of remedy they had thought it their duty to attempt to legislate, although the subject was no doubt one which led to a great variety of opinion. The Government could not avoid the conclusion that some of the clauses of the Act of 1872 pressed with undue severity upon various classes of the community, and that it contained restrictions upon trade which it would be desirable to remove. The testimony as to defects of some parts of the Act was such that it could not be put aside; and though the noble Lord might object to the present Government meddling with his Act, they had thought it their duty to remedy these defects. Perhaps the noble Lord remembered that when he was Secretary of State a case came before the Court of Queen's Bench in connection with the Licensing Act, 1872. The question turned upon the liberty of selling intoxicating liquor at fairs. It was necessary on that occasion to lead the Courts through a maze of Acts of Parliament, extending as far back as Edward VI., and Mr. Justice Blackburn remarked that "he hoped he should not be thought very malicious when he expressed a wish that the Home Secretary, when questions on this Act arose, would come and sit beside him and help him to interpret this undigested mass of legislation."
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
The Government had attempted to remove them as far as they could. Then, the Adulteration of Food Act received the Royal Assent on the same day that the Licensing Act of 1872 became law, and Her Majesty's Government thought it invidious to subject any particular trade to exceptional legislation on that point. The operation of the Act of 1872 had in some respects been very satisfactory. They had the reports of the Chief Constables, which had been had before the other House, and which bore testimony that it was satisfactory as to the general operation of the Act.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
said, that if the evidence of the Mayors had been had on their Lordships' Table he had not seen it. No doubt the streets had been more orderly since the hours of keeping open the public-houses had been restricted; but the argument might be pushed too far. If Parliament closed all the public-houses at 10 o'clock the police would be still better satisfied, and the towns would be even quieter. It did not follow, however, that drinking would not be going on, and drunkenness might occur under more unsatisfactory circumstances than at present. Mr. Dunne, Chief Constable of the counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland, after reporting that in the charges of drunkenness there had been an increase of 808, went on to say—This increase is to a great extent, I think, traceable to high wages with less work, and the habit of taking drink to private houses for the purposes of drinking there after the public-Louses are closed. This habit is generally spoken of as 'the bottle system,' and is resorted to as a mere evasion of the law.It would appear, therefore, that shorter hours did not of necessity cause a decrease of drunkenness. It was no doubt a remarkable fact that notwithstanding the restrictions upon the trade and the legislation which had been brought to bear on the subject, it appeared that the crime of drunkenness had increased during the last 10 years. In 1863 the convictions for drunkenness and disorderly conduct were 94,745. The number went on gradually increasing until in 1873 it had reached 182,941—or nearly double what it had been 10 years previously. No doubt the increase might Be partly owing to the increased vigilance of the police, but the fact remained that within the last 10 years the legislation which had been put into action had not had that effect on drunkenness which their Lordships so much desired. In fact, the steady increase every year, notwithstanding their restrictive laws, was calculated to suggest a doubt whether these laws were as beneficial as people imagined. It appeared, moreover, from the police tables that the more restricted the hours the larger the proportion of drunkenness to population. In towns where the hours of opening the public-houses were from 5 A.M. to 11 P.M. the convictions for drunkenness 691 were in King's Lynn 1 in 310; Maidstone, 1 in 569; Colchester, 1 in 425; Peterborough, 1 in 375. On the other hand, in Hull, where the hours were from 7 to 10.30, the convictions for drunkenness were 1 in 80; while in Liverpool, where the hours were from 7 to 11, they were 1 in 27. All this showed that shortening the hours did not prevent the increase of drunkenness. The earlier closing of public-houses had not, therefore, had the effect which might have been supposed, and which had been attributed to the Act of 1872. The noble Lord objected to the discretion of the magistrates being taken away with regard to the hours of opening and closing public-houses; but the Government could not shut their eyes to the Reports which were had before them, and in these Reports, almost without exception, they found recommendations that the hours should be uniform. Captain Elgin, Inspector of the Northern District, said—I consider that uniformity in the times of opening' and closing-would IKS an improvement upon the present arrangement, inasmuch as the discretionary power of fixing the hours now vested in the licensing justices not unfrequently causes anomaly and dissatisfaction.Colonel Bruce, also, the Chief Constable of Lancashire, said—It is very desirable that the hours of closing should he defined by the Act and not left to the discretion of magistrates, which, owing to different views taken by the different benches and by different magistrates, causes confusion in police arrangements and leads to unpleasant differences.These officers recommended that there should be a uniform hour, not an hour to be fixed by the magistrates. But the Chief Constables were not the only authority on the point—indeed, from what had taken place, and from information that had reached the Government, this would appear to be very much the opinion of the bulk of the magistracy throughout the country; for in the Return moved for by Mr. Molly it was stated that out of 890 licensing districts 690 left the hours exactly as fixed by the Act to come into force, there being only 200 in which changes were made. Their Lordships all knew in the different districts with which they were connected, how anxious the magistrates were to do their duty in this matter, and the great trouble they took. Unpaid as they were, and above reproach or suspicion, he 692 thought they might safely trust them with the power of dealing with the justice of the country; but different benches might have different views with regard to the closing of public-houses—one bench might be a strong teetotal one, while the neighbouring bench might have a bias in quite another direction. It was not a convenient thing that the closing of houses should be loft to the discretion of magistrates, because they could not altogether exercise that power with satisfaction; but he ventured to think it did not lay in the mouth of the noble Lord (Lord Aberdare) to say anything against that provision of the Bill, because when his noble Friend (the Earl of Kimberley) introduced his measure in 1872 the hours were fixed in the Bill, and it was only owing to pressure and the lateness of the Session that he was induced to give the discretionary power to magistrates; therefore they were only carrying out the matured views of the late Government, and it was not putting it too strongly to say that if in the month of August, 1872, the noble Lord had been enabled to carry out his views in dealing with the subject of the hours in that Bill, it would have been exactly what was now proposed, for he only gave way when he found he could not carry his Bill through Parliament without making that concession. Practically, the noble Lord's proposal did not then differ very materially from that in this Bill. Without trespassing further on the time of their Lordships with reference to the question of hours, he would just touch on one or two points connected with other portions of the Bill to which the noble Lord had alluded. He thought there would be a great advantage in the security which this Bill gave to persons of good character who might be desirous of entering into or enlarging their business. Such a person, interested in premises about to be constructed for the purposes of the trade, might apply to the licensing justices for a provisional grant of a licence for such premises; so that when the premises were finished—perhaps at the end of one or two years—he would be able to commence business at once. Again, where on conviction a licence was forfeited without the disqualification of the premises, the owner might apply to the justices for an endorsement of the licence, which would enable him to carry on the business until 693 the next licensing day. Then the clause in the Act of 1872, mating it compulsory on the magistrate to inflict a fine of at least 20s. for the most trivial offence, was not at all satisfactory, and in his opinion the alterations to be made in the law in that respect would be a great improvement. The Bill now proposed that this compulsion should not commence until the second or subsequent offence. Then, again, the manner of endorsing the licences was, he conceived, more satisfactorily dealt with in this Bill than in that of 1872. Many cases would arise where great hardships would be inflicted by a magistrate being compelled to endorse a licence because of a previous conviction for some petty offence. The present Act empowered the magistrates to call for the register of licences, and to decide after inspection whether they would not direct the present offence to be endorsed on the licence. Then as to the power of the police to inspect the premises, that power would still exist, although the police would not be invited, as they were by the Act of 1872, to go into the domestic parts of the house, which might have been necessary in dealing with adulteration of the liquors sold, but was no longer necessary when that part of the Act was taken away. There was also in this Bill a definition of the bonâ fide traveller which might be useful; while the clause enabling the publican to entertain his private friends, introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth), was a very proper one. He had thus endeavoured to touch on the main points raised by the noble Lord. All those points—except that relating to the bonâ fide traveller—were in the Bill as introduced by the Government, and he hoped he had said enough to induce their Lordships to give it a second reading. The object of the Government was, not to supplant, but to supplement the legislation of the late Government; and, while considering the wants of the public, they were desirous of giving relief to that very respectable body of traders upon whom they thought the operation of the Act of 1872 had most severely pressed—an operation which he felt sure it was not the intention of the late Government to occasion, and which he knew it was the intention of the present Government to remove.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, he might be open to the reproach of an undue predilection for the Act of 1872, for although the Bill was not his, yet, as he had introduced it in their Lordships' House, it might in some sense be said to be his child by adoption. He believed that the Bill when introduced was a necessity; but still, like his noble Friend behind him (Lord Abordare), he was agreeably surprised by the great success of the working of the Act. If the Bill had not been a good one, he would have been no party to it; but the subject was so difficult, the matter was so much disputed, and so great an irritation had been caused throughout the country by previous attempts at restrictive legislation, that he was really surprised at the acquiescence the Act of 1872 had met with from the great bulk of the population; although to some extent it had excited great animosity on the part of the publicans. His noble Friend behind him and himself quite admitted that some clauses of the present Bill would be improvements upon the existing law. One of these was the clause that enabled a person who intended to erect a public-house to lodge plans and obtain a provisional licence; another improvement was the clause which provided for the issue of occasional licences for fairs and races; and there were other points in respect of which this Bill would effect substantial improvement. On the other hand, there were some points which might be amended in Committee. What his noble Friend (Lord Aberdare) most complained of in this Bill was that one of its main provisions—that relating to the discretion of magistrates—had been materially altered. When the Bill of 1872 was introduced, the two great points to which attention was directed as those upon which the policy of the Act depended were the hours and the penalties. The Bill as he (the Earl of Kimberley) introduced it, and as it left this House, contained fixed hours, and it was therefore obvious that the then Government were of opinion that fixed hours were to be preferred before elastic hours; but discussion in the other House showed that elastic hours were preferable, and since then we had obtained—what was better than the decision of a Government—the experience of two years, which showed that, on the whole, the elastic 695 system had worked well. He did not assert that in some cases it might not have been open to the objections named; occasionally the exercise of discretion might have caused dissatisfaction; but, on the other hand, we must expect dissatisfaction under a hard-and-fast line; and, upon the whole, looking to the differences of opinion which existed in various parts of the country, he thought it had been convenient that there had been a power of varying the hours to a certain extent. He believed the operation of this Bill would be, upon the whole, to restrict considerably the hours within which public-houses would be open, because the 10 o'clock rule would embrace many places in which they were not now closed so early. On the question of penalties he would not attempt to follow his noble Friend, nor to enforce his argument that a minimum penalty was required; but it was notorious—and there was no blinking the fact—that in many small places the justices were to a large extent in the hands of the brewers, and the result was that the penalties imposed were practically of an illusory character, and, in point of fact, the law was not carried out. Their Lordships who acted on the Bench with rural magistrates were not in a position to appreciate the force of the objection to there being no minimum penalty in the Act. He believed the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) strongly advocated a minimum penalty last year. As to the record of convictions upon the licence, to which he attached great importance, there was a greater difference than might at first sight appear between leaving endorsement optional with the magistrate and making it compulsory in certain grave cases; but on the whole he did not object to the provision which left it to the judgment of the Court whether the conviction should or should not be endorsed on the licence. As to the visitation of public-houses, the noble Duke said that the Act of 1872 invited the police to enter the private apartments of licensed victuallers whenever they thought proper, but that by this Bill that power was taken away. The change proposed, however, was reduced to a minimum when it was said that the pro-sent law invited the police to search, and the Bill gave them power to search without inviting them to do so. He should be quite content as long as the 696 police possessed the necessary power and the law was enforced, whatever might be the grounds on which they acted. On the whole, he could not congratulate the publicans on having obtained any great boon in this Bill. Leaving the details of the Bill for discussion in Committee, he would only entreat their Lordships carefully to consider the clause relating to the hours in "populous places," and, above all, the definition by which that phrase was explained in the Bill. His objection to it was that it spoke of density of population without reference to area; so that 1,000 persons might make a populous place of an area of 500 square miles, which clearly could not be intended. It was absolutely necessary that the magistrates should receive more definite instructions than the Bill gave them. It was not the wish of his noble Friend and himself to embarrass the Government by obstructing the progress of the Bill, and so far as by police regulations it would check the spread of drunkenness, they would do all they could to improve it.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill road 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.
§ House adjourned at half past Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.