§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
*THE BISHOP OF LONDON,
in moving the Second Reading, reminded their Lordships that, in presenting the Bill to the House shortly before Easter, he had made a statement of its scope, and stated that he had received a number of Petitions in support of it from various branches of the Church of England Temperance Society throughout the country, as well as from the Knights of Temperance. The purpose of the Bill was to deal at once with the great temperance question, and in such a way 734 as to be permanently effectual, while, at the same time, it should begin to operate immediately. As far as he could see, it did not interfere with other proposals before their Lordships, or the other House of Parliament. The Bishop of Chester's Bill, which was put down for Second Reading on Monday next, was not in the slightest degree interfered with by this measure, to which, if this were carried, there was nothing to prevent its being adapted. The first proposal of the Bill was the substitution of Licensing Boards for the present Licensing Justices. The reason for that proposal was partly the peculiar nature of the work of granting licences, and partly the general public demand that everything of the kind should be in the control of the public. Whether a particular house should be licensed or not was not a question of right as between one man and another individually, but of what was best for the interests of a locality. Now, he had no doubt that in past times it was a good thing that the question whether or not a licence should be granted to a house in a particular locality should be left to persons of superior education, such as Magistrates; but all that kind of paternal government became more and more unsuitable as people began to feel that they were able to discern what was best for their own interests, and to claim that they should themselves have the decision of all such questions. It was better a great deal that the power of dealing with licences should be put into the hands of those who were elected directly by the people, than that it should be left to others who, if they decided rightly, yet did not carry the people along with them in the same degree. He did not mean to say the Magistrates had discharged their duties wrongly, though he thought, to a great degree, they had shown themselves not quite aware of the real state of the case in regard to the traffic in intoxicating liquors. The Magistrates were originally entrusted with the power of granting licences distinctly on the understanding that the granting of licences should be governed by considerations of the good of the community at large; and, going back as far as 1633, it had been then distinctly declared that the Magistrates in particular cases had not been sufficiently alive to their duty, having 735 licensed a great many more public-houses then were necessary. The people knew what was good for them much better than any other class could decide. Men in their Lordships' position in life had very little idea of the strong feeling existing among the people with regard to the matter of temperance. He did not think their Lordships were aware how very many there were who were struggling, and struggling in vain, against the propensity to drink, and who would welcome any means of diminishing their temptation. It was very easy to say to a man that he could keep out of public-houses; but that was, practically, only telling him to overcome the most terrible temptation to which he could be exposed. He had seen men throw themselves upon their knees in earnest petition that something should be done to relieve them from such a terrible curse. Their Lordships could not understand such things, and it was only the people who were themselves the victims of the temptations who were fair judges of what ought to be done in removing them. A large number of drunkards would be glad to elect Boards who would diminish very much the number of public-houses in their immediate neighbourhood. It would be for the good of the whole community if such control as he asked for should be given to the people, and sooner or later it must be given. He believed their Lordships would find that the proposal now made was free from any real danger. He proposed that these Licensing Boards should have precisely the same licensing powers as the Magistrates had now, and be subject to the same restrictions as would be put upon Magistrates by such a Bill if the Magistrates still remained the licensing power. He proposed that those who were to elect the Boards should be the ordinary electors who voted for Members of Parliament. If these electors wore trusted to choose a Legislature for the whole country, it was not very much to entrust them with the election of these Boards. He did not propose to interfere with the Sessional Divisions existing at present. The Boards were to be elected for three years. They would have precisely the same powers and duties as the Licensing Justices had now, and would have their regular Sessions, at which they would have to decide the questions that 736 came before them, and see that the business was kept on a proper footing. All licences would be granted by them alone. The licences now granted by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue would not be granted in future, except after they had been sanctioned by the Licensing Board. The Licensing Board would decide whether the licence should be granted or not, and then the Excise licence would be grantable if the Commissioners of Inland Revenue saw fit to grant it. It was proposed that five years after the passing of the Act a new state of things should begin. It was proposed to restrict the kinds of licences to five—first, ordinary publicans' licences to sell by retail both off and on the premises; secondly, refreshment-house licences to sell wine and beer to be consumed in those houses by persons taking meals there; thirdly, off-licences to sell wine and beer not to be consumed on the premises; fourthly, hotel licences to be granted in regard to persons lodging or taking meals therein; and, lastly, special licences for railway refreshment rooms. The Licensing Boards would be empowered to receive evidence, and would be subject in all these matters to the same provisions as the Licensing Justices were under the Ale House Act of 1828 and subsequent Acts. At the end of five years there would be a reduction in the number of public-houses. That was the second most important article in the Bill. It was proposed that at the end of five years places, exclusive of hotels and railway refreshment-rooms, should be limited to one for every 1,000 of the urban population, and one for 600 of the rural population. Between the passing of the Act and the end of five years the Licensing Boards would be required to refuse the renewal of so many licences in each succeeding year as to bring down the whole number to what he had stated. In the first year a fifth of the number of houses to be closed would be suppressed, in the second year another fifth, in the third year a third fifth, in the fourth year a fourth fifth, and in the fifth year the remainder. It was proposed that in each case there should be given to the holders of licences so suppressed compensation calculated upon three years' net profit of the house. That compensation was to be paid by those who still retained 737 their licences, and who would thus, in effect, buy out their competitors in the trade. Compensation was to be paid in all cases of suppression, except when the licences were suppressed on the ground that the house was disorderly or in any way mis-conducted. It was not contended that this was the only mode of compensation, or that it was of necessity the right amount of compensation. There might be considerable difference of opinion on these points; but the promoters of the Bill wore agreed that the compensation, whatever it might be, should come out of the pockets of those whose licences were renewed—that the trade should be compelled to purchase out those who were to leave the trade. In order that justice might be done between those who would have to give up the trade and those who would remain in it, it was proposed that the compensation should be provided in this way—that every holder of a licence should be compelled to make a statement of his net profits of the preceding three years, so that if a man put himself down at too little, and his house was suppressed, that would be the measure of his claim; whilst if his house was not suppressed and he had put himself down at too much, that would be the measure of his taxation towards the suppression of the other houses. He believed that this arrangement would work very effectively, and that it would be found to be a just basis to proceed upon. There might be special cases in which some hardship, some possible injustice, might be done, and the Bill provided that such cases should be dealt with by arbitration—that an arbitrator should be appointed to decide whether a man had or had not sent, in a claim for too much or too little. In his opinion this was a just and adequate amount of compensation; but if the members of the trade thought there was a better mode they could propose it. Provided that the compensation was paid by those whose houses were not suppressed, the point did not. much concern the country at large. He knew that a great deal might be said on this matter of compensation. When he introduced the Bill he said that he thought the licence-holders wore entitled to some compensation, because they were carrying on a trade which was and had been long sanctioned by the law, but that they 738 had no claim to high compensation. This claim to compensation was very seriously interfered with by the fact that it could not be said that the members of the trade really observed the law. The law required that intoxicating drink should not be supplied to a man who, to all appearances, had already had enough; and it would undoubtedly be a strong objection to the renewal of a man's licence if it was known and proved that, time after time, persons left his house in an intoxicated state. The law put upon the licence-holder the duty of seeing that his trade was not doing the dreadful mischief which it was in fact now doing. He was ready at once to admit that it was a difficult duty to discharge. He was told it was often hard to toll when a man was nearly tipsy, for a regular toper acquired a certain power of appearing perfectly sober, but on leaving the public-house would fall down in the street and be unable to get up again; and publicans complained it was very hard that they should be looked upon as not observing the law because these people would make themselves drunk. No doubt, it was often difficult to perceive when a man had had enough to drink; but if the licence-holder knew for certain that, whenever it was proved that three men had left his house in an intoxicated condition he would at once forfeit his licence, he would soon be able to find out when a man had had enough or was intoxicated. Moreover, the trade was a very profitable one; the granting of a licence at once enhanced the value of a house, and they had all the more right, therefore, to insist that the licence-holder should discharge the duties the law imposed upon him. They wanted places for the sale of intoxicating liquors which would not manufacture drunkards by the hundred thousand. If they could only get such places there would be no reason why they should interfere with the liquor trade any longer; but, as things stood, there was this perpetual sequel to the granting of licences, that a large proportion of drunkards followed. It should be borne in mind, in reference to compensation, that the trade made its large profits by really running counter to the spirit of the law, and doing that which the law had endeavoured by every possible means to prevent. The reduction in the number of public-houses under the Bill would be complete at the end of 739 five years. He supposed there was no point on which those who had studied the matter were more completely unanimous than on the need there was for the reduction in the number of public-houses. For his own part, he did not believe that the reduction in the number of houses would be a panacea—that it would altogether stop drunkenness, or that, in certain places, it would very much interfere with it. But he was sure of this—that, taking the country as a whole, a diminution of the temptation would very much reduce the number of those who were victims to it. The present state of things seemed to him to be scandalous. The labouring man could not take a walk into the country without being brought face to face with the temptation on every hand. He felt the strongest sympathy with the women who so often told him they would be able to keep their husbands sober if it were not for the number of public-houses in their way. If a man was fighting the battle against the temptation to drink, it was very hard and cruel that his victory over himself should be made impossible by the temptation being perpetually placed in his way. He believed, therefore, that if they could largely reduce the temptations to drink they would largely reduce the amount of intoxication. It was proposed that not the end of five years licences should not be granted except to the holders of houses of a certain value. The small houses were responsible for a great proportion of the mischief that was now done. Many of them were in back streets, and less under the observation of the police than the larger establishments. They manufactured drunkards by the score, and it would be well if their numbers were reduced. Clause 14 proposed to put an end to the system of granting licences to people who carried on another business besides that in respect of which the licence was asked for. The sale of tobacco would, however, be excepted from the operation of the clause. The existing system enabled a great many people to obtain intoxicating liquor under the pretence of going to a shop for quite another purpose. The promoters of the Bill did not feel that they could separate the sale of tobacco from the sale of intoxicating liquors, and he did not think much would be gained 740 were the separation effected. But they certainly thought it would be a great gain to get rid of the union of two businesses, one of which was the sale of intoxicating liquors, which people were enabled to obtain when apparently transacting other business conducted on the premises. It was a well-known fact that the number of women convicted of drunkenness had certainly been increasing for some time past.
THE BISHOP OF LONDON
said, they were founded upon Reports of the Magistrates. He could procure them for the noble Earl.
THE BISHOP OF LONDON
said, that women, it was well known, were largely tempted to drink by the facilities which existed for obtaining liquor without any publicity. The Licensing Boards would have full power to make all such orders as were now made by the Magistrates with respect to the hours during which public-houses should remain closed. The Boards would be allowed to sanction the opening of public-houses on Sunday; but unless such sanction were given the premises would remain shut. It was difficult to over-estimate the mischief that was now done by the Sunday trade, Sunday being the holiday of the working man, when he was specially tempted to drink. Occasional licences and special exemptions would also be in the hands of the Licensing Boards. He did not think that Magistrates had always done the right thing when they had granted occasional exemptions. He remembered an occasion when he consecrated a church at 11 o'clock in the morning, and, by the permission of the Magistrates, the public-houses remained open on that occasion until 11 o'clock at night. That, he thought, was a strange sort of sequel to the consecration of a church. Dancing, singing, and music licences would be under the control of the same Licensing Boards; and they were not to grant such licences, except on special occasions, to the holders of licences for the sale of 741 intoxicating liquors. It was proposed that Inspectors should be appointed by the Licensing Boards, to whom would be entrusted the super vision of licensed premises. As long as the duty of supervision was imposed upon the police it could not be thoroughly performed, for they had too many other things to do. He could not say that the law was at present enforced by the police, nor could it be really expected. In reference to whether a house was misconducted or not, the police standard was the ordinary character of the public-houses of the place, and if one was worse than the rest they reported it as a badly-conducted house. In short, they picked out the worst cases; and it seemed natural that should be their view of the matter—not to bring the houses up to the level of the law, but only up to the level of the average condition of the public-houses in the place. The Inspectors, on the other hand, having nothing else to do, would be able to pay surprise visits, and to look in at all times, and thus the law would be much better enforced than at present. The third part of the Bill dealt with the registration of clubs. Clubs which were nothing else than drinking clubs were very numerous in London. He knew one such club which numbered 1,000 members or more, and which called itself a Radical club, although, in reality, it was not political at all. These clubs were very difficult to deal with; yet more drink was consumed in them than in public-houses. They were not under the jurisdiction of the Magistrates; they had no licences to lose; their hours were not restricted; and they were in no peril if they were conducted in a disorderly manner, unless the disorder amounted to an undoubted breach of the peace. The proposal in the Bill was that all clubs, those in Pall Mall as well as those in less fashionable neighbourhoods, should be registered, and should pay fees for their registration. Power would be given to the police to enter any club which they had reason to believe was carried on simply as a drinking club, and to charge the members found on the premises and the owner of the house before a Magistrate. That was a question strictly of law, and the promoters of the Bill did not propose to leave it to the Licensing Boards to decide whether or not in a particular 742 case one person or any number of persons had broken the law. Those matters must go to the Magistrates, like all other breaches of the law. Judging from what had come to his knowledge since he had begun to study this subject 20 years ago, he felt confident that this Bill, although, of course, it could not prevent drunkenness altogether, would largely diminish it. He believed that it would save many a home from terrible sufferings, many a wife from brutal treatment, and many an unfortunate husband and children where the wife was herself addicted to drink. The Bill would save many children from being brought up without proper food and clothing, and not only without proper education, but with an education of the very worst kind. It would not stop drunkenness; that could not be done by any legislation; but much could be done to diminish the temptations to drunkenness; and it was quite certain that, as they diminished the temptation, so would they also diminish intoxication and all the consequences that flowed from it. He moved that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a." —(The Lard Bishop of London.)
THE EARL OF MEATH
hoped that their Lordships would grant a Second Reading to the Bill. He had been brought into close contact with a good many of the working classes; and while in the Diplomatic Service in early life it had been his duty to make inquiries with reference to the condition of the working classes in Franco and also in Germany. The remark which a person was always disposed to make on returning to this country from abroad was in reference to the degraded condition in which many of the working classes of this country were to be found. He had a great respect for the working classes of this country; he knew them well, and he maintained that they displayed virtues superior to those of a similar class in other countries. There was about them a judicial temper, a perseverance, a patience and fortitude under trials and difficulties, a calmness of temper which were not always to be seen among the working classes of other countries. There were, however, a certain number of working men who were very subject to this temptation of drink, and the 743 result was that the public saw among them these degraded specimens of humanity in larger numbers than they ought to be seen. There was, therefore, a necessity for doing something to diminish drunkenness, and he did not think that a more moderate or a better Bill could be introduced than the present measure. He believed that many Justices would be only too thankful if the disagreeable duty of licensing public-houses were taken out of their hands. According to the Bill, Boards would be elected on democratic principles, and it would be left to them to decide what should be done in this difficult matter of licensing. He did not think much fault could be found with the reduction of public-houses, nor to the gradual way in which the reduction was to be accomplished. He also thought that publicans had a right to some compensation, and he was glad to see that the question of arbitration had been provided for. One of the most important parts of the Bill was the clause dealing with drinking clubs. In the factories in the Metropolis an enormous number of girls belonged to what they called drinking clubs. These were clubs without premises, but the girls strove out of their miserable pittance to meet periodically for drinking purposes. Subscriptions were collected weekly, and at stated intervals in the course of a year they met in a public-house, having, at the same time, the privilege of inviting some male friends to join them. The consequences, of course, were terrible to contemplate. If anything could be done to put an end to the existence of such clubs, he, for one, would be very pleased. On these grounds he hoped their Lordships would give serious consideration to the Bill introduced by the right rev. Prelate.
§ LORD ROOKWOOD
said, he opposed the Second Heading with considerable diffidence, as a recent Member of their Lordships' House. From his not slight experience in this particular question in past years, he did not believe that their Lordships could accomplish the objects aimed at by a measure of this kind. The more he had seen of these attempts to make people sober by Act of Parliament, the more convinced he was that they ought to look for a remedy rather to increased education among the community than to such a proposal as this. 744 As education spread, he believed that a better feeling would be engendered among the working classes upon the question of temperance, and they would be enabled to gradually win the people away from vicious habits in this direction. The right rev. Prelate proposed to abolish the present Licensing Authority, because he believed that the Magistrates in the past had not exercised their discretion wisely or well. He could speak from some experience on this subject. He had sat on Licensing Boards of Magistrates, and he had seen the question dealt with for many years; and whatever laxity there might have been in the administration by the Magistrates in licensing questions in former days, at all events since the recent legislation on this subject, and certainly since 1872, their action had been infinitely more strict and absolutely fair. In his own county (Essex) the number of licences had hardly been, if even at all, increased during the past seven or eight years. The Magistrates had availed themselves of the section in the Act of 1872 or 1874 (he was not sure which) enabling them to. remove licences from a crowded district to a district where licences were wanted to meet the growth of the population. One of the principal objections to this Bill was that it entailed an enormous cost of administration, because the elections of the Licensing Boards were to be carried out with all the expense and formality of a Parliamentary election; while another evil would be that the elections would be made the battleground of the temperance and publican parties, and the results would not be, perhaps, altogether satisfactory to the former. Again, if by this system uncertainty was to be allowed to attach to public-houses the condition and status of the public-houses would be deteriorated. They had also to consider not only the immense cost of the election, but the payment of clerks and officials of the Boards; and he believed that the ratepayers would suffer considerably. In the case of a rural district with three public-houses in it, the Licensing Board might do away with two of them, leaving the whole local trade to one house; and of course the profits must be excessive if the person keeping it had to bear the burden of extinguishing the other two. The present law made adequate provision 745 for the precautions necessary in the granting of occasional licences; but the delay that would be involved in adopting the machinery of the Bill was incompatible with the suddenness with which these licences were often required. Nor did he believe there would be any more efficiency in the proposed appointment of Inspectors than there was in the present inspection by the police. The right rev. Prelate had stated that he believed the police acted upon some general principle without visits or examination of the houses; but that was certainly not the case. In his own division the visits of policemen in plain clothes had just secured convictions in several cases where houses were improperly conducted. He saw enormous difficulties in the working of the Bill, and did not believe it would accomplish the objects the right rev. Prelate had in view. Whilst all their Lordships, he was sure, were as anxious as the right rev. Prelate for the progress of temperance, and to see the licensed victuallers' trade carried on legitimately and properly, he did not believe that the kind of tinkering, grandmotherly legislation so much in vogue at the present time could be so effectual for good as the influences to which he had already alluded.
§ *LORD NORTON
must support what had been said by Lord Rookwood. Sorry as he was to oppose a measure introduced by the right rev. Prelate, he could not see his way to support the Bill. He objected, in the first place, to dealing with this subject by a sort of rule of three. The Bill embodied a most arbitrary plan for the reduction of the number of public-houses by fifths in successive years, irrespective of the legitimate demand, or changes that might go on in population. That was not a proper method of adjusting supply to useful demand and maintaining their due relation. What would be thought if it were proposed to fix the number of bakers' or butchers' shops in any district for a definite period? If a plan could be devised that would be self-acting, and which would, in working, correct its own errors, such a plan might enable them to attain the object in view. The way seemed to be to decree the forfeiture of licences on a certain number of convictions for permitting disorder, riot, and drunkenness on the premises, or for the adulteration of 746 liquor. In that way abuses could be checked and supply brought down to the proper demand. That was the right way to treat the subject, in his opinion, having had a good many years' experience in dealing with it. One chief source of difficulty was the influential position occupied by the owners of many of these houses. It was not the little houses that were the difficulty so much as the tied houses belonging to great brewers. As a Licensing Authority, the Magistrates, who were independent and had regard only to the public interests, were superior to an elected Board, which would be exposed to a greater diversity of influences, including that of the competition between the vested interests in different public-houses. The plan proposed had been tried at Liverpool some years ago under a Private Act, and many of the principal Magistrates there considered it a misfortune that that Act was not made more effective. If, on the other hand, any particular body were to have the power of saying how many public-houses were wanted in a particular place, surely the Magistrates were best fitted to form a judgment. It seemed to some as if they must do everything nowadays by popular election; but he thought there could not be a worse mode of creating a Licensing Authority. It was a sort of Local Option submitting a large minority to arbitrary restriction. The ballot was to decide how much drunkenness there was to be in any place. It would be far better to retain the present machinery, and make it absolutely certain that the renewal of a licence depended upon a house being well-conducted. The very worst mode of dealing with the subject was by an elective body with all its caprice, and its useless attendant expense. As Mr. Bright used to say—We have gone too far in this elective system. He could never go to Birmingham without seeing 'Vote for' so-and-so placarded all over the walls, in reference to some election or other.Another difficulty in the Bill was the proposed compensation. A more extraordinary proposal he had never heard than that those persons who had conducted their houses well should be taxed to compensate others who had managed theirs badly. He was sorry to vote against any measure with so good an object, and more especially one intro- 747 duced by the right rev. Prelate; but he must support his noble Friend (Lord Rookwood) in opposing the Second Reading of this Bill.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I cannot say that. I am specially enamoured of this Bill as proposed by the right rev. Prelate, though I find in it one principle which does meet with my approval—namely, the principle of popular control. The noble Lord who has just spoken has, I think, a little confounded this Bill with another measure. He spoke of local option being given by it. I have a notion that that is a property belonging to this side of the House, and that my noble Friend is not quite justified in transferring it to the Bill now under consideration. The Bill, of course, introduces a certain kind of popular control by the election of Licensing Boards, who are to have the powers which the Magistrates now have. But what I would point out is this. I do not know whether the right rev. Prelate is a partisan of what is called local option; but if he has any objection to that system, I would suggest whether as great evils might not arise under the Bill in connection with this system in the opinion of those opposed to local option as under any other system. And my reason is that the Bill would provide every three years a contest probably in even district in the country on the subject of the election of the Commissioners. Now, the scheme of local option would probably only be taken advantage of in localities where there happened to be a very strong feeling on the subject; but in this case there would be an election throughout the country every three years. Her Majesty's Government are in favour of some form of popular control; but this Bill would not avoid all the evils connected with popular control, as well as securing the advantages which may be supposed by the right rev. Prelate. Of course, there are disadvantages as well as advantages connected more or less with any system. There is another portion of the Bill to which I could not give my assent—namely, the principle of compensation. Independently of the principle of compensation, the noble Lord who spoke last but one—and who understands the question as well as any noble Lord in this House (Lord Rookwood)—pointed out very clearly how very inequitably 748 the system of compensation would work. Public-houses whose licences are to be retained are to be taxed with a Licence Duty in order to provide compensation for those houses whose licences are abolished. Well, just consider what might happen. There might be a public-house; whose licence was retained five or six miles away from any other public-house; and the principle upon which the Bill proceeds is that, inasmuch as the value of the houses which remain would be largely increased by the diminution of the number, it is fair they should pay in proportion; but it seems to me there would be instances in which diminution in a particular district would not at all increase the value of those which remained. I mention this to show how the principle of compensation, which seems at first sight to have something attractive in it, would be found extremely difficult to work when it had to be put in force. Then another part of the Bill embodies a principle which is very dear to those who wish to diminish the consumption of intoxicating liquor. It is a violent onslaught on grocers' licences. Of course, one quite expected to hear from the right rev. Prelate that there are statistics to prove that there is a large increase of drunkenness among women, and that this is due to grocers' licences in particular; but I doubt whether it would be possible to prove such assertions before a Select Committee of your Lordships any more than it was proved before the last Committee upon the subject, of which I had the honour to be a Member. I remember the evidence well, and how completely it broke down in fixing upon this particular kind of licences the alleged increase of drunkenness among women. I have no doubt there is drunkenness connected with that form of licence, but I doubt whether these licences promote drunkenness more than the others. Your Lordships will remember it was stated in their favour that it was most undesirable that a person requiring, perhaps, a bottle of brandy for cooking purposes, or with any other harmless object, should be compelled to go to a public-house for it, which it was thought likely to lead to habits of drinking, and that it would be much better to afford facilities for procuring such articles elsewhere. I mention that, because I know it is assumed 749 that these grocers' licences are the worst form of licences. I may also point out, as a matter of detail, that, under the provision that a publican is to sell nothing but "liquor and tobacco," he would be unable to sell soda water or a so-called temperance beverage which I one tasted called ginger ale. All these things publicans would be prohibited from selling under this Bill. Then I would ask the right rev. Prelate, supposing in any district there was a strong feeling in favour of the abolition of all licences, and supposing a Board elected, on which there was a majority in favour of granting no further licences whatever, how, in that case, the system of compensation would work, because there would be no public-houses left on which compensation could be levied? On that and other points the Bill would certainly require careful consideration and considerable amendment and alteration. If it is to be persevered in, I should feel myself compelled to give my vote for the Second Reading, because I am, as I have said, in favour of the principle of popular control embodied in it; but I do not desire to be considered as otherwise approving of it.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The last observation of the noble Earl forces me to say a few words. I am more consistent in my principles than the noble Earl. I object very strongly to the Bill, and I mean to vote against it. Among other reasons is one which I confess it seems to me ought to have forced itself upon the attention of the noble Earl. It does not seem to me when on a great question of public policy the Government have announced and introduced a Bill of their own, covering the whole field of the subject, that a private Member in the other House of Parliament should introduce a Bill on a totally different plan to that of the measure which the Government have introduced. That alone, if there were no other reason, would induce me to vote against this Bill. But I object to the whole of this legislation. I believe it is adopting a wrong remedy for an evil we all deplore, and that it is ignoring the natural remedy which the progress of education and civilisation is producing. The right rev. Prelate dwelt in eloquent language—and repeatedly—over and over again—upon the different position 750 of our classes and that of the working classes in this matter. He pointed out to us repeatedly that we were not exposed to any of the temptations which the working classes had to undergo, and, therefore, could not judge of their feelings. I wonder it did not occur to the right rev. Prelate, while discoursing in this manner, that three or four generations back every man who heard him, if he had then been speaking in this House, would have been exposed to those temptations and would probably have yielded to them. I do not say that matters are so far better now that the vice of drunkenness does not exist in the middle and upper classes; but I say the change has been enormous. The reformation has been so great and so rapid that we have a right to conclude that it will go forward, even with an accelerated pace, and we have a right to believe that the other members of the community who are like to us in everything else, except that they have not had the same opportunities of education and enlightenment which by accident the upper and middle classes have had, but which under the changed circumstances of the age they are rapidly gaining—we have a right to believe that on them the same beneficent influences will operate in the same way as they have operated upon the upper and middle classes, and that the natural, wholesome, and only real remedy for this great evil will accomplish itself in the days of our children, if not in our own, and that education and enlightenment will drive away this which is really a barbaric vice. I think, therefore, the right rev. Prelate is attacking the evil in the wrong way. The Bill itself, in its details, could be riddled again and again by criticism. I should not think it worth while to go much into those details. I think the form of compensation is a deplorable device to be introduced into a proposed Act of Parliament. If all public-houses were in the same street there would be some reason for saying that one must benefit by the suppression of another; but if they are scattered, as they are in country districts at distances of two or three miles from each other, the proposal verges on the ludicrous. We all know what the result would be. No compensation could be obtained out of the wretched remnants which would be 751 spared, but that the luckless ratepayers would have to pay it all. There is one part of the Bill to which much allusion has not been made—the part which deals with clubs. I do not know whether it occurred to the right rev. Prelate, when he was dealing with clubs, that there are other clubs in the world besides these drinking clubs to which he objects so much. If he walks down Pall Mall his conscience will smite him, I think, with the havoc he is going to cause. All those clubs will be subjected to a perfectly prohibitory tax, and, as far as I can make out, they will have a series of rules imposed upon them which most of them will utterly reject. One curious provision to which the noble Lord (the Earl of Meath) referred I think deserves the attention of the House. It appears there are young ladies, engaged in the very honourable pursuit of providing for their own living by their industry, who like to meet occasionally, and to indulge in the consumption of what the right rev. Prelate calls intoxicating liquors. He appears to look upon this as a fearful crime. I am inclined to ask—Why should not they? I understand that what we object to is excess in drinking intoxicating liquors. I do not understand that anybody has yet had the boldness frankly to get up in this House, and say he thinks it right to exterminate the consumption of what I have heard described in this House by the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop, and very properly, as a food. But what does the right rev. Prelate propose to do? He proposes to enact that any association, the principal or only object of which is to supply intoxicating liquors to its members, shall be an illegal association; and any Justice of the Peace who thinks that one of these men thus associating has intoxicating liquor in his cellar may issue a search warrant, cause his house to be broken into, and if the liquor is discovered subject him to a penalty. I think I have heard of one gentleman combining sometimes with another to purchase a pipe of port or a butt of sherry. That would be an illegal association, and the moment the butt of sherry arrives the search warrant may issue, the doors of the cellar may be broken open, and the butt of sherry may be taken out and sold. I really think that is going too far; and I would point out that this is not merely an absurd provi- 752 sion, but it is the introduction of a very dangerous principle—it is an invasion of personal freedom of a very dangerous character. When the right rev. Prelate comes before us and tells us he is trying to prevent excess in the consumption of intoxicating liquors, though we may think his methods injudicious, we all sympathise deeply with his motive and intention; but when he comes before us and tells us he objects to the consumption of alcoholic liquors altogether, and wishes in certain cases to absolutely prevent that consumption, he is then guilty of nothing else than ethical persecution. Many centuries ago excellent men in the position of the right rev. Prelate thought that the holding of certain dogmas was pernicious in the most deadly degree to the interests of those who held them, and they held that with a belief quite as intense as that which the right rev. Prelate applies to the consumption of intoxicating liquors. That we all now denounce as dogmatic persecution, and we believe ourselves to have so far gone forward in the progress of the world that it is utterly impossible we should over be afflicted with that tendency again. But this seems to me the same human weakness coming out in smother form. The right rev. Prelate must be aware, however strongly he may feel that the consumption of any intoxicating liquors is bad, that that view is peculiar to a small section of the community; that it is not the belief of the community or of any large part of the community; and to attempt to impose it by legislative machinery, by the action of penalties upon those who differ with him, seems to me to belong in class to the same action as that which in past time tried to impose dogmatic theology by force. I hope that, at all events, we shall avoid straying into that field. If we can devise means of stopping the excessive consumption of liquor, by all means lot us do it. I do not believe that the way is to be found in the enactment of Acts of Parliament. But I heartily sympathise with all who try to grapple with the evil, and wish them God-speed. But I would say to those who try to force views of their own upon the community as a matter of indispensable necessity in the public interest that they are introducing a dangerous principle to the Statute Book 753 —a principle which will go much farther and do great harm to the community. I cannot agree with the noble Earl opposite in wishing to bring in popular control in these matters, and for this reason, among others: that if you once raise the question of freedom against the question of temperance—I am quoting the celebrated aphorism of the late Bishop of Peterborough—you will do temperance a far greater injury than the efforts of all the temperance reformers for many generations will be able to undo. If we once get to having elections in our parishes upon the question whether public-houses are to remain open or not, I think you will find the opposition to restriction much stronger than you suppose; that the Act will nowhere be brought into force; that a very powerful obstruction to the progress of temperance will have been erected, and that, in many instances, a great and deep gulf will have been dug between the sympathies of the laity and the sympathies of their spiritual guides.
*THE BISHOP OF LONDON
said, he would not put the House to the trouble of dividing upon the Second Reading, for it would simply mean their Lordships walking out of the House and in again. After what had been said, it was perfectly clear on which side the majority of opinion lay, and he would, therefore, simply allow the Motion to he negatived.
§ Resolved in the negative.